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Pediatrician is changing the way we think about teens with 'lighthouse parenting' tips

Dr. Ken Ginsburg’s advice for parents is like a hug, TED talk and Masterclass rolled into one.

parenting teens
Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

'Lighthouse parenting' can help make raising teens less rocky.

As a parent of teens, I often wonder: Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be like this? I don’t mean the warnings and complaints about how challenging the teen years are. I don’t mean all of the “just you wait” admonitions. I don’t mean the cliches and memes. What I want to know is why no one told me how awesome raising teens can be.

Don’t get me wrong, raising teens is not without its challenges. But for the most part, the teen years are portrayed as something to survive, not something to enjoy—and Dr. Ken Ginsburg is on a mission to change that.

A pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and co-founder and director of programs at the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, Dr. Ginsburg has focused his career on changing how we think about, treat and raise teenagers.

His message of optimism is a welcome respite from the constant doomsday messages we hear about teenagers. The cliches, warnings and complaints about teens start early and continue often. Parents need to vent—and there is a lot to vent about—but the narratives we tell about teens are so one-sided and predominantly negative that I’ve been legit shocked at how fulfilling, rewarding and—dare I say—fun raising teens can be. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?

Ginsburg told Upworthy he suspects that part of the reason for the success of his latest book—"Congrats, You’re Having a Teen"—is that people are hungry for a book about teens that doesn’t focus on survival.

Raising teens isn’t all sunshine and roses. It is nerve-wracking, terrifying and emotional. But Ginsburg has made it his life’s work to dispel common myths about teens. Some key culprits: the misconception that teens don’t care what their parents think, that teens are inherently risk-prone and that teens don’t act rationally. To counteract the damaging impact of these myths, Dr. Ginsburg promotes “lighthouse parenting.”

“Parents,” Dr. Ginsburg advises, “you should be like a lighthouse for your child—a stable force on the shoreline from which they should measure themselves against. You should look down at the rocks and make sure they don’t crash against them. Look into the waves and trust that they will learn to ride them, and it’s your job to prepare them to do so.”

Unlike other talked-about parenting styles, like helicopter parenting and free-range parenting, lighthouse parenting—or balanced parenting—is grounded in science. Decades of research shows that not only does lighthouse parenting yield better academic, social, mental/emotional health and behavior outcomes, but (perhaps most importantly) it also leads to better relationships between parents and their children.

How do we tell the difference between rocks and waves? Is graduating from high school a rock or a wave? What about getting into college? Is underage drinking a choppy wave or a sharp rock?

Ginsburg explains it like this: Waves are challenges that you can ride through with the right skill sets, but rocks are dangers you might not survive no matter how prepared you are. Didn’t study for an important test? A wave. Getting in the car with a driver who has been drinking? A rock, definitely a rock.

I’ll be honest, in today’s increasingly high-stakes and ultra-competitive world of college admissions, travel sports and prestigious schools, it can be hard to know when to step in and when to let your child lead the way—especially when you know a wave might crash on top of them, leaving them gasping for air. But Ginsburg has a navigational tool for that too: think about the 35-year-old you’re raising.

When we look at success narrowly in terms of accomplishments, Ginsburg says we’re focusing on what our children are doing rather than who they are being and becoming. But when parents shift their focus onto the 35-year-old version of their teen, we look at success very differently with a focus on who they really are.

“The starting point is to know your child,” he says. “For a child to be ultimately successful, it has to be success that matches who they really are, not your vision of who they might become.”

Another mind-blowing piece of advice? Raise teens for their second job, not their first. Their first job might be influenced by accomplishments like good grades and high SAT scores, but their second job is when character traits like compassion and perseverance have a chance to shine.

Being a lighthouse, raising the 35-year-old and preparing them for their second job can be easier said than done, especially when a teen is slamming a door in your face or telling you (once again) that you don’t know what you’re talking about. But our teens aren’t pushing us away, Ginsburg says, they are simply struggling with their own growing independence.

The frustration is real, he acknowledges, but it is rooted in misunderstandings about teen development. Research shows that young people actually do care deeply about what their parents think, and they want to have good relationships with their parents.

So stay calm, be the lighthouse, ride the waves.

“The most protective thing in a young person’s life is to be known, seen, and valued just as you are, with all of your strengths and all of your limitations,” he told Upworthy. “When you know that the person who knows you the most, knows your character strengths and those areas in need of improvement—and that person continues to adore you, that gives you strength to launch into adulthood truly secure in who you are. That’s what gives you the strength to navigate the waves of adolescence when other people are challenging who you are.”

Ginsburg’s book was released in early October and he's been doing television interviews that are resonating with many people. I’ll admit, I was on the verge of tears for nearly our entire interview. His advice feels like a hug, a TED talk and a Masterclass on parenting all rolled into one. In the words of Sheinelle Jones, who interviewed him on TODAY, “This was a sermon.”

Amen.

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Music’s biggest night took place Sunday, February 4 with the 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards. Now, fans have the opportunity to take home a piece of the famed event.

Longtime GRAMMY Awards partner Mastercard is using this year’s campaign to shine a light on the environment and the Priceless Planet Coalition (PPC), a forest restoration program with the goal of restoring 100 million trees. Music fans are 1.5 times more likely to take action to help the environment, making the GRAMMY Awards the perfect opportunity to raise awareness.

“Through our GRAMMY Awards campaign, we’ve created an opportunity for our brand, our partners and consumers to come together over shared values, to participate during a moment when we can celebrate our passion for music and our commitment to make meaningful investments to preserve the environment,” says Rustom Dastoor, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications, North America at Mastercard.

The campaign kicked off with an inspired self-guided multi-sensory tour at the GRAMMY House presented by Mastercard, where people journeyed through their passion of music and educational experience about Mastercard’s longstanding commitment to tree restoration. Then, this year’s most-nominated GRAMMY artist and a passionate voice for the environment, SZA, led the charge with the debut performance of her new song, Saturn.

Mastercard’s partners are also joining the mission by encouraging people all over the country to participate; Lyft and Sirius XM are both offering ways for consumers to get involved in the Priceless Planet Coalition. To learn more about how you can support these efforts, visit mastercard.com/forceofnature.

While fashion is always a highlight of any GRAMMY Awards event, SZA’s outfit worn during her performance of Saturn was designed to make a statement; made of tree seeds to help spread awareness. Fans can even comment ‘🌱’ and tag a friend on Mastercard’s designated post of SZA’s GRAMMY House performance for a chance to win a tree seed from the performance outfit*.

“SZA has a personal passion for sustainability – not just in forest restoration but in the clothes she wears and the platforms and partners she aligns herself with. It was important to us to partner with someone who is not only showing up big at the GRAMMY Awards – as the most GRAMMY-nominated artist this year – but also showing up big for the environment,” says Dastoor.

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How often do you change your sheets?

If you were to ask a random group of people, "How often do you wash your sheets?" you'd likely get drastically different answers. There are the "Every single Sunday without fail" folks, the "Who on Earth washes their sheets weekly?!?" people and everyone in between.

According to a survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by Mattress Advisor, the average time between sheet changings or washings in the U.S. is 24 days—or every 3 1/2 weeks, approximately. The same survey revealed that 35 days is the average interval at which unwashed sheets are "gross."

Some of you are cringing at those stats while others are thinking, "That sounds about right." But how often should you wash your sheets, according to experts?

Hint: It's a lot more frequent than 24 days.

While there is no definitive number of days or weeks, most experts recommend swapping out used sheets for clean ones every week or two.

Dermatologist Alok Vij, MD told Cleveland Clinic that people should wash their sheets at least every two weeks, but probably more often if you have pets, live in a hot climate, sweat a lot, are recovering from illness, have allergies or asthma or if you sleep naked.

We shed dead skin all the time, and friction helps those dead skin cells slough off, so imagine what's happening every time you roll over and your skin rubs on the sheets. It's normal to sweat in your sleep, too, so that's also getting on your sheets. And then there's dander and dust mites and dirt that we carry around on us just from living in the world, all combining to make for pretty dirty sheets in a fairly short period of time, even if they look "clean."

Maybe if you shower before bed and always wear clean pajamas you could get by with a two-week sheet swap cycle, but weekly sheet cleaning seems to be the general consensus among the experts. The New York Times consulted five books about laundry and cleaning habits, and once a week was what they all recommend.

Sorry, once-a-monthers. You may want to step up your sheet game a bit.

What about the rest of your bedding? Blankets and comforters and whatnot?

Sleep.com recommends washing your duvet cover once a week, but this depends on whether you use a top sheet. Somewhere between the Gen X and Millennial eras, young folks stopped being about the top sheet life, just using their duvet with no top sheet. If that's you, wash that baby once a week. If you do use a top sheet, you can go a couple weeks longer on the duvet cover.

For blankets and comforters and duvet inserts, Sleep.com says every 3 months. And for decorative blankets and quilts that you don't really use, once a year washing will suffice.

What about pillows? Pillowcases should go in with the weekly sheet washing, but pillows themselves should be washed every 3 to 6 months. Washing pillows can be a pain, and if you don't do it right, you can end up with a lumpy pillow, but it's a good idea because between your sweat, saliva and skin cells, pillows can start harboring bacteria.

Finally, how about the mattress itself? Home influencers on TikTok can often be seen stripping their beds, sprinkling their mattress with baking soda, brushing it into the mattress fibers and then vacuuming it all out. Architectural Digest says the longer you leave baking soda on the mattress, the better—at least a few hours, but preferably overnight. Some people add a few drops of essential oil to the baking soda for some extra yummy smell.

If that all sounds like way too much work, maybe just start with the sheets. Pick a day of the week and make it your sheet washing day. You might find that climbing into a clean, fresh set of sheets more often is a nice way to feel pampered without a whole lot of effort.

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