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Teen Help Blog

Just Because Your Teen Needs Help Doesn’t Mean You’re a Bad Parent

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 03, 2018  /   Posted in Featured Article, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Depression, Teen Drug Use, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

What would you do if you found out your normally good teen was engaging in risky behavior? Maybe you’ve been ignoring signs of substance abuse. Making excuses for their erratic mood swings. Suddenly they are becoming withdrawn, failing in school and unrecognizable — but you figure, it’s a typical teenager, or is it?

In these times of uncertainty, are we caught questioning our parenting skills?

From the moment a child is born many of us are filled with unexpected overwhelming feelings. An unconditional love that we only heard about from friends and family, but never imagined until we held our own infant.

We’re prepared for those terrible two’s, which are not so horrible in the scheme of life. We’re possibly a bit tired running after a toddler, however the rewards of watching them go off to pre-school then kindergarten are so exhilarating.  Proud moments.

We start the sports, maybe dance and in my situation, gymnastics with my daughter (soccer with my son). Never a dull moment. Many parents soon find out what their mom and dad went through being a taxi-parent.

Yes, this is bliss — raising our children (capturing the memories like our parents did and quickly realizing it’s gone before we know it).

Then the tween and teenage years begin.

The child we used to know

We raise our children with a foundation to be good and hopefully, respectable people. Many families schedule meal times together at least a few times a week, some are dedicated to their religious beliefs and have somewhat of a stable home environment. It’s more common today to have a single parent household, like mine, but I don’t feel that’s a handicap. It’s a way of parenting that only requires adjustments compared a two-parent home.

It doesn’t matter the shape or size of your family, sadly it won’t prevent good teenagers from landing in hot water.

What to do you do when your angel that you raised from birth (or possibly adopted at birth) is suddenly someone you no longer recognize? The child you used to bounce on your knee or cheer on at baseball practice or clap for at dance recitals? The son or daughter that used to be part of the family — part of your life and most importantly used to be happy.

Good teens, bad choices

You’re suddenly  faced with a defiant, angry and rebellious youth. You suspect they are experimenting with drugs, something they swore they would never do — and you had so many discussions about this. They drop out of their favorite activities, they’ve always been a good student however now barely passing and you realize their peer group is changing.

What do you do when you feel like you’re being held hostage in your own home? Locking your own bedroom door – checking your medicine and liquor cabinets and walking on eggshells with how you communicate with your teen for fear they may explode with you?

For almost two decades I’ve helped parents of at-risk teens who are facing one of their biggest fears – they failed as a parent.

The majority of parents  that contact me have already exhausted all their local resources such as therapy, out-patient and sometimes even short-term in patient. In some cases they have even sent their teen to live with a relative in hopes that it would make the difference.  It doesn’t.

What do you do when you’ve reached your wit’s end?

Here are a few comments parents have made to me over the years. Does any of it sound familiar to you? The names have been changed for privacy:

 

My 17 year-old son who has a bad attitude about school, even though he is smart, is hanging out with the wrong friends, has been caught drinking and smoking pot with friends, doesn’t play sports anymore. – Debbie, Bradenton, FL

 

My daughter is 15. Defiant and starting using drugs. She will not listen, she sneaks out at night and has gotten two curfew tickets. – Kelly, Dallas TX

 

My 16 yr old son is very bright and articulate. He does drink, smoke pot and take mushrooms, has a violent reaction to being asked to help do anything around the house, has a superiority complex and feels he knows more than anyone. -David, Seattle WA

 

Chelsea was a good student until sophomore year.  She was bullied by a group of girls and beat up and then neglected from her group of friends and has steadily declined.  Quit sports/poor grades and now as freshman in college, I believe she is doing drugs and admitted to high alcohol consumption. -Terri, Peoria IL

 

Trevor 16. Since last summer, he’s been smoking pot but denies current usage.  He’s intellectually bright and musically gifted, but grades in HS are down the drain–3rd quarter: 2 F’s and 2 D’s in his academic subjects. -Andrew, Greenwich CT

 

Mark 15. We’re tired of being held hostage in our home–can’t leave him alone, afraid to say anything that might cause him to “snap” and go ballistic. – Linda, Richmond VA

 

Jeffrey was a victim of bullying for several months until he had enough and got into a fight at school and got suspended. He pretty much “beat the other kid up” for lack of a better phrase. Lisa, St. Louis MO

 

14 year old daughter. I feel like a hostage most of the time and forced to emerge through a mine field never knowing when I am going to be blown up with her mood swings.  I am frightened for her and for us. – Leann, Laguna Niguel CA

 

My daughter is 13 years old. She’s in such a rage. The heart that use to be in her chest is now just a black empty hole. She doesn’t care who she hurts both mentally and physically. Samantha, Westchester NY

 

16 yr old son. We need something that he can’t just walk out of. My Wife and I are extremely stressed and it is getting worse. We feel like hostages in our own home. That is not healthy. -Bruce, Denver CO

And then there was me

My kids grew up in Broward County, only minutes from Parkland in Weston, Florida where you would never imagine the unthinkable could occur — until it does.

Living in areas like Parkland or Weston may seem like living in a bubble. What many don’t realize is what goes on behind these gated communities and inside some of these big homes is the same as what is going on everywhere. Parents are looking for answers as to how to raise difficult teens.

Many remain silent because of judgment they receive from others. Maybe instead of pointing fingers or shaming each other we should start talking and helping our neighbor when we realize they have a teen in trouble.

It’s easy to sit back and say this could never happen to you, especially if you never had a child, or your child is still young — however teen-hood has a way of playing tricks on your predictable life. Although many have had the typical ride of a bumpy teenager – some of us had to take the hard-way around.

It’s okay, we paved the road for you to learn from.

I had a good teen – she was/is my everything. She made some really bad choices. I had to make the leap to outside help after exhausting all my local resources (and her short stay at grandma’s).

Making the decision to send your child to a residential therapy is not easy. You don’t give birth to your children with the expectation that you will be sending them away before their college years. You feel, as a parent, like a failure.

I made a lot of mistakes that I hope parents now are learning from. With the conversation rising on mental health, don’t be afraid to advocate for your teen if they need the extra step that mine did.

By Sue Scheff, Founder of Parents Universal Resource Experts and author of Wit’s End: A Mother and Daughter’s True Story (HCI, 2008) and Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness & Compassion In An Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, Oct 2017).

 

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Mentally Strong Kids Have Parents Who Refuse To Do These 13 Things

Posted by Sue Scheff on March 30, 2018  /   Posted in Featured Book, Mental Health, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens, Teen Depression, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

By Amy Morin

Raising a mentally strong kid doesn’t mean he won’t cry when he’s sad or that he won’t fail sometimes. Mental strength won’t make your child immune to hardship – but it also won’t cause him to suppress his emotions.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Mental strength is what helps kids bounce back from setbacks. It gives them the strength to keep going, even when they’re plagued with self-doubt. A strong mental muscle is the key to helping kids reach their greatest potential in life.

But raising a mentally strong kid requires parents to avoid the common yet unhealthy parenting practices that rob kids of mental strength. In my book, “13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do“, I identify 13 things to avoid if you want to raise a mentally strong kid equipped to tackle life’s toughest challenges:

1. Condoning a victim mentality

Striking out at the baseball game or failing a science test doesn’t make a child a victim. Rejection, failure, and unfairness are a part of life.

Refuse to attend your kids’ pity parties. Teach them that no matter how tough or unjust their circumstances, they can always take positive action.

2. Parenting out of guilt

Giving in to guilty feelings teaches your child that guilt is intolerable. Kids who learn this won’t be able to say no to someone who says, “Be a friend and let me copy your paper,” or, “If you loved me, you’d do this for me.”

Show your kids that even though you feel guilty sometimes – and all good parents do – you’re not going to allow your uncomfortable emotions get in the way of making wise decisions.

3. Making kids the center of the universe

If you make your entire life revolve around your kids, they’ll grow up thinking everyone should cater to them. And self-absorbed, entitled adults aren’t likely to get very far in life.

Teach your kids to focus on what they have to offer the world, rather than what they can gain from it.

4. Allowing fear to dictate choices

Although keeping your kids inside a protective bubble will spare you a lot of anxiety, playing it too safe teaches your child that fear must be avoided at all times.

Show your kids that the best way to conquer fear is to face it head-on, and you’ll raise courageous people who are willing to step outside their comfort zones.

5. Giving their kids power over them

Letting kids dictate what the family will eat for dinner or where the family goes on vacation gives kids more power than they are developmentally ready to handle. Treating kids like an equal – or the boss – actually robs them of mental strength.

Give your kids an opportunity to practice taking orders, listening to things they don’t want to hear, and doing things they don’t want to do. Let your kids make simple choices while maintaining a clear family hierarchy.

6. Expecting perfection

Expecting your kids to perform well is healthy, but expecting them to be perfect will backfire. Teach your kids that it’s okay to fail. It’s fine, and normal, not to be great at everything they do.

Kids who strive to become the best version of themselves, rather than the best at everything, won’t make their self-worth dependent upon how they measure up to others.

7. Letting kids avoid responsibility

Letting kids skip out on chores or avoid getting an after-school job can be tempting. Afer all, you likely want your kids to have a carefree childhood.

But children who perform age-appropriate duties aren’t overburdened. Instead, they’re gaining the mental strength they need to become responsible citizens.

8. Shielding kids from pain

Hurt feelings, sadness, and anxiety are part of life. Letting kids experience those painful feelings gives them opportunities to practice tolerating discomfort.

Provide your kids with the guidance and support they need to deal with pain so they can gain confidence in their ability to handle life’s inevitable hardships.

9. Feeling responsible for their kids’ emotions

Cheering your kids up when they’re sad and calming them down when they’re upset means you take responsibility for regulating their emotions. Kids need to gain emotional competence so they can learn to manage their own feelings.

Proactively teach your child healthy ways to cope with their emotions so they don’t depend on others to do it for them.

10. Preventing kids from making mistakes

Correcting your kids’ math homework, double checking to make sure they’ve packed their lunch, and constantly reminding them to do their chores won’t do them any favors. Natural consequences can be some of life’s greatest teachers.

Let your kids mess up sometimes and show them how to learn from their mistakes so they can grow wiser and become stronger.

11. Confusing discipline with punishment

Punishment involves making kids suffer for their wrongdoing. Discipline, however, is about teaching them how to do better in the future.

Raising a child who fears “getting in trouble” isn’t the same as raising a child who wants to make good choices. Use consequences that help your kids develop the self-discipline they need to make better choices.

12. Taking shortcuts to avoid discomfort

Although giving in to a whining child or doing your kids’ chores for them will make your life a little easier right now, those shortcuts instill unhealthy habits in your kids for the long term.

Role model delayed gratification and show your kids that you can resist tempting shortcuts. You’ll teach them they’re strong enough to persevere even when they want to give up.

13. Losing sight of their values

Many parents aren’t instilling the values they hold dear in their children. Instead, they’re so wrapped up in the day-to-day chaos of life that they forget to look at the bigger picture.

Make sure your priorities accurately reflect the things you value most in life, and you’ll give your children the strength to live a meaningful life.

Order on Amazon today!

Visit our P.U.R.E. Library of more valuable parenting books.


Are you considering struggling with your teen or considering residential therapy? Confused by all the jargon on the Internet and marketing spam? Be an educated parent – contact us today for insights on researching safe and quality boarding schools and programs.

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5 Ways to Combat Cyberbullying for Teens

Posted by Sue Scheff on March 28, 2018  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Teen Help

In 2017 we heard a lot about digital resilience, but do we understand what it is?

Helping our teens be ready for online hate and digital discourse offline can better prepare them when they are faced with it. Reality is that incivility exists – sadly this is a human behavior that we don’t have control over, but we can choose how we handle it.

Today our kids consider their digital life as important as their lives offline, so it’s important to give them as much knowledge and encouragement to know they are not alone when they are faced with cyber-hate.

Cyberbullying is not only impacting our teen’s emotionally – it causes them to miss school, become withdrawn, drop out of sports or other activities they once enjoyed, failing when they were once good students, changing peer groups or becoming isolated and more. Teens can experience a higher level of stress and anxiety when they are struggling with online bullying.

The most troubling outcome of cyberbullying and online harassment is the rise in bullycide. Too many young lives have already been taken — parents need to educate themselves to better protect their kids offline to handle online issues.

5 ways to build digital resilience

  1. Prepare them for the ugly side of the Internet or possibly being upset by what people say. Remind them it could be inappropriate content that slips through filters. Being forewarned is being forearmed.
  2. Show them how to block individuals, flag and report abusive content, and when to report incidents. Emphasize the importance of telling someone “in real life.”
  3. Show your teen how easily digital pictures can be manipulated. The realization that not everything is what it seems is a useful first step – understanding that life is not as perfect as it may seem virtually. Teens may be familiar with the digital world but less familiar with the motivations for creating ‘fake’ images.
  4. Help them to think through the possible consequences of what they post online. Remind them that there is no rewind, once it’s posted it’s nearly impossible to take back. Fifteen minutes of humor is not worth a lifetime of humiliation.
  5. Encourage your teen to socialize in person with their friends. Communicating solely behind a screen can be isolating. Socializing in person builds more face-to-face contact in helping your child have empathy and compassion towards people.

As we know communication is key with your teenager, yet can also be challenging. Have you considered book chats? My latest book, Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion in an Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, October 2017) was written for both teens and parents and perfect for discussions on digital wisdom, cyberbullying and making good cyber-decisions.

Amazon has a special offer on Shame Nation – buy a few copies, we have a book discussion guide to help you get started.

Together we can start curbing this culture of cruelty and bring it to a civil nation.

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The Truth About Teen Vaping

Posted by Sue Scheff on March 13, 2018  /   Posted in Featured Article, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Teen Depression, Teen Drug Use, Teen Help

More and more parents are contacting us about their teenager vaping.

Is Vaporizing Safer Than Smoking?  Why Vaping Isn’t Healthy for Teens?

Vaping is less harmful than smoking, but it’s still bad for teens according to Sandra Gordon in her article for YourTeenMag.

First, the good news: Teen smoking isn’t as cool as it once was. Over the past 40 years, smoking rates among teens have fallen nearly 23 percent.

The not-so-great news? More than two million middle and high school students use e-cigarettes (vape). E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid (“juice”), turning it into an aerosol that the user inhales. E-cigarettes don’t produce the same mix of tar and carcinogens as conventional cigarettes, but they’re far from harmless, says Steven Schroeder, M.D., director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center in San Francisco.

The juice in e-cigarettes is available in enticing flavors like mint, mango, tobacco, or crème brûlée. Most of the time, it also contains nicotine, but research shows that only a quarter of high schoolers know this. Juice may also contain other chemicals known to be toxic to humans, such as ethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze; formaldehyde; volatile organic compounds; and heavy metals, like lead and diacetyl.

First, the good news: Teen smoking isn’t as cool as it once was. Over the past 40 years, smoking rates among teens have fallen nearly 23 percent.

The not-so-great news? More than two million middle and high school students use e-cigarettes (vape). E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid (“juice”), turning it into an aerosol that the user inhales. E-cigarettes don’t produce the same mix of tar and carcinogens as conventional cigarettes, but they’re far from harmless, says Steven Schroeder, M.D., director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center in San Francisco.

The juice in e-cigarettes is available in enticing flavors like mint, mango, tobacco, or crème brûlée. Most of the time, it also contains nicotine, but research shows that only a quarter of high schoolers know this. Juice may also contain other chemicals known to be toxic to humans, such as ethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze; formaldehyde; volatile organic compounds; and heavy metals, like lead and diacetyl.

Is Vaporizing Safer Than Smoking?

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, six out of 10 teens believe that using e-cigarettes causes only “a little” or “some” harm, as long as they don’t vape daily. But that’s not true, and the risks range from the physical to the psychological. Nicotine in any form isn’t healthy for a teen’s lungs or brain, which is still growing until around age 25. According to a recent study in the Journal of Physiology, nicotine exposure in adolescence can make the brain sensitive to other drugs and prime it for future substance abuse.

Just as with regular cigarette smoking, the nicotine from vaping gets into the lungs and bloodstream, and keeps the smoker coming back for more. “You can get addicted to an e-cigarette,” says Bill Blatt, director of Tobacco Programs for the American Lung Association. In teens, nicotine is more addictive and can mess with the brain’s hardwiring, leading to mood disorders and permanent impulse control. Plus, e-cigarette smokers are four times more likely to become traditional cigarette smokers. On top of these concerns, e-cigarettes can also be used as a delivery system for marijuana and other drugs.

The FDA has banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but teens still find ways to get them. Even if you don’t think they are vaping, it’s worth discussing—e-cigarettes are easy to hide. Because the smoke isn’t as noticeable as it is with regular cigarettes, a teen can take a draw from a vaping pen and put it in their pocket without an adult seeing it. “They can even smoke in class,” Blatt says.

How to Convey to Your Teen That Vaping Isn’t Healthy

Initiate an ongoing conversation instead of a lecture.

Start casual conversations about the dangers of e-cigarettes, such as when you see an ad on TV or come across an e-cigarette shop while driving together. (E-cigarette stores are fairly common now, and usually have some form of the word “vape” or “vapor” in their names.) Or, to get your teen talking, ask them what they think about e-cigarettes. As the conversation gets going, mention that vaping can be as addictive as smoking regular cigarettes and that it’s bad for your brain, making it harder to concentrate and control your impulses. Texting is another great way to communicate your message. Your teen can read the info at the timing of their choice without feeling lectured.

Read the full article on YourTeenMag.

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Get Your Teen To Unplug With These Day Trip Ideas

Posted by Sue Scheff on March 12, 2018  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Summer Camps

According to CNN.com, new studies indicate that teens spend 9 hours a day using media such as smartphones, TVs, and computers. Whether this time is spent on social media, playing video games, watching movies, or listening the music, the fact is that kids are spending more time on screens than they are on homework or getting much needed sleep.

While these findings may be alarming to those without children, those of us with middle/high school aged kids are more likely to nod our heads in agreement than question the report’s accuracy. It feels as though we are constantly battling digital media for our children’s attention and quality time is hard to come by.

Check out these fun activities that will get your kids to unplug!

Get Outside

This is an activity the entire family can partake in. Whether you spending time at local beaches, parks, or hiking trails, breathing fresh air is sure to do everyone some good. To make this activity last all day, pack a picnic and bring along some playing cards or games (Apples to Apples is a family favorite) or choose a destination with volleyball, basketball, or tennis courts. But don’t forget to plan ahead and pack the proper sports gear!

Visit an Entertainment Complex

Here’s the perfect opportunity to drop your kids off for an afternoon of fun while you catch up on some necessary errands (just be sure to check the unsupervised age limit). Most entertainment centers offer arcade games, go karts, mini golf, laser tag, batting cages, and more! With all there is to offer, they’ll forget all about their phones and TV screens. If your area doesn’t have an entertainment complex, do a quick online search for a particular activity such as paintball or indoor trampolines as an alternative.

Visit an Amusement or Water Park

An activity for the whole family! Ride roller coasters, enjoy carnival food, and spend time outside at a local amusement park. If you’re expecting a hot summer, considering visiting a water park instead. You won’t regret it when you’re floating down the lazy river under a blazing sun thinking of all the people sweating as they wait in long lines for rides. Don’t forget that many popular parks offer local discounts, multi-day pass deals, promotional deals, or season passes, so do some research on how you can save on your admission tickets before paying full price!

Take an Art Class

Unleash your inner Picasso in a class at a local art studio. Whether you’re elbow deep in clay or learning the latest in photography, this is an activity that is sure to hold your kid’s attention. Consult with them first before choosing the type of class you attend and maybe they’ll discover an interest that will draw them away from their screens for years to come!

Visit a Museum

Whether your children are interested in science, history, cars, or art, it is likely that your city is bursting with museums waiting to be discovered. Create a list of all the local attractions and allow them to choose which you visit. Work your way through the list and make note of your favorites. Don’t forget: Museums are meant to be explored more than once!

Go Shopping

The perfect activity for birthdays and just before they go back to school: A shopping excursion. If you live in a warmer climate, seek out an outdoor shopping mall and spend the whole day wandering through stores and enjoying local restaurants. Tired of frequenting the same stores? Try visiting a new district or nearby city that you’ve never been to. Maybe you’ll discover a new shop that you’ll want to return to on the regular!

Attend a Local Sporting Event

Does your child have a favorite sports team? Surprise them with a set of tickets! We can guarantee they’d rather be watching the game live than on a screen at home, and the excitement from the other fans is sure to create an entirely new experience they’ll want to have over and over. If you’d like to make a full night of it, grab a meal at a sports pub beforehand to get psyched for the big game!

Partake in Local Events

Pick up a local newspaper or peruse the web to find out about the events happening in your neck of the woods. Every city has their own local attractions and festivals that you won’t want to miss. These events are also great options for those on a budget as they are often inexpensive or free!

While it is true that tweens and teens today spend the majority of their waking hours with their eyes locked on screens, there are things we can do to keep them active and a part of the real world. Not only is this crucial for our kid’s development, it’ll build the relationship we have with them in the process.

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Contributor: Jayson Goetz is a writer from Phoenix, Arizona that is passionate about traveling for all ages.  Being a broke writer, Jayson soon learned that if he wants to travel he needs to find the best deals.  He loves sharing his experiences and tips in hopes of helping more people and teens travel the world.

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Bullycide: Understanding Cyberbullying

Posted by Sue Scheff on March 06, 2018  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens

We’re barely into 2018 when we’ve already have had several headlines of youth taking their lives from cyber-humiliation – across the country and the globe:

Dolly Everett of Australia, Sarah Ullman of California and Gabriella Green of Florida.

Young girls that were bullied online and didn’t feel they had a way out. The term bullycide has now been defined to describe these young people that become so emotionally distressed by (online and offline) harassment/bullying that they commit suicide.

Are girls getting meaner?

One parent who knew Dolly Everett and her family shared how his daughter was also victim of online bullying. According to Daily Telegraph, this father said his 15-year-old daughter Katelyn had been bullied relentlessly via Snapchat for years.

He posted a photo on Facebook of one of the horrible messages he said Katelyn regularly receives.

“Why don’t you just go cut your wrist until you bleed out,” the message said.

“You’ll do everyone a favour. Go do what dolly did it should’ve been you not her”.

Katie Hurley, author of the new bestselling book, No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong Confident and Compassion Girls (Penguin, January 2018) encourages parents to talk to their daughter’s about relational aggression.

In No More Mean Girls, Katie Hurley stresses the importance of starting these conversations early:

“Define words like gossip, teasing, taunting, public humiliation, excluding, cliques or groups, and cyberbullying (yes, even if your child “never has screen time” and “has no chance of getting a phone anytime soon.”) Avoiding these topics will only keep your daughter in the dark and render her powerless when she does confront them. Educating her and talking about positive alternatives empowers her and prepares her.” – Katie Hurley, No More Mean Girls (Penguin, January 2018)

Short chats are better than long chats

As a family cyber-advocate for over a decade, I’ve encouraged parents to talk to their kids offline about online safety. This is not the sex talk, this is the tech chat. In reality, these are so much easier and can be fun. The one hiccup is — they have to be as regular as, how was your day at school.

We all know that communication is key to help keep our kids safe, both online and off — but at the same time, we understand that talking to our teens (especially) can be a struggle. Maybe we can only squeeze in five – ten minutes at a time, which is better than nothing, especially if it’s on a regular basis.

  • Driving to school, a sporting event, dropping them off at a friend’s house etc. Anytime your “side-by-side” with your child in a car is a great time to connect with them.
  • Coffee shops, ice cream parlors (or smoothies) – Enjoy a treat with them – and talk tech. Teens love their technology – and in reality, they do want you to be interested in their online life.
  • Family dinners – We know parents try, but even if you can do this once or twice a week, make it a habit to ask about everyone’s cyber-life. Any new apps? Websites or virtual friends? Most importantly – have they witnessed any online hate – and what do they do about it?

Yes – talk about what to do when they read people being hurt online. Recently a young teen won a contest for his video on helping bystanders become upstanders. In my interview with him, he shared how he was once a victim of bullying — and didn’t share it with with parents, but wished he had. His video, Leave A Message, is an empowering three minutes you need to share with your child.

Parents, you need to be more involved and interested in your teen’s cyber-life. It truly matters.

Learn more about how to help your child build digital resilience.

Understand why some kids aren’t talking to their parents when they are suffering with digital hate, and try to reassure your teen that no matter what, you are there for them without judgement.

Book chats with teens can truly open up dialogue. My recent book, Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion In An Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, Oct 2017) offers a discussion guide that can help you start a conversation with your teenager. Shame Nation is for teens and parents alike to read.

Let’s not wait for your name or a friend or family to become a headline – start your chats today.

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Unselfie by Michele Borba

Posted by darcy56 on March 05, 2018  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Featured Book, Parenting Books, Uncategorized

9 Proven and teachable habits to nurture children’s empathy and why developing empathy is key predictor to help kids succeed in our global, digital-driven world.

Why Kids Are Bystanders Rather Than Upstanders

Did you know that when a bystander decides to step in on behalf of a peer that is being harassed, 57 percent of the time the bullying is stopped within 10 seconds? Yet in most cases only 19 percent of bystanders will get involved in helping a friend or peer.

Why?

Educational psychologist and renown parenting and bullying prevention expert, Dr. Michele Borba, reveals in her twenty-fourth book, UnSelfie, Why Empathic Kids Succeed In Our All-About-Me World that teens today are 40 percent less empathic than those of thirty years ago and narcissism are increased by 58 percent. She points out that as “empathy wanes, bullying can rise, and tormentors begin to see victims as “objects,” not human beings.”

The good news is, as Dr. Borba shares, “Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured. And so can moral courage. Empathy and courage are a powerful combo to solve the bullying crisis.”

Why are our youth not stepping in and helping each other and becoming Upstanders?

Dr. Borba interviewed over 500 children from around the globe for her book, UnSelfie. She found that bullying is a concern for all kids worldwide, and reasons they don’t intervene are similar regardless of region, culture, or demographics.

UnSelfie describes the top six reasons why kids don’t step in to help:

Powerless. “I don’t know how to make it stop.” Most kids don’t know how to step in. There is a lack of training and communication from the adult to the students. Kids witness 85 percent of bullying incidents, usually when adults aren’t present. So we must educate them on how to step in safely.

Vague expectations. “I wasn’t sure if should help.” Kids fear they will make things worse, be embarrassed, or get themselves (or others) in trouble. But if they have clear expectations, know adults will support them, and understand what bullying is, they are more likely to help.

Peer pressure. “I don’t want to be a snitch.” Friends play a big part in our children’s lives, and losing social status is a huge kid concern.

The diffusion of responsibility. “Somebody else will help.” Bystanders are less likely and slower to intervene if others are present because they assume that someone else will step in, so no else does.

Empathy overarousal. “I felt too bad to help.” There’s no doubt that bullying can cause severe emotional harm to the bullied, but witnesses also suffer severe psychological and physiological stress.

Weak adult support.
 “My mom didn’t believe me.” Many kids admitted they didn’t tell an adult about a bullying incident “because she didn’t believe me.” Some said the adult downplay the severity: “The Teacher said it wasn’t a big deal.” Others worried that it might make things worse and they’d be targeted next. Fear of retaliation is a huge concern.

While interviewing hundreds of kids about bullying, Borba heard similar types of comments worldwide:

Columbian kids: “Do other kids in the world hurt like us?
Military kids of US bases: “Ask teachers to watch us to make us feel safer.”
British teens: “There’s so bullying that we can’t think.”
U.S. kids: “No one listens, and we’re hurting. Thanks for listening.”

We may be from different parts of the globes, but our commonality is that we all hurt and fear the same. Borba contends that empathy is the best antidote to combat peer cruelty. If you can imagine a victim’s pain, causing that suffering is a near impossible feat. Empathy also fuels children’s moral courage to step in and speak out for each other.

UnSelfie shares the top five things to know about cultivating kids’ courage

1. Kids discover their inner hero from the right parenting style, experiences and training. What hinders it? A “too much rescuing” style.

2. Modeling, encouraging, experiencing and acknowledging a child’s courage helps instill it.

3. Courage can be strengthened like a muscle, but regular work-outs are crucial for it to become habitual.

4. A child’s temperament and physical strength don’t determine moral courage: almost every child can be taught how to stand up and speak up to help others if given the right support, encouragement and training.

5. Mobilizing children’s courage to be Upstanders may be our best hope to stop peer cruelty, but they must learn how to step in or get help.

Takeaway tips:

• Be sure your school has an Upstander Club and encourage your child to be part of it.

• Help kids learn specific habits like the ones in UnSelfie to help them stand up to injustice. Better yet, join up with like-minded adults so kids learn the same Upstander skills in groups.

• Reading books Upstanders (like Hooway for Wodney Wat, Nobody Knew What to Do, The Bully Blockers Club or Stand Up for Yourself) helps dispel the “Superman Myth” so kids know people can better the world with quiet courageous acts.

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Car Responsibilities: How to Talk to Your Teen About Driving

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 27, 2018  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Driving is a major responsibility for anyone — although learning the proper mechanics is something teens in particular need to understand before getting on the road. Case in point: Six teens die every day from car crash injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Knowing this information, if you’re working with your teen to get their learner’s permit or driver’s license, it’s time to sit down and have “the talk” — that is, about car responsibilities.

Be a Good Role Model

It’s no secret young people tend to emulate the actions, beliefs and attitudes of their parents, which is why you should always set a good example to teach and reinforce good habits. As such, when you get in your car, make it a habit (if it isn’t already) to put away your smartphone, fasten your seat belt and check your mirrors before starting the vehicle.

Additionally, you’ll always want to use your turn signal, follow the speed limit and keep your emotions in check. Never drink and drive or get behind the wheel if you aren’t feeling like yourself, and be open to discussing the decisions you make behind the wheel. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, your teen is watching you and will want to model your actions and behaviors.

Set Limits

When your teen gets their driver’s license, it’s important to set some important rules of the road beyond the relevant driving laws in your state. By clearly defining your expectations upfront, you’ll reduce conflicts, costly mistakes and other problems. Moreover, you’ll feel more confident and have better peace of mind about your teen’s driving abilities.

Fortunately, some states require teens to have progressive driving licenses that set limits on when they can drive and how many passengers are allowed in their vehicle at any one time. But even if your state doesn’t employ any restrictions for teen drivers, you should have open, honest discussions with your loved one about these important topics.

If you feel it necessary, draw up a safe driving contract with your teen to lay out any limits and responsibilities. For example, you may want to mention that they can only drive if they keep their grades up and stay out of trouble. Additionally, discuss any repercussions for distracted driving, including the use of their smartphone and ability to hang out with friends.

Continue the Discussion

Safe driving goes beyond explaining any important rules of the road. In fact, these conversations should be ongoing to ensure your teen maintains good driving habits and understands their responsibilities behind the wheel. While they should know the rules of the road, they also need to understand how to take care of their vehicle and when to take it in for maintenance.

For instance, if their tires are under inflated or don’t have enough tread, they could pop or slide on the road, creating a chain of events that could result in an accident. With that in mind, teach your teen how to check for symptoms of over-inflated tires and signs tires may need to be replaced, ensuring any new tires have an appropriate ply rating that measures strength and capacity.

As a parent, you also should discuss responsible driving behaviors and what to do in the case of an accident. While your teen may be reluctant to have these conversations, reinforce these conversations again and again. Because if they aren’t mature enough to talk about it, then they aren’t mature enough to get behind the wheel.

When All Else Fails, Reinforce the Rules Again and Again

Despite your best efforts and intentions, the information you share with your loved one may go in one ear and right out the other; after all, teens will be teens. Still, know that your teen is bound to make mistakes and/or circumvent your advice and rules while behind the wheel.

In these instances, it’s important to reinforce the rules you previously taught them or go back to the drawing board to implement new strategies. In the end, driving can be an inherently dangerous activity, which is why you need to do everything in your power to keep your teen — and everyone else on the road — safe.

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Are You A Mentally Strong Parent?

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 20, 2018  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Mentally Strong Kids Have Parents Who Refuse to Do These 13 Things

By Amy Morin

Raising a mentally strong kid doesn’t mean he won’t cry when he’s sad or that he won’t fail sometimes. Mental strength won’t make your child immune to hardship – but it also won’t cause him to suppress his emotions.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Mental strength is what helps kids bounce back from setbacks. It gives them the strength to keep going, even when they’re plagued with self-doubt. A strong mental muscle is the key to helping kids reach their greatest potential in life.

But raising a mentally strong kid requires parents to avoid the common yet unhealthy parenting practices that rob kids of mental strength. In my book, “13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do“, I identify 13 things to avoid if you want to raise a mentally strong kid equipped to tackle life’s toughest challenges:

1. Condoning a victim mentality

Striking out at the baseball game or failing a science test doesn’t make a child a victim. Rejection, failure, and unfairness are a part of life.

Refuse to attend your kids’ pity parties. Teach them that no matter how tough or unjust their circumstances, they can always take positive action.

2. Parenting out of guilt

Giving in to guilty feelings teaches your child that guilt is intolerable. Kids who learn this won’t be able to say no to someone who says, “Be a friend and let me copy your paper,” or, “If you loved me, you’d do this for me.”

Show your kids that even though you feel guilty sometimes – and all good parents do – you’re not going to allow your uncomfortable emotions get in the way of making wise decisions.

3. Making kids the center of the universe

If you make your entire life revolve around your kids, they’ll grow up thinking everyone should cater to them. And self-absorbed, entitled adults aren’t likely to get very far in life.

Teach your kids to focus on what they have to offer the world, rather than what they can gain from it.

4. Allowing fear to dictate choices

Although keeping your kids inside a protective bubble will spare you a lot of anxiety, playing it too safe teaches your child that fear must be avoided at all times.

Show your kids that the best way to conquer fear is to face it head-on, and you’ll raise courageous people who are willing to step outside their comfort zones.

5. Giving their kids power over them

Letting kids dictate what the family will eat for dinner or where the family goes on vacation gives kids more power than they are developmentally ready to handle. Treating kids like an equal – or the boss – actually robs them of mental strength.

Give your kids an opportunity to practice taking orders, listening to things they don’t want to hear, and doing things they don’t want to do. Let your kids make simple choices while maintaining a clear family hierarchy.

6. Expecting perfection

Expecting your kids to perform well is healthy, but expecting them to be perfect will backfire. Teach your kids that it’s okay to fail. It’s fine, and normal, not to be great at everything they do.

Kids who strive to become the best version of themselves, rather than the best at everything, won’t make their self-worth dependent upon how they measure up to others.

7. Letting kids avoid responsibility

Letting kids skip out on chores or avoid getting an after-school job can be tempting. Afer all, you likely want your kids to have a carefree childhood.

But children who perform age-appropriate duties aren’t overburdened. Instead, they’re gaining the mental strength they need to become responsible citizens.

8. Shielding kids from pain

Hurt feelings, sadness, and anxiety are part of life. Letting kids experience those painful feelings gives them opportunities to practice tolerating discomfort.

Provide your kids with the guidance and support they need to deal with pain so they can gain confidence in their ability to handle life’s inevitable hardships.

9. Feeling responsible for their kids’ emotions

Cheering your kids up when they’re sad and calming them down when they’re upset means you take responsibility for regulating their emotions. Kids need to gain emotional competence so they can learn to manage their own feelings.

Proactively teach your child healthy ways to cope with their emotions so they don’t depend on others to do it for them.

10. Preventing kids from making mistakes

Correcting your kids’ math homework, double checking to make sure they’ve packed their lunch, and constantly reminding them to do their chores won’t do them any favors. Natural consequences can be some of life’s greatest teachers.

Let your kids mess up sometimes and show them how to learn from their mistakes so they can grow wiser and become stronger.

11. Confusing discipline with punishment

Punishment involves making kids suffer for their wrongdoing. Discipline, however, is about teaching them how to do better in the future.

Raising a child who fears “getting in trouble” isn’t the same as raising a child who wants to make good choices. Use consequences that help your kids develop the self-discipline they need to make better choices.

12. Taking shortcuts to avoid discomfort

Although giving in to a whining child or doing your kids’ chores for them will make your life a little easier right now, those shortcuts instill unhealthy habits in your kids for the long term.

Role model delayed gratification and show your kids that you can resist tempting shortcuts. You’ll teach them they’re strong enough to persevere even when they want to give up.

13. Losing sight of their values

Many parents aren’t instilling the values they hold dear in their children. Instead, they’re so wrapped up in the day-to-day chaos of life that they forget to look at the bigger picture.

Make sure your priorities accurately reflect the things you value most in life, and you’ll give your children the strength to live a meaningful life.

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Talking To Teens About Tragedy

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 16, 2018  /   Posted in Featured Article, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Depression, Teen Help

Many of us remember Columbine as if it was yesterday.

Today, shootings, especially school shootings, are not any easier to hear.

How do we talk to our teens about these tragedies?

It’s time to turn to the experts.

Dr. Michele Borba, a leading educational psychologist shares her 10 Tips to Talk to Kids About Tragedy including her T.A.L.K. model.

T – Talk about the event.

Ensure that your child has accurate information that come from you so as not to develop unfounded fears.

A – Assess how your child is coping.

Every child handles a tragedy differently. There is no predicting. Tune into your child’s feelings and behavior. Watch and listen how he deals with the event so you’ll know how to help him cope and build resilience.

L – Listen to your child’s concerns and questions.

Use the “Talk. Stop. Listen. Talk. Stop. Listen” model as your discuss a tragedy. Listen more than your talk. Follow your child’s lead.

K – Kindle hope that the world will go on despite the horror


Dr. Robyn Silverman is a child and teen development specialist wrote an informative blog post on helping direct parents in try to make sense of this senseless act.

  • Get children mental help when they need it.
  • Do social skills training with kids who are lacking in empathy.
  • Be a mentor or help find a mentor for children who can use some guidance.
  • See children for their strengths, not simply for what they lack.

Read Dr. Robyn’s full post here.


Melissa Fenton, a former librarian, who brought us the compelling essay about parent shaming, “Put Down Your Pitchforks,” nails it again, when she pens on the website Grown and Flown, “Trying to be ‘Perfect’ is Killing Our Teens and We’re to Blame.

Teenagers are suffering from depression and anxiety in record-setting numbers. Stumped researchers, social scientists,  and psychologists have only begun to investigate the causes, many of which they have linked to smart phone and social media use, but is that really it? Could be, seeing as how they’re growing up under a selfie spotlight – with images of perfection constantly loading in their devices – perpetuating the great lie that everyone else has it more together and better than they do.

And we got here when we opened every conversation with our high schoolers about futures, goals, and achievements with the words, “I just want you to succeed,” instead of the words, “I just want you to be happy.”

Take time to read this entire essay. It’s a must read and share it with every parent of a teenager.


Do you believe you’re teen needs outside help?  Have you exhausted your local resources?

Contact us for information about residential therapy. Don’t be a parent in denial.

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