Some Words Of Advice: Tackling Three Concerns Parents Have For Teens

The following is a guest post courtesy of Mercury Insurance.

Keeping our kids healthy, safe and thriving is a top priority for parents in today’s fast-paced world. However, it can be difficult to keep track of all of the risks out there for our children, and we can’t be with them every moment of every day. May is Youth Safety Month, a campaign designed to educate parents about the steps they can take to protect their children. It’s also an opportune time to shine a spotlight on three primary areas of concern for parents with teens.

1. Driving

Learning to drive is an exciting experience for most teens…and it can be pretty scary for parents. This concern is not unfounded: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2,524 teen drivers and passengers were killed and 177,000 were injured in 2013. Driving is the no. 1 cause of death for teens.

There are some things you can do, however, to prepare your teen to drive and significantly cut down the risks they will face when they get behind the wheel.

“It starts with practice,” says Randy Petro, chief claims officer for Mercury Insurance. “Most states don’t require enough supervised behind the wheel training to adequately prepare teens to drive on their own, so it’s up to parents to take the time to teach their kids how to drive. I recommend you drive with them a lot. If you need milk, make them drive to the store. If you need to take another child to soccer practice, get everyone in the car and have your teen drive.” It’s important to remember, however, that you need to stay calm in the passenger seat. If your teen makes a mistake, don’t jump on them for it. Wait until you reach your destination then discuss it with them. You want them focused on the road, not on a lecture from mom or dad.

And speaking of staying focused on the road, you should make it very clear that distracted driving is very dangerous and won’t be tolerated. No texting while driving. No eating while driving. No posting selfies while driving. No searching the phone for the perfect song while driving. All of these activities reduce driver reaction time so much that it’s equal to being legally drunk behind the wheel, according to a University of Utah study. “Most of us wouldn’t dream of driving drunk, but those same people won’t think twice about playing with iTunes while eating a cheeseburger while driving,” says Petro.

If you’re looking for some great tips and resources to help you prepare your teen to drive, I suggest you take a look at the Drive Safe Challenge website created by Mercury Insurance.

2. Social Media

It’s pretty much impossible to keep teens away from social media, especially when 88 percent own a smartphone and primarily use it to connect with friends via social channels, according to a report on the Huffington Post. “My daughter, if left to her own, would be on her phone all hours of the day,” says Marlee Walsh, of her 17-year-old. While growing up in a world with a 24/7 connection to friends and outsiders can be a lot of fun for teens, it can also put them at risk.

Start discussing healthy habits early on for when and how to use social media so their mental, emotional and even physical state stays positive. Discuss smart social media use and make sure all of their accounts are set to the strictest privacy settings, where only their friends and family can see their posts. This is an important step because most sites allow any user to view another user’s information by default. Create clear guidelines for what they should and shouldn’t share on social media and instruct them to only accept friend requests from people they know. “Having an open discussion and coming to an agreement together allowed us to setup guidelines that help keep her safe,” Walsh added.

Ultimately, your teen has the power to control what they do on social media, but you can stay in touch with their activity. One app called My Mobile Watch Dog helps parents see how their children are using their smartphones. Another app, Net Nanny Social, keeps a watchful eye on social media accounts and includes features that filter content, deal with privacy concerns, identify and prevent cyberbullying or inappropriate friendships and removes damaging pictures or videos.

3. Peer Pressure

It’s only natural for kids to want to fit in and feel accepted by their peers, and every parent wants their child to have friends. Teens are the demographic that are most influenced by their friends, which can have good and bad consequences. Peer pressure has only increased with technology, and kids want to be accepted by a group while seeking independence. So, how do you tackle this difficult topic without seeming controlling or overbearing?

Talk to your teen and have authentic conversations so that he feels safe talking to you about what’s going on in his life. Talk to your teen about what values are important to you, and make sure she knows it’s okay to refuse to do something that she believes is wrong. Reinforce and encourage good habits and take part in productive activities. Be present in his life by showing up when it counts, learning about what he loves and get to know his friends. It’s also important to lead by example and demonstrate good behaviors through your own actions.

As a parent, you can provide the tools your children need to make good choices. So talk to them and help guide them down the path to becoming the person they were meant to be.

Art Exhibit Encourages Parents To Talk About Tough Topics

As a mom of young kids, the hardest topics I have to talk to my children about these days are sharing, being kind to others and taking turns. In a few years though, I know I will have to tackle tougher topics like drinking, drugs, and physical intimacy. I’m actually very nervous about those talks so I’m happy to be partnering with Rosecrance, a private not-for-profit organization offering behavioral health services for children, adolescents, adults and families, and learning more on how to approach these conversations.

I participated in a Twitter party earlier this week and loved hearing from parents that have teens now, women that I admire in business who are also amazing moms. I also got some tips on talking about difficult subjects from Dr. Wright, the Chief Medical Officer at Rosecrance. Though my oldest is only six, I’m already in the process of figuring out how I am going to approach hard topics.

If you are a parent of tweens or teens and live in the Chicago area I’d highly recommend checking out the “In My Shoes” art exhibit at the Robert Crown Center in Hinsdale, IL during National Drug Facts Week. The exhibit was created to help parents understand teenagers’ points of view about the pressures they face and how they are confronted with the potential to use and abuse substances.

Developed by teen patients at Rosecrance’s adolescent campus in Rockford, “In My Shoes” displays shoes that have been painted and decorated by teens to tell their stories about substance use. From shoe selection to showcase, the process of creating shoe art is a meaningful experience because each shoe is unique and tells a teen’s story about addiction, recovery, and most important, their hopes and dreams for the future.

Here are all the details:

  • WHERE: Robert Crown Center, 21 Salt Creek Ln, Hinsdale, IL 60521 (SEE MAP)
  • WHEN:  Monday, Jan. 26 – Friday, Feb. 6, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Open house: Jan. 31, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • WHAT: During the open house there will be activities, presentations and screenings to raise awareness about substance use and prevention.
  • WHO:   Jennifer Thammavong, art therapist, will be onsite during the community open house on Saturday, Jan. 31
If you don’t live in Chicago, see if the exhibit is coming to a town near you here. They also have other resources on their site like this ebook about teens and weed.
Join in the conversation online using the hashtag #InMyShoes.


Bullying: Words Can Kill

I normally don’t publish press releases but the preview for this 48 hours special brought tears to my eyes. Please share this with all the parents of tweens and teens that you know and please tune in on September 16th to learn more and potentially save your child’s life.

As a new school year begins across the country, more than 160,000 children will stay home every day because they are afraid of being bullied. That is just one of the startling facts in the CBS News/ 48 HOURS presentation “Bullying: Words Can Kill.” Reported by correspondent Tracy Smith, the program airing Friday, Sept. 16 (8:00 PM, ET/PT) reveals how the explosion in technology is only making bullying worse, as victims cannot find relief from their tormentors in a 24/7 digital world. The report will have important new information for parents, educators and legislators about how bullying affects children and how to address it.
For six months, producers and camera crews were allowed in-depth access to the classrooms, cafeteria and gym at a Rhode Island middle school that is one of the few in theUnited States that has openly acknowledged it has a bullying problem and has taken action to address it. The 48 HOURS special documents the real lives of students at that particular school, and has the powerful stories of other young people and their families from around the country who have felt the impact of bullying firsthand.One constantly harassed 13-year-old told Smith, “They got inside my head. They did it because they knew it would hurt.” His mother said dropping him off at school was like “sending him off to war.” Tragically, more than 150 children have taken their own lives in recent years because they were victims of harassment in school and online. Among those featured in the broadcast:
Dara Genovese, 13, bullying victim: “If you have ever been bullied, harassed, tortured, which I hope you haven’t, let me tell you, it is the worst. I mean, worst feeling ever. You’re laying in bed and you’re just thinking, like… what would it be like if you’re not here? Like… would it be better? Or, like, would people be happier – or just – just you wonder, you think a lot of questions.”
Johnny Cagno, victim of bullying who attempted suicide at age 14: “When you’re tortured every single day, it gets to you. I was very, very scared to go to school every day.”
Lisa Cagno, Johnny’s mother: “He was hurting himself. He was cutting himself, and he would just (say), ‘I hate myself, I don’t want to live anymore. I hate my life. Nobody likes me, no one cares about me.’ And I just – I would just have to constantly just reassure him. I couldn’t get those feelings out of his head.”
Cynthia Logan, a parent who lost her daughter because of bullying: “We have principals in our schools and superintendents who don’t want to acknowledge the problem. They don’t want it to be their problem. I did as much as I could do as a parent, knowing as little as I did.”
This broadcast is produced by Deborah Grau and Judy Rybak. The senior producers are Kathleen O’Connell and Paul Ryan, and Al Briganti is the executive editor. Susan Zirinsky is the executive producer.