TTT Newsletter 2008-2010

T3 Newsletter
Teens Talk Truth                              November 2008

Cyber-bullying, Today’s Online Worry

 Do you ever worry about your children getting beaten up on the school playground? Probably not, but many of us wonder if our children are being bullied online or having their reputations scorched on Facebook. Cyber-bullying is becoming an increasing source of anxiety for parents and the numbers show this behavior is quite common among tweens and teens.Here are some revealing statistics:  

  • 58% of 4th-8th graders haven’t told their parents or an adult  about something mean/hurtful that happened online.
  • 42% of these kids have been bullied while online.
  •  35% have been threatened online.
  • 21% received mean or threatening text/online  messages.
  •  53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person.
    Based on 2004 i-SAFE survey of 1,500 students grades 4-8

Warning signs of cyber-bullying:

  • Your child’s behavior has changed dramatically
    (withdrawal, depression, abusing alcohol/drugs, dropping grades, violent outbursts).
  • They’re spending more time online or texting.
  • Your cell phone bills suddenly escalate because of additional web or text usage.
  • They become very secretive about computer usage or text messaging.

While there is no substitute for parental involvement, it’s impossible to guard the computer 24 hours a day.  We recommend using internet monitoring software which takes screenshots, shows all e-mails, passwords, IM chats and every keystroke. The software will alert you via e-mail when certain words are typed on the child’s computer. This software is available at:www.shustersolutions.comFor parent tips, visit our webpage, “How to Talk to Your Teen” and listen to the TTT CD, “Internet Safety Today”, featuring Richard Shuster, MSW and President of Shuster Solutions ( If you’d like to be alerted to future Teens Talk Truth presentations on Internet Safety and other topics, please send your e-mail address to:

T3 Newsletter
Teens Talk Truth                              January 2009

The War on Drugs in Your Home

 The world today’s teenagers live in differs dramatically from the world in which their parents grew up. Children are maturing

faster physically and have easier access to drugs and alcohol than before. (See box below for recent statistics.)

At Teens Talk Truth, we’re proponents of random drug testing as recommended by many professionals who treat adolescents. This is another tool parents can use for increasing accountability and offers teens a valid excuse to “just say no”.

Here’s what Suzie B*, 19, had to say about random drug testing after her parents discovered her marijuana use at 17:
“Because I knew up front I was going to be randomly drug tested, I didn’t feel violated. It felt like a routine part of being a teenager. My friends thought it was extreme that I was tested, but it gave me a great excuse to turn down a joint. I’m not opposed to doing this with my children someday, but I’d have to have a good reason.”
And Danny M*, age 15, said, “My parents started doing random drug tests when I was in Middle School and I think it’s a good idea. It doesn’t seem weird now, because they started doing it long before I had the opportunity to use drugs.”
*The names have been changed to protect anonymity.

In addition to drug testing, there are other ways for parents to learn what’s going on right under their noses. A revolutionary program meeting with success is, D.A.D.S. (Dogs Against Drugs and Violence). It offers parents and employers a way to confirm or deny the presence of illegal substances and firearms in the home or workplace. 

Kim Newman has been training domestic and exotic animals for over 26 years.This includes extensive experience working with wildlife in both North America and Africa. She is the founder and CEO ofSmartcritters, Inc., an Atlanta-based dog training school. Smartcritters was named 2007 Best Dog Trainers in Atlanta, by Creative Loafing magazine. Kim began working with Ronald Parson,while training police service dogs, and together they founded D.A.D.S. “Dogs Against Drugs and Violence”. This is a non-profit foundation which provides school-based drug and violence intervention programs using scent dogs, retired guide dogs and tracking dogs to teach students to make better life decisions.  In addition, Kim and Ronald conduct in-home searches to assist parents who suspect their children are hiding alcohol, drugs and/or firearms. Ronald and his police service dog, Kadia, recently retired from the state of Georgia’s Canine Team. He brings to the foundation over 20 years of experience in law enforcement, including 18 years as a canine officer and extensive work in undercover narcotics law enforcement. Teens Talk Truth talked with Kim Newman this week about D.A.D.S.:
TTT: How did you get the idea for D.A.D.S.?

KN: I started a guide dog program at the woman’s metro prison in Atlanta several years ago. I saw first-hand how animals made a difference mentally, emotionally, and physically in these women’s lives. Later, I met Ron and talked with him about the experience he gained in over 20 years in law enforcement. As a canine officer, his duties included searching schools for drugs. Ron explained that if drugs were found, the student was charged with a crime. Because he was based in the state prison in Alto, Georgia, he knew that a drug conviction could haunt someone for the rest of their lives. Once a young person has an arrest record that includes drug charges, they can find it hard to make the positive life changes they need, and often want, to make. A felony conviction also completely precludessome career paths, regardless of how a young person re-orients after a conviction. Ron and I both wanted to help these kids see how the life choices they make now will affect them for the rest of their lives. We both became certified to teach the, “Too Good for Drugs and Violence” program, adding the detector dogs and therapy dogs.  We felt like we could use our experience and dogs to teach young people before they got into the criminal justice system.

TTT: How often is a parent or employer correct when they suspect illegal drug use?  

KN: 50%-75% of the time, a parent or employer’s gut reaction is correct. But, we repeatedly hear parents and school staff say, “We had no idea” and “I can’t believe he/she would do that”.
TTT: Are you or Ron actually part of the intervention process? 

KN: Absolutely. In our home-based programs, we’re both available to meet with the parents and do the home searches with the detector dogs. We also find that sometimes, having Ron sit down and talk with the student is helpful. Ron’s “street” experience often gives him credibility with young people that allows him to talk about substanceabuse or violence.  Because Ron and his wife raised two children of their own, he also knows what being a parent means. Additionally, we can recommend therapists who have training and experience in substance abuse and violence counseling.

TTT: Do you come into the home when the kids are there or at school?

KN: Our in-home searches are done at the discretion of the parent and it is up to them if the child is present.
TTT: If you find illegal drugs or firearms are you required to report it to police?
KN: NO!  We are strictly an intervention program, and all information is completely confidential. The parents, schooladministrators or human resources office decide what the best treatment plan is for each individual.
TTT: What’s the average cost for a family or small business?
KN: Our home and small business programs are billed at an hourly rate of $200; with an average of two hours for the search and consultation. We try to work with all clients so that anyone whowants help can get it. We also have fixed rates for scheduled, but unannounced monthly home visits. 
TTT: What is the most surprising thing you’ve encountered since you’ve been working with D.A.D.S.? 
KN: There are two things that have been something of a surprise. First, is that so many middle and upper-income parents think that drug and violence problems are somehow confined to lower income families, areas, and schools. These parents are dead wrong, and every single study done in this area has shown this to be true. Drug abuse is a problem in all economic levels and all neighborhoods. Rich, poor or middle class, the drug problem cuts across all socio-economic groups and extends all the way down to elementary schools. The other thing that has surprised us is how slow the public has been to grasp the fact that our traditional drug education and intervention programs simply don’t work very well. Telling a 15 year-old, “If you use drugs you are going to be in big trouble”, is not adeterrent. We need to give young people concrete help in making good life decisions, setting long term goals and understanding peer pressure. 
TTT: What can we, as parents learn from your years of training dogs and other animals? And no, I’m not kidding!
1. That leadership in the pack (family) is crucial for all to succeed. 
2. Be consistent with your corrections, but don’t forget to praise when rules are followed.

3. Don’t growl when a glance will do.
4. The best way to learn life experiences is to play hard.
5. When faced with confrontation, sometimes turning your head away and yawning is better than a fight.
6. As an individual, survival can be hard. But, as an active part of a pack (family), you will always be loved and have a support group with whom you can move through life.
TTT: Kim, who is your program suitable for?
KN: Everyone can benefit from this program. We work with parents, schools, recreation centers, religious organizations and businesses.  For groups, we use a prevention program designed to reduce the risk of students becoming involved with illegal drugs and violence.  The curriculum we use is nationally recognized and has been proven to reduce risk factors while enhancing protective factors.We use these same principles and training dogs for our in-home search and intervention program. Click here for Residential Drug Dog information.
In addition to working in the Atlanta metro area, Kim Newman and Ron Parson offer programs and in-home searches in other states, as well. For more information visit the website, ,or call 404.234.0688.
Teens Talk Truth                                February 2009

Evan Katz 

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:

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


T3 Newsletter
Teens Talk Truth                                    March 2009

 Amy Kossoff Smith,  founded, a site that presents motherhood as a legitimate and valuable job, and provides tips and tactics to help moms manage their busy lives. Her blog has regular posts about topics of interest to the business of motherhood. An internationally recognized “Mompreneur”, she is a national wire columnist, with weekly columns appearing in newspapers and online nationwide. She has appeared on The Today Show, FOX, CBS, and NBC News, on XM Satellite Radio, and in newspapers nationwide.  She runs Write Ideas, Inc.,a public relations and promotions firm she founded in 1992.


“As a working mom, I had constantly found my business world and personal worlds colliding. Over the years, I had naturally begun to use my work tools to organize our home life. Complicated carpools? No problem, a color-coded spreadsheet will do the trick. Painting estimates? Make sure you ask each person the same five questions – display the answers on a chart. Chores for the kids? Lay it out so all can see. Chart after chart, spreadsheet after spreadsheet, my business skills were guiding me through motherhood, providing me with much valued order in my home. Though I knew that this approach might not be the answer for everyone, I had been asked for help from enough other busy moms to know that I had tools other people could use.  So with a computer full of spreadsheets, checklists and essays, I revisited my idea from years ago, an idea that had lain dormant since the birth of my third son. I decided to write the book on which I’d based my adult family life, The Business of Motherhood.

 TTT: Amy, this excerpt from your contribution to the book, Knowing Pains: Women on Love, Sex and Work in our 40s,seems to sum up the birth of the idea for the Business of Motherhood book. For those who didn’t catch your appearance on The Today Show in January, will you explain about the advent of the website, and the corresponding blog,

AKS: Absolutely!  Long story short, I’m a journalist who started a PR firm,Write Ideas, Inc..  I’m blessed to have conquered so many “mountains” in the writing world with one exception.  I’ve always dreamed of writing a book.  As I wrote in the essay, I have constantly found my personal and work worlds colliding, and in pitching book agents on The Business of Motherhood, I was told I needed a web presence first.  Little did I know that these websites would take me down a cyberpath I had no idea existed or could be so much fun!

TTT: Since you run several businesses and you’re a mother of three boys (under 11!), what is your favoriteorganizational tool on your website?
 AKS:  Tough question, since I believe any spreadsheet or chart will make a mom’s life easier.  Most of the charts are on “Mom Life”  page now. My personally most used chart is the Chore Chart , because I insist that our kids take an active role at home…daily!
TTT: In the “Mom Life” section of your website you have all kinds of ideas for scheduling. Which scheduling ideas are most helpful for divorced parents?
AKS: I’d have to refer again to the chore chart mentioned above, because helpful kids are even more critical since you’re going it solo.  The carpool grid is also useful, so that single parents can share the driving.
TTT: My personal favorite in that same section, is the meal planning schedule from Mike Lippman’s guest blog (I’ve adapted it for dinner menus).Which organizing tool is downloaded the most?
AKS: We get a lot of traffic, especially in this economy, for theMonthly-Annual Budget Worksheet .  It lets you input all of your expenses, while the chart automatically tabulates your total expenses.  It’s shocking when you see the bottom line, and it helps you manage expenses and see where even a $10 savings weekly can add up.  Another favorite is the Medical History chart.  It’s so important to keep track of your kids’ medicines and illnesses for future treatment/guidance.  A pediatrician recently suggested we add “allergies” to that chart.
TTT: Amy, you’ve got so many terrific categories to choose from in the MomTini Lounge. What’s one of the hottest topics on the blog, right now?
AKS: We’ve added links to lots of posts on teens.  The hottest topic is definitely “online safety”,  including ways we can manage the risks of technology in our kids’ worlds.
TTT: I just finished reading Vanessa Van Petten’s book, You’re Grounded: How to Stop Fighting and Make the Teenage Years Easier, which is in the Mom-tastic Bookshelf section of the website. How do you decide who makes the Mom-tastic list?
Note: Vanessa Van Petten will be featured in next month’s T3 Newsletter discussing her book, “You’re Grounded: How to Stop Fighting and Make the Teenage Years Easier”.

AKS: Great question!  There’s some latitude, of course, but my mission is to be the go-to place for the how-to.  So, I look for parenting books that aren’t philosophical or long-winded, but give parents valuable shortcuts to managing home and kids.

TTT: And finally, the $64,000 question. What’s the most difficult thing for you to handle being a mom and a businesswoman?
AKS:  Wow…tough one.  Definitely the balancing act.  I do believe that all moms are working moms, and I hope my boys will grow up with more independence and appreciation for the hard work a mom does both inside and outside the home and help to support their families both financially and at the kitchen sink when needed!
T3 Newsletter
Teens Talk Truth                                 April 2009, is a parenting blog from the kid’sperspective, written by Vanessa Van Petten and 15 teen writers who give parents advice, tips and a secret view into their world. Van Petten is also the author of, 

When I first talked to Vanessa, I was delighted to discover there was someone else promoting advice for parents from today’s teens. I was thoroughly impressed by her book, “You’re Grounded”,  and delightfully surprised at the depth of her insight and skilled writing. (In other words, it’s not a “fluff” book.) Additionally, I’ve learned a lot from her blog on  Radical Parenting.  

-Lisa Smith Henderson, Host of Teens Talk Truth
TTT: Vanessa, Several times in your book you talk about “the more parents hold their teenagers back, the more they will want to explode later”. How do parents know when to restrict and set firm boundaries and how do we know when to “let go”?
V V P: Of course, this is a delicate balance.  You can usually tell when a kid or teen is just wanting something or actually needing something to be able to function well with you inside of your relationship.  I also think that a good measure is if your child is able to write down in a letter for you, all of the pros and cons of what they need and can see both sides. Then they actually are appreciating the depth of the decision and responsibility they are asking for.
TTT: When you wrote the book you were in high school and dealing with the pressures of school on a daily basis. What would you like for parents to know about helping their kids deal with the pressure of schoolwork?
V V P: I wrote an article about school burn-out that answers this exact question (click here for the article).
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.
TTT:  There’s a particular “Don’t” you mention in your book. “Don’t Be Duped”, by  believing everything your teen tells you. How do we look for the truth in a situation without disrespecting our child?
V V P:Facial expression. Teens can be very good at lying, but they are not good at covering facial expressions.  With teens I know well, I can almost always tell when their behavior shifts slightly and they are lying.  Watch closely by looking at their face and body language when you know they are telling the truth and see how they respond to a planted lie or when they are lying about something little. I call this “lying behavior”.
TTT: What’s the biggest mistake you see parents make with their teenagers?
V V P: Not taking them seriously or underestimating their aptitude for depth and emotional intelligence.  I think teens are very mature and often desire and need to be challenged intellectually and emotionally.  When you treat them maturely, they tend to rise to the occasion…that works the other way as well.
TTT:  In your research and interviewing for your book, what was the most surprising thing that other teens told you?
V V P: The surprising thing for me was that teens have such anger towards their parents and many parents do not even realize how powerful that anger can be.  The good news is, almost everyone I went back to and re-interviewed, had calmed down and built back the relationship that had disappeared with their parents during the teen years.
TTT:  Vanessa, you just launched your new website, The site is loaded with great information for parents from the teen’s viewpoint. One of the Radical Parenting Principles is to: “Live the You-Them-You Perspective”, will you explain what this means exactly?
V V P: Sure, I have an article coming out about this.  I teach this to teens and kids and think it is even more helpful for them.  It is basically teaching perspective.  Thinking about what you need and your boundaries and what you would be willing to compromise on.  This can be in an argument or a relationship.  Then thinking about the other person completely.  Putting yourself in their shoes and argue against yourself.  Then come back to you and think about compromising the two.  You always develop better relationships and perspectives thinking this way.
TTT:  I’m seeing some alarming trends where teens are learning to get drunk in unusual ways: alcohol-soaked tampons, hand sanitizer and another that’s mentioned on your website, the “eye shot”. As much as I don’t want to know, are there other things teens are doing to circumvent breathalyzers and parents who are using “alcohol on the breath” as the primary method of detection?
V V P: I know teens are also injecting fruit with vodka and taking it to dances and school.  The only method parents are
using is the smell and of course, odd actions.  My biggest worry is actually marijuana, not alcohol.
Vanessa Van Petten wrote the book, You’re Grounded….” when she was a senior in high school after conducting more than 700 interviews with teenagers, parents, and teachers in Los Angeles, California. She decided to write “You’re Grounded!” in order to be a role model for teenagers and to be a window into the lives of this generation for parents.The book is available on Just click on the title below.
T3 Newsletter“How to Talk to Your Teen”            May 2009

 Every teenager I’ve interviewed for Teens Talk Truth,  has been clear that they want an open and deeper relationship with their parents. As a result, the following is some of the best advice we’ve gotten from experts and teenagers alike on “How to Talk to Your Teen”.
                          -Lisa Smith Henderson, Host


Teens Talk Truth contributor,
Stephen Preas, M.D., Medical Director of Promedica Psychiatry Group, ( 
makes these suggestions:

1. “Children learn best when parents share the mistakes they’ve made in a similar situation and how they’ve fixed them. The worst thing you can do is to be an accidental “know-it-all”, so they’re scared to ask you questions if they need help.”

2. “Never underestimate the power of discussing an issue with both parents present. It’s critical for the child to know that parents are on the same page and are the leaders. You don’t want the child to outvote one of the parents on an issue.”
3. “In the course of a discussion, if a child reveals something they’ve done which warrants a consequence, it’s okay to defer that discussion until later. While you do want to keep the door open for communication, you may also need to impose appropriate consequences.
4. “If your child is under the influence, ALWAYS postpone a discussion until the child  has sobered up or isn’t high.”

And from psychotherapist and Teens Talk Truth contributor, Tara Arnold, PhD:


5. “Be non-reactive and empathetic, even if what you’re hearing shocks you. If you cut them off verbally or punish them in the moment, they’ll never want to come  to you again. It may be appropriate to enforce consequences later, but not  while your teen is confiding in you.”
6. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes parents don’t ask because they don’t  think they can deal with the answers. As a parent you will be able to handle it  and get the support you need.”
And from our teen panel:
7. “Talk to us as equals, but with authority. Don’t discount our feelings just because  of our age.”
8. “It doesn’t work to say, Don’t do drugs, they’re bad. Give examples of things that actually happened to you or a friend that had a bad outcome.  It makes more of an impact if I know something actually happened to my parents or someone my parents know.”
9. “Don’t yell. Ever.”
10. “Be open-minded about what your kid has to say. Try not to judge me or my friends when I talk to you about something that’s happened.”
11. “Don’t talk as if you know exactly what we’re going through, because every person/situation is  unique.”
12. ” Make sure you set up a scenario that allows for a free flow of ideas and discussion. If you’re both at ease, what is said will be exactly what you want to say to your child.”
When your teen has just told you they’ve done the thing you fear the most (drinking, drug use, sex), it’s difficult to hold your tongue and stay calm. However, the most important thing you can do in that moment is to listen and respond without judgement. Eventually, your child will learn that you’re a “safe” person to talk to when they’re in trouble or worried. 
                                Teens Talk Truth, copyright 2009


T3 Newsletter
Troubling Friendships and Relationships        July 2009

It’s bound to happen…your child is friends with  (or dating) someone you don’t like and doesn’t treat your teen well. How do you handle it? Do you pretend to like the person, include them in family events, forbid the friendship/relationship? It’s difficult to know what to do and when to do it. “Monica” answers questions from the parent’s perspective, Evan Katz gives us great advice and the teens weigh in with their ideas for parents. Please feel free to share ideas on this or any topic on the  Parents Talk Truth Blog.

Lisa Smith Henderson, Host       

“Monica” was very worried about her daughter’s boyfriend and shares with us the chronology of events leading up to her ultimatum to her teenager.

TTT: How old was your daughter when she starting dating the boy in question?
Monica: She was 16.

 TTT: Did you like him at first?
Monica: No, only because there were a lot a rumors around our community about him. He never came in the house for the family to get to know him.
TTT: Did you let your daughter know you didn’t like him and why?
Monica: Yes. But she liked him and that was all that mattered to her. She was quick to remind me not to judge by the rumors, so I tried to get to know him and then judge for myself.
TTT: What were some of the ways you tried to deal with it?
Monica:  At first, I tried not to be to negative. I invited him to dinner and all of the family gatherings. Whatever the function, they both knew that he was always welcome. After a short time it became clear she did not want to attend our family dinners because she wanted to be with him. It got to the point when she was at a family event, she was miserable the whole time, which in turn made memiserable. I never forbade her to see him. I was hoping the relationship would end as most high school relationships do and she would move on. As time went on, I realized he was making her choose between her family and him.
TTT: Did any of the above work?
Monica: After about a year of dating he started to come around. Only for a short time did he come to dinner and just hang out with our family. He did go on a trip with us and the rest of the family went out of their way to make sure he was comfortable. We all thought he felt welcomed and was enjoying himself. After a few months he quit visiting and it was the same pattern over again.
TTT: Was he every physically or emotionally abusive?
Monica: As far as I know, there was not any physical abuse. There was emotional and verbal abuse. This unfortunately took a long time for me to figure out. Emotional and verbal abuse is hidden much better. You can’t see the bruises.
TTT: Is she still with him?
Monica: She is not physically with him.  For the first time, I made her choose between him and her family. She left for a short time and returned home. Now she has moved away with another family member in an effort to get away from the boyfriend. He has decided he wants her back and is making it extremely difficult for her.
TTT: Has this relationship damaged her image of herself?
Monica: I do think that her self confidence has been hurt and she doesn’t believe that she deserves a good relationship. The sad truth is, she has no idea what a healthy relationship is.
TTT: How did you get support for yourself during this time?
Monica: I have a wonderful husband who supported me and we worked together making decisions about what we thought was best for my daughter. Her father and his wife have also been supportive.  I have an awesome family and great friends who have lent a good ear and offered comfort. I also have a good therapist who I saw.  I took the advice that Evan Katz gave and treated myself with an ice cream. Actually, I treated my self to several !!

The following tips are from psychotherapist, Evan Katz ( These are suggestions he made when “Monica” needed to cope with delivering the ultimatum to her daughter. These suggestions can be applied to a number of situations, not just relationship issues.
1.What would you recommend a best friend do if she were in your position?

2. Just because your best efforts didn’t work, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed.  It just means that they didn’t work.
3. Acceptance is hard.  Your real intention and effort is for your child’s well-being.
4. We all need to fall on our own.  No one can teach us to ride a bike if they don’t let go and let us fall.
5. The opposite of love is not hate; it’s apathy.  If your child is angry that is a wonderful sign.  It means that you are still very important.
6. Try not to take it personally.  This is about your child and not about you.
7. You cannot control anything that happens. The only thing you docontrol is how you deal with what happens.
8. You don’t have to act on how you feel. Do respond, but don’t react.
9. As women, the core of your foundation is to “keep relationships together”. When you do the opposite, it feels like you’ve failed as mother. You haven’t.
10. Remember to take care of yourself.  This means: ice cream, movies and extra enjoyment (no alcohol).  By countering the pain, you can keep your perspective.
See what the teens have to say in the column to the right.


Free Offer !
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Sex and Sexuality, Volume II

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Certified Nurse Practitioner and Educator, Colleen Gardner discusses the best way to talk to your teen (and pre-teen) about sex. Also hear candid talk about the new bisexuality among girls and the prevalence of STDs. From the teen perspective: a young man talks about the sexual experimentation common in middle school, what constitutes an “easy” girl and why relationships are short-lived. To order your free copy of “Sex and Sexuality, Volume II”, just click here. 
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(1 per household, please.) 

 Please feel free to forward this e-mail and share the offer with  your friends. There’s an easy place to “forward” at the bottom of this e-mail.

   Internet Safety 
 This interview features Richard Shuster, MSW and Online Safety expert. (
and a teen sharing her frightening story of an online encounter “gone wrong”.
This CD explores:   
  • The danger of online predators 
  • Protecting your family and business financial information
  • Smart tips for safety on social networking sites.
  • Monitoring  software for parents is discussed in detail. 

 The CD is $7.95, including shipping. To order go to the  Teens Talk Truth Online Store for more information or call 1-877-TEENS-15.

Lisa Headshot Original
Lisa Smith Henderson, host ofTeens Talk Truth is available for speaking engagements and seminars on a variety of topics affecting teens. For a complete listing of subjects go to, or call 1-877-TEENS-15 for more information.  

In the June issue of the T3 Newsletter

Building Self-Image 
Psychiatrist and creator of the DVD and CD, “Self and Self-esteem: Is there a Hole in Your Bucket?”, Stephen Preas, MD, will discuss self-image in the adolescent.  This is a time of great change when children are trying to find their identity. Dr. Preas will outline the importance of this process  and what we can do as parents to guide them. This concept goes way beyond positive reinforcement and self confidence.
Troubling Relationships
Is your daughter or son in a verbally, emotionally or physically abusive relationship? Maybe you just don’t like the boyfriend or girlfriend. If you’re worried about your teen’s choice of dating partners, we’ve got help!
We’ll talk to therapist, Evan Katz 
about how to handle your teen’s troubling relationships.Teens and parents, will both weigh in on what works and what doesn’t. 
went into radio professionally in the mid-70s and was so dedicated to my career that I decided I never wanted to have children. As I began attaining my career goals, I felt that deep longing for children and was blessed in the late 80’s with my first child. I wanted it ALL-to be a great mother, wife and career woman.  I haven’t given up on the notion of having it all, but there are many days it seems just that—a notion.  For tips on how to keep all these plates in the air, I went to an expert on the topic, professional coach,  Jacquie Damgaard PhD.


                                 Lisa Smith  Henderson, Host
“My personal mission in life is to live and help others live an extraordinary life.  My belief, life experience and the essence of professional coaching, is that your life can be the expression of your most sought after dreams.”
Jacquie Damgaard, Ph.D., is the President and co-founder of Coaching Solutions International, Inc.(CSI), a professional coaching firm. Jacquie has a Ph.D. in psychology from Duke University and is a graduate ofCorporateCoachUniversity, High Impact Team Coaching, and Coaching Exceptional Groups. She was recently selected as one of the “World’s Greatest Business Mentors” by Mission Publishing of Palo Alto, CA – an honor bestowed to only 55 professionals internationally.

                              Featured Interview
TTT: Many of today’s parents of teens grew up with the  promise that we could “have it all”.

Do you think it’s possible for parents to successfully balance career and family?
Yes, I do, but it requires a lot of awareness, communication and skill.  At first I think dual-career families
tried to have it all by doing everything that traditional families had done before and then adding one more full
time job to the mix! That approach produced constant overwhelm for many couples and a feeling that they weren’t
doing anything very well.TTT:In that case, how do we actually accomplish this?
First, it is important to get clear about the family goals and priorities (both career and personal/family goals).
This requires a lot of focused and effective family communication. To prevent overwhelm parents may need to
consider ¾ time careers, job sharing, taking sabbaticals at times or at least stretching out the time line of how
quickly things will be accomplished.
How important is scheduling for a successful family operation?
JD: This is actually exactly what I was thinking about when I said successfully balancing career and family also

requires “skill”.  After discussing goals, then it is critical that these priorities are shifted into a time
structure that is observed by all.If there is not a shared calendar, it creates mass confusion for everyone, since
each member of the family has a complex “schedule”.  The absence of time blocking also makes it very easy for the
priorities to subtly be shifted by reacting to all of the demands of the outside world.TTT: As a coach, what is the most common complaint you have from parents?JD: “My children are facing such escalated issues from when I was their age (sex, drugs, academic requirements, etc.)
and I feel really disconnected in my communication from them.  I am worried that they need support from me that
they are not asking for or getting.”TTT: And what’s the solution to that?JD: Have a regular family meeting where the agenda is to discuss how everyone is doing.  (Some families do this over
dinner each night.)  The parents must model self-disclosure about their own feelings without placing a burden on
the children to “take care of them”.  If their attitude about what is going on with their children is respect,
curiosity and the expectation that their children will be teaching them a lot, then they will listen intently and
be appreciative of the sharing.  Questions asked in a non-judgmental, truly curious manner will go a lot further
than too many directive “teachings”.  If this goes well, the child will also be much more likely to ask for input
when they are confused and need help.
TTT: In your years working as a psychotherapist and now as a coach, what do you believe to be a teenager’s most pressing


To be communicated with in a manner that allows them to feel nurtured and protected when they feel “young”; s
tructured with fair and realistic expectations; s
upported whenever they are unsure; r
espected as persons of wisdom; a
nd free to leave home, as they are ready, with the full blessing of their parents!


Can you speak a bit about technology and how it’s changing the way we relate to each other?
JD: This is an area of considerable concern for me.  I love technology!  I am often the first one to get the latest
cell phone, computer, iPod, Kindle, SlingBox, etc.  These tools can create great opportunity, efficiency and fun
for us.  However, it is CRITICAL that we not allow them to replace the human contact and communication that we all
need so much.  We will have to be even more aware and intentional about making sure that the priority of being
together face to face is not lost in all of the video games, chat rooms, blogs and so on.
TTT: What are your plans for CSI offerings in 2010?
JD: We are focusing on several TeleSeminars that I am really having fun designing. They are in the “How to Have an
ExtraOrdinary ______” series.  The first two will be: “How to Have an ExtraOrdinary Primary Relationship” and “How
to have an ExtraOrdinary Career”.

For more information on all of the offerings from Coaching Solutions International, visit their website at or phone (404) 633-6775.
February 2010
Teen sex, STDs and pregnancy— they all take my breath away! With my daughter’s permission, I am pleased to tell you that in 2 weeks my grandson, Sawyer will be born. While my daughter is not a teenager (21), this pregnancy was unplanned and came smack dab in the middle of her college education. I felt strongly that my job as a parent was to support whatever decision she made and to let her reach that decision on her own. She’s the one who would have to live with the consequences more fully than anyone. She is not married, but has a friendship with the baby’s father and he’s taking an active role in the baby’s life. While, this is NEVER what I would’ve envisioned for her, I am proud of her strength and confident in her ability to be a great mother. She got a 3.98 with a full load last semester and plans to graduate on time. So, I’ve personally lived through the shock, drama and anxiety of an unexpected pregnancy.Since their method of birth control failed and the “morning after” pill didn’t work, I think this little boy was determined to be born!Lisa Smith Henderson, Host
(For more on this story, read the
Parents Talk Truth Blog.)Abstinence Education in SchoolsHere’s a snapshot of sex education in the last few decades in America. As part of the Welfare Reform Act in the 1980s, the law required any sexual education to be abstinence-based. From 1997-2007, the federal government spent more than $1 billion on programs that promoted abstinence as the only healthy choice before marriage. Unfortunately, for teens and taxpayers, the money the government spent on abstinence-promotion programs, including virginity pledges was ineffective. A recent study by Janet Rosenbaum, PhD for Johns Hopkins University showed that:· 5 years after high school students took a “Pledge of Abstinence”, 82% denied ever having taken the pledge at all.· Pledgers and non-pledgers alike, didn’t differ in premarital sex, sexually transmitted diseases, anal and oral sex experiences.· Their lifetime sexual partners and age of first sex were the same.· The abstinence pledgers used birth control and condoms less within the last year, as opposed to non-pledgers.For fiscal year, 2010, the funding for Community Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) was eliminated. In its stead is a new $110 million Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI), which passed as part of the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act, calling for a shift to programs that have been shown to be effective.America’s Teen Pregnancies· The US has the highest teen birth rate of all industrialized nations at 41.9 per 1,000 girls age 15-19.
(United Nations Statistics Division)
· By comparison, the next closest country is the United Kingdom at 26.7 per 1,000.· Of teens who do not terminate pregnancy, only 2% give their babies up for adoption.· The largest group of pregnant teens 15-19, is White non-Hispanic (39%)STDs
In a recent CDC study, researchers examined the prevalence of Human Papillomavirus, Chlamydia, Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 and Trichomoniasis, among girls aged 14-19 in the United States. Revealing:· 50% of girls aged 14-19 have had sexual intercourse.· Of these girls, 40% has/had an STD.· After 15 years of decline, Syphilis is up 14%.· 25% of teenage girls have Human Papillomavirus, HPV. (AMA)·About 10 million teens will become infected with a sexually transmitted disease this year.The Centers for Disease Control now recommends annual chlamydia screening for all sexually active women up to age 25. Additionally, their recommendation is for ALL females from 11-26 years of age be vaccinated against HPV with a series of Gardasil shots.Herpes Simplex VirusHSV-1 is typically known as the virus that causes “cold sores” on the mouth or face (often dubbed the good virus).HSV-2 is typically known as the virus found on the genitals (often dubbed the bad virus). Recently, there’s been an increase in the cases of HSV-1 on the genitals, because of the rise in oral sex among teens.· 70% of the U.S. population is infected with HSV-1.

· By age 50, nearly 90% of Americans are infected with HSV-1.

· 25-30% of the U.S. population is infected with HSV-2.

· It’s estimated that HSV-1 now accounts for as many as 30% of all genital herpes cases in the U.S.

· Both HSV-1 and 2 can be transmitted at any time, because the “carrier” often has no visible symptoms, but can still be shedding he virus.

March 2010


   I recently talked to a mother who admitted to “burying her head in the sand” as a way to cope with worry. Denial is one of the most effective forms that the psyche has for dealing with events which are traumatic. For parents of teens, though, denial can have consequences which are life-threatening. I completely understand the desire to turn our heads when we see signs of drinking, smoking pot or sexual acting out with our children. Heck, if we don’t say it, maybe it didn’t happen, right?
                                 Lisa Smith  Henderson, Host   

Teen Alcohol and Drug Use Is Up After a Decade of Decline
A new national study released last week shows that after ten years, alcohol and drug usage is up among American teens. For more details see the: Partnership Attitude Tracking Study.   
 Parents Delaying or Avoiding TreatmentAmong the parents surveyed for the PATS study, 31% of parents of teens ages 14-19, say their child has used drugs or tried alcohol beyond the “experimental” level. What’s alarming is that 47% of the parents of teens who have used either didn’t take any action or waited to take action to help their child. By delaying intervention these teens are at greater risk of negative consequences as a result of continued alcohol and drug usage. 
Should You Raid Your Teen’s Room? 

In the Teens Talk Truth CD, “Alcohol and Drugs, Volume II, a 17 year-old girl named, “Rory” gives parents her advice in this audio clip. Click here  for this MP3 segment.
Thoughts from Lisa on Random Drug Testing 
“One of my children’s therapists recommended random drug testing as a way to improve accountability. I wish I’d followed her advice sooner. Knowing that they will be tested has given them a reason to say no to drugs without losing face with their peers. My children are also aware that there are serious consequences to a positive drug test. If it happens more than once it’s automatically, ” in-patient treatment”. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened, but with a history of alcoholism and addiction in my family, I’m very serious about this one and they  know it.”  

(We stopped random drug testing my daughter at 19 and my son will continue with his random tests until his freshman year of college.)
April 2010
When I got pregnant 22 years ago with my daughter, Leah, I got a baby present from a wise mother. The gift was the book by Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D., Children the Challenge and it has been the basis of my child-rearing since 1988. The book explains using “natural and logical” consequences. I hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts and tips for other parents on the

Parents Talk Truth Blog.

-Lisa Smith Henderson, Host
 Children the Challenge
 This book by Rudolf Dreikurs was first published in 1964 and reissued in 1987. I’m sure it was ultra-radical in ’64 when most American parents were spanking their children as a means of discipline. This book not only said that spanking was ineffective as a means of teaching, but actually taught a child that hitting was okay.Growing up in the 60’s, I was routinely spanked, slapped and sometimes whipped. I was afraid of my parents, but I can’t say I “learned” anything except that I never wanted to hit my children. As a new parent, I needed a crash course in setting limits and boundaries in a loving way.
Natural and Logical Consequences

There are many times when a parent has a golden opportunity to allow the consequence of misbehavior to take effect; but due to their pity or their desire to “protect” the child, they deprive him of the consequence and punish him in their own way with a scolding or a sermon.”  – Rudolf Dreikurs 

Recently, a group of high school students in my town were arrested for underage drinking. Many of these kids are seniors headed off to bright futures in college next fall. I loved hearing some of their classmates talking about parents who didn’t bail their kids out of jail right away, but had them spend the night in the county jail. That’s a perfect example of a natural and logical consequence. Some parents could take the consequences further and suggest rehab if needed, community service or refuse to hire legal help and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes in our effort to be “good” parents we do too much to shield our children and they’re deprived of learning that in life there are many “natural and logical” consequences. I know because I’m guilty of being a “sucker” parent at times.

A T3 Newsletter subscriber, Sara Beth Force of West Palm Beach, Florida (mother of a 17 year-old and 8 year-old) told me that you’ve got to pick your battles.  She says, ” My belief is that it’s more important to keep your child alive and safe by protecting them from unsafe drivers, alcohol, drugs and rape. You have to be willing to be unpopular with your child to protect and teach them. And don’t just threaten consequences,actually give them.”
 Teens tell, Experts explain, Parents learn!  
May Is Mental Health Month
 May                                                                                                                           2010

Happy Mother’s Day!

I’m well-acquainted with mental illness: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, biochemical depression and dissociative disorder for starters. My mother was a schizophrenic with periods of remission, which were complicated by alcoholism. My maternal grandfather committed suicide when my mother was 18 and I’ve surmised that he was bipolar . I have suffered from biochemical depression most of my life and medicating with drugs and alcohol masked many of the symptoms in my youth and young adulthood. I was sober for 7 years before I realized that I was severely depressed and passively suicidal (I wanted the plane to crash). Now I’m pleased to say I have experienced mental health as well. So as we bring mental illness out of the dark and into the bright, beautiful light of May, we can also learn ways to enrich our mental health.  If you’d like to read more about my personal battle with depression, please check out the Parents Talk Truth Blog . 
-Lisa Smith Henderson, Host
Staying and Becoming Mentally Healthy
Tips for Parents 
  • Sounds counterintuitive, but nurture yourself first.
  • If you’re married, take time for your coupleship.
  • Avoid overcommitment.
  • Utilize or build a support system.
  • Spend time alone.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Get at least 10-15 minutes of sunshine daily.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Appreciate nature in some form.
  • Seek professional help if needed!
                                     Tips for Teens
  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • Avoid overcommitting and over-scheduling.
  • Get or play with a pet.
  • Meet with friends in person, not just online.
  • Sleep!
  • Exercise and spend time outdoors.
  • Do service work.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs.
  • Ask to see a Counselor if you’re having problems.
Learning About Mental Ilness

 If your teen is sleeping too much or too little, under or overeating, frequently sad/crying or lethargic, it could signal depression. And according to the National Mental Health Association, teens may  express their depression through hostile, aggressive, risk-taking behaviors. Sometimes depression looks like angst, rebellion or puberty, but if the above symptoms las for more than two weeks, seek professional help.
                               Risk Factors for Depression
Johns Hopkins University cites the following risk  factors forbecoming depressed: 

    • Youth, particularly younger children, who develop depression are likely to have a family history of the disorder.
    • Children under stress who have experienced loss.
    • Those who suffer attention, learning or conduct disordersare more susceptible to depression.
    •  Girls are more likely than boys to develop depression
                      Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder 
     ADHD is usually diagnosed during the elementary school years. In some cases, symptoms continue into adolescence. A teenager with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder has problems with

    paying attention and concentration and/or with hyperactive and impulsive behavior.  Problems related to ADHD appear in multiple areas of a youngster’s life and can be very upsetting to the teen, his/her family, and people at school. Symptoms of ADHD frequently become less severe during the late teen years and in young adulthood.  

    1.  Only 1 out of every 5 children with a psychiatric disorder receives treatment.
    2. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 28% of 12-year-olds (10.8 million people) are alcohol drinkers.
    3. Between 20 and 50% of kids and teens with depression have a family history of depression.
    4. Girls are under-diagnosed for ADHD because they are more prone to the “inattentive type” of ADHD, according to a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
    Fascinated and disturbed by these statistics? Learn more here. 
                  Information on Teen Mental Illness

    Click on the topics below or visit
Anxiety is the fearful anticipation of further danger or problems accompanied by an intense unpleasant feeling (dysphoria) or physical symptoms. The following are manifestations of the disorder:
  •  Separation Anxiety
  • Generalized Anxiety
  • Panic Disorder
  • Phobia
Dissociative Identity Disorder

This condition, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is characterized by “switching” to alternate identities when you’re under stress. People with Dissociative Identity Disorder typically also have dissociative amnesia. Visit for more information on DID.    


 Bipolar DisorderBipolar Disorder can begin in childhood or  teenage years, although it is usually diagnosed in adult life. Family history of drug or alcohol abuse  may be associated with greater risk for Bipolar Disorder, as well as a Bipolar parent.Manic symptoms include: 
  • Unrealistic highs inself-esteem  
  • High energy and  ability to go with little/ no sleep 
  • Increase in talking
  • Distractability
  • High-risk behavior

    Depressive symptoms include:
  • Irritability, sadness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Loss of enjoyment in favorite activities
  • Frequent  illnesses
    (headaches,stomach aches)
  • Fatigue, poor concentration,  boredom
  • Major change in eating or sleeping patterns
Some of these signs are similar to those that occur in teenagers with other problems such as drug abuse, delinquency, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or even schizophrenia.  
June                                                                    2010

Handling Sticky Situations 

                     I remember to this day some of the awkward situations I faced when my children were toddlers. How was I going to talk to the parents of a biter (who were good friends), or what should I do when I  suspected child abuse? I don’t know if it gets any easier as the kids get older, it’s just we may have a little more chutzpah to deal with sticky situations.  If you’d like to share your struggles or triumphs, please post on the

Parents Talk Truth Blog . 

-Lisa Smith Henderson, Host
Sticky Situations 
You’ve discovered that a teen you know is:
  • Drinking heavily and frequently.
  • Is smoking pot/doing other drugs.
  • Is bullying or gossiping online.
  • Is lying to his/her parents about something significant.
  • Is depressed or is cutting.
Determining Factors
 Handling any of these situations involves a number of factors.
  •  The first being, how close to the parents are you?
  • If you’ve got an agreement with a friend that you’ll tell each other if you hear something about the other’s child, then do it.
  • If it’s an acquaintance and you’re worried the child’s in danger, then tell them quickly.
True Story
  Anita D, mother of two shares her experience:
Recently a friend of my daughter’s that plays on her team asked my daughter to “watch her back” with the coach and fellow players. The girl is a star player with numerous colleges scouting her for scholarships. The girl was smoking pot prior to games in the parking lot, then coming to practice and covering up the odor with body spray. She would ask my daughter to do “the sniff” test of her breath, clothes and hair to make sure they didn’t smell.
When my daughter came to me she explained that she felt caught in the middle and asked for help so that she didn’t lose a friend, but at the same time she was worried that her friend was going to get hurt and cost herself scholarship opportunities.
                       (finish the story by clicking here.)  
 Intervention Tips
  • It’s better to err on the side of caution if a teen’s health and well-being are at risk.
  • Talk to the teen directly if you can.
  • ALWAYS say something to a parent or school counselor if you believe a teen is suicidal.
  • If you suspect cutting, ask the teen immediately since cutting can be a precursor to a suicide attempt.

“10 Tips for Parents to Prevent Teen Pregnancy “

   click here to download!
July                                                        2010

“Stoned in the Summertime”


Summertime—and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.”    

                      -DuBose Heyward, 1935 


 According to statistics, it’s not just the cotton that’s high—it’s our teens.A study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), reveals that each day in June and July, over 6,000 teens will smoke pot for the first time. To get some insight, we talked to Tara Arnold, PhD,( who specializes in substance abuse and other mental health issues.   

 Tara Arnold, PhD

 Tara Arnold is a psychotherapist in private practice treating addiction, eating disorders, anxiety and depression.  In addition to her private practice, she has taught at the University of Georgia and presents educational lectures around the country. You can learn more about Dr. Arnold on her website, .

TTT: According to SAMHSA, more teens smoke pot for the first time in June and July. What are your thoughts on this?
TA: Summertime means kids have less supervision, more time with peers, and they are out of school. These factors can lead to less goal focus and consequence orientation.

TTT: If nearly 40% of teens have tried marijuana during high school, how can we make sure our child stays in the 60% that doesn’t?

 TA:Talk to your children early about the dangers of drugs. Don’t overreact if they talk about friends’ use. This keeps communication channels open and understand what your children are exposed to. Keep kids busy with hobbies, volunteer opportunities, activities and supervision.  Keeping kids in trustedsupervised activities is important to ensure accountability. 

TTT: How much does peer pressure factor in to kids smoking pot?

TA: Peer pressure is a huge influence in any behavior of a teen. It is advisable to really educate them on srategies for refusing drugs, while saving face for teens.

TTT: Should we curtail friendships that we think are bad for our kids?

TA: Make sure you keep teens away from negative peers 
as much as possible, including restrictions/
punishments if they’re caught being dishonest. 

TTT: What signs do we look for that a teen is smoking pot?

 TA: Look for large quantities of food disappearing from the pantry or other evidence of binging. Also, lowered motivation, red eyes, use of incense/candles, smoke smell or increased sleep can all be signs of usage.

TTT: What do you think about random drug testing?

TA: Yes, test if you suspect them of use.

TTT: Is it possible to become addicted to marijuana?

 TA: Yes, addiction is possible and is argued to be habit or chemical dependence.

TTT: What should a parent do if they know their child is smoking pot?            

TA:  If parents know their teen is smoking pot; they need
to talk, discourage, and if there’s a strong family 
history of substance abuse, intervene more intensely
(therapy or more) when necessary.


Genetics:Alcoholism and Mental Illness”


In May’s T3 Newsletter, I shared a little about my family’s history of mental illness. And more in depth on the Parents Talk Truth Blog. As a recovering alcoholic and the child of two alcoholics, I fret sometimes thinking of my children’s genetics. From the moment they were born I wondered if  I’d have to be the one to put them in rehab or hospitalize them for a mental illness. Dr. Stephen Preas has educated me so much about the genetics involved in alcoholism and mental illness. I wanted him to put in simple terms what’s involved when our family closets are full of skeletons—or bottles of booze.

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. 

TTT: Have scientists been able to find a gene that flags a person as an alcoholic or having that predisposition?

SP,M.D.: They’ve done a lot of research on identifying genetic markers. As it turns out, some of them, they think, are specific to alcoholism. If you have this DRD2A1, it has a very high correlation with alcoholism and if you’re an alcoholic because of this gene it would be one treatment, but if you’re an alcoholic for some other reason, it might be a different treatment.  The reason that it’s not clear is that the genes for just about all mental illness are very, very multi-determined.  An example is: if you have the gene that allows you to metabolize alcohol very easily, then you can drink a lot of alcohol because you metabolize it and you don’t have much of a hangover. And you’re more likely to become an alcoholic because you just keep guzzling the stuff. Whereas if you’re a person who can only handle one drink and you’re passed out or sick, you’re less likely to become an alcoholic because you just can’t drink! But, you can also have all the risk factors against you and still turn out okay because of the way you were raised (not being exposed to alcohol). What may happen is that once we already figure out you’ve got the disease, we’ll run the genome to best determine your treatment.
TTT: How might the treatment differ?
SP, M.D.: There is some belief that once they’ve identified that you have the DRD2A1 gene, then it means you need medication to correct a chemical imbalance as part of your treatment for alcoholism. If you don’t have it, you might be one of those people who could go through terrible withdrawal, come out the other end and have a lot of psychological reasons to never drink again.
TTT: I read that pleasurable reactions to sweet substances and to alcohol are regulated by the same part of the brain.Some studies indicate that people who have a significant preference for sweets become alcoholic. What is the connection between those parts of the brain?
SP, M.D. :There is one receptor that seems to be particularly sensitive to both opioids and sugars or carbohydrates. Biochemically, sugar is not that much different than alcohol. Sugar is C12H22O11 and alcohol is C2H5OH . So it’s just a little bit bigger molecule, but they’re very similar.
TTT: What is the connection between children with ADHD and developing Bi-polar Disorder later?
S.P., M.D.: The connection that we know, is that risk for one seems to raise the risk for the other. The way it’s playing out most clearly is we think we’re determining that some kids who are early on diagnosed with ADHD, actually have the early signs of Bipolar. They weren’t strictly speaking ADHD, they just looked like it and instead they were Bipolar. And if we’d been lucky enough to know this, we might’ve treated that instead of going down the ADHD treatment path. Whether or not there is any actual similarity to the diseases genetically, I don’t think so. It’s really more right now an issue of recognizing which one you’ve got.
TTT: Since genetic testing is out of the question for most of us, how would we look at our family tree and assess the risk for our children to become alcoholic or mentally ill?
SP, M.D.: You count the relatives. How many relatives have ever had to go to jail or prison? That’s a way “off the chart” thing, that’s not a bell curve, most people don’t have so much trouble with the law that they go to prison. How many people do you know who have alcoholism or drug addiction?  It’s okay for you to make the diagnosis. Even if Uncle Fred says he’s not an alcoholic, you know every time you see him he’s drinking too much.
It’s the same thing for mental illness: anybody that’s just-weird, they don’t develop well, they don’t get along with people go on the tree.  You add them all up and the higher the number, the more likely you are to be at risk. What you’re doing is taking a snapshot of the gene pool.
TTT: What are some traits we might notice in our children that would portend them becoming alcoholics or addicts?
SP, M.D.:
A characteristic that seems to put kids at great risk for addiction is early-on evidence of aggression and impulsivity. There is a gene called the “novelty” gene; they like new stuff, they like stimulation, they like excitement. Evel Knievel and Christopher Columbus were explorers and these folks don’t freak out doing 800 MPH, they love it.  A little bit closer to home are people who are willing to be venture capitalists! These are the kids who you need to expose to activities that are safe, but exciting like white water rafting or flying lessons.
TTT: As always, thank you Dr. Preas for a wealth of knowledge on this topic!
 Click Here for Product Details! If you’d like to hear more of Dr. Preas’ expertise you canorder a copy of his CD,  “Self and Self Esteem, Is There A Hole in Your Bucket?” from the Teens Talk Truth Online Store. This CD discusses developing good boundaries and the difference between self esteem and a sense of self.
How many alcoholics in your family tree?
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T3 NewsletterPopularity: Pluses and Pitfalls                 August2009

Lisa Headshot Original
 Welcome back to another exciting school year! A new academic year brings the inevitable social drama associated with teen relationships. Outlined below are studies, statistics and stories about popularity: the good, the bad and the ugly. For more on this and other topics see the Parents Talk Truth Blog and Teens Talking Truth Blog .
                        –Lisa Smith Henderson, Host       
           Sociometrically Popular and Perceived Popular
Sociometrically popular youth are those who are well-liked by others, show cooperative behavior and score low on overt or social aggression. The other term used by sociologists within the last 10 years is perceived popular. These are teens who are well-known and emulated, but not necessarily well-liked. In a 2003 study by Vaillancourt, Hymel and McDougall, they found an association between bullying and perceived popularity. This group appears to use a strategic combination of both aggressive and pro-social behaviors to manipulate others in ways that lead to or maintain their higher status. The following story from a Teens Talk Truth reporter, highlights the behavior of the perceived popular boys in his class.
In middle school the popular boys began to call me “scrub” and “fag” for about 6 months. The leader of the popular guys, “Bob”,  had hooked up with a few girls that he didn’t want anyone to know about it.  I accidentally found out about the girls and when he knew that I knew, “Bob”, practically begged me not to tell anyone. I agreed to keep his secrets as long as they all left me alone.  It was an instant change and although we weren’t ever friends, he and the other guys quit calling me names.”   
                         -“Chad”, Middle School Student
 Mean 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
Racial Divide
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 weresociometrically 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 website.
T3 Newsletter

Sexting, Texting and Social Media 

October                                                                    2009

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.
Sexting Statistics

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.
T3 Newsletter
Does Your Drinking Affect Your Teen?

November                                                2009


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  

                Featured InterviewThis month, I caught up with long-time friend, Elaine Levine,the founder of Atlanta Parent Network( 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 ( . 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:  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”.


Privileged Teens: Changed through Service
December                                                 2009

In the spirit of the holiday season, I wanted to share a few stories of privileged teens who found meaning by giving to others. May this holiday season be filled with meaning and joy for you and your family. To write about your experiences or read those of others,  please visit our

Parents Talk Truth Blog.                            

                                  Lisa Smith  Henderson, Host               
Happiness Is Connected to Giving
Dan Baker who wrote, What Happy People Know found that

the happiest people are those who help others and donate to worthy causes. “Sharing what you have makes you feel connected to others, which gives you a deeper feeling of satisfaction in your life”. This is endorsed by a study from Michael Liebowitz, Columbia University, which concludes that doing good deeds causes a rise in dopamine and other brain chemicals known to boost mood. Our motives for giving really don’t matter but the more you give, the more happiness you get. And Owen Flanagan, PhD from Duke University found that people who offer love and help to others are 16% less likely to get sick and 44% more likely to live longer. The reason: performing kind acts (even simply praying for others) reduces the leels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases levels of the happiness hormone oxytocin, triggering a spike in immune-boosting antibodies. So whatever your reason, ’tis the season to be giving! 

 In 2007, Andrew Sugrue went to Kenya on an exchange program through the Westminster Schools of Atlanta. As a result of this trip he founded EACEF in September of 2007 and continues as President of the organization. To find out more about this worthwhile project go to: the East African Children’s Education Fund (

TTT: Andrew, what interested you initially about the exchange program that Westminster had with Kenya?
AS: I was really intrigued by the idea of travelling to Africa, and the opportunity to go with the benefits of an endowed exchange program’s financial aid was an opportunity that I could not pass up.
TTT: How did your time in Africa and seeing the lack of basic educational tools and living facilities hit you when you were first there?
AS: It was a shock to see the dismal resources the system offered to students in comparison with the potential of the children I met. This reality is something that stays with me to this day; it’s one of the major influences that constantly push me to work for a better educational reality in East Africa.
TTT: When you came back to the States was it difficult to hear people complain about not having luxuries?


Our culture in America is very material wealth-oriented. So I found it hard to reconcile the lives of the students I came to know in Kenya with my life in America. This disparity was one of the main drivers for me to start EACEF.

TTT:  How do you think your life would’ve been different if you hadn’t gone to Kenya that year?

AS: I have always felt blessed for the conditions in which I was raised, to have plentiful food, a good education and a wonderful family, and I think I was always aware of the fact that not everyone was so lucky. But before my experience in Kenya, community outreach was not a part of my everyday life. So of course, my trip changed my life completely. While I still enjoy most of the same aspects of the life of a 20 year old, I try to be aware of both how lucky I am to be in this position and how that luck is a responsibility to act for those who can’t for themselves.
TTT: What would you say to parents about getting their teens involved in service work?
AS: I would tell parents to be as encouraging as possible about getting involved in some form of service. The trick is to provide your children with as many engaging opportunities as possible, because in the end, the point of service is lost if the action is forced, so it really needs to be the child’s choice to participate. Give them the freedom to get involved with what they are passionate about, as they are most likely to be successful when they are doing what they love.
TTT: What is your vision for the East African Children’s Education Fund?
AS: My vision is to work myself out of a job! As an organization, we strive to see the day that all children are given an equitable and fair chance at achieving their dreams through a quality education. Unfortunately, the conditions are such that quality education for all, especially those in rural areas, is quite a long ways off.

Your generous support can truly make the difference in creating educational opportunity for the children of East Africa! Contributions of all sizes are welcomed. To donate online, , or mail a check toEACEF
1266 West Paces Ferry Road, Suite 271
Atlanta, GA 30327

Also, if your child is interested in starting a chapter at their school, contact our VP for Community Relations, Alexis Mitchell, at or check out for more information. 

In theJanuary Issue of the T3 Newsletter:

 “How to Juggle it all: Family, Work and Play”
We’ll talk to Jacquie Damgaard, PhD, co-founder of
Coaching Solutions International . As an experienced professional coach, Jacquie will tell us how to get 2010 off to a great start with tips to balance it all! If you’ve got questions you’d like to have answered in the upcoming interview just post them on the  

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