Staying Positive for Your Older Kids When You Don’t Feel Positive at All

Posted by on Jan 12, 2017 in Parenting on a Daily Basis, The World We Parent In | 2 comments


This would be easier if my kids were younger.

Yes, little kids are perceptive, but it’s possible to paste a smile on your face for them when necessary. You can watch animated movies with them, read picture books and keep your conversation G-rated. You don’t talk about the state of the country or the world because they’re too young to understand that kind of thing, anyway. They know Elsa wants to set her powers free and superheroes go after bad guys. If they do stumble onto anything real in the news, you comfort them, maybe give them cookies as a distraction. Paint the world with illusory bright colors and assure the children the good guys will prevail.

Simplify, reassure, protect. That’s a parent’s job when it comes to the very young.

Adolescents offer a more complex challenge. They are caught in the space between child and adult, and as any parent of an adolescent knows, you can encounter both the small child and the mature adult in the same kid inside of sixty seconds. Anytime you think you’ve figured out which version of your kid will appear in response to any given stimuli, that same kid will prove you wrong. The only constant is that you’ve got to be prepared for anything at any moment. The world is confusing to us adults and we’ve been living in it for decades. It can be exponentially more befuddling to our adolescent kids.

So for those of us presently deeply distressed about the state of our nation and our world: how much of that do we let our older kids see, and how do we balance what we show them with parental reassurance aimed at reassuring the more childish aspects of who they are?

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The Lecture Years

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

Susi and Mom


“I want to talk to you about heroin. Our state is in the middle of a terrible epidemic.”

“Did you see that story about the kid killed in that horrible crash on the highway? You know they were drinking before they got in the car, right?”

“I want to talk to you about consent, and what it really means.”

“Your body has changed a lot in the past year. I suspect you’ve got a lot more changes in front of you this year. Let’s have a quick chat.”

“The only disease they mentioned in your health class was AIDS? We need to have a talk.”

“Another unarmed, young black man was killed by a police officer. Why? Well, let me explain what’s been going on.”

“So here’s the thing about the recent burglaries on our street. The way they’ve occurred—it was probably people looking for cash or things they could easily sell to get cash to buy drugs. Because this is what happens when people get addicted to drugs.”

“All of those people are fleeing terrible violence in the Middle East—mostly Syria—and Europe doesn’t know what to do with them. No one does, including us. Many of them have died. There is a history…”

“Do you have any questions about _____?”


If you have a teenager living in your house who loves to discuss topics ranging from difficult to embarrassing with you, then you aren’t cringing right now. Also, please call me and tell me what that’s like. Because I haven’t got a clue.

My own teenager, fourteen-year-old “Jack,” is of the eye-rolling, oh-God-not-another-Talk-please variety. When he hears anything in my words or inflection begin to veer in the direction of a Talk, I can see his upper body subconsciously settle into place. He’s learned he will receive Talks whether he wants them or not, so he tries to prepare himself and hopes the imminent one will be quick and that he won’t have to answer too many questions.

I deliver my brief lecture, punctuated with “uh-huh” and “no” from Jack whenever required. If I ask him for more, it’s like I’ve asked him to solve the problem of time travel. (Actually, he’d probably prefer I ask him that.) Occasionally I can lighten the atmosphere with a joke—presidential politics comes to mind—but that’s not always the case. When I’m satisfied I’ve been understood, I ask if he has questions, he says no, and one of us leaves the room.

Obviously, this is not the way I’d like for these things to go. But I can’t ignore these topics. Jack is not a little kid anymore.

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“The Gift of Failure” – From Book to Real World Lesson

Posted by on Oct 21, 2015 in Domesticity, Education & Learning, Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

This weekend, my son forgot his soccer cleats. We had traveled an hour away from home; there was no way to retrieve them.

“The one day you don’t ask me if I’ve got every little thing is the day I forget them.” Thirteen-year-old “Jack’s” voice rose as his eyes, shoulders and mood plummeted. The next few hours of Jack’s life began to take shape in his mind, and they didn’t look good.

Not a coincidence, I thought. I bet you don’t forget your cleats again. But all my husband and I did was tell Jack there was nothing to be done about it now. We didn’t get upset, or raise our voices. We simply informed him that he would have to present himself to his coach, tell him he’d forgotten his cleats and face the consequences.

As soon as Jack skulked out of the minivan in his uniform and his sneakers, I grabbed my phone and sent a message to Jessica Lahey,* author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. I told her what happened, letting her know that she’d inspired me to stop running through the “Do you have…?” list with Jack as I always had prior to his soccer games. He is, after all, just a few months shy of fourteen years old. Shouldn’t he be able to collect all his gear for a game on his own?

Yes, I believe he should. But I’d never given him the chance to carry this responsibility before.

The Gift of Failure takes on the American trend—one might even call it a crisis—of overparenting. Writer, speaker, middle-school teacher and mother to two boys, Jessica expands on her excellent writing in the New York Times and The Atlantic to offer breathing room to parents and kids struggling to keep up with crazy schedules, hyper-competitive parenting and other pressures that never seem to let up. In The Gift of Failure, she explains how our kids are capable of more responsibility than many of us parents allow seem willing to let them take on. By not granting our kids that responsibility, we’re depriving them of the much-needed experiences of trying, failing and learning how to recover. Our kids need to build, over time, the necessary skills and confidence to succeed on their own so that they don’t end up living in our basements when they’re thirty-five years old. (My words, not Jessica’s.) And that means we have to allow them to fail.

How does this philosophy play out in practice?

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Guest Post: Preventing Medicine Abuse

Posted by on Oct 14, 2015 in Health & Sleep, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

Please welcome Peggy McKibben to Uncharted Parent. Peggy is a high school nurse, a mother of two and one of the Five Moms at Peggy takes a proactive approach to keeping teens healthy, which includes educating them and their parents about over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription (Rx) drug abuse.

What? Don’t I have enough to worry about with the current heroin epidemic, ramped-up illegal drugs and the omnipresent dangers of alcohol?

Unfortunately, kids may abuse OTC and Rx drugs, too, and access to those medicines may be as simple as opening the cabinet in the bathroom or dropping by the corner pharmacy. But if you arm yourself with information, you’ll be in a better position to educate your teens about the dangers of medicine abuse before they’re tempted to experiment or friends try to persuade them to do so. Below, Peggy offers several tips for helping to prevent medicine abuse by teens.


With the fall season in full swing, October has given way to sweaters, pumpkin everything and multicolored leaves. But here’s something about October you may not know: it’s National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. Take the time this month to learn about the prevalence of medicine abuse and how to prevent medicine misuse by your preteen or teen.

Medicine abuse may not be as common as other types of drug abuse, but it still occurs and should be a topic of conversation between parents and teens when they talk about risky behaviors like illegal drug and alcohol use. Don’t get trapped in the “not my teen” mentality. Even if your teen hasn’t abused over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, there’s a chance that he or she knows someone who has, given that one in three teens know someone who has abused OTC cough medicine to get high.

A 2014 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that approximately one in 30 American teens reported intentionally abusing OTC cough medicine to get high. Additionally, the research explored OTC cough medicine abuse by age and found that 2.0% of eighth graders and 4.1% of high school seniors had abused OTC cough medicine.

So, how can you prevent teen medicine abuse? These six tips can help:

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With Teens, Listen First

Posted by on Oct 6, 2015 in Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 1 comment

(Image courtesy riviera 2005 via

(Image courtesy riviera 2005 via

By the time we find ourselves mothers or fathers to teens, we are usually experienced parents. We’ve walked bare spots onto our floors getting babies to sleep, separated arguing siblings, cleaned up spilled and thrown food, endured homework battles, and so much more. We laugh to remember those days when we actually read parenting manuals (you know, the ones we tossed into recycling bins after they failed to sell two yard sales ago). In general, we feel like we at least kind of know what we’re doing.

And then, one day, we looked up to find men- or women-children in our houses. We have Teenagers.

Teenagers call for a different approach to parenting, because they aren’t like the little kids we previously raised. One minute they’re like friends in conversation, discussing the refugee crisis in Europe. The next minute, slave to hormones they don’t understand, they’ve kicked shut doors, screamed in frustration and made you wish you could hop on a plane to a secret deserted island until they turn twenty-one because you said no, there will be no pizza for dinner tonight. And while the triggers for their rages may not seem like big deals to you, neither does coming home thirty minutes after curfew without calling seem like a big deal to them. Come on, you know you can trust them. After all, it’s not like they would ever do “anything stupid.”

How do we parent these proto-adults? In our house, respect is still the first rule. The kids are expected to demonstrate it to us and to each other, and they receive it from us as well. But how do we translate that into day-to-day parenting at this new stage in all of our lives?

There are numerous answers to that question, but I found one that was so good I have to share it with you.

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Transition…to Someone Else’s Wise Words About Raising Teens

Posted by on Sep 10, 2015 in Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

So, how’s that back-to-school thing going?

We’ve had a few bumps here, but what can you expect when transitioning from beachy days, late nights and a slow summer pace to notebooks, schedule conflicts, looming homework, etc.?

With two kids in middle school (how the heck did that happen?), our entire family is in transition. I can’t count how many times I’ve begun to say, “my young kids,” or “my little girl,” then caught myself and dropped the reference to the little kids I no longer have. I see the elementary school bus roll by our house in the morning, and it doesn’t stop. (On purpose this time, as opposed to the numerous times in the past when the driver simply forgot.) Nobody here rides it. It’s a new stage of life for our family, and adjustments are required.

I love my kids at thirteen and ten. But though I no longer panic about parenting like I did when they were infants, I still puzzle over certain, more nuanced questions regarding what I’m supposed to do with these growing people. Offer advice on the problem I see coming, or let things play out on their own? Scold and correct on a particular misbehavior, or decide it’s not a big deal and let it go so that my words have more effect when something more important comes along? Give something that’s been requested, or make them work for it? Help or butt out? Yes, there are guidelines that can help—I wrote about a few of them a couple of weeks ago—but it’s still a challenge every day.

That’s why I want to share with you some wise words I found elsewhere on the web, at Club Mid at Scary Mommy. “How to Ruin Your Relationship with Your Teenager,” written by Michelle Lehnardt, offers some valuable wisdom for any parent looking for guidance and goalposts on raising a teen. I emailed it to myself, printed it out and placed it next to my desk as a reference, and I want to make sure you see it, too. For example, here is point 1:

1. Not Listening

Years ago, I heard invaluable advice: “Once your child reaches the age of 13 or 14 they know your opinion of everything under the sun. Your job from now on is to shut up and listen.” I remember feeling a bit defensive the first time I heard this counsel. I had so much knowledge yet to share! And besides, things change—how would I offer my wisdom on future problems? But there’s the crux of it all. Things change. As adults, we think we know all about the teenage world, but our swiftly moving planet has spun beyond our intimate knowledge of the ’70s’80s’90s. And here’s what I’ve learned: when you take the time to listen, truly listen, your kids will ask your opinion.

To read the rest of this article by Michelle Lehnardt, click here to go to Club Mid at Scary Mommy.


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