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Things Every Freshman Parent Needs to Know

August 29, 2014

Having your first-born become a high school freshman is a lot like giving birth. It’s painful, messy and not at all like you expected. Worst of all there are no drugs this time around to take away the pain.

Be ready to be shocked when your child comes home after one day in high school and has suddenly become smarter than you. It’s nothing short of a miracle that so much knowledge can be attained in one six period day. Someone should really call the Pope!

You may have your Masters degree, and 14 years of parenting under your belt, but they have been through one day of freshman year surrounded by the brilliant minds of their peers. Your I.Q. just dropped 100 points.

Tempted as you may be to check, you won’t find Eye Rolling 101 on their schedules. This is a skill that must have been picked up during lunch or passing period. My theory is, let them roll their eyes all they want. It’s not bothering me, and they don’t make any noise doing it. I’m all about teenage rebellion that doesn’t make noise!

English Language is found on their schedule, but for the rest of their high school career the only words you will hear are “whatever”, “mom, you are so weird” and “yes, Mom all the other moms let their kids (insert something stupid, dangerous or expensive here).

So here’s a handy list of things every Freshman parent NEEDS to know:

  • When it comes to parenting your high school teen there is power in numbers. Get to know their friends parents and start a group text immediately. All activities must be confirmed. Parent group texting is like the condom for parenting teens. It can stop fun and prevent pregnancy with one click of the send button.
  • They will tell you their teachers are mean, unfair and out to get them. There hasn’t been so much conspiracy in the air since Kennedy was assassinated.
  • Nothing is ever their fault, and the teacher will never tell them about a research project until the day before it’s due because she hates them and wants them to fail.
  • Best defense against this injustice is to act outraged. Grab your keys and tell them you are going straight to the school to let that teacher know they can’t treat your child this way!
  • At the sight of this they will start to stutter and back peddle. Sit back and enjoy. It will be entertaining so grab some popcorn.
  • Your teen will try to convince you that no other parents chaperone dances or go on field trips. To hear them tell it, the schools just bus the kids to a location and let them wander around aimlessly. No parental supervision needed.
  • Don’t believe it! Sign up for everything. Check the bottom of their backpacks for sign up sheets.I have had so many mothers say to me “Well, they don’t want me to go!” My answer to that is if they want to be left alone they can go to LendingTree.com and get a mortgage and move out. Until then you will see them on the field trip bus.
  • The most important thing to remember when parenting a teen in high school is to think back to what it was like when you were in high school. Aside from my failed bikini wax it was the single scariest time of my life.

High school is about survival. One wrong move and you are the butt of jokes for the next four years.

It’s like walking a tight rope without a net every single day. That kind of pressure along with raging hormones will make anyone a little crazy and cranky.

Be kind. Be patient. Be tolerant. Listen. I mean really listening and not just waiting to respond. As hard as all this is for you, it’s a million times harder for them.

Although there will be many times that your teen will seem unlovable, love them anyway. If they cringe when you hug them, hug them even tighter. When they scream they hate you for making rules and setting boundaries, set them anyway.

It’s crunch time. It is your job to make sure they are ready for what life throws at them and loving, listening, hugs and boundaries are a great place to start.

Kim Eller is the wild and crazy single mom of two teenagers and personal slave to one very spoiled beagle. Her blog Kim’s Crazy Life is featured in The Oakland Press and her hilarious stand-up was featured at the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers Conference. She believes you can have it all, but you will need to be medicated! You can find more of Kim on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+.

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10 Apps Every Parent Should Know

August 28, 2014

You may be thinking your kids are downloading apps because they are just a simple way for them to keep in contact with their friends. This is certainly true for most kids, but unfortunately, even innocent use of most of these apps can land a kid in a situation he/she never intended to be in. Here are some apps that are popular among kids and why they are potentially problematic for them:

1. Tinder: An app that is used for hooking-up and dating. Users can rate profiles and find potential hook-ups via GPS location tracking. 450 million profiles are rated every day! The good news is, this app pulls information from user’s Facebook profiles, so it is more authenticated than other apps.

Problem: It is easy for adults and minors to find one another. Also, due to the rating system, it is often used for cyber-bullying, because a group of kids can target another kid and purposefully make his/her rating go down.

2. Snapchat: This app allows a user to send photos and videos to anyone on his/her friend list. The sender can determine how long the receiver can view the image and then the image “destructs” after the allotted time.

Problem: It is the #1 app used for sexting, mostly because people think it is the safer way to sext. However, the “snaps” can easily be recovered & the receiver can take a screen shot and share it with others. Also, a lot of images from Snapchat get posted to revenge porn sites, called “snap porn”.

3. Blendr: A flirting app used to meet new people through GPS location services. You can send messages, photos, videos, rate the hotness of other users, etc.

Problem: There are no authentication requirements, so sexual predators can contact minors, minors can meet up with adults. And again, the sexting.

4. Kik Messenger: An instant messaging app with over 100 million users that allows users to exchange videos, pics, and sketches. Users can also send YouTube videos and create memes & digital gifs.

Problem: Kids use the app for sexting and sending nude selfies through the app is common. The term “sext buddy” is being replaced with “Kik buddy”. Kids use Reddit and other forum sites to place classified ads for sex by giving out their Kik usernames. Also, Kik does not offer any parental controls and there is no way of authenticating users, thus making it easy for sexual predators to use the app to interact with minors.

5. Whisper: Whisper is an anonymous confession app. It allows users to superimpose text over a picture in order to share their thoughts and feelings anonymously. However, you post anonymously, but it displays the area you are posting from. You can also search for users posting within a mile from you.

Problem: Due to the anonymity, kids are posting pics of other kids with derogatory text superimposed on the image. Also, users do not have to register to use Whisper and can use the app to communicate with other users nearby through GPS. A quick look at the app and you can see that online relationships are forming through the use of this app, but you never know the person behind the computer or phone. Sexual predators also use the app to locate kids and establish a relationship. One man in Seattle, Washington was charged with raping a 12-year-old girl he met on this app in 2013.

6. Ask.fm: Ask.fm is one of the most popular social networking sites that is almost exclusively used by kids. It is a Q&A site that allows users to ask other users questions while remaining anonymous.

Problem: Kids will often ask repeated derogatory questions that target one person. Due to the anonymity of the badgering, it creates a virtually consequence-free form of cyber-bullying. Ask.fm has been associated with 9 documented cases of suicide in the U.S. and the U.K.

7. Yik Yak: An app that allows users to post text-only “Yaks” of up to 200 characters. The messages can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking.

Problem: Users are exposed to and are contributing sexually explicit content, derogatory language, and personal attacks. Although the posts are anonymous, kids start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users.

8. Poof: This app allows users to make other apps “disappear” on their phone. Kids can hide any app they don’t want you to see by opening the app and selecting other apps.

Problem: It’s obvious, right? Luckily, you can no longer purchase this app. But, if it was downloaded before it became unavailable, your child may still have it. Keep in mind that these types of apps are created and then terminated quickly, but similar ones are continuously being created. Others to look for: Hidden Apps, App Lock, and Hide It Pro.

9. Omegle: This app is primarily used for video chatting. When you use Omegle, you do not identify yourself through the service. Instead, chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger”. However, you can connect Omegle to your Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests. When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive your Facebook “likes” and try to match you with a stranger with similar likes.

Problem: Sexual predators use this app to find kids to collect personal information from in order to track them down more easily in person.

10. Down: This app, which used to be called Bang with Friends, is connected to Facebook. Users can categorize their Facebook friends in one of two ways: They can indicate whether or not a friend is someone they’d like to hang with or someone they are “down” to hook-up with.

Problem: Although identifying someone you are willing to hook-up with doesn’t mean you will actually hook-up with them, it creates a hook-up norm within a peer group. Depending on your sexual values, this might be something you don’t want for your child. Also, because of the classification system, a lot of kids will feel left out or unwanted, which can lead to anxiety, etc.

The most important thing you can do as a parent to protect your children from dangers that are associated with the use of these apps is to talk with them frequently about their social lives. You can start by establishing yourself as an approachable parent and talking with them early and often about sexuality and romantic relationships. Without a strong bond and open communication, trying to regulate and monitor internet use won’t be very effective. However, setting technology boundaries (when and where they access the internet) and monitoring their online behavior can be effective if you have a strong foundation to build on. You can access a list of monitoring software I recommend here. Just remember to keep on top of it, there is no software that can eliminate risk or the need to parent. Ultimately, your goal is to raise an individual who can manage his/her online and offline behavior in a healthy way because he/she wants to. The process starts with you nurturing a strong emotional bond, leading by example, and setting the boundaries. You can do it!

Megan Maas, M.S. is a certified sexuality educator and doctoral candidate at Penn State. She researches and speaks nationally about technology and adolescent sexuality. You can find her on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

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10 Ways Living with Kids is Like Having the Worst Roommate Ever

August 27, 2014

This morning I found myself in awe at how much my house resembles the aftermath of a tornado. Or perhaps the result of a deranged burglar, turning everything upside down and inside out on his quest – not for jewelry or money – but for toys and snacks.

My older kids are theoretically big enough to clean up after themselves. (Theoretically being the operative word here.) However, I’m certain we’ve reached a new level of messiness as they enter their tween and teen years.

Here’s my top 10 reasons living with kids is like having the worst roommate ever:

1. They leave dishes everywhere except the sink or dishwasher. What’s a dishwasher? What’s a sink? Who needs it?! This coffee table works just fine! On the floor or under the bed? Sounds like a plan to me! I am constantly going through our house, rounding up dishes from every room and every surface. I’m sometimes mind-blown at what could only be described as a science project growing on some of them. That was food at one point, right?!

2. Hampers are invisible. How hard is it to just put the clothes in the hamper? It requires no more effort than dropping them on the floor right beside the dang thing.

3. Trash cans are invisible too. Wrappers, water bottles, paper towels, etc. They’re everywhere. It doesn’t matter how many times we address this, it still happens daily.

4. If they do locate a trash can and it happens to be full, they begin construction of the trash tower. This is yet another little annoyance that defies all logic. You are creating a new problem simply because you’re not in the mood to change the bag. WTF?! Get with the program, peeps!

5. They never replace the toilet paper. Sometimes, I think they do this because they want to see me lose my shit. This would definitely do it if it weren’t for my unwavering determination to show no weakness. They can’t break me! On the outside, I’m cool as a cucumber. On the inside, my blood boils.

6. They eat all of your groceries. I know this goes without saying. They’re kids. It’s my job to feed them. Still, I’d like it to last at least until I can have a bite too. That empty fridge would actually be an improvement at our house. Our kids like to put the empty containers back in there. Are you really fooling anyone with that? Great idea! Let’s just put it back, pretend it’s not empty, and it’ll be like it never even happened. Oh so NOT clever. These days, if I want something, I have to hide it somewhere or put it where they can’t reach, which usually means I can’t reach it either. Otherwise I’m S.O.L.

7. They always find your candy/cookie/goody stash, no matter how clever you thought it was. Yeah… this just sucks. Worse? I can’t even come up with a tactful way of addressing their sneaky ways. After all, I was trying to beat them at the sneaky game by hiding it in the first place. Not to mention the entire “lead by example” failure I become by stashing candy so I can binge on chocolatey goodness in quiet solitude when the need arises, and the need WILL arise, make no mistake. As soon as I’m made aware of such a breach, any anger I feel quickly turns to guilt when I really look at the situation. They usually get a pass on this one.

8. They use your stuff without asking. To avoid reliving this nightmare for the tenth time, I’ve mostly given up wearing makeup. Not entirely, but it’s usually minimal. The basic, boring stuff isn’t nearly as appealing to an inquisitive toddler. Plus, I refuse to spend that much money to replace everything again. Such a waste. This applies to pretty much anything you find important. Cell phones, laptops, jewelry – nothing is safe.

9. Privacy is a foreign concept. Need I say more? You know what I’m talking about. We are all in this zero privacy boat together.

10. They’ve taken over your DVR, canceling scheduled recordings, deleting shows you have yet to watch, and replacing it all with their stuff. The same goes for your Netflix account…

Kinda like a horrible roommate, right?

Life with kids does get overwhelming and this morning I just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and yell “I concede! I give up! Good luck with your trash tower! I’m out. Peace…”.

But just as I felt like throwing in the towel, there was a segment on the morning news about how to tell if you’re a good or bad roommate. The nightmarish stories were hilarious, and I definitely needed the laugh. Reflecting on my situation with a whole new perspective, I realized that compared to the stories on the news, my situation is not so bad. Overall, I’d say I have some pretty great roomies!

These tiny things are nothing to freak out about. It’s life. They’re kids. Our house is going to be a mess, despite my best efforts. It’s time that I accept and embrace this reality, because if I’m lucky, I’m going to be cleaning up this shit for a good long while.

Lori is a stay at home mom to 3 precious, slightly crazy kiddos. She gets real about the insanity of parenthood – the good, the bad, and the ever so awkward at The Awkward Mom

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A Letter to My College Bound Baby

August 26, 2014

Dear baby girl,

You are done with what society has ‘required’ you to do. What’s left is what YOU require yourself to do. That can seem scary and daunting and utterly oblivious to you right now, and that’s precisely the way it should be, I think. I have a few words of advice that might help. For what it’s worth, I hope you pause and consider some life lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  • First, pay attention. The Universe sends us clues all the time, but only those who pay attention to life really find them. Think of life as a big treasure hunt, and as you move from place to place, from relationship to relationship, and from opportunity to opportunity, pay attention to what’s happening. Look for clues to help move you towards your happiness.
  • Second, be curious. Don’t let the world pass you by. Ask questions, wonder why things are the way they are. Don’t be afraid to try something new, to talk to strangers, or to cross the street. You are now enrolling in life school, which is so much bigger and challenging and wondrous than any school you’ve ever attended before. Be curious about life, about learning, about people and places and things that happen around you and around the world. Soak it all up and learn wherever you are.

  • Third, trust yourself. Remember that life has a way of working itself out. Your great grandpa Paul used to always say this, and I’ve relied on these words in times when I didn’t know what to do in life, both big moments and small. What I really think he meant was to trust – trust your journey. Trust yourself. Trust the Universe, or God, or whatever spirit you find guiding you along the way. Trust love, loss, joy, sadness, friends and most of all, yourself. Sometimes that’s the only place to go when something feels really huge. Get quiet and listen to your heart and to your instincts. You have learned right and wrong, what’s good for you and unhealthy, and you know what happiness and love feel like. Most of the time you can figure it out.
  • And finally, remember there’s no place like home. Your dad and I will forever love you and help you. You will always have a bed to sleep in, food to eat, and loving arms to wrap around you. Unless your life adventures take you out of phone service, we’re always a call away and a plane ride home. We will welcome you, your friends, and your partners. We will listen to your triumphs and your challenges, we will root for you in all things, and most of all, we will love you with a fierceness nothing can tame. We know you are ready, and that college is only the beginning of a glorious adventure for you. So my dear college-bound daughter, pay attention. Be curious. Remember life has a way of working itself out. And always, always know there’s no place like home.

We love you.
xxoo

Jennifer Wolfe is a mom and middle school teacher who loves nothing more than watching kids be brave, courageous and navigate the world, A huge believer in love, health and hope with a colossal amount of emotionally-charged inquisitiveness, Jennifer attempts to simultaneously slow down and speed up time by trusting fate and the global community to teach us life’s lessons. Jennifer reflects on life’s lessons on her blog, Mamawolfe, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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You Can Keep the Mom Guilt... I Don't Have It

August 25, 2014

If I had wanted to spend my days surrounded by small children, I would have majored in Early Childhood Education. Instead, I earned my undergraduate and graduate degrees in English Literature, and spent my twenties and early thirties forging a sales career in both commercial and trade publishing. Enter marriage and a move; I found myself in another state, unemployed (we’d moved for my husband’s job), pregnant, and trying to envision how life as a stay-at-home mom would be, as I’d never before contemplated the possibility.

My son entered the picture, and I was overwhelmed with joy, hormones, and the insane absence of sleep that comes with nursing a baby every hour-and-a-half. Around the time my son began sleeping through the night, I began feeling antsy and wondered when I would begin to feel fulfilled through motherhood. The answer, I came to realize, is that I would never feel fulfilled solely from being a mom. I needed more. I needed a different challenge, something that would challenge my brain and make me feel that I was making a valuable, tangible [financial] contribution to my family; I needed my career.

I spent those first 8 months of my son’s life taking him in, learning how to be a mom, learning to love in ways unimaginable, and gaining a newfound patience I didn’t know existed; I also spent it wondering how badly the gap in my resumé would hurt my career.

Feeling more rested, I began a public blog, with plans of using it to hone my writing skills, gain some new social media & marketing skills, forge a way to work from home, and most importantly, fill the inevitable ‘having a child’ gap in my resumé. I hate that career women often feel torn between motherhood and their careers, and feel pressured to resume working so as not to hit a bump in their career trajectories (or out of financial necessity). Women have the feminist movement to thank for this confusion of our roles (do we focus on building our career, stay at home to raise our children, juggle both?). In a way, the feminist movement was both a blessing and a curse, as I grew up knowing I was going to attend college and focus on a career, but never even considered the ramifications of juggling both career and motherhood; thankfully, I haven’t really had to… much.

This is where my guilt comes in; I feel guilty because I’ve not succumbed to the mom guilt surrounding many of the parenting decisions I’ve made. I love being a mother, but my world does not revolve around my child. There are so many other facets to who I am and having a rewarding career is one of them. Because I’m at home with my son, I’ve been slowly building a career that’s taken over a year to show signs of plausibility (and will allow me to both be at home with my son and financially contribute to our household). As a result of my forging a writing and marketing career during naptimes, bedtimes, and early mornings, I often feel harried and overwhelmed by trying to do everything without outside help. The reality is that my work often bleeds over into those times when my son is awake, and I am not ashamed to admit that I often put PBS on the television to occupy him while I work.

These are my truths: My son has known his alphabet since he was 17 months old, and is able to read small words at just under two years old; I’m pretty sure he learned this from the PBS show, Super Why. My son has been able to count since he was around 14 months old, and I’m pretty sure he learned this from the PBS show, Peg + Cat. Do you see where I’m going here? I can’t take credit for many of my son’s accomplishments because I’ve not really worked with him (I don’t sit down with flashcards and repetitively go over letters and numbers – he needs to enjoy being a kid for a bit). I do take credit for his love of reading, and his excellent vocabulary, as we read books together daily.

PBS has helped to occupy and educate my son, and I feel absolutely no guilt about it. Like the [silly] saying, A happy wife is a happy life, my motto is A happy mom means we all get along. Splitting my attentions between raising my son having a career often means that I don’t fulfill the role that society often dictates, but I’m perfectly okay with it (and sleep well at night). You can keep your mom guilt, thanks!

Lauren is a former publishing rep-turned-WAHM to a rambunctious toddler. When she’s not chasing her son, you can find Lauren blogging about all things natural parenting/living at lo-wren.com, tweeting about #parenting, or crowdsourcing parenting tips on her Facebook page.

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