Monday, April 25, 2011

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When I spoke to a group of teenagers on communication, one teenager wanted to talk about something else. During lunch break she visited with me privately.

What she wanted to talk about was how to hang on to what you believe to be true about yourself, your life and your passions.

Turns out she was tapped in—in a good way—to who she was, what she wanted and what she believed, though the people around her were anything but.

This teenager knew she was losing ground. She wanted to know how to hang on to what she knew to be true.

Her parents were saying that her dreams were impractical, and her friends were criticizing her attitude. “Is it weird for me to decide I want something and then investigate ways to make it happen? My friends tell me I’m compulsive and way too serious. Does this mean it’s true?”

I reassured her that her actions were not peculiar and that being strategic and pursing goals was admirable.

Before I shared with her a secret that would help her stay on track and remain true to herself, I said, “If you had to pick one thing that you enjoy doing more than anything else, what would it be?”

She said, “I love taking pictures. I love using a variety of cameras and lens. Actually, I keep telling my parents I want to be a photojournalist. They think I am nuts and could never support myself.”

She proceeded to tell me that her parents were encouraging her to pursue accounting. “They believe I’m good with numbers and that if I get an accounting degree I will be more likely to make money. I don’t like accounting!”

I asked her to think about how being a photojournalist made her feel? She lit up, almost giddy with excitement. When I asked her to think about what it would feel like to be an accountant, a dull look covered her eyes. She looked tired and drained.

Then I told her the secret: If you want to know what is right for you to do, monitor your feelings. Your feelings are the indicator. If it feels good, you are on track. If it feels bad, you are off course.

Think of your feelings as a compass. A ship captain relies on a navigational system to keep a ship on course. In the beginning of the journey, the captain enters the destination—the ultimate goal. As the journey continues, the captain continues to check his system and makes adjustments because over the course of the trip it takes adjustments to keep the ship on course.

Adjusting throughout as the trip continues means that eventually the captain will arrive at the place he intended to be.

Our feelings work the same way, and so do the guidance systems of our children. What you believe is their path is not a good indicator. What inspires and excites your child are major clues about the direction they need to take to be a fulfilled, prosperous and happy adult.

Hanging on to yourself during adolescence can be difficult to do. When your teenager tells you she or he is losing their ground, pay attention.

What’s the best way to help your teenagers hold on to themselves and what they know to be true during adolescence years? Encourage them to pay attention to their feelings. Help them recognize what brings them joy. Taking the path that follows their bliss is never a wrong path. It might not pay off as they suspected or hoped for, but it will pay off.

Allyn Evans
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Parenting is Not about Being the BFF

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Your job is not to be your child’s “best-friend” or “sibling.” Parents using this style tend to view a child as a confidante, which typically means giving too much information.

Experience tells us children become easily burdened by parental financial and relationship problems. Likewise, playing the best friend means it is more difficult to correct or make decisions that are displeasing to your child.

As a parent you will say no to your child and you will make her angry. While it’s hard to say no, it’s even more difficult to say no to your best friend.

One day your relationship may develop along the lines of friendship, but during adolescence it is better to be comfortable—as comfortable as you can be—not being the friend. Your child will be better served if you are authoritative instead.

An authoritative parent is one who is warm and caring, but is also highly structured. Authoritative parents have rules and high expectations for their children.

An episode from Grey’s Anatomy helped me see the big picture. Physician Addison Montgomery has a pregnant patient who demands to have a non-surgical birthing. After practicing ‘natural’ childbirth, the patient refuses to accept anything else. She believes doctors push too early to perform C-sections, and she will not agree to the procedure Dr. Montgomery feels is necessary.

Because a past trauma has made her question her own decisions, Dr. Montgomery acts more like an indulgent parent than an experienced and authoritative physician. Under the onslaught of her patient’s tempestuous demands, Dr. Montgomery abandons the position she knows to be necessary.

Another doctor helps Montgomery to realize her responsibility is to be the competent, knowledgeable physician she is, not a woman vying for first place in a Miss Congeniality contest.

Dr. Montgomery returns to the pregnant woman’s room. She has to order the patient to shut up to get her to listen. “I have to make a decision that will save your life,” the doctor says. “It’s important and I’m the one who has to make it. Not you. Not now. Discussion closed.”

Only when the doctor is sure of her own position can the patient who is desperate for another outcome respect the doctor’s authority.

Our goal as parents is to be our powerful selves and to evaluate what’s before us. When we make a decision in the best interest of our children, we must hold our ground and say, “Not you. Not now. Discussion closed.”

One mother who listened to a stranger desperately trying to reason with a howling toddler finally remarked to a friend, “That kid and the rest of us will all feel a lot better if Daddy just says no. There’s a reason parents are made bigger than the kids.” I believe it is important to talk and explain your decisions if the child is old enough to understand, but there are also times when it’s necessary to be authoritative, to be more like Dr. Montgomery.

Author Cheryl Dellasega reminds us, “Holding fast to our standards and allowing our children to hate us, on occasion, is mature and responsible, and provides the opportunity to stay firm in our loving, despite the wrath of our progeny.

What better way for a child to learn that a human can dislike or censor another’s behavior while maintaining affection for that person? Could this be the true test of a loving parent: to love a kid—and herself—enough to be, temporarily, despised by that child?”

As children mature, they will have different best friends. Parents provide them with boundaries they need to grow and learn.

Allyn Evans
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Cell Phone and Internet Use Agreements for Caregivers

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RESOURCES and TOOLS for Parents (Internet Safety)

Cell phone and Internet Use Agreements:
If you'd like a copy of a parental/child agreement for cell phone or Internet use, please email me. Write "Send me parental agreements" in subject line.

For other resources you might find helpful, keep reading:

Parenting Online Guide by

Definitions of Technology Terms Used

Email for kids:
For instructions on signing up for gmail

Need help counteracting a cyberbully? Visit:

If you need more than on-line help, call the hotline. For more info
about their services, visit:

For more Short Message Service lingo, visit:

Reviews of best cell phones for children:

Reviews of best parental control software products:

Another parental control product to check out:

Signing up for Google Alerts: For instructions on how to set up, visit:

Search engines for kids:, and

For Chapter on Determining Your Values from the yet-to-be-released:
(retitled) Helping Your Daughter Live a Powerful Life, visit:

There are related articles in this blog. Refer to the listing in the right hand column for subject matter.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Exactly As I Am

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While writing Helping Your Daughter Live a Powerful Life (release date: 2011), I read Exactly as I Am by Shaun Robinson, a book filled with advice from well-known women.

Following are some excellent nuggets from Robinson about “what it takes to believe in yourself.”

1: You Are Who You Are

Many teenagers look in the mirror and see less than they desire. I totally get this. The mirror was not a friend of my younger self. Robinson reports that stars such as Janet Jackson, Sharon Stone and Jennifer Love Hewitt also felt the same way. Sharon Stone said, “I didn’t think I was pretty until I was thirty-three years old. Think of all the time I wasted.” It’s important to help our daughters love who they are. If you are trying to change your child, she knows it. Take the lead by loving her for who she is.

2: If You Fall, Get Back Up

Ever watched The Rookie starring Dennis Quaid? This feel-good movie, based on a true story about someone going after his dream, demonstrates the path to dreams isn’t necessarily easy. While you are heading in the direction of your dreams, there will be challenges and upsets. Meredith Vieira, Today Show co-host, shared with Robinson that she was fired from her first television job after being told she didn’t have what it takes. “My father found me crying and asked, ‘Do you believe you have what it takes?’” Veira said. “I answered, ‘Yes,’ to which he said, ‘Then why do you care what anyone else thinks?’” Helping our children learn this message is key. We can model this behavior. When things go wrong, don’t crumble. You may fall, but after sitting there awhile, dust yourself off and reevaluate. Make a new plan. Change the plan. Your child will learn from observing you.

3: Reach for the Stars

In The Rookie the character played by Dennis Quaid almost said no to his opportunity to play professional baseball. He was old. He had a decent job. Change would be risky. The only place your child will reach taking the practical or safe road is regret. How do you help your children? Get to the heart of their desire. Ask them what they are aspiring to do. Ask what they want from a goal. Being famous or rich is not a dream worth pursuing. A dream worth pursuing is the dream your child can’t shake, what she does without reward—one that features her skills and talents. Even if parents cannot see it, there are practical uses for a child’s dream. Author Caroline Myss said her family thought she was making a major mistake pursuing a theology degree. “What do you do with theology?” they asked. For Myss it turned out to be an excellent choice. Her best-selling works are laced with theology. Danica Patrick, world-famous woman race-car driver said to Robinson, “Find something that you love to do and you are good at and make a career of it.”

4: Embrace Your Uniqueness

Loving who you are can be difficult for teen-agers. Eva Mendes shared with Robinson’s readers, “The most challenging time in my life was between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. I felt physically awkward and socially inept. I was so insecure about not only how I looked but about everything I said.” Sharing your own experiences with your children will help them be kinder to themselves.

Shaun Robinson says, “What I learned from all the women I interviewed was about how to embrace yourself—warts and all.” Robinson’s book reminded me of this message. Thanks, Shaun.

Allyn Evans
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Braces Off!

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This column first ran in the newspapers summer 2010.

Addy got the good news her braces would come off in early June.

It is such a momentous occasion, Addy’s orthodontist schedules a day every six weeks strictly for his patients who are having their hardware removed. We were both thrilled.

For me it meant fewer orthodontist trips and the end of buying soft mushy foods every six weeks. For Addy it meant lots more—including bypassing the minor pain that followed every check-up.

I never required braces and didn’t know the ‘after-braces-off’ routine. I had heard people wore retainers, but I had no idea what was required. Before Addy’s big day, we had other adults tell us about their experiences.

Our home renovations guy said he never wore his retainer. After a period of time—a short period—his teeth changed position again. All that time, money, and discomfort wasted.

We had heard more stories in the weeks leading up to her visit. Those who failed to wear the retainer had good reasons. “Didn’t like it.” Or, “I forgot.” An excuse often repeated—“I lost my retainer and never replaced it.”

In an on-line account, Rachel says: “When I got my braces off during my junior year of high school, I was ecstatic. After three long years in metal, I finally had the smile I wanted.”

Then things went downhill for Rachel: “After a while, it got to be a hassle. I was tired of digging through the garbage in the cafeteria after accidentally throwing out my retainer. I hated how icky it got if it wasn't washed frequently. It made me talk and look really weird. A couple of months after I stopped wearing my retainer, I slipped it on for curiosity's sake. My teeth felt like someone was squeezing them with pliers — it was so painful, I had to take it off right away. You would think warning bells would go off, but I didn't think any more of it.”

Rachel ignored the signs. She ended up with a smile that resembled the one she started with in the first place. A smile she now called, “Ugly.”

While I was waiting for Addy to emerge braceless, a former colleague of mine entered the waiting room. She smiled at me with a mouth full of plastics and wires. She, too, had failed to wear the retainer after the first time round, now was back to do it all again. “I have to wear these at least one more year,” she said. “I won’t neglect wearing the retainer this round.”

While waiting for the unveiling, I read a collection of stories, some comical and some exaggerated, written by patients of the doctor. Time after time, the sad tales all explained why the retainer had been lost or damaged. How much does it cost to replace one? About $100.

Addy had a chance to see and hear firsthand what would happen if she didn’t follow the orthodontist’s instructions, and the stories gave me lots of ammunition. Yes, I stooped so low as to threaten Addy. “If we ever had to do it again, you’re paying for it!” The same goes for a lost retainer.

Addy needs to wear her retainer for 10 to 12 hours in a 24-hour period for up to two years. After that, she’ll still need to wear a retainer, but the schedule is less draconian.

So far, so good. The retainer is being worn regularly and so far it hasn’t been lost. She’s only been braceless for less than a month. Time will tell us how this drama will play out.

Allyn Evans

P.S. She did end up swallowing the lower wire retainer and we have since switched to the same as for the upper teeth. And, as of this posting...she's still wearing her retainers!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Roughing It

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Does your teen need an attitude adjustment? Have you entertained the idea of shipping him or her off to one of those host families on CMT’s “Worlds Strictest Parents?” Maybe you are looking for a more practical solution, one where you don’t have to be selected to air your drama on national TV.

I have the perfect solution, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, either.


But not your regular summer session filled with cabins, pools and fun—something much more basic and centered around camping out and rustic living.

As teen-ager I had attended such a camp, the Episcopal Church-based camp in Canton, MS (Bratton Green) which has been offering adventures for teens for over 50 years.

What’s so great about Pioneer Camp besides the price (less than $500 covers the five-day teen vacation plus the required gear)? Both you and your teens will be glad they went.

Addy had her first go at Pioneer Camp this summer. Even though we are different in many, many ways—what I like to do for recreation, she usually doesn’t, and vice versa—I had no doubts that she would love Pioneer Camp. I was right.

Although I wanted to her to have fun, I also wanted her to gain from the experience. While at camp, you are required to be a functioning member of the team. You help with the chores, cooking and cleaning. Something else I wanted was for her to experience pushing her physical limits, which is accomplished by the activities done at camp such as going on long hikes, climbing steep rock walls, and going over the edge of a cliff (rappelling).

Having had the opportunity as a teenager, I knew the benefits. When facing challenging situations I could remember the time I climbed the wall or completed the 90-foot ropes course. I could tell myself, “If I can do that, I can do what I am facing at this moment.”

If you are the caregiver for a troubled teen, there are options for you as well, some more restrictive and demanding than others. Roughing-it programs might be a more palatable solution than appearing on reality TV. For more information, Google the subject. Find three to five options that work and then call to find out more details. Ask to speak to parents of previous campers to get more input.

I found a mix of offerings for severe situations—those who are court ordered, for example. Boot camp is another type of program for troubled teens, and typically has a military training component or disciplinary system in place.

There were also options for teens with mild to moderate issues and included trained therapists. One such place OutBack Treatment in Utah explains, “Outback, the wilderness treatment program, works with students, struggling teens or troubled teens, 13 to 17 years of age with a range of emotional and behavioral issues that may include Oppositional Defiance, Attention Deficit, Learning Differences, Low Self Esteem, Depression, Substance Abuse and Family Conflict.” They do not accept teens who are gang members, sex offenders or suicidal.

There are also plenty of options for those of you who don’t need help with a troubled teenager. Wilderness Adventures is one. The goal of Wilderness Adventures is “instilling self-confidence, self-reliance and lasting group leadership skills; and ... teaching responsible use of wild lands and concern for the continual preservation of these areas for future generations.”

Because of my own experience, I have always been a proponent of adventure camps for teens. Now that my daughter has also benefited, I want to share this good message with you.

Allyn Evans
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Friday, November 12, 2010

I Know More Than You Think

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I asked my daughter, Addy, what parents should know about teenagers today.

She immediately had a response: “Parents of teens need to understand that we know a lot about things—more than they think, probably. We get it from TV, Internet and our friends.”

Boy, did I know this to be a true statement.

Just watching TV now will let tell you that. The innuendoes and outright too-much- information peppered throughout even on a Primetime sitcom are not misunderstood by a teenager.

And then there is PG-13 which contains easily sent messages that are not always the ones we want our children to learn.

I was nine-years-old the first time I watched a scary movie on TV. The show was about the Salem witch hunt, and you and I both know that the movie couldn’t have been that scary.

It was on TV in the 1970s, for goodness’ sakes. It freaked me out for months. Addy and her dad have enjoyed watching scary movies since she was a young age. The movies now are much scarier, if you ask me, but they don’t faze her—she mostly laughs at their absurdity.

I did learn the meaning of the most used cuss word of the day when I was in the 2nd grade. I didn’t hear it a lot until I actually arrived at college. My daughter says she hears it all the time—at school, on cable TV, on the radio (yes, have you listened to Sirus or XM radio?) and at the movies, to name just a few places.

The point is that children know more than we did when we were their age. But it’s important to keep in mind this doesn’t mean they are more mature than we were at the same age.

In an article titled “Kids Today Know Far More About Sex,” appearing in a Montreal’s “The Gazette”, Julie Beun said, “I recently interviewed Dr. Michael Popkin, the man behind the Active Parenting movement in Georgia. ‘You want to match your answers to the child's developmental level,' he said. ‘Think about it: 14-year-olds are dealing with sexual issues that we dealt with in college.’" She thinks the problem stems from our children’s exposure to the Internet, TV, movies and the big kids at the back of the bus. I agree. She reminds us, “The trick is not just to ensure they have accurate information—babies don't come from storks or Brad Pitt, no matter what Star magazine says—but to keep it all in context of the values you want them to have.”

“Parents need to understand that is the way it is,” Addy said. And that, my friends, is where Beun’s advice squares with Addy’s. We can’t stop our children from receiving the download, but we can talk to our children about our value systems and what is important to us. They do listen, even if you don’t always believe they do. Beun also reminds us that we do have to untie the apron string and, yes, “sometimes, we do have to let them work things out for themselves.”

So if nothing else today, realize that your teen knows more than you think and that even so, it will be okay. Teens have to deal with knowledge beyond their maturity whether we or they like it or not. It’s the world we live in. As parents and caregivers, we can help them process and deal with mature subject matter by listening, responding and answering tough questions.

Thanks, Addy, for helping me address a much-needed subject matter.

Allyn Evans