Have you had the talk with your daughter? Just 4 Questions can save her life.

by D. Bryant Simmons

datingDating abuse is a reality not often discussed when the topic turns to domestic violence. Adults tend to dismiss the social interactions of pre-teens and teens as puppy love—immature and unequal to the romantic relationships between adults. Well, did you know that one out of three adolescent girls has been a victim of verbal, physical, or emotional abuse from someone they dated?i And nearly half of teenage girls know someone that is dealing with dating abuse.ii What you don’t know about your kid’s relationship with their boyfriend or girlfriend could be the makings of a life or death situation.

Before dating becomes a possibility, before the “first kiss, there are four questions every mother and father should ask their daughter.

1. Do you know what makes you special?
Ignore her awkwardness and wait patiently for a real answer. The goal is not for her to state the obvious, that she’s tall or athletic or has a decent head of hair. The answer has to be more than skin-deep. Affirm the qualities that she’s recognized and add a few of your own. Give her examples. Remember the time that you….I was so proud because….

2. When you start dating what rights do you have?
She has the right to end the relationship at any time. She has the right to withhold consent for anything at anytime. If she doesn’t think of these rights describe situations where she would want to enact these rights to help her understand each one. Then restate the rights in a concise manner like above.

3. When dating what responsibilities do you have? To yourself, to the other person, and to your family?
This is your opportunity to lay out any rules you may have and dispel any dating myths. For instance, if a date spends a lot of money on you, then you owe him….

4. How do you set boundaries and how do you respond when someone disrespects those boundaries?
State clearly and explicitly what you expect and why at the beginning of a relationship. Have a no-tolerance policy regarding your physical and mental safety. No-tolerance means no second chances. If someone crosses the line tell your best friend, your parents, someone who cares about you. Ask for their support. Then report the person to the authorities. Do not let them get away without legal consequences and a permanent record. End all contact with the person.

You may have doubts about bringing law enforcement into this. We are talking about adolescents and teenagers here, right? They’re young. They can still change. Well, people do not change their behavior when the behavior doesn’t result in significant consequences. Here’s some more food for thought. If it happens again, this time to a different girl, and this time he goes even further the police will have to take it seriously. His parents will have to take it seriously because now we’ve established a pattern.

Encouraging a no-tolerance policy is the only way to say unequivocally to our girls, “That is unacceptable. You deserve better.” And have them believe it.

Cool Convos

by Tim Hoch

boy-teenWhen my son was twelve he was invited on a beach vacation with his best friend’s family. His friend’s mom (we will call her Doris) took my son and hers to the mall to shop for beachwear. They were in the market for a pair of flip-flops. Doris walked into Pac Sun, the boys close behind.

“Can you help me?” Doris tapped one of the teenage sales clerks on the shoulder.

“Yeah, what do you need?” he grunted.

“I’m looking for boys’ thongs” she declared.

Doris’ son tried to slip away unnoticed while my son and the clerk did a poor job stifling their laughter. After a few seconds of mortified silence, Doris persisted:

“My gosh, you act as though you’ve never even heard of thongs for little boys.”

Just before they left for the trip, Doris came by and spoke of the difficulties of raising a young man.

“He hardly even speaks to me. It’s like he’s embarrassed to be associated with me.”

I just smiled. What I wanted to say is: “You’re doing it wrong.”

Lord knows, I’m no expert. I’ve had more than my share of cringe worthy attempts at navigating the teenage discourse dynamic. But I have been able to decipher some hard and fast rules when trying to converse with kids. Here are a few:

Rule number 1: Don’t use outdated cultural references or phrases. No one “talks to the hand.” Nothing you want to discuss is “gnarly” or “rad.” Fo-shizzle.

Rule number 2: Don’t join their conversations unless you’re invited. I was driving my daughter and three of her friends to an eighth grade dance. They were giggling and whispering about some of the boys in their class when I decided to chime in. Bad idea. They don’t want my opinion about whether a certain classmate is a “sweet kid.”

Rule number 3: Don’t interrupt or argue. That is not a conversation. It’s a lecture.

Rule number 4: No nicknames. Even if your son’s friend is named Tony, don’t refer to him as “T-bone.” Your daughter’s friend is “Elizabeth” not “Lizard.”

Rule number 5: Try to have a functional understanding of (and ability to pronounce) things that are important to them. For example, don’t keep referring to twitter as “tweeter” or Instagram as “Instant grams.”

Rule number 6: Conversations are not teaching moments. So don’t make them one. Don’t criticize them or tell them how you would have handled a situation differently. If your child says something that bothers you, hold that thought. You will have time to circle back to it later.

Rule number 7: Don’t dismiss their thoughts as “silly” or “stupid.” My daughter once told me about a difficult day at school. She was in a fight with one of her best friends. It was a silly argument and I told her so. Big mistake. She would come to the same conclusion on her own a few days later. I didn’t need to speed it up for her. I just needed to listen.

Rule number 8: Don’t rely on your kids to fulfill your need for conversation. Develop your own interests, your own “cool” independent of your kids. Show them that you have a life outside of whatever they are doing. They will engage you on it. Trust me.

Rule number 9: Do not use any of the following phrases in conversation: “When I was your age…” or “If I were you…” or “pull my finger.” Just stop.

Rule number 10: Don’t gossip. There is nothing more pathetic than an adult who gossips with kids. And adults who gossip with kids about other kids? They should be paraded through the gates of hell….in boy’s thongs.

Tim Hoch is the author of 50 Rules for Sons. For more information, please visit www.50rulesforsons.com

Preventing Teen Eating Disorders

Things You Can Do To Help Prevent Teenage Eating Disorders

Causes of Eating DisordersBelieve it or not, there is a lot that can be done at home in order to prevent teenage eating disorders. While the disease is not completely in your control, you can do a lot in order to help lower the chances of your son or daughter ending up with it (teen anorexia and other eating disorders can affect both boys and girls). Too many people make the mistake of thinking that this is only something that affects girls and therefore, they end up missing out on signs that their teenage son is having problems with an eating disorder.

The first thing that you will want to do is to make sure that you are learning as much about teenage eating disorders as possible. The more you learn about teen anorexia and other disorders, the easier you will be able to spot any potential problems that your teen could be dealing with right now. Of course, the best time to start preventing such problems is in early childhood. Making sure that adults are not commenting about weight, dieting, exercise or self loathing comments is best. However, if your child is now a teen, you want to continue watching what you say, but you also want to be on the lookout for problems.

Make sure that you are helping your teen become comfortable in his or her own skin. It is not too late to discuss with your teen the different between inner and outer beauty and what a healthy weight is. Talk about how terrible it is that the women and men in the magazines are air brushed. Make sure that they understand that this is not how real people look. You have to make sure that they do not have this thought process that they have to weigh ninety pounds to look good.

If you are always walking around the house telling your teen that they need to exercise more, to stop eating so much or that they will never wear a swimsuit on the beach, you are going to end up with a teen that is suffering from teen anorexia or something else. Teenage eating disorders are on the rise. Your teen already has enough pressure from his or her classmates. If you are adding to the problem, you are only helping to secure your teen’s spot in the emergency room from passing out due to lack of nutrition. Do you really want to do that to your teen?

Also, it is important to make sure that you are controlling who is around your teen and what they are saying around him or her. You can’t protect him or her while at school, but if you notice that your teen has a friend that is always starting about weight or dieting or how fat people are, then you have the right to keep your teen away from that person outside of school.

There are a number of things that can cause teenage eating disorders. Some will end up with an eating disorder after one trauma or after years of verbal abuse or poor self image. If you notice that your teen is depressed is to start to drastically change eating or exercise habits, it is time to seek help for teenage eating disorders. Keep the lines of communication open and you will be surprised at what you can achieve.