Author: Teenology 101

Should your teen take a gap year

Guest post by University of Washington Nursing student Alicia Spiess

As high school graduations are being celebrated across the country, our guest author has some thoughts on whether or not it might be a good option to take a year off before pursuing further education. In this post, we hear about the ‘gap year.’

According to Forbes, the average yearly in-state tuition for a 4-year university is $30,000. Private and “elite” universities can cost double that. An average of 70% of America’s high school graduates attend college, and of those attendees, 1 out of every 3 drop out. One alternative that is common in other countries for high school graduates not ready for university is to take a year off. A “gap year,” consisting of constructive learning, is an option that is not often talked about in this country. When I began college in 2001, I did not know a gap year was an option, and as I was in my early 30’s, I ended up taking a sabbatical because of my own burnout and desire to experience other cultures. Looking back, I may not have done anything differently because I felt I was ready for university, but there are so many youth out there today who may not feel the same.

A gap year in the case of our youth can be defined as taking a “sabbatical” in-between the time one completes high school and starts university. This can push youth to discover who one is as a unique individual and what one wants to do in the next phase of their life. A year is a common amount of time taken off, and shorter time periods are possible, but not as common. A gap year does not mean your teen will sit on the couch all day playing video games or watching TV, but rather should be spent learning responsibilities and discovering new possibilities. The youth in both Europe and Australia have been participating in gap years for decades beginning in the 1970’s. Currently 12% of Europe’s youth take a gap year compared to 1.2% of those in American. We have to think, is a gap year such a bad idea? Instead of pressuring our youth to go straight into college, can we be open to other options to ensure the long-term success and decreased burnout of our youth which could follow them into adulthood.

What is to be gained from taking a gap year? This additional year may help our youth gain personal or professional experience through volunteer work in a field of interest, working to learn trade, learning a second language, or exploring their personal interests, all of which will be of great value for them throughout their lifetime. In a YouGov survey, in which 251 human resource employees participated, 46% said they would be more likely to employ a graduate who participated in a “constructive” gap year. Other studies have shown that students who have taken a gap year had a higher likelihood of completing their degree and with higher GPAs than those who did not. In fact, 9 out of 10 youth who took a gap year returned to college and completed their degree successfully.

Taking a gap year is not without its challenges. Taking a year off may become expensive. Some ways your teen can overcome this obstacle is to start planning early by saving money, fundraising, or by asking friends and family to donate. Some colleges or universities allow students to defer a year which ensures their spot the following year. It seems there are far more advantages than disadvantages in taking a gap year before college for those who may need it. A gap year can help youth to gain identity, as well as give them an advantage when it comes to scholarship applications and resumes. Several resources are listed below to help guide you and your teen in making a decision as to whether a gap year is right for them.

Tips and Resources for Readers:
Tips:
1. Encourage your teens to explore their interests without swaying them.
2. Help your teens to discover who they are through support and encouragement.
3. Take some pressure off your teens to attend college or university straight out of high school when they are not ready.
Resources:
1. “College Costs Could Total As Much As $334,000 In Four Years” article
2. “Why Are Gap Years More Common in Europe than the US”
3. Book: “Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs”
4. University Deferral Policies for Gap Years: http://www.americangap.org/fav-colleges.php
5. Gap year Programs: https://usagapyearfairs.org/programs/
6. Choosing a program abroad: https://www.gooverseas.com/7. LEAPNOW Transforming Education: http://www.leapnow.org/

Concussion in teens

Guest Post by: Jennifer Hannon – University of Washington School of Nursing

You’re at your teen’s high school on a Saturday morning watching the big soccer game. Your child goes up for a header and clashes with a member of the opposing team and they both go down. There’s a pause, but eventually your child gets back up and continues playing. During half time, your child tells the coach that he has a headache and the coach does a field side concussion test. The results: your child has a concussion.

Now what?

A concussion is not just a temporary headache; it is a traumatic brain injury that can cause short term and long lasting effects in school, at work, at home, and in relationships. According to the Center for Brain Health, “depending on the size and location of the injury [traumatic brain injury], cognitive deficits and behavioral issues often emerge1.” Some of these long lasting issues can include memory problems, lack of inhibition, increased anger, increased agitation, personality changes, lack of concentration, problems with organization and problem solving, and language difficulties1. These are not problems that your child needs or wants while trying to play sports, get good grades, and get into college, especially if it is preventable.

Some tips to preventing a concussion during sports according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)2:

  • The CDC says that your child should always wear a well-fitting helmet during contact sports such as football, ice hockey, boxing, lacrosse; as well as when skating, playing baseball, snowboarding, horseback riding, skiing, and sledding.
  • Always play by the rules of the sport.
  • Practice good sportsmanship.
  • If you have a concussion or suspect you may have one, do not return to play until you have been evaluated and given permission by your doctor in order to prevent further injury and possibly even death.

How to recognize a concussion, some symptoms include2:

  • Headache, nausea, vomiting, clumsiness, dizziness, blurry vision, feeling tired, sensitivity to light and noise, and numbness or tingling.
  • Irritability, sadness, anxiety, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating/focusing, difficulty remembering things, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.

If you suspect you or your child has a concussion visit your primary care provider to find out how to best heal from this injury, when it is safe to return to sports and school, and how to prevent it from happening again. Without proper healing time and treatment, the chance of a repeat concussion and severe injury from such is drastically increased. Help you and your child, keep an eye out for preventing a concussion.

References

  1. Concussion | Center for BrainHealth. 2015; http://www.brainhealth.utdallas.edu/research/research_topic/concussions.
  2. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Heads up: preventing concussion. http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/headsup/pdf/Heads_Up_factsheet_english-a.pdf. Accessed on 5-3-2015.

 

Processing recent tragedies and violence

Guest Post: Dr. Raina Vachhani Voss

My colleagues and I recently had a conversation about how we, as providers, can have an impact and a voice when responding shootings in schools, bars, churches – places that we think of as being safe. When we meet with teens in the clinic, amidst conversations about relationships, emotions, and other health concerns, we do our best to check in with our patients about this topic. How they have been feeling about what they see on the news? How has it affected their mood? Do they feel safe in their community? Read full post »

Should My Son Get the HPV Vaccine

Guest post by: Rachel Moore, UW School of Nursing

Many parents are wondering why their sons need to get a vaccine that they’ve heard was developed to prevent cervical cancer when their sons don’t have a cervix! Parents may feel confused or frustrated when a health care provider tells them that their son needs the three shot series starting when they are 11 or 12 because they are sure that their child is not sexually active and that’s how you get HPV right? There are a couple misunderstandings that need to be cleared up. Read full post »

Teens and helmets

Guest post by: Jane Rall, UW School of Nursing

For many, bicycles remind us of warm summer days cruising through the neighborhood to a friend’s or down the street for a cold treat! As tempting as it might be to hop on your bike and fly down the sunny street, feeling the wind in your hair, one bad decision could ruin a summer and potentially a lot more. Growing up, I remember wanting to ride my bike a few blocks to a friend’s and being frustrated with my parents for making me wear my big, unflattering and not to mention uncomfortable bike helmet. My parent’s made it very clear that wearing a helmet was not optional. Like most children my age, I eventually gave in. Read full post »

Bullying and the Role of the Bystander

girl bullyingGuest post by: Kaity Skelley, UW School of Nursing

We all have memories of our childhood, some good some bad, some for better others for worse.  Whether you were a victim, bully, or bystander, bullying has impacted us all.  For me, I was in elementary school and there was a girl I distinctly remember people picking on.  Kids would call her names, make fun of her hair, or shoes, or whatever irrelevant detail it was for that particular day.  I don’t remember ever personally picking on her, but I know for a fact I never said or did anything to defend her.  I was a silent bystander.  When I was in 7th grade I learned she had taken her own life. I have always wondered if someone had stood up and not been the silent bystander if it would have changed her path.

According to research about 22% of high school students (one out of every four students) report being bullied during the school year.  Bullying is a multifaceted problem with three main players: 1) the bully, 2) the victim, and 3) the bystander.  The bystander is the person who sees the situation unfold and makes a choice to either contribute to the bullying behavior, quietly watch, or actively step in and stand up for the victim.  Research has shown that about 57% of bullying incidents stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied and has a stronger impact compared to adult/educator intervention. Read full post »

Our Profiles, Ourselves: Social Media and Teens’ Health

moreno 2013Guest Post by Dr. Megan Moreno

When a Stomachache is More Than a Stomachache

A few months into my adolescent medicine fellowship, I saw a patient with a fairly routine complaint: abdominal pain. But Tammy, the young woman in question, stuck with me, because of what she identified as the cause of her pain: an act of bullying, a few weeks before, on MySpace. Not so routine after all.

In 2006, when I first wondered aloud if other teens and young adults had experiences similar to Tammy’s, many people were unsure what social media really was, let alone if it was permanent or pervasive. Almost no one believed it could affect a person’s emotional or physical well-being.

Tammy’s visit illuminated the connection between social media and health. Her visit was one of the main reasons why I started the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team, or SMAHRT, in 2008 at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

SMAHRT is dedicated to providing robust research on teens. We are taking a close look at social media patterns in teens like Tammy, who are sometimes a target of what we now readily identify as “cyberbullying,” as well as teens who have never struggled with social media, and all of those in between. Read full post »

Permanent Body Art

Guest Post by Dr. Laura Burkhart

“Mom, Dad can I get a tattoo?”

It’s the question your teen may have already asked. Or maybe they haven’t yet, but your waiting for the day they will. In the past tattoos might have been seen as a rebellious sign of those looking for a counter culture marker to set themselves apart from mainstream society. However, the art of tattooing has over time begun to merge with the norm and it isn’t uncommon to see a spectrum of people show off their ink. However, just because permanent body art has become more common, it is not without risks. In this post I will go through the art of tattooing and scarification so you can start an open conversation with your teen. Read full post »

Teens with Developmental Delay are Teens Too

Guest Post by Dr. Emily Gallagher

At Seattle Children’s Hospital we have families coming from around  the Pacific Northwest for a wide array of illness, disorders, and needs. In the Craniofacial Center, children with disorders of the head and face receive ongoing care, often from birth through adolescence. These disorders are often related to birth defects or genetic syndromes. The Craniofacial Center houses a specific clinic for patients with a genetic disorder called “22q11.2-related disorder”. This is a common genetic syndrome caused by differences in the amount of DNA in this area, usually missing (deletion) or additional (duplication) genetic material. 22q is characterized by varied physical issues that may affect many different parts of the body (such as heart abnormalities, cleft palate, or speech disorders), as well as developmental delay.

In pediatrics, we often focus on the development of infants and young children with disability. However, as they age into the teen years, needs are sometimes missed. I asked a colleague for information on some of the needs she sees in her adolescent patients with developmental delay. Read full post »

Vitamin D and teen health

beachGuest Post by Dr. Raina Vachhani

What’s all the fuss about vitamin D?

The short answer is that our bodies are built to make vitamin D using sunlight, and for us folks living up north, that isn’t really happening during the winter.

Vitamin D is a nutrient that our bodies use to help us absorb the calcium we eat, which we need to help make strong bones. Without vitamin D, calcium levels can drop, causing long-term effects on the strength of bones. The teens and twenties are the most critical time to build strong, healthy bones in order to avoid having weak bones and a risk of bone fractures later in life.

There is a lot of exciting research going on to figure out what other roles vitamin D might play. Some scientists think that low vitamin D levels could be related to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, infections, and neurological diseases, though most of these links haven’t been proven yet. The reality is that most people have no symptoms to indicate to them (or their doctors) that their level of vitamin D is low. Read full post »