About Mandy Majors

Mandy Majors grew up in a small Indiana town and graduated from Indiana University with a BA in political science and criminal justice. She's been happily married to her best friend, Matt, for seventeen years, and together they're raising two kids in a quaint little Texas community. Mandy is the founder and executive director of nextTalk, a nonprofit organization passionate about helping parents prepare for the next conversation with their children. Mandy’s time is split between researching, team building, speaking, writing and talking to her family about everything. And she’s completely addicted to Diet Coke.

Talking to Kids about Suicide (without even saying the word)

Can we talk for a moment about teen suicide? It’s the 2nd leading cause of death in kids ages 10-24 (Source: National Vital Statistics Report, 2014).

You can have preventive conversations with your kids about suicide without ever using the word “suicide” or describing it in detail. Even in elementary school. The goal is to prevent the thought of suicide from ever becoming an option your child considers.

Suicide

Here are some key points I speak into my kids on a regular basis:

1. You’re not trapped at your school. If you’re being made fun of, bullied, etc., it’s important for you to tell me. We can try to resolve the issue together. If we can’t get it resolved, we can look at other school options — private, public, homeschool, magnet, charter school, etc. You’re not stuck there.

2. God has a specific plan for YOUR life. If you are breathing, God has a plan. See Jeremiah 29:11-13.

3. I love you, no matter what. Even if you make a bad choice or choose something I totally disagree with. In fact, you will make mistakes. Life is about learning and growing from those bad choices. I love you regardless. Talk to me when you make mistakes, and we’ll work through it together.

4. The things you struggle with — Satan wants you to keep those hidden. That’s where he can manipulate you. Do not ever suffer in silence. When you are struggling, hurting, doubting, questioning, that is the time to talk with me. Then we can go to the Bible together and find answers, hope and peace. God can change any situation. He can heal, forgive, make new, change hearts — there is always hope. God is so powerful, He can actually even take your mistakes and use them for good!! To help others who are making those same bad choices. See Deuteronomy 23:5 (Curse into Blessing).

5. God created you. You are a masterpiece. He knit you together in the womb. Do not ever let anyone tell you that you don’t have value. God gives you value, not people. You do not find your worth in likes, followers or anything else. See Psalm 139:13.

What would you add to this list?

If you need more resources: Check out our free podcast. Go to iTunes or Soundcloud and search “nextTalk.” I also have a whole chapter on suicide in my book. You can read the intro for free here.

A Threesome in an App Rated 9+. What?

Last month, my then 9yo son was playing a 9+ app — a cool little bunny app called “Bunny Evolution.” I can find nothing inappropriate with the game, and there is no connectivity to other players which makes it an ideal app for younger kids.

However, as my little boy was playing the harmless bunny app, these ads popped up for another app called, “Choices.”

As you can see from the top picture, a girl’s boyfriend is cheating on her with another man. One of the options is to join them for a threesome. Join them?!?!

Parent alert: Ads can pop-up in games and are not restricted to the same age category as the app your child is playing.

Here is a description of the “Choices” app:

Parent alert: Age ratings are sometimes incorrect. The Choices app (which have these scenarios) are rated 12+. I’m sorry, no. In my opinion, that’s not appropriate for a 6th or 7th grader. Not even close

I know a post like this can raise a lot of fear in parents. Trust me, I’ve tried to bubble-wrap my kids. I’ve tried to say “no” to all technology. It didn’t work. My kids were still exposed to things from other kids. But, please don’t panic. I’ve found the solution is to create a culture of open communication in our homes. It sounds so simple, but the process of getting our kids to tell us what they’re really seeing and hearing online is a complicated process. I wrote a whole book about it. You can read the intro for free by clicking here.

By the way, my son reported all of this to me immediately. I told him, “I’m so proud of you for telling me and protecting your own heart and mind.” I’m not going to punish him and take away technology when he did everything right.

Do you have a similar story about ads in apps? If you do, please leave a comment and screenshots, if you have them.

Cyberparenting has blindsided all of us. We need to work together. Connect with us at nextTalk, a nonprofit organization providing practical solutions on how to keep our kids safe online.

Mom Confession: My Kid’s Attitude is My Fault

A couple weeks ago, I noticed a certain sass in one of my kids. I told my husband about the situation and how I was worried about the attitude. He politely and calmly said, “Honey, I don’t think that’s sass. I think it’s tone. It sounds like you.”

I wanted to go ballistic. Crazy wife mode was imminent!

Thankfully, I’ve learned to control what I say on this journey and did not respond with the first influx of feelings. I refrained. I was ticked off, though. Defensive in my head. I felt like he had no idea how much I was juggling. I actually thought, “Even if I have tone, cut me some slack!”

A couple days later, I was still internally struggling with that conversation. TBH, reeling. Anger building in my head that would explode, if left unchecked.

I had to stop the unhealthy cycle. It was time to pause and pray. I said something like this, “God, please show me the tone, if I actually have it.”

(Don’t you love the “if I actually have it” line I added to that prayer? So humanlike. So me.)

After that prayer, it was like my blinders were taken off. I could see myself clearly, and it hurt. There were multiple times when I was talking to my children, and I witnessed the unflattering tone he had been referring to. It wasn’t yelling. It wasn’t anger. It was condescending and downright rude.

Oh, it hurts to write that. Deeply.

One day, I asked my son to roll down the window when we were parked in the driveway so I could give him something. He opened the door (and nearly hit me in the gut at the same time). I didn’t yell, but I responded with the tone. I didn’t call him stupid, but my tone implied it. I saw the hurt in his eyes.

Hours later, I apologized to my son.

There have been more instances with both my teen daughter and my husband. I’ll spare you the details, but it became very apparent to me — I have a problem with tone. And, I’m passing it onto my children.

I became emotional telling my husband that God had clearly shown me a fault I needed to fix. Fighting back the tears, I said, “I can’t believe you’ve had to live with this for twenty years, and you’ve never pointed it out to me.”

He said, “You’re worth it. Besides, I’m working on my own faults.”

Was that it? A recognition of a fault and then I fixed it? I wish it were that simple.

I’m still struggling with tone. It is so difficult to break a habit that you didn’t even realize you had. It’s THAT engrained in my personality.

Can we just stop right here?

Old Me would’ve swept this under the rug and chalked it up to “It’s just who I am.”

New Me can’t because I know the stakes are too high.

You see, if I don’t change this flaw, it creates walls in my relationships.

I want my kids to tell me everything they’re seeing and hearing in their online worlds. No time in history is the relationship between parent and child so important. Remember when I wrote in my book, “God showed me that if I wanted my whole family dynamic to change, it was going to require me to look in the mirror.”

This is yet another example of what that looks like. It stings.

I need to be able to identify my flaws and fix them. Or else, I pass them onto my kids.

Flaws can be little things or HUGE things — bad spending habits, tone, addiction, cussing, unhealthy relationships, RACISM. What bad things are you passing onto your kids?

This. is. important.

We must be able to recognize cycles or patterns we’ve picked up that need to change. Many of us (me!) don’t want to change because it requires hard work.

You may not want to do the hard work for yourself. I’m asking you do it for your kids.

One evening during dinner, I told my kids that I recognized my condescending tone. I was vulnerable. Open and honest. They knew it truly bothered me. I let them in on my struggle, and I asked them to hold me accountable.

Guess what happened? My kids followed my lead and recognized things they needed to work on too! Do you see how this works?

Kids model us. They watch. They listen. They repeat. Even the flaws.

Since then, it’s been tough. I cringe when my kids point out the tone. I’m thankful for my husband. The other day, I had to put on my disciplinarian face because my kids weren’t doing what I asked (we are all ready for school to start). I didn’t yell, but I had to be stern. My husband later told me, “You disciplined without tone. That was perfect!”

And I completely recognized the difference.

So my challenge to you is: what are you passing down to your kids that you don’t want to? Now’s the time to face it and put in the hard work. Your kids are worth it. And always know, I’m facing my own things right along with you. In it, together.