Suffering Teen Behavior Issues? You’re Not Alone

teen behaviorDo you have a young teen who seems to be going off the rails? Like run-ins with the police, getting suspended from school, caught sneaking a beer from the fridge, disappearing overnight, failing an important class after years of mostly “A”s, taking a family car joy-riding without permission. These are all things that friends of mine – and I – are experiencing with our young teen boys right now. I won’t say which kid is guilty of which infraction, in order to protect the…. well, you get the idea.

It’s really hard to know what to do in these situations. There aren’t the same “what to expect when” bibles for teens like there are for babies and little kids. I definitely don’t have all the answers – but I will give some of the things my friends and I are learning on this journey.

First Things First

A friend of mine who is a child psychologist often tells me the following, which I repeat to myself regularly like a mantra: every kid is different and they don’t come with an owner’s manual.

The point of this comment is that we shouldn’t view the behavior issues our kids are having as our fault. We could still be – are – good parents, and our own personal experience of going through childhood and adolescence may not have prepared us for managing the unique child we ended up with.

It’s also important to remember that kids are not just smaller-sized adults. Both their bodies and their brains are still developing – and one of the last regions of the brain to fully develop is the one which oversees decision making and impulse control.

Checking for Underlying Issues

While teen rebellion and experimentation is a fact of life, a change in behavior could be a sign of a problem your child is dealing with. It’s important to try to talk with them to see if something has happened or is bothering them. Getting to the root cause is more effective than just focusing on the behavior issues.

But teen behavior problems could also be due to mental or physical health concerns such as depression, attention and impulse control issues, or other conditions. Getting some professional help can be useful – both for identifying underlying factors and helping your child and family cope. One of the steps they may take are to have teachers complete assessments of your teen’s behavior and temperament to provide additional insight into the situation.

Helping Your Child

Kids – including teens – have a hard time weighing the potential consequences of their actions, to a large part due to their continuing brain development. If you are dealing with normal teen behavior or rebellion, then it can help to concentrate on setting age appropriate rules with firm and consistent consequences. Now, this is one I struggle with…. As much as I try to set rules, my son constantly argues and negotiates – and I have a hard time identifying consequences that work. An article I read recently that I found helpful is at WebMD. They suggest writing out the key rules and agreeing the consequences with your teen(s) – and posting the list somewhere central in the house.

Another thing I’m trying is incentives rather than consequences – something I also picked up from a psychologist. We are having trouble with late assignments at school, so I asked my son what might be a motivating incentive for no “tardy” homework over the next 2-3 weeks. I thought he’d want money or a video game – but he said he’d like to have a family dinner out at a favorite restaurant. That was kind of nice to hear!

Teens are also very poor at judging risk. They often think “it won’t happen to me” when they participate in dangerous acts or risky social behaviors. One thing we’ve seen recently – and tried ourselves – is how to make risk and consequences seem more likely and feel more real.  For example, a friend of our son was recently suspended for breaking school rules. He didn’t think he would get caught….but someone got a picture of him in the act. We talked to our son about this – and how easy it was for someone to get a record of the wrongdoing. We pointed out how lucky he was that no one posted the photo online – which might have made his indiscretion last a lifetime.

In another example, a colleague at work was having problems with his son not balancing school work with his varsity sport. In what I consider to be a sneaky but brilliant stroke of genius, he told the teen he had to drop the sport and made him write an apology letter to his coach. Apparently the boy was beside himself that night – but in the morning, his father told him he could continue on the team if he made a stronger commitment to his academics. He also said to pin the note above the boy’s desk as an incentive for studying – to remind him of how he felt having to drop out of the team.

Helping Yourself

The last thing I would say is that parents also have to look after themselves. One of my friends at work had a really tough time with a wayward son and didn’t realize how much impact it was having on her and her husband until she pretty much had to take a leave from work due to the stress.

If you feel overwhelmed with the situation or find yourself losing your cool too often with your teen, yelling – or crying – and possibly having issues within your marriage as well, you might want to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. And getting time for yourself – for sports, hobbies, meditation, anything you enjoy – is critical. It’s tough helping our kids when we can’t operate from a position of strength with our own health.

Helpful Allergy Facts for Parents

According to the charity Allergy UK, around 21 million adults in the UK have at least one allergy, while half of children and under-18s have one or more allergies.*

What are the most common allergies?

the Common Mold AllergyThe most common allergies are to:

You can also be allergic to fruit, medicines such as penicillin, metals such as nickel in jewellery, and rubber.

What are the main allergy symptoms?

The most common allergy symptoms are:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy skin rashes (dermatitis)

The type of symptoms you experience depends on what you’re allergic to and how you come into contact with it. For example, you may have difficulty breathing if you inhale pollen, or develop dermatitis if you apply a lotion containing a chemical you’re allergic to, or nausea and vomiting if you eat a food that you’re allergic to.

What are allergic illnesses?

Some allergic symptoms are conditions in themselves.

  • Hay fever is a runny nose, sneezing, blocked nose and itchy eyes caused by contact with pollen.
  • Eczema is itchy inflammation of the skin that is often linked to allergy. An eczema flare-up can be triggered by foods, house dust mites, pollen or pet hair.
  • Asthma is a type of breathing problem that can be triggered by allergens such as pets, house dust mite droppings in dust, pollens and moulds.
  • Allergic rhinitis is similar to hay fever but occurs all year round.
  • Urticaria is a red, itchy, bumpy rash that can occur as part of an allergic reaction, for example to foods, drugs and insect stings.
  • Allergic eye disease is also known as allergic conjunctivitis, and is where the eyes become itchy and red after contact with an allergen such as pollen or pet hair.

Can allergy be inherited?

Some people are more likely to develop an allergy because it runs in their family. If this is the case, you’re said to be atopic or to have atopy. Boys are more likely to develop an inherited allergy than girls, as are babies who have a low birth weight.

Is an allergic reaction dangerous?

Allergic reactions can be mild, moderate or severe. In some cases they can be life threatening. This is known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and needs prompt treatment.

Read what to do if you or someone you know has an allergic reaction.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

*US Facts on Allergies: According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: researchers think nasal allergies affect about 50 million people in the United States. They affect as many as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children.





Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 09-19-2016 to 09-25-2016

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Safety News: These Elementary Schools Tripled Recess Time And Saw Immediate Positive Results https://t.co/SUHvXj62Co

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
This incredible little boy spent two years growing his gorgeous hair for the *best* reason!  https://t.co/9i93gP8BXJ

An EMS Guide to Hurricane Preparation: Keep Your Family Safe!

girl_under_umbrella_hurricaneWe are deep into September and dead in the middle of hurricane season. While the thought of being in hurricane season may not concern most people, the thought of getting ready for a hurricane can cause some worry and panic if left to the last minute.  The long lines, the financial cost, and finally the letdown when yet another hurricane comes and goes and turns out to be nothing more than a windy, rainy day has made properly preparing for hurricanes a bother and an afterthought. I realize that hurricanes, unlike earthquakes can take days and sometimes weeks to happen and give ample time to prepare, but the fact remains that proper preparation and planning can avoid putting you and your family in danger both during and after a storm.

As an EMS provider, I would like to share with you some of the basic hurricane preparation tips that we tell people and also share with you some of the issues that I have seen in the aftermath of storms and weather events.

INSIDE YOUR HOME.

  • How many people will you be preparing for? Will it be just the people in the house or will there be extended family or grandparents as well.   Preparing for four people and housing more will deplete supplies very quickly.
  • Do the people in the plan have special needs, handicaps or medications that need to be filled? What about medical devices that require power?  Beds, oxygen tanks, breathing machines, asthma machines etc.  All need to be considered.
  • If you have a baby or small child, do you have an ample supply of diapers, formula, medication, clothing etc.
  • Food and water. Buying nonperishable food is recommended, and having at least a 3 day supply is recommended as well. How will we cook the food?   Propane tanks should be filled and ready, does a barbecue need to be purchased or brought inside?    Refrigerators and freezers should be set very low to preserve food in times of power loss.   Enough water should be purchased to keep people hydrated during times of power loss and no air conditioning to avoid any heat or dehydration issues.  Water should also be considered for cooking needs as well.
  • Do you have enough batteries to power devices? Do you have a power generator in the event of a loss of power for an extended amount of time?  There are many different sizes depending on your power needs.   Do you have gas for your generator?   When storing any type of fuel, please do so in a well ventilated area and not in the living area as fumes may be toxic.   NEVER RUN YOUR GENERATOR IN OR NEAR THE LIVING AREA.   Carbon monoxide from the exhaust can be fatal.   The generator or any motorized device should be run outside, in a well ventilated area, well away from where people are gathered or living.    Do you have extension cords to run into your home from the generator?  Make sure you buy properly rated cords or you could risk a fire starting from overheating of the cords.
  • All pets should be brought in during the storm and enough food and water should be on hand for the pet inside the home.  Will there be different pets in the house and could that cause problems?   Do the pets take any medication that need to be filled before the storm?  Do any of the people staying in your home have any pet allergies? And will this be a possible issue?
  • First Aid supplies. During a storm, EMS providers and fire trucks cannot go outside once the winds hit a certain miles per hour and may prevent us from responding to your home in an emergency.  Having a basic first aid kit and supplies such as band aids, gauze, ice packs, ace bandages etc. will help in times of delayed response by EMS.

OUTSIDE YOUR HOME

  • Patio items. Are there any items that may fly way during a storm?  Patio furniture, above ground pools, Barbecues, boats, golf carts etc..  If it can be brought inside then it is recommended, but if it cannot then secure it the best you can or try to find an alternate storage site.
  • Securing your home. Do you have impact windows and doors?   If not, then are there any hurricane shutters that need to be put up?  Do you own hurricane shutters?  If not there are places that sell them in standard sizes.  Do we have any lingering roof or window issues that may worsen during a heavy rain and wind event?   A little drip can turn into a lot more very quickly.    Do you have a flooding issue around your home?   Sandbags may need to be filled and placed as well.
  • Vehicles can get severely damaged when left outside in a storm.  If you have nowhere to store your vehicle then I recommend pulling it as close to the building as possible to avoid as much exposure as possible and it can provide some protection to the structure as well.   Having the vehicles fully fueled beforehand is recommended in case of emergency and also to avoid the long lines at the gas station that always result.
  • Sheds and outside storage. In hurricane Andrew here in south Florida, there were numerous reports of tool sheds being sent air born and the tools inside become very sharp and dangerous projectiles in the process.   Please secure sheds and storage as much as possible and bring tools inside if possible.
  • Items attached to the home. Any items on the roof such as turbines or whether devices can be ripped off leaving very large holes in the roof and should be removed and capped if possible.    Below ground pools should be lowered to avoid damage to the pool as well as the overflowing possible causing flooding towards the home.

Being 100% prepared for a hurricane truly depends on your needs and the needs of those around you.  The list of possibilities is endless but the basics are not.  What things do YOU and YOUR FAMILY need to survive on a daily basis?  Is a question that should be asked, and contrary to your kid’s beliefs, internet is not one of them.   The basic essentials of shelter, food, water, and medicines trump all else.   The overall list can be long and daunting and looks much worse when done at the last minute.  But having the essentials on hand at the beginning of hurricane season leaves time to accomplish everything else thus making that list not so bad.    Having been born and raised here in South Florida and gone through hurricane Andrew, I can tell you firsthand that the supplies we had made all the difference and it will for you as well.    I hope this list has served as a guide and a good place to start for you.

Thank You

See The Magnificent Seven Sensory Friendly Tomorrow at AMC

New sensory friendly logoAMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society. This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of The Magnificent Seven, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum. 

As always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

magnificent-seven-poster-cropDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing The Magnificent Seven tomorrow, Tuesday, September 27th at 7pm (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming In October: Storks (Tues, 10/8), The Girl on the Train (Tues, 10/11) and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Tues, 10/25)

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Editor’s note: Although The Magnificent Seven has been chosen by the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

5 Simple Ways to Create a Culture of Kindness in Your Family

Kindness is making a comeback and we’re psyched!

How we got away from the simple pleasures of a neighborly wave to passersby, a nod to the old man on the street and an invitation to sit with others at the school band concert, we’re not quite sure. Yet, we’re happy that national organizations including GenerationOn, HandsOn, and Be Kind People are hosting online and in school events to bring kindness back to families and classrooms everywhere. We’ve just created Bloom Your Room™, the first social-emotional literacy program delivered as an art collection to share kindness worldwide.

The newest research shows us we can bridge what our children are learning about character, stewardship and caring from school to home by Creating Cultures of Kindness. Before we get to the “How-To’s,” let’s explore the “Whys”.

  1. Let’s Recognize That Every Family Has a Culture

Being-a-good-parenting-teamWhile we often spend much time choosing our children’s schools, engaging them in play activities and helping them learn along the way, we often don’t think about the fact that underneath every interaction with our children is our family culture. Your family culture is the manner in which you live, your belief systems, your aspirations and your way of being.

Having worked with many families, I observe that when family life feels rough or rocky, instead of working to solve the specific problem right away (my child won’t listen to me, my child has tantrums, my child refuses to do his homework) it’s super helpful to converse about and reflect on the foundation of the family first.

Since the culture of your family lays the foundation for how everyone in the family is expected to “be” with one another, when we clarify for the children what kind of family they live in and how the family agrees to live with one another, there is a natural shift toward a sense of security, meaning, purpose and calm.

  1. Let’s Talk About The Kind of Family You Wish To Live In

Let’s step all the way back to what kind of family you want to live in and why this is important to you. First, a few questions to get your thoughts flowing:

  • Do you want to live in a happy home?
  • Do you want to live in a peaceful home?
  • Do you want to live in a home where family members feel loved?
  • Do you want to live in a home where family members feel respected?
  • Do you want to live in a family where each individual thrives as their authentic self?

Now let’s go a little deeper. Since so much of parenting involves just taking care of what’s happening today – getting everyone dressed and off to school, making sure the shoes are on the right feet and starting your own day – there’s seldom space in our lives to take a deep breath and think about the big picture…what we’re here for, where we’re going together. So I’m going to ask you some of those longer-range questions right now. They are meant to help focus your thoughts and reveal to you what’s most important to your unique family. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Here goes:

  • Strengthening-family-bondsWhy do you exist? (That’s a biggie. How do you envision your purpose as an individual and as a parent?)
  • What’s really important to you?
  • Twenty years from now, what are you hoping that your children will say about you?
  • What will your children learn about life from you?
  • Who do you hope your children will become?
  • What kind of parent will you become?

We just did something fabulous together, we brought “front of mind” that you have purpose, you have vision, you have values. You have goals for yourself, your children and your family as a whole.

  1. Let’s Learn About The Power of Cognitive Conversations

Let’s explore simple ways you can connect with your children and create a culture in which you will lift one another up with peace, love and harmony.

Now that you have a vision of who you are and where you wish to go as a family, you can begin to talk about your vision with your children. I call this, “Having the Cognitive Conversation”.

“Cognitive Conversations” are thoughtful exchanges that go deeper than what kids are generally used to.  We have found that when we have “Cognitive Conversations” with children we get them thinking about what kindness is and how to practice more of it. Cognitive Conversations help children feel empowered as they begin to notice kind acts in themselves and in others. It’s motivating for children to experience being kind as less of a “to-do” and more of an “I want to BE.”

Let your children know that the discussions you are having are very special. They are Cognitive Conversations which speak to our entire being, beginning with the brain.  Then tell the kids, they are going to partner with their brains by saying this:

“Hey, listen up, Mr. Brain.”

“I’m going to need your help here.”

“We’re about to talk about, what you need to do Mr. Brain, in order to move us toward becoming whole, compassionate thriving social beings.” 

Young girl thinking with glowing brain illustration“Together, Mr. Brain you and I are going to talk about being kind.”

“Therefore, Mr. Brain, I need you to rev up your attention engine and really BE HERE for this conversation. ‘Cause we’re going to have a meaningful exchange about what we plan to do to achieve a very specific goal.”

“In this case, our goal is to create a culture in which we all want to live. We’re calling it – A Family Culture of Kindness.”

Kids love this! They love that they are talking to their own brains and becoming cognitive scientists, rather than just being the object of another social lesson. The words are big, the concepts are big and therefore, the kids experience that what is happening here is not the same ole…

Now you are all set-up and ready to go.  You are prepared to talk with your children about what kindness is, what kindness looks like and what their plans are to live with more kindness in their daily lives.

  1. Let’s Get The Kids Talking.
  • Talk with the kids about what kindness is. Instead of telling them what it is, ask them.

“Hey kids, we often hear, ‘Let’s be kind, help me out here, what does that mean to you?”  Help them generate ideas, build on one another’s viewpoints and summarize what they say in words everyone understands.

  • Talk with the kids about what kindness “looks like”.

“We’ve heard that kindness actually ‘looks like’ something, if you imagine someone being kind, describe for us what that looks like in our family.”

“What does your brain actually see?”

  • Talk with the kids about what kindness “sounds like”.

“Hey kids, did you know that being kind actually sounds like something?”

“Let’s imagine for a moment what kindness “sounds like” in our family.”

“What do you hear when someone is being kind?”

“What do you hear when someone is being unkind?”

“What does your brain actually hear?”

  1. Let’s Turn the Cognitive Conversation into Action.

Have some fun as a family writing down what you all have said. Keep notes of your ideas. Scribble, draw, or paint, make it all visible.  Once you can see all your ideas, take the next step and ask, “So what do you kids think about all this?” “What do our ideas tell us about what we’d like to improve in our family to be more kind? kindness-canWhat things might we do for others? Who do you know who needs more kindness, what shall we do for them?

See you’ve got it!  You are on your way 

….A little conversation, a bit of science, some mindful thinking and Voila! Your Culture of Kindness is in development, ready to grow and change as you do.

Live it, be it and enjoy your newfound kindness.