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How To Help Your Teenager Through Exams

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

School just got out for the summer but I’m already thinking about how to better prepare my girls to succeed next year. Exam time can be stressful for both teenagers and parents alike. As a parent, you realize that the results your teenager gets at school or college will reflect the path they take afterwards. Now, I’m not too worried because I know that there is no one path to success but some paths are definitely easier than others. If your teenager can do well, it could set him up for the future. This is why you need to know how to help your teenager through exams.

Although our teenagers will have to rely on their own knowledge, there are some things you can do to make school and the exam season much easier. If you’re wondering how to help your teen get through her exams, check out the following tips.

Meal Prep

One of the best ways you can help your teenager tackle studying for exams is to make sure she eats well. Eating and drinking properly is essential. Your teen will need the vitamins and nutrients for good brain function and to maintain energy levels.

If you’re seeing your teen going back and forth to the fridge for energy drinks and snack bars, they may not be eating well enough. Do her a favor and make sure she eats three nutritious and well-balanced meals a day to give her the best chance at absorbing and retaining all the information she’ll need to do well on her tests.

Avoid Adding Pressure

Many teenagers say that they feel pressure from their families more than from anywhere else. It’s easy to unconsciously make your teen feel under pressure by hovering too much or asking a lot of questions. I know I’m guilty of this and I never thought it was putting pressure on them until my girls told me it was. Now, I think before I start asking too many questions about exams. Maybe you’ve even offered incentives for doing well. Bet you didn’t realize even that can feel like immense pressure to a kid studying for exams.

There are many variables that contribute to the grades that each child will get from their exams. It can depend on revision time, nerves, whether your child got enough sleep, and all sorts of things. Encourage your teen to do well but take the pressure off. I like to tell my girls to just do their best. Really, that’s all any of us can hope for. 

Good Sleeping Patterns

It can be tempting for your teen to stay up late trying to cram in revision hours before an exam. Who amongst us hasn’t spent an all-nighter cramming for exams? Not only is this counterproductive to remembering information but it’s also unhealthy. My freshman year of college, I stayed up all night studying for a chemistry exam only to fall asleep at dawn and miss my exam.The best thing your teen can do is sleep well and use the hours available to study.

Although you have no control over when your teen goes to sleep, it can help to explain why being well-rested before an exam is so important. Encourage your teen to get as much rest as needed before an exam.

Play Games

Your teen is going to need a break from studying every now and then. These mental breaks are important for clarity and taking time to have some fun. Games are a great way to have some fun while still keeping the brain engaged. My girls and I live for our Mario Kart brain breaks.

However, more cerebral games like Chess, for instance, are ideal for engaging your teens brain and developing problem solving skills. Even though your teen is taking a break, he’ll be able to return to his studies with the ability to continue without too much effort.

Study With Her

There may be some subjects that you aren’t familiar with but that doesn’t mean you can’t help your teen study. If you want to be hands-on with helping your teen, getting stuck into study with her is ideal. Find a quiet place to sit together and test your teen on his knowledge.

You can ask questions from what you read on a page or ask typical exam study questions from past exams. This can be particularly good for teens with ADHD. Spending this time is a good way to bond together and your teen will remember that you were there to help when she needed you.

Recognize Exam Stress

Most teenagers have a healthy amount of exam stress. However, some teenagers may suffer with an unhealthy amount. For instance, some teenagers may display signs of severe anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, and many more. This happens to be the case for my girls who both suffer from extreme test anxiety.

If you recognize any of these symptoms, it’s worth talking to your teen about what you see. Make sure your teen knows that physical and mental health should always take priority over exams and you’re always there to talk if she needs to.

Let Little Things Go

Perhaps your teenager has a chore list to do around the home. Maybe she’s responsible for walking the dog in her spare time. During exam season, these things need a little more flexibility.

If you notice dirty plates in his room and his dirty clothes are still unwashed, give her a pass. You can help her by taking on a few of these jobs so she has more free time to study without feeling overwhelmed by everything she has to do.

Be Positive

Have you ever read the information on a page three times and still not been able to take it in?  Preparing for exams takes a lot of effort and there will be times when your teen may feel like she’s failing. Be positive and supportive during this time so she knows you believe in her.

Make her feel like as long as he does her best, she can’t fail. Empower her to be confident. No matter what the outcome of her exams are, she can forge her own path if she works at it. Where there’s a will, there is always a way.

Study Space

If you’re able to, create a dedicated study space for your teen that will help to set her up for success. If she’s trying to study in the room she shares with a younger sibling, it may be hard to get anything done. Find a quiet and secluded place for her to study, even if it’s just temporary.

It’s also worth explaining to other family members ( younger siblings, I’m talking to you) that your teen needs space and quiet while she studies. Doing well in exams can be a whole family effort when your teen needs a helping hand.

Exercise

Teens cannot live on studying alone. The brain doesn’t work as well without good blood and oxygen flow. Encourage your teen to take walking breaks to get her body moving. It could be as simple as getting up and walking up and down the stairs in your home.

Even better, go for a walk with your teen outside to get some fresh air too. Healthy body and mind for everyone. This will be a huge boost to your teen and she’ll go back to studying with renewed energy and perspective.

Listen To Any Concerns

Don’t assume your teen has no concerns because she hasn’t voiced any. You may be surprised at what your teen is thinking if you ask her. Take some time to talk to her about how she’s feeling about her exams. And make sure she knows that her feelings are valid.

Try to validate her concerns and offer support. Often the best thing you can do is listen, rather than trying to offer solutions. You don’t always have to be the fixer. If your teen feels heard and supported, other things will fall into place.

Reward Effort

Rather than offering an incentive for results, think about rewarding effort. You’ll be able to see how much effort your teen is putting into her studies. Regardless of the results, if you know your teen has worked hard, reward the effort.

This will show your teen that effort is worthwhile and hard work pays off in many different ways. It could mean that your teen is willing to try again if she should fail this time around.

Ask For Support

If you can see that your child is struggling with a particular subject, it may be worth getting some extra support. An hour a day with a tutor at home could make all the difference to your teens exam results. How your teen is taught will affect how she feels about the subject and exam results.

If your teen hasn’t got a good teacher at school, some extra tuition could change everything, including your teen’s confidence.

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Love letter to my daughter on her 17th birthday

Gabs, 

It’s been a hell of a rough year for you. Life’s thrown you so many curveballs. Things people much older than you couldn’t navigate easily. But you never give up or quit. You fight through the uncertainty. At 17, you’ve had to navigate more than any little girl should ever have to navigate on her own. I tried to step in front of every single hardship and take the hit but that’s not how life works. Instead, I’ve had to watch from nearby, ready and willing to stable you, to pull you up and push you forward. Pushing through the noise and breaking down doors to help you get what you want and need that’s my job. You’ve faced every single trial and tribulation with grace. I wish I could have taken every struggle away.  

Maybe we’re too much alike. It’s been like this since you were a little girl. We both know this and it’s probably why we butt heads so often but I hope you know that no matter what standoff we’re having, how hard you push me away or how long you give me side eye and the silent treatment, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll always be just there; beside you, behind you, or in front of you to guide you to the place where maybe you can’t see because you’re new to it or you’re too overwhelmed by all the obligations and expectations of the world. To me, you are the world so I couldn’t care less about what the world expects of us. The thing I care most about in this world is you and your sister

Those tears that seem to fall like a waterfall, I don’t see weakness. I see strength and too much love for your little heart to hold. You are one of the strongest people I know. Never stop talking to me. There is nothing that you could ever say that would change my love for you. We are all human. We all make mistakes. Believe me, I’ve made plenty. Our humanity and humility is what makes us better humans to the world. Our mistakes are the lessons that teach us to be who we want to be and change so we don’t become who we don’t want to be. 

Always remember that you cannot make anyone love you and you can never control anyone else’s reactions to what you say and do. You can only control your own heart and mind. Keep that in mind when you move through this world. Your words and actions have consequences so consider that before you hurt others. No one owes you forgiveness and you owe no one. The people we’ve loved and lost teach us what we want and need in friends and partners, so never dwell on the loss for too long. Instead, be thankful that you learned such an invaluable life lesson.

I know that your 17-year-old heart takes things personally. I know that every blow feels like the end of the world. Everything is so big at 17. But, I promise you ( I pinky swear on my mama heart) none of this will matter in 5 years. You are growing your soul as much as you are growing your body; stretch and reach. This is the evolution of who you are meant to be. Take it all in because one day, even the hardest bits will be looked back upon with fondness. But why make life harder than we need to?

Never compare your beginning or middle to someone else’s ending. Don’t worry too much about what other people think about you. Their opinion is their’s and has absolutely nothing to do with you. Be happy. Don’t overthink. Fall in love. Dance. Play in rain puddles. You’re never too old for snuggles and hugs. And I’ll never stop listening, caring or wanting the best for you. Go for it. Flap those wings and fly as high as you want. I’ll always be here to catch you if you fall.I’ve got  you forever. You’ll never stop being my baby girl, even when you have your own baby girl. 

Next year is a big one for you. I want it to be the best. You deserve all the happiness and none of the worry and struggle that you’ve had to endure this past year. Let’s make 17 unforgettable in the best possible way. Stay your loving, sweet, funny, goofy, don’t give a shit attitude that you are now. You are smart and beautiful and more than enough. It is my greatest privilege and honor to be your mom and there will never be a day that THAT is not true. 

Love you to the moon and back, forever and ever!

xoxo ,

Mama

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Planning a Trip Your Teens Won't Whine About

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Hey Mamas (and Papas!), remember those pre-teen years when vacations meant building sandcastles and begging for ice cream? Those glorious spring breaks where everyone went with the flow? Sure, you had to carry an ass ton of extras to keep them entertained but in the end, it was absolutely worth it. Yeah, those days are officially over. Now, we’re facing a new foe: the dreaded planning a trip your teens won’t whine about and you might actually enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE traveling with my teens (it’s my favorite thing to do) but life would be easier without the “cool, bruh.” 

The mere mention of a family trip can be met with eye rolls, dramatic sighs, and monosyllabic responses.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It happens to the best of us. My girls even refer to me as “cool” on occasion and I get all the eye rolls. Planning a trip that appeals to both your inner wanderlust and your teen’s ever-evolving interests can feel like navigating a minefield. But fear not, fellow travelers!  This mama is here to equip you with secret weapons to conquer the Teen Travel Whine and plan a trip EVERYONE will love. Yes, even that youngest, most entitled and champion “cool, bruh” one. 

Embrace the Collaboration (Without Losing Control)

First things first, ditch the “Surprise! We’re going to Disney!” tactic. Just kidding. Maybe for typical teens but my girls are die-hard Disney teens. We go every year and every year it’s.the.best.time.ever! Teens crave a sense of ownership, so ditch the dictator routine and turn trip planning into a collaborative mission. Dust off that dusty world map (or whip out your phone) and gather your little squad. Get their travel vibes flowing by browsing travel blogs, Instagram accounts, and travel magazines together.

Pro Tip: Let them dream big! Even if a trip to the Maldives is out of budget, exploring their wildest travel desires can spark inspiration for more realistic options.

Location, Location, Location:

Now, the fun part! Once you have a general idea of what kind of trip your teen is digging (beach bumming, city exploration, adventure junkie, etc.), start brainstorming destinations that cater to both your interests. Here are some Teen-Approved Hotspots:

  • Adventure Awaits! For the thrill-seekers, consider national parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone, where hiking, camping, and white-water rafting will have them screaming with excitement (in a good way!). If international travel is on the agenda, Costa Rica offers a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. Ziplining through rainforests, horseback riding on volcanic beaches, and learning to surf – enough adrenaline to keep those teenage spirits soaring.
  • City Slickers Unite! Let your teen unleash their inner urban explorer in a vibrant city like New Orleans, overflowing with live music, historic sites, and mouthwatering food (beignets, anyone?). London, with its iconic landmarks, museums galore, and a thriving theater scene, is another fantastic option. Explore hidden alleyways, catch a West End show, and maybe even take a day trip to explore the magic of Harry Potter Studios.
  • Beach Bums Welcome! Who doesn’t love a relaxing beach getaway? But ditch the all-inclusive resorts and opt for a location with some personality. Tulum, Mexico, offers stunning beaches, ancient Mayan ruins to explore, and a bohemian vibe your teen will love. The Outer Banks in North Carolina boasts beautiful beaches, charming towns, and even wild horses to keep everyone entertained.

Activities: It’s All About the Experiences

Okay, you’ve nailed the destination. Now, let’s make sure there’s enough action to keep everyone from getting bored (especially those with short attention spans cough teenagers cough).

Pro Tip:  Remember, vacations are about creating lasting memories, so prioritize experiences over souvenirs.

Here are some ideas to keep your teens engaged:

  • Food Tours: Turn mealtimes into mini-adventures with a food tour that explores the local cuisine. From chowing down on tacos in Mexico City to sampling dim sum in Hong Kong, these tours offer a delicious way to experience a new culture.
  • Get Creative: Does your teen have an artistic soul? Seek out workshops or classes that allow them to learn a new skill like pottery making, glass blowing, or graffiti art. This is a fantastic way to create a unique souvenir and a fun memory.
  • Volunteer for a Cause: Looking for a way to give back on your trip? Look into volunteer opportunities with local organizations. This could be anything from helping to build a school in a developing country to working at an animal shelter. Not only is it a rewarding experience, but it allows your teen to connect with the local community on a deeper level.

Don’t Forget the “Me Time” Factor

Remember, a vacation is supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable for EVERYONE, including yourself!

Pro Tip: Factor in “me-time” for everyone. Let your teens explore their own interests for a few hours, whether it’s browsing vintage shops or catching a movie. You can head to a museum, get a massage, or simply relax on a beach lounger with a good book.

This isn’t about abandoning your teens on a deserted island (tempting as it may sound sometimes!), but rather creating opportunities for everyone to recharge and pursue their individual interests.

Here are some ideas to create that “me-time” magic:

  • Teen Time: Negotiate a few hours where your teens can explore the city (or beach, or wherever you are) on their own. This could involve browsing vintage shops, catching a local band’s gig, or simply hanging out with friends they may have made on the trip.
  • Adult Adventures: Schedule an activity just for you! Whether it’s a solo museum visit, a relaxing spa treatment, or enjoying a quiet coffee at a local cafe, this dedicated “me-time” allows you to unwind and recharge.

Embrace the Unexpected

Travel is all about creating memories, and sometimes the best ones are the ones you don’t plan. Leave some room for spontaneity on your trip!

Here are some ways to embrace the unexpected:

  • Get Lost (Safely): Instead of sticking rigidly to your itinerary, allow some time to wander and explore. You might stumble upon a hidden gem of a restaurant, a charming local market, or a quirky street performance – these unexpected finds can become the highlights of your trip.
  • Be Open to New Experiences: Don’t shy away from trying something new, even if it’s outside your comfort zone. Whether it’s trying a local dish you can’t pronounce, taking a salsa dancing lesson, or going on a spontaneous hike, embracing new experiences can create lasting memories and stories to tell for years to come.
  • Go with the Flow: Things don’t always go according to plan, especially when traveling. Flights might get delayed, museums might be closed, or the weather might not cooperate. Instead of getting stressed, take a deep breath and roll with the punches. These unexpected hiccups can actually lead to some hilarious stories down the road.
  • The Loss Of Items: It can be tough if you lose things when you’re on your trip. Nobody likes it but it happens nonetheless. Instead of getting stressed out and panicked about it, remember that there’s always a solution. Where there’s a will, there is always a way. If you lose your phone, look for it, track it, see where it is. If you’re like me ( ADHD brain) backtrack and you will find it, even if it take a while. If you lose your travel money card, see if someone back home can do a money transfer to Mexico or wherever you are until you get back. There are always solutions, try not to panic.

**Remember, Mamas (and Papas, too), a successful family vacation isn’t about achieving Instagram-perfect moments. It’s about creating shared experiences, fostering connection, and making memories that will last a lifetime.  So ditch the stress, embrace the chaos, and get ready to have the best family vacation ever!

Bonus Tip:  Don’t forget to document your adventures! Encourage your teens to take photos, capture videos, and jot down their thoughts in a travel journal.  These little mementos will be precious treasures you can all look back on and reminisce about long after the tan lines fade.

Now, go forth and plan that epic trip your whole family (even the teens!) will be raving about!**

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Welp, it finally happened. The girls have finally “dated” partners that gave me the “ick”. No, it wasn’t anything personal, or even that I could put my finger on. What it was… my mom intuition. We all have it but I’m a bit of a natural bruja and when my mommy senses start tingling, I can’t ignore it.  But how do you talk to your teen when you notice red flags in their partner or bestie? You won’t always love your teens partner but try talking to your teen like an adult instead of at them. 

The girls and I have always had very open, honest, close and transparent relationship and there’s nothing off limits, but I make it a practice not to bash their friends and partners. My girls consider me a friend so I don’t want to switch gears and go all dictator on them. It’s their choice but I’m their mom so I can’t ignore obvious red flags that they may be blind to due to inexperience, the love bubble or an onslaught of love bombing.

Fellow parents in the trenches of parenthood, are you ready to tackle a conversation that can feel trickier than parallel parking after a tequila tasting? I’m referring to talking to your teen about a friend or partner who raises your red flags.

Let’s face it, our teens are navigating the social jungle, and sometimes, they pick up companions who make us want to grab a metaphorical hairbrush and untangle the mess. But before you launch into a full-on “they’re-not-good-enough-for-you” tirade (trust me, been there, done that, resulted in slammed doors and epic eye rolls), let’s pause, take a deep breath, and approach this with the finesse of a seasoned diplomat.

Why the Worries? Buckle Up, Buttercup, Here Comes the Truth:

As parents, we have this built-in radar that goes off when something feels off with our kids. Maybe it’s the way their “friend” manipulates them, constantly needs rescuing, or leaves them feeling drained and down. Or perhaps it’s the partner who exhibits controlling behavior, puts them down, or makes them question their worth. Whatever the reason, our mama and papa bear instincts kick in, and we want to shield our precious offspring from harm.

The Tightrope Walk: Navigating the Conversation Minefield:

Here’s the thing: direct attacks rarely work. Calling someone names or forbidding the relationship altogether might push your teen further away and make them even more defensive. Instead, we need to be strategic ninjas, wielding the power of communication and empathy.

Step 1: Become a Listening Ear, Not a Judgmental Judge:

First, create a safe space for your teen to talk. Let them know you’re concerned, but avoid accusatory language. Phrases like “I’ve noticed you seem different lately” or “I’m curious about this friendship/relationship” can open the door to honest conversation.

Step 2: Ask Open-Ended Questions, Not Leading Ones:

Instead of planting seeds of doubt with questions like “Do you think they’re a good influence?”, encourage critical thinking with prompts like “How does this relationship make you feel?” or “What are your concerns about this person?”

Step 3: Validate Their Feelings, Even the Ones You Disagree With:

Remember, your teen is experiencing this relationship firsthand. Even if you don’t like the person, acknowledge their feelings by saying things like “It sounds like you care about them” or “I understand why this is challenging.”

Step 4: Share Your Observations (But Gently):

Once you’ve established a safe space, you can cautiously share your concerns. Focus on specific behaviors, not personal attacks. For example, instead of saying “They’re manipulative,” you could say “I’ve noticed they tend to guilt you into doing things you don’t want to do.”

Step 5: Empower Them, Don’t Dictate:

Ultimately, the decision is up to your teen. You can offer guidance and support, but avoid ultimatums or threats. Encourage them to trust their gut, set healthy boundaries, and know that you’re there for them no matter what.

Remember: This may not be a one-time conversation. Be patient, supportive, and offer a listening ear whenever they need it.

Bonus Tip: Lead by example! Build healthy relationships in your own life and model the kind of love and respect you want your teen to experience.

The Takeaway:

Talking to your teen about a questionable friend or partner can be tricky, but it’s an important conversation to have. By approaching it with empathy, open communication, and a focus on healthy relationships, you can empower your teen to make wise choices and navigate the complexities of their social world. Honestly, the relationship I have with my girls is the most important thing ever so I will do whatever it takes to keep them safe and happy but, at the same time, our relationship is one built on trust, respect and unconditional love so I have to keep it real with them. Also, you are not always going to love who your ten choses to spend their time with or invest their love into but when you see them headed for danger, you should try to talk to them in a way that respects them as young adults. 

Now, onto you, fellow warriors! What are your tips for communicating with your teens about tough topics? Share your experiences and advice in the comments below!

P.S. Remember, taking care of yourself is crucial when navigating the sometimes-turbulent waters of parenthood. So, do something small for yourself today – take a walk, read a book, or indulge in your favorite dessert. You deserve it

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Mom matriculation, the hardest part of motherhood, college drop off

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Mom matriculation. Have you heard of this? No? Yeah, I just made it up. Its definitely the hardest part of motherhood. It’s the culmination of the letting go that begins with senior year and just when you think its at its hardest, graduation, you unlock a new, unfathomable level of mom heartbreak… college drop off day. Bella is ready to launch but I’m not ready to let go. I don’t know if I ever told you guys the story of how I was supposed to go to Boston University, but,  about 2 weeks before I was supposed to leave, 4  little words from my dad stopped me dead in my tracks, “See you next summer.” What??? Immediate failure to launch..

I had never even spent 1 single night away from my parents because in Mexican culture we just don’t do that. Due to our strong multi-generational family ties, family is not only a big part of who we are,  it’s everything.  My dad’s words had great emotional power over me, in fact, more power than anyone else’s. Not in an intentional manipulative way, its just that his words have always landed like concrete on my heart. His opinion always mattered, and still matters, the most to me.  I’ve always held a tiny grudge about this. But that was all before I was the parent having to let go of my own, precious child. Now, I definitely get it, but,  I refuse to do that to my girls. Even if it kills me, in the process. 

I thought it was all overkill, until I got my first pangs of impending mom matriculation.

Due to this particular incident, and knowing how it completely altered my timeline and changed the trajectory of my life, I swore I’d never say or do anything to hinder my own children’s flight pattern. But again, that was before I knew what I know; that was before I was the parent in the scenario sending my own precious child off into the world, alone,  without me. 

Fast forward to 10 years ago,  when my oldest nephew was heading off to college, a “mere” 65 minutes away from home. Back before I realized that whether it’s 25 minutes or 65 minutes or 12 hours away,  living away from your child is actually the same distance in mom miles because out of your house means out of your house. Your child is no longer bounding through the house, randomly hugging you and asking for a Starby’s run while blasting Swiftie or Megan thee Stallion, while you all sing to your heart’s content.

I vividly remember my nephew going away to college, instantly regretting his decision and my brother and sister-in-law immediately agreeing to pick him up  and bring him back home, regardless of forfeiting his athletic scholarship.  Absolutely without hesitation, they agreed. In my naivate, I was actually disappointed in their decision ( as if it were any of my business) and really couldn’t understand why they hadn’t encouraged him to stay a little while longer. 

None of the baby books warn you about the pain of college drop off. No one warned me that launching my child into adulthood would feel like part of my own body was being ripped away.

When I started Purdue University,  a ” mere” 3 hours from home, I remember in those first few weeks sitting alone in my dorm room feeling that it was the winter of my discontent. Wishing someone, anyone,  would come to my rescue and demand I return home. But that never happened and, in the end, everything worked out. I learned how to navigate life without my parents, eventually became adult-ish and had a terribly good time doing it. After the situation with my nephew, it reaffirmed my belief that I would “never” do what my brother and his wife did. Big words from a mom of elementary schoolers. That was before I was the mom of a college freshman about to matriculate herself out of my orbit. 

If you thought labor and delivery was the hardest part of motherhood, hold on to your Lulus because the mental anguish of letting go makes child birth feel like a cake walk and that’s coming from a woman who did it unmedicated.

Bella decided last spring to defer acceptance to her first choice college and attend a private liberal arts college nearer to home her first year. She realized after several college visits that she prefers the intimate vibe of a smaller campus over a huge bustling one. She decided that she wanted 1 more year at home. I greedily accepted her decision. The school happens to be 25 minutes from my front door. Then, she decided to live at home this year, instead of on campus. Again, I greedily and whole-heartedly accepted her decision. Next year, she has every intention on transferring to her first choice. In fact, it’s already being carefully planned and coordinated with that prestigious university. They are happily awaiting her transfer and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, 356 days from today she’s fully spreading her wings and flying away. 

Those of you who have already survived mom matriculation, the hardest part of motherhood thus far, and are letting go when every single cell in your body wants to hold on for dear life… you are so strong.

I know many of you have dropped your babies off at college in the past couple of days and weeks and have driven away sobbing as you bravely left your hearts on campus. I’ve been watching your posts and feeling those pangs of motherly heartbreak right along with you, mostly for you. But now, something strange has started to happen, I’m getting very overwhelmed and feeling very anxious in anticipation of my impending turn to let go. Fuck, I really don’t want to. ( I’m only saying this here because I can never utter the words “Don’t go” that my heart is screaming inside my head.) Just as I’m sure,  none of you wanted to. I wanted to be cool about all of this but I’m realizing that I’m probably going to be the uncoolest about  it. 

This Friday is move in day for students living on campus at Bella’s school and also, the matriculation ceremony and banquet for freshman, kicking off a weekend long “welcome to campus” extravaganza. While Bella is not moving on campus, as if graduation itself was not the signal of the end… the matriculation ceremony is here to put a fine point on the fact that your child is no longer yours but almost, completely autonomously their own. 

So while she’s still technically here, she’s really there. I know that just like on the day she was born and everything changed, on Friday everything changes again and in 356 days… everything changes forever. No matter how tight my mama heart wants to hold on to the most precious thing in my world, I know I have to let go. And at a time when all I want to do is hold her closer and cling to her more tightly (maybe more than ever), I have to gently push her away with a smile and encouragement, while convincing her that I’m fine and it’s all going to be amazing, because for her, it will be and that’s all that matters right now. 

College drop off feels sort of like we’re heading into this weird parent-child purgatory where we’re both growing, letting go and being let go of, it’s by far the hardest part of motherhood.

Then, I’ll have to hug her, a hug that I know will need to sustain me for weeks or months (this child of mine, who I’ve hugged and kissed several times a day since her existence, who I’ve shared everything with) and I have to release her as mine as she runs towards who she’s meant to be. And I have to do it with grace and unconditional love because this is about her, not me. This is the beginning of her beautiful journey. Then, I’ll have to drive away leaving my child behind, seeing her walking towards her future in the rear view mirror as I become more of her past than her future. If this isn’t the hardest part of motherhood, I don’t know what is and I don’t want to know.

Mom matriculation, the hardest part of motherhood, college drop off

This starts Friday. I can already feel it. I’ve felt the pangs and waves of letting go all summer. I don’t know how I’ll survive my mom matriculation, especially, since I have to do college drop off this Friday, then again next August and then again the following year for my youngest. I know I will survive. Because now I know, living 25 minutes or 12 hours away from your child is actually the same distance in mom miles because in your heart is in your heart and no amount of time or distance can separate the bond between a child and their parent. 

No matter how near or far she flies away, I’ll always just be a phone call, text, car or plane ride away and this is how we survive college drop offs and new beginnings, her and us…mostly us. This is why I smile for her while my heart completely breaks for me. This is how we survive the hardest part of motherhood… the letting go. 

I’m seriously thinking of starting a mom support group for middle-aged, perimenopausal moms who’ve had to send their children off to college and are trying to survive the letting go. If you want in this mom matriculation posse, let me know. We’ll get through this college drop off, suffer being left behind next chapter of our lives together. Freedom is not what its all cracked up to be. Why didn’t the baby books warn us about this bullshit?

If you can relate or just love following along, as I head off into the motherhood unknown, please like, share and follow. 

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Top 15 Places to Visit in Boston, travel with teenagers, Things to Do with Teenagers in Boston

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

We’ve been visiting Boston with our girls every summer since they were littles. Nevertheless, there is just something so fun and conducive to making lifelong memories as a family about New England. Over the years, it has become our home away from home. If you’re planning travel with teenagers to Boston, there are plenty of exciting places to visit and activities to enjoy.

Top 15 Places to Visit in Boston, travel with teenagers, Things to Do with Teenagers in Boston

For a wicked good time, here are the top 15 places to visit including must-do, must-see and must-eat ( actually coming in the next post too many to mention here) places to check out with your teenagers while in Boston:

1. Fenway Park: If you’re in Boston during baseball season, catch a Red Sox baseball game at Fenway Park, one of the oldest and most iconic ballparks in the United States. The energetic atmosphere and passionate fans make it an unforgettable experience. It’s like a rock concert but with more peanuts and hot dogs and, finally, they’ll know why everyone gets so hyped and starts singing when “Sweet Caroline” starts playing.

 

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2. Freedom Trail: I know it might sound boring but I promise it’s cool. I’ve taken my girls multiple times and we still discover new and cool stuff. Take a walk along the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile trail that passes by 16 historically significant sites. It’s a great way for teenagers to learn about Boston’s rich history and the American Revolution with a side of cool old graveyards,

 

3. Museum of Science: Explore the Museum of Science, which offers interactive exhibits on various scientific subjects. From the planetarium and IMAX theater to the hands-on exhibits, there’s something to engage teenagers of all interests. Seriously, who can resist getting all hands on with interactive exhibits. Feels like Bill Nye the Science guy and Netflix had a baby.

 

4. New England Aquarium: Visit the New England Aquarium and discover marine life from around the world. Teenagers can enjoy watching penguins, sea turtles, and other fascinating creatures, as well as experience the Giant Ocean Tank. If. you really want to make it an experience to remember, I would highly recommend taking a whale watching tour.whale, Boston harbor cruises, whale watching, New England, family travel, things to do in Boston, Massachusetts

5. Boston Common and Public Garden: Spend time at Boston Common, the oldest public park in the United States, and the adjacent Public Garden. Take a swan boat ride, have a picnic, or simply relax in the green spaces and make sure to see the “Embrace” bronze sculpture memorial to MLK. It is stunning and a fun photo op for the gram.

Top 15 Places to Visit in Boston, travel with teenagers, Things to Do with Teenagers in Boston

6. Boston Harbor Islands: Take a ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands, a group of picturesque islands offering hiking trails, beaches, and opportunities for kayaking or paddleboarding. Spectacle Island and Georges Island are particularly popular choices.

 

7. Skywalk Observatory: Head to the Skywalk Observatory at the Prudential Center for breathtaking views of Boston’s skyline. It provides a 360-degree panoramic view of the city, allowing teenagers to appreciate the city’s beauty from above. These views are unbeatable and definitely social media worthy. Your teens will love it.

 

8. Museum of Fine Arts: Art enthusiasts will appreciate the Museum of Fine Arts, which houses an extensive collection of artwork from different cultures and time periods. It’s a great opportunity for teenagers to explore diverse artistic expressions.

 

9. Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum: Experience a unique historical reenactment at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. Teenagers can participate in the interactive exhibits, throw tea overboard ( and you know how much their angsty asses love to rebel), and learn about the events leading to the American Revolution.

 

10. Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall: Visit Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, bustling marketplaces in the heart of Boston. Teenagers can enjoy shopping, sampling various cuisines, and watching street performers in this vibrant area. Hungry? Obviously, because teenagers always are, food is sport at Quincy Hall. There’s lobster rolls, pastries and all the clam chowder your teen foodies could ever imagine or hope for.

 

11. Duck tour: Undeniably, they are a bit silly but they are a great way to explore Boston. Jump on this amphibious vehicle and check out everything bean town has to offer, including the river. Oh yes, this Boston safari will put your teens in just enough imagined danger to keep things exciting. No, they are not actually in danger but that’s not the way they’ll tell it to their friends back home.

 

12. Charles River Esplanade: There’s nothing like a cool summer or fall stroll on the esplanade. Hang by the river while playing frisbee, people-watching while taking in breathtaking views of the Boston skyline. It is instagram and TikTok heaven.

 

Top 15 Places to Visit in Boston, travel with teenagers, Things to Do with Teenagers in Boston

13. Shopping: Newbury Street, downtown crossing, Prudential center and Copley place, oh my! Boston is one of our favorite places to shop. They have something for everyone and if you have girl, like I do, shopping (and eating) are two things we can definitely agree on from Saks to Gucci to Free People and Primark, this is some of the best shopping you and your teenagers will do. May I suggest, if you are not extremely wealthy, hit up Primark first. Great fast-fashion from a European brand but with Target prices. It’s the first place my girls want to hit as soon as we arrive. You’ll thank me later.

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14. The Swing Park at the Signature: This is such a fun thing to do for people of every age (honestly you could take your little kids or even your grandparents) but your teens will love this at night. We spent hours there, from sunset until it was dark out swinging on those glowing swings. The Lawn on D at the Signature also offers pickleball, lawn games and adult beverages.

 

15. Visit Harvard and Cambridge: Harvard is just a short drive away from downtown Boston and your teens will have a blast visiting the campus and soaking in all the ivy league vibes. The campus is gorgeous and why not plant that seed? Plus, Cambridge is full of fun little restaurants and shops to explore. My girls loved it.

Top 15 Places to Visit in Boston, travel with teenagers, Things to Do with Teenagers in Boston

This is just a get started list of places to visit and things to do with teenagers in Boston.

If you’re looking for a great place to stay with teenagers that’s right in the middle of all the Boston energy and excitement, we’ve been staying at The Hyatt Regency Boston for over a decade. If you’ve followed along over the years on my instagram, you’ve seen the breathtaking views and know, that its in the heart of the downtown crossing area.

Just a stones throw away from Chinatown and easily walkable to almost anywhere your heart could want to go in Boston. However,  most importantly, the customer service and attention to their guests is what keeps us coming back every single year. We’ve tried other hotels but nothing compares to how we are treated at the Hyatt Regency Boston. Bonus: There is nothing quite like a comfortable bed to take a midday vacation nap on and the Hyatt always delivers. Thank you Hyatt for always be such gracious hosts.

Top 15 Places to Visit in Boston, travel with teenagers, Things to Do with Teenagers in Boston

While these attractions offer a mix of history, culture, outdoor adventures, and entertainment that will keep teenagers engaged and entertained during their visit to Boston. Time to unleash your teenagers on Boston and let them explore and soak in all the culture, history, shopping and delicious food that Boston has to offer.

 

What is your top place to visit or thing to do with your teenagers in Boston?

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Things to Keep in Mind When Sending your Kid Away to College, college freshman

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Bella starts college in a couple weeks. Thankfully, she is attending college locally for her first year. I may not have to leave her on campus right now but I know it’s coming. And who are we kidding? Everything changes the moment they graduate. As a mom, you can feel it in your bones. The letting go happens at lightening speed. I barely recognize her from who she was in May. It is the beginning of the end of their time as “your little one” and the beginning of them becoming their own. All of my friends are sending their kids away to college over the next few weeks. Last night, I dreamt of going away to college. It’s been many years since I first went away to college. I’d forgotten how hard it was. There are some things we need to keep in mind when sending our kids off to college.

These days, I mostly remember how amazing it was, much like how these days the pain of labor feels like a very distant memory. The only thing remaining is the insanely immense love for my daughters. But last nights dream was a refresher in going away to college 101 and I wanted to remind some of you, especially those of you whose children will be going away to college later this summer.

Things to Keep in Mind When Sending your Kid Away to College

It’s lonely

Lonelier than I ever thought it could be. Those first few weeks, I wanted to come home 1000 times. I felt so isolated and out of my element. At home, I lived in a small house with a big family and suddenly I was alone in a 12×12 room in a city where I knew no one and had no car (freshman usually aren’t allowed). Cell phones were in existence but what college kid could afford one or the astronomical fees to use one? I’d left behind my life, my family, my friends, my boyfriend and everything I’d ever known. I went from a situation where everyone knew and loved me to no one knowing me and know one caring what I’d done up to that point.

It’s a new beginning

That sounds great, especially if you didn’t necessarily love the reputation you had up until that point. You are free and you can be whomever you want to be. In fact, this is what college is all about…growing up and becoming who you are meant to or want to be. You could start all over from scratch. One little problem, I loved who I was or at least who I appeared to be from the outside. I had worked really hard building my reputation, my circle of friends and how people saw me. At university, I was back to square one and I was all alone. I was finally the boss of me and I wasn’t sure it was all that it was cracked up to be.

It’s time to start adulting

For the first time in my life, I had to make my own decisions and I wasn’t equipped for the choices. Up until then, my parents had kept a very tight leash on my life. They made it very clear that they were the adults and I was the child and they made the rules. How the hell was I supposed to know how to make my own rules? How was I supposed to know what or where my boundaries were? Suddenly, I was faced with questions and situations I’d never been asked before and I had no idea what to do so I floundered ( a lot), made mistakes and got into some sticky situations. I’d like to say luckily I came out unscathed but that would be a lie. I learned the hard way. Adulting for me was like being thrown into the ocean without ever being taught to swim.

It’s wonderful and scary

A lot of the time, I felt like a kid pretending to be an adult and hoping not to get caught. On somedays, I still do. It was empowering to find out who I was apart from my parents. I discovered things I didn’t know about myself before and realized my parents truths were not necessarily mine because we came from different upbringings. But I also realized how scary it is to be the one in charge and making all the decisions for myself. It was terrifying realizing that there was no one to come running to pick up all the pieces when I blew up my life, just me.

It’s exciting

As scary as it was being left in a new place all alone, it was exhilarating. I really thought I might puke and cry when my mom drove away on drop off day. My roommate had made other housing plans and for the first time in my entire life, I was alone in the silence with my thoughts. I remember my first grocery run, walking around the tiny campus grocery choosing late night snacks and drinks that I wanted. It felt empowering because it was the first time I’d ever been able to make the decision solely based on myself. Making new friends, joining clubs, going to classes, learning my way around and just existing was exciting and new. I realize now that’s what college is all about, not just learning but growing into an adult.

It’s super hard and super scary until it’s not. That’s just how life works. There are definitely ways not to make the process so isolating and lonely but at the end of the day, your child has to go through this alone, without you. More if that freaking letting go that I hate so much. All of this to say, your child has no idea what’s in store or the myriad of emotions that they’ll feel once you pull away so try to keep that in mind when they’re trying to push you away.

The truth that no one realizes and you may have forgotten is that they’re even more afraid of being let get of than you are of letting go. Hug them a little tighter over the next few weeks, be a little more compassionate and make sure they know that you will always be their soft place to land. They don’t know, what they don’t know. What they do know, what they feel in their bones, is that life is about to change in huge ways for them and beneath the excitement and bravado, they are, as we’ve always known, still just our little kids underneath, on the brink of becoming who they are meant to be. Be there to help them up and dust them off when they fall but, you have to also let them stumble so they learn the right path for themselves.

What is the one thing you’d like to remind other parents to remember when sending their kids away to college for the first time?

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Practical Ways To Keep Your Teenager Out Of Trouble

Everyone wants to make sure their child is safe, but that doesn’t always mean making sure they don’t get hurt or sick. Sometimes, you’ll need to save them from themselves. Teenagers are particularly susceptible to engaging in risky behaviors that could be harmful thanks to pushing boundaries and gaining independence. It’s just the way it is but that doesn’t mean that you have to sit back and watch it happen. Sure, there are some lessons that teenagers need to learn all on their own but there are ways to give them space and still minimize the collateral damage they might do to themselves.

You wouldn’t want them hurting themselves or getting arrested for a class 2 misdemeanor, for example. You’ll need to know how to keep your teenager out of trouble while still giving them room to figure things out themselves. It doesn’t have to be as complicated and you don’t have to revert back to your helicopter days of their toddlerhood. It’s going to include a whole lot of trusting your own parenting, putting a little trust and faith in the good humans you’ve been raising and, unfortunately, a little bit of letting go.

By following five practical strategies, you can help minimize your worry and maximize their safety.

How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble

1. Create A Safe Environment

If your teenager has a safe environment at home, they’ll be less likely to get into trouble. You should make sure they feel as comfortable as possible at home, especially when it comes to anything they could be doing. The more comfortable they are talking to you about things, the more you’ll know about them.

They’ll be more likely to tell you the truth, no matter how embarrassing it could be. You can create this safe environment in multiple ways, such as:

  • Showing respect
  • Using natural language
  • Showing your teenager you care

The safer the environment is, the more comfortable your teenager will be to talk to you about what’s happening in their life. You can keep them out of trouble much better because of it.

2. Make Sure They’re Supervised

Supervision can be one of the more practical ways to keep your teen out of trouble. You can be there to make sure they don’t do anything they shouldn’t. While that doesn’t mean being with them constantly, there are ways you can supervise them without being overbearing. Don’t go overboard and make them feel like you don’t trust them. Just use common sense, not every teenager is going to choose to go wild and remember, your teen is innocent until proven guilty so don’t make them feel like a criminal without proof.

Letting them spend time with their friends in your living room can be a great way to do this. It gives you the ability to avoid any potential trouble while ensuring they make the decisions they should make. It’ll also give you more peace of mind while you’re at it. My house has always been where the kids hang out and I’ll host everything just so I can get to know who my kids are spending their time with, know what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. I trust my girls and I also know that I won’t always be there so I’d prefer them to learn to make good choices on their own while I’m nearby to answer any questions or lend support than to shelter them and as soon as they leave my house they have no clue how to take care of themselves. This is all a part of growing up, just like making mistakes is a part of learning.

3. Get Professional Support

One of the most effective ways to keep your teenager out of trouble is to get professional support. You mightn’t be able to spot the signs or symptoms of whatever trouble they’re in, and you mightn’t be able to help them. That’s especially true when it comes to mental health. You should seek professional support for this if you notice:

  • Dramatic changes in personality
  • Continually talking about shame or embarrassment
  • Unexplained cuts and bruises
  • Explosive outbursts
  • A recent loss

By getting them the help they could need, you can make sure you avoid any possible trouble and its consequences.

4. Use Effective Monitoring Practices

You can’t stay with your teenager all the time to supervise them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch with them. A lot of research shows that teenagers who are being monitored by their parents are less likely to engage in bad behavior. They’re also less likely to make poor decisions.

It’s worth using some monitoring strategies to make sure you can achieve this. There are more than a few ways you can do this, including:

  • Having them call you every hour
  • Check how they’re spending money
  • Getting the numbers of their close friends

Using a few of these strategies can be one of the more effective ways to keep your teenager out of trouble.

5. Get To Know Them

The parent-child relationship changes after kids reach their teenage years. Their interests will change and they’ll continue to grow in multiple ways. They could turn into a completely new person compared to what they were like in their younger ways. You should make sure you get to know the new them.

They’ll still be figuring themselves out, and that could be a difficult process. By putting the effort into getting to know them, you help them figure themselves out. It can avoid them lashing out and can make the process much easier for them while also bringing you closer together.

How To Keep Your Teenager Out Of Trouble

If you don’t know how to keep your teenager out of trouble, you could end up worrying about them a lot. Injuries, trouble with the law, and similar concerns can all prove anxiety-inducing. You’ll naturally want to avoid that, but it doesn’t need to be as complicated as you’d think.

A few practical tips can make this much easier. Making sure they’re supervised, creating a safe environment, and getting professional support – among other options – can all help with this. There’s no reason not to do it.

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I’m a Chicago girl and there is nothing I love more than sharing my hometown with my daughters. I love taking my children to visit my family and introducing them to the city I love. It’s nice because while I’m figuring out all the best things to do in Chicago with teens and kids, I get to play tourist.

Chicago is one of my favorite cities but when you live somewhere you never play tourist because you.live.there. When you’re young, you’re like no way, I’m not wasting my time because you think you’ll always be there. Everything tourists come to Chicago to see, we saw on field trips a zillion times with school. You couldn’t pay us enough to go willingly.

READ ALSO: Chicago Ten Things to do Before You Die

But then you grow up and you realize OMG, all of these amazing museums, art galleries, Planetariums, Zoos, Aquariums and theaters were right here and I took it all for granted. You realize that there are amazing things to do, food to eat and different cultures all around and you took it all for granted. But no more.

Of course, it is winter, and your first instinct is to be indoors feeling comfy in your best wool slippers or under a warm blanket. However, sometimes this can take you away from all the fun you can have in Chicago. As long as you are protected from the frigid weather, there are many things to see and experience. Chicago has so much in store for you and the family.

Here is a list of things to do in Chicago during the Winter months

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The Museum of Science and Industry

During the winter months, November through January, Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light is displayed. Explore rich holiday traditions from around the globe while creating your own traditions with loved ones in Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light.

It began in 1942 with a single tree. Today, the Museum’s beloved annual celebration features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. On the weekends, you can also enjoy live holiday performances. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that brings a whole world of holiday joy under one roof.

READ ALSO: Spring Break Make It Yourself at MSI

This has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. This year, I took my parents and my daughters and it was truly magical. My only piece of advice, it is very busy over the holiday break between Christmas and New Year.

Also, if you are going during a busy season or when a popular exhibit is at the museum, be sure to get tickets for the exhibits that you want to see. There are some free exhibits that are very popular and so tickets are given on first come first serve basis, plot your plan and get your tickets as soon as you get there so you don’t miss anything.

Free admission days: The Museum of Science and Industry is free for Illinois residents with valid ID on the following dates in 2019: January 7–10, 14–17, 21–24, 28–31, February 4–7, 11–14, 19–21, 25–28

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Shedd Aquarium

If you are looking for a leisurely day to spend with children of all ages, the Shedd Aquarium is perfect. You are inside from the elements, whether it be the sweltering heat of the summer or the brutal cold of Chicago winters, and children (and adults alike) love the serene beauty that surrounds you.

Discover Aquatic Animals from around the World. You can purchase tickets online and save time. Encounter Penguins. Meet Beluga Whales. Award Winning Exhibits. Hands-On Activities. Watch Shark Feedings. Shows: Shark Feeding Tour, Behind-the-Scenes Tour, Beluga Encounter, Penguin Encounter. Our favorite was the Dolphin show and the Beluga Whales. It’s a great day of exciting aquatic fun.

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Don’t forget about the free admission days.  Check the shed aquarium page free admissions page at a later day. Check back frequently because it’s a great deal.

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Field Museum

Who can forget the iconic shots of Kevin Bacon in She’s Having a Baby at the Field Museum? If your child or teen is into history at all, Field Museum is the place to visit. Even if they aren’t, I think the Field Museum could convince them to be. The Field Museum fuels a journey of discovery across time to enable solutions for a brighter future rich in nature and culture. It’s where real science, dinosaurs, and world-class exhibits inspire fun for all. My girls and nephew loved the mummies exhibit, Sue the T-Rex and Maximo the Titanosaur.

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There are Free Admission Days, which are free basic admission for Illinois residents with proof of residency. Discounted passes are available in person and cannot be purchased online in advance.

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago, located in Millennium Park, is a hub for summertime festivals like Lollapalooza, the Blues Festival, and Taste of Chicago but it’s really a great place to visit during the winter months as well. There are many pieces to be adored and to give your family something to think about Wood’s American Gothic, Matisse’s Bathers By a River, Monet’s Water Lilies, Rivera’s Weaver and even Renoir’s Two Sisters. There are O’Keefe, Toulouse-Lautrec and Warhols. All these I remember seeing as a child. But even among the Dali and Van Goghs, the piece I love the most is Picasso’s The Old Guitarist. Those artworks are probably only allowed to be shipped and prepped by top-notch art handlers to safeguard their authenticity. Having a place to go and share these pieces with my daughters, feels a little bit like going to church at the Sistine Chapel. We are overcome with awe and wonder. The art Institute is a must-visit when you’re in Chicago.

Just like all the other amazing museums in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago has free admission days.

Adler Planetarium

Chicago’s Adler Planetarium is America’s first planetarium and a premier resource for inspiring the next generation of space explorers and bonus, it is right next door to the Shedd Aquarium so you can make a day of it with the kids. If your child is interested in astronomy or space in general, how it works, what’s out there, or just connecting the constellations in the night sky, they will love the Adler Planetarium.

Countless galaxies, unfathomable distances, exploding stars, diamond planets, black holes, there’s no way around it, space is freaking awesome! Come learn more at the Adler Planetarium during our Illinois Resident Discount Days—where Illinois residents receive FREE General Admission to the museum. General Admission provides access to all exhibitions and experiences (excluding the historic Atwood Sphere Experience and sky shows.*)

Navy Pier

If you’ve never been to Navy Pier, make sure to visit on your next trip to Chicago. Originally completed in 1916 as part of Daniel Burnham’s plan for Chicago, Navy Pier is an iconic city landmark inspiring discovery and wonder. Since its reopening in 1995, more than 180 million visitors have come to enjoy the Pier’s 50 acres of unparalleled attractions and experiences. As Navy Pier enters its second century, the venue is evolving into an accessible, year-round centerpiece for Chicago’s diverse arts and cultural treasures.

There is so much to do at Navy Pier. There are restaurants, art, shopping, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and even rides. Navy Pier is home to one of Chicago’s most iconic attractions: the magnificent Centennial Wheel, offering soaring views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. And let’s not forget about the Pepsi Wave Swinger, carousel and more. Honestly, there is so much to do…just add teens and an instant good time.

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Medieval Times Schaumburg

If you’ve never been to a Medieval Times, you are missing out. I always wanted to go but never made the drive as I said, when you live in Chicago, you don’t do touristy things). A couple of years ago, I found myself at a work event with my family and guess where we ended up? Medieval Times. We loved it so much, this past holiday season when I was home visiting my parents, we took them to Medieval times in Schaumburg (just north of the city) and they loved it and so did my kids.

For the first time in Medieval Times 35-year history, a woman is in charge. All hail Queen Dona Maria Isabella. Enjoy an electrifying show featuring heroic knights on spirited horses displaying the astounding athletic feats and thrilling swordplay that have become hallmarks of this unique entertainment experience. Enjoy a “hands-on” feast as the dynamic performance unfolds before you. A sweeping musical score and brilliant lights provide a fabulous backdrop for this spellbinding experience that blurs the boundary between fairy tale and spectacle!

Yes, there is a blue knight and a red knight and you eat with your hands but so is everybody else and it was magical and splendid and I can’t wait to go again. There is a 2-hour medieval jousting tournament, 6 competing knights with real weapons, beautiful horses and a live flight of the royal falcon. Medieval Times is like nothing else you’ve ever experienced.

Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, Adler planetarium, art institute of chciago, broadway on Chicago, navy pier, chicago shakespeare theater, Things to do with teens and kids in Chicago, Things to do with teens in Chicago, Chicago, Things to do in Chicago, travel to Chicago, travel with teens, teens, family travel

Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, Adler planetarium, art institute of chciago, broadway on Chicago, navy pier, chicago shakespeare theater, Things to do with teens and kids in Chicago, Things to do with teens in Chicago, Chicago, Things to do in Chicago, travel to Chicago, travel with teens, teens, family travel, broadway in chicagoBroadway in Chicago

If you love the theater, Broadway in Chicago is the place to be. Hamilton, anyone? The theater district is vibrant and located within walking distance of so many great restaurants and entertainment opportunities, including the Joffrey ballet. There is no shortage of things to see and places to be while experiencing Broadway on Chicago. There is a constant assortment of plays and musicals to see on the stage, something for everyone, even the most discerning critics.

Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, Adler planetarium, art institute of chciago, broadway on Chicago, navy pier, chicago shakespeare theater, Things to do with teens and kids in Chicago, Things to do with teens in Chicago, Chicago, Things to do in Chicago, travel to Chicago, travel with teens, teens, family travel, broadway in chicago

There are so many more things, these are just a few and the list gets longer during the warmer months. What is your favorite thing to do, see and eat in Chicago? The best part is that all of these places are great for just adults too.

READ ALSO: The Aladdin Experience Things to do in Chicago, Joffrey Ballet, The Nutcracker

The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker

As you all know, the ballet has a special place in my heart because my girls are ballerinas. The Nutcracker has always and will forever be a huge part of our holiday tradition. The girls have never seen it live from the audience because, for as long as they can remember, they have danced in it. Our local production is known to be one of the best in the country but we’ve always wanted to see the Joffrey’s, one of the premier dance companies in the world today, production. This year it’s on the list. The Joffrey Ballet’s critically-acclaimed reimagined classic, The Nutcracker by Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, returns to celebrate the magic of the holiday season. Wheeldon’s American tale relocates Marie and her immigrant family to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, where Marie embarks on a whirlwind adventure with the Nutcracker Prince.

Things to do in Chicago, Joffrey Ballet, The NutcrackerThe Joffrey Ballet performs The Nutcracker from Saturday, December 3rd through Sunday, December 27, 2022.

Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, Adler planetarium, art institute of chciago, broadway on Chicago, navy pier, chicago shakespeare theater, Things to do with teens and kids in Chicago, Things to do with teens in Chicago, Chicago, Things to do in Chicago, travel to Chicago, travel with teens, teens, family travel

What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago with teens or kids?

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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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