Friday, April 17, 2009

Teenagers: Setting Limits

We have become parents of teenagers.
A new and daunting stage in our marriage is upon us.

We have found out very quickly that it is very important to set limits, but also at this age we have to be able to explain to them clearly why it is important to have a curfew and house rules. A teenager will no longer accept the always useful, up to now: "because I say so, period".

I remember how it was for me when I was a teen; we went to a great party and it seemed that we had to leave when the fun was about to begin. I still can recall the feeling of frustration caused by having to leave the great music, new friends, dance, food. The certainty that something really exciting would happen when I left and I would miss it!!! I had to do anything to stay past curfew... sound familiar?

I just read this great book by Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D. "Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager". I highly recommended it as an excellent guide to understanding the teenagers' literal metamorphosis during their teenage years and our role in preventing a huge disaster.

As Dr. Wolf writes in his book: "Prior to adolescence, when a child screws up, the worst that can happen is that he will suffer...But during adolescence mistakes are not so easily forgotten or forgiven by the world. They can count. To do badly in school, to succumb to drugs or alcohol, to allow oneself to become pregnant, all can lead to problems affecting the rest of one's life. Mistakes in adolescence not only can hurt; they can cause problems that do not go away."

Teenagers know they will make mistakes, they also know that we love them and that is why we have these rules. They can't stand to have someone telling them what to do. They want to be on their own and to be trusted. Dr. Wolf says: "In general, the judgement of a teenager is not as good as that of an adult. An adolescent simply has not been through it before. Even with parental controls teenager will still make bad decisions, but without such controls there is no question they will make even more bad decisions."

"And yet it is precisely this parental concern which assures that their children do not feel alone." Someone is watching over them.

So (we are finding out the hard way), setting limits and having written house rules are a very important part of parenting teens.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Being Alert - Helping Them to be Aware of Drugs and Alcohol

How can we prevent our kids from being exposed to drugs and alcohol? We see them everywhere. Kids today don't even have to go far away into a dark dangerous neighborhood to find them. Today, they can be doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons, in our own home, in our own community center or around the pizza shop in the corner.

There are all kinds of easy ways for our children to find them: a car that stops by and gives some signals - the deal is done. There are others, almost their own age that hop in and out parties, deal with the kids and leave, or it could even be some very trusted person at school. The fact is that it looks like there is nowhere to hide.

Perhaps the best we can do to help them prepare for what they are bound to face almost every day, is to provide them with strong beliefs, the right reasons to fight for and the assurance that they are not alone, that they have our support, that they have the grace of God.

I have been able to talk to mine ahead of time when they are eight or nine and then constantly afterwards, giving them examples on what to do if..., telling them that God gave us a body that we have to respect, take good care of it, exercise, eat healthy and don't introduce harmful things to it like alcohol, tobacco, drugs, piercings, tattoos.

Show them how truly happy people don't need any of those things to be happy - and hope for the best.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Leadership - Key Competences

I have being doing some research on how can we raise our children to be responsible, proactive, positive leaders in our communities.

We should focus on teaching them key competences such as:

- Communication skills, how can they express themselves so their message reaches out to the people they want to communicate with.

- Conflict resolution, so they can see problems with the right perspective, not enlarging them or diminishing them.

- Self-confidence, sometimes being different is being better, not acting on certain way just because everybody is doing it; think, analyze, measure consequences and then act.

- Being pro-active, to actively participate in community service projects, use their talents, skills and time to help others.

- Act facing God at all times, being responsible for their acts and consequences, making sure that He is with them in every step of the way, to help and guide them in the right direction.

- Time management, prioritizing God first, family second, school work third and then their social life. Learning on how to keep an agenda so they can be sure that there is time to do everything that is needed to be done, to do things on time, to have time to be with everybody else.

We need leaders that can help others reach their goals, leaders that can put their talents and privileges at the service to others and pass their experience and knowledge to future generations.

We need strong, confident, intelligent, well prepared, talented, virtuous leaders among us.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Wow! I just came back from an awesome talk during my monthly retreat at my parish. This great person came and talked to us about being sincere and truthful. She explained how the word "sincere" had its roots on several theories that have been advanced to explain the derivation of the word, but none has been substantiated!

The most common explanation assigns the genesis of the word to the Latin sincerus, meaning "pure" or "clean", but many etymologists state that sincere is a compounding of sine cera, which means "without wax". According to this "folk etymology", in the time of the ancient Romans, devious dealers in marble and pottery would conceal defects in their products by filling the cracks and holes with wax. Honest merchants, who did not doctor their products, proudly displayed their wares as being without wax; that is, they were sine cera. I found this explanation to be enlightening and amazing, because if you think about the times when you have had to tell a lie, it usually is when you want to show something that you are not. You are most likely covering imperfections.

Every word we say and everything we do is a reflection of our own heart and conscience. It is very important to fill our inner life with good things, with God, good things to read, good intentions, good and positive thoughts - so our acts will be a reflection of the true good heart that we have worked on.

Sincerity gives us freedom to be the true person we are, to accomplish the projects we would like to see accomplished, to be the abnegated mother, lover and friend that we want to be. The truth goes together with the "why". Why am I serving this breakfast? Why am I taking my children to the park? In the answers we can see if we are acting only because "that is what moms do", because "I have to" or because "I love to see my children grow and play because I really want to."

Whoever gives love, time, comfort, can't go around asking for payback, because nobody told you to do so, you did it because you wanted to do it. If you are doing things for the wrong reasons you are being a hypocrite and that can't make you happy.

When we talk with our kids, specially our teenagers and find out that they are sad, uncomfortable with themselves, displaying low self esteem, then we should work, not only on their outer selves: the clothes, weight, lack of exercise, but most importantly, we have to help them find out their "whys". We have to help them find out what is really inside of them; help them be truthful to themselves, help them peel away the wax.