Photo Credit: Rifka Schonfeld

Q: There’s so much talk about parenting young children these days. What about teenagers? They seem like they should get their own attention!

A: Below, I’ve included some myths and facts about teenagers that can help guide parents.


Teenage myth #1: Parents and teens just need to survive the adolescent years. The teenage years are all about pain, confusion, and terror.

Teenage myth #2: Hormones make teenagers go crazy.

Teenage myth #3: At the end of adolescence, teenagers become adults and are completely independent.

In his new book, Brainstorm, Dr. Dan Siegel debunks all three of the myths.

Teenage fact #1: The teenage years are not about surviving, they are about thriving. There’s a lot of work taking place during adolescence that is necessary for teens to develop core character traits for the future. Teens who test boundaries and who have the passion to explore are working on themselves.

Teenage fact #2: There are more hormones during the teenage years, but it is the changes in the way the brain is developing that motivate their behavior.

Teenage fact #3: Teenagers do not become adults and completely independent at the end of adolescence. In reality, they are moving from dependence to interdependence – the ability to depend on you and your ability to depend on them.


Q: What are some reading benchmarks for children?


Tips to Encourage Reading

Ages 3-5: Point out text in your everyday routine – on the cereal box, on street signs, and in the supermarket. You can also play word games, writing out words yourself and then having your child copy them with stamps or stickers.

Ages 6-7: Get involved with your child’s reading at home by knowing what they are doing in school. If your child was assigned to read a Cam Jansen mystery, take fifteen minutes and read it before bed one evening. When reading becomes a communal activity, it is more exciting and enjoyable. In addition, if your child is reading a book (any book that is appropriate), you shouldn’t pass negative judgment on it (even if it is a silly topic or below grade level). Reading breeds more reading and that is the goal.

Ages 8-10: Board games are great ways to encourage your blossoming reader. Boggle and Apples to Apples require simple reading skills that can help reinforce what your child is doing in school. It’s also great to keep a lot of age appropriate reading material in the home. This way, when your child is bored, you can always point to a book for entertainment.


Q: I’m having a lot of trouble with bedtime. Do you have any suggestions?

A: In my experience, a lot of parents struggle with bedtime – and what comes after. Struggles can arise from different sources.

Challenge: Your children are climbing the furniture. You don’t know how you can force them into their beds, but you definitely don’t think they are going to fall asleep.

Solution: There’s a chance that your children are overstimulated, but the more likely culprit is that bedtime is too late! When children get overtired (yes, there is such a thing), their bodies kick into overdrive and they get hyper. If you want to ensure that doesn’t happen, consistently get them into bed between 9.5 and 11 hours before they have to get up in the morning. This will allow them to get the sleep they need in order to function the next day.

Challenge: Every time you think you are done with bedtime, your child asks for another story or another glass of water. Or, he tells you his socks don’t fit right.

Solution: Create a bedtime routine that can include brushing teeth, washing faces, reading a book, telling a story, rubbing the child’s back, singing Shema, or any other calming ritual that your family enjoys. If possible, create a poster or small book with simple drawings so that your child can understand the routine. Then, explain that you will not deviate from it. The routine will allow your child’s body to understand that it is bedtime and, thus, time to relax. If you stick with the routine, your child will also eventually stop asking for those extra stories and cups of water.

Challenge: Your child is afraid of the dark or what’s in her closet.

Solution: Your child’s fears are very real and should not be ignored. However, bedtime is not the time to address those fears in a genuine matter. If you are aware of the fears, sit down with your child and talk to him about what scares him. Explain that things are the same in the dark as in the light, we just can’t see them. Help him look in the closet during the daytime. Read books about fears so he can see how other people overcame them. Maybe he will feel better with a nightlight or a special doll to hug. That said, once you have done these things, bedtime is bedtime.

Challenge: You stick to a bedtime routine, but your child still won’t go to sleep. And, even when he does, he wakes up throughout the night.

Solution: There are various disorders that can disrupt sleep, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), previous traumatic experiences, or sleep apnea. These need to be addressed and diagnosed by a doctor, psychologist, or educational specialist. If these sleep issues persists, it is best to consult a professional.


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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at