Private Family Video Website

Many of you are familiar with my new program, Apart, Not Broken: Learn, Connect, & Create. This online program provides a safe, secure, multi-media environment for fathers to adjust and parent after divorce or separation.  Today, I am pleased to announce our partnership with ProudOn, Inc.  With a focus on Internet safety, ProudOn, Inc. created a fun, safe, and secure private family video website.  Check out the following article for more information.

After long and complex research, coupled with our strong relationship with families, we at ProudOnTV noticed a neglect of moms and families of all sizes in current products. Their rather conservative yet very important needs were simply not being taken seriously in today’s over “cool” and “hip” or ultra high-end video trends and social networks. So we considered those needs and took them very seriously and created a product that fits.

Now they are able to instantly create, control and fully customize their own Private family video website named after them. This gives them the safest and most secure place where they can store and share the most private family moments only with carefully selected audience. Only souls that are able to access the website beside them are the people they decided to send an invitation to via Facebook or email. And subsequently they are able to participate too by uploading their videos or by commenting but even then the owner of the website is in full control over it and can automatically terminate any unfit video or member for misbehavior. Naturally every member is notified about anything new happening on the website so they nicely can keep track of each other even if scattered all around the world.

Obviously there is impossible for any security breaches, any spamming with unwanted adds, banners or pop-up windows to happen neither will their videos be reviewed by any 3rd party before allowed to be displayed as it happens on Facebook or Youtube. Because no concerned mom would consciously post videos to share with granny of her kids running back and forth into the sea in their birthday suits during last summer’s holiday at their favorite private resort.

And, last but not least, it is simple so even the beloved grandparents will be attracted and eager to participate instead of being scared away instantly, when encountered, which is what generally happens – bless them! Best of all, it is totally FREE backed with an iOS app that is free as well.

Have a look at our live demo on how your own Private family video website may feel and look.

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The Pressure of Being a Teenager

Teenagers know what pressure is!

Just try it, it will be fun.  Are you really going to wear that? Hey, did you hear that Joe’s parents are out of town Saturday. OMG! We have to do that again! Do it, or I’ll tell everyone what a poser you are!  You can’t say things like that if you are going to hang out with us.

Does any of this sound familiar? We were all teenagers at one time and have heard some variation of the statements above.  When you really look, you may see that you still succumb to peer pressure at times.  Ever show up to a formal party in casual dress? Ever say something and everyone silently stares at you like you are from Mars?  Ever have someone ask you to do something that you really didn’t want to do?

The difference between you and your teenager is that you have developed some skills and strategies for navigating pressure.  Your teen is learning and needs your help. Most teens will say that they feel pressure at varying degrees every day. Teens feel pressure to fit in with their peers, please their parents, do well in school, be active, have good manners, be popular, etc.  Tumultuous as it is, it is part of growing up and something we all experience.

Pressure from parents and peers can be completely different beasts. While parents generally love their children unconditionally and truly want what’s best for them, peer groups are often unpredictable, fickle, and take on a personality of their own. At home, teens can feel pressure to perform, have manners, do chores, and generally be “good”.  With friends, teens can feel pressure to be cool and fit in. What is normal behavior in one peer group may be unacceptable in another. Sometimes, these pressures conflict as your teen tries to navigate his/her way through the teen years.

Most people talk about peer pressure as the primary way in which teens influence one another.  This is because the general definition of peer pressure is the influence that a group of peers exert on an individual within the group.  Individual behaviors are an attempt to conform to what is expected of the group as a whole. In other words, teens do what they have to do to fit in.  However, a closer look at the research reveals that there are at least 5 different ways that peers can have a positive or detrimental influence on one another.

5 Types of Peer Influence:

1.  Peer Pressure: Directly and overtly persuading others to engage in a particular behavior.

For Example:  “You can’t be seen with that guy anymore if you are going to hang out with us!”

2.  Modeling: Exhibiting or demonstrating a particular attitude or behavior for others to imitate.

For Example: “All my friends are drinking at this party. Maybe I should try some…”

3.  Opportunity: Being somewhere that provides opportunities for prosocial or antisocial behavior.

For Example: “Looks like we are all alone until your parents get home at 9:00.”

4. Reinforcement: Supporting behaviors that fit within the norms of the group.

For Example: “You look great today. I love your outfit!”

5. Aggression: Using intimidation, force, or bullying to control group norms, and enhance or maintain individual or group status.

For Example: “Give me your lunch or I’ll dunk your head in the toilet!”

As parents, we want to help our teen navigate these kinds of pressures and minimize negative influences.  So, what can you do? 

  • Expand your understanding of peer pressure: Look for ways in which peer influence could be present in your teen’s life. Teens can be exposed to different kinds of influence depending on their interests, activities, hobbies, geographic location, etc.
  • Help your teen understand the range of influences: A teen may or may not be conscious of influence.  However, knowing what it can look like can make it more noticeable when it happens.
  • Teach your teen to be prepared: Help your teen develop strategies that minimize or remove peer influence. For example, carrying a cup around at a party can reduce or remove invitations to drink.  
  • Create escape codes: Practice code words or phrases that your teen can use with you when he/she is in a bind. Make sure your teen knows that you, or another trusted adult, can provide a ride whenever one is needed.   
  • Teach your teen to trust his/her instincts: We’ve all had that pain in our gut when “something is wrong”.  Communicate that this pain is a protective mechanism that should be trusted.
  • Be the final scapegoat:  If all else fails, tell your teen to blame you. “My parents won’t let me” or “We have family plans” work great!
  • Teach your teen to think about IMPACT:  Teens are quite capable of considering the “consequences” of their actions. However, teens usually see consequences as negative, personal, and close to home. For example, a teen may be more worried about being rejected than getting caught. Talking about the “impact” of their decisions creates an open conversation that carries less judgement and more awareness of how their behavior can effect themselves and others.
  • Focus on your relationship: Lines of communication are created when you pay attention and show interest in your teen’s world.  Not only will your teen tell you more about what is going on in their life, they will be more open to your advice. Be aware that advice seeking is not always overt.  Sometimes the best guidance comes from modeling, and sharing personal experiences and stories when opportunities presents themselves.  Remember, your teen is watching and listening to you more than you may think!

Happy Parenting,

Shelly

A Spin on Risk-Taking Behavior as an Expression of Positive Youth Development

More often then not we associate risk-taking behavior in teens as negative or harmful. However, we know that the teen brain is literally wired to take risks. Therein lies the dilemma. We are left with the belief, or fear, that our teens are going to take risks that could have serious consequences.

I would like to offer a different perspective. If we know that our teens are naturally going to engage in experiences that give them an adrenaline rush, why not provide them with opportunities to have that rush in an environment that promotes positive youth development? When you really think about it, don’t we all develop new skills and competencies when we put our selves out there and take a risk? Now, I am not suggesting that you encourage your teen to be dangerous or unsafe. Rather, I am suggesting that you literally set up opportunities for them to take positive risks.

Start by really thinking about what kind of activities best fit your teen. Below are some examples of positive risks that relate to different characteristics in teens:

  • Social risks: For some teens, it is risky to speak out in a group. If you have a quiet or reserved teen, it may be enough to encourage them to take a leadership role in something like student counsel or  a local youth group.
  • Physical risks: Some teens find satisfaction in taking risks on the field. This may be through school or community sponsored sport teams. Not only can sports be good for team building and leadership development, they expose young people to adult role models.
  • Other physical risks: Not all teens like team sports. Some may prefer to take up skateboarding, mountain biking, skiing, rock climbing, white water rafting, or surfing.  Of course, they need to have the right equipment and safety training. These activities develop initiative and personal discipline.
  • Political risks: Some teens are passionate about making a difference in their community. They may like writing their local congressman/woman, voicing their opinion on debate team, or participating in community activist or youth governance groups.
  • Creative Risks: Teens can express their creative juices in a variety of contexts. Some may take an interest in the drama team or the school choir.  Others may like playing guitar, reading poetry,  or reciting  spoken word at the local coffee shop. Either way, this kind of expression can take some serious guts!  Not only do these activities  give young people an opportunity to develop a specific skill, they teach them to be competent in public speaking.
  • Competitive Risks: Give your teen a chance to compete if they are inclined.  They can learn a lot, regardless of whether they  win  or lose.   If your teen does lose, treat it as opportunity to teach that we all lose at some point. Losing a competition does not make him/her a failure. It simply means there was a lack of performance.

We have to do everything we can to keep our teens physically and emotionally safe.  But, we also have to give our  teens a chance to take risks, learn about themselves, and develop skills and competencies that help them accomplish what they want in the world. Experts say that when teens have opportunities to take positive risks, they are more inclined to avoid the negative ones.   Think about our great leaders. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Abraham Lincoln did not have the impact they had on the world by sitting back and being careful all the time. I would like to leave you with some of my favorite quotes from Abraham Lincoln. As you read them, take a moment to consider how you can share these with your teen, or even be the example of how they are expressed in the world.

1. “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
2. “The best way to predict your future is to create it”
3. “Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it.”
4. “Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.”
5. “I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.”
6. “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.”
7. “Live a good life. In the end it is not the years in a life, but the life in the years.”
8. “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.”
9. “Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”
10. “It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Happy Parenting!

Shelly

5 Steps to Creating the New Year With Your Teen

First of all HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I hope 2012 was filled with exciting moments and lasting memories, and that 2013 brings you happiness and vitality!  People often start their new year by making resolutions, either  individually or as a family. Many think of a resolution as a single goal, or a habit that should be created or dropped. Instead of this approach, try planning all that you would like to accomplish over the next  year.  This is even more fun if you do this with your teen. You may find this experience an eye-opening opportunity to learn about what is important to one another.

Creating with each other is another way to build a strong relationship. Teens feel important when you show an interest in them and empowered when they get to contribute to family plans. The first step in creating together is being individually thoughtful about what you want and then coming together to discuss. Take some time to brainstorm what is important to you personally and what you want for your family.  Then, build a new tradition by sharing what you have come up with over a good cup of tea or your favorite meal.

Plans don’t have to be complex. In fact they should be simple, a true expression of what you want to achieve and your initial thoughts on how you would go about accomplishing your goals. The best plans start out short and very high level. Of course, you can create as many plans as you would like, but make sure they inspire you!

Use the following format and begin creating!

Five Steps to Planning Your Upcoming Year.

1.  Review the Last Year.  Take some time to think about what you have accomplished, and what you have left undone. Some people make lists that they can check at the end of a given year. It is important to remember that this is not a time to be critical of yourself. Don’t assign meaning to what was not accomplished, but instead evaluate if that is still important to you. If it is, include it again this year. If it is not, scrap it and create something new.

2. Identify Your Goals, Where You Are Now, and New Steps Toward Your Goals.  Begin by making a list of your high-level plans and then start filling in the details.  It can take some thought to move you from A to B.  This is where you can benefit from the ideas and support of other family members.  Of course, you can continue to add to this as the year goes on and you learn more and more about what it takes to reach your goals.

Follow this template:

On the top of a blank sheet of paper, write “What I Want

On the bottom of that page, write Where I am now in relation to where I want to be”

In the middle of the page, from the bottom up, write “The steps that will get you to your goal”

3. Share With Your Family and Continue Brainstorming. Share what you have come up with and then write as many new ideas as you can on your sheet of paper.  Be open to what comes up in the discussion. Don’t judge yourself and HAVE FUN! You can make a final product later.

4. Display Your Goals: Find a common place in the house to display everyone’s goals. You can use anything from an inexpensive cork board to a more creative display. This can serve as a daily or weekly reminder of what you are committed to over the next year. It also provides a place to celebrate achievements, or to adapt initial goals as the year goes on.

5. Revisit Your Goals Together. Pick regular intervals to revisit your goals as a family. This may be monthly, quarterly, or whatever time frame works for you. Don’t leave this step out! Peoples’ lives and circumstances change on a regular basis. Revisiting will help you stay present to what is going on in each other’s day-to-day lives.

You will be surprised by what you can accomplish when you are intentional!

Happy Parenting!

Shelly

Connect With Your Teen Through Music

One of the greatest things about teenagers is the wonder, passion, and intensity through which they see the world and live their lives.  They are curious, thoughtful, and dramatic.  For many teens, music becomes a major way to express themselves and feel through their emotions.  The love struck teen makes a playlist of love songs.  The heart-broken teen listens to sad songs to get through loss.  The athletic teen listens to music to get pumped up for an event. The happy teen blasts music and sings along. Teens are not afraid to dance to music in the rain, or play it loudly throughout the house and from the car.

The massive increase in technology certainly presents challenges for parents. However, technology can also help you stay connected to your teen. The important thing is that your teen learns to protect his/her online identity, and that you guide and monitor their use.  YouTube is very popular site among teenagers. With YouTube, teens can listen to any song they want and create playlists of their favorites.  You too can create a YouTube account, and subscribe to your teen’s playlists (as long as your teen has made them public). I personally have a YouTube account, I subscribe to my teens lists, and I mine through their music.  You may or may not like the same kind of music your teen likes.  But, there are a number of reasons to tune in!

1.  You Can Use Their Music To Express Your Feelings For Them.  I came across the following song while looking through one of my son’s YouTube playlists.  It says so much about the relationship I have with both of my children. It also says a lot about who I want to be for them.  One line in particular says, “You can ALWAYS come home”.  I gave both my teens this song and told them it made me think of them.  Sometimes, it is the simple things that say I LOVE YOU!

2.  You Can Learn About Your Teen. The music your teen listens to can reflect his/her interests. Songs communicate a range of experiences, beliefs, and desires. While it can be easy to be concerned by some of the lyrics, don’t get stuck there. Teens often overlook the negativity and stand in the values you have taught them. Depending on your teen’s age, lyrics may even go over their head.  Knowing what your teen is listening to can be the first step in having a conversation about what you think.

3.  Music Creates Relationship Through Commonality: I once heard a dad tell a beautiful story about reconnecting with his son by taking him to a Metallica concert.  He was excited to share that the silence that was present on the way to the concert was non-existent on the way home.  In fact, his son talked his ear off, not only about the concert, but about all kinds of other things that were going on in his world.  The father was proud of himself for being able to sit through the whole concert, even though he preferred classical music.  He told his son that “they were not as bad as he thought they would be”.  But, he left out the part about wearing earplugs the entire time.  The point was never to fall in love with Metallica’s music. It was to spend quality time doing something his son loved.

4.  It Gives Your Teen An Opportunity to Share:  Being a teenager can be like living in an entirely separate society. Our culture even perpetuates this by using terms like “youth culture”.  The concept of a “youth culture” is that teens live by their own set of rules, roles, and responsibilities, which separates them from adults. This separation can as teens feeling like adults are always telling them what to do.  When you show an interest in their music, you are giving them an opportunity to share a little piece of them. They are left feeling like you are interested in them.

5.  It Helps You Understand What They May Be Going Through: If you pay attention, music can cue you into what is going on in your teen’s life.  You can use a song to start a conversation, or to show that you are interested in them or what they are going through.  You can also use song lyrics as a teachable moment.  For example, rather than sitting down at the table to have a conversation about drinking alcohol, use the lyrics from a song to generate a two way dialogue.

6.  It Keeps You Current. Teens like it when adults understand their world. Whether or not you actually like their music, it makes them feel accepted for who they are if you know something about it. Parenting teens is never a popularity contest because we must always be present to protecting, coaching, and disciplining. Knowing their music can, however, up the Cool Factor.

Happy Parenting!

Shelly

New On-Line Program for Fathers Experiencing Divorce or Separation

Just as divorce or separation is the furthest thing from a man’s mind on the day he says, “I do.”, being separated from his child is the farthest thing from his mind when he hears, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” Yet, close to 50% of marriages end in divorce, and roughly 80% of mothers receive primary custody. This can leave fathers feeling disconnected from their children.

Children need their father in their life.  In fact, decades of research tells us that no single factor contributes more to the well-being of adult children of divorce than having a relationship with both parents while growing up.  Fathers and children share a special bond with one another, one that is unique from that of mothers.  Regardless of divorce, fathers want to protect, guide, and provide for their children. They have an endless amount love, a selfless kind of love that is unlike any of their other relationships. And, they express wanting lots of strategies for making the most of their time together.

I would like to let you know about a new online program I have developed, as part of my doctoral program in Human Development & Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin -Madison.  I am currently looking for fathers to participate in a free, new online, multi-media program designed to help them adjust and parent after divorce or separation. I would greatly appreciate your help in sharing this program through your available networks, websites and newsletters.

Below are some ways you can share this program:

  • Copy and paste the program information provided below into an email, newsletter, or other forms of communication
  • Post the program information on your blog and social media accounts like Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Tweet:  New Online, multimedia program for fathers to adjust and parent after divorce/separation available at www.divorceddadinstitute.com
  • Direct people to the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ApartNotBrokenLearnConnectCreate
  • Send people directly to the homepage: www.divorceddadinstitute.com
  • Share directly with fathers you know and encourage them to sign up!

Thanks in advance for your willingness to share this program!

_____________________________________________________________

Program information: 

Fathers who experience divorce or separation can feel like they are starting over. Many say it is not what they expected, and harder then they thought it would be. They feel alone and miss their kids.

Apart, Not Broken: Learn, Connect, & Create gives fathers a place to:

Learn: Learn from the real experiences of other fathers. Get current information and recommendations for dealing with divorce and parenting after separation.

Connect: Use concrete examples and creative strategies to connect with their child and manage their relationship with their child’s mother.

Create: Create the relationship they want to have with child. Build new traditions and lasting memories.

This program is equipped with: 

  • Videos reflecting the real life experiences of other divorced fathers;
  • A discussion forum for you to connect and share with other fathers;
  • Online tools for sharing photos, comparing calendars, journaling, using a whiteboard, and communicating via chat, video chat, and email;
  • Current and concise information about divorce & parenting after divorce;
  • Recommended activities for you and your child; and
  • Additional resources such as book lists and helpful websites.

This innovative, multi-media program is:

  • Free of charge;
  • Released over a 12-week period, with a minimum time commitment of 30-45 minutes/week;
  • Available 24/7 at any location with an Internet connection;
  • Flexible, allowing you to spend as much time as you would like on various aspects of the program.
  • This program is for fathers who have a child between the ages of 8-16, and have been divorced or separated within the last two years.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Shelly D. Mahon, Program Director
Ph.D Candidate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison
http://www.divorceddadinstitute.com
apartnotbroken@gmail.com

Is My Teen’s Behavior Too Risky?

Picture this scene:

Mom and dad are out of town for a week.  In their absence, a good friend is watching their house and their two teenagers kids. Things go smoothly Friday and Saturday night.  However, the tides turn!  While everyone nestles into bed Sunday evening, 16 year old James is on the phone with his girlfriend.  He and Amanda have been dating for almost a month and have not seen each other for days.  Yearning to see one another, they decide to meet up in the night.  The plan: James will drive over to Amanda’s house around 2:00 a.m. Amanda will sneak out and meet him on the corner of her street. The two of them will drive around or go to a park, and be home before sunrise.  The clock strikes 1:45 and James hits the road. At exactly 2:00, Amanda meets him down the street from her house.  The two drive around for a while and find themselves talking under a tree in the park. Everything is going as planned until…..they fall asleep!  Monday morning rolls around and the house sitter wakes up to find his car is missing!  Immediately, he checks both bedrooms. The youngest boy is sound asleep, but the oldest is gone. He tries to call James, but there is no answer.  Increasingly upset, he notifies his employer that he will not be at work and he waits to hear from the boy.  At around 9:30, James rolls through the front door in a major panic. Carrying a box of doughnuts he says, “I am soooo sorry! I wanted to surprise you with doughnuts for breakfast, but I fell asleep while I was waiting for the store to open.

I will leave the rest to your imagination. The point is that teens take risks. They are completely immersed in gaining a deeper understanding of themselves and how the world works. They do things they are not supposed to do. They even think through them “logically”.  However, they rely on their logic, not the logic of an adult brain.  The teenage brain is actually programmed to take risks.  Specifically, their brain has elevated levels of dopamine, a natural transmitter that creates the sensation of pleasure when stimulated.  Taking risks stimulates this pleasure center, giving them a thrilling sensation when the dopamine is released.

Most common risk-taking behaviors can be clumped into 4 categories:

  1. Drug/alcohol use/abuse,
  2. Unsafe sex, teen pregnancy, and teen parenting,
  3. School failure, underachievement, and drop-out, and
  4. Delinquency, crime, and violence.

These categories are probably not surprising to you. In fact, it is likely that they are the very things you worry about.  At the end of the day, parents are left knowing that they will not always be there in the very moment their teen is forced to make a decision.  Now, knowing what the risks are, and that it is normal for teens to take more risks than then their younger and older counterparts does not make it easier for parents. Parents are still left with the looming question, “Is my teen’s behavior too risky?”

How do you know when your teen’s behavior is too risky? Pay attention to:

Age: Engaging in risky behaviors at an early age can have both immediate and long-term consequences. Educate your teen on the risks they may face. Help them understand how risks can effect their brain, relationships, and future opportunities.  Know who is in your teen’s peer group. Spending time with older kids can introduce behaviors earlier than the “norm”.

Amount: Take it seriously, but don’t overreact. Dabbling is not the same as chronic risk-taking. Experts show that the consequence go up significantly when teens take risks in multiple areas, in part because risk begets more risk.  Pay attention to what is going on in their world. Create space for constant communication, and insist that your teen lets you know where he/she is, and with whom. Monitor and supervise whenever possible.

School: Teens who are engaged in school are less likely to get into trouble.  It is also important for parents to have high expectations for good conduct and performance. Having high expectations is not the same as pressuring your teen. Establish clear rules and give consequences when they are not met.  Avoid pressuring or attaching meaning to the teen’s character or abilities when they make mistakes.

Other activities: Weigh risky behaviors against other activities. Teens who are doing well in school, have friends that value school, and participate in some form of extracurricular activity are likely to be right on track. These factors can buffer teens from risks. If you are faced with a problem, look at how well your teen is doing in other areas of his/her life.

Environment: Environment can have a big impact on risk-taking behavior because it impacts what is available in a particular neighborhood or community.  For example, it is estimated that those living in low-income communities are up to 5 times more likely to take risks.  Parents can reduce the impact of environment by creating structure, using discipline, and monitoring their teen, while also being loving, affectionate, and available.

What Else Can You Do?

Focus on Preparing Youth:  Don’t just focus on protecting your teen from risks. While that is important, it is equally important to help your teen be fully prepared for the world. This means putting energy into providing opportunities, cultivating their potential, and surrounding them with supportive adults and healthy environments.   

Create opportunities for positive risk-taking:  Taking a risk means doing something outside of your comfort zone, the place where experts say growth occurs. For some teens, this can take the form of joining a new club, participating in a different sport, or taking on a leadership position.  Having opportunities to take “appropriate” risks can reduce a teen’s desire to take “inappropriate” risks.  Have them try wake boarding or mountain biking to get that dopamine release!

Get Help: Reach out to a school counselor, local therapist, or another trusted professional if you are concerned about your teen’s behavior. I once heard a teen say, “A therapist is just a friend when you feel like you don’t have one. You don’t need them as much once you know yourself better and can reach out when you need help.”  It can be a blessing to let other trusted adults contribute to your teen.

These years are sure to be a wild ride, with the occasional bump in the road.  Some things can be expected, but others will be your child’s unique expression of being a teenager.  Consider that risk-taking is a necessary part of your teen’s grown and development.  After all, what would life be like if you never took risks? The goal is to steer them in such a way that they use risk-taking to expand their potential, and avoid actions that can have serious, or even lifelong consequences.  As a good friend of mine once said, “the mountain may be steep, but at the end of it all you will be better for the climb.”

Happy Parenting!

Note: Within the next month, I will no longer be blogging at parentingteensinfo.com. If you enjoy my posts and access it through this site, please consider following my blog directly to receive notifications of new posts. Thanks!