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!

Being a pioneer in Positive Psychology makes it perfect for me to be a Pioneer in Selfie Films that are both artistic and educational

Being a pioneer in Positive Psychology (THE ENCHANTED SELF, A POSITIVE THERAPY) has well seasoned me to be a pioneer in Selfie Films. What is the purposed of psychology? It is understand the human mind and then to help people achieve good mental health. Understanding the mind, the way we think and feel, gives psychologists an edge in helping people as we can not only give advise and support, but can help with the strategies and steps necessary to feel better. Right now, the youth in our country have many pressures that they are dealing with. Sometimes the pressures lead to anxiety or depression, sometimes drugs, sometimes suicide. What can I do with my training to help kids and parents? Of course I can give a lecture or write a paper. But drama and story telling are often much more effective than those options. Drama, since ancient times has awakened people to what they need to do with their lives and how to handle themselves. That’s what I am doing in making Selfie films that bring to light many adolescent problems in away that penetrates without leading to despair.

I am thrilled to be making Selfie films that can successfully compete artistically in film festivals and then can also be used as important educational tools in and out of the classroom to assist in opening the doors to better mental health for kids, tweens and teens. Let me give an example, ‘The Truth, a Short Film’ is made up of sixteen scenes that are filmed by the star, Cassidy Terracciano, on her cell phone. Directed by me, but ultimately left by herself to film, using her iphone the scenes, adapted from my book, ‘The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween’, we experience an intimacy with the actress that is amazing. Like most of us, left alone in the shower we reach our ultimate singing voice, I believe that directing but then letting kids do the filming by themselves without a crew watching, is to the advantage for the audience,the material and the actor.

I present the kinds of issues, that left unchecked and not understood by the child and/or family members, can lead to depression, eating disorders, panic attacks, poor grades, drugs and even the ultimate worst, suicide. That’s because nothing is trivial when we are growing up. A crush that goes bad, a decision to move to a new town, friends left behind, parents fighting or maybe a divorce, friends teasing or bullying, all of these situations and many more can lead to a mental health crisis for a particular child.

However, I do not tell a dark story as a pioneer in Selfie Films. My films are uplifting and entertaining. The central characters find workable and uplifting solutions to their problems. The audience laughs, groans, remembers when they were that age, and are ready to start important conversations. I believe that combining potentially serious developmental subjects in a new form of filmmaking will result in happier kids, more successful parenting and mental health care when necessary in a more timely fashion.