Talking With Teenagers: Inspiring Social Justice in the Adolescent You Love

It is in a teenager’s bones to want to take risks.  The more we help them find their way to appropriate risk-taking behavior, the less likely they are to… engage in unhealthy risk-taking behavior.  Social justice is one way that many teenagers I know take healthy—and even hopeful kinds of risks.  I see teenage boys who coach sports for underprivileged children.  I know adolescent girls who go on mission trips every spring and summer, to countries and children they’ve taken to heart.  I have one teenage girl I counsel who is committed to spending her senior year doing all she can to change the culture of her school by…

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Technology Tuesday: Using Technology to Jumpstart Gratitude

As much as technology feels like a beast we’re trying to tame, we’re wanting to identify ways we can make it work for us.  And ways our kids can use it for good.

 
One of those ways can be to create a Gratitude Album.  I challenge many of the adolescents I work with to create this on their phone.  I encourage younger kids to build this on an ipad of their own, or…

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How Can I Help My Son or Daughter Find Balance?

How do I help my daughter find balance?

Psychologist Leonard Sax says, “More and more boys are developing an epicurean ability to enjoy themselves—to enjoy video games, pornography, food and sleep—but they often don’t have the drive and motivation to succeed in the real world… outside their bedroom. More and more of their sisters have that drive and motivation in abundance—but they don’t know how to relax, have fun and enjoy life.”1

Girls feel a tremendous amount of pressure. They feel pressure to make good grades, to make good friends, to appear kind, and fun and strong and independent and responsible and brave, and pretty…all at the same time. And, what I hear in my office…

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Technology Tuesday: Are Teens Who Spend Less Time In Front of Screens Happier?

We’ve long suspected there to be a correlation between screen use and happiness.  We now have our hands on even more data to confirm an adolescent’s psychological well-being decreases the more hours they spend on screens.   The newest findings align with previous studies linking frequent screen use to teenage anxiety and depression.  

We’d strongly recommend you spend a few minutes reading about the findings from this recent study.  Take a close look at…

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Talking With Teenagers

With parents of teenagers, I have two words I repeat over and over in my counseling office:  empathy and questions.  Basically, we talk at teenagers way too much.  We lecture more than have conversations.  And conversations are honestly what they need most.  Conversations help them connect the dots, rather than us connecting the dots for them.  And our dots won’t lead them into adulthood or carry them into college.  They need to learn…

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Technology Tuesday: Parent Cue Live Podcast #87

We love any chance we have to partner with the folks at Parent Cue and Orange! On this week’s Technology Tuesday, Sissy is featured on their Parent Cue Live Podcast, talking about “What to do when kids are mean.” On it, she talks about bullying online and in real life, as well as the magic formula of strength and kindness. She also gives us practical ideas on how to help our kids recognize and strengthen the real friendships in their lives. You can listen here.

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Are My Kids On Track: Helping Kids Discover a Spiritual Foundation

We are good parents, loving parents, parents of the highest intention and unyielding commitment. Our conversations tend to focus on how we can prepare our children to be successful in school or on the team, or about their academic or other accomplishments. We care about their social lives, from playdates to prom dates, and we coach them day to day with hopes that they’ll make good friends, get along with their peers, and step up to do the right thing when the moment calls for leadership. We want them to be emotionally hardy and resilient, to know happiness and…

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Are My Kids On Track: Helping Kids Discover Meaning

Teenagers are always up for an adventure. In fact, being a teenager is all about adventure . . . risk-taking, thrill-seeking, pushing the edges of the envelope. At least it is, in their minds . . . and maybe even literally in the wiring of their brains. But, we’ll come back to idea that a little later.

It’s the adventure first . . . or it’s what they think of as adventure. One teenager told me that she struggled with her life because it wasn’t what high school was “supposed” to look like. According to today’s media, teenagers are “supposed” to be sitting in hotel bars, drinking underage, trying to find out which friend murdered another and deciding which zombie or vampire is…

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Technology Tuesday: Vaping, Juuling and Why Many Schools Have Banned Flash Drives

Vaping and Juuling are some of the more trendy practices in adolescent culture today.  The acceleration of vaping was highlighted in a 2016 report from the US surgeon general, citing a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from 2011-2015.  Another survey revealed that 1.7 million high school students reported having used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.  

A teenaged boy recently reported to me “my dad knows teenagers are going to drink and smoke, he just wants me to do it responsibly.”  I was grieved to hear this boy’s father had set the bar so low for him...

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Are My Kids On Track: Helping Your Child Discover Who They are in Christ

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” If you’ve seen the movie or read the book The Help, you know these words. You also know the moving scene when they’re spoken. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Kathryn Stockett’s heartwarming characters, let me introduce you. The scene takes place in adorable two-year-old Mae Mobley’s bedroom with Aibileen, her beloved housekeeper. Aibileen walks into the room, smile wide and arms outstretched. She takes Mae Mobley into her arms, holds her close, and repeats these words with her: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” They’re words that are foundational. They speak the truth into Mae Mobley’s life of who she is, how God made her, and how…

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Technology Tuesday: Taming the Technology Monster

For several years now, Sissy Goff has been teaching a class called "Taming the Technology Monster."  She’s been passing along important information to parents about raising digital natives.   Daily we sit with parents who comment that managing, overseeing and safeguarding technology is one of the biggest hurdles they face on a daily basis.

Sissy has put the valuable information from this class into a booklet highlighting 8 important principles for parents to circle around.  You can get this book…

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Are My Kids On Track: Helping Kids Learn Mercy

We interrupt this regularly scheduled chapter on spiritual milestones to bring you chapter 11 on Mercy—the chapter most directed toward early adolescence. Because everything about adolescence is, in fact, topsy turvy, this chapter will be, too.

Teenagers live in the here and now. In fact, their normal development mimics many characteristics of AD/HD. A friend of mine whose daughter has AD/HD described her as having two time frames in her mind: now and not now. The same is true for teenagers. Now and not now. And so we’re going to step inside their brains and see life and faith a little more from their perspective in this chapter. No waiting around for building blocks after all the stumbling blocks are over. It’s not that straightforward…

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Technology Tuesday: Doki Doki Literature Club

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Really.  It’s called Doki Doki Literature Club.  It took me three times to get the name right when a girl I was counseling mentioned it to me.  And, even though you might not be familiar with it, either, you want to pay attention if you’re a parent.  Kids watch videos of it on YouTube.  It was nominated for “trending game of the year” at the 2018 SXSW Gaming Awards (which are evidently a big deal in the gaming world).  But, what you really need to know is that, in its first three months of release, it was downloaded over one million times, and exceeded two million downloads about a month later (according to Wikipedia).  And that kids are talking about it.  

At first glance, Doki Doki Literature Club appears to be a lighthearted dating simulator, but is actually a psychological horror game.  The game opens with a warning: “This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed,” and then has an intro similar to your kids’ favorite cartoon.  The girl characters talk about “valuing happiness”, “finding comfort in the world of books,” and being “deceivingly cute girl with an assertive punch.”  Sounds harmless enough.  It’s about a male high school student who joins the literature club, which is made up of these four female students.  

As a player, you interact with the other characters, with the feeling that you’re controlling the action.  But, in reality, you aren’t.  And things turn very dark fairly quickly.  There are themes of depression, rape, abuse, and suicide.  A website called kotaku.com, discusses the plotline and the evolution of a character named Sayori.  “By the time Sayori tells the player character that she’s severely depressed, she’s clearly teetering on the edge of a breakdown, tearfully confessing her love for the player character. Even if you say that you love her back, her mood doesn’t improve. In fact, her inability to be happy that her crush is reciprocated makes her even sadder.”  

The game contains optional endings.  In one ending, one of the members stabs herself to death, and another finishes the game sitting beside her dead body.  In another ending, another member takes her life.  And, even adult game reviewers talk about how frightening and disturbing the game is.  On Polygon.com, a reviewers says, “As I crawled into this “second run,” I wasn’t just horrified; I was mentally trapped in the game's world and its antics. But I still wanted to dive back in, and I spent time with myself to understand what I had to overcome in order to continue the game. In the process, I realized how Doki Doki Literature Club utilizes an underrated aspect of the horror experience: control, or the lack thereof.”

And this is a game the kids we love are playing.  As always, we want to safeguard our kids online.  We want to play the games they’re downloading first.  Make sure we have parental controls set up, so we know what they’re watching.  And we want to have conversations about the dangers of even seemingly innocent content.  

I read one website that said that The First Rule of Doki Doki Literature Club is not to talk about Doki Doki Literature Club.  We don’t want the kids we love to have that rule about this game, or any other trend that catches their technologically hungry eyes.  For more information on how to help, you can grab a copy of Taming the Technology Monster.  And follow along with us for more information on Technology Tuesday’s about what kids are watching (and playing and posting) and what we can do to help.

Getting Really Ready for School

More and more girls come into our counseling offices worried about the start of school.  As the summer winds down and conversations come up about lunchboxes and lockers, they get a little teary.  They have more frequent stomach aches or headaches.   Each August, we see an onslaught of elementary aged children who have anxiety around school starting back.  Sometimes, it’s that they’re afraid of throwing up.  Sometimes, it’s performing poorly on tests.  Sometimes, it’s making friends or having a strict teacher.  Regardless of what they attach their fears to…

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Technology Tuesday: YouTube, Logan Paul, and the Allure of Suicide

Suicide has become an increasingly popular topic in our counseling offices.  More kids than ever are talking about it, in one way or another.  Tragically, exponentially more kids are talking about ending their lives.  Many of these kids are genuinely contemplating suicide as an option.  And, as always, if you ever hear your child mention it or seen any reference your child has written about suicide, in person or on social media, our recommendation is always the same:  take them directly to the hospital…

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Middle School Beatitudes versus Jesus' Beatitudes: Hopetown Highlights

Let me tell you why you are here.  You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. -Matthew 5:13, MSG

We skip over salt sometimes.  We read that verse and talk so much about light (You know…you are the light of the world kind of stuff).  But we miss the salt…and Jesus was saying something very important when he talked about salt.  Because, you see, salt itself was very important in Biblical times.  It was valuable.  People were even paid in salt, sometimes, instead of wages.  And we all know salt still has many important purposes.  It preserves.  It disinfects.  And it especially helps…

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Technology Tuesday: Safeguarding Your Kids on YouTube

Every time we speak on technology, we’re asked about YouTube.  Kids of all ages are investing significant amounts of time and energy on this platform, watching everything from cartoons to comedy sketches to vlogs to other kids playing video games.  It’s hard to know how to protect kids…and sometimes hard to know what you might be protecting them from.

Thankfully, there is a version of YouTube called YouTube kids, with built in protections.  But we wanted to give you a little more information on some additional ways you can safeguard your little ones.  And, in a couple of weeks, we’ll be posting some important information regarding YouTube and the teenagers you love…

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Storms, Shipwrecks, and Planks of Remembrance: Hopetown Highlights, 5th-6th Grade Camp

“How many of you have fallen down before?  You understand, then.  We try so hard to do something right, and we still fall down.  Your parents encourage you and build you up, and you still fall flat on your face.  That’s the thing about trying to have confidence.  It just doesn’t work for very long.  The Bible says it like this:

We are just as capable of messing it up as they were.  Don’t be so naïve and self-confident.  You’re not exempt.  You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else…

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