All Articles Tagged "teenagers"
“I want to have the three-letter word with her! It would make me the happiest man in the world!”
“You want a kid? You wanna have a kid with her? You wanna marry her?”
“No, stupid! Not that three-letter word; the other one!”
At the time I’m writing this, it’s been a little over a week since he said that about her; he being a boy who looks to be around 12; her being my 10-year-old daughter, Marley.
We see him every time we go to the park. He’s that kid who you imagine didn’t walk there on his own, but you never see him with or near any adults. You only hear his mouth and his stupid laugh.
Well, maybe it wasn’t stupid before I realized that he talked to Marley’s chest, and not her eyes. The new mounds bouncing around on my daughter’s chest mesmerized him, and he wanted to have the other three-letter word with my daughter—sex (in case you, like he, don’t want to say the actual word).
I wanted to punch Stupid Laugh Boy in the throat. And then smash his coke-bottle glasses. But saner heads prevailed. I did not touch him or his glasses.
I did and will continue to do something ever more fulfilling.
I’ll continue raising both of my daughters to be aware of their right to confidently address any assertions made toward them, particularly when it comes to their bodies.
I look at my oldest girl and I see what other people are seeing, but I also see what she is navigating at this point in her journey. Her breasts are growing. Her legs are lengthening. She’s paying more attention to how I style her locs. Her body is transitioning from a gangly, somewhat awkward form, to a curvy space with parts made visibly strong by way of her growing love for soccer.
And she’s particularly concerned and curious about her new bouncy parts that garner attention from a variety of eyes.
Because we practice Radical Self-Expression, we’ve never shied away from conversations about body awareness in our household. Now, as we manage Marley’s rapid transition, I’m grateful that Kris and I—as her parents—chose that route.
It’s important for parents to recognize that even if you want to stay in the land of age and stage-appropriate introductions to body awareness, sex, and sexuality—the rest of the world is already assigning those subjects to your child in ways you may not have chosen yourself.
So you may as well deliberately take on the primary role in the dissemination and interpretation of that narrative, because the conversations are already being had. On school buses, on playgrounds, at sleepovers, and online.
And if you wait until the “right age,” or whatever you consider to be the “appropriate” time, you might be too late.
By avoiding the topics of body awareness and sexuality, we set our girls up to be ill-equipped to manage their emotions and to confidently express whatever they need to feel both comfortable around and respected by their peers.
And I say our girls because that’s all I know. By no means am I diminishing the need for dialogue on body awareness and sexuality in our boys; I just know less about the process of boys’ physical changes and needs, so I’m sticking to the areas where I can speak from experience.
That experience has been the focus for the past decade of my life, and it comes roller coaster style, complete with sudden turns, belly flops, and plenty opportunities to walk my talk as a woman whose core values include curiosity and self-expression.
As I watch my daughter navigate her new body, I do my best to stay present so that I can be aware of what she might need from me in any given moment.
Notice how I said what she might need instead of what she needs? I don’t presume to already know Marley or her sister, Sage. Sure, I know their tendencies, their habits, and their preferences; but those things are changing.
In parenting, as in many other relationships, we do better when we choose to use what we observe, instead of what we think we know.
For me, that choice is as a result of me starting out with the Should Be’s and being taught by my daughters that they did not appreciate or respond well to that choice. They lash out when I presume, but they share openly when I observe, ask questions, and consider what actually is instead of just what I think should be.
I feel a deep sense of compassion for both of my daughters as they enter this stage. I remember my own body awareness journey and how inadequate it can lead a girl to feel. I fear being too open with my girls in some areas, or too closed off in others, and I end up entangled.
But through it all, I’ve identified some methods to creating support and raising confident, mindful, fully expressed women.
So here are four ways to help her navigate her new journey.
1. Open Dialogue
If your eight-year-old asks you about oral sex, your Should Be filter may cringe at the idea and decide that your child is too young to be exposed to that particular topic.
But we know that elementary school children are fully aware of oral sex. At that age, they’re already mocking what they know or fully engaging.
Were you to choose the Should Be route, you’d be leaving your child with a deficiency in dialogue, causing her to draw on wrong or poorly framed information on the sexual acts.
Consider all the opportunities you’d be leaving for other people—peers, the siblings of peers, and adults—to fill in those answers for your child.
It’s also important to be mindful about punishing your daughter for asking uncomfortable questions.
Unfortunately, when it comes to curiosity around topics of sex, sexuality, and human body, many adults create a narrative of guilt when it comes to children. Why is she thinking about that? What might she do if she knows more about this so early?
You’re not preserving or protecting her by shying away from tough questions. Instead, you’re telling her to search alone, to gather and sort on her own, and to count you out of her list of resources.
Sports help girls to recognize their bodies’ functions and not just its form.
Soccer is helping Marley see her body in new ways. Now she knows what her legs do, and how they help her do something she loves. She knows how different foods cause her to play and to feel. She now understands body as function, and not just form.
Athletic activities can also help your daughter to see just how ridiculous and impossible the notions of beauty that riddle the media can be.
We protect what we respect, and so as they come into the knowing of their bodies and realize what they’re capable of, our girls also increase the urgency around protecting their bodies.
Sports can help our girls recognize and speak up when their bodies are being objectified.They can help them define respect for themselves, and not by what society says should or should not be when it comes to a girl’s or a woman’s body.
My daughters and I look at our bodies together. We literally stand in front of the bathroom mirror, naked, and talk about what we see.
I try to remember to listen more than I talk, and I am honest about my own physical insecurities. I tell them how I nurture myself with communities like See Body: Love Self, and how important it is to celebrate your body with healthy choices.
And when Marley tells me that she’s “weirded out” by her own breasts, or that she caught herself wondering whether her breasts and butt should be smaller or bigger, I don’t chastise her.
Instead, I tell her that it’s normal to questions things, and that I’m proud of her for being willing to express what she thinks about.
Let your daughter see you naked. And encourage her to look at her own naked body. When we take the “newness” out of seeing our naked bodies, we can work at appreciating it just as it is, and we send that message to our girls as well.
4. Documentaries and Books
Marley, Sage, and I have watched Miss Representation (a poignant documentary about media’s portrayal of women, and its impact on young people) several times.
Since then, both girls are constantly asking us “do you notice” questions: Do you notice that in anime and manga that the women always have big breasts that are all pushed up, but they’re supposed to be warriors?! How can they protect their bodies if they’re putting their breasts out like that?”
This leads to dialogue about topics like feminism and sexism in anime and manga, which again, helps her to examine context and make more conscious choices over time about what she takes in.
Actively seek out documentaries, books, and live dialogue around topics that your daughter will no doubt face.
Create a running list of your own go-to resources for open dialogue on body awareness and sexuality, and make time to share them with your daughter.
As parents, our daughters can be either the beneficiaries or the victims of our own experiences.
We have the ability to consistently help our daughters navigate their bodies’ shifts by prioritizing our own mental shifts.
Your own imperfect relationship with your body is exactly what your daughters needs to experience. You can use what you’re learning as you commit to your own healing process.
You can encourage your daughter to speak openly about how she feels as her body changes. You can be compassionate and consistent in your efforts to help her be willing to love her body, to explore sexuality in safe spaces, to define safe spaces, and to speak up when her idea of a safe space for her body is being compromised or threatened in any way.
As a parent, you can make your daughter’s body awareness journey a positive one.
Reprinted with permission from EverydayFeminism.com.
What are you doing to help your pre-teen as she discovers her body’s changes?
Whenever I thought about being a mother, the teenage years were never what I pictured. On the rare occasion I day dreamed about kids it was always as the cute baby or young child. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that those same baby would become a teenager. Now it’s the 21st century and I am the mother of a teenage girl. As if the term teenager isn’t frightening enough along with raging hormones and junior high/middle school relationships I now have to contend with a myriad of distractions and influences that my parents, and theirs before them, never had to consider. Screen time, cell phone usage, eating habits, grades, and cyber bullies, BOYS, and… the rise of the ratchet girl.
Coming up in the 90’s “hoodrats & hoochie mama’s” were all we heard about in the prevalent gangster rap & that was slowly taking over the airwaves and we thought it was all so cool thanks to movies like Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society, Above The Rim and several others of the same variety. But at the end of the day, we went home and turned on The Cosby Show and A Different World so while the images were there, they weren’t as pervasive as they are now, nor was the message. But then the birth of the million dollar video came about as did the ‘video chick’ caricature and the further exploitation of black women and their sexuality was laid bare for the entire world to admire, admonish, debate over and imitate.
But the rise of the ratchet girl has been stratospheric in the last year and to be honest, I’m sick of it.
It’s not just the images shown in the media, it’s also the clothing sold in stores and how it’s styled on mannequins over sexualizing girls from an early age, and in magazine articles aimed at ‘how to get your crush to notice you’ and ‘are you kissable?’ (Seriously who’s approving this for tweens?) . It’s also shows like Love & Hip-Hop whatever, Teen Mom and the list goes on.
Portraying these women and their lifestyle as some type of aspiration and allowing them to gain celebrity notoriety because of their bad behavior on television and in the media sends a message to young women that the more you act out the more you’re rewarded by society.
And this mama don’t play that. I’m not raising a teenager to be the baddest b*tch. I’m intent on raising a young woman who will grow into a queen that’s going set the world on fire. It also sets the standard that they need to be overly dramatic to be considered interesting or to get their point across which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
So how do I maintain an active presence in her mind without being overbearing? And how do I keep my daughter from becoming enthralled by the ratchet girl lifestyle she sees all around her?
While we’re still new to the teenage game we’ve got a few rules that we govern our house by to keep her on the right path and keep the ratchet from taking over. Here are a few:
- Teach her she is more than her body but she is also not limited by it. This includes her hair and what she wears. When your mom writes about fashion for a living you get a little leeway in the clothing and hair department, but I still have rules and have no problem enforcing them. This also includes keeping the lines of communication about sexuality and those awkward topics open for discussion and consideration.
- Monitor her social media access as well as phone and apps. It may sound like spying but I’d rather not be caught unawares if anything happens. Just because she has access to social media does not mean she gets to be “out there.” It is private, monitored and limited so we feel pretty good about this one.
- Parent like its 1999ish. Seriously. A lot of new age mothers are excited for their daughters to become their ‘best friends’ and I’m like no ma’am. I have my own friend’s thank you and until you are of age I am your parent, not your homegirl. We kick it old school when it comes to parenting and have no problem being the ‘uncool’ parents of the group.
- Investigate her friends. Junior high/high school is not like elementary school where you often see the same parents at school functions and daily drop-off and pick-up. Kids make new friends everyday, so yeah, I check out their online presence to see if the image they project to me is the same they are portraying to the outside world and if not how far they are straying.
- Educate her about her ancestry and where she comes from not only within your family but as woman of color. Teach her about the world in which she currently resides and the one that preceded her existence so she is able to learn from both experiences and chart her course accordingly. Family reading is something we can all benefit from and there are a number of anthologies by African-American authors that paint a beautiful picture of the past and there is a lot to be learned from others experiences and stories that you can’t get from a TV movie.
We realize that as you go through life you try on different personas to see what fits and a lot of times as a teen, those personas don’t jibe with your parent’s vision of you. I get it, I was a teenager too, and we encourage self-expression and creative thought, but we also aren’t in the business of encouraging society’s values over our own.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth between 10 and 19 years of age and the number is increasing. Although it is not always a comfortable topic, it is essential to know the warning signs and to know the right ways to react if you notice them. Parents, friends, teachers, and sometimes even strangers can help play a part when prevention and helping others is a priority in the community.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics these are the reasons the youth suicide rate has increased and some signs to look for:
Why has the youth suicide rate gone so high in recent years?
- It’s easier to get the tools for suicide (Boys often use firearms to kill themselves; girls usually use pills);
- The pressures of modern life are greater;
- Competition for good grades and college admission is stiff; and
- There’s more violence in the newspapers and on television.
Lack of parental interest may be another problem. Many children grow up in divorced households; for others, both of their parents work and their families spend limited time together. According to one study 90 percent of suicidal teen-agers believed their families did not understand them. (However, this is such a common teen-age complaint that other factors are playing a role, too.) Young people also reported that when they tried to tell their parents about their feelings of unhappiness or failure, their mother and father denied or ignored their point of view.
If your teenager has been depressed, you should look closely for suicide signs that he or she might be displaying:
- Has his personality changed dramatically?
- Is he having trouble with a girlfriend (or, for girls, with a boyfriend)? Or is he having trouble getting along with other friends or with parents? Has he withdrawn from people he used to feel close to?
- Is the quality of his schoolwork going down? Has he failed to live up to his own or someone else’s standards (when it comes to school grades, for example)?
- Does he always seem bored, and is he having trouble concentrating?
- Is he acting like a rebel in an unexplained and severe way?
- Is she pregnant and finding it hard to cope with this major life change?
- Has he run away from home?
- Is your teenager abusing drugs and/or alcohol?
- Is she complaining of headaches, stomachaches, etc., that may or may not be real?
- Have his eating or sleeping habits changed?
- Has his or her appearance changed for the worse?
- Is he giving away some of his most prized possessions?
- Is he writing notes or poems about death?
- Does he talk about suicide, even jokingly? Has he said things such as, “That’s the last straw,” “I can’t take it anymore,” or “Nobody cares about me?” (Threatening to kill oneself precedes four out of five suicidal deaths.)
- Has he tried to commit suicide before?
Your daughter seems to spend more time glued to her phone than actually breathing fresh air. Instead of learning that second language you wish she’d study, she’s checking out which Instagram filters show off her new dress the best. Sound familiar? Whether you like it or not, selfies have taken over the social media world.
As a parent, it’s normal to ask yourself why your kids are so obsessed with what’s happening on their Facebook and Instagram feed? And you’re not alone in that worry. A staggering 91 percent of teens having posted photos of themselves online. This modern fascination with the selfies raises some serious concerns for kids and parents alike.
The big question of course is what is this selfie obsession doing to your kids?
Let’s start with the obvious. Selfies reek of narcissism. They are also boldly in your face; often showing your kid in a more grownup light than you (and really they) are potentially ready for. Finally, with cyberstalking becoming more common, it’s hard not to worry about what your teen is up to online.
Overall, there is very little press that shows selfies are painted in anything but a negative light. After all, if she is updating the world about every little detail of her life, how can you trust that she’s staying safe online?
So what’s a parent to do?
Parenting Expert Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein tackles these issues perfectly. In this video she stresses that when it comes to your kid’s selfie habit, the REAL issue lies in the fact that you need to “make the judgment call [of where these photos are shared]. Whether she’s a tween or a teen, [she] may not always have the judgment call really right for herself.”
We couldn’t agree more! Sometimes, teens don’t understand the repercussions of their actions. It’s up to you as her parent to teach your child how to protect herself online.
But don’t worry, it’s not all bad news.
According to the LA Times, there are some hidden perks to taking selfies. After conducting a study, Lev Manovich stated that, “this self photography [are] indicative of a whole new photography movement and a way for individual self-expression.”
He goes on to say that, “It’s almost like a new landscape, or a new thought process: ‘I am a part of this picture.'”
As we see it, it makes total sense that your teen just wants to feel like she belongs. When done right (and by that we mean with discretion and safety in mind) not only are selfies a great way for her to express herself, they make her feel connected to her peers.
The US News backs this up by saying that selfies can help shape your teen’s identity. With the right supervision, selfies can impact your children’s happiness for the better.
So we ask you this: how are you managing your kid’s selfie habit? If you have a great idea for our readers, share it in the comments!
We couldn’t agree more! Sometimes, teens don’t understand the repercussions of their actions. It’s up to you as her parent to teach your child how to protect herself online.
Reprinted with permission from YourTango.com
Parenting is difficult. That’s an absolute hard fact. But if you’re the parent of a teenager, you’re in a different realm of parenthood altogether.
Whether you’re at home or out in public with your teenage child, practically any and everything you do embarrasses them, annoys them or puts them in a certain mood. To them, you’re old and out of touch. You’re unintelligent and ill-equipped for…well, everything. And you’re definitely not funny, so why even bother making a joke?
So, how exactly do you cope with your teen when your entire existence gets on their nerves? Here are some helpful suggestions.
Lessons don’t have to be long and drawn out. They can also be quick, dismissive and accusatory. If you’re trying to teach your teen a lesson but do so in a way where you simplify a concern, a response or a situation that clearly means something to them, you’re likely to get a reaction that’s just as dismissive.
Some parents would rather know their kid was safe smoking at home instead of puffing and passing with their friends outside.
Update: Shaun King updated the story to say that the girl’s mother has not passed away but she is estranged from her is indeed living in foster care.
In light of the recent Spring Valley High Assault case, I’m seeing a lot of people calling for obedience. Not obedience on Officer Fields’ part. He broke a few rules himself. But they’re asking for obedience from the young lady who was placed in a chokehold and dragged across the classroom floor in front of her classmates.
For once, Raven-Symoné’s trollish-like comments are being reflected by others in our community who want to “blame the parents” for not teaching her to respect authority.
Can I just say respecting authority is an important life skill but it can also be overrated. I’m not arguing that she shouldn’t have given up her cell phone or followed the officer when he asked her to get up the first time. (I work with young, elementary school aged children who bring cell phones to our tutoring classes. They’re distracting and annoying.) But with the way police officers are abusing their authority, degrading, beating and killing Black boys, girls, men and women, perhaps she had a reason for not compiling to Officer Field’s command, particularly when he had a reputation for being overly aggressive.
Or maybe this 16-year-old girl was just having a bad day and she felt like being defiant. We were all teenagers, some of us more recently than others, and I know I had those days. And I thank God I was never abused for it. Thankfully, my teachers and my school administrators saw me for what I was, a young person prone to making foolish mistakes. It’s literally what teenagers do as they’re trying to find themselves and navigate through life.
Unfortunately, too many children of color aren’t given the opportunity or the freedom to be treated as children, as human beings, who inevitably make silly, mistakes like everyone does.
If her teacher thought she was distracted by her cell phone, certainly being assaulted by a grown man took both she and all of her classmates out of learning mode. I don’t know how you go back to studying parabolas once you’ve seen a young lady flung across your classroom floor.
The pressures of being a teenager are challenging enough. But this young lady is facing so much more. Her attorney, Todd Rutherford told Shaun King, for the Daily News that she was recently moved into the foster care system.
When you suffer that type of change, you’re not trying to have someone, even if they are an authority figure, come in and take something else from you.
Trauma will make anyone act out, especially a teenager.
And during what is possibly the toughest time of her life, this young lady is now suffering from injuries on her face, neck and arm (she is reportedly wearing a cast) and is still charged with “disturbing schools.”
Her foster mother is trying her best to protect her identity but she has said that the young lady is devastated and emotionally traumatized by all that has happened to her.
I pray that this young girl finds the strength to process and heal from all that has happened to her because Lord knows she’s had to carry far more at 16 than many of us will endure in a lifetime.
We sure wish we had SoulCycle when we were in high school like these New York City teens.
A bunch of New York City high school students are spinning those legs—twice a week for six weeks—as part of the SoulScholarship program, a partnership with The Children’s Aid Society and the Carrera Program, a pregnancy prevention program.
In a school system where 32 percent of schools have no full-time, certified gym teachers and 28 percent don’t even have a gym, according to a recent city report, The Children’s Aid Society wanted to find ways to make fitness a priority.
With SoulCycle, they found a good fit—and an experience most of the kids wouldn’t normally have access to.
“The reality is classes are $35. This is not doable for everybody,” says Courtney Carrera-Ghatan, assistant director for national medical and dental services at The Children’s Aid Society.
The 25 students—from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx and the Urban Assembly Institute in Brooklyn—were recruited for the program by Carrera-Ghatan and her staff members who work in the schools.
SoulScholarship also includes nutrition classes and help with resume writing and interviewing, and is making a big impact on the students.
“The days I come in, I’m more or less emotionally drained. This boosts my confidence. After I’m done with class, I instantly want to go back, no matter how tired I am,” said Micah, a rising senior at Fannie Lou Hamer.
As part of SoulScholarship, the kids are logging how much sleep they get, how much soda they’re drinking, whether or not they’re enjoying exercise, and how much water they drink daily. As a result, some encouraging stats have emerged.
“For the Brooklyn group, we found energy levels throughout the day increased by 15 percent,” says Kate Monaghan, a graduate student serving as SoulCycle’s program evaluator. “About 80 percent (including both groups) now enjoy exercise when they do it. That number started at 30.”
“We’re seeing directly that their self-esteem and confidence have improved, and they’re feeling a sense of community,” says Julie Koster, director of philanthropy at SoulCycle.