17 Again…Raising 3 teens

Communication – the Challenges and Opportunities


Do you know your teen’s on-line personality?

Do kids have a different persona than their true character when using social media? Is their on-line personality authentic? Here’s what four teens ages 17-19-years had to say:

‘Amy’: I think most kids have a different persona, but for the most part it is an authentic representation of themselves. My personality on-line is just an exaggerated and less filtered version of myself. At times, I feel more comfortable on-line; I have a chance to edit what I’m saying much more than I can when I’m speaking in person. Being on-line gives you more freedom to be more confident and say what you really feel.

‘Elias’: Teens have different persona. Teens on social media essentially bring out their true feelings on-line, because they are hiding behind a computer. Teens’ identities are authentic on-line some of the time, because it’s like a deep yearning for the things you want to do and/or say in real-life. You can see a lot more people voicing their opinions on-line towards someone rather than in person (i.e. twitter beef). Social media has become an area in teens’ lives where they don’t feel afraid to be who they actually are. I feel because our generation was born in this technological era, constant communication via the internet and social media is an obsession that we turn to for everything. Overall, I think it actually develops teen identity because it helps us show us features of our personality that we’re too scared to show in real-life (such as high self-esteem)…. at the same time it also promotes narcissistic behaviour – people try to get more followers than their friends on Twitter just to show their “Popularity”. It’s the same for collecting Instagram followers. A negative follow-following ratio to teens is something that they feel makes them unpopular.

‘Carrie’: Social media is taking over the world and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It is taking away the ability for people, especially young people, to use basic interpersonal face-to-face communication skills, both in professional interviews and casual conversations. People tend to be more outgoing over social media and say things they wouldn’t normally say to a person’s face, whether it’s good or bad. Additionally, people, myself included, tend to speak differently to people over social media, especially when texting to communicate. It’s not intentional, but some people’s style of texting is different, and I just tend to follow suit with their style, sometimes straying from my personality.

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Back to the Future: What do teenagers want to say to their future self about parenting teens?

This post is a departure from earlier ones which talked about my personal experiences parenting teens. To change it up, I asked my kids and some of their friends what they would want to say to their future self about parenting teens? Here’s what they shared:

Be honest and open. I want to talk to my kids about anything and for them to feel like they can trust me.

Stick to what you think is right.

Don’t be afraid to speak up and voice your opinion. You don’t want your teens to grow up feeling that they have no one to talk to, or, have no one who will listen to what’s on their mind.

Try new things – whether it’s doing things with your family or even by yourself.

Let teens make mistakes. I’d like to have kids in the future and naturally they will at some point be the age I am now: a stubborn, obnoxious, naïve 19-year-old. Teens are going to screw up and it’s these mistakes that help them grow as . However, I would only allow these mistakes to be within reason. I would very clearly advise against anything illegal, and make it clear that there will be consequences for any unacceptable actions.

Be a mom first and friend second. I would also say it’s important to form a sort of friendship with my teens.  It’s important that they can feel comfortable talking to me about ANYTHING, but also important to know that I can have a lot of fun with them.  I would not allow this friendship to overpower the ‘mom’ role though, as they need to respect me as a mom first. And they need to know that as a mom, I only want what’s best for them.

Have fun and a sense of adventure. Be active and hands-on with your kids.

I remember all the fun times and adventures we enjoyed growing up. My mom always tried to take us to new places or to see things differently – appreciating the smaller details. So we do a lot together and fun. We recently went to NYC and we biked throughout Central Park. She loves nature so when we hike, she shows us the colours of a toadstool or a great blue heron. Sometimes it drives us crazy, but now I appreciate these smaller things that can go unnoticed.  I want to be like my mom.

For parents of teens, has your parenting style and philosophy been influenced by your personal experience as a teen? If so, how?

Author’s note: Feeling honoured and touched by my kids’ words. Thanks guys and to AH, EJ and CM for taking the time to share your thoughts.

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The ‘Nature’ of Talking with Your Teen

My first blog post discussed my Top 3 Tips When Communicating with Your Teen. It highlighted the importance of being in the moment and never missing an opportunity to have a dialogue. Here’s another tip to help you and your teen communicate better. Evening walks with our dog do more than provide exercise; these outdoor conversations help ease open and honest exchanges. They nurture a rapport and openness in our relationships and help us have closer and honest connections.

Dog walks with my kids, open the door for conversations that can be otherwise viewed as difficult, uncomfortable or even worse confrontational. Recently, when I was on route with dog leash in hand, I was thinking about how our walks have helped us to bridge conversations such as teen sex, suicide and dating, drugs, bullying and even death…topics that would be more thorny to have within the confines of our home. The outdoors afford us privacy and removes the distractions (and electronics) so we’re able to focus on what matters – the details of the conversation.

Walking in the open air represents a neutral space where mindsets shift from a typical parent – teen exchange to one which is more relaxed and accessible. The open air helps free up our minds, crumbles the walls parents and teen put up and removes the clutter of our daily lives. It’s often during our walks my kids reveal the details of their dramas, adventures and particulars which probably would be otherwise glossed over, lost or forgotten. When my kids share whatever comes to their minds, I know we’ve made a connection in a way we may not have otherwise had.


When Teens Decide to Travel (Without Their Parents)

A few weeks ago, I wrote and posted a piece called Part-time Jobs and Lessons Learned. The post examined the life lessons my teens learned from their paper route including knowing the value of money and having a work ethic. However, I didn’t mention what my kids are doing with their hard earned cash and the choices they’re making – which, by the way, is helping me turn a new page in parenting teenagers.

My 18 year old has been working at a cafe for two years and previously worked at a local grocery store stocking shelves. She’s been diligent at saving and has watched her account grow with the intent to travel to Europe – a goal she’s had since high school. She got the travel bug during a school trip to Europe which focussed on the Holocaust. This European tour was life changing for her and she came home with the desire to return.

Back Packing to Europe

On April 29, 2015, she’ll be departing for a two month back packing trip to Europe. I am so proud of her for reaching her goal and happily will support her as she begins to plan her trip. We’ll also be meeting the parents of her travelling mate in the near future.

So far, we’ve assisted her with ordering plane tickets, making connections with our friends who she can meet for travel advice, and in some cases, with lodging while oversees. I never would have thought as a parent the day would come so quickly when we’d have an independent teen who was ready (both financially and emotionally) to leave the nest – even for a few months. Continue reading


Should Parents Consent to Teen Dating?

Boys boys boys...My girls only too happy to pose in NYC with an Abercrombie model

Boys boys boys…My girls happy to pose in NYC with an Abercrombie model

My parents grew up in the same neighbourhood as kids, dated throughout high school and married in their early twenties. My parents enjoyed a happy and loving marriage. Today, with three teens ages 14, 16 and 18 years under one roof, friends and social activities are top of mind 24/7. Nonetheless, I believe teenagers (especially 13-17 years) should not be involved in serious relationships.

Most teens are immature and lack the wisdom to know love is respect.

Teens (mine included) are learning who they are as individuals, are preoccupied with themselves and fulfilling their own needs. My youngest who is adjusting to grade nine in a new school spends most of her time (aside from doing homework) meeting new friends, trying out for sports and attending clubs. She’s focussed on fitting in. When it comes to relationships at this age, many teens are pretty selfish. It’s insensitive and hurtful how kids break-up through texting or over the phone without considering the impact on others’ feelings. Continue reading


Table Talk

I remember the days when a high chair rested beside our kitchen table with our dog nearby for obvious reason. How time flies!

We’re lucky the majority of family dinners from Sunday – Thursday include my three teens gathered  around the table everyone connecting and discussing whatever is on their minds. My husband and I are both big proponents of current events so we’ll often try to weave some into the conversation. Now that our kids are older, the focus of our dinners together is communication.

Recently, one particular dinner, turned into a bit of an inquisition when my husband was pre-alerted (by my 16-year-old son) about my youngest daughter’s Snap Chats with a senior student who was implicated in a serious cyber bullying incident.  ‘William’ has matured from being a typical, teasing, big brother to being a protective sibling especially since his younger Grade 9 sister is attending the same high school.

This particular dinner conversation demonstrated our kids’ were involved in keeping one another safe and felt comfortable bringing an issue forward. Although we follow the kids on Face Book, we’re not users of Instagram nor Snap Chat (yet). I’m comforted my kids keep an eye out for each other. Some meal times are more colourful than others. Rest assured, they’re always real, with plenty of laughter and the best of intentions and love.


Parenting Well-Rounded Teens – The Importance of Extracurricular Activities

It’s after school on a week night and two of my three teenagers are ‘off the radar’. They could be catching up on their Instagram, Snap chats, Facebook or hanging out with friends, instead they are choosing to stay after school.

My 14-year-old daughter is keeping score at her school’s senior boys’ volleyball team (she’s on the Student Athletic Association) while my 16-year-old son is at senior band practice (he’s a trumpet player); later this evening my 18-year-old will be running to her ultimate Frisbee game.

I’m relieved my teenagers have found one or more after school activities they enjoy. Each of their chosen activities is  unique as their personalities and each teen has selected a different path from their other siblings.

Over the years, there have been many sports teams, student councils, social causes and various fundraising clubs. As a parent, I’ve watched my kids at young ages participate and now as  teens I’m happy their involvement in after school activities has been self motivated.

I’ve witnessed them collect many life skills along each of their journeys imparting invaluable and lifelong lessons. Here are some of them: Continue reading


Part-time Jobs and Lessons Learned

“Mom…I’m quitting. I’m not delivering newspapers anymore.”

Two of my teens grew up delivering our weekly community paper from Wednesday to Friday. Stuffing each paper with bundled flyers rain or shine; each child taking one side of the street. And so it continued for five long years.

Coming home from work on ‘delivery nights’, I vividly recall pushing the front door open with papers, flyers and kids strewn on the floor. I can’t tell you the number of times they threatened to quit and how often they argued over the process of ‘stuffing the newspapers’.

Their part-time job started when my two youngest were nine and eleven years old. On occasion, friends or even younger kids in the neighbourhood who wanted to try their hands as carriers accompanied them. Sometimes the job smacked of Tom Sawyer who smooth talked others into helping paint the fence. Often, my husband and I assisted, walking along them, greeting the neighbours, simply acting as supports and hearing about their day. Occasionally, they just wanted company so off one of us would go, with our black lab Vimmie happy to join them.

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Instilling Kindness and Compassion

We’ve all heard the expression “paying it forward”. As parents, we hope our children learn the values of kindness, compassion and selflessness. How can parents effectively impart these values in their kids? A recent video about paying it forward called Life Vest Inside – Kindness Boomerang – “One Day” reminded me of an incident where my family encountered, first hand, humanity at its best.

Our summer vacation kicked off with a bumpy start. We were stranded at a roadside gas station along highway 11 north of Orillia; the trailer towing our small sailboat had broken down.

It was my idea to haul our sailboat up to a neighbour’s cottage so we could have it moored offshore, easily accessible to our family of sailors for when the optimal wind and weather blew our way.

Needing trailer parts, we de-coupled the trailer from our truck and drove south to the nearest Canadian Tire to purchase two new wheel hubs.

We required a car jack and tools to begin the repairs.

First Act of Kindness

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Traditions – Are They Still Valued by Teens and Parents Today?

So just a few sleeps from Thanksgiving and I am wondering if this holiday still carries its weight as a cornerstone of family traditions in today’s society.

Over the past five years, we’ve spent Thanksgiving re-connecting with our friends who live in Ottawa, meeting them at their beautiful log chalet situated in the hilly woods of Tremblant.

We’re spoiled in such a postcard setting with few distractions except for hikes up the mountain or at nearby Parc National du Mont Tremblant, shared meals, conversations and one competitive game (or two) of charades – kids versus parents.

It’s a time for all teens and parents to catch up the latest news and updates from vacations, careers, extended families, life’s blessings and misfortunes.

Breaking Traditions

Sadly, my mother-in-law is experiencing signs of worsening dementia. So this Thanksgiving, we’ve decided to break from tradition and share our holiday with my in-laws and extended family in London, Ontario. Continue reading


Next Bullying Trend on Social Media: Public Shaming. Did This Mom Cross the Line?

Recently, a mom from Wyoming, Jeannie Crutchfield, learned her 14-year-old daughter skipped classes for a week. She repeatedly warned her daughter she would come to school if she continued. Wanting to call her daughter out and publicly scorn her, Jeannie follows her teen to school and videotapes her as they walk through the halls.

The video starts with Jeannie asking her teen “Why am I here, Ricki?”

Her daughter replies, “Because you thought I was ditching. I’m not ditching.”

Jeannie, armed with an attendance note from the school, knows her daughter is lying. The three-minute video captures Jeannie chiding her daughter. As the public scolding continues, the teen unsuccessfully tries to break away from her mom.

As Jeannie tries to catch up with her daughter, she yells,”You thought it was cute to ditch with your friends. Now let’s see how cute you think is to hang out with mom during class. Shall we?” Continue reading


In Memory…

Thanksgiving reminds me of many family traditions including walks in the woods, dinners with friends and family and discovering new hikes with my husband and children.

Three years ago, Thanksgiving took on a different hue. While driving to meet our friends at their chalet, my 16-year-old daughter learned about the suicide of a friend whom she met on her high school ski team. After receiving a text, my daughter then turned to Facebook to confirm the tragedy.

How do you, as a parent, help your teen?

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Top 3 Communication Tips When Connecting with Your Teens

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I’m kicking off my first blog post with one of the most important topics I tirelessly work at: communication. In fact, I feel this topic is so central to my relationship with my teens this blog post will be the first of two dedicated to this theme.

You may recall the tragic suicide of Nova Scotia teen Rehteah Parsons in April 2013. Rehteah committed suicide two years after being raped and subsequently photographed by four boys at a party. Three days later, pictures circulated throughout her school and in her community. [1]

Last year, for a school assignment, my then 13-year-old daughter was asked to select a picture from a newspaper and write a story about the image. Seeing the front section of the Globe and Mail, my daughter saw a picture of Rehteah and wrote a fictional story about a young teen girl.  Instead, Catherine (alias for my daughter) chose to write about an adolescent girl who was contemplating her future – a story completely unrelated to the tragic events that had transpired.

This assignment became a springboard for a mother-daughter discussion which focussed on central topics including: cyber bulling, the tragic events surrounding Rehteah, friends, teen sex and parties.  My daughter’s decision to write a creative writing piece helped me understand what Catherine was thinking while providing the two of us with a chance to have a frank discussion about the tragedy. Continue reading