What advocacy and leadership looks like

What advocacy and leadership looks like

1).  Most Millennials Are Finding It Hard to Transition Into Adulthood?

While the national unemployment rate is down to 4.7 percent, many millennials are finding it harder to land jobs and make their way out of their parents’ houses. Many young adults who believed that they would graduate college and enter the real world smoothly have found the transition to be rockier than they anticipated. Safia Samee Ali reports of NBC News reports what’s making “adulting” difficult. By his twenties, Kyle Kaylor imagined he would be living on his own, nearing a college degree, and on his way to a job that fulfilled him. Instead, at 21, he found himself out of school, living with his parents, and “stuck” working as a manager at a fast food restaurant scraping to make hand-to-mouth. Launching into adulthood has been tricky, he said. “It became too difficult financially to be in school and not working,” says Kaylor, who dropped out of Lincoln Christian University, in Illinois, after one semester because of a money crunch. “And without schooling, you can’t get a job that you can survive on, so I had to move back home,” he said. It’s a scenario that has become far too common, according to a new census report out Wednesday that reveals staggering statistics on millennials and their journey to independence. For one, the report shows young men like Kaylor, who makes less than $22,000, have fallen by the wayside when it comes to income. “In 1975, only 25 percent of men aged 25 to 34 had incomes of less than $30,000 per year. By 2016, that share rose to 41 percent of young men,” according to the report.


2).  Best Friends Forever… (or Until We Go Off to College?)

As graduation time rolls around, high school seniors around the country will be facing waves of mixed emotions. Relief that high school is over; elation to be moving on; and of course, sadness that friends forged over years – if not for more than a decade – will be going their separate ways. Tearful promises to keep in touch will be made, but will things ever truly be the same? Changing friendships is just one of many transitions that high school graduates will face; and for many it’s the toughest part of all. Let’s face it, there’s something incredibly bittersweet about leaving the comforts of home and the peer group with whom you’ve grown up – through puberty, pimples, first loves and final exams. Your high school friends are likely the center of your universe — so how can you move away without “moving on?” As parents, it can be hard to watch your children go through this transition and you may be wondering how to help. Read on (then share with your teen) for a few tips to keep in mind about friendships during the transition from high school to college:


3).  New Poll Finds Majority of Parents Are More Worried About Their Kids Smoking Cigarettes Than Marijuana!

It turns out American parents are not that worried about their kids smoking marijuana. A new poll released Monday found that parents’ leading worry was about their kids smoking cigarettes. However, the poll found that majority of parents (53%) do oppose recreational use. Most parents surveyed are talking to their kids about marijuana. Parents who have talked to their kids about marijuana did so at about 12-and-a-half years old, according to the poll. Planning on celebrating 4/20 this Thursday? You aren’t alone.

According to a new poll released Monday, 52 percent of Americans over 18 have tried marijuana at some point in their lives. The survey conducted by Yahoo News and Marist Poll found that not only have most adults in the U.S. smoked pot, 44 percent of those who tried it once still use it today. The poll, titled Weed and the American Family, looks at everything from family views on marijuana use to regulation, entertainment, social acceptability, and more. And of course it comes just in time for the unofficial holiday of cannabis culture that falls on April 20th each year. Despite marijuana still being federally classified as a dangerous Schedule I drug, on par with heroin, American attitudes toward the drug have changed over time. The Yahoo-Marist poll found that, out of the respondents who have tried pot at some point, 65 percent are parents. In fact, people who are current marijuana users are slightly more likely to be parents, at 51 percent. The poll also found that American parents aren’t that worried about their kids smoking weed. Out of all parents surveyed (not just those who had tried marijuana), the leading concern is a fear that their kids will smoke cigarettes. It was true in reverse, too: those surveyed said they thought their own parents would be more upset if they smoked tobacco rather than marijuana.


4).  Family T.A.L.K: Creating a Safe Space for Family Communication

Tough conversations are never easy to have. ”I got in a fight at school.” “I got a D on my math test.” As parents, you want your children to feel like they can come to you about anything. But no matter how good your relationship is with your child, it can be difficult to bring up tough subjects. This is just as true for adults as it is for youth. Creating a space for healthy communication is a good start to strengthening relationships between parents and children. Good communication is not something that just happens. It’s important to highlight and practice effective communication skills to deal with problems that may arise. Despite best intentions, in any family there are going to be issues that come up. However, by talking about how to communicate effectively with each other issues are less likely to result in crisis and instead create productive conversations about how to resolve problems as they pop up. There are several communication tips that can be helpful for families but one acronym that can be easy for everyone to remember is “T.A.L.K.” This stands for Timing, Assertive Communication, Location and Knowing what to say. Let’s break down what each of these points means and discuss some specific ways this communication method can be helpful for your family.


 Talk about choosing an appropriate time to talk with one another. Our lives are busy and even if family is your first priority it can be tricky to make everything work. It might be important to talk about setting a meeting time if you or your child has something important to tell each other. This way, each person’s attention can be focused on the issue at hand. Make sure your child knows that their concerns are important to you, and that is why you want to make sure you are all ears, even if it can’t be this very second. Some of the biggest barriers to effective communication are distractions and interruptions so if you can keep those to a minimum you are already making an effort towards better family communication.

Assertive Communication:

It’s important that you be clear about how you feel and what you need. Depending on the specific family member, you might have to address issues in a different way. Remember to use “I” statements, take deep breaths, keep a reasonable tone, and actively listen to your family member. Don’t expect your family to read your mind. An “I” statement might still be difficult for someone to hear but at least it puts the emphasis on how you are feeling and what you would like to see change rather than on what the other person is doing “wrong.” Rather than saying “You need to work harder to get that math grade up!” Try saying something like “I feel frustrated because I know you have it in you to do better. How can I help you to improve this grade?” This not only takes the initial “blame” off of your child and lets them know how you feel, but also works towards trying to address the ultimate issue of the grade.

It’s also important that they know you are really hearing them and acknowledging their feelings. “I’m hearing you’re upset because you feel you did poorly on that test but I’m glad you told me. What are some things we can do together to move forward?” It’s going to take a little while for everyone to get the hang of reworking their language, but if you are employing good listening skills your kids are going to pick up on it. Not only will it be easier for them to come to you when they have an issue but hopefully they will start using some of these techniques themselves.


Choose a quiet place where you and your family member won’t be interrupted or overheard by others. This could be a designated room where you live or even outside of the home. Perhaps you have a favorite park or restaurant. Just make sure it’s a place that isn’t too noisy. By  limiting distractions,  you and your child  will have a better chance to connect and really listen to one another .

Know What to Say:

Think about what you want to say in advance by working through your own feelings about the issue. This may mean talking with a friend about it or writing out your feelings so you can be clear about what is important for you to get across. Taking the time to think about what you want to say can help you focus on the main issues. This is a skill we talk with youth a lot about and it really seems to help them be clear about the main issues when they are talking with their parents. Good communication takes time and effort! It’s never too early to talk with your children about communicating together in a healthy way. This is something that is going to help them throughout their lives. Remember communication is a two way street!


5).  How Kids Really Use Social Media

We’ve all seen it: A kid in a passive posture, device in hand – with all attention focused downward. Your child is immersed in a game or some other app. A full hour (or more) can pass without him even moving! Parents express their worry to me all the time that their kids will become addicted to their devices. They fear that kids will grow up disconnected, alone, and unhealthy. Kids’ social skills, they worry, are being shaped by their devices, and not in a good way. Because of this, today’s kids need us more than ever. Technology has made their world a lot more complicated than when we grew up. Smart phones, social media and group texts allow our kids more ways to be social, but with that first phone comes a steep learning curve.   In my experience, today’s kids spend a lot more time closely supervised and a lot less time playing outside on their own. Parents are much more involved in actively managing their children’s social lives until, at some point, they can’t. Rather than a slow buildup to navigating their social lives, many kids go from controlled, parent-organized playdates to managing their own devices and social lives with no training wheels and little mentorship. Starting in middle school, a habit of close parental involvement can present a huge challenge because kids are now, to a greater degree, left to their own resources to solve conflicts or negotiate other tricky terrain.

The good news is that there are ways to help kids learn the necessary social skills. Most kids, even very social ones, need some guidance in responsibly navigating the complex social interactions that happen via device-based communication.  Every family will find slightly different challenges navigating this transition, but I believe that parents ?do possess the skills needed to help guide our kids. Yes, the devices may facilitate some negative behaviors. Or they may just make those behaviors more visible to adults – mostly by leaving a trail or creating “documentation.” But we can teach the positive behaviors instead, so that kids learn how to use their devices in a healthy way. When they do, it can make a positive impact on their lives—and yours.

How Kids Really Use Social Media

Parents often have some grasp of the way adults use social media, but sometimes they don’t really get what teens, tweens and even (sometimes) younger kids are doing in these spaces. Kids have different reasons for using different social platforms. When asked how kids choose different apps, each tween and teen I interviewed summed up some of the uses for various social applications. Here are some are their responses. “Some apps are more for keeping in touch long term. Others are better for day-to-day, like making plans. Some are more about what you are doing right now. Facebook is about keeping in touch with people, having a conversation. Twitter is more like what you are doing at the moment,” said one girl. Kids also text very differently than adults do. Many young texters (and kids newer to texting) are using the feature mainly as a way to stay connected after school via group texts. The initial excitement of group texting is hard for them to resist. While many adults use texting predominantly in a utilitarian way, kids don’t have as much pragmatic need. For them, it’s more about entertainment, keeping in touch without needing to get together, and about being included. Tobias told me his first phone was not a big deal: “I was eleven when I got my first smartphone, I thought it was cool that I could have a phone. I used it to keep in touch with my friends. For Minecraft, my parents do limit how much I play games, but I can text as much as I want. My sister is a freshman [in high school], and I think she’s on her phone way more than me.” Dani, an eighth grader, told me “social media is where you go after school to review the day’s “headlines,” to see who is doing what, get updates on relationships, (?i.e., couples getting together or breaking up), or just view day-to-day minutiae. “At night, you’ll go on Instagram and see what everyone did that day. I follow about 1,200 people and about 1,200 people follow me.” Discussing conflict, Maya, said, “Most people are nice, but it is good that people are watching out for subtweets—where it isn’t always ?directly mean, but it is pointing people toward something that happened, or something that might be not nice about someone. That’s mean too, in a way. Some people are pretty harsh, and other people just think, ‘Wow, this is interesting drama.’ What you put on the Internet is your choice, though.” What’s a subtweet? It is a tweet that indirectly refers to someone, not by name or twitter handle, often in a mocking or critical manner.

When Social Drama Starts

With or without personal devices or social media accounts, some social “drama” usually begins for kids as they move toward puberty. Sometimes, especially with gaming, issues can start before that, although that usually shows up more as simple conflict as opposed to what the kids call “drama.”? ?While devices don’t cause the emotional turbulence, they can certainly exacerbate and record it.

What does social drama look like?

– Sharing embarrassing or incriminating pictures.
– Trying to start trouble between two friends.
– “Innocently” pointing out that someone unfollowed you.
– Grabbing another kid’s phone and sending out mean, stupid, or silly texts from that phone.
– Oblique references to someone who “shouldn’t really be on this group text” on a group text.

If such behavior presents itself as a negative, stressful factor in your child’s life, you may want to consider helping her plug into another community, scout group, or youth group. Also, it’s perfectly okay to unplug! Strategic offline time can be a salve to the chafing of everyday tech-induced issues. While I believe we want to foster positive use of technology, that doesn’t mean it needs to be a 24–7 pursuit. Breaks are good. They help us reset—and not just kids! So ask your child if she has seen other kids being mean in group texts or on social media. It happens all the time, so don’t be surprised at what your child reports. And most importantly, don’t overreact.


6).  Make Family Dinners a Reality: Family Dinner Shortcuts for Parents

We all want to gather with our family over nutritious family dinners, but regardless of the age of your kids, serving healthy dinners can present a challenge for many families.  Yet we know that having family dinners is not only one of the most important gifts we can give our kids, but also one of the most rewarding experiences to share with them.

If you have small children, you’re probably dealing with the juggling act that comes with little people wanting or needing your constant attention.  If your kids are school age, it’s likely that you’re shuttling them around to various activities and commitments in the hours before dinner and racing home from work.  Knowing that as your kids grow older the challenges evolve, it’s still important (and sanity-saving!) to have strategies to help get nutritious, family-friendly dinners on the table most nights a week.

That’s why a little investment in meal planning pays off in a big way.  Here are a few shortcuts to keep family dinners on track:

  • The key to making family dinners a reality is investing just 10 or 15 minutes a week in planning.  Taking a few minutes each weekend to plan your meals for the upcoming week will save you hours of time plus reduce your stress as the week rolls on—not to mention save you at least $100 each month.
  • Prepare foods that everyone in your family will enjoy.  If you’ve got kids that are wary of anything other than chicken nuggets and pizza, expose them to new flavors, but also include some familiar favorites. Check out these healthy makeovers of some kid favorites.
  • Consider the slow cooker your kitchen BFF.  See tips for slow cooking here.
  • Have a system for your kitchen.  If you know where the vegetables are in your refrigerator (I keep one drawer for fruit and one for veggies), and can quickly lay your hands on the black beans and bowtie noodles, dinner prep will go a lot faster.
  • Double recipes and freeze half.  This will save you tons on time on particularly busy nights.
  • Use ingredient shortcuts (like bagged lettuce, minced garlic and pre-chopped veggies) if that will help you get dinner on the table.  Also, check out some helpful tricks here.
  • To make dinner prep less chaotic clear off the kitchen counters before you begin to cook, empty the dishwasher, and pull out the ingredients (or delegate these tasks).
  • Prior to cooking, take a moment to think through the whole meal (and quickly read through the whole recipe), so you know what you need to start preparing when.  Enlist help from other family members if you can.
  • Post a grocery list in an easy place for the whole family to see and make additions. When you use up an ingredient that you consider a staple, write it on your grocery list right away so you’ll be fully stocked after your next grocery trip. Teach your family to do the same to cut out those emergency grocery runs.
  • Now that you’ve made a great family dinner, give yourself a break and delegate the cleanup to other family members—even small children can help.

These small steps can make a big difference and allow you to truly enjoy the time around the dinner table with your family. Imagine this: You can come home at 6 p.m. and be sitting down to a DELICIOUS, HEALTHY, HOME COOKED meal by 6:30. You—and your family—will be happy you spent a little extra time planning!


7).  A Critical Teen Relationship: Mentor

January offers new beginnings. We typically go into a New Year with a fistful of resolutions to better our lives; most focused on our own personal development.   But what about bettering the lives of others? What about serving as a “life guide” for someone else?  January is National Mentoring Month and the perfect opportunity for you to encourage a teen to become a better friend, listener and ultimately, better person. One in three youth will grow up without a mentor. And, we know that being mentored is a game-changer for youth development. According to www.mentoring.org, young adults who were at-risk for falling off track but had a mentor are:

  • 55% more likely to enroll in college
  • 78% more likely to volunteer regularly
  • 130% more likely to hold leadership positions

Mentoring has been proven to help youth better express their feelings, improve school grades, expect more from themselves, get along better with others, and become more involved in enrichment programs and afterschool activities. But mentorship isn’t just one-sided. In fact, there is a shared growth between the mentor and mentee! According to Youth.gov, some benefits for mentors include: Increased self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment and increased patience and improved supervisory skills (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.). Teens who can’t seem to find their fit in their normal, everyday lives may discover their sense of belonging by leading others. And here’s the good news, mentoring opportunities are on the rise!

Mentor opportunities exist in all shapes and sizes and in most community-serving organizations. Simply look at the schools, churches, and YMCAs in your neighborhood and you will find a plethora of prospects where the teen in your life can participate in service projects, field trips, tutoring, community-based events or even just provide a listening ear to a younger sibling or neighbor. You can even inspire teens in your life to become a mentor.  This opens up holistically-nurturing opportunities that support their development and the development of those they mentor. Guiding others helps teens and the younger children they mentor reach their full potential in school and life. Here are five easy ways teens can become mentors this year:

Youth sports

If the teen in your life enjoys watching or playing sports, most YMCAs or recreation centers need volunteer coaches for summer, winter and fall sports. If they choose to volunteer, talk to them about modeling good behavior, nutrition, patience and how to be a good listener to younger children.


Does your teen excel in a specific area of study like math, science or history? Check with your local school district, youth volunteer organizations or Y afterschool program for tutoring opportunities for your teen to share their knowledge and build relationships with younger students who may not have a mentor at home.


If old enough, encourage your teen to think about finding a summer job where they can be a counselor. Or, if your teen isn’t old enough, most day and resident camp programs have Counselor in Training programs that provide teens with the training and skills to understand and take on the responsibility of becoming a leader to younger campers.

Traditional peer mentoring programs

Like those found at your neighborhood Y or through www.mentoring.org, these quality programs connect teens with younger youth and help ensure that the mentoring relationships are safe, effective, and well-managed to produce positive outcomes for the young people involved. Together, mentor and mentees can participate in community-based activities.

Informal mentoring relationships

Initiated by either the mentor or mentee, these bonds stem out of common interests and may last a lifetime. Encourage your teen to be on the lookout for the opportunity to become a great listener and advice provider to a neighbor or a younger sibling or family member.


8).  The ABCs of Decoding Teen Text Lingo

OOTD: “Outfit of the day.” Matt Lauer knew this one, reporting that he’d heard it in the makeup room.

IDEK: “I don’t even know.” Most of the anchors were able to suss this one out, though Al Roker still looked confused. He doesn’t even know!

GOAT: “Greatest of all time.” Carson Daly scored on this one. It’s also the title of a book about one of the true greats of all time, boxer Muhammad Ali.

PAP: “Post a picture.” The women on the panel were more likely to think “Pap smear,” but that’s not it. “Don’t post a picture of your Pap smear,” joked Savannah.


9).  More Than Just Friday Night Fun: Socially Active Teens are Physically Healthier

Teenage social butterflies have always enjoyed slumber parties and Friday night fun. Now, researchers say, socially active teens, like their older counterparts, are healthier than their loner peers in key areas such as weight, blood pressure, and stress hormone levels. The friendships we make in our teen years are just as essential for our well-being as the social connections we make late in life, a new study finds. “It is really what goes on in adolescence that is important for your health,” says Kathleen Mullan Harris, James Haar Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina. “We thought that social relationships would be important in adolescence but…we were surprised to show it was so important.” Mullan Harris and her colleagues looked at data from four longitudinal studies, with anywhere from 863 to 7,889 participants. The researchers examined social relationships and health in adolescence, middle age, and old age by measuring four markers — blood pressure, abdominal fat, BMI, and C-reactive protein, a measure for inflammation. Inflammation often indicates chronic levels of stress hormones. Mullan Harris found that adolescents with fuller social lives experience better health than their lonelier peers. Social teens were less likely to be obese. And, isolated teens maintained as much inflammation as people who skipped a workout.

Researchers have long known that social connections in old age were linked to better health. But how relationships contribute to health through different stages of life remained unclear. This study shows that social connections impact health significantly in two distinct stages — adolescence and old age — and why. “The theory is the more integrated you are in social networks and the more social support you have …all these would help with coping with stress,” Mullan Harris says. The findings underlie the importance of relationships and connections as it relates to overall health. Mullan Harris says it’s important for teens to be involved in something—school, friends, the community, or family. If a teen shies away from sports, but engages in the debate club, she will still experience a positive health boost. The study also provided insight into social relationships in middle age. People experience the most social connections during middle age and the study indicates that selectively fostering relationships remains wise. Having positive relationships doesn’t provide that much protection, but having stressful relationships can wreck health. Pruning unhealthy connections helps overall wellbeing


10).  E-Cigarette Ads Target Millions of Kids, CDC Says

E-cigarette makers are pouring tens of millions of dollars into advertising their wares — and teenagers are getting the message loud and clear, federal health officials reported Tuesday. As advertising skyrockets, so do the number of teens seeing it. They’re vaping by the millions now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The CDC says that trend threatens to derail decades of progress in helping prevent kids from taking up smoking. The same advertising tactics the tobacco industry used years ago to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes,” said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden. “What’s happening is widespread marketing of e-cigarettes that kids are seeing,” Frieden told reporters in a telephone briefing. “Kids should not be using e-cigarettes and yet 2/3 of kids in this country are seeing e-cigarette ads.” CDC researchers used a 2014 survey of 22,000 children and teens to find that 68.9 percent of middle and high school students — more than 18 million kids — see e-cigarette ads. More than half see them advertised in stores, 40 percent online and 36 percent on TV or in movies. “During 2011 to 2014, current e-cigarette use among high school students soared from 1.5 percent to 13.4 percent, and among middle school students from 0.6 percent to 3.9 percent,” the CDC said in a statement. “At the same time, spending on e-cigarette ads rose from $6.4 million to $115 million.” Advocates said the industry must be stopped from advertising to children. “The irresponsible and indiscriminate marketing by the e-cigarette industry, coupled with a complete lack of government oversight, is putting the health of our nation’s kids at risk,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It shouldn’t be a surprise that youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed when kids are being inundated with marketing for these products.”

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