Archive for 2011

Much ado about summer

Ah, it’s that time of year. Summer! Daffodils have sprouted and the cherry blossoms bloomed… seasonal allergies are flaring up. It’s also the time of year where the school year is winding down and kids are getting excited about summer vacation.  Now parents have to consider what activities can occupy their teen for those 6.5 hours of the day that they would have been in school.

With each of my patient visits that happen this time of year I ask everyone what their summer plans are. Some are taking big trips to other countries, some will be going to volunteer at camps they attended as young kids, and others just reply, ‘nothing.’ It made me wonder about a few questions…

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You’re Going Out Like That?

As an teenager of the 70’s I vividly remember mini skirts, headbands, “cut-offs” and fringed leather jackets, not to mention the stinky “afghan” long coat that my father let me buy from a street vendor on a visit to New York City. The afghan coat had some sort of fleece material lining (that may not have been washed since it was removed from the sheep) with a rustic leather exterior and extra fleece at the wrists and neck. It was basically a sheepskin worn inside out from the way a sheep wears it. I must have done some sort of sell job that only an eldest daughter could do to a father. There would be little opportunity to wear the coat, given that we lived in New Mexico at the time.

With 20/20 hindsight, I find some of the fashions of the 1970’s rather appalling. I can only imagine what my parents thought when I left the house in a dress that was either so short that even the smallest movement risked exposure, or so long and flowing that anyone walking near me was as likely as I was to trip on the fabric trailing on the ground.

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Ground Rules

When most kids hit adolescence,  they start questioning rules with vigor. Sometimes the rules are even broken or dodged with regularity. How do you get adolescents to identify with and agree with rules?

Involve them. This takes a fairly good level of communication with your teen, and it will involve compromise from both of you. But if you can engage your teen into making rules with you, it can be a wonderful exercise in communication and effective discipline. (This requires a fairly mature and communicative teen.)

For example, let’s take curfew. You want your teen home by 10 pm on weekends. They think any curfew is ridiculous.

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Prom Night

Prom: a rite of passage! Arguably the most important dance in high school and a night full of memories for parents and teens. I remember my senior prom, my parents made my friends and I line up in front of our home in our fancy clothes and make up to take countless pictures. Every once and a while I look back at the photos and think of how young I was even though I thought I had the world figured out.

With all the fun of getting dressed up and picking out the tuxedo and the dress, prom also has a reputation. Movies often portray prom night as a night full of parties, alcohol and substance use, and lost virginity. Though my prom was uneventful, some teens may have very different experiences.

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When Your Teen Drives You Crazy: Tips for Communication

It’s 10 PM. You are exhausted. You want to go to sleep because you have a big day tomorrow- back-to-back meetings and a presentation at noon. Ding! A text message comes in on your phone- it is your daughter.  She texts “Can you wake me up at 5:30 tomorrow morning? I have a science final that I need to study for.”

“Hang on”, you text back-.”Why are you waiting to the last minute to study for this test?”

Silence. You go to your daughter’s room and open the door to because you want to actually talk to her in person.

“Why are you in here?”, she asks, looking confused.

She is on the computer, sending a message to someone on Facebook. Her room has clothes and books scattered about.

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The Free Phone Call

My parents and I had a deal when I was a teen. I had a “free phone call”. If I was stuck somewhere and my only option to get home was to drive drunk or impaired- or a get a ride from someone who might be a danger- I could call them to pick me up. They would ask no questions and give no punishments.

My parents could think of two situations where this might apply: driving or riding with a drunk driver, or dating someone who turned out to be predatory. Read full post »

Addiction and Recovery Resources for Teens and Families

Guest post to Teenology 101 by Ray Hsiao, MD

“Wow! You have a tough job!” is often the comment I hear whenever I introduce myself as an addiction psychiatrist who works with adolescents. That comment is usually followed by questions on how I try to help the drug-using adolescents and their families and resources that I recommend. Read full post »

Is that latte safe?

With the increase in coffee shops and vending machines selling caffeinated beverages, more and more children and teens are drinking caffeine, but is coffee really safe for a teen?

Caffeine consumption in adults has been a normal pastime and is very acceptable. People use caffeine for many reasons, including help with concentration, to wake up in the mornings, and for the taste. Most studies in adults show that small to moderate doses (like a cup of coffee) in adults are safe. However, there are very few studies of the effects of caffeine on children and teens.

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Teens and Volunteering

Guest post to Teenology 101 by Leslie Walker, MD

Did you know that teens volunteer at nearly double the rate as adults? It’s true, nearly 55% of teenagers volunteer, mostly through their school, family or religious organizations.  Only 29% percent of adults can say the same. The 2005 Youth Volunteering and Civic Engagement Survey based on Census data looked comprehensively at youth and service.  You may say most kids have to do some sort of service to graduate from public and private high schools and that is why the numbers of teen volunteers is so high and drops off after age 18. But I think we would be missing something important here.  Maybe we are doing something right in expecting our youth to volunteer and give back to society and they are actually getting the message, the survey found that teens most often stated they volunteer because the youth see the importance of helping others.

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I Can’t Hear You!

Have you ever noticed that when you ask your adolescent to clean their room, do their homework, or help you in with the groceries, they experience a temporary deafness?

It’s normal for adolescents to not “hear” you when you’re requesting they perform onerous tasks- but if you notice this more often, your adolescent may actually not be able to hear you. Adolescent hearing loss is on the rise; currently, about 1 in 5 adolescents has measurable hearing loss, as opposed to 1 in 20 in the 1990s.

We usually attribute adolescent hearing loss to loud music, so why a change now? Ridiculously loud concerts have been around since at least the late 60s. When the Walkman was introduced in the 1980s, teens with headphones played their favorite tapes so loud that everyone in the house could sing along. In the 90s, I turned my father’s stereo up to the max when playing Alice in Chains, and enjoyed feeling the floor vibrate.

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