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Talking to Teens About Alcohol

Last weekend an intoxicated 16-year old Orinda teen died in a hallway during a party, a preventable loss that disturbs any sane person. It makes me obsess about why our culture encourages the use of alcohol as part of celebrating and socializing, where the adults were, why the other teens ignored a person who had obviously drank too much, and most importantly, what if someone had just called 911 earlier?

Everyone in that community and all of us who heard about this tragedy will live with the “what ifs” but I hope it encourages every parent to make sure s/he has talked to their teen about expectations for their behavior, sure, but also about what to do when things get out of hand! You can help them avoid living with the “what ifs” by checking out Doc Gurley’s great article for SF Gate this week that includes six practical tips that all teens should know about alcohol!

In addition to knowing how to recognize a medical emergency which you can find in Doc Gurley’s article, families also need (rules) agreements about what to do if a teen finds themselves in a situation where alcohol is being abused. Of course, parents have to be comfortable with the agreement, but some families have agreements that include:

  • no driving a car after consuming any amount of alcohol;
  • no being in a car with anyone who has consumed any amount of alcohol;
  • not staying at a party where anyone is drinking or has had too much to drink;
  • a parent can be called at any time of the day or night to:
  • intervene at a party;
  • pick up a teen who has been drinking;
  • take a friend home who has been drinking;
  • help talk to irate parents; and
  • talk to friends about alcohol use.

Most of these agreements include a “no consequence” clause for the teen – which means there is no anger, grounding, punishment, etc… associated with any of those activities. That does not mean there isn’t a serious conversation about alcohol use that may follow a good night’s sleep, shower, and 12-hour cool down period, but if your teen does drink, you really do not want them to drive, be in a car, or be a victim in any way – so, please make sure they know that you would rather them call you and be safe!

If you want to know what your teen knows about alcohol use and when to call for help, ask him or her to tell you exactly what they would do if someone at a party has passed out or puked on themselves. If it does not including calling 911 and you to pick them up, ask them why, and then make an agreement about what will happen in those situations – and then abide by the agreement!

Every teen deserves this conversation!

This post, Talking to Teens About Alcohol, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

Reaching Adults – Teens Text Questions About Sex

As if we needed any more indications that the sexuality education we teach in schools might not be working, the latest place for teens to find answers to their questions is via cell phone.

In spite of web sites that allow teens to ask anonymous questions like We’re Talking Teen Health and Go Ask Alice!, teens are still looking for answers to immediate sexuality-related questions, and texting them is the newest way to get answers.

In California, teens can text their sexuality questions to ISIS by texting the word ‘hookup’ to the phone number 365247 which will allow them to sign up for weekly health tips. Each tip contains a prompt to text the word ‘clinic’ plus a zip code to get contact information for two local clinics.

In North Carolina, they can text questions to The Birds and Bees Text Line. Both services provide non-judgmental and medically accurate information within 24 hours to teens with questions.

Neither site provides medical advice, only information from an adult and encouragement to seek medical care. The important part is that these services are another place teens can reach out to adults for information and support.

I worry a little bit about what happens when teens admit they were raped, or are being sexually abused – what do the adults receiving this information do – and are they responsible for reporting what they learn to the authorities, but I guess that is a abridge we cross when we come to it.

For now, I am happy there are more adults willing to provide the information teens need to make good decisions, get medical care, and protect themselves. As always, parents would be the best source of sexuality information, but they might need their own texting site for their questions!

This post, Reaching Adults – Teens Text Questions About Sex, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

How To Help Teens Handle Test Stress

The junior year of high school includes a huge number of tests including midterms, finals, AP exams, SAT tests that all contribute to which colleges a teen will get into. The pressure is intense and even the mellowest teen will experience at least some anxiety.

Some stress helps teens do better, work harder, and stay focused. Too much stress will strip them of their confidence and actually make their test-taking skills worse. It is important that parent help teens prepare for tests by:

  • Not planning trips or events in the weeks before the tests;
  • Encouraging them not to cram the night before;
  • Encouraging them to take practice tests to increase their comfort;
  • Helping them get a good night sleep the night before the test and eating a healthy breakfast;
  • Going early and having what they need (picture ID, admit form, pencils, calculator);
  • Reminding them to read through the whole test making notes and then budget time and reading all the directions slowly and completely, as well as organizing their thoughts before writing; and
  • Working with them to remember to think positively, calming any anxious thoughts during the test.

No matter how independent our teens can be, testing season calls for extra parenting and comfort provision!

This post, How To Help Teens Handle Test Stress, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

Teenage Personal Responsibility: What Is The Motivation To Grow Up?

Many of us are conscious of the fact that not only has our culture extended adolescence to about age 22, now “adultescence” seems to be becoming the norm. This phenomenon is experienced by parents whose adult children return home after college, for whatever reason – some financial, others just not sure what else to do – creating a large number of “failure to launch” scenarios for parents who should be retiring and worrying about their own parents, without adult children to worry about, too!

Paralleling this process seems to be what my daughter, a rising senior in high school, describes as her own “I won’t grow up” crisis. She drives, she works, she makes decisions, she has friends and a boyfriend, she is excited about her summer plans, applying for college as well as going to college, and perceives her life as supported, magical and pretty darn perfect. So, why on earth should she look forward to being a grown-up?

What is the motivation? What do adults in our society have that teens and young adults who go to college do not – well let me see – marriages, bills, worry, stress, chores, a full time job, a house, cars to purchase and maintain, kids, colleagues, bosses, pets, neighborhood issues – and so on.

Newsflash folks, by giving our teens the rights and privileges associated with adulthood at younger and younger ages, we have effectively removed their motivation to grow up and leave home! Parenting has become a lifelong profession as we uberly competent and supportive parents have created a generation of young adults who do not need to become responsible for their own lives, and we have made it exceedingly difficult to answer the question – why should I grow up?

Beats me, is all I can say!

This post, Teenage Personal Responsibility: What Is The Motivation To Grow Up?, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

Why Aren’t We Worrying About HIV Anymore?

Last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that there were 40 percent more new HIV infections each year than was previously believed. And yet, a new (2009) survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that Americans, even those in the high risk groups for HIV, are worrying less about HIV/AIDS. How can this be?

The survey suggests that:

  • Fewer Americans consider HIV an urgent health problem.
  • Only 17 percent of people aged 18-29 (those traditionally the most sexually active) reported that they were personally very concerned about becoming infected with HIV.
  • In spite of HIV rates being seven times higher among African Americans, personal concern about HIV has decreased in this population.
  • More than half of people aged 18-29 have not been tested for HIV, in spite of the fact that the CDC now recommends HIV testing for all adults.

The survey also found that misinformation and stigma about people living with HIV still exist.

  • Although 44 percent of the 2,554 adults surveyed reported that they would be comfortable with a coworker who had HIV, 51 percent would be uncomfortable having their food prepared by someone who was HIV positive.
  • One-third of the people surveyed incorrectly believed that HIV could be transmitted by sharing a glass of water; touching a toilet seat; or swimming in a pool with an HIV positive person.
  • 18 percent believed there was a cure for HIV and 24 percent believed there was a vaccine available to prevent HIV.

This is scary stuff and suggests that families, parents, schools, and medical professionals have their work cut out for them – more HIV education, please!

This post, Why Aren’t We Worrying About HIV Anymore?, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

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