Parenting Teens in 2018

Thursday, January 18th, 2018
By Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.


Teens need a new kind of parent.  During a time of life that is ruled by uncertainty and change, teens crave the unconditional love of their parents, but they also need their parents coach, guide, and teach. They need a different kind of support as they navigate their way toward independence.

Each month, I’ll be sharing a key parenting practice so you can step into this new role with confidence and awareness.

April Parenting Tip-  Supporting Confidence 

Your teen was not born confident. Confidence is a learned skill. It goes hand in hand with your teen’s ability to make wise decisions, overcome challenges, and have a positive attitude.   Confidence is a quality that helps teens (and adults) successfully navigate life.


Find out more about your teen’s confidence by starting a conversation. Share these tips, ask her what she already practices and what actions she can take to harness even more  self-confidence.

  • Be your own role model. Be proud of yourself. Celebrate your daily wins. Identify your values and allow them to guide your actions.
  • Express yourself. Process your feelings by writing down what you think and feel. Then, respectfully share your thoughts and feeling with others. Practice asking for what you need, rather than demanding it.
  • Challenge yourself. Step out of your Comfort Zone and into your Courage Zone. Try something new, whether a new food or new sport, and persevere through the discomfort.
  • Shift your focus. Stop worrying about what others think of you. Instead, focus on what you think of you.
  • Quiet the Gremlin. The Gremlin is that negative, persistent voice in your head. It’s the voice of comparison and not-enough-ness. Instead of listening to the Gremlin, think positive, helpful thoughts.
  • Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. Instead of getting hung up on what you did wrong, begin to see perceived failure as an opportunity to change, grow, and learn.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t waste your energy comparing yourself to others. Recognize your amazing gifts and the amazing gifts of others. You will find yourself more motivated and energized.

Remember self-confidence is not the same as arrogance. Confidence comes from a quiet place of inner-knowing and radical self-acceptance. Arrogance is rooted in neediness and insecurity. Arrogant people tend to try to impress others and build themselves up by putting others down. Confident people don’t seek approval or adoration. They are able to authentically honor others while remaining secure in themselves.

Self-confidence is an asset. Everyday, make a choice to nurture it and watch how your optimism and ability to handle life’s challenges also improve.

March Parenting Tip- Listening

Listening. It sounds simple, right?  You may even be thinking, I DO listen to my teen, but my teen doesn’t say much or when I try to listen, my teen lashes out!  

If you’re like most parents, you listen to your teen with the intention of gathering information. How was their day? What homework do they have? What’s going on with their friends? For you, asking questions and gathering information are necessary to offering support and showing interest. To your teen, your questions feel invasive, overwhelming, and set off frustration. As a result, their communication becomes short, indifferent, or flat out rude.

But what if there was another way to gather the information you seek, offer your support, and show your teen that you really do understand?

Imagine what it would be like to have a deep conversation with your teen. A conversation where your voice is heard and your input valued. Imagine having a more meaningful connection with your teen.

These are the results of Level Three Listening: Listening From Your Teen’s Point of View. The purpose of listening at this level is not to gather information. It does not involve asking a lot of questions or sharing your own teen experiences. This type of listening is deep, soulful, and genuine. It requires pause, reflection, focus, and an open heart and mind. It calls on you to clear your mind and listen without judgment or advice, but with empathy and love. When you listen in this way, you are imagining what it is like to be your teen at school, in sports, or with friends. You are honoring your teen with being fully seen and heard. When you listen in this way, your teen will feel understood, appreciated, and become open to sharing more.  When you make time for heartfelt conversation your teen will know your intentions are genuine and compassionate.

Follow these five steps to sharpen your listening skills and practice Listen From Your Teen’s Point of View:

  1. Remove distractions. Listening from your teen’s point of view requires eye contact and tuning into their feelings.
  2. Erase your preconceived notions. Do not make assumptions or jump to conclusions. Listen with a curious, open mind.
  3. Step into their story. Imagine what it’s like to be your son or daughter and feel what he or she is feeling. Try to connect at an emotional level.
  4. Reflect their goodness. Demonstrate your empathy through your body language and facial expression. Reflect the emotion you see. Show your teen that you are tuning in at a soul level.
  5. Find comfort in the silence. Remember silence is a form of sharing and connection. Effective listening invites space between thoughts, words, and responses.

February Parenting Tip- Open Communication 

The key to any successful relationship is communication. But when it comes to parenting teens, communication can feel shallow or sometimes, downright disrespectful. It’s hard to know when or if you’re getting through to your teen!

Does this sound familiar?

“How was your day?”


“Can we talk about _____________?”

“Why?!?! UGH! Whatever mom. You’re so nosy! I can take care of it myself.”

Or perhaps your well-meaning questions and heartfelt comments are met with eye-rolls, sighs, or no acknowledgement at all.

Teenagers are starting to break away from their parents and seek more freedom and independence. They crave a sense of power and control, and they assert this sense of power in their explosive or dismissive responses. Don’t take it personally. Instead, consider shifting they way you approach your teen and inviting in a new way of communication.

Try these tips for a more insightful and connected conversation:

  1. Ask open-ended questions. Teens are much more likely to open up if you ask them questions that require more than one word answers. For example, instead of “How was school today?” You could ask, “What was the best part of your day?” Consider reframing questions so that they invite reflection, like questions that begin with “what,” and address events or people that are interesting to your teen.
  2. Respond thoughtfully. Well-meaning parents tend to respond to their teen’s shares with additional questions or a personal connection. “When I was your age…” This is guaranteed to stop your teen from talking. Although it’s not your intention, it sends a message that you weren’t listening. Always take time to respond thoughtfully to your teen. Avoid correcting or judging, and instead, reflect back what you heard. Consider how you can demonstrate empathy and understanding.
  3. Be creative. It can be hard for teens to open up to their parents. They may fear punishment, judgment, or simply can’t find the words or courage to speak up. Offering an alternative way of communicating can help.   Try offering your teen a journal, where she can share her questions or concerns. Make a promise to keep the journal private and respond within the day.
  4. Get active. Make a date with your teen to do something you both enjoy. Go on a hike, take a cooking class, go shopping, or explore a new restaurant. Spending time with your teen shows her that she can be close with you without you asking her a million questions or calling her out for something.
  5. Acknowledge and praise. The old saying, Catch ‘em being good, still rings true during the teen years. In fact, despite your teen’s too-cool attitude, your acknowledgment and praise may mean more now than ever. When you praise your teen’s qualities instead of her accomplishments, you help boost her self-esteem and make a deposit in your relationship bank account.

Parenting is one of the most fulfilling, delightful, exhausting, and stressful jobs you will ever do.   However, with support, new tools, and an understanding of what your teen needs, you will be able to truly enjoy your parenting journey and learn to love the teen years!



January Parenting Tip-  Be Present and Calm


Despite their deep desire to be independent and free, teens appreciate a meaningful connection with a caring adult. As a parent, you are their number one caring adult and the way you show up matters.

Through my conversations with teens, I’ve learned that they are deeply appreciative when their parents are present and calm.

So how can you practice calm and present parenting, especially when parenting a teen?


  1. Breathe. The simple act of taking a deep breath invites the pause that is necessary for lowering the body’s stress response so you can reply thoughtfully and calmly to your teen. In fact, research shows that taking a deep breath helps you stay calm even when your children are pushing you to the edge. Deep, conscious breathing actually causes positive changes in the brain. As you take a deep breath, you can consider what your teen needs and how you can support her for success. It also teaches your teen how to effectively handle her emotional reactions.
  2. Heart to heart listening. You may be an expert in multi-tasking but teens can tell when you’re distracted.   Make it a point to give your teen your undivided attention. Turn off the radio, phone, or television and tune into the present moment. Look your teen in the eye and face her heart to heart. Show her that you are interested in what she has to say. As you do, you will gain a deeper understanding of who she is and what matters to her, and she will respond by opening up more.
  3. Time out. When things get heated, give yourself permission to take a time out. Remember that most situations do not require an immediate response or consequence. Telling your teen that you need time to consider your best next steps or think about what she has told you, demonstrates your courage to solve conflicts in a respectful and non-reactive manner. It also sends a message that you want to show up for her when you are more clear and calm.
  4. Self Care. As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Parenting requires a huge amount of energy and dedication. It’s essential to carve out time to do the things you love. Foster supportive friendships. Protect your precious time by saying no to engagements or people that drain your energy. Nurture yourself in every way possible so you can be strong, calm, present and supportive for your teen.

Parenting is one of the most fulfilling, delightful, exhausting, and stressful jobs you will ever do.   However, with support, new tools, and an understanding of what your teen needs, you will be able to truly enjoy your parenting journey and learn to love the teen years!




New Year Goal Setting Guide

Monday, December 11th, 2017

At the end of a year, we’re given an opportunity to honor where we’ve been and consider where we want to go.  Teens get extra excited about their future when they take time to celebrate their past successes and create plans for making their dreams come true.    This holiday season, when you’re spending quality time with your teen, use these open-ended questions  to spark meaningful reflections and conversations about what’s possible in the new year.

Reflecting on the Past Year:

What was important for me this passed year?

What was challenging for me this passed year?

What was wonderful this passed year?

How did I make it through the hard times?

What were my best times?

How did I change as a person/friend/student/daughter?


Reflecting on the Now:

What feels good about my life right now?

What am I grateful for right now?

What does it feel like to me right now?

What is important to me right now?

What am I happy about right now?

What would I like to change about my life right now?

What would I like to change about myself right now?


Planning for the Future: 

How can I be more authentically myself in this New Year?

What kind of person/friend/student/daughter do I want to be?

How do I want to show up in the world?

What do I want for myself this year?

What do I want to feel like?

What am I looking forward to?

What do I want to accomplish?

What gifts do I want to share with the world this year?

What small steps can I take to create these positive changes?


When engaging in a goal setting conversation, listen with an open mind and open heart.  Your teen will appreciate your interest and respect, and you will gain a little extra insight into her world which will help you support her in being her best in 2018!

The Importance of Gratitude for Teens

Friday, November 10th, 2017

By Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.

Gratitude is one of the most powerful and positive emotions we can experience. It has the capacity to shift our perspective and influence our responses. Gratitude requires pause, reflection, and expression of thanks. It’s about recognizing and being grateful for all the experiences life brings our way, both good and bad.

Robert Emmons, the world’s leading researcher and writer on gratitude, defines it as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”

What would happen if your teenage daughter embraced this mindset?

For adolescence girls, gratitude can be a game-changer because it promotes positive shifts in brain waves that lead to emotional balance. Imagine if your teen, who may typically react to adversity as though it’s the end of the world, saw treasures in challenges and responded with a sense of calm control.

Practicing gratitude enables girls to reframe their challenging experiences and reinterpret stressful situations.   Gratitude promotes a broader perspective, which in turn, allows them to see alternatives, take positive action, and move forward.

Other benefits of practicing gratitude:

Positive attitude When girls experience gratitude, they are more likely to act graciously. When they learn to pause and recognize the good in their world, they feel better about themselves and their environment.

Better mood Gratitude helps shift negative emotions into positive energy. People who practice gratitude, are happier, less stressed, and less depressed.

Improved relationships Positive people attract positive relationships because it is easy for them to show compassion, appreciation, and support. Gratitude is a foundation for trust and fulfilling friendships.

How to get started:

Grow a Gratitude Tribe Friends and family can help model and foster a sense of appreciation and gratitude. Make it a daily practice to share a gratitude or appreciation. Talk about the things in your life that you love. Do this as a family and model it in front of your daughter with friends and colleagues. Infuse your language and environment with the positive energy of gratitude.

Every Dark Cloud has a Silver Lining Sometimes remembering the bad times can amplify the good. When your daughter is lamenting about challenges or upsetting experiences, ask her about the positive outcomes. If she has trouble finding them on her own, point out her strengths that developed or new insights and understandings she may want to consider embracing.

Visual Reminders It’s easy to get swept in the rush of life and forget about a regular gratitude practice. Strategically place quotes or inspiring images that trigger thoughts of gratitude. Check out Studio Penny Lane for creative items designed to inspire gratitude.

Gratitude Games Download my Gratitude Bingo/Gratitude Prompts and use it with the family. For Bingo, fill in each square until one family member earns Bingo. Alternatively, you can cut the squares and put them in a jar or box. Choose one or two gratitude prompts each day to share with one another.

Remember, gratitude is a practice. When cultivated and embraced, it becomes a silver lining on the dark cloud.


How to Tell if You’re a Connected Parent

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

By Erica Rood, MA Ed.

More and more, teens are turning to friends and social media for support. While peers can offer sympathy and encouragement, they are not capable of providing sound and mature counsel. Teens need their parents to remain a steady and central part of their support system.  In order to do so, parents need an effective way of connecting with their teens.  These essential questions will help guide you toward more successful, teen-appreciated communication.

  1. How present are you? When your teen starts to tell you about her day or share a story about a friend, do you face her, look her in the eye, and stop what you are doing to really pay attention? Teens pick up on the smallest of social cues. Your attention demonstrates your availability and interest, which she will recognize as support. The next time she starts to talk, put down your phone, walk away from your computer, and give her your undivided attention. Show her that you honor and value her choice to open up to you.
  2. How do you listen? Do you fire away questions? Take her sharing a story as a cue to reminisce on your teen experiences? Or, do you really drop in and imagine what it is like to be her, walk in her shoes, and experience all that she experiences? Deep, meaningful listening involves empathizing, understanding, and connecting. When you listen on this level, you don’t offer explanations, solutions, or opinions, but instead, you honor her unique perspective, support her ability to problem solve, and encourage her to deepen her understanding of herself and others.
  3. Do you validate her experiences, feelings, and opinions? Whether or not you consider it irrational or outrageous, everything your teen is going through is real and serious to her. When you listen, reflect, and ask what support she needs, she knows you care and understand, and she will be more likely to open up even more. On the flip side, when you minimize or ridicule her experiences, she is more likely to react with rebellion, yelling, and door slamming.
  4. Do you allow her to practice her assertive skills…. on you? By the time she enters the teen years, your daughter has figured out that adults regularly enforce arbitrary rules. This is one reason why she will start to question and defy what you say. Instead of losing your temper, seize this as an opportunity to teach her a valuable life-skill: How to evaluate authority figures and make thoughtful choices about when to contend and when to resist. This means having honest, calm, and frank conversations about the rules, offering reasonable explanation, acknowledging her perspective, and sometimes, engaging in negotiation.
  5. Do you see conflicts as an opportunity to foster emotional intelligence? Teenagers use parents as dumping grounds for feelings. When your daughter starts to unload the stresses of her day, remember that she is taking advantage of a reliable support system and she is dealing with her stress in a wise, healthy way. When she vents, listen with an open heart, help her understand what certain feelings reveal and what she can do to honor and care for herself. For example, negative feelings about a friend may indicate the relationship isn’t aligned with her values and it’s time to let go. Sadness or anxiety about a situation may be a signal to step away, reset, or share her concern.

Always remember, no matter how much your teen relies on friends or social media, she wants and needs you to provide authentic guidance and loving support.

Back to School- How to set the stage for a positive and productive year

Monday, August 21st, 2017

For your daughter, a mix of anxiety and anticipation may accompany the new school year.   It is never too late to address her specific fears, talk about potential challenges, and plan for success.   Here are a few tips to help you set the stage for a positive and productive year.

Talk about changes (but don’t share your anxieties.) Summer can be full of shifts for teens and preteens. Their interests deepen, talents evolve, friendships change, and expectations develop. Talking with your daughter about her vision for the new school year can help prepare her for the inevitable changes, and support her in accepting the new while letting go of the old. As you engage in these conversations, avoid projecting your anxieties. Teens and preteens absorb parent-anxiety easily and react accordingly. If you are concerned about your daughter making friends, instead of asking her, “Did you make any friends today?” Ask, “How did it go at school?” If you are concerned about your daughter’s academic performance, instead of asking, “Did you get an A on the test?” Ask, “How was the test today?” While the former questions can often mislead teens into thinking they will disappoint their parents if a friend isn’t made or a score isn’t achieved, the latter, more neutral questions will invite an honest response. Plus, your teen will sense your support.

Create a balanced schedule. I’ve coached many middle and high school students who are overwhelmed with their schedule. They have so many daily activities that they lose sleep and often experience health problems. Although most students ease into the beginning of the year, it’s not long before the workload increases and stress levels rise. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to wait until a month or two of school has passed before enrolling in extra-curricular activities. In addition, model balance by sharing with your teen when to say “no” in order to avoid over-committing. Talk about prioritizing and share what you do to take care of yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed with to-dos.

Foster optimism and mental agility. Optimism is the ability to notice and expect a positive outcome, understand what you can control, and take meaningful action. Mental agility is the ability to think creatively and flexibly, and to see a situation from a variety of perspectives.   Both are reinforced through coaching and both can be harnessed when parents ask thoughtful questions and share meaningful reflection. When you notice your daughter slipping into the downward spiral of doom-and-gloom, imagine what it is like to be her. At this time, it is your job to calibrate, connect, and empathize. Then, ask open-ended questions like, “Is there another way you can approach this situation?” or “What would be more helpful right now?” You can also use one of my favorite coaching questions, “What can you do right now that will change this situation?” Then, gently point out alternatives: “Mmmm. I see where you are coming from, but it could be that….” Or, “Yes, he/she might be thinking exactly what you think they are, but it’s possible they are coming from another point-of-view.”

Set up support! The truth is, as your daughter moves through adolescence, she will want independence and freedom from her parents. Situations will arise that she will not want to share with you, but will need to share with someone she trusts. As she learns how to solve problems and overcome challenges on her own, she will need a space to process her experiences, sort through her feelings, examine her options, and decide her best next steps. Help your daughter identify her support system. Who are the loyal friends and trusted adults she can turn to when she doesn’t want to turn to you? Where can you let go so she has the space and freedom to explore solutions and develop independence?

How to Help Your Teen Become More Self-Aware

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

By Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.

As a teen life coach, one of my primary goals is to help teens cultivate self-awareness. I have observed that when teens know who they are and what is important to them, they become better decision makers, communicators, students, leaders, and friends. In fact, research has proven that self-awareness is an essential life-skill. Dr. Tasha Urich, author of Insight and lead researcher on the topic of self-awareness, points out: people who know themselves and how others see them are happier. They make smarter decisions. They have better personal and professional relationships. They’re smarter, superior students who choose better careers. They’re more creative, more confident, and better communicators. They’re less aggressive and less likely to lie, cheat, and steal…. some research has even shown that self-awareness is the single greatest predictor of leadership success.

You can help your daughter develop her self-awareness by using some of the same approaches I use when I am coaching teens.

Here’s how:

  1. Make Connections. Help your daughter make connections between her actions and her feelings, as well as the outcomes of her choices. Note: as a parent, the last thing your teen wants to hear from you is what you think she feels, so avoid making a judgment. Instead, observe and thoughtfully ask her open-ended questions like, “I noticed you got up really early today. How did that go for you?” or “It looks like you’re missing a few assignments. How are you feeling about that?” When teens begin to link their behaviors with certain results, they gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what matters to them.
  2. Explore What not Why. It’s common for parents and teens to explore their actions and consequences by asking Why questions. While Why questions may help uncover motivation, more often, they lead to self-doubt, criticism, and confusion. Why did I do that? Why am I feeling this way? Why did she say that to me? These questions are often unanswerable or have a multitude of abstract answers.   Help your daughter shift from Why questions to What questions through modeling. Frame your inquiries as What rather than Why. For example, you can ask, What are you feeling? What are you telling yourself right now about that situation? What can you do to get a different result? What is important to you about ____(fill in the blank.)
  3. Look Ahead. Goal setting is one of the most powerful steps toward getting what you want and knowing who you are. Teenagers usually find it easy to come up with what they want for themselves but they struggle with determining action steps and holding themselves accountable for taking action. Encourage your teen to be crystal clear on what she wants for herself, and take a small step each day toward her goal. Talk with her about what it means to be accountable. Where does she holds herself accountable and how? Ask her what support she may need in order to stay accountable. Then, encourage, cheer, and celebrate her small steps and her success.

One of your most important jobs as a parent is to teach your daughter the qualities and skills she will need to be happy, healthy, responsible, and ultimately, independent. Self-awareness is the foundation upon which other life-skills and positive habits develop.

If you’re looking for additional ways to coach your teen, contact me.


Seven Ways to Make the Most of Summer

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

By Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.

Without the stress and pressure from school, summer is an ideal time for teens to build their Emotional Intelligence, or EQ. EQ includes the ability to recognize and understand emotions, and use that understanding to guide thinking and actions. Teens with a high EQ typically have a better understanding of themselves and others. They have more control over their emotions, which can lessen the intensity of negative reactions and help them manage stress.  With a better understanding of themselves, they form healthy friendships and are better decision makers.

So, this summer, while your teen is not working on her IQ, here are seven ways she can boost her EQ. Plus, how you can help.

  1. Identify emotions and reactions. Certain situations trigger certain emotions. People with a high EQ understand their triggers and therefore can manage their reactions. Parents can help teens understand their triggers by pointing out what sets off a reaction. Start by saying simply, “I notice you get really down when you spend hours on Instagram” or, “It seems like this new friend is saying a lot of things that upset you.” Remember, when you point out emotional reactions, always do it without judgment. Come from a place of curiosity and neutrality.
  2. Offer perspective. Teens are forming their identity and you can help them broaden their understanding of themselves by highlighting where their inner-qualities shine. For example, “You have been really responsible with your chores lately. I appreciate that you kept your room tidy all week.” Or, “I know that test was a stressing you out. You have an amazing ability to stay calm and focused under stress.”
  3. Pause and respond. We are all in a hurry. Rushing from one activity or appointment to the next. Even in our conversations, we rarely take our time.   In my coaching practice, I often talk with girls about the difference between reacting and responding. Reactions are instant, usually done without much thought or foresight. Responses, on the other hand are more thoughtful and productive. They require pause. You can model and encourage responding by saying to your teen, “I’m not really sure how to respond to that. I need some time to consider what you’re saying.”
  4. Explore What, not Why. It’s common for parents and teens to explore their actions and consequences by asking why questions. While why questions may help uncover motivation, more often, they lead to self-doubt, criticism, and confusion. Why did I do that? Why am I feeling this way? Why did she say that to me? These questions are often unanswerable or have a multitude of abstract answers.   Help your daughter shift from why questions to what questions through modeling. For example, you can ask, What are you feeling? What are you telling yourself right now about that situation? What can you do to get a different result? What is important to you about ____(fill in the blank.)
  5. Ask the most important question… What can I learn? Criticisms or failings can be valuable opportunities to learn and grow. When on the receiving end of either, it can be easy to react with anger or simply shutdown. Instead, ask yourself or your teen, how can you use this setback to help yourself? What is this showing you about yourself? Your friends? Your life?
  6. Journal.  Writing is a powerful way to build personal consciousness. Journals are safe outlets where teens can process their experiences while deepening their understanding of their choices. As self-awareness builds, so does a capacity to empathize with others. For teens that have a hard time knowing what to write, I offer these prompts:

Something I did well today…

I felt proud when…

Today I accomplished…

I had a positive experience with…

Something I did for someone…

I felt good about myself when…

I was proud of someone else…

Today was interesting because…

  1. Practice mindfulness. EI and mindfulness go hand in hand. Mindfulness involves a shift in how we pay attention. When teens learn to become mindful, they can more easily practice the Pause and Respond and take time to reflect on their feelings, perspective, and experiences. There are many mindfulness books and apps that make starting a mindfulness practice simple and fun. A few I like include: Ten Mindful Minutes by Goldie Hawn, Daily Calm (app) and Stop, Breath, and Think (app.)

Emotional Intelligence includes a wide range of skills that can be learned at any age and are critical for happiness and success in life. EQ is an essential part of preparing at teen for adulthood. It is a key component for self-regulation and understanding how to handle stressful situations responsibly and with ease.   While it’s true that parents can do little about the temperament or personality of their teens, there is much they can do to shape it, starting with building their son or daughter’s EQ.

13 Reasons Why- Tips for Parents

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

By Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.

Suicide, sexual assault, physical violence, substance abuse.  These are just a few of the topics addressed in the popular series 13 Reasons Why.  For better or worse, each episode dives into the darker sides of being a teen and displays a shocking glimpse into high school life.   It may be hard for parents to find a bright side in this twisted tale of a young girl whose ultimate solution for handling the challenges of high school is suicide, but they can gain valuable insight and opportunity.

13 Reasons Why reminds us that teens are growing up in a complex world. They are facing challenges that go far beyond friend drama and academic pressure.  Today, teens are exposed to more sex, violence, and indifference than ever before.  Their tendency to be hyper-connected breeds insecurity, anxiety, competition, and bullying.   From Google to Instagram, screens have an undeniable influence on teens’ choices, attitudes, and beliefs about themselves.  In 13 Reasons Why, we see how overexposure and hyper-connectivity impacts teens on a daily basis. Parents can use this as a lens through which to better understand and calibrate with their teen.  

13 Reasons Why gives parents an opportunity to start hard and important conversations.  Many teens are not emotionally or intellectually equipped to handle, let alone understand, what they are facing. It’s important for parents to create a framework and context that helps teens build resilience and awareness.  To start, ask your teen his or her reactions to the series and what parts are most realistic.  Then, listen without judgment, interruption, or preconception. Allow his or her responses to provide you with the valuable insight you need to connect, calibrate, and offer support or further information.  

Use the list below as a guide for continuing the conversations and addressing the more specific topics related to 13 Reasons Why.

  1. Influence of social media. Help your teen identify the positive and negative ways social media impacts relationships.  Ask: Does the quality of a friendship change when it starts online? What is missing from online communication? What are the advantages and disadvantages to using social media as a mode of communication?  In what ways is social media a supportive environment? In what ways is it a harmful environment?
  2. Substance abuse.  Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and vapes are readily available to teens. Parents need to understand the reasons why teens drink or use drugs. Experimenting is not necessarily “normal” teen behavior. Substances are often used by teens to numb deeper wounds.  If you’re suspicious or worried about your teen abusing substances, intervene! In most cases, it is a cry for help and attention.
  3. Revenge.  This is a strong theme in 13 Reasons Why.  The characters seek revenge through threats and downright vicious acts of violence and betrayal. It’s important for teens to understand appropriate ways to handle anger.  Most often, rage and a desire for revenge are the results of feeling vulnerable or threatened.  Teens believe that getting even will lead to acceptance, approval, and relief.  One of the most important actions parents can take is to validate feelings of anger, allow space for it to be felt, and discuss alternatives to revenge.  Parents can reassure their teen that he/she is safe and supported, and they can model positive ways to deal with setbacks and hard feelings.
  4. Popularity.  While many teens desire popularity, few of them understand that popularity is not all it appears to be.  They tend to equate popularity with happiness;  popular people are “perfect” and problem-free.  Parents can help dispel the myths surrounding popularity by asking teens what determines popularity? What are the downsides being popular?  Point out that popularity is a façade. It’s about appearances, conformity, and status.  Whereas real friendships are based on shared values. Real friendships are supportive, encouraging, and lasting. 
  5. Sex and violence. 13 Reasons Why includes explicit portrayals of sexual and physical violence.  It exposes “rape myths” (false, stereotypical beliefs about rape) and “slut shaming” (shaming or stigmatizing girls who engage in sexually provocative or promiscuous behaviors, including being raped.) While these are some of the harder conversations to have, it is essential that parents talk to teens about sex and dating. Teens need to be taught how to set and respect personal boundaries, and make choices that are aligned with their values.

Overall, 13 Reasons Why reinforces the fact that now more than ever, parents need to stay relevant, aware, and engaged.  Teens require a strong support system and opportunities to bolster their self-esteem, strengthen their sense of community, and cultivate the tools to handle the challenges of adolescence.  The Huffington Post noted that one of the biggest failures of 13 Reasons Why is that it never highlights the importance of teens having safe, trusting adult relationships.  While it is true that teens can be incredibly resilient after trauma, they all benefit from having a trusting, caring, competent adult to coach and guide them along the way.

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Teen Dating in the Digital Age

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

By Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.

Now more than ever, teens are connecting through digital technology, and their romantic relationships are being impacted. They are sexting and taking provocative selfies, plus their screens provide access to an overwhelming amount of misleading messages about what is cool, sexy, and fun.

Consider this: Sexy selfies, including “nudes,” are the new normal. There is pressure from boys, and often from other girls, to take and send sexy pictures. Girls are taking pictures of themselves in their bras and underwear, or less, and thinking nothing of it. Many share these photos without considering that they may fall into the “wrong hands,” open them up to ridicule and shame, or worse, to danger and possible blackmail.

Many parents don’t know how or when to talk with their daughters about dating in the digital age. It is new and unfamiliar territory. Parents face a challenging choice. They can set strict boundaries and rules, which will likely be broken, or they can create an environment where their daughters can safely explore relationship values, sexuality, and awareness of a healthy relationship. With the right guidance, your daughter will create her own inner guide, or moral compass. She will learn to stand up for herself and make choices that are empowering rather than defeating. She will understand how to identify a healthy relationship from one that is harmful or inappropriate.

So, how do you start?

Listen. Parents often listen with the goal of rescuing or providing an answer. Try to step back and listen from your daughter’s point of view. Step into her shoes and ask yourself, “What’s it like for her?” Without overdoing it, ask open-ended, non-judgmental questions. Even if you get no response, questions that start with, What do you think… and What if… will provoke contemplation. When you ask genuine, neutral questions and listen with an open mind, you provide space for her to process her experiences and develop her own perspective. You also gain insight into dating terms, timelines and stages, and your daughter’s developing expectations. With this insight, you can further guide her toward connecting with her values.

Stay neutral. Although your skin may crawl when your daughter responds honestly to one of your open-ended questions, don’t react. Stay calm and poised. Teenagers are much more likely to stay in uncomfortable conversations when they feel supported and heard.

Use the media to your advantage. Television shows, movies, songs, and social media are easy springboards into meaningful conversations. As you watch TV or listen to music together, ask your daughter what she thinks of the messages that are being sent. Inquire about your daughter’s opinion of how the women on TV are dressed or how they behave. Ask her to consider their motivation, the message they convey, and what would happen if they were acting or dressing in another way. Point out conflicting messages about sexuality and beauty. Help her see the truth in the confusing messages and identify the artificiality in the images.

Talk about digital pressure. When it comes to sharing inappropriate pictures, your daughter may think, if everyone else is doing it, it must be OK, even if she has an underlying sense that such behavior is not in alignment with her values. When you make her aware that you know about the digital pressures she’s facing, and help her recognize that this behavior is not in line with her values, you are validating her own inner-guide that she had been questioning. Yes, she might roll her eyes or walk away in embarrassment but by talking about it, you will have sent a powerful message that although she may be in a minority, when she does not give in to digital pressure, she is not acting crazy; she is acting wisely.

Bottom line: When it comes to dating in the digital age, girls need safe, supportive adults to help them navigate the maze of mixed messages and confusing expectations. When parents approach this delicate topic with ease and empathy, they create an environment where their daughters can discover what is important to them in a romantic relationship and how to stand strong in this sexualized, digital dating landscape.


Teen Romance and the Hook-Up Culture

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

By Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.

Sex and dating may be one of the most difficult topics of conversation for both parents and teens. Many families avoid the topic altogether. Some skirt around it, others tackle it head on. Whichever scenario is playing out it your family, the truth is, teens are having sex. They are curious, experimental, and whether ready for it or not, they are becoming sexually active as early as eighth grade. As a parent it’s important to understand this “hook-up culture” and keep an ongoing, open dialogue around sex and dating. Whether they show it or not, teens are desperate for information and guidance.

  1. Relationships and dating. Teenage girls are in the prime of identity formation. They are also beginning to understand the building blocks of healthy relationships. During this time, it’s important to talk with your daughter about the components of a healthy relationship. You can start this conversation even before a romantic relationship is in play. Talk about what makes her friendships and family relationships strong, safe, and happy. When she can understand what makes these relationships strong, she will better understand how to identify and experience a healthy romantic relationship.
  2. Handling conflict. When in a romantic relationship, your teen’s moods may be even more extreme. She’s added a new dynamic to an already emotionally rocky stage. In her relationship, she may panic at the first sign of conflict. You can help by supporting her in understanding how to handle disagreements in a confident and empowering way by encouraging her to share her feelings with her partner, listen and try to understand her partner’s point of view, and recognize if and when it’s time to walk away.
  3. How a friend becomes a boyfriend. There are several stages teens move through before a friend becomes a boyfriend. First, teens express their interest in one another, then they may start “hanging out,” finally, they start “dating” and the labels boyfriend and girlfriend come into play. Each of these stages can last from a few days to a few weeks, and each carries a very different meaning to your teen. Be sensitive to these stages and supportive of your daughter’s choices, challenges, and experiences. In other words, don’t laugh off her longing, love, hurt, or disappointment. Each of these stages is an opportunity for her to develop her emotional strength and identity.
  4. Sex vs. Intimacy. Teenagers need help in understanding the difference between sex and intimacy. Intimate relationships are safe. They welcome open, honest communication and provide nonjudgmental support. Intimate relationships do not have to include sex. Point out that sex does not necessarily lead to an intimate relationship.
  5. The Sex Talk. As you engage in these conversations about sex, share your values, expectations, and concerns. Listen to her perspective with an open-mind. Refrain from judging or reacting to a worst-case scenario, and instead ask open-ended questions that get her thinking about her motives for having sex, the social and emotional ramifications, and the impact on her personal, family, or religious values. Also, address these sub topics:
    1. Boy vs. girl sex.  Girls are more likely to develop emotional attachments than boys. For boys, sex may simply be a sense of conquest and physical release. While many boys do develop emotional attachments, their motivation for having sex is often quite different from the girl’s.
    2. Pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. Rather than preaching facts and statistics, use real life scenarios to drive home the seriousness of teen pregnancy and disease.
    3. Contraception. Research has shown that discussions of contraception postpone sexual activity and reduce high-risk behaviors.


The Bottom Line

You will not know everything your daughter does, nor will you have direct control over her choices, but you can take steps to maintain a positive relationship during the teen years. Remember that nothing shuts a teen down more than the rants and raves of her parents. Instead of coming from a place of fear, stay cool and keep the lines of communication open. Support your daughter through honest, frank, and ongoing discussions. This is the key to sustaining influence on her choices, especially as they relate to sex and dating.

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