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Is Your Teenager In An Abusive Relationship? You CAN Help!

Violence can happen in teenage relationships, so make sure you know the signs and can help your child.

Abuse in relationships – including those between teenagers – can happen to men and boys, but it’s much more likely to happen to women and girls. It also happens in same-sex relationships.

Different types of abuse

Physical abuse can include hitting, kicking, punching, slapping, pushing, and pressuring or forcing someone into sexual activity.

Emotional and verbal abuse involves a person:

  • saying things that make their partner feel small or stupid
  • pressuring their partner to do things they don’t want to do, including sexual things
  • checking up on their partner – for instance, by text – all the time to find out where they are and who they’re with
  • threatening to hurt their partner or someone close to their partner, including pets

Warning signs your teen is being abused

Signs of abuse can include your child:

  • no longer hanging out with their circle of friends
  • not doing as well at school, or skipping school altogether
  • constantly checking their phone
  • being withdrawn and quieter than usual
  • being angry and becoming irritable when asked how they’re doing
  • making excuses for their boyfriend or girlfriend
  • having unexplained scratches or bruises
  • showing changes in mood or personality
  • using drugs or alcohol

Warning signs your teen’s partner is abusive

It’s a sign of controlling or violent behaviour if your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend:

  • gets extremely jealous
  • monitors texts, messages, calls and emails, and gets angry if there isn’t an instant response
  • has trouble controlling his or her emotions, particularly anger
  • stops your child seeing or talking with friends and family as much as they’d like
  • uses force during an argument
  • blames others for his or her problems or feelings
  • is verbally abusive
  • shows threatening behaviour towards others

How to help

  • Talk to your child about what’s OK and what’s not in a relationship. Some teenagers believe violence is “just the way things are”, or is “just messing around”.
    • Make sure they understand that violent or controlling behaviour is not OK, and that nobody should put up with it.
  • Some girls believe that if their boyfriend gets jealous or checks up on them, it means he loves them.
    • Let your teenage girl know that this kind of behaviour is not about love or romance, it’s about control and her boyfriend making her behave in the way he wants.
  • Some boys might believe that controlling their girlfriend’s behaviour makes them more of a man.
    • Make sure your teenage boy knows that using violence does not make someone a man.

Talking tips

Before you start the conversation with your teenager, think through what your concerns are.

Consider talking about it confidentially with someone like your GP (*doctor) or a friend. This will help you understand your own feelings so you won’t be too emotional when you talk to your child.

Try not to talk to your teenager in a confrontational way. Say you’re worried about them and ask if everything’s OK.

Even if they don’t talk to you at this point, they might go away and think about things, and talk to you later.

Show your support

Tell your child they can always come to you, no matter what.

Victims of abuse can feel ashamed and believe (wrongly) that the abuse is their fault. Make it clear that being abused is never your child’s fault, and you will help them if they come to you.

You can also tell them about helplines, such as ChildLine (0800 11 11)** or the NSPCC (0808 800 5000)** in the UK, which they can call if they don’t feel they can talk to you.

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

** Resources in the United States

NHS Choices logo


From www.nhs.uk





How to Cope With First-Year College Stress: Self-Help Tips

Starting university can be a stressful experience. How you cope with the stress is the key to whether or not it develops into a health problem.

Stress is a natural feeling, designed to help you cope in challenging situations. In small amounts it’s good, because it pushes you to work hard and do your best, including in exams.

Leaving home to start your studies can involve some stressful changes. These might include moving to a new area, meeting new people and managing on a tight budget.

Signs you might be stressed

The first signs of stress are:

Too much stress can lead to physical and psychological problems, such as:

  • anxiety – feelings ranging from uneasiness to severe and paralysing panic
  • dry mouth
  • churning stomach
  • palpitations – pounding heart
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • depression

Things that can help with stress

Short periods of stress are normal, and can often be resolved by something as simple as completing a task – which cuts down your workload – or by talking to others and taking time to relax.

Some of these suggestions might help:

  • Work out what it is that’s making you anxious. For example, is it exams, or money or relationship problems? See if you can change your circumstances to ease the pressure you’re under.
  • Try to have a more healthy lifestyle. Eat well, get enough sleepexercise regularly, cut down on alcohol, and spend some time socialising as well as working and studying.
  • Try not to worry about the future or compare yourself with others.
  • Learn to relax. If you have a panic attack or are in a stressful situation, try to focus on something outside yourself, or switch off by watching TV or chatting to someone.
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises may help.
  • Try to resolve personal problems by talking to a friend, tutor or someone in your family.
  • Read about how to cope with the stress of exams.

For more tips on beating stress, check out these 10 stress busters.

The NHS Choices Moodzone has eight free mental wellbeing podcasts or audio guides that may help you when your mood is low or you’re facing an anxious time in your life.

This anxiety podcast tackles stress that arises around revision time and exams.

Professional help for student stress

Long-term stress and anxiety is difficult to resolve by yourself, and it’s often best for you to seek help.

Don’t struggle alone. Anxiety can seriously affect your academic performance, and that’s not only distressing for you, but means a lot of wasted effort.

Find out more about tackling student mental health issues.





How to Help Your Child Live With Kidney Disease

Having kidney disease affects children in many ways. They may need to take medicines and alter their diet, and can also face challenges at school.

It’s only natural to worry if you have a child with kidney disease. Parents often have questions about their child’s health. We answer some of the most common ones.

It can be helpful for parents to talk to members of the renal team, such as the social worker or clinical psychologist. Other parents and patient support groups may also be able to help.

Can I give a kidney to my child?

As a parent, your first instinct may be to deal with your child’s condition by giving them one of your kidneys. Around half of all kidney transplants carried out are now from living donors.

Living organ donation usually involves one family member donating an organ to another family member or a partner. The relative is usually blood related – a parent, brother, sister or child. It’s possible for a healthy person to lead a completely normal life with only one working kidney.

Considering donating a kidney is a big step. It’s major surgery, and will only go ahead once strict rules are met and after a thorough process of assessment and discussion. Talk to your child’s renal team if you want to explore whether donation could be an option for you and your child.

Will my child grow normally?

The kidneys play an important role in a child’s growth, so children with kidney disease may not grow as well as their peers. To make the problem worse, their illness can make them feel sick, alter their sense of taste and reduce their appetite.

How to help

It’s important to make sure that children with kidney disease get enough nutrition. Talk to your child’s doctor about ways to help boost growth. Taking supplements and limiting certain foods while eating more fats and carbohydrates to increase calorie intake can help. Some children benefit from injections of growth hormone.

Will my child have a problem making friends?

Children with kidney disease can have trouble making friends and fitting in with children of their own age. This can be because they miss time off school.

It can also be because of a child’s natural concern that their kidney disease makes them different from other children. Children can lack confidence if they’re small for their age and their appearance has changed (for example, if they are bloated) as a result of their condition and its treatment.

How to help

Find ways to encourage your child to meet other children and make friends. They can meet other children through nurseries, playgroups, school and after-school clubs. Having children over for tea and sleepovers and, in the case of older children, using social networking sites, such as Facebook, can help encourage them to make friends.

Will my child have difficulties at school?

Kidney disease itself doesn’t usually cause problems with learning, but children who have had kidney disease from a young age may spend so much time in hospital that they struggle with schoolwork. They usually catch up as they get older.

How to help

If your child misses school, do all you can to help them with their schoolwork. Talk to their teachers as early as possible to make a homework plan that your child can get on with while they’re in hospital.

  • Make sure your child is getting as much extra educational support as possible from the school. The hospital teachers can also help and advise you.
  • If you have concerns about your child’s development or learning, talk to your child’s school.

Read more about how to talk to the school about your child’s health condition.

Should children with kidney disease do sport?

It’s tempting to be overprotective of a sick child. In general, sport and exercise is great for children with kidney disease. But bear in mind that they may get tired more easily than their friends and classmates.

How to help

Encourage your child to do all the activities their friends do. If your child is on dialysis, swimming might not be possible. In some cases, particularly after a kidney transplant, children should also avoid contact sports. Otherwise, they can safely take part in most sports.

What if my child refuses their medicine?

Taking medicines is part of life for most children and young people with kidney disease. They can find this a strain and may stop taking their medicines.

How to help

  • Try to work out why they don’t want to take their medicines. Children, especially teenagers, may stop taking their medicines because they can cause unflattering changes in appearance.
  • Talk to them about why taking their medicines is important for their health and what will happen if they don’t. Be careful not to scare your child into taking their medicines.
  • Explaining to older children and teenagers why they need to be responsible for taking their own medicines can make them more likely to keep taking their tablets.
  • It can also help to involve the renal team that’s looking after your child, as they will have lots of experience of tackling this problem with other children and young people.
  • It’s very important that you let the renal team know immediately if you think your child isn’t taking their medicines.

Who can my child talk to about kidney disease?

All children’s kidney teams have different professionals on hand to chat to your child. These include doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, play specialists, teachers and some youth workers.

How to help

Arrange for your child to talk to a member of the kidney team. It can also help if they meet a young adult who had chronic kidney disease during childhood, or another child of their own age. You can find contacts through your doctor, local support group, or the British Kidney Patient Association (BKPA)**.

How do I explain kidney disease to my other children?

Brothers and sisters of children with kidney disease may feel left out and worried. They need time with you to talk over their worries and feel part of the overall plan.

How to help

Your child’s kidney team is there to help the whole family. Ask the play specialist, psychologist or social worker to spend time talking to your child’s brothers and sisters and answering their questions.

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

** Resources in the United States, the National Kidney Foundation  and the American Kidney Fund





Condoms: Knowing these Facts Could Keep Your Teen Safe

There are a lot of myths about condoms, so make sure that you are aware of the facts before you have sex.

MYTH: It’s safer if you use two condoms.
TRUTH: No it isn’t. Using two condoms at once is a really bad idea, whether it’s two male condoms or a male and female condom. It increases the chances of them ripping. Only use one at a time.

condom factsMYTH: Condoms break easily.
TRUTH: No they don’t. To avoid a condom breaking, you need to put it on carefully, ensuring there’s no airbubble at the end. Be careful of sharp nails, jewelry or teeth. If the condom won’t roll down, it’s the wrong way round. Throw this condom away and start again with a new one as there could be semen on the tip of the previous condom.

If a condom breaks and you’re not using any other contraception, go to a clinic, pharmacist or doctor as soon as possible and ask about emergency contraception. You’ll also need to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

MYTH: Condoms are the only type of contraception I need to think about.
TRUTH: No they’re not. Condoms can provide protection from STIs and unintended pregnancy. But to ensure the best protection, it is recommended that you and your partner use a condom and another form of contraception. There are many different types of contraception that can be used, including the implant, injection, coil or the pill. It’s worth exploring all options.

MYTH: You need extra lube. Vaseline is good.
TRUTH: No it’s not. A bit of extra lubrication is good but don’t use anything with oil in it as it can dissolve the condom – that includes baby oil, Vaseline and hand cream. Lipstick has oil in it too. Use a water-based lubricant, such as KY jelly or Durex Play from a pharmacy.

MYTH: Condoms make him less sensitive.
TRUTH: Using a condom doesn’t have to spoil the moment. They can make some men last longer before they come, which is good news for both of you. There are many different sizes, shapes, colours, textures and flavours of condoms, so enjoy finding the one that suits you both best.

MYTH: Condoms cut off his circulation.
TRUTH: No they don’t. A condom can stretch to 18 inches round. He’ll be fine. There are many different shapes and sizes available to try.

MYTH: I’m on the pill, so we don’t need condoms.
TRUTH: Yes you do. The pill does not protect you or your partner from STIs. Also, if you’ve forgotten to take a pill, been sick or you’ve been using antibiotics, the effectiveness of the pill is reduced and you could still get pregnant.

MYTH: If I ask to use a condom, my partner will think less of me.
TRUTH: Insisting that you use a condom suggests that you know how to take care of yourself and shows that you know what you want, which can be very sexy.

MYTH: You don’t need a condom if you’re having oral sex.
TRUTH: Yes you do. You should use a condom for oral sex because gonorrhoea, chlamydia and herpes can be passed to each other this way.

MYTH: You have to be 18 to buy condoms.
TRUTH: No you don’t, you can buy condoms at any age. You can also get them free at any age, as well as confidential advice, from community contraception clinics (formerly family planning clinics), Brook centres, sexual health (GUM) clinics, Further Education colleges and young people’s clinics.

MYTH: I don’t need a condom – I only sleep with nice people.
TRUTH: STIs don’t know or care if you’re nice or not. The way someone looks is no indicator of whether they have an STI. Many STIs don’t show any symptoms, so you could infect each other without even knowing it.

MYTH: If it’s a condom, it’s safe.
TRUTH: Not necessarily – novelty condoms aren’t safe. Always choose condoms that carry the European CE or Kite mark, which is a recognised safety standard. Also check the date on the packet as condoms don’t last forever.

 





How to Cope with Teen Arguments, Aggression and Violence

Many parents find that when their child becomes a teenager, their behaviour becomes more challenging. But how do you cope if they become aggressive or even violent towards you?

If you’re experiencing aggression or violence from your teen, you’re not alone. A recent Parentline Plus survey found that 60% of calls (between October 2007 and June 2008) included verbal aggression from a teenager, and 30% involved physical aggression, much of it aimed at the parent themselves.

teen aggression and violenceIt is common to keep this kind of abuse behind closed doors and not confide in anyone. Many parents feel  that they have failed to control their child, or that they are responsible for the behaviour in some way – or they may not know where to turn.

However, any kind of aggression can be stressful, and can cause an atmosphere of tension and fear for the entire family, not to mention the possibility of physical harm if their teen becomes violent.

No parent should feel obliged to put up with an unruly teen, and as with any type of domestic abuse, help and support is available. You can find appropriate organisations and helpline numbers (*for the UK)  in “Help and Support” further below. There are also a number of techniques and tips that you might find helpful.

Defusing Heated Arguments

It’s useful to remember that your own behaviour can improve or worsen an aggressive situation, so it’s important to be a good role model for your teen.

Linda Blair, clinical psychologist working with families, advises: “Bear in mind that you are their principal role model. If you act aggressively but tell them not to, they won’t listen. It’s also helpful to remember that their anger is often based on fear – fear that they’re losing control.”

With that in mind, it is worth trying to maintain a calm and peaceful presence. You need to be strong without being threatening. Remember that your body language, as well as what you say and how you say it, should also reflect this.

Avoid staring them in the eye, and give them personal space. Allow them the opportunity to express their point of view, then respond in a reasoned way.

Breathing Exercises to Control Anger

If an argument becomes very heated, Linda suggests that you “stop for a moment”. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and then exhale. Repeat five times. This technique is very useful in intense situations.

If your teen is becoming aggressive during arguments, suggest this technique to them when they’re calm, so they too have a way of controlling their anger.

If an argument feels out of control, you can also try explaining to them that you are going to walk away, and that you’ll come back again in half an hour. Given the chance to reflect and calm down, you and your teen will both be more reasonable when you resume your discussion.

As with toddlers, if you give in to teenagers because their shouting and screaming intimidates or baffles you, you are in effect encouraging them to repeat the unreasonable behaviour as a way of getting what they want.

Counselling for Teenagers

Family Lives is a charity dedicated to helping families. They suggest that if very heated arguments happen frequently, it may be worth suggesting counselling to your teen. They’ll benefit from talking to someone new and unbiased, someone who isn’t in their family and who won’t judge them.

Read more about the benefits of talking treatments.

Remember they may not know how to handle their anger, and this can leave them frustrated and even frightened. Some guidance from an outsider can be very helpful.

Dealing with Violent Behaviour

Sometimes, teen aggression can turn into violence. If they lash out at you, or someone or something else, put safety first.

Let your teenager know that violence is unacceptable and you will walk away from them until they’ve calmed down. If leaving the room or house isn’t helping, call the police – after all, if you feel threatened or scared, then you have the right to protect yourself.

Family Lives offer this advice for coping with, and helping, a violent teen:

  • Give them space – once they have calmed down, you may want to talk to them about what has happened and suggest that they let you find them some help.
  • Be clear – teenagers need to know that you will stand by the boundaries you set. They need to know that any kind of violence is unacceptable.
  • Talk to their school and find out if their aggressive behaviour is happening there as well. Some schools offer counselling.
  • Arrange counselling – if your teen admits they have a problem and is willing to get help, book an appointment with a counsellor or psychologist as soon as possible. Speak to your GP (*pediatrician  or family doctor) or their school about what help is available.

Help and Support (*in the UK – see end for resources in other locations)

There are many organisations that offer emotional support and practical advice. Getting some support can help you and your child. At such an important development stage, it’s important that they learn how to communicate well and express anger in a healthy way.

  • You can call Family Lives’ Parentline on 0800 800 2222 any time, or email parentsupport@parentlineplus.org.uk for a personalised reply within three days. They also offer i-parent modules to help you learn more about communicating better with your teen.
  • You can call the Samaritans on 08457 909090 any time to talk about any type of distress and to get confidential support and advice.
  • Youth Access has details about youth organisations and services offering teens counselling, advice and support.
  • Young Minds is a charitable organisation supporting children and young people with mental health issues, and their parents. They provide information to help young people with anger issues. If you discuss your child’s behaviour with them and they are open to getting help, you might like to direct them to the information on the Young Minds website.

Concerned about Mental Health Issues?

If you’re worried that your teen has a mental health problem such as depression, talk to your GP (*pediatrician  or family doctor). In the UK, he or she can refer them to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, who in turn can refer all or some of you for Family Therapy. Or contact the Young Minds Parents’ Helpline on 0808 802 5544 for advice and support concerning mental health issues in young people.

If you are having trouble coping with your teenager, and you suspect you may have symptoms of depression or other mental health problems, discuss this with your GP (*pediatrician  or family doctor). He or she can then suggest suitable treatment. You may, for example, be referred for counselling, or directed to support groups or other services in your area.

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

US Resources for Family and Teen Challenges:

Canadian Resources for Family and Teen Challenges:

Australian Resources for Teen Aggression:

 





How to Boost Your Child’s Bones for Lifelong Health

Children’s bones keep growing throughout childhood. They grow fastest of all very early in life and when children go through puberty.

The bones keep getting denser until they reach what’s known as “peak bone mass”. This usually happens between the ages of 18 and 25.

boost-your-childs-bone-healthThe denser your child’s bones are at the time of peak bone mass, the greater their reserves of bone to protect against the fragile bone disease osteoporosis later in life.

“The reserve of bone you establish during childhood and the teenage years is with you through early adulthood,” explains Dr Paul Arundel, a consultant in paediatric metabolic bone disease at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. “We all start to lose bone mass later in life. If you are starting from a low baseline you are more likely to develop osteoporosis sooner.”

The good news is that you can protect your child’s bone health with some simple lifestyle measures.

Your Child’s Bone-friendly Diet

Building strong bones in childhood requires a range of vitamins and minerals. A healthy, balanced diet will provide this. That means a diet that includes:

  • fruit and vegetables – at least five portions every day (but no more than one 150ml – *about 5 oz – glass of fruit juice)
  • carbohydrates – such as potatoes, pasta, rice and bread (preferably wholegrain)
  • protein – such as meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds
  • dairy products – such as milk, cheese and yoghurts

There are a couple of nutrients that are particularly important for building strong healthy bones.

Calcium for Healthy Bones

Our bodies contain about 1kg (*about 2.2 lbs) of calcium. About 99% of this is found in our bones and teeth – it’s what makes them strong and hard. Most of this calcium is laid down during childhood and the teenage years.

Calcium is particularly vital during puberty when the bones grow quicker than at any other time. Puberty takes place over a number of years, typically sometime between 11 to 15 for girls and 12 to 16 for boys.

The recommended calcium intake for children and young people aged from 11 to 18 is 800-1,000mg compared with 700mg for adults. But research shows that, on average, children and young people in this age group don’t get enough.

“Teens need more calcium because they’re growing,” says Dr Arundel. “People don’t think about bone health in teenagers as much as they do with toddlers, but teenagers are growing a lot more.”

Foods that contain lots of calcium include dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, but also tinned sardines (with the bones in), green, leafy vegetables (but not spinach), peas, dried figs, nuts, seeds and anything that’s fortified with calcium, including some soya milks.

Vitamin D for Kids’ Bone Health

Vitamin D is important for bones because it helps our bodies to absorb calcium.

Our main source of vitamin D is sunlight. Vitamin D is made by our skin when it’s exposed to sunlight during the summer months (late March/April to the end of September).

There are only a few foods that are a good source of vitamin D. These include oily fish, eggs and foods that have been fortified with vitamin D, such as fat spreads and some breakfast cereals. Read Food for strong bones.

To ensure they get enough vitamin D, the following groups should take daily vitamin D supplements, to make sure they get enough (*US recommendations are similar – click here):

  • All babies from birth to one year of age (including breastfed babies and formula fed babies who have less than 500ml a day of infant formula)
  • All children aged one to four years old

Everyone over the age of five years is advised to consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D.

But most people aged five years and above will probably get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer (late March/early April to the end of September), so you might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.

It’s important never to let your child’s skin go red or start to burn. Babies under six months should never go in direct sunlight. Find out how to get vitamin D from sunlight safely.

Find out more about who should take vitamin D supplements and how much to take.

If you receive benefits, you may be eligible for free Healthy Start vitamins, which contain vitamin D. Your health visitor can tell you more, or you can visit the Healthy Start website.

Bone-strengthening Exercises for Children

Daily physical activity is important for children’s health and development, including their bone health.

Try not to let your child be sedentary for long periods. You can do this by reducing the amount of time they spend sitting down, for example, watching TV or playing video games.

Children under five who aren’t yet walking should be encouraged to play actively on the floor. Children who can walk on their own should be physically active daily for at least 180 minutes (three hours) spread throughout the day. This should include some bone-strengthening activities, such as climbing and jumping.

Children aged five to 18 need at least 60 minutes (one hour) of physical activity every day, which should include moderate-intensity activity, such as cycling and playground games.

To strengthen muscles and bones, vigorous-intensity activities should be included at least three times a week. This could be swinging on playground equipment, sports such as gymnastics or tennis, or hopping and skipping.

See 10 ways to get active with your kids.

Eating Disorders and Bone Health

Eating disorders affect people of all ages, both male and female. But girls and women are more likely to be affected and anorexia most commonly develops in the teenage years.

The bones are still growing and strengthening at this time and eating disorders like anorexia can affect their development. Low body weight can lower oestrogen levels, which may reduce bone density. Poor nutrition and reduced muscle strength caused by eating disorders can also lower bone density.

If your teenage child has anorexia or another eating disorder, it’s important to seek medical advice about their bone health.

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





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