Archive for the ‘School Days’ Category

White House Employees’ Message to Gay Teens: “It Gets Better”

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

While this country is far from perfect, I am so grateful to live in a place where this video could be made. Watch as these While House employees, who are gay, talk about how they couldn’t imagine, back when they were 13 or 14 years old — or even younger — where they would be in their lives today, both personally and professionally. How they couldn’t imagine how much happier they would be.

I’m happy that President Obama appears in the video, too. We need that kind of support from our president for young people today. If you are a teen who is struggling with bullying or self-doubt, or if you are an adult who loves a young person who needs to see this video, please watch it and share it.

Has Your Child Been Bullied? Journalist Would Like to Interview You

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

A journalist friend of mine, who is writing an article for a national publication, would like to talk with a parent whose child has been bullied. If this is you, how did you handle the situation? What were the results?

If you are interested in being included in the article, you would need to use your real name and you and your child would be photographed, but your child could be turned away from the camera so his or her face wouldn’t be shown.

If you’d be willing to be interviewed, please contact me via email: kathy at I will give my friend your contact info.


An A+ Teacher Gift

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

What your child’s teacher would like you to know: He or she has more than enough “#1 Teacher” ornaments, apple doo-dads, plates of brownies and things with kids’ hand prints.

All those things are appreciated, of course. because the thought does count. But in tough economic times, what many teachers want (well, maybe in addition to a gift certificate for a massage) is more educational resources for their classrooms. So many teachers spend so much of their own money these days on things for the classroom to help our kids learn.

Happily, makes it easy to give your child’s teacher a gift that will be really appreciated. You can order a holiday gift card, and print it on your home computer. (No waiting for anything to be shipped! No trips to the mall!) Give the card to your child’s teacher and he or she can redeem it to fund educational resources for the classroom. has been kind enough to provide a gift card for one lucky Parent Talk Today reader, and I’ve decided to do a drawing (using a random number generator after numbering the names) from the names of people who have commented on our posts in the past month. I so appreciate your support of the blog and this parent community!

And the winner of the drawing is… Ellen Cajka! Thanks, Ellen, for your long-time support of Parent Talk Today. I hope your child’s teacher enjoys the gift!

Ladies’ Home Journal Tackles Issue of Gay-Teen Bullying and Suicide

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

The stories about recent suicides by gay teens who had been bullied have been all over the news. This month, Ladies’ Home Journal has taken an in-depth look at what’s going on here.

According to the article by Kenneth Miller, 52 percent of Americans consider homosexuality morally acceptable, according to a recent Gallup poll. “Kids can join gay-straight alliance groups at more than 4,000 high schools and more than 150 middle schools nationwide and find advice and support online,” says Miller in the article. “Yet according to the Journal of Adolescent Health, about one-third of gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens report an attempt at suicide. Why are so many still driven to try to take their own life?”

Check out this excellent article, then please share your thoughts here. And kudos to Ladies’ Home Journal for talking about this issue.

Helping Kids With Test Anxiety

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Today I’m happy to welcome Kate Willson as a guest blogger. Kate writes on the topic of best online colleges.  She welcomes your comments via email at and also here on the blog. Thanks, Kate!

It’s time for midterm tests, and many kids across the nation are panicking. Taking tests can be stressful for anyone, but they can also cause anxiety so great that your child may end up doing more poorly on exams — not from lack of studying, but from too much worrying.

Test anxiety, however, is easily avoidable because it’s often rooted in poor time management. Going into a test with confidence is the most effective way to do well, and this confidence only comes from studying well before the exam is scheduled.

If your child chronically suffers from test anxiety, here are a few tips for beating the stress before it starts.

1. Sit with your child and map out a plan. Kids are often poor planners, so they may need your help with this one. Sit down with your child and make a list of all upcoming tests a month or two before they’re set to begin. Figure out which classes are your child’s weak spots and dedicate more time to studying for those.

2. Explain to your child that studying a little bit every day is more effective than cramming. Every day, after homework and other chores and obligations are completed, make sure your kid is spending time reviewing every subject, with a greater emphasis on the more difficult classes. Study in order of importance. The easier, more enjoyable classes are better left till later, when your child’s attention and energy are waning.

3. As tests approach, make short study guides. Many teachers give students a pretty precise indication of what, exactly, will be on each test. Based on the information the teacher provides, work with your child to collect notes, homework assignments, and other class materials, and condense the information into a quick study guide that your kid can review a few days before the test.

4. Take it easy. Even if your kid is fully prepared for her tests, some children just get more stressed out than others. If your child is prone to this kind of stress, make sure she engages in relaxing activities around test time to unwind. Encourage her to take effective breaks doing things she enjoys. Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep the day before any test, and is also eating healthy and avoiding sweets and caffeine, which further contribute to anxiety.

Above all, reassure your child that as long as she gives it her all, it’s not the end of the world if she doesn’t do as well as she wanted to. Doing her best is what counts.

Cross-Country Parents, Share This With Your Kids

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

You may have heard about Conor Lynch, the 16-year-old Notre Dame High School student in Sherman Oaks, CA who was killed by a hit-and-run driver Tuesday during a cross country training run at 3:45 p.m.

I just read an article in the Los Angeles Daily News about the incident and it broke my heart. The tributes from fellow students and friends on a quickly created “RIP Conor Lynch” Facebook page are so sad.

Of course we all remind our kids to “be careful out there.” But I’m going to ask my 14-year-old son — who runs cross country for his high school and was doing his own practice run at 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday —  to read this article so he can see just how quickly a tragedy can occur.

People drive without paying attention sometimes. Kids have their minds on lots of stuff. Things can happen in the blink of an eye. I think we need to share this story with our kids and remind them that they are no match for a car or an SUV.

Our kids will tell us we worry too much. They’ll say they’re careful. But still… Let’s let them know how important this is.

The College Process: Where Should a High Schooler Start?

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I just read a terrific post, “The College Process in 8 Steps,” over on Vanessa Van Petten’s wonderful blog Radical Parenting (Parenting Advice Written by Kids). Liked it so much I’m sending it to my nephew, saving it for my son and passing it around to my mom friends, in fact.

One of Van Petten’s teen bloggers on the site, 17-year-old Jennifer, obviously has a good handle on the whole college process and breaks it down into chunks that won’t intimidate even high school freshmen (or their parents) too much. (And yes, you do need to start thinking about at least some of this — like your high school transcript — as a freshman.)

Thanks to Van Petten for creating a wonderful place where talented and thoughtful teen writers can share important information. This amazing young woman travels the country speaking to all types of groups about family relationships, teen lifestyles, advertising to the Net-Generation and many other issues pertaining to Gen Y. Radical Parenting is one of my favorite parenting blogs. If you have teens or tweens, check it out.

Another View: One Mom’s Emotional Education

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Guest blogger Darryle Pollack started her blog,”I Never Signed Up for This,” in honor of all the times she has said those words — as a mother, artist, breast-cancer survivor, writer, chocoholic, TV journalist, Yale graduate, procrastinator, and wife (because her husband always says he comes last on her list).

I don’t do back-to school shopping  any more — but I still sense the educational expectations and emotions that arise every September.   The start of a school year summons up strong feelings.  The first day photo op. Proud parents, sweet smiles, sharp pencils.  (Do they still USE pencils?)

For most parents, the feelings are positive: Pride.  Hope.  Freedom.  Sometimes the feelings are not as positive:  If you just sent your kid off to school or college for the first time and you’re worried.  If your kid has a teacher  you don’t like – or is in a school you don’t like – or is put into the wrong reading group.

I feel your pain.  I wish I could spare you the emotional wear and tear and just say it will all work out in the end — because probably it will.

I also wish I could go back and spare my former self some of the drama.

It started from the moment my first child was born when my dad started discussing where she’d someday go to college.  I didn’t buy into this ridiculousness.    (But I was thinking Yale.)

Alli’s education started at 6 weeks. (I would have started sooner but I had a very rough delivery).  I started her in a mommy and me class nearby — to check out the school’s potential as a learning institution.  That was the first of many schools she attended — we’re talking double digit numbers. And that was before kindergarten — when the real nightmare started (a.k.a.  private-school applications).

At the time we lived in Los Angeles. Problem one is that we weren’t in a position to donate a building. Problem two is that there were way too many kids and way too many schools and way too many choices for someone like me — who felt I had to do it absolutely right.  I was so intense and so invested in this process, I felt as if my entire life — and hers — depended on her getting into the “right” school.

Only she didn’t.  She didn’t get into a single school we applied to.  I could hear the gate to Yale slam shut.

I won’t even get into how a parent feels when your kid is rejected from anything, much less at such a tender age.  Alli was 5, happily oblivious that her future success was swirling down the drain.   The grownup was the one who cried.

At the one school I desperately wanted her to attend,  Alli was on the waiting list — along with several other kids we knew.  This was a tiny school — with space for 11 girls in kindergarten. Several siblings were automatically admitted, so god knows how many desperate parents wanted those remaining few spaces.  I hate to make light of something serious — but it was a little like waiting for someone to get hurt so you could get their donated organs.

I grasped onto that one sliver of hope,  pulled myself together and went into the school. I demanded requested to speak to the director to convince her that in the event one of the lucky little girls holding the brass ring decided to let go,  the very first child to come off the waiting list should be mine.

Sitting in the director’s office pleading my case, I did something I would not recommend to parents in the same situation. Maybe I shouldn’t even mention it — this is not one of my prouder moments.

I cried.

Yeah. I said I wasn’t proud of it.

I spent the next couple months checking out every public and private school within the Los Angeles county limits. And then  over the summer we got a call and Alli did end up at that very school where fortunately the administration had the vision not to punish a child because of the lunacy of a parent.

Years later, the same experience was repeated — different school, different city, different ending. (That time I didn’t use the water works.) I have to admit it hurt a little less in the second go-around.   Time — and cancer — helped put things in perspective.

For the schools it was always a numbers game. For me it was always emotional.  It took a lot of years and lot of tears until I finally shut down the drama department. I’m over the angst. Both my kids’ educations are ongoing — and I’ve been educated, too.  I’ve learned to go with the flow and not to get all emotional about it.

Even though Alli never did go to Yale.

I wish life came with a lesson plan.  I wish 5 year olds never had to be rejected from anything. I wish all kids could get the education their parents hope they will get. But even when they don’t, there is something to be learned — if not in school, then from the experience. Mostly to enjoy those precious moments in September and every moment possible the rest of the year. And keep tissues handy.

10 Tips for New Highschool Freshmen

Friday, September 10th, 2010

I’m jazzed to be able to introduce a new blogger — and her first guest post — today. Keira Jett is a junior in high school and she has a great set of parents and a good head on her shoulders. She’s also a terrific writer. I asked her for her advice for incoming high school freshmen, and she was kind enough to share some great tips that can only come from having been there — recently. (She even has a pensive “writer” headshot.) Take it away Keira!

10 Tips for High School Freshmen

1. Find a balance. I am sure you’ve all heard that countless times, but it’s essential to be balanced. You shouldn’t be sitting at home all day doing nothing but homework, but you also shouldn’t be doing extra-curricular activities instead of homework, either. If you can’t find a balance, you’ll end being pretty stressed out.

2. Be careful with your classes. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to talk to your teacher and your parents. If you wait too long, it will be very, very hard to save your grade(s). Trust me, I know this from experience.

3. Remember that the best thing about high school is the number of options you have. If you see something you like, go for it! If you like music, you can be in choir or band or orchestra. If you like sports, go out for soccer or baseball. If a club sounds interesting, join it.

4. MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR STUDENT ADVISER. When things get tough at school, your advisor is your greatest ally. Go in and meet with him or her during the first few weeks of school. Introduce yourself and take the time to get to know her or her.

5. Find your comfort zone. High school is all about pushing yourself, but you can’t push your limits if you don’t know what they are. If you find yourself in any position where you don’t feel right, leave. Change the situation so that you’re not uncomfortable. If you don’t like how things are with your friends, take a break from them for a while. Sit with other people for a few days; you might find you like your new friends better. If you find yourself tired or unhappy with your sport or extra-curricular activities, find out why that is and change it.

6. Be friends with your parents. I’m sure you’ve heard that many times, but they do want to help you. I know that sounds strange to some of you, but it’s true. They want your high school experience to be as rewarding as possible. And here’s a secret: They went through school, too. They know what’s it’s like to be stressed out by everything, and they often have good advice to give you.

7. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT get caught up in crazy drama. Don’t play the games. Don’t gossip, don’t encourage rumors. Don’t spend all your time and energy thinking about a boyfriend or girlfriend, or the boy/girl you like, or your friends’ relationships or any of that. You can pay attention, you can be involved, but don’t let it take over your life. I promise, it will not turn out well.

8. Find what you’re good at. Then excel. If you like writing, sign up for a creative writing class. If you’re good with numbers, take the advanced math class. If you’re a great singer, set your goal to be at the top of the choir department. Just go for it.

9. Find a balance with schoolwork and Facebook. Maybe you shouldn’t go on Facebook until your homework is done for the night. If you find that you’re checking the clock and it’s already nine and you only have one assignment done because Facebook is on your computer screen, then maybe you’ve got a bit of a problem. I know that finding out what’s going on can seem super important, but when you have to walk into class without your homework done, or with it done but with only three hours of sleep, you’ll regret being online for so long.

10. Settle in. Don’t think you have to change yourself at all to match what other people want. Don’t take ceramics because all your friends are taking it if you really like wood shop. Take wood shop, and you’ll find friends there with similar interests. Don’t try to fit in. Just be you, and the right people will find you.

Share This With Your Teenager

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

My son, Matt, starts high school today. What a grand adventure! There will be glorious days, days that feel like torture, lifelong friendships forged, challenges to meet…

As I was thinking about what advice I’d like to share with him as he begins this phase of life, I came across an inspiring post, over on a favorite blog, Marc and Angel Hack Life - Practical Tips for Productive Living: “18 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was 18.”

In the post, Marc looks back, as an adult, and thinks about all “the things I would love to tell myself if I could travel back in time to give my 18-year-old self some advice about life.”

It works. Wish he had been around to write this for me when I was 18. Or, heck — 14. Happily, Matt can benefit from his wise words.

Thanks, Marc. Happy to share this with my readers here.

Readers, what advice of your own would you add?