Ask Teens Questions (Just Ignore the Eye Rolling)

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

teenWhen your kids are young, there seem to be no bounds to what they will say. There is no filter, which can be both precious and embarrassing (ask me about the bitch song sometime).

They want to tell you literally every single thing that happens each day. To this day, asking Anika about her day at school results in a very long monologue.

Unfortunately, it kids grow out of that desire to tell you everything.

As your toddlers and tots turn into tweens and teens, the “how was your day?” question becomes an annoyance. The response is typically an abrupt “fine” – if not just a roll of the eyes. Any probing questions are treated with exasperated groans or a long, drawn out “mom!”


Kira (whose eyes still have not recovered from the rolling they used to do) was capable of producing the most exasperating sighs at our persistent questioning. Don’t let “teen ‘tude” deter you! Your teen may act tough and independent, because they are genuinely working to find their own identity, but they still need you (even if they don’t necessarily want your input). Your teen (secretly) wants to know that you are there and that you care.

[Tweet “#Teens still want to know you are there and that you care. Talk to them!”]

Knowing where your teen is going, what he’s doing, who he’s with and when he’ll be home should be an absolute necessity. Our kids don’t leave the house without providing every last detail. It’s not about control; it’s about safety and having the ability to guide, albeit from more distance.

Teens Driving You Crazy?

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

teen driverThe teenage years are wrought with challenges that parents have to come to terms with, but one of the biggest is teen driving. There is something terrifying, in my mind, about placing a teenager (we’re talking about someone whose frontal lobe has not yet finished developing; someone with impulse control) behind the wheel. Yet for all the obvious reasons to worry about your teen driving, they normally take driver’s ed and are required to spend time driving with you, so they get the skills.

[Tweet “There is something terrifying to me as a mom about a teenager behind the wheel of a car. #teendriving”]

No, what really worries me is the fact that a license equals freedom.

When you entrust your teenager with the keys to a vehicle –  yours or their own – the mom brain in me thinks of all the horrible things that can happen. Letting your teen have the freedom to drive is something that should be accompanied by a lot of communication and understanding.

Before your teenager ever leaves the house with their new privilege, there should be clear ground rules established, such as where they are permitted to go, who they can offer rides to, where they will be the entire time they are gone, and when they will be back – and that’s just for starters.

Driving is a privelege. It should only come with earned trust. It simply isn’t feasible or safe to allow your child to meander off in a car if you aren’t sure that they are being honest about their plans. The safety of your teen shouldn’t be compromised by a teen who (being a completely normal teen) will try to barter, wheedle, or badger out of you.

[Tweet “Driving is a privilege. It should only come with earned trust. #teendriving”]

Driving is a privelege. If your teen has not earned the privilege, do yourself the favor of keeping the keys.

Encouraging Self-Esteem in Kids

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt seems like it’s harder to be a kid these days than it used to be. There have always been pressures growing up, but with social media and the internet, there are new avenues of potential stress to consider. Where cyber-bullying didn’t used to exist, it is now a real concern. And while you certainly want to talk to you child about peer pressure, online safety and bullying, the foundation that needs to be built first is self-esteem.

Building Self-Esteem in Your Kids

The best weapon against the opinions of others is a secure opinion of oneself. A child who knows that they are loved and that they are worthwhile can better defend against bullying from kids at school or online.

[Tweet “A child who knows they are loved can better defend against bullying from kids at school or online.”].

Simply saying “I love you” and hugging your kids every single day can wrap your kids in a protective bubble of self-esteem, but being involved in your children’s lives – attending special events like a sports game or recital, respecting individuality, talking to your kids, and having dinner together can make a huge difference. This also builds confidence in a child being able to come forward to a parent or teacher about poor behavior from other students, creating a safer environment for everyone. These days, the number one thing you can do to build self-esteem in your kids is to put down your phone.

[Tweet “The number one thing you can do to build self-esteem in your kids is to put down your phone.”]

You won’t be able to protect your child from all the name-calling or peer pressures, especially as they get older. Remind your child of their individual strengths, acknowledge their successes, and offer encouragement after failure. A child with good self-esteem is able to pursue their own interests without concern for the thoughts of others and enjoy what makes them happy. Your child is perfect just the way they are, and it is one of the first lessons they should learn.

Raising Awesome Teenagers

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

teensEvery parent struggles with the proper methods of disciplining their teenager. We’re on our fourth trip through the teenage years, and it seems much more challenging now than it was before every kid wanted a cell phone and had access to all the information in the world via the Internet. We do our absolute best, hoping that each decision is the right one.

Now that three of our kids are adults, we’re starting to get the idea we did ok. Our oldest son is in the Army; our daughter is getting her master’s degree at Columbia University, and our other adult son, who has Down syndrome, has a great personality and is fun to be around.

But here we go again…perhaps armed with more knowledge and experience, but still mired in the attitude, emotion, and burgeoning independence that comes with the teen years. Yes, it does sometimes feel like we’ve woken up with an alien in the house who has replaced our adorable little kids, but what we have learned is that you simply can’t give up.

The Secret to Raising Awesome Teenagers

The secret to raising awesome teenagers is to be consistent and follow through. If you tell your teen he will lose his cell phone if he doesn’t do his homework before turning it on, be prepared to take the phone. If your teens have chores they are required to do before they’re allowed to socialize, don’t simply let them whine or cajole their way out of their responsibility. And when your teen makes a bad choice, allow him or her to experience the consequence of that choice, whether it’s consequences you’ve warned them about or disciplinary action at school.

Leading by example is one of your best weapons. If your teen sees you behaving differently than you expect him or her to behave, don’t expect them to do what you say. It’s far more likely that your teen will do what you do. Take responsibility for your actions, be sincere and honest in your relationships, and be forthright with your teen when answering the tough questions.

No one can advise you as to what is the best way to handle your out of control teen. Every situation is different as well as every child. However, whatever method you choose it needs to be something you do together. Your teenager needs you now more than ever.


Moms of Teens: Top States for Young Drivers

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Driving CarIf you’re the mom of a new driver, it’s important to know your state’s rules for teen drivers. While most states make some sort of special provision for teen drivers, not all states hold the same provisions. Some states are more strict than others when it comes to ensuring that your teen is ready to get behind the wheel. Variables such as requirements to obtain a learner’s permit, rate of increase of insurance premiums for teen drivers, instance of accidents involving teen drivers, and availability of appropriate educational materials are important in understanding how your state approaches teen driving.

1. New Jersey: Better Education = Better Drivers

New Jersey tops our list because the state offers outstanding programs for teen drivers. Teen learners must log at least six months of on-the-road driving experience under authorized supervision before they become eligible to advance to the next level of graduated license. This allows ample time to focus on any particular skill areas that need improvement before the teen driver emerges onto the open road.

Another useful tool for potential teen drivers and their parents is the New Jersey permit practice test. By ensuring access to necessary materials, teen drivers in New Jersey acquire the knowledge they need to safely operate a motor vehicle.

2. Colorado: Stricter Guidelines = Lower Insurance

Colorado offers an all-around robust teen driving program. Many states impose a process whereby teen drivers gradually accrue more and more freedom when driving as they mature as drivers between ages 15-18. In Colorado, in addition to requiring teen drivers to hold their learner’s permit longer and with greater supervision, teen drivers must keep a driving log, according to Each teen’s log must be signed, dated, and submitted for review before a teen driver may advance to the next level of graduated license. Having more stringent requirements explains, in general, why insurance premium markups are lower in Colorado than elsewhere.

3. California: Legal Parental Responsibilities = Fewer Irresponsible Drivers

In California, a parent must legally authorize a teen driver before they can obtain a learner’s permit. If you feel like your teen driver demonstrates less than responsible driving behavior, you may revoke his/her authorization anytime by submitting such a request. This effectively cancels any permit or license held by the teen at that time.

By giving parents responsibility and authority, the State of California laws ensure a continuity between the teen driver who is learning appropriate behavior and the parent or guardian who is legally responsible for that driver. This may explain why teen drivers in California are generally involved in fewer roadway incidents and fatalities. When parents are held legally responsible, this helps to underscore their role in making their teen the safest driver possible.

3. Parents and Drivers

In the U.S., each state is responsible for its own teen driving rules and regulations. New Jersey, Colorado, and California top our list of top-notch states for safe, effective teen drivers. In these states, the systems give applicants the best chance of safe and responsible driver education—leading to safe and responsible and vehicle operation.

No matter what state you live in, parental involvement and accountability are keys to keeping your teen driver safe. You are the first line of defense for your teen driver, so talk with them, work with them, and continue to monitor their progress in the months and years ahead.

Raising Mature and Respectful Teens

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce
MomsGetReal about Raising Respectful TeenagersAt one point in your child’s life you were the source of all knowledge, and you could not possibly be wrong. Now your child is a teenager and you could not possibly be right. How are you supposed to raise a mature teen when they are rebelling against every word you say before it has even been uttered?
Communicating effectively with your child has never been more difficult – or more important. It may seem like they are only working to irritate you, but they are simply trying to discover who they are as individuals.

Every teen has moments where they are flat out disrespectful. Your knee-jerk reaction is not always the best one, so think before you handle this monster that has suddenly appeared. The best way to teach respect is to demonstrate it. By showing your teen respect first, you will be commanding it in return without saying. You are the example to your teen and you need to practice what you preach: treat others how you would like to be treated.

It is essential that you and your teen discuss everything of importance. Nobody likes “the talk.” Not the parents and not the children. Lock the doors if you must, but you and your teen need to have open communication. If they do not hear it from you, it is guaranteed that they will hear some version of the truth from somewhere else. You want to be their main source of information, as well as their confidante when they need one.

When you do sit down to talk with your teen it does not always have to be serious either. Ask them questions about school and friends, and let them open up to you. This is a great opportunity to help advise your teen on making mature life choices.

Your teen is searching for their individuality and they are not going to find it with you holding their hand the entire way. For them to become mature adults you must be willing to let go. The best way to learn is through experience and I am sure you would rather have your teen make mistakes while you are still there as a safety net. The lessons they will learn are a valuable part of growing up. A mature teen is one who knows that while they have the power to make decisions, they are aware that every decision has a consequence.

Although your teen will never believe that you were all-knowing like they once did, they will gain a new respect for you that comes with being respected as an individual.

Safe Sex: Are You Talking to Your Teen?

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce
Sexually transmitted diseases are nothing to joke about. You need to make sure you understand the risks of STDs so that you can intelligently talk to your teen about them. The more matter-of-fact you can be about the reality of the risks, the more likely they’ll be to listen (even if they pretend they aren’t).

mom_daughter-talkingWith more than 20 STDs out there to wreck your life and millions of infected people – some of whom will show absolutely NO symptoms, it’s incredibly important to talk to your kids about safe sex, condoms, and making good choices (which include understanding that emotionally, they may not be ready for sex even if they feel ready physically and that waiting is ok).

Learn more about how to have the talk with your kids.

Gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that may cause a slight discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus. Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics but if it goes untreated it can lead to sterility and other serious complications.

Chlamydia. Chlamydia, often referred to as a “silent epidemic” is extremely common but may have virtually no symptoms. Another STD that is curable with a round of the right antibiotics, it can be devastating if left untreated.

Syphilis. Syphilis begins with a blister, usually painless, that heals on its own. It can be treated with antibiotics, but because that initial symptom is often missed, it can spread through the body and ravage the organs.

Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is one of the most common STDs in the United States, with estimates of ONE in every THREE people infected. The virus can cause genital warts but certain strains also cause cervical cancer.

Herpes. Herpes has no cure and can be passed to your partner even when you do not have the recurring sores that appear in the genital region. There are therapies available that minimize the symptoms, but once you have herpes, you will be dealing with it for your life.

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Hepatitis can severely damage the liver. There is treatment, but the treatment itself has such serious side effects that it is sometimes not worth it.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV is the precursor to AIDS. This virus literally kills the body’s immune system, leaving your body incapable of defending itself against most infections from which a healthy person can easily recover. AIDS has no cure and will result in death.

Even the most careful people can sometimes be put at risk. If you think you or your teen may have been exposed to an STD, you can go to a clinic if you are not comfortable going to your own physician for treatment. To prevent from getting STDs, ALWAYS wear condoms, dental dams and other prophylactics to prevent the exchange of bodily fluids, and never have sexual contact with someone you aren’t in a committed relationship with.

Build a Relationship with Your Teen that You Can Both Live With

Raising healthy teens requires patience, consistence, and a willingness to make mistakes. Teens are trying to stretch their wings but still need someone there to catch them if they fall.
Getting Real with Shadra Bruce
teensParent – teen relationships can be difficult, and teen attitude begins long before the thirteenth birthday these days. Your teen does not mean to be difficult; he or she is simply struggling to find their own identity and at this stage they may be rebelling against many of the things you represent. As a parent, you may be having a hard time letting go of your precious baby and embracing the young adult that is developing before your eyes. Balancing the perfect parent – teen relationship can seem impossible at times, but your teen still needs you to be there, providing a loving and supportive home.

While your teen might not always get what they want, they should know that no matter what you are always going to be there. Your love should be unconditional. While they are going to have bad days just like the rest of us, at least they know they have you to catch them when they fall.

Teens have access to more knowledge than ever before. With the media broadcasting anything that will catch a headline as well as the array of social medias it is impossible to shelter your teen from everything, but rather than ignore the information that is bombarding your teen, use it as an opportunity to open the lines of communication. You can use TV shows, celebrity misbehavior, and social situations as opportunities to talk with – not preach to – your teen.

Giving your teen room to make mistakes by simply loosening the reins a little bit. Show them you trust them. Your teen does not need to be perfect, and it is important that they know that. They need to be taught that mistakes are a part of life and although they cannot always be prevented there is always something that can be learned. The media and other social influences make it seem like perfection is required in today’s society. That is certainly not the case and with your help your teen will soon realize that life is full of opportunities. The worry of making mistakes should never deter your teen from trying new things.

Your teens want honesty and respect just as much as you do. The more you treat them like adults, the more they will act like one. By keeping an open mind with your teen’s wants and needs, respecting the individual he or she is trying to become, you can build a relationship you can both live with.

Top Gifts for Teens at Christmas

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

The teens of this generation are living in a different world than did the 20- and 30-year olds of the Gen Y generation and the 30- and 40-year olds, commonly referred to as the Gen Xers. Generation Z is the first generation of kids to have grown up in a computerized world. They have never had to use an encyclopedia – Wikipedia has always been the one-stop answer shop. Information has always been instantly available, and so has entertainment. In such a world of instant gratification, buying gifts for this particular generation can be difficult. But we’ve collected together some of the top Christmas 2013 gift ideas for teens:


From iPods and cell phones to video games, you simply can’t go wrong if you opt to put electronics under the tree for your teen. Teens today do much of their socializing via apps, such as FaceTime and SnapChat, so you can bet an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad will appear on their letters to Santa. Of course, any such gift should come with the mental preparation of needing to monitor their usage and teach balance!


1467474_10152134281037664_297892482_nNoise-cancelling earphones or wireless Bluetooth speaker systems can accompany iPod gifts. You can easily put a smile on your teen’s face with the gadgets and accessories that make their electronics even more fun.

Fashion and Jewelry

Teens have an image to maintain, so clothes and jewelry can be a hit. And it’s not just girls at this age who focus on appearance; boys are trying to make their mark too. But don’t pretend to know what is fashionable for your teen. We recommend giving gift cards so they can select the styles best suited for them.

Music, Movies and Video Games

Teens may spend most of their time chatting with friends on their electronic gadgets, but they love music and movies too. From cinema gift certificates to the latest DVDs and video games, these gifts are a guaranteed hit.

Whatever you decide to get your teens for Christmas this year, one way to help kids this age embrace the holiday is to include them in the holiday festivities. By helping decorate the tree and by preparing the holiday meals, teens can stay involved. It’s also a great time to talk to your kids about holiday traditions.

Do you have ideas for holiday gifts for teens? Let us know!



Know the Signs: Top 5 Addictions Among Teens

The teenage years are a time when many young people experiment with their growing independence. Sometimes those experiments are with harmful and potentially addictive substances. Parents of teenagers should watch for the following signs that their teens need drug rehab.

1. Alcohol

Know the signs, top 4 most common addictions among teensAlcohol is one of the top substances abused by teenagers. Some obvious signs that indicate that a teenager needs to seek help at an addiction recovery center include drinking early in the morning, getting drunk often, and drinking alone. However, many teens may try to hide their alcohol addiction. Other signs of an addiction to alcohol that require drug rehab include blacking out, driving under the influence, and withdrawal symptoms when not drinking. Teenagers who become dependent on alcohol may also experience problems at school or work and may become withdrawn.

2. Cigarettes

The nicotine in cigarettes is another drug to which teens often become addicted to. The most obvious sign of cigarette use is the smell of smoke on your child’s clothing or in their bedroom. Teens who are trying to hide their smoking habit may also chew gum or suck on breath mints obsessively, overuse perfume or cologne, or have yellow teeth despite brushing regularly. An addiction to cigarettes is often difficult to overcome and may required drug rehab intervention from doctors or other professionals.

3. Marijuana

Teens who use alcohol or cigarettes may also experiment with marijuana. Although not as addictive as cigarettes, smoking marijuana can still be harmful. Signs of a marijuana addiction include spending a lot of time getting high, loss of control while using the drug, smoking to relax, choosing and ending friendships based on drug use, and smoking to escape reality. Teens who are addicted to marijuana may need drug rehab at an addiction recovery center.

4. Adderall

Stimulants such as Adderall used legally to treat ADHD are another substance that contemporary teens are abusing. An addiction to a prescription drug such as Adderall is just as serious as an addiction to an illegal substance. Signs that a teenager needs drug rehab for an Adderall addiction include nervousness, restlessness, insomnia, change in appetite, weight loss, paranoia, and hallucinations. Teens who suddenly become hyperproductive may be abusing Adderall and require rehab.

5. Vicodine

Vicodine, or hydrocodone, is another prescription drug that teens abuse. The most obvious sign of a Vicodine addiction is missing drugs. Teens will often steal the medication from their parents’ medicine cabinet or from friends’ houses. Other signs of a Vicodine addiction include drowsiness, an inability to focus, anxiety or paranoia, nausea, and extreme mood swings. A Vicodine overdose can be fatal, so teens addicted to the drug require immediate drug rehab from professionals at an addiction recovery center.

Anica Oaks is a recent college graduate from University of San Francisco. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. This article was  written with information from drug rehab specialists at Shadow Mountain Recovery.


Drug addiction among teens is a serious problem that can have fatal consequences. Fortunately, addictions can be successfully treated with the support of family and professionals.