Archive for April 2014

Monthly Archive

Helping Teens Respond to Sudden Loss

lonelyteenThe recent murder of Maren Sanchez at Jonathan Law High School hit close to home, since I grew up one town over from Milford, and had friends who went to school there. I also have friends and relatives who teach in Connecticut, and have been trying to help their students cope with not only the loss of a sense of safety, but in some cases, the death of a friend.

When adolescents lose a peer, it is likely to be to a quick and violent death. The top three causes of death for teens are car accidents, suicide, and homicide. Sudden deaths can be harder to cope with than deaths that were expected, and violent deaths can be the hardest of all.

There was an excellent article in the Huffington Post about some differences between adolescent and adult grieving. After reading his piece, I wanted to give some tips for how to help your teen move through the terrible experience of losing a peer.

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Christine and Pepper’s Story: a Journey to recovery from anorexia

Healthy living is a very hot topic for most of Americans. Unfortunately, for some teens, the quest to be ‘healthy’ can morph into an eating disorder. In this video blog, we asked a young adult and her mother to share their journey towards recovery from anorexia nervosa. Thank you Pepper and Christine!

Can Sports be used to help prevent dating violence

teens holding handsOne of the questions I ask every teen I meet is whether or not they’re in any kind of intimate relationship. Much of the time the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘I have been.’ My follow up question is usually about how their partner treats them and whether or not they feel safe. A recent study has looked at the association between athletics and intimate partner violence. The results surprised me.

In the study, researchers asked ~1,600 boys who were participating in a school based program on coaching boys into men about dating and their sports participation. They first asked about gender equitable attitudes in their sport (generally whether or not boys and girls were equal). They then asked if the teen had been in a heterosexual (with only a female partner) relationship for more than a week and if they had every perpetrated any of 10 different abusive acts (including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse). What they found was that boys who played both football and basketball held less equitable attitudes about gender and sports. Those boys who played both football and basketball or just football alone were more likely to have been abusive in a relationship.

Does this mean that boys who play basketball and football are going to abuse their girlfriends? No, but it does make me think that it might be hard to ‘turn off’ the aggressive behavior that is encouraged on the court or playing field when not in the game. The promising part of this study was that the boys who received violence prevention messages from coaches were less likely to be abusive.

The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2011 that 9.4% of high school students had been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a partner. They also found that 8% had been forced to have sex. Dating violence amongst adolescents is preventable, but we as adult role models, definitely have more work to do to recognize when dating violence is occurring and prevent the behaviors.

Warning signs that a teen may be in an abusive relationship:

  • social isolation
  • their partner checks their email/cell phone/social network page without permission
  • put downs/name calling either face to face on via social media
  • extreme jealousy from a partner
  • a partner is possessive/controlling
  • physical injury

Here are some great websites for information on dating violence prevention:

Violence Prevention works

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Office of Adolescent Health

Love is Not Abuse (LINA)

We’re Number Six! Looking More Closely at the Youth Well-Being Index

teen couple youngThe Center for Strategic and International Studies, along with the International Youth Foundation, recently came out with a report where countries were ranked according to the “Global Youth Well-being Index“. Out of 30 countries, the United States came in sixth, topped by Australia, Sweden, South Korea, the U.K., and Germany.

What does this mean? As usual, it depends on how you look at the data. There are certainly more than 30 countries in the world; our neighbor Canada is missing, and only five European countries are considered. Some nations listed in the survey- like Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya- are developing nations where parts of the population struggle for things we take for granted (usually), like clean water.

The rankings are based on six areas of youth health, and I wanted to comment on the U.S. and how we scored on specific measures. Read full post »

When Teens Can’t Find a Job

Teen Girl With Paint RollerRecently, a report by the Brookings Institute came out about the dismal labor market for teens (and, for that matter, young adults). Particularly for high-school age teens, job opportunities are few and far between. In fact, employment rates dropped almost 50% for 16-19 years olds between 2000 and 2011.

Of course, we know the job market itself was shaken up by the recent recession. Also, the report points out that a small portion of the drop in employment is due to a rise in school enrollment, which is good news!

The worst-affected teens are those who have dropped out of high school and need to work full-time. Because higher levels of education increase employment opportunities, they are the least likely to find a job. However, many teens who are in school also desire or need to work part-time, for reasons ranging from contributing to family finances to paying for a trip to Europe over the summer.

Here are some ideas for helping a teen who can’t find a job: Read full post »

Vaccine Hesitancy

Vaccines have been a topic of much debate lately: Do they help? Are they safe? Should I vaccinate my child?

I can recall a recent visit with a 16 year old girl. She had a question about the HPV vaccine. She’d seen a commercial and was interested in learning more. We discussed the risks and benefits as well as the purpose of the vaccine. After she’d asked a series of very insightful and thought out questions, she decided she wanted to proceed with starting the vaccination series (the Gardasil vaccine is a series of 3 shots over 6 months). We brought her mother in to talk about starting the series and her mother hesitated. Like any caring parent, she wanted to be certain her daughter was safe. Their pediatrician hadn’t discussed the vaccine and she’d read on social media that it had potential side effects. At the end of our visit, my patient still wanted the vaccine, but her mother wanted to think about it. Read full post »