Love, Always

It can be a scary world out there for kids & teens

Here’s what YOU can do to help (even if you’re not a parent).

Fifteen days ago, Newsweek reported that hundreds of intimate, nude photos of female celebrities were leaked online after hackers broke into these women’s private photo albums.

My heart goes out to all of the women whose accounts were violated.

It’s such a violation to have your private life exposed without your permission, regardless of whether you are a celebrity or not, and I hope that the people responsible are brought to justice.

We live in an era where your most private details — not to mention, the most private parts of your body! — can be flashed online because of one wrong click of a button, or because of a hacker with devious intentions.

It’s scary, but of course, there’s a lot that we can do to protect ourselves from harm.

And there’s a lot that we can do to protect our children and teenagers from harm, too — both online and out in the world.

As a psychologist, I’ve worked with hundreds of concerned parents who come into my office with questions like these:

How can I make sure that my teenager is being safe, online? And at school? And after school? And (eek!) everywhere?!

What age is the “right” age to start allowing my teenager to go on dates? Should I be chaperoning her / him, every time?

My daughter struggles with self-esteem issues and I’m worried she might be having sex, already, in an effort to seem “cool” around her friends. I don’t know what to do.

My teenager won’t listen to me when I try to have The Talk about sex and dating, and I’m worried she’s / he’s already in trouble. What now?

These are important questions. Teenagers face all kinds of potential threats and temptations — which, combined with peer pressure, a need for approval, raging hormones and good old fashioned curiosity can lead to a whole lot of trouble.

All it takes is one minute, one moment, one poor decision to result in consequences that could derail a teenager’s entire life.

I’m not saying this to be alarmist — I’m saying it because it’s true.

So, what can we do?

If you’re a parent:

You can start by educating your kids and helping them to make good, self-respecting choices about dating and sex.

Ideally, this education process should begin long before they reach their teenage years. But it’s never too late to have a positive impact and take action to keep your child safe.

My latest digital guidebook — The Life Guide On Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices About Dating + Sex — can help you have these kinds of tricky conversations, set appropriate rules (and consequences) for dating, sleepovers and parties, and help give your teen the best possible chance at a happy adult life.

Teen Dating Life Guide_Dr. Gelb

Get yourself a copy of the Life Guide, here: http://drsuzannegelb.com/life-guides/#teen-dating

If you’re not a parent:

You can still play a role in keeping teens safe.

For starters, why not talk to a teen about safety, self-respect … and sex? (With their parents’ permission, of course).

Teens are often much more likely to take advice from an adult who is NOT one of their parents, so if you’re an aunt, cousin, older sibling, or even a friend of the parents, you can play an important role in keeping a teenager safe.

I’m working on a post right now that can help you find the right words, if you’re feeling tongue-tied about what to say. (I’ll post the link, as soon as it’s up.)

If you’re a teenager:

First of all: thanks for reading! :)

YOU can lead by example and show your peers at school that being safe, honoring your parents’ guidelines about dating, parties and curfews, and treating your body with the utmost respect … is extremely cool.

To grown-ups and teenagers, everywhere:

Make smart choices. Love your body. Treat yourself with absolute care and respect — and ONLY associate with people who treat you with equal respect.

And, as always, if you find that you need some guidance from a qualified professional who wants only the best for you … I’d be honored to help.

xo.

PS. Do you remember what it felt like to be a teenager?

Was there an adult figure in your life who had a profoundly positive impact on you? What did they do?

The comments section is now closed. But read and learn from stories that readers have shared in the past.

10 Comments
  1. Such important information. I thought parenting was tough years ago when my kids were young. I couldn’t imagine managing them in today’s world.

    • Hi Julie: The greater the challenge, the greater the reward! Today’s kids have a chance to develop deep values, strength of character and rock-solid self-esteem IF, their parents do it right!

  2. I’ve read a lot of stuff about keeping my teen safe online, there’s not shortage of it. But your teen guide got through to me. For the first time, I can talk to my daughter about sensitive teen issues. Thank you.

  3. My kid won’t listen to me or anyone else. He thinks he knows it all. How do you get through to a teenager who just plain won’t listen.

    • Hi Stan: Make sure you’re consistent with your parenting and modeling the kind of behavior you want your son to adopt.

      Parents lose credibility with their teens, if they’re wishy-washy or “Do as I say, but not as I do!”

      Having said that, sometimes kids will listen to what another adult has to say, (“As long as it’s not my mom or dad!”) Perhaps your teen might hear out a trusted relative or teacher. Worth a try?

  4. I remember what it was like to be a teen. I was lost and would have loved to have someone to talk to that I could trust. There wasn’t anyone and it was pretty lonely.

    Fortunately, in my early 20s I kind of straightened myself out and found some direction and met good people.

    I wouldn’t want to be a teen again but I don’t think it needs to be a bad time in a child’s life. Thanks for this post.

    • Hi Jules: Thank you for sharing your memories. I bet you’d be a wonderful confidant for a teen out there who would like to talk to someone that they can trust.

  5. My grandfather was a big influence during my teen years. We didn’t have deep conversations about the birds and the bees, but he was full of wisdom and being around him and listening to him just made me want to do to the right thing.

    I think that if he had talked to me about the facts of life, I might have not been too receptive.

    Sometimes it’s the subtle messages, like just being around someone very wise, that make a big impression.

    • Hi Shauna: Such wise insight, thanks for sharing. Seems like you picked up your grandfather’s wisdom!