Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teen Truth - What parents don't know about their teens

Did you know:

  • More teens are using alcohol to get drunk
  • More teens are smoking pot regularly
  • Even more teens are having sex, and many without protection
  • Most teens know more about technology than you do
The Florida Department of Health (FLDOH) in partnership with WAHI Media has created, an interactive, web-based initiative promoting positive lifestyle choices among Florida youth. The website is designed to educate teens, parents, and citizens about a wide range of issues that teens deal with on a daily basis. DOH’s Office of Positive Youth Development has been able to use WAHI’s highly effective technology to reach and hold the attention of teens, engaging them in conversation and presenting them with valuable facts.

Teen Truth tells real stories and how you as a parent can improve your communication skills with your teenagers. Times have changed with teens today!  Teen life is a mind field, they have access to all sorts of things that generations prior weren't aware of.

As school opens shortly, it is not only time to get school supplies and uniforms/clothing ready, it is critical you talk to your kids about peer pressure, sex, drugs, technology etc.  

Teen Truth tells you like it is, even if you don't want to hear it, you will and you will also see why it is imperative you learn this.

Before your teen hooks-up (gets together with a total stranger for sex), be proactive, talk to your teens, ask  them about it and let them know the dangers of hooking up.

Teens can guard their private lives very well, it is up to parents to learn all they can about them.  This is not invasion of privacy - it is when safety trumps privacy!

Do yourself a favor, watch the short videos on Answer the questions honestly, don't be a parent in denial, you are not helping your teen that way.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens!

If your teen is going down a negative road, visit for more information.

Read more.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teen Help and Tough Love - Parenting Teens Today

How much is a parent supposed to tolerate before they reach their wit's end?

How many times do you blame negative behavior on the friends they are hanging with, since your teen would never act like this? (Not my Kid)

How long do you continue to allow your teen to speak to you with disrespect and defiance?

How much is too much?

Let's face it, parenting teens today has become more challenging than years before.  Think about your generation.  When your parent said to be home at 10:00pm, most were home by 9:50pm.  Why?  Because we respected our parents.  We also knew there would be consequences.

Was that considered tough love?  Not really, it was simply following the rules of the house.  These simple boundaries seem to have disappeared in many homes.

Is it because there are more single parent households?  Is it because most families have both parents working, meaning there is less supervision?

Without a doubt, the level of respect that some teens show today is despicable.  No matter what the reason is, your teen is creating tough love - and it gets tougher to love them as they continue to defy us, yet we will always love unconditionally.  Could this be why they push our buttons?

Years ago we rarely heard about residential therapy.  Today these boarding schools are busting at the seams as teens are learning to appreciate what they had at home.  Is residential therapy tough love?  No, residential therapy it is about regaining your child back.  Tough love can be part of the process.

Visit for more information for private residential therapy. Here's Help in Florida is resource for South Floridians with at-risk teens.

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

Read more.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sue Scheff: Residential Therapy verses Wildeness Programs or even JAIL

You have a teen that is driving you crazy.  You have a teen that is experimenting, if not using drugs on a regular basis.  You have teen that has changed peer groups - and not for the better.  You have a teen that has disengaged from the family.  You have a teen that is defiant, belligerent and can become violent.  You have a teen that doesn't appreciate all they have and all you have sacrificed for them?  You are at your wit's end!

Is it time to have an intervention?  What is best to insure that your teen gets back on a positive road to have that bright future you always wanted for them?

Let's review some choices to get help:

Wilderness Therapeutic Programs Short term program, short term results, usually zero academics, extremely expensive and as many teens state they have great experiences, it is usually never enough to make lasting positive changes.
  • The concept: Remove the kids from their comforts of home.  Get them to reflect on themselves from within. 
  • Thought:  Wouldn't it be wise to find one program that offers a well-rounded program including removing them from their comforts of home, offering them an education as well as encouraging them through enrichment programs?
Boot Camps:  Thankfully many have been closed in the state of Florida.  This in and of itself speaks volumes.  As parents see it as a way to punish their kids for their negative behavior, using punitive and primitive measures may cause more anger and resentment toward the person that placed them there.
  • The concept: Teach your child a lesson, and hope they learn to appreciate and respect you.
  • Thought:  Again, finding a sound program that offers positive enrichment, academics as well as trained staff to help determine where the negative behavior is stemming from.
Jail:  Is this ever a good option?  Not really, and although juvenile records are sealed, according to law enforcement, what happens when your teen applies for a job in their 20's and that record, although it doesn't state the charges, but is pinged by your teen being finger printed?  Did you consider the friends your teen will make in jail?
  • The Concept: Show your teen the consequences of breaking the law.  Hopefully scaring them straight so they turn around their behavior.
  • Thought: Get your teen the right help that instills positive reinforcement, continuing education and work on family conflict with an outside counselor.
Residential Therapy: Finally, a way to address negative behavior in a positive direction. Our teens need consistency in treatment.  Starting and finishing with the same therapist, structure and program that builds your teen back up to making the better choices.  Some parents are being convinced that using a short term program such as Wilderness Programs will prepare them for a residential program, however if you find the right program from the start, it serves the same purpose as a Wilderness Program (of course saving about $10K-20K at the same time).  Choosing a residential therapy program does remove your child from their comforts of their home.  It also gives them an opportunity to reflect and get back to basics.
  • Concept: It took longer than 6-8 weeks to get to the place your teen is at, it will take at least 6-9 months to get your child back.
  • Thought: Take your time and find the best program for you and your family both emotionally and financially.  Consider that short term programs are like band-aids - they do peel off fairly quickly.
With Lindsay Lohan at 24 years old going to jail, it will serve to sober her up, however the rehab is what will help her to remain sober. Sadly, this may all be a moot point since at 24 years old, she is considered an adult and can just go through the motions - after all, she is court appointed.
Don't wait for your teen to be over 18, get them help while you still have the ability and control.

For more information, visit

Read more.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sue Scheff: Parenting - Loving Your Teens - Hating Your Life

When it comes to parenting teens, many parents have said, "I love my teen, however I don't like them or their actions."  Does this make you a bad parent?

New York Magazine writer, Jennifer Senior, wrote a very compelling and thought provoking article.  "I Love My Children - I Hate My Life."

Although the article chronicles from baby age up through toddlers, many can relate to these families when dealing with their teenagers, as the feelings of disdain can become even stronger.  You have nurtured your child, you have given all you believe he/she needed - including the best you could with your time, and your teen is still treating you with disrespect and defiance?  What gives?

With today's fast-paced world, difficult economic times, as well as the society of peer pressure among teens that leads to dangerous behaviors, parenting is more challenging than generations earlier.

How do you find the balance?  The cliché teens will be teens, is common, but how do parents survive these sometimes difficult times?

Knowing that there is light the end of the tunnel can help, talking to friends and family that have gone through it all, can also help you get through these bumpy times.  Remember, the teens years can be tough, but hopefully they do grow out of it and you will see your child leading the prosperous life you had planned for them.

In the meantime - don't forget it is important for parents to have "me-time" and there is nothing wrong with it.  It can help you be a better parent.  In the same respect, remember to be a parent first, then their friend.  Many parents miss this step and it can lead to difficulties in parenting with boundaries.

Be an educated parent, you will be a better one on the way.....

Watch video below and read more.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teen Drinking - Could Parents Be Influencing Teens?

Parenting teens is a challenge, no one can dispute that.  Keeping up with the text lingo and the drugs that kids are using can be a job in itself.  However did you ever think that you could be part of the reason, inadvertently, that your teen is drinking alcohol?

According to a new study commissioned by The Caron Treatment Center, new research shows that parents' behavior may unintentionally contribute to teenage alcohol abuse.

Some of the study highlights are:

What parents aren't saying can make an impression.

Nearly a third of the 12 -18 year olds surveyed said they have observed one or both of their parents drinking alcohol to “relax” or “relieve stress” after a hard day (32%). “Parents need to talk about why it is acceptable for adults to drink alcohol in moderation. Otherwise they may unknowingly be communicating a mixed message,” said Rotenberg.

Teens perceive grades as more of a worry to their parents than alcohol.

Overall, 12 -18 year olds believe parents are more concerned about their grades in school (57%) and time spent on the internet (50%) than whether they drink alcohol (37%) before they are legally allowed. Meanwhile only half (47%) of parents surveyed were concerned their kids would become addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Many teens have their first drink at age fourteen.

Twenty-five percent of the 12 -18 year olds surveyed said they drank alcohol and agree with the statement “it is okay for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.” Fourteen is the average age when they have their first drink and about a third do it in the company of another family member (31% with their mothers, 25% with their fathers).

Drinking fuels drug use and sex.

One quarter (25%) of teens 12-18 who have had a drink of alcohol say they have engaged in some kind of harmful and/or illegal activity while under the influence of alcohol. These behaviors include:
  • Use of a drug, such as marijuana, cocaine or an inhalant – 15%
  • Engaging in sexual behavior they regret – 11% (This was divided evenly between teen girls and boys).
Parents allow drinking under certain circumstances.

Three out of ten (30%) of the 12-18 year olds surveyed indicated that their parents allow them to drink alcohol at certain times:
  • 25% say their parents allow them to drink on “special occasions.”
  • 17% say their parents allow them to drink at home and under parental supervision.
  • 30% say their first experience with alcohol was with a family member – mother (31%), sibling (29%) and father (25%).
Read more highlights here.

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

Read more.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sue Scheff: Residential Therapy - Top Tips for Rearching Teen Help

Just when you think you know it all, enjoying your time with your baby, that turns to a toddler, that becomes a little girl/boy – then the teen thing can hit when you least expect it!  How do I know, because it happened to me!  I was at my wit’s end when I struggled through a bumpy time with my daughter.  Thankfully, that was almost a decade ago, but some things don’t change – and that is teenagers!

If you have discovered your teen is escalating out of control and you need to find outside help, take the time to do your research and find the best program/school for them.  The teen help industry is a “big business” and if you are not careful, you could get stung.

I have compiled a list of tips when looking at different options.  My book, Wit’s End, can offer much more.  Also visit my website – for more instant information.

1. Can I speak with the program’s owner, director or therapist? Avoid desperate salespeople, who may be tempted to advise you based upon a commission. You must politely but firmly ask to speak only to the program owner, director or therapist. If the art of remaining calm but also remaining focused and determined while you speak is difficult for you, then please reassure yourself with the knowledge that you are not responsible for whether they feel irritated by your persistent questions. You are responsible for a family member who probably does not know it, but needs your immediate and direct intervention as their last and best lifeline.

2. Does the program provide a parent reference list? If your program representative is able to give you assurances that make you feel comfortable about its suitability for your child, you will probably be provided with a reference list of parents who have or who have had children in the program. If not, ask for it! It is always beneficial to speak with those parents, but remember that since the school gave them to you, they’re most likely to be positive references. You are searching for impartial information to help you make a life-changing decision on behalf of your troubled child. Ask each parent how long his or her child was in the program. Look for a general average. This little detective game takes patience, but these may be some of the most important questions that you ask in this whole process.

An excellent question to ask all reference parents is: If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be? This can be very telling and also bring out some of the negatives. Remember, there are no perfect programs, but if you go in with your eyes wide open, chances are you will be ready for anything.

3. Is the program state-licensed and accredited academically as a school? This is a simple one. Both answers should be yes. Ask to see a copy of their license and accreditations. Check the date to confirm that the license is still valid. If you have questions regarding the license, contact the State Department of Licensing to confirm that the program is truly in good standing.

4. What are the program director’s credentials? Review the director’s educational background (the level of degrees he or she holds), as well as how long the director has been employed by school and his or her experience in the teen-help industry as a whole. Also verify:

• How are the staff members trained and certified? Are staff members certified to physically handle a child without harming him? Is the staff certified in CPR?
• Are the teachers and therapists licensed in their professions? Inquire about the educational backgrounds of the teachers and therapists. Do they meet your needs?
• Does the program run background checks on staff members prior to employment? Child predators typically seek out jobs that allow them greater access to children, so this is imperative to know.

5. Will I be able to speak with my child? How often? Can I visit my child in person? By video conference? And when?  Will my child’s postal mail be monitored or censored, going out or coming in? If so, why?  Don’t settle for glittering generalities, such as telling you that the child will be allowed to communicate once they “reach” a given level or position. If they say that, you should realize that it is then easy for the program to use that restriction to manipulate the child’s ability to communicate with home at all. In most schools and programs, we find that the answer you should shoot for is that they want about three weeks before you have your first phone conversation with your child.

6. What types of financing are offered? Are there scholarships? Also ask: Are there any extra fees that are not included in tuition? Specifically, what are those extra fees, and when must they be paid? Will my personal insurance cover any of these costs?

7. What is the average length of the stay for the students? Do they offer an aftercare program or a transitional program Is there a fee for aftercare? And can my child go back to the program for a second time if he is struggling again? The length of time ranges from about six months at a minimum to as much as two years in more extreme cases. An average length of stay will be within nine to twelve months.

8. What is the average student age in the program? What is the population capacity of the program, in terms of how many students the program is licensed to accommodate, and how many are currently enrolled there? And what is the student to staff ratio?  It is so important that your child be placed in the appropriate element, both in terms of age and gender, and also in terms of not being lumped in with dangerous others. This is one of the reasons that staff-student ratios are so vital. If the staff is too heavily outnumbered, then it will not matter if they are well trained and dedicated in their work. They will be overwhelmed by the workload, and your child will not only suffer the neglect, but be in harm’s way if left unguarded among kids who may be prone to violence.

At P.U.R.E., we have found the ideal student-staff ratio to be between one-to-four and one-to-seven. This range has shown itself to be reasonable, and if the staff is well-trained and supervised, it is a sufficient ratio to maintain order and administer the daily program.

9. Does the program offer open enrollment? This is a vital service. When your child is in crisis, you want to be able to deliver the child immediately. A school that offers enrollment at set times or by semester or around holidays is not a school for troubled teens. Aside from the program’s weekend status, some will only offer enrollment at certain scheduled times of the year. You will generally find that traditional boarding schools and military schools tend to have enrollment periods limited to the structure of their school term.
10. Where is the nearest medical facility and/or full hospital? Does the program have a physician or registered nurse on staff and on premises?  Does the program accept kids on medication? If your child is on prescribed medication, who will dispense it and how will it be monitored? Is there a system in place to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the prescribed medication? Does the school meet your child’s specific medical needs? For instance, if your child is insulin-dependent, physically challenged, has asthma or a severe food allergy, is the school equipped to administer proper care for these conditions?

11. Are they academically accredited? Will the child’s school credits transfer back home? Also find out, if applicable: Do they offer S.A.T. and A.C.T. testing? Do they offer special educational help? As icing on the cake, do they offer any form of extra-curricular activities? Are there extra fees for special tutoring and/or extra-curricular activities? Do they offer college courses or vocational training for older students? Before signing over your child to their care, get a copy of both their accreditation and their school program. Do not allow anyone to make you feel as if you are digging too deep when you check these things out.

These questions are the only way to assure that the child’s education will not be unduly sacrificed during their time in the Residential Therapy program. Just because you are willing to accept that some degree of slip must be reasonably allowed, given the circumstances, does not mean that educational concerns ever go out the window. This is always done with an eye for the day that the child returns home and must begin reintegration into daily life.
12. Does the program accept involuntary enrollment? Will they accept enrollment from kids who have to be professionally escorted there in order to show up? Does the program offer escort services?  What is their policy on expelling a child? Do they allow court-appointed children in the program? You need to ask about this regardless of the state of your child’s behavior because it also tells you about the environment that he or she will be in If the environment around them is not corrective, but simply restrictive and depressing, where are they supposed to acquire the missing ingredients for acceptable behavior, regard for others, and self-esteem?

13. Is the facility secured? Fenced? Also ask: How do they keep the kids from running off? When it comes to personal restraint, what methods does the program employ? Ask them what their policy is in dealing with a student who is completely lost in a rage, perhaps out of control and threatening himself or others. What is the program’s policy about consequences if the students don’t follow the rules? Most schools have time-out areas, but they should not be scary isolation rooms, and the program should never employ isolation boxes. Threatening the child’s fundamental sense of personal safety is counter-productive. It is my belief and experience that doing so builds resentment, anger, and anxiety.
14. What about the physical place itself? What is the housing like? In an ideal world, parents would be able to visit several schools/programs before making a decision. But, realistically, whether due to time constraints or financial reasons, many parents simply cannot make the visits. If you fall into this category, don’t feel guilty about it as long as you are doing your due diligence to research the school. By speaking with parents and possibly former students who have attended, you should get a good sense of where you are sending your child. Most programs welcome visits prior to placement. If they don’t, I would definitely hesitate considering that school.

15.What exactly does the contract entail? If your child is expelled from the program, does the contract release you from financial obligation for the duration of the program? Does the contract outline the costs you are aware of and the services you have been told? Be sure that you are aware of the fees that can be charged to you. In other words, confirm that what you have been told is covered in the contract.

Use the “Instinct Test”: Visit the school. From the moment you arrive, what does your intuition tell you? We each have an innate “parent meter” that goes off and lets us know if something doesn’t feel right. Listen to it! I wish I had. What are your first impressions about the general atmosphere of the place? How do you feel when you get out of your car? Of course, there is apprehension, but is there a sense of security, kindness, nurturing–or do you feel cold and fearful? Usually from the moment I step onto a campus, I can get a vibe, good or bad. In some cases, it is not so good, but after the initial ice breaks, I realize the beauty within.

Remember, this is not easy and not natural, so be prepared for many emotions. But in the end, let your head and heart combined make the decision. People who make it a point to visit a number of these places consistently confirm my own observation that there is a dramatic difference in the general feeling from one place to the next.  Take note if you sense a cold and unfriendly atmosphere, and be sure to note the difference when you walk into a program where the feel of the place is warm and nurturing right from the beginning. Assuming that the two places are equally competent at handling their security issues, which place would you want for your child?

If we can offer our struggling teens an opportunity to find themselves again, the long and difficult journey will have been worth the effort. We can’t look for guarantees; the staff and the students are all human and fallible. But as parents, we can take pride in knowing that during this vital transitory time of our teens’ lives, we have taken every available step to help them build a future–and a self–of which they can be deservingly proud.
I want to thank Michele Borba, Parenting Expert, for also sharing my tips and posting my information as a guest Blogger.  Don’t miss her fantastic book, Big Book of Parenting Solutions, it is a must have for every parent. From toddlers to teens, Dr. Borba covers it all!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sue Scheff: Finding Your Teens Passion

What do you want to do when you grow up? There are many grown-ups that are still trying to answer that question.

Helping your teen find their passion in life can help them to stay on a positive road to a better future.  Getting involved in clubs, sports, organizations, volunteering and more can motivate your teenagers and build their self-confidence.

Starting at a young age, learning that everything they do in life matters is part of knowing that you have a purpose.  Encourage your teens to find out what they really love and help them achieve their goals.
Some great tips from author of The Path to Purpose and professor, William Damon:
  • Communicate that everything your child does matters.
  • Watch for their spark of interest. Every child has at least one.
  • Nurture a positive outlook.
  • Provide knowledge and social capital – help your child find the information or resources that he or she needs to pursue an interest.
Bill Damon is a professor at Stanford University and a national expert on nurturing purpose, passion and ethics in our youth.

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

Read more.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sue Scheff: Cliques and Your Teens

Bullying today is a major concern for all parents of children of all ages.  Bullying and cyberbullying is more than the sticks and stones that used to be thrown verbally.  It has put being mean and teasing at a whole new level which no one should have to tolerate.

Let's look right here in Broward County.  Last October we had 15 year-old Michael Brewer nearly burned to death after being set on fire by other teens.  Is this bullying?  In March of this year 15 year-old Josie Lou Ratley was nearly stomped to death with the steel-toed boots of 16 year-old Wayne Treacy.  Was this bullying?

Bullying has extended into violent attacks that are nearly killing kids, not to mention driving them to suicide such in the Phoebe Prince case.

Today, as yesterday, cliques are a part of our culture.  The concern is they are starting younger and younger.  These younger children usually do not have the cause and effect thinking ability that comes with maturity in older adolescents.

Cliques or clicks?  As much as we want to click the mouse and turn-off the cliques of today's teens and tweens, they will still be a part of society.

Connect with Kids has some great insights for parents:
  • Cliques are groups of friends, but not all groups of friends are cliques. On the positive side, cliques can offer an opportunity for children to develop their social skills, to watch others and to learn ways to behave appropriately. On the negative side, children in cliques are getting practice in whatever behavior is being modeled - which can be bullying and risk-taking. Often one or two popular kids control who gets to be in the clique and who gets left out. Kids may act much differently than they did before they were part of the clique.
  • Bullying is commonly thought of as physical, verbal and/or emotional abuse, sexual harassment in person or online. Yet in addition to physical abuse, bullies tease, spread rumors and eliminate and exclude people from groups. Bullies frequently torment their victims such that they feel helpless, defenseless and are often in real physical and emotional pain.
  • First and foremost, talk with your children, especially teens, in ways that encourage the sharing of information. Let them know that you are concerned and want to help, but most of all let them know it is not their fault if they are being bullied or excluded. Never approve of retaliation, which often escalates the problem.
  • Schools and homes must establish clear rules about bullying behaviors that will not be tolerated. Consequences must be outlined and enforced. If your child is being bullied, talk with administrators and teachers to discuss your concerns and develop a plan of action. You should expect the bullying to stop. Talk with your children about how to stand up for others who are being bullied. Help them to understand that getting involved and seeking help is not "tattling" but an important solution to the problem. And make sure your home is a safe haven.
Being an educated parent leads to safer and healthier kids.

Read more.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sue Scheff: Parenting Troubled Teens

Everyone knows that parenting today involves so much more attention than years earlier.  Whether it is the technology, sex life starting younger, entitlement issues or even the increasing numbers teenagers turning to substance abuse to relieve their stress.

Parents having stress is understandable.  Stress of making the rent payment, mortgage, car, jobs, etc... Teens shouldn't be experiencing the stress levels that seem to be growing.  Does it have to do with peer pressure, bullying, cyberbullying?  Stress of getting those straight A's as colleges are getting very competitive?
Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert and author of over 26 books on parenting, has created a hot-list  for parents with 9-quick-tips to help turn your troubled teen into a teen that believes in themselves and wants to achieve in life - without using drugs!

9 Parenting Solutions to Turn A Troubling Youth Trend Around

1. Get savvy. Please don’t use a “Not my kid” kind of attitude. Forget the “He’s too young” or “Not my daughter!” attitude as well. Teen drinking and substance abuse is a growing problem that we simply can’t ignore. Kids are taking their first drink at younger ages. Drinking amongst the girl scene is also increasing. We all need to take a reality check.

2. Be a good model of restraint. Teens get their views about alcohol from watching your behavior and listening to your comments. This research also is a warning that we not glamorize alcohol or say we’re using pills or alcohol as a way to unwind, “I sure could use a drink!” The research shows that teen girls in particular are getting high as a way to cope. Beware!

3. Set clear rules against drinking and drugs.
Feel free to be puritanical and strict. Consistently enforcing those rules and monitor your kid’s behavior all help reduce the likelihood of underage drinking. A study of over 1000 teens found that kids with “hands on” parents who establish clear behavior expectations, monitor their comings and goings, and aren’t afraid to says no are four times less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drinking. Be a parent, not a pal.

4. Start those talks earlier and talk often. You must talk to your child about drinking and the earlier the better. Before age nine, kids usually perceive alcohol negatively and see drinking as “bad” with negative consequences. By around the age of thirteen kids views of alcohol, change and become more positive and harder to change. Some kids are experimenting with drinking as young as ten or eleven. It’s never too early to start this talk, so don’t put it off.

Go to part 2 for tips 5-9 ----->>>>>

These are research-based tips from the chapter on Drinking in Michele Borba's, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. Please use them so you can use your influence and turn this troubling trend around.

Learn more at

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sue Scheff: Troubling New Girl Scene - Getting high to cope

This is another fantastic and educational guest Blog by Parenting Expert, Michele Borba. As this first summer holiday weekend approaches, be an educated parent when it comes to raising your teenager.

Teen girls-more than boys-get high to cope with home stress. Nine research-based tips to curb a troubling trend

By Michele Borba

Think drinking is only a “boy” problem? Just-released data from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America may make you think again. The survey results on 3287 teens in grades nine through twelve reveal a troubling trend—especially for girls. And why kids are getting high is particularly disturbing. Study highlights include:
  • More than two-thirds of teen girls admit using drugs to help them cope with stress at home
  • Half of the girls said that drugs help them forget their troubles
  • Teens state a key reason for drug and alcohol use is as a way to “escape for a short period of time”
  • Research found alcohol and marijuana use increasing in boys and girls alike

Key Findings from the 2009 Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey (Get Smart About Drugs)


Teen Alcohol Use
53% of girls: in 2008
59% of girls: in 2009
50% of boys: in 2008
52% of boys: in 2009
Teen Marijuana Use
28% of girls: in 2008
39% of girls: in 2009
34% of boys: in 2008
39% of boys: in 2009

Make no mistake: Teen substance abuse is a serious health problem with devastating consequences. If there is a ray of hope it’s this: Research also shows that the reason most frequently quoted by kids for not drinking is their desire not to harm the relationship they have with their parents. Hint: A parent’s caring, involved relationship with their child is the best solution to underage drinking.

Here are research-based tips from the chapter on Drinking in my book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. Please use them so you can use your influence and turn this troubling trend around.

9 Parenting Solutions to Turn A Troubling Youth Trend Around


1. Get savvy. Please don’t use a “Not my kid” kind of attitude. Forget the “He’s too young” or  “Not my daughter!” attitude as well. Teen drinking and substance abuse is a growing problem that we simply can’t ignore. Kids are taking their first drink at younger ages. Drinking amongst the girl scene is also increasing. We all need to take a reality check.
2. Be a good model of restraint. Teens get their views about alcohol from watching your behavior and listening to your comments. This research also is a warning that we not glamorize alcohol or say we’re using pills or alcohol as a way to unwind, “I sure could use a drink!”  The research shows that teen girls in particular are getting high as a way to cope. Beware!
3. Set clear rules against drinking and drugs. Feel free to be puritanical and strict. Consistently enforcing those rules and monitor your kid’s behavior all help reduce the likelihood of underage drinking. A study of over 1000 teens found that kids with “hands on” parents who establish clear behavior expectations, monitor their comings and goings, and aren’t afraid to says no are four times less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drinking. Be a parent, not a pal.
4. Start those talks earlier and talk often. You must talk to your child about drinking and the earlier the better. Before age nine, kids usually perceive alcohol negatively and see drinking as “bad” with negative consequences. By around the age of thirteen kids views of alcohol, change and become more positive and harder to change. Some kids are experimenting with drinking as young as ten or eleven. It’s never too early to start this talk, so don’t put it off.
5. Watch out for TV advertising. Long-term studies show that kids who see, hear and read more alcohol ads are more likely to drink and drink heavier than their peers. A study with third, sixth and ninth graders found those who alcohol ads desirable are also more likely to view drinking more positively. Use those frequently-aired beer and vodka commercials during those ballgames you’re watching together as opportunities to discuss your values, concerns, and rules about drinking and pill popping.
6. Dispel the “quick fix” myth. The increase use of prescription drugs as well as cold medications amongst teens is also a growing and serious problem. Those TV commercials can give kids a very wrong impression: “The quick fix to any problem is a pill.” Calvina Fay, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation points out, “We’ve become a society that basically says, “If things aren’t perfect in your life, take a pill. This cause our young people to see drugs as an answer.” Instead, we must help our kids grow strong from the inside-out. Boost authentic self-esteem. Get her involved in healthy activities. Turn him on to positive peers. Keep a strong relationship.
7. Reduce stress and teach coping strategies. The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) found that stress is the main reason teen girls are using drugs. Girls also related that they are using drugs as a way to cope with problems at home. (This confirms research from varying sources showing teen stress is mounting as well as teen depression). Keep a lid on the stress at home. Find ways to cope as a family (walking, exercising, eating healthier, sticking to a sleep routine). Teach coping strategies and stress reducers to your teen (yoga, deep breathing, stress management techniques).
8. Get on board with other parents. Forty-one percent of boys in the report responded: “parties are more fun with drugs” (an increase from 34% in 2008). More than half also reported that drugs help them relax in social settings. Know your kid’s friends and their parents. Call any parent hosting a party to ensure they are really supervising those sleepovers or parties.
A word to the wise: 99 percent of parents say they would not be willing to serve alcohol at their kid’s party, though 28 percent of teens say they have been at supervised parties where alcohol is available. Ninety-eight percent of parents say they are present at teen parties at their home, but 33 percent of teens say parents are rarely or never at teen parties. Though the teen party scene maybe several years away, get to know those parents now. They will be hosting those parties your child may be attending in just a few short years.
9. Watch the home scene. More kids take their first drink at your home or at the home of their friends. In fact, 60 percent of eighth graders say it is fairly or very easy to obtain alcohol-and the easiest place is in their own home. Count those bottles in your liquor cabinets. Lock up your liquor supply (and don’t tell your kids where the key is). Check your credit card: the hottest new place kids buy alcohol is on the Internet. Watch your medicine cabinet (abuse of prescription drugs, cold and cough syrup medication is on the rise). Stay alert!
Get educated. Stay involved! And know you do make a difference!
Now go talk to your kids.
Michele Borba is the author of over 25 books, her latest and one of her best is The Big Book of Parenting Solutions! There isn’t a parenting topic she doesn’t discuss.