Do you have a teen driver? If so, you need to check out the Drive Safe Challenge website


Passing a driver’s license test is a milestone for any teen driver. But, while teenagers gain a new-found sense of independence when they’re issued their license, parents are often left feeling a mix of excitement and anxiety.

The worry isn’t unfounded – teen drivers are the most inexperienced drivers on the road and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the leading cause of death for teens is motor vehicle accidents. So, how can parents help keep their young drivers safe on the road? The best answer is education. Fortunately for parents, Mercury Insurance has created the Drive Safe Challenge website, a comprehensive resource designed to aid parents in teaching teens collision avoidance techniques and safe driving practices. The site also includes statistics, driving tips, a driving contract and more.

Many states require teens to have a minimum number of supervised driving hours and to complete a driver’s education course before they’re eligible for a license. New York, for example, requires teen drivers to finish a minimum of 24 classroom hours and 24 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction.

Currently, all 50 states have a graduated driver’s license program limiting driving privileges for teens. Most include a learning stage, an intermediate stage that limits unsupervised driving in high risk situations like driving late at night, and a full privilege stage. These restrictions have a positive effect: states with stricter guidelines for young drivers have seen a reduction in crash rates as reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Parents can work to reinforce the good driving practices taught through formal driver’s education by spending more time in the family vehicle with their teen. Providing guidance while teens are behind the wheel and leading by example are important aspects of driver education. The more driving practice your teen driver receives, the better. Visit the Drive Safe Challenge website to learn more about how you can help keep your teen driver safe on the road.

*This is a sponsored post. The opinions expressed are that of the author’s and do no necessarily reflect my own. 


Know the facts and SHATTER THE MYTHS about drugs and alcohol


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of National Institute on Drug Abuse for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.



I know being a parent is a tough job. Being a parent to a teen/young adult is even harder.

I have two teenagers, ages 17 and 19 (almost 20). The teen years are not easy at all. There are plenty of days I wish I could go back to dealing with their “terrible twos.”

When you have teenagers there is so much more you need to worry about, and plenty of discussions to be had with your teen about curfews, friends, dating, and school. You should also talk about the potential risks of marijuana, other drugs, and alcohol with your children

When I was a teenager my parents didn’t talk to me about drugs and alcohol. I guess they assumed that I knew everything I needed to know from my peers and from school. Little did they know my peers were the worst influences on me. I was attending keg parties when I was only 15 years old. In hindsight, I was not too smart to do that at such a young age, especially knowing what I know now. I made extra certain to share all the facts with my kids to aid them in making smart choices.

January 23 – 29, 2017 is National Drug & Alcohol Facts WeekSM (NDAFW). It’s an annual, week-long observance that brings together teens and scientific experts to shatter myths about substance use and addiction.

NDAFW is sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), both part of the National Institutes of Health.

I wish they had something like this when I was a teenager. This event didn’t launch until 2010. Thankfully my kids were able to participate in school activities during the event.

The purpose of the week-long campaign is to SHATTER THE MYTHSTM,SM that kids might have about drugs and alcohol. Most of what they know about drugs and alcohol comes from their peers, movies, television, the internet and music which often objectifies drugs and alcohol and makes them look “cool” and fun to do.

These events connect teens with experts and scientists so that teens can ask questions about drugs and alcohol and receive the REAL facts about them. It’s a safe place for teens to ask those serious questions without the fear of being judged or getting lectures on why they shouldn’t use drugs and alcohol.

Since its inception, the number of community-based events held has grown dramatically, with more than 2,000 held last January throughout all 50 states and several international sites.

I visited the NDAFW website and learned some facts about drugs and alcohol that really made me think. For example, I read up on e-cigarettes, which seem to be very trendy these days.

Did you know…

  • 9.5 percent of 8th graders used e-cigarettes in the past month. – I was shocked when I read this.
  • Twice as many boys use e-cigs as girls. – This fact didn’t surprise me.
  • 30.7 percent of e-cig users started smoking within 6 months; 8.1 percent of non-users started smoking within that time. – My daughter knows a lot of kids who smoke e-cigarettes. She said they are not addicting. This scary fact proves that she’s wrong.
  • Manufacturers don’t have to report e-cig ingredients, so users often don’t know what’s in them. – That is scary! You have no clue what you are actually inhaling into your body. Why would anyone want to take such a risk with their health?

One important resource that NDAFW utilizes is the “National Drug & Alcohol IQ Challenge.” This is a 12-question multiple choice quiz that teens and adults can take in order to test their knowledge about drugs. If you are a parent you can take the IQ Challenge and share your results with your teen. It’s a great way to start a conversation about drugs and alcohol.

I would encourage all parents and guardians to take the “National Drug & Alcohol IQ Challenge.” I thought I knew a lot about drugs and alcohol, but I still got several wrong (I did fairly well). I plan on requesting that both my teenagers take the quiz too so we can discuss the results.

Check to see if there are any events going on locally for National Drug & Alcohol Facts WeekSM. If not you should check out their website and find out how you can get involved.

The website is also a valuable resource for talking to your teen about drug and alcohol facts. It’s an important discussion all parents should have with their teens.


Take the IQ Challenge!



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Applying Strengths-Based Parenting During Your Child’s High School and College Years



Your children’s high school and college years can be some of the most exciting, challenging and stressful — yet rewarding — years of their lives. New opportunities for growth, exploration, and developing professional and personal relationships are seemingly everywhere. By seizing on the wealth of opportunities available during these special years, your children will be one step closer to blossoming into happy, healthy independent adults who can create fulfilling lives for themselves.

While it may pull on your heartstrings to see your little ones who used to toddle across the kitchen now forging a path for their future, this exciting phase lets them uncover their true talents and allows them to shine. In Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0, talent is described as a natural way of thinking, feeling or behaving. A strength is the result of taking that talent and with investment — skills, knowledge and practice — using it to provide near-perfect performance in a given activity.

Our children do best when they get to use their strengths every day. Likewise, when parents apply their own individual talents and strengths, parenting becomes easier and more fulfilling, which affects their children’s fulfillment too.

As tough as it may be, it’s important to give your children the independence they crave during these formative years. If they elect to drop a class or activity that is not a right fit in favor of one that fosters their creativity, trust their instincts and that they are using their natural talents to the best of their ability. Focus on creating a positive, supportive environment where your children can apply their talents and build them into strengths.

When was the last time you really listened to your kids talk about their passions and started a conversation about developing those areas? At this age, they need to know what steps to take to determine which opportunities are available and how to seek them out.

The Gallup Student Poll has studied nearly 4 million responses from high school students to help educators build focused education that will engage students today and make them ready for tomorrow. Gallup’s Student Poll measures four areas of student success: enthusiasm for school, hope for the future, a knack for entrepreneurship and an understanding of finances. For parents of high schoolers, talk with your children to gauge how they are doing in each of these areas. Maybe you will spark an idea for a side business based on their passions that they can start during summer break. A little extra spending money goes a long way during these busy years filled with after-school activities, homecoming dances and prom.


Of note to parents of older children, the Gallup-Purdue Index studied 30,000 U.S. college graduates to measure the degree to which students were engaged in their work and thriving in purpose, social, financial, community and physical well-being. The study concluded that those who had the following six experiences (Gallup’s Big Six) fared better later in life than those who didn’t have these experiences:

  1. Had a professor who made them excited about learning
  2. Had professors who cared about them as a person
  3. Had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams
  4. Worked on a long-term project
  5. Had a job or internship where they applied what they were learning
  6. Were extremely involved in extracurricular activities

Stay involved in your children’s progress, and keep tabs on whether the Big Six are showing up in their lives. Pay attention to how they use their strengths in important interactions, whether it is developing a rapport with an internship coordinator or making a positive connection with a student adviser. Remaining focused on these key points allows you to be your kids’ biggest cheerleader and main support system for their long-term success. Our future doesn’t depend on everybody being the same; it depends on all individuals applying and sharing their unique talents, their blessings, their beliefs and their passions.

Take heart, new college parents. The holiday break will be here soon, and that means more opportunities to practice using your unique parenting strengths by touching base and really listening to how all those important new life experiences are going for your children as they navigate campus life.


About the author:

Mary Reckmeyer, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of Gallup’s Donald O. Clifton Child Development Center, which has received national attention for excellence in early childhood education and helped parents and children build their lives around strengths. She has studied talent-based interviews of thousands of individuals, including children, teachers and parents, and she helped create the Clifton Youth StrengthsExplorer. Reckmeyer also coauthored How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids. She and her husband have four children.

A must have school supply – a quality backpack



It’s back to school shopping time. Parents across the country are making lists and checking them twice to make sur their child has everything they need for the start of the new school year.

School supply lists have changed A LOT since I went to school. Back in the day we needed a binder, paper, pencils, pens and erasers. That was pretty much it. Anything else was a bonus. Nowadays kids are required to have pens in certain colors, special pencils, super expensive calculators, numerous folders and notebooks, as well as supplies for the classroom.

We always take advantage and stock up on school supplies when they are on sale year round. That way when we have to go school shopping we have almost everything we need and we can avoid the crowds and long lines. The only things we need to pick up are those specific extras teachers might require.

The cost of school supplies really add up, so it’s important to take advantage of sales and special.

There is on thing we learned NOT to skimp on and that’s backpacks. We learned that lesson the hard way over the years.

We used to buy our kids whatever character backpack they wanted from “bargain” type stores (I won’t mention brand names, but I’m sure most readers know what stores I am referring to). We would buy the kids $10 – $15 backpacks. We thought we were saving money but in the long run it ended up costing us MORE money because we always had to replace the backpacks a month or two after school started.

When it comes to backpacks it’s well worth it to spend a little more to get a quality backpack that will last the entire school year.

If you are in need of a backpack for your child for the upcoming school year, check out the great variety available at eBags, Here are just a few examples.



JanSport High Stakes

Available in 14 colors; retail price $29.99 – $39.99

  • Fully lined with Herschel Supply’s signature coated fabric
  • Fully padded and fleece-lined 15″ laptop sleeve
  • Magnetic strap closures with metal pin clip
  • Main compartment with cinch top closure
  • Front pocket with hidden zipper and key clip
  • Internal media pocket
  • Ventilated air mesh back padding
  • Contoured shoulder straps


Middle School/Jr. High

Adidas Prime

Available in 7 colors; retail price $60.99 – $64.99

  • Padded laptop sleeve for up to a 15.4’’screen
  • Tricot-lined tablet sleeve and media- safe pocket
  • Two side water bottle pockets
  • Front zippered pocket with deluxe organization
  • LoadSpringTM shoulder strap system and air mesh back panel will help ease the load
  • 3D embroidered brandmark


High School

Hershel Supply Co.Little America

Available in 21 colors; retail price $79.99 – $143.99

  • Fully lined with Herschel Supply’s signature coated fabric
  • Fully padded and fleece-lined 15″ laptop sleeve
  • Magnetic strap closures with metal pin clip
  • Main compartment with cinch top closure
  • Front pocket with hidden zipper and key clip
  • Internal media pocket
  • Ventilated air mesh back padding
  • Contoured shoulder straps

I recommend Jansport backpacks. My kids have used that brand’s backpacks many times over the years. They have plenty of great colors and designs to choose from.

My son has an Adidas backpack from eBags. I made extra certain to give it a good “once over” to see how well it’s made. I even tugged on the straps to see how well they are sewn on. It is a quality backpack.


The backpack suits his needs. It’s very room and can handle the super heavy and huge text books he’s bringing home.

There is also room for his laptop, but he doesn’t bring it to school with him.

Our daughter has a zebra print backpack from eBags. I don’t have a photo of it because she leaves it in her car (she goes to college). Every time I ask her for a photo she keeps forgetting to snap one for me. Ugh!

Her backpack looks just like this one.


I like that eBags has such a huge assortment of colors, designs, sizes, brands and prices available to suit everyone’s needs.

I’ve even found a lunch bag for work that I wan to pick up the next time I get paid. I love the design and that it’s insulated.


eBags has so much more than just school supplies (backpacks, lunch bags…). They also sell luggage, portable chargers, packing kits, clothing, sporting gear, automotive products and so much more. eBags an easily be your “one stop shop” for a lot of your family’s needs.

Ladies… eBags carries A LOT of beautiful handbags too!

If you would like to check out all that ebags has to offer, visit eBags.com. You can also check them out on social media. All of their links are found at the bottom of their website.

Have you ever shopped at eBags? Are you in need of a quality backpack?



*I received free product samples to review. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way. 

Why Leaving Home Can Be a Good Thing for Your Teen



There’s no place like home, right? But when home is a battleground centered on a teen who’s got behavioral issues brought on by a mood or emotional disorder, learning disability, addiction, or other difficulties, it no longer feels like a safe haven for anyone in the family. And it doesn’t do a thing for the teen who’s in the middle of it all.

You might have tried other kinds of programs during the school year or during summer vacation, but sometimes a complete change of environment is what’s needed. Academy ranches could be the answer. It’s a safe environment with a fresh, new vista that gives a troubled teen time with peers facing the same challenges as they work through them with counseling and personalized instruction in a setting of natural beauty and away from everything that triggers old behavior patterns.

Part of the ranch academy experience is learning the skills and gaining the confidence to become an independent adult, ready to realize his or her full potential. Teens need guidance, but they’ve got to be given the chance to try things on their own and also occasionally to fail at them. Spending time out of their familiar home environments provides them with the opportunities to do this safely as they learn to be adaptable and overcome obstacles.

While a ranch academy’s focus is to provide individualized and group counseling along with high-quality academics, these are some of the other things that a teen learns in a ranch academy setting that clear the way to becoming a successful adult:

Getting Along With Other People

Compassion and empathy for other people, along with knowing how to cooperate, collaborate, and compromise… those are the easy things, right? Well, maybe it’s true that they’re easy for some people. But others need coaching and practice at them.

Learning school subjects is important, but developing interpersonal skills is important in other ways as a teen participates in activities with peers and matures to go out into the workplace and the greater community. Experiences at a ranch academy teach good manners and communication skills so that a teen gains confidence when meeting new people and learns how to treat others with respect, no matter who they are.

Teen Driver 2

Solving Problems

As your teen gets older, you’re not going to be available every time he or she runs into a difficult situation that requires quick thinking and strategic problem solving. At a ranch academy without you in the next room, teens learn how to keep a cool head and confront things as they happen instead of looking for a parent to make everything all right.

They learn what to do on their own if something isn’t where it should be or doesn’t go as planned. Perhaps most importantly, they learn that not everything is a crisis or an emergency, and gain the confidence to know that there are always ways to work through things that happen and that they are smart enough and strong enough to do it themselves.

Managing Time

Even little kids have calendars that take a strategist to manage. By the time they’re teenagers, their days and nights are full to brimming and it sometimes it seems as if it’s a circus act to keep all the balls in the air. Life at an academy ranch teaches good habits of time management, prioritizing, and decision-making so that they’re not doing five things at once and leaving chaos everywhere they go. Teens at a ranch learn that their own lack of organization affects everyone around them, and they learn to take responsibility for their own actions.

Earning and Managing money

As long as you’re the family treasurer, your teen probably doesn’t take money too seriously. You have it, they want it, and, in many cases, they get it. An academy ranch gives teens the challenge of working for what they want, and teaches the elements of budgeting, the importance of saving, and the value of every hard-earned dollar or ranch credit. What’s even better is the sense of accomplishment a teen gains in the process.

Doing the Stuff of Daily Life

Slacking off isn’t an option when it comes to doing dorm and ranch chores. Teens at an academy ranch quickly learn that they are responsible for taking care of themselves and their surroundings, and see how their actions impact the others they live with. Knowing the state of his or her room at home, it may be a surprise to know how much more amenably a teen will take on a responsibility if you’re not the one telling him or her to do it.

Even if your teen is staying at home with you, here are some good suggestions on  how to manage these issues and more.

Teen with horse

The Rising Teen Epidemic and What to Do as a Parent


Teen Smartphone

So here’s the good news: according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the levels of drug abuse among eighth, tenth and twelfth graders is trending downward. Many of the drugs studied are at their lowest levels of use since the study began. Even prescription drugs like opioids are at an all time low amongst teens. Hooray!

The bad news is that teen drug use has not been eradicated and it probably never will. Teenagers like to experiment. They’re more likely to succumb to peer pressure. And as the therapists at www.hotelcaliforniabythesea.com have noted, drug use, abuse, and treatment is much different for young adults than older adults.

As a parent, it is totally normal to want to protect your children from all of the harms in the world. And, when those children become teenagers, it is totally normal to want to seal them in their bedrooms and monitor all of their contact with the outside world. This urge has become even stronger since the internet reached the ubiquity stage and much of teen communication and entertainment moved away from the easily observable.

Seriously, schools use tablets now. No more having just one computer for the whole family that sits against a wall of the living room where anybody can walk by and snoop over someone’s shoulders! Even with monitoring apps and parental controls, your kids are going to find ways to sneak around. It’s how they try to take control over their lives and experiment with adulthood. It’s a normal part of growing up, and it’s a normal part of parenting to hate it.

So what can you do? And even if you do everything right, aren’t your kids likely to experiment with drugs and drinking anyway?

Yes, probably. Still, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.

Calm Yourself

The first thing you need to do is develop your poker face. If you freak out every time your kids try to talk to you about the behaviors in which they are experimenting or that they observe in their friends, they’ll stop sharing these details with you. You can still freak out on the inside, of course, but do your best to present a calm and even response even when you want to tear out your hair. If you stay calm and positive, your kids are more likely to tell you what they’re dealing with and you’ll be better to able to spot problems in their early stages.

Teen Driver 2

Communicate Often

Figuring out how to talk to your kids about drugs and drinking can be difficult. Even so, you have to do it. And you cannot wait for your kids to come to you. Ask them questions about their days, their classes, their friends, their friends’ classes and families. Remember the details. The more interest you take in your kids’ lives the less likely they are to try to slip something by you.

Set Up Support Early

We aren’t advocating that you toss your teen into rehab after his or her first drink. Of course not! What we mean is that it’s important that, in addition to having stable boundaries and rules, it’s important to reinforce the idea that when your kids need help, they should come to you. Even if they think it’s nothing. Even if they are embarrassed. And this is where your poker face is going to come in handy because these times are when you need to be supportive instead of judgmental.

Offer Autonomy

No matter what they think and feel, no teen is truly ready to take total control over his or her life. Even so, if you start noticing problematic behavior, it is important that you resist the urge to completely control your teen’s life. Yes, privileges can be taken away, but if you want to help your teens stand up to peer pressure and get the help they need if they develop dependency on drugs or alcohol, they need to feel like they are making a choice. Talk to your teens about what kind of resolutions they’d like to see or what kind of help they think they need. You don’t have to give them exactly what they want, but including them in the conversation will make the decision to get help feel like something they can own. And the more ownership your teen feels, the more likely he or she is to get back on the right path.

Adolescence is rough on everyone. Puberty is awful. Everyone will make mistakes. But don’t worry, you’ll get through it, and so will your kids.