Teen Drama

“Teenage girls may have some difficulty adjusting to the onset of puberty, some more than others.  And puberty may be a very difficult time for some teenagers, but there is nothing . . . .”

These are the words of my favorite columnist, John Rosemond, on November 21, 2015 in his Living With Children, column titled High-drama teen girls are new.   I love John’s daily advice on parenting.  It is insightful,straight-forward, no-nonesense, and practical.

This particular article ends with, “There have been many victims of the children’s liberation movement, but the most aggrieved have been the children themselves.”

If your local newspaper does not carry author, speaker and parenting guru, Mr. Rosemond, he can be accessed at  http://www.rosemond.com/

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Ten Points for Teens, Driving and Parents

My recently turned 15 year old son was enrolled in a driver’s education course.  I thought I ought to take him out to do some practice driving.  We went to an empty parking lot.  To describe his accelerating and braking as turbulent is an under exaggeration.  I instructed him to simply drive around the lot trying to stay in the driving lanes and not cross any of the parking lines.  He hit at least a dozen imaginary cars that were legally parked.   Pulling into and exiting a parking space was more harrowing.   My nerves were frazzled and so were his.   It had been a tempestuous fifteen minutes.   That was enough for lesson number one.H, D, D

That event occurred five years ago.  He eventually mastered driving and the state of Illinois issued him a driver’s license.   All of our children passed the significant milepost of acquiring their licenses and eventually owning a vehicle.  We had some good ideas and learned some valuable points in the process which I think are worth sharing.

  1. Enroll in driver’s education if possible. Choose either public school offerings or private driving school. Insurance companies offer discounts for having completed these courses.
  2. Insurance companies also offer discounts for good grades. The primary job of a high school student is to be a student.  Help your student keep that priority.   It pays.
  3. Starting with your 10-14 year old child, talk about road names and directions (N, S,  E,  and W) while out driving. Some roads change names at certain intersections, and some roads have word names as well as route numbers.   Sometimes say nothing and allow them to navigate you to a familiar place.  Some of my children were great at this and loved it and others were less adept.   This can even be done while bicycling.
  4. If you have a lawn tractor, driving it is good practice for other vehicle driving. You are the judge of your child’s level of maturing, but many six to ten year olds could be started on a lawn tractor.   We had an eight year old who was proficient at mowing on the lawn tractor and my husband literally drove farm tractors beginning at age five!
  5. Each state has individual rules for licensing teens. I suggest they have a driver’s permit for a full year so that they can gain experience under your supervision.  They need to drive in rain, snow, ice, and wind.  They should practice driving in day and night on residential roads, in business districts, on one-way roads, on dirt, gravel and highways.
  6. Help your student gain skill and familiarity with the systems of your vehicle including navigation, cruise-control, and some basic car care. H & Deb
  7. Offer a one year good driving monetary bonus to your newly licensed driver. The bonus is awarded to the driver who does not receive any tickets and does not cause an accident in their first year of licensed driving.   This cash payout will cost you less than increased insurance rates due to an accident or moving violations.   All five of our children received their bonuses.
  8. Do not give your 16 year old, new driver, or even an 18 year old high school graduate, a new car. They are not ready for it.  They do not need it.  A reasonable used vehicle is ideal. They should pay for some or all of the costs.  Many will crash it within two – three years or less.
  9. When they have an accident, do not take over. Help them to handle it.  When our fifth child had an accident I called the insurance company and handled all the paperwork.  That was not the best decision.  It would have been better to symbolically hold his hand, as he managed it all.  I robbed him of an important learning experience.
  10. We paid for vehicle insurance for our children as long as they were students in high school and college.  Upon graduation they became responsible for that living expense.

Driving is a vital step in helping your children gain independence from you.  And it is a great benefit to you.

Traditions

Traditions.  Are they confining rules or comforting structure?  Most families have many holiday traditions. Did my children love our traditions?  I don’t know.

I have many holiday traditions. One of my favorite Christmas traditions was the late night quiet hour on Christmas Eve when my husband and I stuffed the Christmas stockings.  The children were asleep – well, probably they weren’t, – but they were at least behind closed doors in their rooms and quiet.  We played Christmas music to cover any sounds for which little ears may have been listening.  I drank a cup of hot chocolate and we both ate candies as we sorted the bags full of loot making a pile for each child and dividing the candy equally.  Everyone received an orange flavored & shaped ball of chocolate in the toe of their stocking and everything else went in after that.  Often the sock was overflowing and sometimes items were placed on the mantle nearby.  Because I did 98% of the shopping it was not until this hour that my husband even saw the items I had purchased. H filling

D filling

On Christmas morning the children were required to stay in their rooms until 7 a.m.  Then we gathered in the living room and they each received their stocking.  Next came a breakfast including birthday cake for Jesus, eggs, bacon, hot chocolate and fruit salad. On the cake was a candle for each person at the table because Jesus came for each one.  Furthermore no one can fit over 2000 candles on one cake.  After breakfast we read the story of Jesus birth from the Bible and then we opened the presents under the Christmas tree.

mantle

Some people love dependable order and tradition.  They are comforted by knowing what to expect and their role in events. Others love variety and surprises. If you have more than one child, then you probably have one of each.  Husband and wife may even vary.   Each family has to figure it out for themselves.   Compromise is usually the way to peace.  There are also grandparents, adult siblings and extended family on both sides to consider.

As each new family is established they must navigate through the murky waters of instituting or initiating its traditions in view of the past traditions of two families.  Communication is the key to working through it all.    There is more than just Christmas to consider, what about the other holidays or birthdays and anniversaries?   How is gift buying handled?  Who does the shopping or gift wrapping?

Once you get it all figured out be willing to continue to make changes and adaptions.  That is what happens in life.  New normals are constantly being established.  DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS.   Talk about everything or holidays will become overwhelming and stressful.   This is especially important to revisit as your family grows and ages.  Teenagers have very different ideas about holiday fun than do ten or two year olds.

T & S

Brothers

A whole new realm is reached when your adult child gets married and brings another person’s expectations and traditions into the family.  They must be given freedom to create their own plans and traditions.  Doing this may disrupt your norm.  Let them know they are welcome and you would love to have them around, and then say, “Here is what we are doing.  Please let us know what you want to do.”   Truly be okay.  Don’t hold a grudge or be unhappy or shaming.

Have I done this perfectly?  No.   Sometimes I have not clearly expressed my desires or expectations.   Last Mother’s Day my daughter and I reviewed my expectations of that holiday.  It was shocking to me that she didn’t already know what I was thinking!

Blankies

Do your children have favorite blankets?  Is it a good idea or not?  Some children find amazing comfort from a particular blanket or a stuffed animal.

In the book, The Giver, Lois Lowry creates an utopian society where there is sameness and equality and peace.  Family structure is institutionalized to the degree that spouses are arranged and couples must apply for a child to be placed in their family.  Parents are not responsible to make child rearing decisions, but trusts the committee to choose even the child’s name and career.  All children follow the same protocol.   The Giver is the first in a quartet of stories with the final book, Son, tying all the stories together.

In Lowry’s stories infants are given a comfort object, which are the only toys in the stories.   Each object is an animal.  Living animals do not exist in this fictional controlled community.  The primary infant in this story is a boy named, Gabe, who is given a hippopotamus.  Gabe cuddles the hippo and chews on its ears.  Eventually the hippo is lost, but it continues to be significant.

Four of my five children had favorite blankets.  They chose different textures. Two loved crocheted yarn blankets.  They loved to put their fingers and toes in the spaces between the strands of yarn.   One of them was crazy about the fringe on the edges of the blanket.   One child loved the satiny soft ribbon edge on a blanket.  Only the edge was important.  Another child loved a cotton baby-size quilt.

Two sons with their grandfather and their blankets

Two sons with their grandfather and their blankets

Sometimes thumb or pacifier sucking is a part of the self-soothing and blanket holding ritual.  Thumbs are never lost in the way that a pacifier can be.  This a great quality in the middle of the night when the baby is crying  but not wonderful when the  four, five or six year old or older child cannot stop sucking  their thumb which is always with them.

I think a personal favorite blanket is very helpful.   The exception is when the “b.b.”  is missing or in the wash.  I have witnessed all my children have emotional meltdowns over the trauma of their blanket being unavailable to them during the washing and drying torturous 40 – 90 minutes.   Wiser moms than I have recognized their child’s deep attachment and found duplicate blankets so that such disasters are minimized.  Store bought blankets are easier to duplicate than are homemade ones.

I have also spent countless hours searching my home or someone else’s home for the elusive blanket.  Children often wish to drag it with them everywhere they go including places where it will quickly become filthy (such as a restaurant floor or a playground) necessitating another tormenting washing cycle.   We often left the “blankie” in the van or car so that it was available for the traveling (even a trip to the local grocery store) but not lost at the destination.  A truly lost blanket might signal the end of the world.

Eventually the blanket became less and less important to each of my children but each at different ages.  At age six or seven one son used to hide his under his pillow or under his bed just in case a friend might see it and tease him.

The embroidery design on the cotton quilt wore off and was redone twice.   The binding on the satin edged blanket outlasted its interior and became just a ribbon and not a blanket at all.  Perhaps the natural wearing out of the blankets makes it easier to part with them.    Their life is limited but useful.  Children learning to comfort themselves is a part of the natural process of becoming independent and a good thing.

Parents, don’t despair.  As your toddlers become school age children and later hit puberty and the teen years there will still be daily opportunities to comfort, guide, hug, love and listen to them.