Today is such a strange reality. We are all home. Working at home. Staying at home. Our teens are home from school and college. There are so many things that keep happening, it makes your head spin! Here are some ideas that will help out a stressed out teen in overwhelming times.
(I first wrote this back in April of 2020. Some things have changed. Some have not. Many kids are able to go to school in some type of in seat hybrid version, some are learning in pods, and some are totally virtual. No matter which way, their lives probably look very different than they did one year ago this time. These tips for checking with your teen’s mental health are possibly more important today than ever.
We have a son struggling with depression -and before Covid had no problems. Would they have surfaced without this pandemic? Possibly, but we will never know. All I know is that I am proud of how he has handled himself, and he is working his way towards his future with help from us, his friends, and a counselor. Please check in with your teens!)
Our whole world completely turned upside down! What is next? For about four days in a row, I kept thinking that it could not get any worse, and I kept being wrong… If our adult heads are spinning, just imagine what is going on in our teen’s brains and hearts right now.
I have reached out to my blogging friends to find the best advice that they have for our stressed out teens today and any other time.
Here is the advice that they have shared.
*This post may contain affiliate links. My full disclosure policy is here.
If you can encourage your teen to just try one or two of these habits to try, it will go a long way to relieving their stress. I, for one, reduced the noise I was hearing over the past weekend. I did not listen to news. I did not read anything that might stress me out.
I basically took a time out from news for a couple of days. It was wonderful, and I plan on doing this every weekend from now for as long as the current (insert whatever you want!) situation goes on.
Our teens have a lot of time on their hands even with school, friends, social media, and right now, a world-wide pandemic. Here are a few fun things that might distract them when they have a moment of boredom! Staying busy is good for a stressed out teen, as long as it is balanced with rest and relaxation. Here are my friend’s tips for keeping your teen busy…
If a teen has anxiety, it’s a whole other dimension of stress. It is all-consuming, and overpowering. Teens may need outside help. They for sure need for you to know that it is very real to them. More than anything, they need your love and support!
Here are my friends’ tips for dealing with teen anxiety…
Stress is a factor every day in our teens’ lives. School, work, family, money, dating relationships, the list is endless. We need to model behaviors that are positive for our teens to emulate. We need to practice self-care, so that we can help meet their needs and show that it’s a great stress management tool.
Let’s help our teens to fill their toolboxes with strategies for dealing with stress today and any other time that will be stressful in the future.
Here is a great post on coping with all this as a mom from my friend Miranda at The Reluctant Cowgirl.
Here is a post that I wrote about self-care under the best of times, but is great for now because there are tiny doable things that you can do to have a better day, every day!
We have time now because everyone is at home. The thing is that we should always make time to have conversations. Our teens are only with us for a limited amount of time-the countdown has started for them to leave for college or a job or the military or one of a million things.
Use the time that you have with your kids to have some of these important conversations about making their future a better place to be. Help you teen to have an advantage by discussing important tips that will help them no matter what is going on in the world.
5 Steps to Avoid Losing Your Cool With Your Young Adult
My good friend Shannon Hale at www.skiptomylife.com has kindly written this guest post letting us know how to avoid losing your coolwith your teen. She has some great ideas! It’s tough to remember exactly where the burning sensation started. Perhaps I mistook it for a hot flash. Before I knew it, I was excusing myself from the room, muttering something to my husband about this being HIS son.
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When Your Darling Child Comes Home From College…
What could my rising freshman possibly have said to stir such emotion, just moments after hugs and welcome-homes from his first year at college? I’m going to tell you. Because even though I’m not usually a betting kind of gal, I’d be willing to place cash on the barrel that you will hear some version of these two sentences come from the lips of your sweet child in the coming weeks:
“You never knew what I was doing when I was away at school. Why do I have to tell you where I am now that I’m home”?
How to avoid losing your cool with your young adult
Whether you’re launching a graduate or welcoming one home this summer, the routine you’ve settled into over the school year is sure to change in the coming days. And, surprise! The dynamics between you and your young adult may have morphed more than either of you are expecting.
Learn from me, friends, and top off the volcano of unrealistic expectations before it erupts. Just a little planning on your part and a short discussion with your student can make the difference between a frustrating summer and one you’ll cherish for years to come. Don’t worry; I’ll walk you through this process step-by-step.
Living with young adults feels a little like walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon. It takes a lot of balancing to trust our kid on one side while requiring their personal responsibility on the other. That balancing act can leave us, as parents, a bit wobbly. Add to this the fear of major repercussions for slipping too far to either side, and we are quickly set up for a very stressful summer.
Avoid Summer Slump
“Summer Slump” is the term coined to describe the post-semester blues that result from a combination of factors: change in daily routine, distance from friends, and unforeseen conflict in family and romantic relationships. About 1 in 3 students described themselves as depressed as a result of this phenomenon.
As the busyness of the school year comes to a screeching halt, don’t be left frantically navigating how your teen will fill their summer days. Take just 30 minutes to talk through some simple strategies and set a plan in motion, and you’ll see major pay-off in the coming months. Here’s how you’ll spend that half hour.
5 tips to Avoid losing your cool with your young adult this summer
1. Get out the calendar
Young adults are notorious for misunderstanding time constraints. Pull out the calendar and start by figuring out just how many weeks are unaccounted for this summer. It may be fewer than you, or your student, think.
Next step: post any dates that are already scheduled, such as family vacations, weddings, deadlines and social events. These events will serve to break up the perception of monotony of the months stretching before your student.
Give your student permission to dream about what they’d like to do this summer. During my son’s last summer before college, he and his cousin organized a cross-country road trip to see their favorite band.
Although I was tempted to say “absolutely not” when he first presented the idea, the planning and responsibility he showed won me over. Put a lock on your lips and just listen. You may be surprised to see a new side of your kid.
Once they’ve had their say, it’s time for mom and dad to share their dreams for the summer. This might include something as simple as visiting the local snow cone stand or as epic as a major bike ride. Your summer will be so much more fun if you don’t lose your cool with your young adult!
3. Discuss guidelines
Learn from my mistakes, my wonderful friends. Don’t assume your student knows what you expect from them this summer. You are making the transition from parenting to coaching, from living with your child to living with another adult.
It’s tough. It’s awkward. But we can do this. Setting simple guidelines about household chores, curfew, communication, use of car- will keep you from so many rolling eyeballs and slammed doors.
Remember that they have, indeed, kept themselves from dying over the last several months. Give them credit and very generous limits.
I grew up in a home with one bathroom. Not one full bath and one half bath- one toilet, one sink, one shower. So many battles could have been avoided and so many tears could have been saved had we just sat down and figured out a schedule. But then my sisters and I wouldn’t have near the stories to tell, right?
4. Provide options
In the event that your teen’s answer to question 2 is “play video games on the couch”, here’s some help. You, dear parent, will come to this conversation armed with some ideas for summer options. Here is the beauty of taking 30 minutes to have this planning session in early summer versus waiting until mid-July.
As you probably know, but your teen may not, now is the time to apply for and pursue a summer job, schedule an internship, or sign up for summer classes. I know, I know, you’re afraid this revelation will push your already-overwhelmed kid into overload. But here’s where your pre-work will pay off.
Show them support by offering to temporarily take something off their plate so they can have a couple of hours to fill out an application online or schedule a meeting with a local business owner.
5. Celebrate and model self-care
Summer is a great time for students to catch up on sleep, get into better eating habits or start an exercise program. But we can’t very well encourage them to do those things if we’re not doing them ourselves.
Now that another school year is in the books, push the easy button and set aside some time for summer planning with your student. You’ll be glad you did when fall rolls around and you’re waving goodbye once again.
Thanks to Shannon for all the great ideas for ideas on how to avoid losing your cool with your young adults. This is our first summer that our boys are NOT coming home, and that is a whole other story!
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How to get ready for college – have conversations with your teens.
When I was young, and I loved reading the Little House books, I thought that I would write a story about a pioneer family. It turns out that I have a lot to say about parenting teens. So, I wrote about how to get ready for college using conversations with your teens.
Have you got a teen or two in your house? For awhile, we had three teenage boys. Our oldest two are now in their 20s, and we have survived so far.
One thing that we have used in our parenting journey is conversation. It has helped us to answer the question, “How to get ready for college?” Lots of talking about lots of topics. Here’s a link to another post, 5 Ways to Improve Communication With Your Teen.
College Bound came about as a way for me to give back to other parents. My husband and I struggled to find our way parenting our teens with no real road map in our hands.
There is no “what to expect” when your teen is 13 or 15 or 18….! We also wondered about the answers for, “How to get ready for college?”
We stumbled onto a system of having regular conversations with our teens. It has really worked for each of our boys, and they are all as different as they can be.
*This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. My full disclosure policy ishere.
Grab the Conversation freebies here! I realized since publishing my book that I left out the questions and conversation starters for the end of each conversation-ugggh! So, here is a link to that list of questions.
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Did we use magic?
Many of you might scratch your head and wonder how it is that we got our teenage boys to talk. It was not magic, if that’s what you’re wondering.
We started these “talks” when the boys were younger, always around the time that their grades arrived home. This occurred about every six weeks. You too, can talk to your teens.
The beauty of this system was that it happened regularly. The boys knew that when their grades came home, we would soon be setting up a time to meet with each of them one-on-one.
(And, just so you know, our expectations were that they get all As and Bs. The occasional C was only ok if they were trying their hardest in a subject that was hard for them.) They knew that whether or not we were pleased with their grades, a meeting would occur.
It was amazing how many times we had to tell them to do better in school-still do to this day! It was a good and regular interval of time to have these conversations. Our teens could talk about all sorts of things that were going on in their lives at that particular time in their lives.
Keep in mind that my husband and I are not parenting experts. Far from it. However, we have gotten one kid out of his teens and out of college. Another is finishing his associate’s degree, and our baby is a sophomore in high school.
This has been a fun, but challenging journey. I hope that some of what has worked for us will work for you!
How to prepare for college life or whatever else is to come
I broke College Bound into 14 conversations. They range in topics from setting up a college budget, obtaining letters of recommendation, contacting colleges with questions to finding scholarships, and more.
Each chapter covers a conversation, why each is important, different things to think about, and how to talk about each topic.
There are many other conversations with your teens that need to occur, but for the sake of the book, these topics were the ones I felt were the most important when thinking about college and life prep.
Will these topics matter if my child decides not to attend college?
Yes. All of these topics matter because if your child decides to go into the military, get a job, or go to trade school a resume will always be a good thing to leave high school with. Grades and test scores will matter. Maybe not to the degree as getting into college, but the real world is competitive.
The better your teen looks coming out of high school compared to the next guy who is applying for the same program, the better their chances for getting that job or higher rank or whatever!
A lot of it is common sense. When we first started out in these teen years with our oldest, the amount of things that we did not know was overwhelming.
This book was born out of frustration with not knowing what to ask or even who to ask about parenting teens or how to get ready for college. Counselors at high schools are awesome, but totally overworked. They are also usually trying to help those kids with no support systems in place.
It seemed like other parents had the same questions as we had. So, between my husband and I, we started researching and asking questions to anyone who looked like they might have an answer. I read books, Googled a lot of things, and we both asked parents with older teens what had worked for them.
Have lots of conversations with your teens!
We talked with our kids a lot. Note the use of “with” and not “to”. Of course, there were times that we did talk to our kids, but we really wanted to engage them in conversation.
There were times that it seemed like our conversations were going nowhere fast, but then one of the boys would make a decision that made sense. Or one of them would tell us something that gave us a glimpse into the fact that maybe we were making some sort of headway into this parenting thing.
Parenting teens is NOT for the faint of heart. It takes consistency, patience, and stamina to say the least. Remember that many, if not all, of these conversations will need to take place gradually. Start where you are.
If none of these topics have been discussed before, then choose one. Talk with your spouse or significant other first to make sure you are in agreement or at least know where you each stand.
Teens are super smart and will be able to tell if you guys are not of the same mind. They will use this to their advantage every time, so be prepared!
Do not try to talk about all of this at once! Have discussions a little at a time, and spread them out. It would be really easy to overwhelm both you and your teen.
Most teens are wanting to talk about the future, they are feeling lots of mixed emotions. They are scared, excited, overwhelmed, and usually have many questions if given the right situation.
These conversations with your teens are for them to start the process of preparing to leave your home. These are all topics that need to be covered in most situations.
Set some goals together. Make the time. Remember not to lecture, but have discussions. Let your teen talk and ask questions. Try not to interrupt.
My teen thinks that they know it all…
I feel your pain. Have them do some research about the thing or things of which they are trying to convince you. This has worked for us, a lot. We had one son, who really thought he knew a lot about a lot.
He is super smart, but through his research online and asking around, he realized that maybe we knew a few things as well. This was something that we let him discover over time on his own.
We also have learned so much about parenting teens. Our teens were smarter and more responsible than we had given them credit for. Patience was something that we had to use in all of these conversations.
We learned how and when to shelf a discussion for later without everyone getting mad–not always, but most of the time. There is also the fact that our teens have so much going on in their lives, that they really appreciated these times to debrief and make plans.
Try to have some conversations with your teens!
Set up a time to have a conversation with your teen. Let them know when and why you are wanting to do this. Tell them that there will be time for them to talk about things that they want to talk about as well.
Start out short and sweet. See what works, and what doesn’t. Each child and each conversation will be different. Take notes. Try again soon. Grab my book, College Bound now!
You will hopefully find that your relationship with your teen will improve. It won’t always be great, but in general, your kids will talk more in every day situations than they used to. They will have more questions.
Teens want to plan for their own future, and you will find out that it is really fun to do this! Grab my three freebies for this system here. They are:
1. Template for keeping notes from each conversation.
2. Conversation starters.
3. Tips for success when starting this plan.
There may be more going on with your teen than you think. Talking with them will hopefully help to bridge that gap, if there is one, between you and your teen.
Your teen is an 18 year old! Your parental rights are basically gone.
Do you have a college freshman? A teen who is now 18 years old? Get ready for things to change in more ways than one. Your parental rights are about gone!
Did you know that you have no rights to their school information like grades, financial aid etc?
Did you know that once your kiddo turns 18, you will not be able to even make them a doctor’s appointment or call with an insurance question about your own child?!!!!! Whaaaaaaat?
What do I mean by, “Your rights are basically gone?”
I found this out the hard way when I called to doctor to find out some info about one of my boys’ doctor appointments. They wouldn’t tell me anything! Keep in mind that this was our pediatrician, who I had known since the morning my oldest was born more than 20 years ago…
In addition to all of the dorm room supplies and school supplies and other miscellaneous stuff, you need to be aware of some really important terms: FERPA, HIPAA, and Selective Service to name a few.
Once your child enters college, and especially after they turn 18, your parental rights will drastically change, as in disappear. Read on to find out what these terms mean, and how you can be prepared for the transition of your teenager to adulthood. *This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. My full disclosure policy ishere.
(In this day of COVID-19, the medical portion of this post is very important to know about. Your child needs to let his medical providers know that he or she gives permission to you for medical treatment. In most cases, the virus has been mild for young adults. However, the doctors are saying, if a case becomes severe, it can happen very rapidly.) Please read the section below about HIPAA carefully.
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What you and your 18 year old need to know!
What is FERPA?
FERPA stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. So, let’s say that you suspect that your child has been skipping classes, or you want to make sure that your child didn’t drop a class and scoop up that money. You cannot find out from the college unless the FERPA has been signed!
FERPA is the law that protects student educational records. It includes protections for … a child’s education records, such as, report cards, transcripts, disciplinary records, contact and family information, and class schedules. Find out what FERPA compliance means, and how you and your teen can work together with this law.
This means that at the age of 18, all rights that you have had as a parent regarding these types of information transfer to your student.
There are exceptions when a school may, but IS NOT REQUIRED to-share this information about the student’s educational records. The exceptions include situations where the student’s health or safety may be at risk, instances of drugs or alcohol if the student is under the age of 21 and/or if the student is claimed as a dependent for tax purposes.
The point being, that unless your student signs the FERPA when registering for classes or at student orientation or at any time, then you may or MAY NOT be able to see your child’s grades, see their financial records at the school or be able to help make decisions regarding their health should a situation occur on campus.
It is a simple form that carries significant weight.
The truth is that your child will not necessarily know what this is!
Unless you basically make your teen sign the FERPA, then you will be out of luck when trying to communicate with the school if you want any real answers. Look for this when your child is uploading all of their info to their college once they are accepted.
Here’s another example of parental loss of power… Your child has gone to the health clinic at their college. You call the clinic to find out more information from them about the diagnosis because your child cannot tell you much since they didn’t really listen. No can do. Unless your child has signed the HIPAA and put your name on it!
HIPAA is another governmental term. The Health Information and Portability Accountability Act comes into action when your teen turns 18. Up until this point, you as the parent have signed the HIPAA form at all doctors visits. This includes dental, vision, and insurance information as well as primary care.
Now, your 18 year old will sign the form and list any adults who may be given information regarding their health. If you are not on that list, then you will not be privy to any of that information. (A really good description for an 18 year old to read about what the HIPAA means is here.)
Another option to consider is a durable power of attorney. This would need to be signed by your teen once they are 18. This would be a really good thing to have in place if for some reason your child were to become incapacitated in some way. It is recommended that you get a power of attorney for the state that your teen goes to college in, as well as the state of permanent residence.
Check out Mama Bear Legal Forms. They offer both health and financial power of attorney legal documents. We have had these drawn up for our two oldest boys while they are in college. It took about 15 minutes to fill in the blanks, and print out! I have heard horror stories about parents not being able to make medical decisions for their kids because this was not in place, so please do this for your peace of mind.
Once your son turns 18, he needs to register with the Selective Service. He will have 30 days to do so. It is a federal offense not to register. He will be unable to get a driver’s license or apply for student loans or grants. There is a hefty fine of $250,000 and up to 5 years in prison for not signing up.
Conscientious objectors and disabled persons need to register as well. If the draft ever comes back, those individuals can can register their objections or disabilities then.
At this point in time, girls do not have to sign up for this.
Legal Implications for an 18 year old
Turning 18 has many implications. In most states, being 18 is considered being an adult-age of majority. Some things to consider…
As an adult, a person can buy property, vote, or even get married in most states. Jury duty is now a possibility as well.
As an adult, a person can now be put in prison if convicted of a crime, can legally gamble, and can now be sued. Not all fun and games for the teenager to adulthood transition!
One tool that young adults may want to take advantage of is life insurance. It all depends on circumstances. Some young people may be facing financial hardships or want to utilize life insurance as an investment tool. Here is a quick link to a guide explaining more about this.
One more thing that your 18 year old needs to consider. Sex. If your son or daughter is dating someone younger than them, which many of them are, then they can be charged with, and be prosecuted with statutory rape. This varies from state to state, and the description of what that means also varies from state to state. Also, sexting as an adult is a crime. It is distribution of pornography. Please make them aware of this!
Are you wondering what you should be teaching your teen about money? Saving? Investing? This knowledge is so important for our kids as they leave for college and/or beyond. I so wish that I had know all of this when I was their age!
Here is a little bit about John- ‘ I’m John Q. Miller and I’m been a financial coach of some sort for over 20 years. I have a passion for financial literacy for kids. I especially like to share how my wife and I raised our two daughters and taught them lifelong lessons about personal finance. We gave them a head start for financial freedom that we didn’t have when we ventured out into the world as young adults.’
This is a lot!
All of it is important! Be sure that you and your teen have discussions about all of this over time. These are big topics, so don’t try to discuss it all at once. Your role as a parent will definitely change, and that’s a good thing! Just know that as you lose your parental rights, they are gaining their rights as adults, and that’s a good thing too!
I feel your pain, but hope that this information helps you along this crazy journey as our kids become adults!
Social justice books for teens are a great way to teach real world lessons that they can continue to learn through their lives. Social justice is an ongoing issue in real life. As a mom, as a teacher, as a person, I need to be willing to put myself in someone else’s shoes. To empathize with my fellow man. As I live out my life, I hope that the lessons my own children, as well as my students, have learned from me will help them to be better people. To be empathetic, sympathetic, to be GOOD people, now and always.
These are all concepts that need to be taught. Defined. Lived. As mothers, teachers, parents, we can only do so much, but with everyone’s help, our world can be a better place.
With headline after headline of police brutality, rioting, social injustice-sadly, the list goes on and on. We need to do better. We need to BE better. No excuses. We have run out of time.
What I have taught….
One of the units that I teach as a middle school English teacher is Deep Study of Character -with Lucy Calkins curriculum. It is literature based on all the above characteristics woven through their themes. I love to use books to teach all sorts of lessons.
I was new back to the classroom last year after a long hiatus bringing up my boys, so many of the books on the following list are still new to me. However, I have researched all of these, and I am part of a wonderful group of teachers on Facebook that shares and elaborates, so I pulled a lot of information from that group. Read on for great social justice books for young adults (and everyone)!
Check the bottom of the post for other options besides books!
These books were chosen to represent the best of what I have taught and what I have learned as a teacher listening to other teachers…
There are sections for picture books, short stories, young adult and adult, and finally, authors who have written so many books to choose from. I wanted to get this out and published because this is such an important subject and will be adding to this list frequently!
*This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase. My full disclosure policy is here.
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”―Martin Luther King Jr.
Not My Idea -Higginbotham This is an honest book that looks at race, racism and being white in today’s world. This addresses the topic of civic responsibility in a great way for kids to relate to. I have ordered for my classroom!
For white folks who aren’t sure how to talk to their kids about race, this book is the perfect beginning. —O MAGAZINE
Separate is Never Equal – Tonatiuh The unknown story of school integration in California 10 years before Brown v. The Board of Education. This began school integration in California for Mexican-Spanish American children.
You, Me, and Empathy -Sanders “Showing empathy towards others is a learnt trait, and one to nurture and cherish with the children in our care,” -this quote taken from the book description. Such a wonderful book about the main character, Quinn learning that empathy means “being able to understand how another person is feeling and recognizing their needs helps people to connect to one another across race, culture and the diversity that is ever-present and so important to our world.” Everyone needs to read this one!
“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is that they must change if they are to get better.”― Georg Lichtenberg
Thank You, M’am – Langston Hughes This short story is all about morality. What is good? How do we know? A boy tries to steal a woman’s purse to buy a new pair of shoes. Find out what happens… I found this on the CommonLit website.
Flying Lessons and Other Stories -Ellen Oh This selection of stories is such a great collection. I have not read them all, but between my classes last year, I have heard about all of them from my students. All sorts of stories about all sorts of people. My students chose the story with this book that resonated with to do a project on for class. These ten stories are all great in their own way.
The Hero Next Door -Rhuday-Perkovich This is another gathering of stories about being brave in today’s world. Young people can make a difference, all it takes a little courage. Again, I have not read all of this collection, but the couple that I have read were great!
Fresh Ink – Giles These short stories are unfinished. Their endings are still playing out in today’s headlines. These are all amazing stories of individuality and bravery. Diverse and raw and uplifting. Please read!
Our Stories, Our Voices -Reed These are essays by popular YA authors who all have something to say about all sorts of things that happen as kids grow up.
The Treasure of Lemon Brown -Myers I found this on CommonLit.org We studied this story in my eighth grade class this year. So many lessons contained in this short story! We all loved it.
51 Black Heroes -Norwood “Black Heroes introduces you to 51 black leaders and role models from both history and modern times” from all walks of life. This book is for younger audiences, but also good for lower readers.
“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…, the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.”― Franklin D. Roosevelt
Wishtree -Applegate An old oak tree that has been used as a “wishtree” for the surrounding community. A new family that is not necessarily welcomed by all. A crow and other creatures watch from the trees branches as this story unfolds. This is a wonderful story told by a tree, but so much more! If you are not a fan of fantasy, give this a try anyway-because, a tree is wise.
Dear Martin -Stone This follows the story of a Justyce, who always Is doing the right thing: honor student, helps those in need, all-around good guy. Then, he is arrested and cuffed by an off-duty police officer after an event which Justyce just happens to be there. I have not read this, but it’s on my list! There is a sequel, Dear Justyce, which follows up as Justyce is at Yale as a college student.
Refugee -Gratz This was another class favorite. Three refugees on three different paths are all connected by the end of the story. All of them leave homes that they love for reasons beyond their control. They encounter so many difficulties both on their journeys and at their different destinations. I learned a lot about the plight of refugees and many of their circumstances!
All-American Boys -Co-written by Reynolds and Kiely This story could unfortunately be ripped out of today’s headlines. Gripping and realistic. Could not put down!
Long Way Down -Reynolds This book has haunted me. My students all were intrigued by this story and a lot of great discussion came from this. The length of time it takes to get down Will’s building’s elevator. His brother has been shot and killed. While Will rides the elevator down one day, he is visited by people from his brother’s past as it stops at each floor. This is now available in a graphic novel version -soooo good!
Will got on the elevator with a singular purpose. Will he get out at the bottom and carry through his plan?
“Genuine equality means not treating everyone the same, but attending equally to everyone’s different needs.”― Terry Eagleton
The Poet X – Acevedo The main character her, Xiomara, is a young woman with a lot to say. She writes in her journal, and has many thoughts that she feels cannot be shared anywhere else. She is invited to a slam poetry contest, but she knows that her family would not approve.
The 57 Bus -Slater This is based on a true story. Two kids from completely different parts of the world, within one city. They have eight minutes together each day. Then a tragic event occurs. One is injured. One is charged with a crime…
Monster -Myers This is a complicated story about the trial of a young man for a crime. Is he guilty or innocent? A pawn of the system and the characters surrounding the crime. Is he a “monster” as he has been titled? Steve, the young man in this story, starts to transcribe his story as a film script. What is the verdict? This would be a good one to read with your teen…
Mexican White Boy – de la Peña Half Mexican, half white, Danny is struggling with a lot of things as a teenager in San Diego. He mostly wants to figure out where he belongs…
Harbor Me -Woodson I loved this book! Six kids meet in a room that they have a special name for. They can talk about their lives. It’s a wonderful story about a caring teacher, a group of kids dealing with so much, and the friendships that evolve from their meetings. My students loved this book.
Out of My Mind – Draper This book really got to me. Locked into a body that won’t work, Melody is assumed to be stupid. Far from it. She finally proves that she is really smart only to be rejected again. Heartbreaking, heartwarming… My students learned that students with disabilities are always what they seem! Along the same lines as Wonder, another wonderful book and movie -talk about overcoming adversity!
Ghost Boys -Rhodes Two boys meet who have been tragically been killed as a result of racism in different places and times. They help one another to figure out some things about what happened to each of them. This is on my list to order for my classroom!
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry -Taylor This is a classic! A wonderful story set in the depression about hate and racism and social injustice. It stands the test of time.
“When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunities to make real change.”― Ijeoma Oluo
Just Mercy -Stevenson This is a true story about a young lawyer defending a young man accused of a crime he swears that he did not commit. Compared to To Kill a Mockingbird, another great book about good v. evil.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness -Brown Written by Austin Brown, who finds out at the age of 7, that her parents named her Austin so that future schools and employers would think that she was a white man. As she grows up, Austin learns that people don’t mean what they say, and she grapples with what it means to be a woman of color in today’s world. Really good insight for me.
Raising Fences -Datcher I read this a few years ago for a book club. It’s a memoir written by a black man who wants to be a good father without having had one himself. This was painful to read, but I never felt so white while reading this.
Americanah -Aditchie This is a novel that really opened my eyes. It is a love story, but is also a story about how unaware we are of race in this country as white people. This was so good!
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration -Wilkerson This is a story that covers the migration of six million people from the south to the north in the US from 1915 to 1970. Thousands of interviews and really great stories of a people who tried to escape oppression and find a better life for themselves and their families.
Code Switch – a podcast series from NPR; I’ve listened to this podcast for YEARS. Produced and hosted by people of color, it talks about all things race in the U.S, from school to housing to the census.
Throughline – a U.S. history podcast from NPR. It often features stories about marginalized populations and how they affected and were affected by events in U.S. history
Seeing White – podcast series about whiteness and its impact
This list is by no means complete! Please let me know if you have a good suggestion that will help to teach our young people lifelong lessons. I hope that these books will help you start or continue a conversation that has to happen in order for our world to be a better place for everyone.
Valentine’s Day can be such a fun time for teens. Even for teens that do not have a special “other person”, giving gifts to a bestie or other friends can be fun! Finding the best Valentine’s gifts can be a lot of fun, and there are many great activities as well that I list at the bottom for fun!
We encourage our boys to give gifts at least to us and their grandparents, even if it is just a card. These can mean a lot, especially if they are homemade!
Showing someone that you care is a life lesson, and there is no better time than Valentine’s Day to make sure that this happens!
Encourage your teens to reach out to someone or many someones with a message of friendship and/or love.
I put together the following list of Valentine’s gifts with help from my boys and my middle school students. These vary in price from just a few dollars up to a lot -most are really inexpensive items of less than $25. Our teens need to remember that it is the thought that counts more than anything.
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