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Monthly Archives April 2017

Extraordinary Summer Camps Bring Grieving Children Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Experience Camps

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

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The Relationship Between Bullying and Drug Abuse

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

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

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

Here are some ways to understand teens and addiction:

Skipping school

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

Low self esteem 

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

Isolation

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

Personality changes

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

Bullies are at risk, too.

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

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

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

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

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

Contributor: Trevor McDonald

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Teens and Yoga: Balancing the Benefits and Improving Teen Depression

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 04, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

 No matter how mature teens may look, the truth is that they’re still kids in some way. They lack experience adults have, they don’t have enough freedom to make decisions on their own, but most importantly, they are way more vulnerable than grown ups. That’s why certain situations and issues that may seem like not a big deal for people in their 30s or even late 20s, oftentimes is the end of world for teens.

If you have kids and they’re already old enough to be called teenagers, then you’re likely to know how emotionally unstable and thin-skinned they sometimes can be. It takes very little to make them angry or sad, and it’s likely to give you hard times staying calm and balanced when they act this way.

Is there any solution to help teens handle all the hurdles happening to them on their way to adulthood? Sure, there are plenty of them. But the goal of this article is to focus on one of the most effective yet commonly undervalued methods – yoga practice.

So what are the biggest benefits? 

Gentle Physical Activity  

Those who say that yoga is not a serious physical exercise have never practiced yoga professionally. Some static asanas, which might look like an easy thing to do, require a great level of endurance, physical strength, and mental focus. And while it’s true that 30 minutes of yoga do not equal 30 minutes of running or swimming in terms of energy spending and calories burn, it doesn’t mean yoga may not be considered as sport. And, as experts suggest, yoga can bring in health benefits that otherwise would be out of reach.

Powerful Mental Practice  

According to a Harvard-based research, yoga is so powerful that it can improve depression, anxiety, and overall well-being by 50, 30, and 65 percent accordingly. No matter what the root causes of your teen’s emotional and psychological problems are, yoga can help manage and sometimes even completely eliminate the problem. For instance, if your teenager is going through the very first romantic breakup or is trying to improve self-confidence and social skills in college, yoga can be of great help. 

Additional Social Interaction 

Although remarkably social and easy-going teenagers do exist, the majority of teens find it hard making new friends and building relationships in the new surrounding. As a result, some of them feel lonely and lack vital social life that make our lives so interesting, valuable, and meaningful. For those teens who are naturally shy and uneasy, attending yoga classes might help establish new bonds or even make friends. In nearly all cases, people attending yoga are friendly and open-minded. Now add to that a common interest to yoga, and you get a perfect environment for practicing communication skills. 

Unobvious Educational Benefits

It might sound a little counterintuitive, but yoga practice is linked to improved academic performance and cognitive function. Since teenagers are living in a high-pace lifestyle, desperately trying to balance between education, personal life, family, and extracurricular activities, it makes their lives a big mess. Under the circumstances, it might be really hard to stay focused on learning a poem by heart or getting ready for an upcoming math test. Regular yoga practice is what trains our mind to be resistant to noises and other forms of distraction when there is a need to concentrate, which is a great skill for those who need to spend plenty of time studying.

So what’s the bottom line? 

It takes time and wisdom to master the art of stress management. That’s why young and open-minded people, our teens, might find it really hard to deal with daily hardships happen every now and then. The role of adults, in this regard, is to help teens train their psychological skills and resistance to stress, and yoga seems to be up for the task. The list of benefits it has is too long to be published in an article like that, but even the four advantages described above are enough to give yoga classes a try.

Contributor:  Amy Williams, a journalist and former social worker passionate about parenting and education.  You can follow Amy on Twitter.

 

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