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Top Teen (13-17) Questions

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Health & Safety

Q: How do I talk to my teen about sex?

A: There's more to talking about sex than the birds and the bees. When your teen comes asking, be prepared for a frank chat.

The expert says:
"Use popular media as a jumping-off point--if you see your son watching shows or movies that contain innuendo or jokes about sex, make observations about what the characters are saying or doing and use the opportunity to ask your teen questions like 'Are other kids in your grade talking about this kind of thing? What are they saying?'"
--Sabrina Weill, editor-in-chief of Mom•Logic and the author of "The Real Truth about Teens and Sex" as well as "The Seventeen Guide to Sex and Your Body."

Convey Your Values
Be specific in what your hopes are for your teen, whether you want her to wait to have sex until she is older, or married, or in a committed relationship: be clear and let her know why you feel this way. You are the number one influence on your teen's sexual decisions--more than her friends or the media. Use your power!

Mom•Logic Moms say:
"Ask lots of questions and get the conversation to be two-way. Avoid giving a speech!" says Tanya, Mom of two.

Other Moms say:

  • It's an embarrassing conversation but an absolutely necessary one to have.
  • I brought up the subject in the car. That way, my son was trapped and he had to listen to me.
  • It's not just one conversation anymore, it's a series of conversations that last a lifetime.

Q: How do I keep my teen safe on the Internet?

A: Kids today are growing up in a whole new world... online. Don't be a foreigner in their cyber universe.

The safety expert says:
"Protecting kids online is a parenting issue, not a technology one. As a parent, you need to instill rules, guidelines and support when it comes to your teen's Internet usage. Any breaking of those rules should warrant consequences. Predators are not the only danger online. With the click of a mouse, your teen can access sites that promote violence, hate, pornography, and eating disorders. Your teen needs to understand that the Internet is a place she can go to hang out, but when she needs guidance, she should still turn to you."
--Samantha Wilson, Founder and President of Kidproof Canada/USA. A former police officer, she is an internationally recognized expert in child and family safety.

Protecting Your Child:

  • Think of the Internet as a place, not a "thing." It is a place that teens go to hang out, meet friends, and experiment.
  • Supervision (and that doesn't mean that parents need to sit beside their teen every time they are online) and communication are key.
  • Talk to your teen about what she is doing online
  • Try it yourself so that you can get a better understanding of what she is doing and seeing.
  • Pay close attention to who she talks to online.
  • Pay close attention to what she watches and information she accesses.

Mom•Logic Moms say:
"I set limits. I read my teen's email and text messages. I look at her browsing history. I have all her passwords. Some people might say I'm a spy or an intrusive parent, but I just think I'm a good Mom," says Sarah, Mom of one.

Other Moms say:

  • Spyware is a beautiful thing.
  • I don't allow my daughter to go in chat rooms or to have a MySpace page.
  • We have the computer in the living room right out in the open. No privacy means less chance my teen will do something stupid online without me knowing about it.

Q: My daughter has cuts on her arms but refuses to talk about it. I think she is cutting herself. What should I do?

A: Cutting is a distress call. Don't let it go unnoticed.

The pediatrician says:
"Cutting is a very serious problem and indicates deep emotional pain in a child, usually a teen or tween. Most times the cutting has been going on for a very long time before a friend alerts a parent to it or a parent discovers it by accident. Cutting needs immediate attention - not only to care for the cuts, but to make sure the kids are emotionally safe and not about to inflict more serious self-harm. In other words, most kids who cut need an emergency evaluation to be sure they are not suicidal. If you discover your child is cutting, contact your pediatrician immediately to discuss whether an outpatient evaluation or emergency ER evaluation is needed."
--Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP, is the CEO and Chief Editor of Pediatrics Now

How you can help:
"A situation like this takes time to develop; it will not go away quickly and it will not go away on its own. Your daughter needs your help and professional help."
--Family counselor Rosanne Tobey, LPC, is a New Jersey-based therapist who specializes in individual, couples and family therapy.

  • Seek out a counselor that specializes in cutting. Your pediatrician can make a referral, but do your own research, too.
  • Spend more quality time with her and pay direct attention to her. Let her know you care.
  • Educate yourself about cutting and self-injurious behavior.
  • Act swiftly.
  • Make the arrangements to provide the help and support that it will take to ease your daughter's pain and help her learn a better way to cope.

Mom•Logic Moms say:
"My daughter started cutting when she was 14 after her Dad and I got divorced. I put her in counseling immediately as soon as I found out. It's very hard for a mother to admit and acknowledge that her daughter is cutting herself, but ignoring the signs could cost your kid her life," says Heidi, Mom of two.

Other Moms say:

  • At my son's school, cutting is considered cool. It's my job to convince him otherwise.
  • I noticed my daughter was wearing long-sleeved shirts in summer. That's how I found out she was into self-mutilation.
  • My daughter told me her best friend had been cutting. I made the choice to call her friend's Mom and tell her. It was the hardest call I've ever made in my life.

Q: Should I get my teen the HPV vaccine? Is it safe?

A: When the HPV vaccine hit the market, it won a lot of attention... and raised a lot of questions, too.

The pediatrician says:
"Yes, vaccinate! It is very safe and has few side effects beyond the expected discomfort. Your tween daughter should get it when she's 11 or 12. In fact, I'm planning on giving the vaccine to both my girls."
--Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP, is the CEO and Chief Editor of Pediatrics Now

What Is the HPV Vaccine?
Gardasil is a vaccine that targets Human Papillomavirus or HPV. HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, is the major culprit in causing cervical cancer in women and can go undetected for years and contribute to other health problems such as infertility.

Who Should Get It:
The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that girls get the HPV vaccine when they are 11 or 12 to protect them before they become sexually active. While talking about safe sex helps, teens can be very impulsive so education alone is not enough protection. Studies have also shown that the virus works best if girls have not already gotten one of the HPV subtypes associated with cervical cancer.

Mom•Logic Moms say:
"I got my daughter the vaccine without question. If it could possibly save her life, why wouldn't I?" says Amanda, Mom of three.

Other Moms say:

  • Why don't they offer the vaccine for boys? Makes no sense.
  • I heard it's painful and makes some girls faint. I'm scared to put my daughter through that.
  • This vaccine should be mandatory for all girls!

Eating & Sleeping

Q: How much sleep should my teen be getting?

A: Teens who burn the midnight oil may pay the price in the morning. It's good to know how much sleep is enough.

The sleep expert says:
"Somewhere between 8 ¼ and 9 ½ hours of sleep a night is right. Many teens, especially teens involved in lots of extracurricular activities, sacrifice sleep for activities and stay up late into the night studying and talking to friends. Because teens (especially those in high school) need to get to school earlier than ever, it's even more important for them to get a good night's sleep. Approximately 20 percent of teenagers fall asleep in school, and many are at risk for lower grades, car accidents, stimulant abuse, and even depression due to sleep deprivation."
--Sleep expert Jill Spivack, MSW, is a psychotherapist and co-founder of Sleepy Planet, where she provides pediatric sleep consultations and leads general parenting groups for first and second time mothers

Helping the sleepless teen:
Try these steps to help your teen get some much-needed shut-eye.

  • Talk with your teen and explain how important sleep is for his success in school and friendships and extracurricular activities.
  • If he is too over-scheduled, encourage him to drop an activity or two so that he can make time for sleep.
  • Make sure your teen has a nice wind-down routine 30 minutes before he tries to go to sleep. (Reading before bed is a great way to wind down and get a better night's sleep.)
  • Encourage your teen to leave his drapes open so the morning light can come in to the room. Light activates your brain to wake up more easily.

For teens who sleep endlessly:
Too much of a good thing can be a sign of other problems.

  • Check whether your teen is sleeping a lot during the day because he's not going to sleep at a reasonable hour at night, or whether he is simply sleeping round-the-clock.
  • Watch your teen's moods and behavior at other times to determine if there may be an underlying depression that's causing the sleepiness or whether there may possibly be some substance abuse going on.
  • If you still can't solve the problem, take your child to the doctor. An underlying medical condition (such as anemia) can cause fatigue.

Mom•Logic Moms say:
"My 15-year-old gets eight hours of sleep a night on school nights. But on weekends, she sleeps until noon! I guess her body needs the rest," says Micah, Mom of two.

Other Moms say:

  • With all the extracurricular activities my son is in, he doesn't get enough sleep. I worry that he'll fall asleep behind the wheel someday.
  • My 15-year-old drinks coffee or Red Bull to stay awake to study, and has even pulled a few all-nighters. This worries me.
  • All my son wants to do is sleep!

Q: My teen eats so much junk food and is getting fat. I don't know how to bring it up without hurting her.

A: As women, moms know how touchy weight can be. That's what makes it especially hard to discuss it with our own daughters.

The pediatrician says:
"Rather than tell her she's fat, compare her body to fueling a car. Our bodies use food for fuel and our weight is a reflection of how our body utilizes the fuel. If we are overweight, it means we are not using the fuel correctly - we're not exercising enough and not eating the right types and amounts of food. Teens tend to be sensitive, so she may get upset, but you have to let her know you love her and that your only goal is to help her get healthy."
--Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP, is the CEO and Chief Editor of Pediatrics Now

Tips for how to help:

  • Remind her that junk food and sweets are okay in moderation, but not something to eat every day.
  • Set a good example and eat healthy yourself and exercise regularly
  • Stock the house with healthy foods, keep junk food to a minimum
  • Plan family activities that involve exercise
  • Hold her accountable for her actions
  • If she refuses to listen and continues to eat too much junk food, seek professional help because overeating can be a sign of teen depression.

Mom•Logic Moms say:
"My daughter was getting chubby and eating fast food at school. I'm also overweight so we went on a diet together. So far, we've lost 25 pounds each. I just don't want her to struggle with her weight like I do," says Regina, Mom of three.

Other Moms say:

  • I try to cook healthier meals for my overweight teen and not keep as many processed foods around the house.
  • Childhood obesity is a national epidemic. The whole nation is fat. But when you see your own kid not be able to shop at the stores her friends do, then cry about it, it cuts you to the core.

Behavior

Q: When should I let my son go on his first date?

A: It's hard to imagine that your little boy may by ready to start dating. But before he goes on that first date, you want to be sure he's ready.

The expert says:
"This varies widely from teen to teen--a lot of young people feel pressured to date before they are really ready and sometimes saying they can't go can be a relief to them."
--Sabrina Weill, editor-in-chief of Mom•Logic and the author of "The Real Truth about Teens and Sex" as well as "The Seventeen Guide to Sex and Your Body."

Tips for Talking to Your Son:

  • Ask your son a lot of questions about who he's going with, how he feels about this person and what he thinks might happen on the "date."
  • Make sure he is prepared to be respectful of the girl and her feelings and that neither feels pressured to make something "happen" because it's a "date."
  • It's okay to make rules like "I have to meet her first," or "the first few dates have to be at our house." Teens may balk at rules like this but on some level they do appreciate you setting the guidelines for them.

Mom•Logic Moms say:
"I let my son go on his first date at 16. By then, I felt he was ready to make responsible decisions. But that doesn't mean I wasn't a nervous wreck, though!" says Ginni, Mom of one.

Other Moms say:

  • I let my son go on group dates at 16, solo dates at 17.
  • In our town, kids don't even date anymore. They just "hang out." It's all so confusing!
  • I tried the old 'no dating til you're 30' rule but it didn't work. Darn!

Q: I think my teen might be gay. What do I do?

A: People say a mother's intuition is strong. When it comes to knowing your child's sexuality, it may be stronger than you thought.

The expert says:
"A lot of parents -- especially Moms -- suspect their child is gay prior to knowing for sure. In general, it's a good idea not to directly ask your child if he is gay, but to let him shape the conversation. If you pry, you risk taking power away from the child. The only exception to this rule is if you suspect your child is in crisis (suicidal, inflicting injury upon himself, etc.)"
-- Gay teens expert Ritch Savin-Williams is chairman of Human Development at Cornell University and author of "The New Gay Teenager" (2005).

Tips to Help Him Come Out:
Often parents are the last people to know because parents are so important and children don't want to be rejected by them. So be patient. In time, if you are open and close to your child, he will tell you. There are, however, things you can do to let your child know that it is safe to open up.

  • Create an atmosphere where he feels comfortable.
  • Buy positive gay books and lay them around.
  • Don't make gay jokes.
  • Don't assume sexuality. If you're curious about who your son is dating, avoid pronouns and instead say, "Is there someone you're dating or someone you like?"
  • Talk about sex and sexuality with your son.
  • Suggest that your son share his private feelings with a sibling. Children will often reveal things to siblings that they wouldn't reveal to a parent.
  • The most important thing is to simply continue to love the child and let him know that you love him unconditionally.

Mom•Logic Moms say:
"I knew my son was gay from the time he was 5. I've just encouraged him and supported him all along. He finally came out to me last year, at age 17. I hope that I've allowed him to grow up in a house where he knows I love him exactly how he is without judgment," says Olivia, Mom of three.

Other Moms say:

  • Wait. I was convinced my son was gay at 7, but am convinced he's not at 14. Kids change so much. Just let them be who they are.
  • I talked to my best friend and my therapist about it but would never bring it up with him.
  • Let them bring it up with you instead of vice versa.

Q: My teen is constantly texting on her cell phone. How can I get her back to the real world?

A: You thought buying her that cell phone would make it easier for you to reach your daughter. Instead, it's turned her into a speed-typing, acronym expert.

The parenting expert says:
"Often parents assume that texting is getting in the way of communication. Usually the texting is the teen's solution to poor communication at home. It is much more rewarding for a teen to communicate with her friends who completely support and understand her than to communicate with her parents who nag all of the time. The way to get your daughter to put down her cell phone at home is to improve communication and cooperation with her."
-- Learning and behavior specialist Noel Janis-Norton is founder and director of The New Learning Centre in London, is a learning and behavior specialist with over 30 years' experience in Britain and the United States

Putting the Phone Down:

  • When she gets home, have her hand her cell phone to you. She only gets it back when her homework and chores are done.
  • Talk to your cell phone company about a plan that would limit her texting.
  • Kids are so dependent on electronics that they can't imagine what to do without them. Suggest alternative forms of entertainment and communication with friends.
  • Avoid lecturing and nagging your daughter and instead create an open dialogue where you discuss your expectations of her.
  • Be clear about your values. Rather than say, "I don't want you to text all the time," which is vague, tell her what times and places are appropriate to text her friends.
  • Praise her for the everyday things she does well so she can feel appreciated and know that you notice her and are interested in her.

Mom•Logic Moms say:
"OMG! I am going through this right now. I just don't allow texting at the dinner table, or after 7:00 pm. That way, I know we get family time and that my kids' studies won't suffer," says Kiley, Mom of two.

Other Moms say:

  • I'd love to throw my kid's phone away. But I guess this is how my own parents felt when I was on the phone constantly growing up, talking about nothing. I guess it's just part of growing up.
  • The worst part is when she texts to her friend who's sitting right next to her. I know they are texting about me!

Q: My kid's an average student. How can I help him get into college?

A: Not every kid is Harvard bound, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a school out there that's right for yours.

The therapist says:
"Don't buy into college name-dropping. Yes there are some glamorous schools out there, but if a successful college education is what you really want for you son, you'll want to focus on what is right for your son, not what will impress the neighbors. The great thing about higher education in America is there is a college for everyone. And you'll find one for your son. Just remember that this can be a very intimidating time in a child's life. Now is the time for you to be there for him by showing that you believe in him, so that he can believe in himself."
--Family therapist Rosanne Tobey, LPC, is a New Jersey-based therapist who specializes in individual, couples and family therapy.

Tips to Finding the Right Match:

  • First, choose a school that is a right fit where he will feel comfortable and succeed.
  • Don't try to get your son accepted into a school where all of the students are super competitive. His guidance counselor should be able to assist with this.
  • Encourage your son to do the best he can in the classes that he is currently taking.
  • Submit a college application that boasts his strengths rather than highlights his weaknesses
  • Consider an S.A.T. tutor. Practicing and learning test taking skills can reduce test anxiety and potentially improve his score.
  • Pay attention to your son's needs, not what is going on around him.
  • This is a time to encourage your son. Don't focus on the schools that won't accept him. Concentrate on the ones that will. Help him to see that there is more than one way to achieve something and that there is a right situation for everyone.

Mom•Logic Moms say:
"We have a tutor. I help my son study for at least two hours a night. It's hard after working all day but I feel I owe it to my son to give him the best future I can," says Stacy, Mom of one.

Other Moms say:

  • Not every kid is Einstein. Figure out what his other strengths are and encourage those.
  • My oldest son started out in a community college, then moved on to a bigger school two years later.


14 comments so far | Post a comment now
Faith September 5, 2008, 4:20 PM

I had to read this twice to make sure I was not the original author. My daughter is 15 and I honestly thinks she lives and breathes to text. She can look at me hold conversation with her siblings and text a million words a minute and not miss a beat. If I want to punish her I take her cell phone or block her texting abilities. This is WAY wrong, she has since been given a 2 hr texting time limit after school and mid day on the weekends, she swears its punishment,but she will appreciate it later. I HOPE>

Tracy September 25, 2008, 12:55 AM

I guess I’m really lucky. Our 14 yr.old daughter loves to text more, than talk on her cell. We explained the rules when she first got her phone. That was 2 yrs. ago, & she hasn’t been grounded or had it taken away (yet):]

Barb December 9, 2008, 5:24 PM

I found 2 inappropriate texts to my 15 y.o. daughter on her cell phone from boys and that’s all it took.
Texting is a privilege and easily taken away.
I called AT&T and had texting capability taken away.
Boys will text things they are too shy to say on the phone and in person. Texting quickly becomes a cesspool. We are all happier without it in our house.
Same with Facebook. I told her she can either give me access to her Facebook page, or she doesn’t have one.
It’s called being a parent.

jeannette January 7, 2009, 5:31 PM

Barb, I like your way of thinking . That is the same thing I did with my daughter’s cell and her myspace page. No parent access no my space and that’s final. She gave up the password and I dared her to change it. I check it periodically.

Cher January 23, 2009, 1:51 PM

My daughter sleeps all afternnon after school. Should I be looking into whether or not she is taking drugs? I also think she might be going through a small depressive time right now. she is 15.

TeenGirl March 16, 2009, 10:59 PM

Hey this is from a thirteen year old. Faith, what you did made sense (kind of). Barb, it is not neccessarily your daughter’s fault that a boy sent her those 2 messages. As a parent, you are supposed to do what’s best for your child. You’re not! Instead you are finding the easy way out of the problem… blocking texting. She will find a way around it; text from a friend’s phone at school. Have a heart to heart talk with your daughter. And honestly, don’t you feel pretty ba about reading your daughter’s texts? I would. AND JEANETTE!!! AT LEAST BARB HAD A REASON FOR BEING A HARSH MEAN PREMT… you are even worse, because you are so worried about your teen. Your daughter doesn’t need to be monitered. She needs to know that you trust her… and she’s getting the opposite of that now! Well Cher, yes that’s a possibility (and a really bad thing) but she could just be really tired! (thats also a bad thing, but if she is up all night, no wonder she’s tired. In either case, talk to your daughter, a doctor, and a friend. Good luck… Everything’s gonna be o.k.

TeenGirl March 16, 2009, 11:00 PM

Hey this is from a thirteen year old. Faith, what you did made sense (kind of). Barb, it is not neccessarily your daughter’s fault that a boy sent her those 2 messages. As a parent, you are supposed to do what’s best for your child. You’re not! Instead you are finding the easy way out of the problem… blocking texting. She will find a way around it; text from a friend’s phone at school. Have a heart to heart talk with your daughter. And honestly, don’t you feel pretty ba about reading your daughter’s texts? I would. AND JEANETTE!!! AT LEAST BARB HAD A REASON FOR BEING A HARSH MEAN PREMT… you are even worse, because you are so worried about your teen. Your daughter doesn’t need to be monitered. She needs to know that you trust her… and she’s getting the opposite of that now! Well Cher, yes that’s a possibility (and a really bad thing) but she could just be really tired! (thats also a bad thing, but if she is up all night, no wonder she’s tired. In either case, talk to your daughter, a doctor, and a friend. Good luck… Everything’s gonna be o.k.

X May 16, 2009, 1:39 AM

I’m a young mother raising a 16 almost 17 year old, and although I can appreciate the new way of communication I think it depersonalizes our kids and the result: poor communication! between the online classes, emails, virtual online video games, internet and texting when do you actually get to have personal face to face time with your friends and loved ones or even a meaningful conversation? And, facebook & myspace can be, and usually are, misused by tons of adults. Now you can only imagine the misuse caused by teens.

Mothers have been nagging since the beginning of time (thats what mothers do) and teens have always found solace in their peers (thats what they do). Lets face the simple fact that most teens text toooooooooo much. Hell, some adults text toooo much, lets admit it and help our teens become responsible with the privilege they have been granted.

Michelle May 30, 2009, 2:57 PM

My 19 year old daughter is overweight and refuses to exercise. She gets angry if we even talk about helping her get in shape and is a very poor communicator. We’ve signed her up for gym memberships (which she asked for) and then never goes. She lays around all day and eats and sleeps really late (until 1 or 2 in the afternoon sometimes) I’m worried she will continue on this path and continue to gain weight and develop diabetes if she doesn’t change her ways. She is very stubborn and refuses to do anything or even talk about it. What should we do, given that she is 19 and we cannot even force her to go to a doctor/psycologist? Help!

concerned mom June 13, 2009, 8:15 PM

so my 16 year old daughter complains that i dont let her go out and she always get mad about it.. what can i do i dnt want her to go out because my other daughter got pregnant at 15 and im scared that might happen to her.

SunDustPhotography December 20, 2009, 12:42 PM

All I can say is that from what I’ve seen of this website, the vast majority of you are terrible Mothers. Kinda lucky I’m hiding behind a screen and keyboard really as it’s likely I’d be lynched without such precautions. I’m an 18 year old guy and my parents would never, EVER dream of looking through my texts, emails or websites and view it as a gross violation of privacy. Beleve me, I’ve been there and done the whole cybersex thing. I’ve done the dirty texts and msn conversations but it’s a part of growing up and discovering your limits as a person. I’m not some twisted psychotic pervert as a result; much to the contrary, I’m a big softy who my friends turn to for help. The girls I had these conversations with also managed to somehow, just SOMEHOW, turn out fine too.

Restricting your child’s freedom and privacy does nothing to make them a better person. I’ve hardly led a sheltered life but it’s made me a deeper and better traveled person as a result.

KC February 10, 2010, 4:50 PM

Wow all this stuff I read from other Moms is interesting. My 16 yr old son respects me and tells me often that he loves and appreciates me. I have never read his text messages or email or letters from girls and never would unless his behavior warranted that (i.e. drugs, etc.). I think allowing teens to have privacy helps them to mature and grow into respectable adults. I do, however, give him my opinion often and warn him of consequences of drugs, alcohol etc. because I love him and do not want him to be hurt.

Ten Tees January 9, 2011, 1:06 PM

Great site! Enjoyable and fun reading. I’ve just got one observation to make about funny shirts.

Anonymous May 21, 2011, 7:17 PM

Yodel


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