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Parenting Teens

Teen Vaping Addiction: How to Help a Teen Stop Vaping

Posted by Sue Scheff on August 21, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Article, Parenting Teens, Teen Drug Use, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Teen Vaping Addiction: Tips on How to Help Your Teen Stop Vaping

By Sandra Gordon, Your Teen Magazine

Using e-cigarettes (vaping) is now a teen epidemic. Between 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette use among middle schoolers increased by 48 percent and among high schoolers by 78 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. More than a quarter of all high school students are frequent e-cigarette users, with 28 percent vaping more than 20 times per month.

About a year ago, the trend hit home for Keri Williams, 42, a banking business systems consultant in Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s when the mom of five discovered that her children Amias, 16, and Kayla, 15, had been vaping on and off for about a year using a popular device called JUUL.

When Williams found out both of her teens were vaping, she made them keep their bedroom doors open unless they were changing clothes and took away their cellphones and media for one month. “I wanted to ‘go big’ so they understood just how serious this was,” Williams says.

She was right to be concerned. “Almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, even those that claim they don’t, because there’s no FDA oversight of the manufacturing,” says Jennifer Hobbs Folkenroth, national senior director, tobacco control at American Lung Association.

Nicotine is highly addictive; it’s what gets users hooked, Folkenroth says. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm a teen’s developing brain. The inhaled aerosol also contains other potentially harmful chemicals, such as acrolein and diacetyl, both of which have been linked to serious lung damage.

How to Get Teenagers to Stop Vaping

Many schools are implementing policies aimed at reducing vaping in school, such as employing bathroom monitors and imposing consequences like suspension or even expulsion. But these measures may not be enough, especially if your teenager is becoming a more frequent—and addicted—user. If you suspect your teen is vaping, there are some things that parents should do.

1. Get your teenager talking.

Vaping is easier to hide because it doesn’t leave a telltale odor of traditional cigarettes or visible secondhand emissions, says Steven Schroeder, M.D., director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California San Francisco.

To figure out what’s up with your teen, create an environment where it’s easier for your teen to talk about it, Dr. Schroeder says. Rather than asking your teen directly (You’re JUULing, aren’t you?), ask nonjudgmental questions, maybe while you’re driving somewhere, such as: I keep hearing about JUULing. Are your friends doing that?; Is it popular at school?; What do you think about it?; and How safe do you think it is?

2. Weave in the facts.

If you get the sense from your conversations that your teen is vaping, even just occasionally, such as at parties, talk about the risks. Be prepared to hear that JUULing isn’t a big deal.

“Many teens know cigarettes are bad for you but think vaping is inconsequential,” Dr. Schroeder says. Many teens don’t realize, for example, that all JUUL pods contain nicotine—as much as a pack of cigarettes.

Also, appeal to your teen’s natural sense of rebellion. “Talk to teens about how the vaping industry is manipulating them,” Folkenroth says—for example, by making JUUL pods in flavors that appeal to young consumers, such as mango, crème, and fruit. (Under pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, JUUL recently agreed to eliminate some flavors from retail stores, but they are still available online.)

You might say, for example: “The company is trying to make JUULing cool so you’ll get hooked and buy more JUUL pods. But shouldn’t you be the master of your own body and health? You’re the one who makes the decision about what goes in.”

3. Help your teen get help.

About a month after she banned vaping, text messages on her teens’ phones clued Williams in to the fact that they were vaping again. Determined to stop them, she ordered nicotine urine tests on Amazon and tested each teen daily until they were clean. Since then, she’s been randomly testing them a few times a month.

Parents can feel lost and even a little desperate when it comes to stopping vaping, but the American Lung Association cautions against this kind of screening, instead favoring education, consistent parent-teen communication, positive support, and parents connecting teens with intervention or cessation programs.

This is Quitting is a smoking cessation program developed by Truth Initiative in collaboration with Mayo Clinic that offers a texting program to help quit e-cigarettes. Teens can enroll by texting “QUIT” to 706-222-QUIT. The program delivers tailored messages via text that give age-appropriate quitting advice.

The American Lung Association also offers several programs to help educate teens on e-cigarette use, including Not On Tobacco (a voluntary youth cessation program) and Intervention for Nicotine Dependence: Education, Prevention, Tobacco and Health. To learn more, call 1-800-LUNG-USA or visit lung.org.

You may even send your teen to the pediatrician. “We know for combustible cigarettes, if your physician tells you not to smoke, it doubles your chance of quitting,” Dr. Schroeder says. “Just the authority of a pediatrician talking to a teen about not vaping in the absence of his parents might be helpful.”

For more great information on this topic, enroll in the Your Teen Workshop on Vaping, featuring a panel of experts discussing the facts and answering real parents’ questions.

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If you feel your teen is at-risk and you have exhausted all your local resources, contact us for information on residential therapy. Be proactive before a crisis happens.

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Middle School Matters: The 10 Key Skills Kids Need and How Parents Can Help

Posted by Sue Scheff on August 06, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Book, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Middle School Matters: The 10 Key Skills Kids Need to Thrive in Middle School and Beyond–and How Parents Can Help, author Phyllis Fagell

A counselor and popular Washington Post contributor offers a new take on grades 6-8 as a distinct developmental phase–and the perfect time to set up kids to thrive.

Middle school is its own important, distinct territory, and yet it’s either written off as an uncomfortable rite of passage or lumped in with other developmental phases. Based on her many years working in schools, professional counselor Phyllis Fagell sees these years instead as a critical stage that parents can’t afford to ignore (and though “middle school” includes different grades in various regions, Fagell maintains that the ages make more of a difference than the setting).

Though the transition from childhood to adolescence can be tough for kids, this time of rapid physical, intellectual, moral, social, and emotional change is a unique opportunity to proactively build character and confidence.

Fagell helps parents use the middle school years as a low-stakes training ground to teach kids the key skills they’ll need to thrive now and in the future, including making good friend choices, negotiating conflict, regulating their own emotions, be their own advocates, and more.

To answer parents’ most common questions and struggles with middle school-aged children, Fagell combines her professional and personal expertise with stories and advice from prominent psychologists, doctors, parents, educators, school professionals, and middle schoolers themselves.

Order your copy of Middle School Matters today from Amazon.

 

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2019’s States with the Most At-Risk Teens

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 17, 2019  /   Posted in Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Depression, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Are you struggling with your teenager?

You’re not alone!

Growing up can be hard. Without a stable home, positive role models and tools for success, many young Americans fall behind their peers and experience a rocky transition to adulthood. Today, about one in nine individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither working nor attending school. Others suffer from poor health conditions that hinder their ability to develop physically or socially.

Such issues not only affect young people later in life, but they also prove harmful to society as a whole. For instance, more than 70 percent of young adults today are ineligible to join the U.S. military because they fail academic, moral or health qualifications. Research shows that when youth grow up in environments with economic problems and a lack of role models, they’re more at risk for poverty, early pregnancy and violence, especially in adulthood.

To determine the places where young Americans are not faring as well as others in the same age group, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 15 key indicators of youth risk. Our data set ranges from share of disconnected youth to labor force participation rate among youth to youth poverty rate.

States with the Most At-Risk Youth States with the Least At-Risk Youth
1 Louisiana 42 Rhode Island
2 District of Columbia 43 Connecticut
3 Mississippi 44 Virginia
4 Arkansas 45 Maryland
5 Nevada 46 Hawaii
6 West Virginia 47 New Hampshire
7 Oregon 48 Utah
8 Wyoming 49 Minnesota
9 Oklahoma 50 Massachusetts
10 New Mexico 51 New Jersey

Key Stats

  • New Mexico, West Virginia and Louisiana have the highest share of disconnected youth, 19.00 percent, which is 3.2 times higher than in North Dakota, the lowest at 6.00 percent.
  • Louisiana has the highest share of youth without a high school diploma, 17.80 percent, which is 2.4 times higher than in Hawaii, the lowest at 7.40 percent.
  • Oklahoma has the highest share of overweight or obese youth, 61.50 percent, which is 1.9 times higher than in Massachusetts, the lowest at 32.10 percent.
  • Vermont has the highest share of youth using drugs in the past month, 40.32 percent, which is 2.5 times higher than in North Dakota, the lowest at 16.18 percent.
  • Nevada has the highest share of homeless youth, 0.56 percent, which is 18.7 times higher than in Mississippi, the lowest at 0.03 percent.

Read the full report for the findings, insight into the future of America’s young population and a description of the methodology.

If you are at your wit’s end with your teenager and have exhausted your local resources, it might be time to consider residential therapy. Contact us for more information.

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Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 12, 2019  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Book, Internet Safety, Mental Health, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens

By Ana Homayoun

Over the past decade, the new language created by social media and technology have ostensibly widened the communication divide between generations. Though students have long managed to find distractions, today’s technology innovations present new challenges for students and adults, and many adults struggle to keep up with what their kids are doing online.

With a proactive, practical approach based on over fifteen years of working with students in private practice and in schools, Ana provides simple, implementable solutions focused around the three main tenets of socialization, self-regulation and safety. In the face of our “always on” culture, Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World creates a new conversation around social media wellness — one that encourages tweens and teens to think about their own personal values and daily choices, while emphasizing the importance of parental attitude and a collaborative approach in helping all of us build healthier online habits and create more balanced lives.

Solutions for navigating an ever-changing social media world

Today’s students face a challenging paradox: the digital tools they need to complete their work are often the source of their biggest distractions. Students can quickly become overwhelmed trying to manage the daily confluence of online interactions with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and family life. Written by noted author and educator Ana Homayoun, Social Media Wellness is the first book to successfully decode the new language of social media for parents and educators and provide pragmatic solutions to help students:

  • Manage distractions
  • Focus and prioritize
  • Improve time-management
  • Become more organized and boost productivity
  • Decrease stress and build empathy

With fresh insights and a solutions-oriented perspective, this crucial guide will help parents, educators and students work together to promote healthy socialization, effective self-regulation, and overall safety and wellness.

Order on Amazon today.

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Teens Use Burner Phones To Hide Online Behavior From Parents

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 12, 2019  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Are you a parent that believes taking your teen’s device is a punishment?

Think again! This is one of the reasons burner phones are on the rise among young people.

As a tech-savvy parent, you’ve established rules with your teens about responsible cell phone usage and drawn up a detailed family contract. And by all accounts it seems to be working.

But teenagers can be ingenious about getting around the rules, and many of today’s teens turn to burner phones as a workaround to parental limitations. Here’s how to discover if your child has found this alternative, plus some tips on curbing the habit.

What Is a Burner Phone?

Burner phones are cheap, prepaid mobile phones you can discard once you’re done using them. They offer access to Wi-Fi and a phone number that can’t be traced to the individual using the device.

There are a few good reasons to use a burner phone. If you’re buying or selling something on Craigslist, for instance, having an untraceable number offers a degree of safety when communicating with strangers.

However, their anonymity and low cost make burner phones ideal for teenagers looking for a way to sneak around behind their parents’ backs. And that anonymity can get kids into problematic situations where they don’t have a parental lifeline to keep them safe.

Why Do Teens Turn to These Disposable Devices?

Teens consider cell phones a virtual lifeline, and many experience fear of missing out (FOMO) without them. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey found some eye-opening stats about teens and social media:

  • 81% say social media makes them feel more connected.
  • Approximately 2/3 of teens say online friends give them support in difficult times.

 Losing cell phone access as a punishment—and effectively losing access to their online networks—is one reason why teens may acquire a burner phone. But they might also buy second phones to maintain secret social media accounts. A finsta (fake Instagram), for example, is a private account where kids post content that only certain people have access to.

Teens may also turn to burners if they’re engaging in activities they think parents won’t approve of—getting involved in drugs or alcohol, or pursuing romantic relationships.

Some of these habits can be dangerous, putting kids in a place where they can be taken advantage of. Burner phones can also create a space for cyberbullying to go unnoticed, and thus unchecked. 

How Can You Know Your Child Is Using a Burner Phone?

If you’ve ever taken away your teen’s phone, you’re familiar with them pleading to get it back. If they suddenly stop doing so, that’s a hint they may be using a burner phone. Here are a few other ways to discover they’ve gotten a second phone:

  • Look for a dip in data use. Check your wireless carrier for overall data usage and details about specific applications. A decrease in visits to your teen’s favorite social media site may point to use of a burner phone.
  • Check your child’s other apps. Burner phones aren’t the only way to communicate anonymously; there are multiple apps that let you set up a temporary number. If your child has an app like Burner or Hushed, it’s possible they’re doing something that requires anonymity—which could be a red flag. 

What Can You Do to Manage the Behavior?

  1. Maintain consistent rules of use. If you’ve gone to the trouble of setting ground rules, then stick with them and make sure the consequences for breaking them are fair and applicable to everyone in the family. Consistency equals credibility. 
  1. Help your teen set boundaries. Encourage your child to understand and embrace core values that will drive healthy online interactions. If your child can feel okay about posting online because they always consider how it will reflect upon them first, they’ll have less interest in setting up secret accounts.
  1. Reward honesty. Let your kids know they can come to you when they’ve made a mistake online, such as going to an inappropriate website. Being able to do so without risking punishment will maintain the level of communication that pays dividends in all kinds of parent-child interactions—not just those related to cell phones.

At the end of the day, this burner phone trend is more about behaviors than devices. If you can set clear expectations and have open conversations about smart phone conduct, you’ll see a lot more progress than if you focus solely on managing your kids’ access to a phone.

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Contributor: Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate.

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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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iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 25, 2019  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Featured Book, Internet Addiction, Internet Safety, Mental Health, Sexting, Teen Depression, Teen Help

Cell phone are here to stay. The smartphone generation.

By Cathie Ericson of Your Teen Magazine

Many of us parents, given the option, would snap our fingers and make smartphones—and all their complications—go away forever. But smartphones are here to stay, and your teen is now part of the smartphone generation. As you may already be discovering, there’s an inevitability about teens and phones, so we might as well face that reality head-on.

What do we worry about? Too much screen time, too little face-to-face socializing, and the potential pitfalls of social media. As smartphones become ubiquitous, teens have all the pressure associated with always being “on”—but potentially without the maturity to handle it. And that’s troubling.

Smartphone Generation

As reported in Jean Twenge’s new book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, rates of teen depression have skyrocketed—a phenomenon the author links to smartphones. Boys’ depressive symptoms increased by 21 percent from 2012 to 2015, while girls’ increased by 50 percent. Research supports a connection between this shift and smartphone usage, finding that teens who report more screen time are more likely to be unhappy, compared to teens who spend less time than average with their screen.

Given these findings, why do we even allow our teens to have phones? In many cases, it’s almost as though we have no choice. Pew Research reports that three-quarters of teens have a smartphone, and a whopping 92 percent of them say they go online every day.

Your teens are likely to be among these connected teens—so, rather than “just say no,” how can parents set wise limits?

Easy to Love, Hard to Put Down: Setting Limits on Phone Use

Does it seem like your teen is constantly clicking and scrolling? To be fair, we might be, too. A survey from Common Sense Media found that 78 percent of teens reported checking their phone at least hourly, but 69 percent of parents said the same.

“I like to remind parents that they are the models,” says Dodgen-Magee. “If you don’t think they should use their device at night, then you shouldn’t bring yours to bed either.”

Which brings up one of the most important limits that should be set: Encourage good evening habits so the phone doesn’t interrupt their sleep. “If you only do one thing, keep the phone out of their room at night,” says one expert.

Of course, you know they are going to say it’s their alarm clock. Remind them of this novel invention—an actual clock, which you can find for about $10, says Twenge. “Even if the phone is off, it’s still too tempting to have it at the ready while they’re trying to wind down, or if they wake up in the middle of the night.”

Beyond that, the key is to make sure they are balancing their screen time with other activities. Twenge has found a direct correlation between negative teen mental health and the number of hours they spend on their devices, particularly on social media. While more research needs to be done on phones and mental health to determine exactly why these things are correlated, Twenge recommends parents err on the side of caution and look into one of the numerous apps like Freedom or Kidslox that allow you to set daily limits.

However, you probably shouldn’t outright take the phone as a punishment, as they often need it for homework or updates (like when the next soccer practice is). “It’s more productive to have a conversation about when they should unplug and help them develop a healthy balance.”

Order iGen by Jean Twenge today on Amazon.

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Teens and Marijuana: Communicating the Risks

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 09, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Article, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Drug Use, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

The legalization of marijuana has made parenting teens more challenging.

On a weekly basis, parents contact our office concerned about their teenager that is now smoking marijuana (some regularly) with no intention of giving it up. They fail to see the risks or dangers of it — especially since it’s considered legal in many states.

This is causing stress and frustration among parents across the country. As an adult, we know that there is a difference between medical marijuana and how it can impact a young person’s brain.

How can we start talking to them about this?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a vast amount of information for parents.

Why do young people use marijuana?

Young people start using marijuana for many reasons. Curiosity, peer pressure, and the desire to fit in with friends are common ones. Those who have already begun to smoke cigarettes or use alcohol, or who have untreated mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD), or who have experienced trauma are at increased risk for marijuana use.

For some, drug use begins as a means of coping with anxiety, anger, depression, or boredom. But, in fact, being high can be a way of simply avoiding the problems and challenges of growing up. Parents, grandparents, and older siblings are models that children follow, and research suggests that family members’ use of alcohol and drugs plays a strong role in whether a young person starts using drugs. Indeed, all aspects of a teen’s environment—home, school, and community—can influence if he or she will try drugs.

How can I prevent my child from using marijuana?

There is no quick or simple solution for preventing teen drug use. But research shows parents have a big influence on their teens, even when it doesn’t seem that way. Talk openly with your children and stay actively engaged in their lives.

To help you get started, the next section provides some key points about marijuana research findings that you can share with your kids to help them sort out fact from myth and help them make the best decisions they can. These key points address the types of questions and comments that we receive from teens every day on our NIDA for Teens website and Drugs and Health blog. Following that brief section, the FAQs and additional resources will equip you with even more information.

Did you know?

Marijuana can be addictive.Despite common belief, repeated marijuana use can lead to addiction, which means that people can have trouble quitting, even if it is having a negative impact on their lives. Research suggests that about 30 percent of people who use marijuana have some level of marijuana use disorder even if they are not yet addicted.1People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.2 Among youth receiving substance use disorder treatment, marijuana accounts for the largest percentage of admissions—almost 50 percent among those 12 to 17 years old.3

Marijuana is unsafe if you’re behind the wheel. Marijuana impairs judgment and many other skills needed for safe driving: alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time. Marijuana use makes it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road. Marijuana is the most commonly identified illegal drug in deadly crashes, sometimes in combination with alcohol or other drugs. By itself, marijuana is thought to roughly double a driver’s chances of being in a crash, and the combination of marijuana and even small amounts of alcohol is even more dangerous4,5—more so than either substance alone.6

Marijuana is linked to school failure, lower income, and poorer quality of life. Marijuana has negative effects on attention, motivation, memory, and learning that can persist after the drug’s immediate effects wear off—especially in people who use regularly. Someone who uses marijuana daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time. Compared with their nonsmoking peers, students who use marijuana are more likely to drop out of high school.7 People who use marijuana regularly for a long time report decreased overall life satisfaction, including poorer mental and physical health, memory and relationship problems, lower salaries, and less career success.8

Marijuana is linked to some mental illnesses. Although scientists don’t yet fully understand how the use of marijuana might impact the development of mental illness, high doses can bring on a panic attack or even acute psychosis—thinking that is detached from reality, sometimes including hallucinations. In people who already have the severe mental illness schizophrenia (involving symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, and disorganized thinking), marijuana use can worsen its symptoms. Also, evidence suggests that early marijuana use may increase the risk of psychotic disorders among those at higher genetic risk for these disorders.

Want to know more? Visit NIDA.

Source: NIDA

Have you exhausted your local resources with your teenager? Is local therapy not working?

Have they changed friends, are their grades slipping, maybe they are dropping out of their favorite activities?

Contact us if you are at your wit’s end and considering residential therapy. This is a great opportunity to give your child a second chance at a bright future.

 

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Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 20, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Book, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls

By Lisa Damour

Though anxiety has risen among young people overall, studies confirm that it has skyrocketed in girls. Research finds that the number of girls who said that they often felt nervous, worried, or fearful jumped 55 percent from 2009 to 2014, while the comparable number for adolescent boys has remained unchanged. As a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with girls, Lisa Damour, Ph.D., has witnessed this rising tide of stress and anxiety in her own research, in private practice, and in the all-girls’ school where she consults. She knew this had to be the topic of her new book.

In the engaging, anecdotal style and reassuring tone that won over thousands of readers of her first book, Untangled, Damour starts by addressing the facts about psychological pressure. She explains the surprising and underappreciated value of stress and anxiety: that stress can helpfully stretch us beyond our comfort zones, and anxiety can play a key role in keeping girls safe. When we emphasize the benefits of stress and anxiety, we can help our daughters take them in stride.

But no parents want their daughter to suffer from emotional overload, so Damour then turns to the many facets of girls’ lives where tension takes hold: their interactions at home, pressures at school, social anxiety among other girls and among boys, and their lives online. As readers move through the layers of girls’ lives, they’ll learn about the critical steps that adults can take to shield their daughters from the toxic pressures to which our culture—including we, as parents—subjects girls.

Readers who know Damour from Untangled or the New York Times, or from her regular appearances on CBS News, will be drawn to this important new contribution to understanding and supporting today’s girls.

Order this bestselling book, Under Pressure on Amazon today.

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Does Your Teen Have the Tools to Handle Cyberbullying?

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 19, 2018  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Parenting Teens, Sexting, Teen Help

Does Your Teen Have the Tools to Handle Cyberbullying?

We’re living in an age where incivility and trolling is not only common, it’s become the new normal.

PEW Research Center recent survey found that 63 percent of teens said that online harassment and bullying was a major problem, while 59 percent reported experiencing being bullied or harassed online.

It’s a sea of sadness when we read headlines of peer cruelty and youth dying as the word bullycide has now entered our vocabulary.

Digital discourse

Generations earlier, before technology and social playgrounds such as Instagram and Snapchat, kids were teasing and mocking each other in schools, neighborhoods or on their traditional playground with monkey bars and swings.

What hasn’t changed is name-calling.

Being called offensive names is the most offensive form of cyberbullying according to teens in this survey at 42 percent, followed by someone spreading false rumors about them on the internet at 32 percent.

The difference between twenty years ago and today is that with technology, your insults are magnified by a million.

Resilience can be learned

Resilience is a word we’re all familiar with; however, with the rise of online hate and harassment, it’s imperative to discuss how to build digital resilience with our teens.

In the PEW Research survey, teens share that parents are, overall, doing a good job in helping them handle cyberbullying—however, they felt that teachers, social media platforms and others could be more involved.

Digital resilience is a tool that helps people of all ages move through the difficulties of trolling and cyber-combat.

1. Prepare them (and yourself) for the ugly side of the Internet or possibly being upset by what people say. Remind them there could be inappropriate content that slips through filters. Being forewarned is being forearmed.

2. Show them how to block individuals, flag and report abusive content, and when to report incidents. Emphasize the importance of telling someone “in real life.”

3. Show your teen how easily digital pictures can be manipulated. The realization that not everything is what it seems is a useful first step—understanding that life is not as perfect as it may seem virtually. Teens may be familiar with the digital world but less familiar with the motivations for creating ‘fake’ images.

4. Critical thinking. Help them to think through the possible consequences of what they post online. Remind them that there is no rewind: once it’s posted, it’s nearly impossible to take back. Fifteen minutes of humor is not worth a lifetime of humiliation.

5. Encourage your teen to socialize in person with their friends. Communicating solely behind a screen can be isolating. Socializing in person builds more face-to-face contact in helping your child have empathy and compassion towards people.

Getting schools involved

After a cyberbullying episode hit her daughter’s public charter school, parent and video producer Diana Graber developed this program based on the master’s degree she had just received in media psychology and social change. Graber still teaches the course herself, but also trains teachers to run the program at their own schools, providing video and written materials for a fee.

Since its inception, the program has grown to be offered in more than one hundred schools in 47 states and overseas, ranging from Waldorf to public schools.

Sixth graders begin with the basic concepts of digital citizenship, covering digital footprints, what should never be shared online, and antibullying behavior, such as the difference between being an upstander and a bystander. Seventh graders focus on research skills, covering concepts such as keywords, Wikipedia, fair use, browsers, search engines, and privacy protection.

By eighth grade, the students shift focus again to consuming versus producing online content, covering media literacy issues from sexting to Photoshopping to copyright protection. The final exam is a series of questions we adults would likely fail: What are cookies and how do they work? What does URL stand for? What is a spider? What are the eight tips for a secure password?

While much of the same information is on her complementary website, CyberWise.org, Graber ultimately found that approaching the students directly, instead of using their parents as mediators, works best. “Kids don’t want to talk to their parents in middle school,” she says. “The talking is with each other. If we can make safe spaces in the classroom, that is way more powerful.”

Graber knew her message was received when a new girl posted a photo of herself in a bikini, and an eighth-grade boy who’d taken the course scolded her. “You need to take that off your  Instagram,” he told her bluntly. “That was stupid.” Harsh, Graber concedes—but effective. “In a crude way, he was looking out for her. The kids start being each other’s mentors.”

This teacher seems to be making a difference with her curriculum, CyberCivics, that is now spreading throughout the country.

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Is your teen a victim or target of cyberbullying? Have you noticed them becoming withdrawn, nervous when they receive notifications on their phone, loss of appetite, drop in grades? Words can hurt and leave our young people with emotional baggage.

If you have exhausted your local resources, therapy isn’t working, maybe you tried out patient and even a hospital stay — contact us for information on how residential therapy might be able to help.

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