The Truth About Teens And Weed


On an afternoon I’ll never forget, one of my teen clients walked through the door, dropped into a chair, and proudly stated that he had discovered the key to happiness: weed. It’s his medicine, he says, and it makes him feel good. If he could only get a medical marijuana card, everything would be solved.

I’m not against the use of medical marijuana. According to a recent report from the US National Academy of Sciences, there are many benefits of marijuana use, but only three that are conclusive after analyzing 10,000 studies.

1. Easing chronic pain in adults

2. Decreasing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting

3. Relieving symptoms of multiple sclerosis

This seems significant.

In my coaching practice it seems like increasingly more of my clients are permanently stoned. Teens see weed as medicine. “What strain?” “Is it Couch Lock weed? Or is it weed you can do before school?” This is what I hear on a regular basis. “Emma” believes it’s her stomach medicine and uses it multiple times daily, but now she cuts school half of the time, dropped in her academic standing, can’t face that her stomach issues were anxiety-related (MDs were consulted… no other physical diagnosis was found) and that her anxiety is as strong or stronger than ever.

I’m writing this article for parents. I want you to know about the growing insanity — the irrational thinking — around weed and teens today. The notion that weed is a cure-all for the anxious teen is not only scientifically false but also extremely dangerous.

There’s a backlash from legalization of weed — now it’s legitimate, and kids really believe they can self-medicate. These kids aren’t used to having to be uncomfortable. The myth among their parents is: I need to save my kid from discomfort at all costs. This is a lie.

It’s precisely the navigation of this discomfort that teens need to explore. Learning to cope with the chaos that comes up in the world, learning to fall and get up again, seek and receive guidance — this is the journey teens need to have if they are ever going to learn to make smart decisions on their own. We want them to know how to pay attention to their own individuality and respect themselves, to really know who they are. Weed interrupts this process. It changes our thinking and stunts the growing up process… sometimes permanently.

Not only am I hearing the argument for weed from teens more and more, but I’m also seeing the negative side effects with growing frequency — side effects they don’t see or appreciate. My teen clients are losing their inner drive and motivation. They retreat from the real world and stop engaging with their friends and family. Over time they begin to lose the very skills that they need to function as a member of society. Worst of all, they lose their sense of who they truly are at a time when this is their primary developmental mission. Their unique personality and character is obscured, blunted and even skewed. In their short-term minds, relief is all that matters; in the longer term, they’re blindly sabotaging their future.

Research consistently shows us that marijuana use among teens impairs learning, attention, and memory, triggers or exacerbates social anxiety disorder and depression, and increases the potential for future substance abuse with alcohol and drugs. In my view, the most insidious danger is how marijuana use tears away at my clients’ potential. Teenage years are the ones with potential for exponential growth, maturity, evolution, discovery, connection, relationships, and responsibility. Marijuana blocks much of this, and replaces it with a numbness that saddens me to no end.

I urge you to be on guard. I urge you to take an active role in uncovering and stopping the use of this drug in your household. No parent wants to make that discovery— denial is inherent in parents, as is shown by how many of my smoking teens have parents who insist that “Johnny would never do such a thing.” Turning a blind eye is a form of enabling; it actively contributes to a progressive condition. The intervention by the parent – i.e., boundaries and conversation – must be respectful, kind, yet clear and firm.

I’m not a bystander complaining about “kids these days.” I’m in the trenches every week and I see firsthand the devastation this drug causes. As parents, we have an obligation to give our kids the best chance at a healthy life. Addressing this obstacle is a crucial step in that direction.

While on-going research will continue to influence our understanding of marijuana’s impact on teens, my strong sense and humble request to parents is to take this topic seriously. Risk being humble, loving — and unpopular with your teen. Understand that marijuana use as self-medication is a symptom that needs your attention, not a crime that needs punishment.

Todd Kestin is a teen coach and mentor. He writes about what it takes for teens to step up, stand out, and thrive. You can download his free report, 7 Qualities of Incredible Teens at

Networking: It’s Not Just for Adults Anymore

When you push aside all the technology, all the gadgets and apps and filters, you’re left with a simple truth: we’re people who like to connect with other people. We’re social creatures, always have been and always will be. Connection brings us love and happiness. It also brings us success. No matter what you want in life, chances are a person will make or break it. A new job? A person will make the call. A new business? A customer will make the difference. We may advance by the minute, but in the end we’re just people connecting with other people.

Nowhere is this more important than with your teen. Connecting with others through networking is no longer an option. It’s a mandatory skill. Long gone are the days when a degree from a good school would be your ticket to a great job. This may be years down the road for your kids, but like preparing for an exam in advance, building a network now—and learning the skill of connecting—is always smarter than trying to cram everything in the night before graduation.

From boosting their chances of future success and honing their communication skills to becoming more comfortable talking with adults and thinking of how they can serve others, building an effective network at any age comes with too many perks to ignore.

Dennis Charles, author of Word of Mouth, began his career helping teens navigate their way to successful careers and is a strong advocate for early networking. As he says, “While there has been a drastic rise in teaching math and science, this has led to decreasing social skills,” making it vital that parents take charge and teach their kids how to connect. Below are five tips from Charles to get you started…

Step 1: Teach your teen to build their network with intention. The idea isn’t to collect as many contacts as possible, but to develop a network of quality connections. Depth is far more important than width. Possible contacts for your teen include coaches, teachers, local business owners, and civic leaders.

Step 2: Teach your teen the importance of regular contact. A network is a living, breathing thing. It needs care and attention to survive and develop, so encourage your kids to reach out to the people in their network on a consistent basis, aiming for face to face whenever possible.

Step 3: Teach your teen that networking is a two-way street. It’s about giving as much if not more than you get. Anyone who constantly takes without giving thought to reciprocating will find his or her contacts quickly vanish. How can your teen deliver value to each and every person in their network? That’s the question to ask more often than how can their network help them.

Step 4: Teach your teen to use their love (obsession?) of social media to enhance their network. Social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook make finding new connections as easy as a few clicks, not to mention the ease they offer of staying up to date and in touch. To kick things off, help your teen create and maintain an updated LinkedIn profile.

Step 5: Teach your kids, as early as you can, how to interact and empathize with other people. Ask them to order at restaurants, help them pay at the grocery store, stand by as they answer the door, and, most important, talk with them at the dinner table with no tech in sight. Or you can overachieve like Charles: “I used to have my teens do presentations at the family dinner table. At first it was uncomfortable for them, but they quickly got used to the concept of presenting themselves and their ideas.” Not a bad way to teach an invaluable lesson.

It’s never too soon to network or to build the skills of connecting with people. Start early, start strong, and help your teen develop an asset that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

Are You Ready for the Teen Transition?

From the moment they placed that bundle of joy and hope and love in your arms, you’ve been in control. You spoke, they listened. (At least that was the plan.) Now you have something else on your hands. Now you have a teenager.

With this new arrival comes a stark reminder of your ultimate mission as a parent: Preparation for success as an adult. You’ve been building a springboard for them during all those years, sharing life lessons, directing their path, and instilling in them the code they needed to thrive. But now the relationship is changing, and most parents aren’t ready for the shift.

The majority of challenges that walk through my office doors stem, not from the teen, but from the parent’s inability to recognize that the relationship has permanently changed. A teen is no longer a child. The relationship is no longer one way.

This isn’t because teens are stubborn, difficult, or simply out of their minds; it’s because teens require a new dynamic for you to achieve your mission. In just a few years you’ll open the door and they’ll walk out, ready or not. To ensure they are prepared for that exit, you can’t parent the way you used to. You have to slowly but surely hand over the control you monopolized for over a decade.

This is hard. You want nothing more than to protect them, which often compels parents to cling to that control. I’ve seen the results. It may feel good in the short term to hover and cover, but that only steals their opportunity to grow. Teens need the room to fail so they can eventually succeed.

What follows are some of my favorite strategies I offer to my clients to help them prepare for and make the most of the transition from teen to adult.

1. Future Pace: The first thing I do is ask parents to consider the relationship they want to have with their teen in two to three years, after they have left the home. Do they want someone unable to make their own decisions? Incapable of rising to a challenge and figuring things out for themselves? This breaks the cycle of short-term thinking and allows parents to recognize the ultimate goal for their kids.

2. From Dictator to Adviser: When they were five, you were the dictator. Do this, don’t do that. Now your role has shifted to an adviser. Teens both need and want to be part of the conversation. When challenges or choices arise, truly listen to their viewpoint and empathize with their perspective. Don’t rush to judgement. Instead, guide them toward the right path. Not easy, but definitely the key to helping your teen develop the muscle to make smart choices.

3. Growth Experiences: Give them the chance to grow and mature. This includes simple tasks like putting them in charge of getting their homework done as well as creating opportunities for them to push themselves forward. I have a client who runs triathlons after being nudged by dad. He now signs up for as many as he can, making new friends and excelling in a new sport. Another client, who loved to read, started her own book club after a gentle push by mom.

4. Outside Help: Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. We are so immersed in the problems we’re facing that we can’t seem to find a way forward. It’s at these times that a coach or mentor is the answer. Responsibility, confidence, integrity and the like aren’t random gifts; they are like any other skill and can be learned and mastered. If you are committed to instilling in your teen the qualities necessary for success as an adult, I can’t recommend reaching out to a trained teen professional enough.

You want to be a good parent. We all do. In our quest to care for our creations, we can miss the greater mission and hold them back from independence. It’s hard to let go of our kids, but if you do your job right, they’ll be ready for it.

It’s Time to Tell Your Teens the Truth

Co-authored by Jason Gracia, Founder of The Expert Agency, and author of Shifting the Balance.

From the minute we open our eyes to the moment we close them for sleep, today’s media works overtime to remind us just how dangerous the world has become. It’s a miracle, we’re led to believe, just to survive the week.

As adults, the relentless news about danger and disease and destruction and death — often untimely — can rattle us, but we’re able to dampen the news with a bit of perspective; we know how the media machine works. Teens, on the other hand, often lack the ability. The bleeding news hits them full force.

So much of what I aim to do in my work with teens becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, when they see the world as a frightening, dangerous place. Goals and the like can’t compete. But everything changes when I push aside the media and hype and reveal the reality of the world we live in.

Though I wish I could do the same for your kids, you’ll have to take the lead and show them the world, not as the media machine portrays it, but as it actually is.


Let’s start with danger. The 24-hour news cycle makes it appear as though death is at our front door, most often in the form of terrorism. While it’s undeniable that certain parts of the world are more dangerous than others (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan), the threat of terrorism within the United States is, as CNN’s Jim Sciutto says, “…miniscule. One estimate puts it about one in 20 million.” Though risk is ever present, these odds should put your children at ease.

Violence overall has also been on a drastically steep decline. In his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Steven Pinker makes the unquestionable case for this decline, statistically demonstrating a hundredfold decrease in homicide rates since their peak 500 years ago. We’re living in the safest time in history.


Next let’s tackle how long, on average, we’re going to live. As Peter Diamandis outlines in his breakthrough book, Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think, the average human lifespan has nearly doubled in the past 100 years.

In fact, according to the National Institute on Aging,

The dramatic increase in average life expectancy during the 20th century ranks as one of society’s greatest achievements. Although most babies born in 1900 did not live past age 50, life expectancy at birth now exceeds 83 years in Japan — the current leader — and is at least 81 years in several other countries.

People around the globe are living longer, healthier lives. Take into consideration the advances in longevity just around the corner and making it to triple digits will one day be commonplace.


When it comes to poverty, humankind is moving the right direction. Diamandisshows that poverty has “declined more in the past 50 years than the previous 500. Over the last 50 years, in fact, even while the Earth’s population has doubled, the average per capita income globally (adjusted for inflation) has more than tripled.”

He goes on to remind us that the majority of today’s poor “have access to phones, toilets, running water, air conditioning and even a car. Go back 150 years and the richest robber barons couldn’t have ever hoped for such wealth.”

These are the facts. They may not be startling or scary enough to garner attention on the nightly news, but they paint the accurate picture of our world. We are safer, healthier, and richer now than we have ever been. This is the story we need to tell our children. Danger exists, as does death and destruction, but chance favors a long and happy life for those willing to seize it.

Dashed Hopes: The Two Words That Erase Your Children’s Dreams

For John it was always about numbers and sports.

I worked with John for several years, helping him navigate the treacherous waters of adolescence, and for as long as he could remember he had always wanted to bring together his love of numbers and sports, particularly baseball. One day he walked into my office beaming from ear to ear. He found the answer he was looking for and it resided at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. He would work for the Chicago Cubs.

John was possessed with excitement. I had never seen him so focused, so committed, so driven to bring a goal to life. Surprisingly, for a dream that stretched high into the clouds his feet were planted firmly on earth. He knew it would take time and effort, and he was willing to start from square one within the organization. The work didn’t scare him. The path was clear and powerful enough to make all the work and all the wait more than worth it.

His parents didn’t share his enthusiasm. “John, you need to be realistic.” They knew of his love of numbers, which is why they had their own plan in mind: accounting. Safe. Secure.

John’s excitement vanished. He started with a fire inside and ended with a flicker. A fresh dream, you see, is a fragile thing. Sometimes enough well-intentioned hole-poking can bring it to a premature end.

I don’t blame his parents or the millions like them who extol the advice of being realistic. They’re doing what all good parents do: protect their children. The higher the hopes, the slimmer the chances of success, and the longer, more painful the fall and resulting crash to earth will be.

But our kids will never see from the tops of mountains if we’re too afraid to let them climb. As compelled as we are to keep them safe, we have to consider not only the possibility for failure, but also holding them back from their potential. Doing so could force upon them limits we ourselves never would have accepted.

I suggest a new role for you, mom and dad.

Instead of telling your kids to be realistic and aim for the safe shot, be inspired by the size of their reach and help them pursue those big ideas with a level head. Guide them to the goal with logic and efficiency, using your experience to help them avoid missteps and seize shortcuts. Add to the dream. Join in the race.

Young adults achieve amazing things every day. Do you want to be the parent who takes away this possibility, or the one who stands behind them and believes?

The 5 Qualities of Real Friends

False friends can tear a teen’s life apart. Real friends can enhance their lives forever. Both options are ever present in a teen’s world. Five qualities make all the difference.

I’ve worked in the field for many years and have sat across from many teens. In that time, and after much digging, I’ve discovered that the friendships that enrich my clients’ lives are built upon five common qualities. By teaching your kids early on the importance of these traits, chances are they’ll avoid those false friendships and hold tight to the ones that truly matter.

Quality #1: Loyal

The best of friends are the ones who stick by your side, in good times and bad. And, as we all know, there can be times of high drama flowing through the halls of high school. The tension my clients feel when they’re unsure of their friends’ loyalty can be overwhelming, forcing them to watch their words, look over their shoulders, and walk with worry. If your teen has in her midst a friend who has proven to be loyal, she has a friend worth her weight in gold.

Quality #2: Trustworthy

So much of the pain experienced during adolescence stems from the unfaithful friend, the gossip who steals your secrets and spreads the word like wildfire. This makes the quality of trustworthiness all the more important. With our heads overflowing with thoughts and feelings during our teen years, we desperately need a safe outlet in which to share. We need someone to go to, openly, free of the fear that our innermost thoughts may soon be common knowledge. If your teen has a friend he can trust, he has a friend to follow.

Quality #3: Honest

The truth can hurt, but sometimes that is exactly what we need. The biological need for acceptance is so strong that teens often stick to a script of agreement; whatever is said, whatever is decided, we all agree it’s the right thing. It doesn’t take long to see how this type of thinking can get kids into a great deal of trouble. The teen who stands against the group and says what he truly feels is a rare teen indeed. And that’s precisely what every teen needs—a friend who speaks the truth, even when that truth is hard to hear. It’s a guard against the terrible decisions teens are prone to, especially when every other voice is in agreement. If your teen has a friend who is honest, he should hold tight to that friend.

Quality #4: Sympathetic

Ever share a deep thought with a friend who has his face glued to the screen in his hand? How about a friend who sets all distractions aside and truly listens with their entire mind and body? Quite a different experience, isn’t it? One leaves you feeling ignored and insignificant while the other leaves you feeling heard and validated. Teens experience these same feelings in their relationships, all the while fighting through a sea of distraction far greater than anything we encountered at the same age. This makes the quality of a sympathetic listener even more important to your teen. If she has a friend who knows how to listen—truly listen—she has a friend worth sticking by.

Quality #5: Engaged

A friendship whose entire life exists on Facebook or Snapchat isn’t a friendship at all. It’s a loose acquaintance, a poor imitation of an authentic relationship that fails to satisfy within us the deep-seated need to form real bonds with those around us. Quality time, shared experiences, distraction-free conversation…these are the building blocks of a rewarding friendship, building blocks that disappear when a digital connection is the only connection we have. If your teen has an engaged friend, someone who takes the time to share in-person experiences, he has the making of an authentic friendship that faithfully fulfills the definition.

As teens, we were desperate for connection, so much so that we often latched onto even the hint of a friendship, whether the qualities above were present or not. This is too risky a game to play with such an important part of your teen’s life. Instead of haphazard connections, help your kids form rewarding friendships by guiding them toward bonds built upon loyalty, trust, honesty, sympathy, and engagement.

The Secret to Speaking ‘Teen’

As many of us have heard by now, men and women come from different planets; Mars and Venus, respectively. This insight has opened the door to a new world of understanding and connection. Men and women think, speak and act differently. Embracing this fact clears the way for fewer bumps and faster solutions, not to mention far better relationships.

I’d like to add another planet to our solar equation.

Teens, as much if not more than your average adult, are from a different planet, too. This probably doesn’t come as a shock to many parents. There’s just one problem: Those parents ignore this fact every chance they get.

Parents communicate with their teens as if they shared a brain. They make logical requests, logical arguments and rebuttals. Logical to them, that is, and they expect instant understanding in return. But they don’t share brains. They don’t even share the same language. Teens are a different breed with a different perspective. This difference, and a parent’s inability to appreciate that difference, causes many of the problems I witness in my private practice. To improve the situation and repair the relationship between parent and teen, I offer the following advice.

1. Recognize Reality
When you want to speak to your teen, when they’re acting up or out, when they’re driving you mad, the first step is to recognize the reality into which you’re entering. You’re engaging with someone from a different planet, with a different map of the world and a different language. Just as wonders have been worked by recognizing the differences between men and women, the same benefits await with your teen.

2. Listen Sincerely
Armed with your new attitude, listen to your teen. Truly listen. I’m not talking about making eye contact while mentally preparing your next sentence. I’m talking about soaking up their words and letting each one step into your mind unblocked. Have you ever been really listened to? Amazing feeling, isn’t it? Not only will doing so make your teen feel that way, but it will allow for smoother communication and mutual understanding.

3. Adapt Your Perspective
You accept the fact that your teen isn’t from your planet and you’re keeping your mouth firmly closed in an effort to actively listen to what they have to say. Great job, Mom or Dad. Next, I need you to swish their words around in your mind free from your inner critic. It’s only natural to tear apart their counter-argument; in an almost knee-jerk reaction, many parents have an answer to their teen’s every move. I want you to be different and to see things from their perspective. Time has made it difficult to step back into a teen’s shoes, but the more you can remember what it was like to be in the chaos of adolescence, the better you’ll be at reaching your teen where they live.

4. Confirm What You Hear
Great communication requires true understanding, so instead of assuming you know what they’re saying, get confirmation. “If I’m hearing what you’re saying, you think/want/need…” Such a response shows your children that you’re really listening and that you have a sincere desire to understand them. That alone can diffuse even the most stressful of situations. But that isn’t the main benefit. When you confirm, you may find that your assumptions were wrong, giving your teen the chance to clear up the confusion.

5. Respond
The steps above combine to do one thing: teach you a new language. With this skill in hand, you can respond to your teen in a way that reaches them, that makes more sense than a response from a parent who “just doesn’t understand.” This isn’t to say your teen has the freedom to say and do whatever they choose; you’re still the parent. It means you and your teen will, perhaps for the first time, speak the same language.

If you play your cards right, they may just invite you to their planet.

The Secret to Raising Charitable Children

Co-Authored by Jason Gracia, author of Shifting the Balance.

In a world where disagreement reigns supreme, finding total agreement is virtually impossible. Difficult as it is, I found it. Whether from Jackson, Mississippi or Jakarta, mothers and fathers the world over agree on one thing: they want to raise teens of character and connection.

Character, though elusive, is vital to a person, a community, a country. Doing the right thing when the wrong is so much easier, standing up for what you believe in, fighting for a cause greater than yourself…these are just a few of the signposts of character, and the need for it in our children has never been greater.

Connection is at the root of what makes us human. The ability for your children to connect with those around them and to empathize with their situation and feelings is vital. We need children who care about other people, for in a flash they become adults who do the same.

The real question, then, is how. How do we as parents instill character and connection? What steps can we take to ensure our children adopt and nurture these qualities?

In a word, volunteering.

It’s nothing new, of course. The idea of lending a helping hand is as old as scripture. But how many parents today make it a point to seek out opportunities for our children to lend that helping hand? And how many of us realize just how profound the experience can be for teens?

From the instant we step foot into a morning, afternoon, or evening volunteering, the focus shifts, automatically, from us to them. We can’t help it; neither can your kids. The very nature of the task forces us to consider someone else’s plight, someone else’s needs, someone else. For a teen growing into a young adult, what better way to nurture empathy and compassion?

Tacked onto the benefit of empathy is the benefit of connecting with new people in new places. Again, introducing your teen to volunteerism forces the matter—they have no choice but to talk with unfamiliar people and develop the muscle to reach out and engage. Social skills, emotional IQ, and the like are all improved, automatically, as your teen learns firsthand how to navigate the waters of relationships.

Finally we have the benefit of bigger things. Most of the causes that require volunteers are striving for something greater, something that extends far beyond the issues of our daily lives. They’re making a difference. In some cases, they’re changing the world. If character requires committing to things greater than ourselves, we have another surefire way to achieve the result. Volunteering forces the issue once again.

We need children who can connect just as much as we need children with character. Volunteerism nurtures both by its very nature. And you are the key to it all.

If the process is new to your family, below are a few ideas to help get you started…

Opportunities to Volunteer

1. Start Small: Create activities around the house or neighborhood in which your kids pitch in. Chores are the low-hanging fruit, but the benefit increase as you extend beyond your own front door. Does the neighbor need help? Friend down the street? Local market?

2. Community: After looking near, look far. Does your neighborhood or city have a community center? Do they run food or clothing drives? Do they organize events to aid those in need throughout the community? Serving Thanksgiving meals? Collecting jackets and blankets during the cold winter months? Another opportunity ripe for personal growth—along with a massive amount of appreciation—is visiting retirement homes in your area. Though it can be uncomfortable for teens at first, the joy given and taken when a lonely soul gets the chance to connect and share with a young adult cannot properly be put into words…at least not mine.

3. Causes: The next step up the ladder of giving is committing time and energy to greater causes. A quick search online will bring you to dozens of important battles that are raging to end hunger, poverty, violence, disease, and more, battles that need the support of people like you and your children.

Volunteerism, in a sense, is the easy way out. You merely need to open the door. After that, the act of giving takes over and can’t help but leave your child in a better, brighter place.

Guiding Your Teens to Envision — And Build — The Lives They Want

How does a teen who can’t remember his lunch money or his homework and rarely makes his bed become an adult who creates the kind of life that brings him meaning, purpose… and joy? Does he just magically stumble into the keys to life in high school, or college?

That’s a good question, and one that parents everywhere struggle with. Is there a magic moment?

I would say, rather than a magic moment or a key secret, it’s more of a perspective that teens can be taught by their parents.

Time and again, I’ve found in my work a particular quality that makes a profound difference in every phase of a teen’s life, and that’s the ability to look into the future and paint an image in his mind of what he wants it to be like. Orienting our teens to look towards positive outcomes is critical to success.

A run-in with failure can be devastating to the inexperienced. And without being taught how to respond to it, it can be destructive in its impact on a person’s confidence. But it’s far more easily managed when you can see a positive outcome in the end.

A project is more exciting when you can visualize a successful result. Life itself is engaging, stimulating and worthwhile when you can see that the path you’re on is the one where you’re truly alive. At times like this, you know the direction you’re heading is right, and you can feel it in your gut.

Envisioning your future is the ability to project into the future that you’re living the life you want, and the success that you will have then becomes a driving force nowto get there. This is a skill that teens can develop with guidance.

Parents, tell your stories. Give an example of when you projected an outcome and it was successful. What will happen if X takes place? What will occur if you do Y and Z?

Tell the stories about your own run-ins with failure… and how you turned it around. Share how you had vision for your own future and all the things you did to help bring it into reality. Go into detail about how your own vision kept you on track in pursuing your dream.

Visualization also plays an important role in envisioning someone’s future. Show your teen how you painted a picture in your mind of your life taking the form you wanted it to take.

Creating a mental picture of an ideal outcome greatly increases its likelihood.

And here’s another way you can help: Show your teen how to recognize the powerful link between cause and effect. When you contribute negative or destructive elements to your life, like blame, apathy or negative friends, the outcome is not likely to be positive. But if you invest in positive things, like choosing healthy relationships, investing in reading and school and practicing a healthy lifestyle, the outcome is likely to be progress toward your dreams.

By the same token, if your teen falsely believes that success stems from chance, there’s little reason for them to envision or look forward to what’s to come. But when your teen sees the truth — that our causes trigger effects — they gain a sense of control, of hope and of excitement about what’s to come. And they invest in it.

So, let’s teach our teens to become visionaries so they can truly live the meaningful lives they want. Let’s model the path to get there, and who knows? …Maybe we as parents will find better paths in our own lives, too.

Dads, Step It Up For Your Teens

Co-authored by Dennis Charles, professional mentor and amazing father of five

You’re busy with work and life, we know. But put it down for a minute. Stop what you’re doing, close your computer, and put attention on your teen. We all know that teens want to be more independent and to move away from their parents, but at the same time they know dad will be there for them. Always!

Working with teens is incredible. They spend a lot of time talking about how they can’t stand their parents; but at the same time, they also talk about how they wish they could spend more time with their parents, especially with their fathers. So dads, you have an opportunity here, and you need to step it up.

As mentors and dads, we teach teens how to foster healthy relationships and fill their lives with meaning. Our jobs as mentors are important, but our jobs as dads are far more critical.

Teens need their dads more than ever to step it up. Let’s talk about ways we dads can do this.

It’s about the time you spend

Close your computer and put attention on spending time with your teen. In fact, as soon as this article is finished, this thing is getting turned off. It’s not about being in the same place at the same time as your teen, it’s about making the time to actively participate. Show up in your teen’s life, participate in your teen’s life, become engaged with what they’re doing. This means more than any words you will speak. So often clients say, “My dad just doesn’t make the time; he’s too busy.” Participating is easy to do, so close the computer, put down the phone, and do it.


Find the commonalities. It can be difficult, but looking for those commonalities is important. Do whatever is necessary to stay connected. Do you know your teen’s interests? If not, it’s not too late to find out. You may even be surprised when you find something you have in common. It doesn’t matter if it’s spending time in nature or playing Xbox. Connect, find commonalities, and embrace them. We put so much pressure on our teens to succeed in school, go to college, be the best. Back off it and just enjoy what the two of you can connect on.


Model a way to live in the world. Model how to put attention on others. Model what it means to be respectful, to have character, to show up in life even when it’s difficult. Show your teen what it means to be a good friend, a good family member, a good member of your community. In a world too often filled with dysfunctional relationships, model healthy ones.

It’s time to update your role

Your role as a dad is to facilitate the movement of your teen from dependence to independence. In essence, you’re making your caregiving role obsolete and moving into what can be a much more fulfilling role, that of being present to your teen as they emerge into adulthood. Many dads fail to make this update. If you fail to update your role, it’s like trying to run a computer on Windows 95 in 2014. The results are not pretty.

When your child was younger, you needed to give them a lot of very specific input. You also needed to set very specific boundaries. You made the rules. The communication was one way – you to them. It’s time to update your role as a dad to one that your teen is going to respond to. And the communication most definitely needs to be kept open on a two-way street.

Think of it as becoming a trusted adviser for your teen. Someone who they feel they can come and check in with, and get input on decisions they need to make. They’re not coming to you to make the decisions for them any more (and if they do, you need to teach them some decision-making skills). It’s good to listen empathetically and be present for your teen. Ask if they’d like input. If they say no, then respect that. It builds trust over time. When they say yes, give them advice as the adult that they are becoming, not as the child they once were.

Done well, you will be able to guide your teen through the choppy waters of adolescence into the world of adulthood. Your relationship will remain strong. Your teen will know who to turn to when the going gets tough and they have a trusted adviser to turn to when they’re asking the larger questions in life.