Author: Yolanda Evans, MD, MPH

Teens and stress: signs, symptoms, and relaxation techniques

angryteenIt’s the Fall and families are starting to get back into the routine of balancing school, work, extracurricular activities, and family time. When I think back to my own high school years, I’m amazed at the amount of tasks I had to juggle! Everything from household chores, to homework; I was a musician so had practices and performances in addition to a part time job. While most teens are not under the stress of supporting a household, their daily agendas can be just as jam packed as an adult’s. The difference is that teens are still developing their coping strategies for how to manage stress. Read full post »

Pedestrian Safety

FriendshipAs the summer comes to an end, kids are going to be heading back to school. This means all of the drivers near school zones will see an increase in pedestrian traffic in the mornings and afternoons. As drivers, we’re reminded to slow down by signs in the school zone that mark the speed limit at 20 mph, but pedestrians may not always be aware of how to stay safe with the morning rush hour traffic. In this post, we received tips and advice on pedestrian safety from Dr. Alex Quistberg with the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center. Read full post »

Addressing Traumatic Events in the Media

family watching tvOver the past 2 weeks, multiple events have been receiving media coverage. These range from the death of a beloved celebrity to the shooting of an unarmed African American young man in Missouri; reaching as close as the death of a shooting instructor by a very young student to as far as the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  These events often stir up strong emotions as well as strong opinions amongst colleagues and friends. Teens are using social media on a regular basis and are likely well aware of the trending news stories. As parents, how do we address these events with our children? Some of the topics may hit close to home and others may seem like they are happening a world away, but all of them can lead to conversations and provide opportunities for reflection and learning. Read full post »

What is a hookah and is it safe

Girl smoking waterpipeAs fewer teens are smoking cigarettes, other trends in tobacco and nicotine use are starting to rise. One of these is the use of e-cigarettes or e-vapes. E-cigarettes include the use of a nicotine containing cartridges that is vaporized so the use can inhale the product. A second trend is one I hadn’t given much thought to until recently: smoking a hookah. Is this dangerous? How does it compare to smoking a cigarette?

The hookah (aka water pipe) is a pipe where tobacco (or other leaves, like herbs or marijuana) is heated, the smoke passes through water to cool it into a vapor, and this vapor is inhaled through an individual mouth piece. Hookah use originated in Asia and the Middle East, but it’s popularity is growing in urban settings in the US. Unlike cigarette smoking, most states do not have a ban on hookah use inside public settings so hookah bars are starting to pop up. Teens are also finding their way to using the hookah. Read full post »

Sexting and cellphones

Unrecognizable young girl using a touch phone modern gadget.We’ve posted about online safety as well as the dangers of sending sexually explicit text messages in the past, but a recent study in the journal Pediatrics, highlights the importance of making sure we educate teens and tweens about sexting early on.

In the study, researchers looked at the results of a national survey of middle school students. They found that 20% of students who had a cell phone reported receiving a sext and 5% reported sending a sext. For those students who send more than 100 text messages each day, they were over 2 times more likely to receive a sext and 4.5 times more likely to send a sext. They also found that those same students were more likely to be sexually active. In general, students who sent or received sexts were more likely to be sexually active and higher rates of texting were associated with higher rates of unprotected sex. Read full post »

Recreational marijuana and a parent’s role in prevention

store openingThis week the first recreational marijuana stores opened in Washington State. Initiative 502 was passed in 2012 to legalize marijuana in the state without a physician’s recommendation, but it was just yesterday that recreational stores could legally sell it. One store opened in Seattle, the others were in Bellingham, Prosser, and Spokane. It remains illegal for anyone under age 21 to use or possess marijuana, but legalizing recreational use does send a message to those who aren’t yet adults: it’s legal now, so it must be ok, right? We’ve had posts on marijuana legalization and teen marijuana use in the past, but here we wanted to highlight the importance of parents in preventing underage use. Read full post »

Fourth of July Safety

teen divingFriday marks the Fourth of July and we’ll have an entire weekend to celebrate. This time of year the weather is usually great, people are in a good mood, and school is out. While we all have fun events planned, this is also a time when accidents can occur. One of the main themes you’ll see on this list is to avoid alcohol and drugs during fun activities. Being under the influence of substances can alter judgement and have deadly consequences. We’ve had posts on summer safety including drowning prevention, water safety, and driving in the past. Here we’ll highlight some of our tips for having a great and safe 4th of July weekend. Read full post »

The importance of failure

frustrated male studentI’ve spent the last couple of weeks meeting new high school graduates and having conversations with students who are transitioning to a higher grade level. An interesting pattern emerged amongst many of the top performing students: some had never experienced a failure, but those that had described learning a lot from it. As a teen, I was a perfectionist. I had a 4.0, was active in extracurricular activities, I never broke curfew, and I worked part time. It wasn’t until my senior year physics course that I really experienced my first taste of not doing something exactly right. I received a C grade at the end of the quarter. We’ve written about perfectionism before, but I wanted to highlight some of the lessons learned from not always succeeding on the first attempt.  Read full post »

Supportive Parenting

paper cutout family of three with paper messagesParenting is an amazing journey that comes with joys and challenges. Children bring to their families their unique personalities the moment they’re born and as parents, it can sometimes be challenging to recognize that what we always imagined our children would be may not be the same as what our kids actually see as a future for themselves. This week a story has been trending on social media about a set of parents who are a great example of how to be supportive of your child, even if they are different than who you imagined they would be. As parents, your child will likely surprise you be being even more amazing than you could have thought! Read full post »

A project to prevent unplanned pregnancy

The Centers for Disease Control shared an update that the teen pregnancy rate dropped by 8%. This was exciting news, but teen births for young women ages 15-19 are still exceedingly high in our nation at 31 out of  1000. Unplanned pregnancy is not just an adolescent concern. It is estimated that nearly 50% of pregnancies in the US are unplanned, however for teens the consequences are often more life changing. A few of the consequences of becoming a teen parent include: being more likely to be poor, less likely to complete their education, and more likely to have daughters who become teen mothers and sons with a criminal record.

I think most experts would agree there is not a single solution to prevention, but instead multiple things that can be done to help prevent unintended pregnancies. For teens, this includes parental involvement, teaching about reproductive health (including the importance of empowering youth to say no to sex if they’re not ready), delaying sexual debut, practicing abstinence, using effective birth control if sexually active, and perhaps most importantly, teaching/role modeling healthy relationships.

One research group in Missouri offered over 9,000 women extremely effective and reliable birth control in the form of long acting reversible contraception including the intrauterine device or progesterone implant. These methods are over 99% effective and 100% reversible. They don’t require a woman to remember to take a pill or go in at regular medical visits for a shot so once they’re in place, they work for years without any effort. The study found that most women chose one of these methods when offered. The amazing conclusions from this study were that unplanned pregnancies dropped significantly and so did abortion rates. To see more on this project click here for the YouTube video.

Why am I mentioning this study to parents?

Many teens who seek out birth control only know about the pill or the shot. In fact, the birth control pill is the number one method of hormonal contraception used by teens. However, this method also has the highest failure rate. With perfect use, about 8 out of 100 teens will get pregnant in a year if using the pill (about a quarter of teens who use the pill will get pregnant in a year with typical use). Only a little over 20% of sexually active teens used contraception at all with their last sexual encounter (60% used a condom, but condoms are better at preventing infection than pregnancy). It’s exciting that our teen birth rates have dropped, but we can do better!

Here are a few tips for parents:

Start talking to your teen early about relationships. Role model healthy relationships starting in childhood.

Educate about sex. Include the pros (pleasure, intimacy, affection, desire) and cons (pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection, strong emotions). Encourage your teen to be fully ready for all of these things before they embark on their sexual debut.

Discuss your family values. Talk about why you encourage abstinence until marriage or why you want your teen to wait until they’re ready.

Listen to your teen. They may have questions they’ve been embarrassed to ask, or worried about what you would think of their behavior. When having a discussion, remember that your teen as a point of view as well.

See a medical provider and ask about different forms of birth control. Both boys and girls need education about contraception. Some providers may not know that all options can be used safely in teens and the options are constantly being improved. If the provider isn’t comfortable, ask for a referral to a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist.

For previous blog posts on teen long acting reversible contraception check out the posts below:

More on birth control: long term options

More on birth control: long term options placement and removal

Ten tips for talking to your teen about sex