3 Ways Teenagers are the Same as Toddlers and Why!

3 Ways Teenagers are the Same as Toddlers and Why!

Toddlers Vs. Teenagers…Are they so different?

These girls will be teenagers soon!How are teens different than toddlers? 

My life today consists of teenagers.  But, I love to read about all kinds of topics including parents in earlier stages of this game called life.  I just read a blog post yesterday written by a mama of 2 preschool girls.  She has a darling family, and she is a great writer by the way, Jordan Hall and her blog is called A Sprinkle of Jo. Her post was about the annoying habit of toddlers using the word “mom” one million times a day and how it was really getting to her.  It was a great article because it was spot on.  I remember those days.  Those days when it’s a good thing your kids are cute (at least to you…most of the time…) or you might pitch them out the window!  They need you so much and want you even more.  

Those days are gone now, sort of.  

When I was thinking about writing this post, I started to think how fleeting those toddler days are.  

For me, they lasted a little longer.  We have 3 boys, but they are spread out age-wise 7 years.  So, I was the mother of a toddler/preschooler for nine years if I start counting when my oldest was two until my youngest went to kindergarten.  Not so fleeting!  And, to add insult to injury, when my youngest entered kindergarten, my oldest had just turned 13.  So, I went from toddlers to teenagers in the space of one summer.  I had not realized this, and it explains a lot!

No wonder my husband and I are tired.  We have not caught a break from toddlers or teenagers for 18 years.  My oldest just turned 20, one less teenager, but, one week later, my youngest turned 13.  This means that we have 7 more years to go with teenagers.  I think I want to go back to bed…

Seriously, though, I think that parenting teens is just as exhausting as parenting toddlers, but it’s more of a mental exhaustion.  

–Toddlers have physical needs to be met.  

They are learning to do things for themselves.  Feeding them 3 meals a day, getting them to bed on time, and making sure that they stay active are the ways this happens.  Obviously, there are more things than this, but those are the basics.

–Teenagers also have the same physical needs.  

They have hopefully learned how to take care of themselves in general by now.  But, they are so busy, you still have to at least provide the food—just wait for those grocery bills!, get them to head in the direction of bed at an appropriate time, and encourage them to be active.  Again, this is a list of basics.

Teenagers togetherThe difference is that teenagers know things by now, and are much smarter, which makes the entire process more challenging because they’d like to be the ones in charge of themselves.  Toddlers like to be in charge too, but hopefully, with good parenting you have nipped that in the bud, and you might have some fairly peaceful years during elementary school.  Teens still need to be told, but this is a process which needs to be carefully navigated.

Make an observation like, “Your morning went really well yesterday.  Why do you think that was?”  Get your teen to think about things, to realize on their own, what works and what doesn’t work.  These “almost adults” will be leaving you soon, like it or not.  Telling them to go to bed isn’t helping them to learn anything at all.  This is a great way to start conversation with a teenager.  They can be a bit touchy, so try different approaches, even with each of your teenagers.  What works for one may not work with the next.  Keep trying though, that’s the key.   

Some of your parenting becomes suggestions and leading questions.  

“I’m heading to bed soon, what are you thinking?”  This, hopefully, leads to a decent conversation about what their next day holds.  This can be tricky, so be careful that it doesn’t turn into an argument.

Tone is everything with a teenager.

 I am really bad about forgetting this.  This is a bad mistake.  It starts everything off on the wrong foot.  Take a deep breath and start again.  There are lots of apologies on both sides, but we are learning.  I must be a slow learner since I already have a 20 year old, and I’m still saying, “I’m sorry,” a lot.

–Toddlers need structure in their days.  

This helps them to learn and feel safe.  A couple of good rules and consistency on your part with a pair of vigilant eyes at times, and you are good to go.

–Teenagers also need structure in their days.  

This helps them to learn and feel safe.  It just looks a lot different.  This is the time of driving, dating, nights out with friends, and all sorts of other adventures.  The thing is that they aren’t with us for all of these activities.  So, what are the rules?  How can you keep them safe?  I talk about the book, Teen-Proofing Fostering Responsible Decision Making in Your Teenager by John Rosemond, in another post.  He has great ideas for setting up this structure.

Here’s the thing.  You have to have rules, and they have to be firm, but flexible.  And, you CANNOT keep them safe.  This is the mentally stressful and scary part.  We, as parents, know all the things that could happen, but teenagers think that they are invincible, and just don’t think things through.  They CANNOT in fact think things through.  Brains are not fully developed until mid-20’s, and never is this more evident than when you are in the middle of a discussion with your teenager about why he needs to be home by 11:00 on a Friday night when he is 16.

Finally, both toddlers and teens have milestones in their lives.  

–Toddlers have some big milestones in their little lives.  

Learning to talk and walk, potty training, dressing themselves, feeding themselves, writing their names…These are just a few.  This is such a fun era as you watch your kiddos start to develop all of these skills.  These things hopefully all happen before kindergarten.  

–Teenagers also have some major milestones happening in their lives.  

Going through puberty alone is a huge event.  So, keep the lines of communication open while this is happening because this is a very confusing and overwhelming time in life!  You know the other big events:  getting a driver’s permit, getting the actual license, heading from middle school to high school and then to college or perhaps right into the working world.  All of this happens over a longer period of time than toddlerhood, but there is so much to figure out as they move through all of these events they need more time!

I guess my major thought on all of this, now that I have written this post, is that raising kids, to quote a cliché, “is quite a journey.”  I cannot tell you what your rules should be for your family.  

I will say that our rules evolved over time with our boys.  The main thing is trust.  We set rules and expect them to be obeyed.  Once they proved to us that they could be trusted, then we were open for discussion.  

We always told them to be aware that no matter where they were or what they were doing that they would be caught.  Maybe not at the time, but we would find out from someone.  This has been the case every time one of them would try to get away with something.  

The beginning of raising a child is busy and exciting and exhausting.  Rest while they are in elementary school, because the end is just as busy and exciting and exhausting but, in a totally different, but equal way.  

Support your fellow parents!

 No matter where they are in this journey.  We all need help and understanding all the time!  

Do you see any similarities in these two age groups?  Have any stories to share?  We’d love to hear them:)


FAFSA: What You Need to Know Right Now!

FAFSA: What You Need to Know Right Now!

How to fill out the FAFSA:



Why fill out the FAFSA?


FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  Your child’s college career could hinge on this one form. Fill out the FAFSA!  Even if you think you won’t qualify, fill it out.   The FAFSA will determine whether or not your student will receive Federal Student Aid, it will ALSO determine any monies he or she will receive from the schools that they apply to as well.  Most schools will require you to fill this out, so do it right away. In other words, the information that is provided when filling out this form could help your family to get more money from different colleges! (Read our post on applying for colleges)

It is very important that you fill this out for many reasons.  The due date is October 1, more on that below…


–The main purpose of the FAFSA is to determine your EFC.  This is an acronym for the Expected Family Contribution.  This is a number determined by your answers on the FAFSA.  It is a calculated number that the government thinks that your family should be able to pay towards your child’s college.  The number we received would work if both my husband and I each had full time, high paying jobs, and we lived on pork and beans every night, and never did anything that cost any money!  In other words, don’t expect for your EFC to be realistic!  This is a whole other blog post topic!


When to fill out the FAFSA:


–You need to fill out the FAFSA–no matter what!  And, fill it out in a timely manner.  In other words, do this by the due date, again, the date is October 1.  This is a suggested due date, however, all of these scholarship packages will be determined by this information, so don’t delay too much longer.  Yes, it does determine the need based federal aid money for students who need it.  But, it also helps schools determine the money that they give out for merit based aid.  This is FREE money for your student.  Schools give out the money on a first come, first serve basis, so if you want any chance of merit based aid, fill that puppy out.  


–The FAFSA is NOT JUST for need based aid.  We thought about not filling it out because we knew that we would not qualify for the need based aid.  But, by just filling out the FAFSA, my son receives $1000 off of his yearly tuition.  Even if he qualified for no other scholarships, they reward this amount for filling out the form!  So, check with your child’s college and see if there is a similar situation.  Aid is often determined by the numbers that you put on this form.   


–After the FAFSA due date has arrived, each college starts rewarding their merit based aid.  This is determined by the FAFSA, GPA, and various other factors such as ACT/SAT scores and strength of resumes.  This is where hard work during high school; both in class and out will really help!  Your student will start to hear back from colleges after they have applied.  Each school will send out letters of acceptance and denial.  


–In acceptance letters, colleges will include their financial aid package.  These could just be estimates, so read carefully.  Keep track of all offers, and use them to get colleges to compete with each other to get your student to attend their particular school.  A financial aid package can be appealed and should be, if your child really wants one school, but got a better package from another, let their favored school know.  This is expected and it can work!  


–As your child finishes up the first semester of their senior year in high school, send updates of their GPA and resume to each school for which they have applied.  It is still early in the game, and this can help with a better financial aid package.  If a life changing experience  has occurred, such as:  divorce, a death in the family or some sort of accident, let the college know.  This is information schools need that could make a difference to the bottom line!


How to fill out the FAFSA:


–FIRST, go to Fafsa.ed.gov and create a FSA ID for both you and your child.  Then, fill out the FAFSA4caster.  This will give you an idea of how to fill out the actual form when it is time.  It will also give you an idea of all of the information you will need for filling out the dang thing!  You will need your federal tax information, social security number, W2s, and any asset information.   Filling out the 4caster will give you an idea of aid eligibility for decision making.  Do this now, as in after you finish reading this blog post.   


–SECOND, when you are ready, log back into the FAFSA website, and get this form filled out so that you can submit it right on the due date which is OCTOBER 1.  It is a process, and not something that you want to think that you can do quickly some evening!  Take your time.  


–DO NOT make any errors on the FAFSA!  Triple check and then check again that you have entered everything on the form correctly.  Have your spouse or significant other check it as well, a new pair of eyes can catch mistakes that you have overlooked the first 3 times that you checked for mistakes.  Mistakes will lead to delays in your child receiving financial aid.  


–Your child does not have to decide on a school at the time that you fill out the FAFSA, but fill it out anyway ON TIME or soon thereafter.***  Once you have filled out the FAFSA for your oldest, then you will have to continue to re-submit yearly.  (This is so that the government can check your child’s eligibility status, which will change if your finances change or you have more than one kid in college!) There is a renewal option with some categories which will be pre-populated, but check all of this information carefully and make sure that it is all up-to-date.  Most of the new info needed will be based on taxes paid.  


Once the FAFSA is filled out, be sure that the colleges of choice are notified that you have submitted the complete form.  This is also a good time to check each college’s website for admissions requirements and scholarship opportunities at the school.  You really need to dig for this information sometimes, but is worth the extra effort.  Every penny that your child is given by the college, is one less penny out of your pocket, or your child’s!


***If you plan on attending college from July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018, you will need to submit the FAFSA from October 1, 2016- June 30, 2018 using income from 2015.  Moving forward, the suggested submission date from here on out, will be October 1 of each year.


Another form you might need to fill out is the CSS Profile. https://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile.  This asks for lots more information than the FAFSA, but is necessary for many private colleges.  This is how they decide to distribute their non-federal aid, in other words, merit based aid.  It is $25 for the first college you have to submit this to, and $16 for each college after.  (I will say, we didn’t have to do this for my son who is attending a private school.  He received a much larger financial aid package from this private school than the local state school–many thousands more, so filling this out might be helpful, if they require it.  Make sure it’s necessary before filling it out though.)

I will say that, in my opinion, getting student loans may not be worth it in the end. Is a gap year for better finances an option?  Outside scholarships are great, but start looking before your senior year.  Weigh all of your options and do the math.  Will your major and work experience by the end of college provide you hopefully with a job that will give you the income needed to pay back your loans?  Student loans are a whole other blog post as well because they are terrible things to start your life with after college.


So, that is the low down on the FAFSA.  It is not something to ignore or forget.  It will make a difference to what you and your family will have to pay.


Fill the FAFSA out every year because financial aid is determined yearly.

*One note, it is NOT due by October 1.  However, that is the first day that it will be accepted.  Don’t wait to get around to it.  It is something you need to make time for very soon.  It is true that schools will give out monies based on the fact that the FAFSA is submitted.  Many schools have already started accepting students.  Scholarship packages will be assigned based on this information, so don’t delay too much:)


Here are a couple of resources that  you can visit for more information.










Now, go fill it out!!

Let us know how it goes!


Time to Apply for Colleges-Quick How-to’s

Time to Apply for Colleges-Quick How-to’s

Time to apply to colleges!

It is now time to think about applying for colleges.  

They are all sending information to prospective students via email and snail mail.  It is such fun to receive all of this!  

So, where to start, you ask.  Throw away any that you know that you are not interested in.  This will eliminate over half of what you receive.  Either in your trash can or email trash.  Do not get behind on this because your stack will grow and your inbox will get to be overwhelming.  

Next, prioritize the rest in the order in which the due dates fall.  Some will be immediate, others not for awhile.  Some have an early decision date which is binding, others have early decision which is non-binding.  Some have rolling decision dates, which means that you have more time.  

For the applications which you have decided to fill out, look on each college’s website.  What is their tuition package?  What sorts of scholarships are available?  Is there a tiered fee structure?  Where do you fall in all of that?  This might help to eliminate more from your stack. One more thing to look at as far as applications, is whether or not they charge an application fee.  These can add up, so be sure that if you spend that money, it is really somewhere that you can see yourself going to for the next 4 years.

Fill out the FAFSA The due date is October 1.  Do not wait until the first to fill it out!  It takes hours to get it all filled in, doublechecked and completed!

Register for the ACT and/or SAT again, if those scores are something which you are wanting to improve upon.  You can still apply for colleges, you will just have to update the score for them either yourself or via the test center.  

Some schools ask for the ACT composite score.  This is the score of each subtest which is then divided by the number of subtests.  Your composite score and each test score (English, mathematics, reading, science) range from 1 (low) to36 (high) is the average of your four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. Fractions less than one-half are rounded down; fractions one-half or more are rounded up.]  

Another ACT score that a school may ask for is the superscore.  This is made up of your best subscores regardless of test date. Be sure to send in all your test scores for consideration.  This creates a new superscore using only your highest numbers.  Not all schools will ask for either of these, but look out for these options.

Next you need to write some essays.  These can be tweaked for each situation as needed. One essay that you need to write is, “What are your plans for the future”.  Most schools want to know this information in some form or another.  It is a good way for you to actually think about this and get your thoughts in order.   Be sure when filling out all of this information and writing these essays to be honest.  There will be questions that will cause you to really have to think, and there will be others that seem ridiculous.  Most questions are asked for a certain reason, so think and answer carefully.  

One final tip.  Go back to each college’s website.  Look carefully through each tab.  Search through student life, take a virtual tour of the campus, look at the available clubs and activities.  Google the nearby town to find out information about the size and what is available to do outside of school since it is where you may be living.  

Do everything that you can to inform yourself about this possibility, so that when it comes time to really decide where you will end up, you are ready and have all the pertinent facts.