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

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Children and Television Addiction

Most children plug into the world of television long before they enter school. According to the research:
  • children and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a television screen and almost 2 additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games
  • children under age 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of screen media a day, primarily television and videos or DVDs
  • two-thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of 2 hours a day

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 2 years old not watch any television and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.

The first 2 years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. Television and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with moms and dads and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development.

As children get older, too much screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family.

Of course, television, in moderation, can be a good thing: Preschoolers can get help learning the alphabet on public television, grade-schoolers can learn about wildlife on nature shows, and moms and dads can keep up with current events on the evening news. No doubt about it — television can be an excellent educator and entertainer.

But despite its advantages, too much television can be detrimental:

• Television characters often depict risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, and also reinforce gender-role and racial stereotypes.

• Children who view violent acts are more likely to show aggressive behavior but also fear that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them.

• Kids who consistently spend more than 4 hours per day watching television are more likely to be overweight.

Kid's advocates are divided when it comes to solutions. Although many urge for more hours per week of educational programming, others assert that no television is the best solution. And some say it's better for moms and dads to control the use of television and to teach children that it's for occasional entertainment, not for constant escapism.

That's why it's so important for you to monitor the content of television programming and set viewing limits to ensure that your children don't spend too much time watching television.

Television and Violence—

To give you perspective on just how much violence children see on television, consider this: The average American youngster will witness 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18. Children may become desensitized to violence and more aggressive. Television violence sometimes begs for imitation because violence is often promoted as a fun and effective way to get what you want.

Many violent acts are perpetrated by the "good guys," whom children have been taught to emulate. Even though children are taught by their moms and dads that it's not right to hit, television says it's OK to bite, hit, or kick if you're the good guy. This can lead to confusion when children try to understand the difference between right and wrong. And even the "bad guys" on television aren't always held responsible or punished for their actions.

Young children are particularly frightened by scary and violent images. Simply telling children that those images aren't real won't console them, because they can't yet distinguish between fantasy and reality. Behavior problems, nightmares and difficulty sleeping may be a consequence of exposure to media violence.

Older children can also be frightened by violent depictions, whether those images appear on fictional shows, the news, or reality-based shows. Reasoning with children this age will help them, so it's important to provide reassuring and honest information to help ease fears. However, consider not letting your children view programs that they may find frightening.

Television and Risky Behaviors—

Television is full of programs and commercials that depict risky behaviors such as sex and substance abuse as cool, fun, and exciting. And often, there's no discussion about the consequences of drinking alcohol, doing drugs, smoking cigarettes, and having premarital sex.

For example, studies have shown that teens who watch lots of sexual content on television are more likely to initiate intercourse or participate in other sexual activities earlier than peers who don't watch sexually explicit shows.

Alcohol ads on television have actually increased over the last few years and more underage children are being exposed to them than ever. A recent study by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) found that youth exposure to alcohol ads on television increased by 30% from 2001 to 2006.

And although they've banned cigarette ads on television, children and teens can still see plenty of people smoking on programs and movies airing on television. This kind of "product placement" makes behaviors like smoking and drinking alcohol seem acceptable. In fact, children who watch 5 or more hours of television per day are far more likely to begin smoking cigarettes than those who watch less than the recommended 2 hours a day.

Television and the Obesity Factor—

Health experts have long linked excessive television-watching to obesity — a significant health problem today. While watching television, children are inactive and tend to snack. They're also bombarded with ads that encourage them to eat unhealthy foods such as potato chips and empty-calorie soft drinks that often become preferred snack foods.

Studies have shown that decreasing the amount of television children watched led to less weight gain and lower body mass index (BMI — a measurement derived from someone's weight and height).

Television and Commercials—

According to the AAP, children in the United States see 40,000 commercials each year. From the junk food and toy advertisements during Saturday morning cartoons to the appealing promos on the backs of cereal boxes, marketing messages inundate children of all ages. And to them, everything looks ideal — like something they simply have to have. It all sounds so appealing — often, so much better than it really is.

Under the age of 8 years, most children don't understand that commercials are for selling a product. Kids 6 years and under are unable to distinguish program content from commercials, especially if their favorite character is promoting the product. Even older children may need to be reminded of the purpose of advertising.

Of course, it's nearly impossible to eliminate all exposure to marketing messages. You can certainly turn off the television or at least limit children' watching time, but they'll still see and hear advertisements for the latest gizmos and must-haves at every turn.

But what you can do is teach children to be savvy consumers by talking about the products advertised on television. Ask thought-provoking questions like, "What do you like about that?" … "Do you think it's really as good as it looks in that ad?" … "Do you think that's a healthy choice?"

Explain that commercials and other ads are designed to make people want things they don't necessarily need. And these ads are often meant to make us think that these products will make us happier somehow. Talking to children about what things are like in reality can help put things into perspective.

To limit children' exposure to television commercials, the AAP recommends that you:
  • Buy or rent kid's videos or DVDs.
  • Have your children watch public television stations (some programs are sponsored — or "brought to you" — by various companies, although the products they sell are rarely shown).
  • Record programs — without the commercials.

Developing Good television Habits—

Here are some practical ways to make television-viewing more productive in your home:

1. Check the television listings and program reviews ahead of time for programs your family can watch together (i.e., developmentally appropriate and nonviolent programs that reinforce your family's values). Choose shows that foster interest and learning in hobbies and education (reading, science, etc.).

2. Come up with a family television schedule that you all agree upon each week. Then, post the schedule in a visible area (e.g., on the refrigerator) so that everyone knows which programs are OK to watch and when. And make sure to turn off the television when the "scheduled" program is over instead of channel surfing.

3. Offer fun alternatives to television. If your children want to watch television but you want to turn off the tube, suggest that you all play a board game, start a game of hide and seek, play outside, read, work on crafts or hobbies, or listen and dance to music. The possibilities for fun without the tube are endless — so turn off the television and enjoy the quality time together.

4. Preview programs before your children watch them.

5. Set a good example by limiting your own television viewing.

6. Talk to children about what they see on television and share your own beliefs and values. If something you don't approve of appears on the screen, you can turn off the television, then use the opportunity to ask thought-provoking questions such as, "Do you think it was OK when those men got in that fight? What else could they have done? What would you have done?" Or, "What do you think about how those teenagers were acting at that party? Do you think what they were doing was wrong?" If certain people or characters are mistreated or discriminated against, talk about why it's important to treat everyone fairly, despite their differences. You can use television to explain confusing situations and express your feelings about difficult topics (sex, love, drugs, alcohol, smoking, work, behavior, family life).

7. Talk to other moms and dads, your doctor, and teachers about their television-watching policies and kid-friendly programs they'd recommend.

8. Try a weekday ban. Schoolwork, sports activities, and job responsibilities make it tough to find extra family time during the week. Record weekday shows or save television time for weekends and you'll have more family togetherness time to spend on meals, games, physical activity, and reading during the week.

9. Watch television together. If you can't sit through the whole program, at least watch the first few minutes to assess the tone and appropriateness, then check in throughout the show.

10. Limit the number of television-watching hours:
  • Don't allow children to watch television while doing homework.
  • Keep televisions out of bedrooms.
  • Stock the room in which you have your television with plenty of other non-screen entertainment (books, children' magazines, toys, puzzles, board games, etc.) to encourage children to do something other than watch the tube.
  • Treat television as a privilege to be earned — not a right. Establish and enforce family television viewing rules, such as television is allowed only after chores and homework are completed.
  • Turn the television off during meals.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Synthetic Marijuana: What Parents Need To Know

A selection of synthetic marijuana, 
clockwise from left: 
Mr. Nice Guy,
Peace of Mind,
Mr. Kwik-E,
and XXX 
(which uses the logo for 
Monster Energy drink).
What is synthetic marijuana? Herbs sold as incense in small packets. The plants have been sprayed with a chemical that is designed to mimic THC, the active ingredient in pot.

Where is it sold? Often available at liquor stores, gas stations and convenience stories.

How much does it cost? About $30 for 3 grams.

What are the possible side-effects? Dizziness, nausea, agitation, irregular or racing heartbeat, hallucinations or coma.

Synthetic marijuana (also called fake pot) is legal in some U.S. States, is sold in many gas stations and convenience stores, and to some, it sounds pretty harmless with names like "Mr. Nice Guy" and "Peace of Mind." But, synthetic marijuana has left such a trail of emergency room visits and possibly even deaths in its wake that 15 states have banned it and at least 20 more are trying to.

Mr. Nice Guy, one of the main brands of the "incense" that authorities targeted, is no longer sold, but on its website, the manufacturer promotes the brand “Barely Legal” – announcing it is "Legal in all 50 states." Barely Legal is one of the new generation of synthetic marijuana products, formulated to beat the ban.

The synthetic nature of synthetic marijuana makes it exceptionally difficult to keep tabs on. The cannabinoids used to produce it can be changed with slight laboratory tweaks, and hundreds are already out there, so a ban on current varieties can easily be sidestepped.

Synthetic marijuana often comes in tea bag-sized packets, with labels in some cases that announce: "Not for human consumption." It's sold by shopkeepers as incense. But, it's not much of an air freshener. Instead, it's any one of a variety of herbal plants, sprayed with a chemical designed to mimic the active ingredient in pot: THC. And with labeling like "100 percent drug-test safe," and its positioning on sales racks beside pipes and bongs, there's little doubt of its true purpose.

Synthetic marijuana is sold for up to $30 for 3 grams, a higher price than the real deal, and completely legal in some States – and impossible to detect on a traditional drug urine test.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) fielded 1,670 calls last year from emergency room doctors and panicked members of the public over the substance. That's up from only 14 calls in 2009. Synthetic marijuana wasn't even on the AAPCC's radar until recently.

Marijuana highs are often associated with sleepiness and paranoia, but the symptoms poison control authorities report hearing about the synthetic version include dizziness, nausea, agitation, abnormally fast heartbeat and hallucinations. Some patients are in a coma, and others have heart dysrhythmia.

News accounts tentatively link some form of synthetic marijuana to the deaths of at least three teens – one each in Texas, Wisconsin and Iowa. Parents in one of the deaths say their child was high on the drug when he made a fatal mistake behind the wheel of a car. The family of another claimed he shot himself after smoking it.

So what's in synthetic marijuana? No ingredients are listed, but the recipe for all synthetic marijuana is similar (and peddled on a variety of websites). Of course, there's a plant involved, but any of several will do. The part that delivers the high is sprayed on the plant and can come from several compounds, such as JWH-018.

JWH-018 was created by an undergraduate student in a Clemson University laboratory in the summer of 1995. It was created not to get thousands of people stoned, but to investigate the biological effects of compounds with biology similar to marijuana.

Recently, five testers (who will rename anonymous) bought two varieties of synthetic marijuana at a botanical store and "smoked up in the parking lot like a bunch of high school kids getting stoned before first bell." The overwhelming consensus (among both regular and non-regular pot smokers) was that synthetic marijuana got the job done – but not for long enough. One tester stated, “It didn't last long, but I did feel some visual effects …things appeared bright, slightly blurry …and a relaxed physical state.” Another tester stated, "Synthetic marijuana made me feel just as uncomfortable and self-conscious as actual marijuana."

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Daughter gets upset or angry about the littlest things...

Question

My daughter is 17 and gets upset or angry about the littlest things, especially with her 15 year old sister. Yesterday, it was because her sister, Kami, left her makeup in the car. Kylie was in the back seat and her sister was in the front. After Kylie got mad that she had to sit in the back, she starting yelling because Kami had left some of her makeup and an eyelash curler in the backseat. Another time recently, we were at our cabin at the lake and the day we were leaving, Kylie accused Kami of having on her shirt. They have the same shirt and Kami and I both thought it was hers. I sometimes put their initials on the tag of the clothes so I can tell who it belongs to when I'm doing laundry. I looked at the tag and told Kylie her initials were not on the tag. Kylie said she didn't believe me and grabbed Kami's shirt (halfway strangling her) and looked at the tag. Kylie's initials were on the underside of the tag. Kylie started screaming at Kami that she was a liar and a thief and she hated people who lied and stole. Kami said she really thought it was her shirt and didn't have anything to wear home and could she please borrow it. Kylie wouldn't let her and so I finally told Kami to take it off and she could wear one of my shirts home, which was way too big. It's really hard to go on vacation with Kylie because if she's not mad, she complains an awful lot. We tell her we're not going if she complains the whole time and she says she won't but usually does anyway. Any suggestions?


Answer

The behavior you described (e.g., “gets upset or angry about the littlest things”) sounds mostly like a teenager who is somewhat depressed. One key indicator of teen depression is bad mood swings and occasional melancholy.

The teen years are tough, but most adolescents balance the requisite angst with good friendships, success in school or outside activities, and the development of a strong sense of self. Occasional bad moods or acting out is to be expected, but depression is a bit more serious. Depression strikes adolescents (especially females) far more often than most people think. And although depression is highly treatable, experts say only 20% of depressed adolescents ever receive help.

Unlike grown-ups who have the ability to seek assistance on their own, adolescents usually must rely on moms and dads, educators, or other caregivers to recognize their suffering and get them the treatment they need. So, it will be important for you to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs.

Adolescents face a host of pressures, from the changes of puberty to questions about who they are and where they fit in. The natural transition from childhood to adulthood can also bring parental conflict as adolescents start to assert their independence. With all this drama, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between depression and normal teenage moodiness.

Making things even more complicated, adolescents with depression do not necessarily appear sad, nor do they always withdraw from others. For some depressed adolescents, symptoms of irritability, aggression, and rage are more prominent.

Here are some tips to help:

1. The first thing you should do is to talk to your daughter about it (during a time when she is calm and somewhat rational). In a loving and non-judgmental way, share your concerns with your daughter. Let her know what specific signs of depression you’ve noticed and why they worry you. Then encourage her to open up about what she is going through.

2. Don’t give up if she shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for adolescents. Be respectful of your daughter’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.

3. Don’t try to talk her out of her depression, even if her feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness she is feeling. If you don’t, she will feel like you don’t take her emotions seriously.

4. Encourage your daughter to stay active. Exercise can go a long way toward relieving the symptoms of depression and anxiety, so find ways to incorporate it into your daughter’s day. Something as simple as walking the dog or going on a bike ride can be beneficial.

5. If your daughter claims nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing this moody behavior, you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, adolescents may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression. If you see depression’s warning signs, seek professional help. Neither you nor your daughter is qualified to either diagnosis depression or rule it out, so see a doctor or psychologist who can.

6. Isolation only makes depression worse, so encourage your daughter to see friends and praise efforts to socialize. Offer to take your daughter out with friends or suggest social activities that might be of interest, such as sports, after-school clubs, or an art class.

7. Just like you would if your daughter had a disease you knew very little about, read up on teen depression so that you can be your own “expert.” The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to help her. Encourage your daughter to learn more about depression as well. Reading up on their condition can help depressed adolescents realize that they’re not alone and give them a better understanding of what they’re going through.

8. Let your daughter know that you are there for her, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (adolescents don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.

9. Living with a depressed teenager can be difficult and draining. At times, you may experience exhaustion, rejection, despair, aggravation, or any other number of negative emotions. During this trying time, it’s important to remember that your child is not being difficult on purpose. Your daughter is suffering, so do your best to be tolerant and understanding.

10. Track changes in your daughter’s condition, and call the doctor if depression symptoms seem to be getting worse.

11. Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your daughter begins to talk. The important thing is that she is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or ultimatums as well.

12. Have plenty of patience. How? By taking care of your own mental health.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Adolescents and School Failure: Tips for Parents

Many adolescents experience a time when keeping up with school work is difficult. These periods may last several weeks and may include social problems as well as a slide in academic performance. Research suggests that problems are more likely to occur during a transitional year, such as moving from elementary to middle school, or middle school to high school.

Some teens are able to get through this time with minimal assistance from their parents or educators. It may be enough for a mother or father to be available simply to listen and suggest coping strategies, provide a supportive home environment, and encourage the youngster's participation in school activities. However, when the difficulties last longer than a single grading period, or are linked to a long-term pattern of poor school performance or behavior problems, parents and educators need to intervene.

Some risk factors (listed below) may represent persistent problems from the early elementary school years for some kids. Other children may overcome early difficulties but begin to experience related problems during middle school or high school. For others, some of these indicators may become noticeable only in early adolescence. To intervene effectively, parents and educators can be aware of some common indicators of a teen at risk for school failure, including:
  • Absenteeism - the child is absent five or more days per term.
  • Attention problems as a young student - the child has a school history of attention issues or disruptive behavior.
  • Behavior problems - the child may be frequently disciplined or show a sudden change in school behavior, such as withdrawing from class discussions.
  • Lack of confidence - the child believes that success is linked to native intelligence rather than hard work, and believes that his or her own ability is insufficient, and nothing can be done to change the situation.
  • Lack of connection with the school - the child is not involved in sports, music, or other school-related extracurricular activities.
  • Limited goals for the future - the child seems unaware of available career options or how to attain those goals.
  • Multiple retentions in grade - the child has been retained one or more years.
  • Poor grades - the child consistently performs at barely average or below average levels.

When more than one of these attributes characterizes a teen, he/she will likely need assistance from both parents and educators to complete his/her educational experience successfully. Girls, and children from culturally or linguistically diverse groups, may be especially at risk for academic failure if they exhibit these behaviors. Stepping back and letting these children "figure it out" or "take responsibility for their own learning" may lead to a deeper cycle of failure within the school environment.

In a recent survey, when children were asked to evaluate their transitional years, they indicated interest in connecting to their new school and requested more information about extracurricular activities, careers, class schedules, and study skills. Schools that develop programs that ease transitions for children and increase communication between schools may be able to reduce child failure rates.

Parenting style may have an impact on the youngster's school behavior. Many experts distinguish among permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative parenting styles. These parenting styles are associated with different combinations of warmth, support, and limit-setting and supervision for kids.

The permissive style tends to emphasize warmth and neglect limit-setting and supervision; the authoritarian style tends to emphasize the latter and not the former; while the authoritative style is one in which moms and dads offer warmth and support, and limit-setting and supervision. When the authoritative parenting style is used, the teen may be more likely to experience academic success.

It is important to remember that teens need their moms and dads not only to set appropriate expectations and boundaries, but also to advocate for them.

Parents and educators can help adolescents by:
  1. Arranging tutoring or study group support for the adolescent from the school or the community through organizations such as the local YMCA or a local college or university
  2. Attending school functions, such as sports, and plays
  3. Emphasizing the importance of study skills, hard work, and follow-through
  4. Encouraging the adolescent to participate in one or more school activities
  5. Encouraging the adolescent to volunteer in the community or to participate in community groups such as the YMCA, Scouting, 4-H, religious organizations, or other service-oriented groups to provide an out-of-school support system
  6. Helping the adolescent think about career options by arranging for visits to local companies and colleges, picking up information on careers and courses, and encouraging an internship or career-oriented part-time job
  7. Making the time to listen to and try to understand the adolescent's fears or concerns
  8. Meeting as a team, including parents, educators, and school counselor, asking how they can support the adolescent's learning environment, and sharing their expectations for the youngster's future
  9. Providing a supportive home and school environment that clearly values education
  10. Setting appropriate boundaries for behavior that are consistently enforced

Understanding the factors that may put a teen at-risk for academic failure will help moms and dads determine if their adolescent is in need of extra support. Above all, parents need to persevere. The adolescent years do pass, and most teens survive them, in spite of bumps along the way. Being aware of common problems can help moms and dads know when it is important to reach out and ask for help before a difficult time develops into a more serious situation.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Giving Up Your Parental Rights

"What is involved in giving up one’s parental rights?"

Any parent can choose to give up his/her parental rights as long as another person, such as the youngster's other parent or an adoptive guardian, is willing to take responsibility for the youngster. By relinquishing parental rights, the parent is usually relieved from any obligation to his/her biological youngster.

Biological parents might choose to give up (relinquish) parental rights in a number of situations. For example:
  1. If a couple decides to place a baby for adoption, a court will first need to terminate the parental rights of both biological parents before an adoption can be finalized.
  2. If a woman remarries and wants her new husband to adopt her youngster from the previous relationship, the biological father might chose to relinquish his parental rights.
  3. Some parents choose not to be involved in the lives of their kids. By giving up parental rights, they can be absolved of responsibility for providing financial support for the kids.

In most cases, when a parent chooses to give up parental rights, he/she is completely released from any obligation to care for his/her biological youngster. Under the eyes of the law, the biological parent and youngster are not related. The youngster may not inherit under the parent’s will as one of his/her kids, and the parent has no obligation whatsoever to care for the youngster.

A parent’s rights must always be terminated by a judge. A parent can sign a paper stating the desire to give up parental rights. A court can involuntarily terminate a parent’s rights, such as in the case of youngster abuse. Some states have a putative father registry in place. This presumes that an unmarried man consents to giving up his parental rights so the baby can be placed for adoption. That holds true unless the father registers with the state after having sex with a woman who is not his wife.

The time frame for giving up parental rights varies. If a parent signs a document stating the desire to terminate parental rights, then this will happen whenever he/she can get a court date before a judge. In the case of giving up parental rights by default through a putative father registry, the state generally specifies how much time the father has to assert his parental rights after the baby is born. If the father does nothing, a judge will terminate his parental rights after the specified time period has elapsed.

In some cases, a parent might continue to be held responsible for financially supporting the biological youngster even after he/she gives up paternal rights. For example, if the mother must seek governmental assistance in order to support the youngster, a judge has the authority to terminate parental rights. He can still require the father to pay youngster support until the youngster reaches adulthood. This results in the father still being financially responsible for the youngster without having any visitation rights or say in how the youngster is raised.

More on relinquishing parental rights can be found here...

Dealing with Tough Financial Times

A lot of U.S. families are having “financial woes” these days. House prices are going down …more families are facing foreclosure on their mortgages …energy prices and grocery bills are all going up ...and uncertainty over when things will take a turn for the better is making everyone tighten-up their spending.

So how do moms and dads explain this “money crunch” to their fashion-conscious middle-school children as well as their teens with dreams of out-of-state college or a new car? Here are some tips that may help:

1. Be honest with your kids — but don't tell them more than they need to know. Avoid overloading older children with too many details or worries that might scare them. Stick to brief explanations and be clear about changes made to the family budget.

2. Encouraging children to find creative ways to save or make money not only helps them feel empowered — it helps them feel like they're doing their part to help out.

3. Even young children are “brand- and consumer-aware” these days, so don't expect them to volunteer to scale back on their treats or activities right away – but, if you want to encourage budgeting behavior, offer incentives to get children on board.

4. Explain the new rules and also new opportunities for earning privileges and treats. Make it fun. Challenge children to come up with family-friendly, cost-effective activities that everyone will enjoy.

5. Explore fun, low-cost activities. Challenge your family to create memories without visiting a mall or a store. Some ideas include:
  • bike riding together
  • concerts
  • cultural
  • free movie nights
  • going to a park
  • library events
  • museums and other local art
  • sporting events
  • visiting yard sales

6. Family meetings are a great way to establish these new “spending rules,” even if they're temporary until family finances are in better shape.

7. Get children involved. Do children get an allowance they can save up? Can they earn money or points toward back-to-school items? Older children might look into helping pay for college by saving money or applying for scholarships, loans, or grants.

8. When money is tight, tell your youngster that you cannot buy new toys right now, but perhaps the toys can be put on a wish list for the next birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, or other gift-giving occasion.

9. If you can afford something that your youngster wants, offer a small reward in exchange for good behavior or keeping the bedroom straight. Short-term rewards, such as stickers or tokens, can keep younger children motivated. Financial incentives can help older children earn money toward their goals while teaching them valuable lessons about saving.

10. It's hard to keep your cool when you're working hard to keep the family afloat, or stressed out because the bank has threatened foreclosure. Take a deep breath and stay calm. If necessary, tell your youngster that you'll talk about it later, then be sure to set aside time to do so.

11. Children may not be interested in the global economy or why money is tight, but they can be told that there is a limited amount of money in the family budget. Do not cave into their every whim, and instead encourage children to plan ahead for new purchases.

12. Knowing what you want to say, what changes will be made, and how those changes will affect each youngster can help make this a little easier.

13. Learn to say "no." Sometimes moms and dads say "yes" to their children before figuring out how they'll afford a new expense. Even if you agreed to something, you can explain that you made a mistake, and — in order to be a financially responsible family — everyone must forego certain treats for a while.

14. Manage stress levels. Get support — yours is not the only family going through hard times. Try joining a support group or other social network in your area. Support groups are offered through local hospitals, churches, synagogues, libraries, and schools. If you feel that stress or anxiety is really starting to take its toll, tell your doctor, who may be able to put you in touch with counselors or suggest therapeutic strategies — such as relaxation techniques, exercise, or yoga — that can help you feel better and learn to manage your stress.

15. Once you've had "the talk" about money matters with your children, keep a list posted — perhaps on the refrigerator door — of the new house rules so that everyone knows what is expected of them.

16. Preteens are old enough to save money from a weekly allowance or earn it by doing chores around the house, raking leaves, or shoveling snow around the neighborhood.

17. Remind yourself that it's OK to reject pleas and set limits. You're not depriving your kids — you're teaching them important lessons about delaying gratification, earning treats and rewards, and about family finances. After all, food and rent come before toys.

18. Through part-time jobs or regular babysitting, teens can earn money outside the home and cover many of their own expenses.

19. When talking to your children, let them know that they're not alone in their desires. Say how you feel when you see something that you want, but can't purchase it right away. Explain that everyone in the family has to cut down on spending — including you — and remind them that, if they're really motivated, there are ways to earn money and work toward the things they truly want.

20. There are a lot of fun things to do that don’t cost a dime (or no more than a few bucks). Here are some ideas for “family fun” on a budget:

• Bake bread
• Bake cookies or a cake
• Cook an ethnic dinner
• Do soap carving
• Go and visit grandparents
• Go bike riding together
• Go bowling
• Go camping
• Go fishing
• Go swimming
• Go to a movie together
• Go to the library
• Go wading in a creek
• Go window-shopping
• Have a bonfire
• Have a family meeting to discuss whatever
• Have a family picnic in the park. Let the kids help prepare the food -- make sandwiches, pack an ice chest, make cookies for dessert
• Have a late evening cookout
• Have a neighborhood barbeque
• Have a water balloon fight in the backyard
• Learn a new game
• Make candles
• Make caramel corn
• Make homemade ice cream
• Plan a vacation
• Plant a tree
• Play basketball
• Play cards
• Play Frisbee
• Put a puzzle together
• Roast marshmallows
• Share feelings
• Sit on the porch in lawn chairs and watch people and cars go by
• Take a hike through a state park
• Take a walk through the woods
• Take a walk through your neighborhood. Say hello to everyone you meet, whether you know them or not
• Take advantage of entertainment the schools have to offer (e.g., band concerts, school plays)
• Take family pictures
• Take flowers to a friend
• Try a walk in the rain
• Try stargazing
• Visit a college campus
• Visit a museum
• Visit a relative
• Visit different parks in town
• Visit the fire station
• Visit the neighbors
• Watch a television show together
• Work on a family scrapbook
• Write letters to friends

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Dealing With Difficult Toddler Behavior

Dealing with toddler behavior can be really stressful when you’re not sure how to handle it.

Every parent knows that so-called “bad behavior” starts with the “terrible twos” and often gets worse before it gets better. We’ll call them the “tortuous threes.”

Some important “toddler traits” include the following:
  1. Toddlers are mobile and expressive. They know how to move (fast!) and they know how to express themselves with words and actions. They know how to ask for things. They know how to scream at you when you say “no”. But they pretty much lack any capability to use adult logic.
  2. Toddlers want independence. Toddlers can tell you what they want to have, or what they want to do, they want to be allowed to have it (or do it). They want to push the boundaries and try new things. Yet too many moms and dads don’t realize this is how the youngster learns and gains confidence. If you keep your youngster boxed into a strict set of rules, you risk squashing their inner confidence and willingness to take chances.
  3. Toddlers have short fuses. Most toddlers behave as if everything is the end of their little world. And it annoys the heck out of moms and dads! We just want them to understand that not everything is a big deal, but we get screaming fits and tantrums instead. The parent’s view of the world is in complete misalignment with the youngster’s view.
  4. Toddlers have a short attention span. I think it’s fair to say that nearly all toddlers have short attention spans unless they are very engaged in some activity. When I say these kids have a short attention span I mean that they can be easily distracted from most oncoming tantrums that relate to things like, “Mommy I want that toy.”

Language is a great parenting tool. And since your toddler is now able to express himself much more clearly than a year ago, this is a great time to use language. The most important language tool is to do something I call “getting in their head.” If your youngster doesn’t feel like you understand him, or at least that you are trying to understand him, you’ll encounter a big wall of resistance. What happens next? Welcome to temper tantrum city.

You can enter your youngster’s head by simply telling your youngster what you know to be true about his situation. For example: “Michael, I know that you want to play over here with this toy.” Next you can build on this rapport with an amplification statement such as, “…and that sure does look like a really fun toy. I bet you really like the nice colors!”

Doing this is like magic. Please don’t overlook it as simplistic and childish. It’s supposed to be! You’re dealing with a toddler! You need to enter their world, and that’s how you do it. The moment you do, your youngster is calmer and open to distraction, suggestion, humor, or logical consequences (should you need them).

If you are butting heads with your toddler, always build rapport by getting in their head before you try to implement any kind of behavioral change tactic. Otherwise, I promise you that you’ll have a more stressful time and there will be more tears. You’re mission is to prevent that.

Say your toddler wants to get a glass out of the cupboard by himself. You can’t have him climbing up on the counter and risking a fall, or having a glass shatter in his face. So you say “no” and you do it for him. He doesn’t understand. He throws a fit. All of a sudden you’re sitting there wondering, “What’s wrong with his behavior?”

It all could have been prevented very easily. How? You first get in your youngster’s head with a comment like, “Michael, I’m really proud of you for wanting to get things for yourself. It’s important to learn new things.” I’d even go so far as to be very specific and say, “You want to get a cup down all by yourself. That’s great.”

Knowing that you can’t explain the logic behind the danger of broken glass, you need to shift his attention. I recommend offering a choice where both outcomes are what you want. Grab two plastic cups and put them in the cupboard. Say to him, “Which cup are you going to get down all by yourself? The blue one or the orange one?” Chances are good he’ll pick one. Then, lift him so he can open the cupboard door himself and take out the cup. Disaster averted.

Maybe he refuses the plastic cups. He insists that he must drink out of a glass cup just like you. After all, kids model their moms and dads. They want to do what we do. How do you handle this?

One example would be to use humor as a distraction. First, you’d establish that Michael wants to drink out of the glass cup and NOT the plastic cup. As long as you’re OK with him drinking out of a glass cup, you probably want to get it down for him.

You take down the cup without giving him a chance to object, but you immediately implement humor. Hold the glass over one eye, looking through the bottom. Start making pirate noises and pretending it’s a telescope. “Arggg … I see you down there and I’m coming to get you!” Said in a humorous way, this will almost always burst your youngster into giggles. Next thing you know, he’s completely forgotten about wanting to get the cup down for himself. You’d still want to tell him that you are proud of him for drinking so neatly all by himself.

The worst case scenario is that none of this will work, and you’ll have to fall back on basic training. You go back to offering him a choice. He can either have you take down the glass cup, or he can take down the plastic cup. You stay calm and unemotional. You make it clear that these are his choices and it’s up to him to decide. If he doesn’t decide, he doesn’t drink. And if he throws a tantrum, you may simply have to leave the room and let him know that you’ll come back after he calms down.

Just remember that if you yell right back at your youngster, you are NOT in his head. You’re on the outside. You are raising the stress levels and throwing away your opportunity to either enjoy your youngster in the moment, or train him to understand a basic household rule. You don’t want that.

Talking to Toddlers: Dealing with the Terrible Twos and Beyond

New Teenage Drivers: Tips for Parents

Learning to drive can be nerve-wracking for adolescents and moms and dads. It's likely to be your first experience putting your safety and auto investment in your adolescent's hands. And since you know all the risks of the road, this can be pretty scary.

Moms and dads play an important role in helping adolescents practice their driving skills and develop confidence behind the wheel. To help prepare for this critical time in your adolescent's life, it may help to refresh your driving knowledge by attending a basic defensive driving course. You'd be surprised to learn how much has changed since you learned to drive.

When it comes to driving, experience is an important teacher. The more time teen drivers spend honing a variety of skills in different road and weather conditions, the more calm and confident they will feel and the better they'll be able to react to challenging situations.

Before each practice session, plan the specific skills you want to go over. If possible, make your lessons coincide with what your adolescent is learning in driver's education at school. Consider your adolescent's temperament — and your own. If the lessons are too long, nerves might get frayed and it may be difficult to stay calm.

An empty parking lot is an ideal place for adolescents to:
  • get a feel for how the car handles
  • learn the location of some of the basic controls, like windshield wipers, defroster, and lights
  • practice simple car control skills like turning and braking

After practicing the basics of moving in drive and reverse, try to work on these skills on quiet back roads, where there's little traffic:
  • coming to a full stop at a stop sign
  • keeping a constant speed when going uphill
  • keeping a safe following distance
  • making a left turn on a two-way road
  • navigating around pedestrians, animals, bikers, and runners
  • practicing an aggressive visual search (looking for potential road hazards)
  • recognizing and understanding street signs
  • slowing down around curves
  • understanding the rules of a four-way stop

Once adolescents have mastered those basic skills, they should get some practice driving on bigger, busier roads and highways. On these roads, you can help your adolescent practice:
  • approaching, slowing down, and stopping at traffic lights/intersections — green, yellow, and red
  • changing lanes
  • maintaining a safe speed based on road conditions
  • making a left on a green yield
  • merging into traffic
  • understanding the different lanes — like not going below the speed limit in the left lane
  • using on and off ramps at appropriate speeds

Adolescent drivers should learn to anticipate and watch for potential problems from other drivers — always expecting the other driver to do something that will put them at greatest risk. For instance, when approaching a stop sign, they should watch for other cars coming from different directions that may not stop. In traffic, encourage your adolescent to watch for cars that suddenly switch lanes without signaling or pull out in front.

New teen drivers often have trouble anticipating the actions of other vehicles, accurately sensing how much speed and space certain situations require, and effectively recognizing high risk traffic situations. These are skills that drivers develop with experience and time.

Once comfortable with these skills, have your adolescent practice driving in different conditions such as:
  • Construction/roadwork: Construction zones have many signs and congestion that are good learning points for any new driver.
  • Dusk and dawn: Glare from the sun makes it difficult for drivers to see.
  • Nighttime: Reduced visibility means greater risk that can lead to a collision.
  • Rain and snow: Practicing on slick pavement gives adolescents a chance to find the right speed for the conditions and helps demonstrate how traction is reduced.

After plenty of practice, give your adolescent a chance to drive with more passengers in the car. Begin with family members or close friends who your adolescent is comfortable driving with and you're comfortable coaching around.

Before your first driving session with your adolescent, sit down together and discuss your expectations, including the skills you'd like to practice and how long it will take.

Once the lesson begins, remember that the goal is for your adolescent to get comfortable, confident, and safe behind the wheel. Becoming a skilled driver takes time and experience, so it's important to be patient and:

• Keep it simple. Practice skills one at a time. In basketball, an individual can't learn to shoot, defend, pass, and dribble all at once, and the same goes for driving skills. Remember that it can be hard for new teen drivers to process multiple things at once while trying to drive — it can even be a distraction.

• Provide some warm-up time. First practice in safe areas, away from other cars, with low stress and risk. Then, as you get more comfortable with one another, you'll be ready to take on bigger challenges, like the open road and the highway.

• Turn mistakes into lessons. When a mistake happens, have your adolescent pull over, if possible, so you can talk calmly about what went wrong and how to avoid repeats.

As long as you are alert and attentive while your rookie driver is at the wheel, you should be prepared to help with any situation that may arise.

A simple tutorial about the basics of car maintenance, like changing a tire, is important for a new driver. So show your teenager where the spare tire, lug wrench, and other equipment is kept and how to use it.

Other emergency and maintenance necessities to go over include:
  • checking the oil
  • jump-starting a car
  • maintaining proper air pressure in the tires
  • pumping and paying for gas

Approaching driver training with an open mind, a positive attitude, and patience will give your adolescent the best foundation for becoming a skilled and safe driver.

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

Highly Effective Parenting Methods for Preteens

Staying connected as children approach the adolescent years and become more independent 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 12-year-old 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 preteen 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 12-year-old to learn and practice — respectful communication, kindness, healthy eating, and fulfilling everyday responsibilities without complaining — makes it more likely that your child 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 parenting preteens:

1. Your youngster may not need to be tucked in anymore, but maintaining a consistent bedtime routine helps preteens 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 12-year-old 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. 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. 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.

4. Find little things that let you just hang out together. Invite your “soon-to-be-a-teenager” to come with you to walk the dog. Invite yourself along on his or 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 preteen 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.

5. Don't underestimate the value of saying and showing how much you love your 12-year-old. Doing so ensures that children feel secure and loved. And you're demonstrating healthy ways to show affection. Still, preteens 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."

6. Stay interested and curious about your child’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.

7. Stay involved in your child’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 try to be sympathetic about the missed fly ball that won the game for the other team. Your attitude about setbacks will teach your 12-year-old to accept and feel OK about them, and to summon the courage to try again.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

9-11 Tribute: Final Flight Paths and Sequence of Events

We lost family members during 9-11. It is with a heavy heart and a forever changed soul that we offer this tribute to all the families affected by 9-11. We must never forget -- or become complacent. Viewer discretion is strongly advised!

PART I



PART II



9/11 Tribute

Giving Children An Allowance: Tips for Parents

An allowance can be a great way to teach children money management skills and help them learn how to make decisions, deal with limited resources, and understand the benefits of saving and charitable giving.

There's no single correct way to handle giving an allowance. Deciding when to start, how much to give, and whether you want to link the allowance to chores are choices that should fit your family. Also, no particular age is best for every kid, but you may want to consider starting an allowance by the time a youngster is 10 years old. By then, most children have had experience making thoughtful spending decisions but still look to moms and dads for guidance.

How much allowance should you give?

It depends on your financial situation and what kind of commitment you feel that you can comfortably keep. Experts generally recommend that children get no more than $2 per week for every year of their age (e.g., maximum of $20 per week for a 10-year-old). Regardless of how much you choose, give the allowance regularly and increase the amount as your youngster gets older.

Should an allowance be tied to chores?

Again, it's a personal choice. Some experts think that it's important to make this connection so that children learn the relationship between work and pay. Others say that children should have a responsibility to help with housework, above and beyond any financial incentive. Ultimately, you must decide what works best for you. Whatever you decide, be sure that all parties understand the arrangement.

If you give an allowance for doing housework, make sure that your children understand what their responsibilities are and the consequences of not doing them. You might want to involve them in choosing the chores and then keep a chart posted to remind them what needs to be done. It's important to be consistent. Following through on your promise to give a regular allowance sets a good example for your children and is incentive for them to honor their end of the bargain. If you don't keep up with the allowance, they might lose that incentive and stop doing the chores.

How should children spend their allowance?

It's good to have them use it for discretionary things, not essential purchases such as food or clothing. This lets children make buying decisions — and mistakes — without dire consequences. You might want to encourage children to put away a portion for charity and another portion for savings. If so, let them choose where to donate the money. It may be a cause that a youngster can relate to in some way, like an animal shelter or a group that helps sick children. If some of the allowance goes to savings, consider setting up an account at a local bank. This way, your youngster can keep track of the money. 

Many banks offer special bank accounts for children, and yours may enjoy the experience of getting mail, even if the mail is a bank statement. Once children become teenagers, you might want to provide a quarterly clothing allowance in addition to the weekly allowance. If you do, establish a reasonable budget and allow your children to spend it as they wish — but also to honor its limits. If your son chooses to buy a $90 shirt or your daughter opts for a pricey handbag, for example, they might have to make compromises on other clothing choices.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Advice for Step-Parents

Becoming a parent 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 parent — aside from the day-to-day responsibilities that come with it — also may lead to confusion or even conflict between you and your partner, your partner's ex-wife or 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. The initial role of a step-parent is that of another caring grown-up in a youngster's life, similar to a loving family member or mentor. You may desire a closer bond right away, and might wonder what you're doing wrong if your new stepson/daughter 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 grown-ups are being fake or insincere. Over time, you can develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship with your stepson/daughter, which doesn't necessarily have to resemble the one they share with their birth moms and dads.

Kids who are mourning the loss of a deceased parent or the separation or divorce of their birth moms and dads may need time to heal before they can fully accept you as a new parent. For those whose birth moms and dads are still alive, remarriage may mean the end of hope that their moms and dads 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 well the parent you marry gets along with the ex-spouse. This is a critical factor. Minimal conflict and open communication between ex-partners can make a big difference regarding how easily children accept you as their step-parent. It's much easier for children to transition to new living arrangements when grown-ups keep negative comments out of earshot.

• 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 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 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 moms and dads 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 long you dated the parent before marriage. Again, there are exceptions but typically if you don't rush into the relationship with the grown-up, children have a good sense that you are in this for the long haul.

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.

All moms and dads face difficulties now and then. But when you're a step-parent, 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 partner's ex, or even your partner.

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

1. 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.

2. 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 the other parent 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.

3. House rules matter. Keep your house rules as consistent as possible for all children, whether they're your children from a previous relationship, your partner'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 grown-ups-only family meeting — otherwise children can learn to "work the system" for short-term gain but long-term problems.

4. 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 step kids, don't buy gifts to make up for it. Do you best to figure out how to treat them more equally.

5. Respect all moms and dads. When a partner's ex is deceased, it's important to be sensitive to and honor that person. If you and your partner 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.

6. Talk to your partner or spouse. Communication between you and your partner 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 step-parent, ask your partner 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 (and probably will) improve as you and your new family members get to know each other better.

Help for Parents and Step-Parents Who Are At Their Wits-end

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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.

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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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