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Monthly Archives July 2015

Why Teens Are Having Sex

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 30, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Teen Help

TeenLoveTeens are having sex, however the the pregnancy rate has declined dramatically since the 1990’s.

After peaking in the early 1990s, the nation’s teen pregnancy and birth rates have declined dramatically—teen pregnancy is down 51%; teen births have plummeted by 61%. Since the federal, evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) was established in 2010, the teen birth rate in the U.S. has declined 29%, a drop about twice as large as the decline in any other four-year period.

This is good news, but pregnancy is only one of the issues that teens need to be concerned about.  Having sex also leaves you at risk for contracting sexual transmitted diseases (STD).  Using the appropriate protection is imperative.

teen-relationshipsWhy do teens have sex?  Here are some common answers:

  • I’m curious – I want to experiment/ get experience.
  • I just want to get this first time out of the way.
  • Sex is no big deal. Everyone is doing it.
  • Every one of my friends has had sex – I’m the only hold out. I feel like a wierdo.
  • The popular kids in my school are the ones who have sex – I want to fit in with them.
  • My partner really wants me to do it – he/ she says that it’ll bring us closer together/ prove my love/ show my commitment.
  • There’s nothing to do in this town but have sex.
  • I won’t really know how compatible we are until we’ve had sex.
  • My parents are so controlling and strict – they’d freak out if they knew I was having sex.
  • We’ve already had sex once – I can’t very well say no now.
  • It’s just a “friends-with-benefits” thing – what’s the big deal?

We spend a lot of time today talking about technology and cyberspace.  It’s important to discuss digital citizenship with our teens, but we can’t neglect the basics.  Like before technology, the birds and the bees are still a very important topic that needs to be a priority with digital citizenship.

TeenSTDAccording to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey of high school students from 34 states:

  • An estimated 48% had sexual intercourse before graduating from high school.
  • Approximately 15% had sexual intercourse with four or more partners before graduating from high school.
  • Nearly 62% of currently sexually active students used a condom during last sexual intercourse.
  • Approximately 90% of the students said they had been taught about AIDS and HIV infection in school.

In a Seventeen  magazine survey of boys and young men, almost half said they were virgins and one in four said he had lied to other kids about not being a virgin. According to the survey of 1,200 boys and young men, age 15 to 22, 60% said they lied about something sexual, 30%  lied about “how far they had gone,” and 78%  said that there was too much pressure from society to have sex.

Nearly two-thirds of teens that have had sexual intercourse say they regret it and wish they had waited, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The campaign also found that when it comes to making a decision about sex, 30% said that friends influenced their decision the most.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.

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Tips For Starting A Conversation With Your Teenager

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 28, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

DadSonChatLet’s face it, we all know that raising teens today is not easy and experts all agree, communication is key to having a good relationship.  However sometimes simply talking to a teenager is not so easy.  They can be very challenging when they turn us off.

Here are some ideas for ways to get teens talking:

  1. Create a topic jar. A topic jar is a jar that you fill with different pieces of paper containing conversation topics. Each night at dinner a different person gets to choose a slip of paper from the jar and read it aloud. The reader gets to start the conversation. For example, the slip of paper could say, “Tell about something that surprised you today”.  Don’t forget to add in topics about digital lives.  “Any new apps, websites, videos, virtual friends….”  Be as interested in their online lives as you are in their offline ones.  Remember, statistics show that kids today spend at least 8 hours a day digitally connected.  This includes cell phones and computers.
  2. Ask open-ended questions. By asking questions that cannot be answered with only a yes or no, you are opening the door for your teenager to say more than a couple of words in reply to you. Try to avoid grilling her and stay away from asking questions like, “How was your day?” Her answer will most likely be a one word answer to these type of questions. Instead, say something like, “Tell me about your day.”
  3. MomDaughterChattingTalk about topics she likes. Often teens feel like they are misunderstood by their parents. Instead of trying to get her involved in whatever you want to talk about, try talking about something that you know she likes. If she is an avid tennis player, discussing the French Open is a great way to start a conversation.
  4. Schedule some one on one time with her. Take her out to her favorite restaurant with just the two of you. If that is too expensive, just go for dessert and linger over coffee. Do something that she enjoys, like going to a shopping (even if it is window shopping) or a tennis match. Sharing these moments with her will give her the opportunity to talk to you while you are both relaxed and alone.
  5. Listen more than you speak. Every minute of your time together with her doesn’t have to be filled with idle chit chat. If you are trying to get someone to talk, leaving some silence will give them the opportunity to fill that silence with conversation.
  6. Be patient with your teen. If she is going through a rough time with her boyfriend or her other friends at school it may be difficult for her to talk about. Give her opportunities to broach the subject with you, but don’t try to force her to talk to you. That will only result in her becoming more stubborn and closed off.
  7. Put yourself in her shoes. Teenagers think that their parents and caregivers don’t understand them. Try to resist saying things like, “I understand what you are going through because I was a teenager once too you know”. Every generation has their own obstacles to overcome, and you can’t know what she is going through until she tells you. Really try to imagine how you would feel if you were in her shoes going through what she is going through.  Keep in mind, we didn’t have technology or social media to deal with. It is their world today.
  8. Don’t try to fix her. Parents and caregivers often try to fix a situation before they even understand it. Everyone is busy, but make time to hear her out. Don’t jump in and offer advice until it’s asked for. The only thing you should be doing while she is talking is nodding and saying the occasional, “hmm” or “I see” to indicate you are actively listening. This part is very difficult, but she needs to feel heard. Imagine how it would feel if you were sharing one of your problems and the person kept interrupting you to offer advice. Would you enjoy that?
  9. Try to be her soft place to fall, not a road block. Teenagers are faced with a lot of peer pressure. Amazingly enough, teens will come to the right decision most of the time if given the chance. Comfort her if she’s had a fight with a friend or if she breaks up with her boyfriend, but don’t condemn the boyfriend or friend. Anything negative that you say now will come back to haunt you when she gets back together with her boyfriend or the next time that her friend comes over to spend the night.
  10. Only offer your opinion when she asks for it. If you are lucky enough to get your teen talking, don’t interrupt with your opinions. Telling her what you would do isn’t going to help because she will remind you that you and she are nothing alike. Teens are trying to break away and prove their individuality. If she asks for your advice, start by asking her what she has considered so far. This will give you an idea of where her head is and you can act accordingly. Avoid lectures at all costs.

Keep in mind, having conversations before you reach a point of confrontation makes for a happier household.  Studies have proven that families that have frequent meals together can reduce risky behavior in teens, it doesn’t have to be every day, but try to have them as often as possible.

If you feel your teen is shutting you out completely and you have exhausted all your resources, seek help from outside sources such as possible a friend or family member they respect.  You may have to then reach out to an adolescent therapist.  If you are still struggling, please contact us for information on residential therapy.  Sometimes removing them from their environment can help them reflect on what they are having difficulties with.

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Teen Suicide: 10 Myths Parents Should Know

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 25, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

TeenSuicideSuicide is probably one of the most difficult topics to talk about.  When anyone takes their own life, whether it is a child, teenager or an adult, there are so many questions and so many what ifs.

It’s not easy being a parent today, but it’s also not easy being a teen with peer pressure not only in school but compounded with technology.  A person can be silently suffering from keystrokes that have gone viral not only through their school, but through their entire community and world wide web.  It can be literally devastating to youth (as it can be to almost anyone at any age).

Death by humiliation as we heard in a recent TED Talk.  It can be very real.

Suicide remains a serious epidemic that transcends socioeconomic, age, racial, religious, mental health, and gender/sexual identity boundaries. While studies do show that some groups stand at a higher risk of suicide than others – usually those already prone to social marginalization – the sad reality is that this mindset holds the potential to strike anyone, anywhere, at any point in life. Due to the mixed messages flailing about regarding the condition, it becomes progressively more difficult to objectively discuss the delineation between fact and fiction. So many misconceptions abound that the suicidal truly needing an intervention in order to survive may very well not receive the help they need to recover.

As with all issues regarding mental health, suicide especially has become the target of wrongful stigmatization. Because so many view it as a taboo or scary subject, the tragic desperation of suicide becomes pushed aside, wrongfully dismissed as histrionics or other self-serving actions. For those not working in the psychological field, explicit education in the complexities and psychological phenomena that lead individuals down the dangerous path towards suicide makes for the absolute best solution to preventing further tragedy. To learn about how it operates is to understand; to understand is to learn how to properly stop someone from succumbing to a cycle of absolute pain. Treatment is never an easy process, but it stands as the only reliable safeguard against suicide available. Individuals making the effort to personally empathize with this sad plight comprise the front lines of prevention – their compassionate efforts are what save lives and guide others to emulate their actions.

10 Common Myths About Suicide:

Cutting1. Suicide is just a ploy for attention. Ignoring the threats means they go away.
One of the most cruel myths regarding suicide involves perceptions that victims are using their emotions as leverage – a tool for manipulation. By acknowledging their comments, family and friends only stoke their desire for attention and validation. Not only is this misconception highly inaccurate, it also results in a higher risk of suicide attempts and fatalities. All suicide threats must go addressed, and all potential victims must not be treated as if self-serving and attention-starved. Ignoring comments and threats that so much as hint towards suicide makes for one of the most dangerous reactions on the part of family and friends. It sends a message of apathy, of not taking the victim’s pain seriously enough to discuss objectively.This only serves to further their sense of desperation; in some ways it actively encourages them to go through with plans to die.

2. All suicidal people suffer from some kind of character weakness or psychosis.

At the core of every suicide, completed or thwarted, there lay a sense of overwhelming. While studies do in fact show a correlation between depression, addiction, and other common mental illnesses and suicide, not every victim suffers from one or a combination of these conditions. Psychotic patients only comprise a fraction of suicides, but not the majority. Truthfully, all persons of any age, mental state, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic bracket hold within them the capacity to kill themselves. It remains only a matter of how far they become pushed to their limits, how desperate the sense of mental, emotional, and/or physical pain eventually swells. Suicide is not a weakness. Victims frequently see it as their only escape route from overwhelming torment – a way to finally end their all-encompassing agony once and for all.

Society labels suicides as inherently psychotic or weak as a means of demonizing their behavior. In some warped way, these myths are perceived as a deterrent for those contemplating killing themselves – after all, who wants to go down perceived not as a hero, but as weak or crazy? Wrongfully classifying genuine suffering as a sign of frailty or psychosis acts as a projection of society onto the victim. The only true weakness here lay in peoples’ inability or unwillingness to address the true gravity of suicide and constant spread of outright lies about the condition. Strength only factors in when an individual is willing to admit that they, too, have a threshold whereby they may become so desperate as to consider suicide a viable option. By acknowledging this one tragic but universal kernel of humanity, they may go on to help preserve the lives of others who may find themselves struggling with the urge to escape pain through death.

TeenSuicide23. Those who survive suicide attempts won’t try it again.

Suicide is not a plea for attention. It expresses an extreme desire to slough off overwhelming stress and anxiety, and the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that for every death by suicide, another 12-25 survive their attempts. Many believe that living through a potentially fatal self-injury automatically inspires victims to seize life and never try to hurt themselves again. Reality says otherwise. Survivors run a very high risk of repeating their actions later on in life, and professionals agree that one of the highest indicators of a potential fatality is a record of prior attempts. Those who live through suicidal acts must seek psychological assistance immediately upon recovery. Cognitive therapy has been shown to reduce further suicide attempts by 50% within a year following the initial incident. Instead of perceiving survival as a wake-up call for the fleeting preciousness of life, family and friends of the victim need to think of it as an indicator of future risk and respond accordingly The only responsible reaction encourages therapy as the most viable solution to prevent further incidents.

4. Talking to someone who is suicidal about suicide just makes the urge even worse.

When a friend or family member begins opening up and admitting suicidal thoughts, ignoring their comments or changing the subject actually pushes them further towards going through with these actions. Talking about suicide with a loved one openly and objectively serves as a safeguard until the victim receives professional help. If confronted with a potentially suicidal situation, the best reaction is to call an emergency number (such as 911 in the United States or 999 in some countries in Europe and Asia or a suicide hotline so the individual connects with people trained to handle their situation. Never leave the victim unattended, and be sure to clear the room of any firearms or other potentially deadly devices. By acknowledging their status as suicidal, friends and family may actually stave off fatal behavior. Victims want help, they want someone to intervene and assist them in combating the swarming demons of overwhelming desperation they face daily. Talking to them may not always reduce the urge, but it never actively encourages them to follow through with suicide, either. A proper reaction that proactively guides victims into valuable therapy shows the compassion, love, and care that they need to try and make themselves healthier. Only ignoring or making little effort to understand the issue stimulates the urge to commit suicide.

5. Suicide occurs without warning; there are no ways to prevent it.

Individuals with the following traits run a higher risk of committing suicide: depression or anxiety disorders, substance abuse, prior attempts, victim of sexual or physical abuse, family or friend of a suicide victim, incarceration, gun ownership, and social marginalization. Obviously, potential suicides do not always carry one or more of these traits, nor do they inherently indicate suicidal behavior. However, educating oneself on what sort of factors to look out for and who suffers the biggest risk makes for the best method of prevention possible. Putting forth the effort to understand and look out for the warning signs may mean the difference between life and death.

If a friend of family member begins displaying some early signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior, their loved ones are partially responsible for intervening and preventing attempts. Social withdrawal, a preoccupation with death, the intensification of depressive behavior, apathy, engaging in risky behaviors, attempting to tie up loose ends, and – in extreme cases – writing up a will, saying goodbye to people, and outright discussing wanting to die all stand out as signifiers of a potential suicide.

Also look out for a major shift from extreme depression to an overall sense of calm. This indicates that the victim may have found peace and comfort in a decision to kill him- or herself and needs to be dealt with before following through with it. While variables always inevitably creep in, the aforementioned red flags generally point towards disconcerting behavior that must be addressed before it becomes too late.

6. Suicidal people just want to die, and it’s impossible to talk them down.

The decision to commit suicide is not static. If an individual begins opening up about desiring death, it is possible for them to step down from their choice. While the understanding and support from family and friends remains the first line of defense, therapy remains the only viable long-term solution to prevent suicide. Even if a victim gives up on his or her decision to die due to the assistance of a loved one with all the right ideas and preparations, regular sessions with a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist reduces the risk of suicide by half after one year – something that love and compassion from friends and family alone cannot achieve. If an individual suffers from an immediate risk of suicide, then dialing an emergency number will provide access to professionals far better equipped to handle the direness of the situation. Never, under any circumstances, leave them unattended for any period of time until help arrives.

7. An improvement in emotional state means the risk of suicide is lowered.

Frequently, the opposite of this statement is the truism. One of the biggest warning signs that an individual may follow through with plans to commit suicide is a rapid shift between despair and overarching calm, even happiness. Even if the victim currently attends therapy sessions, rarely do moods alter so dramatically from negative to positive. Signs of peace after a severe and prolonged bout of hopelessness or depression may signal the decision to commit suicide as a permanent solution to overwhelming problems. Be sure to keep a sharp eye out for the other indicators mentioned earlier if the victim’s mood rapidly improves without provocation.

SadTeen8. Unsuccessful suicide attempts means the victim never cared to die in the first place.

Individuals survive suicide attempts for any number of reasons. Happenstance or the timely intervention of a loved one usually accounts for a victim not fully succumbing to death. Depending on the method, victims may even end up critically injured or in a coma. A number of different factors make up the difference between a fatality and a survival, but just because an individual lives through a suicide attempt does not mean they were never serious about dying in the first place. Actually, the fact that they even tried to commit suicide in the first place ought to explicitly tip off friends and family that the victim honestly wants to end his or her life. In fact, suicide survivors run a higher risk of future attempts, so it is integral that they seek professional help immediately in order to prevent further incidents.

9. Telling the suicidal to cheer up will help.

Much like clinical depression – a mental illness which comprises almost 90% of suicide cases each year – victims do not turn around simply by being told to cheer up and remain positive. A considerable amount of overwhelming mental, emotional, and/or physical pain factors into suicidal thoughts and actions, and while support and compassion can certainly help bring a victim back down from the brink it is unfortunately not enough to solve all of the underlining issues. Only professional therapy through a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist can really dissect a patients’ problems and help nurture the mindsets and skills necessary for practicing healthy coping mechanisms in the long run. It is not a matter of merely cheering up. It is a matter of confronting the torment that leads them to perceive death as the only viable option to escape the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.

10. Suicidal thoughts need to be kept secret so as not to embarrass or upset anyone.

Because suicide comes yoked with so many misunderstandings labeling the victims as weak, psychotic, or desperate for attention, it has sadly become a shameful, demonized subject too taboo to discuss objectively. Those feeling the tug of wanting to die are led to believe that they must simply choke back and fight the urge. They fear broaching such a hefty, weighty subject with loved ones because of how society unfairly paints their plight, believing that honesty may result in ostracizing of further marginalization. Truthfully, any time suicidal thoughts crop up they must be expressed to someone trustworthy – a family member, a friend, a hotline number, or a therapist. No matter what, there is always somebody out there willing to offer an ear and advice on finding a professional who will help quell the suffering in the long term. While friends and family will never react positively to news of suicidal thoughts, they would much rather address the issue as it arises instead of bury a loved one. Never be ashamed to the point of suppressing suicidal feelings. Openness and honesty between the victim and trusted peers means the difference between life and death.

Only by making an effort to truly understand the realities behind suicide can humanity honestly hope to prevent it. The previous ten myths only sadly skim the surface of an overarching social issue. Far too many frown more upon the persons feeling suicidal rather than the act itself, further pushing them towards a desperate act. Fortunately, concerned friends, family, and mental health professionals with the right intentions and ideas towards approaching the subject have a number of extremely valuable resources at their disposal.

NSPL_LogoNeed immediate help?  Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

If your teen is struggling with depression or thoughts of ending their life, please seek immediate help.  After exhausting local help, and you don’t see any results, you may want to consider residential therapy.  Contact us for more information.

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Huffing, Sniffing, Dusting and Bagging: Teen Inhalants

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 18, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

Inhalants1What parents need to be educated today with is never ending.  If your not familiar with inhalant abuse, it’s time to learn more.

Commonly known as huffing, sniffing, dusting and bagging – inhalants are dangerous and deadly.  The scarier part is most are common household products.

Inhalation is referred to as huffing, sniffing, dusting or bagging and generally occurs through the nose or mouth. Huffing is when a chemically soaked rag is held to the face or stuffed in the mouth and the substance is inhaled. Sniffing can be done directly from containers, plastic bags, clothing or rags saturated with a substance or from the product directly. With Bagging, substances are sprayed or deposited into a plastic or paper bag and the vapors are inhaled. This method can result in suffocation because a bag is placed over the individual’s head, cutting off the supply of oxygen.

Other methods used include placing inhalants on sleeves, collars, or other items of clothing that are sniffed over a period of time. Fumes are discharged into soda cans and inhaled from the can or balloons are filled with nitrous oxide and the vapors are inhaled. Heating volatile substances and inhaling the vapors emitted is another form of inhalation. All of these methods are potentially harmful or deadly. Experts estimate that there are several hundred deaths each year from Inhalant Abuse, although under-reporting is still a problem.

Warning signs if your teen or child is using inhalants:

– Drunk, dazed, or dizzy appearance
– Slurred or disoriented speech
– Uncoordinated physical symptoms
– Red or runny eyes and nose
– Spots and/or sores around the mouth
– Unusual breath odor or chemical odor on clothing
– Signs of paint or other products where they wouldn’t normally be, such as on face, lips, nose or fingers
– Nausea and/or loss of appetite
– Chronic Inhalant Abusers may exhibit symptoms such as hallucinations, anxiety, excitability, irritability, restlessness or anger.

It’s important to have open and ongoing conversations about dangers of inhalants.

TeenParentChatTips to start your chats:

• Ask your pre-teen or teenager if he or she knows about Inhalant Abuse or is aware of other kids abusing products.

• Reinforce peer resistance skills. Tell him or her that sniffing products to get high is not the way to fit in. Inhalants are harmful: the “high” comes with high cost.

• Encourage your child to come to you if he or she has any questions about Inhalants.

• Tell your child that the consequences of Inhalant Abuse are as dangerous as those from abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs. Be absolutely clear — emphasize that unsafe actions and risky behavior have serious consequences.

• Monitor your teen’s activities — set boundaries, ask questions. Be firm, know his or her friends and his or her friends’ parents, know where they meet to “hang out.”

•  Educate your child about the dangers, but don’t mention specific substances unless your child brings them up. While many youngsters know kids are sniffing some substances, they may not know the full range of products that can be abused; and you don’t want to give them suggestions.

• Tell your children that you love them and that their safety is your number one priority. Tell them again…and again…and again.

Source:  Inhalant.org

If you suspect your teen is using inhalant, please seek help immediately.  If they refuse to get help or you have exhausted local resources, you may want to consider residential therapy.  Contact us for more information.

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Teen Dating: Respecting Each Other

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 16, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

TeenDate2Teen dating is not new.  At what age will you allow your teen to go on their first date?  Every parent has their own set of values, principles, and boundaries for their family.  In many situations it depends on the maturity of your child.

No matter what age, dating requires mutual respect for each other.

Many parents will cringe when they even think about their precious child reaching the age of dating.  Whether you believe it is 16 years-old or 20-years-old, there are worries and stress at all ages.  As a parent, worrying is a built in feature that comes with parenting – especially with teens.

Teen dating can be an exciting and fun time where self confidence is built up, and dating techniques are learned. Teens also learn how to be both assertive and compromising, how to be giving to another and how to expect the same in return. All of this is a sort of practice session in order to find that right person.

Unfortunately, too often teens start dating with no preparatory talks from their parents and then they can lead to trouble. According to Planned Parenthood, about 10 percent of teenage girls in the U.S. become pregnant before age 20. And the U.S. Attorney General reports that 38 percent of date rape victims are girls between the age of 14 and 17.

parent-talking-to-teenTalk to your teenager. Teach them how to date, how to have respect for one another and how to protect themselves.

Here are some more tips:

  1. BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL.Your relationship with your partner is a model for how your teen will behave with others. Your relationship for your child speaks far louder than anyone’s words. Show them how you compromise, stick up for yourself, give and expect respect and argue but love your spouse.
  2. TELL THEM TO LISTEN TO THEIR INNER VOICE. Help them pay attention to the voice inside that says, “I’m uncomfortable in this situation and don’t want to do this.” Teach them to trust their judgment. Tell them how to avoid unwanted sexual advances. Tell your sons that having sex does not make them a man and tell your daughters that having sex does not make them cool.
  3. WARN THEM ABOUT THE DANGER SIGNS. Being manipulated, verbally put down, pushed or slapped and kept isolated from other relationships are all signs of an abusive relationship. Make sure both your son and daughter understand that, and that they should come to you or another parent/teacher/counselor if they feel at all threatened or oppressed by their boyfriend or girlfriend.
  4. NO, MEANS NO. Tell them they need to be honest and clear in communications. “I’m not sure…” from a girl can mean “I just need to be pushed or pressured some more before I say yes” to her date. Tell girls to say “No” clearly and firmly. Tell boys if they hear “No” then proceeding anyway is rape.
  5. HAVE THE SEX TALK. Make them think seriously about what sexual intimacy really means to them. Tell boys they are not expected to try a million different ways to get sex. Tell girls that they do not need to have sex to keep a guy.

    father-and-son-talkingExplain to them them that oral sex and anal sex are sex. Many kids are having these forms of sex because they tell themselves it’s not really sex.First tell them they shouldn’t be having sex yet. Then tell them about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. You hope they will wait to have sex, but if they don’t, it’s best that they protect themselves.

    Let them talk privately with their doctor so they can get what they need to take care of themselves. Encourage them to come to you with any question or conflict. Try to be open to discussing it, rather than lecturing them. You want them to listen to your opinion, yet at the same time feel they are making up their own mind.

Source: Dr. Gail Saltz

If your teen is in an abusive relationship be sure to seek help immediately.  If they refuse to attend, or it doesn’t seem to be working, reach out to friends and relatives.  If nothing seems to be resolving the destructive behavior or conflict, you may want to consider residential therapy.  Please contact us for more information.

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Teens and Internet Addiction

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 15, 2015  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

The screens have become today’s latest addiction for many youth and I dare say many adults too.

Studies concur that grownups have a very hard-time putting their phones away.  This means that parents leading by example, especially when it comes to technology, has to be a priority.

The Internet is a very interesting place. But the reality is, time spent online can become addictive. It can be easy to get caught up in exploring sites or playing online games – so much so that this online time interferes with real life. This seems to be a particular problem with teens.

Let’s explore what parents need to know about Internet addiction, including the people who are most at risk and the signs to look for. Then we will discuss some ways parents can help prevent those behaviors.

OnlineGamingTypes of Internet Addiction

Internet addiction can include a wide variety of behaviors or problems. While some people become addicted to playing computer games, others are addicted to cyber-relationships or online gambling. Like other addiction problems, Internet addictions can vary in intensity. But no addiction is considered healthy.

People at Risk

Certain people/personality types are more at risk for developing Internet addictions. For example, individuals suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression are likely to use the Internet as a distraction or a way to escape from negative feelings of worry, fear, and sadness. But continued time online can lead to isolation, which can cause stress and loneliness. It’s a vicious cycle.

People who are addicted to one thing often have two or more addictions. For instance, a person with a gambling addiction may also be addicted to the Internet. Internet addiction is prevalent among those who have little or no social support. They usually find that establishing relationships on social networking sites and forums is a fun and easy way to build confidence.

Individuals who are socially inactive or less mobile than they once were may become addicted to the Internet. After all, this is a way to ‘connect’ with people. And, of course, unhappy teenagers who are trying to figure out where they fit into this world may find the answer in cyberspace. Online friends may become more ‘real’ than the ones in the real world.

InternetAddiction_5Signs and Symptoms to Look For

Because people are different, their addictions are different. You could have a room filled with people addicted to the Internet, but each one would have slightly different signs and symptoms. The number one sign of an Internet-addicted teen is the simple fact that he or she is spending as much time as possible online. In many instances, the teen may be making attempts to hide the sites he or she visits.

The list below gives you a more precise starting point of things to look for.

  • Minutes turn into hours – There is never enough time to spend online. Anger sets in when Internet time is interrupted. This leaves little time for anything else. Chores are left undone, school grades may go down, and social life suffers.
  • Used as an outlet – The Internet becomes an emotional outlet. When there are feelings of happiness, sadness, fear, grief, excitement, etc., the Internet is used as the outlet – the place to share or release those feelings.
  • Losing touch – Because so much time is spent online, there is little time left to share with friends, family, and others. Isolation sets in.
  • On the defense – Discussions about Internet use make the individual uncomfortable. He/she becomes defensive about being online so much.

TeenParentChatWhat Parents Can Do

Parents always want the best for their children. The good news is, there are ways to help a teen who is headed toward Internet addiction. Start by setting some very clearly defined rules about computer use, and move all computers and other gadgets with computer access to a community area of the home. This makes it easier to monitor computer time and usage.  Set boundaries with smartphone usage, including removing the phone at bedtime.

Parents should also have tech-time-out times, especially for meals.  This includes parents. Everyone needs to turn it off! Role-modeling is a priority.

Have an open discussion about Internet addiction and the possible underlying problems that put people at risk. You might learn that your teen is feeling stressed or anxious or that he/she is having other problems you didn’t know about.

Sometimes just getting a teen involved in something fun like a hobby, club, or sport can help convince him/her that it is possible to spend too much time on the Internet. But be prepared to get any help your teen may need. In some instances, that might mean seeking professional counseling.

Has your child struggled with Internet addiction?  If you have exhausted your local resources or your teen is refusing to get help, you may want to consider residential therapy for digital detox.  Please contact us for more information.

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Family Meal Time Can Reduce Risky Teen Behavior

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 13, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

Studies have proven that family meal time can reduce your teen from making bad choices.  This is also the opportunity to discuss things like their digital lives as well as offline life.  Let’s keep in mind, the consequences of cyberbullying (whether they are a victim of it – or they are someone that sent or received a sext) can be devastating.  Your teen’s need to be constantly educated on the facts of digital citizenship today.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s often easier and more convenient for today’s families to grab an instant meal or a bag from a drive-through on the way to their respective activities than to sit down together for a family meal.

family-having-dinner-at-home-teensStill, there are so many reasons why families should be carving out time to spend together over a shared meal that the topic has been the subject of investigative news reports and scientific studies alike. Among those reasons are these ten, which may help to change your perspective on the family table.

  • Reducing Obesity Rates – When everyone is sitting around the same table and the adults of the family are supervising food preparation, it’s easier to eliminate unhealthy foods filled with empty calories from kids’ diets. As a result, kids whose families share meals on a regular basis tend to have lower rates of childhood obesity.
  • Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits – It’s easier to encourage healthy eating when kids aren’t faced with the temptation of a deep-fried chicken nugget while they’re being urged to eat a salad. Eating meals together means that everyone eats the same thing, which can also help turn picky kids into more adventurous eaters.
  • Allowing Parents to Be Parents – Between the hours spent at school, attending various club meetings and practice for sports or arts, it’s easy to feel like other people are actively parenting your children, while you’re in charge of looking after them when they’re sleeping. Spending time around the family dinner table puts you back in the “Parent” seat, allowing you to once again resume an active role in your children’s lives.
  • Reduced Likelihood of Substance Experimentation by Kids – Kids that live in a household where family dinners are shared on a regular basis are less likely to smoke cigarettes, experiment with drugs or drink alcohol than their peers who don’t.
  • Better Academic Performance – When you’re able to actively talk with your children about their day at school, discuss areas in which they’re struggling and provide a support system, kids are more likely to enjoy increased academic performance than if you were less involved.
  • Getting the Whole Family Involved – Working together as a family to put dinner on the table not only makes the process a quicker and less labor-intensive one, but also gives kids a sense of ownership over part of the meal and an area of responsibility to build character. Kids need to be responsible for something in order to avoid feelings of entitlement and a general lack of know-how; cooking a meal that you’ll later eat together is a great way to give them that sense of responsibility.
  • Fostering Stronger Relationships – It’s difficult to build strong relationships when each member of the family is always attending other events and no one spends any time together. Getting to know your kids again, and allowing them to get to know one another, may be as simple as instituting a policy of sharing family dinners on a regular basis.
  • More Time-Efficient – One of the most commonly cited reasons for parents not to cook is an assertion that they do not have the time. What most don’t stop to consider is that the amount of time spent driving to pick something up, trying to arrange a take-out order or waiting for a table in a crowded, loud restaurant is actually more than enough to prepare and share a high-quality meal at home.
  • Saving Money on Meals – When every meal you eat comes from a take-out menu or a drive-through window, you may not realize how much money your family is throwing away in comparison to simply cooking and sharing meals at home. All other benefits aside, simple economic efficiency is a compelling reason to establish a family dinner ritual.
  • Teaching Kids About Sustainable Eating – As the focus on green living and eco-friendly habits grows stronger, it’s important that parents teach their children how to live and eat sustainably. What better time to share this information than over the dinner table? Family dinner is an ideal opportunity for the discussion of sustainable agriculture, even if it’s just to explain where vegetables come from to smaller children.

What will you discuss?  

Besides the obvious of asking your teen how their day was, it is important to find out how their cyber-life is going.

Common Sense Media and Family Dinner Project put together a great list of conversation starters.

Common-Sense-FDP-and-Waring

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Disrespectful, Rebellious and Defiant Teens

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 11, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

ParentDefiantTeenWe live in a culture where sadly teens seem to believe it is their way or no way.  A common theme we hear is the disrespect of authority that a teenager has – especially towards their parents.

When we think of generations prior, we would never consider defying our mother or father.  If they told us to be home by 10:00 pm, we were — no questions asked.  We wouldn’t dream of talking back, if we did, expect that bar of soap.

Today our children know they have the ability to threaten us with many things, including calling the authorities on us.  Frightening isn’t is?  It is almost like parenting or disciplining our children (teens especially) is challenge for fear of consequences.

So how do you handle a teen that is being disrespectful, rebellious and defiant?

During the tumultuous teenage years, these are 10 of ways to avoid fighting with your child.

  1. Establish Rational Boundaries – During adolescence, your teen is revisiting the same mindset of early toddlerhood that leaves her looking for ways to test boundaries as a means of asserting her independence from you. Making sure that she knows some boundaries cannot be challenged lays a foundation for calm, rational interaction. Just be sure before you make those rules that you understand your teen’s need for a reasonable amount of independence, and avoid overly harsh authoritarian rules that leave no room for such expression.
  2. Shift Your Perspective – As an adult parent of a teenager, it can be difficult to remember your own battles during the tender years leading up to adulthood. Before flying off of the proverbial handle, try to remember how you felt as a teen, so that you can see things from your own teenager’s perspective.
  3. Refuse to Escalate the Situation – When you’re standing face to face with a raging, screaming teen that pays no heed to the feelings of anyone around her as she expresses her frustration, it’s easy to fall into the trap of shouting right back at her. By maintaining your composure and refusing to let the situation escalate into a full-on altercation, you’re effectively maintaining control of the confrontation without adding fuel to the fire.
  4. ParentsTalkingTeensPractice Good Listening Skills – Sometimes a teen feels as if he’s not being truly heard and in response will lash out with anger, when all he really wants is to know that his viewpoints and opinions are being listened to. Taking the time to ask your child how he feels and actually listening to the answer he gives can diffuse many arguments before they start.
  5. Create a “No Judgment” Zone for Tricky Discussions – Teenagers face a variety of difficult choices and situations, and those who feel as if they have nowhere to turn for advice due to a fear of parental judgment or punishment can internalize that stress, leading to nasty arguments borne of frustration. Making sure that your child knows she can safely approach you with difficult questions can eliminate that frustration, making for a more peaceful environment within your home.
  6. Know When to Compromise – As a parent, it’s often difficult to admit when you’re being unreasonable and concede an argument, or at least to make compromises when you’ve reached an impasse. Mastering the art of a sane compromise with your teen, however, is the key to keeping a tense discussion from escalating.
  7. Understand When to Walk Away – When you can’t hold on to your temper, it’s okay to walk away. If you ascribe to a philosophy of walking away to let your temper cool, though, it’s essential that you afford your teenager the same respect. Resist the temptation to follow her in order to continue a diatribe; it’ll only lead to an even nastier confrontation.
  8. angry-teen-girlActively Avoid Triggers – There are some subjects that bring out a passionate reaction in everyone, and those triggers differ from one person to the next. Your teenager is no different, and you know the things that will upset her before you discuss them. Avoid the subjects you know will upset your child, especially if there’s no real reason for discussing them.
  9. Refuse to Reward the Silent Treatment – The silent treatment is infuriating for anyone, but it’s important that you not reward that behavior from your teen. Attempting to draw him out with false cheerfulness or prodding him to talk will only blow up in your face, so let him stew without interference for a while.
  10. Avoid Drawing Comparisons – Telling your teenager that you never acted the way he does, or illustrating just how much more tolerant of a parent you are because you don’t punish him the way you would have been punished for behaving in such a manner serves absolutely no productive purpose. Remember that your teen is trying to establish himself as a separate entity from you; drawing comparisons, even when you’re just looking for common ground, can ultimately be counterproductive. 

FamilyDiscussionMaking a concerted effort to foster an open, honest relationship with your teen can make it easier to avoid the worst arguments, but the occasional disagreement is pretty much par for the course. Rather than dwelling on an argument after it happens, try to think about how you could have handled it differently so that you can apply that knowledge the next time negotiations become tense.

If you have tried many ways to have a peaceful home and your teenager is continually causing tension, creating contention among the family – please seek help immediately.  If they refuse to get help, or you have exhausted your local resources, consider residential therapy.  Many families have had tremendous success since when you remove the child from the environment they are better able to focus on where all the negative feelings and behavior are stemming from. Contact us for more information.

 

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Teens That Shoplift and Steal

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 09, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

TeenStealingIt’s probably more common than parents realize.

Why do teens steal?

There are almost as many reasons teens steal as there are things for teens to steal. One of the biggest reasons teens steal is peer pressure. Often, teens will steal items as a means of proving’ that they are “cool enough” to hang out with a certain group.

This is especially dangerous because if your teen can be convinced to break the law for petty theft, there is a strong possibility he or she can be convinced to try other, more dangerous behaviors, like drinking or drugs. It is because of this that it is imperative you correct this behavior before it escalates to something beyond your control.

Another common reason teens steal is because they want an item their peers have but they cannot afford to purchase. Teens are very peer influenced, and may feel that if they don’t have the ‘it’ sneakers or mp3 player, they’ll be considered less cool than the kids who do.

If your teen cannot afford these items, they may be so desperate to fit in that they simply steal the item. They may also steal money from you or a sibling to buy such an item. If you notice your teen has new electronics or accessories that you know you did not buy them, and your teen does not have a job or source of money, you may want to address whereabouts they came up with these items.

Teens may also steal simply for a thrill. Teens who steal for the ‘rush’ or the adrenaline boost are often simply bored and/ or testing the limits of authority. They may not even need or want the item they’re stealing! In cases like these, teens can act alone or as part of a group.

ShopliftingOften, friends accompanying teens who shoplift will act as a ‘lookout’ for their friend who is committing the theft. Unfortunately, even if the lookout doesn’t actually steal anything, the can be prosecuted right along with the actual teen committing the crime, so its important that you make sure your teen is not aiding his or her friends who are shoplifting.

Yet another reason teens steal is for attention. If your teen feels neglected at home, or is jealous of the attention a sibling is getting, he or she may steal in the hopes that he or she is caught and the focus of your attention is diverted to them. If you suspect your teen is stealing or acting out to gain your attention, it is important that you address the problem before it garners more than just your attention, and becomes part of their criminal record.

Though unconventional, this is your teen’s way of asking for your help- don’t let them down!

If your teen is facing legal consequences or you realize they are taking things that don’t belong to them, reach out for help.  If they refuse to attend or you have exhausted your local resources, please contact us for more information on residential therapy.

 

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Teen Sex: The Why and The Wisdom

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 07, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

Teens today don’t value sex the way generations earlier did.  To assume your teen will wait for marriage is a nice thought — and maybe they will, but statistically speaking, the odds are not with them.

Either way, they need to be educated for safe safe sex.  Years ago the biggest fear was getting pregnant.  Today the risks are more dangerous when we know about STD’s.

Every day, more than 2,000 teen girls in the United States get pregnant. In fact, 3 in 10 girls will become pregnant by age 20. Not having sex is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy, though there are a lot of other good reasons to wait, too. But if you’re having sex, you must use birth control carefully and correctly every single time you do.  – Acording to Stay Teen

One common question is why?  Why have sex at a young age or before you are ready?

Here are some of answers from Stay Teen:

  • I’m curious – I want to experiment/ get experience.
  • I just want to get this first time out of the way.
  • Sex is no big deal. Everyone is doing it.
  • Every one of my friends has had sex – I’m the only hold out. I feel like a wierdo.
  • The popular kids in my school are the ones who have sex – I want to fit in with them.
  • My partner really wants me to do it – he/ she says that it’ll bring us closer together/ prove my love/ show my commitment.
  • There’s nothing to do in this town but have sex.
  • I won’t really know how compatible we are until we’ve had sex.
  • My parents are so controlling and strict – they’d freak out if they knew I was having sex.
  • We’ve already had sex once – I can’t very well say no now.
  • It’s just a “friends-with-benefits” thing – what’s the big deal?

StayTeen2Teens and sex is an important subject that has more resources and information now more than ever before.  Educating parents, teachers and teenagers is a commitment everyone needs to have.  Stay Teen is one of several valuable websites that offers a vast amount of information about having sex and/or considering having sex.

If your teen is being promiscuous and not respecting their body, get help for them immediately.  If they refuse or it doesn’t seem to be helping, you may want to consider residential therapy to determine what is causing them to act out this way.  Contact us for more information.

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