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Monthly Archives June 2019

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 07, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Book, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Depression, Teen Drug Use, Teen Help, Troubled Teens
Renowned neurologist Dr. Frances E. Jensen offers a revolutionary look at the brains of teenagers, dispelling myths and offering practical advice for teens, parents and teachers.

The Teenage Brain demystifies the teen brain by presenting new findings, dispelling widespread myths and providing practical advice for negotiating this difficult and dynamic life stage for both adults and teens.

Dr. Frances E. Jensen is chair of the department of neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. As a mother, teacher, researcher, clinician, and frequent lecturer to parents and teens, she is in a unique position to explain to readers the workings of the teen brain. In The Teenage Brain, Dr. Jensen brings to readers the astonishing findings that previously remained buried in academic journals.

The root myth scientists believed for years was that the adolescent brain was essentially an adult one, only with fewer miles on it. Over the last decade, however, the scientific community has learned that the teen years encompass vitally important stages of brain development.  Samples of some of the most recent findings include:

  • Teens are better learners than adults because their brain cells more readily “build” memories. But this heightened adaptability can be hijacked by addiction, and the adolescent brain can become addicted more strongly and for a longer duration than the adult brain.
  • Studies show that girls’ brains are a full two years more mature than boys’ brains in the mid-teens, possibly explaining differences seen in the classroom and in social behavior.
  • Adolescents may not be as resilient to the effects of drugs as we thought. Recent experimental and human studies show that the occasional use of marijuana, for instance, can cause lingering memory problems even days after smoking, and that long-term use of pot impacts later adulthood IQ.
  • Multi-tasking causes divided attention and has been shown to reduce learning ability in the teenage brain. Multi-tasking also has some addictive qualities, which may result in habitual short attention in teenagers.
  • Emotionally stressful situations may impact the adolescent more than it would affect the adult: stress can have permanent effects on mental health and can to lead to higher risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression.

Dr. Jensen gathers what we’ve discovered about adolescent brain function, wiring, and capacity and explains the science in the contexts of everyday learning and multitasking, stress and memory, sleep, addiction, and decision-making.  In this groundbreaking yet accessible book, these findings also yield practical suggestions that will help adults and teenagers negotiate the mysterious world of adolescent development.

Read an except of The Teenage Brain here.

Order your copy on Amazon today.

Visit our P.U.R.E. Library for more parenting book suggestions.

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What Parents Need To Know About Juuling

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 07, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Article, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Depression, Teen Drug Use, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Keeping up with teens today, it’s not easy.

From vaping to juuling, we’re here to educate you.

Photo credit: YourTeenMag.

By Sandra Gorden, contributor for Your Teen Magazine

While searching for my iPhone earbuds in my 16-year-old daughter’s bedside table, I came across a coin purse with tiny cartridges that look like a computer thumb drive. When Jane got home from school, I asked her what they were. “They’re Penelope’s,” Jane said. “I’m holding them for her.”

That seemed plausible. Penelope is a friend whose mom is very strict. But I still didn’t know what they were, and I thought: This can’t be good.

“What do you do with them?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Jane said.

Slowly, we got to the bottom of it. They were Juul pods, nicotine cartridges for the latest, trendy version of an e-cigarette.

“The whole school does it,” Jane said. “It’s not a big deal.”

In fact, more than 3 million middle school and high school students in the U.S. use e-cigarettes—also known as “vaping.” And the numbers continue to grow every year. Suddenly, I realized that Jane and her friends were among them.

What is Juuling?

E-cigarettes are typically battery-powered devices that heat a liquid (“juice”) that turns into an aerosol that teens inhale into their lungs. Until this point, I thought vaping involved using a vaping pen, a small round device with a mouth piece on the end. But Juuling, as it’s popularly known, is much easier to hide. Juul is a sleek, rectangular vaporizing device that delivers a concentrated form of nicotine. It looks like a USB flash drive, and can even be plugged into a laptop to charge.

According to the Juul website, each cartridge contains 0.7 mL with 5 percent nicotine by weight. One Juul pod is equivalent to smoking one pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs. But the biggest draw for teens is that the pods come in fun flavors, such as cucumber, mango, and mint, says Koorosh Rassekh, an addiction therapist and founder of Evo Health and Wellness, an outpatient addiction treatment program in Venice, California.

What are the Risks of Vapor Smoking?

While teens may believe that vaping is relatively safe, there are numerous health risks. “You can get addicted to e-cigarettes,” says Bill Blatt, director of Tobacco Programs for the American Lung Association. Like smoking a regular cigarette, the nicotine from Juul or other e-cigarettes gets into teens’ lungs and bloodstream and keeps them coming back for more.

And because the smoke isn’t as noticeable as regular cigarettes, teens can take a draw from their Juul and put it in their pocket without the teacher seeing it. Forget about running to the restroom: “They can smoke in class,” Blatt says.

The FDA has banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, so Juul pods and other vaping devices can’t legally be sold to them. But teens still find ways to get them, so parents need to address this trend.

How to Talk to Your Teens about Juuling:

To talk to your teen about Juuling, vaping, or any other substance use, Rassekh offers four helpful tips for having productive conversations.

1. Don’t lecture.

Just saying, Don’t Juul (or vape) because it’s bad for you, doesn’t help. (Guilty!) Lecturing about its harmfulness will only compel your teen to keep it a secret from you, Rassekh says.

2. Be open to the conversation.

Not every teen will be tempted to Juul or vape. But it’s worth having the conversation if you suspect they may be. In my daughter Jane’s case, she may truly be holding the cartridges for Penelope. But I suspect that she too is Juuling because her friends are—and like many teens, Jane lives for her friends. “The risk of being ostracized and the social benefit can motivate teens to Juul and try other substances,” Rassekh says.

3. Try to understand why your teen is Juuling.

Teens can be tempted to Juul for many reasons, including not wanting to be bullied, peer pressure, or getting a break from the rigors of the school day. “To get to the bottom of any substance use, ask yourself, What is impacting my teen’s self-esteem negatively?” Rassekh says.

Once you understand why your teen might be drawn to Juuling or vaping, then you can begin to address your teen’s vulnerabilities and build the resilience to counterbalance it.

4. Get outside help.

If your teen has developed a nicotine habit in any form, it may be time to have a pediatrician or therapist talk with them. You can also call the Center for Disease Control’s national tobacco quit line, 800-784-8669, for more guidance from their professional counselors.

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Sign-up for the parent workshop for more information on vaping.

If you suspect your teen is juuling or their behavior is escalating and you have exhausted your local resources, contact us to discuss if residential therapy might be an option.

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