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Parent Tips

Clothing List

Students will need to have adequate and appropriate work clothing.  If they do not have appropriate clothing or resources to get it, they should speak to the Program Manager, as they may be eligible for some assistance.  As a general rule, students should have:

·         Cotton socks 

·         Underwear

·         Cotton T-shirts

·         Sweat pants or shorts

·         Sweatshirts or sweaters

·         Shirts

·         Work jeans

·         Work boots or sturdy shoes

·         Warm jacket

·         Sleeping clothes

·         Professional looking outfit (for job interviews)

Optional items:

·         Dress clothes

We recommend students clearly mark their belongings with their initials so they are readily identifiable.  We strongly discourage anyone from bringing anything of significant value as it may be damaged or stolen.  Please be aware that the Haag Home is not responsible for the loss or damage of any item.  If you have a question about whether or not an item is appropriate, please ask before bringing it.



When a student arrives, they will be allowed to call their family to let them know they are here.  Family members may call the student phone (541-998-7306) or leave a message on our office phone.  In most cases, calls on the office phone will be limited to 5 minutes

Mail & e-mail

Students often enjoy sending and receiving mail from significant people in their lives.  Staff do not open or read student mail.  However, packages or mail that may contain contraband will be opened in staff’s presence.

You may correspond with the student by e-mail.  If the student does not have an e-mail account, you may also send e-mail to - be sure to include the student’s name on the subject line.  Note:  E-mail sent to our e-mail is not confidential; it will be screened by staff and forwarded.


Money & Budgeting

Students will work while they are in this program and can take draws against their accounts for personal items.

We believe that budgeting and money-management is an important life-skill.  Please ask staff before giving cash or non-essential items to any residents.

Family Visits

We encourage family visits whenever possible; however there will be no visits during the first 2 days so the new student can settle in.  During days 3-7, students may, host approved family members for on-site visits for up to one hour.

After day 7, students may have on-site visits for longer periods of time as the program schedule allows.  In most cases, on-site visits should be arranged at least 24-hours in advance and will take place between 10am – 12pm and 1pm – 6pm.  Late visits (until 8pm) may be possible with special permission.

All visitors must be pre-approved and anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

When students achieve Level-3, they may be eligible to take home visits.  If, when, and how often will depend on their family situation, treatment needs, and level status, and P.O. approval.  During all visits, students must meet the conditions detailed in their Community Placement Agreement as well as the following requirements:

·         Provide phone number and address where they can be reached

·         Remain in the care and control of their parent or visit resource

·         Take and complete a Home Visit

Report Form.


Parent/Legal Guardian Rights

You have the right to:

1.    The right to respectful, impartial, and fair treatment, and to be addressed in a dignified manner.

2.    The right to not be subjected to intimidation, disrespect, or interference with reasonable requests for contact with your youth.

3.    The right to meet with your youth (OYA permitting) in a private area within the facility.

  1. The right to not be discriminated against because of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, culture, creed, age, ethnicity, or handicap.
  2. The right to ask questions and be involved with the services provided to your youth through the service plan.
  3. The right to have reasonable family visits, as appropriate, and to send and receive uncensored mail.
  4. The right to report problems or complaints you have while in the program without fear of retaliation. 
  5. The right to appeal decisions made regarding you and/or your youth in accordance with grievance procedures.
  6. The right to be informed of all applicable rules (student handbook) at the time your youth enters the program.
  7. The right to contact OYA to clarify and discuss issues with your youth and services provided by the program.


The remaining information contains many tips and techniques that we have found to be helpful in dealing with your teenager, as well as information about abusive behavior and what can be done. 



We hope that you will find this information helpful.


Parenting Tips, Techniques & Assistance


During adolescents questions like “Who am I?” and “Where do I belong in the world?” begin to take a front seat.  Adolescence often brings substantial changes in teenagers’ self-concepts and self esteem.  Adolescence increasingly rely on their friends and peers as sources of information.  At the same time, their dependence on adults declines.  Identity gels in the late teens and early 20s for most people.  


Parental monitoring means knowing where an adolescent is, what they’re doing and who they’re spending time with when they aren’t at home. While this doesn’t sound difficult, it is easier said than done. Many parents rely on their teen’s report but find that plans can change quickly and teens often are not where they said they would be. In this way, monitoring relies on a parent’s ability to balance a teen’s desire for independence with the reality of the risks inherent in being an adolescent, including a tendency to take risks.

Many clinicians and developmental psychologists now view experimental risk taking as a normative part of development (Lerner & Tubman, 1991). Although teens generally feel a sense of invulnerability, they frequently end up being pressured to do things they may not have chosen otherwise.

Or they find themselves in situations they wish they could get out of, but aren’t sure how without losing their dignity. Parental monitoring is important because numerous studies have shown a direct link between the amount of monitoring and a teen’s likelihood to engage in risk behavior across multiple domains, including substance use and risky sexual behavior. In fact, Cohen and her colleagues

(2002) found that high school-age teens who were left unsupervised for 30 or more hours per week were more likely to be sexually active than teens with more supervision (80% versus 68%). And for boys, lack of parental supervision was related to a greater number of sexual partners.

There are some general guidelines for monitoring teens which may assist parents in helping keep teens safe:

Use age appropriate rules: As teens age into adolescence, parents should start with small independences, such as spending an hour at the mall without direct supervision. Gradually increase the amount of time that teens are not directly supervised. As teens demonstrate responsibility and parent-child trust is built parents can gradually extend these privileges.

Rules should be clear and concise: A parent must be specific about their expectations. Vague rules aren’t helpful to teens or parents. A teen’s version of “on time” may mean anytime before dawn. The clearer a parent is, the more likely the teen will follow through.  Any amount of ambiguity leads to bending the rules.

Rules should be enforceable: A parent shouldn’t threaten to take away the cell phone or ground a teen if they don’t intend to follow-through. Teens, like parents, are learning to trust and when parents throw out consequences for breaking the rules and don’t abide by these consequences teens quickly learn that they can do whatever they please with limited negative outcomes. For teens, having to sit through a 45-minute lecture that they’ve heard a thousand times may be well worth sneaking out and going to a great party. Additionally, try not to get angry when disciplining teens. It may be difficult but it is better not to. Lashing out at will put your teen on guard and you will both end up in a screaming match that will not help the situation. Speak to them calmly. If you cannot do that right away take a few moments to calm yourself down and then re-visit the "talk".


• Parents must recognize that teens will make mistakes: Life sometimes teaches the hardest lessons. Parents don’t have to control every aspect of teen’s lives. Parents can take some solace in knowing that there are still the natural consequences of behavior. At times, a parent can stand back and let a teen experience the consequences of making a mistake.

Respect privacy: Teens crave privacy as much as independence. Extreme measures like removing bedroom doors or going through a teen’s dresser or bags on a daily basis sends the message that there is no trust. Teens then respond by continuing to act out because they feel there is little or nothing to work towards.

Praise responsible behavior: Parents often forget to praise teens when they follow through with rules but are quick to give feedback when their teen is five minutes late. Teens like to be noticed when they do something well. Giving this praise goes a long way towards building a positive parent-teen relationship, which should make a parent’s job a little bit easier.  Additionally, Give your teenagers more responsibility when they make good decisions. Teenagers build self-confidence by making their own decisions. Be sure to let them make their own.


Child Abuse


Child abuse is more than bruises or broken bones. While physical abuse is shocking due to the scars it leaves, not all child abuse is as obvious. Ignoring children’s needs, putting them in unsupervised, dangerous situations, or making a child feel worthless or stupid are also child abuse. Regardless of the type of child abuse, the result is serious emotional harm.





MYTH #1: It's only abuse if it's violent.

Fact: Physical abuse is just one type of child abuse. Neglect and emotional abuse can be just as damaging, and since they are more subtle; others are less likely to intervene.


MYTH #2: Only bad people abuse their children.

Fact: While it's easy to say that only "bad people" abuse their children, it's not always so black and white. Not all abusers are intentionally harming their children. Many have been victims of abuse themselves, and don’t know any other way to parent. Others may be struggling with mental health issues or a substance abuse problem.


MYTH #3: Child abuse doesn't happen in “good” families.

Fact: Child abuse doesn't only happen in poor families or bad neighborhoods. It crosses all racial, economic, and cultural lines. Sometimes, families who seem to have it all from the outside are hiding a different story behind closed doors.


MYTH #4: Most child abusers are strangers.

Fact: While abuse by strangers does happen, most abusers are family members or others close to the family.


MYTH #5: Abused children always grow up to be abusers.

Fact: It is true that abused children are more likely to repeat the cycle as adults, unconsciously repeating what they experienced as children. On the other hand, many adult survivors of child abuse have a strong motivation to protect their children against what they went through and become excellent parents.




All types of child abuse and neglect leave lasting scars. Some of these scars might be physical, but emotional scarring has long lasting effects throughout life, damaging a child’s sense of self, ability to have healthy relationships, and ability to function at home, at work and at school. Some effects include:


Lack of trust and relationship difficulties- If you can’t trust your parents, who can you trust? Abuse by a primary caregiver damages the most fundamental relationship as a child—that you will safely, reliably get your physical and emotional needs met by the person who is responsible for your care. Without this base, it is very difficult to learn to trust people or know who is trustworthy. This can lead to difficulty maintaining relationships due to fear of being controlled or abused. It can also lead to unhealthy relationships because the adult doesn’t know what a good relationship is.

Core feelings of being “worthless” or “damaged”- If you’ve been told over and over again as a child that you are stupid or no good, it is very difficult to overcome these core feelings. You may experience them as reality. Adults may not strive for more education, or settle for a job that may not pay enough, because they don’t believe they can do it or are worth more. Sexual abuse survivors, with the stigma and shame surrounding the abuse, often especially struggle with a feeling of being damaged. 


Trouble regulating emotions- Abused children cannot express emotions safely. As a result, the emotions get stuffed down, coming out in unexpected ways. Adult survivors of child abuse can struggle with unexplained anxiety, depression, or anger. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb out the painful feelings.




There are several types of child abuse, but the core element that ties them together is the emotional effect on the child. Children need predictability, structure, clear boundaries, and the knowledge that their parents are looking out for their safety. Abused children cannot predict how their parents will act. Their world can be an unpredictable, frightening place with no rules. Whether the abuse is a slap, a harsh comment, stony silence, or not knowing if there will be dinner on the table tonight, the end result can be a child that feels unsafe, uncared for, and alone. 


Emotional child abuse- Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me? Contrary to this old saying, emotional abuse can severely damage a child’s mental health or social development, leaving lifelong psychological scars. Examples of emotional child abuse include:

  • Constant belittling, shaming, and humiliating a child
  • Calling names and making negative comparisons to others
  • Telling a child he or she is “no good," "worthless," "bad," or "a mistake."
  • Frequent yelling, threatening, or bullying.
  • Ignoring or rejecting a child as punishment, giving him or her the silent treatment.
  • Limited physical contact with the child—no hugs, kisses, or other signs of affection.
  • Exposing the child to violence or the abuse of others, whether it be the abuse of a parent, a sibling, or even a pet.


Child neglect —A very common type of child abuse—is a pattern of failing to provide for a child's basic needs, whether it be adequate food, clothing, hygiene, or supervision. Child neglect is not always easy to spot. Sometimes, a parent might become physically or mentally unable to care for a child, such as with a serious injury, untreated depression, or anxiety. Other times, alcohol or drug abuse may seriously impair judgment and the ability to keep a child safe.

Older children might not show outward signs of neglect, becoming used to presenting a competent face to the outside world, and even taking on the role of the parent. But at the end of the day, neglected children are not getting their physical and emotional needs met.


Physical child abuse- This involves physical harm or injury to the child. It may be the result of a deliberate attempt to hurt the child, but not always. It can also result from severe discipline, such as using a belt on a child, or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child’s age or physical condition.  Many physically abusive parents and caregivers insist that their actions are simply forms of discipline—ways to make children learn to behave. But there is a big difference between using physical punishment to discipline and physical abuse. The point of disciplining children is to teach them right from wrong, not to make them live in fear.


Physical abuse vs. Discipline - In physical abuse, unlike physical forms of discipline, the following elements are present:


Unpredictability - The child never knows what is going to set the parent off. There are no clear boundaries or rules. The child is constantly walking on eggshells, never sure what behavior will trigger a physical assault.

Lashing out in anger - Physically abusive parents act out of anger and the desire to assert control, not the motivation to lovingly teach the child. The angrier the parent, the more intense the abuse can be.

Using fear to control behavior - Parents who are physically abusive may believe that their children need to fear them in order to behave, so they use physical abuse to “keep their child in line.” However, what children are really learning is how to avoid being hit, not how to behave or grow as individuals.


Child sexual abuse – this is an especially complicated form of abuse because of its layers of guilt and shame. It's important to recognize that sexual abuse doesn't always involve body contact. Exposing a child to sexual situations or material is sexually abusive, whether or not touching is involved.

While news stories of sexual predators are scary, what is even more frightening is that sexual abuse usually occurs at the hands of someone the child knows and should be able to trust—most often close relatives. And contrary to what many believe, it’s not just girls who are at risk. Boys and girls both suffer from sexual abuse. In fact, sexual abuse of boys may be underreported due to shame and stigma.


The problem of shame and guilt in child sexual abuse - Aside from the physical damage that sexual abuse can cause, the emotional component is powerful and far-reaching. Sexually abused children maybe tormented by shame and guilt. They may feel that they are responsible for the abuse or somehow brought it upon themselves. This can lead to self-loathing and sexual problems as they grow older—often either excessive promiscuity or an inability to have intimate relations.




The earlier child abuse is caught, the better the chance of recovery and appropriate treatment for the child. Child abuse is not always obvious. By learning some of the common warning signs of child abuse and neglect, you can catch the problem as early as possible and get both the child and the abuser the help that they need.

Of course, just because you see a warning sign doesn’t automatically mean a child is being abused. It’s important to dig deeper, looking for a pattern of abusive behavior and warning signs.


Warning signs of emotional abuse in children:

  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
  • Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive).
  • Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
  • Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantruming).


Warning signs of physical abuse in children:

  • Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
  • Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
  • Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
  • Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.


Warning signs of neglect in children:

  • Clothes are ill fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
  • Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
  • Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
  • Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
  • Is frequently late or missing from school.


Warning signs of sexual abuse in children:
  • Trouble walking or sitting.
  • Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
  • Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
  • Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
  • An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
  • Runs away from home.




While child abuse and neglect occurs in all types of families—even in those that look happy from the outside—children are at a much greater risk in certain situations.


Violence in the home - Witnessing violence is terrifying to children and emotionally abusive. Even if a parent (or caregiver) does his/her best to protect her/his children and keeps them from being physically abused, the situation is still extremely damaging.

Alcohol and drug abuse - Living with an alcoholic or addict is very difficult for children and can easily lead to abuse and neglect. Parents who are drunk or high are unable to care for their children, make good parenting decisions, and control often-dangerous impulses. Substance abuse also commonly leads to physical abuse.

Untreated mental illness - Parents who suffering from depression, an anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or another mental illness often have trouble taking care of themselves, much less their children. A mentally ill or traumatized parent may be distant and withdrawn from his or her children, or quick to anger without understanding why. Treatment for the parent means better care for the children.

Lack of parenting skills - Some caregivers never learned the skills necessary for good parenting. Teen parents, for example, might have unrealistic expectations about how much care babies and small children need. Or parents who where themselves victims of child abuse may only know how to raise their children the way they were raised. In such cases, parenting classes, therapy, and caregiver support groups are great resources for learning better parenting skills.

Stress and lack of support - Parenting can be a very time-intensive, difficult job, especially if you’re raising children without support from family, friends, or the community or you’re dealing with relationship problems or financial difficulties. Caring for a child with a disability, special needs, or difficult behaviors is also a challenge. It’s important to get the support you need, so you are emotionally and physically able to support your child.




Raising children is one of life’s greatest challenges and can trigger anger and frustration in the most even-tempered. If you grew up in a household where screaming and shouting or violence was the norm, you may not know any other way to raise your kids.

Recognizing that you have a problem is the biggest step to getting help. If you yourself were raised in an abusive situation, that can be extremely difficult. Children experience their world as normal. It may have been normal in your family to be slapped or pushed for little to no reason, or have a parent who was too drunk to cook dinner. It may have been normal for your parents to call you stupid, clumsy, or worthless. Or it may have been normal to watch your one of your parents get beaten up.

It is only as adults that we have the perspective to step back and take a hard look at what is normal and what is abusive. Read the above sections on the types of abuse and warning signs. Do any of those ring a bell for you now? Or from when you were a child? The following is a list of warning signs that you may be crossing the line into abuse:


You can’t stop the anger - For example, what starts as a swat on the backside may turn into multiple hits getting harder and harder. You may shake your child harder and harder and finally throw him or her down. You find yourself screaming louder and louder and can’t stop yourself.

You feel emotionally disconnected from your child -You may feel so overwhelmed that you don’t want anything to do with your child. Day after day, you just want to be left alone and for your child to be quiet.

Meeting the daily needs of your child seems impossible - While everyone struggles with balancing dressing, feeding, and getting kids to school or other activities, if you continually can’t manage to do it, it’s a sign that something might be wrong.

Other people have expressed concern - It may be easy to bristle at other people expressing concern. However, consider carefully what they have to say. Are the words coming from someone you normally respect and trust? Denial is not an uncommon reaction.




If you have a history of child abuse, having your own children can trigger strong memories and feelings that you may have repressed. This may happen when a child is born, or at later ages when you remember specific abuse to you. You may be shocked and overwhelmed by your anger, and feel like you can’t control it. But you can learn new ways to manage your emotions and break your old patterns.

Remember, you are the most important person in your child’s world. It’s worth the effort to make a change, and you don’t have to go it alone. Help and support are available. Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD to find support and resources in your community that can help you break the cycle of abuse


Tips for changing your reactions:


Learn what is age appropriate and what is not - Having realistic expectations of what children can handle at certain ages will help you avoid frustration and anger at normal child behavior.

Develop new parenting skills - While learning to control your emotions is critical, you also need a game plan of what you are going to do instead. Start by learning appropriate discipline techniques and how to set clear boundaries for your children. Parenting classes, books, and seminars are a way to get this information. You can also turn to other parents for tips and advice.

Take care of yourself - If you are not getting enough rest and support or you’re feeling overwhelmed, you are much more likely to succumb to anger.

Get professional help - Breaking the cycle of abuse can be very difficult if the patterns are strongly entrenched. If you can’t seem to stop yourself no matter how hard you try, it’s time to get help, be it therapy, parenting classes, or other interventions. Your children will thank you for it.


Teen Depression


Teenage depression isn’t just bad moods and occasional melancholy. Depression is a serious problem that impacts every aspect of a teen’s life. Left untreated, teen depression can lead to problems at home and school, drug abuse, self-loathing—even irreversible tragedy such as homicidal violence or suicide.

Fortunately, teenage depression can be treated, and as a concerned parent, teacher, or friend, there are many things you can do to help. You can start by learning the symptoms of depression and expressing concern when you spot warning signs. Talking about the problem and offering support can go a long way toward getting your teenager back on track.


Understanding teen depression

There are as many misconceptions about teen depression as there are about teenagers in general. Yes, the teen years are tough, but most teens balance the requisite angst with good friendships, success in school or outside activities, and the development of a strong sense of self. Occasional bad moods or acting out is to be expected, but depression is something different. Depression can destroy the very essence of a teenager’s personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, or anger.

Whether the incidence of teen depression is actually increasing, or we’re just becoming more aware of it, the fact is that depression strikes teenagers far more often than most people think. And although depression is highly treatable, experts say only 20% of depressed teens ever receive help.
Unlike adults, who have the ability to seek assistance on their own, teenagers usually must rely on parents, teachers, or other caregivers to recognize their suffering and get them the treatment they need. So if you have an adolescent in your life, it’s important to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs.

Signs and symptoms of teen depression

Teenagers face a host of pressures, from the changes of puberty to questions about who they are and where they fit in. The natural transition from child to adult can also bring parental conflict as teens start to assert their independence. With all this drama, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between depression and normal teenage moodiness. Making things even more complicated, teens with depression do not necessarily appear sad, nor do they always withdraw from others. For some depressed teens, symptoms of irritability, aggression, and rage are more prominent.


  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you’re unsure if an adolescent in your life is depressed or just “being a teenager,” consider how long the symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how different the teen is acting from his or her usual self. While some “growing pains” are to be expected as teenagers grapple with the challenges of growing up, dramatic, long-lasting changes in personality, mood, or behavior are red flags of a deeper problem.

The difference between teenage and adult depression

Depression in teens can look very different from depression in adults. The following symptoms of depression are more common in teenagers than in their adult counterparts:

  • Irritable or angry mood – As noted above, irritability, rather than sadness, is often the predominant mood in depressed teens. A depressed teenager may be grumpy, hostile, easily frustrated, or prone to angry outbursts.
  • Unexplained aches and pains – Depressed teens frequently complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. If a thorough physical exam does not reveal a medical cause, these aches and pains may indicate depression.
  • Extreme sensitivity to criticism – Depressed teens are plagued by feelings of worthlessness, making them extremely vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failure. This is a particular problem for “over-achievers.”
  • Withdrawing from

some, but not all people – While adults tend to isolate themselves when depressed, teenagers usually keep up at least some friendships. However, teens with depression may socialize less than before, pull away from their parents, or start hanging out with a different crowd.

Effects of teen depression

The negative effects of teenage depression go far beyond a melancholy mood. Many rebellious and unhealthy behaviors or attitudes in teenagers are actually indications of depression. See the table below for some of the ways in which teens “act out” or “act in” in an attempt to cope with their emotional pain:

Untreated Depression Can Lead to…

Problems at school

Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. At school, this may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades, or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student.

Running away

Many depressed teens run away from home or talk about running away. Such attempts are usually a cry for help.

Substance abuse

Teens may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to “self-medicate” their depression. Unfortunately, substance abuse only makes things worse.

Low self-esteem

Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure, and unworthiness.

Eating disorders

Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and yo-yo dieting are often signs of unrecognized depression.

Internet addiction

Teens may go online to escape from their problems. But excessive computer use only increases their isolation and makes them more depressed.


Cutting, burning, and other kinds of self-mutilation are almost always associated with depression.

Reckless behavior

Depressed teens may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, out-of-control drinking, and unsafe sex.


Some depressed teens (usually boys who are the victims of bullying) become violent. As in the case of the Columbine school massacre, self-hatred and a wish to die can erupt into violence and homicidal rage.


Teens who are seriously depressed often think, speak, or make "attention-getting" attempts at suicide. Suicidal thoughts or behaviors should always be taken very seriously.

Suicide warning signs in teenagers

An alarming and increasing number of teenagers attempt and succeed at suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds. For the overwhelming majority of suicidal teens, depression or another psychological disorder plays a primary role. In depressed teens who also abuse alcohol or drugs, the risk of suicide is even greater.

Because of the very real danger of suicide, teenagers who are depressed should be watched closely for any signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior. The warning signs include:

·         Talking or joking about committing suicide.

·         Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out.”

·         Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more”).

·         Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide.

·         Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury.

·         Giving away prized possessions.

·         Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for good.

·         Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves.

If you suspect that a teenager you know is suicidal, take immediate action! For 24-hour suicide prevention and support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

To learn more about suicide risk factors, warning signs, and what to do in a crisis, see Helpguide’ Suicide Prevention: Understanding and Helping a Suicidal Person.

Helping a depressed teenager

If you suspect that a teenager in your life is suffering from depression, take action right away. Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that the symptoms will go away. Even if you’re unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions you’re seeing in your teenager are signs of a problem. Whether or not that problem turns out to be depression, it still needs to be addressed—the sooner the better.

Talk to your teen

The first thing you should do if you suspect depression is to talk to your teen about it. In a loving and non-judgmental way, share your concerns with your teenager. Let him or her know what specific signs of depression you’ve noticed and why they worry you. Then encourage your child to open up about what he or she is going through.


Offer support

Let depressed teenagers know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (teenagers don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.

Be gentle but persistent

Don’t give up if your adolescent shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.

Listen without lecturing

Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or ultimatums as well.

Validate feelings

Don’t try to talk teens out of their depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness they are feeling. If you don’t, they will feel like you don’t take their emotions seriously.

If your teen claims nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, teenagers may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression. If you see depression’s warning signs, seek professional help. Neither you nor your teen is qualified to either diagnosis depression or rule it out, so see a doctor or psychologist who can.

Visit your family doctor

Make an immediate appointment for your teen to see the family physician for a depression screening. Be prepared to give your doctor specific information about your teen’s depression symptoms, including how long they’ve been present, how much they’re affecting your child’s daily life, and any patterns you’ve noticed. The doctor should also be told about any close relatives who have ever been diagnosed with depression or another mental health disorder.

As part of the depression screening, the doctor will give your teenager a complete physical exam and take blood samples to check for medical causes of your child’s symptoms. In order to diagnose depression, other possible causes of your teen’s symptoms must first be ruled out. The doctor will check for medical causes of the depression by giving your teenager a complete physical exam and running blood tests. The doctor may also ask your teen about other things that could be causing the symptoms, including heavy alcohol and drug use, a lack of sleep, a poor diet (especially one low in iron), and medications (including birth control pills and diet pills).


 American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

If there are no health problems that are causing your teenager’s depression, ask your doctor to refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in children and adolescents. Depression in teens can be tricky, particularly when it comes to treatment options such as medication. A mental health professional with advanced training and a strong background treating adolescents is the best bet for your teenager’s best care.

When choosing a specialist, always get your child’s input. Teenagers are dependent on you for making many of their health decisions, so listen to what they’re telling you. No one therapist is a miracle worker and no one treatment works for everyone. If your child feels uncomfortable or is just not ’connecting’ with the psychologist or psychiatrist, ask for a referral to another provider that may be better suited to your teenager.

Explore the treatment options

Expect a discussion with the specialist you’ve chosen about treatment possibilities for your son or daughter. There are a number of treatment options for depression in teenagers, including one-on-one talk therapy, group or family therapy, and medication.

Talk therapy is often a good initial treatment for mild to moderate cases of depression. Over the course of therapy, your teen’s depression may resolve. If it doesn’t, medication may be warranted. However, antidepressants should only be used as part of a broader treatment plan.

Don't rely on medication alone

When medication is used, it should not be the only strategy. There are other services that you may want to investigate for your child. Family support services, educational classes, behavior management techniques, as well as family therapy and other approaches should be considered. If medication is prescribed, it should be monitored and evaluated regularly.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Unfortunately, some parents feel pushed into choosing antidepressant medication over other treatments that may be cost-prohibitive or time-intensive. However, unless your child is considered to be high risk for suicide (in which case medication and/or constant observation may be necessary), you have time to carefully weigh your options before committing to any one treatment.

Risks of teenage antidepressant use

In severe cases of depression, medication may help ease symptoms. However, antidepressants aren’t always the best treatment option. They come with risks and side effects of their own, including a number of safety concerns specific to children and young adults. It’s important to weigh the benefits against the risks before starting your teen on medication.

Antidepressants and the teenage brain

Antidepressants were designed and tested on adults, so their impact on the youthful, developing brain is not yet completely understood. Some researchers are concerned that the use of drugs such as Prozac in children and teens might interfere with normal brain development. The human brain is developing rapidly in young adults, and exposure to antidepressants may impact that development—particularly the way the brain manages stress and regulates emotions.

Antidepressant suicide warning for teens

Teens on Antidepressants:
Red Flags To Watch Out For

Call a doctor if you notice…

·         New or more thoughts of suicide

·         Trying to commit suicide

·         New or worse depression

·         New or worse anxiety

·         Feeling very agitated or restless

·         Panic attacks

·         Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)

·         New or worse irritability

·         Acting aggressive, being angry, or violent

·         Acting on dangerous impulses

·         Being extremely hyperactive in actions and talking (hypomania or mania)

·         Other unusual changes in behavior

Source: FDA

Antidepressant medications may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in some teenagers. All antidepressants are required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to carry a “black box” warning label about this risk in children, adolescents, and young adults up to the age of 24. The risk of suicide is highest during the first two months of antidepressant treatment.

Certain young adults are at an even greater risk for suicide when taking antidepressants, including teens with bipolar disorder, a family history of bipolar disorder, or a history of previous suicide attempts.

Teenagers on antidepressants should be closely monitored for any sign that the depression is getting worse. Warning signs include new or worsening symptoms of agitation, irritability, or anger. Unusual changes in behavior are also red flags.

According to FDA guidelines, after starting an antidepressant or changing the dose, your teenager should see their doctor:

·         Once a week for four weeks

·         Every 2 weeks for the next month

·         At the end of their 12th week taking the drug

·         More often if problems or questions arise

Supporting a teen through depression treatment

As the depressed teenager in your life goes through treatment, the most important thing you can do is to let him or her know that you’re there to listen and offer support. Now more than ever, your teenager needs to know that he or she is valued, accepted, and cared for.

·         Be understanding.  Living with a depressed teenager can be difficult and draining. At times, you may experience exhaustion, rejection, despair, aggravation, or any other number of negative emotions. During this trying time, it’s important to remember that your child is not being difficult on purpose. Your teen is suffering, so do your best to be patient and understanding.

·         Encourage physical activity. Encourage your teenager to stay active. Exercise can go a long way toward relieving the symptoms of depression, so find ways to incorporate it into your teenager’s day. Something as simple as walking the dog or going on a bike ride can be beneficial

·         Encourage social activity. Isolation only makes depression worse, so encourage your teenager to see friends and praise efforts to socialize. Offer to take your teen out with friends or suggest social activities that might be of interest, such as sports, after-school clubs, or an art class.

·         Stay involved in treatment. Make sure your teenager is following all treatment instructions and going to therapy. It’s especially important that your child takes any prescribed medication as instructed. Track changes in your teen’s condition, and call the doctor if depression symptoms seem to be getting worse.

·         Learn about depression. Just like you would if your child had a disease you knew very little about, read up on depression so that you can be your own “expert.” The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to help your depressed teen. Encourage your teenager to learn more about depression as well. Reading up on their condition can help depressed teens realize that they’re not alone and give them a better understanding of what they’re going through.

The road to your depressed teenager’s recovery may be bumpy, so be patient. Rejoice in small victories and prepare for the occasional setback. Most importantly, don’t judge yourself or compare your family to others. As long as you’re doing your best to get your teen the necessary help, you’re doing your job.

Taking care of the whole family

As a parent dealing with teen depression, you may find yourself focusing all your energy and attention on your depressed child. Meanwhile, you may be neglecting your own needs and the needs of other family members. While helping your depressed child should be a top priority, it’s important to keep your whole family strong and healthy during this difficult time.

·         Take care of yourself – In order to help a depressed teen, you need to stay healthy and positive yourself, so don’t ignore your own needs. The stress of the situation can affect your own moods and emotions, so cultivate your well–being by eating right, getting enough sleep, and making time for things you enjoy.

·         Reach out for support – Get the emotional support you need. Reach out to friends, join a support group, or see a therapist of your own. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, or angry. The important thing is to talk about how your teen’s depression is affecting you, rather than bottling up your emotions.

·         Be open with the family – Don’t tiptoe around the issue of teen depression in an attempt to “protect” the other children. Kids know when something is wrong. When left in the dark, their imaginations will often jump to far worse conclusions. Be open about what is going on and invite your children to ask questions and share their feelings.

·         Remember the siblings – Depression in one child can cause stress or anxiety in other family members, so make sure “healthy” children are not ignored. Siblings may need special individual attention or professional help of their own to handle their feelings about the situation.

·         Avoid the blame game – It can be easy to blame yourself or another family member for your teen’s depression, but it only adds to an already stressful situation. Furthermore, depression is normally caused by a number of factors, so it’s unlikely—except in the case of abuse or neglect—that any loved one is “responsible”.


The special nutritional needs of teenagers

This is growth spurt time: kids gain about 20% of adult height and 50% of adult weight during adolescence. Because growth and change is so rapid during this period, the requirements for all nutrients increase. This is especially true of calcium and iron.

Eating disorders in teens

Adolescents and teens are at a high risk of developing anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.

Eating habits, however, are pretty well set by now, and if your child's choices are less than ideal, it's a challenging time for a course correction; teens have other priorities. The best way to make teen dietary changes is by presenting information about short-term consequences that they can relate to: appearance, athletic ability, popularity and enjoyment of life, because these are more important to most teens than long-term health. For example, “

Calcium will help you grow taller during your growth spurt.”  “Iron will help you do better on tests and stay up later without being as tired.”

When you do speak of long-term consequences, link them to the things that teens care about—particularly body image. For instance,

“You know how some old men and women are bent over when they walk, and others are strong and active? One of the biggest differences was how much calcium they got every day when they were your age..." It's a fine line between teaching and preaching, but will pay big health dividends down the line.

Special nutritional needs for teens


Due to all the growth and activity of this time, adolescent boys need 2500-2800 per day, while girls need around 2200 per day. It’s best to get these calories from lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and fruits and veggies.


In order for the body to grow and maintain muscle, teens need 45-60 grams per day. Most teenagers easily meet this need from eating meat, fish, and dairy, but vegetarians may need to increase their protein intake from non-animal sources like soy foods, beans and nuts.


During puberty, your child’s body will naturally “grab” all the calcium it can, to ensure strong bones in the future. Unfortunately, many teens do not get sufficient amounts of calcium, leading to weak bones and osteoporosis later in life. Encourage teens to cut back on soda consumption and other overly sugary foods, which leech calcium from bones, and to get the 1200 mg of calcium needed per day from dairy, calcium-fortified juice and cereal, and other calcium rich foods such as sesame seeds and leafy greens like spinach.


Iron is needed to help new muscle mass gained in adolescence to obtain energy. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue, and weakness. Boys need 12 mg each day, and teen girls, who often lose iron during menstruation, need 15 mg. Iron-rich foods include red meat, chicken, beans, nuts, enriched whole grains, and leafy green veggies like spinach or kale.

Surviving Your Teen's First Love (and Break-Up)

By Meghan Vivo

It's a sure sign that your child is growing up when they embark on their first romantic relationship. And though your tween or teen is taking another step toward adulthood, they may not be emotionally prepared for the ups and downs of their first love (which is commonly followed by their first break-up).

Even though the thought of your teen entering the world of dating and relationships may strike terror in you (you've been around long enough to know that early relationships can set the tone for all future relationships), you have an important role to play in preparing your teen to make healthy choices.

Research published in the journal Child Development shows that teens' choice of romantic partner as early as middle school has long-term effects on their emotional and social health.

Despite the fact that teen dating is dramatically different today than it was in decades ago (with Facebook, teen sexting and widespread promiscuity), a study by Stephanie Madsen, associate professor of psychology at McDaniel College in Maryland, shows that teens value parental input and tend to have healthier relationships when they get advice from their parents.

Though you can't protect your child from a broken heart, you can help guide them through the maze of teen dating by following these suggestions:

Discuss the Details. It may be hard for your teen to imagine you out on a date, but chances are you have at least some experience in this area. Share what you know, such as restaurant etiquette, what to do when the bill comes, how to politely end a bad date, and how to handle the goodnight kiss or pressures to have sex.

Also talk to your teen about what to look for in a boyfriend or girlfriend. They'll likely have their own ideas, but it never hurts to explain why dating the popular kid, the jock or the best looking person in class might be overrated. Instead, encourage your teen to consider how much they have in common with their love interest, how smart and caring the person is, whether they enjoy spending time with them, and how they treat others.

When talking with your teen, be as understanding and nonjudgmental as possible. It may have been many years ago, but you can still remember how nerve-racking, exciting and terrifying one's first forays into the dating world can be. Most adolescents fall in love for the first time and are convinced that it will last forever. You don't need to be the voice of doom, as most early relationships end before the school year is up.

Don't get discouraged if your teen doesn't respond the way you'd hoped. Chances are they're listening to what you have to say and are just too embarrassed to admit it.

Know the Plan. Before your teen goes on a date, make sure you know where they will be, who they will be with and what they will be doing. Dating violence is unfortunately common and you want to be prepared to take action if needed. Let your teen know they can call you if they feel uncomfortable with anything that happens on a date or if they end up drinking too much or getting themselves into a bind.

Establish the Rules. Your teenager is not yet an adult and is still subject to your rules. Even though your son or daughter feels that they are in love, they may not fully understand what love is and how it differs from attraction. This means extra precautions are necessary to protect your child's emotions and to help them make decisions they won't regret.

Many parents insist that their children wait until age 16 to go on their first date, and some allow only group dates for a period of time. Talk to your teen about your concerns and expectations and establish the ground rules together.

This is also an ideal time to talk about sex and share your family's values and morals. Today's teens already know far more than the basic "birds and the bees" lecture, so you'll need to provide detailed, relevant and accurate information about sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and other issues. If your teen is feeling pressured to have sex, talk about the reasons waiting may be best and ways to say no.

Be Your Teen's Biggest Fan. When a teen's first love (or subsequent relationship) ends, the heartbreak can feel earth-shattering. Many young people carry the scars of this pain into their adult relationships, so parents need to be particularly supportive and sympathetic during these times.

Romantic love is intense and is a new experience for teens. Even if the relationship was obviously doomed from the start or only lasted a couple weeks, your teen's pain is real to them and deserves validation. Show that you care by actively listening to your teen's feelings without badmouthing their love interest.

Let your teen voice their hurt in their own way, even if it seems irrational or overly dramatic (e.g., they refuse to eat, cry uncontrollably, blare sad music or spend the entire weekend under the covers in bed). Because of their developmental stage, it is normal for tweens and teens to experience intense feelings of both elation and sadness that may seem extreme to you. If you're afraid your child is crossing the line into teen depression, seek advice from a therapist or other professional.

If your teen shows interest, talk about your own past experiences to show them they are not alone and that they will find love again. Breakups can bring deeper issues and insecurities to the surface, especially if a teen has experienced past trauma, their parents' divorce, a death in the family or other distressing events. Healing takes time and can't be rushed, so be supportive for as long as it takes.

For some teens, their first love is someone they lose quickly but remember forever. For others, their high school crush may be the person they end up spending their life with. Whichever holds true for your teen, their first romantic relationship presents a valuable opportunity for you to share your values with your child and get them started on the right path toward feeling the joy and meaning of lasting love.

What to Do if Your Child Is a Bully

By Leslie Davis

Nobody wants to admit that their teen is a bully. But if there are kids getting bullied at school, there are kids doing the bullying. And that child might just be yours.

A 2001 survey of students in grades 6 through 10 found that 13 percent had bullied other students. Bullying can include physically bullying (hitting or punching), verbal bullying (teasing or name-calling), emotional bullying (intimidation or social exclusion) and cyberbullying (insulting others via email, text or instant messaging).

Away from the observant eyes of their parents and surrounded by often influential peers at school, your kids may be bullying without you even knowing it. Your kids may act like angels at home but may not be quite so well-behaved on the schoolyard.

Signs That Your Child Is Bullying

If your child is getting into trouble at school for fighting or acts dominant or aggressive with other kids, you may have a bully on your hands. Kids who are bullying generally become easily frustrated if they don’t get their way, lack empathy for others and have a history of discipline problems.

Here are other common characteristics of children who bully, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

·         Seeks to manipulate others

·         Enjoys feeling powerful and in control

·         Is both a poor winner (boastful and arrogant) and a poor loser

·         Seems to derive satisfaction from other’s fears, discomfort or pain

·         Is good at hiding behaviors or doing them where adults can’t notice

·         Is excited by conflicts between others

·         Blames others for his/her problems

·         Displays uncontrolled anger

·         Has a history of discipline problems

·         Displays a pattern of impulsive and chronic hitting, intimidating and aggressive behaviors

·         Has a history of violent and aggressive behaviors

·         Displays intolerance and prejudice toward others

·         May use drugs or alcohol, or be a member of a gang

·         Both boys and girls engage in bullying, though they often do so in different ways. Boys typically participate in more physical or verbal bulling, such as punching or threatening. Girls are often less direct when it comes to bullying, and will spread rumors or intentionally leave someone out of activities.

Children who bully are more likely to have friends who bully and engage in violent behaviors.

Parenting Tips

If you have discovered that your child is bullying, there are some things you can do:

·         Let your child know the types of bullying and effects of bullying on the victim, and make it clear that you will not tolerate bullying of any sort.

·         Set up rules and consequences for bullying behaviors, and be sure to consistently enforce them.

·         Reward your children when they engage in appropriate behaviors to discourage them from engaging in any inappropriate behaviors.

·         Talk to your child about why they have been bullying. Try to encourage them to open up to you and don’t be judgmental or react out of anger. The bullying may be masking something else that is going on with your child, and talking to them about it can get it out in the open.

·         Get to know your child’s friends and how and where they spend their free time. If your child is spending time with a crowd that engages in bullying or other troubling behaviors (such as drinking, drug use or smoking), talk to your child about their choice of friends and encourage them to seek out friends who will have a more positive influence.

·         Monitor your child’s behaviors at home, online, with friends and at school (as much as possible). Keep an eye out for any early warning signs of bullying so that the problem is easier to address and stop before it gets out of control.

·         Help your child learn healthy ways to cope with anger and frustration, such as exercise, journaling, playing an instrument, or talking to a friend or family member.

·         Teach your child alternatives to aggressive behavior, such as asking for help, respecting others and showing tolerance for those who are different.

·         Get your child involved in positive social activities, such as after-school clubs, volunteering, music lessons and non-violent sports.

·         Get your child’s school involved to watch out for any signs of bullying and to enforce consequences for the behavior at school. Also report any incidents of bullying behaviors to school officials, even if your child is the one doing the bullying. Doing so will hold them accountable for their behavior.

If your child continues to bully, you may want to seek counseling or help through a therapeutic boarding school or wilderness camp for troubled teens. With treatment, your child can address their bullying behaviors, any underlying issues causing them to act out through violence and learn healthy coping behaviors that will reduce the chance of them ever bullying again.

Behaviors Associated with Bullying

Bullying is often a sign of other serious antisocial or violent behavior. According to Stop Bullying Now!, children who frequently bully their peers are more likely to:

·         Engage in frequent fights

·         Be injured in a fight

·         Vandalize property

·         Steal property

·         Drink alcohol or use drugs

·         Smoke

·         Be truant from school

·         Drop out of school

·         Carry a weapon

People who engage in childhood bullying are also more likely to be underachievers in school, engage in criminal activities as adults, and become abusive spouses or parents.  Putting a stop to your child’s bullying now can help ensure that they end a cycle of violence that could continue well into adulthood.

Teen Dating Violence: What You Should Know

By Leslie Davis

You'd like to think that your teens will have a nice, fairytale romance for their first relationship -- that they'll be wooed with flowers, taken for walks in the park and treated with nothing but respect.

And while there's a very good chance that will be the scenario, you should be aware of the potential for teen dating violence – something one in three teens will experience in an intimate relationship.

Most parents don't want to think about this happening to their child. About 80 percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or don't know if it is an issue, according to a 2004 survey in Women's Health.

Unfortunately, the majority of parents are wrong. Here are some statistics you should know about teen dating violence, from Break the Cycle:

·         Nearly 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.

·         One in three teenage girls is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from someone they are dating – a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.

·         One in 10 high school students has been hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

·         80 percent of girls who have been physically abused continue to date their abuser.

·         Only 33 percent of teens who are in an abusive relationship ever tell anyone about the abuse.

Who Is Victimized

It's important to understand that it's not just girls who are the victims of dating violence. Both males and females are victimized, no matter their race, income level or sexual preference. The main difference is in the way that boys and girls are abusive:

·         Girls are more likely to yell, threaten to hurt themselves, pinch, slap, scratch and kick.

·         Boys injure girls more severely and frequently.

Girls ages 16 to 24 are the population most vulnerable to dating violence, at a rate of almost triple the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Justice:

·         One-quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse or date rape.

·         One in four girls in a relationship reports going further sexually than they wanted as a result of pressure.

·         Among female victims of intimate partner violence, a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend victimized 94 percent of those between the ages of 16 and 19.

·         Between 1993 and 1999, 22 percent of all homicides against females ages 16 to 19 were committed by an intimate partner.

The Impact of Dating Violence

Now that you have an understanding of how serious the problem of teen dating violence is, you also need to be aware of the impact on victims. Teenagers who are victims of dating violence are more likely to continue to be abused in their adult relationships, and are unlikely to break the pattern of abusive relationships.

Teen dating violence also puts victims at increased risk for the following:

·         Substance abuse

·         Eating disorders

·         Risky sexual behavior

·         Pregnancy

·         Suicide

Recognizing the Signs

If your teens have started dating, it's always a good idea to keep an eye out for signs of dating violence. Many teens will be too ashamed to tell you that they are being abused by someone they are dating, and may end up in more dangerous situations in the long run.

The following are some signs that your teen may be involved in a violent dating situation:

·         Withdrawing from school or activities they used to enjoy

·         Becoming isolated, hostile or secretive

·         Apologizes for partner's behaviors

·         Stops hanging out with friends

·         Physical bruises, signs of injury or damaged personal property

·         Changes in clothing or make-up

·         Use of drugs or alcohol

If you recognize any of these signs, take action immediately before the situation gets worse.

What You Can Do

Parents often feel helpless once they realize that their child is the victim of teen dating violence. The most important thing to do is to talk to your teen about dating violence, something most parents admit to not doing.

The moment you think your teens may begin dating, inform them of the dangers of dating violence and what to do should they find themselves in an abusive situation. Encourage them to be open with you about their relationships and reassure them that you will not be judgmental about anything they tell you.

If you believe that your teen is a victim of dating violence, try talking to them about it. Find an appropriate time to start the conversation and act supportive, encouraging and caring as you elicit information. Don't be critical about anything your teen tells you because that may cause them to end the conversation and continue in their unhealthy relationship.

Depending on the severity of the abuse, you may need to take your teen to a doctor for a check-up and contact your local law enforcement officials. They may be in the best position to follow up on the abuse and take action.

Teen dating violence is a very real, and very serious, problem. During February, which has been designated National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, take time to education yourself and your teens about the threats and risks associated with teen dating violence and come up with proactive measures to avoid it. Keeping a dialogue open with your teens will give them a better chance of having that fairytale romance.

A New Year's Resolution: To Be a Better Parent

By Staff Writer

New Year's is a natural time for people to take stock of the year and set goals for the next year. As parents, we all do our best, but there's always room for improvement. While you're making New Year's resolutions about losing weight, saving money and exercising, also consider resolving to be the best parent you can be.

Get Healthier - Together. Research has repeatedly shown that families that eat together stay together. They are also healthier, more connected, and more successful in school and at work. Make a point to eat dinner together every night and take walks or engage in active play as a family.

Spend More Quality Time. Family rituals foster togetherness and open the lines of communication. Plan family trips, outings, art or home improvement projects and other activities together or volunteer as a family. In the New Year, set a goal to learn something new together; for example, study a new language, take cooking classes or start a family book club.

Monitor Your Teens' Online Activity. The Internet can be a dangerous place for teens. If you haven't already done so, move your child's computer into a common area of the home (such as the kitchen or living room), set parental controls and monitor how much time your teen spends on the computer each night. While the Internet can be educational and keep your teen in touch with friends and family, it also raises a number of concerns such as teen bullying, Internet addiction and online predators.

Talk to Your Kids. Every parent wants their teens to come to them if they have a problem. But you have to open the lines of communication and establish trust before your teens will feel comfortable sharing with you. There are a number of talks every parent should have with their teens, including frequent conversations about sex, smoking and adolescent substance abuse. Find out all you can about your child - their likes and dislikes, who their friends are and where they spend their time.

Be a Good Role Model. You are your child's first teacher of right and wrong. Your children learn a lot about your priorities by watching you and the resolutions you set. If you smoke, drink, use drugs or engage in other destructive behaviors, resolve to make changes in your own life, and you'll benefit both yourself and your kids.

Set and Enforce Rules. Teens crave independence, but they don't yet have the mature judgment necessary to set their own boundaries. Parents still play a vital role in establishing rules and enforcing them consistently so that teens feel safe and have structure to their lives. Also remember to praise your kids for positive behavior and balance your rules with plenty of love and support.

Be a Good Listener. Often, in an effort to prove they are older and wiser, parents succumb to lecturing and judging. This year, take a new approach and do more listening than talking. Ask questions and actively hear what your teens have to say.

Catch Your Teen Being Good. Parents spend a lot of time saying no to their teens. In the year to come, make an effort to balance discipline with catching your child doing the right thing.

Get Help if Your Teen Is Struggling. If every year you work to become a better parent and your teen continues to fall deeper into trouble, don't be ashamed to get help. There are therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness therapy programs and residential treatment centers for teens who are struggling with substance abuse, defiance and other emotional and behavioral issues. Knowing when to reach out for help is a sign of good parenting in a very difficult situation, and may be exactly what your teen needs to make real changes in the year to come.

Change can happen year-round, but New Year's marks the end of one thing and the beginning of another. Take this opportunity to make the new year your family's best ever.

The Power of Fatherhood

By Hugh C. McBride

"One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.”
George Herbert (17th Century English poet and clergyman)

Every Father's Day, after the handmade cards have been carefully put away for safekeeping (and the neckties perhaps a bit more unceremoniously stashed), many dads ask themselves the questions that motivate many of their actions – and occasionally plague their sleepless nights, "Am I doing this right? And am I doing enough?"

It's no secret that parenting a child is one of life's most challenging endeavors. And in the four centuries since George Herbert praised the power of paternal influence, more than a few cultural observers have called into question the value (and, in some cases, the very necessity) of a father's efforts on behalf of his children.

But those critics are arguing in the face of considerable scientific and sociological research, the bulk of which points toward a common conclusion: Fathers matter – and good fathers offer a world of benefits to their sons and daughters.

The Many Benefits of Effective Fatherhood

The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) doesn't leave much room for interpretation when weighing in on the many benefits of effective fatherhood:

Research literature supports the finding that a loving and nurturing father improves outcomes for children, families and communities.

Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors including drug use, truancy, and criminal activity.

Citing information from a National Fatherhood Initiative publication titled “The Father Factor: How Father Absence Affects Our Youth,” the NRFC notes that fathers who play an active role in their children's lives can significantly increase the quality of their children's lives, and decrease the threats to their healthy development:

• Research indicates that children are more likely to be healthy when they have fathers who are involved in daily efforts to ensure their health and safety.

• Children whose fathers live with them are less likely to be either abused or neglected.

• Children who live with their father and mother are less likely to engage in problematic behaviors that result in their being suspended or expelled from school.

• Girls whose fathers are not involved in their lives are at considerably higher risk of early sexual activity (and are seven times more likely to become pregnant) than are adolescents whose fathers are involved with their upbringing.

• Having a close relationship with one's father has been identified as a significant protective factor against adolescent drug and alcohol abuse.

Fathers and Daughters

Historically, the role of fathers has been thought to be of primary importance to the development of sons, while the raising of daughters was often believed to be the province of the mother. Today, though, it is becoming increasingly clear that although mothers play a vital role in raising daughters (and sons), a father's relationship with his daughter can result in significant and measureable improvements to his daughter’s life.

For example, a May 27 article by clinical child psychologist and neuroscience researcher Nestor Lopez-Duran described the ways in which a healthy father-daughter relationship can have a significant positive influence on the daughter's relationships with romantic partners.

Writing for the Child Psychology Research Blog, Lopez-Duran reported on a study of 78 teen girls and young adult women (average age of 19) in which the quality of the daughters' relationships with their fathers was compared to the daughters' relationships with their current boyfriends.

An evaluation of three aspects of those relationships – communication, trust, and time spent together – led the researchers to conclude that daughters who communicated with and trusted their fathers were likely to have similarly healthy relationships with their boyfriends:

1. Girls and young women who reported having good communication with their fathers also had significantly better communication with their boyfriends than did study subjects who had low levels of communication with their fathers.

2. Girls and young women who had high levels of trust with their fathers also had significantly better communication and trust with their boyfriends.

3. The amount of time that the girls and young women spent with their fathers was not associated with communication, trust, or time spent with their boyfriends.

Quality vs. Quantity

As is noted in the study that Lopez-Duran described, effective fatherhood is about much more than spending time in the presence of one's children. Being there, as the old adage advises, may be half the battle, but the true benefits of fatherhood are the results of actions, not mere presence.

In a paper titled "The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children," authors Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox established the following seven steps as essential components of effective fatherhood:

1. Fostering a positive relationship with the children's mother
2. Spending time with children
3. Nurturing children
4. Disciplining children appropriately
5. Serving as a guide to the outside world
6. Protecting and providing
7. Serving as a positive role model

Though maintaining a presence in their children's lives is obviously an important concern for fathers, Rosenberg and Wilcox noted that " being there" is beneficial primarily as a means of engaging in the activities (such as disciplining, guiding, and nurturing) that ultimately make the biggest difference in children's lives.

From Theory to Practice

Expounding upon their seven pillars of effective fatherhood, Rosenberg and Wilcox provided specific examples of ways in which fathers can influence and enrich their children's lives:

• Play with your children. Fathers' play has a unique role in a child's development, they wrote, noting that children who play with their fathers learn important lessons about exploring the world and keeping their aggressive impulses in check.

• Work with your children. Fathers should engage their children in productive activities such as doing household chores, washing dishes after dinner, or cleaning up the yard, the authors advise. Research, they wrote, indicates that these types of activities promote responsibility, self-esteem, and self-worth among children – qualities that have been associated with academic achievement, career advancement, and psychological health in adulthood.

• Think with your children. Fathers should encourage their children's intellectual growth, Rosenberg and Wilcox advised. From reading to (and later with) their children to supporting their academic pursuits to meeting with teachers and attending school activities, fathers who maintain an active role in their children's education can provide specific support while also emphasizing the overall importance of academics.

• Stay active with your children. Fathers should maintain an active, physical, and playful style of fathering even as their children develop into adolescents and young adults, the authors encouraged, while putting an emphasis on "active." Activities such as tossing a football or going to the library are more valuable than spending time in passive endeavors such as watching television, they reported, noting that the benefits of active recreation extend to the children's emotional health, social growth, and physical fitness.

Need a Helping Hand?

Sometimes the challenges of parenting threaten to overwhelm even the most dedicated and informed fathers and mothers. If you feel like even your best efforts aren't enough to overcome the problems that are currently affecting your family, know that help – and hope – are not far away.

From wilderness programs for troubled teens to adolescent drug rehab facilities and therapeutic private boarding schools, the most effective programs for troubled teens and other at-risk young people also feature family components that help moms and dads identify and address the challenges that are facing their families.

In some programs, this family support takes the form of regular phone consultations with therapists and counselors, while other opportunities include in-person family therapy or even extended on-site parenting workshops.

Regardless of the challenges you are experiencing or the type of program that you choose to help heal your family, don't give in to the temptation to equate a temporary challenge with feelings of "failed fatherhood." As the research indicates (and as experts continue to emphasize), being an effective father isn't merely a matter of making the most of the good times – it's about overcoming the difficult moments together, and remaining a consistent positive presence in your children's lives.

Our understanding of family dynamics, social development, and the psychology of father-child relationships has advanced considerably in the centuries since George Herbert extolled the many virtues of fatherhood. But the concept he expressed is as applicable today as it was in the 1600s: Fathers matter.

How to Avoid Bargaining with Your Teen

By Meghan Vivo

An Interview with Robbi O'Kelley, MSW, LCSW, CADCII

“Okay, okay, I’ll let you go to the party if you stop bugging me about it.”

“I already told you John couldn’t come over, but I’ll let it go this one time.”

“If you do your homework on time, I’ll let you spend the night at Rachel’s house, even though I don’t approve of co-ed sleepovers.”

Do these scenarios sound familiar? Does your teen beg and plead to get his way until you finally just give in? Does “no” really mean “maybe” in your household?

Parents often fall into the trap of bargaining with their child, sometimes to make their own lives easier or because they want to be “friends” with their child, and sometimes because they feel guilt or shame about issues from the past such as getting a divorce, moving the family, or working too many hours.

According to Robbi O'Kelley, MSW, LCSW, CADCII, the Executive Director at New Leaf Academy of Oregon, an all-girls therapeutic boarding school for 10- to 14-year-olds, parents often fall into the bargaining trap when they are unclear about which rules are negotiable and which are non-negotiable. After years of working with parents and their children, she warns that although bargaining with your child may resolve the immediate conflict, a pattern of bargaining could indicate an unhealthy disruption in the balance of power in the parent-child relationship.

Relinquishing Your Parental Authority

Bargaining is often a sign that parents are losing authority over their child, particularly when they begin bargaining about rules that are, or should be, “hard lines in the sand,” says O’Kelley. Teens and preteens may feel a misplaced sense of entitlement that begins to wear away at a parent’s authority.

“Entitlement is when someone believes they have a right to make a choice that is outside of their power,” explains O’Kelley. “When parents repeatedly let their child make decisions that are outside of the child’s power, the child becomes inflated with a sense of self that is inaccurate in terms of the child’s belief in her ability to affect the outcome of events.”

Power is given to parents – not children – for good reason. Parents have the experience, knowledge, and wisdom to keep their kids safe and make good decisions for their child. Of course, there are times when it is fair and appropriate to negotiate and compromise with teens. Power can certainly be shared, but only when the outcome does not have the potential to harm the child.

Rather than bargaining with your child, O’Kelley recommends empowering her to influence the outcome of decisions that truly are negotiable and drawing clear boundaries in areas that are not up for debate.

“For example,” says O’Kelley, “parents may share power with a child around some of the TV programs the child watches. However, the parent should not share decision-making power with the child if a program has content that is too advanced for the child’s age and maturity level. This is an example of a non-negotiable item – there is no discussion or negotiation.”

Similarly, a middle school-aged child should not be allowed to negotiate about which friends she has sleepovers with, what parties she can attend, or how late she can stay out at night. Nor should a middle school child be allowed to choose not to go to school. “Permitting a child to do so allows the child to usurp the parent’s authority on matters that should be non-negotiable because they are in the child’s best interest,” says O’Kelley.

Reclaiming Personal Power

Not only do parents give up their authority in the bargaining process, but they also surrender their personal power – their power to make choices that align with their personal values. For example, a parent gives away his personal power when he allows a child to speak disrespectfully to adults without any consequences. The parent may feel powerless to stop the child from treating him in a manner that goes against his personal values. 

The way to regain personal power, says O’Kelley, is by maintaining boundaries. Knowing which rules are negotiable and which are non-negotiable and sticking to it is the first step. It’s also important for parents to take care of their own mental and physical health by making time for themselves. In doing so, you become a role model to your child, showing her how to get her needs met in a healthy way.  Knowing what your values and morals are and living by them is another way to set clear guidelines for your child.

Tips for Avoiding Power Struggles with Your Teen

While the occasional power struggle is a natural part of parenting, setting up a pattern of bargaining can set the stage for a contentious parent-child relationship during high school and beyond. The following are a few suggestions O’Kelley offers for avoiding power struggles with your teen:

1. Decide which rules or topics are non-negotiable. Talk with your spouse to make sure both of you are on the same page and are prepared to present a united front to your teen.

2. Inform your child that these particular items are no longer up for negotiation and that when you, the parent, says “no” or that a topic is not up for discussion, you are exercising your legal authority to make decisions in the best interest of your child.

3. Inform your child which areas are open for discussion and possible negotiation.

4. Recognize that a child who has negotiated before will try to negotiate again – and this time, she’ll press even harder, hoping that you will give in. Parental responses to these pleas for negotiation should be neutral but firm, such as :

• “Nevertheless, you will not be going to Susan’s house for an overnight.”
• “I’m sorry you’re disappointed, but that is my final word.”
• “This is not negotiable. I am not comfortable with you going to Mike’s house for the reasons we have already discussed.”
• “If you continue to push this, I will have to … (ground you for the evening for not accepting my decision, take away your cell phone for 24 hours, etc.).”

5. Understand that if you have allowed your child to negotiate in the past and are trying to regain your personal power in the relationship, the process takes time.  You may have to set multiple boundaries and have the same discussion several times. Teenagers will test every rule. For example, “Can I go to Jenny’s house?”  “No.” “Can I go to the mall with Jenny?” “No.”  “Can I study with Jenny and Sarah?” “No.”

6. Do not get stuck in an argument. Too many words are usually a sign that you are negotiating. The longer the conversation continues, the more your teen feels she can change your mind.

7. Always listen to your children. You can validate their feelings without necessarily agreeing. For example, you may want to say, “I understand that you feel left out because everyone else is going to the party. Nevertheless, I am not comfortable with you going.”

Next time your child tries to spark a debate on a non-negotiable issue or “win” in a bargaining exchange, remember these parenting tips and do yourself and your child a favor by drawing a clear, but fair boundary. If you have used these strategies in the past and your child continues to struggle with respect, rules, and authority, it may be time for a professional intervention.

New Leaf Academy of Oregon specializes in working with middle school-aged girls who need help developing the skills to successfully navigate adolescence and family relationships. For more information, call (877) 820-5050 or visit

Teaching Time: How to Help Your Teen Live an Organized Life

By Hugh C. McBride

Contrary to the slacker stereotype with which they are often branded, many of today’s teenagers are remarkably busy people. Schoolwork, extracurricular activities, volunteer service, and part-time jobs keep many teens on their toes from early in the morning until late at night. And though a solid work ethic is often seen as a key to academic and financial success, teenagers are not immune to the damaging effects associated with overextending oneself.

Writing in the May 2007 edition of Perspectives on Labour and Income, Katherine Marshall of Canada’s Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division noted that “most teens have relatively high workloads, and not surprisingly, this comes with some feelings of stress. For example, 16 percent considered themselves workaholics, 39 percent felt under constant pressure to accomplish more than they could handle, and most (64 percent) cut back on sleep to get things done.”

Parents who are concerned that their teens are overdoing it can help ease the strain by teaching them to incorporate the following time-management skills into their lives:

Tip #1: Outline Objectives

As the Mayo Clinic advises on its website, “planning your day can help you feel more in control of your life.” Teens who write down both short-term goals and long-term objectives may find themselves better able to achieve both.

Keeping a “to-do” list can help in a variety of ways: It allows the teen to organize his day, it prevents him from making multiple commitments for the same time period, and it allows him to note areas where he may either be overburdening himself or wasting his time.

Reviewing previous days’ to-do lists can also boost your teen’s confidence by giving him specific feedback on how much he has accomplished.

Tip #2: Indicate Importance

Instead of merely listing the day’s activities in chronological order, work with your teen to help her organize her daily goals in order of importance. The very process of prioritizing her activities will prompt your teen to evaluate the significance of what she is doing with her time.

Plus, listing tasks and responsibilities in order of their importance may help lessen the pressure your teen puts on herself, as she can reduce the “intimidation factor” of a list of objectives by differentiating between what she has to accomplish that day and what she would merely like to get done.

Tip #3: Prevent Procrastination

At first glance, procrastination might look like the ultimate tool for uncluttering one’s schedule – after all, your teen could argue, he won’t be very busy today if he decides to put everything off until tomorrow, right?

If responsibilities came with penalty-free expiration dates, procrastinating might be the best approach. But back here in the real world, avoiding what needs to be accomplished only delays the inevitable. And waiting until tomorrow, next week, or next month will have a domino effect on your teen’s schedule, ultimately forcing him to do work in a shorter time frame while under the stress of a looming (or missed) deadline.

As your teen becomes more adept at scheduling his days and prioritizing his objectives, he should be less prone to procrastinate. The next tip on this list should help, too.

Tip #4: Divide Demands

As the old adage advises, there’s only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

To your teenager, staring down a particularly complex task or onerous objective can feel like sitting down to a dinner of pan-fried pachyderm. Help her break down large undertakings into a series of achievable interim accomplishments.

For example, instead of letting your teen flip to next month’s calendar and write down “turn in term paper” on the due date, show her how to set up a series of intermediate steps (select topic, write outline, finish research, write first draft, complete final revisions) that will get her to her goal on time and with sanity intact.

Tip #5: Tame Technology

Even with all the ways in which technology can simplify our lives, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the devices are supposed to be working for us, not vice versa. Teens seem particularly susceptible to the lure of the digital world, and keeping them on track can often be a matter of convincing them to log off.

Computers, cell phones, personal digital assistants, and other electronic instruments have become omnipresent aspects of modern society, but teens need to be taught how to manage what can easily become information overload. For example, while his cell phone’s digital calendar can help keep your teen on track, sending and receiving dozens of daily text messages on the same system can distract him from his duties.

Limit your teen’s access to entertainment-only electronics (yes, this means you, Xbox), and teach him how to make the most efficient use of the other devices in his digital toolbox.

Tip #6: Decrease Distractions

Game consoles and mp3 players can command a significant portion of your teenager’s attention span, but they are hardly the only enemies in the battle for focus.

Make sure your teen has an orderly, well-lit, and distraction-free environment in which to do her homework, and show her that an assignment that might take two hours when attempted on the living room floor in front of American Idol can be completed in a fraction of that time when taken on in the right workspace.

In addition to helping your teen complete her work more quickly (and probably with better results), your distraction-dilution tips will also prepare her for situations such as driving, in which a single-minded focus can literally be a lifesaving skill.   

Tip #7: Remain Robust

Three of the most important activities in a busy person’s life – sleeping, eating, and exercising –are often the first to be jettisoned in a misguided attempt to remain effective. But though it might seem counterintuitive at first, stopping work in order to eat, sleep, and exercise can actually make a person more productive.

Some may look like adults from the outside, but teen bodies are still works in progress. This means they need proper nutrition and adequate amounts of sleep (at least nine uninterrupted hours a night) to ensure that their bodies develop appropriately.

Make sure your teen isn’t attempting to subsist on potato chips and soda, and insist that he gets ample exercise and significant shuteye. A well-rested, well-fed teenager is better prepared to face the challenges that life will be throwing his way, and a series of studies have associated physical activity with improved mental acuity.












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Last modified: 10/10/2019