Back to School | 4 Things Our Teens Will Face and How to Help

Back to school, the start of a new year, time to clean out the closets, dust the house and pack brand new backpacks.  It feels fresh and exciting.  My teen is starting his Freshman Year of high school, and my little guy is starting Kindergarten, so as you can expect, I am a pile of nerves.  

It is exciting sending our kids back to school with high hopes and new adventures.  And let’s be honest, it’s time to get them out of the house but how do we protect them and help them when they spend so many hours away from our guarded environment?

 So here are some things that my freshman and yours will need to be equipped to handle:

SEX:  Ok, so the health class speech we got from sex-ed is not going to cut it anymore.  Just by Googling the words “cute girl,”all kinds of explicit images come up.  As nude pictures on Instagram have become mainstream (and even celebrated) we cannot be ignorant to think that our kids have not been exposed to nude and often pornographic images (sometimes innocently and unexpectedly).  Because of this, students are experimenting with things that we would never imagine.  

What do we do?:   We have to have open conversations with our teens  and allow them to feel as comfortable as they can to talk about what they are seeing, experiencing and feeling.  Educate yourself on what your teens and their friends are talking about in terms of sexuality and what they are experiencing.  We need to continuously communicate value to them.  When teens know their worth, they gain respect for themselves and are less likely to expose themselves to harmful sexual situations.  Help your student put up boundaries.  Do not be afraid to set up rules that will prevent sexual experiences.  We do not have to live how culture dictates.  

Idea: put the boundaries in writing and post them in your teen’s closet so they can be reminded of them every day.  Also write a quote or scripture that reminds them of who they are and the value they have.

3 Keys to teens making good sexual decisions:

Know who they are, know their worth and where they are going.  

BULLYING: The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” should be changed to “and words will always hurt me.” WORDS are powerful.  In a presentation of Rachel’s Challenge, the presenter says, “your words have the power to hurt, or your words have the power to heal.”  –RachelsChallenge.org.  There is so much psychology of why we use the weapon of words to tear people down.  Our teens are going through the formidable years of their lives and we need to walk them through emotionally whole.  

What do we do?:  Get involved in the day-to-day life of your teen.  We often volunteer in our children’s classes when they are in elementary school; I encourage you to not stop there.  Volunteer at their high school, join the PTA, do whatever you can do to observe the climate of their school.  Know who your child hangs with at lunch, how he or she is treated in the halls, what teachers say to them or don’t say to them. I heard a friend of mine say to her daughter, “your friends are my friends.”  Again, instill confidence in them by telling them who they are: bold, beautiful, smart, and other more specifics to what you see in them.  If they hear it from you, the parent, the other outside noise will get quieter.  

Idea:  Do what you can to positively affect the climate of the entire school.  As a parent, you have the power to bring programs that have an impact on the culture of your child’s school.  

Resource: A proven resource for this is RachelsChallenge.org.  “Start a chain reaction of kindness.”

EMOTIONAL HEALTH:  Many students struggle with emotional health.  There are pressures from teachers, coaches, other parents, and peers that often can be too overwhelming to handle.  Some teens are suffering silently, hiding their pain.  It can be the bubbly cheerleader, the star of the debate team, it can be your child that is silently suffering.  We need to talk real life emotions with our kids to help them to be the happy people we desire them to be.  Students also often eat foods that add negative emotions.  My senior. year of High School I ate a chocolate Costco Muffin and Cherry Coke for breakfast, school burrito and cherry coke for lunch and jalapeño chips with you guessed it– a cherry coke for my 6th period snack!  When I got home from school, I slept till around dinner-time feeling exhausted and depressed but no one knew.  For me, it was my diet.  It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I discovered I had a severe allergy to wheat and my symptoms from eating it are exhaustion and depression.  

What do we do?:  Read your child.  You know them better than anyone.  Take time to just sit and hang with your student.  Pay attention to:

  • if they have long periods of sadness
  • if your child is tired and not sleeping a lot
  • if their grades are dropping fast
  • if they are having a hard time paying attention
  • if they are disinterested or disconnected to the things they once loved
  • if they are hanging with a new crowd that causes you concern.
  • if they are putting on or losing an unusual amount of weight

Do not be afraid to go there (meaning asking them where their thoughts are and if they have contemplated suicide).  Your student can be in a dark place and too ashamed to talk about it.  Get them the help they need, whether it’s counseling or something else.  Take them seriously and do not dismiss their pain.  Respect them for being open and honest with you and love them through the process.

Idea: Have your child allergy tested by someone who specializes in this.  What we eat and things in our environments can also give off symptoms of ADD, ADHD, sleeplessness, restless legs and more.  I am not saying this is why your child is feeling this way there are, there can be many other causes, but it is a good starting point.

Resource: thesemicolonproject.org

DEVICE LIFE (phones, tablets, gaming, etc.):  I have experienced too many kids being negatively affected by the things they experience on their devices.  Your teen’s phone, iPad, etc. is a temperature gauge for how they are doing.  Many parents say they want to respect their child’s privacy. Fair enough, but when it comes to devices, social media, and gaming this is not a personal privacy tool like a diary,  it is a privilege and an outlet to the world.  Your child is posting on a media source just like the morning news show, so if the world sees that they were listening to Taylor Swift drinking Mountain Dew in their room at 3 am last night you should know, too.  The Social Media world is a cruel one, so let’s be aware of cyberbullying, sexting and talking to complete strangers on gaming communities that could put them in danger.

Idea:  Check my Social Media resource page HERE for what to be aware of, monitoring tools and how to put up protections on your child’s devices.  

Resource:  TeenSafe.com 

So to sum all this daunting information up:  We can do this by:

  • talking about the hard stuff
  • instilling confidence in our child with our words
  • being hyper-involved
  • regulating our child’s device interactions.  

I would love to read your thoughts.  Let’s work together in this new world of parenting teens.

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