8 Signs You Have A Tween In The House

When my oldest started his 5th grade year of school, I figured I had a few solid years left of him being a sweet boy. I’d ease into the tween and teen years the way I’d eased into a new job or learned to remove my diva cup without feeling like I was going to pass out. 

One does not simply change from being a charismatic child who wants to play checkers with you, asking you to watch him do tricks on his bike, and asking you to help him hang a bulletin board in his room with a few pictures of you on it.

Their face won’t change from smooth and peachy to blotchy as acne blossoms in between long chin hairs overnight.



One minute you have a sweet child who will test your patience, but will come back to you. 

Then you wake up one morning and see a version of them that literally wasn’t there the day before. 

I’m sorry to tell you, Mama, but there’s no going back from this. If you have a tween in your house you’ll know it because of:

1. The sass.

No one knows how to do sass like a child bursting into young adulthood. They aren’t a kid any longer and they know it. They aren’t adults, but they don’t know it. They will make it their job to show you they know what’s up all the damn time. It looks like shoulder shrugs, eye rolls, mutters, and shutting down as soon as you ask them how their day was.

2. The mess.

I thought my kids were messy as toddlers, but I had no idea what would happen as soon as they hit puberty. I found a cup of half-eaten yogurt in my son’s room that was supporting a colony of ants. My daughter can fuck up a clean bathroom with her makeup and hair shit in a hot second. Sometimes they feel there’s no need to flush the toilet, top sheets are non-existent on their unmade beds, and somehow there’s toothpaste on the ceiling more often than not.

3. The smells.

These are the years your kids get ripe real quick. Thing is, it’s new for them. They aren’t used to smelling like rotting onions after gym class or practice. The habit of showering regularly and using deodorant on a regular basis is foreign to them. 

If they play sports, the smells coming from your car will keep you from making eye contact with the neighbors as you drive them to their next event so you don’t have to stop, roll down the window, and talk.

4. The retainer on the kitchen table.

… Or the coffee table, or the back of the toilet. If you have a kid with a retainer and you’re paying out of your butthole to fix their teeth, they don’t care. 

Also, everything they’ve learned about germs has suddenly flown out the window (hence the retainer on the back of the loo).

5. The whining.

Tweens look capable of taking out the trash, but crumble at the mere mention of doing anything. They want to be treated like adults but don’t hesitate to throw a tantrum if you take their phone away in order to get them to do something.

6. The closed bedroom door.

You child will go from wanting to go out for ice cream with you, to needing more alone time than anyone else in the world. They’d rather be in their room with the curtains drawn than see or talk to you any day.

The first day it happens you’ll think, this is kind of nice. I have more time for myself. Give it a minute, though. Before long you’ll be knocking on the other side of that dark room with tears in your eyes wanting to hear everything they did that day.

7. The grocery bill.

Not only do growing kids eat like there’s no tomorrow, this is when they begin to want to have a say in what you buy. Mine hate that I buy the generic brand. They get very upset as soon as all the “good” food is gone, yet they are the ones who eat it as soon as I walk in the door with the bags.

Oh, and they’ll wait until you’re home from shopping to tell you they are out of deodorant or toothpaste.

8. The clothing.

Tweens these days like to rotate a few T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants. That’s it. It’s a chore to get them to put them in the laundry so they can be washed because apparently, they can’t smell their own stench.

You know there’s a tween in the house when you feel like you’ve been bulldozed with a smelly, back-talker who swears you are now their taxi driver. 

I’ve had three and all I can say is, solidarity, Mama. Solidarity. Because if you’ve reached the point of having a tween, you know that like all phases, this too shall pass. 

Just be sure to keep extra deodorant on hand until it does.

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Dear Oldest Child: You Don’t Know Everything 

Dear Oldest Child,

I know you were born before you siblings and because of that, you knew how things worked around here and felt the need to show them the ropes. I get it. You can be possessive, territorial, and a bit controlling like a lot of other kids who share your title.

And while I appreciate your “help,” I need to let you in on a little secret: you don’t know everything.

When you were younger, I thought being the Town Crier was something you’d tire of. I was wrong, though. As you’ve grown up and become a teenager, it’s not just your siblings you feel the need to preach to, teach, and correct. Now, I fall under your “teaching” umbrella and let me just say, it’s annoying as hell.

You know I’m the person who was almost in her third decade of life when she gave birth to you, right?

I get that you have had to do a lot of firsts with me before your siblings and for that reason, you feel it’s your place to be the bearer of all the news. There’s also the fact I gave birth to your brother and sister, so you can let me handle them, okay?

I implore you to remember I have a lot of years on you. I’ve done everything you’ve done in your life a lot earlier, and a few times over at that, so I’ve got some good practice under my belt. 

Lying to my mom about where I’ve been? Check.

Lying to my mom about where I’m going right before I leave? Check.

Trying to blame a teacher because I didn’t do what I was supposed to do? Check.

Thinking I’m invincible and taking risky chances only to have them blow up in my face? Check.

Talking like I know about something I’ve never actually done before? Check.

I’ve walked in your shoes and I know the signals. So when you tell me you are “just going for a ride with friends,” I know something is up. One simply doesn’t go for a leisurely, safe drive with friends as a 16-year-old.

And when I tell you you better be safe, and you shrug it off because you think you’re invincible and nothing will ever happen to you, it shows me something.

It shows me that you don’t, in fact, know all you claim to know. If you did, you wouldn’t dismiss my advice about not driving like an asshole.

I may not know all the cool terms you and your friends know these days. I may struggle with SnapChat and make you cringe when I get the name to a popular song wrong. And for the record, I actually do know (according to you) everyone in the world except you and your siblings have AirPods, while y’all are “stuck with the generic brand,” but I also know something else: there’s three of you and I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend that kind of money on something you’ll stick in your ears and lose anyway.

I know if you earn the money to buy them for yourself, you’ll care for those ear buds (that must be made out of gold) a lot better.

I am aware of the dangers of teenage driving, especially when you are with your friends.

I know I’m not the coolest person in your world and you think your life would be better if I was more laid back.

But I know it wouldn’t be.

I know how to raise you and your brother and sister. You can retire yourself from that duty right now.

Oh, and for the record, I do know how to grocery shop, how to tell when you are lying, and how to budget the money I work hard to make (hence no AirPods).

So, my dear oldest child, while I love you with my whole heart and appreciate that face we’ve been through many first together and you’ve seen me struggle more than your brother and sister have, you don’t know everything.

You don’t have it all figured out. You don’t have life in the bag. I hope you realize soon we are all evolving creatures who never stop growing or learning unless we choose to put ourselves on autopilot because we think we already know it all.

You have a lot to learn from others so sit back, let someone else do the teaching. Just because you were born first and feel the need to be in charge all the time, doesn’t mean you have to be in that role all the time.

Do us all a favor, including yourself, and be vulnerable enough to admit you don’t always have to have all the answers because really, none of us do. It will just make you a better human. 

Love, your mother (someone who really does know a thing or two).

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My Kids’ Friends Are Getting Together Again, But I’m Not Allowing My Kid To Join

For the past few weeks, my kids have been asking when they can hang out with their friends. But so-and-so wants to know if I can go for a bike ride???? Everyone else is hanging out! This sucks! I’m the only one left out!

My response every time: I know it sucks. I’m sorry.

But I’m not changing my mind. At least not yet.

That’s not to say it’s been easy. It hasn’t. That’s not to say I haven’t second-guessed. I have. But for now, the answer is and will be, “no, you can’t hang with your friends.”

Of course, every family will need to make decisions that differ based on their own circumstances. It will involve a detailed cost-benefit analysis and risk assessment of about a million factors. And it will also involve a healthy dose of reliance on our gut instinct.

For me, my gut is telling me – no, screaming at me – to go slow. There’s no rush.

For other parents, the decision-making process is different. They may have different circumstances, priorities, and opinions about how seriously we need to take COVID-19. (For the record, I think we need to take it really fucking seriously.)

I’ve tried to prepare my kids for this. I’ve been telling them for weeks – since other states started “reopening” and our own state of Illinois began to talk about what the next phase would look like – that other families are going to make other decisions. I’ve been telling them that just because we technically can do something doesn’t mean we should. I’ve been telling them that we’re making decisions that make sense for our family and our unique circumstances.

But, for a teen (or I suppose anyone for that matter), no amount of preparation is enough for those times when your friends are hanging without you. It doesn’t make it easier when you see kids your age riding bikes, sans masks, past your house several times a day. It doesn’t make it easier when you feel left out.

“BUT I’M THE ONLY ONE!” I hear my kids cry this over and over and again.

First, no. You are not the only one not hanging out. You are not “the only one” whose parents are strictly sticking to the safety recommendations for a while longer.  You also are not “the only one” who can’t stay up until 4 a.m. and you won’t be “the only one” who isn’t allowed go to that party where you know there will be alcohol and you won’t be the “the only one” who doesn’t get a new cell phone every year.

But also, kids, I get it. I truly get it. I also suffered from some serious FOMO and was certain I was “the only one” doing or not doing something when I was a teen. Truthfully, I still feel that way sometimes. Which makes it easier to empathize with my kids’ angst that they aren’t allowed to ignore the quarantine rules just yet. I try to explain to them that this feeling never really goes away, but you can manage. You can practice feeling more comfortable saying “no” and doing your own thing, trusting that your friends – the real ones anyway – will still be your friends.

But kids demand more of an explanation than “not true” and “I get it.” So it’s also important to explain the why of your reasons, whether it’s your reasons for saying no to a cell phone or no to a pandemic hangout. I’ve tried our best to explain what we know about COVID-19 so far, and what we don’t know. I’ve explained certain risk factors and how we’re trying to minimize those, and what it might take for my husband and I to feel a little more comfortable with them hanging out with their friends. I’ve talked about my own anxiety and how we have family members who are more at risk than others and how we want to protect them. I’ve told them soon, but not quite yet.

Bottom line: Sorry, kids, but you can’t hang out with your friends just yet, even if it feels like everyone else is doing it.

Am I being too strict with my pandemic rules? I’m sure some people think so. Am I not being strict enough? I’m sure others think that as well. That’s the tricky part about this post-lockdown, pre-vaccine stage. There’s a shit ton of grey area, and different people will make different decisions based on their own circumstances. Then again that isn’t unique to the pandemic; that is true of parenting in general.

Ultimately, I think my kids understand. They’re pissed, sure. But I do think that they understand that we aren’t making these decisions to make them miserable but to keep them – and maybe even more importantly, others – safe. As the saying goes, this too shall pass. Eventually they will hang out with their friends. Eventually they will go back to school and play sports and have sleepovers. And I hope that whenever we get to that point, in the process, my kids will be a little stronger in their FOMO battle against feeling like “the only one.” I hope they will have learned a bit about what it means to take care of others by inconveniencing yourself. I hope they will have learned the importance of trusting your gut and making hard decisions. Because the pandemic will eventually end, but god willing, those lessons will be here to stay.

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Why A Car Ride With My Daughter Was So Important — For Both Of Us

Today, it finally happened. My strong, resilient, self-sufficient, independent, loving, strong, caring, 10- (almost 11)-year-old 5th grader finally broke down.

This entire time (67 DAYS!), since she unknowingly walked out of her elementary classroom for the very last time on March 13, all the way up to this 9th week of being quarantined and physically isolating from every single person she knows (aside from our little family of five); my baby finally allowed her emotions to pour out of her sweet soul and truly feel all of the feelings that her young mind has been overwhelmed with the past few weeks.

Early in the afternoon, after yet another pointless argument with her siblings, and having to be reprimanded more than once, this little mini-me doled out that perfect amount of sass and attitude with a little bit of a raised voice that is needed to successfully flip that switch in me that turns me from a semi-calm momma to semi-rage machine, resulting in even more yelling (zero mommy points awarded).

A few moments later, she came and found me in the kitchen as I was preparing lunch. This amazing girl of mine had sought me out to apologize to me (cue heart-bursting love coursing through my veins) and make things right. I looked at her, knowing that the previous argument was deeper than what it seemed and I asked her why she had lost her cool.

Today Was The Day That Finally Broke My Fifth Grader
Courtesy of Kristen Day

She looked at me and with tears forming in her eyes, she told me, “It’s just that normally I would be playing with all of my friends right now.” And my heart ached.

I pulled her in to embrace her, wrapping her arms around me for a tighter hug and told her that it is okay to feel this. It is okay to cry. It is okay to be in pain. And to be sad. It is okay to hurt and to not be okay. And she had a good solid sob in my arms, then gave a long exhale and stepped back.

“Now, don’t you feel so much better after telling me what was wrong?” I asked.  “It’s okay to realize that this sucks right now and things aren’t how they should be. But they will be, someday. And we can look forward to that. And in the meantime we can continue to Zoom with our friends and conduct socially distant visits with your grandparents. And we’ll all be okay, because we did what was right.”

She nodded, wiping her eyes and asked me if we could go out for a solo drive later in the day — just the two of us. I quickly agreed, looking forward to a rare outing alone with my firstborn.

After finishing lunch and my daughter retrieving all of the art supplies for her siblings’ craft with daddy (our only way of freeing ourselves from the youngest members of our “Quaranteam”), we jumped in the car. She chose her music playlist and we headed out for one of her first trips to a store in the past couple of months so she could pick out a special birthday outfit for next week.Today Was The Day That Finally Broke My Fifth Grader

During our ride, we chatted, we sang, we danced, we laughed and we felt carefree. We talked about the prior day, when the kids were able to come along for their first trip to Nana and Papa’s house to deliver supplies. She told me it was so nice just being able to be near her grandparents and to be at their house — even if it was not the same as normal. That just their presence alone had eased her.

As we drove, I thought about all of the special events that students are missing out on, especially my 5th grader, who has been looking forward to graduating from elementary school. And I was once again shocked that it took this long for her to fully open up and allow her emotions to show.

In the car, our errands complete, I asked her how she felt. I asked if she felt rejuvenated, calm? If she felt ready to go back home. And, just the same as me, she was. We both felt it, a serene lightness. A burden unloaded.

To try to put into words the pride I feel in my daughter for the growth and potential I saw in her today would be impossible. Today, for a little while, my daughter was the guide and I, the follower. I paid close attention to her subtle tells and looked beneath the surface of the problem to find a more successful approach at helping her to cope with so much change and the emotions which all of this change has inflicted.

While we slowly begin to transition into reopenings, new protocols, different standards, and alterations in procedure, remember to diligently remain aware on how these changes and societal adjustments are affecting our children’s psyche. Keep an eye and an open heart on your babies at all times, and make it known to them that you are available for questions and conversation at any time.

Our children’s minds are under a great deal of stress right now, we as parents, must help unload that burden.

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If I Would Have Known It Was The Last Day: A COVID-19 Letter To My Students

Dear Students,

If I would have known on that Friday in March that I was sending you off to a new world instead of to an extended Spring Break, I would have spent my last 46 minutes in person with you much differently.

Instead of rounding up books, collecting rubrics, and anxiously giving instructions for what I thought was a week or two of distance learning, I would have told you this.

You are going to high school, one of the most momentous steps of your young life, during a global crisis that even the smartest of adults don’t fully understand.

You went home on that Friday in March, giddy and thrilled, for a much needed respite from your overly-busy lives. Then, instead of a break, you found yourself with that familiar life swept away like the old magic trick where the tablecloth is pulled out from under the dishes. The key items of your world remained: your family, your home, your red-cased school issued iPad, like the dishes still balanced on the table. But like the tablecloth, a big layer of your life went missing.

You don’t get to graduate like all the classes before you with the dress, the suit, the cap and the handshake. You don’t get to orient yourself at high school, your next big world. You don’t get to have you Spring sports season, or parties with friends or a rambunctious end to your monotonous, yet under-appreciated, 8th grade schedule.

You don’t even get to have the security of knowing where our world is headed.

If I would have known on that Friday in March that was the last time I got to be your teacher face-to-face, I would have told you this.

As much as I don’t want you to have to go through this difficult time, I know from your insights, writing, empathy and humor that you will be a part of the solution our world desperately needs.

I know that you will be okay and you will help make things okay as you lead the way growing up differently than all the classes before you.

I know you will make the next iteration of our world a better one.

If I would have known on that Friday in March, I would have kept the handouts and the notebooks you didn’t need, and I would have reminded you of your strength and intelligence, which you will.

And then I would have insisted you use all your choice time and be a kid in your old world, one last time. If I would have known.

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Social Isolation Has Turned Me Into My Tween Son’s Friend — And I’m Loving It

I have a strong type-A personality. I love schedules, multi-tasking, planning, and time management. The busier that my life is, the happier I seem to be. I love a full calendar, and right now my calendar is empty except for an eye exam on June 4th that has already been rescheduled twice. I am not thriving right now; many days I feel like I am floundering to stay focused and motivated.

I miss going out to dinner. I miss watching my ten-year-old son, Andrew, play sports. I miss going to the grocery store without a mask. I miss hugging my family and friends. I miss going to church. I miss sitting around a conference table with coworkers. I miss picking my son up from school and hearing all about his day. I miss traveling; next week I was supposed to be hiking in Yosemite National Park.

The list of things that I miss could go on and on, but the thing is, I know how good I have it. There are families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. There are families who are experiencing real financial hardship. There are healthcare and essential workers who are bravely serving others while I shelter in place with my husband and son in the comfort of our suburban home. My husband and I are both able to work remotely and I only have to support one child with e-learning. One of my friends is seven months pregnant with a three-year-old and she has been quarantining from her husband who is a firefighter for the city of Chicago since mid-March. She has posted heartbreaking images of her son on Facebook saying good night to Daddy through the window … so do I really have any right to complain?

Even if I don’t have the right, I am still entitled to feel the way that I do — because I can’t help it. We are all grappling with how to live life during a pandemic. I am restless, stir crazy, and anxious for what the future holds. Will my son go back to school in August? Will my husband, who just got a pay cut and furloughed one day a week, still have a job two months from now? Will I still have a job two months from now? Will any of my loved ones get infected with COVID-19? Both my husband and son suffer from asthma, so I worry about them.

The stay-at-home order has also turned Andrew’s world upside down. He is a social boy and loves being surrounded by people. Every morning he would bounce out of bed excited to go to school. Now there is no school, and all of his activities and sports have been put on hold indefinitely. He is not thriving either; he has become moody and gets frustrated quickly.

This is not an easy time for anyone, but I have found a silver lining in all of this. I have been given the gift of additional time with my family (although occasionally this feels more like a punishment than a gift!).

I was previously commuting two hours a day, and now my commute involves walking across the hallway to my desk in the guest bedroom. And although I miss our active social calendar, sometimes practices, games, school events, and birthday parties consumed our evenings and weekends.

I'm Playing Like A Little Kid With My Tween, And It's Actually Fun
Courtesy of Angela Grossnickle

I now have the opportunity to spend more time with my son — which is a blessing, because time is not on my side. I was very emotional when he turned double digits last October. As each year passes, he becomes more independent, which means he needs his mom less and less. I am no longer the center of his universe, and his friends are becoming more and more a priority in his life.

Friends and social distancing, however, do not mix very well. Sheltering in place is a lonely predicament for an only child. You don’t have a sibling as a built-in playmate. As his mom, I felt like it was my job to keep him entertained so I started playing with Andrew again.

Of course, I spent quality time with him pre-coronavirus. We would go on bike rides, read books together, bake muffins, watch movies…but this is different. This play is letting Andrew call the shots. It is interacting with him on his level, and not as a parent who constantly needs to be in control.

I have built a motorized boat out of K’nex, Lego, and Styrofoam that was destined to navigate the high seas of the bathtub (she capsized immediately). I have flown a Minion kite as high as the string would allow and shouted “BANANA!” at the top of my lungs … maybe more than once. I have donned a bandana like Rambo and battled in a Nerf gun shooting competition. When there was a stubborn balloon that just wouldn’t pop, I helped my son body-slam it, WWE style, with a couch cushion.

I have cruised on a Razor scooter while Andrew pushes me from behind on his hoverboard … instant electric scooter. I have built a chain reaction in the living room that started with a hair dryer and ended with a ball swishing through the hoop … and we went wild! I have fashioned a tennis net out of string, and reenacted the final match of Wimbledon in our driveway complete with obnoxious grunting. I have shoved Mentos in liters of Diet Coke to make eruptions of soda spray into the sky … ’cause that’s just totally cool.

I have constructed a fort complete with twinkle lights and an emergency escape hatch to have a sleepover in. In that fort, I watched Papa Jake’s latest box fort videos and “Let It Goat” (for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure yet, it is essentially a goat screaming at different times while Elsa sings “Let It Go”) way past Andrew’s bedtime. When it was finally time to go to sleep (on the floor), I was ushered off to a not-so-sound slumber by a nauseating smell and a whisper in the dark, “Silent, but deadly.”

So while playing hasn’t always been good for my back, it surprisingly has done wonders for my soul. It has given me an outlet to temporarily escape from reality and be carefree. It has pushed me to reconnect with my imagination and engage my creative side. It has taught me to be present in the moment with my son and to just have fun despite everything that is going on in the world. Playing has forced me to prioritize joy, silliness, and laughter … things we all could do with more of right now.

I went into this thinking that by playing with Andrew I was performing some sort of motherly duty so he wouldn’t be bored or lonely. It turns out that by playing with my son, I found a new friend. A friend who is helping me to stay strong, positive, and keep things in perspective during a challenging time.

I miss my pre-coronavirus life a lot, but I am going to cherish this time with Andrew while I can. I know that he misses his friends dearly, but hopefully playing with Mom has been meaningful for him too. I have noticed an improvement in his attitude. He is smiling more often.

Either way I am going to kick his butt in our homemade BattleBot tournament this weekend. I duct taped forks to a remote-control car. He’s going down!

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Money, Salaries, And Debt Shouldn’t Be Taboo Topics With Our Kids

Money was never a topic we talked about growing up. When I was seven, I asked my dad how much money he made and he snapped at me, telling me never to ask anyone that question because it was extremely rude.

When my parents divorced in my teen years, I got a job as soon as I could so I could make my own money and spend it how I wanted. Not only was I afraid to talk about money with anyone, I felt a strange pressure to always have a job and make as much as I could. It wasn’t a good feeling and I still struggle with it. As a mother, I want my kids to have a healthy relationship with money.

It’s important for kids to learn the value of money, but it’s more important they don’t feel the subject is off limits, or talking about should be a one-sided conversation. If I talk at them about money are they going to learn and be curious? Probably not.

According to Next Gen Personal Finance, only one out of six high school kids in America are required to take a standalone semester of personal finance, which means this life skill falls almost entirely on parents’ shoulders.

Brad Klontz, the author of Mind Over Money and the co-founder of the Financial Psychology Institute, explains people suffer from money disorders which he explains are “often the result of underlying psychological issues like anxiety, depression or trauma.”

Yet another reason to get our kids on the right track as soon as possible.

Tim Sheehan, CEO and co-founder of Greenlight, a financial management app for kids, told Scary Mommy, now is the perfect time to be teaching our kids about the importance of money since they are learning remotely and we have more time and opportunities to teach and talk with them. Not to mention many families are cutting back because of lost wages, or having to dip into an emergency fund.

I’ve always been open with my teens about money and never want them to feel like money-talk should be taboo or that they need to hide their feelings or questions, but I’m learning it needs to be a constant conversation. 

Yes, this time is difficult and parents are taking on many new roles, but it really is a good time to start teaching our kids about money since we have some extra time together. We may also be making some difficult financial decisions and changes to our budget as a result of the pandemic.

Sheehan suggests having a talk about wants vs. needs if you aren’t sure where to start. This is especially time-sensitive now since a lot of us are seeing pay cuts, collecting unemployment, and not sure of our financial future. I always try to prepare my children and without scaring them and there’s nothing wrong with telling them something just isn’t a priority right now.

“Talk about how they might prioritize and allocate money once they start earning — whether it’s from chores or a part-time job,” Sheehan recommends.

It’s also important to teach your kids about credit card debt. I’ve been talking to my kids about this more lately after realizing they thought a credit card was just money that was available at all times. They had no idea you had to pay it back with interest once a month. It won’t be long until my oldest is going to be getting credit card offers thrown at him left and right. I want to prepare him so he can take the information he knows and hopefully make an educated decision on whether he really needs a credit card at 18.

“The national average household credit card debt is $5,331,” Sheehan says. “We can lower this number by giving kids debit cards and the responsibility to manage money at a young age.”

Money talks don’t have to be dry and boring. You can get them involved by making a game out of it. Sheehan suggests having them figure out the tip for the food delivery driver, calculate sales tax, and you can always break out the good ol’ game of Monopoly.

Personal finance expert Rachel Cruze, co-author of Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money, tells NBC News that parents should always be talking about the three principals: Giving, saving, and spending.

“Giving is one of the most important of the three categories because you’re teaching them to feel the impact of helping others at a young age,” Cruze says. “That’s invaluable.” She adds it’s important to have your kids save and spend some of their money after it’s earned and implement when their money is gone, that’s it. Stand strong and not give them more.

“Yes, your kids will make mistakes, but it’s better that they make those mistakes under the safety of your roof,” says Cruz.

Jim Brown has been in the finance industry for over 30 years. In an article he penned for CNBC, he writes that he never gives his kids money freely for things they don’t need. Instead, Brown gives them a weekly allowance and teaches them how to budget, and investing their money by taking them to the bank and showing them how their money can grow.

Brown adds the easiest way to teach your kids about money is to take them through the budgeting process: “When my kids get invited to a birthday party, for example, I give them a reasonable budget and help them shop for a gift that stays within their price lane,” he writes.

It’s not always easy to teach our kids lessons about money. I struggle at times. Like, when my daughter wants me to order her something online which costs $15.99 plus tax and shipping and she hands me over $15.00 instead of the full amount it costs. Or when my son’s car insurance gets taken out of my checking account and I have to remind him three weeks later to pay me for it. 

I’ve had to remind myself that it’s not about being stingy or “taking” money from my children. It’s about teaching them that in the real world there are consequences if you don’t pay your bills on time, and you always need to read the fine print and see the exact price of something so there aren’t any surprises in the future. I can’t coddle my teens, then send them out in the real world and expect them to make great decisions when it comes to their finances. 

The earlier you start talking to your kids about money, the better, so why not now while we’re cooped up together? When kids learn about money early in life the hope is that they will be more comfortable when they go out on their own. 

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With No School Start Times, My Kids Are Turning Into Vampires

My 13-year-old stumbled downstairs damn near close to lunchtime today. His younger brother was still sound asleep. Just a few months ago, 8:00 a.m. was considered “sleeping in” for my teen. But now, I’m often awake for hours before our kids – something that seemed like a fantasy a few years ago when we were knee-deep in early mornings and sleep deprivation.

Each day it becomes increasingly clear that my family is turning into vampires. After schools were closed and we realized that we no longer needed to wake up in time for carpool and school bells, bedtimes began shifting later. And later. And later. Until eventually “bedtime” became a two-hour window that technically happened once the clock had flipped to the a.m. hours.

Because of these new sleep habits, our entire day has shifted. Breakfast is now at noon. Lunch is around 4, and dinner is at 8 or 9. My workday happens in chunks through the day, and I often look at the clock startled to find that it is already 5 p.m. Where the hell did the day go?!? Well, when you don’t start the day until afternoon, numbers on a clock seem meaningless.

A few months ago, our vampire-like sleep patterns would have seemed impossible, but we’re all thriving with this new routine. My husband – an extreme night owl himself – is thrilled that our kids’ routine now more closely matches his. I’m more of a morning person, so I’m loving the extra hours in the morning when the house is quiet and I can exercise, get some work done, or just hear myself think. But most of all, it’s benefiting my kids because they are finally able to get the sleep they need in the way they need it.

One might think that they older you get, the less sleep you need. After all, a five-year-old needs less sleep than a toddler, who needs less sleep than a newborn. But that trend reverses during the teen years. According to Johns Hopkins pediatrician Michael Crocetti, M.D., M.P.H. , teens need 9-9.5 hours of sleep per night—about an hour or more than 10-year-olds need. This additional sleep is needed because of the massive changes doing on in their minds and bodies. “Teenagers are going through a second developmental stage of cognitive maturation,” explains Crocetti.

Teens don’t just need more sleep, they actually need sleep in different ways too. “Teens experience a natural shift in circadian rhythm,” said Laura Sterni, M.D., Director of Johns Hopkins Pediatric Sleep Center and Associate Professor of Pediatrics.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence — meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.”

This is why health experts – and many parents – have been pushing for later school start times for middle and high schoolers. Steven Lockley, PhD – a sleep expert and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School – has said that school start times contribute to “unrecoverable sleep loss” for teens, which is a danger to their health. But with remote learning, “start times” are largely created on an individual basis, which means kids can now get the sleep they were missing out on before. And we parents might even be able to “sleep in” a little ourselves (even if “sleeping in” means waking up at 8 a.m. instead of the usual 5:30 a.m.).

Most of the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating and traumatic, and I don’t want to minimize that. But if we’re looking for silver linings, this might be one of them. Instead of struggling to get my kids to go to bed around 9 or 9:30 so they can get enough sleep, they can now sleep when they are tired and wake up when they are rested. Without the early morning wake-ups for school, they are able to wake up naturally and slowly. And we’re all in better moods because of it.

Of course, we’ve had to set a few parameters on their vampire sleep habits. Otherwise, they might stay up literally all night and be total pains in the ass the next day. But for the most part, it’s working just fine for us. Sure, we’ll need to shift our schedules again if and when school resumes, but who knows when that will be. Until then, we’ll keep on doing what’s working – which, for us, means turning into a vampire family (minus the blood sucking, of course).

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15 Books For Tweens And Young Teens Who Are Reluctant Readers

Getting some kids to read can feel like a constant struggle. My kids are 10 and 13 years old, and neither one of them is what I would call a voracious reader. A reading aficionado myself, I’m sometimes envious of friends who are able to share books with their kids or enjoy a family read-a-thon on a rainy afternoon. But that just isn’t going to happen around here.

My kids are reluctant readers at best. Still they do read when prompted, and there are even some books that they haven’t complained about reading so I suppose I’ll call that a win.

Thanks to my amazing teacher friend — who has a tween and teen herself — and some recommendations from my own reluctant readers, here are a few top picks beyond the standard Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which seem to be favorites of even the most reluctant readers. These are books kids can read alone, or you could read together as a family, and many of them are a part of a series, so if your kid finds one they like, you likely have several more options after it.

1. The Treehouse Series, by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton


This series is filled with goofy stories and funny picture drawings about the antics of Andy and Terry in their treehouse. These books are great for kids who are ready to move beyond picture books into chapter books, but need a few pictures to break up the reading.

2. Unicorn Rescue Society by Adam Gidwitz (author) and Dan Santat (illustrator)


Any kid who loves unicorns will adore this series. These illustrated beginner chapter book are perfect for kids who are ready for some more independent reading, but need visual engagement along the way.

3. A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (author) and Hatem Aly (illustrator)


Written by the same author as Unicorn Rescue Society, this series is a nice companion for kids who are into monsters and witches more than unicorns.

4. Arcade and the Triple T Token Series by Rashad Jennings


Written by former NFL running back Rashad Jenhings, this series focuses on the antics of 11-year-old Arcade Livingstone and his friends. Each of these beginner chapter books can be read as a part of the series or as stand-alone books.

5. Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan


We read this book together as a family, and it is an incredibly moving story about loss and what makes a family. This book is good for young teens, or to read aloud to your tweens.

6. Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott (author) and Geneva B (illustrator)


Called a “breath of fresh air” by Kirkus Reviews, this award-winning chapter book is perfect for kids who love magic. It was lauded for being “a chapter-book fantasy with an urban setting, an array of brown-skinned magic wielders, and a lovable black protagonist readers will root for and sympathize with.”

7. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate


This is another one we read together as a family. This award-winning book has been compared to classics like Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web for its sweet message and engaging story of a captive gorilla and his friends.

8. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales Series by Nathan Hale


These graphic novels share history lessons in an engaging, fun way. And because they are graphic novels, they will appeal to kids who love prefer this kind of reading to chapter books.

9. The Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles (author) and Dapo Adeola (illustrator)


Middle-school cousins Otto and Sheed fancy themselves to be amateur sleuths. With summer coming to an end and school just around the corner, they are looking for a last hurrah of fun and adventure when they see a mysterious man arrive into town. Their wannabe detective skills take over and, needless to say, wild antics result. A beginner chapter book, this book is great for older tweens or even young teens who are reluctant readers but love a good story.

10. Jada Jones series by Kelly Starling Jones (author) and Vanessa Brantley-Newton (illustrator)


This early chapter book centers on fourth-grader Jada Jones as she deals with school, friends, and other challenges of being a tween. The book’s color illustrations and short chapters help reluctant young tween readers transition from picture books to chapter books.

11. New Kid by Jerry Craft


This graphic novel has won a ton of awards — including Newbery Medal, Coretta Scott King Author Award, and Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature – and for good reason. It is a relevant, timely and authentic look at the struggles of being the new kid at school. It’s perfect for older tweens and young teens.

12. Low Riders In Space by Cathy Camper (author) and Raul the Third (Illustrator)


This award-winning graphic novel follows Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria, three friends who love working on cars. The book is a fun adventure tale of friendship, sprinkled with Spanish and science facts. The book also includes a glossary so kids can look up the Spanish and science words used throughout the book.

13. “Who Is…” Series


The options are endless with this book series. Kids learn about historical figures, sports stars, and pop culture icons in these books. They are simple and relatively short so they don’t overwhelm a reluctant reader.

14. Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi


This popular graphic novel series tells the adventures of Emily, who discovers a magical amulet in her great-grandpa’s house. It’s great for tweens and young teens.

15. Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt


This bestseller tells the story of six-grader Ally, who has dyslexia. Ally is hard on herself and struggles to fit in and to ask for help. Ally’s struggles with school may resonate with some reluctant readers, and all kids can appreciate the book’s theme that “great minds don’t always think alike.”

Happy reading!


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Shout-Out To The Teens During Quarantine

A crisis definitely has a way of bringing out the best and worst in people. Fortunately, we’ve been seeing a tidal wave of support, accolades and appreciation for those doing their part to get us through this pandemic. Postal workers. Delivery drivers. Doctors and nurses. Grocery store clerks. Food industry workers. Folks are who are following the stay-at-home guidelines and keeping their butts at home. Teachers. The list goes on and on.

But there is one group in particular that I’d like to give a shout out to –kids. Specifically, teens and older tweens.

Teens and older tweens are in that tricky age group. They understand what is happening. They were gaining independence from their parents. They rely heavily on social interactions with their friends and peers.

When schools were canceled and stay-at-home orders were put in place in mid-March, I’ll admit, I was most worried about my teenager and other teens. They are at an age when they have more autonomy and independence. They don’t just want, but need, friendships and peer interactions for their development. They should be getting out from under their parents’ watchful eyes instead of being with them 24/7.

But in the past couple months, I have been continually impressed with teens – not just my own, but most of them.

Sure, we’ve all seen the posts complaining about teens who are gathering at the park or taking bike rides together. We might see teens playing basketball together while we walk the dog, or we might have to field pleas from our own kids to hang out with their friends if they “promise to stay six feet apart” (to which the answer is obviously no).

All of this is frustrating and dangerous, and teens are easy scapegoats for questionable behavior (always have been, probably always will be). It is easy to see a post about the “teens down the street” who aren’t following the social distancing rules and jump on the bandwagon of complaints. But these posts and stories are not representative of the vast majority of teens. In fact, most of the people I see not following the social distancing measures are adults, not teens (group of six moms I saw walking together with your iced coffees the other morning, I’m looking at you – with some serious side-eye, I might add).

Most of the teens I know — and I would guess the ones you know too — are following the social distancing rules. They are educating themselves about coronavirus and its risks. They are keeping their butts at home, only leaving for the occasional walk with their parents or to play catch with their brother in the backyard. They are reluctantly logging on to Schoology and Powerschool and whatever-the-hell-other computer platform they are using to homeschool themselves. They are handling enormous losses – no graduations or proms, cancelled sports seasons, no in-person hangouts with friends, no goodbyes to their favorite teacher, no end-of-school parties, no college campus tours, no visits with their grandparents or cousins, no after-school job – with grace, understanding, and resilience.

Sure, they might be a mopey Debbie Downer some days and a total smart-ass other days (or all days). They might be half-assing school work and “forgetting” about household chores. They are leaving cups all over the house, not showering enough, and wearing the same clothes way too long And they are definitely playing too many video games and staying up way too late.

But you know what else they are doing? They are staying in touch with their friends and laughing their heads off together.  They are logging into Zoom to meet with their homeroom teacher. They are attending their math teacher’s virtual office hours to get extra help. They are taking a virtual piano lesson. They are checking in friends when they go quiet. They are making new friends (thanks to the virtual connections) and FaceTiming with their grandparents. They are making funny TikToks and doing DIY craft projects and baking brownies for a neighbor.

Some of them are doing truly heroic things like drops off groceries to elderly neighbors or delivering PPE across the country. Others are simply dealing with this historic crisis by making the best of it and not being a total jerk to the people they live with — which under the circumstances could probably be considered heroic some days. They are dealing with the losses and carving out a new path for themselves.

So here’s to the kids. The teens and older tweens. You’re doing a kick-ass, amazing job during this unprecedented crisis. Hearing your laughter as you video-chat with your friends is a life raft as we watch the depressing-as-hell news. Your grace and resilience is an inspiration.

The kids aren’t just alright — they are pretty damn amazing.

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