The Truth for Tweens and Teens: Parents Please Come Up To The Plate

A Party where Alcohol is served to minors from Barbara Holstein on Vimeo.

Anyone is raising a child realizes how exhausting and difficult it can be to be a parent. At every stage of development there are problems: How to potty train?; separation anxiety starting school; nightmares; siblings fighting; poor eating habits; whining; loss of a pet; getting adjusted to a new school; bullying; friend drama; etc.

But perhaps nothing equals some of the anxiety, rage and panic a parent can have once her child reaches being a tween and then a teen. Looming in front of her are all the reports on drugs, drinking, overdoses, suicides, guns, constant social media, YIKES.

Parties, friends, learning to drive, drinking, bullying, school work, family fighting, crushes, too early sexual activity. How can we stay alert to tween and teen danger?

1. Never to late to sit down with your tween and teen and go over the rules of your home. That can include among your unique rules such as shoes off at the front door, more general rules such as curfew hours, chores, cell phone usage, keeping you up to date on where your child is, money constraints, etc.

2. Rules are great but you don’t have to stop with the formality of the do’s and don’ts. It is a perfect time to talk about values and issues. Tell your tween or teen what your values are around such things as alcohol, drugs, sex, vulgar language, etc. Don’t be afraid, they want to know what you think about serious matters. And make sure you are clear about what is legal in your state. If the drinking age is 21, or even 18, if she is 17 and invited to have a beer at someone’s home, there is only one clear answer. “No, thank you.”

3. Most important is to help your tween or teen understand that you are on their side. No matter what tight spot they may find themselves in, they can always call upon you for help and guidance. Yes, you may be angry and at times even have to ‘act like a parent’ and yell or insist on things going a certain way, but it all comes from love and having taken on the responsibility of helping your child grow up to be a wonderful adult.

Take a look at the film clip above from ‘Help From Beyond, A Coming of Age, Selfie Film’. I directed, wrote and am now creating the finished product. It spins off of my two books for girls, tweens and teens: The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween and Secrets, Diary of a Gutsy Teen. In this scene the girl has gone to a party where there is drinking. Her mother is furious but also concerned. Can you relate to this scene? Feel free to share your thoughts.

‘The Truth, a New Film’ , Wonder Woman and Selfies

As a psychologist I am concernced that by age 12 the angst and hormonal storm of adolescence often takes over and girls put less effort into their academic studies, while at the same time get caught up in the over sexualized aspects of our culture. Too soon many tweens and teens are less enthusiastic about their talents and academics. That combined with self-esteem problems, often intensified by an atmosphere that encourages bullying, can lead to all sorts of problems from eating disorders to experimentation with drugs, to suicide.

Our girls are in desperate need of a role model. Perhaps Wonder Woman is that role model. A series of articles in the New York Times, including one by Jessica Bennett, ‘Wonder Woman’s Real Power’ make clear how important it is for girls to have role models that give them the message that: I am a leader, and you have also the traits that get you to this level. Bennett’s article concludes, “…we don’t want girls to strive only to be superheros. But we do want them to believe the have the strength to be one….”

How do we overcome girls being exposed to too few role models that excite, enhance and confirm a girl’s hopes and dreams as to what she can become, combined with a society that is less than kind in all sorts of ways, including peer pressure as exemplified by bullying.

One of the newest and most intriguing ways to overcome these societal flaws is the use of the Selfie. Selfies are not just an instrument for vanity, pranks or to record a meal out with friends. The Selfie, particularly the video functions that Selfies allow, are amazingly suited to offset a lack of role models and such actions as bullying. For example, KIRO7 reported ‘Bellevue girl bulled at school asks for help, Facebook post goes viral.’ What could be more moving than seeing this young girl, Alison Grande, tell her story via a Selfie video gone viral? And she didn’t even talk, just used cards that she held up to tell her story? At my last check she had reached more than 670.000 people.

Selfies are one of the nirvanas of hope for all of us who want to turn your kid or all kids into super heroes of life as they grow up.

Like Alison, kids can use Selfies as a means of sharing concerns via social networks or just between family, when it may be easier for a child to share in a video what is bothering her. Kids really talk when they make a Selfie, not just the one word answers parents so often hear.

As a psychologist and a filmmaker, I have developed a new way to use Selfies in film, for artistic, educational and mental health purposes. I have developed what I call ‘Selfiesasfilm’ which is a merging of the Selfie video with a film crew. The advantages are many. For example, the stars of my films thus far have been teens. When they film themselves, privately, and then see that video film become part of a film that has drama, meaning and purpose, they are given incredible positive feedback. They see themselves already as powerful role models and realize their work will assist other young people feel better about themselves and have more courage about their future. SelfiesasFilm is a powerful learning tool for all: the actors, the audiences, educators, mental health professionals and parents.

For example, my #SelfiesasFilm ‘The Truth, A Short Film’ is filmed by Cassidy Terracciano using phone to make selfie videos and also a film crew. The result is an intense, personal story told by the ‘girl’ in the film. She shares all the angst of growing up, including a first crush, a best friends, family fighting, family getting ready to move, fears about adolescence, etc.

I am so excited to announce that this film is now available for streaming at This means that you and your family can watch it anytime and use it to discuss all sorts of issues that we all have, some serious, some lighthearted and fun. I know you will find this 16 minute film something you want to see again and again! Feel free to write to me at!

New e-book: A Selfie Film: Falling In Love: Based on Secrets of a Gutsy Teen

Trailer for 'Falling in Love, A Coming of Age, Selfie Video' from Barbara Holstein on Vimeo.

Making a film is an incredibly exciting adventure. Even more exciting is developing a new form of filmmaking where the character films her own scenes using her phone while a film crew works around her. I am proud to be one of the originators of this form of filmmaking.

The script is done, but the twists and turns are never expected. Just like writing a novel, I found each film I produce begins to have a life and destiny of its own. This is so true for ‘Falling in Love, A Coming of Age, Selfie Film’. Using real locations is fascinating in and of itself. We chose Tuzzio’s Restaurant in Long Branch, New Jersey for 4 of the scenes. This involved the restaurant opening just for us, including the cast and over 35 extras. Food was served and scenes were altered to represent different seasons of the year. It was so much fun. Megan Brown, the star, did such a great job chatting up her mom (played by her real mother, Cris Brown) as they eat in four different locations of the restaurant, always with the same waiter hovering. (See the film to find out why he is so important).

Another fascinating aspect to making the film was all the filming we didn’t use for this version of Falling in Love. Why? Not because it wasn’t great but because the film was revealing so many important topics and life events that kids go through as they grow up that we just couldn’t fit them all into one film!!! Finally, with some disappointment I as the director, had to choose the clear focus of this film and save footage for at least two more versions of the same story.

Afterall, one look at the same circumstances is never enough. We all know how the same moment in time can leave each person involved with a different reaction or impression. Yes, this was a year the girl fell in love, but it was also the year that lots of other things happened to her. They were just as important and alluded to in this 14 minute film. But they couldn’t be fully explored. They will be as I unfold the next version of ‘Falling in Love’. Will it be the importance of friends as we become teens or the frailties, disappointments and shocks of family life? Stay tuned….

Meanwhile, the wonderful thing about A Selfie Film: Falling In Love is that the reader gets to see behind the scene photos and some of the footage of the final film while becoming in immersed in thought questions and discussions that can take the reader on her own adventure of either remembering the important feelings and decisions of coming of age or have a base to discuss these concepts with her family, students, friends, etc.

News Blast:
Come in see the premiere of this film March 4,2017 at the Brightside Tavern Short Film Fest in Jersey City, New Jersey. It is up for two awards: Best Experimental Short Film, and Best New Jersey Short Film.