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Oct 3, 2011

Your Tween & Substance Abuse: What Every Parent Must Know

Substance abuse among tweens is sky-rocketing across the country. It’s not just media hype– experimentation with drugs and alcohol is no longer just for kids on the fringes and is regularly occurring earlier than most parents realize.

Unlike most parents’ middle school experiences, experimenting with substances in 7th or 8th grade is not uncommon. I work strictly with tweens and teens who share stories with me that their parents would never imagine to be real. In fact, many who begin to dabble with substance use in high school report that they feel they “started late” when compared to their peers.

What’s a parent to do?

First it is important to recognize the science. There is no argument that the human brain continues to develop well into the mid-20s. In fact, some report that the tween brain develops at a pace so rapid that the only more dramatic period of growth is during infancy.

Scientifically speaking it makes sense to take a hard-line on substance abuse, especially during the tween years. Studies are routinely showing that the longer a kid stays away from substance use (and the longer their brain can therefore develop without exposure to drugs or alcohol), the less likely they are to develop a substance addiction in their lifetime.

Second, stay on top of what is trending. For parents today, it requires a serious effort to stay informed about the drug scene. While alcohol and marijuana are still the most popular and drugs like ecstasy are quite prevalent, it’s also worth noting that tweens often abuse easy-to-find OTC cough suppressants such as Robotusin or Coricidin for quick highs. Others will raid their parents’ medical cabinet to experiment with prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Xanax, Vicodin and ADHD drugs like Ritalin.

The emergence of “designer drugs ” which produce significant highs, are largely legal, and go undetected on drug tests are presenting a new sort of challenge for even the most diligent parents. Substances like synthetic marijuana (known commonly as Spice or K2), salvia (famously used by Miley Cyrus), and even bath salts are as easy to obtain as a pack of cigarettes in many states and are quite popular among the tween population.

Finally, try to understand why substance abuse is becoming more common during these formative tween years and discuss it with your kids. Sometimes it’s as simple as a tween modeling the behavior of their older siblings. The majority of tweens want to be perceived as mature and participating is their attempt to be cool. Many tweens are struggling socially. For some kids, becoming a partier gives them an immediate group to belong to. Other tweens are self-medicating for depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.

I cannot covey how many highly-invested, highly-educated parents I’ve worked with who had no clue that their tween was experimenting with drugs or alcohol until something serious occurred.

Here are some tips to help you navigate this slippery slope with your tween:

  • Drug test and breathalyze intermittently but regularly. If your kid knows you are testing, they will often think twice. This also allows your kid an easy excuse to say no when facing tough peer pressure from friends.
  • Take a zero tolerance stance. Tweens don’t typically practice anything in moderation. Think along the terms of red light or green light.
  • Do not tell your tween of your substance use history until they are through high school. Yes, it will be tempting to open up and share with a curious tween, but try to avoid it. While you may be stating, “Yes, but…” all your tween hears is, “Yes!” After all, you turned out okay so how bad could it be?
  • Monitor your tweens cell phone and Internet use. Tweens discuss their interest in substance use with their peers. This is a great way to catch issues either before it occurs or at least before it becomes a serious problem.
  • Have tangible and immediate consequences if you catch your tween experimenting. Yelling or lecturing at your tween is a meaningless annoyance to them. By calmly issuing the consequence for their choice and by following through on your discipline, you set a clear standard.
  • Keep your tween busy. Although you do not want to overload your kids, the more structure they have, the less down time they will have to experiment. After all, bored kids tend to find their way to trouble faster.
  • Know the key terms. Kids have created an alternate vocabulary for drugs and alcohol so that parents do not pick up on their discussions. Visit my websitewww.drjerryweichman.com to learn these terms or follow me on Twitter using the handle @drjerryweichman for additional ways you can help your child.
Dec 17, 2010

Bringing Up Kids in a Porn Culture

Parents are in an impossible position today thanks to the increasingly pornographic and hypersexualized culture. One of the major jobs of a parent is to socialize children into the culture. But what do you do if the culture is toxic? Children and adolescents are being exposed to a heavy diet of soft core porn and these images are now so commonplace that they are almost impossible to avoid. If you think I’m exaggerating, then flip through a magazine at the supermarket checkout, channel surf, take a drive to look at billboards, or watch TV ads, and you will be bombarded with images that a decade ago would have been considered soft-core porn.

If you want an example of just how hypersexualized our culture has become, then look no further than the rebranding of Miley Cyrus. It seems like just yesterday she was a squeaky clean Disney icon who was loved by millions of girls around the globe. Well, she is still loved, but now she looks just like all the other young female celebrities who are competing for stardom in a culture that increasingly hypersexualizes young women. From her photo shoot in Vanity Fair, where she wore bed-head hair and not much else, to her pole dancing at the Teen Choice Awards, Cyrus has been forced by the dictates of the market to conform to an increasingly narrow image of what it means to be female in today’s culture.

These images have a profound effect on both girls and boys because they provide them cultural cues on what it means to be a woman or a man. As children begin to develop their gender and sexual identities, they become especially reliant on media images to figure out what is cool, hot and most importantly, valued by their peer group. So what does it mean for a girl to mature in a culture where Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are role models?

People not immersed in pop culture tend to assume that what we see today is just more of the same stuff that previous generations grew up on. But what is different today is not only the hypersexualization of the image, but also the degree to which such images have overwhelmed and crowded out any alternative images of being female. Today’s tidal wave of soft-core porn has normalized the porn-star look in everyday culture to such a degree that anything less looks dowdy, prim, and downright boring. Today a girl or young woman looking for an alternative to the hypersexualized look will quickly come to the grim realization that the only alternative to looking hot is to be invisible.

And what girl wants to be invisible? Adolescence is about being noticed and the desire for visibility among one’s peer group too often means conforming to the plasticized, formulaic and generic images that bombard us daily. We should see the porn culture as a bully that manipulates, coerces, and grooms girls into conformity by providing them with limited choices. This culture is slowly chipping away at girls’ self-esteem, stripping them of a sense of themselves as whole human beings, and providing them with an identity that glorifies sex and trivializes every other human attribute.

An American Psychological Association study on the sexualization of girls found that there was ample evidence to conclude that sexualizing girls “has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality, and attitudes and beliefs.” Some of these effects include risky sexual behavior; higher rates of eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem; and reduced academic performance.

There are, of course, girls who successfully resist this culture, but they pay a price by having to embrace an identity that is at odds with mainstream culture. What I find from my interviews is that these young women and girls tend to have someone in their life–a mother, an older woman mentor, or a coach–who provides some form of immunization to the cultural messages. But often this immunization is short-lived.

Every summer I co-teach an institute in media literacy at Wheelock College, and many of the participants are parents or teachers. Year after year we hear the same story: they are working hard to provide their daughters or students with ways to resist the culture, and for the early years the girls seem to be internalizing these counter messages. However, at some point–usually around puberty but increasingly earlier–the girls begin to adopt more conventional feminine behavior as their peer group becomes the most salient socializing force.

While girls are being trained by the pop culture, our boys are being seduced and manipulated by a multi-billion dollar a year porn industry. Studies show that the average age of first viewing porn is 11, and porn today looks nothing like your father’s Playboy. Type porn into Google and you won’t see anything that looks like the old pinups; instead, you will be catapulted into a world of sexual cruelty and brutality where women are subject to body-punishing sex as they are being choked, spat upon and verbally abused.

I regularly lecture to parents groups and they are appalled by the images that any 11 year old can freely access by typing PORN into Google. What often shocks them is the sheer level of brutality where sex is used to make hate, not love, to a woman’s body. The feelings and emotions we normally associate with love – connection, empathy, tenderness, caring, affection – are missing, and in their place are those we normally associate with hate – fear, disgust, anger, loathing, and contempt. It is images like these that are now commonplace all over the Internet and are shaping the way boys and men think about sex, relationships and intimacy.

I have a son and I am outraged that the pornographers spend millions of dollars on research trying to figure out how to turn him into a porn user. My son, and indeed all children, have the right to develop their sexual identity in a way that is authentic, affirming and in keeping with their own developmental time clock. Porn today is the major form of sex education for boys and cultural education for girls.

This predatory industry even has its own lobbying organization called The Free Speech Coalition. One of their big successes was in the case of Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the coalition in declaring the 1996 Child Porn Prevention Act unconstitutional. Its definition of child pornography (any visual depiction that appears to be a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct) was ruled to be overly broad. The law was narrowed to cover only those images where an actual person (rather than one that appears to be) under the age of 18 was involved in the making of the porn, thus opening the way for the porn industry to use either computer-generated images of children or real porn performers who, although eighteen and over, are “childified” to look much younger.

Following the court’s decision, there has been an explosion in the number of sites that childify women, as well as those that use computer-generated imagery. Young women are made to look like children by dressing them in school uniform, putting braces on their teeth and making them act like pre-pubescent girls. Websites with names such as First Time With Daddy, Exploited Teen and First Time Sex legitimize and normalize the sexual abuse of girls.

I have been on many talk shows where someone invariably says that it is up to the parents to keep their kids away from the porn culture. Certainly we have a part to play, but the reality is that the culture should be helping us to raise our kids, not undermining us at every turn. The pornographers have done a stealth attack and it is now time to fight back. We can’t do this on an individual level, so we need to build a movement that empowers parents and children to resist the porn culture. The first step is a grass roots education campaign aimed at raising consciousness to the harms of porn as a way to build a community of like-minded people.

One tool in this battle is an anti-porn slide show developed by the founders (including myself) of the activist group Stop Porn Culture. This show is now being given in homes, community centers, colleges, schools and anti-violence organizations across the country. It is a way to start the discussion and to encourage people to become active. It is important to build a network in your area because your children need the support of a peer group if they are to stand outside the porn culture. Ultimately this movement is based on the belief that the culture belongs to us, not the pornographers, and they have no right to rob our children of an authentic and life-loving sexuality that is based on connection, intimacy and equality.

Dec 29, 2009

Why is My Tween Afraid to Leave Home? Understanding Chronic Anxiety

It’s puzzling and scary for Ryan’s parents. It seemed as if overnight their once happy, social 10 year old did not want to leave home to go to school, or go out and play with friends the way he used to. Ryan can’t explain it himself. “I just get nervous about it and then my stomach hurts, I get cramps, and feel like I have to go to the bathroom.” Now Ryan worries about getting a stomachache whenever he’s away from home.

Tiara who is 11 was always a shy, cautious child who had separation anxiety every year when school first started, but managed to eventually adjust. But this year, she’s having a tough time with math and the homework load often overwhelms her. Tiara worries almost all the time about school and that she may be called on to go to the board to do a math problem, or that she’ll never be able to understand the homework. Though she goes to school without complaint, Tiara suffers in silence.

Symptoms of Anxiety Pack a Wallop

Both Ryan and Tiara are developing chronic anxiety. And once a child experiences the uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety, and it happens over and over again, it’s understandable why they don’t want to go out the door. First the physical symptoms of anxiety are powerful and disturbing:

 

  • It starts with a heart-pounding adrenaline rush which includes other stress hormones.
  • Breathing becomes rapid and shallow making it tough to catch your breath, often leading to feelings of being smothered or trapped.
  • Dizziness, numbness and feeling faint are common symptoms.
  • Muscles tense causing headaches, or chest pain and body aches.
  • Voiding of bowel and bladder occurs, causing cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Sweating occurs as the body cools itself, a hot flush may occur too.

 

The mental symptoms pack a punch, too, playing havoc with cognitive functioning making it difficult to think clearly, reason and learn. Anxious children may complain about feeling frightened, helpless, and out of control. Some kids feel like they are having an out of body experience, others get angry or feel ashamed and isolated.

Symptoms vary from mild to severe, but even milder symptoms can be distressful. Avoiding places and situations often seems like the only option for an anxious child. Look at it from Ryan’s point of view. He says to his parents, “If I go to school or a friend’s house I may get a stomachache, but when I stay home I feel better.” Tiara feels better on Friday afternoons. . “On Friday after school I can take a break and not have to think about math or school at all.” But when Sunday afternoon comes around, Tiara begins to worry about Monday morning and her anxiety starts to build.

Worry is a Culprit

A main ingredient of anxiety is worry: thinking or obsessing about past experiences and worrying that they will happen again. When Tiara thinks about being in school she replays embarrassing moments in class when she couldn’t work out a math problem on the board, or failed a math test. Then she projects those memories into the future: “What if my teacher calls me to the board?” “What if we have a math quiz again?” Ryan worries too. “What if my stomach hurts and I feel like diarrhea in class and I can’t leave the room?” “What if it happens at a friend’s house?” And it’s worry that jump starts the fight or flight–one ounce of worry and the symptoms are raging.

What’s Happening to Me? It’s the Fight or Flight

A first crucial step in helping your tween is to explain why the symptoms are occurring. Symptoms occur because of something called the “fight or flight response” that is an alarm system located in the nervous system. It warns the body of physical danger and activates a reaction to avoid injury or death. In anxious children, this alarm goes off when a perception of danger is present, for example a math test. It’s only a false alarm though because the brain cannot distinguish between a real physical threat to life and limb, or to the fear of something benign.

The fight or flight has allowed humans to survive to this day. But its purpose is to act as a short-term response to a physical threat, not as a continuous state of mind and body leading to chronic anxiety. And when your child’s fight or flight revs up while she’s taking a test, or sitting in the classroom, there’s no outlet for this response, no relief, no running away, no battle to win. Your child has to sit there trying to deal with an internal hurricane.

The False Alarm Explanation

An easy way to explain the fight or flight is by using a home smoke detector. Show your child that you can set off the smoke detector either by frying something in the kitchen or by pushing the button on the detector. Say, “See, the detector thinks there is a fire and the alarm is going off, even though there is no fire. But the detector doesn’t know we’re fooling it. It gets the message that a fire is occurring and does its job. That’s what happens to your brain, it thinks the math test (or other fear) you’re worrying about is a real physical danger and the alarm goes off to protect you.”

When Ryan understood what the fight or flight was, and he began to make his way out to play with friends again, when he felt anxiety begin he learned to say to himself, “I don’t like the way I feel but it’s nothing more than an adrenaline rush.” This helped him to take control of his fears of the symptoms. Hearing the false alarm explanation helped Tiara too. When she felt anxious she pictured little firemen (or firegirls) running around inside of her, seeing no fire, and turning off the alarm.

In the end, for many children it’s the fear of the symptoms that turns anxiety into a chronic condition and makes kids want to feel better and safe by staying home. Also tell your child, “I know that what you feel is disturbing and can be frightening, but these are just feelings and they can’t hurt you.”

Nov 21, 2009

Is Your Tween Scheduled or Over-Scheduled?

The vision of a super busy person isn’t a new concept; it’s certainly familiar to all of us. In fact, it can sometimes be perceived as a badge of honor. Perhaps it’s because the more we’re involved in, the more we believe it says about our own drive and achievement orientation, right? Why should we expect our preteens to march to the same drum? Maybe it’s part of the picture that focuses on keeping our tweens busy while we’re occupied or making sure our kids aren’t, gasp, bored. Or, maybe it’s a drive to push our kids to be the best they can be. Or, maybe we want to give our children what we didn’t have access to when we were their age. Or…maybe we just haven’t paused our own lives long enough to really think about it. Our guess is that it’s some combination of the above.

We’re All Busy!

The parallels with adult life are apparent. Compared with 1960, the average American family is working 160 hours more each year (that’s an additional month of average work weeks each year!). In the past 20 years, some important family activities have been on the decline (family dinners have declined 33% and family vacations have decreased by 28%). On top of the dramatic increase in work, there are different stresses in the world than when we grew up. First, we live in a society where safety, on many levels, is a real concern. Second, most families don’t have childcare readily accessible from within their family and community. Also, we’re in a state of significant financial insecurity; gone are the days of retiring after 40 years with the same company.

Everyone Needs Balance!

One thing is certain. There’s a great deal of debate over where to draw the line between a child being busy enough and being too busy. The balance that needs to be achieved will be different for every child on the basis of his/her academic needs, temperament, environment, and the family’s needs.

Too Many Activities?

Some experts contend that children who are involved in a near constant flow of activities don’t have the opportunity to learn to be at ease when they’re alone. Having lived by activity schedules and often being around other people, they aren’t able to learn the joy of solitude and they aren’t given an opportunity to express creativity, daydream and self-reflect. More important, perhaps, they haven’t realized the value of making time for fun. This, along with achievement pressure and a decrease in family time are the frequently cited issues.

Research has shown that an overbooked child can lead to a less active teenager. Simply put, over-scheduled children may become burned out later in life. Research also suggests that children who have played a sport with intensity for an extended period of time eventually tire of the activity as it becomes routine and the love of the sport is lost (which might explain why 70% of kids quit playing their favorite sport by their teens!).

Too Much Free Time?

On the flipside, Susan M. McHale, Ph.D., of Penn State led a study that monitored how fourth and fifth graders spent their free time. Her team examined school grades, depression levels and parental reports at the beginning and end of a two-year period. Devoting more free time to structured and supervised activities such as hobbies and sports appears to enhance a tween’s academic, emotional and behavioral development at this age. Spending more time playing outdoors and hanging out, in contrast, appear to have a negative impact on development. Contrary to popular belief, recent research rejects the notion that most kids are over-scheduled and are suffering as a result. In fact, less than one in ten could be described as over-scheduled and involvement in those extracurricular activities can be linked with positive social, behavioral, and psychological outcomes. Other research also indicated that extracurricular participation up to ten hours per week was almost always positive, and participation up to 15 and even 20 hours per week was generally associated with positive development. Academic performance and emotional stability levels off or declines after extracurricular involvement beyond 20 hours per week (as a point of reference, only 3-6% of the child and youth population participate more than 20 hours per week).*

Determine the Balance

It’s important to consider what the right balance is, so that your tween has enough to keep him/her stimulated and challenged, but not so much that they’re overwhelmed.

Experts suggest that, with your guidance, let your preteen choose their after school activities, along with how busy they want to be, but watch for signs of burnout. To help you think about whether your tween may be participating in too many activities, consider the following:

• Does your child go from one activity to another with little or no enthusiasm?
• Is he/she having trouble sleeping at night?
• Does he/she complain of not having enough time to spend with friends?
• Is the phrase “hurry up or we’ll be late” used excessively?
• When did he/she last participate in “quality” family time?
• Does your child have time to explore different interests (other than activities) that they may have?
• Does he/she enjoy the activity or is he/she particularly self-critical as an outcome of some/all activities?

Beyond the sheer volume of activities, we also need to focus on the participation impact to our preteen. The intense and critical focus on performance in these activities may be the greater impact, causing stress and other issues. While the research says extracurricular activities provide a positive outlet for children and lower the likelihood of risky behavior, over-scheduling a child can introduce other stress factors that might potentially lead to a burned-out child. Remember, some of the best interactions with our tweens occur during downtime-just talking, preparing meals together, working on a hobby or art project, playing sports together, or being fully immersed in childhood.

Aug 16, 2009

Tips for Kids Going to Middle School: Getting Organized

Is your preteen nervous about making the transition to Middle School? As a parent, you may be asking yourself what you can do to pave the way for a smooth adjustment. In our two part series, TweenParent.com asked mothers of experienced middle school kids for advice to help parents prepare their preteens for the first day and beyond. This article focuses on teaching your kids the skills that they will need to be successful in with their schoolwork.

Getting the Lay of the Land
Familiarity is key and our parent experts have some great suggestions to help preteens get comfortable with their new surroundings before they start school.

  • The smartest thing students can do before the first day is to arrange a visit to the school, specifically asking for a tour and map. From there, find your classes before the halls are filled with students. – Cheryl Stahle, former middle school teacher and mother of a 9th grade boy
  • Teach you child how to use their combination lock before school starts. Help them memorize the combination and learn how to open it. -Raffi Darrow, mother of 7th and 6th grade girls
  • Remind your preteen that they aren’t the only ones getting used to a new school. It helps manage their anxiety knowing everyone isn’t looking at them fumbling around. – Cari Kraft, mother of an 8th grade boy
  • Make multiple copies of your preteen’s schedule – one for their locker, their book bag, their main binders, their desk or room at home. – Cari Kraft
  • Become involved in an extracurricular activity, such as the yearbook or school newspaper, that fosters getting to know the school. – Michelle Levine, mother of an 8th grade boy

 

Locker 101
All the parents we talked to agree that a well-organized locker leads to a well-organized student.

  • It’s important to organize your books and other materials in your locker in a way that will allow you to pick up things quickly without having to hunt for them. -Cindy Erwin, mother of an 8th Grade boy.
  • Managing the demands of multiple teachers and classes becomes a cinch if students color code their classes. I recommend that each class be assigned a color. For that class buy a binder and pocket folder that are close to the same color. That way you can find your materials quickly, both for classes and organizing homework assignments. -Cheryl Stahle
  • Get a little locker white board so they can make notes to remind themselves of important assignments and events. – Cari Kraft
  • Extra locker shelves can be bought at any discount or office supply store and will help your preteen organize their locker. – Cindy Erwin
  • Suggest keeping books organized so that the ones they need next are on top. – Cari Kraft

 

Almost as important as a well organized locker is having the right supplies available. Our parents recommend:

  • Extra pens, pencils, notebook paper, index cards, post it notes, white out, highlighters, scotch tape, a stapler and a calculator
  • Hand sanitizer to use before eating and a mirror to check braces and hair.
  • For girls, a maxi pad, in a discreet bag – just in case.
  • A change of clothes in case of an accident, safety pins for clothing malfunctions, and a sweater for the colder weather.
  • A few extra dollars

 

Organize For Success
Most kids are not naturally organized and homework can easily get lost in the shuffle. Our expert parents suggest teaching your kids a system that will support them in managing all their assignments.

  • USE the planner that is given to you by the school, or buy your own. Write down every assignment, its due date, and any specific instructions. – Cindy Erwin
  • In your planner, highlight the date when an assignment or test is approaching. Then, allocate time each day to work on a small piece of the project. By learning to assign homework by breaking down bigger projects into smaller ones, there are no last minute rushes or missed assignments. – Cheryl Stahle
  • Do homework as soon as it is assigned in the priority order of what is due first. – Cari Kraft
  • Review your class notes each night and annotate them with questions to clarify areas of uncertainty with the teacher the following day. The simplest way is to write a question on a post it note and put it on the spot where your notes are not clear. – Cheryl Stahle
  • Get a folder for each subject with 2 pockets. Use one for completed work and one for TO DO work. Remind your child to check their folders each day after their homework is done. -Raffi Darrow
  • Do a double check before you leave your locker at the end of the day to make sure you have the books you need for homework. – Cari Kraft
  • Many schools now post assignments on an Internet website. If yours does, check it frequently. -Cindy Erwin

 

Teachers, Teachers, Teachers
One of the biggest differences between elementary school and middle school is managing multiple teachers.

  • The most important tip I can share is to prepare your child for the fact that there will not be one teacher “watching over” them any longer. They will need to develop relationships with several teachers, and perhaps an office person or counselor who can assist them with any problems or concerns. -Cindy Erwin
  • Students need to view their teachers as an ally and ask for help. I have had very shy students leave me notes when they are hesitant to ask questions and that works as well. Just don’t be afraid to approach a teacher. – Cheryl Stahle
  • As a parent, make sure you write at least one email to introduce yourself and touch base with each of your preteen’s teachers. It’ll go a long way to show the teacher you’re one of the ‘parents that care.’ -Michelle Levine
  • What frustrates me the most as an educator is when a student doesn’t say hello when greeted in the morning. Starting even with this most basic courtesy is a great first step in developing relationships with teachers. -Cheryl Stahle
Apr 28, 2009

Buying Your Preteen Her First Bra

Buying your preteen her first bra is a right of passage.  It represents the onset of adolescence and is an excellent opportunity to bond with your daughter.  Whether or not you buy your daughter’s first bra in a store or on-line, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the event by going out to lunch, seeing a movie, or completing the purchase with a new outfit for your daughter!  Of course, it’s also important to remember that this might be a private moment for your preteen.  She may be self-conscious about the changes going on in her body and may not want to share this new phase with siblings or other grown-ups.  Being available to your daughter at this time opens up the opportunity for other conversations about growing up and having a healty body image.  It can be an uplifting experience and have a positive impact on your daughter’s self-esteem.

When to Buy
Most experts recommend buying your daughter’s first bra during the early stages of breast development called the breast bud stage. Typically, this stage happens between 8-13 years old, and often mirrors the child’s mother’s experience of growth during puberty.

Girls who develop early or later than their friends may feel uncomfortable with their bodies and become concerned about fitting in with their peer group.  For early developers, a cami or sports bra is a good solution as it can even out the contours of your preteen’s body, making her feel less self-conscious. Late bloomers, may request a bra in order to fit in with their friends. Changing clothes during gym classes, slumber parties and camp can make preteens feel exposed and embarrassed. There is no harm in buying a bra for a late developer if it helps make her feel more comfortable. The most important thing to do at this stage is to reassure your daughter that her development is normal, so she will feel positive about her body.

What to Buy
In this early stage, a bralette (aka training bra), cami or sports bra are good options. Training bras are not meant to offer support, but instead offer comfort and protection while young and often tender breasts are developing. Since it is your daughter’s first experience wearing a bra, it is important to find one that fits well. A good fit means that the bra stays in place across her rib cage, is not too tight and feels comfortable. Feeling at ease while wearing her new bra will help your daughter feel good about her growing body.

As your daughter grows, she will need to buy a bra with more support. Wearing the correct size bra will help your preteen feel less restricted and make her figure look proportionate. In order to achieve this, you will need to know your daughter’s band and cup size. Since the thought of being measured at a specialty bra shop may be intimidating to your preteen, consider using a bra size calculatorto find the right fit.

When buying bras, your daughter should consider the different styles of clothes she wears. Will the design of the bra work underneath all her shirts? Is she active in sports – does she need a sports bra? Don’t forget to buy a few bras so that they can be regularly laundered.

Where to Buy
Luckily, preteens have lots of options when it comes to buying bras. Best of all, if your daughter doesn’t feel comfortable shopping in a store, you can shop on-line together in the privacy of your home. TweenParent.com found some stores that we think offer a good selection of bras for preteens and young teens.

Apr 18, 2009

Great Books for Preteens

TweenParent.com asked Bank Street Bookshop to put together a list of books for summer reading that is sure to keep your tween’s nose in a book for hours at a time. Divided by age group, the list includes notable new books and timeless classics. Plus, as a gift to our readers, Bank Street is offering a 20% discount off of anything you purchase (not just tween books). Just enter code TWEEN09 at check out.

Ages 9-11

After Hamelin by Bill Richardson. Mysteriously struck deaf the day the Pied Piper returns to pipe away Hamelin’s children, Penelope cannot hear his tune and is left behind. It thus becomes her responsibility to enter a fantastical dream world and use her wits and ingenuity to find and rescue her family and friends. After Hamelin is an enchanting story featuring a clever, memorable heroine.

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry. Precocious 10-year-old Anastasia has some very firm opinions. She’s made a list of things she loves (lists, mounds bars, her goldfish) and things she hates (boys, pumpkin pie, her teacher). As she navigates school, a first crush, and her parents’ shocking announcement that they are having a baby, Anastasia is surprised to see how her loves and hates change. First in a series.

The Birthday Room by Kevin Henkes. “Two of the things Benjamin Hunter received for his twelfth birthday took him completely by surprise: a room and a letter. The room was from his parents. The letter was from his uncle.” The room is Benjamin’s very own art studio. The letter is from an estranged uncle who is blamed for a childhood accident that left Benjamin without a finger. Well-known for his popular picture books, Henkes has written a thought-provoking and memorable coming-of-age story for middle grade readers.

Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It by Sundee T. Frazier. Brendan’s grandmother Gladys calls him her chocolate milk – his mother is white, and his father is black, a fact that hasn’t caused him much concern…until now. Brendan is a scientist; he keeps a notebook full of questions and answers he uncovers through scientific research. So when he meets his estranged (white) grandfather by chance, he begins investigating the reasons for the estrangement, disobeying his parents in the process. Frazier handles Brendan’s complicated family history, questions about race and identity, and other thought-provoking topics with finesse. Though it deals with some heavy issues, Brendan’s normal kid interests and activities (Tae Kwon Do, catapulting Groovy Girls out the window) make this an enjoyable and accessible read. Coretta Scott King Book Award.

The Cats of Roxville Station by Jean Craighead George. As much as Mike wants a cat, he knows he can’t have one at home. Instead he tries to win the trust of Rachet, a feral cat with a strong mistrust of humans. Jean Craighead George, acclaimed author of Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain, fills this story of the complex society of the homeless cats with factual information about wild feline habits and hierarchy.
The reader comes to know and care about Rachet, Queenella, Tatters, Tachometer and all the other cats in a world centered around a train station.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban. Zoe dreams of becoming a great concert pianist. So when her quirky but well-meaning father brings home a wheezing, 70s-style electric organ, she is unenthused. Her music teacher (free lessons with purchase) convinces her to enter the Perform-o-Rama, an electric organ competition, which has a surprisingly transformative effect on Zoe. A delightful book, A Crooked Kind of Perfect is an utterly charming story of friendship, family, growing pains, and finding the baby grand hiding in a wheezing Perfectone D-60. Readers will be convinced that they know the finely-drawn characters.

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis. Of her fellow seventh graders, Emma-Jean Lazarus thinks “their behavior was often irrational. And as a result, their lives were messy. Emma-Jean disliked disorder of any kind, and had thus made it her habit to keep herself separate, to observe from afar.” Though not labeled as such, Emma-Jean displays some characteristics of an individual with Asperger Syndrome, making her a uniquely insightful narrator. When she sets out to help her classmates solve their problems, her lack of understanding of middle school social mores leads to some mix-ups. A memorable, winning narrator and realistic but uplifting look at junior high life make Emma-Jean a new favorite.

The Friskative Dog by Susan Straight. Sharron’s father bought her The Friskative Dog when she was five, and he quickly became her most beloved stuffed animal. When Sharron’s truck-driver father doesn’t come back from a long haul, The Friskative Dog seems more important than ever, a sort of talisman connecting Sharron to her father. But when nine-year-old Sharron brings her dog to school, the too-old-for-stuffed-animals mean girls in her class take him. Readers will empathize with Sharron’s heartbreak and delight in her resilience. With the help of her mother, grandmother, and a new friend, Sharron finds a way to recover The Friskative Dog and begin to deal with her father’s absence.

Lioness Quartet #1: Alanna by Tamora Pierce. Alanna lives in Tortal, a medieval world full of knights, heroes and magic. When her father announces he’s sending her to a convent, Alanna she decides she’d rather not go. She cuts off her hair, dresses like a boy, and goes to try for her knighthood. In this, Pierce’s first story in the magical country of Tortall, Alanna befriends a prince and a magical cat and learns that her destiny is greater than she knew. The gripping story will have readers reading “just one more chapter” after another.

Masterpiece Author by Elise Broach. Narrated by Marvin, a young beetle who lives in 11-year-old James’ NYC apartment, Masterpiece has it all – art history, international art heists, a thrilling mystery, and great characters. When 11-year-old James accidentally leaves the lid off his ink bottle, Marvin draws an extremely detailed, beetle-sized picture and leaves it on James’ desk. When James’ mom finds it, she becomes convinced her son is an artistic genius. This catapults James (and his new best friend Marvin) into a highly-unusual sting operation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fascinating and thoroughly satisfying, Masterpiece is one of our favorite books of the year.

Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng. Orphaned and unpopular, Molly Moon lives in a miserable orphanage in England until she finds a rare book on hypnotism mis-shelved in the public library. Molly hypnotizes herself and orphanage pug Petula to New York City, to a suite in the Waldorf and a starring role in a Broadway show. But a dangerous criminal will stop at nothing to get his hands on the valuable book, and its keeper.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. When their father rents a vacation cottage on a large estate, the four Penderwick sisters, who range in age from twelve to four years old, find themselves with the summer vacation of their dreams. But when they discover that the elegant owner of the estate has threatened to send her mischievous son to military school, they decide to intervene. The results are comical (Rabbits, even exceptionally cute ones, really don’t belong anywhere near prize-winning gardens.) but ultimately satisfying. Birdsall skillfully imbues each sister with her own distinct personality, so readers feel like they know each one. Wonderfully old-fashioned, The Penderwicks has the look and feel of a classic. Winner of the National Book Award.

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright. Bored with rainy Saturdays spent cooped up in the house, the Melendy siblings come up with a brilliant idea. Each week, they pool their allowances and one of them gets to use the entire one dollar and sixty cents to do something extravagant. Children will be enchanted by their visits to the art gallery, the opera, the circus, and even the beauty parlor. First published in 1942 and now back in print, The Saturdays is not to be missed.

The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. Platform 13 at Kings Cross Railway Station conceals a secret door leading to an island where humans and magical creatures live harmoniously. The island is ruled by a royal family. When the crown prince is kidnapped, a delegation is sent into London to rescue him. Together a fey, a hag, a wizard, and an ogre must navigate the busy city while keeping their identities secret. Ibbotson consistently crafts imaginative fantasies with touches of humor. (Skeptics are assured that Ibbotson’s book was published several years before Harry Potter first stepped onto Platform 9 ¾.)

The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley. After the mysterious disappearance of their parents, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are sent to live with the grandmother they thought was dead. In fact not dead, but quite unusual, Relda Grimm lives in a large house with lots of locks, even more books, and a weird, but nice, assistant named Mr. Canis. Before they know it, the girls are thrust into a mystery of the most unbelievable nature – a giant has climbed down an enormous beanstalk and kidnapped their grandmother. It turns out that the Grimm sisters are descendants of the famous Brothers Grimm. Their family is entrusted with solving fairy tales mysteries and keeping ancient fairy tale magic out of the reach of ordinary humans. Readers will love figuring out the fairy tale allusions in this series of sophisticated fractured fairy tales.

Skinnybones by Barbara Park. “Everybody knows that just one person can’t make the difference between a winning team and a losing team. After all, every single team I’ve ever been on has come in last place. And I don’t care what anyone says, all those teams didn’t lose just because of me…probably.” Self-described stinky baseball player, Skinnybones may not be a record-breaking pitcher like his classmate T.J., but he’s got a major league sense of humor. An excellent choice for fans of Wimpy Kid or reluctant readers, Skinnybones will have kids laughing out loud and rooting for the beleaguered hero.

Solomon Snow and the Silver Spoon by Kaye Umansky. At the age of ten, the beleaguered Solomon Snow discovers that the people he thought were his Ma and Pa actually found him on their doorstep with a fancy silver spoon in his mouth. The spoon has since been pawned, so Solomon Snow sets off to track it down and find his real parents. Accompanied by the bookish Prudence, he meets a motley crew of characters on the way to a surprising but thoroughly satisfying ending.

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth. Next door neighbors Violet and Lottie are best friends. When ready-to-be-a-teenager, big-city Melissa moves to their rural Florida town, she disrupts their lifelong friendship. As Lottie and Melissa watch soap operas and experiment with makeup and clothes, rough and tumble Violet grows to resent the new girl. But when Lottie’s house is destroyed by lightning, the two frenemies find a way to work together to help out. With its relatable story of a friendship triangle, nuanced, likeable characters, and touch of first romance, Violet Raines is an excellent choice for pre-teens.

Ages 11-13

All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall. “We know there’s a lot of people out there who think our school is a dead end. And that all the kids inside it are dead ends, too.” Based on the true story of a group of inner-city Cleveland junior high students who attempted to build the world’s largest tetrahedron, All of the Above boasts extremely well-developed characters.

The Agony of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Alice’s mother died when she was very young. She loves her father and her 19-year-old brother, Lester, but now that she’s about to turn thirteen, they’re floundering a bit. Lester tells her a period is the dot at the end of a sentence, and her father is clueless about bras. As Alice looks for a glamorous female role model, she finds out that becoming a woman is about more than physical changes. Alice is one of the most realistic, relatable, and likeable characters in pre-teen literature. Best of all, Alice is an excellent, age-appropriate choice for those younger tweens who already feel the siren’s call of teen literature. First in a series.

Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Faced with the prospect of being separated, Naomi, her brother, and the great-grandmother who raised them run away to Mexico to find the only person who can help them – Naomi’s father. In Oaxaca, Naomi learns that her talent for soap carving is part of a family and regional tradition. Her father has never once missed the Night of the Radishes contest during Las Posadas. Becoming Naomi Leòn features well-developed characters readers will remember.

Dave at Night by Gail Carson Levine. After his father dies, Dave is sent from his home on the Lower East Side to the dismal Hebrew Home for Boys on 113th Street. Life looks bleak until Dave sneaks out one night and meets a kind man named Solly. Together, they attend the fabulous salon parties of the Harlem Renaissance and have experiences Dave never imagined. Dave at Night achieves the perfect mix of great characters, adventure, and historical fiction.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, is betrayed by her guards and her lady-in-waiting on the way to a kingdom where no one knows her. Her identity stolen, Ani must become a goose girl to survive. Her gift for communicating with animals is her only weapon against the people who plot against her. Beautifully written and surprisingly suspenseful, with a touch of fairy tale romance, The Goose Girl will enthrall.

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. In 1943, Dewey Kerrigan, one of the most vibrant “tomboy” protagonists since Scout (No, really, this is not hyperbole.) travels across country by train to join her mathematician father in a town that doesn’t exist – Los Alamos. With extensive research and great writing, Klages manages to craft a haunting historical novel that is also an engrossing story about making friends, fitting in, and growing up. Adults also will find this story compelling, making this an excellent choice for parent-child discussions.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. When New York City kid Gregor follows his little sister down a mysterious shaft in his building’s laundry room, he finds himself in a fantastic underground world populated by giant rats (the bad guys), four-foot cockroaches (the good guys), and race of underground humans who ride bats instead of horses. Or course, Gregor must save himself, the Underland, and his family in a thrilling adventure that will have readers clamoring for the next installment.

The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth. Cousins Emilia and Luka are Rom, raised to value family, tradition, story, music, and magic. But in Cromwell’s Puritan England, the Gypsies are persecuted. When their entire family is imprisoned, Emilia and Luka escape, promising to find help. Emilia fervently believes in the legend of the Gypsy Crown. According to her Baba, each of the gypsy clans possesses one of five powerful charms. United, they will bring luck to the Gypsies. Thus begins a sort of quest: the two children race across the countryside, finding their kin and begging, bargaining, and performing remarkable feats to win the charms. The fast-paced, gripping story will enthrall even those who eschew historical fiction. Readers will get a sense of Cromwell’s reign and the terrible persecution Gypsies have faced throughout history.

Jellaby by Kean Soo. In the graphic novel adaptation of Kean Soo’s online comic of the same name, we are introduced to a strange little girl by the name of Portia Bennett. She has recently moved to a new city and has no friends. One night she looks out her window, sees a purple monster, and decides to befriend it. The next day the two of them stop some bullies from beating up a boy by the name of Jason. Together, the two children and the large purple monster set off a remarkable adventure. Ages 11-13.

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. When Ted and Kat’s cousin Salim visits them in London, he asks to go on the London Eye. So Ted and Kat take Salim to the Eye, watch him get on, and wait on the ground for him to get off. But he never appears. Faced with Salim’s mysterious disappearance, it is only Ted, with the unique perspective afforded him by his Asperger Syndrome, who can solve the mystery. A universal favorite among everyone who’s read it, The London Eye Mystery has it all – an intriguing mystery, a skillful exploration of family relationships, wonderful character development, and stellar writing.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. Mia has been keeping a secret for years: she sees colors when reading or hearing numbers, letters, or words. When she finds out that her condition has a name, synesthesia, and that other people have it too, she begins an exciting journey of self-discovery. A Mango-Shaped Space is a fascinating exploration of a little-known neurological condition as well as a well-written story of family, friendship, and growing up.

My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald. When 12-year-old Lucy sees a letter addressed to her family’s pharmacy with THREE DELINQUENT MORTGAGE PAYMENTS written across the top, she knows she has to do something. Her family has owned and operated the Old Mill Pharmacy for years; Lucy spends more time there than at home. But with chain stores moving into their Connecticut town, business is slow at the old fashioned, independent drugstore. Soon, Lucy’s pre-teen obsession with makeup, her growing concern for the environment, and her determination to save the pharmacy collide in a bold plan to expand the pharmacy into an eco-spa. Of course, while she’s plotting to save the store, Lucy everyday preteen issues of friendship and first crushes. The ultimately light-hearted story with a spunky, anything-is-possible protagonist makes a great summer read.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart. “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” When some unsuspecting children answer an odd classified ad, they find themselves taking a test that is anything but standard. The unusual band of talented misfits that passes the test becomes the Mysterious Benedict Society, under the tutelage of the mysterious narcoleptic, Mr. Benedict, himself. The four children must go undercover, infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, and save the humanity from a diabolical genius using (what else?) television to take over the world.

Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest by Matt Haig. When Samuel and his little sister Martha go to live with their nice but mysterious aunt in Norway, they are forbidden to enter the forest near her house. Ten years ago, their Uncle Henrik went into the forest, and he never came back. But one day, Martha runs into the forest, Samuel follows her, and the two find themselves trapped inside the dense woods. It turns out that the forest is populated by creatures from Norse mythology, some of whom are up to no good. The first book in our new favorite series will have readers riveted as Samuel fights to outwit the magical creatures, find a way out of the forest, and solve the mystery of his uncle’s disappearance.

The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu. It all starts with the “oddly pale, strangely thin, freakishly tall, yellow-eyed, bald-headed man in the tuxedo,” or perhaps it’s the kitten that seemed to appear from nowhere at all, or Charlotte’s terrifying, vampiresque English teacher, or her oddly polite yet stressed-out English cousin Zee. Well, whatever the origin, all of the kids Charlotte and Zee know are coming down with an un-diagnosable, incurable illness, and it’s up to the two eighth graders to stop it. If that means entering Hades via a service door in the mall, battling harpies, Styx boatman Charon, Hades himself, and a really, really scary guy named, Phil, well, that’s what they’ll do. Perfect for kids suffering withdrawal from the Percy Jackson series, the new Cronus Chronicles series boasts a fast-growing fan base.

Sleepaway Girls by Jen Calonita. Bug Juice, Color War, Peeps: Sam Montgomery doesn’t know what any of these things mean when she impulsively applies to be a CIT (Counselor-In-Training) at Whispering Pines Camp. What at first is just a way to escape the obnoxious sweetness of her best friend Mallory and her new boyfriend Mark (wittily dubbed Mallomark), quickly becomes the most eventful summer of her life, complete with romance, late-night pranks, and a rivalry with the most popular girl at camp. This is the perfect taste of sleep-away life for veterans and the inexperienced alike. Age 11 and up.

Tiger by Jeff Stone. It is the mid 17th century, and 12-year-old Fu is among the youngest pupils training to become warrior monks at the Cangzhen Temple in China. When their Grandmaster is killed in a surprise attack, the five young martial arts experts escape with the intention of avenging his murder. Each student has been trained to adopt the style and characteristics of a particular animal. The first book in the series focuses on Fu, trained to emulate a tiger. Action-packed and fast-paced, the Five Ancestors Series will have kids clamoring to read more.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. One of the smartest, most subversive kids’ books ever, Smekday is social satire and historical allegory in the guise of a hilarious adventure (accompanied by cool graphics and comic book-style illustrations). What? Oh, you’ve noticed that we’re not telling you anything about the plot? Hmmm…well, here goes: In 2013, Boovs invade earth. They force all humans to move to Florida and then change their minds and force them all to move to Arizona. Gratuity (Her mom thought gratuity meant something else.) and her cat, Pig, are driving to Florida by themselves (because her mom has been abducted and forced into translating for the Boovs) when they meet AWOL Boov, J.Lo. J.Lo turns out to be totally awesome despite speaking English sort of like Yoda, if Yoda didn’t really speak English all that well. They have madcap adventures, such as hiding in Happy Mouse Kingdom after dark. Then the really bad aliens arrive…. Right, that’s why we weren’t telling you anything about the plot. It’s brilliant. Trust us.

Slob by Ellen Potter. Nothing, and I really mean nothing, is as it seems in this mysterious and moving novel about Owen Birnbaum, the self-described (and statistically verified) fattest and smartest kid around. While kids, and even some teachers, regularly make school miserable for Owen, someone has been taking it too far: stealing Owen’s Oreos from his lunch every day. Prime suspect: Mason Ragg, whose badly scarred face makes him a feared school outcast. While he’s not trying to catch the Oreo thief, Owen and his sister Jeremy are hard at work on an invention that will enable them to watch an event that happened nearly two years ago. Slob is about bullying, and emotional eating, and loss, and gender stereotypes, but it’s about so much more than all those things, too. Just when you think you know what’s going on, Potter hits you with a delicious OH! or AH HA! moment. An absolute delight to read, Slob is the kind of novel makes you immediately wish you could read it again for the first time. Age 11 and up.

Apr 1, 2009

Is Your Preteen Ready to Babysit?

Is your preteen interested in babysitting? A responsibility and a privilege, babysitting requires preparation, while offering tweens the opportunity to learn patience, assertiveness and self-reliance. Most preteens start babysitting around 12 years old. Although, some states, like Maryland, actually prohibit anyone under the age of 13 from babysitting. Labor laws aside, how do you know that your preteen is prepared for the challenge?

Signs of Readiness

  • They express an interest and take the initiative to prepare themselves for babysitting.
  • They have demonstrated an interest in children.
  • They have successfully cared for a pet.
  • They have successfully spent time home alone.
  • They have independently cared for younger family members.
  • They have been first-aid trained, or participated in a babysitting preparation course. Check with your local schools, pediatrician, YMCA or red cross for course listings. CPR is usually offered separately, but should also be considered.
  • They are familiar with childcare basics – changing and feeding an infant, Heimlich maneuver, and wound care.
  • They are self-sufficient. (Meaning they can prepare meals and clean up after themselves.)

First Jobs

A first-time babysitting experience shouldn’t be daunting. It is important for your preteen to stay in their comfort zone and gain confidence through success. Before deciding on the first job, help your preteen figure out their comfort level. Do they feel confident changing diapers? Does your preteen know how to hold and bottle-feed an infant? Are they used to keeping a constant eye on a toddler? Watching a young elementary school child during playtime is a simple first job, usually only requiring snack preparation and some enthusiasm. An added benefit, school-age kids are less likely to be anxious about their parent’s departure.

Suggest that your preteen babysit for a family they are well acquainted with. This will insure both your comfort levels. Knowing the kids will help your preteen figure out how to entertain them and assert herself or himself when necessary. Although your kid may know the family well, it is still a good idea to encourage your tween to ask the parents all pertinent information, such as house rules and emergency numbers.

Let your preteen know that you’re available by phone. They’ll feel better knowing you are there in case any questions come up. A successful first job can result in the confidence to continue babysitting and acquire new, more marketable experience.

Getting More Jobs

Once your preteen feels comfortable babysitting children they know well, they may want to market themselves to other families. Together, make a list of acquaintances that you think may need a sitter. Suggest that your preteen make a flier to mail to these families. The flier should include qualifications such as types of babysitting experience, ages of kids they have taken care of, chores they have been responsible for, and any training they received. Your preteen can also include references from their earlier jobs. Next comes the interview. Before meeting the parents, talk to your tween about any schedule restrictions (such as late night or school night babysitting) and hourly rates. During the interview, your tween should take responsibility for asking about pay, emergency numbers, house rules, and suitable activities for the kids. Showing their potential employer that they are prepared highlights that your preteen is responsible and self-reliant. After speaking with the parents, your tween may want to come up with a plan of activities they think the kids might like. Even if they don’t end up doing any of them, being proactive instantly gives an air of authority.

Professionalism

Babysitting will require your tween to exhibit a certain amount of business etiquette, such as following up with phone calls and emails, punctuality and presenting themselves as professionals. The first babysitting jobs challenge preteens to navigate between professionalism with parents and playfulness with children while maintaining authority. Being in charge means keeping the kids safe and happy, but the art of babysitting comes when your preteen realizes that babysitting is about more than just keeping children safe for a few hours. Gaining the trust of parents requires the creation of an orderly and clean (ideally cleaner than when they left!) environment. Putting dishes in the dishwasher and helping the children pick up their toys are essential attributes of a great babysitter. Also, preteens should feel an obligation to work while they are getting paid. Texting, emailing, and making phone calls to friends will undermine your tween’s appearance of responsibility. Remind your preteen that checking on the children while they sleep is necessary and doing homework is a laudable activity to pass time until the parents return. When they do return, your tween should be ready with a report of the children’s behavior and activities.

A Great Babysitter is Hard to Find

Becoming a successful babysitter is a life skill. Along with gaining a sense of pride and self-confidence, babysitting has many practical implications. Invariably, it promotes a sense responsibility and work ethic. Often, tweens must choose between maintaining a work relationship by helping out on a Saturday night, or going to the movies with friends. Satisfied parents are references, resources and contacts, generally willing to promote a babysitter’s interests and freely give praise to other parents and potential employers. However, even an unsuccessful babysitting experience may lead to a positive outcome. After watching someone else’s kids, yours may appreciate you more!