Teens and Privacy: Where Do You Draw The Line?

The Challenges of Social Media

Teens are a challenge and a half. I’m just wandering into the pool of those challenges- most of them weren’t even on my radar until recently.

Everyone needs privacy. We need our space from others, physically and emotionally. We need our own space to grow and express thoughts. Teens need this for many reasons, one of the biggest reasons being that they are trying to figure themselves out. Remember how hard that was? Yikes.

Resist the urge to hover- this may lead to your child hiding things from you and/or lying. This can lead to worse things that you anticipated.

What Our Parents Didn’t Worry About

In the age of technology, privacy can get a bit worrisome. Parents have a lot more to worry about now than our parents did. We have to worry about Instagram and other social site pictures being too revealing and suggestive.

We have to worry about our kids being bullied because that ends tragically far too often. We worry about our kids being targeted while they play video games. These are just a few things that our parents never had to think about.

Black and white computer pic

Talking to Your Children

Opening up a conversation about privacy can be a bit awkward. It’s hard to start the conversation without being weird- you may have to look for an opening.

Do you already have an open relationship with your child? If you do, this may be a bit easier. If not, you may have to do a little more work to ease into it.

Go to my Freebie Page and find some helpful tips for talking to your kids. They require careful steps but in the end, everyone will be glad for the talk. The teenage years can get pretty awkward and a bit scary. Kids need to know they can talk to their parents about anything, including things that go on in the electronic world.

What if my child won’t talk or let me see what I ask for?

This is a rough one. Some kids aren’t talkers. I’ve got a couple. I’m not saying just let the quieter kids be- because they still need to know the importance of opening up and respecting this request. Losing their privilege can be a huge incentive to give you the information you want.

Assure your child that they can come to you if they are scared. That may be all they need.

There are some great apps for keeping an eye on what your kids do online- I use Net Nanny and it is super simple. It’s free and sends me a weekly summary of anything blocked or warned due to something the kids shouldn’t have looked up or sites they don’t need to be on. They also know about this and that they will lose all privileges if I get anything from this page.

As of this post, nothing has ever popped up in the whole time I have had this installed. We share a YouTube account and I can see everything they look up on Google. Some parents I know require their kids to charge devices together in one room after a certain time, access to devices (including phones) at any time they request it, or a little bit of both.

As of now, one of my kids has a phone, and it’s highly monitored. The tablets haven’t been much of a challenge so far.

I’m not a fan of breaking and entering into your child’s room. I don’t recommend this at all, except in one condition. That condition is if you are certain your child is in imminent danger and/or there is illegal activity involved. By all means, break down the door and go for it. This also applies for self-harm and other mental health reasons.

I’m hoping that I never have to sneak in my kids’ room and go through their things. I hope we are able to talk through things and come to a solution first.

What are your thoughts?


The Deeper Thoughts of A Special Needs Mom

I’ve talked about Julian, and to a smaller extent, Lily, a lot. If you’ve missed Lily’s story, you can catch up in these stories:

Special Needs Round Two

Thoughts on a Second Diagnosis

It’s a lot to deal with. I didn’t wake up one day and wish for not one, but two kids with special needs plus a third with a heart condition. I promise you, I didn’t.

Cameron’s SVT is pretty much manageable, but it’s still super scary when your kid texts you at school because his heart feels funny and you’re a half-hour away trying to watch “The Act” with a friend. (I recommend that show if you’re ready to throw things at your TV.)

I’ve heard pretty much everything since I even had a thought that things weren’t 100% okay with Julian when he was somewhere around four years old. Lily was about a year when I noticed things were less than perfect with her development.

One of Matthew’s aunts hinted that having her three weeks early plus my heavy activity while I was pregnant with her might have led to her not doing what she should.

I almost punched her. Matthew grabbed our coats and we went for the door. Mama Bear was ready to roar.

Not long afterward, Lily was evaluated and of course, I didn’t do a single thing to cause her delays. She was born three weeks early, but that’s not early enough to cause the severe global delays she had. His aunt can go have several seats because Lily has since kicked her brothers’ butts in grades and speaks wonderfully. Two years of speech therapy will do that for you.

When you have a kid that consistently has meltdowns, tears your house apart, runs off in public and does other things that make people go “hmmm”, you’re going to hear a lot of different opinions. I heard almost everything before and after Julian’s diagnosis, even after I put him on meds, even from Matthew, which contributed to our marriage falling apart.

Sad

The Battle In My Mind

I heard a lot internally, also. This is the stuff that will rip you into shreds. It ripped me in half. I read books. I cried. I yelled. (I’m still working on this one, because, well, I’m not perfect.)

I talked to my mom, who understands Julian on a level that I am not sure I ever will. She says she was like him as a kid but didn’t have a mom that tried to understand her like I do Julian. Even though I worked with kids that were like him but bigger, I still didn’t get it. I was lost. So was he. I kept hearing these thoughts:

“You’re a terrible mom.”

You can’t handle Julian and Lily.”

The house is a mess and so are these kids.”

“You’re not good enough”

No wonder I was depressed, and Matthew wasn’t helping. I was trying to help Julian on my own. Lily had therapists left and right, and she did great in First Steps, but I was entirely on my own with Julian. I had some moral support on the bad days from friends and my mom, but I stopped going to Matthew because I knew I wouldn’t get it.

Julian finally got diagnosed in late 2011 and his evaluation was one of the best parenting decisions I’ve ever made. The story of that can be found in Looking at the Bright Side

Getting him on medication is a decision that I do not regret and to this day, I’m glad that I did. Some kids with severe ADHD can function well without meds and that’s great, but as of now, it just isn’t a possibility.

Maybe when Julian gets older, we can revisit meds, but for right now, I’m not willing to take him off. Clonidine is a great medication for impulse control and sleep- he has not been a great sleeper since he was a toddler, and whew, he needed something for impulse control.

Hearing From the Outside World

In the almost eight years since his diagnoses, I’ve heard so much, positive and negative about them. At this point, I’ve probably heard everything, so I no longer care. These are just a few that stick out:

“I’m sorry”- well, I’m not. I am not sorry that my son has an awesome brain that not a lot of us can understand. I would not change him, but I would change his struggles.

I couldn’t do it“- it’s not as hard as you think. Some people really are not meant to parent kids with special needs. If you watch the news, you can see this. Being the mom to two kids with special needs is hard.

It’s really hard when both have a rough day and all I want to do is cry. Instead, I just do my best and everyone goes to bed early. I have a support system that now includes Matthew, my mom, and great friends.

“He doesn’t look autistic”- this makes me want to punch people. First of all, there isn’t a “look” that people with autism have. They look like everyone else. Second, I’ve put years of hard work, money and my marriage on the line (right down to divorce papers) to make sure he is happy, medicated and has skills to live the best life he possibly can. Why wouldn’t I?

“Does he really need the meds?” This one was from my mother in law. She wouldn’t give him his meds on sleepovers but yet complained that Julian wouldn’t sleep. Matthew and I told her either stop complaining or give him his meds- guess who sleeps great now?

I don’t explain anymore to people why I decided on meds, I simply ask them if they want to come to my house on a day in which he hasn’t had meds in two days. (This is not a thing, by the way.)

“How do you do it?” This is annoying. I parent just like everyone else- I get out of bed and hope for the best. Honestly. Pepsi helps. Staying sober is a huge thing. When I was working with kids with developmental disabilities, I will admit, that was rough.

I would come home from a full day, sometimes 12 hours, then have to deal with Julian. (Lily was much easier.) I was mentally and physically drained a lot, and I almost asked to not go to those units, but I loved the work. I eventually transferred to one of those units about a year after Julian’s diagnoses.

At this point, I keep a consistent routine, both kids in their therapies, Julian’s medications consistent and just keep moving. Three kids is a bit of a circus without special needs, but having two with ADD, ADHD and autism is a whole different game.

It requires patience and empathy that I didn’t think I possessed, but here I am. Some days entirely suck, but then, I am dealing with two teens and a preteen.

“ADHD is not really a thing.” Okay then, please come clean Lily’s room, because she cannot without a list explicitly telling her what to do. I also have to take her tablet. She gets distracted so easily that I have to constantly check on her, which annoys her but the job gets done, right? Plus, come wake her up for school. No other explanation needed.

I’m already trying to figure out her morning routine for middle school because it will have be a lot different from the elementary school one.

If you want to experience it from Julian’s perspective, try being super smart, but bored as hell after you finish your work at school, even when the teacher offers you more stuff. Try being hyperfocused on things but not being able to finish them because you, like your sister, get distracted easily.

As a five-year-old, try running off in a parking lot after a bird and not realizing there are cars that can back out at any minute and hit you because all you want is that bird. Oh, and throw in autism. It’s a lot. I don’t know how Julian does it. He prefers to stay at home but will go out if there’s not a lot of people involved.

This stuff happens, everyone. I had to chase Julian through parking lots more than once because he darted off. He’s always been a fast runner. Luckily, he’s stopped this. Whew.

Even with meds, he struggles. They don’t cure ADHD, but they definitely help. I wasn’t looking for a cure- just something to help him not be so aggressive, impulsive, calm enough to sit and learn, and most importantly, sleep. As the years have passed, Julian has calmed down quite a bit, which is a bit of a relief.

Flower

A Few Kind Words

If you’re reading this and you’re not the parent of a special needs kid, please take this as what not to say to someone who is. There are other things you can say that are so much nicer, like:

  • “How is your child doing?”
  • “Is there anything I need to know or learn about your child’s diagnosis?”
  • “Let me know if you need to vent/get out/anything else” (this is so freaking important and believe me, we need this)
  • “You can do this.”
  • “How can we include your child?”
  • “Neat accessories”.. if they have them

These are just a few suggestions. I’ve had parents ask how they can accommodate Julian over the years on playdates and parties and I have appreciated this so much. My father in law has indulged his love for destroying things by bringing him things from his old workplace to take apart.

I’m just a mom, trying to get through parenting. It’s a weird world out there.

What annoying things have you heard while parenting? It doesn’t have to be special needs related, because every parent has heard something annoying. Feel free to share.

5 Facts About SVT

Parenting is challenging. Sometimes we are given those challenges out of nowhere. Cameron has been my “easiest” kid so far but yet gave us the biggest scare.

A Bit Of Background

Cameron was diagnosed with SVT in June 2015. This was discussed a bit in The Hardest Parts of Parenting

His diagnosis came after a game of basketball that led to an ER trip and scaring everyone in his elementary school in the process. Heart issues are very common in both Matthew and my families.

Cameron has been back to the hospital a few times since, due to more (smaller) episodes and for a small procedure to stop the episodes in 2017.

Due to some small episodes, he has had to be on a heart monitor for a month twice. I yelled at different customer service people over shipping complications with the stickers both times.

Mama Bear does make appearances from time to time, everyone. I try to be a nice person but when you mess with my son’s health…

Luckily, we live near a hospital that is amazing and Cameron has a cardiologist that spent his many years in school learning how to take care of kid-sized hearts.

The monitor came off both times without any issues being noted. He only goes back if anything comes up and as of yet, nothing. I will karate chop anyone, however, that even thinks of giving him anything caffeinated.

This includes energy drinks- no Monster drinks at this house. He currently takes two medications for migraines. One helps with his heart, so we consider it a two-for-one. The other is just for migraines.

Hospital pic

What IS SVT? Five facts

The last time I talked about this, I either said to Google it (because Google knows all) or I left a link, but this time, I’ll educate.

I decided on this because one of my greatest nightmares with Cameron is him collapsing during a basketball game and dying like I’ve seen numerous times on the news.

Most kids that die in that way during a sports game had a previously undiagnosed heart condition- either Long QT syndrome or sometimes SVT. Please bear with me, everyone, I’m not a cardiologist.

  1. SVT is an abbreviation for supraventricular tachycardia

This means that the electrical system in your heart works incorrectly, which can lead to an irregular heartbeat, chest pain, and in some cases, loss of consciousness. In Cameron’s case, he passed out in his first episode because his blood pressure dropped. His school immediately called me and an ambulance.

I couldn’t make it to the school in time, so the principal rode to the hospital with him, where I met them. In his second and more severe episode, he didn’t pass out, but he couldn’t walk and I had to get a wheelchair because I couldn’t carry his 12-year-old self in. I did make him stay awake in the car. He was in the hospital for four days that time.

The last few episodes weren’t as serious- but still not fun.

2. SVT can happen at any time, but episodes can happen years apart or never again.

I didn’t like hearing this part at all. It scared the hell out of me. I was afraid to let Cameron do anything for a while after his diagnosis because I was scared it might trigger an episode but he’s got to live his life, right?

He went from June 2015 to March 2017 between episodes before his procedure. That’s not bad. He’s had a few small ones since the procedure but nothing that required hospitalization.

3. There are some known triggers, but then it can also happen while you’re doing nothing or can wake you up from sleep.

Cameron has had smaller episodes during migraines, which is why he is now on medication for both.

He is also not allowed to drink caffeine except for small amounts if he needs it during a migraine, and he stays well hydrated during the summer. That seemed to trigger both episodes. The last episode was triggered by Ultimate Frisbee in gym class and I think he may have been overheated.

4. SVT can stop on its own sometimes requires action to slow the heart rate.

During one of Cameron’s episodes, his heart rate was well over 200 and I was petrified. I had to stand in the hallway, peeking through the curtain as the nurses and doctors worked on him.

There are small maneuvers that you can do on your own, like blowing through a straw or blowing on your thumb, but sometimes those aren’t effective. In the ER, most patients are given medications through IV.

Cameron had to be given medication three times before being transferred to a downtown hospital, where he was in the ICU for three days before spending a fourth in a regular room.

5. There is a procedure that can stop SVT.

Cameron was eligible for an ablation. His two episodes were severe enough that his cardiologist suggested it as soon as he went into the ICU. Cameron was awake but sedated, and his cardiologist went into his heart, found the tissue that was causing the bad heartbeat and burnt it.

Cameron stayed overnight and was home the next day. He missed a couple of weeks of gym class, but I don’t think he minded that very much. It has a high success rate, but Matthew and I were both very scared something would go bad.

I mean, it is small heart surgery. It went well, and Cameron is an active kid. He can play all the basketball he wants.

SVT can be a scary condition. I still worry when Cameron is outside playing with his friends or at school- his school is well informed. He knows what to do if his chest starts hurting and so does everyone that he spends time with. If you want more information on this condition please go here.

Parenting Styles: How They Affect Your Child

Parenting comes with a lot of choices. Some come naturally, some take considerable thought. One of those choices is the style of parenting you will use to raise your child.

A bit of your parenting style comes from your personality- for example, my husband is incredibly laid back, so he tends to be slightly permissive.

When he needs to be, the kids know he means business. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and that shows in my parenting. My mother reminded me many times when the kids were smaller they weren’t robots. I don’t think I’m an authoritarian, but more authoritative.

Good point, Mom. My mother has had a lot of good pointers over the years.

Another contributor to your parenting style can be your own childhood- were your parents overbearing, totally permissive, or somewhere in the middle?

Sometimes we want to be a different kind of parent than our own after looking back at how we were raised. Times have changed since many of us were kids (I was born at the end of 1982 and Cameron was born in 2005) and we have to adjust to that as our kids grow.

There weren’t iPads, cell phones or Facebook. We were lucky to have the Internet and AOL. We were allowed to ride our bikes almost anywhere we wanted to, but Matthew and I are very reluctant to let our boys ride their bikes outside our neighborhood. It’s a scary world out there, plus the main street has a speed limit that’s (in our opinion) too high.

Blue quote pic

First, A Few Pointers

There are four styles of parenting, and some parents may fall into more than one. Some authoritative parents can also be a bit permissive, but almost no authoritarian parents fall into another category. Before I describe the categories, let me point out a few things:

  • Each child is different. What may work for one child may not work for another. If one child doesn’t respond well to permissive parenting- shows a need for more structure by acting out inappropriately, it may be time to rethink your parenting perspective and use an authoritative approach with that child, if not all children.
  • If you have a child with special needs, please take this into account. They think differently and need an entirely different approach from most other children. They still need structure, but in a less harsh way than you might see with authoritarian parenting. You don’t have to go entirely permissive, but you can find a balance.
  • Going to either extreme (authoritarian or uninvolved) can be psychologically damaging to a child and can have life-long consequences. Please consider this in choosing your parenting style.

Quote pic

Breaking Down the Four Styles

A major difficulty in parenting is doing the right thing for your child but yet making them happy. This can get pretty tricky as our kids get older. Some of the following information comes from The Attached Family

Authoritarian:

  • Strict and controlling with a strong sense of justice
  • Need for obedience and don’t like being challenged
  • “Talking back” is not allowed
  • Highly demanding in academics, sports, etc
  • Children of these parents have lower self-esteem, lack spontaneity and rely on authority to guide them. These kids may have higher levels of depression and struggle to meet their potential because they are always looking for someone to help them even when they can do things themselves.

Authoritative:

  • Retain authority and control
  • More communication and warmth than authoritarian
  • Seek a balance between listening to the parent and child’s desire to be independent.
  • Assertive but not intrusive, demanding and responsive
  • These children are well-adjusted, independent, competent adults and have a healthy freedom of expression.

Permissive:

  • Warm and permissive
  • Make few demands on their children
  • Lenient, avoid confrontation and worry about crushing their child’s creativity and sense of self
  • Can be a way of compensating for what they didn’t have as children- materially and/or emotionally.
  • These children can be given what they want in return for good grades or behavior, or just not bothering the parent a lot. They may feel entitled to certain things and engage in risky behaviors. They may, however, have better social skills than those who have Authoritarian parents.

Uninvolved:

  • Demands almost nothing and gives nothing in return
  • The child has basically total freedom
  • At worst, this can become neglect
  • These kids may suffer through their whole lives with emotional issues tied to not being properly cared for, including not being able to care for their own children.

Parent and child walk

Every child is affected by how they are raised. This is a fact of life, and we try to do the best we can. Parents make mistakes. I have made plenty and I’ll probably make more this week. What we can do is learn from those mistakes, apologize and move on. If the parenting style we are using isn’t working, then it’s time to re-evaluate and try something else. May the parenting force be with us all.

Where do you think you may fall? Have your styles changed over the years?

Custody Battles: Ways to Smooth the Path

I’m a child of divorce. I may or may not have mentioned this before. My parents split when I was 10 and the divorce was final after I turned 11. It’s not a pretty story, but my mom easily got custody. There wasn’t a battle because my dad (at the time) wasn’t fit to have custody.

I didn’t have to hear my parents fight over splitting time or who was going to have my sister and I over the summers. We lived with our mom and I was the only one that went to visit our dad every other weekend.

I stopped that once I hit high school, because, you know, boys, friends and roller skating. I had my priorities straight at that point, and hanging out with my dad in the cornfields of Southern Indiana was not on the list.

I am not kidding. My dad and former stepmom bought a house outside of a small town and the neighborhood was so new that there was nothing next to it except cornfields.

I didn’t really like the area- when your dad’s black, your stepmom is white and the nearby town is known for its dislike of interracial marriages, it’s hard to like.

I may have escaped this battle, but many kids don’t.

Paperwork

Moving Into A New Way of Parenting

Everyone has a different situation in which they have to decide custody, and many need to go to court to make sure things go okay. If you can work things out without having getting the courts involved, that’s the best scenario for everyone.

Many people around you may want to give you advice on how to proceed, but only you and your co-parent know what is best. I give you these tips, courtesy of Parents.com to give a starting point.

Making things easier for everyone:

  • Do not speak badly about the other parent around your child. This can be extremely difficult in some cases, but it’s important that your child(ren) doesn’t hear the mean things you have to say about their other parent. They still love them, no matter what may be going on. They may internalize what they hear- if you can’t stand certain things about your ex, and your child shares that trait, they may think you don’t like them either. This can cause a lot of emotional damage.
  • Do not drag your child into adult issues. Kids already have a lot going on in their minds during a family split. They do not need added pressure to choose between a parent (the worst thing you can do if you ask me), have to worry about money, housing or other adult- related issues. If you need help sorting things out, please take it to someone you trust and/or a therapist.
  • Keep realistic schedules in mind. Look at the factors that may impact your time with your child, and try to make adjustments where you can. It may not be possible to spend as much time as you are used to with your child. This is hard to think about, but trying to make everything go your way can be hurtful in the end. Be flexible and open to change as your child(ren) grow and needs change.
  • Find a good way to communicate with your ex. There are websites, apps and other ways to communicate that don’t require seeing each other. You can talk through texting, email or even use Google Calendar to help keep schedules straight. Your lawyer can recommend good communication paths.
  • Let your child have a voice. My brother and sister in law recently divorced and because they were able to work things out among themselves, plus letting their kids (who are 10 and 13) have input on the custody part, they did not have to set foot inside a courtroom. The kids didn’t get everything they wanted, but they did get to pick the day of the week that they see their non-custodial parent, holiday visits (somewhat) and other things. I thought this was great and so far, it’s worked. If your child isn’t old enough for this option, this may have to wait.

Special Circumstances Require More Thought

If you have a child with special needs, there may need to be more paperwork and planning. I did a 5-part series with Bonnie Price last year, one part of which can be found here

This series details how to handle divorce in this circumstance because it is a reality. Parenting will put a lot of strain on a marriage- throw in special needs and the chances of divorce go up even more. It’s a thought-provoking series.

This situation may be the first time that you and/or your ex have even thought of long term planning for your child, depending on their needs.

For example, I hadn’t thought very far into the future for Julian’s needs until I was looking into a divorce. He is higher functioning, but he still may need assistance when he’s older. It happens to the best of us. My marriage obviously improved, but I have been looking into the future, so that is one of many lessons I took away from that experience.

Parent and child

How Do We Make This Work?

This information comes from Help Guide

Co-parenting can be stressful but it’s better for everyone involved if both parents can get along, even if only for the kids.

Communication is KEY. Tips to make it effective:

  • Try not to demand things from your ex. This can set a negative tone for the situation that you need help with. Making requests may be an easier way to set the tone for getting assistance.
  • Show restraint. This might take some time, depending on the situation you may be in. It can be hard to hold back the anger, pain and other feelings that come up. Try some calming techniques, deep breaths, using communication that you don’t have to see your ex to communicate. This may help.
  • Keep the conversation focused on the kids. The two of you may not want to know about the other’s lives, and it might become counter-productive. Keeping the conversations between you solely about the kid(s) will help from things going badly.
  • Stay open. Things will change and both parties need to remember this. Rigidity will not help anyone involved. Compromise will go a long way in co-parenting.
  • Listen. Try to hear your ex’s side of things and try to solve things together. Even if you don’t agree, you can at least acknowledge their view. Listening can help during intense situations.

Families form and change in different ways. The best ending for divorce (with kids involved) is that the parents are able to work together to make sure life stays as stable as possible.

Sometimes, this doesn’t happen and courts have to get involved. This isn’t a failure, but a different way to solve things. Life after divorce is not an easy path for anyone, especially not kids.

Do you have experience with custody battles? How did it work out?