Teens take political action

17-year-old Kansas governor candidate Tyler Ruzich speaks at a high school with three other teenage hopefuls for the state's top elected position

With loose khaki pants, a button-down shirt and a dark blue blazer, Tyler Ruzich looks a lot like any number of aspiring politicians before him.

But if the election Ruzich is running in were to be held today, he’d be too young to vote for himself.

The 17-year-old is one of five teens throwing their hats in the crowded ring for next year’s governor’s race in Kansas, which has permissive rules about who can run for the state’s top elected post.

Speaking recently to a crowd of students at a high school gym in the city of Lawrence, Ruzich picked up a microphone and launched into his campaign speech.

“It’s pretty clear that our politicians have neglected us,” Ruzich said, competing to be heard over the clangs of a nearby weightlifting room.

(Excerpt from an article in The Daily Mail. Read more)

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Teens Being Teased: Karen’s Story

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By Joseph Langen

Karen didn’t think much about herself one way or another when she was younger. In middle school she decided she was okay and gave it no more thought. Now she wonders what’s wrong with her. The problem started when a few girls in her class teased her. Then some boys started teasing her too. She became convinced that something must be wrong with her.

She couldn’t figure out why they were teasing her. Her body had more curves now than it did before, but she didn’t have a wart on her nose or smell weird. When she walked with her friends at school, nobody bothered her. When she was alone, a group of girls would look at her as if a dog threw up on her. If they said anything to her it was how awful her blouse looked, how old fashioned her shoes were, or that her hair looked like a rat’s nest.

After this started to happen she spent a good amount of time before school looking at herself in the mirror to see if anything was out of place. As far as she could see, she wore the same clothes as everybody else. She still had the same hairstyle as before they started teasing her. What else could it be?

She didn’t want her parents to worry about her so she said nothing about it to them. She tried to pretend everything was okay. Her mother looked at her with her head cocked to one side. She always did this when she knew there was something Karen was hiding.

Karen was embarrassed to tell her friends about what the girls did, and now the boys. They would probably think she was crazy. Her friends still joked with her, shared their secrets and listened to hers. Maybe she was being too sensitive and just needed to wait until the whole thing blew over.

She decided to ride it out but more and more girls and also boys kept up their mean comments. She had never been mean to anyone and couldn’t make any sense of it. One day during recess, she found herself alone in the lav sitting on the toilet with her head in her hands and her eyes welling up with tears.

Thinking back over her misery that night while trying to get to sleep, she realized she had to do something. She wanted to handle it herself but that wasn’t working out very well. Her best friend Jen was a good listener and might have some ideas for her. At least it would feel good to get it off her chest.

The next day after English class, she asked Jen if she could come over to her house after school. Jen agreed. Up in her room with the door closed, Karen just sat for a few minutes without saying anything. Jen realized it was up to her to start the conversation. “OK Karen, I know something’s going on. You’ve been quieter than usual, and I haven’t seen your toothpaste smile lately. What gives?”

“It’s hard to talk about, and don’t laugh. A few weeks ago a few girls started teasing me for no reason I could think of. They kept it up and got their friends and a few of the boys to start teasing me as well.

“I knew something was going on. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I was afraid you might think I was crazy or imagining it. I don’t know what to make of myself these days. Is there something wrong with me or something weird?”

“Don’t you think I would tell you if there was? Would I let you get picked on? I’m your best friend, remember?”

“I know you are but I didn’t know what to say. I can’t think of anything to do to make them stop. I don’t know what I can change about myself to make me seem more normal. Can you help?”

“I’d be glad to help. We just have to figure out what’s going on.”

“I’ve been trying. Could you start by telling me how I might look to them?”

“Without knowing you, here is what I would see. You are a very pretty girl. You don’t wear much makeup but you don’t need to. Your skin is very smooth and almost glows. When you wear you hair down, any boy would want to run his hands through it to see how silky it is. From what I can tell with your clothes on, you have average size breasts which seem to fit your body perfectly. The rest of your body is very well proportioned too. No flab that I can see, but also not too skinny.

“The clothes you are wearing right now show off your body to good advantage but don’t look cheap, attractive without looking like a floozy. Nothing you have on looks ridiculous. At first glance, I can’t see anything to tease you about if I wanted to.”

“So maybe it’s not about my body or clothes. Are you sure you’re not just saying that to make me feel better?”

“You asked me to be honest. I am. That’s what I see.”

“Thanks. Okay, what else do people see about me?”

“That’s easy. You seem like a bright girl, intelligent and funny and sure of yourself. You are on the honor roll, play basketball and soccer and lead the debate club. You’re always kind and polite to everyone. You aren’t snooty and never come across as thinking you are better than anyone else. You’re generous and helpful when anyone needs you.”

“You make me sound like a saint!”

“You practically are. I can’t think of anything you could change to make yourself any better.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“Did you ever think that the problem isn’t you? “I just told you how I see you. Don’t you think some of the girls at school might be jealous of you?”

“What? I never thought of that.”

“I think it’s a good possibility.”

“What should I do about it- try to look ugly or start screwing up my life?”

“Then they would really have something to tease you about. Let’s talk with our friends  and see what we can do together to get you off the hot seat. We will all work on it together.”

“Thanks, Jen. Now I know why you’re my best friend.”

*****

So that’s what it might be like for one teen. Finding someone to help you isn’t the end of the story. But it helps to know you don’t have to face your problem on your own.

Excerpt from my book Make the Best of Your Teen Years:105 Ways to Do It. For a free sample, follow this link and choose See Inside.

How Well Do Teens Like Themselves?

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Maybe being anonymous helps. It’s hard to brag about yourself. How many teens feel really good about themselves? One teen I talked with said she feels as good as possible for her. It is hard for most people to imagine feeling that good. She feels she has no room for improvement. Many people feel great, or GRRRReat like Tony the Tiger, at least some of the time. When you accomplish something special, when someone acts particularly thoughtful of you, or when someone tells you how wonderful you are, it’s easy to feel on top of the world at least for a little while.

It’s surprising to me how many teens can separate who they are and what happens around them. Even if people blame them for everything, if they make quite a few mistakes, or if they face more than their share of problems, many are still able to see that it is not necessarily their fault.

At one time I worked with children and teens whose parents were in the process of divorce. I worried about whether kids would blame themselves. Most of the time I heard them say they realized it was their parents’ problem. Some who were honest thought things might have turned out different if they were able to help their parents somehow. Maybe they could have prevented it, at least in their mind.

Another teen is a good example. He likes himself quite well but still sees his life as “full of ups and downs.” He sees his family as helping him feel good about himself even though they are going through a lot themselves. They don’t blame him for their problems and are able to love him despite their own struggles. A teen girl doesn’t like herself quite as well as most of the others I talked with, but she can still think of positive things about herself.

Even when there are many things you would like to change, you still have good in you and around you. Do you know what Oprah has in common with Henry David Thoreau, the guy who wrote Walden Pond in the nineteenth century? They both believed in taking time out every day to write down things for which they were grateful. Sometimes you have to work to find the good things in your life, but it’s not a bad habit to get into, especially during rough times. When you feel overwhelmed, you can look back over what you wrote as the bright spots in your life.

I was a little surprised that teens who have a hard time in life can feel good inside. I thought that the rough spots would make it hard for them to like themselves. Blaming yourself for what goes wrong makes it even harder to feel at peace. If you don’t blame yourself, you might find someone else to blame and stay angry for a while, or just decide you have bad luck. Try accepting your life as it is, just for now.

There is something about adolescence which makes it easier to like yourself. Teens haven’t had as much time to practice getting down on themselves as adults have and may find it easier to bounce back from tough times. What do you think?

While it’s sometimes hard to imagine that times will ever get better, there are so many things changing during adolescence that it might be best not to take them too seriously. Maybe you can accept that change is inevitable for everyone and that there will most likely be better times ahead.

(Excerpt from my book, Make the Best of Your Teen Years: 105 Ways to Do It)

 

Alice’s Story A Day in the Life of a Teen

I woke up at six-thirty this morning. My mother hadn’t yet popped her head into my room, but I heard her knocking and waking up my brother Pete and my sister Carrie. How does she manage to be so cheerful every morning? Does she get up and practice in the mirror before she wakes us up? I wouldn’t have it in me until I was up for a few hours.

My usual routine again today: toilet, shower, deodorant, the little makeup my mother lets me to wear to school, and then back to my bedroom to decide what to wear. Mom thinks I should pick out something the night before. She used to do this for me when I was younger. I couldn’t do it then and I can’t now. How would I know what kind of mood I might be in the next morning? Will I want to be part of the woodwork today, coordinated with my friends, unique, or part of the crowd? Will I want my teachers to notice me or leave me alone today?

I have to admit, this is hard to decide in the few minutes I have every morning. Sometimes I don’t really know what mood I’ll in until breakfast and then I have to run back upstairs to change. I might not know for sure until I am getting off the bus at school and then it’s too late.

Mom usually has an editorial review ready for me by the time I get down to breakfast. “That’s a nice top, Sweetie.” “Don’t you think you might be a little too warm with that sweater?” “Isn’t that skirt a little short, Alice?”  I never know what to expect, but at least she notices what I’m wearing.  I guess that’s good.
At least I get to climb on the bus by myself. My brother and sister aren’t old enough to take the early bus yet. I am the second one on unless my friend Jenny oversleeps and misses the bus. I don’t have much choice of who to sit with. I can either sit with Jenny and make her happy or sit by myself and make her sad.
Sitting by myself, I have to take my chances on who will sit next to me. Sometimes this is fun and sometimes it’s a pain if one of the goof-offs sits down next to me. I’m working on a way to let people know I don’t want them to sit with me without actually having to come out and say it. So far I haven’t figured out anything both subtle and effective.

Getting off the bus is a real sideshow. Boys try to look cool and end up looking goofy. Girls try a new hairdo or a combination of top and shorts to see if they can look glamorous or refined, unless it is a day when they don’t care what anyone thinks.

Alex tells me he likes my sweater on the way into class. Does he really, or is he just trying to be nice? He surprises me. I didn’t realize he even knew I existed. I wanted to talk to him for a long time and then he beat me to it. Is he just into sweaters, or does he like me? I should ask his sister Julie but she might tell him I asked. I guess that wouldn’t be so bad. At least then he would know he exists in my imagination at least.

Today none of my teachers notice my sweater or say anything else about me for that matter. I guess today is just one of those “fit in” days where teachers don’t notice me. Mrs. Holmes compliments me for answering a question in geometry class. I don’t usually volunteer an answer. I would hate to look dumb in my hardest class. I think she appreciates me trying though.

After school, Tina invites me over to listen to her new music downloads. I like going to her house. We can be honest with each other about things that bother us and not wonder if we will be laughed at. She offers to help me with geometry which for some strange reason makes sense to her. She must have a different kind of brain than I do. I take her up on her offer.

When I get home, my brother Pete is practicing free throws in the basket above the garage door. He throws the ball to me and I swish it. Basketball is the one thing we have in common. He even compliments me on my fine shot. I quit while I’m ahead.

My sister Carrie is playing a game on the computer when I walk inside the house. I have to look up some stuff for my global studies class. I guess I could let her play for a while before bugging her. Homework is always more important than games on our family computer. Maybe some day I will have my own. Carrie smiles at me. I guess she somehow knows I am giving her a break.

Before I got up this morning, Dad had to leave for an early meeting at work. I wonder how he does it. I find it hard enough getting up when I do. He’s home when I walk in the door and asks me how my day was and I tell him fine, even in geometry. He says he would help me if he could but he was never good at it either. I thought all boys were supposed to be good at math.

I help Mom with dinner and she thanks me as usual. It’s our little routine. She asks me if I have much homework and I tell her the litany of little assignments I have for the night. I get to it after dinner in my room. I enjoy having my own room. It’s like my castle. Everyone has to knock if the door is closed. Sometimes it is nice to be alone.

As I get undressed, I look at myself in the mirror. I still look fifteen. My breasts seem a little bigger than they were yesterday. Could that be possible? What if they get too big? What would the boys think of that? What would my friends think? What would I think? I guess there’s not much I can do about it right now.

I saw a show on the health channel about breast surgery. They can put implants in if your breasts are too small or cut some off if they are too big. I don’t like the idea of being cut up to look a little bigger or smaller. I guess I will just wait to see how I turn out.

Otherwise I think I look okay. I’m not glamorous like Katie. I’m not plain like June, although a makeover might help her look a lot better. There’s a lot more to me than how I look. My friends all like what they call my “personality.” Maybe I will find out more about that when I take psychology. I guess my friends mean that I’m nice to people. I try to be friendly to everyone I can. After all, that’s how I want them to treat me. Well, it’s time for bed. I’ll have another day to work on myself tomorrow, math as well as personality.

(Excerpt from my book,  Make the Best of Your Teen Years: 105 Ways to Do It.)

The Teen’s Guide

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Life as a teen is by no means easy. Everything is changing both physically and emotionally and yet you are thrust in to the most intense situations of your young life, discovering heartbreak, anxiety, low self esteem and peer pressure along the way. In a teenager’s world, developing lasting, meaningful relationships can also be a challenge.
Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/love-family/teens/galleries/the-teens-guide-how-to-understand-yourself-and-improve-your-relationships.

Sitting on the Steps

Sitting on the Steps

A poem by Violet

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The warm-wind day
could not blow (like skittering autumn-bright leaves) away
the sun that lay burning on my leg

but I pivoted my attention to
the bees that drifted about us,
tiny missiles of venom at the ready.

In front of me he sat,
dress uniform impeccably worn,
(down to the hat from which I flicked a tiny spider
and was glorified by his thanks)
muscles beneath every inch the militant strength
it represented.

A bee swooped, hovering at the chest of the man next to him,
and generously he
cupped his hand,
unafraid,
and gently guided it away
into the open air. I wanted him to know
that I worshiped him.

Excerpt from Make the Best of Your Teen Years

Let’s talk about sex

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As excuse to growing sex issues mainly teenage pregnancies, health officials in the past have laid the blame on the gap between parents and children and their failure to discuss sex education.

Generations have changed hands, the teen some two decades ago is now a parent. The information age via the cyber highway has also changed the way many perceive the issue.

Sex education basics may be covered in health class if the school prefers to teach it. In Fiji, to deal with the issue, the Ministry of Education had introduced a subject called Family Life, it seems that schools have the option to teach it or not.

Excerpt from Shalveen Chand’s article in the Fiji Times– read more