By Valorie Dassel, LCSW – January 7, 2020
Parenting in this era can be overwhelming. There are many opinions and parenting styles that can be argued.
However, when we are facing drug and alcohol use among our teenagers, there must be an “all hands on deck” approach. It is a community issue that requires parents and adult mentors to communicate clearly with our teens while understanding both sides of the coin.
There are clearly reasons why our teens engage in risky behaviors, and it is important to acknowledge this while at the same time educating them on the severity of the risks. Visit websites such as drugfree.org and youthfirstinc.org to educate yourself on how to talk to your teen about drug and alcohol use.
The following are some tips to guide substance use conversations with your teen:
- Ask your teen open-ended questions about the dangers of vaping, drinking and drug use. Use this conversation to guide discussion around the consequences about the things they care about in the “here and now.” Points to bring up include how substance use may affect their relationships and reputation. These are things they do not feel invincible about. They may do something that is embarrassing and have to deal with the social consequences at school on Monday morning. They may do something that they regret and consequently hurt a relationship or friendship. It is also helpful to aid in connecting their athletics and academics to substance abuse. If they are tired and hungover on the weekends, they will not feel like studying or practicing.
- Be open with them about substance abuse issues in their family. According to the Genetics Science Learning Center of Utah, scientists estimate that a person’s genetics account for 40-60% of their risk of developing an addiction. Sharing family history and stories aids in the development of decision-making based on risks specific to them.
- In addition to genetics, individuals who suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc. are at a higher risk to abuse substances. The website dualdiagnosis.com is a good resource to help teens connect their emotional struggles to how they may self medicate with substance use.
- Clearly share your expectations and the consequences they will receive at home if they are found to be drinking, vaping, smoking or using drugs. It is important to create a relationship that allows the teen to share their struggles or experiences while also being aware of the consequences if caught using.
Get to know the parents of your teen’s friends. Share with them your values and that you do not approve of them drinking, smoking/vaping or using drugs. There are parents who mistakenly feel they are protecting teens by allowing them to drink or use substances under their supervision, as they feel it is a safer alternative.
Developmentally, teens are beginning to individuate from their parents, which gives them the sense that they can make their own decisions and act independently. Educate yourself and others that this concept inadvertently gives them permission to drink/vape/drug on their own.
Remember that we as parents can educate and guide, but our teens will be the ones who make the decisions. It is our responsibility to keep them as safe and as educated as possible. Most importantly, be there when they fall and help them back up.
Here’s a follow-up to our big news! The state of IN is endorsing our approach to prevention and wants to see it grow.
Learn more in this interview: http://www.tristatehomepage.com/…/brad-byrd-in-de…/719075441
By Alice Munson, MSW, Courier & Press, May 9, 2017 –
Anyone who attends school athletic events has probably noticed negative behavior in a small percentage of parents. These are the folks who believe winning is everything, and the opposing team, players and coach are not deserving of respect. Forgetting the meaning of sportsmanship, they make their opinions known to anyone within earshot.
We all like to see our children or team win, but there is much more we hope our children will learn from their involvement in athletics. Here are some things that come to mind:
- Physical as well as mental challenges
- How to adapt to unforeseen problems
- Learning to show respect for the efforts of others
- How to share time and talent
- Learning to work harder and smarter to achieve goals
These are certainly lessons our children could use in day-to-day life outside of sports. Here are some additional benefits from participating in sports:
- Learning problem solving
- Learning to develop strategy
- Developing trust in one’s self
- Exposure to calculated risk taking
Looking at the last four benefits, you can see how easily they could translate to situations like standardized testing. This would certainly be a win for both athletics and academics so that these benefits could positively impact a student for life.
According to momsteam.com, here are some other behaviors you can model to make sure your child has a positive experience:
- Don’t view the other team as the enemy. Talk with parents and players from the other team to send a message that the game isn’t life or death.
- Congratulate and applaud ANY player (on either team) who makes a good play.
- Have fun! If kids see you having fun on the sidelines, they will keep the game in perspective and realize they can be good sports and have fun too.
Don’t condone poor sportsmanship. Don’t cheer on the coach or player who gets ejected from the game because of bad behavior. Rather, use this as an opportunity to talk to your child about poor sportsmanship at home after the game.
Take a look in the mirror. How is your behavior on the sidelines viewed by other parents, coaches and players? Are you keeping your cool, remaining calm and under control in tough situations? Children learn self-control by watching adults model self-control.
When we get caught up in the emotion of a tie-breaking play, we need to remember that we all want our kids to win and they all deserve respect. The essence of competition is sportsmanship – learning to be gracious in winning as well as losing.
This is a quality that everyone can model for his or her child. After all, we are our children’s first and most important teachers. Let’s give them something to be proud of – parents who are positive and supportive of their student athlete, team and coaches.
After all, whose game is it anyway?
A very brave young lady shared her amazing story for this video. Her courage allows us to show others how lives can be saved and impacted through Youth First social work services and prevention and life skills programs. You will be inspired by her courage and her gratitude for her Youth First Social Worker.
By Elizabeth Christmas, LCSW, LCAC, Courier & Press, March 24, 2017 –
Rumor has it … ADHD is nothing more than an excuse for lazy, irresponsible behavior, poor parenting and “drugging” children in place of discipline and self-control.
The truth is … ADHD is a medical condition, and medication along with therapy can effectively manage symptoms.
In every situation, the best solution involves parents, physician and child collaborating, with feedback from teachers and therapist to decide the best course of treatment.
Clinical ADHD involves symptoms such as:
- Frequently makes careless mistakes, skips over, loses things
- Easily distracted, difficulty following directions
- Unorganized, doesn’t finish tasks
- Avoids or procrastinates tasks that require sustained effort
- Can’t sit still
- Runs/climbs at inappropriate times/places
- Talks excessively/loudly
- Extremely impatient/can’t wait turn
- “Driven by a motor”
- Blurts out/interrupts/intrudes
Sometimes anxiety, effects of trauma or immaturity are misdiagnosed as ADHD. Practitioners should only diagnose ADHD when symptoms persist for at least six months and impair functioning at school and home.
Boys are identified younger and more often due to more commonly presenting with hyperactive or impulsive symptoms; girls often go undiagnosed longer due to mostly inattentive symptoms.
ADHD affects the brain’s ability to learn and perform but also leads to social/emotional struggles. Day after day these kids unsuccessfully try to keep up with “average brain” expectations.
Frustration and low self-esteem trigger misbehavior that’s intended to distract from “below average” performance. Overall classroom productivity declines. Self-control is more difficult, but ADHD isn’t an excuse.
Dr. Ned Hallowell describes it this way, “It’s like your brain has the motor of a race car (powerful, fast, capable of enormous success) but with bicycle brakes.” Imagine trying to stop a powerful, fast moving racecar with the brakes of a bicycle. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, there is hope for “strengthening” the brakes. Research shows best practice is medication and therapy.
If your child is struggling with ADHD, or if you’ve sought help before that didn’t work, don’t quit. Contact your physician to discuss concerns. Consult the teacher, principal, social worker and any other valuable resources available.
They can provide diagnostic questionnaires, letters describing symptoms, referrals for treatment and encouragement. The sooner these issues are treated, the more positive the outcomes.
According to Dr. Alan Wachtel, psychiatrist and ADHD expert, “Untreated ADHD is among the most debilitating disorders to live with. Risks include: academic (failing, suspension and dropout), social (risky behavior) and emotional (anxiety/depression) problems. These issues follow a person into adulthood impacting job performance, marital/family relationships (2 times more likely to divorce), mental health and automobile safety. (Research shows untreated ADHD teens are more likely to destroy a vehicle than a drunk adult driver). Children with ADHD who are not treated are more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.”
Wachtel goes on to say, “If left untreated, adolescents will self-medicate. There is a 100 percent increased risk of substance abuse among this group of teens. Teens who self-medicate (typically progresses from tobacco to alcohol to marijuana to cocaine — all create focus for ADHD brain) will become calm and centered enough to read a book or concentrate on a task. Why wouldn’t they continue?”
Ask yourself, what are the risks of medicating my child? But don’t stop there. You must also ask, what are the risks if I don’t?
By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, December 27, 2016 –
Now, more than ever, we live in a world where global interaction is normal, and even expected, in many fields of work. This trend will continue to grow, so it is important to raise children to be accepting and tolerant of cultures and norms different than their own.
Children are taught about other cultures in school, but as far as molding a child into a tolerant human being, most of the responsibility falls on the parents or caregivers.
The primary way for a parent to teach this is by example. Your children are going to model your behavior. If you show respect for people of all races, genders and religions, your child will learn to do that too.
It is very difficult to teach your child to respect others if you are not doing it yourself. The way you speak to (and about) a person from another culture does not go unnoticed by your child. Make sure you always treat others with respect and dignity so your children learn to do the same.
Don’t be afraid to talk about differences with your children. At times it seems as though people get embarrassed when their children point out different physical characteristics, races or ethnicities. The truth is, there are a lot of races, cultures and ethnicities in the world. Your child is simply learning through observation and pointing this out.
It is a positive thing to have conversations with your child about these differences and encourage them to be accepting of everyone — no matter what they look like. Diversity makes our world a great place, and introducing this to your child will help them become a better-rounded individual.
Helping your child build their own confidence is also a tremendous help. People who are comfortable in their own skin and confident about their own lives are more likely to be tolerant of the lives others choose to live.
This is true of children too. If you celebrate your child’s uniqueness and happiness, they will radiate joy to those around them. They will be less consumed with the differences of others because they are comfortable being themselves.
Allow your child to have experiences in diverse settings. Sign them up for camps or clubs that will support your goal of raising a tolerant child. When possible, travel together. Seeing different ways people live will help your child be more aware that everyone’s lives don’t look like theirs.
Children grow up so fast. As parents, it is our job to prepare them for their futures to the best of our abilities. Raising your child to be tolerant of others is a huge step in raising a successful child.
Besides preparing them for success in an ever-changing global economy, having this strength will allow your child to build positive relationships throughout life.
Our innocent children are born not knowing how stressful and judgmental the world can be. As they grow, they often look to us for guidance on how to react to certain people and situations.
How do you personally cope when you are feeling angry, overwhelmed or sad? Your reactions are cues tucked away in the deepest recesses of your child’s brain, and they retrieve this information to determine how to treat people and cope with certain situations. They observe our behavior and in turn future presidents, teachers, fathers, mothers, mentors (and bullies) are created.
It is no secret that our kids make us angry from time to time. We are human. We all have our triggers and have learned to react in a certain way to each one.
But it might be time to take stock of how you react to your triggers. What are we teaching them when we shame our kids by yelling, hitting or calling them names?
Shameful behavior leads to low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. The child then may begin acting out in ways that are unhealthy — drinking alcohol, experimenting with drugs, fighting or engaging in self-harm.
It is every parent’s goal to raise their child to be an upstanding member of the community. As parents, however, we don’t always realize how our words or actions come across during a heated argument.
If you are seeing the same bad behavior in your child over and over again, then it is time to realize what you are doing is not working.
One of the skills I teach students in my Coping and Skills training group is STEPS. It is an acronym that stands for Stop, Think, Evaluate, Perform and Self-Praise. Utilizing STEPS is a quick and easy when used consistently.
For example, I tell my son to take out the trash, and he responds, “Just a minute.” But it never gets taken out. I get angry. I have learned that when he says, “Just a minute,” it means the trash is not going to be taken out. So I yell at him, “Not just a minute; right now!” We end up yelling at each other until he goes into his room and slams the door. We stay mad at one another for the rest of the night.
STOP. The trigger in this situation is when the son responds, “Just a minute.”
THINK. How can you respond in a way that will set a good example for your child and encourage them to do what you ask?
EVALUATE each option. Are your choices helping mold your child to make good decisions in the future and to treat others with respect?
PERFORM the option you have decided to use.
SELF-PRAISE. Praise yourself for taking the opportunity to evaluate how you will respond to your child appropriately.
The goal is to use STEPS without yelling or saying hurtful things to your child. This will help manage your mood so you can be a positive role model for your child. Teach your child how to use STEPS so they can choose more appropriate ways of handling stressful situations.
By Ashley Hale, MSW, LSW, Courier & Press, Dec. 6, 2016 –
The teenage years can be very difficult for both teen and parent. It’s a time when the child becomes bombarded with many changes.
Your teen may be starting a new school, taking on more difficult studies and more extra-curricular activities, facing more intense peer pressure, and making new friends. Hormones and bodies are also changing, causing heightened emotions.
Teens are often described as moody, but we have to remember that all of these emotions can be confusing and turbulent. When an emotion intensifies, the child may feel like something is wrong with them. As a therapist, I have had countless teens sigh with relief after I explain that it’s normal for them to feel angry, sad, or whatever the presenting emotion may be.
Anger is a common emotion around this developmental age because it’s the “umbrella” hovering over various other emotions such as fear, frustration, helplessness, rejection, sadness, and others.
It is tough for us to watch our children struggle. We would rather suffer these emotions for them, but we can’t. However, there are some things we can do to help them gain self-control and avoid damaging behaviors.
Not all strategies work for all children, and these are solely suggestions. Please remember that just like walking, talking, and toilet training, the regulation of emotions is a learned behavior that takes time.
- Be present and supportive. Don’t minimize your child’s feelings (even when you don’t agree). Normalize their feelings and let them know it’s okay to feel what they feel. Avoid the words “should” and “ought to.” Provide stability and consistency.
- Encourage discussion and discourage bottling of emotions. Avoid statements like “Don’t be angry” or “You shouldn’t be sad about that.” Encourage them to talk when they are ready. Praise their efforts to control their reactions. (i.e. “You are working very hard at controlling yourself and I am proud of you.”)
- Help your teen process the emotion. Assist them with labeling an emotion and what may trigger it. Teach problem solving skills. Help them identify their warning signs and teach calming strategies to put in place at that time.
- Teach and model appropriate coping skills. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. State how you are feeling and brainstorm out loud how you are going to handle it. Identify negative self-talk and substitute positive self-talk. (Positive examples: “I can calm down.” “It’s okay to make mistakes.”)
Let your teen know that although we are entitled to our emotions, it’s not an excuse to behave inappropriately or in a way that is damaging to others. We must teach our kids that they are responsible for their own actions.
Although you should be as supportive as possible, it’s necessary to set consistent limits. Use those opportunities as teaching moments. Remember that it’s vital to feel emotions rather than suppress them. Teens must learn to be self-aware and able to manage themselves.
The absolute most important thing you can do is be an encouraging supporter and love them through it. The teen years are a struggle and new emotions are scary, but these challenges can be balanced by providing the teen with appropriate guidance and a safe person they can confide in.