School and Sports

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Should your teen take a gap year

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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

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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.

 

Home from college for the holidays

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Guest Post: Laura Burkhart, MD

Boomerangs

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 »

Transition After High School Post 4 – Clery Act

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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 »

Transition after high school Post 3 – College Health Services

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college studentGuest Post by Laura Burkhart, MD

“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

In the part of this series, I will go into a little further into the details of visiting a campus and what you need to have ready from a health standpoint. If you and your teen are still finding yourself stuck on where to even start looking to apply, you can refer back to the previous post.

Now that you and your teen have decided on what campuses to visit (great job by the way, that can be the toughest part!), it is time to discuss what is often the most exciting part for your teen…the tour. A campus tour is a great way to become familiar with the institution, not only for the physical elements, but also for the health resources offered. It is important for your teen to have a support system on campus of caring professionals that can offer assistance if needed. Read full post »

Transition after high school Post 2 – University versus College

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Guest Post: Laura Burkhart, MD

“There are two gifts we should give our children: one is roots and the other is wings.”

As summer winds to an end, one of the most exciting times for a teen is figuring out what they are going to do after high school graduation. The last year in high school can be filled with both anticipation and anxiety, and as a parent it can be a difficult task to help them navigate the momentous next steps along a path filled with opportunity. College might not be right for all, but if you and your teen think it might be a good fit, you should know about all the options out there. First of all, take a deep breath…you and your teen will get through this! Here are a few tips to help you get started and make the big unknown of the college universe a little clearer.

There are more options now then the traditional 4 year college, and each one can have unique differences to help everyone obtain an education no matter their life situation or learning style. Read full post »

Transition after high school Post 1 What are Our Options

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A note from Dr. Evans: I often find myself discussing life plans with my patients. Some teens have no clue what to do after high school, others are set on going to medical school (eventually), some just want to work, and some think they may want to join the military. In this series, I’ve asked guest authors to talk a bit about some of the options available. This is not an all inclusive list at all and if readers have topics they’d like discussed, please add those ideas in the comments.

We’ll start with some general options in the first post, then go on to discuss more details about the different between university, college, and community college in the coming posts of this series.

Guest Author: Emily Winn – University of Washington School of Nursing

Transition after high school – What are our options? Read full post »

Girls on the Run – promoting self esteem

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joggingOver the summer, we’re continuing to highlight positive opportunities available to teens. I had the privilege of interviewing a representative from Girls on the Run, an amazing program that promotes physical activity and so much more for teen girls. Though this interview is with a representative from outside of Washington State, she gives an excellent overview of the program. Information about the Puget Sound chapter can be found here and at the very end of the post.

  1. What is Girls on the Run? What is it’s mission?

Girls on the Run is a physical activity-based positive youth development program (PA-PYD) designed to develop and enhance girls’ social, psychological and physical competencies to successfully navigate life experience. The mission of Girls on the Run St. Louis is to empower girls for a lifetime of healthy living. Our program for girls in the 3rd through 8th grades inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.

The 20-lesson Girls on the Run curriculum combines training for a 5k (3.1 miles) running event with lessons that inspire girls to become independent thinkers, enhance their problem solving skills and make healthy decisions. All of this is accomplished through an active collaboration with girls and their parents, schools, volunteers, staff, and the community. Read full post »

Whole Nutrition in Schools

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eating strawberryThe American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released a policy statement on food in schools emphasizing a “whole nutrition” approach to food that is consumed in school.  This could include breakfast, lunch, and/or snacks.  The writers point out that there have already been changes in school lunches to make cafeteria food more nutritious, but lunches that students bring to school might not meet healthy standards.  Having healthy, nutritious meals throughout the school day is essential for concentration in class and performance in sports and gym class.  How can parents help teens eat healthy at school?

Read full post »

Back to School: sports and sleep

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girls basketballLast week we posted about time management as teens headed back to school. You and your teen are getting back into the swing of things with squeezing in breakfast, scheduling time for homework, family time, and friends. In this post we’ll talk a bit about sports and sleep. We’ve had great guest posts on preventing sports injuries, like concussion, and we’ve posted about sleep tips before. Here are some highlights to take with you as the school year begins: Read full post »