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The trials & tribulations of being a teen

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POSTED February 19, 2010 1:59 a.m.
Oh, we were once young.

I still remember my teenage years filled with angst, insecurities, and plenty of awkward moments.

Looking back, I wouldn’t trade those life experiences for anything in the world. Yes, those were tough times. Now I’d like to believe that the person I am today was perhaps molded and shaped during this period of adolescence.

Growing up may not be easy. It’s also not easy watching your own kid grow up. So I’m told.

Josh is a high school freshman.

A few months ago, I picked him up from school and asked if he wanted to grab a bite to eat, particularly since I was there on an extended lunch break.

“How about we go to the (Sherwood Mall) food court?”  I suggested.

At first, Josh was OK with the plan. But his enthusiasm changed when he noticed a group of his fellow ninth-grade classmates walking in the direction of the mall.

“Can we go to the McDonald’s near our house?” he uttered.

I knew Josh’s sudden change of heart had everything to do with the group of the so-called “cool kids” from his school.

For a moment, I put myself in my son’s shoes – I mean, Vans – and quickly remembered how embarrassed I used to be in those types of situations. Heaven forbid if I were spotted with my mom during my teenage years at the mall by a group of friends and classmates.

No mercy – those guys would have teased me for days.

Eventually, I’d like to think you learn how to deal with this sort of stuff. But it takes years – or perhaps a certain amount of maturity – to know just how to “play it off” when it comes to handling this sort of ribbing.

It used to be that teasing was a rite of passage. But studies now show that this sort of treatment can have damaging and lasting effects on a youngster. This includes low self-esteem, chronic stress, anxiety, dislike of school and even aggressive behavior.

Judy Freedman has a book on the subject matter, “Easing the Teasing.” Her work is based on 20 years of experience as a social worker in suburban Chicago schools and includes strategies on how youngsters can manage and overcome such painful incidents.

Admittedly, I do enjoy those moments of embarrassing my son while out in public. As a dad, I’m not alone.

Josh, for example, quickly gets irked when he catches me grooving to a Lady Gaga tune.

But other than that, I do try not to embarrass him too much. I did respect his wishes not to go to the mall food court that one day after school.

I’m sure I’ll present my son with more potentially embarrassing situations in the not-so-distant future. It’s inevitable.

I just have to remember that I was once young.
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