About to Graduate High School? Get Ready for Your Life to Change!

Reflecting on my first year of college, it’s been a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. It’s such a life-changing transition that I thought I’d share what I’ve learned with upcoming high school graduates.

#1 ENJOY THESE LAST FEW MONTHS OF HIGH SCHOOL

Soak it all in. College is completely different. You may be thinking you cannot wait to be free of high school drama, cliques, and peer pressures, but you’ll get hit hard in the face with other difficulties and aggravations the minute you walk on campus. Challenges like how to manage time and all the freedom; trying to get to know professors who really don’t care that much about knowing you; learning all the ropes like where to go to study, where to park, how to print papers; controlling your diet (i.e. avoiding the freshman 15); doing your own laundry; missing friends; sleeping all afternoon and staying up all night; and yes, even longing to eat a home-cooked meal with your family will most likely be in your future. You can taste the freedom as you finish your last few months of high school ready to cannon-ball into the “real world”, but remember to cherish the feeling you have and prepare yourself for a whole new chapter of life.

#2 IS GREEK LIFE FOR YOU?

Decide now if you’ll be rushing a fraternity or sorority. Do some research over the summer to see what it’s really like to be a part of your school’s Greek community? If you decide it’s for you, be prepared. Don’t enter it half-heartedly or just because it’s what you think everyone else is doing. It’s a huge commitment filled with challenges and excitement you’ve never experienced before. Go ahead and fill out all the necessary forms, get recommendation letters, and learn the schedule for rush week. And here’s something very important, learn how to accept rejection. Rushing is like applying and interviewing for multiple jobs all at the same time. Some will love you and some will deem you “irrelevant”. Don’t take it personally, you will find where you’re meant to be.

#3 REVIEW YOUR TWITTER, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM & OTHER SOCIAL NETWORK PAGES

Become more aware of what you put on your social media because as you meet more people, they’ll likely be viewing your pages. This is especially true if you rush for a fraternity or sorority. It’s how they’ll try to learn about you, and judge you. Regardless of whether you rush, however, keep in mind you’re entering a new world where most people won’t know you at all so it’s time to present yourself as a mature young adult.

#4 GET A SUMMER JOB

Having a part-time job not only allows you to earn spending money, it also helps you master several of the things you’ll have to do at college, like managing a schedule, meeting new people, developing a strong work ethic, taking ownership, and getting a head start on building your resume. Maintaining a part-time job while in college can be difficult at times, but it significantly helps better your time management skills and helps keep you humble and well-rounded.

#5 SUBSCRIBE TO NETFLIX

You’ll forget what a TV & remote control are. Netflix will help save your sanity and give you a break from reality!

#6 PRACTICE WASHING YOUR OWN CLOTHES

Learn how to wash clothes and how NOT to wash clothes. You don’t want to ruin that pretty new bra by putting it in the dryer with ten towels and four pairs of jeans nor do you want to turn that nice white new Polo pink by washing it with colors.

#7 THINGS YOU MAY NOT THINK TO TAKE TO DORM

It’s easy to find checklist of things to take for your dorm, but here are a few items that may not be on them or you may not think of.
– Medicines. Especially sleep aids whether natural or something like ZzzQuil.
– Fan.
– Lingerie bag for girls (and maybe some guys.)
– A good set of headphones and an extra pair for when you lose them and another extra pair for when you lose those.
– Extra phone charger.
– Extra set of car keys.
– Command hooks and tape.
– Suitcase with wheels.
– Comfortable pair of walking shoes like Chacos.

#8 TALK TO YOUR PARENTS ABOUT YOUR PRIVACY PREFERENCES

Do you know what FERPA is? Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. The Act provides confidentiality of student records. In other words, you will be in control of what information your parents have access to. They’ll likely want access to it all if they’re footing the bill but ultimately it’s your decision – your first real adult decision! Have the discussion now.

#9 DISCUSS FINANCES/SET A BUDGET

Discuss with your parents how you’ll be paying for meals, necessities, entertainment, clothes, etc., and then agree upon a budget. No use having a budget if you don’t keep up with it. There are plenty of apps for managing expenses and income. Apps like MINT. Also, if you don’t know already, learn to balance a checkbook. Lastly, learn about the pitfalls of credit cards.

#10 HAVE A BACKUP PLAN

Most kids are so excited about going to college they aren’t at all prepared for what happens if they hate it and are miserable. Being so homesick you want to come home after a week, partying way too much, bombing your GPA are all common things that might change your plans. Talk to your parents over the summer about possible scenarios and what your plan is if they become reality. Don’t put pressure on yourself to stick it out if it doesn’t feel right. College isn’t for everyone, or the particular college you chose may not be for you. You may just need to take a semester off or switch to a smaller school or pursue a different career path like the military, a technical college, earning certifications, or starting a business.

ABOUT HALEY BURTON

Haley Part-time writer, full-time student and all-around force-of-nature, Haley Burton is a Tennessee native whose style and perspective belie her age. Haley’s writing, rooted in her experiences as a young woman entering the world of higher education, has been published on a variety of platforms. She is a routine contributor to The Odyssey, as well as a regular columnist on the popular career blog ApplicationBling.com, where her columns on the issues facing young people in today’s job market are among the site’s most widely read features.

Currently a freshman at the University of Tennessee, Haley serves as corresponding secretary to the Phi Mu fraternity and an ambassador to the Student Government Association.

www.linkedin.com/in/burtonhaley
/@haayybay

Teens Seeking a Fit Look or a Competitive Edge Turn to Steroids

A recent study by the University of Missouri and Columbia University about teenager’s use of steroids brings much needed public awareness to the health issue and reveals some interesting role reversals among boys and girls.

Out of 2,793 middle and high school students questioned, the study showed more and more girls are using steroids, protein shakes and over the counter products trying to bulk up. About 4% of the girls in the study said they use steroids, compared to almost 6% of the boys. Contrast that to the traditional aspirations of teenage girls to be ultra-thin and there seems to be a shift in what adolescent girls perceive as attractive. Although attaining a “fit” look rather than an emaciated one seems healthier as fewer girls are starving themselves or binge eating, it’s really no better because now they are turning to other unhealthy methods of achieving their desired look.

Likewise, an alarming percentage of boys revealed they wrestle with body-image insecurities, which has typically been associated with girls. Seeing muscle bound males in movies, TV shows, and commercials are fueling the dissatisfaction with boys, many who are not athletes participating in weight training and rigorous exercise but who are seeking the same athletic look.

As the study suggests, there is a substantial population of teenagers who from early adolescence are at risk of using unhealthy muscle-enhancing behaviors to achieve the appearance of being “fit”.  And, it’s not only about appearing fit for many. It’s about enhancing “performance” in sports by using anabolic steroids to gain a competitive edge to teammates and help their teams win at any cost.

Anabolic steriods are artificially produced hormones that are similar to androgens, the male-type sex hormones in the body. The risks associated with the use of anabolic steroids include anger, aggression, depression, paranoia, delusion, sleep problems, nausea, skin problems, high blood pressure, greater risk of muscle and tendon injury, liver damage, urinary problems, shortening of final adult height, and increased risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.  Also, specifically for boys, they risk testicular shrinkage, breast development, impotence and sterility.  And, for girls, increase facial hair, menstrual cycle changes, and development of masculine traits like a deeper voice and smaller breasts, are common.  Some might argue steroids are more dangerous to teens than alcohol or marijuana.

With two kids in high school, I suspect certain kids of using steroids, although I haven’t considered any that were girls.   Most of my son’s friends, including my own son, are downing protein shakes daily but the muscle they gain going the “healthy” route can’t compete with the ones building muscle at an accelerated rate using anabolic steroids.  While becoming stronger and faster, these boys are experiencing acne breakouts and mood changes, and unknowingly could be stunting their own growth among other things.   If it’s this obvious to me that steroids are being used, why aren’t coaches noticing, or are they turning a blind eye?

It’s one of the serious health issues facing adolescents.  With the release of this study, many mainstream media outlets have picked up the story, bringing much needed awareness to the dangers and number of teens using.  Under-reported, much like sexual-harassment in the workplace, this threat begs parents, coaches, and the media’s attention, as well as the kids who may not know the risks.

If you’ve gotten this far in my post, maybe you’d be willing to take part in bringing awareness.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Add comments below with your viewpoints and insights. Then, talk openly with your kids about the importance of being healthy and of not going to extremes or using unhealthy fads to look a certain way or to gain a competitive edge.

 

What Your Teen Won’t Tell You About Spring Break in Panama City Beach…

Most families look forward to Spring Break, but if you have teenagers, and they happen to be among the hundreds of thousands that make their way to Panama City Beach this Spring, then your break might be filled with worry and anxiety.

Middle and high school kids, along with college kids,  from all over the country converge on Panama City Beach for what promises to be a huge party. Some go with friends, some chaperoned, some not; others go with their families and beg to get away to the strip as much as they can.

Social media is traditionally filled with posts and pictures about partying in PCB for Spring Break. As my daughter, Haley, stated, “Everyone goes, Mom!”  When three of us moms caved in and took our daughters and a couple of their 16-17 year old friends to PCB, it felt like she hadn’t embellished much. It was the first year I was letting her go during Spring Break, and only because I was going, too.  Here’s what I learned…

Be Prepared for Debauchery

Not to instill panic on parent’s or teenagers planning their PCB Spring Break 2014 vacation, I just want to make sure you’re prepared for the impending insanity, debauchery, and nastiness of it all. Seventeen magazine dubbed PCB the “sketchiest Spring Break in America”. Yes, I know that’s what the teenagers want, and I get it.  Maybe it’s a “right of passage”.  Arguably kids should experience it once in their lives, but I personally believe they should wait until they are of legal drinking age, or at the very least, in college.

party The strip is a melting pot of drugs, drinking, sex, and nudity. On our trip, watching preteen girls play beer bong with college aged boys was common. Clearly underage kids were partaking in drinking games all over the beach. Kids were smoking weed out in the open and girls were flashing body parts. All this was happening during the day, as early as 11am. You can only imagine what the evenings were like once these kids had over-indulged and become completely belligerent and promiscuous.party 2

The Danger of Letting Your Teen Go Unchaperoned

After we came across a group of senior cheerleaders from Haley’s high school who had come unchaperoned, our girls started planning their trip for their senior year.  After what I saw, I knew for sure my daughter wouldn’t be returning unchaperoned while still in high school.  Now she’s a freshman in college and her sorority is headed to where else but PCB in March. I’m still nervous!

It’s not that I don’t trust her, or her friends but there are so many risks and dangers. Teens falling off balconies, picking up STDs from foam parties at Club La Vela,  hanging out of cars driven by intoxicated drivers, and drunk, hormonal college boys who don’t take no for an answer are all things she might easily encounter.  Now, at 19, and having lived on her own for a few months she, at least, has acclimated to the college lifestyle and is better prepared to make good decisions.

High school, and certainly middle-school age teens don’t have the maturity to handle themselves in these circumstances. Too many really bad things can happen in a split second. Maybe some of my readers will re-think their Spring Break plans or at the very least,  try staying a little further out where it’s not as crazy.  I’ll certainly have some kids mad at me, but parents need to know that just because every other kid at their school is going, doesn’t make it safe.

haley and baileys

Why US Kids are Mediocre Academically

The Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA, has released 2012 scores and US teens remain middle of the pack among their peers worldwide with reading, math, and science scores remaining stagnant for the last 10 years. stressed-student

Middle of the pack. Hmmm. Not something us American’s are used to. We rank 1st as the country with the highest net worth, 6th in economic freedom, and 12th in prosperity. We rank 9th in retirement security and 6th in living the good life.

We dominate in the Olympics.

We’re a global power. We win wars. We rescue other countries. We are known as the most charitable country on earth.

We are exceptional in many things, except academics. Why is that?

Inadequate public schools?

Is it the fault of our schools, specifically the public school system as many assert? I have the unique perspective of having 1 teen who recently graduated with a public school education, and 1 who will graduate next year with a private school education. Now in his junior year, we’ve spent in excess of $10,000 a year educating our youngest child and recently, my husband and I questioned whether we think it’s been worth it. You’d hope having invested that much money that there would be a resounding “Yes”, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. The jury is still out.

We’ve always been strong advocates for public education and it served our daughter well. Outgoing, self-motivated with an above average work ethic, she thrived in public schools. Our son, on the other hand, is more shy, and not self-driven. He is naturally very bright, but lazy. For that reason, we felt like he might too easily disappear in overcrowded public school classes where teachers wouldn’t see that he wasn’t reaching his potential and help him along. That was the reasoning that drove our decision to put him in private school.

Although private school seems to be preparing him better for college, ie, knowing how to test and how to find the right major and right college, we’re not convinced he’s that much further ahead academically than our daughter was.

Distractions.

Doesn’t matter if it’s public school or super conservative private school, kids are distracted with so many outside influences that take precedence over studying. From snap chatting, tweeting & obsessing over reality TV, to wild parties with drinking and drugs to doing things sexually parents never heard of, grades rank very low over other unhealthy distractions.

Priorities.

Speaking of distractions, the amount of time extra-curricular activities consume competes with study time. From little kids playing little league 3-4 nights a week, to high school students having two-a-day practices before and after school, how can kids maintain enough energy to hold their heads up, let alone focus on school work? It’s as if the activity or sport becomes the priority and studying the extra-curricular activity. The more successful the student is, the more teachers, administrators, and especially parents enable them to put their studies on the back burner.

Enabling parents.

Here lies what I believe is the main contributor to the mediocre scores: enabling, helicopter parents. We push our kids to be on the best team, to be the star performer, to win the most ribbons, or to hang out with the coolest kids yet we make fun of the ones whose heads are stuck in a book. Those kids are “nerds”.

About the only time we put emphasis on academics is if there’s competition involved. We love telling everyone how smart our kid is and take pride in our kids winning end of the year awards but, honestly, how often did they actually earn to recognition? Or was mom or dad the one doing their homework when they came home exhausted? I know I’ve made A’s on many complex projects my kids never touched.

phsp-1All of these things are part of our way of life as American’s and the problems that result from all these other priorities reveal themselves once kids are out of the house and trying to become independent adults. Many don’t have work ethics. They aren’t accountable for their mistakes. They blame everyone else and look for their parent’s to rescue them if they get in trouble instead of accepting responsibility and changing the behavior. How can we expect our kids to compete and thrive in a global world where most other counties are improving when all we do is make excuses, point fingers, take shortcuts, and remain stagnant. As parent’s, we must first accept responsibility for our role. Then, we encourage our children to embrace education and take pride in working hard.

Racist or Not, How Paula Deen Can Promote Change

If using the n-word makes someone a racist, then, by Paula Deen’s own admission, she is.

By definition, a racist is a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others.

Having read excerpts from the deposition where Paula Deen testified to using the n-word, I don’t believe she is racist because she used the n-word but some argue she’s racist because of the context of the incidents she described, and by the sheer fact that she’s Southern.

Is Racism an Ugly Southern Truth or an Ugly American Truth?

Let’s face it. If we all are honest, most white Americans will admit to using the n-word. We’ll admit to feeling like we are superior in some way because of our race. We’ll perpetuate racial stereotypes. I wrote a post shortly after the presidential election about the racial tweets originating in the South revealing an ugly truth about our culture. At first, as a lifelong Southerner, I was offended that people stereotype Southerners as being racist but upon deep inner reflection, how could I argue that? The truth is that even though I try very hard to be a tolerant, accepting, compassionate person, racism is a part of me and I’m ashamed.

By admitting it, however, I want to be better than that. I want to do the right thing but it just doesn’t change overnight. Although there has been great progress in the last few decades promoting race equality in the US, we still have a long way to go before we all embrace it, and practice it. Yes, those tweets revealed it’s more prevalent in the South, but, it’s far from being exclusively an ugly Southern truth.

How Paula Deen Can Promote Change

Paula Deen is Paula Deen, a 66-year old white Southern lady. Although I think much of the bad press and dropped endorsements were hypocritical and maybe weren’t entirely fair, she has the opportunity to take ownership of this and become a proponent for change.  Instead of trying to defend herself or justify her comments, maybe she should use this as a lesson to the millions of people who love her to face their own prejudices and try to do better. Crying and apologizing isn’t helping. Her family defending her character by pointing out all her charitable works isn’t helping. Supporters posting Facebook messages isn’t helping her but by using all of the above –heartfelt apology, upstanding character, and a huge fan base – Paula Deen can help others reflect on themselves and set better examples for our children.

Unite against racism

And What About the Rest of Us?

Taking ownership and responsibility is what I consistently preach to my kids. It’s time for me to do what I think Paula Deen should do. Admit to using the n-word. Stop using it, but more importantly let my actions reveal that as a Christian, I don’t think I’m superior to anyone. Encourage others, especially teenagers and children, to embrace racial equality. Only then can I believe that with each passing generation, we will get a little closer to eradicating racism.

It’s How You Play the Game

As school winds down for the summer, baseball season is ending soon for my son who is a sophomore in high school. For me, the season can’t end soon enough, yet four months ago we were all excitedly anticipating baseball season.

This feeling has nothing to do wins and losses, or the actual game itself. It has to do with the same disgust that ends up spoiling what should be a positive experience and it’s happened in some form every year since our kids were six years old.

Sports Should Teach Life Lessons

We keep hanging on to hope that our kids are learning important life lessons that will help them through challenging times the rest of their lives. Things like perseverance, working as part of a team, discipline, respect, good sportsmanship, work ethic, and courage are all virtues that participation in sports helps instill, not to mention the health and fitness benefits. Team sports should also offer important social benefits, too, like building self-esteem and helping kids make friends, but far too often, a kid’s self-esteem is torn down by a bad coach or a mean teammate. It takes years to build self-esteem yet all that can be negated with one inappropriate comment or action. Whether its little league, all-stars, select, club or school teams, the bad lessons kids learn from parents and coaches often outweigh the benefits of playing.

Parents At Their Worst

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I vividly remember when my son was playing select ball at 10 one of the other mom’s saying, “Friendships are won and lost on ball fields.” How true that ended up being. Parent’s personalities change when their little precious is playing a sport. It brings out the worst in them, especially the helicopter parents and the ones who are living through their kids. These same parents act like their entire happiness hangs on how well Little Johnny plays, and as long as their baby has a good game, they are on top of the world regardless of whether the team won or lost. The highs are so high, but the lows are utterly deflating. Watch them fall apart when the team wins but their kid makes a bad play or doesn’t play at all. That’s when it gets really ugly.

Even into high school, I’ve encountered so many delusional parents who still hold on to the belief that their kid will be the next Derek Jeter, Mia Hamm, or Peyton Manning. I’ve seen a lot of great ballplayers yet only met a few capable at playing at a D-1 level, and only one who made it professionally. Before you convince yourself that you won’t have to pay for your kid to attend college because he’s breaking homerun records at the age of 10, consider these facts.

Chances Are Your Kid Won’t Play Past Age 13

The National Council of Youth Sports reported that more than 41 million girls and boys currently participate in some kind of organized youth sport each year. Experts estimate, however, that more that 70 percent quit organized youth sports by age 13, or before they enter high school.

Even if your child is one of the 30 percent who continue to play sports in high school, it’s highly unlikely that he or she will play college sports, let alone earn an athletic scholarship.

Of the nearly 7 million boys and girls who currently play sports in high school, only about 126,000 student-athletes will receive either a partial or full athletic scholarship to play sports in college. That’s less than 2 percent.

The chances of going pro are even slimmer: 1 in 1,250 for football, 1 in 3,300 for men’s basketball, 1 in 5,000 for women’s basketball.

Coaches Can Take All The Fun Out of Playing

It’s not just parents who can be delusional. Coaches who are coaching for the wrong reasons can take all the good out of sports. We all have dealt with ones who coach so their kid will be assured to play whether they’ve earned it or not. My husband calls it “Daddy Ball”. Then there are the ones who think coaching a powerhouse team somehow defines them in life. They practice too hard and too long, risking over-use injuries to the kids, and show no regard for other priorities the kids might have, like school or church. Then there are the coaches who only care about their superstars and take no time to develop the play or confidence of the less talented, yet harder working kids. It’s a win at all costs mentality that sends all the wrong messages.

Learning How to Lose is Good

I remember watching a state-playoff high school football game on TV a few years ago. The quarterback for the team that was winning had started since he was a freshman and had never lost a game in four years. With just seconds left in the game, his team was up 7-6 and on the 2-yard line about to score again. It looked like he was on his way to another state championship but on a fluke play he fumbled and the other team ended up with the ball, scored and won. I watched that quarterback fall to the ground and start kicking his legs and flailing his arms against the ground like a two-year old having a temper tantrum. Obviously, no coach or parent had ever taught this young man how to lose with grace and dignity. I was embarrassed for the kid and his parents. We all lose in life at one point or another. Knowing what that feels like is a good thing because it teaches you to get back up again.

Wins and loses don’t ultimately matter. It IS how you play the game. Lance Armstrong and Roger Clemmons may have been on top for years and won countless championships but they disgraced their sports by cheating. Contrast that to my son’s namesake, Cal Ripken, Jr. Although not the most talented shortstop, he ended up on top by respecting the game and always worked his hardest. And, what’s my hope for my son, Cal? I hope he’ll be rewarded for hard work and a respectful attitude although it may or may not ever happen on a ball field. Ultimately what matters most is that he believes in himself. A strong work ethic, integrity, and self-confidence will take him anywhere he wants to go.

Death, Taxes, and Drama

I have been working my entire adult life, and although my job at 16 was much different than my current position, there is one thing that hasn’t changed….DRAMA. And, in all my years of working, drama seems to unfortunately only primarily exist with females.

My daughter has gotten a taste of it in her workplace. She has a strong work ethic, does her job, and goes above and beyond. She doesn’t have to be constantly told what to do. She doesn’t make customers seek her out for assistance, she always greets them with a smile and a positive attitude; she takes initiative and cleans when there are no customers; and she helps others out when they are overloaded. Because of this, she’s earned countless bonuses, accommodations from management, and even a personal note from the franchise owner.

But, being recognized as an exemplary employee by a manager, getting kudos from a customer, or getting a note from the owner for a job well done all can spark jealousy in co-workers and put a target square on your back. I’m not really sure why it’s so prevalent with women but many are so insecure in their own performances that they’ll lash out by being cold, distant, unfriendly, and even catty. Of course, such behavior is counter intuitive, when common sense dictates they should be motivated to raise the bar on their own performance. For these types of personalities, they elevate themselves by putting others down.

The sad part is that some workers will shy away from competition and deliberately try not to stand out so as not to become a victim of the catty clique. Although understandable, that’s wrong on so many levels.

First, you aren’t being true to yourself and your own values. You should always do you best, no matter the risk of standing out. You should never feel embarrassed or guilty for going the extra mile or earning a coveted position.

Second, you risk causing yourself to lose financially and be passed up for raises or promotions that will look good on your resume just because you’re worried about a catty co-worker who probably won’t last that long there anyhow.

So, how does a conscientious employee just doing their job deal with the fallout of jealous co-workers?

Always behave professionally. Do your job. Set an example to co-workers and show the boss you can handle it.

Be humble and modest, not cocky or boastful. Don’t get a big head when you get a raise, bonus, or recognition from management. If you begin to hear mumblings behind your back, ignore it. Never stoop to their level.

If you feel like the back-biting is getting out of hand, talk to your co-workers…individually. Remember, they feed off each other’s negativity. Compliment what things you admire in them and try to make them feel good about themselves. Encourage them to raise the bar. Find some common ground. All of this will likely diffuse the hostility if you meet with each of them one-on-one.

Never apologize for your accomplishments.

Be yourself because chances are you are a thoughtful, diligent worker or you never would have achieved successes in the first place.

I wish I could tell you that following these pointers will alleviate having to deal with drama in the workplace but the reality is, the best advice is you should be prepared to deal with it the rest of your working life. Like the old saying goes, the only things you can count on in life are death and taxes. Well, add drama to that list.

Why Spelling is So Important

Facebook post

Funny, isn’t it?  How many times have us parents seen posts like this? From the number of likes shown, I’d say a lot. And actually, it’s not so funny.  It’s a real shame that teens are too lazy, too careless, or just too ignorant to spell correctly and use proper grammar.

Maybe the perception is that it’s no big deal on social media. What really matters is that they spell correctly on important stuff, like schoolwork, college applications, and job applications. I completely disagree. Spelling correctly and using correct grammar is always of utmost importance, especially for teenagers. It has to become habit from a young age.

When I make a type-o on a post or tweet,  it’s embarrassing and I think it reflects poorly on me. Most teenagers simply could care less.

Is it because they are so used to texting that abbreviating has become the habit? Is it because our schools don’t emphasize the importance of spelling and good grammar enough? Is it because parents aren’t explaining why it’s a necessity not only in school but more importantly, in life?

Misspelling or using the wrong tense of a word might lower a grade a few points in class, but when competing for a job, it can eliminate the candidate from consideration altogether. They may never even know why. There are never second chances to make a good first impression.

So, how do we help get teens back on track? Vanessa Van Patten of Radical Parenting shares these smart ideas in this article, Kids, Teens and Spelling, on her blog…

  1. Turn off auto-correct
  2. Encourage the use of handwritten notes to each other in your home, like grocery lists and a white board calendar. Then actually correct mistakes.
  3. If you are a teacher, do more hand written essays and fill-ins on tests.
  4. Do writing practice and free form writing together at home.
  5. Ask your teen to dictate a note while you drive.

My Reaction to Pediatric Groups Encouraging Emergency Contraception for Teenaged Girls

I’m committed to writing about topics that effect teenagers and their parents, no matter how controversial or taboo because teens need a place to go to find answers, advice, or options, a place where they won’t be judged. They don’t always feel comfortable talking with their parents and may be too embarrassed to discuss certain things with their friends.

Just because I’m writing such articles doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with them, and this topic is a shining example of that.

American Academy of Pediatrics Reccommends Just-in-case Prescriptions

The American Academy of Pediatrics

Notice how high the teenage pregnancy rate is in the US?

has recommended that pediatricians treating teenaged girls should consider writing “just-in-case” prescriptions for the morning-after pill, or emergency contraception. This MSNBC article, “Girls need just-in-case birth control prescriptions, pediatric group says” reveals that many highly respected medical organizations encourage morning after contraception prescriptions for adolescent girls under the age of 17.

Wow.

Thinking About Our Daughters Having Sex

Moms and dads do not want to think about their teenaged daughters having sex but in order to get these prescriptions that medical organizations encourage, a parent has to accompany their daughter to the doctor and request it, which means, all involved have to admit that Princess (aka your daughter) is having sex, or thinking about it.

My daughter has always been very open with me. She tells me more than I want to know, but even with our very open dialog, the one topic she doesn’t want to discuss is sex. Long before she had a boyfriend, I talked to her about waiting until marriage, or at least until she truly loved a boy and knew he loved her. I cautioned her about the risks associated with sex including pregnancy, STD’s, and the social stigmas.  We even discussed birth control, traditional birth control, that is, the kind you take every day that has a slew of desirable benefits for teenage girls that have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy. Her friends call it Vitamin BCP because so many adolescent girls are taking the pill to eliminate acne, lessen premenstrual cramps, reduce bleeding, and/or help alleviate the effects of PMS.

Vitamin BCP. Really?

It’s much easier to accept Princess being on Vitamin BCP as opposed to The Pill. I never, ever thought about this “Morning After Pill”, and I admit that until I read this article, I knew very little about it.  Now, learning that it’s not an “abortion pill”, that it in fact, prevents fertilization and thus lessens the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies, I feel like I was perhaps negligent in not being proactive and asking my daughter’s doctor to give her a “just in case” prescription.

This one is tough.  If I had done that, would my daughter think I was condoning premarital sex or would it possibly have saved her from the stress and anxiety that comes with pregnancy worries. It’s impossible to say, not knowing that she was, or is, having sex. I don’t think I could have ever even broached the topic with my husband without sending him into a coronary.

Why Ignorance is Bliss Doesn’t Work

This “ignorance is bliss” mindset that us parents seem to subscribe to is not helping our sons and daughters.  Perception is not reality, and the reality is, that teenage kids impulsively engage in sexual activity and that behavior sometimes results in unwanted pregnancies and abortions.  I guess as hard as it is for me to think about or talk about, this “just in case” prescription probably makes sense. If I’m truly worried about sending the wrong message that I’m condoning sex, then I must counter that by biting the bullet and discussing it openly with my daughter. Let her know it’s not a crutch or license to behave irresponsibly, or immorally, but rather, a precaution in case she’s raped, or in case other birth control methods fail.

Whether or not these pills should be available over-the-counter for teens under 17 is still being debated, and honestly, I’m not sure where I stand on that.  I guess, like any other important issue, I need to research and learn more about the pros and cons, and talk to teens and their parents before I form an opinion. I encourage you to share your opinion here by commenting below.  We can learn from each other.

Do Our Teenager’s Tweets Reveal Ugly Truths About Our Society?

As a Southerner, I found this study by Floating Sheep about racist tweets following the election disconcerting, although I wasn’t surprised by it. The election aside, I’ve been around racists all my life. I’ve always heard the South is more prejudice than the rest of the country but since I’ve never lived anywhere else, I had no way of gauging that for myself.

Map tracks racist reactions on Twitter after Election Day

What I find to be the most disturbing about this study is how many of these racist tweets originated in the South and I wonder how many of those tweets were composed by teens.  Too many of us accept racism from older people because we recognize it’s how that generation was raised.  Right or wrong, they seem to get a pass, but I don’t think most of the people using Twitter fall in that category. When I asked to look at my kid’s accounts after Election Day, I was perplexed how many of their friends were tweeting really bad, racist stuff about the President, some even wishing him harm.

I’m puzzled because these are good kids who are leaders in their schools and churches, kids that are respected by their peers, and who are from educated, upstanding families. Clearly, they’re repeating things on social media that they hear at home. Do parents realize they’re kids are doing that? Would they be okay with it? Is there any shame in bolstering racist’s views?

I get that kids, most of the time, will mimic their parents values and beliefs until they are mature enough to form their own, or have had their own life experiences to influence them. I’m sure my kids have formed opinions based on how Rick and I have raised them and things we’ve said have sunk in.  But, I’m not always proud of the things I say or do and I’d be really embarrassed if my kids were repeating that stuff on Twitter.

It’s interesting that this type of data can be collected and analyzed, and it’s also a little scary. What are we going to learn, or think we learn, about ourselves now that every thought or action can be broadcast in a second and conclusions drawn from such disclosures?

Personally, I’m bewildered by these tweets because they perpetuate the stereotype that Southerners are racist. But, I’m also concerned because it also raises the question; maybe it’s not a stereotype after all.