How Do You Know When You Are Done Parenting?

5 Categories to Assess Your Child’s Wellbeing

By Erick Lauber, Ph.D.

the-family-unitFor many parents, when their children enter the teen years, things get more confusing. When the kids were younger it was kind of easy, or at least simpler. Keep them safe. Make sure they eat healthy.  Let them know they are loved, etc…

But when the kids are teens, “good parenting” gets harder and harder to define.  Are you supposed to step in and fight their battles for them, or hang back and let them figure it out on their own? Can you prevent heartbreaks or must you only provide counseling afterwards?  And does anyone know exactly what do to about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll?  When are you done parenting?

If you survey your friends about this question you might get responses like, “when your children are independent,” or “when they can take care of themselves.”  But how shall we define “independent?”  When are our kids grown up? Does it magically happen one day, perhaps, the day they graduate high school or move out?  Those seem like arbitrary dates and not all kids mature at the same rate, right?

If we focus on what really worries parents, that their children will not grow up happy, healthy and wise, we are lead in a different direction. For example, most – if not all – parents have been focused on taking care of their child’s “future self,” not just the present one.  Responsible parents have been denying their children candy in the grocery aisle, getting them up for school every day, and making a thousand other decisions knowing that these choices will be best for their child in the long run.

So, one answer to our question is “when the young adult starts making decisions that are in the best interests of their future selves, not just meeting their current wishes or needs.”

So what does that look like?  How shall we define a “happy, healthy and wise person” and how will we know when our children are headed in the right direction?


Fortunately, these questions are somewhat answerable. The Gallup organization has been studying life satisfaction and individual happiness for many, many years.  Their concept of the good life is informed by millions of survey responses and top notch social scientists.  Their results support our intuitive notion that we all want basically the same things.  Gallup has combined these few universals into a concept called “wellbeing.”  When we are doing well in each of these categories, we give ourselves very high scores on wellbeing.

For our purposes, these five categories allow us to break down the question “is our child headed in the right direction?” into five more specific questions.  Our child will do well in life and have high wellbeing down the road if they are taking care of themselves in the areas of career, social, physical, financial and community wellbeing.

  1. Career

The Gallup organization has discovered that the single most important element of one’s wellbeing is a person’s self-evaluation of their career wellbeing.  This question is not about how much money you make, but instead about how much you enjoy what you do on a daily basis. Part of our job as parents is to help our children select and get in to a career they will enjoy.  This doesn’t mean we have to find the right job for them, or even select their college major. It means we have to help our children understand enjoying your work is very, very important.  As they understand themselves better and better, they have to be responsible for making their careers, and thus their lives, enjoyable.

  1. Social

Similarly, we cannot make relationship decisions for our children, but we can pull back on parenting when we can see they are taking care of themselves and their future selves in this arena.  Are they forming strong bonds with people at work or school? Does it look like these relationships will last for years?  Are they able to navigate brief disruptions in those relationships?  Are they forward-looking in their choice of a spouse?

  1. Physical

We as parents have been taking care of our children’s physical health for quite some time. How are they doing in that department? Are they doing the day to day things that will lead to a long term healthy life style? Are they avoiding major risk factors that could create catastrophic results for their health and wellbeing? We might disagree as parents in the specifics, but if we step back and assess the overall pattern, is our child on their way to being a healthy, productive adult?

  1. Financial

Can our child manage money?  Many parents will “test drive” their teenagers’ financial decisions by either giving them their own money, maybe as an allowance, or encouraging them to get a part-time job.  Though we won’t agree with every buying decision, we want to know is our child learning about the importance of money, and whether or not they can save for big things instead of spending it all right now.

  1. Community

Finally, the Gallup organization has found a significant correlation in an individual’s self-reported wellbeing  and  their involvement in their community. Volunteering is a significant contributor to our happiness and can inoculate us from stress and other negative emotions.  Does our child show any tendency toward this kind of sacrifice and involvement? Do they belong to clubs or service organizations? Do they understand the importance of volunteering?

To answer the question “when are we done parenting?” we must have a goal in mind. Wellbeing is at least one way of answering and describing what we want our children to achieve throughout their lives. As we begin to think about when our jobs as parents might be winding down, we can use the five categories of the Gallup organization’s wellbeing index as a way to ask more specific questions about whether our child is not just taking care of their present needs and wants, but also their future selves.  Though all of us know our roles are parents will never really be over, it is completely acceptable to say the job can evolve.  The kind of parent we want to be is someone who can celebrate, from the sidelines, our child’s happiness and wellbeing.



Erick Lauber, Ph.D. is an applied psychologist and faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He speaks and consults on personal growth and development, life balance and change. He has won 19 educational TV/film awards and is published in numerous journals and psychology conferences. For more information, please visit or call 724-464-7460.

Annual Mental Health Exam

by Swiyyah Nadirah Muhammad

priority-mental-healthI’ve been saying for 10 years, there should be an annual mental health exam done on all children starting at the age of eight.  We all get physical exams yearly but because of the stigma on mental health we do not get mental exams.  I studied Psychology at the University of South FL and I believe in what one of my professors taught.  Many children experience neurotic disorders at a young age including anxiety and depression.  If these disorders go without treatment they can form into psychotic disorders.  When I was eight I experienced anxiety brought on by being molested by my brother.  I did not tell anyone about my illness.  I do believe if I would of seeked counseling at age eight my disorder would have never become psychotic.  Now I have paranoid schizophrenia.  I experienced warning signs of mental illness but at the time I was not educated to know they were warning signs.  The warning signs of schizophrenia are not caring to make friends, having slurred speech, and having a family history of mental illness.  I would advice all adults to talk to their children early about mental illness.  Ask questions. Encourage them to share their experience with mental illness.  If you’re an adult who had experienced mental illness at a young age, talk to your children about it. Ask them if they are experiencing any signs of mental illness.  The only way to end this stigma is for everyone to start sharing their stories, especially the celebrities because we look up to them.  The fear many have is that if they share their experience with mental illness they will lose their fan base, when actually they will grow more fans because people will be able to relate to them.  Forty nine percent of Americans will experience a mental illness at least once in their life.  The most common is depression and anxiety.

About the author: Swiyyah Nadirah Muhammad is an author and motivational speaker.  Her book is called Don’t Call Me Crazy! I’m Just in Love and it is required reading at SPC College and several high schools.  To book Swiyyah for your next event or for radio and television interviews, contact her at 727-776-0291.

Warning Signs a Teen is Abusing Alcohol

According to Dr. Rick Meeves, Director of Adolescent Clinical Services at CRC Health Group, a teen may 1) not be interested in alcohol at all, 2) be curious about it, 3) try it, or 4) start drinking. Most teenagers experiment with alcohol but the relationship isn’t predictable and may go in any number of directions.  If there are parental concerns about a teen abusing alcohol, the first steps often start with the knowledge that a problem exists.  Dr. Meeves offers the following warning signs a teen is abusing alcohol.

Warning signs a teen is abusing alcohol:

Sudden change in attitude

  • Issues at school, or drop in academic performance
  • Truancy
  • Withdrawal, isolation or depression
  • New friends
  • Lack of interest in anything besides hanging out with friends
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or sports
  • Increased secrecy about possessions, activities or whereabouts
  • Aggressive, rebellious behavior
  • Change in sleeping and or eating habits
  • Deteriorating family relationships
  • New or increased use of mouthwash or mints to mask alcohol smell
  • Evidence of alcohol – empty bottles, etc.
  • Cash flow problems
  • Alcohol or money goes missing from your home

Obviously, not all of these signs point specifically to an abuse of alcohol, but these signs often give a strong suspicion that a teen is drinking inappropriately and parents should err on the side of caution and take it seriously.

Talk openly with your teen about your concerns, and ask for help from a pediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist if you need to. Get a professional assessment to find out what is going on; screening for drugs or alcohol may be in order.

Put an emphasis on safety and weigh the following information carefully:

  • Teens who abuse alcohol are more likely to have unsafe sex than those who do not drink
  • Teens who drink heavily are three times more likely to try and hurt themselves (self-harm, suicide, etc.) than those who don’t drink
  • Alcohol is a gateway drug – those who abuse it are more likely to go on to abuse other drugs

Keep a close eye on a teen’s behavior and his or her relationship with alcohol.

For more information regarding teens and substance abuse, go to:

Leading through Effective Communication

by Eric Papp

ear-listenHow to Listen
“You’re not listening to me.” “You don’t understand.” There is a good chance you’ve heard one of these two lines before.

One of the best skills a leader can utilize is their ability to effectively listen and ask questions to their people.

While I was out speaking across the country I discovered something that changed me forever. It was a skill that I had but didn’t master it and utilize to my ability.

Once I started to put it into daily practice my audience evaluations went up along with my sales and I found myself as one of the top management trainers in the country.

What was it?

Well…after I graduated from Notre Dame I looked back on the lessons I learned and one of them came from a house keeper in O’Neill Hall. Her name was Ms. Leitha.

She taught me how to effectively listen.

Great leaders are those that have mastered the skill of listening not talking.

Here is a simple system for Increasing Influence and Effectiveness by becoming a better listener.

Step 1. Listen w/ liking. I have discovered that over 70% of all altercations (personal/professional) are due to some form of a communication mishap. And that is a direct result of poor listening or prejudging the person before they speak.

Miss Leitha listened to everyone and it didn’t matter if you were a popular football player, book worm or a socially shy person. She liked everyone and her listening demonstrated this.

When people came to my seminars I would mainly speak to the people that were friendly and that liked me. I focused just on them and neglected other audience members. If I liked you I would give you time and attention. Ever been guilty of it?

I quickly discovered that some people might not outwardly show their liking and you have to be open to all folks. When I put this into practice of not judging and doing my best effort to connect with everyone I saw an increase in my scores and sales.

What does listening with dislike look like for you?

  • Not fully listening to your co-workers because you don’t really care for them
  • Preaching to your children instead of listening
  • Listening with one ear to your boss because you dislike them

When you listen with liking you are opening up both ears and are not making any judgments before the conversation begins.

Step 2. Listen w/ your eyes. In our society filled with iPhones, Blackberries, and computer screens giving someone our eyes can be a forgetful habit.

Miss Leitha always made eye contact and reflected your feeling with her eyes. It was incredible it’s like her body language said, “I understand you.”

When I was doing seminars I would often multi-task when people came up and talked to me at the break and at the end of the day. Even though I could usually do both, I discovered that it was frustrating to the person who is talking.

When I made eye contact with a person they would open up to me more and we had a more meaningful conversation.

When talking to a small child you’ll often find they will open up a lot more when you are eye level. This way you don’t come off so tall and intimidating.

Ever try and tell your children something when they were in the next room? Do you find yourself having to repeat it? It can be frustrating because you’re not sure they understand you. Our eyes allow us to send a signal of confirmation.

Step 3. I’m not the focus. The next time you are listening to someone see if you can count how many times you say the word I.

When we listen we like to “advice dump” I would do this…, I went through the same thing, if I were you…

This is a great way to frustrate the other person by jumping into I mode without understanding them.

The act of really listening requires you take the focus off of you and put it on them. When people want our advice they will usually ask for it.

Un-solicited advice is like talking to someone in a language they don’t understand.

Even though Miss Leitha was full of wisdom and experience she always put the focus on who she was listening.

During my seminars I found myself referencing my own history rather than making it about them. I discovered I was more influential when I stopped advice dumping and just listened.

Step 4. Another Time. You’ll know you have started adapting world class listening when people come back another time. Your employees will keep coming back if you’ve done a great job at listening to them. This type of connection is key because not only do they enjoying talking to you there is also probably a high level of trust they place in you.

As I became a better listener I was amazed how much people opened up to me. During the breaks from the seminar I would have people share information with me that they wouldn’t tell their boss or other co-workers.

Miss Leitha was also one of those people that you came back for another time.

Start applying these ideas in your life and see how you will not only become a better listener but you will have a better relationship with those around you. Listening is only the first part of the equation. The second part is to start asking more questions.

How to ask questions that will make your child open up

Have you ever asked a question and gotten half an answer from someone? Or do you find yourself asking one or two questions then jumping into lecture mode?

A great way to get people to open up is to think of an onion. That’s right an onion. And no I’m talking about making them cry. An onion contains many layers before getting to the core of the matter. Think of every layer as a question that you ask that will help you to the core of every issue.
onion-asking questionsExample.
Your 16 yr. old son comes home from school and is upset. He tells his mom he wants to quit school.
Mom asks why? He responds, “I got a bad grade on my math test.”
Mom only uncovers one layer and then goes into lecture mode “You need to stay in school.” “Do you know how hard I work to support you?” “When I was your age…
What do you think the outcome will be?
Instead of going into lecture mode, or listening biographically and saying “I would do, When I was your age, I had a situation
Uncover the layers to get to the real meaning by asking questions and keeping your emotional intelligence (your cool)

Another way of handling the same situation with your son is to uncover the layers and asking these possible questions.

  1. What happened at school today triggered this reaction?
  2. So… you want to quit school because you got a bad math grade?
  3. How much did you prepare for the test?
  4. How did other people do on the test?
  5. What would you do differently next time?
  6. Is there anything else going on?

After you have asked all these questions you discover the real reason he wants to quit school wasn’t the math test at all. The real reason your son wants to quit school is so that he can get a job, start making money, and buy his first car to impress his friends.

You wouldn’t figure this out if you hadn’t kept asking questions.

Each question represents a layer of information leading you to the core. The core is the real reason.

Don’t be tempted to jump into lecture mode remember you’ll have a greater chance of communicating if you listen intently and keep asking questions. Good luck and start unpeeling those layers.

More helpful hints on communication can be found in the book “Leadership by Choice” Increasing Influence and Effectiveness through Self-Management. On

About Eric Papp
Eric Papp is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and management trainer in the area of leadership. He is the author of a new book “Leadership by Choice” His clients include Homeland Security, Nationwide Insurance, FL Realtors, American Dental Association, and more. His website is

Regular marijuana use by teens continues to be a concern

NIDA’s 2012 Monitoring the Future survey shows rates stable or down for most drugs

marijuanaContinued high use of marijuana by the nation’s eighth, 10th and 12th graders combined with a drop in perceptions of its potential harms was revealed in this year’s Monitoring the Future survey, an annual survey of eighth, 10th, and 12th-graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan. The survey was carried out in classrooms around the country earlier this year, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The 2012 survey shows that 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily, up from 5.1 percent five years ago. Nearly 23 percent say they smoked it in the month prior to the survey, and just over 36 percent say they smoked within the previous year. For 10th graders, 3.5 percent said they use marijuana daily, with 17 percent reporting past month use and 28 percent reporting use in the past year. The use escalates after eighth grade, when only 1.1 percent reported daily use, and 6.5 percent reported past month use. More than 11 percent of eighth graders said they used marijuana in the past year.

The Monitoring the Future survey also showed that teens’ perception of marijuana’s harmfulness is down, which can signal future increases in use. Only 41.7 percent of eighth graders see occasional use of marijuana as harmful; 66.9 percent see regular use as harmful. Both rates are at the lowest since the survey began tracking risk perception for this age group in 1991. As teens get older, their perception of risk diminishes. Only 20.6 percent of 12th graders see occasional use as harmful (the lowest since 1983), and 44.1 percent see regular use as harmful, the lowest since 1979.

A 38-year NIH-funded study, published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that people who used cannabis heavily in their teens and continued through adulthood showed a significant drop in IQ between the ages of 13 and 38—an average of eight points for those who met criteria for cannabis dependence. Those who used marijuana heavily before age 18 (when the brain is still developing) showed impaired mental abilities even after they quit taking the drug. These findings are consistent with other studies showing a link between prolonged marijuana use and cognitive or neural impairment.

“We are increasingly concerned that regular or daily use of marijuana is robbing many young people of their potential to achieve and excel in school or other aspects of life,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, alters the ability of the hippocampus, a brain area related to learning and memory, to communicate effectively with other brain regions. In addition, we know from recent research that marijuana use that begins during adolescence can lower IQ and impair other measures of mental function into adulthood.”

Research clearly demonstrates that marijuana has the potential to cause problems in daily life or make a person’s existing problems worse. In one study, heavy marijuana abusers reported that the drug impaired several important measures of well-being and life achievement, including physical and mental health, cognitive abilities, social life, and career status.

“We should also point out that marijuana use that begins in adolescence increases the risk they will become addicted to the drug,” said Volkow. “The risk of addiction goes from about 1 in 11 overall to about 1 in 6 for those who start using in their teens, and even higher among daily smokers.”

Use of other illicit drugs among teens continued a steady modest decline. For example, past year illicit drug use (excluding marijuana) was at its lowest level for all three grades at 5.5 percent for eighth graders, 10.8 percent for 10th graders, and 17 percent for 12th graders. Among the most promising trends, the past year use of Ecstasy among seniors was at 3.8 percent, down from 5.3 percent last year.

“Each new generation of young people deserves the chance to achieve its full potential, unencumbered by the obstacles placed in the way by drug use,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy. “These long-term declines in youth drug use in America are proof that positive social change is possible. But now more than ever we need parents and other adult influencers to step up and have direct conversations with young people about the importance of making healthy decisions. Their futures depend on it.”

The survey also looks at abuse of drugs that are easily available to teens because they are generally legal, sometimes for adults only (tobacco and alcohol), for other purposes (over-the-counter or prescribed medications; inhalants), or because they are new drugs that have not yet been banned. Most of the top drugs or drug classes abused by 12th graders are legally accessible, and therefore easily available to teens.

For the first time, the survey this year measured teen use of the much publicized emerging family of drugs known as “bath salts,” containing an amphetamine-like stimulant that is often sold in drug paraphernalia stores. The data showed a relative low use among 12th graders at 1.3 percent. In addition, the survey measured use of the hallucinogenic herb Salvia, finding that past year use dropped among 10th and 12th graders, down to 4.4 percent for 12th graders from last year’s 5.9 percent.

Abuse of synthetic marijuana (also known as K-2 or Spice) stayed stable in 2012 at just over 11 percent for past year use among 12th graders. While many of the ingredients in Spice have been banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, manufacturers attempt to evade these legal restrictions by substituting different chemicals in their mixtures. Another drug type – inhalants – continues a downward trend. As one of the drugs most commonly used by younger students, the survey showed a past year use rate of 6.2 percent among eighth graders, a significant drop in the last five years when the 2007 survey showed a rate of 8.3 percent.

The data shows a mixed report regarding prescription drug abuse. Twelfth graders reported non-medical use of the opioid painkiller Vicodin at a past year rate of 7.5 percent. Since the survey started measuring its use in 2002, rates hovered near 10 percent until 2010, when the survey started reporting a modest decline. However, past year abuse of the stimulant Adderall, often prescribed to treat ADHD, has increased over the past few years to 7.6 percent among high school seniors, up from 5.4 percent in 2009. Accompanying this increased use is a decrease in the perceived harm associated with using the drug, which dropped nearly 6 percent in the past year—only 35 percent of 12th graders believe that using Adderall occasionally is risky. The survey continues to show that most teens who abused prescription medications were getting them from family members and friends.

The survey also measured abuse of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines containing dextromethorphan─5.6 percent of high school seniors abused them in the past year, a rate that has held relatively steady over the past five years.

The 2012 results also showed a continued steady decline in alcohol use, with reported use at its lowest since the survey began measuring rates. More than 29 percent of eighth graders said they have used alcohol in their lifetime, down from 33.1 percent last year, and significantly lower that peak rate of 55.8 percent in 1994. For 10th graders, 54 percent of teens reported lifetime use of alcohol, down from its peak of 72 percent in 1997. Binge drinking rates (five or more drinks in a row in the previous two weeks) have been slowly declining for eighth graders, at 5.1 percent, down from 6.4 percent in 2011, and 13.3 percent at their peak in 1996.

Cigarette smoking continues at its lowest levels among eighth, 10th and 12th graders, with dramatic long-term improvement. Significant declines were seen in lifetime use among eighth graders, down to 15.5 percent from last year’s 18.4 percent, compared to nearly 50 percent at its peak in 1996. Significant declines were also seen in 10th grade lifetime use of cigarettes, down to 27.7 percent from 30.4 percent in 2011. Peak rates for 10th graders were seen in 1996 at 61.2 percent. For some indicators, including past month use in all three grades, cigarette smoking remains lower than marijuana use, a phenomenon that began a few years ago.

The survey also measures several other kinds of tobacco delivery products. For example, past year use of small cigars was reported at nearly 20 percent for 12th graders, with an 18.3 percent rate for hookah water pipes.

“We are very encouraged by the marked declines in tobacco use among youth. However, the documented use of non-cigarette tobacco products continues to be a concern,” said Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Preventing addiction includes helping kids be tobacco free so they can enjoy a fighting chance for health.”

Overall, 45,449 students from 395 public and private schools participated in this year’s Monitoring the Future survey. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th-graders nationwide. Eighth and 10th graders were added to the survey in 1991. Survey participants generally report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. Questions are also asked about daily cigarette and marijuana use. NIDA has provided funding for the survey since its inception by a team of investigators at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, led by Dr. Lloyd Johnston. Additional information on the MTF Survey, as well as comments from Dr. Volkow, can be found at
MTF is one of three major surveys sponsored by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services that provide data on substance use among youth. The others are the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The MTF website is: Follow Monitoring the Future 2012 news on Twitter at @NIDANews, or join the conversation by using: #MTF2012. Additional survey results can be found at or Information on all of the surveyed drugs can be found on NIDA’s Web site:

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is the primary source of statistical information on substance use in the U.S. population 12 years of age and older. More information is available at:

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, part of HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, is a school-based survey that collects data from students in grades 9-12. The survey includes questions on a wide variety of health-related risk behaviors, including substance abuse. More information is available at

Summer Safety for Teen Travel

Make Sure Your Teen Travels Safely

travel safetyWhether you are sending your child to a traditional overnight camp, on a school field trip or half way around the world, safety is always paramount in a parent’s mind.  For 20 years a Chicago-based service adventure travel company called The Road Less Traveled has been providing teens and young adults the chance to embark upon unique, life-changing experiences in some of the world’s most incredible locations. Whether participants are hiking the Andes Mountains in Ecuador or scuba diving and replanting underwater reefs in the Florida Keys, the programs’ first priority is always safety.

To ensure the best and safest journey possible, here are some safety tips for teens and parents from the staff of The Road Less Traveled:

For Parents…

Choose A Credible Company: With so many teen tours, adventure trips and service-focused programs available to teens these days it can be hard to know which one to go with.  Select a program that has a great track record and an established reputation.  Don’t be afraid to ask for references or testimonials from previous participants.  Another consideration is to choose a program that is accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA).

Check The State Department’s Website: Here you can find the most up-to-date information on country-specific travel warnings.

Check Your Family’s Overseas Medical Insurance Coverage: Make sure your policy applies to overseas and will cover emergency transportation expenses. If it doesn’t, you want to consider supplementary coverage for your child.

Check to see what minimum first aid certification level the leaders are required to have
. If your child will ever be more than 2 hours away from a hospital, the best training is Wilderness First Responder (WFR). Standard first aid, and wilderness first aid are not sufficient certifications in remote settings.

Talk to the directors of the program
. If they are inaccessible when you are making a decision, they will be inaccessible during the summer. Talk to the directors, learn about what their mission is as well what are the values they embrace as a program and their mission. Make sure it aligns with your own personal values.

For Teens…

Leave a Detailed Itinerary & Duplicate Documents At Home: Before leaving, make copies of your itinerary, passport and credit cards and leave them with your parents. Make sure the itinerary includes addresses, phone numbers and any other relevant information about where you will be traveling.

For those traveling in another country, register your trip on Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP). The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.  STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency.

Locate the American Embassy in the country you are traveling to. Take their phone number and address with you and keep it in a safe place. Should an emergency arise, you may well need to contact them for help.

Stick Together: Avoid walking around alone, especially at night.  Stay away from isolated areas and always take a friend or staff member with you if you need to venture away from the group.

Know The Laws of Your Travel Destination: While in a foreign country you are subject to its laws.  Be aware of local conditions and cognizant of respecting the local culture.

About The Road Less Traveled:
The Road Less Traveled offers unparalleled service and adventure trips for teens and young adults to some of the world’s most incredible locations including Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Spain, Tanzania, India, Nepal and Norway, in addition to the United States and Canada.  Each summer, The Road Less Traveled introduces hundreds of teens to some of the most fascinating places, cultures and experiences while simultaneously helping them develop their sense of self and transforming their outlook on the world.  The majority of programs offered by The Road Less Traveled programs feature a service-focused component in which kids have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the local culture and broaden their horizons while making a meaningful societal contribution.  The Road Less Traveled was founded by Jim and Donna Stein in 1991 and is headquartered at 2331 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago, IL. For more information, please visit or call 1.800.939.983

Teens Texting With Grandparents

Texting: The New Best Way for Teens to Keep In Touch with Grandparents

grandparents textingDon’t be fooled by age, a recent survey by the leading mobile social messaging app, textPlus, reveals that a whopping 81% of respondents’ grandparents are indeed ‘mobile’ (i.e., they own a cell phone).

textPlus surveyed a segment of its users (age 13-17) about texting with their grandparents. It turns out that grandparents are texting more than we think – and their grandkids think it’s pretty cool:

  • 24% of respondents prefer to text with their grandparents
  • 40% of grandchildren would like to use text to communicate with their grandparents
  • Grandchildren stay in touch with grandparents more through texting (27%) than they do through sending a letter or card (12%)
  • 54% of respondents consider grandparents who text to be cool; 34% consider them practical

textPlus’s resident “textpert,” Drew Olanoff, is available to discuss these findings, and talk about the evolution of how grandparents and grandchildren communicate today.  Drew can also offer findings related to texting behavior and prom, the classroom, work, dating and more.

Put A Stop to Bullying

Don’t Let Your Child Be a Victim of Bullying

Bullying VictimSchool will be here again before we know it, and unfortunately kids these days have to worry about more than just getting good grades and fitting in.  They have to be aware of bullying.  Dr. Janell Dietz, author of the new book Motivation to Sensation, is also a school counselor, and has witnessed firsthand the devastating impact that bullying can have on kids.

Dr. Dietz says that at least one-third of teens are experiencing some form of bullying right now, including: name calling, manipulation, physical abuse, gossip and rumors, mocking, and cyber bullying.

She offers these tips on what to do if your kids are the victim of bullying:

  • Bullies pick out victims they see as weaker than themselves.  When confronted, ignore the bully, walk away and show no facial reaction.  The bully is looking for the entertainment of seeing your face turn red, angry expressions, and yelling in protest.  Do not give the bully the satisfaction of knowing he or she got to you.
  • Report the bully to your school counselor, religious leader or basically anyone in an authority role.
  • If you are being cyber bullied, show the emails to your parents or guardian.  Do not respond to the emails and block the person from having contact with you on all social media sites.  The cyber bully is trying to provoke you and if you keep going back and forth with more anger each time, you will lose the battle.
  • You never want to show a bully that he or she did in fact stir you up, but relieving that anger is important for your emotional health.  Go to the gym, use a punching bag, talk to a friend, pray about it, do something to boost your self-esteem, or whatever works for you.
  • Start a club or school organization and make it known your school and community has a no bullying policy.  Bullies are going to find it harder to target kids who make it known they won’t allow themselves to become a victim.

Dietz says bullying is a crime and has led to many deaths and suicides, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly even at the smallest sign it is going on.

Teaching Teens To Be Healthy

Teaching Your Teen to Be Healthy Without Emphasizing Weight

teaching teens to be healthyGoing through puberty is hard enough without having to worry about health and weight issues. Children are cruel to each other and verbally lash out making sure to point out other children’s insecurities and being a struggling teen is even harder. A teenager’s body is already going through so much change and if he or she has health or weight issues, on top of that it can make life very hard.

That is why parents need to keep open lines of communication with their teens and make sure to support them without adding to his or her problems. Communication and making one’s teenager feel good about who they are is the key to keeping him or her balanced. Struggling teens shut down and bottle things up keeping it all to themselves thinking no one will understand what he or she is going through. Leading by example is the best way to relate and keep communication with one’s teen helping them silently in the background. It is important to be the teens helping hand.

There are many ways a parent can help their struggling teen with his or her weight issues without voicing the problem. When one’s child was small it was easy to take them out to the park and play, or be able to relate to them on some level. However, as teens he or she is learning who they are and trying to do things on their own. Parents just need to find time to be there with their teens without making them feel they are intruding. Teens help others but rarely think of themselves.

Start with mealtime, parents can take a cooking class that will teach them how to cook healthy foods without letting on that it is healthy food. When it comes to cooking meals, take that time to have the teenager help with preparing the meal. By doing this the parent is spending time with their teen and teaching them how to eat and cook healthy foods. This also allows the teen time to open up and talk if he or she may have a problem. By being the teens helping hand things tend to go smoother.

Have only healthy and good foods in the house. When a teenager comes home from school or activities make sure to have good healthy snacks readily on hand. Teens are always on the go and this ensures the first thing he or she will grab is something that will help their bodies, not hurt them.

Keep your teenager active. Another good way to communicate and get your teenager active is to suggest the teen helping the parents to stay active. Invite the teen to accompany on walks, have them spot during workouts, ask them to accompany you to a swim. Do anything you might feel will interest the teenager and make it appear as if it were to benefit the parents health and make them feel welcomed. The teens help will be easier given if they are helping the parent.

Inspire, uplift, encourage, and always let your teenager know no matter what, they have the support of the parents. Inspire the teenager to be all he or she can. Uplift them every possible chance by giving praise for things done well. Encourage him or her to try new things even if he or she falls and let them know they succeeded no matter what.

By doing these simple little things, struggling teens will see there is hope and security in life. Having the teens helping the parents is in turn helping themselves. All of these suggestions guarantee open communication, a loving family life, and the security a teen needs to know that their parents will love and help them with any problem they may have.

Teen Depression & Self-Esteem

How Teen Depression is Related to Teen Self-Esteem

Teen Depression and Self EsteemTeenager depression is nothing new, but when teens are feeling blue, their self-esteem suffers just as much as their emotions. There are many reasons to why this is occurring, but there are three areas that the depression resonates from: school, the internet, and home. Each one of these is out of a teen’s control, unless they brought the pain upon themselves. Regardless, teens and depression have become part of the mainstream and it’s not a good thing.

School was once a place that kids went to learn and socialize with friends. However, some teens these days would rather be home schooled and socialize with friends over an online video game. Aside from bullies, school brings the same kids together for 180 days out of the year. Once a teen is teased or embarrassed for something they said or did, this forces the teen to deal with the same ridicule every day after.

It’s like a tragic scene from a movie repeating itself over and over again and doesn’t stop. This can almost diminish a teen’s self-esteem to nothing if left unchecked. It doesn’t have to be for the same reason either. The fact that they’re being picked on every day is enough to keep the depression going. With teens on the internet more often than they were in 2001, places like Facebook and Twitter have become new avenues for bullies and other classmates to trash each other. Some do it anonymously, while others prefer to let themselves be known by everyone.

It’s no different from the teasing and trash talk from school. The only difference is where they do it and how often. While the ones teasing the teens may not send messages directly, they’ll post updates calling them out by name. This can go on for months and build over time. It’s as bad as having 35,000 people calling you every offensive word that exists nonstop. That’s another one of the ways a teen’s self-esteem can be damaged.

At home, teenager depression can be caused by whatever is going on at home. Deaths in the family, domestic situations, sickness, and work ethic can affect a teen’s self-esteem as well. Pushing them to make straight A’s can backfire, especially if the parent believes or sends the message that their teen will become worthless if they don’t. This happens when a teen with parents like this get angry at them for get an A- instead of an A+, which lowers the teen’s self-esteem and their grades as well.

Teenage depression is a tough thing to deal with, but there are ways to make things right. At home, adults can make things better by being more involved in a teen’s life other than school and work. If they have people on Facebook posting hateful messages online, help them get some positive ones to balance it out. If the problem is just at school, tell the principal to put a stop to it. Teenage depression will always exist, but it doesn’t have to affect every teen and their self-esteem.