How to help our teens?

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Here is Chinese Version.

DHS-CPAE

Last night, I went to a talk hold at Dublin High school by Teen Esteem. It’s a panel discussion, There are 3 parents, 1 state lawyer, 1 female DHS senior student, 1 male DHS sophomore student.

2 parents are couple who live in San Ramon, they shared their story of their 4th kid, Megan, who addicted to drugs.

1 parent is the director of TeenEsteem.org, she shared some information about how serious the problems is.

the state lawyer shared some information about cyber-bullying and how can parents help.

The female student shared her story of her older brother who got addicted to drugs and how the whole family suffered and how she think is the better way for teens to avoid that.

The male student shared his thought how peer pressure affect teens for drugs/sex/suicide.

It’s very informational 2-hour session. Nowadays, our kids live in a totally different world than the one we grew up. They are facing a lot of more pressures than we did. Are we adding up the pressures  or helping them to relieve some?

Where are the pressures come from?

1. peer pressure

Teens want to have friends, they don’t want to feel they are isolated. So if there are peer pressures from their friends for drug uses, alcohol, sex, even suicide, they might give it a try too.

2. athletically

The teens in high school usually attend one or more athlete activities, coaches and teams want to win the games, so every kids in the team will have the pressure to win.

3 academically

Every parents want their kid to to go to a excellent college, so does the kids, but the bar to the colleges are getting higher and higher. Not only they need higher SAT, but also AP classes, leadership skills, community services.

4. socially

There are about 1.7 electronic devices per person. Kids are exposed to a much much wider space than we could think of when we were kids. Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Kik, some you might know, some you might not even know, are getting popular on the school campus.  Kids expose themselves, make new friends, seek validation, meanwhile taking peer pressure, cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking. There are tremendous amount of online information surrounding the teens, some are good, some are not so good, some are bad, teens need help to identify them, need learn how to cope with them.

Everything has 2 sides, pros and cons. For example search engine play an important role for self-learning, even in the drug use. Some of the kids search the drugs and corresponding symptoms,  they can lie to the physicians so that doctors will give them those prescription drugs.

How serious it is?

Listen what the kids saying about themselves:

  • Academic pressure is leading to high levels of stress, anxiety, and in some cases depression and thoughts of suicide.
  • Prescription drug abuse is now America’s fastest growing drug epidemic (CDC). 47% of teens say it is easy to get prescription drugs from a parent’s medicine cabinet.
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for children ages 10-14.
  • 1 in 20 kids age 9-17 are diagnosed with major depression.
  • 1 in 4 teens become infected with a sexually transmitted disease each year.

Are parents helping the teens in the right way?

  • Do we communicate with our kids regularly?
  • When was the last time we listened to them without judging/educating/instructing?
  • Do we seek help from professionals?
  • Did we blindly deny that the bad things our kids did at school?
  • Did we feel shamed and refuse to talk about our kids with others?

How can we help our teens?

step 1: Listen and understand

Everyone has a busy life, we might not have enough time to listen the kid’s excuses, we just want them to listen to us and finish the tasks we/teacher gave to them. But once our kids turn to teenager, they will have the ability to make their own decisions and take their own actions. If you don’t listen to them, then they will not tell you what are happening, if you don’t want to understand them, they will turn to others that “understand” them. So the first lesson we should learn is “listen”.

The communication channel might already turned off between you and your teens. so prepare yourself to be a good listener first. Is the content in this video surprised you?  If so, it’s time for you to learn how to understand your kids first.

It’s harder than you might think to be a good listener. How?

1. put down your glory, your pride first.

It’s hard to get reconnect with our kids once they shut down the communication channel. We, as the parents, should take the first step. Only we put down our glory/pride/prejudice, open our heart to our kids, no anger signs, be patient, show smile on our face all the time, our kids might start to turn to us and talk.

Imagine that: you want to talk to 15 year old boy, it’s even so hard to get him to sit on a chair, will you be angry? but he is not willing to talk to you, so he turn his back to you, what you will do? finally you get him facing you, but he will not look at you, what will you do? finally he look at you, but he just lay his back on the chair, can you hold your anger, still remain calm?

So prepare to use a whole night for the ice-breaking conversation, give yourself enough time to deep breathe and calm down and keep the smile, give him enough time to break the internal wall and turn to you.

2. Listen, without interruption.

Hold a cup of coffee/tea, a banana, an apple, whatever else, in your hands, when the kids are talking, if you think you need express your opinion, just drink/eat, force yourself away from talking. They need to be heard without interruption, they need your validation.

3. Put yourself into their shoes.

Imagine you are back to a teenager now, for the situation they described, How would you think, what would you do? They are teenagers, not mid-age adults yet, they need their own teenager way to think and act, so recognize it and discuss with them instead of give them direct instructions, they need brainstorm, they need their own analysis and make their own decision, that’s how they grow and learn.

Remember you are trying to teach them, not do it for them.

4. validate your kids

If kids always get negative feedback from you, they will turn to someone who is “nicer” and willing to “accept” them. That’s the main reason why a lot of kids start with drugs.

If you don’t validate your kids, they will not validate themselves either, that’s also a main reason for suicide.

5. brainstorm

The more information they take, the more possible  they will pick the right way for themselves, the more they will take action and stick to it, the more likely they will be away from bad habits.

Step 2, Know your teen’s friends and the apps on their phones

Do you know who are your teen hanging out with? What do they do while hanging out? Do you know what kind of apps are on your teen’s smartphone? How do they use them? how and what do they share with “friends” with the app?

So just check the apps on their phone, install it on your own, play with it, identify the pros and cons, share your thoughts with your kids.

Nowadays, apps share same identities to login, for example, you can login to a lot of website with your Facebook account, so your personal information might get leaked without your attention. There are cases that the cute baby/girl pictures mom shared on her Facebook account got spread on the porn websites worldwide.

A lot of sex-offenders know how to dig your location and information from the GEO-tag information attached to the photo we shared.

A family portrait at Hawaii beach will tell the burglars you are not home. The time on the photo will tell other when and where you are and where you are not.

The photo of your kids with athlete activities will tell others which team he is in, what number/name he has, when they have games, which school he goes. So be cautious, with all those information, bad guy can do a lot. The cyber-space is more dangerous that you might think.

How can we protect our kid’s privacy online?

  • Change the app settings, make it secure, don’t share a lot of information.
  • Don’t connect with someone kid never meet
  • Never share password with a friend. Once you breakup, He/She can do bad things.
  • Don’t save password in public computers.
  • Don’t connect to WiFi network you don’t trust.

Step 3. Pay attention to warning/red-flag signs

Children who are bullied:

  • May experience sleep, eating, and anxiety issues or suddenly begin to refuse to attend school or social events.
  • Can exhibit marked changes in appearance or personality, seem depressed, teary or angry and experience physical changes such as marked weight loss or gain, headaches or other ailments.
  • Have unexplained bruises, cuts or other visible injuries.

Children who are bullying others:

  • May be overly confident, arrogant or boastful.
  • Develop increased aggressive behavior, be disrespectful of you or other adults and have discipline issues at school.
  • May suddenly have money or belongings that can’t be explained.

depression

  • Depressed mood (feeling sad or empty)
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Significant changes in weight/appetite
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Agitation, restlessness, irritability
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, guilt
  • Inability to think or concentrate, indecisiveness
  • Unable to cope
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal
  • ideation, suicide attempt or plan

 suicide

  • Signs of depression
  • Feeling trapped, hopeless
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Anger
  • Recklessness
  • Lack of energy or wild variations in energy levels
  • Dramatic changes in behavior, actions, attitude
  • Increase in anxiety/anxiety related illness
  • (headaches, stomach aches)
  • Changes in eating habits, sleep patterns, or
  • personal appearance
  • Being unusually quiet or unusually
  • aggressive/angry
  • Dropping out of hobbies, sports, school, work

 suicide: Acute Warning signs

  • No reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Feeling trapped, like there’s no way out
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawing
  • Uncontrolled anger, rage, seeking revenge
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Preoccupation with death, dying, or suicide including joking about death or suicide, creative writing, poetry, artwork
  • A sudden elated mood following a time of depression
  • A previous suicide attempt
  • Serious talk of suicide, or making a plan
  • Reckless behavior
  • Increase in alcohol or drug use
  • Giving away prize possessions, saying goodbye, writing a will, writing farewell letters

Warning signs you may hear:

  • “Nothing ever goes right for me.”
  • “It’ll all be over soon.”
  • “Whatever, nothing matters anyway.”
  • “I might as well kill myself.”
  • “I hate life.”
  • “Everyone would be better off without me.”
  • “I just can’t take it anymore.”
  • “I wish I was dead.”

Red Flags – Signs Child May Be Engaging In Drugs

Missing household items, such as: alcohol, money, or jewelry
Behavior changes, such as:

  • Overreacts when asked about plans
  • Overly sleepy/energetic
  • Change in friends
  • Withdrawal from family (dinners, trips, conversations, etc.)
  • Talking/texting in the middle of the night (check phone bill for out of town area codes)
  • School: excessive tardies or absences/sudden drop in grades with a lack of care

Drug paraphernalia to watch for:

  • Pieces of foil or a roll of foil in bedroom, lighters/matches
  • Sudden use of candles or incense (to cover up smells from drugs)
  • Bloody tissues (from cutting)

Physical changes:

  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Always wearing long sleeves/hood (to hide piercings, dyed hair, tattoos, needle marks or cutting)
  • Clothes: Watch for sudden/extreme clothing changes which would indicate desire to attract a different crowd. Teens may dress “normally”, while hiding other clothing in backpacks.

Social media:

  • Being blocked/unaccepted on their social media accounts can be suspicious. Require kids to
    provide you passwords to all of their accounts, including phone passwords.
  • It’s used to hook up with people to obtain drugs, party information, new drug/alcohol  connections
  • Monitor the activity, but do not participate in conversations. Don’t make them feel “violated” or they will find alternative ways to communicate around you.
  • Teens are very tech savvy. Try to learn more about how they spend time on their phones/computers and what the latest social media trends are.

Step 4. Take actions and seek for help

For Cyber-Bully:

You can’t prevent cyberbullying entirely but you can work with your child to help keep them safer online and address any incident with the right tools and resources. Even if you use a computer or social media on a regular basis, it pays to sharpen your skills and know more about protecting your children online. A few ideas to start with at home include:

  • Establish rules for technology use — whether that means specified times, having a centrally located family computer that you can better supervise or restricting access to certain sites.
  • Know where your children go online and don’t be afraid to tell them you will be monitoring their sites or posts. Communicate with your child in a responsible and respectful manner to encourage them to do the same with you.
  • Talk to your children about the dangers of posting pictures or personal information that inadvertently could set them up to be bullied — get them to think about the possible short and long-term effects too, especially if you have teenagers. Many colleges look at applicants’ social networking pages before making a decision about admissions.

Most of all — make sure your children know to immediately tell you if cyberbullying occurs. Waiting too long to react to an incident can potentially make it harder to stop the activity. If your child is bullied online, you should:

  • Block the sender’s e-mail address and remove the offender from any social media connections. Report the activity to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) as well as any site supervisors. Many social media sites have policies that prohibit acts of perceived harassment as well as direct links to respective reporting forms.
  • Document any online posts and save e-mails and anything else that can verify the cyberbullying. Learn how to take a screen shot, a picture of the phone or computer screen, to capture the exact text and images as well as the time and date it was sent.
  • Contact law enforcement and school authorities when cyberbullying involves violent threats, pornographic images or profanity, and acts that could represent potential hate crimes or stalking.
  • Find out if your child’s school has an acceptable use policy regarding the Internet and whether that also applies to what they may do outside of the regular school hours. Some high schools, for example, have “24-hour” policies that include the 24 hours preceding or following a school day, which usually covers weekend activities.
  • Ask if your child’s school includes any specific instruction for students as well as parents about cyberbullying and how to prevent it.
  • Consider taking a class to improve your own computer or social media skills to stay on top of rapidly changing technology and better deal with cyberbullying. Your community college or your employer may offer related extended education courses.

For more ideas and information about tech-savvy parenting, go to stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying.

For All Bully

Whether it occurs at school or online, bullying can adversely affect children who are bullied and those who bully, long after the event has taken place.

The cycle of negative behavior can lead to kids who among other issues:

  1. Are more likely to engage in alcohol and drug abuse.
  2. Have more physical and emotional health problems.
  3. Receive poor grades and suffer low self-esteem.
  4. Skip classes or even drop out of school.

There are national as well as local instructional programs available to help schools, parents and students deal with the problems associated with bullying. Stopbullying.gov and the National Education Association at nea.org have a number of resources and age-appropriate lessons to help children understand the destructive nature of bullying and how they can be more than bystanders. These programs should ideally focus on the social environment at school, assign responsibility for preventing bullying to more than one teacher or administrator, identify clear policies and make sure all students are educated and informed about any rules.

You can support your school’s efforts by encouraging your children to: establish a point person at school, such as a teacher or playground supervisor, to report bullying; avoid less well-supervised areas on the playground or at school; participate in structured and supervised activities during recess and after school; and make thoughtful decisions about what they do and the friends they choose.  Remember that effectively dealing with bullying requires a group effort that includes you and your family as well as schools and local community officials.

What Parents Should do if they Suspect Drug Use/Abuse

Follow your gut instinct! No one knows your child like you do.

Once you suspect there is a problem:

  • Are you in denial? Don’t allow shame/embarrassment to delay getting help.
  • Do not assume it will get better; do not write it off as a phase.
  • Admitting you have a family problem is the first step to getting help. Research options for both support and professional help. You might be surprised to find out how many families are dealing with the same struggles.
  • When your child acts out, the behavior can be a symptom of something deeper, don’t take it personally
  • Set clear boundaries; boundaries show them you care.
  • Follow up on consequences – teens can be good at trying to wear you down so you will give in.
  • Carefully consider before taking away cell phones. If your teen has run off before, the cell phone is your only mode of communication with them. Instead consider limits on phones.
  • Have phones in a central location at night, out of the kids’ rooms.
  • Be aware of advice to medicate your teen, they are masters of manipulation and can easily investigate the medicines online and the symptoms they need to get the ones they want in order to sell or use.
  • Keep your own medications out of their reach; lock them up or put them in an undisclosed place.

Monitor activity more closely

  • Connect with other parents; they may be experiencing the same struggles and welcome the support.
  • Check in with friends’ parents to confirm your child is where they said they would be; once they reach their destination have them call you from the friend’s HOME phone; call it back if you feel something is not right; if they move locations require another check in.
  • Adult presence is no guarantee your child will be safe, many parents offer alcohol, turn a blind eye, or simply don’t pay attention. Have back-up safety plans, like having other friends’ phone numbers so they can call you if your child is in real trouble. Siblings can be a great resource here as well.

Communicate

  • Communication is a priority; make an effort to open it up even if it has historically been poor. Have family dinners as often as possible and make it fun, not a time for confrontation. Address serious issues another time.
  • Never start a discussion when your child is visibly upset, high, or drunk. Share your observations and give your teen equal uninterrupted time to do the same. Respect their opinion.
  • Be a good listener. Don’t strategize, just LISTEN FOR UNDERSTANDING.
  • When your child is upset and wants to talk, ask if they want advice or just need to vent. Teens are pretty good at solving their own problems once they are able to open up and verbalize their thoughts to someone.

Resources

Discovery Counseling Center,  Family Counseling,  Community Health.

 Now it’s time to relax

First see how kids think about parents:

Second, imagine one day we get such a letter from kids:

A father passing by his son’s bedroom was astonished to see that his bed was nicely made and everything was picked up. Then he saw an envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow that was addressed to ‘Dad.’

– With the worst premonition he opened the envelope with trembling hands and read the letter.

– Dear Dad:
– It is with great regret and sorrow that I’m writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mom and you.
– I have been finding real passion with Stacy and she is so nice.
– But I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercing, tattoos, tight motorcycle clothes and the fact that she is much older than I am.
But it’s not only the passion…Dad she’s pregnant.
– Stacy said that we will be very happy.
– She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children.
– Stacy has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn’t really hurt anyone. We’ll be growing it for ourselves and trading it with the other people that live nearby for cocaine and ecstasy.
– In the meantime we will pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so Stacy can get better. She deserves it.
– Don’t worry Dad. I’m 15 and I know how to take care of myself.
– Someday I’m sure that we will be back to visit so that you can get to know your grandchildren.
– Love, Your Son John
– PS. Dad, none of the above is true. I’m over at Tommy’s house.
– I Just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than a Report card That’s in my center desk drawer.
– I love you.

See, our life is not that bad, right? relax, take a deep breathe, set, go! To a better life.  😆

 


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