Back to School: Hug That Mom You See Struggling At High School Drop-Off

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Katie Bingham-Smith | Grown&Flown

My oldest started kicking and screaming the minute he got out of the car on the first day of kindergarten. He was having a hard time obviously, and as soon as his wonderful teacher noticed she walked up to him, held out her hand and said, “Hello Addison, I’m so excited to have you in my class, we are going to have so much fun.”

As I lunged forward trying to get one last hug from him, she gave me a look that let me know all was well. She’s take it from here, and unless I wanted him to devolve into another crying fit, I needed to back off.

More Support From Others When We Had Little Kids

I got hugs and understanding from the other parents standing outside of the school because their babies were growing up too and we all understood that there was no going back–change was coming.

It didn’t matter how eager their kids were to head into school. Nor did it matter how ready we were to send them, having school-aged kids rings out your soul. It’s a huge milestone, and whenever there is a milestone where your kids are concerned, you usually cry no matter how joyous the occasion.

It was acceptable for all of us to be sad and embrace and worry if our kids would survive without us for a day. Would they remember to play nice? Would they miss us? Were they ready to use the bathroom on their own? What if they were overlooked and left outside during recess?

But I’ll tell you, after having three kids enter middle school, and two enter high school, I needed more love on those firsts than I did sending my babies off to their first year of grade school.

It’s been said the middle school years are the toughest on kids. Between puberty, not quite feeling like a playful kid anymore, or an adult yet, it can be a sticky time for tweens and their parents.

High school is a whole different game. They are going to school with kids who seem so much older, this is the time to crack down and get really serious about their future, they start driving, looking at colleges, and sports get even more intense.

And it’s all heavy stuff.

Maybe there aren’t as many parents crying at middle school and high school drop off, but if you look closely  enough you will see a few, and many others who are holding back tears out of fear that this isn’t the place where we let the tears flow.

After all, haven’t we been doing this gig long enough to be used to the way it works? Kids wake up, they go to school, and we are used to being away from them.

We Need Love and Understanding With Teens

But I assure you, the parents of teens and tweens are sad for a different reason. Maybe their teenager isn’t talking to them very much and they miss them even when they are sitting right next to them. And starting another school year is like a loud clock ticking away in their ear reminding them their time with their child is coming to a close.

There are a lot of us out there who have no idea how we are going to get through the year and do all the driving, reminding, and remembering it’s going to take in order to get it all done.

I know for me, as soon as they enter those doors our lazy days of a non-scheduled summer is over and it’s probably a sadder experience for me than it is for them. I pray I won’t get any calls from the principal. I hope my kids have a good year with as little drama as possible because there’s nothing that can ruin a kids’ school year like tumultuous time with friends and lovers.

If you see a parent at middle or high school drop-off and they look like they are struggling, give them a hug. There’s no reason we can’t be outside balling in our cars like we were during the elementary school years. For most of us, those years were a cake walk compared to what we are up against at this phase in our lives.

Being a middle school, or high school parent has nothing to do with how much experience we have under our belt–we are all in survival mode being woken up and surprised by something every single day and really, none of know what the hell is going on.

An embrace and a little compassion can go a long way in helping other parents feel like they aren’t alone.

What parents wished they knew before sexual abuse

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themamabeareffect.org

9 hard lessons every parent can learn from to keep their children safe from sexual abuse. 

Parents of children who have experienced sexual abuse reach out to us often wanting to share their experience so that other parents can learn and hopefully spare their family the same heartache and struggle.

 These parents are overwhelmed with guilt – but in a world where abuse prevention education receives so little attention and funding – most parents are not even given the opportunity to be educated. There is a certain sense of shock and anger when these parents learn after the fact, how many children are being sexually abused, and what little is being done to prevent it. 

We should have started talking about body safety early. 

Many parents think it is unnecessary to learn or talk to their kids about sexual abuse at an early age or are intimidated by the idea, putting put it off so they won’t have to think about it. But the reality is many children are abused before they even enter kindergarten. 

When is a good time to start talking about it? How about before you even give birth? Talk with your spouse or partner about the issues. Research daycare facilities and their training and procedures for abuse prevention. Talk with your family about the issues and see how much they know and what they think. It is not helpful when you are trying to promote body safety if you have extended family forcing hugs, using made up names for genitalia, or acting like it’s ‘impossible’ for abuse to happen in the family. Children are best protected when they are surrounded by adults that are educated, vigilant, and prepared to take action.

Using proper words is a big deal. 

Genitalia are really the only parts of our body that people purposely avoid using the real words for. It’s confusing, and it can make private parts seem fun or funny – which means when someone else starts using a made up word for your child’s genitalia- they will probably think it’s fun, too. And if they ever need to communicate to you or to anyone else that someone touched their ‘cookie’ instead of their vulva, you or another caring adult may miss the disclosure. 

Stranger danger is not the same as sexual abuse. 

Unless we know someone that gives us the creeps, most likely  we don’t want to think or suspect that our child could be sexually abused by a family member or other trusted person, but the reality is only 5% of child sexual abuse is estimated to involve strangers. Many parents will say “if someone touches your private parts” or that people that would do this are “bad people.” We need to say directly to our children that no one – including us, their siblings, their friends, their grandparents, babysitters, teachers, even their doctor shouldn’t touch, look, or show their own private parts. Explain the exceptions (diaper changes, bathing – until they’re old enough, boo-boos, and physical exams with a parent watching to ensure the doctor is respecting their private part.)  

And be vigilant for child on child abuse. As much as 40% of abuse is perpetrated by juveniles – often older/stronger siblings, cousins, and peers – and not just ‘playing doctor’ kind of curiosity, but sexually motivated manipulation and exploitation. 

When we refer to people that touch privates as ‘bad’ this can confuse children – most offenders are known, trusted, nice, and often loved by the child. They are less prepared to expect this behavior from someone they know and it can make it much more difficult for them to disclose. 

I thought sexual abuse would hurt. 

Parents often tell their children, “if someone hurts you, tell me.” Adults often associate pain with abuse. But sexual abuse often doesn’t hurt. Children that are not educated that when their private parts are touched that it can feel good – that it’s biologically normal to feel good, can become confused, embarrassed and ashamed. But worst of all – they may not tell because they don’t realize it’s abuse. 

So, just tell them – that it can feel good to touch their privates, but only they should be touching their own privates, and only out of sight of others – like in the bathroom or in bed alone. Don’t let their naiveté be used against them. 

We only taught our child to yell and tell – we thought that would be enough. 

Children are not to blame for being sexually abused.

A number of programs out there still promote the outdated “yell and tell” defense for children. While it may be effective in stranger danger situations, and would be great for all kids to yell as soon as something inappropriate happens – we also live in a world where children are taught not to yell, and to be respectful of their elders. Most kids are not going to yell at their grandparent, their coach, their tutor, etc. The. very people that perpetrate sexual abuse are often the people children trust to protect them – the shock and confusion of sexual abuse often causes the body to ‘freeze’, something that we know is true for adults and children.  So yes, we can give kids the right to yell, but also  other options to make an excuse, like they have to go to the bathroom, or that they feel sick. That it doesn’t matter how they try to get away, their safety matters more than being polite or obedient. And furthermore – it’s not their fault if they don’t get away. It’s not their fault if they don’t tell, and it’s not their fault if the abuse happens again. Sexual abuse, no matter the child’s awareness or education is never their fault. 

Children should not feel guilty for being too afraid to get away from their perpetrator. This is actually how many adults are raped – by fear and shock that a person they thought they could trust turns into their perpetrator. Let your child know that it’s not their job to stop or avoid abuse – that their only job is to TELL. If it happened once or multiple times, they only have to tell, that it’s not their fault. 

I didn’t know what to look for – I really didn’t think it would happen. 

Many educational programs of the past promoted teaching kids body safety and put the responsibility on children to either protect themselves or tell someone right away. But research has provided a wealth of information on how parents can identify possible warning signs of abuserssymptoms of abuse in children, and most importantly – that minimizing 1:1 contact between the child and adolescents or adults is actually the best way to protect children.  Being open about our awareness and speaking up when we see red flag behaviors or situations that increase risk can help keep children safe from harm before an attempt of abuse. Teaching body safety is great. It’s necessary. But so is educating ourselves and all the other adults in our child’s life. 

I thought professionals were doing everything they could to protect children. 

If your child goes to a school, daycare, or is involved in a youth program – do not assume that they have up to date training and protocol for preventing, detecting, and reporting abuse. It could be argued that most do not. While the media has had a focus on the Catholic Church sex scandal, similar scandals have been continuing with less coverage in our public schools, and other religions and organizations. Don’t assume they are doing their job to keep your child safe – find out. 

I thought reporting would solve the problem. 

As an organization for the prevention of child sexual abuse, we promote that abuse or suspected abuse needs to be reported. That being said, it doesn’t mean that the perpetrator will be charged and convicted. Child sexual abuse is often a crime with little to no physical evidence. A child’s testimony is often the only evidence and, depending on the age of the child or the parent or prosecutor’s decision, the child may not be put on the stand. 

Furthermore, when a report of abuse is made by a parent and the perpetrator has or can fight for custody of the child, there is mounting evidence that child protective services and family court judges are likely to suspect the report was made vindictively and that the child may have been ‘coached’ to say they are being abused. These protective parents often fall into bankruptcy, lose custody of their children and even sent to jail for continuing to stand by their report of abuse. 

Each case is unique, and there is no correct answer that we can provide for knowing what your outcome will be, our best advice is to reach out to a privately run advocacy or rape crisis center for advice before reporting and do your research on the issues of child sexual abuse in family court. 

I would never have believed people would turn their backs on us. 

If you followed the Bill Cosby controversy or happened to hear John Grisham‘s interview defending a friend of his convicted of possessing child pornography, you might be able to begin to understand that people don’t want to accept that child sexual abuse can and is perpetrated by likable, well-respected people. Denial is a powerful force used to protect the human ego. No one wants to accept that they like or love a sexual offender. We want to believe we could spot and avoid such people, but that’s just not possible. We need to accept our own vulnerability and mentally prepare ourselves that it would most likely be someone we trust to violate that trust. Even if we do our best to protect our children and abuse occur, it doesn’t make us stupid or foolish – the blame and shame belongs on the perpetrator. 

Just about every survivor or supporter of a survivor that has reached out to us has expressed their pain in being rejected by family that refused to believe them or did believe but were angry at them for reporting and speaking out.  It’s their weakness and they will defend it to protect their illusion of reality. If you haven’t experienced this, consider yourself very fortunate. If you have – be sure to know that you are not alone. 

Why It's Never Too Early to Teach Your Child Good Social Media Habits

Nicole Harris | Parents.com

Like it or not, your tween is probably already obsessing over Instagram. Here's how to talk with your child about social media before they make an account, plus tips from Instagram's new "Parent's Guide" for keeping them safe.

If you thought you could coast when it comes to talking to your child about social media until she is well into her teenage years, think again. Even though kids under 13 aren’t technically allowed to use social media sites like Instagram, many grade-school kids are working around the system. In fact, the number of children using fake birthdays and a parent’s email address to create accounts on popular social media sites (whether they have permission or not) is a bit startling: 

According to 2017 research from Ofcom, regulator for the communications services in the United Kingdom, about 28% of 10-year-olds, 46% of 11-year-olds, and whopping 51% of 12-year-olds surveyed had a social media profile. That means instead of kickball, conversations at recess for your fourth grader may very well be focused more on who posted what on Facebook last night. Scary, we know.

There are no doubt perks to having kids the proper age connecting with their peers on social media. Platforms like Instagram are full of inspiration for kids to celebrate the achievements of others and be creative with how they express themselves. But parents should also be aware of potential exposure to cyberbullying and inappropriate content. Younger children in particular may not realize the consequences of their online actions, which may put them in compromising situations. These are risks that the popular photo-sharing app is taking seriously. 

Instagram recently collaborated with National PTA to create a new resource for parents called Know How to Talk with Your Teen About Instagram: A Parent’s Guide. The guide, which is available in print, video, and digital formats, encourages parents to take action when it comes to their child’s privacy, interactions, and time spent on the platform. The message: When your child is starting off on social media, it's important to monitor their behavior online. Make sure they understand the risks and benefits associated with the account.

But Eddie Ruvinsky, director of engineering at Instagram, says monitoring isn't the end-all solution. "It's really about making sure that you have trust and you have ongoing dialogue for any activity that they do," he says.

Here are a few tips to get you started when it comes to teaching your child good social media habits early:

Start Early

Ana Homayoun, M.A., P.P.S, a social media expert and the author of Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital Worldwho worked with Instagram to create A Parent's Guide, says parents should start the conversation around social media early. "Even if kids aren't on social media, many are online from an early age and using different websites," she says. "In my experience, kids aren't being informed about Instagram and other social media apps from their parents–they are learning from friends, peers, older siblings, and other influencers–so it is important that parents take an active role in encouraging conversations."

Make a Plan

"I encourage coming from a place of curiosity and ask open-ended questions to help children identify why they want to join Instagram, what they think a positive experience on Instagram would look like for them, and who they could turn to if something feels uncomfortable and doesn't go as planned. Doing so allows them to proactively think about how they would define and create a positive online use experience," says Homayoun. She suggests using the the three S's–healthy socialization, effective self-regulation, and overall safety–as a guide for framing the discussion.

Prioritize Privacy

"A lot of people don't always know they have the ability to be private on Instagram," says Lori Malahy, research lead at Instagram. Turning your account on private mode means that only approved followers can view, comment, and like your content. This could prevent your child's personal information from ending up in the wrong hands. Take a cue from Dan Zigmond, director of analytics at Instagram, who required his kids to have a private account and personally know all their followers.

Enforce Good Etiquette 

Receiving mean comments on social media can hurt a child's self esteem – and writing the comments can get them into trouble. Talk with your child about proper social media etiquette, and utilize the tools outlined in Instagram's resource guide. For example, the app lets you filter out offensive or inappropriate words from your comments.

Set Time Limits

Tweens are still developing self-discipline, so it's not unusual for them to spend hours on social media platforms. Work together to determine an appropriate amount of time they should spend on apps each day, whether it's 15 minutes or one hour. You can also take advantage of Instagram's Activity Dashboard, which lets you control usage and limit distractions like push notifications. 

Teach Them Accountability

Cyberbullying is increasingly common nowadays. According to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 15% of surveyed high school students were electronically bullied in the previous 12 months. Thankfully, Instagram lets users control bullying by removing hateful comments, reporting negative behavior, and blocking individuals. "One of the most important things I'd like my son to understand is that things that happen online can affect how people feel offline," says Ian Spalter, the director of design at Instagram. "It's really important for them to take that into account with whatever actions they take online."

Practice What You Preach

You know by now that kids are sponges, and they are constantly learning by example. By practicing positive social media habits yourself, you're setting up your children for a positive, rewarding, and inspiring social media experience. 

18 Social Media Apps and Sites Kids Are Using Right Now

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Christine Elgersma | Commonsensemedia.org

It's official: Facebook isn't cool. Though some teens still use it, they prefer to use a variety of apps to connect, curate, and capture their lives in different ways. And though household names such as InstagramSnapchat, and Twitter have proven their staying power, teens love to try out new apps they hear about from friends, ads, or even what's trending in the app store.

This can be challenging for parents to keep up with. But you don't need to know all the ins and outs of all the apps, sites, and terms that are "hot" right now (and frankly, if you did, they wouldn't be trendy anymore). But knowing the basics -- what they are, why they're popular, and what problems can crop up when they're not used responsibly -- can make the difference between a positive and a negative experience for your kid.

Below, we've laid out some of the most popular types of apps and websites for teens: texting, microblogging, livestreaming, self-destructing/secret, and chatting/meeting/dating. The more you know about each, the better you'll be able to communicate with your teen about safe choices.

The bottom line for most of these tools? If teens are using them respectfully, appropriately, and with a little parental guidance, they're mostly fine. So take inventory of your kids' apps and review the best practices.

TEXTING APPS

GroupMe is an app that doesn't charge fees or have limits for direct and group messages. Users also can send photos, videos, and calendar links.

What parents need to know

  • It's for older teens. The embedded GIFs and emojis have some adult themes, such as drinking and sex.

  • Teens are always connected. Without fees or limits, teens can share and text to their heart's content, which may mean they rarely put the phone down.

Kik Messenger is an app that lets kids text for free. It's fast and has no message limits, character limits, or fees if you only use the basic features. Because it's an app, the texts won't show up on your kid's phone's messaging service, and you're not charged for them (beyond standard data rates).

What parents need to know

  • Stranger danger is an issue. Kik allows communication with strangers who share their Kik usernames to find people to chat with. The app allegedly has been used in high-profile crimes, including the murder of a 13-year-old girl and a child-pornography case.

  • It's loaded with covert marketing. Kik specializes in "promoted chats" -- basically, conversations between brands and users. It also offers specially designed apps (accessible only through the main app), many of which offer products for sale.

WhatsApp lets users send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message limits or fees.

What parents need to know

  • It's for users 16 and over. Lots of younger teens seem to be using the app, but this age minimum has been set by WhatsApp.

  • It can be pushy. After you sign up, it automatically connects you to all the people in your address book who also are using WhatsApp. It also encourages you to add friends who haven't signed up yet.

Discord started as a place for gamers to chat while playing video games but has become a bigger platform where users can use text, voice-chat, and video-chat to discuss a wide variety of topics.

What parents need to know

  • There are public and private "servers" or discussion groups. Teens can join public groups, ask to join private ones, or start their own. The safest option is for them to join a private group with people they know in real life.

  • Some groups are more moderated than others, some are NSFW, and some are hate-filled. There are plenty of groups that are meant for adults only, and some are totally tame and well moderated. If your kid is in one of the latter, the risk is much lower.

PHOTO AND VIDEO-SHARING APPS AND SITES

Instagram lets users snap, edit, and share photos and 15-second videos, either publicly or within a private network of followers. It unites the most popular features of social media sites: sharing, seeing, and commenting on photos. It also lets you apply fun filters and effects to your photos, making them look high-quality and artistic.

What parents need to know

  • Teens are on the lookout for "likes." Similar to the way they use Facebook, teens may measure the "success" of their photos -- even their self-worth -- by the number of likes or comments they receive. Posting a photo or video can be problematic if teens are posting to validate their popularity.

  • Public photos are the default. Photos and videos shared on Instagram are public unless privacy settings are adjusted. Hashtags and location information can make photos even more visible to communities beyond a teen's followers if his or her account is public.

  • Kids can send private messages. Instagram Direct is like texting with photos or videos and you can do it with up to 15 mutual friends. These pictures don't show up on their public feeds. Although there's nothing wrong with group chats, kids may be more likely to share inappropriate stuff with their inner circles.

Tik Tok - Real Short Videos is a performance- and video-sharing social network that mostly features teens lip-synching to famous songs but also includes some original songwriting and singing. Users can build up a following among friends or share posts publicly.

What parents need to know

  • Songs and videos contain lots of iffy content. Because the platform features popular music and a mix of teen and adult users, swearing and sexual content are commonplace.

  • There are often creepy comments. Though lots of comments are kind, videos often have comments about the performer's body or other sexual references, and since kids under 13 and adults use the app, it's especially creepy.

  • Gaining followers and fans feels important. Teens want a public profile to get exposure and approval, and many are highly motivated to get more followers and likes for their videos.

MICROBLOGGING APPS AND SITES

Tumblr is like a cross between a blog and Twitter: It's a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or video and audio clips. Users create and follow short blogs, or "tumblogs," that can be seen by anyone online (if they're made public). Many teens have tumblogs for personal use: sharing photos, videos, musings, and things they find funny with their friends.

What parents need to know

  • Porn is easy to find. This online hangout is hip and creative but sometimes raunchy. Pornographic images and videos and depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use, and offensive language are easily searchable.

  • Privacy can be guarded but only through an awkward workaround. The first profile a member creates is public and viewable by anyone on the internet. Members who desire full privacy have to create a second profile, which they're able to password-protect.

  • Posts are often copied and shared. Reblogging on Tumblr is similar to re-tweeting: A post is reblogged from one tumblog to another. Many teens like -- and, in fact, want -- their posts to be reblogged.

Twitter is a microblogging tool that allows users to post brief, 140-character messages -- called "tweets" -- and follow other users' activities. It's not only for adults; teens like using it to share tidbits and keep up with news and celebrities.

What parents need to know

LIVE-STREAMING VIDEO APPS

Houseparty - Group Video Chat is a way for groups of teens to connect via live video. Two to eight people can be in a chat together at the same time. If someone who's not a direct friend joins a chat, teens get an alert in case they want to leave the chat. You can also "lock" a chat so no one else can join.

What parents need to know

  • Users can take screenshots during a chat. Teens like to think that what happens in a chat stays in a chat, but that's not necessarily the case. It's easy for someone to take a screenshot while in a chat and share it with whomever they want.

  • There's no moderator. Part of the fun of live video is that anything can happen, but that can also be a problem. Unlike static posts that developers may review, live video chats are spontaneous, so it's impossible to predict what kids will see, especially if they're in chats with people they don't know well.

Live.me – Live Video Streaming allows kids to watch others and broadcast themselves live, earn currency from fans, and interact live with users without any control over who views their streams.

What parents need to know

  • It's associated with Tik Tok - including musical.ly. Because of the parent app's popularity, this streamer is very popular, and many kids who use one app use the other, too.

  • Kids can easily see inappropriate content. During our review, we saw broadcasters cursing and using racial slurs, scantily clad broadcasters, young teens answering sexually charged questions, and more.

  • Predatory comments are a concern. Because anyone can communicate with broadcasters, there is the potential for viewers to request sexual pictures or performances or to contact them through other social means and send private images or messages.

YouNow: Broadcast, Chat, and Watch Live Video is an app that lets kids stream and watch live broadcasts. As they watch, they can comment or buy gold bars to give to other users. Ultimately, the goal is to get lots of viewers, start trending, and grow your fan base.

What parents need to know

  • Kids might make poor decisions to gain popularity. Because it's live video, kids can do or say anything and can respond to requests from viewers -- in real time. Though there seems to be moderation around iffy content (kids complain about having accounts suspended "for nothing"), there's plenty of swearing and occasional sharing of personal information with anonymous viewers.

  • Teens can share personal information, sometimes by accident. Teens often broadcast from their bedrooms, which often have personal information visible, and they sometimes will share a phone number or an email address with viewers, not knowing who's really watching.

  • It's creepy. Teens even broadcast themselves sleeping, which illustrates the urge to share all aspects of life, even intimate moments, publicly -- and potentially with strangers.

SELF-DESTRUCTING/SECRET APPS

Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users put a time limit on the pictures and videos they send before they disappear. Most teens use the app to share goofy or embarrassing photos without the risk of them going public. However, there are lots of opportunities to use it in other ways.

What parents need to know

  • It's a myth that Snapchats go away forever. Data is data: Whenever an image is sent, it never truly goes away. (For example, the person on the receiving end can take a screenshot of the image before it disappears.) Snapchats can even be recovered. After a major hack in December 2013 and a settlement with the FTC, Snapchat has clarified its privacy policy, but teens should stay wary.

  • It can make sexting seem OK. The seemingly risk-free messaging might encourage users to share pictures containing sexy images.

  • There's a lot of iffy, clicky content. Snapchat's Discover feature offers a grab-bag of articles, videos, and quizzes from magazine publishers, TV networks, and online sources mostly about pop culture, celebrities, and relationships (a typical headline: "THIS is What Sex Does To Your Brain").

Whisper is a social "confessional" app that allows users to post whatever's on their minds, paired with an image. With all the emotions running through teens, anonymous outlets give them the freedom to share their feelings without fear of judgment.

What parents need to know

  • Whispers are often sexual in nature. Some users use the app to try to hook up with people nearby, while others post "confessions" of desire. Lots of eye-catching, nearly nude pics accompany these shared secrets.

  • Content can be dark. People normally don't confess sunshine and rainbows; common Whisper topics include insecurity, depression, substance abuse, and various lies told to employers and teachers.

  • Although it's anonymous to start, it may not stay that way. The app encourages users to exchange personal information in the "Meet Up" section.

CHATTING, MEETING, AND DATING APPS AND SITES

Monkey -- Have Fun ChatsIf you remember Chatroulette, where users could be randomly matched with strangers for a video chat, this is the modern version. Using Snapchat to connect, users have 10 seconds to live video-chat with strangers.

What parents need to know

  • Lots of teens are using it. Because of the connection with Snapchat, plenty of teens are always available for a quick chat -- which often leads to connecting via Snapchat and continuing the conversation through that platform.

  • Teens can accept or reject a chat. Before beginning a chat, users receive the stranger's age, gender, and location and can choose whether to be matched or not.

MeetMe: Chat and Meet New People. The name says it all. Although not marketed as a dating app, MeetMe does have a "Match" feature whereby users can "secretly admire" others, and its large user base means fast-paced communication and guaranteed attention.

What parents need to know

  • It's an open network. Users can chat with whomever's online, as well as search locally, opening the door to potential trouble.

  • Lots of details are required. First and last name, age, and ZIP code are requested at registration, or you can log in using a Facebook account. The app also asks permission to use location services on your teens' mobile devices, meaning they can find the closest matches wherever they go.

Omegle is a chat site that puts two strangers together in their choice of a text chat or a video chat. Being anonymous can be very attractive to teens, and Omegle provides a no-fuss way to make connections. Its "interest boxes" also let users filter potential chat partners by shared interests.

What parents need to know

  • Users get paired up with strangers. That's the whole premise of the app. And there's no registration required.

  • This is not a site for kids and teens. Omegle is filled with people searching for sexual chat. Some prefer to do so live. Others offer links to porn sites.

  • Language is a big issue. Since the chats are anonymous, they're often much more explicit than those with identifiable users might be.

Yubo (formerly Yellow - Make new friends) is an app that is often called the "Tinder for teens" because users swipe right or left to accept or reject the profiles of other users. If two people swipe right on each other, they can chat and hook up via Snapchat or Instagram.

What parents need to know

  • It's easy to lie about your age. Even if you try to enter a birth date that indicates you're under 13, the app defaults to an acceptable age so you can create an account anyway.

  • You have to share your location and other personal information. For the app to work, you need to let it "geotag" you. Also, there are no private profiles, so the only option is to allow anyone to find you.

  • It encourages contact with strangers. As with Tinder, the whole point is to meet people. The difference with Yellow is that the endgame is sometimes just exchanging social media handles to connect there. Even if there's no offline contact, however, without age verification, teens are connecting with people they don't know who may be much older.

Amino - Communities, Chat, Forums, and Groups is an interest-based app that lets users find people who are into the same things. Teens can join groups -- or create them -- and then post within the group, follow other users, and chat with them via text, voice, or video.

What parents need to know

  • Contact with strangers is part of the experience. While it's great for kids to be able to feel a sense of belonging and kinship with others, the mix of kids and adults blended with all varieties of chat makes it risky. Also, unless a kid is in a closed group, everything they post is public, and other users can search for them. Make sure your kid's location is not included in their profile.

  • Mature content and bullying is common. Since each community makes its own rules, profanity, sexual references, and violent content are a part of some forums. A lot of what your kid sees, who they meet, and what people post is determined by the groups they decide to join, as some are very tame and some are definitely not for kids.

  • It's not made with kids in mind. Because this app wasn't created for kids, it doesn't have the same safeguards or privacy standards as apps that are made for kids.

The bottom line for most of these tools? If teens are using them respectfully, appropriately, and with a little parental guidance, they should be fine. Take inventory of your kids' apps and review the best practices.

Are your kids getting enough sleep?

Emily Rivas | Todaysparent.com

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How much sleep is enough for your kids? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine's new guidelines might surprise you.

Getting kids to sleep can be a struggle and it’s totally normal to worry about your kids getting adequate sleep. But how much is enough?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has released their first-ever guidelines for kids’ sleep which outline how much shut-eye your child should be getting. (The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) has its own set of sleep guidelines—which can be found on Caring for KidsThe CPS says they also have plans to update their guidelines, but no details are available yet). Put together by a panel of sleep experts, the Academy of Sleep Medicine’s guidelines also encompass recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The panel’s research found that not catching the recommended zzzs is associated with attention, behavior and learning problems, and increases the risk of accidents, injuries, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and depression. For teens, lack of sleep can increase the risk of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Here are their recommended guidelines for daily/nightly sleep:

  • 12 to 16 hours (including naps) for infants four to 12 months old. Younger infants are excluded due to the wide range in what’s considered “normal” for them.

  • 11 to 14 hours (including naps) for toddlers one to two years old.

  • 10 to 13 hours for kids three to five years old

  • 9 to 12 hours for kids aged six to 12

  • 8 to 10 hours for teens 13 to 18 years old

Five Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe Online this Summer

dhs.gov

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You teach your children to wear helmets when they ride bikes and sunscreen when they’re outside, but are you also teaching them to be safe online? June is Internet Safety Month, a perfect opportunity to talk with your kids about online safety.  

Summer break is here, which means kids are starting to spend more free time online and on mobile devices. Children run into all sorts of risks in the cyber world, including cyberbullying, inappropriate content, online predators, and cyber criminals seeking to steal their personal information. It’s important for parents to know how to keep their children safe from these threats online. As summer vacation kicks off, the Department of Homeland Security encourages you to share these five online safety tips with your children:  

  1. Don’t share too much information. Create a list of things your kids should never post or share online – like their birthday and year, full name, address, and phone number – and make sure they understand why it is important to keep this information private.

  2. Be careful about what you post. The Internet isn’t private. Once your kids share a post, picture, or video, they can’t control how others will use it, and it can never be permanently deleted. Teach them be thoughtful and cautious in what they post and share online.

  3. Only connect with people you know. “Don’t talk to strangers” is a good rule for the real world and the cyber world. Predators and stalkers can easily create fake profiles to hide their identities, so instruct your kids to only connect with friends they actually know in real life. Also check your children’s privacy settings to make sure strangers can’t see their profiles. Sometimes privacy settings get reset to default settings during program updates, so check their profiles regularly.

  4. Keep your location private. Many apps, networks, and devices have geo-tagging features which broadcast your location. This information could lead a stalker directly to your kids, so check that these features are completely off. 

  5. Protect your password. Show your kids how to create strong passwords and make sure they know to never share them with anyone (except their parents or a trusted adult).

If you’d like to learn more about protecting your children online, check out the “Chatting with Kids about Being Online” Booklet from the Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign.

The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), a Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign National Network partner, provides a wealth of resources about being a good digital parent. On their website, you’ll find research, advice, videos, and guides to help you have impactful conversations with your kids about online safety. Visit www.FOSI.org for more information and resources for your family.

For more tips on how to stay safe online, please visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign at www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.

Signs & Symptoms of Sexual Abuse

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Themamabeareffect.org

Sexual Abuse Is Not Always Obvious

Abuse is always the fault of those who perpetrate, but it must be a choice on our part to take responsibility to educate ourselves to better identify possible abuse. Often the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse are also associated with other issues that may affect a child during different phases of life, such as low self-esteem, mood swings, and anxiety. The important thing is to not disregard the possibility of sexual abuse when we notice a change in behavior, and to not be afraid to ask – even if everything seems fine.

Dr. Janet Rosenzweig, author of The Sex-Wise Parent, carefully warns parents to not put too much responsibility on children to be able to protect themselves as she states, “Never forget that young children are developmentally incapable of protecting themselves from a skilled pedophile. Even the best classroom-based prevention programs in the world are useless unless adults in the community recognize the dynamics of sexual abuse of children in general and pedophiles in particular.” Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for adults make the assumption that a child would tell if they were being abused. We can do as much as we can to educate our children, but we cannot guarantee our child will not feel guilt, shame, embarrassment, or fear that this happened to them – especially if the abuser is a family member, friend, or someone of authority. 

“Never forget that young children are developmentally incapable of protecting themselves from a skilled pedophile.- Dr. Janet Rosenzweig, The Sex-Wise Parent

Possible Signs of Sexual Abuse

Contrary to the belief of many, there may no visible physical signs of sexual abuse. Most often, physical signs may only be noticed when the abuse causes physical harm to the body. If sexual abuse is causing anxiety for the child, they may exhibit symptoms of stress that are often overlooked or misdiagnosed.

Some Children Show No Signs of Abuse

It may seem impossible to believe that some children will exhibit no signs of stress, fear, or depression of sexual abuse but it is not uncommon, which is why it is important that we talk about sexual abuse and on occasion, ask our children directly if anyone has ever acted inappropriately. Here are a few reasons why children may not exhibit any warning signs:

  • The child is too young or not educated about sexual abuse to know it is wrong

  • The child experiences dissociation and does not remember the abuse as the brain attempts to protect itself from the trauma by blocking out memories.

  • The child realizes the consequences of telling may mean being removed from the home, loss of a parent, upsetting their family, physical abuse, or other unwanted outcomes and therefore works to appear as normal as possible to avoid detection and attention.

Why Children Don’t Tell

There are many reasons why children don’t disclose abuse immediately or for many years, even after the abuse has stopped. Almost always, an abuser has mentally and emotionally manipulated the child to maintain control and secrecy. The innocence of children is often used against them when they do not understand what is appropriate or that they do not have a choice because of their age. It is not uncommon for children to recant a previous disclosure because talking about it becomes too stressful. 

Children with Mental and Physical Challenges

It’s estimated that children with disabilities are 4 to 10 times more vulnerable to sexual abuse than their non-disabled peers.

Children with special needs are often in settings where they encounter multiple caregivers, and are often targeted in and out of their home because of their vulnerability due to the challenges they face to understand and communicate about sexual abuse. Additionally, care agencies are often excluded from training and information about how to report concerns and manage incidents of sexual abuse that do occur. Sexual abuse of children and young people causes long-term mental health difficulties, and disabled young people are not immune from these consequences. Source: Sexual Violence Against Children, by Hilary Brown


Babies Who Get Cuddled More Seem to Have Their Genetics Changed For Years Afterwards

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David Nield | Sciencealert.com

The amount of close and comforting contact that young infants get doesn't just keep them warm, snug, and loved.

A 2017 study says it can actually affect babies at the molecular level, and the effects can last for years.

Based on the study, babies who get less physical contact and are more distressed at a young age, end up with changes in molecular processes that affect gene expression.

The team from the University of British Columbia in Canada emphasizes that it's still very early days for this research, and it's not clear exactly what's causing the change.

But it could give scientists some useful insights into how touching affects the epigenome - the biochemical changes that influence gene expression in the body.

During the study, parents of 94 babies were asked to keep diaries of their touching and cuddling habits from five weeks after birth, as well as logging the behavior of the infants – sleeping, crying, and so on.

Four-and-a-half years later, DNA swabs were taken of the kids to analyse a biochemical modification called DNA methylation.

It's an epigenetic mechanism in which some parts of the chromosome are tagged with small carbon and hydrogen molecules, often changing how genes function and affecting their expression.

The researchers found DNA methylation differences between "high-contact" children and "low-contact" children at five specific DNA sites, two of which were within genes: one related to the immune system, and one to the metabolic system.

DNA methylation also acts as a marker for normal biological development and the processes that go along with it, and it can be influenced by external, environmental factors as well.

Then there was the epigenetic age, the biological ageing of blood and tissue. This marker was lower than expected in the kids who hadn't had much contact as babies, and had experienced more distress in their early years, compared with their actual age.

"In children, we think slower epigenetic ageing could reflect less favorable developmental progress," said one of the team, Michael Kobor.

In fact, similar findings were spotted in a study from 2013 looking at how much care and attention young rats were given from a very early age.

Gaps between epigenetic age and chronological age have been linked to health problems in the past, but again it's too soon to draw those kind of conclusions: the scientists readily admit they don't yet know how this will affect the kids later in life.

We are also talking about less than 100 babies in the study, but it does seem that close contact and cuddles do somehow change the body at a genetic level.

Of course it's well accepted that human touch is good for us and our development in all kinds of ways, but this is the first study to look at how it might be changing the epigenetics of human babies.

It will be the job of further studies to work out why, and to investigate whether any long-term changes in health might appear as a consequence.

"We plan to follow up on whether the 'biological immaturity' we saw in these children carries broad implications for their health, especially their psychological development," said one of the researchers, Sarah Moore.

"If further research confirms this initial finding, it will underscore the importance of providing physical contact, especially for distressed infants."

The research was published in Development and Psychopathology.

Toddlers, Meltdowns and Brain Development: Why Parents Need to Ditch Traditional Discipline

Raisedgood.com

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Toddlers are brilliant. Aren’t they?

They live in the present moment.

They’re capable and innocent.

And perhaps my favorite trait – they’re authentic. They’re unfiltered. They’re among the most honest humans on the planet. They’re unapologetically themselves.

But, perhaps they’re also the most misunderstood humans on the planet.

We, adults, have forgotten what it’s like to be a toddler. To be small and dependent. To be constantly learning. To feel only one (strong) emotion at a time, yet not have the tools to regulate that emotion. To experience the most rapid brain development of one’s life.

Instead, what our culture chooses to see are toddlers ‘throwing’ tantrums. Pushing our buttons. Testing our limits. Acting clingy, uncivilized and impolite.

This perspective can make us feel as though we’ve lost control. As if we’re ‘bad’ parents. As if we’re failing.

And so, we’re encouraged to control our children; to leverage our size and power.

Mainstream parenting focuses on modifying superficial behavior and resorting to tactics like punishments, time-outs, threats, bribes and rewards under the justification that perpetuating a dominance hierarchy is somehow serving the greater good.

And when these scare tactics don’t work…we escalate the punishment.

But, what if, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with our children? Nothing to be fixed. What if the problem is a lack of knowledge, understanding, and empathy within our society? And what if these techniques threaten to erode the ONLY influence you truly have with your child – your relationship.

Western society expects a parenting approach based on an adult’s wants rather than a child’s needsBut, what if, through our relationship, an understanding of child psychology and brain development, and a shift in perspective, we could find a way to be in harmony with our young children and grow alongside them? Becoming better people ourselves.

So, let’s dig a little deeper into the science of growing up. Let’s seek to understand WHY young children behave the way they do so that we can feel confidence and gratitude as we stand beside them, guiding them with patience and compassion on this adventure called toddlerhood.

When does the brain grow up?

As humans evolved to walk on two legs rather than four, the size of the pelvis needed to shrink considerably. For women, childbirth became more challenging; we evolved to give birth to our babies at a much earlier stage of development so that a newborn’s head could safely pass through the narrower birth canal. Some say, compared to other mammals, humans are born only half way through gestation; similar to baby kangaroos.

The biological tradeoff? Undeveloped brain = immature, helpless, dependent baby.

Compared to other mammals, the human brain is tiny at birth; a mere 25% of its ultimate adult size. Animals born into hostile environments tend to have larger infant brains to help them survive. Zebras, for example, need to be able to run with the herd just hours after birth – their relatively mature brains help them run and respond appropriately when a lion appears.

But, mother nature always has a survival strategy in place. So, what is the survival strategy for human babies with such tiny brains? Easy. Mum and Dad. Babies (and toddlers) are designed to keep us close most, if not all the time in order to protect them.

We’re designed to form secure attachments for a reason – in order for our species to survive and thrive.

John Bowlby, British psychoanalyst and Founder of Attachment Theory, hypothesized that healthy attachment is crucial to promote emotional regulation and is vital for optimal brain development. Our interactions with our children, whether positive or negative, affect the way their brains grow.

The National Institute of Mental Health suggests the brain doesn’t fully mature until our mid-late twenties. The frontal lobe, responsible for judgment, planning, assessing risks, and decision-making is the last region to complete development around age 30. So, what does this mean for us, as parents?

It means we need to be patient and compassionate with our kids. It means children are often incapable of the unrealistic expectations we place on them. It means that no matter how smart we think our three-year-old is, no matter how much we wish he could rationalize and reason, he simply doesn’t have the brain of an adult. We may hope kids will behave with self-discipline and self-control, but until their brains mature, it is our responsibility to guide them (and ‘lend’ them our prefrontal cortex until theirs matures).

How positive parenting encourages healthy brain development

Albert Einstein once said the most important question for us to answer is, “Is this a friendly universe?” Infancy and childhood are when we begin to answer that question. As a species, we are adaptable precisely because we are unfinished at birth. Children “build” a brain, that’s best suited to the environment they experience. A staggering seven hundred new neural connections (synapses) are formed in the brain every single second, equating to over one thousand trillion synapses by a child’s third birthday.

But the process of brain development doesn’t end at age three; by the time children reach their teenage years the number of neural synapses actually halves from one thousand trillion to five hundred trillion in a process called neural pruning.

So why would the brain create more synapses than it needs, only to discard the extras?

The answer lies in the interplay of genetic and environmental factors. While genetics provides a blueprint, it’s a child’s environment and their experiences that carry out the construction, forming the essential wiring of the brain. Repeated use of particular pathways strengthens individual connections.

Synapse strength is vital in developing emotional regulation abilities. This is why it’s critical that we provide our children with experiences that contribute to healthy brain development. For example, a child who experiences excessive stress will develop a larger brainstem – the part of the brain responsible for the fight, flight, freeze response. These children are more likely to become adults who are overly reactive to stress. Why? Because their early experiences suggest that they need to be on high alert. That their environment is unsafe (and so are they).

On the flip side, a child who experiences nurturing and responsiveness is able to devote their energy to growing a larger prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for emotional regulation. These children are more likely to become adults who are calm and emotionally stable. Why? Because their early experiences of interdependence and responsiveness suggest that their world is safe and that they can rely on those around them.

This is the type of care humans are biologically wired to expect.

Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson proposed that healthy psychological outcomes are dependent on the quality of caregiving. When the balance of care is empathic babies and toddlers grow into children who naturally trust the world. And trusting children feel confident about venturing out and exploring independently. This is how true independence develops.

Why Toddlers Need Meltdowns

Toddlers build up stress hormones as they cope with the challenges of daily life. But the part of the brain, which allows them to express strong emotions verbally, the prefrontal cortex, still isn’t fully developed. This means that toddlers can experience an intense emotion, but they don’t have the ability to verbalize, nor deal with it.

So, mother nature designed toddlers with a foolproof method to release emotional overload: meltdowns (or tantrums).

Toddlers don’t enjoy tantrums. They don’t intentionally “throw” a tantrum to manipulate us. Tantrums are outside a toddler’s conscious control.

When emotions overwhelm a young child, their brain isn’t able to maintain rational control. Their physiology helps restore equilibrium by having a meltdown to release their feelings and frustrations.

Tantrums are an opportunity for us to connect and deepen the trust our children already have in us.

Tantrums are an opportunity to learn as parents.

Tantrums are an opportunity to dig deep, to lean in and to help your child in the way they need.

Tantrums are an opportunity to up your game as a parent.

As unbelievable as it may sound, once I realized this, I can’t say I looked forward to tantrums but I didn’t dread them. I didn’t try to stop them. I didn’t fear them. I started approaching them with curiosity and wonder. I started expecting them, just as I expected my son to be hungry or tired.

So, what’s the best way to deal with a tantrum?

Firstly, remember a tantrum is not a reflection on you. Let’s repeat that; your child’s tantrum is not a reflection on you or your parenting. What is a reflection on you is your response to the tantrum. Can you find the courage to disable generational imprinting and cultural expectations and be the calm in your child’s storm?  You cannot control another person, but you can choose your response.

“Release your attachments to how things “ought” to be and instead surrender to how they actually are.” Dr. Shefali Tsabury

So, remember tantrums are normal and healthy.

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes for a moment if you need to. Do whatever you need to do to center yourself. You are your child’s compass. You are their guide; they need to feel the reassurance that you are in charge, that you have their back and that they can rely on you when they feel like they are drowning in a sea of wild and unpredictable emotions.

Sit patiently with your child. Hold her close. Empathize. Observe.

What unmet needs could be underlying her strong emotions?

Say what you see, without judgment.

Give her words so she can understand her emotions. “You are so upset. You seem sad to say good-bye to Daddy. You’re crying…”

Remember, this is not about you.

Do not even attempt to rationalize or use logic – your child’s brain is all emotion right now. Connect on an emotional level first and then once she is calm, you can problem solve together.

Acknowledge her anger and frustrations, accept her emotions and wait it out.

By doing this (time and again) you’re strengthening your child’s belief that the universe is a safe place. That her parents accept and love her unconditionally. That there is no such thing as “good” or “bad emotions. That you will help her regulate her emotions and explore her feelings no matter how messy they may be.

Why Parents Need to Ditch Traditional Discipline

The mainstream approach may suggest a time out or walking away so that you don’t “reward” the behavior by acknowledging it. Or threatening or punishing your child in some arbitrary way. But this approach is short-sighted – it may get the parent what they want in the short term, but it is not helping the child.

Because when young children feel abandoned, unheard and invalidated, they become anxious. The tantrum may temporarily stop, but you risk creating deep insecurity. We wouldn’t dream of treating a toddler as a “failure” for stumbling as they learn to walk. So why would we treat them harshly when they stumble through their emotional growth?

Traditional discipline has become synonymous with punishment. The Oxford Dictionary defines discipline as, ‘the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.’ But, the original meaning of the word came from its Latin origins, disciplina, which means ‘instruction’. And disciplina derives from the Latin word discere, which means ‘to learn’. Traditional discipline techniques are, in my view, a lazy way of dealing with misunderstood behavior, which in most cases derives from a child’s valid and unmet need. They also put the bulk of responsibility on the child and very little on the parent.

“Every day in a hundred ways our children ask, “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter?” Their behaviour often reflects our response.” L.R.Knost

Compassion and empathetic guidance help toddlers develop a brain that can regulate itself emotionally within a few short years. By around the age of six, a child’s nervous system is almost completely wired. The ability to trust, self-soothe and empathize is established.

Children who’ve had compassionate, responsive and positive parents will come to understand and self-regulate their emotions most of the time. They’ll feel secure. They’ll build neural pathways within the brain to deliver soothing biochemicals that help to regulate emotions like fear and anger. They’ll grow into adults who feel comfortable in their own skin and with other people’s emotions, so they’re able to connect deeply with others.

It may feel overwhelming in the moment with a young child who is melting down, but take solace in the knowledge that the effort and sacrifices you are making are monumentally worthwhile. In years from now, your kids won’t remember what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.

“Either we spend time meeting children’s emotional needs by filling their cup with love or we spend the time dealing with the behaviours caused from their unmet needs. Either way we spend the time.” Pamela Leo

How to Stop Thinking Your Teen Is ‘Pushing Your Buttons'

Cheryl Maguire | NY Times.com

Do clothes on the floor make you crazy? Experts say that the tension is often about the way the parent responds.

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My 14-year-old daughter constantly abandons her coat on the floor and leaves half-eaten food in the living room and crumpled papers in the hall. I end up cleaning up after her, which I’ve repeatedly told her makes me upset.

She’s a smart, talented kid. So why does she keep pushing my buttons?

At some point most parents feel as if their teenager is acting in ways to intentionally make them angry. But experts say that the interaction is often more about the way the parent responds than about the teenager’s behavior.

Change the Language

“When a parent tells me their kid is ‘pushing their buttons,’ I let them know we need to change the language,” said Dr. Alexandra Solomon, a Northwestern University professor, clinical psychologist and author of “Loving Bravely.”

She said that thinking your child is controlling you is disempowering, which can lead to a battle of wills.

Such conflicts often fall into one of three categories, Dr. Solomon said.

The first is when the parents are thinking about their own teen behavior. Parents may project their fears, memories and challenges onto the relationship and can’t see their child as separate from themselves. Dr. Solomon gave an example: “The boy I dated when I was 16 cheated on me and broke my heart. My daughter should not date because all high school boys are immature and irresponsible.”

Another involves thinking of past mistakes they made as parents. Dr. Solomon said that if a teenager has trouble making friends a parent may think, “If I had taken my child on play dates when they were younger then they would have friends now.”

The last type is when a parent “fast forwards” to possible future behaviors. This is when a parent thinks, “If my kid is doing this at age 13 then what are they going to be doing at age 16?”

All of these patterns involve being ruled by fear instead of guided by love, Dr. Solomon said. Fear-driven parents often become controlling, creating strict rules, grounding their children or infringing on their privacy. “When these rules are created from a fear-based mind-set instead of what is necessary based on your teen’s developmental needs, an unhealthy relationship will develop,” Dr. Solomon said.

Control Your Reaction

“The reason to stay calm is because we co-regulate with our children — when we freak out, they freak out,” said Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co-founder of the Center for Parent and Teen Communication.

Dr. Solomon recommends avoiding this kind of overreaction by practicing mindful parenting, which involves pausing, regulating your emotions and staying present in the moment, without attaching a story or meaning to the behavior. Research studies have found that using this technique can improve the quality of parent-child relationships.

“It’s hard to control what your teen does, but you can control your reaction to it,” said KJ Dell’Antonia, former editor of The New York Times’s parenting blog Motherlode and author of “How to be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute.” “If I walk away, it changes my experience.”

Be on the Same Team

Say to your teenager: “This isn’t working for either of us. What can we do to fix it?” Maybe the coat closet is near the front door and your kids don’t use it because they come in through the back door. Could you install a coat hook near the back door?

Once you have a plan, even if there is only a small improvement, praise your child for doing a good job and acknowledge that you have a better relationship because you are working together.

“Parents may want to think of themselves as coaches, helping their child practice instead of being disciplinarians,” said Dr. Carla Naumburg, a clinical social worker and author of parenting books including “Ready, Set, Breathe: Practicing Mindfulness With Your Children for Fewer Meltdowns and a More Peaceful Family.”

“Getting mad at your child isn’t going to change the behavior,” she said. “When you get angry, your attention is on the conflict instead of figuring out a solution to the problem.”

Trouble Shoot

If you have setbacks, ask your child, “Where do you think we went wrong?”

“Approach situations with curiosity. If your son doesn’t get out of bed, don’t say, ‘You are tired because you stayed up too late.’” Dr. Solomon said. Instead ask, ‘Why do you think you are tired?’ Hold back the urge to be right and instead stay curious by asking questions.

If you do yell at your teen, Dr. Naumburg recommended apologizing. “Some parents worry that apologizing will undermine their authority, but that isn’t true,” she said. “It’s a respectful way to be in a relationship and it’s modeling a behavior that we want our kids to do — take responsibility for their actions.”

Dr. Naumburg suggested ways I could help my daughter learn strategies to be more organized, such as breaking down a task into small steps.

I can accept that she will never be the next Marie Kondo, but I’ve seen progress for both of us. Now when I see a coat on the floor, I try to remind myself to see only a coat, not an affront to my authority.

My daughter has a sense of humor about it, too. When I told her I was writing about this she announced with a smile: “I left my jacket at tennis practice so it’s not on the floor today.”