The Perks of Listening to your Parents

Elyse is a 17 year old pun connoisseur who resides in the “Lone Star State.” She enjoys collaging fashion boards, studying the works of Steinbeck, and designing jewelry.


            “What does this family stand for? Working hard through a spirit of excellence and never, ever, quitting.” My parents have instilled numerous qualities into my life, some I disregarded at the time, and others that were pleasantly welcomed. Whether I took the initiative, or momentarily strayed from their guidance, their pillars of wisdom always managed to keep my foundation strong, and motives in secure alignment at all costs. For that, and for their patience, I am forever thankful.

Life becomes easier knowing that my parents expect the best out of me. Knowing that I have standards to live up to, and expectations to fulfill keeps me grounded and focused. Quitting is an easy way out, but nothing rewarding comes without struggle- and if that theory fails to be true, I have yet to receive the memo. To say that I’ve breezed through my teenage years would be a lie entirely, but somewhere along the way, my parents’ constant reminders about who I was, and whom I belonged to, kept me ready to conquer the challenges that life presented. I can recall times when I thought the end of the world was nearing due to a poor physics grade. Fellow teens, do not be duped, physics class will not kill you, and don’t worry about the world ending today, it’s already tomorrow in Australia. I know exactly what it’s like to feel confused about your future, your parent’s advice, and your academic standing, but if you trust what your parents tell you, everything will be all right.

There have been times when I thought my parents would eat me alive if I disobeyed them. Years later, and I still haven’t been devoured. Contrary to popular belief, teens, your parents aren’t literally out to get you. Most teenage crisis tend to have a larger effect in the heat of the moment, but wade it out, you’ll find that demolishing your problems is one calm thought away. I have found strength within myself that I doubted I’d ever find, and I have found beauty in things that I thought could only contain ugliness, like geometry proofs and lambda equations. So teens, go out and find your inner super hero. Be your own Batman and Wonder Woman, and fear not, if you find yourself getting lost along the way, just ask your parents. They will know exactly where your special super star quality lives, I promise.



Image: Amand Tipton Flikr 

Encouraging Healthy Lifestyles

Gema is a 20-year old from Miami, FL. Reads like a maniac. Writes for sanity. It’s a fine line and she loves erasing it.

How to achieve a healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle is not just about eating right and working out. That’s secondary. “Healthy” is a state of mind. I believe that people need to have solid self-esteem in order to be happy and healthy. It’s simple: if you love yourself, you’ll want to take care of yourself. So if parents want to help their kids lead healthy lives, they need to make sure their kids’ self-esteem is intact.




That begins at home. Parents need to recognize that their kids are bona fide human beings. They have a soul. They have goals and fears, dreams and nightmares. They have opinions. They are not programmable flesh. They are people and are worthy of respect. This is why communication is important. This may sound simple, but it’s widely misunderstood. A conversation is when two people exchange words. One speaks and the other listens and then speaks based on what the first person said. It’s not just “talking to,” or worse, “talking down to.” The best way to help kids make healthy choices, or any choice for that matter, is to treat them with respect. Being condescending in any conversation closes the doors to future ones. If someone disrespected you all the time, would you take anything they said seriously?





In lieu of recognizing your child as a proper human being, it’s important to show respect to others. Social skills are important for leading a healthy life. Living is about interacting with the world, having interesting conversations with a diverse cast of characters. Keeping an open mind about other cultures and opinions. Pointing and laughing at those that are different from you, even from behind closed doors, is not only bad form but encourages intolerance. It sets them apart from anything different. It inspires hate and discomfort where there could be friendship.


It also teaches kids a false lesson: That there is only one kind of “right” in the world and it’s the one you say it is. That the world is black or white, right or wrong, ugly or pretty, fat or skinny. It can affect the way they view themselves: “I am not perfect, I am only flawed.” It won’t help any if you comment negatively on your child’s body, fears, or goals. Your opinion matters, even if they sometimes roll their eyes and pretend it doesn’t. Boyfriends and girlfriends can break hearts but parents can break self-esteems.


Family Activities:


Walking to the park, volleyball at the beach, or just running around the backyard chasing each other, doing physical activities with the family is a great way to encourage kids to be healthier by being more active. It gets the entire family involved, promotes communication, relaxes, and it’s not bad for the body’s health either. Play sports with the kids and see if they have a favorite one. Enroll them in a team and cheer them on. Help them practice. Show, don’t just tell them, that reality shows and social networks are not worth throwing away the gift of being able to move. Get active.


Encouraging a healthy lifestyle in your kids can be simple if there’s communication and understanding. Respect and tolerance. They’ll understand why you want them to go to college and you’ll understand why they want to take a year off after high school and will have a higher chance of reaching a middle ground.


Happy living.




Great Summer Read: In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long

In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long

“Their intentions, however misguided at times, had always been good.”

Stereotypes lead us to believe that teenage rebellion is produced by single parent homes or other variations of dysfunctional families. But in In Leah’s Wake, Zoe and Will Tyler are both two hardworking parents that love their two daughters fiercely.  But even that doesn’t stop their Leah Tyler from attempting to break free and make it on her own.

If there’s one thing we can learn something from In Leah’s Wake, is that there is no formula for rebellion. A home with two working parents with great intentions can still produce rebellion. A girl with great grades, athletic talent, scholarships on the table and other variables that point towards a great future can still be jeopardy. Her boyfriend is bad news and everyone but Leah can see this. Through, smoking, experimenting with drugs and skipping classes, Leah goes down a spiral that destroys everything she’s ever worked for. It even threatens to destroy her family.

I strongly recommend In Leah’s Wake. This is a story that will stay with you for days and weeks. The “no, not my daughter” idea will be stripped away forever. It’s also a reminder that when one daughter goes astray, we must never forget about the other children.  The Tyler’s are the average family with two hard working parents and younger a sister that adores the eldest. They could be the family next door. They could even be your own. You’ll want to round up this family and help them out. You’ll want to force feed Leah some common sense. You’ll be hooked with In Leah’s Wake.

In Leah’s Wake
Terri Giuliano Long
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1456310542
  • ISBN-13: 978-1456310547



5 Tips for After the Divorce

Ichien is a 17 year old who was born and raised in Queens, NY. During her free time, she can be found in the midst of crowded streets shopping, going to a movie theater, filming, reading or writing. She has a passion for filming and writing and hopes that one day she can make use of her passion to inspire the world.

Living in a household with your parents separated can be harsh and difficult for the child. When your child grows up to a teen, he/she may be able to adapt to the new lifestyle but not always. Conflicts may arise especially when the mother or father gets a new spouse and starts a “new family.”


Here are some tips that the parent can do after the divorce:


1. Keep the communication open with your teen.

When you meet someone new or start dating again, let your teen know first and make sure that you’re on the same page with your teen. Never allow your teen to be the last one to know things, just because you think it’ll protect his/her feelings or that he/she can’t handle the change.


2. Don’t leave your child feeling left behind.

Always be involved in your teen’s life if not, more than you were before when you lived with your teen. Shower your child with love and let him/her know that you’ll always be there for him/her no matter what.


3. Don’t make your teen choose between the two parents.

Don’t put your teen in a situation where he/she has to pick to either live with Mom or Dad. Unless, the situation calls out for the teen to choose, then let your teen know that who ever he/she chooses, you’ll be fine with it.


4. Live in the present but don’t forget your past.

Don’t dwell in the past but don’t forget the past either. When you move on and marry another spouse, move in together and have kids, remember your kids from the previous marriage as well. Your teen may feel left out because your teen will feel like he/she is no longer part of the family. Make your teen feel like he/she belongs to a family.


5. Split up the cost.

Since you and your spouse divorced, for something big like paying for college, you have to split up the tuition or any cost for your teen. Your teen wouldn’t want one parent paying for everything even if the parent is the dependent. It’s not right and it doesn’t show the fairness of bringing up a child in a divorced family. It’s also something called child support.





BOOK REVIEW: Trauma Queen by Barbara Dee

Gema is a 20-year old from Miami, FL. Reads like a maniac. Writes for sanity. It’s a fine line and she loves erasing it.

Trauma Queen by Barbara Dee

$6.99, Simon and Schuster, Ages 9-13, April 19, 2011

“And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about middle school by now, it’s this: Attention is bad.”

Don’t say your parents are embarrassing until you read about Marigold’s in Barbara Dee’s new middle grade novel, Trauma Queen. As the title suggests, the protagonist, Marigold, is the Trauma Queen. This poor girl knows humiliation like a gun victim knows a bullet. “Mom is what is known in the biz as a performance artist. That’s another way of saying she does embarrassing things in public.” And embarrassing they are – wrapping herself in saran wrap, inviting people in the dead of night to record her sleeping, wearing a scuba diving outfit to Marigold’s second grade class and pouring olive oil all over her body.

And yet, believe it or not, Marigold’s mom has done worse than embarrass her with a consistency that borderlines supernatural. Her antics and bluntness has cost Marigold her best friend. Now Marigold is miles away from her and is starting over in a new town and in a new school. Some of her new classmates are in a war against each other and  she lands in the heat of a battle. She has to pick a side without really knowing what happened or the people involved. All she wants now is a friend to help her through it all.

Marigold is a hilarious protagonist, especially when she’s frustrated. Her story rings true for anyone currently in middle school and brings forth body-cringing memories for those of us who have tried to forget we were ever there. Trauma Queen is a story about what it is to need a friend, to need someone to complain about your mom to over a manicure. It’s a story about acting on the impulse of rage and the consequences it can have on an entire family. “Words hurt…words are powerful, powerful weapons, Marigold.” That isn’t a lesson that Marigold just learns, but lives. Trauma Queen is about the good, bad and the ugly of being different and the center of attention. And, the best part, Trauma Queen is about love and forgiveness, something that even adults need to be reminded of. I highly recommend this heart-warming read for middle graders and their parents. I promise you’ll cringe, smile and “aww,” sometimes at the same time so beware of funny faces in public. Buy now.

Dealing with Divorce

Sofia is an 18 year old from Los Angeles, CA.  She is attending the University of Colorado at Boulder and is studying to be a clinical psychologist and loves to go snowboarding!

As if dealing with parents getting divorced isn’t enough, what if you were forced to deal with an entire new family, with kids your age, or at least around your age? What do you do? How do you act? Where do you even begin? Well, this article will be able to help clear up the common confusions and misconceptions about living a new life with new people.

When starting off living with a new step-parent and/or new stepsiblings there a few things to remember that will making living with new people a lot easier. First off, assuming that your new life is going to be “miserable and terrible” try looking into things with an optimistic perspective.  True it is, things are easier said than done, but it is always easier when you catch yourself having pessimistic thoughts and try to reverse them.  This way, you will be much happier going into the situation, and chances are, your new family will react positively to your mood as well.  However, it is no secret that new families do not always get along. If you find that you are fighting more than often with your new siblings or step-parent, there are several things you can try to mend the situation. One thing you can try is talking it out with the person you are having conflicts with; you both have things to say about the situation and odds are the other person would like to voice those feelings, and you are the first step to fixing the conflict. Another thing you can try is removing yourself from the situation: if you constantly butt heads with this other person and talking it out just isn’t working, then take a break, spend time by yourself in your room, or take a walk. Once you’ve had time to cool off, then you can spend time trying to mend the situation.

Another thing that will help living with new step-siblings is to find things that you have in common with them.  If there are new kids that are around your age, try to find things that you all like. Once you find things in common, for example playing sports, grab a ball and a bat or a soccer ball and go to the park for some ultimate bonding time.  Or encourage your mom or dad to arrange a family day doing something that involves the participation of the whole family or simply something that involves the entire family.  Taking a family road trip is a good idea, since everyone has to be in the car together for extended periods of time; it’s a good way to get to know each other, and families can be brought much closer with something as simple as trivia games and the like—try pairing kids from different sides of the families onto the same team to encourage working together, thus forming new bonds.

At the end of the day, merging families is no easy task, especially when children are involved.  The most important thing to remember is trying to approach conflicting situations calmly and to not take sides.  Allowing for both sides to present their arguments and providing a compromise when all has been said is likely to produce the best results.  Doing family activities together is sure to strengthen relationships between children who are new to having siblings and will allow for everyone to get along and to find things in common.  Remember, going into this new situation with a pessimistic view will not allow for a healthy family relationship, so take things one day at a time, and try to keep in mind, that everyone is dealing with these changes in different ways.


Four Simple Steps To Great Family Vacations

Fehbe is a 17-year-old from Inglewood, Ca. She enjoys playing tennis and shopping. Her favorite subject is English because she loves to write and sees herself working in the journalism field in the future.

Summer vacation, Christmas break, and spring break; there are many opportunities families have to travel with each other. While this may seem to be great family bonding time, these time offs from school can translate to vacation terror for some families. Long and exasperating car rides and long lines at the airport may make parents prefer to stay home while the thought of vacationing with Mom and Dad may make teenagers cringe with embarrassment. However, there are certain ways and destinations that the family can take to make that family vacation both pleasant and (gasp!) enjoyable.

1Pick a Destination You All Enjoy. This may seem impossible and harder to do than retaking the SATs for a perfect score but it’s really not. The trick is to talk to your teens and figure out what interests them. Then, say what you’re interested in. Chances are, you and you’re teen will have some things in common. Then make a list of possible places you can go to that will satisfy the both of you. For example, say your teenage daughter loves to text..but she also has a passion for fashion. Now, perhaps you aren’t too into the runway trends but you enjoy dressing properly and appreciate good art. In that case, you should consider going to San Francisco or New York, cities where the fashion is great and the art is bountiful.

2Be Mindful of Ages. You may think a trip to Grandma’s country house to be a grand idea and your 14 year old may agree. However, you’re 17 year old might be less than thrilled. Teenagers have different tastes at different ages and they can change every minute. Don’t be surprised if one year your teen wants to go to Disneyland and the next thinks Disneyland is too childish. That’s why it is important to keep the lines of communication open with your teen to ensure you’re not dragging them to a vacation spot they detest.

3Explore New Places. It may be simple to reach for the nearest guidebook and pick vacation destinations that everyone has heard of or been to. The problem arises when the same place becomes predictable and boring. Teens love it when they are the first to report on new things and a great idea would be to take them somewhere that not many people have heard of. As the parent, you don’t have to know every detail of the place you’re going to in order to ensure the trip goes smoothly. Sometimes the best trips occur spontaneously and with little planning. Research some lesser known areas of large cities or familiar vacation spots so that you have the security of knowing your bearings but still be excited about exploring new sites. Trust me, if you’re excited, your teen will be also.

4Remember, teens need their space. Perhaps it is in our adolescent blood but teens always need to have time to themselves. The worst family trips are the ones where the family must stay together 24/7. This is impossible for us to do even though we love you and want to spend time with you. The best option is to allow your teen to go off and explore sights on their own. If you have an older and responsible teen, a curfew and a few set rules should be enough to allow them to have fun but still come back at an appointed time. If your teen is younger, then simply let them wonder around where you can still keep an eye on them but they feel as if they have some independence.

Finally, just relax and have fun. Vacations are supposed to be carefree, not stressful and irritating. You don’t have to have an itinerary for the entire trip, complete with designated attraction stops and meal times. Instead of being concerned about what everyone is doing, be concerned about everyone’s safety.

Simply, pick a destination, pack your bags, and let whatever happens happen. Don’t be a vacation dictator. Remember, having fun and spending time with your family is the point of family vacations. Happy Travels!

Fun Family Holiday Festivities

Cielo, a Los Angeles dreamer, enjoys recognizing images in the occasional cumulus cloud that meanders through the California sky, documenting interesting events and quotes and observations, and learning about different cultures, customs and lifestyles.

To observe the various festivities of the holidays, many of our schools and workforces grant us with a couple of weeks of vacation. For many students, this is about two weeks of lounging around the house, watching holiday episode marathons and facebooking while their parents work or cook the holiday meals. However, if you are sick of the old routine and want to spice up your holiday season—no pun intended—consider partaking in the following activities with your family this year!


The holidays are more about giving than receiving. Now, this does not exactly mean that you have to make sure you go out and buy your daughter or mom or father those shoes they have been eyeing to illuminate your selflessness, but that there are others out there who can use your help. Using or flyers in local stores or announcements from clubs at school, you will be able to find various events you can do over the break such as sorting and distributing canned foods for needy families or serving food at a local shelter. This is a great way to assist others in obtaining actual necessities rather than falling victim to the materialistic-mall rush of last minute gift shopping. There are even more fun-oriented events such as Christmas caroling and tree trimming.

Give Cooking Lessons

Unless you yearn to be alone in the kitchen, having a helping hand would probably be lots of fun. Instead of glazing the ham or basting the turkey or husking the tamales in your lonesome, invite the family in to learn how to cook (or bake) some of the family traditions! While they are enjoying cooking, you can sit back and relax for a while as you supervise and point out what to do with the cranberries.

Keep Fit

At the start of every year, gyms are packed with people whose New Year’s resolution is to get in shape this year. There is also an array of articles filled with tips on how to burn off all the weight gained from all the gravy, stuffing, and pie. Be ahead of the pack! Grab the family and take a brisk walk around the neighborhood! You will get a great workout along with a lovely view of your neighbor’s holiday decorating skills. If you have a gym membership and it is a bit too nippy out for a walk, hit up your gym of choice and take a class.

Make Gifts

Are there shirts lying around the house that no want wants to claim? When’s the last time you popped open your set of paints? Give those clothes a new life by sewing them into wallets or bags! It’s eco-friendly and fun! Buy plain t-shirts and add a personal touch by decorating them with fabric paint into patterns that suit your friends and family.

Go Local

Perhaps your son’s high school is offering their rendition of The Nutcracker or your neighbor’s church is hosting this year’s holiday fundraiser or the outdoor skating rink was just installed down the road. Gather up the kids and head on over. Because it is local, it will usually be cheaper, less crowded, less of a drive, less hassle. And you will know that you are directly supporting your community while having a great time with the family.

Whatever you end up doing this holiday season, enjoy it with the people you love! And if you do gain a bit of weight, that’s okay: this time only comes around once a year! Happy Holidays!

10 Fun Winter Break Activities

Okunyi is a 16-year-old from Seattle, WA. She enjoys reading, writing, and playing soccer. Her favorite subject is chemistry because she wants to be a pharmacist.

Winter break is a fun and exciting for almost everyone in the family. The kids get time off of school, and parents get time off of work. Before the break kids are sure that they’ll have plenty to do during the long weeks off of school, but on that first day of break, they are at a loss. With so much time off, they aren’t sure where to start and what to do first. It is easy to get overwhelmed because you don’t want to forget all that you are planning to do. I think that it is best to write down all the things that you would want to do and plan something for each day of the break. Here are ten fun winter break activities to do when you’re stuck in a rut this holiday season.

1)      Go holiday shopping– No matter what holiday you celebrate, it’s always fun to go shopping during the break. Black Friday has always kicked off the start of the crazy holiday spending but, now that the holidays are fast approaching, there are more deals and not as much mayhem. So winter break can give you right amount of time to get all the gifts for your family and friends.

2)      Catch up on your reading– Whether you’re an avid reader or not, reading can leave you relaxed and a good way to spend a quiet evening of your break. Read a book you normally wouldn’t have time to read because of your schedule. Go to the bookstore and look at new releases, there may be something that will catch your eye and you’ll go home with interesting books to read in the New Year.

3)      Go to a play– Call up your friends and go see a play at your local drama theatre. During the winter season, there are many different plays to see and it’s a great way to make memories. There is almost always showing of the Nutcracker or other beloved holiday tales.

4)      Make a snowman– If you are lucky enough to have snow in your area during the holidays, go out and explore it. Make a snowman and decorate it to show off to the neighborhood. Even go sledding if there is enough snow. If you don’t have snow in your area, you can have an arts and crafts day with family and friends. Make winter fixtures and hang them around the house.

5)      Play a board game– People don’t really play them as much as they used to but, playing a board game is a fun way to spend time with people and get your competitive juices flowing.

6)      Visit friends /family– The break is a great time to visit people that you haven’t seen a while. They will appreciate you coming even if it is just to talk. And if they live too far away to visit, you can send them holiday greeting cards. Receiving a holiday card in the mail is always a treasured thing.

7)      Visit local museum– The museum has a lot of exciting things to offer. There are different activities to do and you get a chance to see art by famous painters.

8)      Learn to knit– Knitting is not as hard as it looks and is actually very fun. You can get together with a group of people and learn to knit. You can knit scarves and hats so you’ll stay warm during the cold weather.

9)      Go for a walk– Despite the cold, bundle up and go for a walk. Discover new parts of your neighborhood that you may not have known about or go to a park and just look at nature. Afterwards, you can reward yourself with a steaming cup of hot cocoa.

10)  Go skiing or skating- Try a new winter sport that you may not have considered. If you like to ski, go during the break or you can learn to ski. Skating is also very fun to do during the winter season and a great way to hang out with friends.

So next time you aren’t sure what you can do during the long break off of school, refer back to this list of fun activities. You won’t ever be bored, and will look forward to the fun filled winter break. Happy Holidays!

The Christmas Season: Why I Love It Plus Awesome Gift Ideas For The Ones On Your List

Hope is a 15-year-old high school student from Stratford, NJ. She loves reading, writing, socializing with friends and her favorite subject is English because she wants to be a writer/editor.

Lights are being hung. Trees and decorations are being purchased. People are searching to find theperfect gifts for family and friends. That could only mean one thing: the Christmas season has begun!

Christmas is such a special holiday but, each year, Christmas becomes more and more commercialized. To me, Christmas is about spending time with loved ones and showing others that you love them and care about them, not getting your parents to buy you all of the awesome gifts you want. I can’t express in words how upset I get when people tell me about the long list of gifts they’ve asked their parents to buy for them. When asked what they are going to give others for Christmas, they either say nothing or mention a gift that they didn’t put much thought and love into. The Christmas season is supposed to be full of love and joy (and celebration for the birth of Christ if you are Christian), not full of gifts and greed. Gifts are nice, but they are only a fraction of what the Christmas season is all about. Besides spending time with family, my favorite part of Christmas is giving other people gifts to show them that I appreciate them. I spend weeks planning what gifts I will give people just to ensure that I find the perfect gifts for everyone on my list. I love putting a smile on people’s faces and it really is the thought that counts.

Having trouble deciding what to give the special people on your list because you don’t know what they want and/or already have? Below are some suggestions. Remember, it’s the though that counts!

For Girls

1. Body lotions and sprays- A lot of girls, including myself, love this stuff. There are so many great scents and stores, such as Bath and Body Works, always have great sales on these products.

2. Clothes and shoes- I think these can be the easiest gifts to pick out or the hardest depending on how well you can recognize what type of clothes she likes. All you have to do is look at what she wears and pick out clothes that you think fit her style.

3. Something homemade- Know what she likes but don’t see anything in stores that captures your idea of her perfect present? Make something! There is no better way to show her that you care than to go out of your way to make something special for her.

4. Craft sets- From jewelry kits for the jewelry lover to fabrics for the fashion designer, there are so many craft sets out there to choose from. These make really great gifts!

5. Gift cards/money- I think this should be a last resort if you really don’t know what to get her or you know that she could use the extra cash. It’s not very creative but, I’ll admit, a lot of us could use the extra money. If you’re really not sure what to get her, this is the way to go.

For Guys

1. Game systems- There’s bound to be a game system that he wants and the Christmas season is a great time to get electronics on sale!

2. Non-electronic games (darts, marshmallow shooters, nerf guns (with foam darts)- Honestly, these are really fun! There are so many different types of fun, non-electronic games to choose from and I think that they make great gifts.

3. Video games/computer games- If he loves playing video games/computer games, then your search for the perfect gift is over! You don’t even have to know which games he wants. I was able to buy my brothers games that they loved just by knowing them and knowing the genre of games that they like.

4. Clothes- Again, these things could be the easiest to pick out or the hardest depending how well you do with finding clothes that match his style.

5. Gift cards/money- Like I said before, I think of this as a last resort unless he needs it. But many teens could use the gift cards or extra cash. If you know what stores he likes or don’t know what things he has/ doesn’t have, this is the way to go.