Can Parents Be Friends With Their Teens?

parent teen relationship, best friend, friendship, parent friendshipHazem, or Zoom as he prefers to be called, is a 15-year-old from Houston, TX. He enjoys fantasy novels, video games and chilling with friends. His favorite subjects are English, Literature and Chemistry. He wants to be an International Lawyer.

 

Many parents are under the false impression that their kids don’t want to be friends with them. The truth is, while it seems for a great portion of the time that that is the case, teens in fact strive to have a relationship with their parents. Of course it differs substantially from individuals and cultures but I believe it is safe to say that there lies certain do’s and don’ts all parents should generally be aware of before attempting to build a relationship with their kids beyond the simple, “How was your day at school?”

First and foremost, parents and teens need to have a powerful friendship. Teens want to feel that they can trust their parents to not judge them, mock them or punish them the second that their ears register their teen has done something bad. If the teen knows that their parents would beat them blindly or even merely verbally abuse them without hearing their case, for example, there is almost no chance that said teen would share with their parents anything wrong they’ve done.

The case is quite similar with interests and passions. Teens need to know that if they decide to share one of their interests or passions with their parents, they will listen to them for the sole reason that their kids are interested or passionate about these topics. For instance, if you work primarily with science and have minimal musical exposure and you reject your teen’s desire to share with you her new love for the clarinet, be sure that she will feel very bitter and will almost definitely refrain from sharing other things. Therefore, parents must never ridicule, judge or dismiss what their teens share with them. They must keep in mind that many of today’s youth think it’s “cool” to be independent and keep as much distance from their parents as possible.

Another good idea for parents to do is to tell their kids about their day. Many teens feel that most of their conversations with their parents are about them. Believe it or not, being the constant center of the conversation is not a good thing. If parents share with their kids as they would like to be shared with them, kids will get a better sense of the relationship and would feel more comfortable talking about school, their passions or whatever. Furthermore, while it is absolutely important for parents to keep a good eye on their kids to ensure their wellbeing, a distance must still be kept. There are few things today’s teens hate more than the feeling that they are being spied on. It gives them the sensation that they are not trusted and that their parents have a bizarre desire to control them. While in most cases that is not really the case, teens still feel very uncomfortable with that and many will block their parents from Facebook as soon as they get even a clue that they are spying on their lives through it. That is of course provided that the teen hadn’t done that the day they found out their parents joined!

These are just basic steps to building a solid foundation for a friendship between parent and teen. There is work beyond, for sure, but for the most part it will be related specifically to the teen and the parent will have the pleasure of finding it out as they grow closer together.

Photo Credit: Boris van Hoytema from Flickr

The Female Troika: How Girl Friendships Work

Novelist Frank Portman discovered a phenomenon of female existence called the Female Troika. This is a rule that girls who travel in threes usually fall into three specific roles: the hot girl, the semi-hot girl and the less attractive sidekick. This, Portman describes, is a recipe for heartbreak—well, at least for the sidekick. The female troika can affect teen and tween girls tremendously and is therefore an important phenomenon to be aware of for parents.

Stage One: The three girlfriends or girl colleagues unite in easy-going camaraderie.

Stage Two: The two more attractive females (A and B) lovingly dote on the less attractive one (C) by giving her makeovers, setting her up with friends, and mostly trying to make C more like them. At this stage, this makes C feel better—she is being supported and has a great new wardrobe. A and B also feel great because they are reminded of how attractive they are, and feel their helping C is a ‘good deed.’

Stage Three: A and B’s doting care turns more into loving disdain. A and B begin to feel bitterness towards C because ‘she repels guys at bars,’ is ‘needy’ and ‘requires so much of our valuable tutelage.’ It becomes known to C that she is, and always will be, less hot. This makes C less willing to suck-up to A and B, to fawn over how wonderful they are.

Stage Four: A and B become so fed up that they decide to replace C with a new sidekick who will make them felt good about themselves.

Not all female groups of three follow Portman’s Troika pattern—but don’t we all know some? We see this Troika play out in the workplace (cubicles are often full of displaced C’s), with friends, in book clubs, and even in families with sisters, moms and daughters. It is a terrible pattern—C’s get hurt, A’s and B’s have a false sense of reality, and this phenomenon discourages genuine friendship.

What to Do About Female Troika’s?

If You Are A or B:

Stop it! Ok, I know it is not that easy. It is time to get really honest with yourself. Do you have a C in your life? This is someone you are trying to ‘fix.’ This might also be someone who you hang out with to feel better about yourself. Helping a friend get out of a slump, or try out a new haircut is fine, but be careful not to make another feel bad or less than. Also remember that feeling better about yourself because someone is in some way less than you is not a way to build fulfilling relationships, nor will the ego boost last very long—in the end it will make you have less friends and feel worse about yourself.

If You Are C:

Take a deep breath. You deserve to have friends who treat you like an equal—because you are an equal! If you are in relationships or have A’s or B’s in your life in the form of unavoidable colleagues or family members, it is time to stand up for yourself and find people who support you for who you are.

If You Are A Parent of A, B or C:

If you have a Female Troika in your life that makes you uncomfortable—because it should, I recommend approaching the C girl. A’s and B’s have trouble recognizing their behavior and will make excuses like, “I am helping her!” or “She loves it!” Without knowledge of what is to come. Approach the C and show her what a real relationship is. Help her find friends and colleagues who are loving and supportive, not condescending.

If You Are a Recovering C:

We have all been there. Many A’s and B’s are actually recovering C’s from High School or College who have lost weight or climbed the ranks in their careers. They believes this gives them the right to do what was once done to them—they are just bullies. As a recovering C, I implore you to stop the cycle. Rely on one or two healthy relationships and find activities that make you feel good about yourself so you do not fall into another Female Troika.

Again, there are absolutely groups of three women that do not have the Troika pattern—amen! But it is a troublingly common phenomenon. As women we need to support each other, not diminish or use each other to get ego boosts. I encourage all who are reading to talk about this phenomenon with friends and join together as equals so we are all A’s.

 

 

The Female Troika: The Danger of Three Teen Girl ‘Friends’

Do you think all women fall into a pattern with each other? Novelist Frank Portman does. He discovered a phenomenon of female existence called the Female Troika. This is a rule that girls who travel in threes usually fall into three specific roles: the hot girl, the semi-hot girl and the less attractive sidekick. This, Portman describes, is a recipe for heartbreak—well, at least for the sidekick.

 

Stage One: The three girlfriends unite in easy-going camaraderie.

Stage Two: The two more attractive females (A and B) lovingly dote on the less attractive one (C) by giving her makeovers, setting her up with friends, and mostly trying to make C more like them. At this stage, this makes C feel better—she is being supported and has a great new wardrobe. A and B also feel great because they are reminded of how attractive they are and feel their helping C is a ‘good deed.’

Stage Three: A and B’s doting care turns more into loving disdain. A and B begin to feel bitterness towards C because ‘she repels guys,’ is ‘needy’ and ‘requires so much of our valuable tutelage.’ It becomes known to C that she is, and always will be, less hot. This makes C less willing to suck-up to A and B and fawn over how wonderful they are.

Stage Four: A and B become so fed up that they decide to replace C with a new sidekick who will make them felt good about themselves.

 

Not all female groups of three follow Portman’s Troika pattern—but don’t we all know some? We often see this Troika play out with our teen girls. It is a terrible pattern—C’s get hurt, A’s and B’s have a false sense of reality and this phenomenon discourages genuine friendship.

 

What to Do About Female Troika’s?

 

1) Talk to your daughters about this phenomenon. Ask them if they think it is true, if they have seen it or even experienced it. Knowledge is the first step towards empowerment.

 

2) Talk to your sons about this phenomenon. Boys need to be aware of this too so they do not engage in the problem.

 

3) If you think you have an A or B daughter, help them get really honest with themselves. Ask them why they are friends with their C? Talk to them about equality in relationships and the difference between loving help and loving disdain.  Most importantly, help them remember that feeling better about yourself because someone is in some way ‘less’ than you is not a way to build fulfilling relationships, nor will the ego boost last very long—in the end it will make you have less friends and feel worse about yourself. Don’t let them make excuses like, “I am helping her!” or “She loves it.”

 

4) If you have a C, show her what a real relationship is. Help her find friends who are loving and supportive not condescending. Teach them that they deserve to have friends who treat them like an equal—because they are equal!

 

Again, there are absolutely groups of three women that do not have the Troika pattern—amen! But it is a troublingly common phenomenon. As women we need to support each other, not diminish or use each other to get ego boosts. I encourage all who are reading to talk about this phenomenon with friends and daughters to join together as equals so we are all A’s.

Flikr Image From:Dee <3

 

Teen Tantrums: the brain’s story

Born and bred a British, Shamima, 17, is all about creativity and self-expression. She wishes to pursue a career in Medicine and pursue her interests in poetry, fashion, writing and maybe in the distant future, property development.

 

We always speak of it being a ‘teen-thing’, the hormones acting up, being that time of the month and all. But do we really understand to what extend neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain) and hormones (chemicals in the rest of the body) influence the behaviour and development of teenagers.

Popular belief is that hormone levels vary in a female’s body once every month. In actual fact this occurs on a week to week basis.

The result?

Highly spontaneous teen behaviour.

The hormones in question are primarily oestrogen and progesterone. Oestrogen is present in young females from birth at a capped level. These levels are roughly equal to those present in young boys. During puberty oestrogen and progesterone levels begin to rise and fall in alternating waves, peaking in one week, dwindling in another. It is these levels that predict how a teenager will behave and react to certain situations.

In The Female Brain, Louann Brizendine explains the precise role of the brain in the development and changes in teenagers. Having found The Female Brain extraordinarily eye opening, I have picked out 6 behaviours and summarised just how biology and chemicals play their part in teen tantrums. Hopefully this insight will help parents to best deal with and support their teens, and teenagers to better understand their rollercoaster emotions and urges.

6 Behaviours Controlled by Hormones and Neurotransmitters

 

1. Aggression:

We are all pretty familiar with the hormone, testosterone, and its effects on our male counterparts. As it so happens, females also possess testosterone; it is actually one of 3 main androgens in the female body. Androgens are the hormones that a responsible for triggering teenager’s uncontrollable aggression and their heated mean streak. During the points of the menstrual cycle where levels of androgen are at their peak, namely weeks 2 and 3, teens are at their least pleasant mood and have a higher tendency to react badly to stress. They feel less inclined to be around people and extend their usual charms. Other finely tuned female interpersonal skills tend to be lacking, also, empathy for example. Acne is a reliable indicator of escalating androgen levels to watch out for.

 

2. Depression:

Gloominess and moodiness in teen girls are easily dismissed for being either attention seeking behaviour or average teen attitude. However parents should be on the lookout for serious melancholy sneaking in. Teen girls are twice as likely to suffer from depression, and even more so if it runs in the family. More than a mere spell of bad mood, for teen’s depression can lead to a decline in school performance, sleeplessness, weight loss etc.

 

3. Lack of judgement

The prefrontal cortex is the fore most part of the brain, encased by your temple. It is this section of the brain that is the key to decision making, good judgement and control of emotions, qualities that teens could possess on a good day. Take a turbulent PMS day and small stressors can be received with grossly swelling overreaction, powered by strong impulses from the amygdale (part of the brain commonly associated with anger). The brain with fall deaf of the earnest cries of the prefrontal cortex, and your teen will be powered to make rash decisions to overcome these stressors (and compose the amygdale) as they see fit. Too often however, their course of action is a far cry from responsible; drugs, alcohol and controlling, or losing control of food may follow. While parents attempt to take their teen’s outbursts with a pinch of salt, these are suitable times for them to step in with their own sound judgement to make up for that which their teen is lacking.

 

4. Risk Taking Behaviour

During teenage-hood the prefrontal cortex is still producing more, new brain cells and establishing neural connections which are yet to be strengthened. This young, incomplete brain struggles to manage the huge emotional surges from the amygdale. The prefrontal cortex does not function properly, as it would do in an adult, to bestow the bearer with the control and rational that they require resulting in volatility in changes of mood. The rush of impulses from the amygdale demands action, and a malfunctioning prefrontal cortex cannot contain that. Teenagers are over keen to do things and rational mind may think twice before performing. Parents and teachers who jump in to prevent teens from taking risky steps are likely to be met with resentment.

 

5. Oversleeping:

It may surprise parents that even sleep is dictated by hormones in the body. The early birds of yesterday are slumbering so deep that they have no time for breakfast on school days and mornings are non-existent every other day. It is actually less to do with late night television and more to do with oestrogen. The high oestrogen levels cause sleep cells in 8 to 10 year olds to reset which means that they will turn in later and wake up later and that their duration of sleep is extended, a trend that becomes apparent in their teen years.

 

6. Patchy Relationships:

Friendships are everything in a teen’s life, obsessively so.  So you won’t be surprised to hear that that too, is biologically influenced. In the natural world, where, in an emergency situation, female primates have little advantage over their male fellows in terms of strength, fighting is not an option and running away leaving youngsters isn’t desirable either. Females develop bonds with other females, and in this situation, they will come together to help ward off the male, in other situations may give fore warnings of danger and reveal food sources. Scientists believe that this thinking is also hardwired into human female brains.

Girls go to great lengths to establish friendly ties, sharing clothes, secrets, helping each other and spending a lot of time talking to each other, on the internet, the phone, meeting up and so on. Having a large group of friends, boosts a teen girl’s self esteem and gives her a sense of security. Sharing worries and problems also help her too reduce stress levels, while giving her a surge of dopamine (motivation and pleasure chemical) and oxytocin (bonding chemical), lighting up the pleasure centre of her brain.

On the other hand, a fragmented relationship can have quite the opposite effect. Dopamine and oxytocin levels hit rock bottom, and there is a rise of the stress linked cortisol chemical. Cortisol causes the teen to experience huge levels of anxiety and fear. She cannot bear the thought of loneliness and being without the security of even a single friend. For a teen girl, this stress is one of the biggest stresses she will experience.

 

These are to name a few; teenagers have a whole spectrum of chemically influence emotions and behaviours.  However, that does not go to say that teens have no control over their conduct. Chemicals only increase the likelihood of a certain reaction.

Understanding that the reason behind your desire to scream and yell and storm off to do something highly unreasonable is fuelled not be your actually wanting to do it, but because your brain demands it, may help teens to be just that bit more reasonable in a brewing storm.

It may also help parents tip-toeing around volatile teenagers to predict the most turbulent times and help their teens to deal with these surges and to keep their head.

The Female Brain

 

Source and Further Reading:

Louann Brizendine, M.D. (2007). The Female Brain. London: The Random House Group. Chapter Two, Teen Girl Brain, p57-86.

An extraordinary book; I strongly recommend parents and teenagers read it cover to cover as I have found it to offer so much in the form of education and reassurance.

When Friends Grow Apart

friendships, girlfriends, growing up, old friends, childhoodCaitlin M is a 17-year-old from Simsbury, CT. She likes to write, make things with clay, and really wants a dog. Her two favorite subjects are art and English.

 

Two friends met each other in elementary school. They have always gone to each other’s birthday parties, have had countless sleepovers, and count on one another for support. However, as middle school and high school come along, these two friends see each other less. They don’t talk as much and they end up in different friend circles. Eventually, they stop talking to each other and fail to even acknowledge the other when passing in the halls. This scenario, while sad, is one that happens to almost every young adult.

All friendships do not last. This is a fact. While it is hard to admit, it is necessary to realize when a friend is growing distant so that a teen can either try and put more effort into the friendship or let that person go. Evaluating the friendship and what it has meant to a teen is important, and it sometimes is necessary to understand how the two friends grew apart and if this parting is mutual. If a teen finds that, in fact, their friend has been distant for years and hasn’t really been nice to them, it could be a better idea to move on and be content with the good friends that they do have.

Moving on from a friendship is never easy. Parents can help by talking to their teens so that they know when they are having friendship troubles. While offering advice is nice and shows that parents care, most teens will not listen to the advice. Instead, they just need an open and non-judgmental ear to which they can pour their thoughts out to. Parents can, however, encourage their teens to try different activities, such as new sports or clubs. Branching out in this way enables teens to meet more people that they might have never gotten the opportunity to know, and in this way the teen can make more friends with people who share a common interest. Sometimes having these new friends can fill a loss that an old friend leaves.

It may be hard for a teen to see their former friend at school with new friends, sharing inside jokes and laughing. It is even harder if a teen notices that their former friend is consistently ignoring them and not even smiling in the halls. It is important that parents remind their teen that these things happen, and that in this scenario it is better to be the bigger person. A teen should no go out seeking revenge or bad-mouth the person behind their backs, as this only leads to a hurtful cycle and can cause the teen to lose even more friends.

Growing up means that people change and grow apart. This is natural, if sometimes painful. Parents should always remind their teens that they are always there to lend an ear or be a support system. Sometimes it is these little things that make a big difference.

 

What I Wish An Older Sister Had Told Me

 

Monica is a senior from the Bay Area, California. She loves playing video games, reading fantasy, listening to rap, and doing pretty much anything that works together to highlight her individuality.

 

Dear Monica,

I’m from the future. I know, it’s crazy, right? I would have come back in time to see how things were going with you and to change some things around in your life, but that would be messing with our current timeline, which would cause you in the future to not write this message, which could mess things up even more, and on and on. So, we’ll keep it at a simple letter.

You struggled your last few weeks of eighth grade, didn’t you? Yeah, I know it was bad. But here’s the truth, and only because I love you: It’s going to get worse. You’re going to struggle again in a few months for a few months, and after that, you will struggle just like you did to get out of the eighth grade. Here’s some good news, though: You’re going to make it out of high school too. By the logic I’ve seen so far in your life, I’m going to say that you’ll (I’ll) make it out of undergrad years and your(my) grad years the same way even though I hope to see a change. Maybe, if you read this, since I didn’t get a chance to, you can change things around for yourself. Let me give you the specific advice I wish I had.

1. There is no one you should stay away from. Keep yourself open, even when it seems like you shouldn’t, and especially when people tell you to “stay away from her.” You should and are going to hear this every year until your senior year.

2. If you keep up that same altruistic spirit that you’re going to have freshman year, you’re going to overwhelm yourself. You’re not going to do well in school for a while other than just barely passing what you needed to pass. You will endear people to your causes though, and every person you meet will be willing to stand up for you even if you don’t want her to. Don’t let them. Keep growing.

3. Here’s some more on friendship. You’ll be anxious in a little more than a year because you won’t have any good friends to start your year off with. You’ll be at a disadvantage among all of your classmates. At the beginning of the year, you will find the best person you need for yourself at that time, and you have every right to become as attached to her as possible. Don’t self pity because at the very end you will find someone else who you will begin to devote your life to. Keep up your deep devotion to your friends. This is why people love you.

4. I know you hate balance, but you will learn to balance your personality and best traits very harmoniously. You’ll learn to be a bit more mysterious and not talk every time there is a pause in the action. You will learn to allot necessary time to relationships, school, and volleyball. Yes, you do keep playing volleyball. There are some amazing surprises along the way, with the best at the end. Sadly, you gave up dance and you will not recover the amount of physical balance you once had.

5. Every single thing you will struggle through and cry at is going to pass and make way for the most amazing times in your life. Your senior year is something to really cry at. The entire year will be the best time of your life.
You’ll ignore my advice and my praises, but since no one else told you what you needed to hear the way you needed to hear it, I was happy to. Maybe next time I’ll get to you a little earlier.

Oh, another good piece of news? You almost completely reinvent yourself for the better.

Take care,
Moneeka

 

Photo: Edanley from Flickr

Signs of a One-Way Friendship

Sam is a 17-year-old from Montgomery, NJ. She enjoys playing tennis, writing and Community Service. Her favorite subject in school is History.

 

A week ago, my friend had called me to let me know what had been going on with her twin brother, who was working as a counselor at a sleep-away camp. Apparently, after supposedly being close friends with a group of guys for many years, he was disappointed to see that these boys were rebuffing and ignoring him, and not inviting him on their nights off. What’s the deal?

 

It was now clear that my friend’s brother was the victim of the one-way friendship, with the balance of power favoring the group of guys. Parents, friends, and siblings may not notice it right away, but here are some signs that your friend, sibling, or child is stuck in a one-way friendship.

 

 

  1. 1.  Your friend/sibling/child is making more of an effort regarding plans to meet up or keep the friendship together.

 

In a relatively balanced friendship, each person tries to make an equal effort to invite the other one over or out. Obviously, this isn’t the case in a one-way friendship, with one person usually calling/texting/Facebooking the other more in order to make plans. Keep an eye out for instances in which the teen has to spend a large amount of money, drive a far distance, or be out a lot in order to maintain a friendship with their new friend(s). For example, if your teen/friend/sibling buys their new friend an expensive gift for a birthday, drive hours to get to the venue, and is willing to stay out until an ungodly hour, chances are the friendship may be one-sided.

 

2. When your friend/sibling/child asks their friend to reciprocate, the friend suddenly cannot do so.

This is a crucial follow-up to the first sign. I can remember the so-called friendship I had with my friends from my sleep-away camp. I always attended their bat mitzvahs regardless of distance or expense. Yet, when I sent out my invitations to my bat mitzvah, all but my three closest friends from camp either declined or failed to send an RSVP altogether. Failing to reciprocate in a friendship is a strong indicator that the friendship is one-sided. Unfortunately, chances are likely that the teen might brush off the incident as either a simple impossibility (regarding events) or as him/her being selfish (regarding tangible favors).

 

 

 

 

3. In social situations, your friend/sibling/child seems to be on the fringe.

 

Think about the last time you hung out with your group of friends. In a typical friendship, everyone seems to hang out with each other and include everyone in the group. In one-way friendships, however, there is usually one person who seems to be an afterthought, a “B-lister” if you will. This person is usually the victim of these friendships. Sometimes the afterthought’s status can be very overt. An example of this would be going to a house party with friends and either being the one sober person (even if he or she isn’t the designated driver) or the one trying to keep up with the amount of imbibing their friends may do (and possibly harming himself or herself in the process). Other times, the status of the fringe person can be a bit more covert, such as being on the end of a photo and desperately trying to hang onto the group, or being cropped out of the photo completely.

 

 

 

  1. 4.  Your friend/sibling/child is more willing to be accountable for the new friend’s actions.

 

In most balanced friendships, both parties try not to involve each other in things they might find uncomfortable, and hold themselves accountable for their own actions. Sadly, this isn’t the case in one-way friendships. The teen “in power” may convince the “weaker” teen to do something illicit or illegal, such as buying drugs or shoplifting, on the premise that your teen will be excluded from the group if he or she doesn’t obey. If the police is involved, it is likely that your teen will take responsibility for both his or her actions and the friend’s actions, in order to appear like a “trustworthy” friend. Long story short, in risky situations, your teen might be in a one-friendship if he or she is more willing to be the “fall person.”

 

 

Of course, if these above four statements ring true to your teen’s friendship, the friendship is definitely imbalanced. Unfortunately, the most common way to get a teen out of a one-way friendship requires an excessive amount of patience. Your teen may not listen to your concerns right away, and may accuse you of envy or misunderstanding. However difficult waiting may seem, your teen will eventually realize the true nature of the one-way friendship and return to healthier and more balanced friendships.

4 Ways to Encourage Friendship Between Your Kids

Monica is a senior from the Bay Area, California. She loves playing video games, reading fantasy, listening to rap, and doing pretty much anything that works together to highlight her individuality.

 

A peaceful house is a happy house, and sometimes, it can be all too difficult for people in a household to get along well, especially if there are a multitude of siblings and a multitude of conflicting needs and wants between them. It does not matter if the children in question are step-siblings, half siblings, full siblings, or adopted; there is bound to be disagreement in the eighteen or more years that they live in a home with their family. Conflicts over property, annoying behavior, and disagreements can occur whether the siblings are five or twenty, but luckily, steps can be taken to prevent hurt feelings and belligerent behavior.

 

1. Allot time for each of your children to have whatever object they fight over.

This time does not have to be equal, but it does have to be fair. For example, it only makes sense that your child who is sick with the flu and cannot leave the couch should have more access to the television that week. Do not let them bargain (with your knowledge) because someone always ends up being slighted. This is a fair deal, because you, the parent, should not have bias toward either one of your children. Because you also have better decision-making skills that come along with the experience of life, you can allot time fairly.

 

2. Make sure that you spend time with all of your children.

Though I cannot speak for every child, preteen, and teenager in the world, I have found among my peers and their friends that we relish time with our parents, even if we blow off the initial contact. We want to know that you do care about us and that you are open to our ideas and wants. If a child sees that her parents dote on her younger brother more than they do on her, jealousy arises, and many parents can speak to the fact that jealousy does lead to resentment. An added bonus to this is slowly learning more about your child. It is extremely important to take steps to understand and respect your child, and when she wants to complain to you about her sister’s behavior, you two can brainstorm solutions together.

 

3. Allow your children to have time apart from each other.

Too much time together with anyone can create tension. That is the case with my brothers and I every summer that none of us have extracurricular activities. My friends, too, admit to purposefully picking on their younger and older siblings alike when they have no better activities to do or when their parents will not let them leave the house. An even better alternative to automatically assuming that your son wants go to the mall with his large group of friends or your daughter wants go to the movies with her boyfriend is asking if there is an activity that you two can do together. This goes back to trying to spend time equally with your children.

 

4. Have them spend enough time together.

They cannot be strangers living in the same home, especially if they share a room or bathroom. Encourage your children from a young age to share when they play together and to solve challenges together. This will build trust in their relationship. This trust will stay with them throughout life because it is like establishing good credit. When you make even small decisions that help you gain and maintain a good rating, your good rating stays with you. The more they know about each other, the better decisions they are capable of making about encouraging one another throughout life. If, from your youngest years, you began learning about every aspect of someone’s personality, you would effectively be able to make choices about the best things to make that person happy and to calm that person down when he is about to go on a rampage. Yet another advantage is that they have time, even in their teenage years, to discover and rediscover similar interests that they can bond over.

 

These four tips are full of advantages that outnumber the ideas in my own head, so all of them are worth trying and keeping on with even if upholding these traditions becomes difficult. From what I have seen of siblings who absolutely adore each other, these four practices have been in play in their lives and have allowed them to tell innumerable stories filled only with love and camaraderie with their siblings.

Photo: Andrew Nourse from Flickr

 

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.

Maternal Influence

Becca is a 16 year-old from West Palm Beach, FL. She loves to cook and travel, and she would like to study International Business in the future.Mother and Daughter by Pink Spotted Elephant.

I am a teenage mother.

No, I don’t have any biological children- but if you ask people from my many circles of friends, they’re sure to tell you that I am the mother of the group. I’m the

Lacrosse Mom, the Girl Who Bakes, the Chauffeur, the Secret Keeper, and, of course, the Advice Giver. Ever since I was little, drama simply never appealed to me, so I’d inevitably end up acting as the mediator or the girl who’d rather listen than talk. As I’ve grown older, this role has become increasingly important as my friends turn to me regularly, knowing that I’ll have some no-nonsense, all-common-sense motherly-advice to help with their problems.

At age seventeen, I think that I may have heard more stories and excuses than many real mothers. While a typical mom has two or three children to focus on, I have to look out for dozens. This is why a surprisingly significant portion of my grade is acquainted with my famous advice. What most of them don’t realize is that much of what I have to offer stems from my relationships with both my mother and her mother- my Bubbe.  As a child, I would always wonder if I’d be like them when I grew up. I now realize that the answer is yes. I have my Bubbe’s independence and love of life, and have dutifully adopted her classic lines, “All I have to do is die and pay taxes,” and, “Would you have me any other way?” My friends laugh with me, not at me, when I recite these lines, because just like Bubbe, I’ll make a joke out of anything- including myself. I’m like my mother in that I see the big picture and have the ability to influence people with my words. Everyone has heard me use her declaration “Some people just have issues,” and they love her behavioral mantra, “It’s a small world, so just be nice to everyone.”

My friends are lucky because when they come to me as a peer, it’s as if they’re coming to a person with decades of experience. Because I have learned so much about giving advice from my mom and Bubbe, I always try to think of what they would suggest when somebody asks me for help. Whatever the situation, I can always act as a good listener, give an honest opinion, or at least make the person laugh. After all, I have the genetics of the self-proclaimed “Meanest Mommy in the World,” but with that intimidating title comes much valuable wisdom and understanding.

What do I want to do when I grow up? I’m still not certain whether I’ll write novels or study food science or own my own business. What do I want to be when I grow up?  I want to be a mother, so that I can do the same for my daughter that my Bubbe and mom have done for me.