Do you remember when your parents had the “Birds and the Bees” talk with you? There may have been some painfully awkward pauses, some intricate dancing around the topic, and plenty of polite metaphors that you didn’t quite catch. Now that you’re a parent yourself, you might be less than enthusiastic to relive some of these difficult topics with your own kids. Unfortunately, no matter how deeply you hope they’re not encountering pornography, suicidal ideation, or the self-esteem issues social media can contribute to, they probably are. And if they’ve managed to avoid these problems, there are a number of others that could be causing them distress

Whit Honea is the bestselling author of The Parents’ Phrase Book, a guide to social and emotional learning, parenting with empathy, and communication utilizing the nuances of language. He is also a dad of two (so yes, he’s had plenty of tough conversations). We sat down with Whit to hear his perspective on how to start those challenging chats.

What to Know Before Starting a Conversation

Whether you’re warning your kid about the prevalence of online predators or discussing the potential dangers of sharing nude images, it’s super easy to creep from We’re-Having-a-Friendly-Chat mode into I-Am-Your-Parent-and-I-Am-Lecturing-You mode.

Prepare yourself to really prioritize listening to what your child feels in addition to presenting them with information. Once you’ve shared a point, turn the conversation back to them and ask what they think about that. For example, if you’ve just explained that many kids have a friend who’s mentioned suicide, pause and ask your own child if anyone they know has mentioned the issue. This can help your kid feel some ownership over where the conversation goes, and it shows them you genuinely care about their input. You might even find it useful to prepare — either literally or mentally — some discussion questions to help the two of you really dig deep.

Finally, take a few minutes to center yourself. “If the conversation is coming from a place of anger, stress, or worry, perhaps practice those talking points out loud or bounce them off a friendly ear,” Honea suggests.

How to Initiate a Chat About Difficult Topics

You aren’t going to schedule a Zoom call with your tween or send a Google Calendar invite to your 8-year-old the way you would if you needed to discuss something important at work. So how should you kick things off? Try to keep things chill, if you can.

“Preparing our kids for the big things can be a matter of small steps,” Honea says. “We don’t need an agenda or an allotted time, nor do we even need to acknowledge that a tough conversation is in process.” In fact, the best time to have a conversation can be when something around you sparks it. Maybe your kid’s grandparent mentions the wildfires in California or they see a Pride flag on a neighbor’s house and ask what it means.

“In our home, we are constantly pausing TV shows and movies, even video games, social media offerings and songs, to discuss the subject matter at hand,” Honea explains. “Granted, this is often met with groans from the kids, but that’s fine. Discussing behaviors and topics as they relate to others we like, love or are otherwise invested in, is a great prompt for relating it to our own thoughts and values. That’s something we can continue to build on, whether it’s across the dinner table or sitting at a stoplight.”

Advice for Keeping Things Calm

If you suspect your child might be experiencing disordered eating or struggling with intense anxiety, your care for them can make it tricky to talk things through without getting upset. If they’ve been going against your family’s principles and engaging in cyberbullying or hate speech online, you may feel even more worked up. If you do feel less than calm, that’s normal. 

“Generally speaking, we’re talking about issues that hold a lot of emotional investment, and it’s only natural that it shows,” Honea explains. “That’s not always a bad thing, but it can be distracting.” Here are some concrete tips he says may help:

Extend Yourself Some Grace

“The best advice that I can offer any parent, be it tough conversations or a laundry list of life lessons, is to pace yourself,” Honea says. It can be so easy to get overwhelmed by the number of things you need to teach your child, and you may sometimes feel like you have one chance to drive home an important point. But instead of having one big conversation about consent and then never mentioning it again, for example, follow up your initial conversation with additional reminders at appropriate times. That way your kid is less likely to forget what you’ve talked about and you’re less likely to feel pressured to say everything you need to say at once.

It can also be helpful to lean on your community when you’re dealing with a particularly tough topic. Ask your parent friends how their families talked about the death of a loved one. Seek a mental health professional’s advice for surfacing major issues. Read articles about encouraging your LGBTQ+ child’s mental health or supporting your kid after they’ve experienced sexual violence. Join a Facebook group for parents raising kids in a digital age. DM us on Instagram — we’re always around to chat.

No matter what difficult topics you’re preparing to discuss, remember that love can go a long way. A hug or some affirming words can make all the difference.

**This blog post was updated on August 30, 2021.**

If you’ve ever wondered why your teen or tween spends so much time on TikTok, you’re not alone. TikTok is an incredibly popular app right now, and for Generation Z it’s an important part of their cultural landscape. While there’s a ton of new content added every minute — and much of it has a flavor-of-the-week type of popularity — there’s an entire collection of TikTok slang words that kids regularly use on the app that has spilled over into regular slang. 

Here are some of the phrases you’ll see over and over again on TikTok (and now other social media platforms) — with a translation for parents so you’ll know what your kid is actually saying.

TikTok Slang and Trends

Sheeeesh

This high-pitched sound usually accompanies videos with the “ice in my veins‘ pose. It’s commonly used to express shock, surprise, or excitement — though it’s often said just for fun, especially as a call-and-response type exchange.

Smeeze dance 

Move over, “Renegade” and “Ratchet” — the latest TikTok dance craze is the Smeeze. Featuring hopping, stomping, and flailing arms, the Smeeze has been tagged nearly a billion times on TikTok and is usually set to “She Gon Go” by Trill Ryan. Like other viral dance trends, it’s even been featured in Fortnite, which definitely added to its popularity.

Cheugy

Remember the term “basic” from about a decade ago and how it applied to “mainstream” interests like Ugg boots, pumpkin spice lattes, and more? Gen Z uses “cheugy” much the same way — except they use it refer to older folks who are trying too hard or are out of touch.

Bestie

This common slang term can be found in the comments section of many TikToks. As a refresher, “bestie” can mean “best friend,” but it can be used as a kind of formal address to a stranger. Example: “Bestie, I’ve never seen this video, but you need to be safer while skateboarding.”

“Jeffery Bezos” and “That Funny Feeling”

Comedian Bo Burnham is known for his stand-up delivery that often relies on musical numbers. His pandemic special Inside features several incredibly catchy earworms that have proven to be very popular as sound choices for TikToks in 2021. “That Funny Feeling” in particular is used in videos where people talk about bouts of depression.

“International Super Spy,” “Into the Thick of it,” and “Castaways”

TikTok inspiration can from the strangest of places — including children’s TV shows! These three songs are from The Backyardigans, a kid’s program from the mid-2000s. For many younger TikTok users, there’s definitely a nostalgia effect at play here, not to mention the fact that these songs are uplifting, charming, and definitely vibe-able.

Wellerman

The early part of this year saw TikTok absolutely dominated by sea shanties — you read that right! A user named Nathan Evans posted a video of himself singing a 19th-century sailing song called “The Wellerman.” Soon, people were duetting the video and adding layers of vocals, instruments, and more. There’s even an electronic dance music remix that really showcases the endless creativity to be found on the platform. 

Credit card slam

Familiar with the phrase “shut up and take my money?” If so, you’ll understand this trend, which features audio of someone banging on a table and video of them handing over their credit card (to no one). It’s used when people want to indicate that they really want something and will buy it without even looking at the price. In the comments, this sound gets transcribed as “💥💥💳💥💥”.

It’s the       for me

This incredibly popular fill-in-the-blank phrase is used in two primary ways: a conversation where you go back and forth stating things you either love about something or can’t stand about something. For example, if you’re talking about why you don’t like school, you could say: “It’s the early mornings for me,” and your friend would say, “It’s the Zoom calls for me.”

He on X Games mode

ESPN’s X Games are the Olympics of extreme sports like skateboarding, BMX biking, snowboarding, and more. The phrase originated on the now-defunct video streaming platform Vine — a guy films his friend doing a cool trick and reacts by saying, “He on X Games mode!” This audio is now played on TikTok over all kinds of activities where someone does something impressive — but always with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

Say sike rn

Remember saying something false when you were growing up and then screaming “SIKE!” to indicate you were joking? Kids today have a similar TikTok slang version of it. “Say sike rn” translates to “please tell me you’re joking right now.”

You’re wrong but go off 

This is a sassy way to acknowledge that someone is incorrect about an idea, but that you know they’re determined to keep spouting their opinion no matter what.

PERIODT

Need to add a definitive closer to something you’re trying to say? Instead of saying “AND THAT’S FINAL, MISTER,” like your mom would have said, try using “PERIODT.” As in, there’s nothing more to add to this sentence or conversation — it’s over. The final T makes the word even more crisp and clear.

Vibe check

Want to ask how someone is doing? With your friends, you’d probably just ask, “How ya been?” But your kid may just use TikTok slang to ask their BFF: “Vibe check?” If your kid thinks you’re easy-going, fun, and forgiving of small mistakes, they might say you “pass the vibe check.”

We stan a       queen/king

As you may know, to “stan” someone or something is to be a fan of that person or thing. When you say you “stan a _____ queen/king,” that means you’re supporting someone who truly deserves it — a compliment. As in: “Harry Styles was really cool about asking for permission before touching people while shooting the music video for ‘Watermelon Sugar.’ We stan a consent king.”

It really do be like that sometimes

This simple TikTok slang saying is akin to “it is what it is” — an acceptance of life’s ups and downs. It’s also used to show that what someone is going through is relatable.

Simp nation

A “simp” refers to someone (usually but not always a boy) who goes out of their way to do things for the person they’re attracted to in the hope that they’ll start dating — but who ends up stuck in the “friend zone.” Because of this, it tends to be used as an insult. Simp nation, then, refers to this collective group of people. It’s often a warning, as in, “Don’t become a part of Simp nation!”

TikTok Slang Is Always Evolving

While this is a great list to get you started in understanding the complex world of TikTok slang, it’s important to remember that it’s just that — complex and always changing! Feel free to send us recommendations for new phrases to add to the list by emailing help@bark.us.

Blowing out the candles during a birthday party with all their classmates. Introducing their crush to a new song by sharing a pair of headphones. Being pulled into their grandparent’s bear hug and relishing the smell of their signature soap. These are just a few of the important moments many kids are missing during COVID-19. It’s undeniable that human connection is important — whether that comes in the form of playing tag at recess or trading secrets during a slumber party. But how much does social distancing affect your child? In recognition of Suicide Awareness Month, we dove into some of the mental health implications this uncertain time can have.

Bark spoke with Tessa Stuckey, a licensed professional counselor specializing in suicidal ideation in kids and author of For the Sake of Our Youth, about what parents and guardians should understand about this critical time.

Suicide Awareness Month: What You Should Know

If your child doesn’t experience depression, you might assume they could never experience suicidal ideation, but that isn’t true, unfortunately. A number of things can contribute to a young person contemplating suicide, including stress, exposure to another person’s suicide, or bullying. In fact, Stuckey says even a lack of building strong connections due to using technology as a coping skill can have a dramatic effect on teens and tweens today. 

“Technology has created the need for instant gratification and there is no instant fix for emotional distress,” she explains. “Once they hit those hormonal, adolescent years, they are met with real, intense emotions and [left] empty-handed.” No matter what your child’s situation is, it’s important to be aware of how to talk to them about suicide, be familiar with crucial resources, and keep an eye out for potential warning signs.

How COVID-19 Can Affect Your Child’s Mental Health

Humans are not meant to be lonely,” Stuckey says. “We are meant to feel connected and feel a sense of community.” Having to Zoom into geometry or meet a new baby cousin over FaceTime due to COVID-19 social distancing rules can have more far-reaching effects than might be immediately obvious. “Without the proper coping skills, resilience, and positive self-talk, a child is more apt to have suicidal ideation,” explains Stuckey. While technology can help your kid catch up with their BFF while staying socially distant, it can only mimic the fulfillment that in-person connections bring for a period of time.

Warning Signs of Suicidal Ideation

If you aren’t very familiar with suicidal ideation, you might not know what to look for if you’re concerned your child might be struggling. It’s important to remember that every kid can present differently when they’re experiencing these thoughts, but here are a couple of signs that something may be wrong.

First of all, pay close attention to any big changes in mood. It may be totally normal for your tween to be super grumpy all through breakfast but perk up around dinnertime. But if you can feel that something is off and they don’t seem like themselves, take note.  

If your kid usually loves nothing more than jumping on the trampoline with their siblings or calling their friend to talk about their new favorite TV show, you should probably pay attention if they start distancing themselves from others. “Isolation, or as I like to [call it], Alone Time, is healthy and fine (and expected for teens) but sometimes it’s too much and that can be a sign that things aren’t right,” Stuckey says.

More intuitively, an increased interest in death or dying is probably something to pay attention to as well. And if your child expresses that they’ve been thinking about harming themselves or asks to talk with a therapist, be sure to find them the help they need.

It’s important to also remember that sadness, hopelessness, and anger aren’t the only emotions that may point to a suicidal state of mind. Someone who’s considering ending their life may also seem suddenly, uncharacteristically calm right before they intend to die by suicide.

How to Help Prevent Suicidal Ideation

Not sure what you can do to help? Stuckey suggests these tips for supporting your kid’s mental health.

Ways to Support Your Child

If your child expresses that they’ve considered suicide, you might feel a need to take control of the situation, but avoid that urge — at least temporarily. “This is a great moment for a parent to just listen,” Stuckey says, “not offer any advice or try to find a way to relate but just listen and empathize.” It’s OK to show your concern, but avoid showing anger or annoyance.

Once you’ve taken the time to listen to your kid express their thoughts and feelings, you can work to find them a therapist that’s a good fit for their unique needs. “Make a plan with your child for whenever they are having dark and heavy thoughts,” Stuckey suggests. Let them know they can always come to talk with you. You can also create a safe space in your home for them to find some comfort whenever they need some peace. Something as simple as setting a super-soft beanbag in a cozy corner with some art supplies might really help.

It’s OK to Not Have All the Answers

While you are your child’s caretaker, it’s important to realize that supporting them through suicidal ideation is a journey — not a one-time event. Lean on your community (including us here at Bark) for resources whenever you need help, instead of assuming you have to do it all alone, and learn more about suicide prevention here. “It is our job as parents to adjust our parenting to help balance what the impact of this culture has put on our kids,” Stuckey says. “Suicide is a scary topic to face as a parent. However, with the way our current world is, we must open our eyes and take it on with a fight.”

Quick note: If you aren’t familiar with terms surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, this blog post can help you understand common words and phrases.

Do you remember the first time your kid had a crush on someone? They may have been excited to wear their favorite outfit to school in an attempt to look their best. Maybe you found them doodling hearts in their notebook. Or perhaps they were too shy to even approach the person they thought was super cool. While those first fluttery butterflies are certainly memorable, for many LGBTQ+ kids, realizing they like like someone can be an incredibly stressful experience. No matter how accepting their family is, a child can feel anxious after realizing that they aren’t straight or don’t identify with the gender to which they were assigned at birth.

Before you keep reading, take a deep breath and remember that, above all, showing your child love is the most important way you can help them. “We know that having one accepting person in an LGBTQ person’s life can reduce the risk of suicide by 40 percent,” Amit Paley, the CEO of The Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ kids, told The Washington Post. You have so much power to really make a difference in your child’s mental health.

Bark spoke with Dr. T.M. Robinson-Mosley, an LGBTQ+-affirming counseling psychologist and licensed therapist, about what parents should know about supporting their LGBTQ+ kids’ mental health. 

What You Should Know About Mental Health and the LGBTQ+ Community

Every child’s situation is unique to them, so there is certainly no one overall experience for LGBTQ+ folks. Generally speaking, however, teens in this community have mental health issues at a higher rate than their straight, cisgendered peers. 

“Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ teens report significant challenges to their mental health and overall wellness,” Dr. Robinson-Mosley says. “They are more likely to experience increased levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and rejection, and they overwhelmingly report feeling unsafe in their own school classrooms.”  

No matter how they identify, we hope you show your child love and sincere support. Many families aren’t so welcoming and can even go so far as to subject them to conversion therapy or kick them out of the house. But even when LGBTQ+ kids come from families who allow them to freely be themselves, they can still find themselves facing some challenges. Dr. Robinson-Mosley explains that — along with anxieties about being rejected by their families — kids in this community can find themselves experiencing harassment, bullying, isolation, suicidal ideation, and rejection from the children around them.

According to a survey conducted by The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation and the University of Connecticut, 70% of LGBTQ+ teens reported feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week. 95% reported trouble sleeping at night. Only 26% said they always feel safe in their school classrooms. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to remember that protecting your kid means being attuned to their mental health in addition to their physical health.

Potential Signs of a Mental Health Concern

Hopefully, you have a great relationship with your child and they feel comfortable asking you for support any time they’re experiencing something difficult. But talking about mental health struggles can be difficult for many kids, so it’s also a good idea to be aware of some things to watch out for.

Anything out of the ordinary

First of all, you’re the expert on your own child, so if you notice any significant change in their behavior, that’s worth paying attention to, Dr. Robinson-Mosley says. More specifically, though, if your kid goes from being a social butterfly who has plenty of energy for after-school activities to withdrawing and becoming less interested in the things they used to love or less motivated to work hard at the hobbies that bring them joy, that could indicate an early warning sign of a mental health concern. If you know your child to be someone who’s very easygoing and pretty consistently happy but they start snapping at those around them and crying, being angry, feeling confused, or worrying more than usual, Dr. Robinson-Mosley says that’s probably worth noting.

Decisions they’re making

The choices your kid is making can also give you some insight into what they may be experiencing. Perhaps their grades have suddenly started slipping. Maybe they’ve started smoking or drinking alcohol. Or maybe you’ve even found out that they’re beginning to experiment with drugs for the first time. Of course, none of these things point definitively to a mental health problem. A number of things could cause experimenting with substances or slipping grades, but it’s a good idea to pay attention if this is something you’re seeing, and to connect your kid with a mental health professional if they need it.

What to do if you notice something

In addition to watching out for some of these signs, you should regularly provide your child with the space to open up to you on their own terms. While having a mental health check-in may feel awkward at first, being intentional about regularly asking your child if they’d like to share how they’re feeling can help them become more comfortable with coming to you if they need some extra support. They should, of course, know they can approach you with concerns at any time, but devoting a dedicated moment to connect — like during the drive home after soccer practice or while making breakfast together on Saturday mornings — can help them feel supported and heard.

Ways You Can Support Your Child’s Mental Health

Dr. Robinson-Mosley shares some ways you can give your kid the encouragement and resources they need to feel their best:

Consider Other Ways Their Identity May Affect Their Mental Health

“Due to their intersecting identities, Black and Indigenous LGBTQ youth of color experience unique challenges and elevated stress,” Dr. Robinson-Mosley explains. “Additionally, Black teens may experience racial discrimination, isolation, and other race-related stressors that affect their academic performance and overall satisfaction.” She says Black LGBTQ+ teens can be less likely to use professional mental health services, which can have serious consequences. In fact, between 1991 and 2017, suicide attempts among Black teens increased by 73%, while attempts among white youth decreased.

The Biggest Thing You Can Do to Help

Feeling a little overwhelmed by this information? That’s OK. If there’s one thing you should know about supporting the child in your life, it’s to do just that — support them. “Failing to affirm and support LGBTQ young people can damage their self-esteem and self-worth and prevent them from developing into healthy adults,” Dr. Robinson-Mosley says. “The trauma of experiencing rejection and abandonment from family members can significantly impact the trajectory of LGBTQ+ children’s lives. And in the most tragic instances, these unsupportive behaviors can result in life-ending consequences.”

Instead of assuming your kid knows you love them, be intentional about affirming how much you care for them. This might mean taking the time to bake their oh-so-complicated favorite caramel cheesecake as a surprise. Or maybe nothing means more to them than getting some good one-on-one time during a long walk outdoors. Whatever their love language, be sure you also tell them you love them regularly so they never doubt it even for a second.

Additional Resources

Odds are, if you have a teen or tween, they’re really into TikTok and all of its dancing, pranking, stunts, and lipsyncing. And while there are potentially inappropriate videos for them to stumble upon, there’s also a lot of really entertaining, educational, and wholesome content, too — kind of like the entire internet! Fortunately, kid-friendly TikTok accounts exist!

TikTok is super important for this younger generation, and the company has rolled out some hefty security measures for kids, like banning DMs for those under 16. So, if your kids are going to be on TikTok under your supervision (did you know Bark monitors TikTok on connected Android and Amazon devices?), they may as well follow some awesome accounts! Here are 10 of our favorite kid-friendly TikTok accounts, including some you may even get a kick out of, too. 

1. @iammoshow

Meet Moshow, the cat rapper! Originally famous for his Instagram videos featuring positive, cat-themed lyrics, he’s made the jump to TikTok. It’s not all just cats, though  — Moshow also loves Harry Potter.

2. @espn

If your kid’s into sports, ESPN’s TikTok is the place to be, featuring not only the typical sports highlights, but also incredible viral videos of fans, extreme stunts, and candid celebrity moments. 

@espn

They were FLYING. 🤯 (via @tjthehighflyer)

♬ original sound – ESPN

3. @mythical

Say goodbye to boring cooking videos! Mythical Kitchen will have your kids asking for all kinds of ingredients to make out-of-this-world recipes like Pop-Tart lasagna, ramen grilled cheese, and more. 

@mythicalkitchen

while you were merely eating the pop tarts, we were studying them, learning. now we use that knowledge to do something pretty dumb, honestly #fyp

♬ original sound – Mythical Kitchen

4. @jiffpom

There may not be a cuter (or more popular) dog on the internet than Jiff the Pomeranian. Over 20 million people on TikTok follow him and his adorable adventures, and he’s even been nominated for a People’s Choice Award for favorite animal star.

5. @hamiltonmusical

Is Hamilton always playing on Disney+ on a loop in your house? Check out the official TikTok account for this Tony Award-winning musical to catch behind-the-scenes action, funny goofs, song covers, and more. 

6. @daniel.labelle 

Daniel Labelle is an incredible athlete who makes hilarious sports-themed videos — from acting out the various types of runners to the different ways people of all ages kick a soccer ball. 

7. @zachv_pat

This heartwarming account follows two brothers, one of whom has Down syndrome, as they navigate life and all of its ups and downs together. 

8. @slime

Kids love slime — all parents know this intimately. If you just cleaned up a huge mess in your living room and don’t want to break out the slime again any time soon, this TikTok account will probably manage to tide your kids over.

@slime

what’s your favorite cereal? 😍🥣 #cereal #glitterslime #butterslime #snowslime via: slime_og

♬ original sound – slime

9. @fortnite

If your kids play Fortnite, they now have a whole new way to revel in this battle royale world. Young people will love learning all of the latest new dance moves and choreography with the official Fortnite TikTok account

@fortnite

You called? We’re now on TikTok 😏

♬ September – Earth, Wind & Fire

10. @nasablueberry1

Alyssa Carson loves space, and it definitely shows. Her account features cool outer space trivia, fun astronaut history, and even answers to very important questions like “How do you actually go to the bathroom in space?”