HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

What To Do If Your Child Gets Suspended From School

Here are some important suggestions that may make the experience easier in the event that your child or teen gets suspended from school...

Get the Facts—

1. Talk with your child. Ask him to tell you (or write) exactly what happened as soon as possible so you have a clear understanding of the details related to the incident. Make sure he is being honest about what happened.

2. School administrators must provide children with notice of the charges against them, the basis for the charge, and an opportunity to tell his side of the story.

3. Immediately contact the school and request:
  • a copy of any administrator's, educator's, or child's statements about the charge/incident
  • a copy of the school's or district's disciplinary policies in writing (if they have not as yet been provided to you)
  • a copy of the child's school records, including records for attendance, grades, and any past discipline

4. Review these materials and note anything you want to ask your youngster or the school about that may include issues relevant to the current situation.

Meet with School Officials—

1. Call the school staff person who gave the suspension and ask for a face-to-face meeting at a time that is convenient for you. Ask for whatever accommodation you need to enable you to participate fully in the meeting, for example, if you need to meet in the evening or need a translator if you do not speak English. There are five good reasons to request and attend a face-to-face meeting:
  • to ensure that your youngster is taking responsibility for his actions
  • to ensure that your youngster's educational progress is not adversely affected
  • to learn more of the facts around the incident
  • to learn of any opportunities or services that may help your youngster (e.g., counseling or other types of social, educational, or health services)
  • to verify that your youngster is being treated fairly

2. Approach the meeting with an open mind and a firm commitment not to argue or raise your voice.

3. Do not go alone to the meeting. Take someone with you who can serve as an advocate and provide you with support or make you feel more comfortable. This might be a friend, neighbor, community service agency representative, or clergy. Make sure that the school official is informed that this person will be present at the meeting.

4. Write down any questions you have before the meeting and bring your list with you so you can ask your questions and have them answered at the meeting.

Questions that moms and dads may want to ask about the situation:
  • Can my youngster make up his schoolwork and tests?
  • Could the educator have handled this differently?
  • Exactly what did each person do? Exactly what did each person say?
  • Has my youngster had similar problems before? Is this documented in writing?
  • Were other children involved in this incident? What punishment did the other children receive? Why is their punishment different?
  • What can the school do to help my youngster and avoid this problem in the future? For example, may my youngster change his seat in class or be transferred to a different class?
  • What is the normal punishment for breaking this rule? Is there a different punishment for the first, second, or third violation of this rule? Are these things in writing?
  • What other children or employees were around when this happened? What are their accounts of the incident?
  • What rule did my youngster break? May I see this rule in writing? What did my youngster do to break the rule?
  • Where was my youngster when this happened? Who was the educator in charge? Where was the educator when the incident happened?
  • Why is my youngster receiving extra punishment?
  • Will this punishment cause my youngster to fail a class or be held back?

Additional Points:

1. Do not admit wrongdoing and do not let your child admit wrongdoing unless it is true.

2. If your child admits wrongdoing, consider or ask what can be done to "make things right." For example, is an apology to an educator or another child in order, or is there some other action your child may take to correct or make amends for the situation? If so, have your child follow through on this.

3. Take your child to the meeting with you if he can act respectfully and take responsibility for his actions. He must admit if he was wrong and violated a school rule.

Ask For Help—

Ask for help to ensure the educational progress of your youngster. A child can fail a class if he misses too much work or can be retained in the same grade if he misses too many days. If the suspension will harm your youngster's educational progress, ask the school officials to help avoid these outcomes for your youngster. Also ask for help to get other services for your youngster. The incident that led to your youngster's suspension may be related to an issue or problem that is not resolved by the suspension. Furthermore, ask for help to get support for you as a parent. Often there are things that moms and dads can do and learn about to be better advocates for their youngster's education and well-being. Schools and communities have resources or may know of support groups or opportunities that can be helpful for moms and dads.

1. Ask for a hearing to request that a situation that would harm your youngster's educational progress be reconsidered, or appeal the suspension decision.

2. Ask your school about groups, programs, and opportunities for your support and involvement in your youngster's education and development.

3. Ask if the school could assign another punishment.

4. Ask if there is help for homework in the community or tutoring help.

5. Ask if your youngster could finish the punishment during in-school suspension.

6. Ask the school to provide all of your youngster's school assignments so your youngster can complete them during the suspension. Also ask for permission to have your youngster make up the tests that would be missed.

7. Ask what other opportunities and services there are in the school or community to help your youngster. Consider and ask about services such as: ongoing counseling; testing for learning disabilities; opportunities to be mentored; peer mediation programs; special education services; special language programs; tutoring; drug counseling; mental health services; anger management, social skills, and conflict resolution training classes; and involvement in youth leadership activities, sports, camps, after-school programs, and community service activities.

If You Believe Your Youngster Has Not Been Treated Fairly—

1. The United States Constitution and other federal laws prohibit any educational discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, or other difference. If you believe your youngster has been treated unfairly because of his race or other characteristic you may file a complaint of discrimination with the Office for Civil Rights of the U. S. Department of Education. There is a regional office serving your area. Call the Civil Rights Hotline at 1-800-421-3481.

2. If you are not satisfied with the suspension decision, you may be entitled to appeal the suspension decision to the superintendent or his designee or to the local school board. Your school principal can tell you how to go about the appeal process.

If Your Youngster Is A Special Education Student—

Children who have Individual Educational Plans, called IEPs in most schools, and are special education children, have very specific rights concerning suspension. Discipline for special education children has specific requirements. There are parent centers in every state to provide assistance. In addition, there are other organizations that can help moms and dads understand what their youngster's and family rights are in the case of suspensions.

Recommendations for Schools—

1. A full assessment for social, medical, and mental health problems by a doctor (or other providers of care for youth) is recommended for all school-referred children who have been suspended or expelled. The evaluation should be designed to ascertain factors that may underlie the child’s behaviors and health risks and to provide a recommendation on how a youngster may better adapt to her school environment. A full history should be derived from the child, family members, and school staff members once consent to exchange information is attained. Management options to consider include appropriate referrals to drug rehabilitation programs, social agencies, mental health professionals, and other specialists who may assist with underlying problems. Doctors should routinely consider including school staff members as partners in the management of kids and youth with school behavior problems, providing that privacy issues are respected as outlined in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA [Pub L No. 104-191]) regulations.

2. As part of the school’s or district’s written policy on disciplinary action, schools should routinely refer a child to her primary health care professional for an assessment if there is a disciplinary action or a child is at risk of such action. Assistance with obtaining a medical home should occur in circumstances in which a child facing disciplinary action does not yet have one.

3. Matters related to safety and supervision should be explored with moms and dads whenever their youngster is barred from attending school. This includes but is not limited to screening moms and dads by history for presence of household guns.

4. Out-of-school placement for suspension or expulsion should be limited to the most egregious circumstances. For in-home suspension or expulsion, the school must be able to demonstrate how attendance at a school site, even in an alternative setting with a low ratio of highly trained staff to children, would be inadequate to prevent a child from causing harm to himself or herself or to others.

5. Doctors are encouraged to provide input to, or participate as members of, school- or district-based multidisciplinary child support teams that can provide disciplined children with a comprehensive assessment and intervention strategies. Schools should help support the participation of doctors on multidisciplinary teams by arranging for participation at times and in formats (e.g., telephone) that are conducive to practicing healthcare professionals, by financially supporting time for school physicians, or through other logistic considerations.

6. Doctors should advocate for practices and policies at the level of the local school, the school district, and the state department of education to protect the safety and promote the health and mental health of kids and youth who have committed serious school offenses.

7. Doctors should advocate to the local school district on behalf of the youngster so that he or she is reintroduced into a supportive and supervised school environment.

8. Schools need to establish relationships with various health and social agencies in their communities so children with disciplinary problems who require assistance are readily referred and communication lines between these agencies and schools are established.

9. Children and their families should be encouraged by school staff members to access health care and social services, which can be accomplished if these important topics are included in health education and life skills curricula. It is also recommended that health care professionals provide information to kids, youth, and families on access to health care and social services.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

How to Avoid Spoiling Your Child

Now let’s get real for a moment.  I’m going to be tough on parents in this article.  So if you have a weak backbone, then you may NOT want to read what I have to say...

Some parents had a hard childhood and now they want their own youngster to have everything and do everything they missed out on. Often, the pendulum swings and mothers/fathers who had a strict upbringing feel the answer is to give their youngster as much freedom as possible. Research shows that this results in kids developing a huge sense of entitlement.

It is wise to assess just how sloppy one’s parenting skills may have become. Answer these tough questions with a "yes" or a "no."

1. At the end of the day, do you pick up after your youngster (e.g., dishes, toys, books, clothes, etc.) since that's easier than asking her to do it? If yes, you are getting her accustomed to having an expensive personal servant when she becomes a young adult.

2. Do you feel that giving a youngster a good understanding of ethics, morals and spirituality will stifle her creativity and warp her spontaneity? Doing that will reward you with a youngster who doesn't value herself, her body or her ability to function harmoniously with others.

3. Do you figure that sex and violence in television and movies will prepare your child for the "real world"? Wouldn't it be better to help her enjoy and create a better world?

4. Do you permit your child to engage in every teen fad so he can be "one of the crowd"? Then prepare for a wardrobe that causes you embarrassment, problems with bad hygiene, and the youngster's inability to think for himself and be an individual.

5. Do you treat the possessions at your house, your car and in the community as if they were as disposable as toilet paper? If you do, this will result in a messy, uncaring citizen who does not value anything but herself.

6. Have you abandoned family mealtimes in favor giving your youngster fast foods and snacks whenever she wants them? In doing so, you are depriving her of three things: good nutrition, learning to enjoy a variety of foods, and participation in family togetherness at mealtimes.

7. If you and your spouse have an argument about something, do you then bad-mouth your spouse in front of your child, filling her with hatred? If so, you will turn her against marriage and the needful art of problem solving.

8. Is it your opinion that "kids must be kids" and dishonesty, cheating, plagiarism, minor shoplifting and graffiti are an inevitable part of "growing up"? Start teaching your youngster that one doesn't have to experience these activities to know that they are totally wrong, a waste of time, illegal and eventually costly.

9. Is your child given an allowance that is so generous that he has no incentive to earn any money? Then be prepared to support him for his entire life, buying him a car, paying his credit card bills, giving him down payments ---- none of which he will appreciate.

10. Rather than telling the youngster he has done something wrong, do you use the silly term "inappropriate" or "unacceptable"? If you answered yes, boldly teach the difference between right and wrong by using these more understandable words such as good, bad, yes and no.

11. When a youngster expresses an interest in a toy or sport, do you quickly fulfill his desire to attain it or participate in it? If so, you are teaching him that the world owes him everything he wants without effort or anticipation on his part.

12. When your child is reprimanded (by a teacher, activity leader, neighbor or law enforcement officer), do you immediately assume that they are picking on your youngster? This teaches lack of respect, the ability to politely defend oneself, and a warped sense of prejudice leading to the feeling that "everyone is against me."

13. When your child makes a crude remark, uses profanity or sneaks sips of alcohol from you, do you excuse it as "growing up"? Be prepared that this kind of "cuteness" will encourage language and activities that will shame you later in life.

If you said yes to 10-13 of these questions, your youngster may be heading toward delinquency. If you said yes to 6-9, your youngster is spoiled. If you said yes to 2-5, you should assess your parenting while you still can. With just one yes, congratulate yourself!

How to Avoid Spoiling Your Child—

1. "No" is not a bad word: In other words, you're not hurting your little one by saying no. In many cases you may be helping him. Take for example, teenagers who drive expensive, luxury cars. Ask yourself: “what's the value of giving a 16-year-old a Porsche?” People feel better when they earn something they're given. No 16 year-old has earned a Porsche. Now, if you want to help your youngster buy a car – that's another story.

2. Avoid comparisons: Setting limits and saying "no" becomes even harder when parents of your youngster's friends are saying "yes." This is a frustration, but moms and dads should stand firm by their decisions. Your child may complain that all of his friends have an X Box and nobody will want to come over unless he gets one, too. I suggest telling your youngster to enjoy playing the video game at friends' homes and finding something unique to do at his own home. Your child has qualities and possessions that attract his friends and they will still want to come over. He should be proud of these things, not embarrassed or upset by what he doesn't have.

3. Avoid materialism: Make sure your kids aren't defining their happiness and their status in the world as a function of what they wear or drive. Sit down with them and have a one-on-one conversation about what really defines their worth — their intelligence, their creativity, their caring, their giving, their work ethic, etc. If you spent equal time sitting down and talking to them about what really mattered as you do shopping, you might be able counterbalance the countless images they see telling them otherwise.

4. Be a good role model: We're not the only influence in our kids' lives, so we better be the best influence.

5. Changing the behavior earlier rather than later: Once your youngster does start acting spoiled, it may seem impossible to change this behavior.

6. Don’t be a buddy: Your youngster does not have to love you every minute of every day. He'll get over the disappointment of having been told "no." But he won't get over the effects of being spoiled.

7. Don't let your guilt get in the way of your parenting: Your job as a parent is not to make yourself feel good by giving the youngster everything that makes you feel good when you give it. Your job as a parent is to prepare your youngster to succeed in school and when they get out into the world. Kids have to be socialized in a way that they understand you work hard for what you get. You don't want to teach your youngster that they will get everything through manipulation, pouting, crying, door slamming and guilt induction.

8. Help your youngster set goals: Teach her that striving to own nice things is fine if she understands how much hard work it takes to afford that, and then doesn't base her self-worth around what she buys.

9. Model unconditional love: If your parent-child relationship is based on material goods, your youngster won't have the chance to experience unconditional love.

10. Money is not the problem: Money has nothing to do with spoiling a youngster. Even kids from low-income families can wind up spoiled. If you are on the phone with your husband, even if you're just talking about dinner plans, and your 7-year-old keeps wanting to talk to you, wants to interrupt and thinks that's OK ... he's spoiled. The youngster assumes you are going to drop everything and pay total attention to him. You have indulged this behavior in the past and now the youngster expects it all the time.

11. Prepare your youngster: Your primary job as a parent is to prepare your youngster for how the world really works. In the real world, you don't always get what you want. You will be better able to deal with that as an adult if you've experienced it as a youngster.

12. Redefine what taking care of your kids means: Are you providing for them emotionally and spiritually? You need not buy them material goods in order to create a bond. Instead of tangible gifts, how about spending some time together? Be careful that you aren't teaching them that emotions can be healed by a trip to the mall.

13. Set limits and stick by them: It's tiring and tedious and just not fun, but moms and dads must decide what they are willing to give their kids (in terms of material goods and attention) and then stand by this decision. Once you take a stand, recognize that your youngster will try to manipulate you. He'll give lots of logical reasons why he needs to have something. But stick with your decision! So if you do buy your youngster a toy after telling him you wouldn't, you can be sure he will persistently badger you the next time you say "no." He now knows that if he's persistent, he can break down your resolve.

14. Teach charity: For instance, if you believe you've bought too many toys for your youngster, tell him so. Go on to explain that he does not play with all of them and is no longer putting them away or taking care of them. Allow him to choose a few favorite items and then give the rest away to charity. This will teach him about giving to others while learning to value what he has.

15. Think of the future: Remember that this change won't be easy, but it is important. If you continue to spoil your kids, they will get to the point where they are not satisfied by anything. They will never feel gratified. When you decide to stop spoiling your youngster, it doesn't mean you can no longer buy her designer clothes or nice things - just cut back. Buy one pair of designer jeans, not 10.

It helps if parents understand "intrinsic" versus "extrinsic" motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when people do things because they feel proud of themselves when they do it. They feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement. Extrinsic motivation is when someone does something because of external motivation. For example, they will receive money, a toy or privilege if they do the task. If you are always rewarding your youngster with material things, he will never learn how to motivate himself with internal rewards like pride. He also will never learn to value things because there are so many things and nothing is special.

You can’t “make” your youngster feel more secure. Particularly in this age of mobility and divorce, a lot of moms and dads try to compensate for a perceived lack of security in their kid’s life by, shall we say, “giving in” to them. They feel like they have to give their youngster her way because they are struggling over the divorce or other trauma and just can’t deal with anything else at this point. While their plan is to get things back on track in the weeks and months ahead, the reality is that those weeks and months never come – and the youngster is empowered in a manner that often shows itself in very negative ways.

As mothers and fathers, we need to remember that feelings of "security" are subjective and not necessarily related to an actual situation, be it divorce, an illness in the family, a move to a new neighborhood or town, or other trauma that kids all too often experience. Real security cannot be imposed or provided from the outside. Security is achieved by living through and overcoming life’s difficulties.

==> Help for Parents with Spoiled Children and Teens

Children and Teens Who Smoke Tobacco: 20 Tips for Parents

Children might be drawn to smoking and chewing tobacco for any number of reasons (e.g., to look cool, act older, lose weight, win cool merchandise, seem tough, feel independent, etc.). But moms and dads can combat those draws and keep children from trying/getting addicted to tobacco. Establish a good foundation of communication with your children early on to make it easier to work through tricky issues like tobacco use.

If you smell smoke on your youngster's clothing, try not to overreact. Ask about it first. Maybe she has been hanging around with peers who smoke or just tried one cigarette. Many children do try a cigarette at one time or another but don't go on to become regular smokers. Additional signs of tobacco use include:
  • bad breath
  • coughing
  • decreased athletic performance
  • greater susceptibility to colds
  • hoarseness
  • shortness of breath
  • stained teeth and clothing (also signs of chewing tobacco use)
  • throat irritation

Sometimes even the best foundation isn't enough to stop children from experimenting with tobacco. It may be tempting to get angry, but it's more productive to focus on communicating with your youngster. Here are some tips that may help:

1. Ask what children find appealing — or unappealing — about smoking. Be a patient listener.

2. Discuss it in a way that doesn't make children fear punishment or judgment.

3. Discuss ways to respond to peer-pressure to smoke. Your youngster may feel confident simply saying "no." But also offer alternative responses such as "It will make my clothes and breath smell bad" or "I hate the way it makes me look."

4. Emphasize what children do right rather than wrong. Self-confidence is a youngster's best protection against peer pressure.

5. Encourage a meeting with your doctor, who can be supportive and may have treatment plans.

6. Encourage children to get involved in activities that prohibit smoking, such as sports.

7. Encourage children to walk away from friends who don't respect their reasons for not smoking.

8. Establish firm rules that exclude smoking and chewing tobacco from your house and explain why: Smokers smell bad, look bad, and feel bad, and it's bad for everyone's health.

9. Explain how much smoking governs the daily life of children who start doing it. How do they afford the cigarettes? How do they have money to pay for other things they want? How does it affect their friendships?

10. Help your youngster develop a quitting plan and offer information and resources, and reinforce the decision to quit with praise.

11. If you hear, "I can quit any time I want," ask your youngster to show you by quitting cold turkey for a week.

12. It's important to keep talking to children about the dangers of tobacco use over the years. Even the youngest youngster can understand that smoking is bad for the body.

13. Many times, children aren't able to appreciate how their current behaviors can affect their future health. So talk about the immediate downsides to smoking: less money to spend on other pursuits, shortness of breath, bad breath, yellow teeth, and smelly clothes.

14. Read, watch TV, and go to the movies with your children. Compare media images with what happens in reality.

15. Resist lecturing or turning your advice into a sermon.

16. Show that you value your children' opinions and ideas.

17. Stick to the smoking rules you've set up. And don't let a youngster smoke at home to keep the peace.

18. Stress the natural rewards that come with quitting (e.g., freedom from addiction, improved fitness, better athletic performance, improved appearance, etc.).

19. Try not to nag. Ultimately, quitting is the smoker's decision.

20. Uncover what appeals to your youngster about smoking and talk about it honestly.

Children are quick to observe any contradiction between what their moms and dads say and what they do. Despite what you might think, most children say that the adult whom they most want to be like when they grow up is a parent. So, if you're a smoker, (a) admit to that you made a mistake by starting to smoke and that if you had it to do over again, you'd never start, and (b) quit smoking. It's not simple and it may take a few attempts and the extra help of a program or support group. But your children will be encouraged as they see you overcome your addiction to tobacco.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents of Defiant Teens

Preventing Behavior Problems in Pre-teens

Staying connected as children approach the adolescent years may become a challenge for moms and dads, but it's as important as ever — if not more so now. While activities at school, new interests, and a growing social life become more important to growing children, moms and dads are still the anchors, providing love, guidance, and support. And that connection provides a sense of security and helps build the resilience children needs to roll with life's ups and downs.

Your pre-adolescent may act as if your guidance isn't welcome or needed, and even seem embarrassed by you at times. This is when children start to confide more in peers and request their space and privacy — expect the bedroom door to be shut more often. As difficult as it may be to swallow these changes, try not to take them personally. They're all signs of growing independence. You're going to have to loosen the ties and allow some growing room. But you don't have to let go entirely. You're still a powerful influence — it's just that your pre-adolescent may be more responsive to the example you set rather than the instructions you give. So practice what you'd like to preach, just preach it a little less for now.

Modeling the qualities that you want your pre-adolescent to learn and practice — respectful communication, kindness, healthy eating, and fulfilling everyday responsibilities without complaining — makes it more likely that your son or daughter will comply. Small, simple things can reinforce connection. Make room in your schedule for special times, take advantage of the routines you already share, and show that you care.

Here are some tips for preventing behavior problems pre-teens:

1. Bedtime and goodnight: Your youngster may not need to be tucked in anymore, but maintaining a consistent bedtime routine helps pre-adolescents get the sleep needed to grow healthy and strong. So work in some winding-down time together before the lights go out. Read together. Go over the highlights of the day and talk about tomorrow. And even if your pre-adolescent has outgrown the tuck-in routine, there's still a place for a goodnight kiss or hug. If it's shrugged off, try a gentle hand on the shoulder or back as you wish your youngster a good night's sleep.

2. Create special time: Make a tradition out of celebrating family milestones beyond birthdays and holidays. Marking smaller occasions like a good report card or a winning soccer game helps reinforce family bonds.

3. Develop Trust: For better or worse, the pre-adolescent era marks the time when moms and dads and kids begin to disconnect a bit. This can lead to trust issues for both parties. It might sound silly considering you've lived with your youngster her entire life, but once she hits the pre-adolescent age, you'll possibly need to reestablish your trust with her. This can come by a variety of methods, but allowing a bit of leeway -- in something like hanging out with friends, for example -- can enable your relationship with your pre-adolescent to grow and strengthen. It's important to keep an open line of communication and to remain actively involved in your youngster's life. There are many ways you can do this, but be sure to keep yourself available during meals, games and other family activities. Maintain these family moments throughout the pre-adolescent years and make sure your youngster understands she can always come to you with any type of question or quarrel. This will also be a time when you may feel it necessary to do some research about your youngster on your own. Although it's important to keep tabs on where you youngster is and what she's doing, many parenting experts believe that you should respect your youngster's privacy until she gives you a good reason to suspect she is using poor judgment in an important area of her life. Although snooping on your youngster might seem like a good idea, it's generally best to begin allowing him to have his first taste of independence.

4. Discipline Them Effectively: A growing trend among punishments for pre-adolescents these days is to get creative. Instead of simply grounding your youngster or taking away a privilege, some moms and dads incorporate the reason for the punishment inside the punishment itself. For example, you could remove the hinges of your youngster's door (or the door itself) if she is constantly slamming it. This can be a great way to teach lessons. However, it's still important to follow a few simple guidelines. With pre-adolescents, be very clear with your rules, expectations and limitations. Cognitively, a pre-adolescent is beginning to understand the structure of sentences and ways to manipulate them to find loopholes, so speaking plainly with a clear message is important. Many believe positive reinforcement of rules works the best. This means that when your youngster does something wrong, you talk about what she should instead be doing, as opposed to simply telling her "don't." Kids can understand cause and effect, so pointing out what behavior they should be using and why can sometimes be more effective than simply telling them to stop. As with kids of any age range, being patient and consistent with punishments for pre-adolescents is key. Stick with the rules you set, and be ready and able to handle your youngster in a calm and collected tone if she breaks those rules.

5. Ease the Transition into Middle School: Your youngster's middle school course work will likely be more difficult than what she is used to, so she may need your help at first. You might not remember your own experience very well, but the transition into middle school can be a terrifying experience for a youngster. In many schools, this will mean a more open class structure or having to use lockers and get to classes on time. Before the term starts, you should attend a tour of the school with your youngster. You'll be able to learn about scheduled break times, find classrooms and start organizing a routine. If he is taking a new bus to school, it might be helpful to walk the route with him and help him memorize the bus number. It's not all logistics, though. Your youngster will be getting used to new and different peers in addition to dealing with a wide range of new courses and material. Also, he'll likely find himself with more social demands and having to balance complex homework assignments. As a parent, you should be involved: Make sure you've met the teachers and that you have access to a course guide so you know what to expect throughout the year. Doing so will help you help your youngster as he finds his way among new friends, group homework projects and new obligations.

6. Encourage Hobbies and Extracurricular Activities: Encouraging your pre-adolescent to explore different hobbies will help him to develop his interests and boost his self-esteem. Without proper guidance, moms and dads will hear their youngster utter the words "I'm bored" far too often. As your youngster begins to come into his own, he'll begin looking for new ways to spend time and energy outside of his schoolwork. While many moms and dads are likely to push for a youngster's hobby to be reading, keep his own desires in mind while still teaching him life skills. Whether its music, video games, movies, art, sports or something else entirely, the cost of hobbies and extracurricular activities can be stressful. You'll worry whether it's worthwhile to purchase a brand new violin if your youngster doesn't end up playing it, and that's OK. Instead of buying it, you can simply rent one as a reliable and less expensive way to develop your youngster's interests. If your pre-adolescent is struggling to find a hobby you consider useful, you might try offering a few suggestions. For instance, if he's interested in movies, pick up a cheap digital camcorder so he can try out his filmmaking skills. If he's interested in video games, introduce him to youngster-friendly programming software. Keep your intentions and your youngster's interests in mind while helping him select extracurricular activities and hobbies. In theory, you can find ways to combine the two into something your pre-adolescent will benefit from and enjoy.

7. Family meals: It may seem like drudgery to prepare a meal, particularly after a long day. But a shared family meal provides valuable together time. So schedule it and organize it just as you would any other activity. Even if you have to pick up something pre-made, sit down together to eat it. Turn off the TV and try to tune out the ringing phone. If it's impossible to do every night, schedule a regular weekly family dinner night that accommodates children' schedules. Make it something fun, and get everyone involved in the preparation and the cleanup. Sharing an activity helps build closeness and connection, and everyone pitching in reinforces a sense of responsibility and teamwork.

8. Leave Them Home Alone When They're Ready: You can give your adolescent trial runs to see whether she is ready to stay home alone for an evening. One of the greatest signs of trust between a parent and a youngster comes from the first time you leave him home alone. Although different kids will react in different ways, there are ways to tell whether your youngster may be ready to take on the head of the house role -- temporarily, at least. Start by leaving him for short durations. Run to the store to grab groceries, for example, and see how you and he handle it. If he remains calm and collected, he'll probably soon be ready to stay alone for longer periods. If you decide it's OK to give him the evening to himself, be sure to call and check in often and provide him with a phone number to reach you. You'll also want to ensure your youngster has access to neighbors or close relatives in case you can't be reached -- or in case you want someone to drop by to check on him. The first time you leave him home alone, you'll want to run through a few safety measures, such as who to call in case of an emergency, what to do in case of a fire, and which appliances are off-limits. Make sure he understands that you're still ruling the house by proxy. This means all the same considerations of TV watching, computer usage, video game playing, and eating are all set in stone. If these rules and boundaries are breached, make him understand there will be consequences.

9. Moderate Media Exposure: Depending on your age, this is likely something your moms and dads didn't have to deal with as much as moms and dads of today. There's no going back to the days when the only worry was what was on the radio. Pre-adolescents have access to a number of entertainment media: television, video games, the Internet, music and movies. A common suggestion among professionals is to monitor and moderate media exposure for your pre-adolescent. This means understanding the ratings systems -- such as the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for video games and the MPAA for movies -- in addition to keeping an eye on their media consumption. Many moms and dads use a rewards system to keep track of how much their youngster uses such media. For instance, they may decide their youngster can play two hours of video games for every three hours he does homework. It's important to find a system and stick with it across the board -- no exceptions for the finale of their favorite show or if they get to the top level of a video game at the end of their time limit. Standing by these rules establishes your boundaries and also teaches good time management skills to pre-adolescents.

10. Prepare Them for Peer Pressure: Peer pressure becomes even more prevalent at the pre-adolescent age, so having regular, open talks with your youngster can help him maintain his self-esteem. There is no way around it: When your youngster gets to the pre-adolescent age, he's going to be dealing with a number of social pressures. These come from both the inside and out, as kids struggle to define themselves and control how they are viewed by others. Have a conversation with your youngster early on in his life regarding peer pressure. To an adult, it might sound a bit clich├ęd to have a talk about thinking for yourself or not letting others get to you, but pre-adolescents will often seek approval from peers, even ones they're not particularly fond of. This can lead to dangerous situations regarding sex, violence, drugs or alcohol, so it's important to talk to your youngster often and early. Ensuring your youngster's self-esteem stays and that his identity is solid can help him deal with peer pressures, but don't lay it on too thick. After all, parent's compliments can only go so far with a pre-adolescent.

11. Share ordinary time: Find little things that let you just hang out together. Invite your pre-adolescent to come with you to walk the dog. Invite yourself along on her run. Washing the car, baking cookies, renting movies, watching a favorite TV show — all are opportunities to enjoy each other's company. And they're chances for children to talk about what's on their mind. Even riding in the car is an opportunity to connect. When you're driving, your pre-adolescent may be more inclined to mention a troubling issue. Since you're focused on the road, he or she doesn't have to make eye contact, which can ease any discomfort about opening up.

12. Show affection: Don't underestimate the value of saying and showing how much you love your pre-adolescent. Doing so ensures that children feel secure and loved. And you're demonstrating healthy ways to show affection. Still, pre-adolescents may start to feel self-conscious about big displays of affection from moms and dads, especially in public. They may pull away from your hug and kiss, but it's not about you. Just reserve this type of affection for times when friends aren't around. And in public, find other ways to show that you care. A smile or a wave can convey a warm send-off while respecting boundaries. Recognize out loud your youngster's wonderful qualities and developing skills when you see them. You might say, "That's a beautiful drawing — you're really very artistic" or "You were great at baseball practice today — I loved watching you out there."

13. Stay interested: Stay interested and curious about your pre-adolescent's ideas, feelings, and experiences. If you listen to what he or she is saying, you'll get a better sense of the guidance, perspective, and support needed. And responding in a nonjudgmental way means your youngster will be more likely to come to you anytime tough issues arise.

14. Stay involved: Stay involved in your pre-adolescent's expanding pursuits. Getting involved gives you more time together and shared experiences. You don't have to be the Scout leader, homeroom mom, or soccer coach to be involved. And your youngster may want to do more activities where you're not in charge. That's OK. Go to games and practices when you can; when you can't, ask how things went and listen attentively. Help children talk through the disappointments, and be sympathetic about the missed fly ball that won the game for the other team. Your attitude about setbacks will teach your pre-adolescent to accept and feel OK about them, and to summon the courage to try again.

15. Teach Good Learning Skills: It's easier said than done when it comes to teaching good learning skills. However, by the time your youngster has reached the pre-adolescent age, it should be more apparent which type of learner your youngster is. As school systems become more populated and teacher-to-student ratios drop, it helps for moms and dads to figure out the type of learner their youngster is and help her develop her skills. Different people learn different ways, so try various methods of studying a lesson to determine how your youngster learns best. She may intake new knowledge best by listening to a lecture, reading the material or practicing the theories. Once you know which method works best, encourage her to use those approaches when studying and completing assignments. In addition, be sure to point out how the concepts and ideas she's studying correlate to the world, and try to make connections to everyday events when possible. As with everything else, remain positive and attentive to her needs. There is nothing wrong with being one particular type of learner, and recognizing your youngster's strengths early on will help her throughout her academic career.

16. Help with Health and Hygiene: Braces are common at the pre-adolescent age, so good dental hygiene is especially important during this time. Health and hygiene are two pieces of the pre-adolescent puzzle that will become even more important as your youngster grows. With the onset of puberty, things will start to change, and you'll want to be aware of the following:
  • Shaving: Although boys may not be ready to tackle this one yet, girls may be ready to start shaving. Be ready to teach them how to do so safely.
  • Sex: Pre-adolescents might be more in the know than they seem, so talk about sex as soon as you feel they can understand it.
  • Mouth care: Brushing teeth, flossing and using mouthwash are key to preserving all the time and money you've invested at the dentist.
  • Menstruation: This will come with a slew of different health and hygiene considerations, so be prepared to offer answers to a variety of questions.
  • Exercise: Teach simple methods of exercise, such as walking up stairs or parking farther away from the entrance in parking lots. Kids ages 6 to 17 need at least an hour of moderate exercise a day.
  • Bathing: Bathing, hair washing and facial cleansing are all important. Many pre-adolescents are going to experience pimples and breakouts, so educate here as well.
  • Antiperspirant/deodorant: This will become even more important as their hormones become more active and sweating increases.

If you establish rules early, your pre-adolescents may take on many of these tasks naturally. As with all these tips, remain positive and supportive when your pre-adolescent does things right. Learn even more about parenting by visiting the links on the next page.

17. Talk About and Monitor Their Nutrition: Pre-adolescents are at an age when they start to strike out on their own, and it may be difficult to keep track of what they're eating. But you still maintain the decisions of what food to keep in your home, so keep your cupboards stocked with healthy foods. As they begin to decide on their own what they want to eat, you can teach them techniques for healthy eating, such as the following:
  • Calcium is key for growing kids, and it's easy to get from sources such as dairy products, leafy vegetables, salmon, broccoli and tofu.
  • Ditch the junk food. You've heard this one over and over yourself, so there's no reason to have your youngster eating it either.
  • Drink plenty of water. Pre-adolescents need just as much water as adults.
  • Iron-rich foods are important, especially as males begin developing muscle mass and females begin menstruating.
  • Watch caloric intake. Pre-adolescents are going to have drastically different calorie needs as they get older: Boys need about 1600-2400 calories and girls need about 1400-2200, depending on how active they are.
  • Whole grains and brown rice are more nutritious than their white counterparts.

The pre-adolescent years are also riddled with growth spurts and weight changes, so be wary but non-confrontational if your youngster begins gaining or losing weight. However, if the weight changes become an issue, speak with him immediately regarding eating disorders or exercise.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Children and Alcohol Drinking

Research has shown that nearly 80% of high school children have tried alcohol.

As much as moms and dads may not like to think about it, the truth is that many children and adolescents try alcohol during their high school and college years, long before it's legal for them to drink it. Research has shown that nearly 80% of high school children have tried alcohol.

Although experimentation with alcohol may be common among children, it's not safe or legal. So it's important to start discussing alcohol use and abuse with your children at an early age and keep talking about it as they grow up.

Alcohol interferes with a child's perception of reality and ability to make good decisions. This can be particularly hazardous for children and adolescents who have less problem-solving and decision-making experience.

Short-term effects of drinking include:
  • altered perceptions and emotions
  • bad breath
  • distorted vision, hearing, and coordination
  • hangovers
  • impaired judgment, which can lead to accidents, drowning, and other risky behaviors like unsafe sex and drug use

Long-term effects include:
  • an increased risk of impotence
  • cirrhosis and cancer of the liver
  • heart and central nervous system damage
  • high risk for overdosing
  • loss of appetite
  • memory loss
  • serious vitamin deficiencies
  • stomach ailments

Long before your children are presented with a chance to drink alcohol, you can increase the chances that they'll just say "no." Childhood is a time of learning and discovery, so it's important to encourage children to ask questions, even ones that might be hard to answer. Open, honest, age-appropriate communication now sets the stage for your children to come to you later with other difficult topics or problems.

The later elementary school years are a crucial time in which you can influence your youngster's decisions about alcohol use. Children at this age tend to love to learn facts, especially strange ones, and are eager to learn how things work and what sources of information are available to them. So it's a good time to openly discuss facts about alcohol: its long- and short-term effects and consequences, its physical effects, and why it's especially dangerous for growing bodies.

Children also can be heavily influenced by friends now. Their interests may be determined by what their peers think. So teach your youngster to say "no" to peer-pressure, and discuss the importance of thinking and acting as an individual.

Casual discussions about alcohol and peers can take place at the dinner table as part of your normal conversation: "I've been reading about young children using alcohol. Do you ever hear about children using alcohol or other drugs in your school?"

By the adolescent years, your children should know the facts about alcohol and your attitudes and beliefs about substance abuse. So use this time to reinforce what you've already taught them and focus on keeping the lines of communication open.

Adolescents are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, and their increasing need for independence may make them want to defy their moms and dads' wishes or instructions. But if you make your adolescent feel accepted and respected as an individual, you increase the chances that your youngster will try to be open with you.

Children want to be liked and accepted by their friends, and they need a certain degree of privacy and trust. Avoid excessive preaching and threats, and instead, emphasize your love and concern. Even when they're annoyed by parental interest and questions, adolescents still recognize that it comes with the territory.

Teach children a variety of approaches to deal with offers of alcohol:
  • Encourage them to ask questions. If a drink of any kind is offered, they should ask, "What is it?" and "Where did you get it?"
  • Remind them to leave any uncomfortable situation. Make sure they have money for transportation or a phone number where you or another responsible adult can be reached.
  • Teach children never to accept a ride from someone who has been drinking. Some moms and dads find that offering to pick up their children from an uncomfortable situation — no questions asked — helps encourage children to be honest and call when they need help.
  • Teach them to say "no, thanks" when the drink offered is an alcoholic one.

Times of transition, such as the onset of puberty or a moms and dads' divorce, can lead children to alcohol use. So teach your children that even when life is upsetting or stressful, drinking alcohol as an escape can make a bad situation much worse.

Children who have problems with self-control or low self-esteem are more likely to abuse alcohol. They may not believe that they can handle their problems and frustrations without using something to make them feel better.

Children without a sense of connectedness with their families or who feel different in some way (appearance, economic circumstances, etc.) may also be at risk. Those who find it hard to believe in themselves desperately need the love and support of moms and dads or other family members.

In fact, not wanting to harm the relationships between themselves and the adults who care about them is the most common reason that young people give for not using alcohol and other drugs.

Fortunately, moms and dads can do much to protect their children from using and abusing alcohol:
  • Be a good role model. Consider how your use of alcohol or medications may influence your children. Consider offering only nonalcoholic beverages at parties and other social events to show your children that you don't need to drink to have fun.
  • Educate yourself about alcohol so you can be a better teacher. Read and collect information that you can share with children and other moms and dads.
  • Teach children to manage stress in healthy ways, such as by seeking help from a trusted adult or engaging in a favorite activity.
  • Try to be conscious of how you can help build your youngster's self-esteem. For example, children are more likely to feel good about themselves if you emphasize their strengths and positively reinforce healthy behaviors.

Despite your efforts, your youngster may still use — and abuse — alcohol. How can you tell?

Here are some common warning signs:
  • alcohol disappearing from your home
  • association with a new group of friends and reluctance to introduce them to you
  • change in attendance or performance at school
  • depression and developmental difficulties
  • discipline problems at school
  • loss of interest in school, sports, or other activities
  • secrecy
  • sudden change in mood or attitude
  • the odor of alcohol
  • withdrawal from family and friends

It's important not to jump to conclusions based on only one or two signs. Adolescence is a time of change — physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. This can lead to erratic behavior and mood swings as children try to cope with all of these changes.

If your youngster is using alcohol, there will usually be a cluster of these signs, like changes in friends, behavior, dress, attitude, mood, and grades. If you see a number of changes, look for all explanations by talking to your children, but don't overlook substance abuse as a possibility.

Other tips to try:
  • Always make sure you have a phone number where you can reach your youngster.
  • Have children check in regularly when they're away from home.
  • Keep tabs on where your children go.
  • Know the moms and dads of your youngster's friends.
  • When spending an extended length of time away from you, your youngster should check in periodically with a phone call, e-mail, or visit home.

For adolescents, especially those old enough to drive, consider negotiating and signing a behavioral contract. This contract should spell out the way you expect your youngster to behave and state the consequences if your adolescent drives under the influence. Follow through and take the keys away, if necessary.

Make part of the deal with your adolescent that you and the rest of your family also agree never to drink and drive. Also encourage responsible behaviors, such as planning for a designated driver or calling an adult for help rather than driving under the influence.

It's important to keep communication open and expectations reasonable. Tying responsible actions to freedoms such as a later curfew or a driver's license can be a powerful motivator. Teach your children that freedom only comes with responsibility — a lesson that should last a lifetime.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents with Defiant Teens

Being a Stepfather: How to Make it Work

This article will show men how to be good stepfathers...

Becoming a stepfather by blending families or marrying someone with children can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. If you've never had children, you'll get the opportunity to share your life with a child and help to shape his/her character. If you have children, you'll offer them more opportunities to build relationships and establish a special bond that only siblings can have.

In some cases, your new family members may get along without a hitch, but other times you can expect difficulties along the way. Figuring out your role as a stepfather — aside from the day-to-day responsibilities that come with it — also may lead to confusion or even conflict between you and your spouse, your spouse's ex-husband, and their children.

While there is no foolproof formula for creating the "perfect" family, it's important to approach this new situation with patience and understanding for the feelings of those involved.

Here's how to make things easier as you adapt to your new role:

Start Slow—

The initial role of a stepfather is that of another caring adult in a youngster's life, similar to a loving mentor. You may desire a closer bond right away, and might wonder what you're doing wrong if your new stepchild doesn't warm up to you or your children as quickly as you'd like — but relationships need time to grow.

Start out slow and try not to rush into things. Let things develop naturally — children can tell when grow-ups are being fake or insincere. Over time, you can develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship with your stepchildren, which doesn't necessarily have to resemble the one they share with their birth parents.

Stepfamily Stages—

1. Fantasy Stage-- Family members are on their best behavior. This is the "Brady Bunch" period. Everyone imagines they will love one another. Everyone envisions one big happy family living happily ever after.

2. Confusion Stage-- Tension grows. Happiness begins to slip away. Differences begin to emerge. The romance seems to disappear.

3. Conflict Stage-- Anger starts to erupt. Family members realize their needs are not being met. Arguments begin. Feelings start to come out. Hopefully, negotiations and honest communication also can begin.

4. Comfort Stage-- Family members start to relax. Members begin to feel hope for their future together. Communication is deeper and bonds solidify.

Factors That Affect Your Relationship—

Kids who are mourning the loss of a deceased parent or the separation or divorce of their birth parents may need time to heal before they can fully accept you as a new parent.

For those whose birth parents are still alive, remarriage may mean the end of hope that their parents will reunite. Even if it has been several years since the separation, children often hang onto that hope for a long time. From the children' perspective this reality can make them feel angry, hurt, and confused.

Other factors that may affect the transition into step-parenting:

• How long you dated your partner before marriage. Again, there are exceptions but typically if you don't rush into the relationship with your partner, children have a good sense that you are in this for the long haul.

• How long you've known them. Usually, the longer you know the children, the better the relationship. There are exceptions (e.g., if you were friends with the parents before they separated and are blamed for the break-up), but in most cases having a history together makes the transition a little smoother.

• How much time the children spend with you. Trying to bond with children every other weekend — when they want quality time with a birth parent they don't see as often as they'd like — can be a difficult way to make friends with your new stepchildren. Remember to put their needs first. If children want time with their birth parent, they should get it. So sometimes making yourself scarce can help smooth the path to a better relationship in the long run.

• How old the children are. When it comes to adjusting and forming new relationships, younger children generally have an easier time than older children.

• How well the person you marry gets along with her ex-spouse. This is a critical factor. Minimal conflict and open communication between ex-spouses can make a big difference regarding how easily children accept you as their stepfather. It's much easier for children to transition to new living arrangements when adults keep negative comments out of earshot.

Knowing ahead of time what situations may become problematic as you bring new family members together can help you prepare so that, if complications arise, you can handle them with an extra dose of patience and grace.

Emotions Commonly Experienced by Stepchildren—

• Jealousy— It is very hard for kids to share a parent with a newcomer. It is hard to share their space, their house, and their possessions. The remarried parent is often distracted and energized by a new spouse. The child may not generate this sort of energy and knows it.

• Guilt— Many kids of all ages blame themselves for their parents' divorce. They do not have an adult perspective. They have to try to understand the cause of a divorce with very limited insight and information. So they turn to what they do know - that their parents used to argue, often about parenting the kids. Saddled with this knowledge, kids feel guilty and responsible. Also, if a child likes a new stepmother or stepfather, the child may experience guilt at feeling "disloyal" to an absent biological mother or father.

• Grief— Remarriage only happens after a loss. The kids have lost one of the parents in their household through divorce or death. It is natural for them to be grieving. Their grief may not look like the grief of an adult. It may look more like irritating or distracted behavior.

• Fear— Kids have already suffered a major loss - the loss of a parent, of family stability - over which they've had no control. They may fear losing another parent. They may fear they will not fit into this new family.

Steps to Great Step-parenting—

All moms and dads face difficulties now and then. But when you're a stepfather, those obstacles are compounded by the fact that you are not the birth parent — this can open up power struggles within the family, whether it's from the children, your spouse's ex, or even your spouse.

When times get tough, however, putting children' needs first can help you make good decisions. Here's how:

• Be solid. Stepkids can be real arrow-throwers. They look for a chink in the armor of the new stepparent's integrity. Keep yours intact, and little by little, they'll most likely come to respect you. Being on good behavior doesn't mean you can't have fun or joke around, but paying attention to your actions can help you avoid getting improperly tagged by your young critics.

• Create new family traditions. Find special activities to do with your stepchildren, but be sure to get their feedback. Some new family traditions could include board game nights, bike riding together, cooking, doing crafts, or even playing quick word games in the car. The key is to have fun together, not to try to win their love — children are smart and will quickly figure out if you're trying to force a relationship.

• Don't try to be bio-dad. One huge complaint by stepkids is ambiguity about the status of a stepparent. Trying to get them to call you "dad" right off the bat is in bad form. Instead, try actually treating them normally for a while, like anyone else you might happen to share a roof with, and see how things develop.

• Don't use children as messengers or go-betweens. Try not to question children about what's happening in the other household — they'll resent it when they feel that they're being asked to "spy" on another parent. Wherever possible, communicate directly with your spouse about relevant matters, such as scheduling, visitation, health issues, or school problems. Online custody calendars make this process a little easier because moms and dads can note visitation days and share this information with each other via the Internet.

• Give it time. As people live together, they learn to relate. It's not that you should be distant, but take the progress in increments. Give the children breathing room; they do a lot of their adaptation by "figuring things out" which they can't do with a stepdad "in their business." Let them alone for their own bedroom-introspection time (even if it coincides with meals), and wait for them to adjust themselves to new realities.

• House rules matter. Keep your house rules as consistent as possible for all children, whether they're your children from a previous relationship, your spouse's children from a previous relationship, or new kids you have had together. Kids and adolescents will have different rules, but they should be consistently applied at all times. This helps children adjust to transitions, like moving to a new house or welcoming a new baby, and helps them feel that all children in your home are treated equally. If children are dealing with two very different sets of rules in each home, it may be time for an adults-only family meeting — otherwise children can learn to "work the system" for short-term gain but long-term problems.

• Love their mom. Maybe the overall measurement used by stepkids is your care and support for their previously single mother. She took care of them all by herself, and showing respect for that goes a long way. Being good to mom can mean the difference between a sound family structure and an all-out war at home.

• Make compromises. A good part of stepparent/stepchild relations is obviously territorial. Any attempt to "come into" the house and enforce ultimatums will probably be met with absolute scorn by anyone between the ages of 13 to 21. Even if you do pay the bills, it was their roof first. Be sensitive in your dealing; suggest and encourage rather than drawing lines in the sand.

• Put needs, not wants, first. Children need love, affection, and consistent rules above all else. Giving them toys or treats, especially if they're not earned with good grades or behavior, can lead to a situation where you feel like you're trading gifts for love. Similarly, if you feel guilty for treating your biological children differently from your stepchildren, don't buy gifts to make up for it. Do you best to figure out how to treat them more equally.

• Respect all parents. When a spouse's ex is deceased, it's important to be sensitive to and honor that person. If you and your spouse share custody with the birth parent, try to be courteous and compassionate in your interactions with each other. Never say negative things about the birth parent in front of the children. Doing so often backfires and children get angry with the parent making the remarks. No youngster likes to hear their moms and dads criticized, even if he or she is complaining about them to you.

• Talk to your spouse. Communication between you and your spouse is important so that you can make parenting decisions together. This is especially crucial if you each have different notions on parenting and discipline. If you're new to parenting as a stepfather, ask your spouse what would be the best way to get to know the children. Use resources to find out what children of different ages are interested in — and don't forget to ask them.

No matter what the circumstances of your new family, chances are there'll be some bumps along the way. But don't give up trying to make things work — even if things started off a little rocky, they still can improve as you and your new family members get to know each other better.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents and Step-Parents

How to Stop Truancy: 60 Tips for Parents

Truancy is a problem for every country with compulsory schooling, especially for kids between 12 and the age of leaving school. Views differ on the best way to deal with truancy. Some say truants need encouragement and special support, others that they should be punished to force them into the classroom. Some argue that many kids need more practical (vocational) lessons and work experience to get them ready for jobs, and that this would reduce truanting. But very often the moms and dads are blamed for not making the kids go to school.

Dealing with truancy is not fun for the parent, teacher or school administrator, but it is a necessary part of modern education. Unchecked truancy often results in legal problems for the child, but it can also affect parents as well. Avoid these unnecessary and unpleasant situations by (a) getting to know the issue, (b) getting to know your youngster, and (c) getting to know your youngster’s school in order to more effectively fight truancy.

Here are 60 ways to get your child to attend school on a regular basis:

1. Take an active interest in your kid’s schoolwork. Ask them to demonstrate what they learned in school. Know the kids your youngster associates with.

2. Ask your youngster her thoughts on truancy.

3. Volunteer to be a mentor and help kids address needs not currently supported in school such as music, athletics, the arts, or even poetry.

4. Look for early signs of a youngster’s decision that school is not worthwhile. Monitor changes in friendships, teachers, or classrooms or even the loss of a pet or family member. All of these things contribute to reasons why kids dread going to school.

5. Prepare your youngster for school with required supplies and clothes. If you need assistance, contact your local social services agency.

6. Regularly contact the school office to make sure your youngster is attending school. Check in with his or her teachers on a regular basis. Make random visits to your youngster’s classroom to observe.

7. Encourage your youngster to take an active role in the school by joining clubs or participating in sports. Teach them when and how to ask for help.

8. Ask your youngster how you can help. Think about what situations he or she might face and talk about ways to handle these situations before they occur.

9. Consider counseling in you, the parent, cannot resolve the issue on your own.

10. Contact the administrator of the school, or the school district administrator responsible for attendance or truancy. Learn the school district’s supervisory chain of command, and try to resolve the problem at the level closest to the student involved.

11. Contact the local juvenile court that manages the truancy petition process. Determine how your youngster’s situation fits the attendance and truancy policies and procedures.

12. Coordinate with the school. Parents can't do it alone. Whether it's arranging to have someone meet the parent on the playground to escort the youngster into school, or trying to ease the amount of makeup work, it's crucial that the school plays a role in integrating the youngster into the classroom.

13. Create a contract, set some boundaries, and make it more worth his while to go to school.

14. Seek other parents or older kids who are willing to help you and your youngster with homework. Make your home the homework center or develop a telephone tree to make help available to all neighborhood kids and their parents.

15. Discuss with your youngster the reasons she has been truant.

16. Don’t arrange homebound teaching.

17. Don’t ask for a change of teacher or classes.

18. Don’t excuse your youngster from school.

19. Don’t focus on your youngster’s anxiety.

20. Don’t give mixed messages by giving in sometimes.

21. Don’t suddenly change expectations as new demands will precipitate anxiety.

22. Don’t tell your youngster that he/she does not have to participate in school activities or does not have to attend school at all.

23. Drop your youngster at school in the morning and watching him enter the building.

24. Understand what your youngster is expected to learn at each grade level. Contact your state department of education, school district, or school for a copy of the standards and school attendance policies. Find out what goals your youngster’s teacher has for the year and how your youngster will be graded.

25. Encourage your youngster to develop outside interests.

26. Establish a carpool.

27. Get support for yourself.

28. Give the consistent message, “You will go to school.”

29. Have consistent expectations. Relaxing the rules for even one assignment or day can give a mixed message. Make sure that all your kids live up to the same standards.

30. Investigate what's going on at school. If it's an issue of bullying, parents need to find out what's really going on. Once parents know whether the youngster's complaint is a valid one, it's easier to work with the youngster around the issue, both in and outside of school.

31. Look for alternatives. If your youngster tells you he or she is bored at school, pursue support outside the school such as music lessons, sports clubs, neighborhood or church-related youth groups, or mentors. Seek out and enroll your youngster in a tutoring program, if necessary.

32. Maintain your routine. Stick to a regular schedule for homework, bedtime, and waking up.

33. Make it less fun to be at home. If your youngster knows he can sit at home and play video games during the school day, the incentive to stay home is greater than the incentive to be at school.

34. Make school relevant. Push for activities where students can take part in their own learning by developing projects to address community needs.

35. Look for negative behavior changes such as alcohol use or staying out late. Seek a counselor if your youngster’s behavior becomes, distant, withdrawn, anxious, depressed, delinquent or aggressive.

36. Obtain a copy of the district's policies and procedures regarding attendance and truancy. Attendance and truancy information is often contained in the student conduct section of a district’s policy manual, and is likely to be found in the Student Handbook issued by many schools. Some school districts place their policies on their Web sites.

37. Outline the punishments you will enforce if he engages in truancy.

38. Parents should identify the issue, make a plan, and stick to their guns. Once the youngster has overcome his fear of school, he'll probably thank you.

39. Sign up and attend parenting education programs. This is a great place to learn new techniques and to share what you have learned.

40. Plan visits to the doctor or dentist after the school day ends. If you must take an appointment during the school day, allow the youngster to miss only time needed for that appointment.

41. Always talk with the school before you plan your holiday or vacation.

42. Reward good attendance. However, keeping your youngster out of school for his or her birthday is not acceptable.

43. When your child skips a class, react immediately by insisting that your youngster attend school.

44. Read a story about how a boy or girl overcomes or copes with a fear related to school attendance.

45. Reassure the youngster that she can handle it.

46. Request meetings with teachers, if needed.

47. Rule out any medical conditions.

48. Set a time for your youngster to go to bed, wake up, have a healthy breakfast, arrive at school, and complete his/her homework. Monitor things in your home such as family routines that may prevent you or your youngster from keeping to the schedule.

49. Speak to other parents and guardians who have experienced the same issues and problems. This can be a great way to get valuable advice and information.

50. Insist that all community agencies—social workers, school counselors, or juvenile officers—work together to develop a coordinated plan of support for your youngster.

51. Seek outside assistance if necessary.

52. Set a baseline expectation. Having a youngster in school for any amount of time is better than having him at home. Though a youngster may only come to school for only an hour, or sit in the lobby all day, it's a lot easier to get them back into the regular classroom from that point.

53. Talk to your kids about the role education plays in future/ life success. Let them know that you do not approve of them missing school. Refuse to write an excuse for unacceptable reasons. Review acceptable and unacceptable behavior with your youngster.

54. Talk to neighbors about your youngster’s behaviors and activities. Set up a neighborhood watch or patrol to ensure that all kids go to school every day. Exchange numbers in case you need to reach a parent quickly.

55. Know the school’s attendance policy, the time school starts, the difference between an excused and unexcused absence, and share the information with your youngster.

56. Be sure that your youngster knows if he or she skips school, there will be consequences to pay such as losing television or video game time, limiting time with friends, or the loss of other privileges.

57. Talk with your youngster about acceptable and unacceptable behavior and grades. Discuss homework rules and school attendance.

58. Tell him your views on truancy.

59. Vote in local school board elections and voice your opinion about what is working or not working in schools.

60. Work as a team with the school and community.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Articles

Parenting Rebellious Teens

One day you wake up and find that life has changed forever. Instead of greeting you with a hug, your little boy rolls his eyes when you say "good morning" and shouts, "You're ruining my life!" You may think you've stepped into the Twilight Zone, but you've actually been thrust into your son's teen years.

During adolescence, teens start to break away from parents and become "their own person." Some talk back, ignore rules and slack off at school. Others may sneak out or break curfew. Still others experiment with alcohol, tobacco or drugs. So how can you tell the difference between normal teen rebellion versus dangerous behavior? And what's the best way for a parent to respond?

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Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Many families of defiant children live in a home that has become a battleground. In the beginning, the daily struggles can be expected. After all, we knew that problems would occur. Initially, stress can be so subtle that we lose sight of a war, which others do not realize is occurring. We honestly believe that we can work through the problems.

Outbursts, rages, and strife become a way of life (an emotionally unhealthy way of life). We set aside our own needs and focus on the needs of our children. But what does it cost us?

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The Strong-Willed Out-of-Control Teen

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing teens with serious behavioral problems. Disrespect, anger, violent rages, self-injury, running away from home, school failure, hanging-out with the wrong crowd, drug abuse, theft, and legal problems are just some of the behaviors that parents of defiant teens will have to learn to control.

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