We’re all busy… we work, we parent, we try to have a bit of time for self-care. Teens are busy too! Most get up early, go to school, then come home, work on homework and get ready for bed just to start the day again. Over the past few months, I’ve heard multiple times about the importance of a few key hours in a teen’s day: the hours of 3pm-6pm. What is so different about this small part of the day? Read full post »
Every time I meet with a teen for the first time I ask a series of questions. Most are open ended inquiries about their hobbies, their friends and family, and what motivates them to do their best. I also ask a few screening questions to get a sense of whether or not they’re engaging in risky behaviors. A trend I’ve noticed over the past 5 years is that more and more teens are telling me they’ve tried marijuana.
A new documentary called “Marijuana Documentary – Northwest Trees” was created and produced by Ben Grayzel. It features one of our guest bloggers Dr. Leslie Walker and offers commentary from teens and young adults in the Pacific Northwest on marijuana. While I may not condone some of the behaviors featured, I definitely admire the candid responses. Teens talk about availability of marijuana, perceptions of peer use, and discuss whether or not they think it’s helpful or harmful. Read full post »
I was reminiscing about my first job recently. Though my parents had provided an allowance for completing certain chores, the first time I worked outside of the home and received pay from a non-relative was at the age of 12. Our neighbors had young children and needed a night out every once in awhile. As the responsible oldest sibling (out of 4) they felt safe enough to allow me to put their kids to bed and go dinner. My reward for playing with kids and putting them to bed was $10. I was then hooked on earning money! Read full post »
A recent article in the Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, was one of the first to look over time at teens’ risk of driving under the influence (DUI) or riding with a drinking driver (RWDD). Motor vehicle accidents are one of the top 3 leading cause of death for teens and young adults in the US. We have written about the dangers of driving while texting & driving while using drugs in the past. At the same time, we’ve emphasized that parents are crucial in setting expectations, boundaries, and consequences for teen drug use. This article provides even stronger evidence for characteristics and perceptions that are risk factors for teen DUI. Read full post »
Guest Post: Laura Burkhart, MD
Let’s walk through a common scenario of a college freshman coming home for break.
You are so excited that your teen is coming home for the long holiday weekend. It has been several months since you dropped them off at college and you have a bursting schedule of exciting events and family get-togethers planned. When your teen comes home, they head straight to their old room, dump off their laundry and then call old friends. Before you know it they are heading out for the night without any consideration for the big dinner you planned. You wonder, “do they even want to spend time with the family??!”
Chances are if you have a teen in college, you have experienced this. College students are commonly referred to as “boomerangs”-coming in and out of the house, sometimes leaving no trace except dirty socks and dishes. This can be very frustrating and confusing, but there a few things you can do to prepare for such transient homecomings. So how can you make the most of the time your newly independent teen has at home? Read full post »
For many of my friends and colleagues the holiday season from the months of November through January is their favorite time of year. We have family gatherings, time off of work to spend with our kids, great meals, and exchanging of gifts. However, I just drove into a parking lot of a large home improvement store and saw numerous people waiting for the opportunity to do work. Others who had holes in their jackets and looked like they hadn’t eaten in days, and some who simply held signs asking for any help a person could spare. Seeing all of these people was a blunt reminder that not everyone has all of their basic human needs met. I drive by this store routinely, but I’ve become desensitized to the people in the parking lot. It made me ask, “Where has my compassion gone?” Read full post »
Mental health disorders afflict many teens (nearly 1 in 3 will have thoughts of sadness). In this post, guest Dr. Laura Richardson provides information on making the diagnosis of depression and what types of treatment your doctor may discuss.
- How will my teen’s doctor diagnose depression?
The diagnosis of depression is usually based on the symptoms that your teen reports feeling such as depressed mood, loss of interest in doing things, low energy and difficulty concentrating. Some doctors make this diagnosis based on talking with your teen and you and some might use tools, like paper questionnaires, to help them make the diagnosis.
- How common is depression in teens?
Depression is one of the most common health issues in teenagers. Estimates of how many teens have depression at any given time range from 5-8%. Over the course of adolescence (up to age 18), about one in five teens will experience an episode of major depression.
- Will my teen need medication?
Not necessarily. It depends on how severe your teen’s symptoms are and how long they have been going on. Some teens with milder symptoms are able to feel better by making changes to improve their mood such as improving their sleep, increasing their exercise, increasing activities that they enjoy, or spending more time with people who care about them. Teens with more severe symptoms, symptoms that have lasted a long time, or who have tried to make changes but their symptoms aren’t better would probably benefit from some type of treatment like psychotherapy and/or medications. Studies show that both medication and psychotherapy are helpful in treating depression. The rates that teens get better are similar between both types of treatment but psychotherapy may take longer to improve symptoms than medications. We often recommend that teens start with one treatment and if that isn’t helping the second can be added.
- What are alternatives (and/or adjuncts) to medication for the treatment of depression in my teen?
Even if a teen does receive therapy or medications, it is still important that they don’t give up on other changes (such as sleep, or spending time with friends) that will help them to improve their mood.
- What are the side effects of medication?
The main side effects of medication happen in the first week and include feeling a little “jittery” and having an upset stomach. Some people find that the medication makes them a little anxious. The effects on sleep are variable. Some teens find that the medications make it easier to sleep and others find that they make it harder. Antidepressants can also cause an increase in suicidal thoughts during the period right after the medication is started or when the dose is increased. Although this is very rare, it is something we always let teens and families know about and we emphasize that if teens are having these thoughts that they need to let someone know. It is not something we would want to miss.
- If we start medication, will my teen be on it forever?
No. The average length of an episode of depression without treatment is about 9 months. We usually recommend that if a teen finds medication helpful that they continue it for at least 6 to 12 months. Since depressive symptoms can recur if the medication is stopped too quickly, we recommend that when the teen is ready to come off of the medications that they do it slowly and under a physician’s guidance. We also encourage them to pick a time when, if the depression did recur, they aren’t too stressed out. For example, we wouldn’t recommend that a teen stops their medication during finals.
Resources for teens:
I have the privilege of working with teens around many aspects of their lives including sexuality and reproductive health. While my professional focus is on the health and well-being of teens, adolescents live with and are accompanied by parents. My day to day encounters often include a significant amount of conversation with parents. Now most parents are a bit uncomfortable discussing their teens reproductive health. Add in sexuality that differs from the majority, and the conversation becomes even more challenging. These terms may change, but all of them mean their teen is disclosing they are a sexual minority. Read full post »
This week marks the one year anniversary of the tragic Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting. As I reflect on the events of the previous year, gun violence comes up in multiple settings: The school shooting in my own state, the shooting of people gathering at a church in the South, and other incidents that occurred around the nation with less media coverage, but with equally devastating consequences for families and friends. As a provider in Snohomish County, I also think about many of my patients who were affected by this tragedy. My patients and their parents have described the feelings of helplessness, frustration, anger, and fear that something like this will happen again. This reflection leaves me with a sense of urgency that we as a community need to do more. We must answer questions to understand what brings a youth to the breaking point, how do we know if someone is having homicidal and/or suicidal thoughts and, most importantly, how can we prevent future tragedies? Read full post »
Guest Post by Laura Burkhart, MD
“Safety doesn’t happen by accident”
When talking with your teen about making the transition to college, we often focus on the positive, as it is definitely an amazing life changing event. You want your teen to successfully adapt in making more responsible choices, while remaining safe and protected inside the walls of a college campus. However, there is a very important topic that often gets missed in that crucial time before they start classes. That is the subject of campus crimes and security. I am not writing this to send you running to lock your teen in their room, ensuring their safety by never letting them out and feeding them through the door! This post is meant to open the dialogue between you and your teen about personal safety.
College campuses were once thought of as “Ivory Towers”, protected from the dangerous individuals and violent acts of the rest of the world. It is the hope that every student has an affirmative college experience, but we know from numerous stories and statistics that is not always the case. So how can you find out about the safety of the college campuses your teen is looking at? Its actually easier then you think, but that was not always the case. It is important to respect the history and personal tragedy that allows us to access this information so readily today. Read full post »