Tag: parenting tips (page 1 of 6)

Awesome Advice Central and the Kid-pocalypse

Dear Awesome Advice Central,

What a fine cucumber sandwich with mustard and sauerkraut I’ve got myself into today. Continue reading

Beginning college: See them off in style

Dear Readers,

This week we’re bringing you another Saturday list—and we thought we’d address what’s on a lot of parents’ minds right now.

If your kids are heading off to college this week, whether for the first or the fifth time, we’ve gathered up a great big pile of resources to help both of you cope. Continue reading

The ultimate cheat sheet on teenagers: 7 things your teen wants you to know

Dear Wendy,

A few days ago, some friends and I were discussing the Dreaded Teen Years.


Teenzilla will eat your head for lunch. Then she will fail to clean up after herself. (Photo: A. Robert)

Once again I was struck by the terror in some parents’ voices as they contemplated their sweet little munchkin turning into Teenzilla—as though adolescence is an automatic ticket to histrionics, epic battles of will, and smelly laundry.

Okay, I’ll grant you the smelly laundry.

But seriously, I was puzzled. I know I sound like a prat when I say, “My kids were both great teens,” because so many people really have gone through the Teen Wars and have the emotional scars to prove it.

But I also know that it’s possible to minimize, if not completely avoid, screaming matches and angst during our kids’ teen years.

I’ve talked before about my basic parenting premise: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. (Come on, baby boomers, you know this one—follow the bouncing ball!)


(Photo: Joris Louwes, via Flickr)

But today I thought I’d offer a cheat sheet for parents whose wee ones are about to enter adolescence…and for those who are currently hiding their heads under a pillow, sucking back wine and wishing the whole messy hormonal sturm und drang would just disappear already. Ready? Here goes:

  1. Teens want you to be proud of them. Seriously, they do. And by “proud,” I don’t mean you think they poop vanilla ice cream. That’s just delusional.
    No, they want to know that you think they’re good people. They want to now that you approve when they get it right, and that you’ll still love them when they mess up. They don’t need you to brag to your friends about them; they just want to know that you can see they’re doing the best they can.
  2. Teens want you to be straight with them. They don’t want you to lecture at them about sex or drugs, for example—they want you to give them the facts, without embellishment or exaggeration. They want to know they can come to you for information, and that you won’t freak out and enroll them in the nearest military college to scare them straight. Just the facts, ma’am.
  3. Teens want you to set a good example. Let’s face it: teens can smell hypocrisy a mile away. I remember Mum and Dad, both raging alcoholics, trying to tell my 16-year-old self that smoking marijuana would cause me to become a heroin addict and probably a prostitute. And I remember the contempt I felt for their booze-soaked words.
    And keep in mind: you might think your kid doesn’t notice when you break your own rules. Trust me. They notice.
  4. Teens want you to understand that the times have changed. Their worlds include texting, sexting, twerking, cyber-bullying, binge drinking, earlier and earlier sex…things you and I couldn’t have imagined back in the Disco Era. Yes, you were a teen once, and yes, some things don’t change. But trying to pretend you know what your kid is going through these days? Bad plan. Here’s my advice: don’t talk about your youth. Listen to theirs.
  5. Teens want you to set limits…but not too many. Here’s an exercise I used to use when I counseled families as a social worker: stand in the middle of a good-sized room. Close your eyes, and stretch your arms out. You can’t touch a wall…what does that feel like? Notice how your heart starts to beat a bit faster, your breathing speeds up. That’s because you can’t find any boundaries.
    And that’s how teens feel when they don’t know what’s expected of them. I’m no fan of helicopter parenting, but I can’t overemphasize the importance of letting your kids know your expectations—and the consequences for breaking the rules. On the other hand, don’t set so many rules that you stifle your teen’s ability to grow. If you’re puzzled by how much is too much, sit down and talk to your teen. Remember, you’re in this together.
  6. Teens want you to understand that it’s tough becoming an adult. Their bodies aren’t the only thing that’s changing; their brains are undergoing enormous developmental shifts too. Their cognitive skills are growing by leaps and bounds, but their ability to predict outcomes for their actions tends to lag a bit behind. The transition from child to adult is hard work on all fronts, and your teen needs validation that they’re doing okay.
  7. Hugs are rarely a bad idea. Many a difficult parent-teen conversation has been defused with a hug. Go ahead—it’ll help both of you.

Okay, I called this the “ultimate” cheat sheet, but can you think of things I’ve missed? Let me know!



8 rules for travelling with children

Dear Karen,

This week I heard that Singapore Airlines is offering child-free zones on their planes.  There was a lot of arguing the issue, which you can follow here.  My feeling is, as a mother of 3, I don’t mind travelling with children as long as they’re well-behaved.  That seems simple, but each family has their own definition of what “well-behaved” is.

When I was a young mother, we flew a lot with our children and I was constantly trying to figure out how, short of heavily drugging them, I could keep them occupied, happy and quiet for the duration of the flight.

Nederlands: Slapende kinderen in een auto. Eig...

Living in HK meant that Vancouver and Denmark were 12 hours away, gate-to-gate.  Coming back from Vancouver was even longer, thanks to strong headwinds over the Pacific.

This kind of traveling is not for sissies.  I figured that out when our eldest was 2 years old (she’s 28 today – happy birthday!) and I was sitting with her and her younger sister, still a babe in arms, on a flight to Vancouver.  She was a seasoned traveller, but I wasn’t used to her being big enough or strong enough to cause annoyance to the people around us.  She was always quiet and if she did squirm in her seat, she was so small no one was bothered except for me.  This particular journey was different though, because suddenly she had legs long enough to kick the seat in front of her.

I thought nothing of it until I was stuffing toys into bags, waking sleepy babies, hauling kids into my arms to disembark (not “de-plane”, which sounds like Tattoo on Fantasy Island, pointing in the sky and saying to Mr Rourke, “De plane, boss!  De plane!”), and the man who had been the unwitting target of my little munchkin turned to me, leaned into my face and breathed, “Great flight, wasn’t it?  At least, it would have been if your kid hadn’t been kicking me for 8 straight hours!”.  With that, he stormed off, leaving me, slack-jawed, apologizing to empty air.

19_teatro_dozehomens HAROLDO FERRARY

From that trip on, I kept a hyper-vigilant eye on every move my children made onboard, determined we would never be cause for someone else’s discomfort again.

Here are my simple rules for peace and harmony when traveling with youngsters:

1) Give birth to a calm, easy-going child.  If you find you haven’t done so, then I suggest waiting until he/she’s 20 before flying with them.

2) Buy them a special backpack pre-flight and don’t let them see what’s in it until you’re onboard.  In ours we would include boxes of raisins, colouring books and some crayons, a My Little Pony for the trip, a disposable camera (which they would use to take photos of aforementioned Pony) and perhaps a book or two.  We used to bring juice boxes but tiny fingers couldn’t control the squirting of the juice through the straw and they’d end up a sticky mess seconds after opening them.  As they got older, we upgraded to Gameboy games to keep them busy.  Don’t pack Lego because sure enough, as soon as the flight lands, you’ll be down on the floor, trying to find all the tiny blocks, with an unhappy child weeping beside you.

3) At one point in the flight, my kids were always invited up to visit the cockpit.  That would give me a 30 minute break, which was much appreciated.  Obviously that’s not done anymore, which means this isn’t really a rule.

4) Keep them entertained.  Talk to them.  Play games with them.  Trying to sleep or to read?  Forget it.  For your neighbour’s sake as well as your own, keep half an eye on them at all times.

5) Make them wear their seatbelts.  Not only is it a safety precaution, but it’s an early-warning system as well.  If you’re dropping off to sleep and you hear that distinctive click, you’ll know they’re about to make a run for it.

6) Take your child to the toilet, please.  Some children are terrified of the noise the toilets make and are reluctant to go in by themselves.  What ends up happening is, they’ll either refuse to drink or they’ll drink and wet their pants.  Neither option is good.

7) If they use the headsets, please make sure they turn down the volume if they’re going to leave them plugged in while they’re sleeping.  I was able to hear an entire movie from one seat behind me because the kind child took off his earphones and left them in the seat pocket, with the sound at full volume.  Not cool.

8) Make them carry their own backpacks and if old enough, their own suitcases.  It makes them feel responsible and all grown-up, which is what we’re aiming for here.

If a child suffers ear pain on ascent or descent, that’s one thing.  But being whiny or throwing a tantrum?  That calls for the same measures you’d use on land.  It must be nipped in the bud and done in a calm voice and a no-nonsense manner.

Really, there’s not much difference between airborne or earthbound.  Both require parents to be vigilant, aware of their surroundings and also in tune with the fact that not everyone is as in love with Little Darling as you are.

Flying is a lot easier now, with personal entertainment systems on every seat back and snacks in the galley, but let’s face it, it can still be a time of tribulation if you’re not prepared.  Let the flight attendants deal with safety drills, what you’re doing is far more important:  showing your children how to behave in public, and being a role model for other parents and children.

No one remembers the quiet family who behaved, they only remember the loud, boisterous annoying ones.  Given the choice, I want to be part of the forgotten few.


The empty nest: Advice for beginners and old hands

Dear Wendy,

It’s that time of year again—the little kids are heading back to school, and the older ones are getting ready to leave the nest, some for the first time. And about-to-be empty nest parents are either heaving a sigh of relief, or breaking out boxes of tissues, or both.

This time last year, I was just trying to prepare myself for our youngest child’s departure. My feelings were up and down like a toilet seat—one minute I was filled with pride, the next I was terrified that after 18 years, Rachel would realize she no longer needed me, and we’d drift apart. I veered madly from grief to elation to sadness to nervous anticipation…mostly because I had no idea what to expect.

So today I thought I’d resurrect some of the letters you and I wrote one another last year, as a kind of reading list for parents whose kids are getting ready to make that all-important leap into adulthood.

How to cope during the last week before college starts

Prepping the fledglings for flight
Wendy leads off with some important tips on the important advice we give…and on letting go of our darlings. Plus some asides about my driving, which you can safely ignore.

The Big Day is almost here
I spent much of last summer trying to persuade myself that I’d be absolutely fine when Rachel left, but in that last week before school started, the reality hit. I have to admit, I freaked out just a little. When our youngest kids leave home, our families need to shift and adapt to get ready. And we all need to be just a little bit more understanding toward one another.


College dorm rooms: Just one of the changes to come

What’s the plan, Stan? Health crises and the college student
No one wants to think about “the worst that could happen,” and we don’t want to freak you out when you may already be holding on by your fingernails. But if your college-bound son or daughter has a chronic illness, you both need to put a sensible plan in place to ensure they stay healthy. In fact, every college or university student should be aware of their health-care options, and know what to do in case of emergency.


Our asthma plan looks a bit like this.

What to do when the kids leave home

Where I introduce Karen to a list:
Here’s the one where you showed me how important it is to take care of myself once the door shuts behind the last child. Re-reading your excellent list, I’m struck by how much of your advice I actually took, and by how well it worked for me.


My version of Listie. Try not to gloat, dear.

There. I just admitted that you were right about something. Savour the moment, Wendy. It won’t happen often.

It’s Friday. Time for another list.
In this one, I add to your list with a few more helpful hints on getting through the days after your child leaves home.
Yes, you might cry, and that’s okay. But be prepared: get the kind of tissues with aloe in them. You can thank me later.


This woman is only pretending to sneeze, a clever ploy to disguise her tears. Also, she could be about to cry. You never know.

Adapting to the new reality

A beginning, a middle, and an end: Parenting, change, and the empty nest
Your child is in another city. Or another country. Or maybe in the same city, but in another residence. It’s just you now (or you and your partner, or you and your cats and/or dog), and it’s time to figure out what this new reality looks like.
In this letter, I remember what I used to tell my kids when they were upset by a change…and I start applying it to myself.

Pets and the empty nest
Humans aren’t the only ones affected by change. Our animal friends can find the new empty nest disruptive and upsetting. In this letter, we talk about what to expect, and how you can help your animals adapt.


Call me when the kids come home again.

From playground to college: Some things don’t change
You’re moving into a new stage of parenting, but be reassured: your kids still need you. They might not show it the same way, but if you’re aware of the signs, you’ll begin to see that your role is the same as it ever was. Except that now you have a clean house for several months of the year.

I hope this list helps at least a few parents cope with the upcoming emotional rollercoaster. Or at least serves as a welcome distraction.

And readers, remember: millions of parents have made this transition, and continue to survive and thrive. You will, too. Just give yourself time, be kind to yourself and others, and look after yourself.



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