How To Talk To Your Teen About Alcohol & Drug Use

How To Talk To Your Teen About Alcohol & Drug Use

How To Talk To Your Teen About Alcohol & Drugs


From marijuana to alcohol to prescription drugs – Here’s how to help keep them safe


Teen alcohol and drug use happens. These 7 tips will help you keep them safe.


Helping your child navigate alcohol and drug use begins with having conversations. Pick a calm time to talk with them. And know that sometimes it is easiest to have your conversation in the car or side by side, when your teen does not need to look directly at you.


While setting up the conversation as stated above is great, regardless of how you get into the conversation, remember to let your teen talk first. It will help them feel heard and it will make them more likely to listen to you later. But here is the most important tip… make sure you do not argue or try to logic with them during their turn. Instead, parrot back to them their ideas and opinions. It does not mean you agree with them, but it helps them to feel heard. And that will ultimately help with your influence in their behavior.


Once it is your turn to talk, here are 7 tips to help you increase your influence.


1. Talk with them about how you feel about them using substances

This is a good time to share personal stories. Stories can show why you feel the way you feel or the problems you are hoping they will avoid.

2. Be specific about why you do not want them to use substances

Explain your concerns and fears and open the conversation to have them give their take on it as well. Make sure you are giving them enough space to ask questions and give their opinions. They will be much more likely to listen to your opinion and accept it if you do the same for them.

3. Talk about different substances

You don’t have to be an expert. But it is a good idea to have an idea of some of the major substances. Check out Project Know to find out more about the most common substances teenagers use. You can also check out my article on vaping to get more tips on how to start a conversation with your teen.

4. Don’t forget to talk about over-the-counter medications and “natural” remedies

Teenagers rarely think of prescription drugs or legal substances as harmful. This can lead to unwanted consequences and addiction. Make sure you talk about the dangers of sharing prescribed drugs. It is also important to talk about how “natural” and/or legal does not automatically mean safe. One such example is kratom.

5. Make sure you have regular conversations about substance use throughout the year

Talk before major events where substances are likely to be available. Regular chats help lessen any awkwardness and keeps communication open. It also reminds your teenager of your values on a regular basis.

6. Talk about what to do in various circumstances

Preparing your teenager for the pressures they will face is important. Talk about the signs of alcohol poisoning and the dangers of drinking and driving. It is also important to talk about the risk of mixing substances. And how they may not always know everything they are ingesting when they choose to take drugs or alcohol. Talking about fentanyl and “date rape drugs” regardless of your child’s gender is incredibly important for them to understand the dangers they are opening themselves up to when interacting in an environment that has alcohol and drugs present.

You should also discuss their vulnerability to others overall when consuming substances and how to navigate peer pressure. This video on teen brains can help them understand it’s not about a lack of trust in them personally, but peer pressure impacts the teenage brain more so they need to be prepared.

Give your teenager different scenarios and a chance to problem solve it with you as their guide. The more confidence you can give them ahead of time, the more likely they will make better decisions.

7. Let your teenager know that there will be no punishment for calling for help if they use substances

Talk about how to get help and when to get help. Everyone makes a mistake at some point so it is important to talk about back-up plans.

Parenting Tips for Busy Parents

Parenting Tips for Busy Parents

Parenting Tips for Busy Parents

Even busy parents can succeed in making parenting changes. Follow these simple parenting tips for busy parents.

Are you feeling like this is the worst time to make parenting changes? That you would like to work on your child’s behavior, but it feels too overwhelming? That between work, vacations, activities, etc. it would be impossible, so why bother trying?

You are not alone in this challenge! Most parents feel that they can’t commit to making parenting changes. That they are willing to suffer alone in their struggles until they are at a breaking point. Because there is no “perfect time” to figure out how to deal with challenging behaviors. There are always obstacles and struggles that stand in your way.

But I’ve got you covered. Try these 3 parenting tips for busy parents. You’ll be surprised how these painless parenting changes can give you real results.

3 Parenting Tips For Busy Parents

1. Begin with a hug
When your child is struggling, begin by offering a hug. It may seem counterintuitive to offer a hug when your child is behaving poorly or being a jerk to someone in the family. But what they really need in that moment is connection so they can calm down. And that is what a hug can do for them. Once they are calm they will be more receptive to you correcting their behavior.

2. Make time for play
Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, kids need play. And play with a parent can be a way to help them connect with you. This connection helps form the basis for trust when it comes to influencing your child’s behaviors. And for having them share information with you, especially when they are older. So take a little time each day, even 5 minutes is enough, to read a book with them, play something or joke around.

3. Improve your listening
One of the complaints I hear most from parents is that their kid doesn’t listen to them. But listening is a two-way street. When parents become better listeners, their children become better listeners too. So the next time your child is complaining, not complying, etc. repeat back to them what they are saying. It doesn’t mean you are going to give in or give up, you are showing them you hear what they are saying. And when your child feels heard, they can better accept what you are saying to them.

Still thinking you can’t commit?

Don’t worry! While consistency definitely helps with parenting changes, you don’t have to be perfect. Don’t let your struggle with consistency or lack of time be a barrier to trying. Try just one of the tips above once a day for a week to see how it makes you feel and how your child responds.

The most important part about parenting changes is not about perfection. It’s connection. Which is why these 3 tips are all based in creating connection.

So give yourself a little credit and a little slack as you try something new. Because you can begin to change your child’s behavior! And it doesn’t need to feel impossible.

And if you are at your breaking point…

I’m here to tell you you can do this! Just like you are able to find the time to deal with a crisis when it arises in your house or at work, you can find the time and effort needed for parenting changes. But it doesn’t need to feel impossible and you don’t have to go it alone.

The key to any solution is finding an expert and tools that make things easy. At Happy Parenting & Families parent coaching, that’s what I do for parents. I make parenting changes easy. I walk along with you in your struggles and help you put in place solutions that take very little time, but have big impacts. You are never alone and you never have to go it alone.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and alone, reach out. I offer free 30 minute chats so you can release your burden and begin getting solutions.

Schedule a Free 30 Minute Chat



The 5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children Thrive In School

The 5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children Thrive In School

The 5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children Thrive In School

Parent Coach Jen Kiss shares 5 parenting tips to help children thrive in school

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Authority Magazine for an interview on The 5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children Thrive In School.

Here is an excerpt from that interview.

1. Teach them how to cope with their anxiety

Anxiety is not something we need to get rid of or ignore. Anxiety is a feeling we all experience in our lives. So whether it is taking an exam, talking to someone or getting up the nerve to get on the school bus, anxiety is a part of life. And anxiety only really becomes an issue when it starts interfering with our lives. Parents can teach their children how to do deep breathing as a way to work through anxiety. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve that runs along our spine and naturally calms down the body. When the body is calm, it is primed to learn, which will lead to performing better in school. I also am a big fan of giving anxiety a persona and treating it like a 3rd person. When we can teach our children that anxiety is like a really concerned friend that is there to try to protect us, we can teach them that they can choose to not listen to that friend. They can learn to tell their ‘anxious friend’ that things are not as bad as they seem or that they don’t need to worry, they can handle this challenge. In both of the above examples, parents are not responsible for taking away their child’s anxiety. They help their child learn how to live through the uncomfortableness of anxiety. When a child can learn to tolerate their anxiety, they develop resiliency and confidence. Their brains can also learn better because their prefrontal cortex, where logic, working memory and organizational skills are, is able to be fully engaged when the body is no longer anxious.

2. Reduce stress through mindfulness

Mindfulness is a great way to relieve stress in the body. And while you may be skeptical or think it is trendy, the science behind mindfulness is robust. Mindfulness helps keep you in the present moment. This helps teach children that emotions and challenges come and go. This is particularly helpful because children lack the ability to put things into perspective based on their limited life experience. By staying in the present moment the body is able to relax, which once again primes it for learning. There are also several other benefits to teaching mindfulness to your child. Mindfulness helps you expand your ability to focus, pay attention and control your emotions. All of which are critical in order to function well at school. Because of all these benefits, mindfulness is a particularly good tool if your child has ADHD or other challenges with executive functioning. One of my favorite mindfulness techniques for kids is to have them jump or run for 20-30 seconds. Then have your child sit or lay down with their hand over their heart. Invite them to close their eyes and feel what their heart feels like. Have them notice how long it takes for their heart to calm down and what it feels like in their body once it does. Finally, have your child extend out their senses to notice how the rest of their body feels in that moment. The longer a child can hold on to noticing what they are feeling in their body the calmer they will become.

3. Set up routines and rituals

Whether your child is back at school, distance learning or participating in a hybrid system, routines and rituals are important. Routines and rituals help children feel safe because they are things that they can predict. It also helps them thrive because they can plan for what comes next easier. When a child feels safe, they are better able to learn. When a child is feeling unsafe or uneasy, their stress response is activated and they get ready to fight, flight or freeze. When a child is in this mode, their executive functioning is no longer online. This makes learning difficult and behaviors more challenging. Routines and rituals do not need to be big or complicated, but they should be consistent because once again the goal is to create predictability. One of my favorite parenting tips is utilizing music with your routine. Have your children make up a playlist of songs they enjoy. Then use that playlist as a way to help complete tasks. Music can be played to help them get ready and out the door in the morning or complete their homework after school. Music is very predictable. So for children that have trouble keeping track of time or staying on task it can be an easy way to help them get things done. One last thing about creating routines. Be careful not to make your routines too rigid. There should always be room to have some flexibility if needed. And it is also important to schedule downtime into your child’s daily routine. Downtime is a chance for your child to relax and regroup. Something that is critical for us all, but especially for children. Downtime is particularly important for children who have neurodiversity or learning disabilities because most mask their differences during the school day. Masking uses a lot of energy. This is in addition to the extra energy they are already spending to make up for their underdeveloped executive functioning. This can lead to burnout. If you don’t schedule enough downtime, your children will usually let you know through meltdowns and tantrums.

4. Make good nutrition a priority

If you want to help your child thrive, nutrition is a good place to start. The stomach is connected to the brain and it’s functioning. So if you want to help your child perform better at school, make sure they are eating well. Always try for a breakfast that is rich in protein to sustain energy throughout the morning. It is also a good goal to eat the rainbow as much as you can and to work in vegetables any way your child will let you. Try to eat less processed foods since those are prone to giving you inflammation. Inflammation in the gut often leads to inflammation in the brain, which can affect learning and behavior. Good nutrition can be even more critical for children with neurodiversity and learning disabilities. Because these children are more sensitive to the link between gut health and brain function. Additionally, a good breakfast is especially important for children taking medicines that suppress their appetite. This often leads to children eating only a little lunch and ending their school day ravenous. This of course impacts their ability to focus and learn as well as making them more prone to behavior challenges.

5. Set goals and celebrate successes.

Goals can really help combat depression as well as create motivation. Goals can get children excited about things while developing the skills of planning, organization, delayed gratification, and problem solving. Because we are in a time of COVID and there is still unpredictability, goals should be adjusted to account for this. That means, make your goals small so that your child is more likely to achieve them. This will build up their confidence. From there, you can work on building up their stamina for longer or more difficult goals. For children with neurodiversity and learning disabilities, make sure you are adding in some smaller goals on the way to their big goal so that they stay motivated. Having too big of a goal or one that is too far off may be too challenging. This is due to their struggles with time perception and planning, so adjust the goal to set them up for success. And of course make sure you celebrate successes. This has been a challenging time for kids. We need to take the time to let them know that their efforts have not gone unnoticed. So celebrate when they achieve their goals, but also celebrate them for when they do something that was hard for them. Bringing your child’s attention to the good in their lives will help them with their mental health. It can also help them recognize their own resiliency and problem solving. Two skills that are definitely needed for success.

If you would like to read more, you can visit Authority Magazine to read the full article.

Holiday Parenting Tips

Holiday Parenting Tips

Holiday Parenting Tips

Holiday parenting tips

Holidays bring a lot of expectations for parents. Family traditions, positive memories, and of course well-behaving children are just a few. Which is why holidays are generally a time of stress for most parents.

Let’s face it, kids are more likely to act out during holidays because there is less structure and more stress. And adults are less likely to have patience and more likely to respond with frustration. Add in travel, long visits with relatives and friends, sugary foods, interrupted sleep schedules and you’ve got a recipe for tough times.

So here are 5 holiday parenting tips to help you thrive during your holiday season

1. Readjust Your Expectations

Come to terms that things may not work out exactly how you would like them to. Take a moment to recognize a lot of things are outside of your control. It is not a reflection on you as a parent or as a person. And then come up with the next best thing you know you or your kids can do. This will help take some of the pressure off. And make everyone feel more successful when things do work out.

2. Take A Break

If you are stressed, the whole family feels stressed. So as hard as it can be and as guilty as you might feel, it is important to practice self-care during holidays.

And I know what you are thinking, you don’t have time for that. But, think of it this way. Parents set the tone for their families. So if you want to have a smoother holiday, you need to set the tone of being calm and relaxed. And the only way to do that is to actually become calm and relaxed.

Which brings us back to self-care needing to be a priority. Schedule it in as though it is an important meeting, because it is. Better yet, use the time before the holiday as practice. Start asking for more help and taking more time for yourself. Help yourself get into the habit. Tanks can’t run on empty so make sure you are going into your holiday with a full tank.

3. Practice Self-Compassion

It’s okay to feel sad, overwhelmed and upset. These are emotions that a lot of people feel everyday. Even during holidays when you are ‘supposed’ to feel happy. It is also okay to feel the grief of not having things go the way you want or for traditions being changed.

What can help you through these tough emotions is practicing self-compassion. In short, self-compassion is treating yourself like you would a close friend. Realizing that you are dealing with something tough. Recognizing that others may also be struggling like you. And that this is just one moment in time.

And because it is a tough time, you deserve to meet yourself with kindness and understanding. As you would a friend.

Need more of a push? Studies have shown that self-compassion can help increase oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love hormone that can counteract increased blood pressure and cortisol, the stress hormone. And that helps lower your stress and decreases your anxiety. Plus self-compassion has the added benefit of helping you stay in the present moment. So you have a higher chance of actually enjoying the holiday with your children and family.

4. Move Your Body

Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress in your body and reset your stress response. Whether you like to run, lift weights, go for a walk, or something else, just get your body moving.

The reason exercise works so well is because it helps to complete the body’s stress cycle.

It’s easy to get stuck in a stress cycle when you are running from one thing to the next. But when you exercise and bring your heart rate up and then stop exercising and your heart rate comes back to normal, it is a natural signal letting your body know to stop its stress response. When you can get your body to stop signaling a stress response it will reduce the levels of cortisol in your system. Less cortisol allows you to think more clearly, function better and sleep better. It also gives you more control over your emotional regulation, making it easier to keep your cool. Which is a win for you and your kids.

5. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the exercise of staying in the present moment. And staying in the present moment can help cut down a lot on stress. It can also help you reset so you can appreciate the things that are going well.

Now if you aren’t into mindfulness or feel like it is too difficult, stick with me for a moment. Because anyone can learn to practice mindfulness, even kids.

Mindfulness is about being in the moment, noticing your thoughts/feelings and then letting them go. So it is okay if you think about things as you try to be mindful. Simply acknowledge your thought or emotion and then try to let that thought or emotion go.

For beginners and for kids, I like to help teach mindfulness through exercises that engage the senses. A very popular mindfulness exercise for this is noticing 5 things you hear, 4 things you see/notice, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste.

Another good option is doing 10-20 jumping jacks. Then rest your hand on your heart and focus on how your heart rate comes back to normal.

Learning to practice mindfulness, like self-compassion takes time. But the benefits are worth it, so give it a try.

Chore list by age

Chore list by age

Chore List by Age

Need helo implementing chores? Check out our chore list by age.

Requiring your child to complete chores helps teach valuable skills for independence, builds self-confidence, and takes some of the work off your plate. The below chore list by age provides examples of what kinds of tasks your child could be ready for at a particular age. As your child grows, you can pull chores from their current age category as well as from any younger age category.

Please note, your child may or may not be ready to perform these tasks at the given numerical age based on their current course of development or if they have a disability or disorder.

You know best what your child is capable of. The important part about chores is teaching your child responsibility, accountability and self-efficacy. As long as you are requiring some chores and they are working towards these goals at a level appropriate to their development, what chore you choose does not matter.

If your child has a learning disability, special needs or a disorder, please read our tips on chores for children with special needs to go along with this chore list by age.

Help your child succeed

After you chose a task from our chore list by age, take the time to teach your child exactly how you want them to perform the task

With any new task, expect to have to break down each chore into simple steps and teach your child exactly how you want them to perform it. It may be common sense to you, but your child has never learned it before so be patient and understanding as they learn a new skill. Make sure to stick close to them the first handful of times and show them rather than tell them what you expect. Once they can perform the task properly two or three times, you should be able to leave them to complete the task on their own, depending on their age and ability.

When your child completes their chore, don’t forget to check their work and keep them accountable. If they have made a mistake, don’t get mad. Simply show them how to correct the mistake and ask them to re-do that part. If your child has a breakdown at this point, let them take a break first and tell them they can come back to the task after a specified period of time or before a different activity begins. If a chore repeatedly results in mistakes or a breakdown, it is either time to re-teach the task in smaller steps or to choose a different chore for a while.

Chore Lists by Age

Ages 2 – 3

  • Put away toys
  • Dust leather couch/furniture
  • Wipe down table
  • Pair socks
  • Water plants
  • Move chairs for vacuuming

Ages 4 – 5

  • Help carry grocery bags
  • Set table
  • Help unpack grocery bags
  • Make bed independently

Ages 6 – 7

  • Take out trash
  • Load/Unload dishwasher
  • Fold laundry
  • Help prepare a meal
  • Pack own lunch
  • Help take care of a pet

Ages 8 – 9

  • Put away groceries
  • Hand wash dishes
  • Vacuum
  • Rake leaves
  • Shovel snow
  • Prepare a family meal
  • Take care of a pet (give food, water, clean area and walk)

Ages 10 – 11

  • Clean bathroom
  • Mow lawn
  • Do laundry
  • Clean windows
  • Sew for minor needs/fixes

Ages 12 +

  • Help with more extensive house cleaning and organization projects
  • Watch younger children independently (for 2-4 hours)
  • Help run small errands

Chores for Children with Special Needs

Chores for Children with Special Needs

Chores for Children with Special Needs

Chores for special needs kids require adjustments be made to meet your child where they are

As a parent of a child with special needs, a learning disability, or a disorder, you want your child to grow into independence and be able to one day thrive on their own. However depending on your child’s particular struggles and challenges, you may question if this is even possible. Or you may simply question when to push them to do more or when to let things go.

The truth is raising a child with a learning disability, special needs or a disorder requires a complete overhaul of your expectations as to what they can and cannot do. Add into the mix that a child that requires “more” may have a hard time with accomplishing the basics in life, like hygiene, it can make chores seem like pie in the sky dreams.

Tips on implementing chores

Be realistic with what your child can do

A child’s numerical age is rarely, if ever, aligned with their developmental age when they have a learning disability, special needs or disorder. Understanding your child’s diagnosis and what their strengths and challenges are can help to guide you in setting the chores for your child with special needs.

Pay attention to sensory triggers

If your child is sensitive to a particular sensory input, make sure you take that into account when deciding what chore to give them. Are they able to handle the sound, vibration and sometimes smell of a vacuum? If not, don’t make that a chore for them. Perhaps sweeping would be a better fit. If your child has tactile sensitivity then maybe finding the right kind of glove they can wear when doing their chores is necessary before you can take on giving them chores.

Be realistic with what your end goal is

Some children will be able to live independently with proper supports in place, some will be able to live in a group home setting, and some will require more dependent care. As your child grows and you have more experience learning what their learning disability, special needs or disorder mean for them, adjust your end goal accordingly. View this as a fluid process and a slower launching process. Expecting too much of your “more” child too soon can cause them to shut down and become overwhelmed, which can lead to anxiety or depression.

Have a candid discussion with adolescents

For adolescents who will eventually be living in a group home or independently, have a candid conversation about what daily chores they struggle with. If they truly cannot pick up after themselves because the “more” part of them is making it too big of an obstacle, talk to them about their options. They can either agree to implementing and working through chore routines in small, manageable steps or they will need to always budget for a cleaning service to take care of this aspect of their life. If they choose the cleaning crew option, don’t fight it, don’t spend your time and energy on it, just move on to something that they are willing to work on.

Use visuals

For all chores, use a visual chart. For example, take a before picture of dishes in the sink, a picture of them doing the dishes, and then a picture after the dishes are done. Display these pictures instead of a chore list.

Use Choice Boards

Allowing your “more” child to choose the chore from 2-3 pictures can increase success.

Break Down Chores

Break down the chore into smaller tasks to be completed. If you can, continue to provide visuals for the smaller steps until they are learned. For example, if the chore is to load the dishwasher, have a picture of glasses to indicate all the glasses should be loaded first, then plates and so on.

Provide Rewards to Reinforce Habits

The use of rewards can be extremely effective for children with learning disabilities, special needs and disorders. It does not need to be something huge, perhaps a favorite snack, special art supplies only available when chores are completed, a game, screen time, etc. Make sure to show a picture of the reward next to the chore so your child knows what they are working for.

Final thoughts

Life with a “more” child can be very overwhelming, frustrating and full of worry. Please remember you are not alone. If you have any questions about parenting your “more” child or if you would just like support from someone who truly understands the challenges and struggles you are facing on a daily basis, please connect with us for a free 30 minute chat.

If you need ideas about what kind of chores to give your child, check out our Chore List by Age.

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