Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teen LINK - Teens Volunteering

Encouraging your teens to get involved in their community by volunteering can help your child build their self confidence as well as bring sunshine to those in need.

Many high school students may need community service hours, which can help motivate your teen. Once they start giving back they will soon feel the rewards of paying it forward.

Volunteering is so much more than helping others, it is helping yourself. It can feel so good to put a smile on another face, or simply have a dog look forward to their walk. The little things in life are major to those that are need.

In South Florida, there is TeenLink which offers a listing of places that are looking for teen volunteers. From working with the elderly to giving museum tours, there is something for everyone.

Select a category that interests you. Just click on the link to view all volunteer options for that category. Some organizations require you to register or contact an event coordinator prior to volunteering. Use the contact information provided. For the most recent updated volunteer opportunites, click on "Do it Now" located on the right. Happy volunteering!

Read more on this fantastic topic.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sue Scheff: Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) - Time to Quit Smoking

Although we hear it a lot, smoking is bad for you, there are still many adults and kids that continue to smoke cigarettes. Parents will say that we need to pick and choose our issues with our teens, which is correct, however we cannot stop talking about the dangers of smoking tobacco.

In Florida, Tobacco Free Florida and Florida's Quitline are two organization directed at helping you and your loved ones quit smoking.

Unveiled in 2008 under the direction of the Florida Department of Health, the Tobacco Free Florida campaign seeks to decrease the number of tobacco users in the state of Florida through efforts aimed at both preventing nonusers from starting to use tobacco and encouraging current users to quit. These efforts are funded by money derived from court settlements against major tobacco companies, and include executions in the realm of Advertising, Public Relations, Interactive, Guerilla Media, Event Media, Sponsored Promotions and more.

It is their hope that one day every Floridian might be free of the hazards of tobacco, and that we all may eventually live in the paradise that our name implies- a truly Tobacco Free Florida.

Join Tobacco Free Florida on Facebook and stay up to date with events and information to educate you on the hazards of smoking.

Tobacco Free Florida Week runs March 21st-28th and all week long we're asking Floridians to help protect themselves and their loved ones from secondhand smoke (SHS) by asking the smokers in their life to, "Be Free For Me."

SWAT is Florida's statewide youth organization working to mobilize, educate and equip Florida youth to revolt against and de-glamorize Big Tobacco. They are a united movement of empowered youth working towards a tobacco free future.

You can join a lot of different groups in high school. This video shows why SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) may be the most important. Read more.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teens, Cell Phones, Driving, Texting Talking - All Can Lead to Deadly Results

I don't think we can hear enough about cell phones and driving.  Whether it is teens or adults, texting, talking on the  phone, and driving can lead to deadly results.  No text is worth dying over!  No phone call is worth losing  a loved one over!

More Teens Dial and Drive

Source: Connect with Kids

“I was like, 'oh my God, I'm gonna die.'
So I sat back up and the phone stopped ringing. It could have been bad.”

– Katie, Age 17

Seventeen-year old Katie once had a close call. Her cell phone rang and she leaned down to answer it.

"It was rolling all over the place," Katie says, "and I heard all this honking and stuff and I was like 'what's going on?' So I sat back up and I was (very close) to the median."

Katie learned her lesson. She now uses a hands-free device.

Still, many other teen drivers are willing to take their chances despite the potential danger of using a cell phone while driving. "I know it is (dangerous) but I think I'm a pretty good driver," says 17-year-old A'sari. "I can handle doing two things at once."

A survey by the Allstate Foundation reports that more girls admit to texting while driving, speeding, and driving aggressively... compared to boys. All of which increases the chances that a girl will get hurt... hurt someone else... or both.

Experts say parents should teach their kids responsible driving. "We need to impress upon them their safety is of importance to us," says Robert Wilson, with the National Safety Council. "Any rules or regulations imposed by their parents or law enforcement is not to punish them but to help them survive their teenage years and become young adults."

Wilson says cell phones aren't the only distraction. Music, food and even other passengers can divert a young driver's attention. He says parents should urge their kids to focus on what is really important behind the wheel. "If a situation does require you to take your eyes off the road, pull over, save those few seconds. It might save your life."

Cell Phone Risks

Several towns, cities and states have already restricted the use of handheld cellular phones while driving. The laws are in response to the growing number of cell phones owned by Americans and a widely held belief that dialing and texting while driving can be dangerous. (Several nations also restrict cell phone use while driving: Australia, Japan, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.) Not much research has been conducted into the risks of driving and cell phone use, but one study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (commissioned by A T & T Wireless Communications), reached the following conclusions:

■Cellular phone use while driving poses a risk to the driver, to other motorists, and to pedestrians.
■The risks appear to be small compared to other daily risks but are uncertain because existing research is limited and uneven in quality.

Cell phone driving statistics:

■Distraction from cell phone use while driving (hand held or hands free) extends a driver's reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (University of Utah)
■The No.1 source of driver inattention is use of a wireless device. (Virginia Tech/NHTSA)
■Drivers that use cell phones are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (NHTSA, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
■10 percent of drivers aged 16 to 24 years old are on their phone at any one time.
■Driving while distracted is a factor in 25 percent of police reported crashes.
■Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent (Carnegie Mellon University)

Tips for Parents
In light of the risks of cell phone use while driving, parents may want to consider placing their own restrictions on 'dialing and driving' and especially "texting and driving." In addition to limiting cell phone use in cars, there are other things parents can do to help keep teen drivers safe. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recommends the following:

■Restrict nighttime driving. The majority of fatal accidents involving teenagers occur between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight.
■Restrict passengers. Teen passengers in a vehicle can easily distract a beginning driver. 62% of teen passenger deaths occur in crashes with a teen driver. While night driving with passengers is particularly lethal, many fatal crashes with teen passengers occur during the day. The best policy is to restrict teen passengers, especially multiple teens, all the time.
■Supervise practice driving. Take an active role in helping your teenager learn how to drive.
■Remember you are a role model. New drivers learn a lot by example, so practice safe driving yourself.
■Require safety belt use. Remember that belt use is lower among teenagers than older people. Insist on belts at all times.
■Prohibit driving after drinking. Make it clear that it's illegal and highly dangerous for a teenager to drive after drinking. Even small amounts of alcohol are impairing for teens.
■Choose vehicles for safety, not image. Teenagers should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of a crash and offer protection if they do crash. Avoid trucks and sport utility vehicles—the smaller ones, especially, are prone to roll over.

■Harvard Center for Risk Analysis
■Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
■Wireless World Forum

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sue Scheff: Texting Terror - Violence in Schools - 15 year-old beaten

Wake up parents, teachers, schools, and all other that work with today's youth; those keystokes, clicks of a mouse, taps of fingers can lead to nearly deadly results.

Ironically at the same school that Michael Brewer attended, the teen that was doused in alcohol by other teens and set on fire, 15 year old Josie Lou Rately was nearly beaten to death and is in a medically induced coma.

According to NBC Miami Josie Lou Ratley, 15, has undergone two surgeries to relieve pressure on her brain from the savage beating that took place last Wednesday outside Deerfield Beach Middle School.

Doctors at Broward General Medical Center said Friday that they're optimistic about Ratley's recovery, but that it's now a matter of waiting for her to heal.

Her alleged attacker, 15-year-old Wayne Treacy, is being held at a juvenile detention center. Treacy's 13-year-old alleged accomplice, Kayla Manson, is also being held. Manson is charged as a principal because she helped Treacy find Ratley, authorities say. (See photo's below in slideshow).

Appearing on the NBC's Today Show and CBS's Early Show, Josie Lou's mother Hilda Gotay Ratley, and aunt Linda Sarmiento stated Josie did not know the suspect. They also asked that families reach out and talk to their own kid about this incident and make this a teachable moment. The dangers of school violence, bullying and terrors of texting is a growing problem that parents need to be in tune with and open lines of communication.

Visit STOMP OUT BULLYING and learn more on talking to your children about this sensitive and critical subject.

Bullying is a problem that affects millions of students of all races and classes. 1 out of 4 kids is bullied and 42% of kids have been bullied while online. Child and teen Bullying and Cyberbullying are at an all-time high. Some kids are so tormented that suicide has become an alternative for them. It has everyone worried. Not just the kids on its receiving end, but the parents, teachers and others who may not understand how extreme bullying can get. Love Our Children USA is working aggressively to prevent these issues and to help the kids and teens affected by it. - STOMPOUTBULLYING

Be an educated parent, you will have safer children.

Watch video and slideshow click here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sue Scheff: Addiction Affects the Entire Family

If you have a family member or friend that has an addiction, you know first hand the stress and toll this takes on the entire family as well as close friends that care about them.

Addiction is an obsession in that the addict's entire life becomes focused on getting more of the drug. In the same way, family members of the addict become obsessed with the addict: Will he come home tonight? Will he get violent? Will he go into work? Will he lose his job? Will we lose the house?

Family members tend to adapt their personas in an attempt to handle the dysfunction that the addict has created. The caretaker or enabler, for example, makes it possible for the addict to keep functioning in addiction. He may give the addict money, provide a home and food, bail the addict out of jail and in general provide a safety that the addict can depend on no matter how violent, irresponsible or hurtful the behavior.

The caretaker role is just one example. Others include the hero, who makes sure that everything appears to be fine to outsiders, the jester who tries to make light of the situation, the ghost who never comments or makes his needs known. Family members of addicts become so focused on the addict's problems that they often lose themselves along the way. Source: ProjectKnow.com

As the reality world of television expands, the latest addition is "Addicted" on TLC. Tune in to Addicted, a one-hour docu-series produced by Asylum Entertainment, that follows the lives of individuals struggling with addiction as they work with interventionist Kristina Wandzilak. Each episode will take viewers on the unpredictable journey of recovery and the harrowing struggle to become sober.

Take a few minutes to watch the powerful video to understand how serious addiction is and how it affects the entire family.

Need help with a troubled teen?  Visit http://www.helpyourteens.com/

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teen Girls and Sports

Keeping your kids busy in a constructive way can help prevent them from getting into trouble. Encouraging your kids to play sports, enroll in dance classes, join a club or other activities can not only help their self-esteem, it can help with their social skills.

Daughters may be more hesitant to play sports for a variety of reasons, one of which could be embarrassment that they are not good enough.

What if there were a way to decrease the chances of your teenage daughter becoming pregnant, as well as avoiding a host of other behaviors that have serious risks? According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, involvement in sports may be the key. - Connect with Kids

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that sports participation and exercise are positive alternatives to risk-taking for girls. Playing sports gives young females independence, status with peers, a chance to make friends, relaxation, weight control and more. According to the CDC, girls who play sports learn the following life skills:

  • Teamwork
  • Goal-setting
  • The experience of success
  • The pursuit of excellence in performance
  • How to deal with failures
As a parent, how can you encourage your teen - male or female - to participate in sports? The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity offers the following advice for keeping your teen interested in sporting activities:

  • Actively support your teens involvement in physical activity. Buy your teen good equipment, watch his or her games and consider volunteering as a coach.
  • Take your teen to the park and be active with him or her. Help your teen learn the fundamental skills of running, throwing, catching and kicking.
  • Be an active role model yourself. Mothers who participate in sports increase their child's participation rate by 22%. Fathers increase that rate by 11%.
  • Emphasize fun and fitness rather than competition and slimness. Encourage your teen to try a variety of new activities, and help him or her acquire the skills and equipment needed for participation. Consistently offer praise and support to your teen.
  • Introduce your teen to active male and female athletes. Buy sports books about successful male and female athletes. Watch sporting events on television and attend competitions in your community.

Reference: Connect with Kids

Be an educated parent, you will have healthier and safer teens.
Read more on Examiner.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sue Scheff: Summer Camps Are Almost Here - Are you ready?

There may be a chill in South Florida and around the country, however summer camp time is coming fast! If you will be sending your child or teen to camp, the time is now to start researching your options.

  • Are you looking for a sleep away camp?
  • Are you looking for day camps?
  • Are you looking for teen travel camps?
  • Are you looking for specific camps that meet your child's interests such as tennis, golf, skateboarding, fine arts, music, horse back riding, etc.?
  • Does your child have special needs and requirements?
  • Are you looking for an academic summer program?
There are many options to consider in choosing what is best for your individual child.

You may want to start with the assistance of Camp Finders. Located in Delray Beach, Florida, Rick Mades for over fifteen years, has been helping parents find the best summer programs and camps for their children and teens. He has visited over a hundred sleep away camps throughout our country as well as in Canada, Europe, Australia, Central America, the Caribbean & Virgin Islands, Israel & more. The best part, this is a free service!

If you are considering a summer experience for your child or teen, the time is now to start doing your homework.

Be an educated parent, you will be better prepared which will give you safer and happier teens and children.

Read more on Examiner.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sue Scheff, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Jeff Wolfsberg Engage in Discussion about the Dangers of Cough Medicine Abuse

Recently I was privileged to be part of an interesting and educational conversation with Dr. Drew and Jeff Wolfsberg

Jeff Wolfsberg posted an excellent outline of our discussion.  For parents that are raising teens today, it is imperative you understand the dangers of cough medicine abuse as well as other medicines in your home.

Read more here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sue Scheff: Equine Therapy - Teens and Self-Esteem

Winston Churchill was once quoted, "that the outside of the horse is good for the inside of the man..."

Today horses are not only used for the pleasure of riding or the thrill of racing, they are used to help struggling teens, handicapped children, as well as adults that have been through a horrific experience.

Recently on ABC News 20/20, Jaycee Dugard, the young girl that was abducted at 11 years old for 18 years, was featured riding and working with horses as part of her healing process.

In South Florida, Horses and the Handicapped is a place where people come to heal, to learn, and to make friends that last a lifetime.

Are you struggling with an at risk teenager? Many parents look for programs that offer either equine therapy or canine therapy. Working with animals is very rewarding and has proven to build a child's and/or teens self confidence. With better self esteem they are more likely to make better choices.

Children with autism and attention deficit disorder often struggle to communicate - but put them with horses and they can achieve so much. In Northern Florida learn more about the "Drop Your Reins" program which offers peaceful solutions for ADHD/ADD & autistic children using natural horsemanship.

Being an educated parent will help you to have safer and healthier teenagers.

Watch video and read more on Examiner.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sue Scheff: Is your child socially awkward?

This is a very topical subject as we are learning more about the emotional damage that bullying does to a child.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, social phobia – the intense fear of being in social situations – typically begins in childhood or early adolescence and affects women twice as often as men.

Source: Connect with Kids

Socially Awkward Kids

My son is a totally different person. He used to kind of sit in the back of the class. Now, after this [group therapy], he is sitting in the front row and raising his hand and shouting out. His teachers say he is totally blossoming.”

– Jodi Gabay, Mother

Why do some children get picked on or get into arguments, while others don't? According to new research from the Rush Neurobehavioral Center in Chicago, one answer may be how your child interacts with others. It seems that some kids can't read another child's face or tone of voice or gestures, which makes it difficult to resolve conflicts.

To help their socially awkward kids, some parents are turning to experts.

Seven-year-old Gregory is often afraid to play with the other kids.

"He's got a lot of anxiety issues, and it's really hard for him to start new things," says his mom Kathie Lasky. "He feels often uncomfortable with the way that his body feels, so going into new situations often feels threatening. That makes it hard to make friends."

So once a week, Gregory comes to a new kind of class. It's group therapy for children with developmental disorders. Like Gregory, many of the kids are shy and withdrawn.

"When you want to meet somebody new, what do you do?" sings occupational therapist Susan Orloff, who leads the class.

"You wave hi! You look them in the eye! You shake hands and you say hello," she sings with the kids.

Gregory is not singing loudly enough. "I don't hear you," says Susan.

"Hi," Gregory says meekly.

"Was that loud?"

"Hi!" Gregory says slightly more forcefully.

In group therapy, the kids are asked to speak up and make eye contact with the other kids.

They play games designed to build confidence. For example, the kids are forced to give themselves a compliment.

"Mr. Gregory? What's good about you?" asks Susan.

Gregory just sits there and looks uncomfortable.

"Oh, come on now," presses Susan.

"Ah, at computers?"

"You're good at computers, that's great!"

The kids also learn what to do if they are excluded from a game.

"We're going to have to say, 'Well, maybe we'll play next time' or 'can I play in your next game?'" explains Megan, another instructor in the group.

The class lasts eight weeks. When it's done, most of these kids aren't so shy anymore.

"My son is a totally different person," says Jodi Gabay about her four-year-old son, Cody. "He used to kind of sit in the back of the class [at school]. Now, after this class, he is sitting in the front row and raising his hand and shouting out. His teachers say he is totally blossoming."

This social skills group is offered by Children's Special Services. Susan Orloff is the CEO and executive director. She runs the class at her metro-Atlanta home.

At one time or another, most of us have experienced shyness, a moment during which your heart races, your palms become sweaty and your stomach gets that fluttery, butterfly feeling. In fact, research cited in the Encyclopedia of Mental Health indicates that the percentage of self-reported shyness has escalated gradually in the last decade to nearly 50%. But what happens when that moment of shyness stretches into a continuous fear that limits a person's emotional development?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, social phobia – the intense fear of being in social situations – typically begins in childhood or early adolescence and affects women twice as often as men. While many children can be shy or awkward at times, those with social phobia go beyond shyness into such an anxious state that it causes them to completely avoid interaction with others. They often experience blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, difficulty talking and even nausea when their anxiety becomes too intense for them to handle. For teens in particular, the following social situations cited by the American Academy of Family Physicians can often spark extreme bouts of shyness that go beyond a feeling of awkwardness:

■Public speaking or performing
■Making "small talk"
■Small group discussion
■Asking questions in groups
■Being introduced
■Meeting or talking with strangers
■Being assertive
■Being watched as you do something (eating, writing, etc.)
■Attending social gatherings
■Talking on the telephone
■Using public restrooms
■Interacting with "important" people
■Test taking

Tips for Parents

How can you tell if your child is merely shy or if he or she is a victim of severe anxiety? The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry warns that you should be alert to the following signs of severe anxiety in order to intervene and seek treatment for your child:

■Worries about things before they happen
■Constantly worries or becomes concerned about school performance, friends or sports
■Has repetitive thoughts or actions (obsessions)
■Experiences fears of embarrassment or making mistakes
■Has low self-esteem

If you suspect that your child experiences social phobia, consult a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other qualified mental-health professional. Physicians can treat your child by helping him or her to develop coping skills to manage his or her anxiety. The Nemours Foundation cites the following treatment methods that may be used to help your child:

■One element of your child's therapy might include learning relaxation techniques, such as breathing and muscle relaxation exercises.
■Behavioral rehearsal, during which the therapist and your child might role play certain situations, may be beneficial. Trying out new behaviors ahead of time can make it much easier and more automatic to put these behaviors into practice when your child is faced with real situations.
■Your child might learn to correct self-talk that is leading to anxiety by learning self-talk that is more positive and that promotes self-confidence and builds coping skills.
■Medications can be helpful as part of the treatment for your child's social phobia. Though medication doesn't solve the whole problem, it can reduce your child's anxiety so he or she can put into practice some of the techniques that are described above.

If your teen experiences shyness from time to time but can manage to cope with his or her feelings, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts offers these approaches that may help your shy teen feel better internally and function better at school:

■Build your teen's self-worth. Realizing that he or she has your confidence and trust – or even your admiration – will pump up his or her ego. Make sure your teen occasionally overhears you saying nice things about his or her personality, achievements and activities to family members and friends.
■Don't compare personalities. Accept that each member of a family has a slightly different temperament and his or her own way of dealing with the world. One teen may be extremely social and another may be just as happy to have one or two close friends and spend more time at home.
■Practice social skills. If your teen is having trouble making friends and wouldn't mind some help, coach him or her on how to ask for and listen to other people's opinions. Talk about the social situations that worry your teen the most, and brainstorm ways he or she might make himself or herself feel more comfortable. Don't, however, turn into your teen's social director. Your interference will only signal that you lack faith in him or her.
■Don't urge your teen to change. Admonishments such as "Don't be shy" or "try to be more popular" aren't going to do your teen any good or be well-received, since he or she will hear them as criticisms and can alter his or her behavior only so much. Remember, as much as you might wish it for your teen, being popular is not a goal you want to dangle in front of him or her. If your teen chooses to do things on his or her own, don't make him or her feel inadequate. Many a loner has grown up to be a brilliant inventor or talented writer. Some children aren't even lonely when they're alone. They may be shy, but they still like themselves.
■Praise your teen's strengths. A shy teen may not be comfortable enough to run for student council, but he or she might win a prize in the school science contest or be an excellent artist.

■American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
■American Academy of Family Physicians
■Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
■Encyclopedia of Mental Health
■National Institute of Mental Health
■Nemours Foundation
■Susan Orloff, O.T.R., Children's Special Services

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sue Scheff: Does your teen want to take a year off before college?

Gap Year! Get GapSmart!

Is your teen struggling about going to college? Talking about taking a year off? We have heard pros and cons about what is considered a “gap year.” Is it right for your child? What exactly are the options?

What is a gap year? An opportunity for self-exploration and personal growth, leading to clearer direction and motivation for your life.

GapSmart offers fantastic information that can help guide you and your teenager in a productive direction. GapSmart! is ready to help your student find the program that best fits their personality, goals, needs, and budget. GapSmart! work closely with families to ensure that every aspect of the “time on” of a gap year is well spent and thoroughly meets the parents’ and student’s expectations.

A gap year is a pivotal time in a students life and through reflection exercises, the student is better able to understand the scope of their time and the impact it had on their life. Additionally, the gap year experience is woven into resumes, cover letters, and college applications.

If your teen is thinking about taking a year off, think about GapSmart! and find a positive way to spend that year. Let it be a year you can build your future on.

Be an educated parent, you will have successful teens!

Watch video and read more on Examiner.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sue Scheff: Are you in crisis? Learn about suicide prevention

Each year over two thousand of Florida's citizens take their own lives. This number is more than twice the number of people murdered and significantly higher than the number of HIV related deaths. Florida ranks third in the nation for the highest number of suicide fatalities and has the 18th highest suicide rate. Suicide is the state's 9th leading cause of death. - Hope Promote Hope

The recent headlines of Marie Osmond's son's suicide with the death and apparent suicide of the TV actor of Growing Pains, Andrew Koenig, the time is now to learn about depression and prevention of suicide.

On March 24th, 2010 is Florida Suicide Prevention Day. This couldn't come a better time. Suicide Prevention Day at the Capitol is an annual statewide event in which the Statewide Office of Suicide Prevention and the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition are joined by advocates, survivors, grassroots organizations, youth, and other state agencies to bring suicide to the forefront as a public health issue.

Florida Suicide Prevention Day flyer, click here. Help promote education and awareness.

Lighting the Darkness, an evening to remember lives that were lost to suicide is on March 22nd, 2010.

Be an educated parent, you will have a safer and healthier family.

Read more on Examiner.