Repost: Raising Expectations

When it comes to sexual choices, do you know what our kids need the most from us as parents? t’s not our friendship. It’s our confidence that they can say “No” to sex when confronted with hormones, peer pressure, and the desire for a relationship. Many voices in our culture say, “They’re going to do it anyway, so let’s help them protect themselves.” But if we give them condoms or get them a prescription for the pill, are we really protecting them? Let’s consider some sobering facts:

  • The 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, supplemented by data from other sources, showed that 48% of women with an unintended pregnancy said they were using birth control during the month they got pregnant.

  • Some of the most common STDs (HPV, genital herpes, trichomoniasis, and syphilis) are contracted through skin to skin contact or through contact with an infected area. Condoms do not cover the entire genital area and are therefore much less effective in preventing the transmission of these diseases than they are in preventing other less common STDs.

  • No condom or pill can protect the hearts of our children. Sexually active teens are more likely to commit suicide, be depressed, struggle in school, and abuse drugs and alcohol.

The American Medical Association reported on a recent study that showed that children whose parents had higher expectations for them had higher school achievement and exhibited less risk-taking behavior. Also, children whose parents disapproved of early sexual activity postponed sexual intercourse. So, because we love them, we need to communicate that we expect them to make the healthiest, safest choice…to say “No” to sexual experimentation, and “Yes” to the future they dream of.

Going to Bed Late Linked to Poorer Outcomes Years Later

It’s a constant battle for some of us to get our kids to go to bed at a decent hour.  What is “decent” is actually not too hard to figure out due to recent research by UC Berkeley.  An article discussing the research reported that “teens who went to bed later than 11:30 p.m. on school nights and 1:30 a.m. in the summer had lower GPAs than teens who got to bed earlier. They were also more susceptible to emotional problems.”  This was not a short term problem, that sleeping in on weekends solves.  The research showed an association with poor educational and emotional outcomes an entire 6 to 8 years later!  What can we do as parents?  One thing my husband and I did was put our router in our bedroom, with a timer on it so that the internet turned off at 11:00.  With cell phones now offering 24/7 access to the internet, it’s important to cut off phone access at night as well.  We are host parents for international students, and the private school they attend requires us to have the students park their phones outside their rooms overnight.  We use a table in the hall outside our bedroom.  Parents…do you have any ideas to share?  We welcome your comments.

Stay Focused! Helping Your Teen Work and Study

I have two teens in my home again, and I love it!  My two international students are diligent students, and quite put to shame most American kids I’ve known.  That got me thinking about how I would help distractible teens stay focused with all the competition for attention from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, texting, etc.

First, I’d probably have them park their phones in an attractive basked or pretty box on the kitchen counter during a regular (set in stone) “study time.” Then I would make use of technology to get control of technology!  It didn’t take me long to find some great helps for students who procrastinate (I had one of those) and who are so social (I had one of those too) that they find it hard to disconnect long enough to focus on their  studies.  One I found is called StayFocusd.  This add-on works with Chrome (a browser like Firefox or Internet Explorer), and allows you to limit the amount of time you let yourself be on certain websites you choose.  For instance, if your child is tempted to check out Facebook constantly, set a time limit.  Once it’s up…that’s it for the day.  Self-Control for Macs lets you set a timer blocking sites for a prescribed amount of time (while you do what you’re supposed to be doing).   Self Control for Study is an Android phone app that does similar things.  Finish is an anti-procrastination app designed by two 16-year-olds.  It would be best to help your older teens learn how to use these tools themselves, so it’s not just another restriction imposed by mom or dad.

Lying, Cheating and Stealing…it’s What Teens Do

A recent study showing an uptick in honesty among American teens prompted the founder of the organization conducting the study, Michael Josephson, to say “I think we have turned the corner.”

From 2010 to 2012, the changes include:

  • Stealing, down to 20% from 27%
  • Lying to a teacher, down to 55% from 61%
  • Cheating on an exam, down to 51% from 59%
  • Lying to parents about something significant, down to 76% from 80%

The percent of teens still, shall we say, “deficient” in character, is troubling.  It makes you wonder what you don’t know, doesn’t it?  Indeed, Josephson commented, “It’s a small ray of sunshine shining through lots of dark clouds.”

Mom and Dad…let’s not grow weary in educating our children to be young men and women of integrity.  We’ve clearly got a lot of work to do!  We CAN have hope that we can make a difference–Josephson attributed some of this significant uptick in teen integrity to parents who are increasingly concerned with teaching their children that honesty is important.   

Distracted Teens Slow to Finish Tasks

Students tend to think they’re good at doing multiple things at the same time.  Truth be told, some of us adults are also deluded into thinking we are great at multitasking as well!  But a study from the National Academy of Sciences showed that multitaskers understand less of what they’re doing, and the next day they aren’t able to remember what they learned while multitasking. The article by Commonsense Media discussing this research helps parents determine if their children are being negatively affected by multitasking, and provides tips for managing multitasking among kids of all ages. Commonsense Media’s article suggests that parents:

  • Encourage your kids to read more. Reading helps strengthen the brain’s ability to focus. The more people read, the better they become at reflection and analysis.
  • Start good habits early. Establish boundaries when your kids are young. No TV, Facebook, YouTube, IM, texting or other digital distractions during homework.
  • Model what you preach. This means no checking your phone while asking your kids how their days were.
  • Keep distractions to a minimum. Try to help your kids do one thing at a time. Granted, this is easier with younger kids. Consider putting the TV and computer in separate rooms. For older kids, make sure social networks and chatting happen after homework is completed — or at timed intervals.
  • Pay attention and connect the dots. If you see your kids’ grades slipping, make the connection between listening to a favorite band and doing algebra homework. If your children begin handing in work late or if they are staying up too late to complete homework, consider turning off the Internet, the cell phone, and the TV, and see if the situation reverses itself. The grades will tell if multitasking is taking its toll.

Cutting Sleep to Study is a Losing Strategy

My daughter insists that she can cut sleep short for days on end before a major test or project…and still be “fine.”  I’m not in a position to turn out the lights on her (she’s in college), but parents of teens might want to consider doing that very thing.  An NPR article discusses the findings of a study that shows that more studying doesn’t necessarily lead to better grades.  The truth is, without adequate sleep students don’t learn as well.  The article suggests five strategies to help teens get the most out of their rest time:

1. Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule throughout the week. When your schedule varies by more than 60 to 90 minutes day to day (or school nights vs. weekend nights), this can have negative consequences for academics, mood and health.

2. Try to get 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep a night: Best for middle and high school-age adolescents

3. Keep a regular study schedule: Trying to study late at night interferes with a teen’s ability to get a sufficient amount of sleep, and may create an irregular sleep-wake schedule as noted above.

4. Minimize high-tech in one’s sleep environment and particularly in the hour before trying to fall asleep (such as: text messaging, computer work/games, watching videos, etc.). These activities will also interfere with falling asleep and might wake you up at night if you keep your cellphone on during the night.

5. Eliminate caffeine from your diet, particularly 3 to 5 hours before trying to fall asleep.