My Ideal College shares ways to help your teen take accountability.

How to Get Your Teen to Take Accountability

My Ideal College shares ways to help your teen take accountability.

My son woke up and said with a sigh, “It’s the last day of summer vacation.” Then he followed up with, “thank God for weekends.”

As a parent, I am a little sad that summer break is over. I like being able to spend time together and the flexible schedule summer provides.

But I can’t lie, I am glad they are going back. I do enjoy the fact that they are learning new things they can share around the dinner table. They are involved in after school activities that help them discover and expand their interests.

Another bonus with school starting is my food bill will go back down from not having to feed my always hungry teenage boys.

The start of a new school year is like when we watch the ball drop on December 31st. It’s a new year, a time to reflect on the past and determine what your teenager wants to achieve this school year.

We have a discussion with our boys right before the school year starts to help them figure this out. Of course, they say they want to get good grades. But they need to take it one step further to the specific action steps that will help them take accountability and achieve their goals.

We ask our sons these questions to help them figure this out:

  • What worked well for you last year in getting good grades?
  • What didn’t work well for you last year in getting good grades?
  • What specific activities or habits should you stop because they prevent you from getting good grades?
  • What specific activities or habits should you keep doing because they help you get good grades?

These questions are a simple and effective way for your teen to reflect on experiences and decide what things they want to change in order to move forward. It provides them with a level of ownership and accountability for their own success.

Making a memory or two is an important part of summer.

Summertime is Memory Time

Making a memory or two is an important part of summer.

It’s hard to believe that we are halfway through the year now. This summer seems to be going by at lightning speed. For some families, school just ended a couple of weeks ago. But for many of us, school starts again in less than a month.

I have enjoyed seeing my friends share their trips to college orientations on Facebook. It makes me realize that I am only two summers away from my firstborn graduating from high school. Yes, I get a little melancholy.

Summertime can be busy – work for you and your teenager, looking at colleges, determining majors, studying for the SAT or ACT, drafting college essays, volunteering, and keeping track of it all. Make sure you take time this summer to bond as a family and make a memory or two.

Road trips and vacations are great memory makers. Water balloon fights, picnics at the neighborhood pool, and attending local free outdoor concerts are some other ideas that don’t cost a lot of money. I still have fond memories of cookouts with my family every summer.

My family and I are getting ready to travel to Hendersonville, NC for our annual get together with my in-laws. We do a big cookout and watch the fireworks in the quaint downtown square. I love my time with my in-laws and being in Hendersonville. You may remember my Thanksgiving blog post Why It Pays to Share Our Stories With Our Kids, where I talk about going to Hendersonville. You can click on the title in case you missed it.

What memories are you making with your family this summer? Tell us in the comments.

I hope everyone has a fun-filled and memorable 4th of July holiday this week!

We need to guide our teenagers in planning for college.

What I Have Learned Working with Teenagers

We need to guide our teenagers in planning for college.

Yesterday, I held one of my College and Career Action Planning for Teens Workshop. I always feel such joy when I see a teenager get excited. The look of excitement when they start seeing and planning their path of what they will do after high school.

Let me be real, though. Most kids come to the workshop because their parent said, “You are doing this.” I call these teens a reluctant learner. The parent is frustrated because their child has no idea what they want to do. They want their child to take some initiative and plan for their life after high school.

Many times it’s not because the teenager doesn’t want to plan. Of course, they want to move out of the house and live an independent life. However, they may not know where to start. They are overwhelmed with the amount of information being thrown at them. They may be scared because some of their friends have it all figured out. This can affect their self-esteem, which will impact their motivation.

My teenage son once said to me,

“A life without purpose isn’t a life.”

As parents, we need to help them find their purpose. We need to start working with our teens by their sophomore year in high school. Otherwise, you will always feel like you are behind. This will only cause anxiety and stress for you and your teen. You don’t want to spend these last years of high school being stressed out. You want to enjoy these times with your child before they move out of the house.

Sometimes, teens take guidance better when it comes from someone else. As a parent, I realize this may not be a new revelation to you. The phrase “it takes a village” comes to mind. Especially when it comes to helping your teenager figure out their way for life after high school.  Find other parents and resources that can help you. Check out my resources page on my website. I have different tools to help guide you. You can also schedule a call with me. I am happy to share advice, tips, and resources to help you and your teenager

find their purpose.

Contact me at laurie@myidealcollege.org.  I’d love to hear from you!

How to Keep Your Tween Busy During Summer

Four Ways To Keep Your Tween Busy Over the Summer

How to Keep Your Tween Busy During Summer

Raise your hand if you are ready for May to be done. If you are like me, your May was filled with many end-of-school-year events, graduation parties, sports events, award banquets, and so on, and so on….

In the midst of my crazy schedule, I realized I didn’t have a full plan on how to keep kids busy over the summer. I had two weeks booked with vacation and an overnight scout camp. But what would I do with the other six weeks of summer break? I wasn’t about to have them become zombies by playing video games all day.

When your child is 16 years old, they can get a job. My oldest son will be working in retail over the summer. It’s not that easy when you have a child who is between 12 – 15 years old. They are too old for many of the day camps but too young to get a job.

So what do you do? What options are out there for your tween? There began my quest in finding options that I will share with you:

Day Camps – Many local universities have day camps for the 12 – 15 year olds. One of our universities has a variety of camps.  Topics include drone programming, cooking, comic book art, robotics, improv, and even Pinterest crafting. Who knew? These programs are great, but they can be very costly. Ours is $300 for a week. I would maybe consider one week for this but not multiple weeks.

Camp Counselor – It turns out that many of the local day camps will bring on junior counselors, typically starting at age 12. They do not get paid for their time like the other counselors, but it can give them some leadership experience and practice in work ethic. When they are old enough, they most likely will be hired as a paid counselor. Volunteer – There are different volunteer opportunities for tweens. Our local animal shelter is always wanting help. They could also volunteer at a food bank, nursing home, or your library. I found a couple of sites to search volunteer opportunities: Kids That Do Good and Youth Volunteer Corps.

Entrepreneurship – If your tween is eager to earn some money, they could start their own business. They could offer to wash cars, dog walk, tutor younger kids, babysit, or pet sitting. I am going to pay my child to help me create and edit videos over the summer.

The important thing is to keep our kids out of the video game zombie zone. Plus, by providing them with different experiences, they can explore their interests for potential careers.

What ideas do you have for keeping a tween busy over the summer?  We will share your ideas with others on our FB page.

My Ideal College shares way to help teens through difficult times.

How To Encourage Teens During Tough Times

My Ideal College shares way to help teens through difficult times.

Last week was part 1 of my interview with Deanne Barrett. She provided easy ways to help us better connect with our teens. In case you missed it, you can click here to read that blog.

In part 2 of my interview, Deanne shares ways we can lean in, support, and encourage your teenagers during tough times.

Our kids are growing up in a world of instant gratification, but that’s not how the real world works. How do we help them navigate this?

We need to create a family environment with times without technology. We don’t know how to be bored, still, or just let our mind roam. Our human bodies cannot handle being engaged so often. You can make the car a no phone zone. Where you can look out the window, talk or just be silent. We need this for our mind and body. You can also schedule time like a Sunday afternoon hike or play a family game. Set a rule of no electronics an hour before bed. This will help everyone sleep better.

How can we help our kids’ ability to take initiative and want a challenge? These are traits in many jobs.

Deanne: This is developmentally understandable. It happens for some kids. This kind of teenager wants low effort / high reward. This is why video games are popular; they know the science of when and what type of reward a kid needs to keep going. Kids who are not going to take initiative or are not motivated, need a structured environment. What kind of situations can we put them in that are structured and have positive peer pressure? For example, scouts – “this is how we do things” and  “everyone is doing this.” We need to create an environment that will set them up for success.

How can we help kids who are highly driven? Sometimes they get stressed and burn out.

Deanne: I taught advanced students. For most of them, school was easy, then in the 10th grade it wasn’t. The schoolwork was finally a challenge worthy of them. I saw two things happen. Some kids would go into procrastination mode. They would think this is hard, I must not be as smart as I thought I was, so I am going to put the brakes on everything and not do it. Other kids would go into hyperdrive and start focusing on things that were not as important. For example, for a project, they might focus on making it look pretty versus the content. They focus on the things they feel are easier versus the hard stuff.

As a teacher, I had to redirect them on where they need to put their focus. As parents, we have to do this at home. For example, focus on getting more sleep because if you don’t have a refreshed brain, you have nothing to work with and less time on overdoing the studying. It’s all about helping our kids set priorities. Your child may say, but all I want to do is study. As parents, we want them to study, but we need to help them be more effective at it. Kids sometimes think if we just spend more time, it will work, but we need to help them learn how to spend their time effectively. Where are they going to get the most bang for their buck? Most kids don’t naturally know how to do this. Sleep is the number one for kids because so many stay up late on their phones or studying. It becomes detrimental for their health. Learning how to prioritize is a key life skill for them to learn.

How else can we teach our kids to prioritize?

Deanne: When they have a week where maybe they put off schoolwork or have so much work that they don’t know how to balance and they are overwhelmed. We need to let our kids go through this tough time.  We need them to have times when they are not as successful. What can you do differently next time to avoid that rough week from happening again? If you are the mom who is always on top of them, they are never going to hit that crunch until they are in college or another time when you are not with them. Then they don’t know how to recover. You need to let them struggle and go through the pain to learn how to recover.

Your child has a right to fail. I know it’s uncomfortable as a parent, but If they fail, it’s theirs rather than if they succeed, but it’s because the parent did so much. What your child is learning is a lot of academics, but much of that they are not going to use again. For example, I had to learn algebra, but I haven’t used it since. Algebra was hard for me, but what I learned from it is how I deal with challenging situations. I shut down and I failed. Because I failed, I learned what I needed to change to succeed. We need to spend time in the uncomfortable. That’s true for parents. We need to lean in when our kids want to push us away. It’s also true for kids, you need to spend time in the uncomfortable. Learn how to study and learn how to ask for help – that’s where the growth is.

Personal growth cultivates leadership in leading our own lives. That is the inspiration behind Radiant Mom. We think of radiance as being something about beauty, but really it’s about having your personal power and being able to be present even when things are uncomfortable. When we can tap into our strengths to help us deal with the uncomfortable. So, if we have a child who really needs to step it up in school, then you have that light and love to help them. You say to your child, “You can do this. I am right here with you. Let’s make this happen.” You light that fire to help encourage and support them.

Help them see – –  you can do this and I am here to support you. Our teens need that from us.

You can learn more about Deanne Barrett and her Radiant Mom work by checking out her website radiantmom.ca or gratitudework.com. You can also view our full interview on my YouTube channel by clicking here.

Now tell us what do you do to “lean in” with your teens. How do you support and encourage them during tough times? Tell us in the comments below.

Ways Moms Can Connect with Their Teens

Ways Moms Can Better Connect With Their Teenager

Ways Moms Can Connect with Their Teens

As moms, we know raising a teenager can be fun but also challenging at times. Our teens may start pushing away from us to gain some independence. We were that way with our parents when we were teens, so why should we expect anything different from our own kids? Although in today’s times, we have social media and other technology that can often widen the gap between us and our kids.

This week, I have put together a special Mother’s Day blog. I had the pleasure of interviewing Deanne Barrett, MA. Deanne is a mom, writer, and educator dedicated to helping women become a Radiant Mom so that you can lead with the light and love that is uniquely YOURS.

Deanne works with moms all over the globe to connect to deeply sourced LOVE so that they can feel confident in their decisions, clear in their direction, and connected to their teenagers (or pre-teens).

What did you want to do when you were young?

Deanne: I loved English class and could see my staying in the school environment. I also loved art. I was torn between Interior Design or teaching English to high school students. I decided to focus on academics. I got an English degree and then went into teacher training. Got a master’s in education and did for many years. Then when I started having kids and the class sizes were out of control, 40 kids in a class and too much work. I realize my skill wasn’t to teach kids how to write a Shakespeare essay anymore. I had a new set of skills to help parents understand their teenager. 

Often, we tell parents of young kids we say just wait till their teenagers. I thought, I love working with teenagers. Of course, there are emotional ups and downs, it can be difficult, but there are many other wonderful things. They are figuring out who they are, thinking out of the box, and challenging the way we do things. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s necessary with what we are dealing with in the world right now. We need them to see things that we cannot because we are so in it.

I decided I want to build a business to support moms and teens who I love.

Your work is so critical now more than ever because the world is so different than when we grew up. How do we equip our kids for life after high school?

Deanne: I love that you say it’s different now because it is and it’s scarier. There is so much pressure on kids now. I spoke with an admissions counselor at an ivy league college. She said if we took every valedictorian from every high school in America, they would not all make it into top colleges. It’s statistically not possible.

The counselor used this to help shift our thinking about what is important for our children. Some kids are going to make it into top colleges and some are not. No matter what, we need our kids to feel whatever they do is beautiful, valued, and needed in the world. They just need to find the place where they feel like they fit. Often, high school is not the place where they find their fit. They are ready to just get out of school – they are done.

This is where we as parents have our challenges with our teenagers. We are just trying to get them through high school. We tell them to just hang in there. Our relationship with our teenagers gets pulled and strained because they are just done with being in school. They start to lose a sense of hope that it will be different because they think the adult world will just be another version of the school world. It really is so different when you are outside of the structure of the institution of school. You can find your tribe, people who share your interests and find your place in the world.

As parents we need to shift our thinking from being afraid of our kids not going to make it into helping them continue to open the door of possibilities – that is where the magic happens.

What are some tips you have for moms on how to connect with their teens?

Deanne: One of the myths we get pulled into believing is teenagers are going to push away from their parents – they may, but sometimes it makes a parent a little too hands off. They say ok, I know you need to be independent so I will give you your space. But as a parent, the leader, you get to lean in because they do need you. Kids are saying back off, in their heart of hearts they really do need you and want you to see who they are, to give them hope that they are going to be ok, and continue to find the place they will fit, and help them know they will find it.

A friend of mine had a dad who was an engineer. The dad wanted him to be an engineer and encouraged his son to take that path. However, the son wanted to be an artist. But his dad thought  – you aren’t going to make any money, it’s not practical. The son pursued being an artist and he was fine with his life. He learned to teach as well. The son was living the lifestyle he wanted. He lived in a small apartment was able to create is art and had a life that was meaningful for him that was very different. The parents wondered when he was going to grow up, buy a house, and live a normal adult life. But for the son, he didn’t want that lifestyle.

I love that story because he has been able to lead a successful life that is meaningful for him.

I tell this story because we have the opportunity to lean in and find out who our kid is. What kind of lifestyle do they want? If our kid wants something different, that doesn’t mean they are judging us.

We need to have the courage to listen to our kids and take responsibility.

Moms, how do you connect with your teenager?  Tell us in the comments below.  In next week’s blog, we’ll dive deeper with Deanne on how to lean in, support, and encourage our kids during tough times.

Laurie Genevish of My Ideal College interviews Kyle Grappone about his book To The Next Step

How to Get Your Child To The Next Step

Laurie Genevish of My Ideal College interviews Kyle Grappone about his book To The Next Step

Kyle, like many students, changed majors in college. He started off in Political Science but realized there wasn’t much of a career path for him. He changed his major to Education, but this was more time consuming than he preferred. He then landed in Public Relations, which he still does and enjoys. However, Kyle wanted to be doing more. One thing Kyle realized in each of his jobs was how very unhappy people are in who they become. Why is this?  We all know we are going to work full time in some sort of career. How are we so unprepared for it?

Kyle then embarked on researching why this was happening. He surveyed college students, graduates, and the people who hire them. One of the key questions was, “What would you do differently?” Here are some of the responses:

  • Try harder in high school
  • Take the college application process more seriously
  • Look at more colleges
  • Do more research on majors and careers
  • Look at the student loans they would have to pay off for the major
  • Do more internships or networking

The findings showed that college graduates were unprepared, in debt, and not in jobs that were tied to their major.  This research is what launched Kyle into his speaking career and was the founding inspiration for his book To the Next Step coming out in May.

Kyle says, “We ask kids at a very young age what they want to be when they grow up. They are making decisions without researching. They are picking careers based on what their family does or what makes the most money, or what is safe. For example, a business degree seems safer than an artist.”

Kyle encourages kids to instead think about what brings them pride and satisfaction. Then finding jobs that align with that.

In preparing kids for life on their own, Kyle has them make a list of everything their parents do for them. Then he tells them to pick one item from that list and master it. Once they master that skill, pick another item off the list and master it. This could be doing laundry, creating a budget, or getting yourself up every morning, just to name a few. Kyle tells kids by doing this, you are softening the blow when you move out. You can be as prepared as possible, but there will always be things that come up that you’re not prepared to handle.

In his book, To the Next Step, it’s all about preparing kids for their next steps in life. It’s about helping them see the parts of life they don’t see coming and why they should care about it. His book includes guided questions to help kids define the person they want to be and what type of environment they thrive in. Kyle also talks about the college selection process and helping kids determine what makes it worth the price, questions to ask on campus tours, and preparing for graduation and the first year in the workforce.

You can watch my full interview with Kyle Grappone here. He goes more in detail with some of the steps and action items for kids in planning for their future. Kyle’s book will be available on Amazon in May.

What do you think about Kyle’s idea of kids making a master list? What tasks do you do for your child that they should start taking on? Tell us in the comments below.

How to Encourage Your Child’s Heart Without College Debt

A mom posted this question in a Facebook group. “How do you encourage your kids to follow their heart but not into debt?!”

It’s a tough question. On one side, we want to be encouraging and tell our kids to live their dreams. On the other hand, we also envision them being able to afford a house, raise a family, and retire at a decent age. I know I would have a hard time seeing my child struggle in making a living.  

Here are some of the many comments the mom received from her Facebook post:

“It’s impossible.”

“I tell my kids, I don’t care what they do, but they have to be able to support themselves.”

“Passion doesn’t pay the bills.”

“Be very clear about the debt – not only will it impact his/her ability to buy a home in the future, but it also impacts his/her ability to retire. Ask if it’s worth working another five or more years when they are in their 60’s. Because the money they’ll be spending to pay back debt in their 20s and 30s would be money, they could have put towards retirement.”

“Debt isn’t evil. Debt with a plan is the only way some of our kids will get a college degree.”

A parent recently shared with me that she wished someone had coached her before her kids went to college. The parent ended up derailing their own retirement dreams to help out their child in college debt. The child lived at home for years to help offset the debt.

Here is how you can help your child balance their career dream and the financial impact it may have:

  1. Research, research, research the career. Too many kids think they want a particular job then a year or two after college they realize they hate it and don’t want it as a career
  2. Have them find out the annual salaries for the career they want. ONET Online is an excellent resource for this.
  3. Understand the projected growth for the career. Will there be more or fewer jobs in the future? Where are these jobs located?
  4. Determine where they can get the education and figure out the costs – room, board, meal plans, books, etc.

Once your child completes these steps they can then better determine if they still want to pursue their dream career.  Maybe they are willing to incur the debt and will set a clear plan of how they will pay it off.  One parent on Facebook suggested that kids Listen to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover or Chris Hogan’s Everyday Millionaire.

This is why it’s essential to help your child determine their career choices in sophomore and junior years of high school. You need the time to create a clear financial plan to get them to their ideal college. I suggest you work with a college financial planner that can help you with economic aspects like merit aid and scholarships.

What are your thoughts or ideas on this topic? Tell us in the comments below.

Contact me if you want to make sure your child is making the right career choice. I utilize a career assessment that matches a person’s interest directly to specific jobs. The jobs have been thoroughly researched on what it takes to be successful and what could derail success. Email me at laurie@myidealcollege.org.


How You Are Sabotaging Your Teenager’s Success

Last week I shared ways to help your teenager take more initiative through my interview with Meg Lee. Meg has 20+ years working in all levels of public education and is a co-author of Mindsets for Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids. You can click here if you missed that blog.

In my discussion with Meg about how to help my boys, I realized there are some ways I am unconsciously sabotaging my teenager’s ability to take initiative.

Here is what I learned from Meg. Often when kids are very shy and lack initiative they have experienced a lot of over-supporting from home.  It is worthwhile for parents or guardians to take stock and really consider…

  • Do I speak for the child? 
  • Do I give him or her enough time to answer before I do it? 
  • Have I always been a safe fallback when the child didn’t take care of something himself or herself? 

While it is not easy to start releasing control when a child is a teen, it is necessary and important to do so.  Meg advises parents to have a conversation with the child and say, “I’ve been speaking for you sometimes when I should have waited and let you say what you thought, so I am going to be mindful of this and try to do better.  Let’s brainstorm together some of those times when it is difficult to know what to say and I’ll talk you through them so that you can handle them on your own when it happens again.”

I took Meg’s advice and had a discussion with my teenager. In our discussion, I found out that my child was frustrated when I did speak for him at times. I would jump in because I knew the answer right away when all he needed was a little more time to process the information. We also talked through a discussion he needs to have with one of his teachers that he was resisting.

Having initiative is a key skill in life. It’s a trait in almost every single job out there. If your child doesn’t have a certain level of initiative, it will hamper their success in most careers.

Here is one last tip from Meg that I want to share. She is an advocate for no screens and no headphones in the car. Why? Because the car is one place where kids tend to open up and have conversations… provided that we don’t allow them to whittle the time away playing a game or watching a show on their phones.  In the hustle and bustle of family life, having a sacred “no screens” zone in the car is a way to build peaceful time to be together.  Or be bored… which is also a good thing for the growing brain!

What do you think of the no screens or headphones in the car? Tell us in the comments.

How to Get Your Teenager to Take More Initiative

Do you have this issue with your teenager? You tell them to speak with their teacher to resolve a concern about a grade, to find out more about a project, or to reach out to their guidance counselor. But they just don’t do it. As parents, it’s frustrating because we can’t understand why it’s so hard for our kids to have these conversations. We wonder why they just won’t take the initiative. To help me overcome this challenge with my own kids, I reached out to Meg Lee, co-author of Mindsets For Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids. Meg has over 20 years experience in working in at levels in public education.

Meg shared with me an easy strategy you can use to help your child take more initiative when it comes to having conversations with adults.

Institute a back-and-forth journal with your teenager

This simple book, which can be passed back and forth at regular intervals, gives the teenager a chance to talk to the parent in a safe way, as both parties have time to digest what is being said.  Often, parents write more at first, but Meg has found much power in helping to bring out the root causes of teens’ challenges, and in this case, it might help coax the child to be a bit more assertive. 

This concept could extend to talking to others like their teachers or guidance counselor… if your teenager is not comfortable going to speak with that person, would they be comfortable writing a note at first?  This is often a good first step for kids who fear not knowing how to handle what an adult might ask of them in a conversation.  While not a substitute for being comfortable with face-to-face interaction, this is often a good starting point.

Meg also shares that role-playing conversations with a trusted adult can be a wonderful way for teens to gain confidence.  It may sound goofy (and your child will certainly think so), but it is worth trying just to give them some language to use or some background experience before they have to enter a conversation or situation when they have to take initiative. Helping your child learn to take more initiative will serve them well throughout life – in college, their careers, and in relationships. What tips do you have to help your child take more initiative? Tell us in the comments below.