Teenology 101

Leaving Your Child Home Alone

I remember one of the first times my mother left me and my siblings home alone for longer than a few minutes. I was 12 years old, and as the eldest of 4 children, felt pretty mature and responsible. My mom was only gone about an hour, but she came home to what was likely her worse nightmare at the time. The condominium complex next to ours had caught on fire and our neighborhood was surrounded by fire trucks and medical personnel. We were absolutely fine, but my mom was very hesitant to leave us alone for quite awhile after that. Read full post »

Keeping Your Adolescent Safe Online

The World Wide Web has changed our lives.

You can order a pizza without picking up the phone, get directions without pulling out a map, and find your long-lost childhood sweetheart with a search engine. We can look up information on pretty much anything with a few keystrokes. People with rare interests or problems can find like-minded peers around the world, and people in different countries can play an online game together, chatting all the while.

Most people online are seeking information, sharing it with friends, or buying something. However, there have always been untrustworthy people who try to target us in person; now they are online as well.

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Water Safety

One of the most wonderful aspects of living in the Pacific Northwest is enjoying our amazing summers.  The temperature hovers around a comfortable 75 degrees, the humidity is low, and the days are long.  With the warmer temperatures come the outdoor activities and Seattle is surrounded by water!  Lake Washington, Lake Union, the Puget Sound, and on and on.  Boats, both motor and paddled, are common and teens are often invited to partake in summer activities involving water. Read full post »

The Greatest Risk

What is the leading cause of adolescent deaths worldwide?

It’s not HIV, violence, suicide, or malaria, although those are all well-represented in the top ten list. Globally, the leading cause of adolescent deaths is “road traffic accidents”. And lest you think our paved roads and antilock brakes exempt us from this, car accidents are also the leading cause of adolescent deaths in the U.S.

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Much ado about summer

Ah, it’s that time of year. Summer! Daffodils have sprouted and the cherry blossoms bloomed… seasonal allergies are flaring up. It’s also the time of year where the school year is winding down and kids are getting excited about summer vacation.  Now parents have to consider what activities can occupy their teen for those 6.5 hours of the day that they would have been in school.

With each of my patient visits that happen this time of year I ask everyone what their summer plans are. Some are taking big trips to other countries, some will be going to volunteer at camps they attended as young kids, and others just reply, ‘nothing.’ It made me wonder about a few questions…

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You’re Going Out Like That?

As an teenager of the 70’s I vividly remember mini skirts, headbands, “cut-offs” and fringed leather jackets, not to mention the stinky “afghan” long coat that my father let me buy from a street vendor on a visit to New York City. The afghan coat had some sort of fleece material lining (that may not have been washed since it was removed from the sheep) with a rustic leather exterior and extra fleece at the wrists and neck. It was basically a sheepskin worn inside out from the way a sheep wears it. I must have done some sort of sell job that only an eldest daughter could do to a father. There would be little opportunity to wear the coat, given that we lived in New Mexico at the time.

With 20/20 hindsight, I find some of the fashions of the 1970’s rather appalling. I can only imagine what my parents thought when I left the house in a dress that was either so short that even the smallest movement risked exposure, or so long and flowing that anyone walking near me was as likely as I was to trip on the fabric trailing on the ground.

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Ground Rules

When most kids hit adolescence,  they start questioning rules with vigor. Sometimes the rules are even broken or dodged with regularity. How do you get adolescents to identify with and agree with rules?

Involve them. This takes a fairly good level of communication with your teen, and it will involve compromise from both of you. But if you can engage your teen into making rules with you, it can be a wonderful exercise in communication and effective discipline. (This requires a fairly mature and communicative teen.)

For example, let’s take curfew. You want your teen home by 10 pm on weekends. They think any curfew is ridiculous.

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Prom Night

Prom: a rite of passage! Arguably the most important dance in high school and a night full of memories for parents and teens. I remember my senior prom, my parents made my friends and I line up in front of our home in our fancy clothes and make up to take countless pictures. Every once and a while I look back at the photos and think of how young I was even though I thought I had the world figured out.

With all the fun of getting dressed up and picking out the tuxedo and the dress, prom also has a reputation. Movies often portray prom night as a night full of parties, alcohol and substance use, and lost virginity. Though my prom was uneventful, some teens may have very different experiences.

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When Your Teen Drives You Crazy: Tips for Communication

It’s 10 PM. You are exhausted. You want to go to sleep because you have a big day tomorrow- back-to-back meetings and a presentation at noon. Ding! A text message comes in on your phone- it is your daughter.  She texts “Can you wake me up at 5:30 tomorrow morning? I have a science final that I need to study for.”

“Hang on”, you text back-.”Why are you waiting to the last minute to study for this test?”

Silence. You go to your daughter’s room and open the door to because you want to actually talk to her in person.

“Why are you in here?”, she asks, looking confused.

She is on the computer, sending a message to someone on Facebook. Her room has clothes and books scattered about.

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The Free Phone Call

My parents and I had a deal when I was a teen. I had a “free phone call”. If I was stuck somewhere and my only option to get home was to drive drunk or impaired- or a get a ride from someone who might be a danger- I could call them to pick me up. They would ask no questions and give no punishments.

My parents could think of two situations where this might apply: driving or riding with a drunk driver, or dating someone who turned out to be predatory. Read full post »