Teenology 101

Home from college for the holidays

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 »

How do we teach compassion?

iStock_000014694151XSmallFor 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 in Teens: What to expect at the Doctor’s Office

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. Read full post »

My teen just came out, now what

young loveI 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 »

Preventing Gun Violence: Don’t Ignore the Signs

teeninjailThis 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 »

Transition After High School Post 4 – Clery Act

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 »

The Impact of Implicit Bias

Think about the encounters you have with strangers every day. When you stop by the grocery store and notice people in the check out line, what comes to mind? Does the young parent with multiple very small children bring up any emotions or thoughts? What do you think of the food items being purchased by the person who is underweight or overweight? How do you react when a group of teens with darkly dyed hair, piercings, and tattoos is standing in the doorway? Now consider a group of clean-cut teens? Everyone has biases: those subconscious perceptions of people around us. They shape our actions and judgements. But, biases are often incorrect. They are generalizations about a group based on our cultural norms or expectations, but may have no actual basis in reality. For example, the parent with multiple young children in the check out line may be a nanny not a single parent. The clean-cut teens in the doorway may be waiting for a peer who is stealing alcohol while the pierced and tattooed teens are trying to advocate for ending childhood hunger. Read full post »

Powdered Caffeine Dangers

Coffee cup illustrationIt’s the Fall. With this season comes the return of cable knit sweaters, closed toed shoes, pumpkin spice, and early mornings as school starts again. Oh those early mornings! Getting up for school is hard and teens may be tempted to use some outside help to not only wake up in the mornings, but to stay up late to finish homework projects. One substance that is making headlines (again) is caffeine. It’s in our coffee, tea, chocolate milk. Adults use this substance quite a lot (just look at all the coffee carts, cafes, & break rooms that are bustling by 8am!) and companies have found a new way to supply consumers with their daily fix of the substance. Unfortunately, the new product can be dangerous. Read full post »

Transition after high school Post 3 – College Health Services

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

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 »