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Back to School: Dealing with Peer Pressure

PeerpressureNo matter what grade your child is entering, from elementary school to college campuses – some kids will be facing the judgment of their peers.

“Peer pressure is not always bad. It can be very good. It can be encouraging. Sometimes a person may not want to choose hi-risk behaviors and may not want to do the wrong thing because they know their friends aren’t into that.”

– Dr. Marilyn Billingsly, pediatrician

It’s conventional wisdom that peer pressure is a powerful force in the lives of kids, especially teenagers. A new University study reminds us that while peer pressure can push kids into risky behavior, it can also help kids do the right thing.

Alex Shillinger is in court facing drug charges. He says he was “worn down” by peer pressure to try marijuana.

“There were constantly people telling me, ‘Come on, just try it, just one time, it’ll be fine,’” says Alex, 18.

On the other hand, because of peer pressure, Ambra says she’s never done drugs or alcohol or had sex.

“Being around people like that, just like myself, it keeps me motivated,” says Ambra, 17.

Peers can be powerful influences, for both goodandbad behavior. A new study from the University of Southern California found that kids were less likely to use drugs if they were in a substance abuse program taught by other kids.

“Peer pressure is not always bad. It can be very good. It can be encouraging. Sometimes a person may not want to choose hi-risk behaviors and may not want to do the wrong thing because they know their friends aren’t into that,” says Dr. Marilyn Billingsly, pediatrician.

Of course, it depends on the friends — and parents have little control over that.

“I think it makes it even more important for parents to know their kids’ friends and the parents of their kids friends and monitor what’s going on with the group of friends,” Dr. Carol Drummond, Ph.D., psychologist.

If you suspect that one of your child’s friends isusing drugs, experts say to make your views on drugs loud and clear and tell your child you’re worried.

“Sometimes your kid will come back and say, ‘Listen, Mom, I know he’s drinking, doing drugs; I am not doing that.’ But at least you’ve gotten a chance to plant that message that you’ve got worries. You’ve got to watch your own child.  And if you feel like you have some concern that your child is making bad decisions, then you need to act aggressively,” says Dr. Judy Wolman, Ph.D., psychologist.

Tips for Parents

  • Peer pressure is not always a bad thing. For example, positive peer pressure can be used to pressure bullies into acting better toward other kids. If enough kids get together, peers can pressure each other into doing what’s right. (Nemours Foundation)
  • Some good behaviors that friends can pressure each other to do include: be honest, be nice, exercise, avoid alcohol, respect others, avoid drugs, work hard, don’t smoke. (National Institutes of Health, NIH)
  • You and your friends can pressure each other into some things that will improve your health and social life and make you feel good about your decisions. (NIH)

References

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Teen Depression: 10 Common Causes

Adolescence can be a very turbulent and difficult time, even for the most well-adjusted child. Depression strikes teenagers and adults alike, and can have far-reaching implications when kids suffer from emotional difficulties that they aren’t sure how to manage. After noticing the signs of depression in your teen and helping him to get the treatment he needs, understanding the root of his depression can help to make the situation more manageable for everyone involved.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list of all causes of teen depression, these ten situations can be very common contributing factors to depression.

  1. Academic Stress – Kids are under an enormous amount of pressure to succeed academically, especially as the costs of higher education rise and more families are reliant upon scholarships to help offset the expense. Stressing over classes, grades and tests can cause kids to become depressed, especially if they’re expected to excel at all costs or are beginning to struggle with their course load.
  2. Social Anxiety or Peer Pressure – During adolescence, teenagers are learning how to navigate the complex and unsettling world of social interaction in new and complicated ways. Popularity is important to most teens, and a lack of it can be very upsetting. The appearance of peer pressure to try illicit drugs, drinking or other experimental behavior can also be traumatic for kids that aren’t eager to give in, but are afraid of damaging their reputation through refusal.
  3. Romantic Problems – When kids become teenagers and enter adolescence, romantic entanglements become a much more prominent and influential part of their lives. From breakups to unrequited affection, there are a plethora of ways in which their budding love lives can cause teens to become depressed.
  4. Traumatic Events – The death of a loved one, instances of abuse or other traumatic events can have a very real impact on kids, causing them to become depressed or overly anxious. In the aftermath of a trauma, it’s wise to keep an eye out for any changes in behavior or signs of depression in your teen.
  5. Separating or Divorcing Parents – Divorced or separated parents might be more common for today’s teens than it was in generations past, but that doesn’t mean that the situation has no effect on their emotional well-being. The dissolution of the family unit or even the divorce of a parent and step-parent can be very upsetting for teens, often leading to depression.
  6. Heredity – Some kids are genetically predisposed to suffer from depression. If a parent or close relative has issues with depression, your child may simply be suffering from a cruel trick of heredity that makes him more susceptible.
  7. Family Financial Struggles – Your teenager may not be a breadwinner in your household or responsible for balancing the budget, but that doesn’t mean that she’s unaffected by a precarious financial situation within the family. Knowing that money is tight can be a very upsetting situation for teens, especially if they’re worried about the possibility of losing their home or the standard of living they’re accustomed to.
  8. Physical or Emotional Neglect – Though they may seem like fiercely independent beings that want or need nothing from their parents, teenagers still have emotional and physical needs for attention. The lack of parental attention on either level can lead to feelings of depression.
  9. Low Self-Esteem – Being a teenager isn’t easy on the self-esteem. From a changing body to the appearance of pimples, it can seem as if Mother Nature herself is conspiring against an adolescent to negatively affect her level of self-confidence. When the self-esteem level drops below a certain point, it’s not uncommon for teens to become depressed.
  10. Feelings of Helplessness – Knowing that he’s going to be affected on a personal level by things he has no control over can easily throw your teen into the downward spiral of depression. Feelings of helplessness and powerlessness often go hand in hand with the struggle with depression, and can make the existing condition even more severe.

It’s important that you speak to a medical professional or your teen’s doctor about any concerns you have regarding his emotional wellbeing, especially if you suspect that he’s suffering from depression. Depression is a very real affliction that requires treatment, and is not something that should be addressed without the assistance of a doctor. Your general practitioner or pediatrician should be able to help you determine the best course of action if your child is suffering from depression, including referrals to a specialist or medication.

Source: Babysitting.net

Teens and Honesty: It’s Start When they Are Young

Does your teen lie?

Or are they simply not telling you the whole truth?  Is there a difference?

One of the greatest challenges that many parents face is helping their children to learn the value and importance of honesty. Children learn to fudge the truth at a shockingly early age, and the habit can be difficult to break if not acknowledged immediately.

Here are ten ways to make sure that your little one doesn’t make dishonesty a practice.

  1. Practice What You Preach – Teaching your children not to lie is likely to be a challenge if they overhear you saying things that they know to be untrue to others. It’s important to practice what you preach, especially when it comes to impressing upon kids the importance of being honest. They can pick up habits at an alarmingly fast rate, so make sure they’re good ones.
  2. Create an Atmosphere of Acceptance – Kids often lie out of fear that the truth will cause them to be ostracized. Creating a “no-judgment” zone in your house can help kids to feel safe enough to tell you the truth, even when the truth is something that you don’t want to hear.
  3. Talk About Outright Lies Versus Those of Omission – Small children may not understand the difference between actively telling a lie and simply opting not to say all that they know. Explain that both options are dishonest, and help them understand why it’s important to be honest in the first place.
  4. Reward Honesty – When your child tells the truth, it’s important to reward or at least acknowledge that truth. For instance, lessening a punishment because she told the truth can be akin to “time off for good behavior.”
  5. Avoid Situations That Can Lead to a Lie – Instead of setting your child up to be dishonest by asking if they did something, ask them why they did it. Saying “I know that you spilled your milk, now let’s clean it up,” is much more effective than asking, “Did you spill your milk?” This accusatory tone makes kids defensive, and they may lie reflexively just to avoid getting into trouble.
  6. Be Careful With “White” Lies – Instead of telling your child that their disgusting cough syrup doesn’t taste that bad, explain that it’s unpleasant but will make them feel better. Your child will know the second that they take the first dose of that medicine that it tastes horrible, and may not understand why you would lie about it when they aren’t allowed to lie about things themselves.
  7. No Name-Calling – Never call your child a “liar” or other derogatory names. This only makes them feel like you don’t trust them to ever tell the truth, and that there’s no interest in doing so if you aren’t going to believe them anyway.
  8. Leave the Past Where it Belongs – When gently confronting your child about a situation in which they’ve been untruthful, avoid the urge to bring up past incidences of dishonesty. They’ll only feel as if their past mistakes can never be forgotten, and that you don’t believe that they can ever tell the truth.
  9. Don’t Make Threats – Don’t threaten your child with vague statements like, “if I found out that you’ve been lying, you’ll be sorry!” In this situation, they’ll only feel as if they must protect their lie in order to avoid a mysterious punishment, rather than feel secure enough to admit to being dishonest and making an apology.
  10. Be Patient – Kids who have trouble with telling the truth won’t change their stripes overnight, and it will require patience and effort on your part as well as theirs. Understand that there will almost certainly be missteps along the way, but your child is still learning the intricacies of telling the truth.

Kids can be further confused when they’re reprimanded for being “brutally honest,” so it’s a good idea to explain that telling the truth is a delicate balance of not making hurtful observations about others, even if they’re true, while also not saying things that are dishonest.

Talking to them about only saying positive things about another person’s appearance or habits can help to prevent embarrassing statements made by kids that are trying to learn the difference.

Source: Full Time Nanny

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Teen Help Programs: The Internet Search

You have finally reached your wit’s end with your teenager.

You have exhausted all your local resources, your nerves are fried, you have removed all their privileges and nothing is making a difference – you are literally a hostage to your own child!

What now?

It is time for outside help… but you get online and realize first the sticker shock…. (price of programs and schools) then you see all these horror stories – EXACTLY WHO SHOULD YOU BELIEVE?

Your gut!

Years ago I was in your exact spot – and I didn’t listen my gut, and the results were not good, however it had a purpose.  The reason was to be a part of helping parents not make the mistakes I did.

When you get online you will see many toll free numbers going to places unknown.  Usually sales reps that will more than happily give you a list of programs that they believe will be perfect for your child – but how do they know?

Point is – you don’t want a sales rep – you don’t want a marketing arm, you want an owner, a director or someone that will be vested in your child’s recovery and healing process.  Someone that will be held accountable – their reputation will be reflected upon your child’s success.

I created an organization that helps educate parents to better understand the big business of residential therapy.  There are questions parents need to ask, that many don’t think about while they are desperate for help such as when will they be able to speak with their child or visit their child.

I encourage you to visit www.helpyourteens.com and find out more about residential therapy – especially if you are considering the next step.  Don’t wait for a crisis to happen.  Be prepared.

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Underage Drinking and Talking to your Teenager

Underage drinking is a growing concern and one that parents need to start early talking to their kids about.  From the time they are able to understand the consequences of their actions forward.
Here are some quick tips and insights about discussing alcohol with your kids.
1)  At what age would you suggest parents start talking to kids about alcohol? Should parents bring it up independently, or wait for their children to ask before broaching the topic?
Like with any sensitive and serious subject, as soon as a parent believes their child is mature enough to understand the topic (alcohol) is when they should start discussions.  It can start by asking them their thoughts on alcohol, listen to them carefully and remember, never criticize.  Start the discussion at their level and start learning from each other.
Education is the key to prevention and can help your child to better understand the risk and dangers of alcohol from an early age.
Waiting for a crisis to happen, such as living with an alcoholic or having an issue with a family member that has a drinking problem is not the time to start talking to the child.  With this type of situation, the subject should be approached as early as the child can possibly understand alcohol and substance use.
2)  If you’ve had bad experiences with alcohol in the past (ie you or a friend/family member has battled alcoholism or similar issues), should you be open about them with your kid? If so, when is the right age for kids to hear this information? How open should you be?
This is a very tricky question.  On one hand we value honesty, however when a teenager likes to throw it back at you when they decide to experiment and it goes too far is when you realize you may want to pick and choose what stories from your past you want to share.
If you have a family member that has battled with addiction, alcoholism or similar issues, there is nothing like firsthand experiences (especially those people that are related to them) to help them understand how harmful this disease can be and in some cases, deadly.    I think it is very important that your teenager know these stories and how it relates to them – especially as they go into middle school and high school and start feeling the peer pressure from to others to experiment with different substances.
3)  Are there any websites or books that you’d recommend having parents read or showing kids (at any age)? Are certain types of information better for each age group (ie maybe children respond better to broad themes and videos, tweens respond well to anecdotes and stories, and teens respond better to hard facts about drinking and health)?
Ask Listen Learn: Is a fantastic interactive and educational website created by The Century Council For Underage Drinking.  This site if full of facts, resources, videos downloads, games as well as more links that offer extended information.  This site is targeted for all ages from younger kids to teens.
The Cool Spot: This is another great website for tweens and teens.  This deals with information on alcohol and helping teens and young teens resist peer pressure.
Smashed:  Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas – This is an excellent book for both parents and teens of a true story.  It was a NYT’s best seller.  Eye-opening and utterly gripping, Koren Zailckas’s story is that of thousands of girls like her who are not alcoholics—yet—but who routinely use booze as a shortcut to courage and a stand-in for good judgment.  This book is more for teenagers and parents.
4)  Do you think that schools and/or the media do a good job of warning kids about the dangers of alcohol consumption, or do they receive mixed messages about drinking? How might you incorporate your thoughts about this into a conversation with your child?
Schools and teachers do what they are paid to do, and in most cases, especially with dedicated teachers and employees, will go above their duty and do more.  However it is the parent’s responsibility to continue to talk to their child about the risks and dangers of alcohol, as well as the peer pressure they may face in school and in their community.
Though many parents are busy today, some working two jobs, many are single parents – there are few excuses not to take the time to talk to your kids about these subjects.  Whether it is Internet safety, substance abuse, safe sex, or simply homework – parenting is your priority.  I am not saying this is easy, I know for a fact, it isn’t.  I was a single parent with two teenagers, it was very hard.  I think today is even more challenging since there is more obstacles to contend with than there was even a decade ago.
The good news is the most recent study by The Century Council says that 83% of youth cite parents as the leading influence in their decisions not to drink alcohol.  Another words – our kids are listening and parents are doing their job parenting!
5)  How often should you talk to kids about alcohol, and does it vary by age? (i.e. less frequently for younger children, more frequently for tweens, and most frequently for teenagers?)
As frequently as you have an opportunity.  If there is a reason for it – if there is a conversation about it, expand on it – don’t run from it.  This is for both tweens and teens.  As far as little children are concerned, again it depends on their maturity and what your family dynamics consist of.
6)  If you drink yourself, is it ever a good idea to allow kids to drink with you (i.e. a glass of wine at dinner) to de-stigmatize alcohol and help them be responsible? Or is it instead better to forbid them from consuming alcohol altogether until they are 21?
Alcohol is illegal for underage drinkers.  However there are some that believe that a sip of alcohol isn’t be a big deal.  I believe this is a personal decision, but if you have alcoholism that runs in your family, it is something that I would caution you on.
The other side to this is some people believe it would eliminate them from trying it at a friend’s house where they could get into trouble such as drinking and driving.  I think this goes back to being a personal choice on for your family.  It goes back to talking to your teen – communication.  Keep the lines open!
7)  If you suspect your child’s friends are drinking or pressuring him/her to drink, should you stop allowing your child to hang out with them?
Communication.  Talk to your child about these friends.  Find out what is going on and help your child see that maybe the choices he/she is making are not in their best interest.  It is better if your teen comes to the conclusion not to hang out with these friends rather than their parent telling them not to.
8)  Should the discussion be different for a daughter versus a son? How might you talk to the different sexes differently about alcohol (i.e. maybe you’d warn girls more about not having people slip something in their drinks at parties, while you’d warn boys more about alcohol and hazing/pranks.)
I don’t want parents to get confused on gender and alcoholism.  It doesn’t discriminate.  A girl or a boy can be slipped a drug in their drink at a party – just like a girl or boy can be coerced into participating into a mean prank of hazing. 
With this, whether you have a son or daughter, you need to speak with them about the risks of leaving any drink alone and coming back for it.  Keep in mind, you don’t have to have an alcoholic beverage to put a powdery substance into it (another words even a soda can be spiked).
The important issue is they understand that these things can happen and they can happen to them.
9)  What should you do if you suspect your teenager is drinking against your advice?
Communication.  I know it is easier said than done (and I sound like a broken record), however it is the best tool we have and the most effective.  As hard as it can be, talking with a teenager is difficult, but we have to continue to break down those walls until they talk to us and tell us why they are turning to alcohol.
If you aren’t able to get through, please don’t be ashamed or embarrassed if you can’t, you are not alone.  Again, teen years are the most trying times.  Reach out to an adolescent therapist or counselor.  Hopefully your teen will agree to go. If not, may you have a family member or good friend your teen will confide in.  It so important to get your teen to talk about why he/she is drinking.  Don’t give up – whether it is a guidance counselor, sports coach, someone he/she is willing to open up to.
Parents can’t allow this to escalate and only believe it is a phase.  Maybe it is – but maybe it isn’t.  Be proactive.  Don’t wait for it to reach the addiction level. Don’t be a parent in denial.  There is help and you don’t have to be ashamed to ask for it.
There are many typical teens that end up being addicts – don’t let your teenager be one of them.
10)  Could you offer one specific tip for each age group (elementary school, tween/middle school, and high school) that I may have missed or that people might not think of?
For all ages, parents need to realize how important it is to be a role model.  As I mentioned earlier, 83% of children are listening and are influenced by their parents.  That is a large number.  So continue keeping those lines of communication open – starting early and going into their college years!

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Mother’s and Daughters: Finding the Balance – A Teen Girl’s Survival Guide

Being a mother of a daughter I know firsthand that raising a teenage girl can be a challenge.  Though my daughter’s teen years are a decade behind me, I listen to parents today and I sympathize with the extra burdens they have to endure with the added pressures of technology.  It is not easy.  The one common denominator that doesn’t change is most girls always feel they are never pretty enough, thin enough or fit in.  This needs to stop.  Where does all this low self-worth stem from?  As a parent,  many of use always try to build out kids up – however peer pressure can be so strong.

Here is a fantastic guest post that I think parents will benefit from:

Just Mom and Me: A Teen Girl’s Survival Guide

Mom and daughter relationships are very complicated and multifaceted. Some of them are the best of pals and communicate with each other regularly. Some are forever in the combatant phase. There are some who even steer clear of any kind of clash. But it can be stated without an iota of doubt that there is a whiff of all these traits in almost all relationships.

The million dollar question here is for the mommies, “how to raise your darling daughters into influential girls who are self-confident?” they become adept at making constructive choices regarding their own lives and execute productive actions for others. In spite of being normal girls with their little insecurities, they have a strong will and feel all right about themselves. You should know that these girls will mature sensibly and lead a worthwhile and satiated life.

Acknowledge your family’s most valued ideals

It is very essential to mull over your family ethics and contemplate upon the means by which you will put across these values. Be sure to include suitable examples to corroborate your message in the most appropriate manner. For this you have to constantly keep a check on instances in your daily life to exemplify these ideals you want your daughter to imbibe.

Persuade your daughter to resolve her own issues before settling it yourself

You have to coach your daughter to make her own decisions. She has to be independent and develop her own aptitude to deal with situations. Tell her to deliberate upon more than two approaches to deal with the circumstances and then inquire about likely consequences. You should convince her to make her own decisions for the very dilemma. It is okay even if you do not see things the same way; at least now your daughter has a feeling of control over her life.

Do not let her accomplish by magnitude, creates trouble

Try to make your daughter toil and excel at one thing at a time. Do not become hasty in trying to make them into little mechanical multi-taskers. Yes, this is an extremely competitive world and the motto of survival of the fittest is “the thing” to follow. But give your daughter some space and let her follow her own interests. You are there to guide her of course. Do not register her in infinite activities like dramatics, soccer, art, music etc. the belief that self worth is acquired by who you are and not what you achieve.

Make your daughter work together with other girls

If your daughter works jointly with other a girl of her school and solves her predicaments together, she will excel later in taking big risks and tackle many trials and tribulations in life. Working together makes them have an unbelievable sense of achievement and feeling of proficiency. All this is good for your daughter and good for you in the long run. So the bottom-line is inspire your daughter to take part in team-building activities where everyone works cooperatively to provide solutions to their problems.

Let your daughter be aware of the fact that you love her because of who she is

Do not be over fixated about everything your daughter does. She needs her own space just like you do as a mother. Keep encouraging her to have good habits but never obsess about it too much. It is alright if she takes her own time, everything does not happen overnight. But, show a positive reception for her individuality. Do not keep cribbing about her weight or her looks as she first needs to recognize her inner self. You need to deflate the thought that beauty is just about your appearance. Over obsession about the physical appearance will definitely lead to a lot of insecurities in your daughter’s life.

So, remember this rearing a girl up can be very thrilling and stimulating. Both of you can work it out together and enjoy so many things together. Maintain this bond even when she grows older. She will appreciate it for sure and you will always cherish it forever.

About the author: Alia Haley is a blogger and writer. She loves writing on topics related to wedding, health and luxury. Beside this she is fond of bags. She recently shared an article on designer baby clothes. These days she is busy in writing an article on Teeth whitening kits.

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Teen Drinking: Alcohol Screening and Intervention for Youth

If you manage the health and well-being of 9- to 18-year-olds, this Guide is for you.

“Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner’s Guide” is designed to help health care professionals quickly identify youth at risk for alcohol-related problems. NIAAA developed the Guide and Pocket Guide in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics, a team of underage drinking researchers and clinical specialists, and practicing health care professionals.

Why use this tool?

  • It can detect risk early: In contrast to other screens that focus on established alcohol problems, this early detection tool aims to help you prevent alcohol-related problems in your patients before they start or address them at an early stage.
  • It’s empirically based: The screening questions and risk scale, developed through primary survey research, are powerful predictors of current and future negative consequences of alcohol use.
  • It’s fast and versatile: The screen consists of just two questions, which can be incorporated easily into patient interviews or pre-visit screening tools across the care spectrum, from annual exams to urgent care.
  • It’s the first tool to include friends’ drinking: The “friends” question will help you identify patients at earlier stages of alcohol involvement and target advice to include the important risk of friends’ drinking.


Download or order the Guide and pocket guide.

You may also be interested in related resources to support you, your patients, and their families

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Eating Disorders, Body Image, Self-Esteem: Where Does a Parent Start?

Be aware of your teen's emotions.

How am I supposed to bring this up with my kids? I don’t know where to start.

Initiating a conversation about someone else is a neutral, non-threatening way to broach the topic. If you hear that someone in your child’s school has an eating disorder, that is an appropriate time to bring it up. Your child already knows or will hear rumors soon, and may have questions that you can answer. If you don’t have any examples closer to home, there are frequently stories of celebrities in and out of treatment.

One that your child may already know is Demi Lovato, a teen actress and singer who has been in numerous Disney movies and TV shows. She entered a residential treatment center last fall, and in April 2011 she gave a few interviews where she discussed some pretty heavy topics.

She discussed being bullied as a child, and her subsequent depression, eating disorder, and self-mutilation, as well as her recent diagnosis with bipolar disorder, her recovery, and helping other girls in her new role with Seventeen Magazine. Here are a few sources for you that condense her story: an article that summarizes Demi’s disorders and treatment or this video where Demi discusses being bullied, her eating disorder, cutting, and her treatment.

Chances are, your children already know her story, and have heard about people at school doing things like skipping meals, purging, or cutting. Demi’s life may not have been that of a typical child, but we can use her story to check in and connect with our children.

Why should I be concerned if my kid is on a diet? I’m on a diet too.

You as an adult are more likely to have your diet in the proper perspective. Kids and teens, especially perfectionist, driven, rule-bound ones, can take things too far until it is a compulsion they cannot control. In her interview, Demi said that by fifteen years old, she was skipping most meals, and when she failed to lose weight, started throwing up. Take stock of your own eating habits – ditch the rules about food, weighing portions, or calorie counting, and instead focus on eating mostly nutritious food, only when you are hungry. Also, never cut yourself down for your weight or what you eat, or be critical about others’ weight or appearance. Before you say it, think how it would sound coming out of a child’s mouth.

My son has been losing weight, but it’s for sports, so that doesn’t count, right?

It’s true that girls and women are more likely to develop eating disorders, but out of eleven million suffering from ED today, one million of those are male. Check over the list of symptoms below, and pay attention to your instinct as a parent. If anything about the way your son is losing weight concerns you, talk to him and talk to a professional. Better safe than sorry!

What’s the difference between an eating disorder and a diet? Or, what are the symptoms of an eating disorder?

It’s possible to diet without developing an eating disorder, but most medical professionals agree that children should not be on any diets.

Where the two differ, however, is the ability or inability to think logically and rationally. So when a normal dieter looks in the mirror and sees progress, anorexics have a distorted view and cannot see themselves as anything but fat. Their irrational compulsion justifies extreme measures, like purging, skipping entire meals, and laxatives. A medical professional or therapist can help with an accurate assessment and diagnosis, but let your instinct as a parent serve as an early warning system. You are often the first to know when something is up with your child, even if you aren’t sure what it is.

Be watchful for these symptoms:

  • Different eating habits, diet plans, skipping meals, snacks, meat, or desserts, avoiding eating with others
  • Distorted, negative self-image
  • Eating alone, in secret, or at night
  • Avoiding social situations that involve food
  • Change in moods including depression, anxiety, withdrawal, irritability, obsessive behavior in other activities
  • Preoccupation with dieting, calories, food, cooking, diet books, what others are eating
  • Visiting websites that promote unhealthy weight loss
  • Any weight loss, weight gain, or failure to make expected gain in height
  • Compulsive exercising
  • Taking laxatives, diet pills, or steroids
  • Making excuses to get out of eating
  • Going to the bathroom right after meals, running water to hide vomiting sounds
  • Wearing loose clothing to hide weight loss or body shape
  • Hoarding high-calorie food, or evidence of binge eating (food wrappers, quantities of food disappearing)

If I suspect they are hiding something, should I snoop in their things?

If you are truly concerned for their safety, you are justified in violating their privacy. This is a last resort, however, and there are ways to avoid it unnecessarily. Are you sure you can’t draw it out in a conversation? If you are just curious, or feeling out of touch, you should instead be working on building your relationship. If you are paying for your son or daughter’s cell phone, internet service, and car payments, you can establish upfront rules about their use that don’t leave them feeling violated.

Be judicious with what you find. If it’s serious, such as laxatives, weapons, drugs, evidence that they are being bullied or stalked by a predator, act on it immediately. They will of course be furious and hurt, but the danger to them is substantial. If you find something upsetting but not dangerous, such as communication complaining about you, first take a deep breath, try to remember what it was like to be a teenager, and let go of your anger. Then work on strengthening your connection.

I’ve seen signs, and now I’m worried. How do I ask my son or daughter if they have an eating disorder?

If you have reason to believe there is a problem, tell them you are concerned without using guilt or blame. Begin by saying, “We have noticed this. Let’s talk.” Skip the lecture, ask open questions, and do more listening than talking. Show compassion and patience. Don’t accuse, shame, or demand anything (except, of course, a visit to a doctor).

Find a therapist that has experience and training in eating disorders. Educate yourself with the resources available from reputable sources such as the National Institute of Mental Health site, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Parent Toolkit, or call the NEDA Helpline at 800-931-2237. HelpGuide.org also has a good basic guide for family and friends.

Why is our son or daughter doing this? Is it my fault?

Finding who to blame should not be your first action. However, the question may nag you whether you as a parent have contributed to your child’s condition. Parents do not cause eating disorders. Studies have found that someone can inherit a predisposition, but there are many other factors involved. Like in Demi’s case, where she suffered from depression first, and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ED is often combined with other mental conditions such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, or anxiety. Personality traits like perfectionism, eagerness to please, and being highly driven seem to correlate. ED patients come from every sort of family, every ethnicity, cultural background, and economic status. Parents can, however, be instrumental to recovery.

Be an educated parent, you will have healthier teens.

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Wilderness Programs: Are They for Your Teen?

What is a “Wilderness Program?”  If you are a parent that is struggling with a teenager that is out-of-control, you will surf the Internet and attempt to find help.  Many parents first think of boot camps as a resolution – a way to teach our teen a lesson.  Then you realize that maybe that is not the best avenue and you are somehow directed to wilderness programs.  Not always, but especially if you have hired an Educational Consultant, their first recommendation is commonly Wilderness programs.

There are many very good Wilderness Programs in our country, however the question remains, are they necessary or should you go directly to where most teens eventually end up:  Residential Therapy program.

Wilderness programs are mainly designed to break a teen down.  Although they are not punitive, in comparison to a boot camp, they are primitive, forcing your teen to appreciate the luxuries he had at home.

However, a residential therapy program can do the same thing, since many are not designed by Hilton (TM).  Have you also thought about this:  Your teen is already broken down, why do we need to continue to break him/her down?

Let’s look at the pro’s and cons. 

  • Wilderness programs can cost you up to $500.00 a day. Yes, a day.  Some start as little as $250.00 a day (Yes, as little as).  Now multiply that by 30 days or actually 6 weeks, since the average stay in Wilderness is 6-9 weeks.  At the low end: A month in the mountains will cost you $7500.00.  That is questionable to many, as well as out of the financial means of many more.
  • Wilderness program rarely have academics.  Fact is your teen is probably not focused on academics and could care less about them.  Working on their emotional stability is the goal here, however it shouldn’t be an excuse to delay education.  Although your child may not care about their education, you do.
  • Wilderness programs are short term.  Short term program, short term results and a lot of money.  In most cases they go on to residential programs which will run you about another $5000.00 a month and up for another 10-12 months.  Wouldn’t it make sense to start and finish at the same place with the same therapist and the consistency of recovery?
  • Wilderness programs are sadly where we hear of the most deaths or accidents in teen help programs.  It is true, accidents can happen in any program, however when listening to speakers in congress while attempting to pass a bill to stop abuse in residential programs, it seemed the parents that lost a child in a program were mainly in Wilderness programs.

Some positives:

  • If your teen has not escalated to a point of serious concern, and is just starting to make some poor choices, maybe a 6-9 week wake-up call is all that is needed.  As long as you can afford it, and remember, if they decide he/she needs more than the 6-9 weeks, you need to be prepared to go the next step.
  • The teen is removed from their home environment.  They are put in a place of isolation and maybe this is just what they need to reflect on their current negative behavior.
  • There are some excellent Wilderness programs with very good and caring staff in our country.  Many teens that had a wilderness experience really feel it was very good.  Many parents also believe that the Wilderness program helped their child get ready for the next step, residential therapy.
  • Wilderness programs offer a great opportunity for your teen to live outdoors and experience outdoor therapy.  With some teens this is very beneficial.

This is a personal decision, and although I am not an advocate of Wilderness programs I can appreciate and respect parents that believe they need this extra step and it has worked for them.  It is my philosohy that starting and finishing at the program is part of the consistency of healing.  Having to switch programs and therapists (especially) and starting over, can feel like you have fallen back to ground zero. However, each family is different with different needs, so this is an individual decision.

Is Wilderness right for your teen?  Only you can answer that.

Visit www.HelpYourTeens.com.

PROM is a Four Letter Word

Underage drinking is illegal.

The event of prom is no small matter, endless movies have been crafted around this big dance– can we say “Footloose” without our toes tapping?

With nostalgia comes temptation, not only for teens, but parents. Local St. Johns County parents with seniors graduating this year may remember when the legal drinking age was 18. Coupled with memories of your own senior prom, well meaning, otherwise logical parents may be tempted to relax an otherwise firm “no alcohol” policy for this special event.

Let’s talk you off the ledge and back into your parent pants.

P is for planning. Seniors want to have a good time at prom. Regrettably, they’ve grown up in a media culture that has shown them images of good times being had with alcohol, and alcohol only. The best way to mediate this attitude is to literally plan for a goodtime. What happens before prom and after prom are often more important than the prom. Contrary to popular belief, teens are not wired to drink; they’re wired for fun and risky behavior.  Pool parties, slip and slides with bubbles, scavenger hunts and other types of crazy and somewhat goofy activities make memorable events. If you’re not planning for fun, they’ll find it on their own.

R is for respect. Most teens don’t respect parents who provide alcohol to minors and the largest portion of alcohol to minors comes from a small percentage of parents. The adage “their going to do it anyway” is a slippery slope for parents trying to convince themselves they’re doing the right thing by providing alcohol. There are many things teens “might” do when given the opportunity – sex, drugs, speed, steal, lie – at the end of the day, we’re obligated to provide the framework for good decisions, not try to mediate potential bad ones.

O is for omnipresent. Defined as, “present everywhere”, our teens once believed we were omnipresent. No matter where they were, or what they were doing, we somehow knew or found out everything. As they get older, carry more responsibility, and prove themselves worthy, we loosen our omnipresent grip. Consider however, that a teen’s brain is rapidly developing until about 21 to 22 years of age. Their decision making still has very much to do with two things – 1) what is everyone else doing? and 2) will I get caught? A healthy dose of omnipresence before big events such as prom reminds your teen that you still care enough to check up on them and gives them a powerful out should they face an overdose of peer pressure.

M is for memories. Remind teens that the best way to remember prom is to add nothing but fun. Who wants to risk having their head end up in a toilet, have a date that pukes all over them, or be so hung over you can’t make it to the beach the next day? When they send their own teen off to prom, the memory of how you handled their prom, from pictures to rules to curfew will undoubtedly be fresh in their minds. Let’s keep the parent pants on and enjoy prom. Be the wall between teens and alcohol.

Provided by PACT Prevention Coalition of St. Johns County

Visit www.PACTPrevention.org for more information and remember, “Be The Wall!

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens!
Continue reading on Examiner.com: Prom is a four letter word – Jacksonville Parenting Teens | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/parenting-teens-in-jacksonville/prom-is-a-four-letter-word#ixzz1KLtlY2xc