Pappa Don’t Preach: Talking To Your Teens About Sex
July 14, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Parenting, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off on Pappa Don’t Preach: Talking To Your Teens About Sex

A counterintuitive and interesting study was published in the Journal of Family Psychology about what helps and what hurts in talking to your teens about sex. Conversations warning about the possibility of contracting an STD and disapproving of sex in general, were actually correlated with higher levels of sexual initiation, unprotected sex, and sexually transmitted infections. It seems that the largest influence for safer sexual behavior was the teen’s positive perception of the relationship with their parents, not specific information.

The investigators found that higher levels of adolescent independence and lower levels of parent-adolescent relationship quality significantly predicted lower levels of condom use and this held especially true for younger adolescents.  Additionally, the teens that had lower levels of condom use could be predicted by having parents that disapproved of teen sexual activity.  So the more time the teen had unsupervised, the lesser the quality of his/her relationship with parents, and the more the parents outwardly disapproved of sex, the more likely their teen was to have unprotected sex.

Almost 80% of the adolescents that reported being abstinent during the beginning of the study reported the same a year later.  What predicted sexual activity for the remaining 20%?  Some of the strongest predictors were low parent-child relationship quality, higher levels of parent disapproval of sex, and parents’ talks about sexual costs such as STIs.  That’s right.  The parents that disapproved of sex and emphasized sexual risk had a higher likelihood of having a sexually active teen.

The best route for parents when it comes to their teens and sex is to focus less on the specific behavior/consequences and instead, spend more time ensuring there is a healthy relationship that allows for open communication.

Deptula, D., Henry, D., & Schoeny, M. (2010). How can parents make a difference? Longitudinal associations with adolescent sexual behavior. Journal of Family Psychology, 24 (6), 731-739 DOI: 10.1037/a0021760

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Rejoice When There Are No Letters From Sleep Away Camp
June 23, 2011 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off on Rejoice When There Are No Letters From Sleep Away Camp

Sleep away camp is one of the most wonderful ways for children to form lifelong friendships, enjoy their independence and to just plain have fun. When it comes to getting letters, no news is good news!  The obligatory once a week, “Camp is good. I miss you,” letters are just fine. Try not to get pulled into the thrice daily checking of camp websites posting pictures of activities. You want your kids to really feel that other worldy feeling of summer camp.

So, if your kids are away, here are some do’s and don’ts:

Don’t call camp and complain that your child isn’t been photographed in more activities.

Don’t worry if you get minimal contact by mail, it is a good sign that your child is having a great time.

Do take adantage of your freedom and enjoy the time with younger kids, spouse and friends.

Do remember that the independence, skills and experiences that kids get at camp are some of the most beloved–so relax.

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College Kids Are Struggling. How Can We Help?
February 22, 2011 · Posted in Mental Health, Parenting, Pressure on Children, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off on College Kids Are Struggling. How Can We Help?

A study of the mental health of college freshman shows record low levels of mental health and record high levels of stress. In “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010,” involving more than 200,000 incoming full-time students at four-year colleges, the percentage of students rating themselves as “below average” in emotional health rose. Meanwhile, the percentage of students who said their emotional health was above average fell to 52 percent. It was 64 percent in 1985.

” The study also reports that our children are coming into college already struggling. This jives with anecocdotal reports from college guidance counselors. While the economy may account for some of this stress, the demands of college admission and the drive for achievement is taking a toll. “The share of students who said on the survey that they had been frequently overwhelmed by all they had to do during their senior year of high school rose to 29 percent from 27 percent last year.”

The positive take away from this is that parents of middle and high schoolers can actively comfort and reassure children that their worth is not equal to their achievement. Parents need to counter the prevailing cultural ethos, and even maybe their own beliefs, that academic achievement is the road to happiness. The trends are clear, the mental health of our children is declining and anxiety and depression are on the rise. While as parents we can only control so much, one thing we can do is not add to the stresses of modern life. We can consistently remind our kids, in word and deed, that there are many ways to a fulfilling life. We can give them a healthy does of skepticism about the “succeed at all costs” messages that bombard them. If they can internalize these values they can use them to counteract pressure they face.

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Let Kids Be Kids!
February 1, 2011 · Posted in Parenting, Play, Pressure on Children, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off on Let Kids Be Kids!

It’s amazing how sophisticated and knowledgeable kids are. Middle schoolers can seem like adults with their vocabularies and knowledge of both current events and celebrity gossip. We can easily get pulled into treating them like adults both with expectations that are too high while exposing them to too much information. Here are some things to consider and compare:

Take some time to think about yourself when you were 11 or 12. What did you worry about? What was school like? Friends? Did you have too much freedom or not enough? What was home like? What did you do after school? How much homework did you have?

Chances are life was different. Familial issues may have been complicated but school life and outside pressure to achieve and excel were probably less pronounced. We can’t change the way the world works for our children but we can remember that they ARE children and they deserve to operate as children do.  No matter how sophisticated our children may seem, they still need lots of comfort, down time, play and silliness. Even as adults, we do too!

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Skins: Watch The Show
January 27, 2011 · Posted in Parenting, Pressure on Children, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off on Skins: Watch The Show

The new MTV series Skins has created much buzz since the January 17th premier with allegations of actually being child pornagraphy. The show really pushes the envelope. The first episode is filled with an abundance of flesh, drug use and teenage despair. Here is our best advice for parents: watch the show.

Rather than just banning it in your home, or surrendering to the fact that we ultimately can’t prevent kids from watching it, we can educate ourselves and enable an open and honest dialogue with our teens about the content.

Longtime Soho Parenting colleague Terry Real was interviewed on Good Morning America about his response to the racy show. His insightful and down to earth take on the series is helpful to parents. Watch Terry here as he explains the impact of the show on budding teenage sexuality. Both Terry’s and Soho Parenting’s message to parents is that communication with your teen is more important than whether they watch the show or not.

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Letting Go Of The Rage
December 14, 2010 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Parenting, Teens, Therapy · Permalink · Comments (4)

By Kim C. Flodin

Kim Flodin has been part of the Soho Parenting community 20 years, is a writer and mother of two daughters. Her work has been featured in Newsweek and New York Times, among other publications, and you can read more from her on her blog –

After a lifetime of even-temperedness, becoming a parent struck a chord that released both a passionate, besides-myself love, as well as an intense anger when things got tough.  My rage kicked off in my first-born’s toddler years; it intensified during my daughters’ teen years, especially my second child’s adolescence, which has been stormy.  If she yelled, I yelled louder.  If she got snarky, I replied in kind.  If she threw something, I threw two things.  It wasn’t pretty.

With my elder girl wrapping up her teen years and my “baby” half-way through them, I can report that things have been better, a lot better.  For months now.  And not by magic.  To help turn the tide, I had to learn that:

* I needed help.  Last year, my husband and I enrolled in a six-week, one-on-one immersion in counseling specifically to learn new skills and new ways of doing things, all the while going to half a year of monthly parenting coaching sessions.  I kept (and keep) up my individual therapy.  I mean, really, I can be taught.

* My home is refuge for my children from a sometimes-scary world, and if I infect this refuge with more scariness, where can they turn to?

* This is not about me and my hurts and my pain.  I have other places to bring that to and other people to whom I turn for help.  I have to be bigger than that for my girls.

* My hurts and pain, and even my rage, are real and deserve honor and attention in appropriate settings.

* It’s important to sometimes shut up and stop teaching, guiding, critiquing, limiting, punishing, expressing disappointment and dismay, and instead paint our nails or play ping-pong.

* I can still be mad, piping mad, but there is a line between anger and rage that I wish to respect always.

* I don’t have to make my kids admit that they understand my every opinion or decision and that they have become so won over by my exquisite reasoning and persuasiveness that they express, “Aha, mama, I see the light,” and willingly accept my every limit, conclusion or judgment gladly and with grateful hearts.  Sometimes, it’s enough to just say, “It is so.  I’ve explained why.  You don’t have to like it; it is still so.”

* It’s ok for my kids to be angry with me.  Their anger can work itself out without my responding every single time in kind.

* It’s overwhelming to them and to me to vent all my collected frustration at their every mishap in any given moment.  “What!  You didn’t clean your room again?  You never clean your room, and you don’t go to bed on time, and you are always behind in your assignments, and you need a haircut, and you were late coming home from that party, and and and.”  As one wise counselor advised, “Don’t kitchen-sink it.

* Taking breaks really helps in the moment of anger (walk away, mama), and in the bigger picture (a date night out, a few days away).

* “We are all doing the best we can.  We can all do better.”  More wise words from the wise counselor.

* We are all destined to follow our own paths and sometimes those paths are mysterious and winding and all the amount of guidance and “whoah, Betsy’s” that I extend can’t always change a child’s individual journey.  Or at least not now in the moment and maybe never, as hard as that it is to accept.

* I do love my children unconditionally.  If they take a million years to figure things out, make terrible mistakes, and maybe never get their act together—these things won’t matter more to me than that I love them above and beyond anything in this world.  Period.  End.  Stop.

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Take Your Child To Vote Day
November 2, 2010 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Social Action, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off on Take Your Child To Vote Day

Do you want a sure fire way to model good behavior for your kids? Take them with you to vote.  For small children it is beginning an important ritual with them. For your school aged children,  not only is this modeling it a great opportunity to discuss what voting means and what a privilege it is. It can open up many discussions about  what matters to you, hear their ideas, and get them engaged with the world around them. It helps give them a sense of power and voice and responsibility.

Though it seems like government disappoints so much, voting is still a rite that many people in the world don’t have.  Though so many huge problems exist around us we can do our little part and instill that value in our children. That half hour or so, that you spend going to the polls together will be embedded in your child’s mind forever.

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Should We Cut The i-Embilical Cord?
September 23, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Mental Health, Parenting, Technology, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off on Should We Cut The i-Embilical Cord?

Technology has given us many ways to stay connected to our children: text, ichat, skype, email and cell phone. They keep us feeling in touch even when kids are off to summer camp or college. A new book entitled The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up by Barbara K. Hofer and Abigail Sullivan Moore challenges parents to think carefully about the benefits of  pulling the plug on these means of communication. The book looks at the downside of parents being over involved in the day to day, or many times a day, lives of their college age children. Children who were in such close contact were less able to problem solve on their own and were less competent in caring for themselves.

Hofer is not suggesting that parents cut contact with their kids but she does illustrate the benefit of the kind of independence and separateness we had from parents when we were in college.  She points out that less contact does not mean less close and that sometimes we can inadvertently undermine the young adult development that is so important by being overly connected.

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Talk Sex With Your Daughter
June 3, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Parenting, Teens · Permalink · Comments (1)


A recent study in the American Academy of Pediatrics shows a positive correlation between mother/daughter communication about sex, and the daughter’s decision to get the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine protects against a certain kind of cervical cancer due to an STD. Unvaccinated women were more likely to vaccinate in the future if they thought their mothers would approve. This is not to vote yea or nay on the vaccine itself, but rather to point out the impact of mothers and daughters talking together about sexual health.

The CDC reports adolescent girls are more vulnerable to STD’s than their male counterparts.

“Adolescent girls ages 15–19 years had the largest reported number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases (409,531) when compared to any other age group, followed closely by women ages 20-24, according to an annual report on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)…The report finds that more than 1.5 million cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea were reported in 2008.”

Whatever your daughter’s age-whether she is potty training, wanting to know where babies come from, developing breasts, or beginning to be sexually active-you can create an open door for her to come to you with questions. It will impact her health, self-esteem and sense of herself as a women one day.

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Melt-Down Or Blow-Up: Helping Your Teen In The Aftermath
April 20, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Mental Health, Parenting, Teens · Permalink · Comments (1)


By Annie Fox, M.Ed.

If your teen is upset and willing to talk to you about what’s going on, these steps can help you help him/her calm down and figure out the next best move. If your teen is not yet ready to talk, respect that and check back with him/her later. If your son/daughter is unwilling to talk to you for whatever reason and your gut tells you they need to talk to someone… get the help of another adult that you and your child trust.

1. Encourage your teen to ACKNOWLEDGE what he’s feeling and what triggered it. He isn’t required to say, “I’m stressed/pissed/worried, etc. and here’s why.” You certainly don’t want to pressure him by insisting he puts feelings into words. More stress is not what your teen needs right now! What matters most is that your teen tells himself the truth, AKA “I’m upset about _______.” That’s much better than pretending he’s not upset when clearly he is. Also, naming the emotion and the trigger helps to move your child from a purely reactive place into a more reflective (thinking) place. Exactly where you want him to go.

2. Your teen needs to STOP. Tell her calmly and firmly to put on the brakes. This is especially important if she’s in the middle of an argument on the phone, online, or in the real world. Continuing to fight will only escalate the situation (on both sides). No good will come of it and your teen is more likely to do or say something she will later regret. You are more likely to do the same. So stop yourself from reacting then tell her to STOP. If she won’t, you may have to take away the phone or computer for an enforced time out. If she’s arguing with you, simply remove yourself from the situation by saying, “I need a break. Let’s talk about this later when we’ve both calmed down.” Then make sure you revisit the conversation soon.

3. Tell your teen to CALM DOWN. Assuming he’s put on the brakes on his behavior, he now needs to chill in the emotion department. If your teen asks “Why should I?!” The simple answer is: “Because it’s the best thing you can do right now for yourself and the people around you.”

4. Take a BREAK. Or take a walk. Take a nap. Take a shower. Breathe. Count to 50. This advice works for you as well as for your teen. Make sure your teen knows that whatever it takes to calm down is good as long as it’s legal, healthy, respectful, and not against your core values. Make sure you model those rules in your own life. Explain that if your teen won’t calm down, stress will control them and they won’t get to Step #5 where solving their problem really begins.

5. THINK about your goal. Ask your (now calmer) teen: “What are you trying to do?” In other words: “You’ve got a situation here… what’s your idea for the best outcome?”

6. Ask: “Does someone need to change in order for you to achieve your goal?” If someone else must start doing something different then your teen’s goal is out of her hands. To pursue it is to set oneself up for more stress! Remind your teen that all we can ever control in life is our own response to what’s going on. When your teen can identify something she personally can work on, she’s ready to proceed to #7…

7. Ask: “What are your OPTIONS for reaching your goal?” Help your teen make a list of all the options for improving the situation. For each option, encourage him to predict what might happen as a result of choosing that option. Don’t evaluate your teen’s options! Keep your mouth closed unless he asks for your opinion. Guide him by asking: Will what you’re thinking of doing create more or less stress? In you? In a friend? In a group? Important questions to consider before any action is taken! This is an exercise in critical thinking. Let your teen take the lead, think through his options and come to his own conclusions. Your job is to facilitate the process not run it.

8. Ask your teen to CHOOSE the option that best HELPS the situation. Advise her that options which intentional hurt or embarrass other people, anger them or put you in danger will only make things worse. They’ll also create more stress and will bring your teen back to Step #1. Instead, encourage her to move forward. HINT: The option that makes the best sense for improving the situation is usually accompanied by feelings of empowerment and increased self-respect, if not immediately, then in the long run.

9. TAKE ACTION. Your teen should be ready to act. A viable (and mature) course of action may be to opt out of an ongoing argument. In other words, to choose “not take the bait.” In many teen social dramas, this is often an excellent move for your child to decide on. On the surface, it may look like doing nothing, but it actually is accomplishing a lot. And it often takes tremendous courage and/or self-control.

10. CONGRATULATE your teen for calming down and thinking things through. That’s so much healthier and more mature than reacting without thinking.

Annie Fox, M.Ed. is an award winning author, educator, and online adviser for parents and teens. Read excerpts from her books: Too Stressed to Think? and the new Middle School Confidential™ series. Download (free) her entire book: Teen Survival Guide to Dating & Relating.

Listen to her podcast series “Family Confidential: Secrets of Successful Parenting”

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