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Teen Help Blog

Teen Cough Medicine Abuse: What it Looks Like and Prevention

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 13, 2017  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

A cup of coffee in your favorite mug is not something that typically that comes to mind when you reach for cough syrup to relive your symptoms. However, some teens intentionally consume this amount of cough medicine – one cup or 250 milliliters – to get high. That’s 25 times the recommended dose.

Stop Medicine Abuse’s recent video is a startling reminder to talk with your teens about medicine abuse. Many parents think that illegal drugs and alcohol are the only substances they should be looking out for. However, one in 30 teens has abused dextromethorphan (DXM), the active ingredient in most over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines, to get high. That’s about one teen per classroom.

How can you tell if your teen is abusing cough medicine?

Watch for changes in your teen’s behavior and keep a close eye on your medicine cabinet. Warning signs include sudden changes in attitude, loss of interests, declining grades and missing or empty containers of cough medicine. Keep an ear out for slang terms, such as “red devils” and “orange crush,” words that might not be as innocent as they seem. You can also monitor your teen’s internet behaviors for suspicious activity.

But don’t worry! There is a simple, yet effective solution: Talk with your teen. You might be met with eyerolls and dismissive comments, but the fact is that teens who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are 50 percent less likely to abuse substances. Teens might not admit it, but they are listening and just one conversation could help prevent medicine abuse.

You can get more information at StopMedicineAbuse.org or join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.

Contributor: Anita Brikman joined the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) in 2016 and leads the association’s communications and public affairs functions. As a member of the senior management team, she is responsible for establishing and directing the organization’s communications strategies and goals. Anita is passionate about healthcare issues, with over two decades of experience as a news anchor and health reporter in major television markets – making medicine abuse awareness and prevention efforts important to her. She is also the mother of three teenagers.

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Protecting Your Teen Driving With Auto Insurance

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 07, 2017  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Have you been living in dread of your teenager’s sixteenth birthday? It’s a much-anticipated or much-feared day, depending on whether you’re the teenager or the parent. Many teens await their sixteenth birthdays with anticipation, looking forward to hitting the road. That driver’s license is a rite of passage. But when your teen driver gets that license, there’s something else they’re going to need (well, apart from a car). And that’s insurance.

You might have heard that insurance rates are often higher for teens. That’s because teens often like to toe the line of risky behavior and they have little experience driving, which makes insurance even more important. We’ll tell you what you need to know about insuring a teen driver so that you can get them the coverage they need – without breaking the bank.

When you’re insuring your teen driver, keep these things in mind:

  1. Add your teenager to your auto policy.

Instead of taking out a brand new policy for your teen, add them to yours. This will help keep the rates under control, especially if you have a good driving record and drive a safe, reliable car. You’ll also want to make sure to note which car the teen will be driving – the vehicle does have an impact on the insurance rates. As you can imagine, a safe, solid minivan will cost less to insure than a sports car.

  1. Up your deductible.

If you’re able to, you can raise your deductible, which is the amount you pay out of pocket before your insurance will step in to cover the rest. This will, in turn, lower your premium. Think about how much money you can access as a deductible and choose an amount that’s right for you.

  1. Quest for discounts.

Does your kiddo have good grades? If you’re the proud parent of a student with a good GPA, your insurance company will likely reward you with a discount. “Good students” are seen as being less of a risk. See, hitting the books and studying hard comes in handy sometimes!

If you have a slightly older teen driver who’s headed off to college, you might be able to get a discount if they’re going to school more than 100 miles away and they’re not bringing a vehicle with them. They won’t have so much time behind the wheel, and that’s where the discount kicks in.

These are just a couple possible discounts. Be sure to ask your agent about any others you might qualify for.

  1. Choose the vehicle carefully.

The car that your teen drives has an impact on their insurance rates, which we mentioned above. It might be better to go with a safe, reliable used car than to get them a new, shiny car. Yes, they might beg and beg for a new car that’s all fancy and such, but a nice, semi-indestructible used car might be better for your wallet in more ways than one. If you already have a safe car that you feel comfortable with your teen driving, all the better! Do it. The car should ideally be more than five years old and have four doors. Whatever car you end up getting for your teen to drive, make sure that it’s in good shape.

Other practical information: Only name one car for your teen to drive and don’t let them drive any other vehicles. The rule should be that they can only drive the car that they’re insured for. Keep the car in your name rather than switching it over to that of your teen driver.

  1. Send them to driving school.

You might meet with some very loud and stubborn resistance, but it’s a good idea to send your teen to driving school. Preferably one that’s approved by your insurance company – check with your agent to see if they have any suggestions. By having your young charge complete a course in driver’s ed you might get a discount on their rates.

  1. Pay for minor damages yourself.

“I swear, Mom and Dad, I didn’t see the mailbox there…It’s just a scratch, really…”

If there’s a minor snafu with the car, take care of the repair yourself rather than claiming it on your insurance. Any claim can make your rates go up, plus there’s your deductible to consider. If it’s something you can handle on your own, do.

Of course, we hope that you’ll never have to pay for damages of any kind, but just in case something happens…

  1. Consider a PLUP.

A what? A Personal Liability Umbrella Policy. Since that’s a bit of a mouthful, we’ll just call it a PLUP.

A PLUP provides an extra layer of coverage over top of the insurance that you already have. Your auto policy has a certain limit on it, but if an accident causes damages that exceed that limit, you’re left on your own to cover the rest. That’s where the PLUP comes in. The PLUP will step in where the auto policy stopped, covering the damages up to its limit.

Insuring your teen driver is something that you know you have to do. You might not look forward to paying the higher premium for your auto insurance, but you’ll be able to breathe easier knowing that your teen has coverage.

If you want to talk more about insuring your teen, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. If you’d like to get a free quote for your auto insurance, fill out our quote form and you’ll be on your way!

Contributor: Katherine Betts

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Florida Drug Rehab Programs

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 26, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

It’s a billion dollar industry – and in the summer of 2017 the drug rehab scam in Florida was exposed.  Sadly, this came after several deaths of young people.

This is why our organization is so crucial to families today. A Parent’s True Story was published in 2001 and has helped thousands of families since then to educate them to find healthy and safe programs for their teenager.

Don’t narrow your search by state,  always double check your insurance claims and never get sucked in by sales reps on toll-free numbers. Lear more on our pages of helpful hints.

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Summer Flings: Teens and Healthy Relationships

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 23, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Whether it’s a summer romance or puppy love, teenagers are bound to experience relationships they believe will last forever. In reality, I’m sure there are some of you reading this that have actually married your high school sweetheart.

Like generations earlier, having the sex talk with our child is always that dreaded conversation for many parents. Today it’s not only conversations about sex, you must also be chatting frequently about their tech activity — as predators linger in their virtual playground, teens will flippantly send nudes without a second thought, and oversharinghas become as common as eating ice cream.

The Missing Piece.

A new report from Harvard Graduate School of Education Making Caring Common Project, The Talk: How Adults Can Promote Young Peoples Relationships and Prevent Misogyny and Sexual Harassment reveals that a high percentage of teens and young people want guidance from their parents and educators through meaningfulconversations to nurture healthy relationships and more.

The Misconceptions of the Hook-up Culture.

In an interview with Radio Boston, Richard Weissbourd, Director of Making Caring Common, shared the findings of how the young people viewed the hook-up culture;

“Only about 4 percent said they were interested in hooking up. About 8 or 9 percent said they were interested in having casual sex with a friend. It’s very consistent with other data too … About 8 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds are dating casually, the rest are in a serious relationship or not dating at all. We have big misconceptions about this.”

The Opportunity We Have.

This report is opening doors for today’s parents to have an opportunity to TALK early.

70 percent of young people (18- to 25-year-olds) surveyed wished they had more guidance from their parents about the emotional aspect of relationships including these following topics. I’m confident most of us struggled with these in our teen years:

· 38 percent – how to have a more mature relationship

· 36 percent – how to deal with break-ups

· 34 percent – how to avoid getting hurt in a relationship

· 27 percent – how to begin a relationship

65 percent in the same age group wished their school taught the above in health or sex education class.

The Harsh Reality of Being A Girl.

In an earlier study from PEW Research, they shared the extreme forms of online harassment that females (18-24 years-olds) experience.

According to Harvard University’s The Talk research, 87 percent of females also reported negative and humiliating experiences.

· 55 percent – being catcalled

· 52 percent – having a stranger say something sexually to them

· 47 percent – insulted with sexual words (slut, ho, bitch) by a man

· 41 percent – touch without permission by a stranger

Sadly 76 percent of the respondents said their parents never had conversations with them about how to avoid or handle sexual harassment or forms of misogyny.

Being a Caring Partner.

Many parents have had the talk about safe-sex, abstinence, or whatever their preference is for their family — but are you remembering to discuss with your child about being a caring and respectful sexual partner?

The Talk report uncovers that although statistics reveal that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted during college, parents and adults don’t seem to be having constructive conversations with young people (teens) about consent.

· 61 percent – being sure their partner wants to have sex and is comfortable doing so before having sex.

· 62 percent – the importance of not pressuring someone to have sex with you after they said no.

· 56 percent – the importance of not pressuring someone to have sex with you.

· 49 percent – assuring your own comfort in engaging in sex.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The Talk research offers tips for parents to help young people develop healthy relationships. What’s important to understand is although they are only kids [teens], they — like us — want to have caring and meaningful friendships too.

We constantly talk about being role models with our behavior, from texting and driving to using foul language to our online behavior, but when was the last time you chatted with your teen about your summer flings or any romantic engagement? Your mistakes? What did you learn from it? Sometimes your teen needs to know you are human too. This isn’t about hooking-up, having sex or fifty-shades of whatever you’re into — it’s about “hey, I’ve been where you are, I had my heart broken too. Let’s go have ice cream and talk about it.”

Takeaway tips:

· The Talk research is your door-opener to start conversations about relationships with your teenager.

· Divorce, sadly, is common, however it’s how you handle it that effects your kids and their future relationships.

· Single parents that date is great, but be respectful to your partner. Your children are watching.

· Parents online, use discretion with your digital sharing. Teens will model your behavior.

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7 Ways to Bond Outdoors With Your Teen

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 15, 2017  /   Posted in Summer Camps, Teen Help

The outdoors is the perfect place to spend time with your teen because it’s a world free from distraction. Back home it’s TV, iPhone, iPad and anything digital to occupy a teenager’s mind, but step outside and everything changes. If you’re looking for ways to spend quality time with your son or daughter outside of the house, here are some great ways to bond with your teen.

Car Camping

This is the perfect introduction to the outdoors. Car camping eases into the wilderness while keeping some of the comforts of home. Parks and forests have designated campgrounds with picnic tables, fire pits and bathroom facilities to accommodate campers of any experience. Simply drive up to your spot, pitch a tent and enjoy a warm fire under the stars.

Hiking & Backpacking

Ready to leave behind the graded campsites for more secluded pastures? Backpacking is a great way to get away from the crowds and explore parts of the wilderness not accessible by any vehicle. The hobby requires lighter, more technical gear, but nothing that is hard to get or will break the bank:

  • Large backpack
  • Small tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Cook system
  • Water filtration/purification
  • Food

There’s a little more to it, as many backpacking checklists will point out, but these are the bare essentials; strap them on your back and hit the trail. This is a great opportunity to learn skills like using a map and compass and is incredible exercise.

Boating & Fishing

Fishing on the boat is the perfect way to do something while doing nothing. The sound of the water and the crickets chirping around it is one of the most serene experiences on the planet. If you think your teen might get bored with sitting around, waiting for a fish to bite, put a little more fun into the preparation. Shop around together for a new rod and reel, go through and refresh the tackle box and prepare a delicious lunch to take on the boat. Nothing builds up a teenager’s appetite like doing nothing! And when that first fish finally bites, it’ll all be worth it.

Climbing & Bouldering

Pro climber Alex Honnold recently scaled the face of Yosemite’s El Capital without a rope. It’s easy to look at this incredible feat and be intimidated by climbing, but it’s actually easy to get started. First, the teen years are a great time to start and rock climbing gyms across the country accommodate people of all skill levels.

So if your teen can scale the expert wall by their pinkies but you’re barely gripping wood blocks, you can both still practice at the same gym. And when it’s time to finally take the hobby outdoors, it will be easy to find a spot you both can enjoy.

Skiing & Snowboarding

The outdoors doesn’t close down at the end of summer. In fact, it gets even better. If you live anywhere near a decent ski resort (look for man-made slopes too), then strap on some skis or a board. Maybe this is a sport your teen already does with friends or maybe you’re both learning it together. Either way, shredding through fresh powder is its own fun and enjoying it together is just icing on the cake.

Wilderness Classes

Going back to backpacking, some people can be intimidated by the idea of venturing out into the wilderness with nothing but the gear on their back. What better way to trek with confidence than a wilderness class to learn the basics? The National and State Parks Service, local outdoors retailers and various outdoors non-profit groups all have classes that are either free or a low cost. They’ll cover anything, whether for beginners who’ve never camped or for experts learning new skills.

Volunteering

Okay, “volunteer” might not be a word that resonates with teenagers, but volunteering can actually be real fun when done in the outdoors. Anyone can volunteer for trail cleanup in state and national parks, which serves as a great way to see our public lands for free. And, in some cases, volunteers have access to areas of parks and forests most people wouldn’t ordinarily go to, so there is an essence of exclusivity.

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Missing Medicine? It Could Be a Sign of Medicine Abuse

Posted by Sue Scheff on May 26, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens

Does the scenario highlighted in the video below seem familiar?

I hope not, but the reality is that missing medicine could be a sign of over-the-counter (OTC) medicine abuse. It’s common to hear about teens abusing illegal drugs, alcohol and even prescription medication to get high, but many parents don’t realize that teens may also abuse OTC cough medicine.

If this is news to you, you may be wondering, why would teens abuse OTC cough medicine?

Teens often abuse OTC cough medicine because it’s affordable and easy to access. They may also mistakenly believe that it’s safer to abuse than illegal drugs.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent your teen from abusing OTC cough medicine.

Educate yourself.

The first step is education. Learn about dextromethorphan (DXM), the active ingredient in most OTC cough medicines. Learn how to identify which products contain DXM by looking for the Stop Medicine Abuse icon. Become familiar with what DXM abuse looks like.

Monitor.

In addition to being on the lookout for missing medicine, it is also important to monitor your teen’s behavior for warning signs and side effects including:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Hostile and uncooperative attitude
  • Use of slang terms
  • Changes in friends
  • Declining grades
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion, slurred speech and disorientation

Communicate with your teen.

Have a conversation with your teen about the risks of medicine abuse. Ask your teen if he or she has ever been exposed to DXM abuse or whether it’s something that’s discussed amongst peers. The reality is that one out of three teenagers knows someone who has abused OTC cough medicine to get high. That’s scary to think about, but teens who learn about the risks of substance abuse from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use drugs.

Share what you’ve learned.

It’s also important to communicate with other parents, teachers and community members to spread awareness. These conversations can be had at sports games, school activities or parent events to help inspire other parents to become vigilant against cough medicine abuse.

Parents can’t protect their teenagers from all the dangers of the world, but with education, close monitoring and a supportive community… parents can prevent OTC medicine abuse.

You can get more information at StopMedicineAbuse.org or join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.

Contributor: Anita Brikman joined the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) in 2016 and leads the association’s communications and public affairs functions. As a member of the senior management team, she is responsible for establishing and directing the organization’s communications strategies and goals. Anita is passionate about healthcare issues, with over two decades of experience as a news anchor and health reporter in major television markets – making medicine abuse awareness and prevention efforts important to her. She is also the mother of three teenagers.

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100 Deadliest Days on the Road

Posted by Sue Scheff on May 26, 2017  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Teen Help

AT&T stresses IT CAN WAIT message

Memorial Day marks the start of the 100 deadliest days , when the average number of teens dying from car crashes is 16 percent higher than the rest of the year, according to AAA. That’s because teens are on the road more during the summer months. During this time of year, more parents are also on the road while taking their kids to swim lessons, baseball, softball, summer camp, and more.

AT&T is using the Memorial Day Weekend as an opportunity to remind young drivers, and their parents, to never let their smartphones distract them behind the wheel. And a good first step is to take the pledge at www.itcanwait.com to keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone and encourage your family, friends and neighbors to do the same. AT&T launched the It Can Wait campaign in 2010 to help put an end to texting and driving. Since that time, AT&T research has revealed smartphone distracted driving has grown beyond texting to video chatting, emailing, web surfing, photo snapping, posting to social media, and more.

In addition to taking the IT CAN WAIT pledge, AT&T encourages drivers to use a free app, like AT&T DriveMode, to help curb the temptation to engage in texting while driving. This is especially important for teen drivers, since texting is their primary mode of communication. The DriveMode app silences incoming text messages and sends an auto-reply to the sender letting the person know you’re driving. The app’s auto-mode feature automatically turns on the app when you reach 15 MPH and turns it off after you stop. And parents will receive a notification if their teen driver turns off the app. The AT&T DriveMode app is available to customers of all wireless carriers for iPhone and Android users.

AT&T has also added a virtual reality experience component to the IT CAN WAIT campaign to show the potentially deadly consequences of glancing at your smartphone while driving. You can download the free AT&T VR app and buy Google Cardboard at www.ItCanWait.com/VR to use with your smartphone to experience the IT CAN WAIT driving simulation.

Lastly, AT&T encourages you to get involved with the IT CAN WAIT movement and educate others in your community and workplace about the dangers of smartphone distracted driving. You could just save a life.

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7 Tips You Can Start Using Now to Help Your Teen Gain Financial Success

Posted by Sue Scheff on May 04, 2017  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Teen Help

According to a Sallie Mae study, more than 84% of college students have credit cards and 20% graduate owing more than $7,000.

Although it can be a good thing to open credit cards early in life, collecting debt that you cannot repay is never good.

At 18, your child can get a credit card without your consent.

Start talking to your children about the importance of financial security before they begin making uneducated decisions on their own. This should happen before they go to college for the best chance of financial success.

  1. Start the conversation early – As soon as your child is old enough to understand the concepts of earning, borrowing and paying, it’s time to start talking about credit. Explain the fundamentals of credit cards and how they work, including repayment plans and interest rates. You’ll find that life is full of teachable moments, so continue the conversation whenever you see an opportunity to reinforce positive behaviors or warn about negative ones.
  2. Explain how credit scores work – With a basic knowledge of how credit cards work, your child may soon be ready to learn about credit scoring. This conversation can become very detailed, but it’s okay to start with the basics. Let your child know that these bureaus are monitoring how you use credit and you are graded on their assessment, much like you would be graded on an exam.
  3. Help Her Build New Credit – Every child is different, so there isn’t a magic age where it makes sense to give your child a credit card. If your child is mature and shows that he or she is responsible with money, you may want to co-sign on a card while he or she is still a minor. This will give your child a head start on building credit. By the time he is 18, he could already have built new credit that will increase his credit score.
  4. Start a Savings Account – Children under the age of 18 cannot legally open a savings account on their own, but you can open a joint account for your child at any time. Having her name on the account will give her some flexibility to make financial decisions, and because you are involved in setting up the account, you can open a dialogue about how to save money. The way you approach this will depend on your child’s age and your own preferences, but you should offer some guidance on how your child uses the account. For example, you may require that all money goes into the savings account before any purchases are made. Review the balance regularly and discuss things like future purchases and how to save more money.

If you want a savings account that your child cannot access, consider a 529 College Savings Plan. This is a state-sponsored program available in many states. You can contribute to this savings plan without being taxed.

  1. Start a Retirement Savings Account – It may seem premature to start saving for retirement when your child is still in diapers, but this is one small thing you can do to help secure her financial future. There’s now a kid-friendly Roth IRA that parents can fund before their kids even enter the workforce. Parents can save money for their children’s retirement tax-free, as they would with a standard IRA. The account may continue growing as the child grows. As your child begins working, propose matching all or some of the money she invests throughout college.
  2. Create a budget and task them to report back – For many children, college is the first time they are living away from home. With such freedom comes responsibility that some are simply not prepared to handle. You can help by getting involved with creating and maintaining a budget. This is especially prudent if the child is receiving an allowance.
  3. Create an investment portfolio – You can start investing in mutual funds on your child’s behalf at any time. However, since this is a long-term investment, try to keep the risks on the low to moderate side.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is financial intelligence. When he understands how and why he is making smart financial decisions, he is more likely to continue following that pattern.

The simple act of opening a dialogue about finances sends the message that money is never a taboo topic. Armed with a healthy attitude towards finances, your child is less likely to accumulate crippling debt and more likely to achieve financial success.

Contributor: Trevor McDonald

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Extraordinary Summer Camps Bring Grieving Children Together

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 24, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Summer Camps, Teen Help

Experience Camps, a national non-profit organization that provides free, one-week camps for children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver, is highlighted in Sheryl Sandberg’s newest book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

After losing their father, Sheryl’s children attended Experience Camps (the California camp location), with other kids whose loved ones have died. Along with swimming, arts and crafts, and team sports, the kids take part in bereavement activities including sharing circles where they are encouraged to talk about their grief.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 1.5 million children are living in a single-family household due to the death of one parent. In the book, Sheryl talks about how her own children benefitted from attending Experience Camps, week-long summer camps that bring together children experiencing grief; and the value of support groups connecting you with others who really get what you are going through.

Excerpt from Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. Pgs. 1884 – 1885. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

“Support groups connect you with others who really get what you are going through. Deep human connection. It is not just ‘Oh, I feel bad for you’ but ‘I actually understand…….My kids also attended Experience Camps, a free weeklong program for children who have lost a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver. Two of the core values at the camp are building community and inspiring hope. In one exercise, kids went to stations to confront an emotion associated with grieving. For anger, kids used chalk to scrawl words that made them angry on the pavement. Some wrote “bullying”; others wrote “cancer” or “drugs.” Then on the count of three they threw water balloons on the ground to smear the words away and release their anger. At a second station, a camper held a brick representing guilt. As the brick became too heavy, another camper shared the burden of its weight. These exercises helped show my children that their emotions were normal and other kids felt them too.” – Sheryl Sandberg

“We are so honored to be mentioned in Option B and are appreciative of Sheryl’s impact on the conversation around grief and resilience. She will inspire more people to seek connections and support to help them get through whatever challenges they face,” said Sara Deren, Founder and Executive Director of Experience Camps. “At Experience Camps, we encourage children to find those same connections through the camaraderie and community of camp and by allowing them to realize they’re not the only ones who have experienced loss.”

In 2017, Experience Camps will have more than 450 campers at camps in Maine, California, New York, and Georgia.

For more information about Experience Camps, visit http://www.experience.camp. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

About Experience Camps

Experience Camps is a place where kids can laugh, cry, play, create, remember the person who died, or forget the grief that weighs them down.  It’s a place where they can feel “normal”, because everyone there has been through something similar and understands what it’s like to lose someone important to them. Along with swimming, arts and crafts, and team sports, the kids take part in bereavement activities including sharing circles where they are encouraged to talk about their grief. Experience Camps is a home away from home. And just about everyone will tell you…”It’s the best week of the year”.

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The Relationship Between Bullying and Drug Abuse

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 12, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help

Bullying is a major problem for teens. It is estimated that at least 50% of teen suicides can be attributed to bullying, and suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people. Bullying also leads to depression, loss of motivation, personality change, self-harm, eating disorders, and substance abuse. It is already estimated that 1 in 3 teens experiment with drugs or alcohol by the time they finish the eighth grade. Bullying only increases the chances that your child will try drugs or alcohol. Spotting the signs of bullying before it becomes too severe can prevent teens from hurting themselves or developing an addiction.

Addiction can either begin rapidly or manifest over time. Bullying causes trauma, and trauma can follow a person for a lifetime. This trauma can cause a person to look for outlets and ways to feel better, or ways just to forget. Most addicts suffer from another underlying mental illness, and this often times was directly caused or triggered by emotional trauma. Drugs can often be a safe haven for someone suffering from trauma, anxiety, and/or depression. Drugs offer a false sense of confidence and happiness that bully victims lack; this is why it can be so hard for a bully victim to put down drugs.

Here are some ways to understand teens and addiction:

Skipping school

Bully victims often will skip school out of fear of harassment by their bully. This can lead to mischievous activities or risk taking. When a person begins skipping school or extracurricular activities they may begin to hang around people who are doing the same things. This can introduce your child to a “bad crowd” that may already be experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Teens who have friends or acquaintances who use drugs are far more likely to experiment. 

Low self esteem 

Bully victims often develop low self-esteem and self-worth. Drugs offer a false sense of confidence that seem to “fix” this problem. A person eventually finds that they need drugs or alcohol to feel normal or like they fit in.

Isolation

Bully victims lose motivation and interest in others. When they begin to abuse drugs this is exacerbated. A child may begin to stay out late, avoid friends and family, or stay in their room for long periods of time.

Personality changes

Bully victims and those suffering from addiction both begin to have significant personality changes. They lose interest in their favorite hobbies and activities. If they were once out-going they may become more introverted and lonely. Bully victims often become very depressed and find drugs or alcohol a way to “self-medicate”.

Bullies are at risk, too.

There is research that suggests that bullying perpetrators are also at risk.  Amanda Nickerson, PhD, Professor and Director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at University of Buffalo stated that “A fair amount of research has found higher rates of substance use among bullying perpetrators.”

Bullies often have turbulent lives at home or other underlying mental health issues which leads to their mischievous activities like violence, sexual promiscuity, and drug use.

Parents also play a vital role in protecting their children. It is common for parents or teachers to brush of bullying as “kids being kids” or that it is just “part of growing up”. Parents who can support their children and report bullying effectively have a high likelihood of preventing their children from trying drugs. This is crucial because teens who experiment with drugs are far more likely to develop and addiction later in life. Avoiding the perception of neglect plays a vital role in parenting and prevents childhood trauma.

Another study at the University of Buffalo examined 119 teens who said they had consumed alcohol in the past month. “They found teens who were severely bullied and who had strong support from their mothers and family cohesion—such as family members asking each other for help and spending free time together—were less likely to drink than bullied teens without strong maternal support and tight family bonds.”

Always talk to your child about bullying and take their concerns seriously. Addressing bullying quickly can mean the difference between development of an addiction or childhood trauma.

Contributor: Trevor McDonald

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    For every parent that is struggling with their teenager - 18 comes very fast. A must read via Grown and Flown ...

    THIS IS ADOLESCENCE: 18 18 is a year overflowing with contradictions. Eighteen wants to be a child forever and yet he cannot wait to grow up. He loves his house and cannot wait to leave it. Eighteen is our teen living in our home and in the same momentous year, an adult residing in another state. On the eve of his 18th birthday it seems almost as if nothing has changed and then one morning in August everything is different. 18 is a year of contradictions, of being our child at home and an adult living in another state. 18 is the year I have dreaded since the day he was born. It is the year that I will begin to know him a little less, the year when more of his life happens away from our family than within it. But 18 is also the year I am most grateful for, that as his childhood ends it has been filled with joy and he has thrived wrapped in our love and that of his brothers. Eighteen cannot believe he is 18. When I tell him that he must register for the selective service and to vote, that I can no longer deal with his doctor, the health insurance company or his college housing office, he is taken aback. Eighteen wants to be an adult, but not if it means a lot of paperwork. Eighteen wants to spend every spare minute with his friends. He dreads the day when one by one they will leave for college and he tells me how much he will miss them, how much their closeness has meant to him and that he hopes they will stay that way forever. While I am indebted to these wonderful boys who have taught my son so much about friendship, I ignore the tightness in my throat and do not say that I feel the same way about him. Eighteen needs to show me he is a grown up, even at the times when I know that he is not. When he is unhappy with me he reminds me that soon he will be gone and then I will not be able to tell him what to do. Eighteen tells me this both because he wants me to acknowledge his independence and because he wants to hurt me that little bit, because in getting ready to go, some small part of him is hurting too. When Eighteen defies me, I can see that my arsenal for controlling him is severely depleted. Eighteen is brimming with confidence. His confidence comes from the physical strength and stamina of youth, from being surrounded by those who have known and loved him most or all of his life and from the fact that we may all be at our most beautiful the summer of our 18th birthdays. Eighteen loves senior year in high school and life at the top of the social food chain. He loves knowing most of the teachers and coaches in his high school and the way they have begun to treat him and the other seniors like young adults. While I delight in seeing him so at ease in his world, I also know that there is nobody less secure than a college freshman. Eighteen thinks the drinking age is 18. I am the bearer of bad news. Eighteen thinks he should not have a curfew. I bear more bad news. Eighteen’s personal hygiene is impeccable. He has never needed to be reminded to shower or brush his teeth. He rarely leaves a mess in the house and usually cleans any garbage from my car when he borrows it. Yet, Eighteen still leaves every article of dirty clothing on his bedroom floor. He has been told 4,287 that there is a laundry hamper in his room. Fearing that he has forgotten, I remind him again. He wonders why I do this, and so do I. Surely there is a point where I should give up, but how will I know when that is? In the summer before he leaves, Eighteen wants to push his father and me away and hold onto us at the same time. I am told that as the reality of their leaving begins to confront some kids, they “soil the nest,” at times giving parents some of their very worst behavior. I try to remember that this is temporary and that if I have learned anything about parenting it is that a markedly changed adolescent will be returned to me come the winter holidays. Eighteen lies on the floor petting his dog. I am in the next room, but I can hear him telling her that he will miss her. He does not remember life before this dog and is old enough to fully understand that this means that in the coming years he will experience the loss of her. He feels love and he feels fear. He has heard that kids get “the call” at school about their dogs and he does not want that call. I can tell Eighteen what to do and what not to do, until he leaves for college. But that would be foolish. We are on a trial run for adulthood, so I let him make most of the decisions and step in only when I cannot help myself. I try not to treat him like the child he no longer is, he tries not to act like the obnoxious teenager he no longer is. Most of the time we are successful, sometimes we fail. Eighteen leaves little gashes on my heart, like stinging paper cuts, as time winds down and we no longer have months or years but rather weeks and days. I miss him before he is even gone and I grieve once he has left. Eighteen drifts slowly away the summer after graduation and then one morning I load up the car and he is really gone, and I can do nothing more than help him on his way. www.facebook.com/grownandflown/

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