When I was younger, if I complained about being down, my grandmother would tell me, “Do something nice for somebody else.” Today there’s scientific evidence which shows that helping others can keep an addict clean and sober, ward off depression and boost your immune system. So what better time than the holidays to consider a “random act of kindness” or “paying it forward”? Have a happy, healthy holiday season.
-Lisa Smith Henderson
The Science of Helping Others
For centuries there has been anecdotal evidence that helping others makes us feel better emotionally. We seem to have an innate need and desire to help our fellow man. The founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. discovered this in his journey to sobriety. Helping other alcoholics is the foundation of AA and the only thing that he found could keep him sober.
Helping Other Addicts and Alcoholics
Maria Pagano, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve’s School of Medicine, highlights the Helper Therapy Principle (HTP), a concept embodied by AA, as a means of diminishing egocentrism or selfishness, a root cause of addiction. The HTP, is based on the theory that, when a person helps another individual with a similar condition,they help themselves. Pagano and her colleagues recently completed a study on adolescents and recovery from substance abuse. In the November isssue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, she reports, “Our findings indicate that service participation in 12-step programs can reduce the craving symptoms experienced by adolescents in treatment for alcohol and or drug addiction.
92% of the teens in the study were marijuana dependent.
60% of those had co-morbid alcohol dependence.
The conclusion was that Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous-related interventions, as part of treatment, improved outcomes by 57%.
Higher lifetime religious practices, led to higher service participation during treatment, which in turn, led to better outcomes.
“Because most religions encourage altruistic behaviors, youths entering treatment with greater religious backgrounds may have an easier time engaging in service in 12-step programs of recovery,” Pagano said. “In turn, youth entering treatment with low or no religious background may require greater 12-step facilitation or a different approach to derive equal benefit from treatment.”
Craving for alcohol and drugs is a major precipitator of relapse and can linger long after detox is over. Pagano said this new “natural” approach of service participation is a low-cost method to reduce adolescents’ craving symptoms as they adjust to a life of sobriety.
In fact, the benefits of doing good works and helping others also extend to individuals coping with chronic conditions like depression, AIDS, and chronic pain. “When humans help others regardless of a shared condition, they appear to live longer and happier lives,” Pagano says.
Over 75% of all doctor visits today are related to stress and the most popular prescriptions are those dealing with stress-related disorders. If we’re facing long-term stress and have a pessimistic, helpless attitude, our body’s natural physiological restorative capacity is diminshed. A positive emotional response can not only prevent imbalances that set the stage for illness, but can actually heal the body.
Mother Teresa Effect
It seems that just thinking about giving can have a physiological impact. Harvard behavioral psychologist, David McClelland discovered that students who were asked to watch a film about Mother Teresa’s work tending to orphans in Calcutta showed significant increases in the protective antibody, “salivary immunoglobulin A”(S-IgA) over those watching a neutral film. McClelland termed this the “Mother Teresa Effect.” Moreover, S-IgA remained high for an hour after the film in those subjects who were asked to focus their minds on times when they had loved or been loved. Thus, researchers concluded that dwelling on love strengthened the immune system.
So the bottom line is: Eat (in moderation), don’t drink (help others) and be merry! While it’s an exciting time as we begin a new year, it’s also when the “winter blues” can strike. I remember my daughter’s freshman year in New York City. It was February and she was feeling depressed. After discovering she hadn’t left the dorm in 4 days, I told her to bundle up and go sit in the park for at least 30 minutes and get some sunshine in her system. Oh how I wish all of my motherly advice was that cut and dried! Happy New Year and may this year be filled with sunshine and growth for parents and teens alike.
-Lisa Smith Henderson
For some teens (especially those who struggle academically), returning to school after winter break can be difficult. After sleeping late and not worrying about studies for several weeks, the return to routine can be a challenge. If depression runs in your family or your child has battled depression in the past,less sunlight and less outdoor exercise can exacerbate the issue. Here are a few of the signs to look for:
- Sad, anxious or “empty” feelings.
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness.
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities.
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Headaches, stomachaches
- Difficulty concentrating, re
membering details and making decisions.
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping.
- Changes in weight (craving carbohydrates and sweets).
- Talking of death or suicide.
As a parent, it’s difficult to face the possibility that your teen may have been partying during the holidays. If a teen is smoking marijuana or drinking a lot over the break, the return to school will be even more jarring for them.
Here are some natural ways to deal with the doldrums:
· Spend time outdoors in the natural sunlight.
· Buy a lightbox or use more artificial light in your home.
· Exercise and eat healthy foods.
· Reach out to friends and socialize.
· Practice good sleep hygiene.
If the problem lasts longer than 3 weeks, please get professional help. Getting proper medical and emotional support during this time can keep the “blues” from becoming a full-blown depression.
YOUR DRINKING-DOES IT AFFECT YOUR TEEN?
It’s a question most parents ask themselves at some point, “Will my drinking or not drinking impact my teen?”. The answer is an unequivocal YES! As a recovering alcoholic, my children have never seen me drink alcohol (I got sober before they were born) and they’ve never been around many adults drinking. They’ve had a rather skewed worldview because of this. Much to my surprise, it didn’t keep my daughter (now 21) from experimenting with alcohol as a teen. This month we look at parental impact on drinking.To share your experience or read about others’ please go to our
Parents Talk Truth Blog. -Lisa Smith Henderson, Host
This month, I caught up with long-time friend, Elaine Levine,the founder of Atlanta Parent Network(www.ATLParentNetwork.com) and a graduate of Harvard and the Yale Law School. In addition to facilitating parenting classes for hundreds of parents in the Atlanta metro area, Elaine has been practicing law for the past 15 years (www.LDLawPractice.com) . She’s represented over 480 families in a variety of legal matters. And, most importantly she is also the mother of three children, one who’s still a teenager!
TTT-Elaine, when you work with parents what’s the first thing you tell them about teens and alcohol?
EL-That they need to be careful how they talk about alcohol. If the parent comes home and says they’ve had a hard day and need a glass of wine or drink to destress, the child learns that’s how to cope.
TTT-What are some of the ways kids fool their parents if they’re drinking or drugging?
EL-Parents are conditioned to look for dropping grades as a sign of alcohol or drug use. Often the kids will keep their grades high enough that parents don’t suspect a problem.
This is one of the more effective ways that teens hoodwink their parents.
TTT-Can parent’s get away with saying, “Do as I say, not as I do” when it comes to drinking?
EL-NO! Kids will look to their parents’ drinking as a model for their own behavior. If mom or dad is enjoying a drink or glass of wine to unwind after a hard day or they get a little tipsy at a cocktail party, it sends a message that’s it’s adult, it’s okay and it’s fun.
TTT-Would this also apply to “drinking and driving”?
EL-Yes, most definitely. When I teach parenting classes I ask the parents if they take the kids out to dinner and order a glass of wine or a beer. A majority of these parents raise their hands. Then I ask them, “Okay, who drove home?”. At this point you can usually hear a pin drop. Parents who drive after having just one or two drinks are modeling “drinking and driving” for their teens. It’s tough for kids to understand why they shouldn’t drink and drive or ride with someone who’s been drinking if their parents are doing the opposite.
To reach Elaine Levine at Levine & Dickman, LLP, you can call
404-233-5571 or go to: www.LDLawPractice.com and
Alcoholic Gene Activated with Early Drinking
In the December 2009 issue of “Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research” a new study confirms the belief that the age when a child has their first drink may enhance the role of genetic factors associated with vulnerability to alcoholism. It’s possible that early use of alcohol may lead to modifications in the developing brain which, in turn, may modify expression of alcoholic genes. Correspondingly, they found that those who began drinking at a later age, the genetic influences played a much smaller part, while environment was the predominant factor.
Seeing Parents Drunk
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) “2009 National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse: Teens and Parents”, revealed the following:
33% of teens have seen one or both of their parents drunk.
Those teens are more than twice as likely to get drunk in a given month.
Those teens are more than three times as likely to have used marijuana.
Dads and Teen Drinking
One of the most interesting elements of teen drinking is the impact a teenager’s father has on his/her drinking alcohol. The following outlines the numbers of teens who have TRIED alcohol.
65% have tried alcohol if they believe their father is
“okay with them drinking”.
Comparatively, 41% have tried alcohol if there is NO father in the home.
Finally, just 25% have tried alcohol if their father is “against them drinking”.
The following is the number of teens getting DRUNK monthly:
34% of teens who get drunk monthly believe their father is “okay with them drinking”.
While just 14% of teens who get drunk monthly believe their father is “against them drinking”.
This month TTT features a
complimentary MP3 Download of “Alcohol and Drugs-Volume I”, Segment 2 (7 minutes in length), click here to download this secure file. You may also order the full-length CD at our online store.
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS
The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the slogan this year is “Do More for 1in 4”. Look around you…one out of every four Americans has a diagnosable and treatable mental illness. Last May I told you about mine and my mother’s mental illnessess and this year it has hit close to home again. My son is currently being treated for depression and the high risk that he could become bipolar. Three generations of men in our family were/are bipolar and my son would make the 4th. The last few weeks have been very difficult as we’ve worked with a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of this illness. To read more about this chain of events you can go to the Parents Talk Truth Blog . This month is a good time to think about, “Who is your 1 in 4?”
-Lisa Smith Henderson, Host
People who experience mental health issues are often faced with discrimination that results in them not seeking mental health services. They don’t want to be viewed in a negative way or labeled, “crazy”. According to The World Health Organization, out of 400 million people worldwide who are affected by mental illness only about 20% get treatment.
Mental illness: myth versus fact
MYTH: Mental illness is a rare disorder.
Mental illness is quite common. According to the American Psychiatric Association about 25% of Americans suffer from a mental disorder in any given year. Mental illness occurs in people of any age, race, religion or income status.
People with mental illnesses are dangerous.
In fact, the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not dangerous. They are much more likely to be the victims of violence and crime than the perpetrators.
If you have a mental illness, you can will it away. Being treated for a psychiatric disorder means an individual has in some way “failed” or is weak.
A serious mental illness cannot be willed away. Ignoring the problem does not make it go away, either. It takes courage to seek professional help.
Depression and other illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, do not affect children or adolescents. Any problems they have are just a part of growing up.
Children and adolescents can develop mental illnesses. One in ten children or adolescents has a disorder severe enough to cause impairment.
Teen Girl Crying
Mental illness is more of a weakness than a disease.
Mental illnesses are as real as other diseases like diabetes or cancer. Some mental illnesses are inherited, just as some physical illnesses are. They are not the result of a weak will or a character flaw.
People with mental illnesses can never be normal.
Science has made great strides in the treatment of mental illness in recent decades. With proper treatment, many people with mental illnesses live normal, productive lives.
How important are fathers in the lives of teenagers?
The more I research and the more stories I hear, I’ve discovered it’s critical to have an involved father for a healthy emotional life. Don’t despair if you didn’t have it, don’t have it now and can’t give it to your kids. It simply means more emotional work is involved in finding father figures to fill that void. I adored my father, but we had a very volatile relationship until I was an adult and we both got sober. Read more about this volatile relationship on the Parents Talk Truth Blog. With Father’s Day approaching this Sunday, let us give thanks to all the men who have been there for us as fathers, biological or otherwise.
-Lisa Smith Henderson, Host
The Bad News
Teens living in a two-parent household with a poor relationship with their father are 68% more likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs compared to all teens in two-parent households.
Even teenagers from one-parent families,(typically headed by mothers), are less at risk from tobacco, alcohol and drugs than those in two-parent families who have poor relationships with their fathers.
National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA)
The Good News
Children of single moms with no father in the picture fare better than living with the bio father if he’s uninvolved.
Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s.
This impact on grades was true for fathers in biological parent families, for stepfathers and for fathers heading single-parent families.
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Fathers and Daughters
Daughters who perceive that their fathers care a lot about them and feel connected with their fathers:
Have significantly fewer suicide attempts
Fewer instances of body dissatisfaction
Less substance use
Are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention.
Wait longer to become sexually active.
Have lower rates of teen pregnancy.
Meg Meeker, M.D., author of Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know summed it up beautifully, “Furthermore, a woman is highly likely to choose a boyfriend or husband based on the qualities, whether good or bad, that she sees in her father. This alone demonstrates the awesome responsibility that comes with fatherhood. There is something very special and particular about the relationship between a father and daughter, which has the potential to protect a girl emotionally, physically and psychologically, as no other relationship in her life can.
Fathers and Sons
Men who had poor relationships with their fathers tended to have problems with intimate relationships in adulthood.
Fathers tend to stress challenge, initiative, risk-taking, and independence. National Research Council’s Board on Children and Families
Men who have warm, close relationships with their father have characteristics valued more by society.
Men who had good relationships with their fathers during childhood handled daily stress better as adults.
Study by Melanie Mallers, PhD presented at the APA convention, 2010
Boys with involved fathers had much lower rates of truancy, stealing and drug use. Journal of Youth and Adolescence,13-Paternal Influences
If your children’s father is unavailable: physically, emotionally, geographically or permanently, father figures are critical. If it’s a trusted uncle, grandfather, family friend, church or synagogue member, the relationship with a mature, loving, kind man can impact a fatherless child greatly.
Quote for Father’s Day
(Speaking on the relationship between a father and son)
“It matters. It matters a lot.” Stephen Preas, M.D.
Our house is full, very, very full. It’s my husband and me, our 16 year-old son, 22 year-old daughter and 1 year-old grandson. Not only that, but we have 3 large dogs. God bless my husband, he’d finally had enough of the antics this year and called BarkBusters. In just a few sessions, our trainer had taught us a lot about dogs and leadership. I couldn’t help but think how easily this training translates to children. Now our dogs are much more lovable (and well-behaved), and I have valuable insight to share with you about what Cheryl Zander of BarkBusters taught us.
-Lisa Smith Henderson, Host
The Importance of Leadership
TTT: What behavior are we likely to see if there’s no leadership in the pack or family?
CZ: When a dog has no clear leadership they will make “dog” based decisions in a human based world. This often translates to bad behavior. There are no “bad” dogs, just dogs making decisions based on their species.
Teens with no leadership make kid decisions, based on their maturity and life experience.
TTT: How exactly do we show leadership?
CZ: We show leadership by looking, sounding and acting like a good, well balanced leader. We give good clear commands, correct and guide when a mistake is made and praise lavishly when the right choice is made. The outcome is the preference of the dog to obtain praise and approval over correction and lack of positive reinforcement.
TTT: Do the same rules work for all children/dogs or do we need to tailor rules to the personality?
CZ: The same rules apply in most cases with dogs and children. We always tailor our correction and praise to the individual. The more timid the dog the less extensive the correction needs to be and the quieter the praise. If the personality and temperament is on the confident, high energy end of the spectrum the more correction is needed to capture the dog’s attention and the higher level of praise is required to fulfill his need for approval.
TTT: There’s been a lot of talk lately about “tiger moms” who push their children very hard and don’t believe in praising. The outcome is often very high achieving teens, but seems contrary to the training rules of praise for a “job well done”. What do we see in dogs with too little praise?
CZ: They will rebel, ignore the commands and become angry and even aggressive. If there is only correction and no approval then there is no reason to continue trying to obey or work with the leader. There is nothing in it for the dog.
Psychologists call it “control-release”. If you control too much, eventually the teenager will release/rebel.
TTT: In your observation what happens when dogs and/or kids have too much freedom?
CZ: They’ll begin to make their own choices with the information they have. Those decisions create bad behavior in the wrong environment.
Lack of boundaries, structure and leadership leads to chaos and peer-influenced decisions. It’s human nature to crave boundaries.
TTT: If your children don’t listen to you and “come when called”, what’s a good way to get them to pay attention?
CZ: Patience is first and foremost. “Come when called” must always be a big party and a very positive experience or again, there’s nothing in it for the dog. If after the dog learns what “come when called” means and chooses not to obey, then a correction is used. When the dog makes the right choice, lavish praise is used even though they didn’t make the initial correct choice.
TTT: If you could sum it up, what are the most important things for us to remember as the “pack leaders”?
CZ: There must be a leader in EVERY pack. The strongest, smartest and most confident one will be CHOSEN by the pack. If the pack happens to choose a dog and not a human, the pack will be in total chaos with many bad behaviors stemming from that dog’s decision making process. Because he’s making dog-based decisions in a human world the outcome will be an incorrect decision.
If teens don’t have a leader at home they will innately seek out a pack with a strong leader. In some cases, the results can be positive if the home life is chaotic or unhealthy. In other cases, teens can be negatively influenced by a friend, another family or in extreme cases, a gang.
Cheryl Zander is a dog behavioral therapist with BarkBusters. She is skilled in working with all temperaments and breeds, Cheryl’s specialty is working with strong-minded Bully breeds.
Making the First 5 Weeks of School Easier
1st Tip: Sleep
This is the simplest tip, but certainly not the easiest. Adolescents (considered ages 11-22) need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night. Children, 11 and under need about 10 and adults need around 8 hours. (for more on back to school and sleep, go to my guest blog today at myAtlantaMoms.com). The APA (American Psychological Association) published a survey in 2009 showing that 49% of teens cite difficulty sleeping. Their parents’ perception? That 13% of the teens had sleep problems. Anxiety and depression can both affect sleep patterns, so be mindful of this those first few weeks of school. For a depression checklist click here.
2nd Tip: Lower Expectations
There will be bumps in the road this first month. Someone’s going to oversleep, be late for school or get sick. Dinner won’t be on time or we’ll duplicate a school lunch, we ‘ll forget to sign something important or can’t get our child in to see the doctor for a sports physical on time. It’s inevitable that we will miss perfection as parents and the same for our students. If we can keep a sense of humor when these things happen and not overreact, life will go more smoothly. In the overall scheme of things it’s probably not a life-changing event.
3rd Tip:Establish and Stick to a Routine
Figure out in advance what your family needs to function well: sleep, diet, exercise, homework, chores, fun. A family calendar is invaluable and if you’re a fan of spreadsheets you can create one specifically for your family’s needs. Routines, like boundaries make our lives less chaotic in an overly busy world. Remember to schedule family time or one-on-one time with your kids. Often, our family time gets diminished as academics and extracurriculars fill the plate.
4th Tip: Know Their Teachers and School
When your kids have Orientation or Meet the Teachers, be sure to go. It will give you an impression of the teacher’s style and a grasp of what’s expected in the coming semester. If your child complains about a teacher it makes it easier to weigh the merit of their complaint (your child’s creative/messy and the teacher’s a stickler for details). Teachers have told me they wish parents would send e-mails telling more about who their children are and what they’re like, both socially and academically. Instead of just signing the syllabus for classes or the honor code or rules, actually take time to read these. You can make life better for your child if you’ve got a clear mental picture of what the teachers and school administration expect.
5th Tip: Monitor Electronics and Social Media
75% of 12-17 year-olds own a cell phone. Out of that group, 88% use text messaging as the preferred form of communication. Like it or not the way our kids communicate has radically changed in the last 7 years. Keep an eye on cell phone and texting usage. See if your teen is texting or downloading data during school hours or Skype-ing at midnight. There is software which you can put on your child’s computer which monitors every keystroke, e-mails, social media activity and instant messaging online. I recommend the software sold by Internet Safety Expert, Richard Shuster of Shuster Solutions. If your kids are on Facebook, make sure you’re one of their “friends” with full access. Check FB regularly and religiously. I made the mistake of not monitoring closely enough and I could’ve saved my son a lot of consequences. Bullying takes place not just on social media sites, but through texting, Skype-ing, instant messages or chats and live webchats. For more details on cyber-bullying go to this page of www.TeensTalkTruth.com .
Be gentle with yourself and your children. None of us is perfect and we all just want to be loved.
September is National Recovery Month and the spotlight is on promoting education, prevention and recovery from addictions. There isn’t a family that I know who hasn’t been touched in some way by substance abuse or mental illness. I come from a long line of alcoholics and had the genetic setup for the disease. I also had a great deal of emotional pain that I was trying to dodge and no matter how much I vowed not to be an alcoholic, I went down that path. I’m grateful to have found a place in recovery for 26 years, along with a number of other close family members. This month in the T3 Newsletter, we’ll cover some of the basics involved in defining, understanding and recovering from addiction.
-Lisa Smith Henderson
Definition of Addiction
This disease isn’t discriminating: young, old, married, single, poor, rich, fat, thin, unschooled or educated. All socio-economic groups are affected. If insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results”, then addiction is classic insanity. Why do people get 3 DUI arrests and still drink and drive? Why do teens binge drink, get violently ill and do the same again the following weekend? Why did Tiger Woods keep having affairs, knowing he could lose his family and jeopardize his career? Why do people who’ve had triple bypass surgery continue to overeat? It doesn’t make any rational sense at all and yet, there is nothing particularly rational about addiction.
Here’s what we know about the process of addiction:
There is an obsession and abnormal importance of the substance or behavior.
There is repetition of the particular addictive behavior.
There’s relative immunity to adverse consequences of the behavior.
There is resistance to modification of behavior.
Random Drug Testing in Schools
Many schools, both private and public have adopted random drug testing of students. Typically in public schools, the testing is limited to athletes or those participating in extracurricular activities and in private schools RTD often applies to the entire student body. This method is especially important to break through parental denial and if parents won’t RDT, then the school is the next line of defense in identifying addiction. Lisa Brady of New Jersey conducted a study to determine whether “students perceive the RDT to have a deterrent effect”. She concluded that over 35% of students perceived the drug testing to have an effect on drug usage within the student body. That information alone is enough reason to continue with RDT, in addition to the benefit of interventions for the students testing positive.
Addiction and the Brain
Brain chemistry plays an important part in all addictions, not just those of substances, but process addictions, as well. The neuro-chemical, dopamine is the central player in all addictions. “Reward circuitry, the cascade of neurotransmission in the brain that leads to the release of dopamine, is kicked off by any pleasurable experience. Everything from eating, to having sex and even skydiving can get it going. The point of the reward circuitry is to positively reinforce actions that promote the survival of the species. During what the brain perceives to be as beneficial actions, dopamine’s release makes our brains “happy,” thus encouraging us to do it again. Though “extreme actions” inherently don’t promote survival, and in fact endanger it, the rush to preserve life causes the release of dopamine and consequently pleasure.” 
So there you have it! The good news is that now we know how important brain chemistry is in the role of addiction, we can address the chemical component along with the psychological components. There are pharmaceutical and natural therapies, which can be used to normalize dopamine in those who have damaged their brain circuitry. The Atlanta recovery center ExecuCare, has had great success with NTR, (Neurotransmitter Restoration) using a natural approach to detox. Founder, Mike Sanders explains, “Once the alcohol and/or drugs are withdrawn, the NTR protocol given at ExecuCare can actually repair these areas of the brain. The NTR IV and oral protocol is the process by which the brain’s neurotransmitters are brought back into balance, allowing the brain to function as it did prior to the physical dependency on alcohol or drugs. The NTR protocol relies upon a special formulation of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and co-factors designed to penetrate blood brain barriers and restore the brain more quickly than the body can do without this added hyper-nutrition. This process speeds up the healing and eliminates cravings while minimizing withdrawal symptoms.”
What Happens After the Intervention?
After identifying the problem and addressing the physical aspects of addiction, we arrive at follow-up to treatment. Project MATCH was the largest research study ever conducted to assess treatment outcomes in patients recovering from alcoholism. They tested 3 follow-up treatment modalities:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Twelve Step Facilitation (TSF)
Motivational enhancement Therapy (MeT)
Outcomes were measured in terms of percent of days abstinent (Pdd) and drinks per drinking day (ddd). There were no significant differences across treatment approaches during and after treatment; patients in all treatment groups reported considerable reduction in drinking.Subsequent analyses also revealed that patients with higher anger levels had better outcomes with MeT than the other two therapies. However, at 3 years follow-up, a significantly higher abstinence rate was found with Twelve Step (TSF) clients. Among TSF clients, 36% were abstinent, compared with 27% of MeT and 24% of CBT clients.  There is definitely benefit in post-withdrawal support, whether it’s peer-based or counseling-based.
Multi-level Approach to Addressing Addiction
In an effort to tackle addiction, we have to use a multi-pronged approach which breaks denial and allows for intervention, addresses brain chemistry and then follows up with proper support. As a parent or caring adult, you are the first line of defense in protecting the adolescent and young adults in your life. You wouldn’t ignore a broken leg or a chronic cough, why would you ignore a life-threatening disease like addiction?
 American Drug and Alcohol Survey-Hackettstown High School, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders, 2003-2004.
from the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 44 (2), 134-143, 2012, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
 NIAAA Report Project MATCH
Biopolar, ADHD and the Addiction Connection
Addiction and mental health issues are always tricky because it’s a case of which came first, “the chicken or the egg”. Alcohol and drug use can trigger mental illness that may have remained dormant or it can be an attempt to self-medicate. There does appear to be a connection between kids diagnosed with ADHD who later are recognized as Bipolar. Is it a case of a misdiagnosis initially or a sign of what’s to come? This month we’ll explore the thread that runs through these 3 powerful diagnoses.
-Lisa Smith Henderson
Is your teenager moody, defiant, happy, irritable, giddy, sad, angry, inattentive, unable to focus and prone to melancholy? Is this normal? Is it hormones? Is it ADHD, Bipolar Disorder or signs of substance abuse? The boundaries can easily blur because 57% of teens with adolescent-onset Bipolar Disorder, also have ADHD. This often leads to a misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis as the child is growing up. Both disorders share many characteristics, but here are some ways to distinguish between the two:
1. Age of onset: ADHD is a lifelong condition, with symptoms apparent by 7 years old. While children can develop Bipolar Mood Disorder (BMD), it is considered rare. The majority of people who develop BMD have their first episode of affective illness after age 18, with an average of 26 years at diagnosis.
2. Consistency of impairment: ADHD is chronic and always present. BMD comes in episodes that alternate with more or less normal mood levels.
3. Mood triggers: People with ADHD are passionate, and have strong emotional reactions to events, or triggers, in their lives. Happy events result in intensely happy, excited moods. Unhappy events – especially the experience of being rejected, criticized, or teased can result in intensely sad feelings. With BMD, mood shifts come and go without any connection to life events.
4. Rapidity of mood shift: Because ADHD mood shifts are almost always triggered by life events, the shifts feel instantaneous. They are normal moods in every way, except in their intensity. They’re often called “crashes” or “snaps,” because of the sudden onset. Unlike BMD, where mood shifts can take hours or days to move from one state to another.
5. Duration of moods: Although responses to severe losses and rejections may last weeks, ADHD mood shifts are usually measured in hours. The mood shifts of BMD, must be sustained for at least two weeks. With “rapid-cycling” bipolar disorder, a person needs to experience only 4 shifts of mood, from high to low or low to high, in a 12-month period. Many people with ADHD experience that many mood shifts in a single day.
6. Family history: Both disorders run in families, but individuals with ADHD almost always have a family tree with multiple cases of ADHD. Those with BMD are likely to have fewer genetic connections. However, the genetic component of BMD will usually be factored in when making a diagnosis at a young age.
It’s easy to see why this gets confusing and why parents, teachers and caregivers may not understand what’s happening. Tweens and teens experience Bipolar Disorder differently than adults in that they will often show the signs of a major depression, but not exhibit the common signs of a manic episode. They will experience a lesser form of elation called “hypomania” which is a period of incredible energy, charm, productivity or hostility. Teens may experience much shorter mood swings, going from mania or hypomania to depression in a few short hours or days. Between episodes, a person with Bipolar Disorder usually returns to normal (or near-normal) functioning. For some people, though, there is little or no “break period” between their cycles.
Some people with bipolar disorder turn to alcohol and drugs because they feel better and sometimes more “normal” when they’re high. The problem is not only that substances can exacerbate the BMD, it can also make the diagnosis difficult. Kathleen Brady, M.D., Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, reported that “substance abuse occurs in 30%-60% of patients with bipolar disorder and is more likely to coexist with bipolar illness than with any other Axis I psychiatric disorder”.
If you’re concerned about your teen’s drinking or you’ve found evidence of drug use, it can be a warning sign of an additional mental healh issue. In fact, the link is so pronounced that Brenda Souto (author of “Co-occurring Brain Disorders and Substance Abuse Disorders”) says, “the combination of mental illness and substance abuse is so common that many clinicians now expect to find it”.
I called on Evan Katz, psychotherapist, speaker and author of Inside the Mind of an Angry Man, to answer some common questions that parents have.
TTT: Why do we not hear more about adolescents or teens who are bipolar?
Evan Katz: Teenagers often exhibit characteristics similar to those with bipolar disorder. Because of chemical changes in their bodies and social norms to detach from parents and societal rules, they often present with mood swings (extreme highs and lows) a sense of entitlement, an attitude of grandiosity (or invincibility), irritability and self-centered “it’s all about me” behavior. These characteristics can also be present in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. But a bipolar disorder requires specific symptoms beyond those listed above. So while the symptoms might suggest a bipolar disorder, it doesn’t mean that a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is correct.
TTT: Is extreme anger a sign of a mental health issue?
Evan Katz: There may be a mental health disorder, but not necessarily so. What is certain is that a pattern of extreme anger suggests unhappiness, insecurity and very low self-esteem and self-respect. Often depression or anxiety (or both) result in angry behavior. Males tend to express depression through anger more than females; likely because they aren’t as comfortable expressing underlying feelings or are out of touch with what they feel underlying their expressions of anger and angry behavior.
TTT: Why does bipolar often co-occur with alcohol or drug abuse?
Evan Katz: This is a great question. One characteristic of people with Bipolar Disorder is that they have mood swings; extreme highs to extreme lows and vice versa. Alcohol and other drugs can soften feeling low and enhance feeling high. It provides the person with a bi-polar disorder a false sense of control.
When in doubt, get more information, consult a professional in the field and most importantly, “trust your gut”!
When Worry is a Warning Sign
ll admit it, I’m a worry-wart. Sometimes it’s an unhealthy, obsessive worry where I’m borrowing trouble and spinning my mental wheels. Other times, I see my worry was warranted. I knew something wasn’t right with my kids, but I either ignored it or hoped it would get better with time. Usually there was a tipping point or crisis that forced me to deal with the problem and I got out of worry and into action.I think Winston Churchill said it best, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”
-Lisa Smith Henderson
Warning Signs to Worry
many times have you heard, “Don’t worry about your kids, they’ll be fine”? We often worry about our kids because there’s something to worry about. Your teen’s grades are falling, they’re gaining weight, sleeping too much, they’re moody, out of sorts, just not themselves. You know your child’s normal behavior better than anyone and sometimes our middle of the night angst is a signal that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. While the act of worrying never makes a situation better, the fact that you are worrying can be a signal to act. If your teen is showing warning signs of depression, extreme anger, frequent mood swings or has been drinking or using drugs, your worry is warranted.
Intuition-Listen to It
Dr. Judith Orloff, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and the author of, “Second Sight: An Intuitive Psychiatrist Tells Her Story and Shows You How to Tap Your Own Inner Wisdom”, tells us that a mother’s intuition should not be ignored. One of the things she advises mothers to do is list their top five anxieties. Often they are actually fears for their children. Orloff says too many mothers today are ignoring their instincts and gut feelings when it comes to their children. “Our society doesn’t encourage people or women to trust their deep intuitions, so they will talk themselves out of it rather than follow through.”
A good way to address your concerns is to sit down and have an open conversation about what’s going on in your child’s life. When listening, quell the urge to minimize, dismiss, judge or give advice. It’s okay to ask your teens directly how they feel about where they are in their lives emotionally. Some parents think that asking if a child is thinking about suicide will plant the idea in their mind. It won’t! It is better to ask and be willing to hear the answers and get help than to wish later you had asked. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for ages 15-24. According to the ” 2011-Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance” study:
- 28% of high school students have felt sad or hopeless for 2 weeks or more, to the point it affected their normal behavior.
- 15% of students have seriously considered attempting suicide.
- 12% had made a suicide plan.
- White, female 9th and 10th grade students are most at risk of considering suicide.
If you have concerns about self-harm or suicide and believe there’s a possibility of your child being a danger to themselves, don’t wait. Find a mental health professional to assess your child immediately or take them to the Emergency Room at your local hospital for evaluation.
Substance Abuse vs. Sanity
While mental health issues may not be a concern, do be aware that alcohol and drugs can either mask mental illnesses or be an unhealthy coping mechanism. As an eye-opener, here are the latest statistics from the “2011 Monitoring the Future Survey”:
- 27% of 10th Graders and 40% of 12th graders had at least one alcoholic drink in the last month.
- 25% of 12th graders had been “drunk” and 22% admitted to binge drinking (5 or more dinks in a row).
- 21% of 10th graders have used marijuana in the last month.
- 25% of 11th graders have used marijuana in the last month.
- 28% of 12th graders have used marijuana in the last month.
Denial is not your friend, the facts are. When in doubt, act!
Anger and the Adolescent
Psychotherapist, Evan Katz has spent the last decade counseling teenage and adult males with anger & substance abuse issues. Katz is a Master Addiction Counselor, offering evaluations for substance abuse and “anger assessments”. In addition to individual psychotherapy and group therapy, he conducts seminars and is available for speaking engagements. For more information go to: www.TheAngerGuy.com
TTT: Is being angry a normal part of being a teenager?
EK: It’s good to remember that being angry is the behavior and having angry feelings is a normal part of being a person! Are feelings of anger normal for a teen? Yes, absolutely. Is the expression of that anger normal? Yes, but how it is expressed is what “anger issues” are really all about. It is how those feelings are expressed that concerns us.
Adolescents are going through a process called “individuation”, in which they are leaving the innocent child’s life and reaching toward adulthood. I consider this process to be a rite of passage, which every person must endure. How we were taught to value our “self” as a child, will largely determine how we undergo this transition from childhood to adulthood. Teens express individuation by showing their independence from what they “used to be,” (dependent children) to what they “want to be” (independent adults). They express individuality in numerous ways, including: oppositional behavior, going to extremes to stand out (e.g. music, clothes, purple hair, etc.), voicing strong opinions and experimenting. Since the teen is having so many new feelings, life changes and experiences, everything feels out of control. Typically, when anyone feels out of control, they compensate by acting in control, or “controlling.” This is a major expression of their anger.
TTT: What’s appropriate anger?
EK: An appropriate expression of anger is one in which it is used for the purpose of healthy protection; be it physical or emotional. Angry feelings motivate us to “fight” (push away someone or something not good for us) or “flight” (pull away or hide ourselves from someone or something not good for us). When used in proportion to the threat, anger is fully appropriate.
TTT: Why are boys typically more angry than girls?
EK: Young men learn to fear the verbalization of genuine feelings, as this creates emotional vulnerability. They have learned that to express vulnerability means to risk rejection. Thus, they suppress these feelings. But feelings will always come out if they are strong enough. And if we don’t talk them out, then we will act them out. Anger is the way the psyche protects itself from someone getting near those vulnerable feelings. Girls are more often conditioned to view the expression of emotions as positive. Since they’ve learned to talk about how they feel, they have less need to protect those vulnerable feelings. This is one reason why it’s so important for girls to have a strong female support system.
TTT: What’s the real reason behind angry behavior?
EK: Anger-related behaviors are fear-based. They protect the “self” from being touched or discovered. There is fear that if this “self” is discovered, then it will be rejected. Therefore, angry behavior is how we act to keep you away from the real me. Some of these protective mechanisms might be through overachievement (keeping you from knowing that I’m not good enough) or underachievement (avoiding rejection completely by not trying). These expressions of anger are ways to protect the self from the perceived threat of not being accepted and “a part of” a group. Ultimately, teens all want connection of some sort and they all want to be understood.
TTT: What’s the connection between anger and depression? How can you tell the difference?
EK: Depression is often the result of the inward expression of anger. One of the ways teens of both sexes, deal with emotional fear and lack of acceptance, is blaming themselves for circumstances out of their control. When they do this, they determine their value as a human being, based on the response they receive. For some teens, it’s easier to beat yourself up than it is to engage in conflict. For others, they would rather blame you than look at themselves. So depression is the result of anger turned inward. Depressive symptoms vary. But in males, depression is often expressed via angry behavior, since they’re trying to suppress their anger toward themselves.
Note: This is different than biochemical depression, although it shares many of the same symptoms.
TTT: I understand there are different types of angry personalities: Fighters who are aggressive, Flighters who are passive and Pretenders who are passive-aggressive. Can you elaborate on these styles?
EK: Fighters, are those who externalize their anger. It’s everyone’s fault but theirs. They’re the ones I usually see first. But these young men will usually work through it, as their acting out behavior eventually forces them to address underlying issues. Pretenders, or passive-aggressive people, are those who express their anger indirectly while managing to deflect the blame for their behavior. They appear rational and reasonable, but manage to remain unaccountable and often get their way. They avoid being confronted or challenged on their behavior, as it seems rational on the surface. Dealing with passive aggressive behavior is tricky because you can’t easily explain what the passive aggressive person is doing wrong. It is a highly manipulative and particularly powerful way to express anger. It is accomplished almost entirely at the other person’s expense. A simple way to express passive aggressive anger is through sarcasm. For example, Joe is sarcastic to Sally and says, “Oh, interesting hairstyle, Sally!” Sally is hurt, but is also confused because Joe said it jokingly. She isn’t sure what to feel. All the while, Joe has achieved complete power over Sally’s feelings. Flighters, are those who internalize their anger. This is the most self-injurious anger, since this person isolates their feelings of anger from the rest of the world. They seethe inside, while making themselves invisible or “under the radar” to others. They believe that the hurtful behaviors of others are somehow their fault. I believe suicide rates to be the highest among teens with this type of anger.
TTT: Does playing sports or being physically active help teens with anger problems?
EK: Not directly. In fact, recent studies show that expressing anger in an aggressive manner, with the intention of resolving such anger, does not work. In fact, it reinforces the aggressive angry behavior. However, there are many great reasons to participate in physical activity and group sports. Such activities may prevent angry feelings from manifesting (working themselves out on the field), but such activity would not be directly helpful in resolving the anger.
TTT: How do violent video games, movies or TV shows impact teens?
EK: Clinically, I’m not sure. However, my years of experience have clearly shown a connection. Angry men, including young men, tend to identify with angry themes. They say they “connect” and “feel understood” by the actors or scenarios in these media genres. It’s a passive-aggressive way of getting out anger without hurting anyone directly. Yet, you will see men addicted to video games and then justify their behavior by saying, “Don’t you want me to get rid of the anger like this? Better at the game, than at you!”
TTT: What’s the best thing we can do as parents of an angry teen?
Remember! It’s easy to forget what being a teen was like. Many parents tell me, “But I don’t want him to experience what I had to go through.” When you were a teen, would you have let your parents help you?”
Listen. Focus on understanding rather than on being understood.
Don’t take it personally. Your child’s experience is about him, not about you. Your fear of being rejected is not his problem, it’s yours.
Meet them where they are. Talk from an “I” position. Talk about what you felt and experienced, without making mention of their experience. For example, “I remember when I was in high school and asked this girl to the prom and she turned me down. Oh my gosh, I wanted to find a hole and just hide forever. It was the worst!”. They may not say anything, but they will have heard you.
You cannot give what you don’t have. You cannot give love and compassion to your teen if you do not have it for yourself. And you will give what you do have. You will give criticism and judgment to them, if you are critical and judgmental of yourself.
TTT: When does a teenager need professional help?
EK: It’s important to allow young people to fall and get up on their own. Struggle, has many valuable lessons and is not a bad thing in and of itself. But, when behavior patterns become consistently destructive; to themselves and those around them, it is better to be proactive, rather than reactive.
After the fact, so many teens will tell me that they were angry at their parents at first, but are really glad they were made to go to counseling. When teens feel out of control and see their relationships falling apart, they want help. But like adults, they often don’t know how to ask for it. Being angry, extra difficult, and even delinquent, are their ways of indirectly asking for help. They’re saying, “Stop me, because I can’t!” We have to be secure enough within ourselves as parents, that it’s okay if our children are unhappy with us for seeking help.
Finally, if a child ever suggests ending his or her life, or if friends suggest this, call a licensed mental health professional immediately! You can also take your child to a hospital emergency room or psychiatric hospital. If necessary, call 911. It’s is always better to err on the side of safety.
NATURE OR NURTURE
The debate’s been on for decades; is it genetics or environment that makes an addict? A few months ago we talked to Stephen Preas, M.D. about genetics and addiction and the clear link between the two. This month, Vanessa Van Petten’s website, www.RadicalParenting.com had an enlightening article about Dr. Bruce Alexander’s “Rat Park” experiment. What can we learn from this scientist about stable, yet stimulating environments curbing addiction? Read on.
-Lisa Smith Henderson, Host
The belief has been for so long that some drugs are instantly addictive, like heroin and crack cocaine. Since the days of B.F. Skinner’s experiments where rats repeatedly chose to be injected with addicting drugs, the assumption was that the rats will opt for a drug over food and water every time. Dr. Bruce Alexander had a different take. He thought that the problem could be that the rats weren’t happy in a cage and they were dosing themselves because of their unhappy environment. Hence, the Rat Park experiment in the 1970’s.
Alexander made sure that all of the rats were fully “physically addicted” to morphine water. He then offered the rats in the Rat Park (a spacious, sensory pleasing home) either regular water or morphine water. The Rat Park rats consistently chose the regular water over the morphine water and the caged rats kept on choosing the morphine water. Ergo, the cage and lack of stimulation must be the problem. You can visit Dr.Bruce Alexander’s website, www.GlobalizationOfAddiction.ca and read more about the Rat Park experiment with photos, by clicking here.
If we provide our kids with a stable, but stimulating environment are they more likely to resist drug use? It certainly makes sense to me. Most people (kids and adults) use drugs and alcohol to escape feeling bad emotionally. As a recovering alcoholic with a double-dose of alcoholism genetics, I’m not going to tempt fate by assuming I can change my environment and then choose the “good water” only. In the bigger picture though, I think it speaks greatly to prevention as opposed to treatment.
After you’ve had a chance to read over Dr. Alexander’s article, let me know what you think. You can post on the Parents Talk Truth blog with your responses. As adults, we may be in the “rat race”, but let’s make sure our kids are in the “rat park”.
Bruce Alexander, PhD, is the author of the book Globalization of Addiction and Peaceful Measures. He continues to study, teach, lecture and write on the subject of addiction.
———————————————————————————————————-Tough Love and Your Teen
I celebrated a birthday last week and the card from my 24 year-old daughter brought it all home. On the front was a picture of a child being spoon-fed something awful (presumably) with a puckered up, miserable face. It read: “Happy birthday to a mom who always knew what was best for me” (and inside the card) “Dammit.”
I laughed and then I cried because my daughter went on to thank me for “doing the tough parts of parenting.” This time last year we were barely communicating because of this tough love. Setting boundaries often means being unpopular and dealing with the anxiety of saying no. In the long run I’ve found that it’s well worth it!
-Lisa Smith Henderson
The Origins of Tough Love
The book, Tough Love, was written in 1968 by Bill Milliken and he put it like this, “…I had to find the courage to say what a good father would tell his children: I don’t care how this makes you feel toward me. You may hate my guts, but I love you and I’m doing this because I love you. I don’t expect you to understand right now, but I have to do it anyway. Either tell the truth about whether you’re getting high or move out.”
In the late ’70s, the term became popular again when Phyllis and David York launched the Toughlove program as a result of their own parenting experience. Their teenage daughter was arrested and they didn’t bail her out, didn’t visit her in jail and made rehab a condition of returning home. Consequently, she responded, turned her life around and was grateful for her parents firm approach. The Toughlove program and support group for parents was about using natural, logical consequences and not protecting your kids from their own actions.
Dr. John Townsend, author of Boundaries for Teens, outlines it beautifully: “Remove the desirable, add the undesirable” and “Don’t interfere with a natural consequence”. This book really simplifies the process and also tells us what to expect out of a teen, including the temptation of being “charmed” by your teen. Tailoring the consequences to your teen’s personality can be highly effective and provide guidance without being heavy-handed (literally and figuratively). My son has often said he would rather have been spanked than endure some of the creative consequences we imposed.
Children of all ages need boundaries to feel safe, nurtured and loved. A world without limits is a frightening prospect for an adolescent or teen. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when setting limits:
- Be clear about the boundary in as few words as possible. You needn’t explain or justify your reasons.
- You’re not responsible for your child’s reaction to the boundary you are setting.
- There’s a chance you will feel guilty or selfish. Don’t let your own anxieties get in the way of good parenting.
- Be consistent. You will likely be tested by your teen.
- If you’re having difficulty staying firm, seek support from other parents or a professional.
- Remember, by setting good limits you’re modeling healthy behavior for your child.
Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, wrote: “Children who are indulged by parents, given whatever they request and allowed to do whatever they desire, are likely to have major problems in establishing healthy adult relationships. The absence of boundaries does not equip children for the real world. These children will become “takers” rather than “givers”. Consequently they fail to find the deep satisfaction that comes from genuinely loving others.”
SEXTING AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Ah, “sexting”. So you might be thinking, “Who in the world would be dumb enough to send sexual messages or pictures in a text?” The reality is that millions of people do it every day and a bulk of them are teens! How do we convince them that everything in cyberspace can come back to haunt them? This month we explore sexting, texting and social media. Find out what other parents are saying on this topic and others on the Parents Talk Truth Blog
-Lisa Smith Henderson, Host
According to Nielsen Mobile, it’s estimated that 80% of teens 13-17 are using cellphones. In my discussions with teens they consider “sexting” to be sexually suggestive or explicit texts, not photographs. However, most parents and lawmakers group both into the category of “sexting”. Posession of sexuallllyy explicit photographs of a minor on a cellphone or computer is considered child pornography. Right now it doesn’t matter if a girl sends her boyfriend’s cellphone her sexy pics, they could both be charged and listed as sex offenders. There is a New York lawyer who is petitioning for federal “sexting legislation” that would make sexting a misdemeanor for minors.
In a survey commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, it showed that 73% of teens surveyed knew that sexting could have negative implications, even though nearly half (48%) had been involved in sexting.
· 33% of teen boys and 25% of teen girls say they have had nude/semi-nude images (originally intended as private) shared with them.
· 51% of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images.
· 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen boys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content have sent this to a boyfriend/ girlfriend.
Just plain texting can have unwanted consequences too, including “texter’s thumb”, sleep interference from late-night texting and dropping grades. Some cell phone companies will allow you to block texting between certain hours. Teens don’t understand adults being on Twitter, because they’re having that instant interchange with their friends through texting. Apparently some kids are so skillful that they can text behind their backs or through a jacket so parents and teachers don’t even realize they’re texting.
In a Harvard dorm room in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes launched Facebook, today’s premiere social networking site for teens and adults. In the beginning it only allowed users who had campus e-mail addresses and then in September 2005, Facebook opened up to high-schoolers. Finally, a year later the floodgates opened when all were welcome to join this free social media site. There are over 69 million Facebook users and over 80% of those users are from youngsters up to 24 year-olds.
Computer Monitoring Software
Teens Talk Truth is a believer in software monitoring for your child’s computer. This software monitors and records: screen shots, e-mails, IM chats, Facebook chats and Facebook messages. Our Internet Safety expert, Richard Shuster, M.S.W., has this software available for sale at www.ShusterSolutions.com. This website also offers information and links for parents to help keep your children safe online. This month our free CD of the month is the
Teens Talk Truth CD, “Internet Safety Today”, featuring an teen stories of online problems and interview with Richard Shuster on the breadth of the problem and parental solutions. Click here to order your free copy.
(a penny for shipping, 1 per household, please).
———————————————————————————————————-Parents-Trust Your Gut
Every good doctor, therapist or friend has told me when making difficult decisions to “trust my gut”. Our intuition can guide us to ask questions, look deeper or get a professional opinion if something feels a little off with our child. Not only is it ancient wisdom, but now there’s science behind it. As tough as the reality may be, when it comes to teens you should definitely “trust your gut”.
-Lisa Smith Henderson
The Emotional Oracle Effect
A study was released in late February, 2012 in the Journal of Consumer Research called, “Feeling the Future: The Emotional Oracle Effect”. Finally…science is backing up with studies what many of us have long suspected (that parents do have eyes in the back of their heads). It seems if we trust our feelings, we’re able to better predict the outcome of future events like Presidential elections, American Idol and even the stock market. Professor Michel Pham at Columbia Business School was one of the researchers and explains, “When we rely on our feelings, what feels ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ summarizes all the knowledge and information that we have acquired consciously and unconsciously about the world around us. In a sense, our feelings give us access to a privileged window of knowledge and information — a window that a more analytical form of reasoning blocks us from.”
Mona Lisa Schulz, M.D., Ph.D is the author of Awakening Intuition and a medical intuitive. “Intuition is simply a sense that’s common to each and every one of us. It’s neither a magic power, nor the crazy hunches of eccentrics… Because intuition involves making decisions on the basis of inadequate facts, we tend to think that the knowledge it brings us isn’t legitimate.” Imagine Schulz as a medical student who began to diagnose her patients before she met them. While she had the advantage of being better prepared and finishing with patients sooner than the other doctors in the hospital, she paid a high price with skeptics when the word got out.
The other night I was at dinner with my 17 year-old son who had been out of town for several days and we were catching up after his trip. At the beginning of dinner, I asked if he was all right. He dismissed me with, “Yeah, I’m just really tired.” We talked all through dinner, but the last 10 minutes was really dragging. As I was signing the check, I looked at him and said, “I may be dead wrong and I’ll have to take your word for it, but it still seems like something’s bothering you.” Within 5 seconds he’d blurted out what he was upset about and unburdened himself. While it was partially intuitive, it was based on knowing my son’s usual behavior when he’s not preoccupied. This recent event wasn’t particularly profound, but I cannot tell you how many times I have shushed that inner voice and regretted it later. When did you last listen to your intuitive voice and what were the results?
Sleep, Exercise and the Back to School Blues”
Stephen Preas, M.D. has been practicing psychiatry for over 20 years and is the Medical Director for Promedica Psychiatry Group in Metro Atlanta. He’s a frequent guest on the Teens Talk Truth programs and contributor to the T3-Newsletter. We talked to Dr. Preas about the “Back to School Blues” and how to help our children adjust this fall.
TTT-What causes the “back to school blues” and is it depression?
SP-It’s not so much depression as often as it is anxiety as a result of change. Whether it’s a new school or not, each year brings change and even if it’s positive, it’s still stressful.
TTT- With the amount of homework assigned in school and lots of extracurricular activity, do we need to worry about burnout for our kids?
SP-Burnout comes as a result of feeling alone and unappreciated. It’s never the workload that’s the cause of burnout.This is true for adolescents and adults.
TTT-So, if a child has a 4.0 GPA, plays sports, holds a school office and is the lead in the school play, it doesn’t have to cause burnout?
SP-Exactly. As long as they feel appreciated and supported by their friends and family, they won’t feel what we commonly think of as burnout.
TTT-How important is sleep to our adolescents now that school’s back in session?
SP-Sleep is critical to every human’s well-being, especially adolescents. New studies show that adolescents need more sleep than others, not less. With more homework, extracurriculars and early rising times, it’s difficult for teens and pre-teens to get the 8-10 hours they need.
TTT-What do you think about letting the kids catch up on their sleep over the weekend by sleeping late?
SP-By all means, let them sleep in! An adolescent’s normal rhythm would have them waking up mid-morning and staying up until late at night. We can’t change the school system, so during the week, there’s not as much opportunity for sleep. When your child sleeps until noon on Saturday, please be tolerant. They will feel better if they get more sleep rather than less.
TTT-When the time changes in October (in most of the U.S.), our days get shorter. Does this trigger the blues in students who have Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) ?
SP-Some people experience depression in the winter when there’s less light and the days are shorter and others only have S.A.D. in the spring and fall.
TTT: With a heavy homework load it seems like the kids have less time now to play outside. What are your thoughts on this?
SP: One of the most important things we can support our children in doing is getting exercise, indoor or outdoor. Our bodies love exercise (not right before bedtime) and it’s been proven to alleviate milder depression. Most athletes will tell you that they got their best grades during the sports season when they were exercising and had to manage their time better.
TTT-Aside from making sure our children get plenty of sleep and exercise, what else can parents do to help make the transition easier during the school year?
SP-Really listen to their concerns and discover if they’re having problems with school or friends. If you had a similar experience, then share your feelings and relate it to them. If you didn’t, maybe a family member had a parallel experience. For example, “Your Aunt Susie had trouble getting up early like you did and she made it through. I know it’s not easy for you right now.” You want your adolescent to know they’re not alone and that you hear what experiences are troubling them.
TTT-Any parting thoughts?
SP: Yes! Remember the importance of touch. As children enter puberty, parents (especially fathers with daughters) tend to shy away from touch. Hugs and touch are especially important for our children as they move through adolescence.
TTT-Our thanks to Dr. Stephen Preas for his terrific insight and ideas. In essence, the four critical things to keep in mind for “back to school” are:
Listen and relate
What’s the difference between the “blues” and depression?
If your child is showing 5 or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks, it could be depression:
Frequent complaints of illness (headache, stomachache, nausea, fatigue)
Persistent sadness or episodes of crying
Loss of interest in usual activities
Weight gain or weight loss
Sleep difficulty (insomnia, early morning waking or sleeping too much)
Oppositional and/or negative behavior
Poor school performance or frequent school absences
National Institute of Mental Health
Teen Suicide Prevention
Saving Your Life-Daily Guide to Coping with Depression
If you’d like to comment or read what other parents have to say about this and other topics, check out the
Parents Talk Truth Blog on the TeensTalkTruth.com website.
Don’t worry, be happy” could be a theme song for summer.The unplanned days, no homework, late nights and sleeping in, make these precious months a special time for families. Our family’s been going to a local restaurant and playing trivia every Monday night because we’re not worried about getting home at 10 p.m. and up at 6:30 a.m. What’s your family doing this summer to make memories?
-Lisa Smith Henderson
Six Tips for Summertime
Summer is the time that kids wait for all year and most are loathe to give up the freedom when August rolls around. The next month is a time for parents to make sure that summer ends on a good note and that our kids are ready to return to school, healthy and happy. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Sex-The reports show that most first time sex happens in the summer. Finding places to be alone outdoors is a lot more pleasant now than when it’s 30 degrees outside. Have plenty of conversations with your teens and young adult children about safe sex and birth control. One steamy summer night can change their lives forever if an unplanned pregnancy or an STD results.
Depression-While the long days and extra sun can keep depression at bay for many, the disconnection from structure and friends can lead to mood issues. If your teen is sleeping too much (or too little) and has lost interest in their usual activities, err on the side of caution. Your pediatrician and the summer check-up is a good time to get a referral to a good psychiatrist or therapist if your adolescent doesn’t seem like himself or herself.
Dehydration-This seems elementary, but many of us forget how important it is to keep hydrated in the summertime. Keep lots of bottled water, Gatorade or juice on hand to make sure it’s convenient for your teens to quench their thirst. If your kids are boating and get seasick, remember the importance of re-hydration is doubled.
Driving-Teens have more free time and are out and about more during the summer months. They’re spending more time with their friends, going to weeknight movies and maybe even on a short road trip. Your teen is tripling the amount of time they spend in an automobile. Stay on top of the car mileage, set clear curfews and expectations about driving. Remember that the more teens in the car, the more likely the distractions (need we even mention texting and driving?).
Water accidents- Because their brains aren’t fully developed, adolescents don’t always make the best decisions. If they’re drinking they are more likely to take unnecessary risks like diving into shallow water, swimming in unsafe places, taking chances in bad weather or being drunk and going unconscious while swimming. These are hard talks to have with kids because you don’t want to rain on their parade, however you don’t want to have to explain it later in a hospital room.
Family Time-Take time to be together as a family. Whether it’s a weekly board game, dinner out, a weekend getaway or a full-length family vacation…the outing doesn’t matter as much as the effort. Even though you think your children don’t care about being with their parents, they will remember these times forever.
The Penn State sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky hits a lot of nerves in our society and with me in particular. From the ages of 10-13 years old, I was sexually abused by my mother. During this time, my grades stayed good, my friendships were strong, I wasn’t depressed, I acted normal…or so I’m told. I don’t remember those 3 years except for a few highlights, like Christmas and a summer vacation. My method for coping with the abuse was a “dissociative identity disorder”, what used to be known as multiple personality disorder. Our brains are created so perfectly that this is one of the ways to keep from being overwhelmed by emotional pain and trauma. Some of the better known stories are, “The Three Faces of Eve”, “Sybil” and “When Rabbit Howls”. In my case, I would study for a test and know the material perfectly, then get to school and fail the test. I had actually studied for the test in one personality and took the test in another. When the abuse started in 6th grade, I lost my memory (for the most part) until the beginning of 9th grade. I was able to piece together some of my junior high school days by reading my yearbook and discovering that I was the Vice-president of my 8th grade class.My friends wrote in the yearbook how funny I was. Not only didn’t I think I was funny, I barely remembered the close friends who wrote about me!
I didn’t realize all of this had happened until I quit drinking and I began to have dreams, flashbacks and memory pieces surface. I told a friend of mine who happened to be a therapist about some of what I remembered about sexual encounters with my mother. She was the one who first said that it was incest, even if nothing else had happened ever again. My sobriety and consequent therapy was not only a journey forward, but a journey back into time to retrieve all of those memories, feel the pain and let them go. I had corroboration from my younger sister who remembered sitting outside the bedroom door while my mother was in the room with me, my mother getting drunk and trying to kiss my sister and explaining it away by saying, “I thought you were someone else” and a family friend who suspected it years later by a letter my mother had written. My mother denied it when I talked to her about it, but the week before her death she called to see if we could have a relationship. I told her no, that it wasn’t good for me emotionally. She asked about having a relationship on the “next plane” and I told her absolutely on the next plane. It was the closest to an admission and apology as I ever got. My therapist asked that afternoon if I was prepared for my mother to take her life now. I really didn’t understand until the next week. My mother was dying of cirrhosis of the liver, but had talked to me, telephoned my sister and then overdosed on alcohol and pills.
I’d like to think and I do believe that none of the grown-ups in my life knew about the abuse. I’d like to think that someone would’ve told the authorities if they’d found out. Children will very rarely speak up about abuse. The perpetrators spend a lot of time figuring out who will talk and who won’t. My sister would’ve talked, my mother knew I wouldn’t. If you suspect or see something that doesn’t seem right, don’t brush it away. Your gut is probably right and something is wrong. Don’t jump to conclusions, but use your best judgement and ask. Ask if something happened. Ask the victim, ask the perpetrator, but ask. The only way that child abuse can continue is in secret and as long as you help keep a secret, you have participated in the abuse.
Some of the signs of abuse are: a sudden fearful nature, falling grades, depression or continued sadness, loss of friends, mistrust of adults, sudden behavioral changes. However, if you don’t see any of these it doesn’t mean there’s not abuse. Dissociation can allow one to function beautifully in the world with emotional cracks just below the surface. I know. I was high-functioning, cheerful, ambitious and split into 19 different personalities. For the record, I had a wonderful therapist and all of the personalities are integrated into my core except for one. She is the part of me that is a performer and I like that she can shut out the rest of the world and be “on” when the occasion calls for it. I am working on a book talking about the missing years and my consequent recovery, “On My Mother’s Chair Neatly”. Thank you for letting me share this secret part of me. This is a deeper level of me becoming healthy by talking. And…by talking truth.
Should We Lower the Minimum Drinking Age?
During the summer of 2008, you may have heard news reports about the Amethyst Initiative. It is an organization made up of 134 U.S. college presidents and chancellors who launched a movement calling for the reconsideration of U.S. drinking age laws. In particular, they are requesting another look at the minimum age of 21 as established nationally by the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. Initiated by John McCardell, the founder of Choose Responsibility (www.chooseresponsibility.org), these college leaders signed a statement proclaiming, “It’s time to rethink the drinking age”. The movement took its name from Greek and Roman legend that the amethyst protected its owner from drunkenness. The Amethyst Initiative is a project of Choose Responsibility. This month I talked to Grace Kronenberg, the Assistant Director of Choose Responsibility and got answers to some of the questions that other parents and I have had about this movement.
TTT: As the Assistant Director for Choose Responsibility, what motivated you to get involved with this movement?
GK: I got involved with Choose Responsibility before the organization existed. John McCardell, founder of CR, began work on a white paper on the drinking age and I was one of his research assistants on that project during my senior year at Middlebury College. I continued to work with John to develop CR after I graduated in May 2006 and have been on board ever since.
I got involved and remain involved for two reasons. First, I believe that there is a substantial amount of research on this topic that has not been fully explored and that there are many research questions that need to be answered before we can be certain of the many ways Legal Age 21 has affected our society. Second, and most important, I am frustrated by the culture of alcohol abuse that is pervasive among my peers and believe that we need to take action to reverse the trend of reckless, abusive and goal-oriented drinking among American adolescents and young adults.
TTT: Why was the drinking age raised in the 1980s?
GK: On April 14, 1982, President Reagan established the Presidential Commission Against Drunk Driving (PCDD). This commission established 39 recommendations to curb what was perceived to be a drunken driving epidemic. Taken together, the 39 recommendations were intended to be comprehensive approach with a goal of reducing the number of alcohol-related deaths on the nation’s highways. Recommendation number eight concerned the Minimum Legal Purchasing Age, and said that all states should raise their drinking age to 21, lest they lose a certain percentage of federal highway dollars. Though the target of the Commission’s recommendations was intended to be drunk driving across the adult population, the disproportionate amount of attention paid to establishing 21 as the national minimum drinking age shifted the nation’s focus to young people’s drinking. Exclusive interest in raising the drinking age marginalized the effect of the remaining 38 recommendations, among them suggestions to implement youth education programs, establish a massive public information campaign, and to increase penalties for convicted drunken drivers.
Two years later, on July 17, 1984, after extensive lobbying from groups such as MADD, President Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. The Act did not mandate a national drinking age; instead it threatened to withhold 10% of a state’s federal highways funding if the state set its drinking age below 21. By 1988, all states had set their drinking ages at 21.
TTT: Can you tell us some of the negative effects of Legal Age 21?
GK: Legal Age 21 has contributed to a culture of excessive and abusive drinking among young people. Consider this:
90% of the alcohol consumed by 18-20 year-olds is consumed when the person is engaged in a episode of heavy drinking. Especially when understood in terms of the effect of large quantities of alcohol on the developing brain, this is an alarming statistic. The 21 year-old drinking age has pushed young adult and adolescent drinking behind closed doors and away from supervision by parents, residence life staff, and other adult authority figures. Drinking that is not out in the open, and drinking that requires one to find a dark corner or travel to a remote location, is drinking that puts not only the drinker, but also the innocent citizen, at greater risk. The behavioral consequences of binge drinking are harmful, often destructive, and occasionally fatal. High schools, colleges, and military bases are forced to grapple with the devastating consequences of excessive drinking as it becomes the norm for young Americans.
TTT: One of the fears I’ve heard parents express is that young teens will have alcohol more readily available if the drinking age is lowered to 18. Can you address this?
GK: After 24 years of Legal Age 21:
· 41% of 8th graders,
· 62% of 10th graders,
· and 73% of 12th graders are consuming alcohol.
The age of onset of alcohol use has actually gotten younger since the mid-1980s, under Legal Age 21. The fact is, that the 21 year-old drinking age has not done a very good job at keeping alcohol out of the hands of younger teens. We believe that we can do better, and that these alarming rates are a call for more, and better alcohol education. A system of alcohol education and provisional licensing for 18-20 year-olds who are no longer enrolled in high school is a specific and tailored policy proposal that has the potential to engender the cultural change needed to address the issue of binge and underage drinking.
TTT: MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) has taken a very strong stand against lowering the Minimum Drinking Age, citing traffic statistics. Can you speak to this?
GK: MADD has been a major proponent of Legal Age 21 throughout its history, and even lobbied for its passage in the 1980s. Much of MADD’s support then and now is based on a belief that there is a clear cause and effect relationship between Legal Age 21 and the decline in traffic fatalities seen in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Assertions that Legal Age 21 has saved more lives than unrelated, external safety factors are simply untrue. Research suggests that Legal Age 21 was only one of many factors such as Zero Tolerance laws and lower BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) limits which contributed to the decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates, safety belts and airbags have combined to save 206,287 lives between 1975 and 2004. By comparison, NHTSA estimates the 21 MLDA (Minimum Legal Drinking Age) saved 23,733 lives in the same period. No known study has been undertaken to study the effects of the “designated driver” and of increased public awareness of the dangers of drunken driving. Both factors that have, without question, contributed to the decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Furthermore, alcohol-related traffic fatalities reached a 10-year high in 2006.
Though the debate about the drinking in the 1980s was focused almost entirely on the highways, our experience in the past two decades has shown us that Legal Age 21’s effect reaches beyond the highways to the dorm rooms, basements, and farmer’s fields where young people are drinking illegally and putting themselves, their friends, and society at risk.
TTT: What can we do to find out more about Choose Responsibility and the Amethyst Initiative?
GK: Please visit www.chooseresponsibility.org and www.amethystinitiative.org for information. If you’re interested in getting involved, please sign up as a volunteer or subscriber by clicking here: Volunteer/Subscribe . You can also drop us an email any time at email@example.com or give us a call at 202-543-8760.
Most of all parents need to understand that if kids are stressed and feeling pressure, they need you to understand that and not question it or try to lessen it through words. Saying things like “it will get better tomorrow” or “it cannot be that bad” or “I am sure if you just wait a few days and you will forget all about it”, makes us feel more alone with our pressure and stress.
-“Chad”, Middle School StudentMean Girls
The movie, “Mean Girls” underscored the viciousness that girls are capable of in the teen years.Statistics also reflect that girls who are popular exhibit more relational aggression (insults, gossip, rumors) than boys do. As girls move through adolescence, this social aggression more often involves manipulating or threatening a girl’s romantic relationship (Crick, et al 1999). Below is Julie’s high school horror story:
“There were several rumors that circulated about me in high school, none of which were true or even had a grain of truth. They both involved me performing sexual acts and one rumor said I got paid with a candy bar for oral sex. It was really so ridiculous, but there were people who believed it and passed it along. There are probably people to this day who still believe that I did those things.”
-“Julie”, sophomore in college
A study released last year surveyed nearly 600 boys and girls from the 4th grade and followed them through the 12th grade. One finding which surprised researchers was that in the fourth grade about 50% of the cliques were of mixed race and ethnicity, but by the 12th grade, nearly 90% of cliques were of the one race or ethnicity. Because the school system which was studied was ethnically diverse, the results were even more unexpected.
One TTT reporter tells us that in her private middle school, the “Black Pack” made fun of other races besides their own. At Teens Talk Truth, we are painfully aware that this situation has been reversed for many decades and still exists in America. However, we would be remiss in not addressing what appears to be a fairly recent phenomenon. Read what one mom wrote on the Parents Talk Truth Blog regarding her adolescent daughter’s experience along these lines.
Popularity and Economic Success
A recent study by The Institute for Social and Economic Research (using data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Studies)found a link between popularity and adult salaries. Students who were sociometrically popular and socially skilled, were more successful and higher income earners as adults. A distinction was made between being talkative and being popular. Talkative students were not as successful as the popular students.
If you’d like to comment or read what other parents have to say about this and other topics, check out the Parents Talk Truth Blog on the TeensTalkTruth.com website.