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Monthly Archives November 2015

Warning Signs Your Teen Could Be Using Drugs

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 23, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

TeendrugabuseThis is a difficult question that many parents have to face on a daily basis. Parents who spend a great deal of time with their teenagers are often tuned into what is normal behavior and what is not.

However, even parents who are actively involved in the daily activities of their teenagers may overlook – or subconsciously deny – the earliest signs of a substance abuse problem.

Some of the clues that your teenager may exhibit when using drugs or alcohol are fairly subtle, but others are rather obvious:

• Many hours spent alone, especially in their room; persistent isolation from the rest of the family. This is particular suspicious in a youngster who had not been a loner until now.

• Resistance to taking with or confiding in parents, secretiveness, especially in a teenager who had previously been open. Be sure that your teenager is not being secretive because every time he tries to confide in you, you jump on him or break his confidence.

• There is marked change for the worse in performance and attendance at school and/or job or other responsibilities as well as in dress, hygiene, grooming, frequent memory lapses, lack of concentration, and unusual sleepiness.

• A change of friends; from acceptable to unacceptable.

• Pronounced mood swings with irritability, hostile outbursts, and rebelliousness. Your teenager may seem untrustworthy, insincere or even paranoid.

• Lying , usually in order to cover up drinking or drug using behavior as well as sources of money and possessions; stealing, shoplifting, or encounters with the police.

• Abandonment of wholesome activities such as sports, social service and other groups, religious services, teen programs, hobbies, and even involvement in family life.

• Unusual physical symptoms such as dilated or pinpoint pupils, bloodshot eyes, frequent nosebleeds, changes in appetite, digestive problems, excessive yawning, and the shakes.

Parent_Teen_TroublesThese are just a few of the warning signs that can be recognized.

• Be careful not to jump to the conclusion that your teenager may be using when you see such behavior.
• Evaluate the situation.
• Talk to your teenager.
• Try to spend time with her so that she feels that she can trust you.
• By creating a home that is nurturing, she will understand that despite of unhealthy choices that she will always get the love and moral support that she deserves.
• Building a strong relationship with your teenager now will mean that in time of crises your love, support, wisdom, and experience won’t be shut out of your teenager’s decision making.
• If you have a suspicion that your teenager is involved in the use of drugs or alcohol, don’t hesitate to bring the subject up.

The sooner the problem is identified and treated, the better the chances that your teenager’s future will be safeguarded. Raising the subject will be easier if you already have good communication in the family. Discuss the ways in which you can seek help together. An evaluation by a substance abuse professional may be the key to understanding what is really going on with your teenager.

Contributor: Shawnda Burns, LCSW

Especially around the holiday season, keep your parent radar on high alert. Monitor your monitor medicine cabinets.

If your teen has been struggling with substance abuse, be sure to seek help. If they refuse to get help, it may be time to consider residential therapy. Contact us for more information on this step.

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5 Ways to Protect Your Teenager Online

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 14, 2015  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

TeenOnlineSafetyAn astonishing 75 percent of teenagers have access to smartphones and 24 percent of teens go online “almost constantly.” As a parent of a teenager in this constantly evolving cyber world, it’s overwhelming and frightening thinking of all the potential threats compromising your teens digital and physical security. A Pew Research study found that 90 percent of children have witnessed or experienced cyber bullying within the last year and a study by Drexel University found that 54 percent of minors have reported sexting.

Here are five ways to protect your teenager online:

Take Advantage of Smartphone Applications

There are a variety of free and paid applications that provide parents with a wide range of access to their teenager’s mobile phone activity.

If you’re concerned about your teen stumbling upon adult content, K9 Browser is a free application that blocks adult content and is available for smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. For more thorough access to your teen’s activity, the Norton Family Parental Control application’s paid version allows parents to see the sites their teen is visiting from the computer or mobile device but also allows you to block sites and see text messages.

Create a Contract

Before your teenager receives their first mobile device or personal computer, create a contract spelling out each of your expectations. According to the Family Online Safety Institute, almost 50 percent of teenagers are not concerned that their online reputation today will hurt future goals and 58 percent feel it is safe to post photos or intimate details online. A written and signed contract makes it very clear to your teenager what your expectations are in regard to online activity.

Stay Informed & Up-to-date

Setting up guidelines, boundaries and privacy software is not enough. The Internet and cyber criminals are changing so fast that as soon as you have a grasp on the newest social media or application and its potential threats or privacy terms, it has already evolved. To stay up-to-date on the latest cyber security news and tips, bookmark LifeLock Unlocked.

Mark All Profiles as Private

The most important takeaway for your teenager, is that nothing is temporary online. Even if they delete a post, a photo or an account, it can be easily retrieved and anyone can copy or save it. Besides filtering what he or she posts, ensure your teenager’s online profiles are private. Do not rely on the site’s default settings and adjust settings accordingly. Stress to your teen that this does not mean what he or she posts is now “safe” but it does make it more difficult for individuals to access.

Safeguards Passwords & Change Them Frequently

Identity theft is just as much of a threat for your teenager as it is for adults. Teach your teen how to choose safe and secure passwords that are changed every three to six months to ensure maximum security. Advise your teen not to share passwords with anyone besides parents or guardians.

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Teen Alcoholism: What is the Mentality Behind It?

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

Teen drinking, which is underage drinking, is an issue that many parents face.

Being an educated and prepared parent helps to keep your child safer.

The Pre-Game
Teens often indulge in a “pre-game” drinking binge before parties or sports events. Large quantities are consumed quickly in order to sustain a sense of inebriation over many hours. The point of a pre-game binge is to achieve inebriation before an event where access to alcohol and drugs will be restricted.

Pre-gaming is especially dangerous in that it often occurs in a vehicle. Although drinking can occur during the drive to the event, teens may also drink in the parking lot of the event venue. Alcohol can also be smuggled into venues, disguised in water bottles or hidden inside large purses or jackets.

The Parent Game Plan: Before parties and big events, be involved as your teen prepares. When possible, drive your teen and his friends to the venue. As always, be honest with your teen about the dangers of drinking and your stance on the issue.

Working for the Weekend
Some kids work hard all week on academics and sports, but see the weekend as a time to partake in illicit activities and party behavior. This mindset is especially prevalent at competitive high schools. This attitude toward drugs and alcohol equates recreation as something that is rebellious against responsibility and is seen as a reward for good behavior. After working hard, they feel as though they deserve to play hard. This type of attitude can lead to a dependence on drugs or alcohol as a means to relax.

The Parent Game Plan: Explain to your teen that responsible behavior throughout the week does not warrant complete independence. It is also important to teach your teen positive ways to relax. Positive recreational activities and hobbies not only occupy a teen’s time, but they also offer a sense of accomplishment and self-worth that alcohol and drugs can never provide.

Social Lubricant
Let’s face it. Being a teenager is difficult, and social interaction can be awkward. Many teens drink to feel less inhibited and more secure in social settings. Unfortunately, some teens will drink in response to anxiety about a crush, which heightens the risk of poor sexual decisions. Forming these habits during formative years can have a drastic effect on a teen, potentially making it difficult for her to socialize without alcohol or other substances.

The Parent Game Plan: Teens needs to learn how to face the fears and risks of social interaction in a substance-free environment. Host co-ed movie nights or game nights for your teen’s friends and serve as a chaperone. Sometimes teenagers turn to illicit activities because the peer group doesn’t accept wholesome activities as fun. It is your job to provide your teenager with a healthy example of “adult” fun.

Another option is to introduce your teen to an older mentor. Encouraging your teen to spend time with mentors with similar interests can help him adapt to a more mature standard of behavior. This will also give your teen the opportunity to talk about embarrassing or difficult situations he may not be able to come to you about.

For the Win
During unsupervised parties, many kids participate in drinking games popularized by college students. While these games can seem as harmless as table tennis to teenagers, the truth is those who participate in drinking games are at a higher risk for developing alcoholism. Once teens accept the rules of these games, the height of tolerance levels is tantamount to strength. These teens think they are winning at a game, but they are actually exposing their brains to toxic levels of alcohol.

Essentially drinking games are a way for teenagers to bond while participating in binge drinking behavior. Unlike pre-gaming, there is no time limit in drinking games. This means that many teens will drink until their physical limits are reached. Alcohol poisoning and black-outs are two immediate effects of binge drinking.

The Parent Game Plan: Teenagers who binge drink will be unable to hide the effects from their parents, which means they will most likely “crash” where the party was thrown or they will stay with a friend who has lenient or oblivious parents. Parents can discourage binge drinking by confirming plans with other parents and enforcing curfews. Let your teenager know that you expect him not only to behave responsibly, but to look out for his friends who may be affected by this social behavior.

How to Stop Teen Alcohol Abuse

Be involved.

Parents who are involved in their teenagers lives – offering support, encouraging questions and providing wholesome outlets for socializing – are following the #1 rule to keeping their children safe from alcohol abuse.

Contributor: Lauren Bailey

If you suspect your teen is drinking, be sure to seek outside help. Have you exhausted your local resources and you find their behavior is escalating? Don’t be a parent in denial and believe this is only a phase they will grow out of. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s not. Learn more about your options if you feel you are at your wit’s end – contact us for more information.

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Teens and Addiction: Reality Check for Parents

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 06, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

SadTeenParenting teens can be challenging. No matter how many times we talk about just saying no to drugs, there will be a teenager that will cave to peer pressure.

Parents need to stop being in denial and start educating their kids about the dangers of addiction which can follow drug abuse. Stop saying, “not my kid!” Yes, it could be your kid!

If you haven’t taken the time to watch, Heroin in the Heartland, make the time. These are good kids that suddenly find themselves in the throws of addiction.

Parent denial only delays treatment.

3 Reality Checks for Parents:

  1. Myth: We try to keep our home teen-friendly because if our teen(s) hang out here – even if they’re drinking – we know they’re safe. Reality Check: There is nothing wrong with making your teen and his/her friends comfortable in your home. But teenage drinking is never safe even when they are being “supervised.” Not only is alcohol bad for their health and development but it also impairs their judgment. The media has reported on scenarios where teens in these situations have wandered off and died in a preventable accident, driven drunk and hurt themselves or others and committed a violent act against a peer.
  2. Myth: It’s better for my child if he/she considers me a best friend.  Reality Check: Part of your job as a parent is to set and enforce rules. Trying to be their best friend is only confusing and gives mixed messages.
  3. Myth: My husband and I have different parenting styles. What’s the big deal?  Reality Check: It’s critical for all caregivers to be on the same page whether they are married, divorced, nannies, grandparents, etc. Consistency is key to raising a healthy and responsible teen who understands and respects boundaries.

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

If you fear your child is heading down a dark path and have exhausted your local resources, please contact us for more information on quality residential therapy.

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Teen Driving Laws and Statistics You Need to Know

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 03, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

TeenDriving4There is nothing more indicative of growing up and blossoming into an adult like picturing your teenager at the wheel. You may be reeling from the bouts of anxiety you feel from knowing that your baby is no longer safely strapped away in her car seat, but rather behind the wheel. However alarming this may be, you can help prepare yourself for this inevitable transition from child to adulthood with some light preparation.

Become Aware of the Law

Knowing you have a teenager also means that your lovely, perfect angel is also probably experimenting, making risky choices and facing peer pressure at every turn. As reported by teendriversource.org, the fatal crash rate for drivers ages 16 to 19, based on miles driven, is four times higher than for drivers ages 25 to 69. As terrifying as this may be, you can prepare by becoming aware of driving laws in your state and getting your teen involved in learning the stats specific to your state. If you live in Florida, for example, you can visit driving-tests.org to learn all of the rules that matter and are tested in this state.

Prepare for the Worst

Knowing the law is the first step in helping your teen become a safe driver. The next step is recognizing that accidents do happen and that knowing how to handle such a situation is useful in making the best out of a bad situation. You can help your teen prepare by enrolling him in courses that can help him become more savvy about how to handle tough situations. Both Driver’s Ed and Defensive Driving are excellent courses that can help your teen become a safer driver. With a little research, you can find out what the age requirements are in your state. In Washington, you can attend a Driver’s Ed course as early as 15 years old, and in Montana you can be 14 when you enroll, proving that laws vary from state to state but what remains the same is the benefit of early education.

Practice Makes Perfect

If Driver’s Ed doesn’t cut it for you in terms of preparation, you can also choose to check out other programs designed to cover what it may not. One such program, Driver’s Edge, employs professionals to specifically target the unusually high number of teen accidents. While the founding office is based out of Las Vegas, this program travels across the country and educates parents and teens alike. You can check out their offerings at driversedge.org.

Be Understanding

Teenagers are looking to make their mark in the world and rules and regulations often appear as impositions on their independence. So don’t be surprised when from time to time, they do act out and in ways that make you cringe. You can, however, make clear that the car is not the place to challenge authority by sharing stories of other teens who made choices that resulted in fatal errors. According to health.harvard.edu, preventing driving accidents with teens can be as simple as setting the right limitations. So, instead of being concerned with where your teen is driving, consider how he is driving. By stressing the behaviors that good drivers exhibit, you can help your teen start to model these behaviors.

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How Good Teens Can Get Hooked On Heroin

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 02, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

HeronAbuse“Not my child.”

“He was only smoking weed.”

“It started with his wisdom teeth being removed and pain meds.”

“It was a sports injury and the pain meds helped.”

“It was only pot.”

“It’s not my teen.”

If you missed Heroin in the Heartland on 60 Minutes, take fifteen minutes to watch it.

These are not your typical stereotype junkies many parents imagine an addict to be, these could be your child. These are good kids making some very risky and deadly decisions.

I have been speaking to parents since 2001 and two of the biggest misconceptions that parents have is exactly what this segment shared:

  1. It’s not my teen/child.
  2. It’s only weed.
Hannah Morris/CBS News

Hannah Morris/CBS News

Hannah Morris on 60 Minutes said the following, while she was 15 years-old:

“It started with weed and it was fun, and I got to good weed . Went to– oh my gosh, I went to pills, and it was still fun. You know, Percocet, Xanax, Vicodin, all that kinda stuff. And then yeah, heroin. I started smoking it at first.”

Both of Hannah’s parents are professionals and live in an upper middle-class area.  Hannah has been clean for a year and now attending college.

Don’t be a parent in denial.

Okay, marijuana is legal now, but get educated on it. It still has risk for youth and their brain cells – and more importantly when teens are buying it from dealers, it could be potentially laced with heroin. ABC 20/20 shared a segment on this a few years back – The New Faces of Heroin Users.

It’s basic economic’s, the dealers are going where the money is. – 60 Minutes

Parents need to learn more about heroin. They need to stop believing that it won’t or can’t happen to them. Heroin is deadly. Start talking about it – and don’t think of it as a stigma, but rather being proactive.  Start chatting about the 60 Minute segment. How do you feel about all the pain meds or the fact some parents flippantly say – it’s only marijuana?  This is not your parent’s weed.  This is your teenager’s life.

Parents that learned firsthand that heroin is risky and deadly/CBS News

Parents that learned firsthand that heroin is risky and deadly/CBS News

 

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Teens and Cyber Safety and Online Privacy

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 01, 2015  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens

TeensonlinefriendsParents know the things to do keep their kids safe around home, like keeping an eye on them outside, teaching them stranger danger and to travel in groups. But what about in the virtual world? It’s shown to be just as dangerous, and if certain information gets in the wrong hands, your child, your family, and your identity could all be at risk.

The Web offers a plethora of fun and educational things for kids to do, plus all the social networking that is huge for tweens and teens. But along with that comes plenty of places for danger. Just as parents need to talk to their kids about safety in the everyday real world, they also must discuss safety precautions related to the Internet, and make sure their kids get it.

What can parents do? How do they start the conversation? It is important to cover the dangers – all of them – in age-appropriate language to help kids understand the dangers of giving away information online.

Talk, Talk, Talk

The most important thing parents can do is talk to their kids, tweens, and teens. Make sure they know the dangers that are prevalent online, whether sexual predators, those that want to steal identities and financial information, and any other type of cybercriminal. Make sure to keep lines of communication open so kids feel comfortable talking about anything relating to the Internet that bothers them.

Set Clear Internet Rules

Depending on the kids’ ages, parents may have different rules. Young children should never even give out their name. Once kids get older and more into social media, reinforce the importance of careful posting and sharing – what goes on the Internet is there forever! Nothing personal should be posted or shared, like address, phone number, or credit card information.

Identity Theft

When it comes to personal information, it’s easier than most think to get other’s information. If a site looks fishy, it probably is. Parents need to make sure their kids understand to never give out personal information like credit card numbers, bank accounts, or social security numbers without parental permission, even if they are buying something.

If a child sees something like “accepts credit cards” or “enter information here,” he needs to let a parent know and stop what he’s doing. Once credit card information or other personal numbers are in the hands of others, it’s tough to reverse the damage. The best rule is never give it out.

ParentTeen2How to Start This Conversation

Start talking about Internet safety when kids are young. Keep the computer in family areas so activity can be monitored. As kids get older, reinforce these topics. Let them know age-appropriate instances of what can happen if things like cyberbullying or credit card theft happen. Parents need to let children know that they are always available, even if mistakes are made, so they can solve things together.

The bottom line is: Don’t give out information! Whether it’s social, personal, or financial, kids need to keep this to themselves. Parents should stay tuned in to not only what goes in the world of online security, but also what their kids are doing online. Awareness is key. And, parents, keep reinforcing how important it is to your kids!

Your constant and consistent offline conversations helps keep your teen safer online.

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