Tag: parenthood

You and Your Teen = A Perfect Partnership

Posted on May 26, 2016 by

Do you partner with your teen in accomplishing the tasks or day-to-day needs of the household? Do you and your teen = a perfect partnership?

Of course, you do.

In many ways, teens are treated as a household partner. For example, when we require them to take out the trash, help with dinner prep or cleanup, take a sibling to practices, and so on. What I just described is a kind of a youthadult partnership.

Technically, a youthadult partnership is one in which adults work in full partnership with young people on issues facing them and/or on programs and policies affecting youth. It is a common approach used by coalitions, networks, schools, faithbased entities, and others to address specific issues adolescents face in local communities. This approach works just as well in our homes and can be effective in helping to shape what our kids do outside the home.

parent teen partnersAs adults, we can share the power to create strategies and make decisions with our teens. This helps to show them that we respect and have confidence in their judgment, which is something so important to them. Additional research data from formal organizations (e.g. 4-H clubs, locallevel school based parent-student (PTA), and Girl/Boy Scouts) has found that youth-adult partnerships help young people resist stress and negative situations.

Specifically, youth-adult partnerships can help *:

Social competence including responsiveness, flexibility, empathy and caring, communication skills, a sense of humor, and other pro-social behaviors

Autonomy, including a sense of identity as well as an ability to act independently and to exert control over one’s environment

Problem-solving skills, such as the ability to arrive at alternative solutions to cognitive and social problems

Sense of purpose and future, including having healthy expectations, goals, an orientation toward success, motivation to achieve, educational aspirations, hopefulness, hardiness, and a sense of coherence

* Pittman KJ, et al. Youth Development and Resiliency Research. Washington, DC: Center for Youth Development and Policy Research, 1993.

I would be willing to bet that these factors are also present in teens who have youth-adult partnerships at home.

Building effective partnerships with our kids is really quite easy:

Work together to develop rules and consequences about risky behaviors and decisions. Develop agreements about risky behaviors that reflect your and your teen’s beliefs and values. Be specific on how their bad decisions affect the family as a whole, especially an impact on their younger siblings who often look to them as a role model for how to act. One of the most important things about rules and consequences is to use them as a response to your child’s behavior, not as a response to your child in general. All kids (including teens) need to feel your love. By co-creating agreements and demonstrating your love, your child will feel precious and safe – even when you’re using consequences.

Lead by example. Don’t come home from work and say, “I had a rotten day. I need a drink”. Instead, show them and, even better, engage them in healthier ways to cope with stress, such as exercise, listening to music, or talking things over. Likewise, be honest and tell your teens about risky choices you have made (without glamorizing them) and the consequences that occurred as a result.

Role-play with your teen on how to handle alcohol, drugs, distracted driving, and other risky behaviors. This can help your child can learn how to resist alcohol or anything else he or she may feel pressured into. Work on more than just saying “no” – for example, discuss how to say “no” an assertive manner (stand up straight, make eye contact and say how you feel). It’s also important to accept that your teen may need an “out,” so develop a strategy together – for example, have them text you a sign so you know to call them with a reason to come home.

Respect your child’s feelings and opinions. Try to tune into your teens feelings. Take their opinions seriously, but be prepared for the fact that their views might differ from yours. You can use this situation as a chance to talk about how people often have different perspectives.

Being a parent is so hard. We want to protect our kids, keep them close and safe, but also give them wings at the same time. Developing familybased, youth-adult partnerships is one way we can do both.

Need help getting started? There are several parent resources and toolkits that can help, start here:


Parent Toolkit

Stop Medicine Abuse

Parent Engagement

If you have any of your own suggestions on youth-adult partnerships at home, let us know! It truly takes a village!

This guest post was written by LeeAnn Weniger-Mandrillo, the mother of her young son, James, and raised her nephew Andrew, who is now 23. As a social marketing and media leader, she has worked in prevention for over 15 years, with the past seven years focused on educating parents and adolescents about substance abuse, tobacco, and alcohol. LeeAnn is passionate about empowering individuals, healthy families and communities through her work with Stop Medicine Abuse and the Five Moms.


Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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My Little Girl Got A Real Job

Posted on February 8, 2016 by

“Sweetie, I just wanted you to wake up and know how proud I am of you. You took a big step, a big risk, and it paid off with a new adventure! You are so awesome!” read the text that I sent my little girl last week. We live in different states, different time zones now, and as any parent-of-teenagers know, the way to their attention is through a text, not a phone call.

I was just so proud I could burst, so texting seemed like my only release valve.

“Thanks, Mom,” she eventually replied. Not exactly the enthusiasm I was hoping for, but at least, I got some contact across the miles.

This text was during the aftermath of some particularly crappy, devastating weeks in our ski community, and having my little girl so far away was leaving me feeling raw and vulnerable. I wanted her close enough to hug. I wanted to hold her hand and look into her eyes and know that she was going to be OK. Her news that her college advisor had recommended her for her first ‘real’ paid internship was a bright light in the darkness – and it left my little girl feeling worried about her first job interview.

Do you remember that queasy feeling before you stepped into the adult world? Do you remember your heart pounding, wondering what will you say, and will you have the right answers? Did your hands start to tremble when you walked in the door, wondering if they’ll try to stump you or quiz you or just stare blindly until you want to scream for mercy and run out of the room?

Clearly, I’ve had some nerve-wracking interviews in my time…

But I knew this job was perfect for her – working at the Alumni House of her college, doing print and graphics and creating and managing events. Yes, she’s just starting her Communications major and yes, she is on the edge of a huge learning curve, but she met all the requirements (knowledge of InDesign, Photoshop) and has a smile that can make people forget their worries – I told her to go for it.

She listened to her mama.

When she was close enough to hug.

When she was close enough to hug.

All the memories of my nineteen-year-old self came flooding back – that time in March 1985 when life was shifting and I needed to find a job for my green-haired alternative self, and I walked into a cafe and convinced them I could make a cappuccino…and somehow, rose to the spot of manager. That job, back when I was 19 and so unsure of my future, made all the difference to my future; not because I ended up running a cafe, but because when I knew someone believed in me, I believed in myself.

Of course, as her mom, I was convinced that she was perfect for the job. I just needed to convince HER that she was perfect.

Enter the marathon texting conversations, mix in a few ‘live’ calls, and next thing I knew, she was done with her interview (I told her NOT to wear jeans – is that old school of me?) and to let them know she was bilingual (thank you, Spanish Immersion) and to smile, be friendly, and above all, be honest.

Basically, show her  she just needed to let her awesomeness shine.

After a stressful weekend creating their ‘test’ assignment, convincing her that she knew what she was going, sending a ‘thank you for interviewing me’ email (people still do that, right?), she crossed her fingers….and got the job! Starting immediately – year round.

Wait – what?

So this is what happens when your college kid suddenly finds herself in real life, with a real job, living 650 miles away from home.

My little girl got a real job. She’s creating an adult life, and even though I’m not right there, close enough to hug, I can text and emoji with the best of them.

But most of all, I can stand back and watch, smile, and see my pride ooze out of every pore of my being.

It’s not easy having your little girl move away from home, but sometimes it feels like she’s going to be just fine on her own.

Congratulations, baby Wolfe. Once again, you make your mama proud.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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5 Years of Decembers

Posted on December 23, 2015 by

It’s been five and a half years since I started blogging; five Decembers that I’ve shared my stories with all of you, and 50 Decembers that I’ve been learning life’s lessons.

This December, I decided to look back and see what themes popped up during the final month of the past years, and I was both surprised and reassured when I saw my progression – and devastated that while I followed the thread of motherhood and memories in my posts, I also realized that every year has brought the loss of children.  Stepping back, I see the hopes and joys and sadnesses that parallel our ordinary lives.

I hope you enjoy my favorites from 2011-2015. Maybe you’ll re-read some favorites; perhaps you’ll discover we have more in common than you realized. Above all, may you experience the beauty of living the extraordinary in the ordinary, of loving fiercely and thinking deeply. Happy holidays, and thank you for sharing this journey with me.

2011: A Year Of Feeling Time Shift

Prom Night At Our Place 

“But what prom night really taught me this year is that belonging happens in many different ways.  The girls learned that they don’t need to be joined (literally or figuratively) with a boy to have fun.  The boys realized that if they ask, they have hope.  And now I know that I don’t really need to join anything to be important in my daughter’s life – by being myself she and her friends feel comfortable. Actions speak louder than words.  My house really is the place to be.”

Shifting Gears

“After driving through the mountains in the predawn hours, my son and I pass Donner Lake, and in that moment, as the water and sky met and steam hissed from its surface, I quickly stop the car. My brain pauses and we drink in the tranquility of the water before us. Silently I breathe deeply, wait, and shift back into gear with a new sense of calm.”

When You Wish Upon A Star

“As the sun rises over the mountain tops and the moon and stars fade for another day, once again I am challenged.  It is up to me to make my wish come true – no genie with a magic lantern or fairy godmother is in sight.  My wish remains inside my heart, but my actions I wear on my sleeve for everyone to see.”

Another Day

“Slowly he prepares for the snow, insisting on doing it alone.  His fuzzy brown head disappears beneath a royal blue helmet and goggles, contrasting the lime green and black of his jacket.  We kiss goodbye, my assurance I will be waiting for him when he returns.  It is dawn out, and he gets to have another day.

Yet as I sit by the window watching the sun crest the snow-covered hills, I cry for the mother and child who are apart, who will never feel their arms around each other again, and who cannot brush away each other’s tears.”


2012: Reflecting on Memories of Childhood and Tradition

Lily’s Apple Tart

This year, we decided to go simple yet elegant, and adapt a recipe from one of our favorites, Ina Garten.  Her apple tart just seemed like the perfect complement to a heavy dinner: sweet apples, flaky crust, and a tang of apricot jam make this simple dessert one you’ll want to try for any holiday gathering.  So grab your favorite baking partner, crank up the tunes, and have some fun!”

Just A Moment In Time

We stopped, you posed, we snuggled you between our legs, holding you tightly.  Never wanting to let go.  You raised your face to the sky and grinned with rapture. It was just one moment, really.  But I remember every detail.”

Christmas Tree Traditions

“I used to be a freaky mom.  Sixteen years ago, when I had my first child, I thought I could do it all.  Control it all.  Be the perfect parent.  I certainly had seen enough examples of what I considered ‘bad parenting’ – those kinds of adults who would make excuses for their kids, send them to school without their homework, and blame their teachers and the school for everything wrong in the world – plus some.”


My kids officially grew taller than me this year… I learned that letting go is growing forward. As I end 47 and open the chapter of 48, I think of all that I’ve experienced:  the children, parenting, family, teaching, education, memories and motherhood that blended themselves together and brought such lessons to me.”

Spending Time In The Snow

“And despite the struggle, the frustrations, and the hours and hours of driving – not to mention the ski race that was canceled, we ended up with a white Christmas after all.  And a whole bunch of memories, too.”

spending time

2013: A Year of Ski Racing and Empty Bedrooms

Morning Ritual of a Ski Racer Mama

“The alabaster snow catches a glint of moonlight out my window…savory bacon and eggs fold into warm flour tortillas with cheese as kids stumble downstairs in ski socks and fleece….boot bags bulge with gear.  Speed suits stretch over strong legs, and heavy parkas with hoods zip up as we push open the door. It’s time. Morning ritual of a ski racer mama.”

It’s A Different Kind of Christmas

“And every time I’ve walked through the door this month, I’ve plugged in the lights and sighed. I just can’t do it. The boxes of ornaments are still stacked in the dining room, unopened. And it’s December 23. This has never happened before. And I can’t blame it on holiday business, too many parties or anything else-except for one thing.”

retro Santa

2014: A Year of Change and Possibilities


“The sun streamed in through her sliding glass door. It was mid-morning, and she already looked like she had never left for college. A wet towel hung over her pink desk chair, and her fuzzy sky-blue bathrobe still lay carelessly tossed on the floor. Her closet doors were flung open, and she rummaged around as she replied, “I don’t know. I didn’t pack much. I’m trying to figure out what to take home.”

My breath caught in my throat. Home?”



“I’m open to possibilities in this last-year-before-the-half-century. I’m open to quiet, to listening, to requesting and to hearing the Universe answer with guidance. Zora Neale Hurston wrote in one of my favorite books,Their Eyes Were Watching God, that “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I’m not sure what this year will offer me, but I’m ready to receive her whispers.”


Two Kinds of Quiet

“There are two kinds of quiet. The kind of quiet when I hear the candles flicker, feel the crumbs drop onto my plate, and the Christmas music plays on and on and on. The kind of quiet that mothers dream of, and the kind they dread, one in the same.”


“No, Mom, look.” Again and again his plaid Detroit Tigers sleep pants spun as he raised and lowered his body on one leg. “I’m getting there. I’m balancing, Mom – can’t you see? I haven’t been able to do this since the accident!”

She’s Nineteen, and She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

“I keep thinking that one day, you’ll understand the exquisite pain and pleasure of being a mom, and all my emotional antics will make sense. I hope that one day, when that thrill hits your heart when you see your baby living their life full of happiness and joy, you’ll understand why I have such trouble letting you go.”

me and my girl

In The Holiday Spirit

“Today, as the rain pours down the windowpane and the wind whips the trees around my house into a frenzy, I breathe, and pause, and think of them. I remember their love for each other, and for their families. I call in their spirits as my pen scratches gratitudes into my journal, filling the pages with small moments of the extraordinary ordinariness of my life, feeling their love, grateful for 50 years with their spirits by my side.”

50 years

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Inquiring Minds-What I Wish I Knew

Posted on November 16, 2015 by

I sure wish I had the guts to ask a psychic about what my future holds. It’s kind of funny, really- as a kid I was never one of those people who knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t have driving passions throughout high school- unless you counted my passion to get out of there as quickly as possible. In college I switched majors three times, and didn’t decide to become a teacher until the second semester of my senior year. I absolutely didn’t have life planned out whatsoever. I guess back then I was somehow OK with that. Young, naive, I’m not sure.

But now, I’m realizing  I’d rather not know all the details about my future. I understand that to let grace happen, I need to trust that for now, things are happening as they should be. Teaching for 25 years has challenged me to both plan ahead and practice flexibility. I’m consciously trying to live in the present, which for a type-A-control-freak like me takes tons of energy. I’m realizing that being a teacher plays well into my style, but the negatives of always having a “lesson plan” can be super detrimental to other parts of my life. If becoming a mom taught me anything, it was that we can’t control other humans – no matter how hard I tried to get my first born to follow my lesson plan, she always had an idea to do it her way, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

inquiring minds choices

OK-I’ll be honest – as much as I’m realizing it’s best not to “future trip”, I’d love to just have a teeny, tiny peek into what might be coming up next for me. I’ve been feeling these stirrings in my heart for the last few years- and I’ve been trying to acknowledge them and allow for openings in my work life. Teaching is hard, and it’s getting to the point where I just can’t imagine continuing like this until I retire. I’d love for someone to ask me to write a book. About anything. And pay me, so I could back off from teaching 120% and just teach part time- or not at all. One thing I know, is that I can’t last teaching like this until I can retire at 65. I’ll have nothing left of me.

So I push myself to talk to new people, figuring that I never know what serendipitous moment the Universe might be offering me. I’m a natural-born introvert working in a very extroverted job, so my favorite icebreaker question is “What are you reading?”  I’m one of those people who connects with people through books. When I go to someone’s house for the first time, if I don’t see stacks of books I get worried. I’m most comfortable scanning bookshelves for something to share in common with a new friend; their book titles will show me their values and interests and let me know if we are like-minded. And if I realize their books are just for “show”- well, that’s a real deal breaker.

So for now, I’ll skip the psychic and trust the marvelous mystery of the Universe. I’ll shorten my life lesson plan to just the next week or so, and be sure to build in moments for grace to step in. Heck, we never know who the person we’re standing next to at a lacrosse game might turn out to be, or where the person holding the door open to the next opening in life might show up. It’s always best to be alert, watch out of the corner of my eye, and see what these folks have to say. Grace shows up once in awhile in the most extraordinary ways, and I’m ready to see what the future holds.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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A Letter To Parents Leaving Their Kids At College

Posted on August 21, 2015 by

Utah hikingDear moms and dads,

People ask me what it’s like to leave your baby at college; they say they can’t imagine the time when their now-little child will leave them. In the middle of naps and Cheerio snacks and sippy cups, they can’t envision ever having their child not hanging all over them. As they pass through elementary school, the thought of not walking their child to school every day sends them into panic mode. And junior high? Well, most are OK with not having a ‘do-over’ on that one. But then high school comes, and proms and games and dating and driving and suddenly you have one year to plan college and then, graduation.

Honestly, you really shouldn’t think about leaving your kid at college. Enjoy every moment of these 18 years. Moving your baby away from home sucks.

That may be too harsh. I know several parents who say, “I can’t wait to get them out of the house. They’re driving me crazy. They eat too much. They’re lazy and messy and rude and they are READY TO GO.”

And I would agree with that, to a certain extent. But isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work?

Believe me – when you’ve loaded the car and driven to the place they’ll spend the next four years, you might have second thoughts.

No hotel room has ever felt so empty as when I went back to spend the night, knowing she was in her dorm and I wouldn’t see her again for months.

And no drive home was ever so long when I thought about 10 hours in the car, alone, driving 650 miles away from my first born.

And no Friday night was ever so nerve wracking knowing it was the first weekend she would go out and come home on her own, and I would have no clue where she’d been, who she was with, or even if she made it home at all.

In those moments, moms and dads, you might regret having wished so strongly that they would close their bedroom door and leave.

The first year my daughter left for college I admittedly was a wreck. Life had added to the tumult of her leaving home that August with having to care for my son and his seriously broken leg, and a kitchen that flooded not once-but twice.

I guess I should thank the Universe, actually; in some ways it helped get my mind off the empty space in my heart.

I went online for words of advice, to friends who’d been through this before, to my sister and my mom and anyone who could possibly toss me a nugget of wisdom about how to think about her going away. After all this, I realized that there are two ways to think about your child leaving for college:

First: You conjure up the last 18 years of parenting. If you’ve done a decent job, you likely knew your child’s friends and most of their teachers. You knew their coaches and the people they babysat for. You knew their homework assignments, when they had tests and what their grades were. You knew when they left the house in the morning, when they returned for lunch (the tell tale dishes in the sink?) and when they got home from school. You watched their practices and their games, saw them get ready for dances and dates and races. You knew where they were every single night.

And then one day, you carry their suitcase and duffel bags and skis and gear and boxes and boxes of stuff into a room, give them a hug and then you’re gone. Poof. You hope for a text or Snapchat, and head home. Alone.

Or: You think about the last 18 years of parenting, and all the life lessons you’ve taught them. You think back to the friends they’ve made and the relationships they’ve learned to negotiate, and are confident they’ve learned empathy and kindness. You remember the successes and defeats of their sports activities, and know they’ve learned how to persevere. You remember all the nights of studying and the work ethic they’ve developed. You think about how they learned to manage their schedules, use a calendar and get to and from work/school/practice safely and on time. You visualize teaching them to clean the kitchen, use the washer and change their sheets. You’re confident they’ve learned self-care, self-respect and perseverance.

So then on that day, when you’re wondering how in the world can you leave your child so far from home, you have a choice. You can think about this rite of passage and worry about them. You can think about their transition away from home and worry about yourself. You can cry and hug and smile and grit your teeth and walk away knowing you’ll have all these emotions churning inside you until you see them again – Thanksgiving if you’re lucky. You can take comfort in all that you’ve taught them and all that they’ve become. And you’ll likely be like me, and many others, who when they come back home and walk in the house, feel something missing. You’ll gingerly open their bedroom door and see an unmade bed, some discarded bottles of nail polish and lotion, a few dirty towels on the floor and a leftover framed photos of high school friends, and you’ll grab a tissue to wipe the tears that start rolling down your face.

Leaving your child the first time is excruciating. Leaving them the second time isn’t any easier, just different.

So moms and dads, I leave you with one idea that I hope makes this transition easier: remember that this is what life is all about. This is what you’ve prepared them for, even when you didn’t know you were doing it. This is the moment to celebrate and witness the ecstasy of the first part of your parenting job well done. This is the extraordinary in the ordinary right before your eyes. And sooner or later, they’ll be checking back with you for advice. So hang in there. It gets better.



A Letter To Parents Leaving Their Kids At College

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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