By Dr. Meg Meeker
Mood is hard to quantify and even harder to express. But we do know that while the rates of depression among boys are higher than they were twenty or thirty years ago, boys experience depression at a far lower rate than girls do. And there is a suspicious parallel between the rise of depression amongst teens and the skyrocketing STDs.
Many parents have children who are really hard to spend time with. I know because I see these kids interact with their parents in my office. And- I get an earful from parents who have children of all ages who have serious problems like severe ADHD, bipolar mood disorder, oppositional- defiant disorder, personality disorders and different types of addictions.
Conversations between two friends are mysterious and complex. Unfortunately, many of us women make them more complex than need be. If we simply listened to the adage in Mark’s gospel about making our ‘Yes be Yes and our No be No’, we could free ourselves and our friends from much turmoil. Let’s practice doing just that.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a report stating that as a country we’re making modest improvements in the obesity problems among our kids. The good news is that 19 states saw a decline in obesity while 3 saw and increase and the rest stayed stable. Their conclusion was that more research is needed to figure out why kids struggle with weight issues and what can be done about it. Of course, they will recommend community and school programs.
Every child is born with a natural survival mechanism that causes him or her to be territorial. Mine is one of the cutest but most frustrating words any two-year-old chants repeatedly. As your daughter moves through her toddler years into her elementary school years and on into high school, she will probably go through some periods where she is more selfish, more territorial than others.
Parents always say they don’t care what their kids do as long as they’re happy. As the mother of four, I understand this. I am incredibly selfish. If my kids are happy, I sleep better at night and enjoy my days more.
It’s hard to go through life without meeting someone who flaunts every gift you lack, or attending a dinner party where the conversation focuses on a subject you know nothing about, or being humiliated by a boss, a teacher, a parent, or even a friend. All of us have been made to feel stupid, contemptible, ill-suited, weak, and generally awful at some point in our lives by people who think they’re better than we are.
Many parents roll their eyes at the word humility. We associate it with weakness, and we -don’t want our daughters to be weak or easily manipulated. We want them strong, self-
sufficient, and independent. We want them to have self-esteem. These days, humility is a politically incorrect virtue.
Perhaps the greatest hallmark of the successful transition from boyhood to manhood is perseverance. Boys lose steam and want to quit. Men lose steam, pause to find it again, and then continue on.
I have witnessed a trend evolving in young mothers that disturbs me: Many of them refuse to trust their instincts. A couple of decades ago, mothers could be overly bossy and controlling. Some of us grew up with mothers like this and we determined that we would never be so overbearing.
For many sons, curiosity can begin as early as age three. A hamster dies and they mourn, asking, what will happen to Slinky now? Will he rot in the ground, fly to another planet, or evaporate into the clouds? Even preschool-aged boys will surprise you with their thought processes, and will question more abstract concepts like what lies be- yond the stars or how can God be real if He’s invisible.
I love Christmas but I hate it. I’ll bet you do, too. After 57 Christmases, I have found the holiday to be ironically complex. It is the celebration of the first time God came near to us in the person of Jesus- to express love, acceptance and appreciation to us. It is a time of joy, peace, family and love; but also of stress, exhaustion, worry and even depression. So what gives?
Medicine has made enormous scientific advancements that allow me to see inside my patients’ bodies so clearly that it’s like looking at a drawing in a textbook. I can give medicines that calm kids down, cure some cancers, and extend the lives of kids who have HIV.
To love your daughter well, to draw her close to you, to strengthen the bond between the two of you, you must have a will of steel. There will be times when you’ll want to walk out–don’t.
Here’s the problem. You’re as young as 14 or maybe as old as 17. If you start having sex now, chances are excellent that you’ll become another statistic in the epidemic. You’ll get an STD—or two or three. You may put yourself at higher risk for depression as well. And the development of your sexuality? Your masculinity may be fashioned after what you saw in television characters rather than what you’ve observed among the real (non-television) men around you.
Why, then, when that same child turns 10, would a parent allow him to see movies appropriate for 14- to 17-year-olds? Or let 8-year-olds watch television programs that aren’t even appropriate for high school seniors? We know this activity is harmful to them. One study found that more than three out of four Americans felt that the way TV programs show sex encourages irresponsible sexual behavior.
It was Cosmopolitan. I asked her if it contained any worthwhile articles. She replied that she’d just bought it. She really hadn’t read it yet. She glanced at the cover, giggled, and started reading titles: “Seven Bad-Girl Bedroom Moves You Must Master,” “Erotic Tips to...” She stopped, blushing with embarrassment.
I know that many of you mothers are just like I am when it comes to disciplining children – you’re kind of a wimp. You just don’t want to do it because you are afraid your kids won’t like you. Or you could be feeling that you discipline all of the time and what you’re doing never works. No matter what you do, your kids just won’t listen to you.
Watching Target change signage in their stores reminds me of many interactions I’ve had with teenagers over the years trying to persuade them not to buckle to peer pressure.
Mothers view sons differently than they do their daughters. They have an instinctual desire to preserve their son’s masculinity and this means preserving the perception that her son is physically and mentally strong. She will never allow him to be at the bottom of the pecking order.
Connect With Dr. Meg Meeker
Visit Dr. Meeker's Resource Page
Pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health.
Dr. Meg writes with the know-how of a pediatrician and the big heart of a mother because she has spent the last 25 years practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine while also helping parents and teens to communicate more deeply about difficult topics such as sex, STDs and teen pregnancy. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her new groundbreaking book, The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers, Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose and Sanity out from Ballantine Books. Visit Dr. Meg's Resource page.
Dr. Meg’s popularity as a speaker on key issues confronting American families has created a strong following on her blogs for Psychology Today. She has also spoken nationally on teen health issues, including personal appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and television programs. Additionally, Dr. Meg lends her voice to regular features in Physician Magazine and Psychologies (UK) and was a contributor to QUESTIONS KIDS ASK ABOUT SEX: Honest Answers for Every Age, The Complete Book of Baby and Child Care (Tyndale House Publishers) and High School Science text, Holt-Rhinehart and Winston, 2004.
Dr. Meg is presently re-certifying with the American Board of Pediatrics and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the National Advisory Board of the Medical Institute, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Human Development at Michigan State University; Munson Hospital Family Practice Residency Training Program 1998-present.
Dr. Meeker lives and works in Traverse City, MI where she shares a medical practice with her husband, Walter. They have four grown children.
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