Monday, 18 May 2015

Religious Tolerance: A Dying Trend?

Hope is a 15-year-old high school student from Stratford, NJ. She loves reading, writing, socializing with friends and her favorite subject is English because she wants to be a writer/editor.

From troubles during biblical times to today’s schools banning discussions about it, religion has always been a touchy subject. Discussions about religion have ended in fights. They have even left people in tears.

I strongly believe in religious tolerance but it seems like that’s a dying trend. In high school, you meet people of varying religious backgrounds. You have Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, people who believe in a higher being but do not follow a set religion, atheists, etc. Depending on where (location) you go to school and what school you go to, you will see more of a certain religion. At my school, I don’t see too many religious discussions. This does not mean that they don’t occur, however. Whenever I end up in this type of discussion with an atheist, and I mention that I’m Catholic, I always get the same response. They tell me that Catholics are crazy and they always try to convert you. I have yet to attempt to convert any of my non-Catholic friends to Catholicism, just saying. I think that religious discussions should not take place if all parties involved are not going to be mature and understanding.

Why are their varying religious backgrounds? Many situations can cause varying religious backgrounds. Growing up, I attended a Catholic school so I adopted the Catholic faith. That’s how, from what I’ve seen, kids and teens end up in a certain religion. Parents and teachers play an important role in helping a child choose a religion. Atheists have varying reasons for being atheist. Some just don’t believe in God because they want some sort of physical proof that He is real. The most common reason that I’ve heard, which I find very interesting, is that their Catholic school teachers didn’t explain things or answer their questions. I find this interesting because, while I do believe in God, this is a legitimate reason. They want to belong to a religion but they are confused. Obviously, teachers cannot answer every question. I have seen, however, that some Catholic school teachers are better than others.

As for what teens believe today, it’s hard to say. I’ve met several Catholics and I’ve met several atheists as well. My advice to teens when it comes to discussing religion outside of your school’s curriculum: just don’t do it. My advice to parents when it comes to discussing religion with your teen(s): be calm and understanding. While everyone in my family believes in God, we are not all Catholic. We do have varying views when it comes to religion, but we can have religious discussions in a calm and mature manner. Nobody knows what religion is right or wrong and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.

New Era: New Religion

Shammara is a pursuing journalist who enjoys fashion and believes everyone has a purpose in life.

As the years go by and there are manly scientific advancements in medicine, opposition or straying from religion is seen in increasing numbers in the younger generation. Religion has become one of the most controversial topic between teenagers and parents in the 21st century. What was once done as common practice is now on the forefront of being questioned or often done involuntarily.

In my perspective, I consider myself agonistic. I do not attend church regularly and my mother is not religious of any form. Many teenagers are taking the same stance which is resulted in uproar from parents. In every parent-teenager relationship, are different situations but in a religious family the circumstances for a teenager to express their own individuality are outstanding. For example , there is a gay male in my school is forced to hide his sexuality because of his religious parents who view homosexuality as a sin and should be punished. On the contrary, many teenagers as oppose to earlier generations are well protected by the stand they hold on religion in society today.

As a parent, even if your own personal belief is you should regularly attend church or perform prayer for any monotheistic or polytheistic religion, you should never force it on your teenager. Teenagers who have sardonic parents who constantly ridicule their ways of thinking, usually grow distant as they age. To build a great relationship with your teenager the best thing to posses is an open mind. No matter how hard it is to accept, when one accepts the thoughts of your child, it helps to build the relationship between you two.

All over the world, there are different takes on religion. Some people are Christian while others are Atheist. The dawning truth, that haunt many, is that everyone is born to follow what they believe in even if you don’t quite agree. This fundamental should always be followed to build a great relationship with a teenager. The known fact (Though many oblivious parents are clueless to such) is no matter what you enforce on a child, only if one believes it or learns from what you have enforced will they continue to follow the “rule” into adulthood.

Freedom of Religion

Cielo, a Los Angeles dreamer, enjoys recognizing images in the occasional cumulus cloud that meanders through the California sky, documenting interesting events and quotes and observations, and learning about different cultures, customs and lifestyles.

“For all my visual students out there,” the teacher started, “You’re going to have to use your vivid imagination.”

“You’ll be good at that, Isaac,” a student mumbled to his classmate, “Since you believe in God.”
This is what an atheist friend of mine recounted to me, expecting me to laugh. He seemed both stunned and embarrassed when I snapped that it was not funny and I was offended.

I come from a Christian family; thus, as the tradition goes, I was raised Christian. From my birth until recent years, my mom would wake my siblings and I every Sunday morning, shove us in the car, and drive us to church. Once we reached the pre-teen/teen age, church lost its luster. For us, church was boring. It was not the place to spend our hard earned Sunday morning that we longed to devote to sleep. We were reluctant to go each week but went, mainly, because it was expected of us and it was, essentially, mandatory. When my older brother was around fifteen, he often opted out of going to church. I never saw this as an option but was eager to follow in his footsteps.

Now I am in high school where many of my friends are atheist or agnostic. Though I never bring my Bible to school or attempt to convert my fellow “heathen” peers, many of my atheist friends cannot say the same. I nervously shift in my seat when they openly criticize my religion to my face, pondering whether I should ignore their comments or defend my beliefs. (I typically go with the ladder.) By being surrounded by these kinds of comments, I too began to question my own beliefs. With me finding little to no interest in church and questioning my own religion, I became a less active Christian than I once was. I would dread the days my mom mentioned heading to church. I would often complain about having far too much homework to do or I would “accidentally” oversleep.

In the midst of this, my mom never forced me to go to church. I’ve heard many people say that if they dared to miss church, their parents would not allow them to do anything for the rest of the day. I know that if my mom had implemented this coercive mindset with me, I never would have developed as a Christian. I would go by force every weekend and daydream of the outside world while the pastor was speaking. Nothing would soak in and I would eventually rebel and head down the opposite path my mom and church wanted me to go.

Recently, my mom was invited to a church by one of her coworkers. Though hesitant, I decided to go with her. It had been a while since I had been to church and something led me to go. That Sunday morning, I had a complete breakthrough. Something in that church, something in the choirs songs, something in the pastors message resonated deep into my heart and caused me to realize and appreciate the pertinence of religion to my life. Since that day, I enjoy going to church—for myself. Rather than going for my mom, I really needed to go for me for the concepts of Christianity to really sink in.

I do not intend to advertise any certain religion or lack thereof. I just genuinely appreciate that my mother never forced me to go to church. She understood that I was going through a questioning phase where I had to decide if the religion that I was raised to follow was suitable for me. In my case, I chose to stick with Christianity. That may not be for everyone, but if parents force their children to follow their beliefs, those beliefs will not stick.

Wavering Faith

Julia is a 17-year old junior from New York City. She swims, plays the violin and loves spending time with her English bulldog Louie.
I am Jewish. Why? Because my parents are. There was no distinct moment where they whispered it in my ear; it was one of those things I knew growing up. It was why my cousins all had bar and batmitzvahs; why I got to spend a night at a fancy hotel with my cousin running around the halls in inflatable shoes. It was why I went to synagogue on high holidays, sitting amongst the Jews who recited prayers without even glancing down at the book, playing a tile game in the basement with the younger kids to pass the time. It was why I went to Hebrew School, learning the Hebrew alphabet until it was second nature but struggling to actually understand any words. It was never a choice I had, it was just the way I was and I never questioned it.
But the trouble with being Jewish, is just that; being it isn’t enough. There is more to Jews than saying you are one; you have to act like it too. Like not eating pig products or shellfish, like not watching TV Saturday mornings, like wearing long skirts. My family isn’t orthodox, but my brother and I still felt a sort of responsibility to be good Jews. There came a point in my life, probably when I started to prep for my batmitzvah, that I came to hate the responsibility that was attached to my religious faith. It meant extra work, and hard work at that, and it just didn’t seem worth it to me. I had never found Judaism, it had just been handed to me and it didn’t seem fair. Why did I have to work hard at something I wasn’t even sure I believed in?
The minute my batmitzvah was over, I dropped back. I stopped learning and thinking and following Jewish rules. I had had enough. But after only a few years, I started to miss it. I missed belonging to something bigger than myself, something that ran deep within the blood of my family. I missed following rules that had purpose that I could feel even if I couldn’t logically understand it. I was so glad that my parents had not given up on me and I was welcomed back to my culture as if I had never left. Because, I had always had a place there. It was a part of who I was at my core.
So, parents, don’t let resistance persuade you. The greatest thing my parents did for me was push me to do what I didn’t want to do. They forced me to make hard decisions about what I believed and didn’t believe and the type of person I wanted to become. And making those decisions, even if they were subject to change, helped me figure out what I wanted to do and the best ways to go about doing it. I am a better Jew now, because my parents pushed me to understand what it meant to be a Jew before deciding if it was what I really wanted to be. And even more than that, they welcomed me back with open arms. I felt both supported and informed. If your children push against your religious values, push them to fully understand everything they possibly can before making their decision. Even if it is hard, even if they hate you for it. But, ultimately, support them in whatever decision they make. Whether you agree or not, whether it
changes daily, yearly, or never. While religious faith may waver, family ties are permanent and can never be replaced.

Religion and Teenagers

Cassie is a 16 – year old from Los Angeles, CA.  She enjoys acting, playing guitar and spending time with her younger brothers. Her favorite subject is English because she wants to be a writer.
The phase of adolescence is often defined as the age of self-discovery.  One primary element of this “self-discovery” concept is the value of teen ethics and morality.  In public and private high schools throughout America, teenagers with a commitment to their own religion have a large influence on the social dynamic of the high school environment.  While religiously devoted teens do not impose their set of values upon groups of students, they do set a standard of ethics and morality through their lifestyle.
A fair amount of high school students are involved in Religious Youth Programs in their local community.  Teen Christian Clubs in high schools often strive to promote abstinence among their peers.  A popular Christian Teen trend is the “purity ring.” Teenagers wear purity rings as a statement regarding their belief of abstinence until marriage.  By publicly showcasing their morals, Christians share their core beliefs and encourage other teenagers to consider their options as well.
Religious Youth Programs can also directly influence their community by creating outreach programs.  Such Religious Youth Ambassadors are not preachers or converters.  Youth volunteers simply supply moral support to students who have lost faith in the goodness of humanity.  Religious teenagers often give back to their community through service programs affiliated with their church such as Free Dinners for the Homeless and Peer Counseling Programs.
Religious core values of any individual often affect one’s political views.  In the high school community, moral and ethical principles influence a teenager’s political standpoint.  This influence stems from a religiously diverse student body create a dynamic group of citizenship.  Teenagers’ religious opinions can help form the foundation of their political views, thus creating a more politically active youth.
Through these examples of house religious teenagers influence their community, it is evident that the character o any culture is defined by one’s actions and reactions to efforts of implementing moral values.  Teens who are dedicated to their religion show strong evidence of their ability to morally change their culture.

The Compassion Child: Balancing Your Call to Parenthood and Your Call To Ministry

Gabriele is a 17-year-old aspiring writer from Jacksonville, FL.  She loves the wit of Charles Dickens, the smell of sharpened pencils, and the charm of coffee shops. She lives her life by a Benjamin Franklin quote: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write the things worth reading or do the things worth writing.”
You want the truth?
It was ugly. It was almost offensive, the way the place looked. Not that there wasn’t something completely captivating about it all. Growing up in the quiet suburbs, the city was indeed a place to be curious about.
If you knew me back then, you would have thought of me as the good Christian girl who was too sheltered for her own good. And if you knew of my recent move to the city, you would have laughed at my naiveté that the city can’t be “that bad” and every person is “a good person.”
If only you would have said a thing or two about what I would see there.
In the urban neighborhoods of Atlanta, I watched sin as it prowled about in dark corners and subtly gnawed at my fingertips. I saw children being abused, mothers searching through trash for food, and fathers shamelessly crying in the streets.
I felt helpless.
I never fancied myself going to a church with drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, thieves, and abusers. I never imagined sitting next to the homeless, the hungry, the lonely, or the broken. But here I was, at the start of junior high school, in one of the highest ranking cities for crime.
My parents heard all the “How Could You’s” regarding putting their children in danger. Along with myself, my younger brother was only three years old when we moved to fulfill God’s calling on our lives. Other parents did not understand how this could be God’s plan. Though it seemed like they were risking the safety of their children, they had nothing to fear.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2) NIV
The life of a missionary is not always pretty. It’s not grandiose, glamorous, or glitzy. However, it can be powerful, surreal, and life-changing. Your sons and daughters have the opportunity to experience what most kids may not have the chance to understand; an opportunity to live a life filled with endless compassion, gentle empathy, and God’s inexplicable wonders. Not every family ministry is the same. You may minister in your hometown, you may travel from place to place, or you may be stationed in a foreign country. Though we find ourselves in different situations, most kids with parents involved in ministry struggle with similar fears, insights and emotions. Here are some things to keep in mind when parenting your children on the mission field.
1. “I never quite fit in.”
Sarah is from Denver, Colorado. Since she was ten years old her family has lived and ministered in Zimbabwe, Africa. While in Zimbabwe, her white skin clashes with her African heart, and while in America, her Zimbabwean customs limit her understanding of the culture of her American friends.
David, who has now been to nine schools in the past five years, is always seen as the “new kid.” Though he enjoys meeting interesting people from all over the world, it is hard for him to build friendships that lie beyond the surface.
-How can I help? Prepare your kids for their new home by teaching them about the culture and customs. While they’re making new friends, also find ways your kids can keep in touch with the friends they miss. If any opportunity arises when they can spend quality time with friends, jump over hurdles to make that happen. Your kids have made many sacrifices for the ministry and need their time to have fun with good friends.
2. “I don’t know where my home is.”  
It is not uncommon for missionary kids, especially those who are living overseas or are constantly moving, to feel insecure about where their home is. Though they are from one place, they were raised in another. And while they were raised in another, they are probably now living somewhere entirely new. Their heart belongs to so many places and so many people that they may not have a specific place to call “home.” One of my friends used to tell me “you know you’re a missionary kid when you can’t answer the question ‘where are you from?’”
-How can I help? When you move, give your child a chance to process. Take with you certain things that can easily identify your new location as “home” whether it’s an old teddy bear or a family picture. They say “home is where the heart is” so create family traditions such as a kiss on the cheek before bed, an inside joke or saying, or anything that will bond the family and remind your kids that their home is wherever they are loved.
3. “I need you, too.”
Sometimes when parents are wrapped up in ministry, they forget their ministry toward their family. It seems as though you are pulled in all directions and it can be difficult to prioritize. This can be extremely complicated if you’re working a job along with your ministry. Your kids still need your attention, and not focusing on the family household will cause your ministry to deteriorate.
How can I help? Make every time you spend with your kids count. Even if you only have a couple hours a day, use those two hours as quality family time. Encourage your kids to get involved in the ministry, but do not push. Pray every night as a family and discuss with your kids how they feel. Just listening to your kids will improve your relationship, whether it’s about ministry or life in general. Most importantly, remind your kids that they are loved daily, not only with your words, but with your actions.
The Mission Minded Family
There is a book by Ann Dunagan entitled The Mission Minded Family: Releasing Your Family to God’s Destiny. In this book Dunagan tells us that “family is not an obstacle to ministry; it is a vehicle for ministry.” Through the years, with every new home, I learned to create a “new normal.” Though ministry life can get lonely, hectic, and complicated, I believe ministry and missions has made me the person I am today, and I do not regret any of it.  

Sending Your teen Away for the Summer: Pros and Cons

Emily is a 13-year-old from Corona, CA. She enjoys reading, writing, and swimming and her favorite subject is history because it inspires her to learn about other cultures.
Sending your teen away for the summer is no small decision. It takes a lot of planning, and in some cases persuasion, to convince your teen they will have a great time. If it is their first time leaving home or your family for an extended period of time, or they simply dislike leaving home to begin with, then some challenges might arise. Here are three pro’s and con’s for you to consider if you are thinking about sending your teen away for summer break.


  1. Leaving home without parents can actually change a teen’s perspective on their life. Getting the opportunity to live for a short while with a new set of rules and to escape the dreary routine of everyday life. After all, having to stay within close proximity to home all summer long isn’t what most teens consider “fun”.
  2. Sending your teen to summer camps without internet or other technology is a great way to prove to your teen(s) that is possible to survive without constantly updating a social network or texting. There are many camps in national parks, forests, etc. that offer minimal technology environment for teens.
  3. It’s cliché to say but absence makes the heart grow fonder. So if you have a teen that is particularly reluctant to leave home they will be overjoyed to see you when they get back. Sometimes going away can help ease tension and bottled up resentment in teens because of the distraction it creates.


  1. While away, homesickness is common and, though typically mild, some teens have it more severely than others. This can lead to rash behavior, such as unreasonable outbursts and disrespectful behavior toward superiors and others. I recommend having your teen pack pictures of family, friends, pets, and anything else that they would miss in particular.
  2. While away, teens are given the opportunity to shut you out completely. There will be nothing forcing them to engage in any form of communication with you let alone anything personal. This is more likely to happen if you already have a broken relationship with your teen. In that case you should repair the relationship as best as you can beforehand
  3. Teens are very attached to their friends so being forced to leave them for anything less than a relaxing vacation might not go over peacefully. If an argument does occur it is essential to try and resolve it before your teen departs. If not, they will be leaving you on a sour note which is far from desired for both sides.
Clearly, as a parent you have a considerable amount of things to think about before making the decision to send your teen away during summer break. Ultimately, though it depends on their outlook on life and attitude towards leaving home. The best way to make departing as peaceful as possible is to discuss it with them at least a month or two beforehand. It gives teens who are reluctant a chance to discover something exciting for them and for those who love the idea from the beginning more time to enjoy planning.

When the Cam Clicks: Living in the Moment or in Photos

Ora is a 17- year-old from Texas. She loves dancing (from hip-hop to ballet) and music (from competitive classical piano to singing whilst strumming along on the guitar). She has a fascination with languages (fluent in four) and hopes to be able to incorporate and utilize this into whatever career she chooses to pursue.
“Don’t forget to smile!” Click. “By the magnificent statue at the entrance!” Click. “By the pretty, pink, Flamingos!” Flash. “By the pond!” Click. “The bush!” Flash. “The fascinating pot of dry dirt by the road!” Click.
            Ever since the 1800s, when the first cameras were created and put to use, cameras have largely revolutionized the world’s outlook on the past. No longer must we live events vicariously through the stories of our elders or through vivid imagination. We can now experience occurrences through photographs or relive our childhoods through pictures. But when does the picture-taking to have a substantial memory go from a quick, cheesy snapshot to reminisce over in the future to an unhappy, obsessive hunt to accumulate as many photographs as possible?
Different places. Exotic food. Unusual clothes. Bizarre designs. Of course we all want to take as many photographs as possible to then display to the world. But on those rare occasions when we look through the photos to recall our unique experiences, what do we really remember? Do we remember the rush of riding down the glacier covered river? Or do we recall posing with forced smiles as mom snaps yet another picture? Do we recall the colorful, fresh scent of the flowers of the island garden? Or bending our heads at an angle with the flowers as our eyes meet with the blinding flash of the square shaped device? Which is more important: memories in the head or memories on the paper?
When we recall memories in our head or based solely on one picture, the images in your mind have very few boundaries. There are an infinite amount of possibilities to converse about regarding what really happened that day, whereas if you have multiple photographs to pour over, the happenings are very restricted and leave little room for imagination. If you have fun taking pictures, then continue! But when taking pictures is not an enjoyable experience and obscures the fun of the actual event that is occurring, it is time to close the shutter.

How To Prepare Your Teen for a Car Accident

Harrison is 17 years old from New Jersey, and loves playing guitar, tennis, and learning about current events.  He wants to be a doctor when he’s older and hopes to travel around the world.
Parents constantly tell their kids to be safe on the road, not to talk on the phone, not to speed, not to text, not to fool around, and to overall just pay attention.  All of this is fine and great, but do kids these days know what to actually do when an accident occurs?  Having your kids prepared for this situation is probably a pretty good idea, because not being ready will most likely lead to an extremely stressful experience.
Don’t assume your kid will never be in an accident because he/she is a “good driver.”  We’re all new drivers on the road, and although I consider myself to be pretty decent, I clearly lack the experience of a person who has been driving for two decades more than me.  Either way, there are other bad drivers on the road, which can be pretty nerve-wracking to think about.  But it won’talways be your child’s fault, so it’s good to be safe and be prepared for any situation.  There are plenty of other bad drivers on the road!
However, just telling your son/daughter what to do when/if in an accident isn’t enough.  While in the heat of the situation, it’s pretty hard to remember what your Mom/Dad told you to do.  My Mom came up with a perfect solution for this: put an index card in the glove compartment outlining the steps of what to do when in an accident.
On the card, you should have a list of things “to do” in order, including call 911. (Make sure you put this because your teen may think the accident is not serious enough, when in fact it may be!  Some teens are afraid of calling 911 in fear of getting in trouble because they may have done something wrong.)  Make sure you add in the location of their license and registration in the car as well so that they don’t have a hard time finding it.  Remember to tell them that you love them!  This way, they’ll feel a little less panicked, knowing that you aren’t going to chop his/her head off after ruining the new paint job on the family SUV.
It’s almost like you’re there with them, directing them what to do every step of the way.  They don’t need to remember anything- they can just read the card and know precisely what to do in a situation!  This helpful tip can aid your teen avoid what can be a very stressful and tough situation.

Drinking and Driving: Why Teens Do It

Ara is a 16-year-old from Edmonds, WA. She enjoys blogging, spending time with her family and hopes to somehow incorporate her passion of writing into what she does in the future.
Vanessa: What are some current statistics on teens drinking and driving?
  • According to the National Traffic Safety Administration and the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 31% of all 15 to 20 year olds had been drinking when killed in a car accident, and 25% of them were alcohol impaired. (
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports twenty-three percent of teenage drivers in fatal car crashes possessed a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level above the legal limit of .08 on the breathalyzer test (
  • Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and one out of three of those is alcohol related. (
Vanessa: In what circumstances do teens usually drink and drive?
Teenager drunk-driving is usually the most prevalent after parties or social events involving alcohol and groups of friends. Under circumstances like these, it is more likely for teens to drink and drive for a few reasons. The first one being that they see others around them or at the party driving home drunk or they’ve heard about other people driving drunk and making it home safely and so they assume that there’s no harm in doing it too. Also, a lot of teens go to parties without parents knowing, and then they proceed to get drunk and are too afraid to call home and ask for a ride for fear of the consequences.
Vanessa: What can parents do to prevent their teens from drinking and driving?
Be connected with your teen. Research has shown that the number one reason teens refuse to drink alcohol is that they worry about what their parents will think of them ( By being involved and doing little things like checking up on your teen and letting them know you truly do care about their safety, you can help prevent them from drunk driving. Also, it is a good idea to have your teen lay out before hand where exactly they are going, the details (such as who’s going to being there and how they are going to get home), that way you can set up a plan, such as agreeing to meet them when they come in and have a conversation with them, that way they will be less inclined to drink and drive. Lastly, make sure that you let them know that they should not be afraid to give you a call and ask for a ride if they do end up making a mistake and drinking.
Vanessa: What should parents do if they catch their teens drinking and driving?
First of all, all though this one seems obvious, educate them on drunk driving and the consequences that come along with it; give them materials and show them examples and scenarios of how they could have possibly fatally impacted their life or somebody else’s. In addition, remind them that you have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to the illegal use of alcohol. Lastly, do not let them off the hook. Make sure that you work out some sort of punishment or consequence with your teen (this one is unique to how you parent so it is important to work out something that will work for your teenager since you know them best) to show them that what they did was not right at all and that they should never repeat their actions.

Four Tips for Vacationing with Teens

Ara is a 16-year-old from Edmonds, WA. She enjoys blogging, spending time with her family and hopes to somehow incorporate her passion of writing into what she does in the future.
Parents often cringe at the thought of vacationing with teens, for multiple reasons. But, contrary to popular belief, most teens actually like spending time with family. Just like parents, teens want to make vacationing with their family as stress free as possible. That’s the point of a vacation anyway, right? With spring break just around the corner and summer fast approaching, it is helpful to keep in mind ways to help accomplish this.
  1. Decide on a place that the whole family agrees on, including your teen. Although this may seem like a daunting task, it is definitely possible. It is helpful to talk to your teens and find out what they would be interested in doing on a vacation and what sort of locations would be ideal to them, along with taking into consideration yours and the rest of the family’s opinions.

  1. Give them their space. Giving your teen their space is extremely important, especially because on a lot of vacations parents and teens share a room together in a hotel or lodge. Therefore, entire families are together almost 24/7. Allow your teen some time to relax by themselves in the hotel room or keep an eye on them as they explore the location.

  1. Consider letting them bring a friend. It is an easy solution to ensure they have fun without being too cost-prohibitive.

  1. Plan to do things that they are interested in also. Taking scuba diving lessons? Swimming? Camping? Get your teens’ input on what they would like to do also—after all, it’s their vacation too!
Overall, just try to relax and enjoy yourselves. Vacations are meant to be a time away from work, school and other stressful factors— so have fun and don’t over-plan or worry about it too much!

Why Parents Shouldn’t Interfere With Their Child’s Dream

Ashley is a 17 year old from Torrance, CA with unique curly hair. She loves writing poetry, trying new experiences, eating spicy food, socializing, listening to music, and giving advice.
All teens and tweens have a dream they want to pursue in their lives. These include wanting to be a doctor, a singer, an actor, a psychiatrist, or anything at all. People say, “follow your dreams”, but what if someone or something is preventing you from pursuing those dreams? The most common answer to this is parents,our providersThese types of parents vary. Some of these parents are very cultural, very caring, or just plain controlling (such as the cultural parents of Justin and the caring mother of 
The parents of many teens and tweens are interfering in their dreams and negating them. There are many reasons as to why these parents are doing this.
In my opinion, parents tend to interfere with their child’s dreams, negate them, or even force them to pursue something else because:
1. They believe that the career they have in mind for their teen/tween is the best option for him/her.
2. They want their teen/ tween to carry on the legacy of acquiring a career that has been a tradition in their family for years. (These types of parents are usually very cultural).
3. They want their teen/tween to involve themselves in careers that are common in their culture. (Such as Justin’s Persian parents in the True Life episode, who want him to be a doctor, a common career in the Persian culture).
4. They personally don’t like the career their teen/ tween is choosing to acquire in the future.
5. They don’t believe that their teen/tween’s desired career will get them far in life.
6. They believe that their teen/tween’s dream career will not sustain them in the future financially.
7. They feel that the way the economy is today will make it hard for their teen/tween to find a position in their desired career in the near future. (Like Carlos’ mother in the True Life episode, who knows that Carlos’ dream of becoming a DJ is not likely to happen due to how tough it is to be involved in the music industry in today’s competitive and economically unstable world).
8. They believe their teen/tween is capable of acquiring a more rigorous and professional career.
In my eyes, these are the 8 most common reasons why parents interfere with their teen/tween’s dream. Many parents interfere because they want what’s best for their teen/tween. Other parents force their teen/tween to change their desired career through demand. These parents need to take a different approach. An approach that involves letting their teen/tween pursue their dream and not forcing them to acquire a different career.
Parents shouldn’t force their teen/tween to acquire a different career because:
1. It is not right for a parent to take their teen/tween’s dream away from him/her.
2. It is not right for a parent to make a decision that their teen/tween should make themselves.
3. It is not right for a parent to make a decision that will affect their teen/tween’s future.
4. It is not right for a parent to make decisions that could alter their teen/tween’s well being in the job market.
5. Their teen/ tween will be unhappy with a career that they are forced to acquire.
6. Their teen/tween will be unhappy with a career that their heart is not into. (Just like everybody else).
7. Their teen/ tween should be allowed to make their own decisions for their own future.
8. Parents shouldn’t force their teen/tween to do something he/she doesn’t want to do for the rest of their lives.
It is not right for a parent to force their teen/tween to a life they don’t want. They should allow their teen/tween to pursue any dream they want. If someone or something gets in the way of anyone’s dream, therefore not allowing them to pursue that dream, he/she will be very unhappy. Do you want to be the one to cause your teen/tween to be unhappy by getting in the way of his/her dream? Of course not! The only life that matters is your teen/ tween’s life, why get in the way of their dreams and cause them unhappiness? Let him/her endure whatever it is they desire, it is the only way that will lead him/her to living a happy life in the future.

5 Ways You Can Be A Dream Parent

Emily L is a 13-year-old from Corona, CA. She enjoys reading, writing, and swimming and her favorite subject is history because it inspires her to learn about other cultures.
For parents, creating a fully functional relationship with their teens can sometimes be rocket science. They know what they want; obedience, responsibility and mutual trust. Teens desire much of the same qualities in a relationship. The toughest separator is the way in which the relationship should be achieved, as well as many of the specifics. For example, I want my parents to be people who I can turn to with my problems, they want the same thing. I also want them to listen without judging and only give advice when asked for, which they have difficulty with. It is simple misunderstandings like this that can drive a thick wedge between you and your teen, which is why it is imperative you are sensitive toward their expectations of you.
My dream parent is someone who is caring without being pushy or forceful, supportive without getting overly involved in my personal activities. I could trust them without being forced to reveal all my secrets. Really building your dream relationship is all about balance and discovering compromises in frustrating situations. Parents should not be overbearing, yet at the same time there has to be consequences, if not, you will be taken advantage of. It’s the simple truth. My parents aren’t going to be the center of my world, far from it in fact, but they should at least play an important role in my life as superiors.
Here are some quick tips to build your dream relationship with your teen:
1)    Don’t be a hypocrite. Yelling at them while they are yelling gets you nowhere. Or, another example is if you’re always on your phone don’t complain if they are, too. Only set standards you yourself are willing to follow.
2)    If they share a problem with you, don’t judge or immediately come up with ten different ways to fix it unless your help is specifically requested. Often times simply talking it out works wonders and having too strong of an opinion on their personal lives makes them want to talk less.
3)    Be genuinely interested in the things they are, may it be fashion, video games, whatever. This provides plenty of easy conversations and builds trust.
4)    Before punishing, hear their side of the story even if you’ve already made up your mind. This makes you seem fairer and lessens the resentment toward the consequence and you.
5)    Don’t try to force your dreams on them. Nothing is worse than to have someone telling you who you should be, what career you should have and how you are going to get there. As long as their goals are realistic, support them even if you think they are making a mistake.
Your relationship with your teenager is going to be a bumpy ride with all sorts of problems along the road, but enjoy it as best as you can. Compromise should be your best friend and judging gets you nowhere. Try to discuss what they want from you and take that information into consideration. Most importantly, remember that no relationship is irreparable.

Helping Teens Take Control of Their Own Finances

Michael Costigan is a 17 – year-old from Orange County, CA. He is a social entrepreneur, public speaker, and truly enjoys helping other’s better understand teen related issues. You can follow him at

Teaching young people the value of money is one of the hardest, but most important things a parent or teacher will ever have to do. I have found that teens tend to make the same mistakes when it comes to their personal finances almost universally. And so, I will attempt to address a few of those common issues below and offer a solution, if not, at least some suggestions, on resolving those issues.

Money can be both an empowering thing for teens – giving them independence and increased mobility – as well as a dangerous liability. The habits teens develop in respect to their personal finances will carry on into their adult lives, both the good and the bad. This is one of the many reasons it is important to understand the ins and outs of money – earning it, saving it, and spending it – before it’s too late!

  1. 1.  Personal Bank Accounts, Debit Cards vs. Shared Accounts with Parents.

I am of the opinion that the age to have one’s own personal checking account sits somewhere around 13 or 14. While this may seem young, I think kids need to start feeling the experience of spending their own money (even if it isn’t all earned at the time). They need to experience the feeling of a declining balance and feel for themselves the first intuitions of budgeting. I think there are many great online programs ( being one), which teens can use to set up budgets, track expenses, and scale all the way up into their adult lives. While parents will probably initially want to set up a subsidiary account for their child off of their own checking account, I somewhat discourage this. Being able to watch what your teen spends money on is nice, but does not build financial trust. If they run out of money with a debit card, they run out of money – credit is not an issue yet.

  1. 2.  Jobs, Chores, Gift Money, Parent Handouts, Grade Money = Money Sources for Teens.

While I believe earning money is the most important way to a financially successful future, there are many circumstances where teens will gain money without working for it. For example, when parents give students money for report cards (argh!), and for ‘social expenses’. The important lesson to be learned here is that money, no matter its source, should be treated the same. I’ve made this mistake and learned the hard way many times – just because you get money for something ‘on top’ of whatever earnings you already have does not mean you should go out and use it! When it comes to giving teens money, until they’re old enough to have a job (that is, 16-17, sometimes 18) there will be definite intervals at which parents will be asked for money and, in many cases, have to give their kids money. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s all about how the process is handled by the parent. However, that makes all the difference. Money should never be a hand out; money is transactional in the real world. In other words, something must be given in exchange for it. I think scaling the item, service, or action required for it should correlate directly to the age of the teen. For example, an 11 year old may be able to do services you would regularly pay for, a 17 year old may be able to take advantage of a paid internship at your office or work for you in your business.

  1. 3.  Credit Cards, Student Loans, Financing Cars – Building Credit!

Seeing your teen get a credit card may be your worst nightmare, but it is an important part of growing up for them. Instilling proper values about how to treat a credit card (like trying if at all possible to pay it off every month) is definitely important. Teens should start building their credit early on because it sets them up better for car financing, student loans, and other things that could come up like unforeseen emergencies. There are many ways to build credit, and many banks and credit unions offer student cards with better APR and decent introductory offers. Even getting a credit card just to put your gas bills on every month is a good idea because then those successful repayments are reported to the major credit bureaus like Transunion, Equifax, etc. One of the most valuable lessons I have ever heard regarding credit cards is a story about how an entrepreneur I know used to paper clip cash bills to every receipt he received when using his credit card, that way when it came time to pay the bill he already had the money set aside – not a bad idea!

I hope that some of these ideas are useful in enabling your teens to become financially savvy and independent!

Bucket List For Parents: ‘Before They Leave Me’ Lists

I recently presented to a group of Moms of High School seniors. And we spoke about how to take advantage of the last few months before their child leaves for college. I wanted to write an article about “Bucket Lists for Parents” because I think this is actually a great thing for parents of all kids to do. So they can take advantage of the time before their kids leave for college.

A Bucket List for Parents is when Mom and Dad (and teen) make a list of all the things they want to do together before turning 18. Here are some ideas:

Bucket Lists for Parents:

Go river rafting
Take a trip to visit family member who lives far away
Do father-daughter or mother-son trip
Volunteer at local hospital
Make a family video history online
Clean out the garage
Organize the photo albums
Bury a time capsule
Build a space balloon
Model airplane
Invent a family cookie recipe
Go camping
Road trip to the closest state park
Go to a baseball game together
Make a life bucket list
Make homemade pizza from scratch

You can do anything you want! The idea is to build memories, get to know each other and get some great teachable moments. What would you add to your Parent Bucket List?

5 New Types of Moms….or Momikers

This post is just for fun…
We have all heard about the helicopter mom before and the girl scout leader mom and the momager for wannabe celebrity kids.  How about the new mom monikers…momikers shall we say? Here are some new types of moms I am seeing on the playground:
1) Mom CEO
The mom CEO has a 10 year plan and runs her family like a business.  I have seen these moms manage soccer snacks, dinner,  homework help and husband massage like any pro-ceo.
How you recognize a Mom CEO: Her diaper bag looks like a briefcase and family vacations have itineraries.
2)  MomMe
MomMe’s are very aware of sanctimommy time as well as kid play time.  They identify themselves as mom’s AND (they remind you constantly) individuals
How you recognize a MomMe: Goes to childless yoga and has a constantly approaches you for playdates at your house, but remind you to ‘only call the nanny as you will have your cell off.’
3) Momtrepreneur
Love you the momtrepreneurs. They are blogging, crafting, conference calling and selling all the way to through the afterschool pickup line.
How you recognize a Momtrepreneur: She gives you a business card/product card/her website after PTA.
4) UberMom (or as I have heard some say the uber boober while breast feeding)
This is the 2009 version of the helicopter mom.  Ubermoms are not nearly as obvious about hovering as helicopter mom’s were, but are the secret guiding hand behind everything their child does.
How you recognize an UberMom: You ask their child why they do gymnastics/swimming/flute/Curling and they say ‘I don’t know, ask my mom.’
5) Cosmomom
Think Carrie of Sex and the City at daycare.  Social, hip and still manages to go to the latest club opening after bedtime stories.
How you recognize a Cosmomom: Her Manolo Blaniks are one inch lower than when she was single, but her Dior Diaper bag has two shades of Channel lip gloss…park and bakesale.
I love all types of moms, and these are a bit extreme, but they seem to be the archetype moms we are seeing more and more in movies and TV shows. Do they exist in real life? I don’t know, you tell me.