Gay Parents and Teenagers

Recently I spoke with a mother that is struggling with her daughter that is openly gay.  This daughter is in her 20′s and the parents are still having difficulties accepting this.  Looking for blame, searching for reasons and most of all, hoping “this will pass”.  I will not pass judgment on any parent or anyone, I am a firm believer until you walk in my shoes, you truly don’t know how you would feel.  I would like to believe I would be accepting of homosexuality in my kids, and I believe I would be, as I am very open and Liberal minded, but again, I have never been faced with it.  Yes, I have relatives that are openly gay, and I am more than fine with it.   I have many friends that are gay, and actually they are the most generous and wonderful, caring people.  I don’t want to talk about them like they are a species, they aren’t.  They are just like you and me, and every other human.  They have feelings, they have emotions and they have their beliefs.  We all have ideas of what makes us as an individual happy, but it is not what makes others happy.  Diversity and  tolerance makes the world go round.

Connect with Kids recently published an article on teen kids with gay parents.  Is it a struggling? If so, for who?  The kids, the parents or society?

Source: Connect with Kids

Teen Children of Gay Parents

“A lot of teenagers will use (the word) ‘gay’ to mean ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’… which is not true.”

– Jordan, 14, whose mother is a lesbian

Yes, the kids are alright. New research on the behavior of children of gay parents, published in the journal Family Process, reveals that the kids are not only psychologically healthy, but often appear to exhibit a lower incidence of social problems than their peers. What — and when – gay parents tell children can make a difference on how those kids handle their non-traditional family situation.

When Jordan was nine, his mom broke the news.

“Up to that point, I had not expressed to him that I was a lesbian,” says Lisa, his mom.

Jordan says initially he didn’t think much of it, but now that he’s older…

“I’m afraid a lot of people are going to be looking at my mom and others and thinking that ‘they’re not right,’ and that’s not true,” says Jordan.

Experts say adolescence for a child of a gay parent can be especially tough.

“You have a dual adjustment situation where a child is struggling to adjust to their own sexuality and to come to more adult terms about their parents sexuality, and on top of that, they’re trying to adjust to their peer group,” says Dr. Cathy Blusiewicz, an adolescent psychologist.

And what peers think and say can mean everything to a teenager.

“One difficulty of adolescence is that real desire to fit in and to be like everybody else,” says Dr. Blusiewicz.

Experts say support groups for children of gay parents can help your child meet other kids in the same situation.

“It’s comforting not to feel like you’re the only one,” says Dr. Blusiewicz.

And by talking openly about sexuality early on, at age-appropriate levels, experts say both straight and gay parents can help their child grow up to be more accepting adolescents.

“From a very young age, I have raised him to be open to difference,” says Mrs. Prince, “to stand up for who he is on any level, whether it’s about his family, or any other issue that he feels strongly about.

Jordan’s friends know his mom is a lesbian and think it’s no big deal. But to those who do, he says…

“I’m not really concerned about that. I don’t have to take the insults in. I don’t have to take weird looks and stuff like that.”

What We Need To Know

Teaching a child the dangers of harassment and/or bullying behavior based upon sexual preference can be a very difficult process for some parents. As with other discussions, there are a number of things that parents can do to make the discussion a little easier and more effective.

  • Parents need to inform themselves before they talk with their kids. Parents need to get the facts about homosexuality and need to be prepared to share the facts their kids in an age-appropriate manner.
  • Parents need to come to grips with their own feelings regarding gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and to share those values with their children in the context of the discussion. For many parents, this is the most difficult aspect of the conversation, and there are no easy answers to the problem.
  • Parents need to maintain a calm and non-critical atmosphere for the discussion. Try to use words that are comfortable and familiar when talking to kids about important topics. Parents should also try to encourage the child to talk and ask questions. They need to know that they can talk about things with the parents freely and without fear of consequence.
  • It is important for parents to search for a support group of other parents who share their same concerns and are facing the same issues. If one is not available in your area, organize one. The sharing of ideas and fears can help alleviate anxiety and give parents ideas and thoughts they may not have realized otherwise.

Resources

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Teens Smoking Cigarettes

A casual smoking habit can easily turn into a lifelong battle with addiction. Find out how to keep your teen from starting to smoke – or help him/her quit now.

With school opening, peer pressure can start.  Maybe a friend picked up this bad habit of smoking and your teen is curious about it.  Curiosity is normal – however be sure you have taken the time to talk to you your teen over and over again about the dangers of smoking.  It is a topic you don’t just talk about once, you have to remind your teen over and over about taking care of their bodies.

The Florida Quitline has valuable information, resources and tips to help you or your teen to quit smoking. It is easier said than done, as with many addictions, you have to have the desire to quit before you can start to give it up.

Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) is a state of the art anti-tobacco program specifically designed for high school students who want to quit smoking. N-O-T helps teens to stop smoking or reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke by identifying why they smoke, pinpointing social influences that encourage them to smoke, combating social pressures, understanding immediate benefits of quitting, setting realistic and attainable goals for change, and developing life management skills.

Call 1-800-LUNGUSA to learn more about N-O-T in your area.  Read more.

Parents Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff: Dangers of Digital Dieting and Teens

It is not a secret, being healthy is good for you.  Society dictates that being thin is in, however we need to understand that being healthy is priority.  Thin for one person may not be the same as it is for another. 

Teenagers surf the net more than ever and what they are finding can be educational but it can also be harmful to their health.  There are actually sites that promote anorexia and show your teens how to hide this deadly disorder.

Parents should also be aware of what their kids may be exposed to online – and the websites that promote dangerous and destructive dieting. The best Internet filter is the one that runs in teens’ heads – not any filter a parent may install on a home computer. Talk with your children about dangerous and inappropriate sites and keep the lines of communication open so that they might come to you when they encounter destructive information and images online. – Connect with Kids

The National Eating Disorders Association offers these tips for kids on eating well and feeling good about themselves:
 

  • Eat when you are hungry. Stop eating when you are full.
  • All foods can be part of healthy eating. There are no “good” or “bad” foods, so try to eat lots of different foods, including fruits, vegetables, and even sweets sometimes.
  • When having a snack try to eat different types.
  • If you are sad or mad or have nothing to do-and you are not really hungry find something to do other than eating.
  • Remember: kids and adults who exercise and stay active are healthier and better able to do what they want to do, no matter what they weigh or how they look.
  • Try to find a sport or an activity that you like and do it! Join a team, join the YMCA, join in with a friend or even practice by yourself

Broward County takes a closer look at obesity in children.

Be an educated parent, you will have healthier and safer teens.

Read more.

Parents Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff: Losing in America – Unemployment rising, should your teen pursue their goal or choose a job in demand

It is that time of the year again. Parents of teenagers graduating from high school or college are facing career decisions. What about taking a “gap year“? With today’s high unemployment should your teen consider a job that is in demand rather than going for their dream job?

What is best for your child and their goals?

  • 2-year college
  • 4-year college
  • Vocational School/Tech School
  • Grad School
  • State, private or community college

There isn’t a right or wrong answer, it is an individual choice depending on what is best both financially and professionally for your teen.

Pursuing your dreams versus choosing a career where jobs are plentiful. What do you say when your child’s dream is not practical? How can parents help their children choose a career path that is successful and rewarding.

  • Encourage your child to explore his or her options. Be supportive by asking your child, “Can I help you get connected?” or “Can I help you with researching a career?”
  • You need to remember this is not your career decision. Have trust in your child and be supportive, yet informative.
  • The world of work has changed since many parents made their first career choice. So some parents need to realize some of their information might be outdated.
  • Direct your child to resources where he or she can research his or her desired career.

Reference: Connect with Kids

As a parent, we always want our children to be happy. Helping your child find their ideal job may take longer than usual in today’s economy, however loving what you do in life can be priceless. In Florida Career Builders of Florida and College Grad in Florida may offer you further assistance in finding the perfect career for your teen.

Be an educated parent, you will be prepared and your children will have a bright future. Read more.

Related articles:

Hot Tips for Teens Looking for Jobs
Gap Smart: Should Your Teen Take a Year Off?
Parents Universal Resource Experts
Summer Jobs for Teens
College Visit Tips

Parents Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff: Emotional Overeating and Your Teenagers and Children

As parents/adults many people experience that gallon of ice cream when a stressful situation  is looming in your life.  When feelings of sadness or hopelessness overcomes them, some people simple turn to food.  It is no different for children, however we as parents need to recognize the signs and talk to our kids about it.  Read this recent article from Connect with Kids about Emotional Overeating and your children.

Source: Connect with Kids

Emotional Overeating

“They’d make fun of me because I was getting overweight, and I’d come home and I’d feel bad so I’d eat. The next day they’d make fun of me again, and I’d come home and I’d eat.”

– Cheyanne Fowler, 13

Thirteen-year-old Cheyanne began hiding food three years ago.

“I’d stick it under my bed,” she says. “Or, I’d get a pack of gummies and I’d save the wrapper and, you know, stick it in a drawer or something, hoping my mom wouldn’t find it.”

Hiding the food didn’t work, though.

“I would find wrappers in her room,” says her mom, Debbie. “I would find plates with food, like the crust off of toast; things like that hidden under the bed.”

And then Cheyanne started having trouble at school.

“They’d make fun of me because I was getting overweight,” she says. “And I’d come home and I’d feel bad, so I’d eat. The next day they’d make fun of me again, and I’d come home and I’d eat.”

She says she was using food to ease the pain. Only at the time, she didn’t know it.

“I didn’t notice how I was feeling,” says Cheyanne. “I guess I thought I was hungry. But now, I know that I wasn’t, that I was either upset or I was angry.”

Cheyanne started seeing Dr. Genie Burnett, a psychologist.

“We do one of two things with our feelings,” says Burnett. Either we talk them out or we act them out. Sometimes acting them out involves taking in food.”

Burnett asked Cheyanne to keep a food journal. Every time Cheyanne ate something, she would write down how she felt.

“Basically, what I’m trying to do is help them link what is going on in their mind with what is going on in their belly,” says Burnett.

“I guess we started talking about my feelings,” says Cheyanne, “and then I’d say, ‘Well, I’m hungry’ or I’d have, like, a candy bar. … And if we were talking about something that I didn’t feel all that great about talking about, … I’d start eating the candy bar.”

Cheyanne had to interrupt her pattern of feeling bad and then eating to compensate, says Burnett.

“Before you go to dinner, before you go to breakfast, before you do whatever,” she adds, “if you feel like bingeing, sit down and write down what you are thinking and what you are feeling.”

“I would either talk to my mom or something because we are really close and I tell her just about everything,” says Cheyanne. “Or, I’d talk to a friend, or I would just go up in my room and just sit a while and wait till I’m not feeling so bad and try to stay away from the kitchen.”

Tips for Parents

  • According to the American Dietetic Association, most people don’t even recognize they are engaging in emotional eating until they’ve gained a lot of weight. Parents should learn to recognize the warning signs – being overweight, having a history of weight fluctuations, eating alone, hoarding food, eating rapidly, eating until uncomfortably full, and having feelings of guilt or depression after eating.
  • Experts say encouraging kids to express their feelings can lower a child’s need to binge. Have younger kids draw pictures of how they are feeling. Afterwards, discuss the drawings.
  • When older children feel the need to binge, distractions may help. The American Dietetic Association suggests finding other things to do, for example, walking, riding a bike or playing with the dog.
  • Keep the kitchen stocked with plenty of fruits and vegetables. If children feel like bingeing, encourage them to have a small, healthy snack instead.

References

Parents Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff: Mother Daughter Conflicts

Well, not sure I should comment or let this speak for itself.  I think all mothers and daughters go through what we can call challenging times.  The good news is usually we all recover from them.  The bad news is with the stress of the holidays it can sometimes become more heated.  Connect with Kids just posted an article with some great tips and information about dealing with our daughters and the conflicts we do and will face.

Source: Connect with Kids

Mother Daughter Conflict

“A lot of it that has to do with, ‘Do I want to be like her or how can I be different and do I want to be different?’”

– Judy Greenberg, licensed clinical social worker

The holidays aren’t all pretty music, sparkling lights and beautifully wrapped gifts. When families spend a lot of time together, there can be conflict and often it’s between two people who one day will be the best of friends.

Lauren and her mother had a good relationship, until she turned 13. “We fought all the time,” Lauren remembers. “And it was usually screaming, yelling, drag-out fights,” echoes Lauren’s mother Terri Breach.

There was less conversation between the two and less time together. Lauren wanted more control over her life. Her mother didn’t want to give it up. “All of a sudden I felt like I just didn’t want to be with her anymore,” says Lauren. “I wanted to be with my friends. I wanted to do things on my own.”

“Which was hard,” says Breach. “It was very hard for me because I was like, ‘Wait, I’m still here.’”

“There’s a degree of loss there, and moms have to prepare themselves for that,” says Judy Greenberg, a licensed clinical social worker.

Experts say conflict between mothers and daughters typically starts during early adolescence when girls begin to search for their own identity apart from their parents – especially their mom. “A lot of it that has to do with, ‘Do I want to be like her or how can I be different and do I want to be different’?” explains Greenberg. When daughters break away, she says, sometimes it hurts.

“It was very hard for me because I still wanted her to be my little girl,” says Breach.

But experts say it’s really not personal. It is a normal part of development and what is needed is an extra dose of love and patience. That’s what worked for Lauren and her mother. They are once again close to each other.

“Part of it,” says Lauren, now 17, “is that I aged and matured. I’m not a junior high kid anymore. I’m a senior in high school, and so I can understand where my mom’s coming from now. And I feel like I enjoy her company more now.”

For Lauren’s mother, the key was letting go of her little girl and embracing her emerging young adult. “She is an incredible, beautiful young woman, and I couldn’t ask for a better daughter.”

Many mothers fear a daughter’s adolescent years. The mother-daughter relationship comprises conflicting feelings: love, anger, worry, resentment, envy and need. Its dynamics change as each female ages.
When daughters become young adults, the focus of the mother-daughter relationship is the daughter’s efforts to become an adult. While this is rewarding for the mother, it is also a significant expenditure of time and energy that focuses on one person — the daughter.

Research shows significant variations in mother-daughter relationships exist between ethnic groups. Euro-American women want to do fun activities with their mothers but also want to maintain certain boundaries. Asian-Indian and African-American women generally turn to their mothers for support, wisdom and advice. Hispanic women tend to want to be dutiful daughters and help their mothers.

The once-prominent fear of growing up to be like one’s mother is termed “matrophobia.” Today’s mothers and daughters are changing. As daughters hit their 20s and 30s, many, if not most, mothers and daughters admire and agree with each other. In addition:

  • Past literature shows that the mother-daughter relationship is considered the most significant of all intergenerational relationships.
  • The teen years are difficult for a mother because her daughter is basically a child in a very adult body.
  • Conflict arises in even the best relationships because both mother and daughter care greatly for one another.
  • Estrangement between a mother and a daughter is a combination of individual, familial and societal factors.
  • The reasons why mothers and daughters become estranged can be varied and complex.
  • Celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore and Meg Ryan have had well-publicized, toxic relationships with their mothers for a variety of reasons beyond fame and fortune.

There are several reasons why mothers and daughters undergo conflict during adolescence. The most common are:

  • As the emotional caretakers of the family, mothers often feel responsible for ensuring each child survives and even thrives during adolescence.
  • As daughters are blossoming into shapely young women, their mothers are often in or approaching midlife. Mothers may find it difficult to live with adolescent daughters who remind them of their ever-diminishing youth.
  • A daughter’s effort to develop her own individuality motivates her to examine her mother’s every action. Mothers typically describe feeling scrutinized by their teens.
  • In general, women find handling conflict and anger to be difficult.

Tips for Parents

Society expects women to be good mothers and holds them responsible, more so than fathers, for good parenting. Often, those who fail might be deemed “bad women.”

As hard as it is for most, an important part of parenting is letting go. The best gift a mother can give a daughter — and in turn, as she becomes an adult, that a daughter can give her mother — is permission to be herself. For a mother self-awareness is important, as is not placing undue emphasis, worry and concern on how her daughter turns out.

  • Even if you had a great rivalry with your mother, it doesn’t mean the pattern must continue with your daughter.
  • Realize that all relationships have downsides. A mother and daughter should focus on the positive aspects of their relationship.
  • Invest time and energy in your relationship.
  • Begin to give your daughter the tools to make her own decisions when she’s young.
  • Enter your child’s world: Listen to her music, even if you hate it. Take a genuine interest in her motivations. Participate in activities together, and be sure some are what she likes, even if it’s something you don’t normally do.
  • Start mother-daughter traditions — it’s never too late to begin new ones — and make a promise to keep the traditions alive year after year.
  • Trust and communication are key aspects of your relationship. Adult daughters reported that they wanted respect and trust in their relationship with their mothers.
  • For minor conflicts, daughters should try to understand the life circumstances, challenges and choices of their mothers.
  • When necessary, remind your daughter you are the parent.
  • Join a women’s group or look into family therapy together to help resolve serious long-standing problems.

References

  • Discovery Health
  • iParenting.com
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Pioneer Thinking

Parents Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff: TV Inhibits Reading

This topic is not new.  With the expansion of cable networks, Internet and video games, our kids/teens are spending more time in front of “screens.”  Whether it is a television – computer – or cell phone – more and more kids, starting younger in age, are spending more time “watching” rather than reading.  What can we do to promote reading?  Learn more in this article from Connect with Kids and some great parenting tips.

teenswatchingtvSource: Connect with Kids

TV Inhibits Reading

“Television just presents material. It doesn’t question it. It’s the questioning and the understanding that the kids really need.”

– Suzanne Starkey, M.D., Psychiatrist

According to the latest Neilsen survey, the average 11-year-old watches more than 28 hours of television a week; the average five-year-old- 32 hours a week. And new research suggests that all those hours have an impact on their vocabulary.

Like most children, Zachary and his little sister, Brooklyn, like to watch television.

“Usually I watch Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Animal Planet,” says Zachary. Brooklyn’s favorite show: “Sponge Bob.”

The children’s parents try to set limits – usually an hour of television a day, sometimes more on the weekends.

“I do think too much is not good because you are just kind of brain dead when you are watching TV. A little of the right thing can actually be okay,” says Lisa Busman, Zachary and Brooklyn’s mother.

A University of Washington study finds that the more TV that a baby watches, the smaller their vocabulary. In fact, for every hour of TV, a child learns six to eight fewer words compared to babies who never watch TV at all.

Psychiatrist Dr. Suzanne Starkey explains, “Television just presents material. It doesn’t question it. It’s the questioning and the understanding that the kids really need.”

She says the same rules apply to videos that claim to be educational. To learn, babies require face to face interaction. “When we’re learning about language, the back and forth interaction between mother and child is very important. That’s where the child will learn sounds, and that’s where the child will learn some degree of inflection.”

Experts say instead of passive activities, children of all ages are better served by being active – playing, learning an instrument, spending time with family, and of course reading, which is exactly what Brooklyn and Zachary love to do.

Nearly 40 years ago, a critic dubbed television a “vast wasteland.” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is weighing in with its own opinion. AAP officials released statements that say television can have negative long-term effects, such as weight problems and lack of creativity, on children.

Nancy Beyer has pulled the cable at home and bans all television on weekends for her 12-year-old daughter.

“It makes me use my imagination more than lots of kids do,” says Beyer’s daughter, Jessica.

Although Jessica’s mother hopes that the television ban will nudge her daughter to become more sociable, Jessica admits at times the opposite is true. She says she feels excluded at school when other kids are discussing what shows were on and she has to remind them that “we don’t have cable.”

Some experts say that by dismissing television, parents may miss some key teaching opportunities with their kids. Dr. Vincent Ho, a psychiatrist, says that parents should not let the television become a passive experience but should use it to stimulate discussion. He suggests that even bad television can be a good learning tool and that many opportunities to discuss what is going on exist.

Tips for Parents

A study completed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 57% of parents with preschool children believe that television has done more good than harm. However, the opinions were different among parents with children aged 6 to 11. Their opinions were primarily based on the belief that a lack of quality programs for older children exists.

Based on its study, the AAP makes three major recommendations for children and television viewing:

  • Children under 2 years old should not watch television. Children under 2 need to receive stimuli from interaction with older people for proper brain development.
  • Older children should not have television sets in their bedrooms. By keeping televisions in common areas of the house, you are better able to monitor your child’s viewing.
  • Pediatricians should have parents fill out “media history” forms along with medical history information. Spending too much time in front of the television (video games, computers, etc.), can lead to physical health issues, such as obesity. And in younger kids, it may contribute to the lack of development in cognitive skills.

While watching television can jumpstart discussions with your child, it is important that you encourage your child in other active and educational endeavors. The Medical College of Wisconsin offers the following advice for limiting your child’s television and other media intake:

  • Ask your child to tell you what his or her favorite shows are and together predetermine which ones he or she will watch on a regular basis.
  • Set limits to time spent on the computer when not engaged in schoolwork. More than one to two hours per day is excessive.
  • Help your child to structure the rest of his or her time by looking for opportunities in the community, such as after-school sports, school-based clubs, scouting and school or community artistic endeavors (band, orchestra, etc.).
  • Make frequent trips to the library and help your child choose age-appropriate books to read.
  • Play games or sports with your child.
  • Last but not least, set a good example by limiting your own television time.

References

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Annenberg Public Policy Center
  • Extreme Learning Center
  • Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Neilsen Survey