Category Archives: parenting

What do teens want from their parents?

Laura Lamere:

Do you know what your teens really want this holiday season? You guessed it: your love! Enjoy this article from Teen Talk and Merry Christmas to everyone! I’m taking some time with my family to reconnect – I hope you will too!

Originally posted on Teen Talk:

By: Charlotte Villemoes, LMFT
ACS On-Campus Counseling Site Director at Woodside High School

Before I make a call home to a parent, I always ask the teen I have been seeing if they have any messages for mom and dad that they would like me to deliver. They always do. Most of the time the message is all about what they don’t want their parents to do, like “tell my dad to stop bugging me about homework” or “can you pleeeeease tell my mom to stop criticizing my clothes” or, the somewhat vague but really common, “just tell them to stop nagging me all the time”. When I get these responses, I often challenge them by asking what they DO want, explaining that even parents like to be thrown a bone, and that they too like to feel they know what they are doing. After a pause and some…

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Songwriting Tips for Your Teenager

It has been my pleasure to work with young singer songwriter, Henry Hoagland, to launch the music nonprofit Pavoh, Inc. and our website He recently wrote a series about songwriting and I’m featuring some of his advice below. He has a maturity beyond his years and an intuitive way of writing that speaks directly to his young audience.

As a parent of a young musician who spent some time songwriting on his own and collaboratively with his band, I wish I had known some of Henry’s songwriting tips. About the only advice I could share with my son was what I had once heard from a country songwriter: for every good song, you have to write 10 bad ones. The sad fact is that I really didn’t even know if that was true – I wish I had known Henry then.

I like Henry’s advice better: Start all the songs you can. Only finish the songs you have to. 

According to Henry, “There is a certain pressure on all artists for maximum output. For young songwriters, the typical advice is to write as many songs as you can…the more you write, the more you learn how to structure songs, write hooks, control the peaks and valleys of a composition, etc.”

“While that craftsmanship is essential to the artist, the pressure for original output can stifle the songwriter’s search for his or her own voice. It can obscure the essential questions to an aspiring artist, “What am I trying to communicate?”

Now you can share with your young songwriter some of these tried and tested tips. Let your teenager in on the secret that Henry shared on  “the best songs, ideas, and emotions we communicate are those that explode out of us and impose their own will. All of us songwriters are waiting for those moments of clarity and inspiration.”

Here are Henry’s five songwriting tips:

1.) Learn other artists’ songs. Learn your friends’ songs. Unpack the musical moments you love, and try not to shy away from their difficult moments. Learn the map- the chords, the structure, the words- and then drive on it yourself. Whether you change the tune and put in your key, adapt a piece to your instrument, or highlight a different emotional framework, figure out how to navigate someone else’s roads as yourself.

2.) Listen. All the time. To everything. It all ends up kicking around in your head. Your internal jukebox is essential.

3.) Write what you know and not what you’ve heard of. Write often and don’t edit as you write. Blurt it out. Practice keeping a pad of paper between you and the world.

4.) Be patient with your ideas. You can record all of them easily these days. Listen back to your sketches. Nothing disappears, but know when to let go.

5.) Work your chops. Practice your scales. Practice your intervals. Practice sight-singing. Practice difficult rhythms. Your fitness with those musical tools are what will help you develop, structure, and polish those flashes of inspiration.

Now the challenge will be to convince your teenager to share what he or she has written. On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t try.

If you enjoyed this article, check out Advice for Young Songwriters and Six Tips to Take your Band’s Sound to the Next Level.

Henry Hoagland, Editor, Pavoh.orgHenry Hoagland, Pavoh editor

Connect with Henry:

Stay in Touch


It’s been a few weeks since Saying Goodbye. And we are doing just fine.

We’re all busy – but we’re finding ways to stay in touch. Most of the time, we initiate the contact. But sometimes, our college boys reach out with a text or a call.

So far:

  • Dad gets the texts/calls about sports gear and courses;
  • I get the text/calls about laundry.

I don’t mind – at least we are staying in touch and they sound happy!

And according to a discussion I heard on NPR, staying in touch is the most important way for college students to avoid the tsunami of circumstances that can contribute to depression.

Stay in touch

If you’re thinking they’ll be fine because they are surrounded by people – think again. You know your student best – their new friends are just getting to know them. It’s important for you to stay in touch:

  • Did your college student tell you not to text him or her? According to the experts – don’t listen! Keep texting.
  • Phone calls are good – but try texting first, and set an appointment to talk at a time that works for both of you.
  • Discover new technology – there are lots of other fun ways to stay in touch that successfully keep you in front of your college students without appearing overbearing! Try setting a time to video chat via Skype. Or, surprise your student bstay in touchy learning to send silly photos via Snapchat or make and share looping videos via Vine.

You’ve never texted and you think your child will laugh at you if you start sending Snapchats? Good! That is exactly the point. Connect over some silly nonsense and see how your student responds! Let’s face it, we parents can be intense: how are your classes, are you getting along with your roommate? Are you getting enough sleep? Why don’t you call us? Of course they are going to avoid our calls.

Good for us!

I didn’t hear the experts talk about what the parents are experiencing, but I can speak with authority that these techniques also help us with the tsunami of loneliness that can strike at any time. There’s nothing like opening a Snapchat photo of your son sitting on his bed in his room with the caption “goodnight” below his face!

Stay in touch. I like how that sounds. It suggests a connection. A feeling of warmth. Something that is unbroken.

So far – staying in touch is working for us.

Defining Things Teenagers Say: Swerve

Sometimes the things teenagers say don’t make sense. Don’t worry, this is supposed to happen. It’s all part of the master plan. Your teenagers are supposed to start breaking away from the comforting nest of the familiar. Part of this break-away occurs in their language. They develop a language all their own that helps them communicate with their kind – we’re not supposed to understand it!

Definition of Swerve

Until now….

Some brilliant genius created the online Urban Dictionary at I don’t know who the original target audience was for this website or whether it was created as a plot to help teens talk to each other so their parents wouldn’t understand them, but no matter – the secret is out! Now you, too, can look up the confusing things your teens say and get some idea of what they mean!

Here’s how you use the Urban Dictionary to understand the things your teens say:

My teens have used the word “swerve” with me several times and I’m really not tuned in to what it means. I’m pretty sure they are insulting me (in a funny way – they’re just kidders) but then again, I’m not really sure. I do know that they like to use those code words with me to see my reaction. So, after asking for an explanation from the source:

Me: “What does swerve mean?”

Teen: “Just swerve.”

I go to and type in the mystery word at the top of the site where it says: “Look up any word…” I hit enter and Voila! a bunch of definitions for the word appear on the screen. I amenlightened. And I am pleased to see that my kids aren’t actually insulting me. This is what swerve means to my teens:

Used in place of “swag”. Derived from the lyrics of “Mercy” by Kanye West, it is commonly slipped into conversation in response to a “Ballin'” remark. (from

After checking this definition directly with them, my teens explained that they would never use the word “swag.” (But that’s not really important because you and I understand it.) According to them, swerve is actually used more like “word” (check my post defining this here). But, then they don’t really use “word” much anymore. (!)

So, when I say something they agree with, their answer is: “swerve.” Simple, concise.

Me: “We’re going to the movies after dinner.”

Teen: “Swerve.”

A word of caution

Now it’s your turn. Head over to and update yourself on the slippery state of popular phraseology. Have fun. But one word of caution. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can insert these words into your personal vocabulary. That just doesn’t work. Take it from me. While I was asking my daughter about “swerve” for this article, she said to me: “Oh, now you’ll start using it!”

Translation: when parents or other adults start using a code word to try and be cool – it can no longer be used. It is basically the death of the word. Which is why the things teens say are so elusive.

I assured her I wouldn’t use swerve.

You shouldn’t either.

boy talking on phone (c)

4 Reasons This Parent Loves Texting

As a parent of two teenagers and a 20-year-old college sophomore, I have fallen in love with texting. We are one of those families that use texting to communicate every day.

The low-tech days

Recently I told my kids about the “low-tech” days of my teenage years – the days before cell phones, before cordless phones and computers. I explained how we coveted extra long telephone cords attached to our parents’ house phones that allowed us to hide in the pantry or basement stairwell away from discerning eyes. I explained how an elite few of us had access to a telephone in the upstairs hall or in our own bedroom (plugged into the wall of course). Some of us could choose a fun color like pink for that clunky phone – but for the most part we were just happy to have a phone to use.

Exercising our independence, we communicated with our friends verbally and pre-arranged a time and place to meet. We waited patiently when our friends were late. Our parents also had to wait – patiently or not – when we were out. We might use a pay phone (they were everywhere then) if we needed  a ride, but more often than not, we arrived home at the designated hour – or suffered the consequences which might include grounding and loss of phone privileges.

Can’t they just call each other?

For those of us from this generation – the one where teenagers ran to answer the house phone before their parents picked up – texting still seems a bit foreign. I know what you’re thinking: Can’t they just call each other? Besides, there’s a lot of noise out there about whether texting is a good thing. Articles like: 4 Ways Texting is Killing Our Communication Skills by Susan Young, leave us wondering what to think. In her article she comments on how texting is responsible for the “dumbing down of spelling and grammar” and reducing the need for “in-depth conversation.” Yikes! She also states that texting is impacting our education system without offering any data. Really?

Texting isn’t the reason

I understand that when a new technology enters our lives and that of our children – and threatens to complicate parenting – we can get a little testy. But it’s exasperating when people start blaming technology for the failures of education. And, it’s insulting when someone implies that technology makes our teenagers stupid. It does not and they are not. They know they need good grades to get into college and they understand the difference between texting language and the English language. They know what texting is and what it is not. We simply can’t compare texting to the study of grammar. They are very different things.

In addition, teenagers may write short texts, but they are not eliminating deep conversations from their lives. They take English courses where they are required to discuss classic novels and write seven page essays – and, they stay up all night talking at “sleepovers”!

Ultimately, author Susan Young misses all of the advantages of texting; advantages that teenagers and parents from my generation just never had before. Technology is not going away – if anything, it will continue to advance. We might just embrace it and see how it can help our parenting and relationship skills.

I love texting

“Texting could be the most wonderful thing to happen to parenting since hugs!” – Laura Lamereboy talking on phone (c)Laura Lamere

Here are the four biggest reasons I love texting with my kids:

  1. It’s Convenient:  Just like the old-fashioned answering machine, texting is delivered and then picked up when it is convenient for the recipient. This means parents can text encouraging notes: “Good luck on your test today!” “I love you – have a good day,” at any time, whenever they think of it, without interrupting their children’s school day, sporting practice, or gab session.
  2. It’s Private:  Texting is received in a private “read-only” way that allows the parent to send a message without risk of embarrassment to the child. The child can nonchalantly scroll to his message read it and even respond without revealing with whom he is communicating. It’s almost like having a little secret with your child. I text “I love you” messages all the time – and often get back “You too! Yay!” from my kids. When we call, the child has to answer: “Hello? Oh, hi, Mom;” which can be inconvenient, very public, and very embarrassing!
  3. It’s Reassuring:  I have a great sense of connection with my kids when I can communicate with them via text at anytime, anywhere. I like the reassurance texting provides and I think they do too. I can ask my son to text me when he’s leaving a friend’s house or a school dance.  He can then text me if there’s a change in plans or expects to be late. I can fire questions back if I need to for more clarification. It’s piece of mind in a few short characters!
  4. It’s Fun: Whether we’re attaching funny pictures, using emoticons, or telling jokes, texting has become a fun part of our family conversation and experience. Because it’s fun, we know our kids will read our texts, answer them, and even initiate their own.


The only warning I have for you, should you decide to make texting part of your parenting, is to keep your phone charged and with you at all times. Your kids keep their phones charged and with them at all times and this is what makes them so accessible to you. Don’t make the mistake I did a few months  ago and miss several texts and follow-up phone calls from your college son because your phone has a dead battery. Luckily for us, there was no emergency, my son simply wanted to connect. But, for a while, he stopped texting or calling me entirely and went straight to his dad. I had to rebuild his trust, assuring him that I had my phone at hand and was ready to connect at any time! Thank goodness we’re back on good terms. In fact, I received an “I love you too yay!” Just the other day!

Fire (c) Justin Lamere

With Thanks to Alicia Keys

I don’t know what got into me last night – maybe I’d been working at the computer too long and had come down with some sort of writer’s delirium, but I was feeling terribly silly when my teenaged daughter arrived home from school. My husband chalked it up to female hormones gone wild – and he may have been right. But no matter the cause, my silliness brought out the silliness in my daughter!

Fire (c) Justin Lamere

First, I started butchering Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” – singing painfully loud and off key. I was dramatically emphasizing the long notes while I stirred my chicken stew at the stove. You see, I think this song is awful – sorry Alicia fans – and I know it’s not going away any time soon. Every now and then I react this way to a pop song that is played over and over again (I know, stop listening to the pop stations!) and I just have to sing it out to get rid of the ear worms. My last violent reaction to a pop song was when Celion Dion sang “Titanic.” Yuk!

So, my daughter starts chiming in on the song: “This girl is on FIAAAAAAAA. This girl is on FIAAAAAAAA-AAAA-AA!” You get the idea. She’s doing her homework at the kitchen counter and starts to read her French homework out loud, very loud, and it’s very entertaining.

Before you know it, I’m making up a song about stirring my stew: “and now I want to sit down and rest. It really might be best to give my feet a rest!” Great stuff, right? At that moment I tell my daughter she’ll always remember this night. Every time we hear that “Girl on Fire” song – we’ll remember our crazy night in the kitchen – and we have Alicia Keys to thank!

Thanks Alicia. Now please write a new song!

Memoirs of an A Capella Sleepover

This past weekend, I thought I was in heaven.

I started to write about the experience:

“Right now there are at least 12 male voices echoing in my basement (more are due to arrive). Ranging in tone, volume and expression, the voices laugh, exclaim, sing and hum. This group of young men is playing foosball and relaxing in my basement playroom. It is the room where my son learned to play guitar; where my daughter played electric bass; and my other son learned to play the drums. It’s the place where they too would jam and laugh, exclaim and hum – but it’s been a quiet place for too long – until tonight.”

I couldn’t finish writing. The group emerged from the basement to greet some late arrivals and I had to leave the keyboard.

Before I knew it, my son and his college a cappella group gathered around the granite kitchen island counter top and broke into song. They sang their gorgeous version of “Some Nights” by Fun.

It was the first day of their winter tour and the first time they had gathered to sing since leaving school for the holidays. “We just need to sing right now,” their music director said, and they did. They belted out the song in an unabashed, project-your-heart-out, and sing-like-you-mean-it fashion that left me breathless while I leaned against the kitchen stove.

Their voices echoed and filled my home in a way that has never happened before. A cappella is heavenly, but it was more than that. I felt real love. Love for their voices, love for this group that had embraced my son. It was almost as if I was seeing and hearing the future; my future filled with family and descendants  – bringing with them lots of noise and excitement. Maybe it was this feeling of fulfillment that made me feel so close to heaven. I’m not really sure.

What I do know is for two nights my husband and I hosted the Washington University Stereotypes A Cappella group in our home – all 16 of them. The group skillfully negotiated our two showers as well as the limited beds and couches. I amassed an assortment of mattresses and blankets and somehow they figured out how to make it all work. It really wasn’t an imposition at all.

They performed at a high school, a middle school and at an evening concert at our church. They held practice in my living room, told jokes around my dining room table, and sang “Shout” by Usher when I asked them to sing for cake. We fed them several more times and then they were off to other homes in other towns. Everyone got a hug;

I got flowers;A Capella Flowers

and tonight I realize how much I miss the noise: