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Teens

love letter to my teen daughter, Bella, teen birthday

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Dear Daughter,

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to post this because I’m still in shock. How did we get here? Time is a cruel bitch, the minutes sometimes seem like an eternity but the years have passed by in what feels like, at best, a slow syncopated blink of an eye. It’s too soon for me to have to start letting go, My heart won’t loosen the white knuckle grip it’s had on you since the first moment I saw those 2 pink lines. You’ve been the love of my life from that second. My mind knows that you’re not mine alone.  You belong to yourself, I have just been entrusted the privilege and honor of being your mother in this lifetime. 

love letter to my teen daughter, Bella, teen birthday

How could you simultaneously only and already be on this earth for 17 years? You came into the world and changed me forever. You literally changed the woman I was, am and will be. You made me stronger, wiser, kinder, more compassionate and better. You gave me a new and more tolerant view of the world. You taught me what it means to love someone so unconditionally and completely that no ask is too big, no request too small, a thousand years not long enough and nothing can ever change that love. It’s unending, unwavering and all-encompassing. I wouldn’t just take a bullet for you, I’m pretty sure I’d be capable of murder for you. No one told me this was what motherhood is. 

love letter to my teen daughter, Bella, teen birthday

As you grow our relationship keeps evolving. At every age, I think I couldn’t love you more and then I discover another level. My heart has an unending abyss of love for you. The older you get, the bigger my love which I find incredible because if anyone would have told me on the day you were born that I could ever love anything more than I did in that heart bursting moment, I would have surely called them crazy because I loved you so completely. But here we are with my heart growing grinch-like 2x each day, hour, minute and second. Boundless is the only word that comes to mind and I hope you’ve felt that in your soul every single day of your 17 years here with me. 

love letter to my teen daughter, Bella, teen birthday

I am so proud of the young woman you are becoming. You can literally do anything you set your mind to. I just wish you could see yourself through my eyes so that you could see how truly amazing, smart, beautiful, fierce and breathtaking you really are. Stop comparing yourself to me. I am full of flaws. You are the best part of me.  Embrace your humanness. There is no shame in being vulnerable, real, kind, compassionate, honest and real. Perfection does not exist. Just be the best you to you, that’s more than enough. Never measure your worth by someone else. There is only 1 you. 

love letter to my teen daughter, Bella, teen birthday,Love letter, tween, 12th birthday, birthday, daughter

The things you consider weaknesses are actually strengths. There are so many people who cannot recognize or accept their vulnerabilities but you know them, embrace them and work through them which makes you stronger than most adults faced with the same situations. 

You will always be my baby big paws and as you grow into a woman, my best friend and one of my all time favorite human beings. Please don’t be afraid to be gloriously you in all your honesty and grit. Continue standing up for what you believe in even when it feels impossible. Don’t back down when you have something to say but remember louder doesn’t always mean better. Use your words as swords to defeat ignorance, bigotry and hatred. Believe in yourself. 

love letter to my teen daughter, Bella, teen birthday

Trust your gut and love the Bella you see in the mirror. Most importantly, remember we’ve always got your back. No matter how crazy, out of control the circumstances, we’re on your side. Every second of every day. 

love letter to my teenage daughter, Bella, teen birthday

Don’t be afraid to try. The worst that anyone can say is no. Every failure is the opportunity to get better and to gain wisdom and fresh perspective for the next time. Love each time with your whole heart. Dance and sing like no one’s watching. Travel the world and meet new people. Never be afraid of new things. Every day is the opportunity for a new beginning. You’re never too old for a new adventure and it’s never too late unless you’re dead. Tell people you love them. Don’t be afraid of the unknown and always believe people when they show you who they are. And don’t ever feel guilty for walking away from people, places and situations that no longer serve a purpose in your life. It’s better to walk away than to hold on to things that hold you back and hurt you. 

love letter to my teenage daughter, Bella, teen birthday

I love you more than words can ever convey but I tried because words are my love language and I love you more than everything. Even a lifetime wouldn’t be long enough to get to be your mother but know that I cherish every single second that I get to be. Happy 17th Birthday Bella!  Wishing you a lifetime of happiness, love, laughter, adventure and the courage and power to chase your dreams! You can do all the things!

Love you more

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parenting teens, next time they won't need me, letting go, mom of teens

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

If you’ve heard that the teen years of parenting are the worst, don’t believe everything you hear. It’s different from previous years but it’s just as beautiful in many ways. I like to think of it as the evolution of the parent and teen relationship filled with beauty and misery.

Our most recent trip to Walt Disney World may have been the last one of my girls’ childhood wonder. It wasn’t on purpose. They didn’t try to do it but it happened. I felt it. The gentle pulling away that is growing up. As a parent, there’s nothing you can do about it.

You’re presented with 2 pseudo choices, go with it and gently let go with a loving smile while wiping away the secret tear in your eye. Or you can hold on for dear life, as they push, pull and drag you off of them. They love you but their instinct is to achieve maximum freedom and independence. You’re a hindrance to both, whether you mean to be or not. There’s only one way to come out of this alive, you have to let go so that the subtle pushing and pulling away of childhood into adolescence doesn’t kill you both.

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Middle Class Mom Private School Kid CoVid Problems.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Not saying CoVid and this pandemic are issues especially hard for middle class moms with private school kids but not saying it isn’t either. I’ve noticed that, at least from my viewpoint, public schools are doing more to stop the spread. Public schools are funded by the government and are more likely to follow government guidelines and recommendations because they are cognizant that not doing so can end in losing funding. Private schools on the other hand are funded by donors, usually wealthy alumni who gift large sums of money, often with “suggestions.” What I’m saying is that if you think super-rich kids are terrible, well, you’ve never experienced their entitled parents firsthand.

They don’t like to be told what to do. It infringes upon “their freedom” so they will scream white at the top of their lungs while staring directly at a black wall. If you disagree, you are not right, you are obviously blind because you chose to believe your own eyes over what they tell you. This is the situation.

Middle Class Mom Private School Kid CoVid Problems.

Science and research show that vaccines, masks and social distancing are the way to end the pandemic. Some people at private schools say none of it exists and refuse to allow their children to follow guidelines for a “political pandemic” created by the liberals to make us all sheeple. After all, this is MURICA! Caught right in the middle of it all, the faculty and administration just trying to do the right thing by humankind without alienating the very people who pay their salaries.

Omicron is here and making my life more difficult than ever. I hate pandemic parenting because I’m terrified to send my kids to school. Let me start by saying that this whole pandemic has been a lesson in versatility, patience and pushing past fear. It’s enough already. I give. I’ve learned my lesson. I wash my hands religiously, I prioritize people and I live like every day could be my last, because it could be but my breaking point seems to be when I live in a world where others are pretending that none of this is real. People are dying and where I live, people are pretending that nothing is wrong. People are dying and nothing is wrong? Is this logical to anyone reading this? If so, please help it make sense because I can’t and it’s literally making me feel insane.

At this point, my family has been vaccinated and boostered, except Gabi who will get hers this week as soon as I can get her an appointment. We rarely go anywhere. With Omicron we are actually reverting to our March 2020 hermit lives. We wear masks in public and we social distance when possible. We wash our hands and change our outside clothes. We disinfect everything. In our state, we are in the minority.

At our daughters’ school, there are no preventative CoVid safety measures in place this year other than CDC guideline quarantining for the minimum 5 days if exposed and showing symptoms. But there is no social distancing or mask policy in place. There is no vaccination requirement. So every day, my rational and intelligent girls who have common sense go to school knowing they are 100% exposed. This is not okay.

Middle Class Mom Private School Kid CoVid Problems.

They are under so much stress (as any rational/ thinking person would be) that they have now both developed severe stress and anxiety due to the mishandling of the pandemic. They are kids who should be doing kid things but instead they are worried they are going to die or kill someone else because the adults are dropping the ball. The adults in charge are neither caring or protecting our children from Coronavirus, Delta or Omicron. They’re just seeing how this all plays out and that’s just not working for me anymore.

The other day I was driving to pick my daughters up from school and the truck ahead of me had a bumper sticker that read, “Unmask Our Kids Now.” In my head I heard, “unhand my mother” or “Free Nelson Mandela” only it wasn’t about saving anyone. In fact, quite the opposite. It basically read, “Societal rules don’t apply to me because I’m a selfish toddler who doesn’t care about anyone else but me and it’s my right to do whatever I want.”

You see, all over the country, friends of mine are taking their 5-11-year-olds to get their vaccination. In fact, they went on the very first day of eligibility, some of them drove to neighboring cities and even states, just to do their part to help end this pandemic. I’m elated. We took our girls as soon as they were eligible. Now, we’re getting them boostered because that is what all of us should be doing to end this pandemic. Was I nervous about giving my daughters a brand new vaccination? Yes. But I’m more afraid of CoVid and the long-term effects of Coronavirus.

There are still adults who haven’t gotten 1 shot yet. Y’all should be ashamed. You’d probably jump in the lifeboats ahead of the women and children too, am I right? Come on, this is embarrassing, America. Be a grown-up and do your part. Yes, I know, you don’t believe in CoVid but he believes in you and if you’re just going to live your life like you’re pursuing happiness, Consequences be damned, YOU WILL GET COVID. Regardless if you believe or not.

Middle Class Mom Private School Kid CoVid Problems.

So here we are. My daughter has missed 30 days of in-person school. I’d say at least 20 of those days were mandatory quarantines from exposure or from having “symptoms” like coughing or sore throat. I did it because even though they were vaccinated, the rules are in place to protect all of us. Also, the girls have caught a few viruses this year (as expected when reentering public places after 17 months of isolation) and pre-CoVid if my children were sick, I kept them home to protect others from catching it and to let my girls rest and recuperate. But suddenly, CoVid is the only acceptable reason for an absence.

Here’s where the real frustration comes into play, aside from kids at school chastising those who are vaccinated and/or wearing masks now the administration is questioning whether or not my daughters are “really sick” or just “don’t want to be there” when I call my daughters in sick. This began after we made them aware of the mental health struggles our girls are dealing with (as are most intelligent adults and teens). Talk about minimizing mental health. What else did I expect from a place that literally had a speaker come in and tell the kids that depression is evil and they need to pray away their mental health issues? Look, I’m all for leaning on God for strength when you feel helpless but to make it a character flaw to seek mental health help is something entirely different altogether.

Honestly, I didn’t write this post to complain about my kids’ school, I’m simply frustrated and exhausted from all of this. My daughter’s been vomiting and nauseous for the past 36 hours. Obviously, I can’t send her into a school like that nor would I send a child who is feeling that terrible into school. I called the attendance office and explained and braced myself for the inevitable call from the school nurse telling us we’d need a negative CoVid test to return, even with being vaccinated and boostered. Can I just mention that we’ve had to get so many CoVid tests in the past 2 years that the pharmacy techs at our local CVS know us by name now? It’s embarrassing. All that aside, I did get the call for the nurse but not before I got the call from the Vice Principal telling me that we “need to have a meeting to discuss her attendance”. It’s the first day of the new semester, what is there to talk about? She.Is. SICK. End of the story.   

Middle Class Mom Private School Kid CoVid Problems.

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. My first priority is to keep my girls healthy, happy and alive. ALIVE. At this point, I’m getting as afraid of their depression and anxiety as I am of CoVid. No child should have to feel so hopeless and helpless. I spend many nights a week reassuring my daughters that we can get through this. Holding them while they cry about what they’ve lost and the normal teen experience that they simply cannot have right now. They are missing normal human connection and being able to attend school safely. Every day they feel under threat and I don’t blame them. So I advocate for them, reassure them, hold them and love them as much and as unconditionally as I can but it’s hard when I’m just as stressed, anxious and depressed as they are.

Update: Day 2 of vomiting and nausea, they are requiring a doctor’s note or fax saying the doctor doesn’t need to see her in order to excuse the absences. Even the pediatrician is like, it hasn’t even been 48 hours, she’s not dehydrated and she’s not running a fever coming in would be more dangerous than waiting it out. They can’t even do anything for a stomach bug. FML.

What would you do in my situation? What are you doing to not only protect your family from CoVid Omicron but all the long-term side effects of surviving a pandemic in a world where conspiracy theorists and CoVid deniers pretend nothing is wrong and none of this is real?

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back to school, must have supplies for college

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Kids are getting ready to go back to school in person again soon. I don’t know about the rest of you but we are ecstatic. I loved the bonus pandemic year home with my girls (I truly did) but it was challenging and it was hard on everyone involved. The girls deserve a normal high school experience and I can’t wait to watch them have it together.

All that being said, last year was long and the kids got cheated and moms never got a day off, not even an hour in the day because thanks to pandemic hyper anxiety and depression, moms were on call ( if not actively tending to meltdowns) every minute of every day. Who am I telling? You know. If I wasn’t worrying they would contract coronavirus, I was terrified they were getting suicidal and that might have been the worst part of everything. I wasn’t just meeting needs, I was anticipating spiritual, psychological and physical needs. I was a damned mom medium and I am exhausted.

My girls are not the only ones going back to school. Kids all over the world are making the leap from virtual to in-person over the next few weeks from kindergarten to university and moms everywhere are having high impact, stop you in your tracks panic attacks predecessed by elation and followed by extreme mom guilt because how can we put our own comfort above our children’s safety and send them back to school but really it’s all about everyone’s mental health.

Here is a definitive list of what college kids need this year before returning to school:

Therapy appointment

I am serious, all kids from 4-24 ( and all the adults) need regularly scheduled therapy appointments for re-entry into the real world and out of the zoom world and the best way to do that is by taking an hour every other week and meeting with their therapist over ZOOM. Baby steps and it works. The girls have been in therapy since the pandemic started.

Ergonomic Office Chair

Thanks to Flexispot I was able to personally try out the Soutien Ergonomic Office Chair and it is amazing and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve worked from home for the past 12 years and spend a huge amount of my time sitting at a desk. The thing is that in the wrong chair that means back pain, neck pain and feeling pretty awful. I’ve been using this chair since the spring and it alleviates all of that and it is very comfortable. I love it and will be sending one with each of my girls when they head off to college in the next couple of years because if I can’t be there to make them comfortable, you better believe that I’m sending them a chair that does.

CoVid Vaccination

Not to be that person but if you can, please get your kids their CoVid vaccination before school start back not only to keep them safe from coronavirus and keep others safe but to give your kids peace of mind. You think the long-term effects of CoVid are worrisome ( and they are) well, the effects on everyone’s mental health, even those fortunate enough to avoid contracting the virus, are devastating. It’s too much. Kids have enough to worry about as is, as parents, we need take this off their plate and make the decision to do the responsible thing for the greater good.

Lodge Baking Ware

It’s been a minute since I’ve been in college myself but I do remember making a few meals once I had an apartment and good bakeware was (and is) always appreciated. To be honest, I always remember my mom having cast-iron skillet ware and they were her favorites because they cooked evenly and completely. Recently, through the generosity of Lodge I tried out a few basic pieces myself;

Dual Handle Grilling Basket, Pizza Pan and the Casserole Pan and they are great for grilling, cooking pizza and making my mom’s chicken broccoli casserole, three staples I’ve taught my girls for college.

Meters OV-1-B Headphones 

These headphones are perfect to buy ahead of your teens going to college. My girls are in high school and like all teenagers they love to play their music very loudly the new fashion-forward Meters OV-1-B Headphones provide a win-win solution for both parents and their children. These headphones feature cutting-edge audio quality and a trendy design with volume unit (VU) meters on each earcup, giving teens a headset they’d actually want to wear while empowering parents to monitor how loudly their child/teen is playing their music. 

Each VU meter features a customizable RGB backlight, letting young listeners alter the color and brightness of their VU meters to match any style or mood. These real, active VU meters measure the headphones’ input, replicating the meters found on professional-grade bass amplifiers used in live musical performances, and giving parents a discrete way to ensure their child is enjoying music at a safe volume.

Face Masks

As much as we all thought that the pandemic was coming to an end, Delta variant had other plans. Now, there are surges everywhere and if you are sending your kids off to university you are probably worrying about them anyways so just load them up on face masks, disposable or some cool ones

Triple-Layer X-STATIC® Mask 

has a removable filter (that you can cut and tailor to your own face shape) and the layer closest to the face is made with X-STATIC® silver yarn. Used by US Special Forces and NASA astronauts, X-STATIC® yarn is 99.9% pure silver, making it one of the most effective antimicrobial and antiviral materials for use in textiles. 

  • Antimicrobial and antiviral
  • Highly effective in hot and wet environments
  • Permanent (silver is irreversibly bound to a polymer so it becomes a physical part of the fiber) and performance does not diminish over time (X-STATIC® has been tested for more than 250 washes with virtually no reduction in performance)

The masks are reusable and washable and come in a pack of two masks (so you can wear one while the other is in the wash). 

Last but not least, send our child off to college with lots and lots of love and support. Encourage them to spread their wings, meet new people, and try new things because that’s what college is all about…growing up and learning to live life on your own terms, becoming the person you want to be with no regrets.

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Tips to Help your Teen Survive

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

We’ve all been so worried about keeping our kids safe from Coronavirus that we’ve forgotten to keep their mental health safe from seclusion. Check in on your teens and little ones, they are not alright. Not even close. I put my girls in therapy last April at the beginning of the pandemic and they are still struggling. We can’t shelter them from the world but we can try to ease the weight of the world so many of us are feeling. Below are some Tips to Help your Teen Survive Depression, Anxiety and Pandemic Burnout.

It’s not fine. We’re not fine. They’re not fine. The kids are not alright.

We’ve been quarantining since March 9th. Our life went on pause and everything we had planned for the spring and summer was canceled. Nothing is like it’s supposed to be. The new normal absolutely sucks. We are a family of huggers and kissers. Friends are family and family is everything. We’re explorers and adventurers. We celebrate life in the small moments but this past year has been hard to find the silver linings.

Disclaimer: Firstly, let me start by saying I am not a therapist or a trained mental health professional. I’m just a mom who is very self-aware, has years of therapy under her built and pays a professional to treat her children. A good licensed mental health professional to follow for great tips is Katie Hurley.

Bella turned 15 last March 10th and 16 this year. March 14th , 2020 was supposed to be her quinceañera. We planned for years for her big day. Everything was ready to go. The dress, the court, the venue, DJ, photographer and videographer. It was going to be the quinceañera she had been dreaming of since she was a little girl. Friends and family from around the country were flying and driving in to celebrate our special girl. I can’t even put into words the devastation I felt taking that away from her. It hurts to even think of it now, especially since we rescheduled it to August 8th and had to postpone once again. Instead of getting the quinceañera of her dreams, she didn’t even get a proper birthday celebration. Her birthday was basically skipped for the past two years thanks to CoVid.

Gabs turned 13 last May, the day after what was supposed to be last day of school. There was no party. No family and friends to hug and play with. There’s no theme or games in the backyard. There was no bbq with 50 of her favorite people. There was a birthday drive-by parade which made her pandemic heart break with gratitude for those who showed up. She felt alone and forgotten. The smallest gestures mean so much when human contact is few and far between.

But how do you help your teen survive pandemic burnout?

https://youtu.be/gXFjjwGlVsw

We’ve learned not to take things for granted. We know the worth of our freedom to move throughout the world safely. We know the value of a hug and human interaction in real time. Virtual is a poor substitute but it may be the only thing offered at the moment.

Our kids are resilient. They are strong and they are amazing. They carry on even when they want to give up but everyone has their breaking point, even you and I. I’ve been doing everything that I’m supposed to do and still, people I love are getting sick. People I know are dying. My heart is breaking but I’m trying hard to keep my mental stability. Manic mom has even made an appearance this pandemic and I was hoping to never see her again. I’m trying to be strong for the Big Guy and the girls but even I notice that while I’ve had to adopt the let it go, one day at a time mentality, I am also holding on to things. I’m holding on to things and anxious about things I don’t even realize.

I’ve started clenching my jaw and my fists in my sleep from stress. I wake up sore. I’ve started finding myself angry for no reason at all or maybe it’s for every reason under the sun. Why would I think my girls are any different? They are younger with less life experience and more hormones. How could I forget that?

Check in on your kids. They are not alright.

https://youtu.be/BrP9UW9eOts

My girls have been overly silly. At first, I was annoyed by this but then I realized this silliness is what is allowing them to get through this unbelievably stressful time. If they need to regress and find joy in the simplest things, who am I to judge? Right now, all bets are off. We’re all just trying to get through this pandemic. We’re in survival mode and that’s ok. Unfortunately, all that silliness has begun to give way to anxiety, depression and burnout and not just for them. I am burnt out too.

I’m so over virtual learning. Not only have my girls been virtual all year long, so have I. I had the bright idea to get a masters and enrolled a month pre pandemic. I’ve been struggling with burn out myself for the past couple months but watching my girls buckle under the pressure and anxiety of this non-stop pandemic life is too much. I hate it for them and can do very little to make it better other than pay for therapy and give out random hugs and encouragement all day.

Worse, I feel like I’m failing at that because I’m struggling myself. I hate all of this. There’s 2 weeks left of school for the girls and I feel like we’re all drowning. There’s no down time and days and nights are just one long exercise in never ending lists of shit to get done. I want to scream but I’m afraid if I start, I’ll never be able to stop. F*ck you pandemic and all the people who aren’t doing their part. I’m tired of my cage. I know this will pass but watching my girls struggle is the worst.

https://youtu.be/F_9K8Pgekwo

Tips to help your teen survive depression, and anxiety and overcome pandemic burn out.

  • Create calm times of the day, preferably an hour or longer.
  • Spend time with them doing silly and fun things like playing a game, being outdoors, cooking a fun meal (this helps kids calm down their nervous system so they aren’t so triggered by stress), or just plain talking.
  • Structure helps kids know what to expect which always improves stress.
  • Sleep and eat well (less sugar).
  • Help them write about their feelings.
  • Get them a therapist, many are offering virtual right now. Do it.
Tips to Help your Teen Survive  Depression, Tips to Help your Teen Survive Anxiety, Tips to Help your Teen Survive Pandemic Burnout

Anxiety specific simple but effective grounding techniques

Grounding Techniques
Grounding is a technique that helps keep someone in the present. They help reorient a. person to the here-and-now and in reality. Grounding skills can be helpful in managing overwhelming feelings or intense anxiety. They help someone to regain their mental focus from an often intensely emotional state. 

Grounding skills occur within two specific approaches: Sensory Awareness and Cognitive Awareness.

Sensory Awareness
Grounding Exercise #1:
Begin by tracing your hand on a piece of paper and label each finger as one of the five
senses. Then take each finger and identify something special and safe representing each
of those five senses. For example: Thumb represents sight and a label for sight might be
butterflies or my middle finger represents the smell sense and it could be represented by
lilacs.
After writing and drawing all this on paper, post it on your refrigerator or other safe
places in the home where it could be easily seen and memorize it.
Whenever you get triggered, breathe deeply and slowly, and put your hand in front of
your face where you can really see it – stare at your hand and then look at each finger and
try to do the five senses exercise from memory.

Grounding Exercise #2:
• Keep your eyes open, look around the room, notice your surroundings, notice
details.
• Hold a pillow, stuffed animal or a ball.
• Place a cool cloth on your face, or hold something cool such as a can of soda.
• Listen to soothing music
• Put your feet firmly on the ground
• FOCUS on someone’s voice or a neutral conversation.

Sensory Awareness Grounding Exercise #3:
Here’s the 54321 “game”.
• Name 5 things you can see in the room with you.
• 4 things you can feel (“chair on my back” or “feet on floor”)
• 3 things you can hear right now (“fingers tapping on keyboard” or “tv”)
• 2 things you can smell right now (or, 2 things you like the smell of)
•1 good thing about yourself

Cognitive Awareness Grounding Exercise:
Re-orient yourself in place and time by asking yourself some or all of these questions:

Where am I?

What is today?

What is the date?

What is the month?

What is the year?

How old am I?

What season is it?

Tips for parents

Build coping skills. One thing kids and teens need to hear on repeat is that all emotions are okay. There is no right or wrong way to feel about this global pandemic. Parents should get in the habit of checking in with each child privately throughout the day to give them an opportunity to verbalize feelings and talk about triggers.

Learn how to manage anger. Now is the time to figure out some techniques to decrease negativity in the home. In other words, stop yelling. Parents have a lot on their plates, and it is difficult to juggle work responsibilities, parenting responsibilities, keeping the family physically and emotionally safe, and running a distance-learning school. Chances are, you feel like you might snap at times.

Adjust expectations. To hear social media tell it, this is a time when everyone should be enjoying every moment and learning new things as a family (a privilege not everyone shares). And parents suddenly find themselves in the driver’s seat for their children’s education, expected to manage distance learning regardless of resources, finances, work schedules and child-care struggles. Then there are the expectations parents have of their kids regarding learning, training for extracurricular activities and being “productive” during this time away from school.

Practice empathic communication. There’s a lot we don’t have control over right now, and that can trigger negative emotions, but we can control how we respond to and communicate with others. One thing I hear on that tiny screen day after day during my sessions with kids: I just want my parents to understand me.

Tap into technology, and stay connected. Many parents spend a fair amount of time trying to manage and limit screen time. There are positives and negatives to technology, though, and now is the time to tap into the positives. It’s still important to focus on balance and make sure that kids and teens are getting exercise and engaging in activities that don’t involve screens, but technology can be a source of support, connection and education.

Parents, don’t forget to take care of your own mental health. It’s hard to help your teen survive depression, anxiety and pandemic burnout if you are holding on by a thread yourself. Believe me, I know. Find yourself some coping mechanisms and a licensed therapist.

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mom and daughter talking while camping, How Unplugging and Listening will make You a Better Parent to your Teenager

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Disclosure: This post is made possible with support from the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, part of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. All opinions about How unplugging and listening will make you a better parent to your teenager are my own.

Parenting teenagers is exciting and challenging in big and little ways, unlike any other stage. It’s sprinting towards the parenting finish line before our children go off independently in the world to chase their own dreams. The Center for Parent and Teen Communication helps parents raise teens prepared to thrive. Adolescence is a time of opportunity, and parents matter more than ever. They strive to ensure every caring adult has the knowledge and skills to promote positive youth development and foster strong family connections. To get great tips and videos for communicating with your teens sign up for CPTC’s 100-word, daily parenting tip newsletter.

The secret to success when raising teens is communicating openly and good listening skills. As a mom of teen girls, often, I feel like I need to provide all the answers to their problems. I swoop in like Wonder Woman and want to fix everything. Soon, they’ll need to be able to confidently navigate the world on their own. For that to happen, I need to step back, be still, breathe and listen with empathy. I need to unplug, be present, and give my girls my full attention. Most importantly they need to feel heard, understood, seen, and loved unconditionally. 

How unplugging and listening will make you a better parent to your teenager.

That’s the video that resonates the most with me. You should watch the animations. They’re short and you might pick up a tip or two you’d never thought of before. Which one is your favorite and why?

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Teen Driving Safety Tips Every Parent Needs to Know

Some days, I can’t believe that I’m the mom to two teenagers. It feels like just yesterday; I was introducing you all to my toddlers. But, Bella is 15-years-old already, about to be 16 in less than a month. What they say about the days being long but the years being short, is the truest thing ever said about motherhood and childhood. It’s hard to imagine, my little girl is old enough to drive. It scares me in more ways than I expected. Aside from it making me painfully aware that she will soon be old enough to live on her own, it makes it that much easier for her to spend time away from us.

Of course for teenagers, driving is an exciting rite of passage. Getting onto the road for the first time in their own car is thrilling time for a teenager. Its independence and freedom that our kids haven’t experienced up to that point. Of course, while this is thrilling for them, it can also be terrifying for parents. We have to make sure we give them a thorough course in teen driving 101. Aside from the letting go, we know how dangerous driving can be. No matter what driving directions we’ve give them, the fact is that teen drivers are more likely to make driving mistakes in their first year on the road than for the rest of their driving career.

Tips for New Drivers

Maybe it sounds like an overreaction, especially from someone who has been driving since she was 13-years-old. But I’m me and they’re them. Take my driving directions don’t follow my driving examples, kids. Danger hits different when you’re on the mom end of things than it does when you’re the carefree teenager. Sorry, mom.

I had my days as a teenage girl, now it’s my time to worry. I’m better at that than most. As a teen, I was the one who was going places and doing things that I probably shouldn’t have been. I definitely would have given my mom a heart attack if she knew half of it. Thank God I was too stupid and naïve to realize what could have happened to me. It’s true, some things you just have to live through to believe. Being aware and prepared can help prevent unnecessary issues.

Teen Driving Safety Tips Every Parent Needs to Know that their kid might be breaking

Speeding while driving

Whether they are showing off, being careless, or are trying to have fun, speeding is a serious offense. No matter where you are or why you’re doing it. Many roads have automated cameras that can capture cars speeding and issue fines, while police will also lookout. Speeding can damage a teenager’s permanent driving record. It can make their insurance premiums go up while running the risk of losing their license if they break the rules more than once. Some insurance companies can also monitor the speed of your car to make sure that you’re not breaking the rules. Speeding can also cause a lot of car accidents.

Driving Under the influence (DUI)

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. Road accidents happen more frequently under the influence. That’s why I always carry a personal breathalyzer in my purse and bring a designated driver. Teen drivers are more likely to take a risks, trusting themselves to be safe behind the wheel. Let’s face it, teenagers think they are invincible. Police can easily recognize drivers under the influence.

Driving Accidents

Teen drivers without much experience on the road are much more likely to cause accidents than veteran drivers. Friends, radios and telephones can easily distract new drivers. Having a major driving accident can make your teen’s premium skyrocket. If the worst were to happen to your teenager and it involved other drivers then you may need to be prepared for others to make a claim against your child. If this is the case, then they will need the very best car crash lawyer to help them navigate the situation. It’s important you teach our teens about the potential distractions and to always look out for other drivers, as well as, potential hazards on the road. An attorney will be able to help you and your child fix any issues with the claimant and could potentially get them out of any sticky situations. 

Driver’s Road Rage

Road rage is a common issue across the world and causes many accidents. People find it easier to get annoyed when driving than when walking. Teenagers tend to be more emotional than adults and get into bad situations when they engage with other drivers. You need to make sure that your teenager knows that they can’t shout, swear, or attack other drivers, especially when they’re on busy roads. Instead, they should work to simply ignore the annoyances of other drivers.

Incorrect Documentation

Teenagers aren’t generally considered the best administrators, and this means that they can easily let their documentation become void and will break the DUI law causing them a problem. This can have a negative impact on their driving career, making it difficult for them to get a new license if their current one is taken from them. It’s crucial that insurance, licenses, and things like tax are all up to date before your teenager is allowed to hit the road. In many cases, the punishment for failing to do this can be bigger than fines.

Insurance Violations

Teenagers usually care about things like fashion a lot more than older people. This can lead to extensive modifications being made to their vehicles, with many of the changes they make being superficial. Of course, though, insurance companies need to know about these changes, ensuring that the car that is being covered reflects the actual car on your driveway.

With all of this in mind, you should be feeling ready to take on the challenge of avoiding the trouble your teen driver could get into during their first year on the road. This can be a difficult time for new drivers, but you can help your teens overcome the issues with a little bit of practice, encouragement and safety reminders.

Letting go is hard. Watching our “little” girls drive away, is not easy but we can’t keep them at our sides forever so the most important thing we can do as parents is to prepare them well to take on the world. We have to trust that we’ve done our jobs as parents and if all else fails, let them know we’re always there to lift them up, support them and hold their hands when they need it. As soon as this snow melts, we’re taking Bella out for some more driving practice.

What’s your best tip for teaching your teen driving safety without stressing you both out?

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new normal, Coronavirus, Covid-19, back to school in pandemic, how to send kids back to school during a pandemic, face masks

Like most parents, I’m overwhelmed trying to decide whether or not to send my girls back to a private school this fall and I know that I am not alone. August 13th is coming at us like a freight train. I’m not normally a nervous person but the thought of sending my girls back to school has me terrified. The question every parent wants the answer to is how to send kids back to school during a pandemic? Is it even possible to do it safely? Let’s ask the CDC

I’m an optimist but I also have common sense and I do not take chances when it comes to the life and death of my girls. On March 9, my best friend (who happens to be an ED doctor) called and warned me that quarantine was coming and Coronavirus was much more serious than any of us anticipated. By that Thursday, I had decided to take my girls out of school. New normal, Coronavirus, Covid-19, back to school in pandemic, how to send kids back to school during a pandemic, face masks

READ ALSO: What Every Mom Should Know About Coronavirus

It was an easy decision. My daughters’ health was in jeopardy by an unknown pandemic. My gut told me what to do and I did it. We’re still quarantining because there is still so much about the pandemic that we don’t fully understand. I’ve lost friends and family members, more each day are contracting this virus. With each announcement, I’m more acutely aware of how easily any one of us can fall victim to it, and none of us know how our immune system will react to it. If you’ve given yourself false security by choosing to believe that it’s only other people’s families and friends who die from CoVid-19, you’re wrong. It doesn’t discriminate. Anyone of us can get it.

I felt safe when we were all staying in the house. I know that’s not sustainable for the long-term.

Was it frustrating for the world to come to a screeching halt? Yes, I’m not naturally a person who can stay still.

Is distance learning inconvenient and stressful? Yes.

Do I wish everyone’s lives could go back to normal and we could safely go back to life as we knew it before CoVid? More than anything. We’ve lost months of plans, travels, celebrations and time with people we love that we won’t ever be able to recover.

Do I want my girls to enjoy their 8th grade and sophomore year of school, filled with firsts and lasts and all the childhood goodness in between? 1000x yes but I don’t think it’s possible this year. We’re no safer than we were in March. In truth, it’s even more dangerous now because, people refuse to wear masks and social distance, and those are the only weapons we have to currently protect us.

READ ALSO: Doctor Gave Up Her Kids to Take Care of Coronavirus Patients

I’d like to believe that if everyone was taking responsibility for their own well-being, observing social distancing and wearing medical face masks, we could all find our way through this together. It would be easier to trust that people were trying to do the right thing. We could all take peace knowing that we were all working together to protect each other, out of human courtesy and respect for life, regardless of a little personal inconvenience.

The government is urging our schools to open, even threatening to withhold funds. How can they ask parents to send the children we created, birthed and love more than anything else in this world back into schools in the middle of a pandemic? I fully understand that our economy is in danger of collapse because of shutdowns but at what cost are we willing to sacrifice for economic comfort? We can live without a lot of comforts but my children are not an option. No one wants to sacrifice their family for economic recovery.  Nobody should have to. Human life is irreplaceable, no matter your politics. I wouldn’t sacrifice my enemy’s life for my own economic satisfaction.

People are scared of losing their homes, their jobs, and their very way of life because of coronavirus. Requiring that our children go back to the classroom is irresponsible and dangerous. Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump are effectively saying that our children’s lives, the teachers’ lives, and our (the parents’) lives are less important than the DOW Jones. It’s easy to surmise that when an administration lies to a nation and tells us the opposite of common sense and truth, puts our lives in jeopardy, there’s another agenda right beneath the surface and it’s not altruistic and it has nothing to do with our freedoms. It’s about what politics has always been about money and power.

READ ALSO:  I Miss you Most at 6-Feet Apart

You’re probably wondering how to send kids back to school in a pandemic. What our high school is doing has addressed a lot of my concerns. It’s a very comprehensive and well-thought-out plan but even still, I’m not sure that it’s enough to convince me to feel safe enough to send my daughters to school. At the end of the day, my kid is still immune-compromised and I’m diabetic. Whether I want to believe it or not, going into a public place of 1000 or more students (even with a mask and everything intended to be done right) in one building puts their lives in jeopardy because there is a lot of room for human error. When you’re dealing with children, human error is more likely than not.

new normal, Coronavirus, Covid-19, back to school in pandemic, how to send kids back to school during a pandemic, face masks

Here are a few things our school is doing to send kids back to school during a pandemic, I won’t share it all because it’s a 16 page PDF ( I told you that it was comprehensive) but here are a few things:

  1. Masks to be worn in transition (in and out of building, between classes, on way to anywhere).
  2. In class, the desk will be socially distanced, masks are not required (this part gives me pause)
  3. unless asking a teacher for help.
  4. If you are in a class with a teacher who is older or immune-compromised, mask must be worn the entire time. If you cannot do so, due to a medical reason, the student will be transferred to a different classroom.
  5. Anyone who tests positive, must stay home for 10 days and must be fever free for 72 hours. Cannot return to school without a physician’s note and negative tests for coronavirus.
  6. There is a separate CoVid isolation room with plexiglass between beds and its own ventilation system for anyone exhibiting symptoms. Students must be picked up within 30 minutes if sick and going home.
  7. Students who are vulnerable, immune-compromised, have parents who with underlying conditions, have been exposed to CoVid or have tested positive symptomatic or asymptomatic are to participate in virtual learning which will be live-streamed daily by all teachers so kids can “attend” class from home and have live interaction and learning.
  8. Desks and chairs need to be sanitized when students enter the room and before they leave. Regular COVID 19 Disinfection should be done all around the school.
  9. Hallways will be one way.
  10. 10 minutes between classes to allow for one-way traffic and getting books in a safe manner.
  11. All returned library books will be isolated for 10 days.
  12. The school will be fogged nightly.
  13. Lunch will be socially distanced, utilizing the cafeteria and Basketball gym as well as adding a 4th lunch period. Lunches are to be packed from home or plated and delivered by cafeteria workers. Masks must be worn until sat at chosen, assigned (for the year) seat. No more a la cart offerings. Only touchless pay. In addition, schools can also opt for a food service company in order to ensure safe and healthy food for the students.
  14. Lockers will now be Freshman, sophomore, junior and senior versus whole grades in certain hallways. No sharing of lockers unless you are related and quarantined together, in which case, you will be required to share a locker with your sibling.
  15. Students will be dismissed to lockers in a staggered phase i.e. Freshman and Juniors after the first period, then sophomores and Seniors after the second period, alternating as such for the remainder of the day.
  16. Daily dismissal staggered.

There is so much more. Our plan is very comprehensive. It’s great on paper. I’m just not so sure how it will work in reality.  I hope it works and fully recognizes that it’s a little different for our private school than it is for public schools. It’s a privilege that all of our students have laptops and WiFi and that many of our students have at least one parent who stays at home and can readily be available when and if we need to go to virtual learning.

READ ALSO: The New Normal is Not Normal

You’re not alone. None of know how to do this. We’re all in this together. But if you can’t reconcile yourself to which way to choose, if you can, err on the side of caution. We can overcome a pandemic but we can’t bring back the dead. Go with your gut and do what’s best for your family and your child. This is a new territory and there is no absolute right or wrong answer but I think the choice ultimately should be with the parents. No matter what you decide, we’re all in this pandemic together. Stay safe, wash your hands, social distance and PLEASE wear your masks.

Are you or what are your thoughts on how to send kids back to school during a pandemic?

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VSCO, VSCO girl, how to be a VSCO girl,

I’m a VSCO mom. I used to be a VSCO girl, back in the 90’s. I was one of the original VSCO girls, so I do not begrudge my girls a little social consciousness with a side of scrunchie, messy bun and oversized shirts. I love that my girls care more about the environment and saving turtles than who they’ll be giving their scrunchies too.

According to Google, VSCO girl is a term, generally used as an insult, for a young, usually white woman who posts trendy pictures of herself edited on the app VSCO. Stereotypes of the VSCO girl include wearing Birkenstock sandals, drinking out of Hydro Flask reusable water canisters, saying sksksk and I oop, and generally seeking attention online.

I actually love the VSCO girl idea because at the heart of it, what it really is, is young girls finding themselves. We’ve all been there. When I was a teen, I was several iterations of myself. I was a new wave emo girl, I was a prep, I was a social activist, I was a crunchy hippie and I was a little bit grungy. I was most definitely a nerd, an artist and at one point, I was even a club kid. I’m pretty sure I was 1000% more annoying than any kid saying. “sksksk” ever could be.

READ ALSO: Parents Guide to Teen Slang

Just to be clear, I am a grown woman now and I always use the VSCO app for my Instagram. I’ve been wearing Birkenstocks since the 80’s. My girls are wearing some of the scrunchies I’ve had since the 90’s and still wear now. Hydro Flask, Swell, Yeti…I have all of them because I drink water almost exclusively. Water is life. I am and have always been very socially conscious and I’ve put my money where my mouth was. PETA, Greenpeace, Amnesty International and WWF, I’m a card carrying member. I want to save the world. I want to save the elephants and yes, I even want to save the turtles. We (the whole family) own those metal reusable straws. We recycle and vegetarian is how we roll most days of the week.

VSCO, VSCO girl, how to be a VSCO girl, a parent's guide to understanding VSCO, VSCO girl trend, In defense of VSCO girls

What does all of this have to do with anything? What it means is that right now, your little/tween/teen/even early 20’s girl is trying on different personalities for size to see which one best fits her. Just because that might not look like what you imagined, doesn’t mean it’s not right. She’s finding her way and there is nothing we could want more for our girls (and boys) than for them to be the best them they can be and be comfortable in their own skin as they do it.

So what if she’s carrying around a hydro flask? So what if her sweatshirt can fit 2 girls inside of it and her shorts are tiny? So what if her favorite hairstyle is a top knot? Maybe this is how she feels beautiful and how she feels comfortable in her skin. Is it really the worst thing that she can do to have a wrist full of scrunchies? The “sksksksksk” is just another way to say “lol” and who among us hasn’t used that? And I know that no one who ever said, “Gnarly, dude, rad, totally or awesome sauce” is making fun of sksksk.

VSCO, VSCO girl, how to be a VSCO girl, a parent's guide to understanding VSCO, VSCO girl trend, In defense of VSCO girls

The thing is VSCO girl is being thrown around like an insult to our girls. I know we all think it’s cute and the VSCO girl memes are entertaining. Hell, even our girls being VSCO girls might be entertaining but do we really need another derogatory term to belittle our girls? There are already so many employed by the misogynist of the world do we need more?

Just remember, these tweens and teen girls are just trying to figure out who they want to be in life. It’s like trying on clothes to see what you feel the most beautiful in. Let her look at herself with an untainted heart. Maybe she’s a VSCO girl and maybe she’s not but let her figure that out. As parents, especially as moms, we are here to support and guide our girls into adulthood not shame them into feeling less than. The world will do that soon enough.

READ ALSO:  Teen Girls Rebel when teen boys rate Female Classmates

Being a VSCO girl is harmless, even if it may be annoying to you. I’m sure when we were teens, our parents thought a lot of the fads and slang we used was weird and crazy too. Maybe they said something to make you feel less than about it or maybe they just let you try it on for size. Bless my parents, they let me be and loved me for who I was, whomever that was on any given day.

This is how we grow and evolve into who are meant to be. Just imagine if that process was cut short by ridicule and we never fully reached our potential because of what other people thought? Or what if we never felt comfortable in our own skin because someone else made us feel like we weren’t good enough?

You are good enough. Your VSCO girl is good enough. Viva Hydro Flasks and long live the turtles. So next time you think about using the term VSCO girl as an insult, ask yourself, is this giggle worth making my daughter feel small or making her think twice about sharing the next iteration of who she will become with you? Because before any of us can become who we are meant to be, we have to be who we were. This is how we grow up.

READ ALSO: The TRUTH about Parenting Teenagers from a Mom of Teens

What do you think of the VSCO Girl? Did you used to be one? Are you raising one? Whatever the case may be, hug your VSCO girl, let her be all the versions of herself she needs to be to become the fabulous, fierce woman she is meant to be and keep your “and I oop” moments about her in your head (unless she’s in danger). This too shall pass.

XOXO, VSCO mom out.

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first day of high school, high school, back to school. teenagers

Nothing could have prepared me for my daughter’s first day of high school. I expected there to change. Even expected there to be stress and nervous energy. Definitely, did not expect the first day of high school to be harder than the first day of kindergarten. It was so much worse.

I not the mom who cried in the kindergarten corridor, my girls are stoic. They’re independent and they suck it up. They get that from their daddy. I’m highly emotional. I do suck it up but I always give myself permission to feel my feelings.

READ ALSO: Kindergarten, the beginning of the end

All summer Bella’s joked that she wants to be homeschooled. She’s wanted to be homeschool since about 2nd grade. Due to demanding dance schedules, Bella’s ballet friends are homeschooled. I never put much weight in it because I work from home. I’ve taught and had classroom time. But teaching your own child is something different entirely so my answer has always been a firm no.

But this summer, she wouldn’t drop it. I assumed she was getting nervous for the change to high school. After all, she’s been at the same school since 1st grade. But on that first morning, she was overcome with fear and begged me to not make her go.

READ ALSO: The Different Kinds of Moms You Meet on the First Day of School

Do you have any idea how hard that was for me? I’m very close to my girls. We’re a small family, just the 4 of us and they really are my best friends ( I know it’s not cool to say that but in our case, it is true). I don’t say no very often to things they really want. Things yes but not asks of me as a mom. This morning, I had to stand strong and push my baby bird out of the nest, for her own good.

As moms, I think most of us would love to just keep our little ones snuggled up near us forever but that’s not what’s best for them. How can I expect her to be a functioning good human being when I let her shy away from everything that scares her?

The entire car ride to school, she was silently holding back tears. I saw it. I didn’t acknowledge it because, just like when they are toddlers and you make a deal about a booboo, that’s the moment the histrionics begin. I was trying to be stoic because, confession, I am totally the mom who kisses all the booboos and makes a big deal. But I needed to be strong for her.

READ ALSO: Slipping through my Fingers

About a block from the school, we were stopped in traffic and she could see the cars lining up to make the street cross at the yield sign. She could see all the other freshman and realized that she knew none of them. I heard the whimpering as she stifled her cries. My heart broke into a zillion pieces. Be strong, Debi. You can do this. Do it for Bella She needs you. This is not about you. Do NOT fall apart woman. Not turning the car went against all of my mommy instincts.

There we were in the car at drop off on her first official morning of high school. This day was just for incoming freshman. I love that. The student ambassadors were standing outside lining the drop off lanes, holding banners welcoming the new students. Cheerleaders were cheering. Teachers were standing at attention with full-faced smiles. Even the school mascot was standing outside giving out free hugs. I felt comfortable dropping her off in this situation.

I turned to the passenger seat and there say my baby, my firstborn, sobbing from fear of the unknown and no amount of reassurance was going to fix this but neither was letting her not face it. It was now. This was her moment. It was also a really hard parenting moment because I confess, all I wanted to do was grab her in my arms, peel outta there and take her home with me and make it all better. Instead, holding back tears behind my giant Gucci sunglasses, I grabbed her hand, told her that I loved her, kissed her cheek and told her to have the best day. ” I’ll see you soon.”

first day of high school, high school, back to school. teenagers

Looking back at me with her cheetah spotted face, through blubbering from sheer panic and fear, she said, “I hate you, mom.” I knew she didn’t mean it. I knew that was her way of letting me know how very hard this moment was for her. This was her being scared and clinging to anything that would get me to stop the trajectory of our morning. She wanted off. She wanted out. She was terrified and I was the only thing that stood between her and the comfort of how things were.

I cried all the way home. I felt like the worst mom in the history of the world. I felt like I had abandoned her at the moment she needed me most. But I know that I did the right thing because it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I had to walk away when my daughter metaphorically had her hands outstretched to me, begging me to rescue her. Instead, I gently pushed her out of the nest. I’m not sure how I’m going to survive when she goes away to college.

READ ALSO:  Only 9 more Summers

That’s the thing about being a parent, we have to love them so much that we do what’s best for them, even when it breaks our hearts. We have to let them go, even when all we want to do is hold them tight. We have to love them so hard that they see themselves the way we do. We lift them up, give them courage and self-confidence when they are at their most vulnerable. We watch from the sidelines, with no glory or fanfare, being their biggest cheerleaders for all of their lives. We love them enough to convince them to see that they are as wonderful as we’ve always known they were…since that moment they were first placed upon our chest the moment they were born. As a parent, it’s our responsibility to give our children the best possible education that would cater to their needs and future goals. In fact, you can opt to learn more about best high schools in Raleigh, NC.

What was your child’s first day of school like this year?

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