Watching Movies Can Be a Great Way to Bond with Your Teen

The older your children get, the more challenging it becomes to stay connected. As they carve out own self-identity, it seems like they stop liking things they used to like and may not even want to have much to do with you at all. Take it from someone who’s been through this a few times—and who’s about to do go through it again. Remember way back when spending time with the kids was as simple as taking them to the park to play on the swings? Now, spending time together usually means a quick trip to the video game store or the mall. Or just texting each other from opposite ends of the house. We’ve all been there, and we all secretly (or not so secretly) wish we could get a little closer to our teens. We want to know what’s going on with them, what they’re into, what’s on their minds…. But teasing that information out can be a real challenge.

But there is one thing that the kids and I have always had in common—and it’s something you probably have in common with your kids too: watching movies. Wait, so how can staring at a TV screen or sitting in a dark theater going to help you get any closer to your teenagers? Give me a second to make my case.

Movies Are Universal (Which Makes Them a Great Family Pastime)

If you have more than one child, you know that each one has a different personality. Trying to find things they have in common with each other gets harder the older they get. You may have one kid who’s really active and loves the outdoors, and another who’s more introverted and prefers coding or building with LEGO. Still, no matter how old you are, what your favorite activities are, what you love, or what you hate, there’s going to be a movie out there that will suit your interests.

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 3 Bonding Activities for Preteens & Dads

dad-preteen bonding

dad-preteen bondingAs your kids grow closer to their preteen years, it might be difficult to find sustainable ways to connect and bond. Your preteens are asserting their independence and likely vocalizing their opinions on clothing, television choices and the friends that they prefer. Dads might struggle with trying to find a middle ground during this transition, but it is important to stay involved to provide them with the love, guidance and support that they need. Bonding over activities is the best way to create a dialogue with preteens.

Skiing

Preteens who enjoy adventure will definitely love to go skiing. Skiing is an activity that will offer the opportunity to bond on the slopes as well as provide some downtime when you head back to the lodge. As you and your tween ski together, you can converse about the beauty of the terrain and share a few moments when you are riding the ski lift together.

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The Pain of Pain

Dear Mr. Dad: My son is a freshman in high school, and until the beginning of this school year, he was a happy kid, with lots of friends and plenty of extracurricular activities. But over the past few months, he’s changed. He’s lost a bunch of weight, is sullen most of the time, and has taken to wrapping himself up in an oversized, floppy hoodie that covers everything but his face. After school, he goes to his room, and barely communicates with me or my husband. He also seems to have lost all contact with his friends. We’re really worried that he’s doing something self-destructive, like cutting himself. What can we do?

A: I appreciate your email, but you really need to contact your son’s pediatrician or family doctor. Sudden weight loss, mood changes, secretive behavior—including major wardrobe changes—are huge red flags, and your doctor will be able to put you in touch with an appropriate mental health professional.

Your next call should be to your son’s school. You want to find out whether any of his teachers have noticed the same kinds of behavior changes as well as whether he’s being bullied.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of data on the percentage of kids who deliberately hurt themselves, largely because they tend not to tell anyone. But studies I’ve looked at estimate that between 10 and 25 percent of adolescents and teens engage in some kind of self-injury at least once. Girls are thought to be a little more likely than boys to self-injure, but that might be because some of what boys typically do (such as punching walls, getting drunk, and engaging in risky behavior) isn’t always seen as self-injury. But both boys and girls cut, bite, or burn themselves—and baggy clothes are a good way to hide the evidence.

How much do you know about your son’s social life? Did he recently break up with a girlfriend or have a major feud with friends? According to various surveys, many teens self-injure to get reactions from someone, to feel more in control, to express depression or anxiety, and to stop bad feelings.

Maybe the most horrifying part of this is that many kids who injure themselves learn how from websites that actually encourage self-harm and even suicide. What a revolting thought. The good news—if there is such a thing—is that, according to Dr. Mathilde Ross, a psychiatrist at Boston University, most self-injurers aren’t suicidal and generally outgrow the behavior in their 20s.

Whether your son is harming himself or not, though, he needs help right now. And again, even though you and your husband are clearly concerned, neither of you is the right person for the job.

While you’re waiting for an appointment with the pediatrician, spend some time reading some of the resources at selfinjury.com. At the same time, pay very close attention to the way you’re responding to your son. It’s not going to be easy, but try to stay calm. Showing concern is fine, but expressing shock or horror, making threats, or getting angry will only drive him further away than he already is. He needs to know that you love him and that he can trust you. Engaging him in even the smallest conversation is a good sign that you’re on the right track.
An important part of a teen’s development is pushing boundaries and making mistakes. If your son knows he has a safety net, he just might use it.

29% of High School Students Use E-Cigarettes

National data have shown teen use of e-cigarettes is increasing steadily each year. A new survey of high school students in Hawaii found 29 percent have used e-cigarettes, which is substantially higher than previous estimates. The study, “Risk Factors for Exclusive E-Cigarette Use and Dual E-Cigarette Use and Tobacco Use in Adolescents,” in the January 2015 Pediatrics (published online Dec. 15), surveyed 1,941 high school students in Hawaii in 2013. Students reported their use of e-cigarettes, tobacco cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, as well as psychosocial factors related to substance use, such as parental support, academic involvement, peer smoking and sensation-seeking behaviors.

Researchers found 17 percent of students reported using e-cigarettes only, 12 percent used both e-cigarettes and cigarettes, and 3 percent used cigarettes only. Students who only used e-cigarettes had fewer psychosocial risk factors than students who used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes. According to the study authors, this raises the possibility that e-cigarettes are recruiting medium-risk adolescents to cigarette smoking who otherwise would be less susceptible to tobacco use.

Slingshot or Boomerang? Your Choice

Dear Mr. Dad: Our 15-year old son is still a few years away from college, but my wife and I are already thinking about when he’s going to move out and begin a life on his own. A number of our friends have kids who have already graduated from college and one after another, those kids are moving back home. We love our son and would be happy to have him visit anytime—or move back for a short time in case of emergency—but we really want him to be self-sufficient. What can we do now to make sure he can make it on his own out there?

A: The fact that you’re asking the question at all gives your son a better chance than other kids his age of thriving in the real world. Too many parents cross their fingers and hope for the best; you’re actually taking steps to make it happen. For everyone else, finger crossing and hoping aren’t terribly effective strategies.

A recent report from the Pew Research Center found that the percentage of young adults living at home has more than doubled over the past three decades or so. Back in 1980, about 11% of adults 20-34 spent some time living with their parents. Today, it’s nearly 30%. Young men are a bit more likely than young women to be sharing a roof with ma and pa.

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The New Science of Adolecence

Laurence Steinberg, author of Age of Opportunity.
Topic:
Lessons from the new science of adolescence.
Issues: Why adolescence lasts three times longer than it did back in the 1950s; the adolescent brain is still developing–and growing; how adolescents think; protecting adolescents from themselves; the importance of self-regulation; how can parents make a difference; are adolescents legally responsible for their behavior?