Tag Archives: teens

Boosting Plus Size Teens’ Body Image and Self-Esteem in Today’s Image Conscious World


According to niddk.nih.gov, young people from the ages of two years through nineteen years, the obesity rate has skyrocketed to over 31% In a society whose media is crazed by ultra-thin models, actors, and Instagram stars, this means one of every three teens you meet is at risk for weight-related issues around self-esteem and body image. Given the toll taken by carrying excess weight, it’s as crucial to counteract the emotional strain of obesity, as it is to drop a few pounds.

What Is The Difference Between Body Image and Self-Esteem?

Put simply, self-esteem refers to the sense of inherent internal worthiness a person perceives him or herself to possess. Body image refers to the way they perceive their body, regardless of how it may appear to outside observers. This explains why people who are clearly in excellent condition may feel very critical about their bodies, whereas others, whose physical condition may not appear very healthy, can have extremely high levels of confidence about their physiques.

How Can I Tell Whether My Teen Has A Weight-Related Self-Esteem Problem

Parents and loved ones are often horrified to notice their once-confident teen has slipped into low self-esteem. Teens’ bodies change rapidly, and they face extreme pressure from both peers and the media to look a certain way. As they change schools and peer groups, formerly happy-go-lucky kids may suddenly display clear signs of discontent such as:

• Scrutinizing themselves in the mirror for extended lengths of time

• Excessively negative, criticism of specific body regions

• Comparison to other teens or celebrities

• Anxiety around leaving the home

• Signs of depression/anxiety, like sleeping more or less than normal, withdrawal from social engagements, malaise, or changes in grades

Jump Start The Recovery Process

So much of the teenage years is centered around creating social norms and a coherent sense of self. This sense of self will follow a young person into adulthood, and inform much of how they make pivotal choices and relate to others. That makes it incredibly important and productive to intervene as soon as possible. Helping teens to turnaround self-esteem and body issues will give them healthy physical habits as well as emotional resilience. Luckily, even the most rebellious teenager craves guidance, encouragement, and resources. Use the following steps at home, and you’ll not only improve teens’ physical and emotional well-being, you’ll reinforce the foundations of your relationship.

It Starts With You

Teenagers are more interested in what you do than what you tell them. Do you obsess about your appearance? Become upset when you aren’t satisfied with how you look in the mirror? Your teen is learning how to react to her own appearance by watching your example. Be mindful of more than how you look. Pay attention to how you look at yourself, and how you act toward yourself when you do.

Changing Self-Talk

Teens listen more than they let on. One of the things they soak up like sponges is the manner in which their role models talk about themselves. A young man who hears his father lamenting, “ Ugh. I hate my chest. This gutt is awful. I just have never liked the way I’m built. I guess I have your grandparents to blame for these ugly genes!” will certainly find himself looking at his body in the mirror, cursing his DNA. A young girl who hears her mother saying, “I just look so fat in these pants. I’m embarrassed to leave the house” will look into the mirror at her own image and wonder if she should stay home if she looks a little bloated.

Parents can change this feedback loop of negative self-talk by saying things like, “ I may have gained a few pounds, but I actually like how strong I look!” or “You know, it’s actually kind of nice to be filling out this dress a little differently!” Even better, saying things like, “I love myself at any weight. This body does a lot for me” can convey to your teen that she is also beautiful and productive at any weight.

Emphasize Health Over Weight Loss

The Oxford Health Journal confirms that weight management programs for children and teens may do more harm than good. Focusing on weight seems to chip away at a whole-person standard self-worth in children. Furthermore, according to NBC, even after losing weight, many girls continue to see themselves as overweight. In other words, a few pounds may drop, but negative body image remains. This is a clear indicator that we must all work on the inside first, building self-love that fosters healthy eating and exercise habits.

Move For Joy

When a person appreciates what their body can do, it’s hard not to love the body that does it. A loved body will be cherishes and maintained, making improved health a natural side effect. One of the quickest way to achieve this is through movement. Calories are burned and endorphins are released for relaxation and happiness. It’s a combination that makes movement a top tool for achieving whole-person health. In kids, this can be as easy as dancing, or adopting a yoga practice. Yoga, with its emphasis on non-judgmental approaches to individual bodies and internal balance, is of particular usefulness. Even severely overweight teens can put a mat down in a bedroom, throw on yoga tanks and a pair of shorts, and start.

How NY Teens Use Yoga to Overcome Domestic Violence

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Men make up roughly 15% of domestic violence victims. And about 75% of Americans personally know someone who is or has been the victim of such abuse.

But statistics don’t paint an accurate picture. For many who read this article, domestic violence is a current reality, a past traumatic experience, or witnessed through a friend trapped in a toxic relationship. What you might not know is how young the victims of domestic violence can be. These patterns can begin as early as middle school and high school, in the some of the first relationships of a person’s life. Today’s episode of URBAN YOGIS on The Chopra Well features New York teenagers who have been or are at risk of becoming victims of domestic violence. The students are participants in RAPP (the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program) which falls under the Center Against Domestic Violence. RAPP educates teenagers about  relationship abuse and works to rehabilitate those who have already experienced the effects of violence. As it turns out, one of the techniques employed in this endeavor is yoga.

Teenagers in the RAPP program learn the many faces domestic violence can assume – from jealousy and possessiveness to full-on physical abuse. They also develop the vocabulary to discuss these issues, and the confidence and self-esteem to demand respect in their relationships. As a way of fostering physical and emotional strength, interested students receive weekly yoga lessons from Ashtanga instructor Eddie Stern, which gives them the opportunity to develop stress reduction and self-soothing techniques. And after breathing through difficult sequences and allowing themselves to rest in the final moments in Savasana pose, they can return to their iPods and friends and teenage lives with a growing sense of their own strength and power to overcome.

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Philanthro-Teens On The March

 On April 14, I’m moderating a panel at the Global Philanthropy Forum http://www.philanthropyforum.org/forum/Default.asp on the rise for next wave of makers and doers. Unlike previous generations, today’s "Philanthro-Teens" are characterized not by apathy or entropy, but driven by a sense of purpose and possibility in tackling challenges from water scarcity and malaria eradication to ending child marriage.  

These digital denizens are used to controlling and curating their own relationships to information, resources, and possibilities.  They have grown up accustomed to collaborating with (rather than responding to) power structures, such as media outlets and corporate brands.  They yelp the truth, co-create content, and answer their own questions, with ideas that often amaze the rest of us by their sheer creativity and influence.
This is certainly true on the realm of social action. Teenagers may be inspired by leaders like Ted Turner and Bill Gates, but they respond like Mark Zuckerberg. They build fundraising campaigns, make grants, spread awareness, and drive results in novel, compelling, and authentic ways, according to a map patterned only with these self-affirmed directions: make it real, make it matter.
The youth action pioneers presenting at my panel are MTV correspondent SuChin Pak, Facebook marketing director Randi Zuckerberg, and high school senior and GirlUp.org teen advisor Lily Kaplan. Each plays a critical role in inspiring and enabling teens to change our world for the better. Their collective efforts not only empower impacts, they amplify and publicize possibilities, drawing ever more teens into a more conscious and confident approach to the future.
To me, this is the biggest news in philanthropy since Warren Buffet pledged to give his fortune away to charity. Traditional foundations and global brands will ignore the rise of Philanthro-Teens to their peril. Research confirms what we already know, Moms and Dads will give more to charity and purchase more consciously when encouraged to do so by their daughters and sons. This stuff matters. Our round blue world is struggling with so many problems and we cannot afford to squander the greatest resource we have. A young imagination twinned with leadership and organizing skills, amplified by media and social networks, and boosted by private sector and community support, can be an unparalleled engine of change.
And just imagine this: these and other activists are committed to giving kids everywhere — girls, in particular — a fair chance at education, health care, and freedom from poverty and violence. Picture the possibilities of all the entrepreneurial energy pouring forth from American Philanthro-Teens flowing just as freely in Liberia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and beyond.  Those kids have the same hunger for change and now it’s their brothers and sisters thousands of miles away, who are stepping up to help feed it. They deserve much more than our thanks and applause. They’ve earned our backing in every way.
My hope for the future: that there will be many conference panels full of social activists from countries targeted by these Philanthro-Teens talking about how together, as a generation, they are transforming the world right before our eyes.


MARINA BUDHOS: An (only teensy bit snarky) author interview… and book giveaway!!



[From Stories are Good Medicine: Leave a comment there to qualify to win a copy of Marina’s book!]:

I first got to know of Marina Budhos when I read her adult novel The Professor of Light(Putnam, 1999). I admired her voice tremendously: its intimacy, its authority, its humor and critical eye.

But Marina isn’t a one-genre author. She’s crossed over from adult fiction to YA fiction and from fiction altogether to nonfiction with books on everything from the post-911 life of a Bangladeshi Muslim teenager to a co-written book (with her husband) on the global politics of sugar cultivation.

Her latest YA novel, Tell Us We’re Home (Atheneum, 2010) is the tale of three immigrant daughters – one South Asian, one Latina, and one Eastern European – in a wealthy New Jersey town. But while their classmates wear expensive clothing, and dabble in fair trade and social politics in between ultimate frisbee matches, Jaya, Lola and Maria’s mothers are housekeepers and babysitters. Together, they negotiate the social minefields of immigrant identity, class politics, fashion, dating, and school dances. But when one of their mothers is accused of stealing, everything in their tautly held together worlds begins to unravel – including their precious friendship itself.
And now for Marina’s faboo author interview:
Q: Tell us about the inspiration for "Tell us we’re home." What sort of research went into writing it?


Marina: This book was a long time ‘cooking.’ A while ago, when I had my first son, I was thinking actually of writing a nonfiction book about the relationship between mothers and nannies, and the changing face of motherhood in the U.S. as American mothers increasingly rely on immigrant women. I had my own experience in which our nanny was Indo-Caribbean, from Guyana, and so we often were mistaken for sisters, and yet underneath that surface similarity were profound differences in our lives. Or, I was mistaken for being the nanny sometimes or she was mistaken for being the mother. I became fascinated with moving fluidly between ‘both sides’ of the playground. In the course of my research, though, I became more interested in the children of nannies–I would overhear nannies talking on the phone to their own while minding their charges, or I went home with one babysitter whose son was painfully shy; or I had a family friend who worked as a nanny for six years before she could bring her own children over, who had become strangers to her. Eventually I published an essay, "Sisters" in the anthology, Searching for Mary Poppins: Women Write About the Intense Relationship between Mothers and Nannies. By the time I began the book, the whole idea had morphed, and I had begun writing for the young adult market. By this time, too, I had moved to the suburbs, which was a kind of ‘immigration’ for me, and I realized how this story–of immigrant nannies and their children–was taking place right here, in cozy American towns, and that these were children who had not really been portrayed.
Q: At one point in the novel, the three protagonists – each a daughter of a maid or nanny from a different immigrant community – marvel at having met each other. How did you decide to write "Tell us we’re home" from three different points of view? What issues did that pose for you as a writer?

Marina: At the very beginning of working on the book I had tried it from Jaya’s pov, but that felt much too constricting for this story is really a novel told ‘in the round’ and each of these girls gives you something different as a daughter of a maid or nanny. Later on, I also tried first person, but the novel lost a certain narrative cohesion, the language became a little less interesting, and the setting–which is so important to this novel–fell away. So I realized my challenge was to take you inside each girl’s world as evocatively as possible, but allow you to move between them with a slightly wider angle. In terms of the three perspectives, they all came pretty easily to me, as they were so distinct. Yet even though I alternate pretty equally between the three, I continued to consider Jaya to be the main character since her struggle is much more internal and it is her mother who is accused of the theft. Finally another challenge was the rhythm of the book since the characters spend so much time apart as they each try to deal with the fall-out of their friendship. I actually read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants because I admired how Anne Brashares moved in and out of the three girls in short bursts. In my process, this became like a kind of film cutting where I would move scenes around and see how the contrast worked, and what kind of tension could be built with these parallel, developing stories. For me, the structure then became the arc of each girl and how they cope with a difficult situation, how it exposes the frailities in their lives, and the little, important insights they gain along the way. The other thing I really enjoyed about writing the novel was the fact that I had three very different immigrant worlds to capture. It was great fun–sinking into each distinct setting with its own set of secondary characters, textures, memories.

Q. This novel, and your previous "Ask me no questions," balance immigrant politics with the usual YA issues of teenage angst, parental conflict, issues with friends and school. How do you achieve that balance in your YA writing?

Marina: That’s a great question. In one of my earlier drafts, which I had shown to my editor she kept laughing at me and saying, "You’re so ambitious for this book!" I realize that perhaps this is my place in the YA world–I just see all these things, these experiences as interconnected, especially for the kinds of characters I write about. The challenge for me, though, and which my editor kept pushing me to do, is to see those larger social issues through the very concrete details and perceptions of a teenager. As someone who did come over to YA from adult, this was a learning process for me, where I couldn’t quite rely on an omniscient or more distant analytic narrator. But once I hooked into those details–such as Maria’s responses to Tash’s home; the way she perceives something as small as the professional-like photographs his family have of him on the walls–all that came flooding through the writing. Then the writing became a kind of pleasure because I kept amplifying and adding these little moments, some of them heartbreaking, where the girls navigate their social status and they come to understand their own place in this town. But one thing I will add: even as I wanted to give all the material around the social externals of their situation, their predicaments as daughters of maids and nannies, I knew each girl had a journey to go on that was quite personal. For all the girls that especially had to do with grasping their relationship to their mothers and the weight and responsibility they felt, even as they were trying to separate and become their own person.
Q. What was the impact of post 9-11 social politics – the patriot act, anti-immigrant sentiments, and the like – on your writing? On the writing of other authors of color?
Marina: Obviously it had a big impact. My prior book, Ask Me No Questions, really tore out of me in the period as I contemplated the impact on young Muslim teenagers who were undocumented. But in the next period, as I was writing this book, I was thinking more about not so much characters who were on the frontlines of the post 9/11 period, or affected by the Patriot Act, but those who had ‘settled’ in the U.S. and were trying to come to terms with ‘becoming American’ when frictions around immigrants were on the rise, especially in the suburbs. I kept clipping articles on those stories to keep it in mind. As well I became aware that much of what the country was going through with respect to immigration wasn’t taking place necessarily in the traditional places, such as cities, but in suburbs all over the country, for this is where immigrants moved, and it was often the immigrant economy of maids, nannies, landscapers, construction workers, who were making our lives plausible. This does bring me to what I’d mentioned earlier–I think part of what I like about YA, or at least the YA I’ve been working on for the past few years, is fusing some of my interests as a journalist to YA stories.
Q. In fact, there seems to be a rush of fabulous South Asian YA writing lately. Why is it that South Asian women write such amazing books? Any theories? (:)
Marina: Oh, I wish I had something brilliant to say! My biggest thought, I suppose, is it was just a matter of time. That is, we’ve of course witnessed the marvelous rise of South Asian literature (I think it is no longer a boom but is here to stay) And yet so many of us also grew up on ya and children’s literature and so knew it was time to try our hand at that literature as well. I was a voracious YA reader as a teenager, and I felt it was just a matter of time before I tried my hand at that world, but with characters that I hadn’t seen written about.
Q. You have written adult novels, nonfiction books, and now YA books. Tell us how you make the decision to write in one genre or another. What are the challenges and joys of each? What has been the reaction of the publishing industry to the variety in your work?
Marina: Part of the challenge is simply figuring out what ideas work best in what genre. I think that’s become clearer to me over time. The hardest part is balancing the different ideas and projects I have–I also have a teaching job and so split my time between teaching at my university and usually working on an adult and a young adult manuscript (not simultaneously, but sequentially). For me the joy is I think I’m simply not a person who ever wanted to be defined by one genre or approach and so I just love that. I’ve always wanted to be a ‘working writer’–someone who produces in many realms, who has something to say through different forms and audiences. I think that’s become a bit harder in the American market, but you see this in other countries all the time. I have loved coming over to ya–there’s a built in community of readers, librarians, teachers, and others, including blogging teenagers, who care about this literature and thus nurture along the life of the book over a long time span. This is very different from the adult world, where books either soar or vanish within a rather short window of time. In terms of response, I sometimes think the publishing industry has a memory that goes back one day. I’m aware of the range and the interconnectedness of these different genres I’ve worked in, but each project is almost a separate one, that you must sell to an editor or a house. But I’m always so pleased when I discover a reader who has really followed these different books and also doesn’t mind following me from ya to adult, or fiction to nonfiction.

Q. What projects are you currently working on?
Marina: I have just finished a very big manuscript, an adult historical novel, that I have given to my agent, so I’m a bit drained from that. This has been a six year project that I have been working on and off on, while doing the ya, and it entailed a deep amount of research and travel to India and the Caribbean. During this time as well, my husband and I were working on a new nonfiction book, Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science, which actually dovetailed with the setting for my novel, a large portion of which takes place on a Caribbean plantation. This year I am on sabbatical and so my plan is 1) to recover a bit and 2) to start researching and begin the writing on a few projects (I always think in ‘bundles’) One is a memoir that is also a social memoir, and will involve interviewing others (don’t want to say too much more, because I fear it won’t work out). The other is a ya idea I have that is set in Newark, NJ, and is very urban and will be from the pov of a young man. And finally I have a novel or novella that I never got right that I think I may fiddle around with during this time. While it may seem like these are disparate projects, they’re all connected in a certain way–they are urban in their setting and about coming to terms with a city. But at the same time, I want to be open to the process taking me wherever it takes me. Frankly, I’ve been going at a pretty intense and scheduled rate the past few years, and I’m mostly looking forward to letting the ‘barrel’ fill up a bit and not lashing myself to a writing deadline.
Q. Tell us about your creative process – do you have rituals or other creative practices that keep you going? What’s your go-to solution for when you get creatively "stuck"? (or do you never get stuck, in which case I’m jealous!)
Marina: I can’t say I get stuck but sometimes I’m a bit ‘dry’ or I can’t quite find the solution to things. Or I only manage to write a paragraph or two. One of the challenges for revision is you have this structure, this story line already laid down and it’s a bit difficult to get back inside and generate new material, which is needed. So sometimes I find myself making very minor tweaks or finely tuned additions, when what I really need to do is break it open a bit, riff, and not worry about whether it fits into the existing structure. So what I do is I actually go into a kind of brainstorming, thinking aloud mode. I turn on the all caps and just ‘go’ with various ideas or associations and soon enough that can be molded into a paragraph, a scene that can be slipped into the story. Another challenge for me is the stage I’m at right now–beginning. That is the hardest. Somehow I’m always a little creaky at the start of something and everything sort of sputters and I am sure I have no imagination. Once I get momentum and the wind is at my back, frankly I’m pretty obsessed because that world has become so real and compelling to me.
As to rituals–I like to get right to the computer before anything else, which sometimes is hard with the jumble of family life. And then, as I’m working on a book, I carry around a moleskin book in which I write down various ideas that might come to me in the course of the day, or where I put down my research notes.
Q. I know you teach at university – what sorts of courses do you teach? What are your favorite pieces of writing advice for your students?
Marina: I teach a variety of creative writing courses in different genres, and literature, with a focus on adolescent literature and Asian and Asian American literature. When I arrived they had just designed the new Asian Studies minor, so I created two new courses–Modern Indian Literature and Asian-American literature–which I love to teach. I feel fortunate in that I’m in a department that doesn’t segregate writers from literature and so we all have an opportunity to teach a range. I also really enjoy teaching graduate students (we have an MA program and now a new MFA program) taking their work to the next level where they start to see it as a cohesive manuscript. I usually advise a few theses a year. I guess my advice to students if 1) to respect the notion of drafting. That is, to recognize when something is an early draft and not mistake it for something polished and finished. And 2) to engage in the excitement of language. I think writers are engaged in a battle, restoring our excitement around language itself, which is so often hollowed out and hackneyed through daily usage. I want them to see the power of language to change and reorder the way we see, perceive the world.
Q. Are your stories good medicine? (I think so but I’d love to hear what you think)

Marina: Interesting question and not something I’ve thought of before … I know that my stories are good medicine for me as I ‘m writing. That is, I am never happier or more ‘whole’ than when I’m writing or getting these stories out. I think for me, I have such a back up of emotions, perceptions, ideas, upsets, and it is only through writing that some order comes; that I feel, honestly, okay in the world. Thus, I can only hope that what I am getting out; the strains I believe I am tapping, also has some similar resonance to my readers. I know that for me it is profoundly important to get at the perceptions, the experiences of characters that are often invisible and I do hope this touches others as they recognize some of these hidden recesses brought to light.

Late Teen Rebellion


I have been a stay at home mother for the last 23 years.  I love my kids with a passion and want everything for them: health, happiness, love, success.  Out of the 3, I have one child who is very rebellious and has acted out in ways the other 2 have not.  He is an older teenager- he experiments with drugs, is arrogant , self centered and immature.  When he is around us, he causes strife because he breaks rules of the household.  My husband is apathetic and is tired of raising a rebellious kid.  I feel guilty, but I am very anxious when he is home from college.  He tells me I am a mean spirited person who doesn’t take him as he is.  I am emotionally and physically exhausted and feel terrible about our relationship.  Everyone tells me to "let go" but to me letting go means I don’t care anymore.  Please advise.


Given that he is now a college student and only returns  home for visits, he is past the age of being  raising in your house. That is the thing you have to let go of—the expectation that you are going to be able to have a significant influence on his behavior at his age. He is a young adult now, and his life lessons will now come to him directly, not through his parents.  Coming to terms with this does not mean you do not care anymore. You will always love and care for him as your child, but now you must do it with the full recognition of your more limited role in how he lives his life.

As regards to him telling you that you are mean-spirited person, you still get to set ground rules for discussions in your house while he is there, and you can tell him that everything he is thinking and feeling can be expressed in a non-hurtful way by using the principles of nonviolent communication.  I recommend the book of the same title  by Marshal Rosenberg.  In the meantime, try not to take his comments personally. Remember that he is still young, not very wise or experienced about life and his is likely making extreme and exaggerated statements as a way of expressing his confused feelings and as a way to elicit a response he can emotionally react to.  



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Parents Missing the Boat on Health Risks of Teens & Sleep

Modern parents are crazy. Clearly. We obsess about all the strangest things, fret over each phase of development, consult with others about the ongoing changes in behavior, and lie awake at night worried about our children’s emotional angst. Maybe it has always been this way — but in a 24/7 society, life is a bit of a pressure cooker for kids to perform academically, and physically and socially to navigate through the increasingly vicious world of  bullying.

Trouble is, often we spend our time and energy obsessing over things we cannot control, that don’t really matter, or can’t be helped, and miss out on the really BIG stuff.  Take sleep for instance. Parents in the United States are obsessed with sleep — for their babies. There must be hundreds of books about how to get an infant to sleep! Granted, much of this comes from our own exhaustion and desperation, insecurities as new parents, and naive gullibility to commercialism. Getting an infant to sleep is important, of course.

However, our interest in monitoring and controlling their sleep dramatically drops off after they are fully walking and talking. Why is that? If you are pretty "chillax" about the sleep thing when they are kids, you are in big trouble by the time they are teenagers. After undergoing extensive research into issues of sleep and teens, I would venture to say that lack of sleep can be the hidden root underneath a majority of adolescent and young adult challenges: irritable kids slinging insults that get out of line, slipping grades, obesity, depression, and yes, even increased suicides as we have seen recently in Boston and Cornell.

Somehow getting an adequate amount of sleep has ceased to be a priority in all of our lives. Parents are up late stressing out about unfinished work, clearing out the email box before bed, or just unwinding with some Facebook time. And kids are following along — staying up much later than previous generations. Trouble is, their bodies are paying a much higher price, and one that can never be taken back.

I have seen untold numbers of parents allowing their elementary aged kids to stay up until 10 p.m. to watch American Idol.  Kids start going to bed later than they should at a much younger age, and somehow we have developed a blind eye to its affects.  Kids are allowed to go to sleep later and later as youngsters, and naturally believe it is okay to push the bedtime out further as they grow older. If a six-year-old is going to bed at 9 p.m., they are going to feel entitled to go to bed at 10 p.m. by age nine, and then 11 p.m. by the age of 12, etc. And the crazy part is we let them! It is a mystery to me, as so many other aspects of modern parenting life are overly monitored and controlled.

I often get the image of carpenter ants racing from one pile to the other when I think of modern parenting mania; doing all this busy work for very little gain. We heave around these heavy loads, and frantically dump them on our kids. ‘Here honey! You need some exercise, so I signed you up for lacrosse, swimming and basketball for this year, and of course you will just love it!" Or "Uh Oh! You got a C in math this quarter, and that means you won’t be tracked at the highest level going into middle school, which means you won’t get into the honors courses for junior high and high school! I decided to hire a tutor twice a week to squeeze in right after dinner, ok sweetie?"

According to the National Sleep Foundation, if you are like 90 percent of parents, you may think your child is getting enough sleep or not really give the amount of sleep they are getting much thought or concern. Ask a high school kid, and you will get a different answer. Sixty percent of high school kids report feeling "extreme daytime sleepiness" and many admit their grades have dropped because of it. A full third of kids report falling asleep in class at least once a week, and only five percent of high school senior average even eight hours of sleep, which is still less than they need.

Our lackadaisical attitude about getting our youth to sleep is systematically damaging their bodies. It can’t be made up once it is gone, and make-up sleep on the weekend doesn’t help. You may as well feed your kids nothing but Coke ‘n’ fries all day, and teach them English in pig Latin. Think being tired doesn’t really impact their grades? Think again. Studies have shown that "A" students get more sleep than "B" students, and "B" students get more sleep than "C" students. Turns out Rip Van Winkle is your child’s best tutor, mentor and therapist.

Even an extra 15 minutes of sleep shows a marked improvement in academic ability. (Think of the teenage girls who get up an extra hour early to wash their hair and put on make up when that dismal report card comes home). According to recent studies, children who miss even one hour of sleep as a sixth grader will perform at a fourth grade level that day in school.

"Lack of sleep make a challenging time in life much harder to cope with by robbing teens of what their bodies need to refresh, fight off damaging physical and emotional conditions, and grow," wrote Helene Emsellem, MD, author of Snooze or Lose 10 No-War Ways to Improve Your Teens Sleep Habits.

Dr. Frederick Danner at the University of Kentucky conducted some of the seminal research that shows the adolescent brain requires 9.5 hours of sleep on average for optimum development — and no one is getting it. Only five percent of high school senior sleep even eight hours these days. In fact, compared to thirty years ago, each grade level of children is getting at least one hour less of sleep than they used to. Roseanne Armitage conducted a historical study and found that in 1987, twenty-four percent of college students felt constantly tired. In 2002 the number had soared to seventy-one percent.

Bottom line, we simply cannot live without sleep. Rats that were completely deprived of sleep died in three short weeks, when they normally live three to five years! Another study with college students showed those who slept for only eight hours functioned well, but those allowed to sleep four to six hours had the same performance as the group that was not allowed to sleep at all for three days straight.

In the modern world of bouncy house play dates, iPods, texting in elementary school and endless activities, we bounce our kids here and there and scrutinize their every interaction. Yet somehow have developed a complete and utter blind spot when it comes to being "hyper vigilant" about their sleep, and recognizing it is truly one of the most important jobs we have as parents. Start a dialogue with your kids and teens about sleep. Explain to them why going to sleep earlier will make them feel better, and help unwind the household a little earlier — for everyone’s sake!

How much sleep does your teenager or college student get these days, and do you recognize it to be a major health issue? Let’s start a dialogue, and I am collecting stories from parents and youth alike for a new book; "Walking Zombies- America’s Exhausted Youth."

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / carsonnevada

Boosting Your Teen’s EQ

Do you have a bright teenage child who is nevertheless struggling at school or having difficulty socially? Your child’s IQ and SAT scores probably aren’t the culprit. Child education psychologists agree that EQ—or emotional intelligence—has much more influence on your child’s success, now and in the future.

Emotional intelligence, first described by Peter Salovey and John Mayer, two Yale University psychologists in 1990, refers to five main emotional competency areas:

  • Emotional self-awareness: recognizing, naming, and understanding the cause of one’s feelings;
  • Handling emotions appropriately: demonstrating productive options for managing stress and upsetting feelings rather than "acting-out" negatively;Self-motivation: thinking, planning, and solving problems by using impulse control, frustration tolerance, and delayed gratification to reach a specific goal;
  • Empathy: recognizing and understanding emotions in others; and
  • Social skills: handling emotions in relationships and interacting harmoniously with others.

As a parent, you can help your child develop her EQ. It’s never too late—and your child is never too old—for you to begin talking with her, asking her sensitive questions, listening to her responses, and offering gentle guidance or advice. Teenagers often get less physical touch and less one-on-one intimate conversation time with their parents than younger kids and toddlers do. And although they are good at hiding it, teens crave parenting.

To help a teen boost his EQ, look at each of the five competencies above, and use them as a framework to observe your child’s behavior. Perhaps your child cursed up a blue streak when he didn’t get what he wanted. Or he failed to notice that you were very tired and stressed out after dinner when he had all his demands. Consider such behaviors teaching moments. Give him a hint about a different way to handle or look at the situation. Instead of telling him how to behave, however, ask him what he noticed, felt, or wanted. By gently pointing out new ways to interact with others, you give your teen an opportunity to learn and practice some new skills.

To reinforce these behaviors, don’t forget to praise your teen when she is exceptionally kind, or intuitive about another’s feelings, or is patient, flexible, or communicative. Little by little, your bright teen can grow into an emotionally brilliant adult.


 Charlotte Reznick PhD is a child educational psychologist, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA, and author of the LA Times bestselling book  The Power of Your Child’s Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success (Perigee/Penguin, 2009). In addition to her private practice, she creates therapeutic relaxation CDs for children, teens, and parents, and teaches workshops internationally on the healing power of children’s imagination. You can find out more about her at http://www.imageryforkids.com

PHOTO: Flickr / Nik_Doof



On the Road to Greatness

I think teenagers get a bad rep more often than not.  We read and hear about their disturbing, unhealthy behaviors like stealing, lying, violent attacks on or even killing others.  News media tends to focus on the negative too much and not enough on good deeds practiced by teens.

A 14 year old teenager named David Ashby exemplifies the latter.  He plans to walk from Florida to Washington DC during this summer in order to raise public awareness to the 1.4 million homeless children in the US.  He intends to sleep on the street and eat only free food given to him through begging.  He will chronicle his audacious, remarkable experience on his blog.

How great is this young guy, how wonderfully creative and meaningful is this?

I wasn’t able to embed the video directly onto this page, so click here to watch a video about this impressive young person and his ambitious, inspiring goal.


Are Teen Girls Harder to Raise then Teen Boys?

The Mysteries of Teen Girls

Guys, if you thought women were hard to figure out, try figuring out the mind/psyche/emotions of a teen aged girl!  I am the mother of two teen daughters and was once a teen girl myself and I still do not know all the mysteries of their minds!  Teen Boys and Men are relatively simple creatures. They require, in my estimation, only a handful of things: Food, Sports, Relaxation/Sleep, and Sex.  (these are not mutually exclusive by the way, and are not necessarily listed  in order of importance either.)  But a girl/woman requires much more effort to understand.  Alas, I saw this question here, "Why are Teen Girls Harder to raise than Teen Boys" and I am going to, in my own feeble and amateurish way, attempt to answer that query.

Firstly,  although girls do not officially become teenagers until the age of 13, they begin practicing for it long beforehand.  I learned very early on that a girl’s temperament is set at a young age.  They tend not to deviate from it, although it does become more clearly defined as they approach and then enter their teen years.   For example, a girl that has whining temper tantrums as a two year old, will continue (these skills honed throughout childhood) into her teens.   Now these tactics will rarely work with a parent who is firm and consistent, but it does not stop the teen girl from trying.  And try they do….your patience.  Teen girls are expert whiners.  The will whine about everything from not having the trendiest clothing, to not garnering the affections/attention of the new boy of the week, to why they must do their homework etc…etc…infinitem.  Only the strongest of constitutions can tolerate this.

Boys in my experience, do not whine.  Oh perhaps when they are little guys, aged 2-4.  But rarely do you hear a boy’s deepening or occasionally cracking prepubescent voice whining in protest.  No, boys may grumble or groan, or more likely ignore requests for homework completion etc. but they generally do not whine.

Next, girls are obsessive-compulsive little bundles of neurosis as they enter and become teens.  They obsess about their hair, their makeup, which boy likes which girl, they try on outfit after outfit trying to find just that right combination of cool, hip and unique.  (Which means looking JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE).  They will talk to everyone and anyone they can on the phone, they text message each other compulsively and obsessively.  They wash their hair and style it, only to turn around after two hours of effort on their coiffed do’s and rewash and style it.

Boys do not seem to spend as much time on their appearances as girls do.  Although I am sure that to a degree how a boy dresses etc matters to him, but girls spend far more time immersed in shopping, clothing/fashion trends etc.  than boys.  And they are far more expensive…especially if they are shoe shoppers like my older daughter.  Girls seem inately attracted to pretty clothing, shiny and colorful shoes and purses!  My daughter, from the age of 2 on has had an affection (almost bordering on obsession) for shoes.  She could and would spend thousands on them if I had the desire or means to allow it.

The worst ages, in my humble opinion, for girls is 12 and 13.  This typically places them in about the seventh grade.    Seventh grade girls are the most hideous creatures ever created by God Almighty!  They are catty, cantankerous, moody, snippy, and emotional. My younger daughter is currently at this stage.  The only reason she is probably going to live to see 14 is because her father and I have had the benefit of having already survived her sister’s parle down this path.  

Get more than one 12 year together at any given time and run for your life!  They gossip about each other, fight, and bicker.   But they can also spend hours confiding in each other their deepest darkest secrets.  Of course, as a parent, you will never be privy to these secrets because after they hit the age of 11 they stop telling you everything.    When girls fight, unlike boys, they do not typically settle disputes with their fists.    They sling arrows and barbs at each other instead.  One well placed dirty look from a rival and a 12 year old’s world can crash around her.  For a parent this emotional warfare and the fall out from it, is probably the most difficult to deal with.  Girls can be bullies just like boys, but sometimes the emotional scarring as a result is worse than any that could be inflicted physically.  Teaching girls to be kind and appeal to their better natures at this age is difficult.  But thankfully by the time they reach high school they are beginning to grasp it.

Girls seem more complex in many ways than boys.  Most teen girls worry a lot.  They worry about acceptance from their peers, their grades, their social activities, dating, romance, the world around them.   Although boys worry about these things most certainly, girls seem to be more vocal about these concerns.  But they typically vocalize these concerns to their peers only.   Most teens would be loathe to admit that they still need or want to talk to their parents, but they most definitely do.   And it is difficult as a parent to wake up one day and have the daughter that formerly adored you treat you with sullen disregard nearly daily.   Being the parent of a teen girl (teens in general) means opening your ears now and closing your mouth. They want you to listen but on their terms and in their time.

Although girls are emotional and sensitive as they are navigating their teens, the tumultuous years between girlhood and womanhood are important ones.  And rewarding in the long run as well  For it is through the crazy, emotional, moody, angst filled moments that a girl learns the kind of woman she will become.  She learns to nurture, share, communicate, assert herself.  She learns about who she is and how she will define herself.  Although I am sure that raising a teen boy has its rewards and certainly its challenges, there is nothing more maddening, frustrating and ultimately awe inspiring and wonderful than being witness to a girl transforming into a woman.

Teen spirituality


I have a question about how to introduce spirituality to teens. I was a single teenage mom and now I have a teen age boy 17 and girl 15. My son is very charismatic and very "what can I get out of the world", my daughter is very compassionate, old soul and "what can I give to the world". With two very different teens how can I introduce spirituality in a way that will appeal to them, especially to my son.

The key is to try to engage them in an aspect of spirituality that is aligned with their current interests. For your daughter it might be easy to introduce meditation as a means of developing compassion and kindness. The qualities of the heart and devotion may be more appealing to her.
For your son, it may not be as simple, but insofar as he is intent upon being effective in accomplishing his goals, you can explain to him that meditation is the most powerful way to develop the strength of the mind, and that strength of mind will make him much more effective in achieving his aims in life.
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