Cell Phone Agreement For Tweens And Teens

Cell Phone Agreement For Tweens And Teens

Cell Phone Agreements for Tweens and Teens

Get your free cell phone agreement to help your child stay safe and minimize power struggles


Is your child ready for a cell phone?


Whether you are thinking about giving your tween a cell phone or you already have, it is good to set phone rules and expecations up from the start. One way to establish rules is to have a cell phone agreement with your tween or teen.


A cell phone agreement provides guidance and structure for what topics should be discussed before letting your child have free reign on their phone. It will walk you though what you should talk about, guides you through consequences and sets up basic ground rules so everyone is on the same page. Because when everyone is on the same page with expectations and potential consequences it helps to minimize phone misuse and fights.


Whether you decide to use my free cell phone agreement or you want to just get some ideas to make your own, follow these guidelines:


1. Rules should be designed around safety, allowing kids the ability to learn freedom and independence in a safe way.


2. Consequences should be designed to have immediate impact so the expectations and enforcement are clear.


3. Consequences should also be created with the idea that the impact should be just enough to stop the unacceptable behavior. This means you want your consequences to have an impact, but not be so severe or long that they do not allow your child to learn and try again. Having a shorter consequence time frame also makes the implementation and follow through easier for parents/caregivers. In short, don’t chose a consequence that is going to be too hard to follow through on or is going to make your life more miserable than your child’s, resulting in you changing the consequence after the fact.


4. Make sure you talk about the rules and have the contract signed at a time when everyone is available to have the discussion without being rushed. Allow kids a chance to question the rules and consequences and settle on something everyone can live with. Don’t expect a child to follow rules or accept consequences that you have not explained clearly to them beforehand, even if it does seem like a no brainer to you.


Free Cell Phone Agreement


Click below for a free cell phone agreement. Use it as a way to open a conversation about what cell phone expectations are, consequences for misuse and to keep everyone on the same page.

Parenting Special Needs Children

Parenting Special Needs Children


Parenting Special Needs Children

Parenting special needs children takes a different set of parenting tools.

If you are a parent to a child with neurodiversity or trauma, you know it can be a hard road. You deal with challenges other parents do not need to face. You know typical parenting does not work, but you may not know what you should do instead. Parenting special needs children requires special parenting. With a little observation and work your parenting can become easier.

4 Tips for parenting your child who has neurodiversity or trauma

1. View neurodiversity and trauma as a culture

You would not travel to another part of the world and expect them to act like an American. Nor would you be surprised when the people in another country acted in very different ways. You would automatically assume the difference was due to culture. In fact, you might even adopt some of the behaviors and language to try to fit in or show respect.

Neurodiversity and trauma are the same as visiting a new country. They should be treated as a culture. Neurodiversity and trauma both come with their own way of doing things. Both behave in a way to meet their needs.

And just as you would try to learn about a country’s culture, you should learn more about your child’s culture. Each neurodiverse child and child who has trauma is unique. How they react in different circumstances and their personal challenges are unique. But it does not mean that you cannot learn how to best interact with them. Learn what accommodations are the most helpful to them and what their limits are.

Often our children who are neurodiverse or have trauma are expected to fit in to our typical culture. Challenge yourself to meet your child half way. You will both be a lot more successful and you will have less behavior problems from your child.

2. Learn how your child communicates

Get curious and find out what is their why. Why do they act the way they do? It may seem like quirkiness or out of the blue, but all behavior has a reason why it occurs. Here are some examples for why behavior occurs.

Many children with neurodiversity or trauma struggle with eye contact. For children with neurodiversity it may be too distracting or intense. For children with trauma eye contact can feel too vulnerable.

Does your child have repetitive movements? Remember, these are things children do to cope and self-regulate in their environment. It’s what they do when they are feeling overwhelmed. If you want your child to reduce their repetitive movements you must first understand what is causing them stress. Changing the environment to better meet their needs can lead to less of a need to self-regulate.

Does your child have an intense need for movement? Movement and learning are intertwined in all of us, but especially in children. When we try to separate them, some children can’t figure out how to stop the motion while keeping their brain engaged. So they either need regular movement breaks or a way to stay moving while engaging.

By figuring out the why for your child’s behavior, you can better adjust your expectations. This will lead you to understand what your child can or cannot do. You can also plan in advance to help your child be more successful.

3. Learn how your child shows you their love

Neurodiverse kids and kids with trauma may have big and extreme behaviors. This makes parenting especially difficult because we tend to take the behavior personally. Especially when their behavior is extreme and includes physical violence or destruction.

But when things are calm, do you know all the ways your child shows they care for you? Take this week to write down when you notice your child being kind to yourself or another family member. Did they do something without being asked? Did they climb into your lap to be close? Did they do something that made your life a little easier?

Their big behaviors may eclipse the good times. They may not show their love in neurotypical or non-trauma ways. But that does not mean it is not there. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to look at their love from their eyes.

4. Understand your child’s need for rest & recovery

When a child with neurodiversity or trauma experiences an intense or prolonged activity it can be exhausting. And this exhaustion can lead to meltdowns or withdrawal. Even if they enjoyed the activity.

This result is because participation in the activity required them to use a lot of mental effort. They may have been masking, dealing with sensory input & overload, having to do more manual processing of data and emotions because of how their brain is wired, or navigating a heightened state of stress, just to name a few.

So this may mean your child needs lots of breaks or they need big resting periods after an activity. It might also mean that there are some activities that your child cannot do because they are too taxing. Not knowing the mental effort needed for an activity or the need for rest can result in meltdowns and withdrawal.

Keep a record of what activities your child can handle and which ones are a no go. If it is a no go, don’t try to force your child to do it. If you absolutely need to do it, then have a plan for bailing when your child indicates they are done.

It is also important to find your child’s activity to rest ratio. This will keep you from over scheduling your child and help prevent behavior issues. You can also help your older child take notice of what they respond well to and what they do not. This will help them learn to advocate for their needs.

COVID-19 Parenting Tips

COVID-19 Parenting Tips

COVID-19 Parenting Tips

7 COVID-19 parenting tips to help your child or teenager cope with the pandemic

Life during COVID has been hard for everyone. And now with the recent talk of school re-closures and increase in infections it can cause a lot of people to experience trauma. It is natural to feel anxiety and dread as we remember back to past times when ‘normalcy’ was lost.

It certainly is a tough time, but we are here to remind you that you don’t have to go it alone. And we want to make sure you are taking good care of yourself while you are helping your child.

Here are 7 COVID-19 parenting tips to help make life during the pandemic a little easier.

1. Adjust your expectations

You may feel completely powerless and frustrated right now. You’re not alone. While you may normally be able to better handle the challenges life throws your way, this time may be different. You or your child may be feeling the fatigue of the pandemic as well as the grief that comes with another round of changes.

Adjusting your expectations about what is doable and setting new goals that are achievable for the current environment will help both you and your child feel more successful.

Help your child realize when they have a reason to celebrate or have achieved something. This will help them stay focused on the positive during hard times.

2. Help your child find some perspective

As parents, we often forget what it is like to think like a child. Because a child has limited experiences and cognitive ability, they are limited in their ability to predict the future based on the past. Or to know that challenges will not last forever.

For a child, their life experience is so short and insulated to their immediate world that the worries, stress and challenges brought on by COVID may seem overwhelming and never ending. Especially as there is a new surge in infections that are beginning to impact their sense of normalcy again.
As a parent or caregiver, you can help your child by giving them some perspective and assurances that these circumstances will not last forever.

Talk about past events that you or they experienced that felt like they lasted a really long time, and how they ended. Even bringing attention to how things are different now can help to highlight progress being made.

You can also talk about the 1918 flu pandemic as a way to explain the story a pandemic follows and to talk about where this pandemic is in the story line.

3. Name it to tame it

COVID is a time of many emotions. And it is perfectly normal for you or your child to feel negatively right now. But if you tend to ignore negative emotions or push through them, it’s time to take a different approach.

Emotions are made to have a life cycle. And when we ignore hard emotions we are actually causing those emotions to get stuck inside us. This means we feel hard emotions longer and can have a harder time transitioning to a different state of being.

The best way to solve this problem is to acknowledge the feelings you are feeling. By naming your emotions can actually help bring yourself out of a bad mood faster.

So the next time you or your child is having a tough time, name what each of you are feeling. Realize that children may need your help putting names to the strong emotions they are feeling. Drawing is also another good way to have children express big emotions. Have your child share their picture with you when they are done and ask them to tell you about their picture.

Once named, acknowledge what you or your child are feeling. Tell yourself or your child it is okay to feel that way, that a lot of people are feeling that way right now. You’ll be surprised how fast everyone will feel better.

4. Find the next best thing

Life can feel hard and sad when we take notice of all the things we are missing due to COVID. This can come out as challenging behavior in children. This is because children and teenagers are still developing coping techniques, emotional intelligence and executive functioning. So in addition to naming your emotions (Tip 3), it is important to help your child figure out what the next best thing is.

In doing this, you are helping your child learn problem solving skills. This can help them to feel a sense of agency and build resiliency.

If they are still resistant to alternative options, teach them to say ‘it is not something I would have chosen, but this is the next best thing’. This helps to acknowledge their feelings and can help them move on faster.
Re-framing choices and circumstances in this light can help children, and adults, feel more control and power in their lives, which helps with overall mental health.

5. Get outside

There are plenty of sources that explain how beneficial the great outdoors are for mental health and children. So even if you are not the outdoorsy type, try to get outside for a walk or activity at least once a day for 15-20 minutes.

If you are looking for something a little more creative than a walk, try boot skating/ice skating, sledding, a nature scavenger hunt or check out your local nature centers for a list of outdoor activities. For kids and teenagers, usually the hardest part is getting them out the door. But once they are out they generally find a plethora of things to do and play with without you having to entertain them.

If you have a hard time getting your child out the door, set up a consistent time everyday so that it becomes a part of their routine.

6. Get moving

On the days when it is too cold to go outside, or you have lost motivation to make it out the door (because let’s face it some days are just like that), make sure you and your child are getting some kind of physical movement during the day. Walk like a crab around the living room, better yet have a crab race with your child. Walk like a bear, do some yoga or jumping jacks.

For teenagers, having sock snowball fights or playing a game like Throw Throw Burrito can get them moving. Teenagers are still willing to play if you take the lead. So make it fun, light and optional and they will eventually become curious enough to participate.

Even 3 minutes of activity can get the heart rate up and can change the disposition of a child or teenager who is struggling.

7. Remember trauma can be triggered

COVID-19 has brought some form of loss to everyone. From normalcy, to jobs, to illness and death, everyone has been effected in some way. Because of this, we have all experienced trauma due to COVID-19.

So it is not hard to understand how setbacks and changes to COVID ‘normalcy’ acts as a trigger to many of us and our children. Once again, when trauma is triggered it can come out as challenging behaviors, tantrums, impatience and being rigid.

If you or your child have trauma in your past, it is important to understand this can also become triggered. Open up communication and have age appropriate talks about COVID as well as any fear being felt. It is important to remember that trauma can be triggered in many different ways, but that when trauma is triggered, it needs to be met with compassion and understanding.

Responding in anger, frustration or by withdrawing will worsen the trauma reaction and result in a more intense emotional response. Try to remember your child is coming from a place of fear. Reflect back to them what they are expressing in their words and actions. Remember trauma can be triggered anytime and it takes time to process. Being willing to talk openly as many times as needed about your child’s fears is one of the best ways you can support your child during this time.

If you have a history of trauma or notice that you are becoming triggered, be kind to yourself. Make sure you have a safe space to decompress and take time to care for yourself. It’s okay to tell your child that you are sad or mad, and how you are taking care of yourself. It is good for children to hear healthy ways the adults they love show feelings and self-care. But children are not a substitute for having a support person you trust. Make sure you make your self-care a priority if you have a history of trauma. It will allow you to parent your child better.

Final Note

The above COVID-19 parenting tips are meant to help the majority of parents. Parents and caregivers who love children who struggle with certain disorders, high sensitivity, anxiety or trauma may need more support during this time that is individualized to their needs. If you would like to discuss personalized options for your child, we invite you to schedule a free 30 minute chat with us so we can tailor tips that would work best for your family.

Schedule a Free 30 Minute Chat







Family Meetings

Family Meetings

Family Meetings for Easier Parenting

Holding regular family meetings can help get everyone on the same page before issues arise so discipline and consequences become easier to manage for parents.

Family meetings also help teach children problem solving, good listening, advocacy and collaboration skills.

Check out this short video on how to set up and hold your family meetings to see how they can help make parenting and discipline easier.

Our Creating Family Values video can also help you with family meetings.


Toxic Stress

Toxic Stress

Toxis Stress in children - what it is, how do you know if your child is suffering from it, and how to help prevent it.

Stress is a part of everyday life, for adults and kids. In a basic definition, stress is the result of a perceived or actual event that causes your body to physiologically react to meet a challenge.

In this article we will talk about the different kinds of stress, how you can tell if your child is experiencing toxic stress and how you can help your child cope with their stress. While this article is geared toward children, it holds true for adults as well so we encourage you to read it with both yourself and your child in mind.

How Our Body Reacts to Stress

The physiological changes in a child's body can cause intense reactions to stress

An important starting point for talking about stress is an acknowledgment that everyone perceives stress differently, but all bodies react to stress in the same way. What does that mean?

It means, giving a work presentation may make you feel like someone is trying to push you off a cliff while your co-worker may actually leap at the chance to get up in front of a large group of people. The perception of the stress is different, but the body’s reaction to the stress of the event is the same for both of you. For example, both of your bodies will increase your heart rate, your senses will become sharper, your muscles tighten, etc. But once again, your perception may mean you experience these changes in your body as a sign that you feel completely overwhelmed where as your co-worker may perceive it as feeling completely jazzed.

So the bottom line is regardless of the event, and regardless of whether it is real or perceived, the same physiological response occurs in the body every time when the stress response is activated.

So what is happening?

When we start to feel stress, our body releases a natural hormone called cortisol, aka the stress hormone. Cortisol increases blood sugar, which the brain needs in order to solve the stressful situation and maintain energy for your muscles in case you need to move your body fast. But the triggering of cortisol does some other things that are not so obvious, like blocking growth, reproduction, sleep and immune functions. In little spurts, that’s fine. An event or perceived event occurs, our body turns on the stress response to handle the event, the event concludes, our body turns off the stress response and things go back to normal.

That’s the way the body is designed to work. But problems occur when there are too many stressful events or our stress response system gets stuck in the ‘on all the time’ position. Having a stress response on all the time can result in something called toxic stress, which can have devastating effects, especially in children.

So what is toxic stress, how do I know if my child is experiencing it and what can I do to stop it? To get to these answers we first need to talk about the different kinds of stress that we experience.

The 3 Different Types of Stress

Learn the different types of stress and how to keep your child within the healthy and tolerable stress levels.

There are 3 different kinds of stress.

  1. Positive stress – Think of this as pregame jitters or when you actually need to save your life. Your body is physiologically trying to get you ready to perform the way you need to. This stress is viewed as both health and necessary.
  2. Tolerable stress – This is triggered when a bigger or longer lasting stressor has occurred. For kids, this kind of stress is often a result of things like divorce, loss of a loved one, sustaining a major injury or living through a natural disaster. It can lead to some regression in behaviors or intense behaviors from kids, but over time children are able to recover. The key to keeping a large stressor in the tolerable stress zone is the child’s access to supportive adult relationships that help the child process and adapt to the event that has occurred. Through supportive relationships that help the child cope, the child can eventually stop their stress response and bring their body back into regulation, although it should be noted this can take a long time depending on the stressor and the individual child.
  3. Toxic Stress – When the stress response is triggered too frequently, if the stressor is too intense, or the stressor is prolonged for long periods of time the body loses it’s ability to shut down the stress response. This leads to a disruption in the development of the child’s brain and other organ systems. Toxic stress, when it is not healed with supportive relationships and therapy, can lead to chronic physical and mental illness, learning and behavior problems, obesity, and even early death.

Because the consequences for toxic stress are so serious it is important to really understand how stress becomes toxic and how to prevent against it as well as heal from it. Let’s dive a little deeper into how toxic stress is different than healthy and tolerable stress.

First a little more about the biology behind stress. In any stress response, for any person, the body takes over. It’s part of an automatic survival response kicked off in the brain to help keep us alive. But what most people don’t realize is that this automatic biological response to stress, which is triggered for any stressful event, even if our life is not actually in danger, helps by actually hijacking our brain and behavior, meaning we are no longer fully in control when our body is in a stress response. The plane is on autopilot. The stress response temporarily gears certain things up and shuts other things down so that the body can respond to the threat automatically by fighting, fleeing or freezing.

Normally, a child’s body is able to turn off its stress response after a stressful event has passed when they are dealing with positive or tolerable stress. However, when a child is dealing with toxic stress, their body loses the ability to turn off its stress response. It is like the pilot trying to take back over, but none of the buttons on the plane are working so the autopilot stays on and the pilot doesn’t know how to get back in control to land the plane.

What Toxic Stress Does to a Child

Insomnia, obesity, agressive behavior and intense outbursts are just some of the symptoms of toxic stress

So what does toxic stress do to a child, or an adult for that matter?

Because children are still growing and developing and they lack coping techniques which are learned as one grows, they are especially sensitive to intense, prolonged and repeated stress activation. This intense, prolonged and repeated stress activation can turn into toxic stress when there is no supportive adult relationship to help buffer against these stressors.

Supportive adults are able to provide a safe listening space and comfort for big, strong emotions. They can also help teach coping techniques, provide reassurance to the child and help when needed. When a child is unable to receive the support and help needed for dealing with stressors that are too intense or frequent the child moves from tolerable stress to toxic stress.

Toxic stress can adversely affect a child’s ability to learn and their memory. It also causes the brain to start sending false alarms to other parts of the brain, indicating there is stress or something scary even when there is not. This can appear as children responding with huge and intense reactions to small or non-existent stressors. It can also appear as laziness or inattentiveness in the school environment.

Toxic stress can also cause too much adrenaline to be released into the brain which can increase a child’s anxiety, create sleeping problems, interfere with a child’s ability to control impulses and make a child more aggressive. This can appear as children being labeled as defiant, aggressive or having ADHD.

The physiological changes produced by stress also lead kids to crave sugar and high fat foods because the brain is no longer accurately recognizing the body’s built in ‘feel good’ response known as dopamine. The craving of sugar and fat is a maladaptive coping strategy to try to make themselves feel better. This inability to accurately experience dopamine can also lead to an increase in risky behavior in children who are craving a rush of excitement, in order to counteract the muted ‘feel good’ response. This can appear as impulsivity, risky behavior and poor eating habits, food hoarding or obesity.

How to Know if Your Child is Suffering From Toxic Stress

So how do you know if your child is struggling with toxic stress rather than tolerable stress?

If your child is displaying any of the above behaviors it is worth investigating if something is going on in their life that is causing stress for a prolonged or intense period of time.

61% of American adults have experienced at least 1 ACE

There is also a growing field of work on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) which layout the 10 most common stressors in a child’s life that can cause toxic stress (listed below). It is important to note, that having one or more of these ACEs is not a guarantee that your child is experiencing toxic stress, it really depends on the support system in place for the child to help them deal with their stress. However it is equally as important to note that the more ACEs a child has, the more likely they are to suffer from the negative effects of toxic stress.

1. Emotionally abused in the household
2. Physically abused in the household
3. Sexually abused
4. Emotionally neglected

Adults 4 or more_scaled

5. Physically neglected
6. Parents are separated or divorced
7. Witnessed abuse to a maternal figure
8. Lived in a household with someone who had alcohol or chemical dependency
9. Depression or mental illness in the household
10. Someone in the household was incarcerated

40% of white children have suffered from at least 1 adverse childhood experience

In addition to the 10 ACEs listed above, it must be acknowledged that this list is not complete. Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) often face more adversity in life due to systemic racism and other challenges. There are more threats and stressors on a daily basis for BIPOC and their children are often exposed to stressors at an earlier age and higher rate than white children. Additionally, due to systemic racism and other adversities, BIPOC often have inherited the effects of toxic stress from previous generations. Recognizing this, additional adversity challenges are also acknowledged as causes of toxic stress.

black children_scaled

Additional Adversity Challenges
1. Racism
2. Sexism
3. Poverty
4. Food and housing insecurity
5. Interpersonal and community violence

Over half of Hispanic children are exposed to toxic stress

6. Bullying
7. Death of a family member
8. Historical trauma
9. Growing up in foster care
10. Justice system involvement

Furthermore, it is important to remember that your child can experience toxic stress from any traumatic event, even if it is not listed above. Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that causes an overwhelming amount of stress. It can be caused by one or many experiences.

How to Help Your Child Prevent Against or Heal From Toxic Stress

So what can you do to keep your child in the positive and tolerable stress areas? How can you help protect your child from the effects of toxic stress even if they have ACEs or additional adversity challenges?

First, if your child has a history of toxic stress or a high ACE score it is important to get them into therapy as studies have shown that psychotherapy is a well supported intervention. Therapy can help a child re-regulate themselves and start the healing process. Go to our Community Organizations and Resources article to find recommended therapists and support services in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

You can also reach out to us if you need help finding a therapist that can fit you and your child’s needs. The earlier the intervention the better because you can start to reverse the negative effects caused by toxic stress and help provide more tools to your child for future resiliency.

A supportive adult can help a child heal from toxic stress

To help protect against toxic stress, the following steps can be taken by parents and caregivers to help a child stay in the healthy and tolerable stress zones.

  1. Comfort your child. Show them love and affection. Studies have shown that simple physical affection between a parent or caregiver and a child after a traumatic experience can help regulate the child’s body and stress response.
  2. Have conversations about how trauma is affecting them and their families. These conversations can occur even when the child is very young. Children have a need to organize their world and give meaning to the events that occur in their lives. When no one is there to talk with to help organize these big thoughts and emotions, children make up an explanation, which often leads a child to think “I made this happen”. This can breed anxiety and fear leading to an over activated stress response and toxic stress. It is important for a child to hear from a parent or caregiver that they are not to blame for stressful events occurring.
  3. If you have a history of trauma, seek help for yourself. A parent’s own history with trauma can hinder their ability to act as a protective buffer to their child’s toxic stress. Self-care and healing are essential for being able to help a child who is stuck in a stress response.
  4. Practice mindfulness, with or without your child. Mindfulness studies have shown to be very effective at reducing stress and helping to regulate the body. It has been further shown that a child benefits from mindfulness even if only the parent is practicing.
  5. Help your child get exercise every day. It is important to get the body moving by doing some kind of moderate exercise like walking. It has been proven that exercise can both benefit learning and memory functions and help regulate the stress response. For combating toxic stress it is important to get the heart rate up for an hour every day.
  6. Help your child get more sleep. While this is challenging when a child is experiencing toxic stress because physiologically the body is interrupting the sleep function in the body, maintaining a consistent bedtime, eliminating electronics at least an hour before bedtime and creating a chance at connection before bedtime with stories, songs or cuddles can help facilitate sleep.
  7. Promote eating healthy. Again, this can be a tough one because the body is working against you because of the muted dopamine receptors, but trying to help your child make good food choices that will reduce fat and sugar and promote protein, fruits and vegetables will help stabilize their blood sugar levels and help them to regulate their bodies better.
  8. Help to identify triggers to proactively address the stress response. Once you know your child’s source of stress and have talked about how the stress affects them, you can help teach them coping techniques for handling their stress. These coping techniques can be a hug, deep breathing or drawing, to name a few.
  9. Practice self-care. As a parent to a child that is stuck in a stress response life can feel overwhelming and unpredictable. While our hearts want to remove the pain our child is suffering from, it is important to remember to take care of yourself at the same time. Take breaks and recognize if your child is triggering your own stress response.

A Message For Hope

Trauma and toxic stress can be healed with the right interventions

While parents and caregivers can help strengthen their ability to act as a supportive buffer to their child, sometimes the adversity a child is experiencing cannot be reduced. Poverty, racism, community violence and other societal challenges can cause parents to feel powerless to protect their children. However, there is significant research showing just how powerful a supportive parent or caregiver can be at reducing the short and long-term effects of toxic stress.

The brain is an amazing organ and intervening when a child is under the age of 18, when their brain is still very plastic, provides the potential for significant change to occur. Also, adversity can foster several good outcomes such as resiliency, perseverance and a deepening of empathy and compassion.

To learn more about ACEs and the science behind it, we invite you to visit ACEs Too High or the CDC.

If you’d like to talk more about toxic stress and trauma as it relates to your child or how you can find support as a parent, we invite you to reach out and have a conversation with us.

Free 30 Minute Consultation