teens who don’t want to drive

Some teens are excited and ready to drive in the United States, but the latest thing that many parents are lamenting is that their teen doesn’t want to drive or even attempt to get their license.  This phenomenon has even hit mainstream news sources, like in this article by National Geographic.  It is definitely a national trend that I don’t think has an end in sight.  We are seeing a true shift that I think will last generations and may even extend as car technology changes.

I have read many of the articles on this subject, observed many of my teen’s friends, and have come up with some ideas of why this trend may be…

  1.  Teens are working less. You might wonder what this has to do with driving, but hear me out.   If the emphasis is placed on academic success rather than school being something one does in addition to other things, then the teen may not have the time or motivation to get a job due to so much homework and extra classes.  If they don’t have a job, they may not have money to pay for gas or insurance, let alone to save up for a car.  The teens I know who are driving the most  have a job!
  2. Teens have more friends on-line and are dating less than previous generations.  There is less reason to go out of the house.  Teens are no longer going to the mall and hanging out – they can hang out and shop in their rooms.  They may not be running out of the house to go pick up their girlfriend.   The digital age has changed the landscape of adolescence forever.
  3. Many teens have anxiety ( I have read estimates that span anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of the teen population, depending upon what criteria is used), and the feeling that you could die or you could kill someone while driving a car makes driving a less than  tantalizing proporition to many teens.
  4. There are alternatives – rides with friends, Uber, public transportation, walking, and yes….parents often started  driving their children to activities at earlier ages, and are continuing, so why give that up?

Here are a few of my suggestions in dealing with reluctant teens –

I think the philosophy is always that the parents will do things for their children until the child can take it over for themselves.  In general, this age might be determined just by readiness cues and  seeing how responsibile the child  is in doing what needs to be done under supervision and then independently.  In the case of driving, the ability to drive is dictated by state laws, by learning new skills under supervision,by testing,  and yes, I think by having incentive.  So if your teen is reluctant to drive, perhaps have a conversation about expectations and what is holding your teen back.  Are your expectations clear to yourself and to them?

If you want your teen to learn to drive, and they are already feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork and activities, you may need to clear some space so they have the time to learn to drive.  It isn’t like cramming for an academic test.  It requires time, space, practice.

They may not want to learn to drive with you.  Or they may not want to learn with all their siblings in the car.  Some will learn better with Driver’s Education, some will learn better with a trusted relative or neighbor.

Figure out the expectation for how to pay for gas, insurance, a car.  These things can really hold teens back. If they have no car to drive or no way to pay for gas or insurance because they don’t have a job, what is the incentive for obtaining a license to drive?

Address anxiety. Sometimes having a timeline, a driving instructor, etc can help an anxious teen break things down into steps that seem doable.  The idea of testing may also provoke anxiety.   And as much as I hate to say it, I know people who never were comfortable driving and nearly always lived in areas where there was good public transportation available.  It may be hard to think this way if you live in an area where good public transportation doesn’t exist, but that may be where your teen ends up as an adult.

Lower your expectations.  Most of the new drivers I know are driving surface streets to school and back (probably a 5 miles radius) or to a job that is also within a five mile radius.  Not every new driver is ready to drive all over the city.  Think about where your teen would be okay driving when they do get their licenses.  This is particularly important for homeschooling families, who many times do have classes or activities that are far away.  If you goal is for that teen to drive to those far away things, your teen may or may not be comfortable with that as a new driver.

Would love to hear your thoughts,
Carrie

Skills for High School (and life!)

We have one teen getting ready to go look at colleges and apply in the fall, and one child who will be entering high school in the fall.  These are such  interesting and often challenging ages to parent. I don’t think I ever doubted my homeschooling skills as much as I did when my oldest was in eighth and ninth grade.  I think this is because we as parents can see what skills will be needed for success in  the upper grades of high school and what will be needed in college, and we wonder what we will do if things don’t come together  (or as homeschooling parents we wonder if we are doing enough).

This leads me to a question:  what do you think eighth and ninth graders really need to be able to do in order to navigate high school (and life) successfully? I woud love to hear your thoughts!  Here are a few of my ideas for the important skills teens need for high school and beyond:

Communication Skills – this includes written communication, public speaking,  recognizing nonverbal cues in other people, presentation skills, and being able to collaborate on a team.  I think this is where things such as vocabulary and fluency in writing and speaking  counts, and so do things such as knowing how to introduce oneself and others.

**Ways to develop this:  4H and Toastmasters, work and volunteer experience, being on a team in any area- sports or otherwise, communicating effectively at home and pointing out cues and emotions,  increasing vocabulary in the later middle school years.  If you are the homeschooling teacher – assigning papers, research papers, and oral presentations.

Organizational Skills – this includes physical space planning (ie, the teen can find what they are looking for), mental organization, planning and scheduling, time management, prioritizing

**Ways to develop this – using a calendar or planner, using checklists, working with deadlines  for your homeschool, developing accountability outside the home to mentors, other teachers, volunteer work or a part-time job

Leadership and Teamwork – this, to me, involves initiative, making decisions, contributing, responsibility, respect of others and listening to others, humility, problem solving

**Ways to develop this – volunteer and work opportunities, allow decision making for teens and don’t bail them out of the consequences, let your teen figure out the possibilities – don’t do it all for them

Work Ethic -this includes dependability, determination, accountability, professionalism

**Ways to Develop This – assignments with deadlines in homeschooling, don’t skip the hard or boring all the time, work and volunteer experiences, the development of healthy habits at home which requires a regularity in doing things

Emotional Intelligence – self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills

**Ways to Develop This- talking to teens about their feelings and helping them use “I” statements and how to be active listeners, basic anger management and conflict management skills,mindfulness techniques,  nurture motivation when your teen is interested in a subject or has a passion and teach them  how to set goals around their passions, provide and model optimism and encouragement

I would love to hear your ideas!  What do you think is important?

Blessings,

Carrie

PS. If you are looking for more on this subject, you might enjoy this back post on Life Skills for Seventh and Eighth Graders and some of the resources I recommend!

The Authentic Heartbeat of Parenting

I was thinking this morning about running and metronomes; that rhythmic quality of running on the pavement or around the track is like a metronome set to a certain tempo; steady and going at the same pace, reassuring in its steadiness and how we can speed up or slow down to match the metronome. Unceaseless and rhythmical and the source of strength and rest.

This, to me, is so much like parenting.  We need find that authentic heartbeat, that authentic pace, and be able to hold it steady when the times of development and changing and growing in our children is not so steady.

When older children and teens are ready to spiral out of control, we are there with our authentic selves, and holding that authentic pace so if they are trying to speed so far ahead or so far behind, we can reach down and gently whisper, “Stay with me for a little while.”

When do we lose our pace?

When we become overwhelmed by our own baggage and our own triggers and our own emotions and our own lack of self-care.   I admit it has happened to me so much over the course of parenting!  I used to feel ashamed.  Why is this triggering me?  Why am I so frustrated with this particular piece?   But I don’t feel ashamed of it anymore; the longer I parent I can separate myself out of it all, the longer I just hold that it will all work out, the more I know my children have their own journey and their own work to complete that is not my work.

And then it came to me…

I am the metronome, but what am I set to?

Inner work and the work of grace.

I am married, so hopefully I am set in time with my spouse.

Can I keep the pace myself and not forge ahead with a clash of emotions?  Can I keep it less about me and more about just the gentle pace of growing up, the pace of our values as a family, and less about the tiny situation at hand?  The big picture is calling and the tiny details of today’s scrabble must not get in the way.

Parenting older children is tricky business. No one can really tell you how to do it as every family is unique and every child develops at a different time and pace, even if following along in a general way the developmental and archtypal patterns we have come to recognize that are common to children everywhere.

Development matters.  We are having an amazing discussion over on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page about parenting the 9-12 year old, and so much of it has to do with when the developmental changes (and on what scale) these changes hit.

The  reality is that all children eventually grow up, so changes will come, even if not at the standard times. And every family is different, so it may look different.  All we can do is be the steady pace, the gentle guide, the wonderful whisper of ease for those children who are finding no ease in the moment.

Stay strong,

Carrie

How to Talk To Your Teen About Teen Mental Health and Suicide

This past weekend, I was at the Secular Eclectic Academic Homeschool Conference.  One of the most important sessions I attended was about teens and mental health, and I wanted to pass along some of the wonderful work the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is doing for teen mental health and suicide prevention.

One of the big take-aways from this session is that we should be having layered conversations not only about mental health with our children and teens, especially by age 13 and onward, but also specifically we should be talking about suicide.  The suicide rate for American teens (2016 statistics) was 6,159 reported deaths by suicide for youth ages 10-24.

It is the SECOND leading cause of death for teens!

If the second leading cause of death was due to lack of seat belt use or eating tomatoes or whatever, we would be talking about it.

But because it is suicide, we don’t talk about it.

There is a very steep incline in terms of suicide death between the ages of 10 to ages 14-16 (meaning it is very rare to have a death from suicide at age 10, but then the curve of number of deaths by suicide by age goes up very sharply).  Suicide cuts across all ethnic groups.  No one is immune.  Every person in my session had been touched by suicide in some way.

Girls attempt suicide more than boys, but boys are more successful in succeeding and killing themselves, and for every death by suicide 100-200 teens make an attempt.  Up to 17 percent of teens have reported attempting suicide in the last year and 8.6 percent attempted suicide more than once.  It is not “attention seeking,” as some onlookers ask – it is often a feeling of wanting to disappear and not be a burden.  It is complete hopelessness.

Risk factors include:

  • Health factors:  undiagnosed or underdiagnosed mental health disease
  • Pyschological risk factor such as perfectionism/very black and white thinking (which is normal but should move past black and white thinking in upper adolescence)/perfectionism
  • Past history of abuse/brain injury/Suicide in family.
  •  Life events can be a trigger but not the only thing.

Warning signs include changes in behavior for your teen, withdrawing, isolating, agitation or being easily angered, increased anxiety, changes in sleep or appetite, expression of suicidal thoughts, giving possessions away. Usually the person feels hopeless with no reason to live, feels as if they are a burden to others, feels trapped and in unbearable pain.  Hopelessness is a major feature.  Humiliation can be another risk factor/warning sign for suicide in teens, when teens often feel as if everything they do is in a fishbowl of everyone looking at them.

Protective factors against death by suicide include feeling connected, regular health care and mental health care, learning and using coping strategies, and being willing to seek help.

You can acknowledge your teen’s changed behavior, and you can say you have noticed that they seem to be dealing with a lot and that sometimes people who are dealing with a lot may think about killing themselves.  It does NOT increase suicide if you talk about it, or directly ask about it. It may provide some relief to the teenager, and you can also then know the teen’s ideas or possible intentions and reassure them that they are not alone and that help is available and GET THEM  HELP.

At this point, not only is immediate mental health contact needed along with the immediate reduction of what is stressing the teen, but also TAKE the step to secure any item that could be used lethally – unload and dissassemble firearms that might be in the home and LOCK them away, take any old prescription medicine hanging around and get rid of it, etc.  You can call 1-800-273-TALK or text TALK to 741-741  in the United States for help.  Do NOT leave your child alone!

Here are some of the free resources mentioned in this session so  you can keep having these conversations  with your teens.  There is an Ad Council campaign and series of You Tube videos called #seizetheawkward.  It was done by a number of actors/You Tube stars and while the  ad campaign may seem edgy to you,  in group testing these were the only ads that got the teens’ attention to watch.  It is aimed for 16-24 year olds.  Here is one of the Ad Council videos to get you started, but there are number of them you can watch with your teens and get those conversations rolling. #seizetheawkward

Resources:

1-800-273-TALK or text TALK to 741 741

The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention  (there are chapters in all 50 states in the United States)

More Than Sad is the program developed by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Just like talking about healthy relationships, about sex, about drugs and drinking, let’s keep talking to our teens about mental health, suicide risk, and coping strategies.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

Friendships: Part Three: Ages 14-15

This is the last part of our series on friendships from ages ten to fifteen.  Today, we are jumping into looking at the fourteen-year-old ( which is often a much better time than being thirteen and hiding in one’s room) and the fifteen-year old.

It can be really important to some fourteen-year-olds to really belong to a group, but some may need help untangling and being untangled from a group.  This is the age where the girls especially really want to fit in to some elusive and sometimes exclusive group.  She may pick friends or even a best friend that she has no shared interests with, and not a lot of connection even,  but just feels that person is  for whatever reason now her good friend.  She may try to join into a group or clique just to be a part of it without really having a great connection to those people.  Criticism or discussion of different friends begins in earnest this year, noticing the differences or social problems of varying friends or people at school. However, fourteen-year-olds are generally better about talking about things that have gone badly between them and a friend and trying to restore the friendship rather than the thirteen-year-old who just lets the friendship drift away.

Boys often have a bit of any easier time. They still may hang around in a gang; they may or may not have a “best” friend and they may or may not care at all about that.  They do choose friends that they like rather than shared activities.  Often they still hang out with neighborhood friends, whereas girls may be done with that around this age.   Some fourteen-year-old boys still don’t have many friends, or only one friend they really like, and that is certainly okay as well.

What  you can do to help: Girls in particular often want to feel “accepted”  and hence start looking to their own place to belong away from their family.  I think based on the family as the first and most important unit of socialization, it could be important to let teenagers know that  siblings can be close friends, and that the family is such an important thing outside of friendship.

Talk about cliques and groups.  Talk about conflict mediation and conflict resolution.  Talk about how being an individual, and about diversifying friends and encouraging friendships outside of the clique with a different group.  Talk about bullying and social exclusion if you think that is going on, and how and why to be an includer if your child has a temperament that lends itself to that.  This article talks about dealing with cliques   and this article has 8 tips for dealing wtih cliques.

Fifteen-year-olds often have less emphasis on cliques, although many are still influenced by their friends in regards to clothing choice, music, etc.  Some fifteen-year-olds (and this is where your boundaries as parents are important!) may be pairing off into romantic relationships that are occupying more of their time than their friends.  A deeper capacity for caring and sharing may exist than before. Mature friends can accept differences between one another and can maintain closeness despite separation or time. They also can juggle several close friends and no one feels threated by that. I feel this often comes AFTER the fifteen/sixteen change.   Right before this change, I think there can often be a big shake-up in friends – teachers have noticed that for years the fifteen year old year (what is typically sophomore year in American high schools), often sees their students have a big change in friends.    This can also be a time of feeling restless and lonely and depressed, which may also change after the fifteen/sixteen year change is complete.

Your fifteen-year-old may be more likely to seek out advice from friends than from you, the parent.  Therefore, part of dealing with these friendships and even romanatic relationships outside of the family is putting a priority on the family.  Family days, family traditions, are all still very, very important.  It is a source of stability that many teens can’t even really put into words, but do still value.

What you can do:   Hopefully you have many talks with your children by this point as to how to be a friend, how to mediate conflict, how to apologize, how to recognize bullying or aggression and how to cope with stresses.   You are really preparing them for what comes after this fifteen/sixteen year change and as they become more and more independent and perhaps bring less to you regarding interpersonal conflicts.   Junior and senior years of high school are really the young adult phase where you are letting go, being there,  giving that right amount of space where guidance exists.

Blessings,
Carrie

Let Me Tell You Your Mission (In Case You Forgot)

One thing a friend of mine and I were talking about recently is that there is room in the adult world for all kinds of people with all their various quirks and personalities and temperaments.  The diversity of people is such a beautiful thing, and I know I am so grateful that different people want to do different jobs than I would want to do; that different people have different strengths and abilities; that different people even look different and live differently because I find so much beauty in all the varying cultures and faces of the world.  I love it!

So why do people act as if our sole parenting mission, and yes, especially in the middle and upper classes, is for our children to get into a good college and be on a college track?  I am not saying that education is not important.  It is important, but how can we balance this in a healthy way?

Having our teens stress themselves out to the point of having psychosomatic illnesses and fearing for the future and not wanting to grow up because being a teen is already stressful enough (so how stressful must adulthood be?) is not helping this generation.  ANXIETY has now taken over depression as something teenagers are dealing with.  According to this article in the NY Times, 62 percent of undergrads are reporting “overwhelming anxiety.”  There has been a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers.  

So, exactly what happens when the push, push for the “good college” is acheived?  What happens in real life outside of this?  My point is that people (and teenagers) are made of more than just their academic portfolio.  There is space in the adult world for many people with their many likes and dislikes and interests and passions. In fact, the adult world probably needs you especially, teenager who is different.

So, parents,  let me tell you your mission in case you have forgotten.  You are here to support your teen and to help guide them.  If you see them putting such pressure on themselves to perform, how can you step in and help them? What will they really need in the adult world to meet their definition of success?  Is their definition of success even healthy? One of the many points in the NY Times article above is that parents are not always driving the anxiety of these teenagers anymore by pushing them, but that instead the teens are internalizing the anxiety themselves and pushing themselves relentlessly.  Health and social relationships are, to me, more important and deserve even more time than academic work.  

You cannot live their life for them.  You are here to help your teen unfold and be who they are going to be.

Life is messy.  Being a teen is messy .  Be supportive and be kind, because you may not know much of what your teen is dealing with at all.

When people ask me about my parenting and goals for my children, I essentially say I want them to be healthy and helpful human beings.  Human beings who are good and loyal friends and family members who will help others.  Human beings who are ethical and who do not divide their public and private lives.  Human beings who can relax and have fun, and yes, make a contribution to something greater than themselves and support themselves.  That is an exciting parenting mission.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Standing Tall

In a world of beautiful Facebook and Instagram posts, it is not always easy to admit when we struggle with our children.  Actually, it is fairly easy to admit about struggling with a little person and their inability to nap, or late potty training, or  high energy.  I find we can even talk and laugh about the 8-14 year old set; the talking back and sassiness; the energy and then the dip in energy.  However, it is not always as easy to talk about the mid- to- late teenaged years and all the things the teenagers are dealing with.  Stress.  Depression. Suicide attempts.  Alcohol and drug addiction.   Overdosing.  Eating disorders.  Other mental health disorders.  Rage.  Date rape.  Violence from a dating partner.  Still dealing with the aftermath of parental divorce.   There are so many challenges to face, and parents are facing them with their children in love.

Several weeks ago,in a town not too far from us, there was a beautiful young lady who committed suicide.  I don’t know the story behind it, but I feel so deeply for not only her, but for her parents in this horrific tragedy.    I cannot imagine what they are going through; perhaps it is such a  lonely time being in the aftermath, but perhaps also there was loneliness in parenting leading up to this event. I can imagine that and think about that.   The things that go on in the mid to late teenaged years, (unlike potty training mishaps or picky eating or even tweenish talking back and asking for advice on all kinds of  parent forums), seems private and underground.  This is partly out of respect for the beautiful and sometimes oh so fragile human being blossoming before parents’ eyes, but also partly because it is an era of happy social media selfies where major issues don’t have much of a place.

Even if a family is not dealing with catastrophic issues, there can be a sort of  low-lying pressure surrounding  these years...a competitive game of sorts.  At least among the middle to upper class families that I observe, even in the homeschooling community,  I think it can be a race in a stream–of-consciousness way, like a James Joyce novel:  how many sports and how good are you and will you play in college and get a scholarship in college and how many AP Courses and Honors courses are you taking and where will you go to college and what will you do and how late can you stay up doing homework because I have to stay up until 2 to get everything done and how many places do you volunteer because you know that will look good on a college application and what do you mean you haven’t visited 12 or 14 colleges yet I mean you are a junior now and are you dual enrolling and why not and how about finishing college before you are 18 and what sort of career will you have and are you sure you can get work in that field…..

My hope for bringing this up is actually  not to be depressing, but instead to be hopeful. There can be a lot of funny and beautiful moments in the mid to late teenaged years.  There can be so many opportunities for connection, so long as you don’t let them  constantly bury themselves in a video game or on a phone. Insist they come to the lake with you or go out with the family for a walk or spend time with their siblings.  Help them get involved with things that matter to them and yes, I think there is truth in keeping them somewhat busy if they have that temperament and personality ( or letting them be if they don’t have that personality!)  Help balance them, know when to push and when to let go, but most of all, just love them.  The mid to late teenaged years are a hard time. Love will see them through.

Most of all, and this perhaps sounds a bit odd to those not in this stage of life yet with children, but this time is for you.  Find your beautiful tribe of mother friends who will support you and love you and take you to tea and dinner so you can talk and be together.  At this point, it really doesn’t matter anymore if your children and the children of your mother friends get along.  You are so far past play dates.  These relationships and this love is for you!

If you have a spouse or partner, lean into that person.  Love that person.  Be together, and be the wall and rock that the storm of teenage can bounce off of. Stand tall and stand proud. Find yourself again, because your teenagers need to see you as a person and see what you stand for.  Be that for them in the midst of the low and high pressure points of these years. 

And most of all, don’t be afraid to get help and to ask for professional support.  In so many of these cases, I have friends who said getting help was wonderful.  They wished they hadn’t waited until things snowballed further along.  Get help and get it now.  Involve the whole family and see what beauty and strength and courage can come out of these  harder situations.

To all of you standing tall with the struggles of your mid to late teens, I see you.  I am so glad today’s generation of teenagers has parents just like you.  Stand tall and fly high for these young people.

Blessings and love,
Carrie