Hello, PATH parents!
February is here, the month of love! Valentine’s Day has made this shortest month of the year all about the feels, accompanied by cute Valentines, flower bouquets, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. While we adults might be planning a date night out (with our spouses, significant others, or friends), our teens typically find themselves in the in-between stage of celebrating Valentine’s Day. Some of them feel a little old to be passing out cute My Little Pony or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle valentines with candy to classmates like they did in elementary school. At the same time, many teens (especially in middle school) haven’t started dating yet and have no “significant other” with whom to celebrate. So they will no doubt be scrolling through tons of social media posts which can potentially make them feel like they are missing out. They might find themselves observing cute post after cute post, feeling a little unsure, asking, What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I have a boyfriend or girlfriend yet?
As parents who can see a much bigger picture (like the impracticality of having a serious boyfriend or girlfriend at age 14), we have to be careful not to brush those real feelings aside. In fact, the more that we can get AHEAD of those feelings, the better! It’s always smart to stop for a moment, locate where our teens are, and determine whether or not a mine-field lies ahead!
One simple way to avoid a Valentine’s Day minefield is to celebrate your teen yourself! We set out a box of candy at each kids’ place at the table on Valentine’s Day morning. Having chocolate at breakfast isn’t the healthiest, but it’s fun! It also makes our teens feel valued and special on a day where they might not get one other special thing at school (while other teens might). If you have a very sensitive teen, maybe Valentine’s Day is the perfect time for your next parent-daughter date night or parent-son outing together.
One year I shared with my teens the following legend about Valentine’s Day itself: “In the 3rd century, the Roman Emperor Claudius II thought marriage was not good for war since men wanted to stay home with their wives, so he outlawed marriage. At the time there was a Christian priest named Valentine who felt sorry for the couples and married people in secret. When Claudius found out, he threw Valentine in jail and executed him on Feb. 14. Before his death however, Valentine wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend and signed it from your Valentine” (Barbara Biziou)
I love this legend because the focus is different from what we typically expect. It’s about reaching out to a friend who was there for you. Most of our teens can relate to that! So perhaps your teen can simply text a friend that has been there for them, and in that simple way, feel like he or she celebrated Valentine’s Day. Most likely, the friend will answer back with something positive, providing a good moment for your teen.
Perhaps the best lesson we can teach our kids about love during February is that it is more than just warm and fuzzy feelings; love is an action, too. So every time they show love to people in their world, like doing nice things and saying loving words to their parents, siblings, and friends, they are building valuable skills to enjoy great relationships in their lives later.
Happy February from all of us here at PATH! As always, we greatly appreciate our PATH parents and are sending you lots of love this month as you do the important job of parenting your awesome teens!
January is National Mentor Month, a topic clearly near and dear to the heart of PATH’s mission. Mentoring as a route for growth is one of the most important parts of what we do, and it was a big part of what drew me to this organization. The first time I really became familiar with mentoring was when I was in middle school and my church, Westminster Presbyterian, began a program called ”the Mentor Program”. Our congregation included several families whose children had special needs that a Sunday School teacher on their own couldn’t necessarily meet fairly. The group was formed as a sort of buddy system; several youth group members were assigned to work with the kids to make sure their needs were met and that they were able to get the full experience they deserved while at church. The Mentors weren’t “mini teachers” or classroom assistants, instead the relationship you’d form with your mentee was entirely unique. I am still very close with my mentee and his family. My first job out of high school actually was as his respite caregiver. Respite care is hard work, but having that strong pre-existing relationship made it one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
I am lucky enough to have many mentors in my life, including the many community leaders who worked with me during my year in SLYCE (South Shore Leadership Youth for Community Engagement), the program where I first met Donna. SLYCE ultimately led me to my service term here at PATH, and therefore to my mentorship through LivTrue. Mentoring seems to frequently cause this sort of chain reaction, and therefore has that desirable multiplying effect that many good deeds do. Jeff Casey, director of the Towle Theater in Hammond, has been a mentor to me for over ten years, helping me grow into who I am not just as an artist but as a professional and a team member, too. My longest mentor, however, will always be my mom. The wisdom she has imparted onto me could fill an entire library and then some, and I will be so blessed if I am able to absorb even half of the enrichment she offers to me.
Of course, a teacher, supervisor, boss, parent, or other leader can be those things and simultaneously be a mentor; the mentorship includes, in addition to the traits of the other role, an authenticity to it that I feel creates the most organic kind of growth possible. While there is a mentor/mentee dynamic, the more personalized nature of this dynamic generates great possibilities for growth on both ends. Because the experience is more individualized, the relationship is able to exceed that which could be accomplished otherwise. During National Mentoring Month, I am filled with a sense of pride for the mentoring I have been able to accomplish, and even more so I am filled with gratitude for all the mentors in my life who have dedicated their time and talents to my growth.
Hello, PATH parents!
Congratulations, we made it to 2021! As we all know, at this time in history, that’s a real accomplishment! A new year typically ushers in a breath of fresh air, hopes for new beginnings. What hopes are stirring in you? Are there any areas where you need new beginnings with your teens? New beginnings with communication? New beginnings with conflict resolution? New beginnings with cultivating a closer relationship?
Sometimes even small adjustments can make a big difference! What New Year’s Resolutions have been coming to mind as you start this new year as a family? Statistics vary, but I recently read: “Research shows that as many as 50 percent of adults in the United States make New Year’s resolutions, but fewer than 10 percent keep them for more than a few months” (https://www.westernconnecticuthealthnetwork.org/newsroom/article-listing/new-years-resolution). Many people do not keep New Year’s resolutions because they go too big, declaring things like, “I will exercise 2 hours every single day!” But that action plan isn’t realistic. Few of us have 2 hours to spend at the gym or running on a home treadmill, let alone carving out the time to do it EVERY day!
As you think of new beginnings with your family for 2021, consider small, attainable ways that you can build the today and the future that you want to live in together.
Maybe it’s just having more family dinners or creating a weekly family game night. (We’ve been having so much fun with the Jackbox games I showed you last month!) Maybe it’s establishing a once-a-month parent-daughter date night or parent-son outing. It doesn’t have to be grand or expensive; it just has to be on the calendar to show your teen that he or she is a priority!
Teens often act like they don’t want or need us, but honestly, they need our love, support, and mentoring during these teen years as much as ever! (And while they might not admit it, they want our time and attention, too.)
So let’s be intentional in 2021 to take little steps toward the family dynamics we want to experience most.
I used to laugh that the childhood years were “long days, short years.” But now that I have all teenagers, I realize how very short these TEEN years are feeling! I feel the pressure to be intentional, to embrace the joy (and even the messiness) of mentoring our teens while I still have it! Before we know it, time will speed by, and they will be graduated and suddenly off on their own adult adventures.
As always, be kind to yourself regarding your own expectations. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as it’s said, and new beginnings sometimes take a minute to become the norm and produce the results for which you’re hoping. Hang in there, and try your best to enjoy the 2021 journey! Maybe it will be smoother than 2020, or maybe it won’t, but regardless, as we are intentional with our teens, bright days are ahead! As always, thank you for being on the parenting journey with us at PATH! We are here for you, cheering you on!
Happy New Year, everyone!
A Positive Approach to Teen Health (P.A.T.H) is a 501(c)3 organization that reaches seven counties throughout Northwest Indiana. Since 1993, A Positive Approach to Teen Health has been working to empower teens to make healthy choices regarding drugs, sex, alcohol, and violence.