Sue Scheff: Teens and Lying – Is it ever acceptable?

To be honest or not to be honest.  We all teach our children to be honest, however is there a time when telling a “small” or “white” lie is o-kay?  Read what that experts have to say:

Source: Connect with Kids

Teens and Lying

In our culture, truth is such a premium in the public discourse. I think that emphasizes the importance of finding it and promoting it within ourselves, and in others.”

– Hal Thorsrud, Ph.D, assistant professor of philosophy, Agnes Scott College

As final exams and academic evaluations approach in schools nationwide, consider this finding from a study conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics: Cheaters in high school are far more likely as adults to lie to their spouses, customers and employers, and to cheat on expense reports and insurance claims.

How many lies do you tell a week? How about a day? According to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll, ten percent of those surveyed said they had probably told a lie in the past week. 65 percent said sometimes, lying is morally justified.

So, is there such thing as a “good lie“?

A good lie is something that I guess boosts someone’s morale – makes someone feel better,” says 15-year-old Lily Muntzing.

16-year-old Javonna disagrees. “No lie is a good lie,” she says, “but if I was to tell a lie, I would tell, you know, a white lie because another lie – a major lie – would escalate into something bigger.”

What do the experts say?

“Lying is morally wrong,” says Hal Thorsrud, an assistant professor of philosophy at Agnes Scott College. “However,” he laughs, “there are, I believe, cases in which lying is either morally irrelevant – trivial lies you might tell, to save someone’s feelings – or cases in which it is useful to lie for the sake of a good cause.”

He says the classic example of a good cause is the story of the murderer at your door, asking the whereabouts of the person they’re looking to kill. In that scenario, it’s perfectly moral to lie about the location of the intended victim.

“The crucial caveat here though is, if you are thinking about telling a lie for the sake of a good cause [there are] some very important things to consider,” he says. “First, don’t deceive yourself. Be sure that you’re telling a lie and also be aware that the lie is not the good thing – it’s what you’re hoping to achieve by that lie. And be very cautious if that lie happens to coincide with your self- interests.”

That means, he says, that lying to your parents to get out of trouble doesn’t count as a good cause.

16-year-old Laura Lion once lied to her mom about where she was going. “I told her that I was going to go spend the night at my friend’s house,” she says, “but I went to a concert instead, then went to a party. She found out, and grounded me for a month.”

Experts say that, for some teens, lying is a part of the struggle for independence.

“‘You’re not the boss of me’- it’s the war cry of every teenager, probably,” says Thorsrud. “Even though that autonomy and that freedom is very scary, it’s so desirable. And it drives kids to do just about anything to get it.”

Ironically, experts say one of the best ways to teach teens the value of honesty and moral integrity is when the teen makes a mistake – or when they’re caught in a lie.

“Sometimes the best way to learn about integrity is to be out of integrity – and to experience the pain and the shame and the restlessness and the feeling of not feeling good inside,” explains Dr. Tim Jordan, a pediatric developmental behavioral health specialist. “To me, that is the best deterrent.”

Javonna’s learned her lesson that way: “It’s a horrible feeling ’cause you know that you lied, and you know that you told this big old lie that everybody knows that you told.”

Laura says what worked for her was her mom’s disappointment: “It’s more so when my mom says, ‘well, I wish you could have trusted me – and if you’re honest with me I’ll give you more lenience.’”

Tips for Parents
Dishonesty may seem like a minor issue in comparison to other adolescent problems, but it is rooted in an attitude of disrespect – for others, for authority and for one’s values. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, many children begin to lie at around four and five years old. Children of that age like to make up stories and blur the line between fantasy and reality. Older children begin to tell lies in a more self-serving manner, either to get out of trouble or to protect their privacy.

Parents should always look for those teachable moments in which the importance of honesty and truthfulness can be discussed. Use positive reinforcement and praise your child for being honest. Also, model honest behavior. Teach your children to be truthful by showing them honesty. If you have lied to your child in the past, you may have some issues to deal with beyond simply setting consequences. If there is one behavior that turns teens off, it is adult hypocrisy. This is not to say parents must be perfect, but you also cannot say to your child, “I’m adult so I can lie, but you can’t.” Teens simply don’t buy that argument.

If you find that your child is lying, try to determine why they thought lying was the best choice in this situation. If there is a reason why your child felt compelled to lie, you want to know it so you can possibly eliminate any misunderstandings. Did your child lie about failing a test because he or she thought you would be angry? Perhaps he needs additional help. Did your child lie about a party because alcohol would be present, which is unacceptable to your family? You may find your child lied simply because they knew the behavior was wrong and they didn’t want to get caught. This will mean you need to let them know in very clear terms what behaviors are unacceptable and what the consequences will be, not only for repeating that behavior, but for lying about it. These are two separate events that will lead to separate sets of consequences.

References
■American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
■National Association for the Education of Young Children
■Josephson Institute of Ethics
■By Parents-For Parents

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Sue Scheff: Teens and Body Piercing

As a parent I went through my struggles when my daughter was a teenager and wanting to “express” herself with body piercing, starting with the belly button.  Personally, I don’t care for these types of “self image” expression, but who am I to judge?  Just  a parent that grew up in another generation.  What I find disturbing is the tattoo parlors and others that allow these “kids” to have body piercings and tattoo’s without a parent’s permission.  Guess I am old fashion.  I did take my daughter (way back when) and permitted the belly button ring, I figured it was better than the tongue or the eyebrow – which she later did behind my back!  Good news is – as a young adult, she grew out of all of it and thankfully my life with teens is in the past.  Oh – but remember, you can learn from my mistakes!  PS:  She also got a tattoo (as a minor) which I didn’t allow, but what can you do?  Gotta love these teens…. or at least survive them!

Here is another good article with parenting tips from Connect with Kids on Body Piercing.

Source: Connect with Kids

“I have a lot of patients that have tongue bars, and I’ve seen a lot of damaged teeth from them.”

– Dr. David Montgomery, a dentist

More than half of all teens with tattoos or body piercings get them without their parent’s permission, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  And oftentimes, that means no one is warning these kids about infections, scarring, and broken teeth. 

Connie, 24, has a piece of metal piercing her tongue.  Two weeks ago she was eating dinner, “And I bit down really hard on it, and I just, it hurt, I just felt like something fell off,” she says.  She bit down on the metal in her tongue, and what fell off was part of her tooth. 

Nineteen-year-old Aaron broke a tooth the same way.  “I was eating some Chex mix or something, and just bit down, and crack,” he says.

Broken teeth, scarring, hepatitis, even AIDS …any piercing on any part of the body can go wrong.  In fact, researchers from Texas Tech University found that a belly button piercing has a 45 percent chance of getting infected.   

It happened to Camille, 23.  “It grew kinda swollen, and just kinda puss-ey,” she says.

Then, Camille got her upper ear pierced and that filled with puss, too.  “Okay, that one really, really hurt,” she says.  I’m not going to lie, it really, really hurt.”

And some teens get hurt and don’t even know it.  “The first thing we do when we see a patient with a tongue bar is we’re going to go in and look for broken teeth,” says Dr. David Montgomery, a dentist.  “We’ve had patients in that haven’t realized, and they’ve had THREE broken teeth,” he explains.

Experts say inserting a piece of metal into your skin is hazardous.  But despite the dangers, the trend is only getting more popular.  So, if your child insists, and you allow it, make sure he or she goes someplace clean and professional.  “And have it done right, rather than by a family friend or another adolescent,” says Dr. Rick Lloyd, a pediatrician with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

Tips for Parents

Piercing is becoming a more prevalent form of body art and self-expression in today’s society.  However, oral piercings, which involve the tongue (the most common site), lips, cheeks, uvula or a combination of sites, have been implicated in a number of adverse oral and systemic conditions.  In fact, the American Dental Association recently cited oral piercing as a public health hazard.  It says the piercing of oral structures presents risks of infection because of vast amount of bacteria in the mouth.

Patients typically undergo piercing procedures without anesthetic.  In tongue piercing, for example, a barbell-shaped piece of jewelry typically is placed transverse to the thickness of the tongue at the midline in its anterior one-third using a needle.  Initially, a temporary device longer than the jewelry of choice is placed to accommodate post-piercing swelling.  The free end of the barbell stem then is inserted into the hole in a ventral-dorsal direction.  The recipient grasps the free end of the shank between the maxillary and mandibular anterior teeth and screws the ball onto the stem.  The barbell also can be placed laterally, with the studs on the dorsolateral lingual surface.  In the absence of complications, healing takes four to six weeks.

In lip or cheek piercing, jewelry position (usually a labrette) is determined primarily by aesthetics with consideration to where the jewelry will rest intraorally.  Once position is determined, a cork is usually placed inside the mouth to support the tissue as it is pierced with a needle.  The needle is inserted through the tissue and into the cork backing.  The needle then is replaced with the labrette stud, and the disc backing is screwed into place.  Healing time can range from weeks to months.

After piercing, teens may experience the following side effects:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Increased salivary flow
  • Infection

The potential for serious infection occurs during tattooing and body piercing.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the needles that are used to penetrate the skin at various sites on the body can become contaminated by blood or serum.

HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses are present in blood and spread by infected blood entering another person’s bloodstream.  This contamination can occur during tattooing or body piercing, when needles used for penetrating the skin are contaminated with infected blood or serum and are not sterilized before use on another person.

Blood or serum does not have to be visible on an instrument or needle for infection to be transmitted.  It is important to note that all instruments that penetrate the skin of a person, including needles and attachments such as nozzles bars and tubes, must be sterile.

Infectious disease specialists, like Dr. Arnold Lentnek, caution that preventing teens from piercing their lips, cheeks or tongues may take more than a stern warning. 

“And I think it’s going to be difficult to dissuade them by telling them about the problems that may theoretically occur down the road,” Dr. Letnek says.
 
In order to deter your teen from getting a tattoo or piercing, the University of Iowa Health Care’s Virtual Hospital suggests reminding your teen of the following problems associated with body art:

  • Unsterile tattooing and piercing equipment and needles can spread serious infection, hepatitis, tetanus or even HIV.
  • Asking a friend to apply a tattoo may ruin a friendship if the tattoo doesn’t look like you thought it would.
  • Tattoo removal is very expensive.  A tattoo that costs $50 to apply may cost more than $1,000 to remove.
  • The law in many states prohibits the tattooing of minors.
  • Tattoos are not easy to remove and in some cases may cause permanent discoloration.  Think carefully before getting a tattoo.  You can’t take it back if you don’t like it.
  • Some people are allergic to the tattoo dye.  Their body will work to reject the tattoo.
  • Blood donations cannot be made for a year after getting a tattoo, body piercing or permanent makeup.

References

  • American Dental Association
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • University of Iowa Health Care’s Virtual Hospital

Sue Scheff: Mentoring Teens Today

Help build a child’s self-worth, help them to achieve their goals and encorage them to work hard academically!  Mentoring is not only important to so many kids today, it also gives you a sense of fulfillment. I know in my life, there have been many teens that have emailed me or called me – and just knowing that someone is there – willing to listen, and guide can bring so much hope and inspiration to those that would otherwise be lost.

mentoringSource: Connect With Kids

Mentoring

“Now that I got a big brother, we go out in public a lot [and] I smile a lot.”

– Tyrone Brown, 10

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a mentor for a lonely child, a new study might help you get motivated: kids with a mentor end up years later with more education, more money, and a better relationship with friends and family.

Ten-year-old Tyrone used to be shy and rarely played with other kids his age.  “And I didn’t like to smile because of my teeth, but now that I got a big brother, we go out in public a lot, I smile a lot and I don’t care what anybody says about my teeth, so I smile,” he says.

The “big brother” he’s talking about is Anthony Spinola, his mentor.

A study by Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America reports that confidence is just one of the benefits from having a mentor.

Mentored kids are also more likely to grow up and have a four-year college degree, a job making over $75,000 a year and have more meaningful relationships with their friends and family.

And, they are more likely to become volunteers like Itoro Ufot.   “A lot of people sacrifice a lot of time for me to be where I am now, and I feel like now that I’m in a position to give back, it’s probably my time,” he says.

Experts say mentors can even help kids who even have good role models in mom and dad.  “The child needs someone that’s special to them. It’s someone that [they] can talk to sometimes when [they] can’t talk to [their] parent,” says Janice McKenzie-Crayton of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

But before signing off on any mentor, parents need to ask questions to make sure the mentor is right for their child.

“The parent ought be told the likes and dislikes of the volunteer, the background of the volunteer, what the volunteer’s involved with, what work they do, etc.,” McKenzie-Crayton says.

Tips for Parents

Mentoring is derived from a Greek word that means “enduring.”  It is defined by the U.S. Department of Education as “a sustained relationship between a youth and an adult. Through continued involvement, the adult offers support, guidance and assistance as the younger person goes through a difficult period, faces new challenges or works to correct earlier problems.” Mentors can play a critical role, especially in situations where parents are unavailable or unable to provide responsible guidance for their children.

Why are mentors needed? In addition to the increase in single-parent homes and two-parent working families, statistics show that each day in the United States, nearly 7,000 students drop out of school and over 2,700 unwed teenage girls become pregnant. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, mentoring programs generally serve the following broad purposes:

  • Educational or academic mentoring helps young people improve their overall academic achievement.
  • Career mentoring helps mentored youth develop the necessary skills to enter or continue on a career path.
  • Personal development mentoring supports mentored youth during times of personal or social stress and provides guidance for decision-making.

How successful can mentoring be? According to statistics from Creative Mentoring, a mentoring program in Delaware, surveyed teachers reported the following changes in students who took part in the program:

  • Approximately 67% experienced an increase in self-confidence.
  • About 51% improved their attitudes toward learning.
  • An estimated 47% exhibited better cooperation.
  • Approximately 43% improved their reading skills.
  • About 40% completed more assigned tasks.
  • Nearly 36% increased their ability to work independently.
  • About 37% increased their ability to work well with others.
  • An estimated 42% took more responsibility.
  • About 46% improved their self-control,

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta reports the following statistics about students who are involved in its one-to-one mentoring program:

  • About 46% are less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs.
  • Approximately 27% are less likely to start drinking alcohol.
  • An estimated 52% are less likely than their peers to skip a day of school.
  • Nearly 30% are less likely to hit someone.
  • Female students participating in the program are five times less likely than other girls between the ages of 15 and 19 to become pregnant.

According to the National Mentoring Partnership, mentors and parents have specific roles to play in a mentoring relationship. A successful mentor is more of an adviser or a coach rather than a disciplinarian or substitute mother or father. In fact, if the mentor assumes a role as parent, it can do more harm than good. The National Mentoring Partnership recommends the following roles for parents and mentors:

Role Mentor  Parent
Confidant  X X
Adviser X X
Disciplinarian   X
Teacher X X
Friend X X
Decision-maker   X

References

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta
  • National Mentoring Partnership
  • U.S. Department of Education

Sue Scheff: Swine Flu and Parenting

Many people are extremely nervous and cautious as this flu is spreading throughout our country.  This past week we have had the first 2 cases in the state of Florida.  One in Lee County and one in Broward Country.  Take pre-cautions – wash your hands “a lot” and read these tips and resources.

youthdrinkSource: Connect with Kids

“During a time if people are nervous or scared, we can run out of essential goods.  And so if people begin to prepare now and stock up on those things that can keep over time, such as non-perishable food and water and medicine… they’ll be in better shape for the pandemic.”

– Rachel Eidex, Centers for Disease Control

The outbreak of the swine flu has many Americans, parents especially, worrying about their own safety and the safety of their children.  Before a possible pandemic, the CDC has several recommendations.

First, get in touch with your child’s school.  “I think they should ask the schools, does the school have a plan for pandemic influenza, what is the plan,” explains Rachel Eidex of the Centers for Disease Control.

And, explains Jacquelyn Polder, also of the Centers for Disease Control, “How will they plan to communicate with parents regarding when the school will close or when it will open.”

Next, the CDC recommends that families have plan that, according to Eidex, would include, what you’re going to do if your children stay home from school.”  Also, who will take care of the kids, should they stay in the house, if they do go out- where can they go?  And, just as important, how do you keep the family entertained for days on end.

Georgie Renz, mother of two, has an idea, “Board games, songs, please, don’t let the t-v go away!”

Number three on the CDC’s list: stock up on supplies.  Families should have at least two weeks of food and medicines stored.  “During a time if people are nervous or scared, we can run out of essential goods,” explains Eidex.  “And so if people begin to prepare now and stock up on those things that can keep over time, such as non-perishable food and water and medicine… they’ll be in better shape for the pandemic.”

Finally, Eidex advises the best prevention is good hygiene, “Wash their hands regularly.  After sneezing, after coughing, after blowing their nose.”

And that’s not always easy for little kids, like 11 year old Morgan, to remember, “Cause sometimes I just get distracted and forget.”

Mother of three, Debra Mecher says, “You have to reiterate, you have to stress ‘wash your hands before you eat, wash your hands after you use the bathroom.  Wash your hands whenever you’ve touched something that maybe wasn’t clean.”

And there is no better time to prepare than right now.

 “Rather than sitting around and worrying about it and dwelling on it, just get yourself ready the best you can,” says Mecher.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people.   

 Tips for Parents

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Swine Flu is currently at a phase 4 pandemic alert. Phase 4 is “characterized by verified human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to cause ‘community-level outbreaks’.”  This current outbreak has infected over 250 people in 7 countries.  There are over 2,000 more cases still unconfirmed by laboratory testing.

The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
There are antiviral medications used to treat swine flu.  Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).  There is no vaccine, however, to prevent contracting the swine flu.

The CDC gives these tips on how to stay healthy:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Emergency warning signs that your child may need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash 

References

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • World Health Organization

Sue Scheff: Parenting, Divorce and Teens

familyfeudI know there are many parents that can relate to this.  Personally, I grew up in a time when the divorce was almost unheard of, however once my siblings and I were all over 18, our parents divorced.  What a relief!  In many ways –  it is my opinion, if you you know the marriage it over, and you have exhausted every avenue to keep it alive – and it is obvious that the union is over, in many ways divorce can be a better route for the kids – rather than living with the feuding and constant tension and confliction within the family unit.  This is only my experience, take time to review these great tips from Connect with Kids.  I am in no way promoting divorce, I am only saying as mature adults we need to do what is best for all involved.  Of course, each family and their dynamics are different – requiring different solutions and results.

Source: Connect with Kids

“It’s very hard, and it takes a lot for me to trust somebody. I don’t trust people very openly, very freely.”

– Katherine Yarberry, 14 years old

Katherine Yarberry’s parents got along well until she was about 4 years old.

“We all had a lot of fun together, that’s all I can remember,” says Katherine, who is now 14.

But those good times with her mom and dad didn’t last long.  Soon, the arguing began, creating moments in time she will never forget.

“I was in the other room, and I heard something break, and my dad had thrown a plate against the wall,” she says.  “They were having a fight.”

When children grow up in households where their parents often fight and the prevailing emotion is anger, it’s easy to imagine why they would be unhappy.  And that unhappiness can last a lifetime.

“It’s very hard, and it takes a lot for me to trust somebody.  I don’t trust people very openly, very freely,” Katherine says.

The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that kids who witness constant fighting are at greater risk for depression, drug dependence and low self-esteem.

What’s more, their future relationships with their spouse or their children are also at risk.

“I think parents don’t understand, and they get involved in their own issues [so] they don’t get the perspective that they need to that they are role modeling for their children and children are probably going to copy them in some way or another,” says Dr. John Lochridge, a psychiatrist.

Experts say parents need to remember that every time they fight, they are influencing their children’s behavior patterns.

The good news, Lochridge says, is that if angry parents teach their kids anger, then they can also teach them conflict resolution.  And it’s never too late to begin.

“I think you can change your relationship to make it much more appropriate for the kids,” Lochridge says. “In fact, you can even role model conflict resolution.”

Tips for Parents

Several studies suggest that children of divorced parents are at an “increased risk” for later problems – namely divorce – in their own marriages.  One study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family,followed 2,000 married people and 335 of their children over a 17-year period. 

“Children who grow up with divorced parents tend to reach adulthood with a relatively weak commitment to the norm of lifelong marriage,” says study author Dr. Paul R. Amato of Pennsylvania State University.  “When their own marriages become troubled, they tend to leave the relationship rather than stick it out or work on it.”

He says adult children of divorce have a tendency to jettison relationships that may be salvageable. Among the findings in Dr. Amato’s study:

  • Children of divorce are twice as likely to see their own marriages end in divorce.
  • Children of “maritally distressed parents” who remain continuously married did not have an elevated risk of divorce.
  • The risk of divorce was more likely among children whose parents reported a low, rather than high, level of discord prior to divorce.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) says that during the difficult period of divorce, parents may be preoccupied with their own problems but continue to be the most important people in their children’s lives.  Children will cope best if they know their mother and father will still be their parents and remain involved with them even though the marriage is ending and their parents won’t live together.  The AACAP says research shows that it is best for children of divorce when their parents can cooperate on behalf of their children.
The authors of Making Divorce Easier on Your Child:  50 Effective Ways to Help Children Adjust give the following advice to parents to help minimize the negative effects of divorce on their children:

  • Subject children to as few changes as possible as a result of the divorce.  For example, try to have the children attend the same schools, continue to live in the same home, etc.
  • Don’t argue or fight with your ex-spouse in your children’s presence.  The amount of parental conflict that your children witness following divorce is directly related to their level of adjustment.
  • Consistent discipline is very important.  Both parents should use similar, age-appropriate discipline techniques with their children.
  • Don’t use children as messengers in parental communications.  Children should never be asked to relay messages, such as “Tell your dad that he is late with the child support payment.” 
  • Don’t use children as spies.
  • Don’t use children as allies in parental battles.
  • Don’t demean the other parent in front of children.  Remember that your ex-spouse is still your children’s parent.
  • Don’t burden children with personal fears and concerns.
  • It is usually in your children’s best interest to have a consistent pattern of frequent visits with the non-custodial parent.
  • If major problems develop for children and/or parents, seek professional assistance.

References

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Journal of Marriage and Family
  • Making Divorce Easier on Your Child:  50 Effective Ways to Help Children Adjust, by Nicholas Long and Rex Forehand
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Simmons College

Sue Scheff: Prescription Drug Abuse and Teens on the Rise

pharmSince I speak with parents on almost a daily basis, I hear more and more of teens today selling, buying and/or taking prescription drugs. Parents need to be aware of this. Especially if you have a child on ADD/ADHD medication – keep count – be alert – be a proactive and educated parent. Or if you or anyone else in your home is on prescriptions meds, if you suspect you are refilling these prescriptions more often – stop, take count.

“I was a bum, I had slept outside, I mean all the stuff that you hear … and I always pictured a drug addict to be somebody that sleeps under a bridge … and it happened before I even knew it.”

– Andrew Theriot, 21 years old

Andrew Theriot first tried the prescription painkiller OxyContin when he was 17.  Within a month, he turned into someone nobody liked.  Andrew says, “My friends, nobody trusted me.  My family pretty much told me to get out after a long period of time … I would steal things.”

Experts say OxyContin gives an instant feeling of euphoria.  Sue Rusche, President of the anti-drug group National Families in Action, says, “I think we have to be honest about drugs.  I think we have to tell kids that the reason people use drugs is that drugs make you feel great … at first.  And you gotta have that ‘at first’ part.”

Next comes addiction.  Andrew spent every minute looking for drugs. He says, “I would wake up every day and I would just be miserable.  And the only thing I would look forward to that day would be getting high.”

Addiction brought misery, and so did withdrawal when Andrew was in rehab.  He says, “You get sick, you get the cold sweats, throwing up, stomach problems, you can’t eat.  I mean I was down to 125 pounds.”

Andrew is now in college.  He’s been drug free for two years, and has some advice to parents.   “I mean, don’t be enablers.  Don’t bail them out of jail.  Don’t pay their fines.  Don’t give them money.  You know, if they want money, get a job.  Don’t be the cause of them killing themselves.”

Tips for Parents

OxyContin is a controlled-release pain reliever that can drive away pain for up to 12 hours when used properly. When used improperly, however, OxyContin is a highly addictive opioid closely related to morphine. As individuals abuse the drug, the effects lessen over time, leading to higher dosage use.

Consider the following:

  • The supply of OxyContin is soaring. Sales of OxyContin, first marketed in 1996, hit $1.2 billion in 2003.
  • The FDA reports that OxyContin may have played a role in 464 deaths across the country in 2000 to 2001.
  • In 2000, 43 percent of those who ended up in hospital emergency rooms from drug overdoses – nearly 500,000 people – were there because of misusing or abusing prescription drugs.
  • In seven cities in 2000 (Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.) 626 people died from overdose of painkillers and tranquilizers. By 2001, such deaths had increased in Miami and Chicago by 20 percent.
  • From 1998 to 2000, the number of people entering an emergency room because of misusing or abusing oxycodone (OxyContin) rose 108 percent. The rates are intensifying … from mid-2000 to mid-2001, oxycodone went up in emergency room visits 44 percent.

OxyContin is typically abused in one of three ways …

  • By removing the outer coating and chewing the tablet.
  • By dissolving the tablet in water and injecting the fluid intravenously.
  • By crushing the tablet and snorting the powder.

Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration puts its seal of approval on prescription drugs, many teens mistakenly believe that using these drugs – even if they are not prescribed to them – is safe. However, this practice can, in fact, lead to addiction and severe side effects. How can you determine if your teen is abusing drugs? The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry suggests looking for the following warning signs and symptoms in your teen:

  • Physical: Fatigue, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes and a lasting cough
  • Emotional: Personality change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression and a general lack of interest
  • Familial: Starting arguments, breaking rules or withdrawing from the family
  • School-related: Decreased interest, negative attitude, drop in grades, many absences, truancy and discipline problems
  • Social: having new friends who are less interested in standard home and school activities, problems with the law, and changes to less conventional styles in dress and music

If you believe your teen has a problem with drug abuse, you can take several steps to get the help he or she needs. The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests contacting your health-care provider so that he or she can perform an adequate medical evaluation in order to match the right treatment or intervention program with your teen. You can also contact a support group in your community dedicated to helping families coping with addiction.

Substance abuse can be an overwhelming issue with which to deal, but it doesn’t have to be. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America offers the following strategies to put into practice so that your teen can reap the rewards of a healthy, drug-free life:

  • Be your teen’s greatest fan. Compliment him or her on all of his or her efforts, strength of character and individuality.
  • Encourage your teen to get involved in adult-supervised after-school activities. Ask him or her what types of activities he or she is interested in and contact the school principal or guidance counselor to find out what activities are available. Sometimes it takes a bit of experimenting to find out which activities your teen is best suited for, but it’s worth the effort – feeling competent makes children much less likely to use drugs.
  • Help your teen develop tools he can use to get out of drug-related situations. Let him or her know he or she can use you as an excuse: “My mom would kill me if I smoked marijuana!”
  • Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. Set appointments for yourself to call them and check-in to make sure they share your views on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Steer your teen away from any friends who use drugs.
  • Call teens’ parents if their home is to be used for a party. Make sure that the party will be drug-free and supervised by adults.
  • Set curfews and enforce them. Let your teen know the consequences of breaking curfew.
  • Set a no-use rule for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
  • Sit down for dinner with your teen at least once a week. Use the time to talk – don’t eat in front of the television.
  • Get – and stay – involved in your teen’s life.

References

  • American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • Partnership for a Drug-Free America
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • U.S. Food & Drug Administration

Sue Scheff: Middle School Parenting – Survival Kit

middleschoolkitFeaturing real kids talking about real issues, this Emmy award-winning Connect With Kids series helps inspire communication between parents and their children about the challenges, pressures and influences every pre-teen faces. Making it easier to talk to your Middle-Schooler about today’s tough issues, this Middle School Survival Kit contains programs covering these timely topics: Internet Dangers, Drugs & Alcohol, Dating & Sex, Anxiety & Depression.

Selected video segments from our most popular titles are combined to create a must-have for every parent …

  • Sticks and Stones and Invisible Weapons cover the problems of bullying, gossiping and emotional harassment.
  • Gateway Drugs shows actual kids sharing their personal experiences about drugs, smoking and peer pressure.
  • In Caught in the Web, real-life stories teach lessons about internet safety and cyberbullying.
  • Anxiety and depression are discussed in Leave Me Alone, helping parents and kids distinguish between moodiness and signs of more serious emotional issues.
  • Innocence Lost and First Comes Love approach the topics of sex and dating, some of the most difficult subjects for parents and kids to discuss together.

The Middle School Survival Kit also features “Ask the Experts” bonus segments providing additional information on all the topics discussed.

If you have a child in middle school, purchase this Middle School Survival Kit and watch it together. Learn expert advice about how you and your family can navigate the pre-teen years.