Happy Holidays

Posted by on Dec 23, 2016 in Holidays, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

This is a time of warmth and cheer for many people, hot cocoa and fireplaces, friends, family, candelabras, Christmas trees and latkes. It brings happiness to many, sadness to others, probably a mix of the two to more than we realize. But we do our best, especially if we have children, to create an atmosphere of joy.

It’s the end of a year, too, and not just any year. 2016, don’t let the door hit you in the derrière on the way out. On second thought, do. You deserve it.

There will be plenty of time and opportunity in the year to come to experience and express sentiments we wish we could live without. So let’s set that aside for the last week-and-a-half of 2016, and lift ourselves up a bit. Let’s look for comfort for our kids, who, despite seeming evidence to the contrary, might need some help processing the world at this troubling time. Let’s read a few stories to warm our hearts—stories to help us remember what’s good again. We all know we love our kids, but sometimes an outside perspective can help us see that in a new light. And what are all of this season’s holidays about if not lights in the darkness?

First, from the Washington Post, Karen MacPherson offers a great list of 19 books to help children find hope and strength in stressful times for children ages 3 to 12.

Author and co-owner of the soon-to-open Belmont Books in Belmont, Massachusetts, Chris Abouzeid, suggested these three titles for tweens and teens:

Next, this piece on Babble.com by Lori Garcia, 46 Things No One Tells You About Parenting a Teenage Boy, literally made me laugh out loud. Number 38. And number 12. Also number 15. Oh, just about all of them.

You may want to get a tissue ready for The Child I Love, by Jon Ralston, about his relationship with his transgender son.

Finally, don’t miss this lovely essay by my colleague, John Herman, about—well, I’ll let you discover what it’s really about. It features Santa Claus, a sled, a bag and a fence.

Happy holidays, no matter which or how many of this season’s holidays you celebrate. See you in 2017!

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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 StopMedicineAbuse.org

Image courtesy StopMedicineAbuse.org

Please welcome Peggy McKibben to Uncharted Parent. Peggy is a high school nurse, a mother of two and one of the Five Moms at StopMedicineAbuse.org. 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 Flickr.com)

(Image courtesy riviera 2005 via Flickr.com)

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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Parenting an Adolescent: 3 Guidelines for When to Step In & When to Step Back

Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 in Growing Up, Health & Sleep, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

The adolescent years are a period when parents gradually hand their children’s lives over to them. As the parent of a soon-to-be adult, it’s often difficult to know when to intervene or when to let your adolescent take control over a particular part of his or her life. How do you decide when to step back and when to step in?

There are no easy answers. But a few guidelines can help:

Safety: Do you believe your child is in an unsafe situation—something that may endanger his or her life or physical or mental health? Do you have real reason to believe your child is using drugs, has been drinking, has been riding in a car with a friend who has been drinking, is planning to go to a house where a party is planned and kids who you know engage in inappropriate activities will be present, etc.? Do you suspect that your child is depressed, or that he or she may have an eating disorder? In situations where your child’s safety may be in jeopardy, always step in. This is where the limited teenage appreciation for real-life, long-term consequences could genuinely hurt your child.

Self-expression: Does your child wants to style his or her hair in an electric-blue Mohawk? Or maybe he or she wants to wear t-shirts with political messages you abhor? Step back. Your child is figuring out who he or she is and these are not permanent changes. Let your teen explore. Make sure your teen knows that even if you don’t like a particular thing he or she is doing, you are still supportive of him or her as a person. However, permanent changes and measures of self-expression that violate rules, such as a t-shirt with language that is banned in school, can be more difficult. These warrant conversations with your child.

My piece on figuring out when to step in and when to step back in your adolescents’ lives continues at Stop Medicine Abuse. Use these guidelines until you find a magic 8-ball that indicates the right thing to do when your kid asks to be dropped off before you’re in sight of the school one minute, demands to know what you’re going to do about her forgotten homework the next, then slams a door in frustration because she claims you always treat her like a little kid. And when you do find that sought-after object, let me know.

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