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Monthly Archives September 2015

The Highs and Lows of Bipolar Disorder

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 28, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help

Does your teen go through intense mood changes? Does your teen get too excited or silly sometimes? Do you notice he or she is very sad at other times? Do these changes affect how your child acts at school or at home?

Some children and teens with these symptoms may have bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness.

Learn more.

Bipolar Disorders
Source: TopCounselingSchools.org

If you have exhausted your local resources, please contact us for information on residential therapy that can your teen.

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Financial Independence Lessons Every Teen Should Learn

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

TeenSavingAs your child approaches his teen years, he is quickly gaining a sense of independence in many different areas of life. Soon he will be staying out a little later and driving the family car. This new-found independence should also include money management skills, but many parents fail to teach their teens about money-saving habits and financial independence. When your teen is ready to leave the nest and step into the adult world, make sure he has the skills to be successful.

Start a Savings Account

Many checking accounts come with debits cards, so teens can have a sense of independence when it comes to managing and spending their money. You can rest assured that your teen will not be making unnecessary purchases, as a variety of banking providers, like Wells Fargo, for example, offer tools that allow parents to set daily limits on debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals. Although this might seem to be encroaching on his independence, keeping a watchful eye on your teen’s finances will ensure he practices wise spending and saving habits.

SavingtipsCreate a Budget

Teens are impulsive. This is especially true when it comes to spending money. During the teenage years “wants” surpass the needs. But, as your teen approaches adulthood, it’s wise to teach him about budgeting and distinguishing between his “wants” and “needs.” First, show your teen how to set up a budget by using categories. This can include food and entertainment expenses like concert or movie tickets, for example. Then, identify which unnecessary items can be cut from the budget. Outlining your teen’s budget can give him a new perspective of his spending habits. The app P2K Money can help you and your teen successfully plan and keep track of a budget.

Keep a Money Diary

Similar to a budget, a money diary can help your teen keep track of his purchases. For many teens, this is as simple as keeping a handwritten journal of all income and expenses. Have your teen write down how much money he has from odd jobs, allowance, gifts and his part-time job in addition to what he is spending it on. Additionally, you can encourage your teen to save important receipts inside of the diary to keep track of big purchases. Having a money diary and writing in it regularly will help your teen make money management a priority.

PayingBillsMake Them Pay the Bills

No, we’re not talking about the utility bills or the mortgage. However, teens should have some sort of bill paying responsibility during their final years at home. If your teen is earning money from his own job, give him a small taste of the real world by having him make a monthly payment to you for his portion of the phone bill. Many teens cannot live without their smartphone, so although he might not want to pay at first, most teens will eventually be willing to pay for this luxury. Or, if your teen has been waiting to upgrade his smartphone to the new Galaxy, show him how to create a budget, save for the phone and document the purchase in a money diary. This simple method can be used for many big purchase and it’s helpful when teaching teens about financial independence.

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Teen Depression, Anxiety and Sadness

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 24, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens, Uncategorized

teens 8We hear this a lot, especially as school has just opened.

Today teenager’s not only have the stress of schoolwork and peer pressure, they are concerned about their social media presence. If you doubt this is an issue, you are fooling yourself. Statistics have proven that teens rely on their virtual reality for many feelings of acceptance. This is why it is critical for parents to continue to have offline discussions about online reality.

FOMO (fear of missing out) is very real for these kids today. Even some adults have this fear. You have to look far and wide to walk down the street to find someone without their cell phone in their hand.

What are some of the warnings signs that your teen could be struggling with depression or anxiety?

  • Apathy
  • Complaints of pains, including headaches, stomachaches, low back pain, or fatigue
  • Sleeping a lot
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Irresponsible behavior — for example, forgetting obligations, being late for classes, skipping school
  • Loss of interest in food or compulsive overeating that results in rapid weight loss or gain
  • Memory loss
  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Rebellious behavior, defiance (more than normal)
  • Sadness, anxiety, or a feeling of hopelessness
  • Staying awake at night and sleeping during the day
  • Sudden drop in grades (underachieving)
  • Use of alcohol or drugs and promiscuous sexual activity
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Withdrawal from activities they  used to love

canstockphoto19322711Teen Anxiety

The lesser known relative of depression, anxiety, afflicts people of all ages and can be especially detrimental for teenagers. It is completely normal and even common for individuals to experience anxiety, particularly during stressful periods, such as before a test or important date (think Prom). For many, this is beneficial, serving as motivation to study hard and perform well; however, for many, anxiety goes beyond standard high-stress periods. While occasional stress is nothing to worry about and can even be healthy, many people experience anxiety on an ongoing basis. People, especially teenagers, who suffer from anxiety disorders, find that their daily life can be interrupted by the intense, often long-lasting fear or worry.

Anxiety disorders are not fatal; however, they can severely interfere with an individual’s ability to function normally on a daily basis. The intense feelings of fear and worry often lead to a lack of sleep as it makes it very difficult for people to fall asleep. Those with anxiety disorders also commonly suffer from physical manifestations of the anxiety. The anxiety can cause headaches, stomach aches, and even vomiting. In addition stress can cause individuals to lose their appetite or have trouble eating. One of the more difficult aspects for students to deal with is difficulty concentrating. When one is consumed with worry, his or her mind continuously considers the worrisome thoughts, making it considerably harder for teenagers to concentrate on school work and other mentally intensive tasks. These affects of anxiety can make it difficult for teenagers to simply get through the day, let alone enjoy life and relax.

While there seems to be no single cause of anxiety disorders, it is clear that they can run in a family. The fact that anxiety disorders can run in families indicates that there may be a genetic or hereditary connection. Because a family member may suffer from an anxiety disorder does not necessarily mean that you will. However, individuals who have family members with this disorder are far more likely to develop it.

Within the brain, neurotransmitters help to regulate mood, so an imbalance in the level of specific neurotransmitters can cause a change in mood. It is this imbalance in a neurotransmitter called serotonin that leads to anxiety. Interestingly, an imbalance of serotonin in the brain is directly related to depression. For this reason, SSRI medications, more commonly referred to as anti-depressants, are often used to help treat an anxiety disorder. Medication can provide significant relief for those suffering from anxiety disorders; however, it is often not the most efficient form of treatment.

In addition to medication, treatments for anxiety disorders include cognitive-behavioral therapy, other types of talk therapy, and relaxation and biofeedback to control muscle tension. Talk therapy can be the most effective treatment for teenagers, as they discuss their feelings and issues with a mental health professional. Many teens find it incredibly helpful to simply talk about the stress and anxiety that they feel. Additionally, in a specific kind of talk therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy teens actively “unlearn” some of their fear. This treatment teaches individuals a new way to approach fear and anxiety and how to deal with the feelings that they experience.

Many people attempt to medicate themselves when they suffer from stress or anxiety. While individuals find different ways to deal with the intense worry that they may experience, self medication can be very detrimental to their body. It is not uncommon for people who suffer from anxiety disorders to turn to alcohol or drugs to relieve the anxiety. While this may provide a temporary fix for the afflicted, in the long run it is harmful. By relying on these methods, individuals do not learn how to deal with the anxiety naturally. Reliance on other substances can also lead to alcohol or drug abuse, which can be an especially significant problem if it is developed during the teen years.

Statistics on teen anxiety show that anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental disorders among adolescents:

  • 8-10 percent of adolescents suffer from an anxiety disorder
  • Symptoms of an anxiety disorder include: anger, depression, fatigue, extreme mood swings, substance abuse, secretive behavior, changes in sleeping and eating habits, bad hygiene or meticulous attention to, compulsive or obsessive behavior
  • One in eight adult Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder totaling 19 million people
  • Research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health has shown that anxiety disorders are the number one mental health problem among American women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men
  • Anxiety sufferers see an average of five doctors before being successfully diagnosed

Source: WedMD.com

Teen depression and anxiety is treatable. It’s imperative you seek help for your child. As many parents know, sometimes your teenager can be stubborn and refuse to get help. It’s a parent’s responsibility to do what is best for them.

Finding the best therapist that specialize with adolescent’s and connects with your son or daughter may take a few tries. Sometimes outpatient therapy works and typically finding a good peer support group is always beneficial.

If you come to a point where you have exhausted all of your local resources and you find your teen is still hitting rock bottom in darkness, you may want to consider residential therapy. This gives them a second opportunity at a bright future. It doesn’t say you or they are failures – opens up many doors for them. They will be with others that feel the same feelings they do – they are not alone. It’s not any different when adults have feelings of sadness and want to talk to people that feel the same way – they can bring each other through their difficult times.

Contact us for more information.

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Internet Addiction and Adopted Teens (RAD)

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 20, 2015  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

InternetAddiction6Are there more risks with Internet addiction for teens that are struggling with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)?

The internet is an incredible resource for information and entertainment, but it does have drawbacks. Besides creating an avenue for dangerous child predators to flourish, the internet has also caused a recent and misunderstood sickness to sweep across the nation. This dangerous new disease is known as Teenage Internet Addiction.

The idea of “internet addiction” began in the 1990’s to explain an unhealthy reliance on the internet that parents noticed their teens developing. Since then, the internet’s popularity explosion and use of sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr have ushered in a new age of teenage internet addiction.

Parent advocates realize the danger of teenage internet addiction, and adopted teens are highly susceptible because they often experience Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD. RAD develops when a teen is unable to attach trust and development in interpersonal relationships. RAD is caused by the confusion and pain of a child’s separation from their birth mother. Even a child adopted early in life can experience dramatic RAD separation anxiety in their teenage years.

It’s been found that internet addiction increases feelings of anti-social tendencies and the inability to interact with others, much like RAD. Adoptive teens struggle to overcome RAD increases their vulnerability to internet addiction.

InternetAddiction_5Teenagers should not be fearful of the internet, it is an attractive and exciting way to gather information and communicate with others, but parents must be aware of their adopted teen’s internet usage levels. Parents should never spy on their kids; instead they should focus on maintaining open lines of communication, much like they would when dealing with Primal Wound or other adopted teen issues. Parents should ask their kids about their internet habits and ask to look at their Facebook (if their not friends with them online) or other profile sites. Parent should never look at teenage pages or pursue web history behind teen’s backs (unless you believe they are in danger, or suspect something is wrong); this can alienate your teenager even more, amplifying feelings of anxiety or RAD.

There are some signs of teenage addiction associated with internet use that parents should be especially aware of. Some of these warning signs are very closely related to teenage depression, another condition that many adopted teens face.

When exploring the possibility of internet addiction, check if your adopted teen experiences powerful euphoric feelings while on the internet and extreme anxiety while away from it. Also check if the teen has intense cravings for the internet, always wanting to return to it. Other warning sings include adopted teens lying about their internet usage and withdrawing from past activities in favor of increased internet usage. Internet addiction’s physical effects include dry eyes, drastic changes in eating habits, increased headache or backaches from focusing on the screen, as well as sleeping problems.

Placing the family computer in an easily monitored area is a good way to prevent internet misuse. Never ban the internet, but work on a time schedule that will be fair for both you and your adopted teen. Also work to encourage non internet activity, which means forcing other family members to reduce internet usage while encouraging outdoor activities.

Adopted teens are at a high risk for internet addiction because of their problems with RAD, but if parents foster healthy family communication practices, do an honest job of trying to understand their teenagers internet needs, and let their teens know they are ready to help them if they need it, than internet addiction and its side effects can be prevented.

If you feel your teen is in need of help, and you have exhausted all your local resources, please contact us for information on residential therapy. This has been helpful for many other families.

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Teen Gangs and Cults: What Parents Need to Know

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 18, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Teen cults can claim many victims each year.

Every year thousands of teens across the country become ensnared in the dangerous and misunderstood world of cults. These hazardous entities prey on the uncertainty and alienation that many teens feel and use those feelings to attract unsuspecting teens into their cult traps. The best defense of cults and gangs is parent education.

No teen actually joins a cult, they join a religious movement or a political organization that reaches out to the feelings of angst or isolation that many troubled teen’s experience. Over time, this group gradually reveals its true cultish nature, and before teens know it, they are trapped in a web they can’t untangle.

With the strong rise in teen internet usage, cults have many ways to contact children and brainwash them.

Cults have long been represented in the mass media. The supporters of Reverend Jim Jones People’s Temple may be some of the most famous cult members, making global headlines when they died in the hundreds after drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. Almost 300 of the dead Jones supporters were teens and young children. Heavens Gate is another well known cult, which believed ritual suicide would ensure their journey behind the Hale-Bopp comet with Jesus. Heavens Gate lived in a strict communal environment, funding their cult endeavors through web site development. Some male members of the cult even castrated themselves before all 36 committed suicide, wearing matching sweat suits and Nike tennis shoes.

It is clear that despite the ridiculous and bizarre nature of many cults, parents can’t ignore the power and resourcefulness of these groups. Cult ideas may seem too loony to take seriously, but they can have real power when used against troubled teenagers, the exact type of teens that we need to work on keeping safe.

Cult influence should not be taken lightly, especially when living with a troubled teen. Parents may not think of cults as a problem because they don’t hear about them a lot, but that’s the key to cult success. The livelihood of teen cults relies on staying out of the public eye and in the shadows. The Heaven’s Gate and People’s Temple cults didn’t truly gain public notice until after their suicides, and by then it was too late to save their followers.

The danger of teen cults is real, but parents can help ensure their teenagers’ safety by staying informed and communicating with their children. Knowledge and communication is always the first line of defense when helping a troubled teen.

ParentTeenTalk55Protecting your teen

Even though the threat of cult membership largely remains a hidden danger, there are some important preemptive measures parent’s can take to protect their teenagers from falling prey to cult rhetoric.

To prevent teenage cult membership, keep communication open and healthy between you and your child. Stay involved with their life, but not so involved you push them away. Keep in touch with how your teens are feeling and what they are doing as they go through their difficult teenage transition period.

Cults offer simple answers and immediate happiness as a temptation for membership, so help guide troubled teens through the complexities of being a young transitioning adult, and help them cope with the stress of teen life so they don’t turn to cults for help.

Teens are often looking for a community or place to belong, so help your troubled teen find group activities and places for friendship. Encourage them to join sports teams or any organization that is trustworthy and safe that they can join and help feel community involvement.

Refrain from pressuring teens too much for success. Often, our culture becomes much too involved with the idea of success and succeeding in school, and this unnecessary pressure can be destructive to a teenager’s psyche. Cults can serve as any easy way to get away form this stress, and can appear as nice alternative to deal with the pressure-filled, success obsessed world that parents sometimes push upon their children.

Parents must offer both love and support to their teens, while flexing proper parental authority. Teens must be reassured their parents love them, because if they feel lonely they will turn to cults for the love and friendship that troubled teens need. However, parents still must exert authority, because cults can offer guidance and structure that helps teens feel comfortable and secure. Basically, a strong parental presence that his both nurturing and secure will help teens avoid cult temptations.

There are many warnings signs signaling cult activity in your troubled teen’s life. These signs include a dramatic change in grades and study habits, change in personality, change in physical appearance, sudden increases in talk about God or Spirituality, as well as changes in social interactions. Teachers and school counselors who see your child on a daily basis can provide a good resource t if you are worried about possible ten cult issues.

Cults that target teens

There are a myriad of different cults threatening teenage livelihoods today. Below is a list of some of the most dangerous and well known cults, but this is by no means meant to be exhaustive, it is simply a sample of some popular groups to watch out for and educate teens about. Providing a source of knowledge and information on teen and parent issues is the best way to help curb the dangers of teen cults.

The Twelve Tribes

The Twelve Tribes is group of religious organizations founded in the 1970s by Elbert Eugene Spriggs. While living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Spriggs created a teenage ministry called the Light Brigade, which operated a coffee shop. Spriggs transitioned the group and its teen members into a communal living situation and into its own religious splinter group after his Church postponed a sermon because of the Super Bowl.

Armed with his new community and belief system, Spriggs opened a chain of restaurants called Yellow Deli to raise money for his cult. The group continued to grow and spread around the country with their restaurants, while gathering significant criticism. The Twelve Tribes attempt to live in the primitive way of the early Church, following the path of Jesus, and believe they must get rid of all their possessions and individuality to call Jesus their true lord. Twelve Tribe members live communally and share all income and possessions.

Twelve Tribes was accused of child abuse and child labor violations in their various businesses. The group has also been accused of racist and anti-Semitic nature in their rhetoric and some of the loudest speakers against the group are former members, who warn of many dangers within the authoritarian organization.

Children of God/The Family International

The Children of God, now known as Family International, is a global cult masking as a religious movement. The organization started in 1968 in Huntington Beach, California, as a splinter of the Jesus movement of the 60s. The group’s influence spawned the first organized anti cult organization, known as [FREECOG (http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/FREECOG)]

The Family International uses its unassuming name and religious overtones to mask its bizarre cult nature. In its early stages, Family International used sex to win followers and show God’s love. This type of religious prostitution was called flirty fishing, and the cult used this perverted evangelism to win over many disillusioned converts.

The Family International is far from family oriented, in the common sense of the word family at least. The cult uses sexuality is its main theme and has distributed photographs, videos, and writing that promote and show adult and child sexual interaction within the group. Family International has since reconciled these problems, but for over 20 years, they clearly abused children in their ranks. Now, the Family International demotes individuals who report abuse to law enforcement agencies or pursue legal action against an abuser to a lower status in the group, and sometimes makes them leave the cult all together.

The group was founded by David Berg, who teaches a theology based on Christian fundamentalism. Berg is regarded in the group as a profit who passed on the direct words of God before his death. The group follows the Law of Love, which permits any actions that are motivated by sacrificial, unselfish love and are not intentionally hurtful. However, cult members believe homosexuality in males is a sin, but female bisexuality is perfectly fine. Adult members of The Family International are encouraged to have sex with other adult members, regardless of their marital status. Family International also encourages members to imagine they are having sex with Jesus during masturbation and intercourse, and male members are supposed to envision themselves as women, so as not have homosexual relationships with Jesus.

The Unification Church (Moonies)

The Unification Church was created by Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1954, based on Moon’s belief that Jesus spoke to him in 1935, instructing Moon to establish God’s kingdom on earth and finish what Jesus was unable to complete. Moon was arrested for preaching his beliefs in Korea but was freed from prison in 1950 by American troops. Moon’s religious system grew in popularity after his release and he sent out numerous missionaries to Japan and America, eventually moving to the United Sates in 1971.

Moon asserts he is the messiah of the Second Coming and that his wife is the embodiment of the Holy Spirit. The couple labels themselves as the True Parents.

The Unification Church is dangerous because of its financial and political power. Over 300 financial institutions and businesses provide a front for the group, ranging from clothing stores, to publishers and jewelers. Moon has also been invited to the white house and has spoken in front of Congress.

Despite his claim to be the messiah, Moon has spent time in American prisons for tax evasion. Moon also presides over mass weddings, one of which married 30,000 couples in Korea.

Moon’s book, Divine Principles, is considered to be inspired the by the word of God and is considered to be scripture among members of the cult. Moon uses his extensive and legitimate business system, as well as various philanthropic endeavors to mask his cultist tendencies.

If you fear your child is involved in cult or gang activities, get help immediately. If you have exhausted your local resources, such as therapy and out-patient treatment, contact us for information on residential therapy. It may be your best option for removing your teen from this environment.

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Conduct Disorder in Teens

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 16, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

ParentsTeensWhat is conduct disorder?

We hear so many labels these days with teenagers, ADD, ADHD, ODD, bipolar – there is always family conflict and I frequently am asked about conduct disorder.

Conduct disorder is a set of ongoing emotional and behavioral problems that occurs in children and teens. Problems may involve defiant or impulsive behavior, drug use, or criminal activity.

What causes conduct disorder?

Conduct disorder has been linked to:

  • Child abuse
  • Drug or alcohol abuse in the parents
  • Family conflicts
  • Genetic defects
  • Poverty

The diagnosis is more common among boys.

It is hard to know how common the disorder is. This is because many of the qualities for diagnosis, such as “defiance” and “rule breaking,” are hard to define. For a diagnosis of conduct disorder, the behavior must be much more extreme than is socially acceptable.

Conduct disorder is often linked to attention-deficit disorder. Conduct disorder also can be an early sign of depression or bipolar disorder.

ConductDisorderWhat are some of the symptoms?

Children with conduct disorder tend to be impulsive, hard to control, and not concerned about the feelings of other people.

Symptoms may include:

  • Breaking rules without clear reason
  • Cruel or aggressive behavior toward people or animals (for example: bullying, fighting, using dangerous weapons, forcing sexual activity, and stealing)
  • Not going to school (truancy — beginning before age 13)
  • Heavy drinking and/or heavy drug abuse
  • Intentionally setting fires
  • Lying to get a favor or avoid things they have to do
  • Running away
  • Vandalizing or destroying property

These children often make no effort to hide their aggressive behaviors. They may have a hard time making real friends.

How can parents treat conduct disorder?

Treatment for conduct disorder is based on many factors, including the child’s age, the severity of symptoms, as well as the child’s ability to participate in and tolerate specific therapies. Treatment usually consists of a combination of the following:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) is aimed at helping the child learn to express and control anger in more appropriate ways. A type of therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy aims to reshape the child’s thinking (cognition) to improve problem solving skills, anger management, moral reasoning skills, and impulse control. Family therapy may be used to help improve family interactions and communication among family members. A specialized therapy technique called parent management training (PMT) teaches parents ways to positively alter their child’s behavior in the home.
  • Medication: Although there is no medication formally approved to treat conduct disorder, various drugs may be used to treat some of its distressing symptoms, as well as any other mental illnesses that may be present, such as ADHD or major depression.

Sources: A.D.A.M. Health, WedMD

If you feel you have exhausted your local resources, your teen is shutting down in therapy, out-patient isn’t working, please contact us for information regarding quality residential therapy.

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Teens Skipping School: Youth Truancy

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 13, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

TeenTruancy2Truancy is a term used to describe any intentional unauthorized absence from compulsory schooling. Children in America today lose over five million days of their education each year through truancy. Often times they do this without the knowledge of their parents or school officials. In common usage the term typically refers to absences caused by students of their own free will, and usually does not refer to legitimate “excused” absences, such as ones related to a medical condition. It may also refer to students who attend school but do not go to classes.

Because of this confusion many schools have their own definitions, and as such the exact meaning of the term itself will differ from school to school and district to district. In order to avoid or diminish confusion, many schools explicitly define the term and their particular usage thereof in the school’s handbook of policies and procedures. In many instances truancy is the term referring to an absence associated with the most brazen student irresponsibility and results in the greatest consequences.

Many educators view truancy as something much more far reaching than the immediate consequence that missed schooling has on a student’s education. Truancy may indicate more deeply embedded problems with the student, the education they are receiving, or both. Because of its traditional association with juvenile delinquency, truancy in some schools may result in an ineligibility to graduate or to receive credit for class attended, until the time lost to truancy is made up through a combination of detention, fines, or summer school. This can be especially troubling for a child, as failing school can lead to social impairment if the child is held back, economic impact if the child drops out or cannot continue his or her education, and emotional impact as the cycle of failure diminishes the adolescent’s self-esteem.

What causes truancy?

The reason a student misses school will for different depending on the age and circumstances of each student. Sometimes a student will skip school because they feel unsafe at school or on their way to or from school. Other students may miss school because of family issues, financial demands, substance abuse, or mental health problems.

Factors contributing to truancy commonly stem from three core areas: school, family and community. Innate student characteristics and their experiences within all these areas will have a heavy impact on truancy rates.

Bad Influences

One of the common causes of truancy and disruptive behavior in children is the influence of friends and peers. Many times these peers are seen encouraging truancy as a status-seeking activity or as a way of joining in or blending in. The child’s natural instinct to want to be a part of a larger crowd or group dynamic will take over, even if they are taught better habits. Often times this same dynamic is prevalent in the face of any resistance the child may put forth, prompting teasing or goading the child into truanting.

School

What is classed as truancy can depend largely on the school’s attitude to the ‘truant’ or their problems. Relationships with teachers, seen as lacking respect/fairness, play a large factor in truancy rates among children. Often times this inability to get along with teachers and/or students will result in disciplinary problems which may lead to suspension, or expulsion. Of course, being away from the school either voluntarily or at the school’s demand can have an adverse affect on the student’s academic performance, resulting in not being able to keep up with school work, getting poor grades, or even failing. A school may also be remiss in not notifying parents/guardians of absences.

This feeds into the larger school category as a whole, encompassing not only relationships with teachers and issues of fair treatment but also the content and delivery of the curriculum, seen as lacking in relevance and stimulus. At this point the factors coming together are often times consolidated into the “standard” excuse from children regarding school and truancy, namely that they don’t like school in general or that they don’t like the particular school they are attending. Compounding the problem is the ease with which some pupils slip away unnoticed and how their school systems do not have in place a method to deter them. For example inconsistent and ineffective school attendance policies, in conjunction with poor record keeping, may cause a school to inadequately identify a child’s special education needs.

bullying_20120929090829_320_240Bullying

Closely related to the issue of a child’s relationship with school is the matter of bullying. Bullying is a prime component in the making of an unsafe school environment; if a child does not feel safe at school, or on the way to/from school, they are much more likely to become truant. Bullying occurs for many reasons and it goes beyond the one isolated instance of harassment either because of teachers’ inability to control, or problems arising from the child’s own personality or learning abilities. A parent might say they’re keeping their child off school because they’re being bullied. The school might call it truancy.

Personal Matters

Individual (personal) factors related to child truancy include: lack of self-esteem/social skills/confidence; poor peer relations; lack of academic ability; special needs; and lack of concentration/self-management skills. Professionals have identified that many chronically truant children had a job, had a family to support, or had trouble managing both school and work, thus forcing them to make a choice between personal life and school. For sure when a child gets married, gets pregnant and/or becomes a parent the risk of truancy increases. Often times the risky behaviors are further instigated if the child develops or has already developed an alcohol or drug problem.

Family factors that contribute to truancy in students are innately personal in nature. Parentally condoned absence is especially influential, as it reinforces the lack of consequences for irresponsible/unwanted behavior on the part of the child. Parental attitudes to education are crucial to schools success in keeping children in school; often times a parent’s condonation of truancy (albeit overt or tacit) is construed as the parent’s not valuing education. It is worth noting that many parents indiscriminately sanction an absence by sending a note or making a call. Schools should be able to enlist the support of parents when it comes to tackling truancy. When a parent doesn’t value education, wants their child to help them out at home or believes their child has good reasons for staying away, the task is altogether more challenging.

Many educators point to the prevalence of so-called ‘tourist truants’: like children who stay two weeks in the French Alps missing vital parts of their school curriculum. These kinds of trips give as negative a message to a child as a note for a fortnight off school for a mild cold. Many schools will only exceptionally agree to a child missing more than 10 school days for a family holiday or other reason during one year. Some schools may refuse to authorize any absence for holidays.

Does it matter?

Children who play truant from school very often select the classes they want to miss. Usually the subjects they skip are ones the student finds difficult or boring, possibly a clash with the teacher is to blame. One common pattern is for truants to attend school for morning and afternoon head counts, but somehow sneak out during most of the day. Missing lessons is bad news for any young person and truancy is likely to have a negative impact on their overall education and job prospects.

Children who constantly turn up late for lessons are disruptive to other students and the school’s learning environment, and truanting has a negative effect on school morale. It should also be noted that children who are truanting could be in physical danger or at risk from being drawn into criminal activity.

GavelWhen The Law Gets Involved

Truancy, known simply as skipping school in some areas, is defined by all states as unexcused absences from school without the knowledge of a parent or guardian. The fact is, juveniles who are school-aged are required by all states to attend school, whether that school is public, private, parochial, or some other educational forum. Truancy is, therefore, a status offense as it only applies to people of a certain age. The school age of a juvenile varies from state to state, with most states requiring attendance either from age six to age 17 or from age five to 18. There are a number of exceptions, such as Pennsylvania, which denotes school age as between eight and 17 and Illinois which denotes school age as between seven and 16.

Most local education authorities employ education welfare officers (EWOs), sometimes called education social workers, to monitor attendance and help parents fulfill their responsibilities under the law. Welfare officers often visit families whose children fail to attend school regularly. These visits are the start of a process which may, in the worst cases, end with the family being taken to court. Parents and care givers have a duty in law to ensure their registered school age children are educated. The local education authority may institute legal proceedings against parents whose children do not regularly attend school (unless the parents can prove they’re being successfully educated at home).

Is your teen missing or skipping many of their classes?  Have you tried to talked with them and they are shutting you down? Maybe exhausted your local resources or tried having them speak with your friends or relatives? If your teen is on the verge of suspension or expulsion and you have reached your wit’s end, please contact us for more information on residential therapy.

 

Is Self-Harming Mental Illness?

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

Self-injury is a trend we are hearing more and more about. Teens and younger are engaging in self-harming and it’s very alarming for parents, as it should be.

What is causing this dangerous and risky behavior? Is it peer pressure? Is it stress related? What is so emotionally painful that your child is burying it by the physical pain of cutting?

Is self-harming a form of mental illness?

It’s important to understand that a teen who is a self-injurer is not mentally ill. Self-injury is not merely a way to get attention. Even though the self-injurer may not feel the pain while inflicting the wound, he or she will feel pain afterward.

SelfHarmThis is not to say it’s not imperative you get your child help.

Thus, such injuries should not be brushed aside as mere manipulation, nor should the teen be made fun of for being different. Self-injury should be taken seriously by friends and family. Trust and compassion can make a world of difference.

Cutting verses suicide is another issue parents are concerned about.

People who self-injure to get rid of bad feelings are not necessarily suicidal. Self-injury is almost the opposite. Instead of wanting to end their lives, those who inflict physical harm to themselves are desperate to find a way to get through the day without feeling horrible.

Again, this doesn’t mean you dismiss this as not an important problem, these are big issues.

Though the two concepts are different, self-injury should not be brushed aside as a small problem. The very nature of self-injury is physical damage to one’s body. It’s important for the self-injurer to seek help at once.

Can you stop your child from self-harming?

A person may not be able to stop injuring themselves “cold turkey.” But seeing a counselor or joining a support group will likely help to ease the frequency and severity of self-injury. Intense negative feelings may cause a person to feel isolated from the rest of the world, so a social support system is important to fight self-injury.

There are effective treatment strategies for those who self-injure. The forms and causes of self-injury are unique to each individual. A psychologist or counselor will be able to tailor a treatment strategy to each person.

If you have exhausted your local resources and local therapy, support groups as well as outpatient treatment is not working – please contact us for information on residential therapy.

Source:  WebMD.com

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Teen Suicide: Dispelling the Myths

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 08, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Despite the efforts of the mental health and public health fields, suicide remains the third most common cause of death for adolescents 15-19 years of age (behind accidents and homicide).

Although facts such as these can leave us feeling hopeless, there are myths that may lead us to act inappropriately or not take action at all. By dispelling myths with currently known research findings, we can improve our ability to identify children at risk and more effectively intervene to prevent suicide.

Myth: Suicide always occurs without any warning signs.

Fact: There are disorders and behaviors that can be diagnosed and/or observed that can assist with identifying youth at risk for suicide. Depression is the single most significant psychiatric risk factor for adolescent suicidal behavior. Some predictors of suicidal events in treated, depressed samples of adolescents include a past suicide attempt and high baseline levels of suicidal ideation, agitation, and anger. Other significant risk factors for suicide in adolescents include other mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use, and disruptive behaviors (such as conduct disorder and significant impulsivity). A recent study revealed that family conflict is also a significant contributor to suicidality in a depressed population (Brent et al., 2009). Further, a recent stressful life event in combination with a psychiatric condition is an increased risk for suicide attempts (Gould et al., 1996).

Myth: If you ask a child or adolescent about suicidal thoughts, you might put an idea into their heads, so you should not ask.

Fact: A recent multi-site study looked at predictors of suicidal adverse events in a population of depressed adolescents and found that relying on “spontaneous report of suicidal adverse events will underestimate the rate of events compared to systematic assessment” (Brent et al., 2009). In the study, they detected more suicidal adverse events, nonsuicidal self-injury events as well as more suicide attempts when the monitoring was conducted in a systematic manner. These findings suggest that not asking a child about suicidal ideation is significantly more dangerous than asking.

Myth: If an adolescent has made a suicide attempt in the past, they are not likely to try again in a more lethal manner. They are just trying to get attention.

Fact: While suicidal ideation alone would tend to over predict the likelihood of a suicide attempt, a previous attempt is a very strong indicator of high risk. A previous suicide attempt is the number one and two predictors, for boys and girls respectively, of a completed suicide. Some believe that adolescents who make a second attempt might just be dramatic, when in fact they are truly at risk of taking their lives.

Myth: Media coverage about suicide attempts or completed suicides does not impact suicidal behavior in youth.

Fact: Suicide contagion is real. There is an increase in suicide by readers/viewers when the number of stories about individual suicides increases, a particular death is reported at length or in many stories, the story of a suicide is placed on the front page or at the beginning of a broadcast, or the headlines about a suicide death is dramatic. It is important to not dramatize the impact of suicide through descriptions and pictures as this can encourage other adolescents to seek attention in the same way.

Of more recent concern is the use of the internet as a tool for attention and communication about suicide among teens. There is no research yet to understand the impact of cyberspace on youth suicide.

The National Institute of Mental Health has a website devoted to assisting the media with appropriate reporting of suicide (www.nimh.nih.gov/).

Myth: Taking medication for depression may make a child suicidal.

Fact: Although there is significant controversy about this issue, many researchers have found the opposite to be true. The introduction of the SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) in the 1980’s was believed to contribute to the steady decrease in suicides between 1990 and 2003. Following the institution of the “black box warnings” for SSRI’s, between 2003 and 2005, the prescription rate of SSRI’s for adolescents dropped 22% in the United States.

During this same period suicide rates increased in the Netherlands by 49% and in the United States by 14%. Several researchers have advocated the theory that the reduction in use of SSRI’s led to the increased rates in youth suicide.

Myth: Once people decide to die by suicide, there is nothing you can do to stop them.

Fact: While suicide prevention is still far from perfect, there have been a few agreed upon effective interventions. Those interventions that have been shown to be beneficial include physician education, means restriction, and gatekeeper education (Mann et al., 2005). Education of primary care physicians about the diagnosis and treatment of depression in children and adolescents is an important component to decreasing youth suicide.

By ensuring that youth do not have access to the most commonly used lethal methods of suicide we can decrease the number of completed suicides (firearms, pesticides, etc.). Although gatekeepers refer to such groups as the military, it is possible that schools can perform such a function. The Columbia Suicide Screen (www.teenscreen.org) has been utilized to identify suicidal and emotionally troubled students that would not otherwise be identified by school professionals.

Myth: Only a professional would be able to identify a child at risk for suicide.

ParentSupportsignFact: Parents, caregivers, and involved school personnel may be the first to notice changes in a child at risk for suicide. Some warning signs include those that indicate a severe depression and others that are particular risk factors for suicide. Some signs to watch for include: change in eating and sleeping habits, withdrawal from friends/family, violent actions, running away, substance use, neglect of personal appearance, personality change, boredom, decline in academic functioning, frequent physical complaints, lack of enjoyment in activities, and intolerance to praise.

Also, as per the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Facts for Families (www.aacap.org), a teenager who is planning to commit suicide may also: complain of being a bad person or feeling rotten inside, give verbal hints with statements such as: I won’t be a problem for you much longer, Nothing matters, It’s no use, and I won’t see you again, become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression, and develop signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts).

Although the rates of adolescent suicide are disheartening, by learning about the facts and making informed decisions, professionals and parents involved in the lives of adolescents can begin to make a difference.

Source: Bradley-Hasbro Children’s Research Center

If your teen is struggling and you have exhausted your local resources such as local therapy and outpatient help, please contact us for information on residential therapy.

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Does Your Teen Have Bipolar Disorder?

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 07, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Bipolar disorder seems to be a popular discussion in our society today.  It has replaced (though we still discuss) ADD/ADHD/ODD and conduct disorder, now we are hearing more teens being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.

What is bipolar disorder and how do you know if your teenager is struggling with it?

Bipolar disorder is characterized by dramatic or unusual mood swings between major depression and extreme elation, or mania. The mood swings can be mild or extreme. They can come on slowly or quickly, within hours to days. Bipolar disorder usually starts between 15 and 30 years of age. It’s more prevalent in those teens who have a family history of the mood disorder.

TeenDepressionBipolarThere are two subtypes of bipolar disorder: bipolar I and bipolar II.

  • With bipolar I, the teenager alternates between extreme states of depression and intense mania. With the mania, the teen might be abnormally happy, energetic, and very talkative, with no need for sleep for days. He or she might also have hallucinations, psychosis, grandiose delusions, and/or paranoid rage, all of which might require hospitalization and medications. Once bipolar I begins, it typically persists throughout the person’s life.
  • With bipolar II, the teen has depression but a lesser form of elation called “hypomania.” While someone with either mania or hypomania may have grandiose mood and reduced need for sleep, hypomania is a period of incredible energy, charm, and productivity. It’s often associated with high achievers.

While many teens can be irritable with or without bipolar disorder, the irritability that comes with mania or hypomania may be more hostile. Some believe there is a link between ADHD and bipolar disorder. Some 57% of teens who have adolescent-onset bipolar disorder also have ADHD.

What causes bipolar disorder?

Scientists don’t know the exact cause of bipolar disorder. Still, many experts believe that of all psychiatric disorders, bipolar is the most closely linked to genetics. For example, if your parent has bipolar disorder, you are about nine times more likely to get the condition than other teens.

Biochemical and environmental factors play a role in bipolar disorder, too. In fact, researchers think that imbalances in neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that regulate moods) increase the chance of bipolar disorder.

What are some symptoms teens may experience?

Symptoms of bipolar disorder include mania (highs), hypomania (mild highs), and depression (lows). Feeling manic or hypomanic is not the same as having super-energy and being very outgoing or highly productive one weekend. Likewise, depression is not a temporary bad mood that happens when you don’t have a date for the school dance.

The mood episodes with bipolar disorder are intense, and noticeable by friends and family. A teen with mania might be hyper-excited, silly, and have laughing fits in class that are inappropriate. In some teens, mania’s grandiosity may cause problems with defiance, as the teen refuses to comply with any authority at home or at school.

Symptoms of mania include:

  • Racing speech and thoughts.
  • Increased energy.
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • Elevated mood and exaggerated optimism.
  • Increased physical and mental activity.
  • Excessive irritability, aggressive behavior, and impatience.
  • Hypersexuality, increased sexual thoughts, feeling or behaviors; use of sexual language.
  • Reckless behavior, like excessive spending, making rash decisions, and erratic driving.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Inflated sense of self-importance.

Symptoms of hypomania include:

  • Exuberant and elated mood.
  • Increased confidence.
  • Extremely focused on projects at work or at home.
  • Increased creativity and productivity.
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • Increased energy and libido.
  • Risk-taking behaviors.
  • Reckless behaviors.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Loss of interest in usual activities.
  • Prolonged sad or irritable mood.
  • Loss of energy or fatigue.
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
  • Sleeping too much, inability to sleep, or difficulty falling asleep.
  • Drop in grades and inability to concentrate.
  • Inability to experience pleasure.
  • Loss of appetite or overeating.
  • Anger, worry, and anxiety.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

How is bipolar disorder treated?

If your doctor determines you have bipolar disorder, he or she may prescribe one or more medications, depending on the type and severity of the symptoms.

Some drugs often used to stabilize mania or hypomania include lithium carbonate, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and benzodiazepines. Lithium and lamotrigine (Lamictal) are standard treatments for the depressed phase of bipolar disorder. Doctors are cautious in using antidepressants alone, as they might trigger a manic mood swing.

Psychotherapy can help the patient and family learn more about the illness and how to cope with the mood changes. Because of the relapses and remissions of bipolar disorder, the illness has a high rate of recurrence if untreated.

If you have exhausted your local resources and including therapy, you may want to consider residential therapy.  Contact us for more information.

Sources: WebMD.com

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