Palos Verdes Intermediate School

Skip to main content
Mobile Menu
Thank you for participating in Pennies for Patients and being a part of our Hero Squad!  This report outlines the members of your school that have achieved different Hero Squad Gear, our way of saying thank you for furthering our mission. Hero Squad Gear Qualifying Level Hero Squad Tattoo Student registers for an online fundraising page Power Ring Student brings in $5 *offline* (coin box) please see volunteer guide Hero Band Student raises $10 on their online fundraising page Super-Sidekick Student raises $25 on their online fundraising page Hero Squad Tee Participant raises $50 online *teachers are also eligible Mini-Champ Student raises $100 on their online fundraising page  *Remember: Students are also eligible to receive the Power Ring when they collect $5 in their coinbox and bring that into the teacher with the Coupon on their Dear Parent Letter. See your volunteer guide for more details!  For more information on our Hero Squad Gear, please see the qualifying levels above and by clicking on the above link to view your schools report! Or respond to this email to ask your local staff partner additional questions!
Parents » Parental Strategies - Doc's Corner

Parental Strategies - Doc's Corner

DOC’S CORNER

12/13/2018

 

UNDERSTANDING AND PREVENTING ADOLESCENT SUICIDE: PART II. In last week’s column, I presented warning signs and risk factors related to Teen suicide. This is, obviously, a very serious topic. Today, we’ll look at some of the things parents can do to make a difference, and to minimize the risks.

1. Knowledge is the first step. Knowing warning signs and risk factors is essential. Issues of depression and anxiety need to be taken very seriously. Warning signs do not mean your child will attempt to harm themselves, but should not be ignored. Their feelings need to be taken seriously, and not dismissed as a passing thoughts or need for attention.

2. Communication with your child is essential. Interacting positively, including compliments, positive feedback are preventive tools. Even if they are not talking about problems, stress, fears, anxieties, you should pay close attention, and be aware of the stresses and difficulties they may be going through – eg, breakups, school problems, bullying, medical problems, peer pressure – and talk to them about how they are feeling. Avoid grilling them, and listen to how they feel. Active listening from a concerned, caring parent will make the child feel understood and cared for, and feel like they are not alone in their distress.

3. Take all threats seriously. The first level of suicidal thought is called “ideation”. At this stage, teens may just be contemplating harming themselves as a way of coping with their problems. It is important to listen non-judgmentally, and provide love and support. Do not tell them that “they don’t mean it” or that it is “crazy or ridiculous”. Let them know how much you care about them, that you will help them find solutions to their issues, and that most problematic things are temporary. It is also important to seek professional help right away. You can contact your pediatrician or school counselor for a referral to a licensed mental health provider who specializes in adolescents.

4. Share your feelings with them. Let them know that it is normal to have fears, depression, and sadness, and that sharing these thoughts and feelings often help provide a different, and more positive perspective. Options can reduce a sense of hopelessness.

5. Appropriately monitor your child’s whereabouts, and social media communications. Teens frequently utilize social media to express their concerns and thoughts. Be aware of their friends, coaches and communicate regularly with other parents in the community. Very often, children will tell parents about what their friends are thinking or doing.

6. Drugs and alcohol are serious issues, and related to self-harm. All and any use is risky use, and should be addressed. You may not be able to prevent your child from experimenting, but I believe it is essential that they know where you stand, and that you maintain a zero tolerance attitude.

7. If you keep guns at home, store them safely, and consider removing them if you are aware of a pending crisis. Suicide from firearms among youth topped a 12 year high in 2013, with most of the deaths involving a gun belonging to a family member. These deaths may have been prevented if a gun was not available.

8. Help lower any stigma associated with getting mental health treatment. Let them know that it is a positive step, and does not mean they are “crazy”. Help them understand the value of therapy, and medication if needed. Let them know that getting help is a process, and is not accomplished immediately. Assist them in not being too hard on themselves, or not having unrealistic demands or expectations.

9. Encourage your child not to isolate themselves. If you have concern, or if they have verbalized thoughts of self-harm, do not leave them alone until you have had an evaluation by a professional. Follow the professional’s recommendations and guidelines.

For those parents who have to deal with suicidal feelings with their teens, it is incredibly frightening. Knowing what to look for, and taking proper actions, is the best thing one can do to avoid a tragic outcome.

Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at askdrgelbart@gmail.com.

 

Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center

 

DOC’S CORNER

12/6/2018

 

UNDERSTANDING AND PREVENTING ADOLESCENT SUICIDE: PART I. Adolescent suicide has become a national health crisis. Although it is difficult to talk about, and most of us would like to act like it doesn’t exist, knowing some of the causes, risk factors, and ways to get help can save tremendous distress, and even lives. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that it is the second leading cause of death among youth, ages 15-19. In 2016, 2,061 adolescent suicide deaths were reported, accounting for 18% of all reported deaths in this age group. Males are much more likely to die by suicide, by almost three times as much as females. While females have higher incidence of suicidal ideation and behavior, males are more likely to carry out the acts. Almost 20% of teenagers have contemplated suicide in the last year. The causes and risk factors of suicidal thoughts and behaviors are a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Mental health issues are clearly related to such thoughts. 20% of youth have a significant mental health issue, including depression and bipolar disorder which are most commonly associated with suicidal threat. Other psychological disorders are also related, including anxiety, conduct disorders, substance abuse, post traumatic stress, and eating disorders. When these problems are combined with external circumstances for teens, they often feel overwhelmed. Interpersonal losses, disciplinary problems, school failures, conflicts with peers, and bullying can lead to a sense of hopelessness. Adverse Childhood Events (ACE) and significant and serious family issues, like physical and sexual abuse, are high risk factors. Children who have gender identity or sexual identity conflicts are at high risk, with LBGT adolescents having the highest rates of suicidal ideation. Suicide is a relatively rare event, and difficult to predict, but there are some warning signs. As listed by the American Psychological Association, these include::

1. Talking about dying or suicide. Any mention of such thoughts should always be taken seriously, and evaluated.

2. Recent Loss. Including death, divorce, separation, break up.

3. Change in personality: withdrawn, anxious, irritable, indecisive, apathetic. These can be indicators of problems other than suicidal thinking.

4. Change in Behavior: can’t concentrate, perform routine tasks

5. Change in sleep patterns: insomnia, too much sleep

6. Fear of Losing Control: acting in erratic or self harming ways

7. Low self esteem: feeling worthless, shame, guilty, self hatred

8. No hope for the future: sense of hopelessness and no ability to see things getting better.

9. Inability to experience pleasure: especially from events which used to be fun

10. Giving away prized possessions

11. Prior suicide attempts

12. Increased drug or alcohol use

13. Preoccupation with Death and dying.

I know that the issue is overwhelming and daunting. Knowing the risk factors and recognizing warning signs can definitely reduce acting out. In the next article, Part II, I will discuss preventive measures parents can take, as well as specific actions to take if you have concerns. The most important is to take all verbalizations or signs as very serious, and to immediately seek professional, therapeutic evaluation and help. Thinking that these thoughts will pass is not a good strategy. Proper assessment and treatment is essential. If you have concerns, do not be afraid to talk to your children, and ask them how they feel. Parents sometimes think that bringing up these issues can put thoughts in their children’s heads – instead, it is a message and assurance that someone cares, and will give them the opportunity to talk about their problems.

 

Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at askdrgelbart@gmail.com.

 

Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center

 

 

DOC’S CORNER

11/29/18

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF VALIDATING FEELINGS. Every parent knows the value of communication with their children. It is probably the most sought after goal, and desire. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal cited research indicating that when communication breaks down, the mental health of adolescents suffer. The article quotes that “teens who disclose their daily activities and inner feelings to a parent tend to have lower levels of anxiety and depression and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors”. While seemingly obvious, why is it that the barriers to communication are often great? One study asked teenagers “who would you most like to talk to about problems” and the overwhelming majority answered an understanding adult. However, when asked “ who DO you talk to about problems”, the majority answered a friend/another teen. In essence, they are getting most of their input and advice from friends who have similar experiences, rather than parents who have their best interest at heart, combined with extensive life experience. The reason for this is that teenagers often do not feel heard, and feel adults talk at them, rather than to them. The most important skill/factor to reverse this trend is learning how to validate feelings. This is the cornerstone for good communication, not only with your children. First, we have to understand that feelings are never incorrect. When your child says they are sad, angry, hurt, you can’t say “no you’re not”. Feelings are always the result of thinking. What our thoughts tell us, create and lead to our feelings. While our feelings are always correct, our thinking may be distorted, based on wrong information, or exaggerated. It is essential to learn to validate feelings. What that means is to listen carefully, hear what your child is feeling, and let them know you understand the feeling, based on what they are telling you. For example, if they come home and say they are really angry at their teacher, and you ask why, and they say they were not treated fairly, you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes, and validate their feeling experience. You might say “if you think you were not treated fairly, I could understand why you are angry”. This is not agreeing with their perception, but understanding that how they feel is correct based on their perception. When you validate their feeling, they feel heard, and you have built a bridge of communication with them which allows you to begin to understand, or question, their thinking. With their feelings validated, they will be much more willing to look at other possibilities. If the thinking can change, eg, you come to an understanding that they were treated strictly, but not unfairly by the teacher in our example, their feelings will change. Changing thinking changes feelings. That is one of the primary goals of counseling – to challenge and change thinking which may be leading to negative feelings. The reverse of validating feelings is called invalidating feelings. As parents, we do this unknowingly, usually with good intent. If you want to insure that your child will not want to share and open up with you, make them feel like you think their feelings are incorrect. This is often done caringly, and

with good intent, but the results are a shutdown in communication. In our example, a parent would say “you shouldn’t be angry at your teacher – I’m sure he wasn’t being unfair”. The child experiences this being told they are wrong, and although they may not say so, will begin to shut down. The most direct invalidation is “you shouldn’t feel that way”.

 

As stated, learning how to validate feelings is one of the most essential skills to good communication. It is complex, and not easy. You must work at listening, at trying to hear the feelings which are being communicated (sometimes indirectly), and then make it clear that you understand, and respect (not necessarily agree with) the perspective and point of view. When you are able to validate your child’s feelings, you may be surprised that they are much more willing to open up to you.

 

Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at askdrgelbart@gmail.com.

 

Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center

DOC’S CORNER

 

 

11/8/18

 

PARENTAL STRATEGIES: TO TEST OR NOT TO TEST, THAT IS THE QUESTION. THOUGHTS ON DRUG TESTING YOUR TEENS

 

Parental concern about drug use is almost universal, and the topic of whether or not to drug test one’s own child is a consuming dilemma. Parents major concerns regarding drug testing include lack of knowledge about what is available, what to do if the tests are positive, and most importantly, how does drug testing interfere with the relationship, and the strong desire to maintain trust. The other concern I hear most often is what should the timing of drug testing be, ie, is it done after one suspects a problem, or is it a preventative measure? Although opinions vary, I believe drug testing is a valuable tool for many reasons. Urine drug testing kits are readily available in your pharmacy, or on the internet. Most of these test for a panel of drugs, including alcohol, marijuana, opiates, benzodiazepenes, cocaine. Many of the synthetic and club drugs will not show up, and require sophisticated, and expensive testing. I recommend testing because it goes a long way to removing questions or doubts, and if test results are negative, a parent can much more easily dispense with their suspicions, and probing questions. One of the main benefits of drug testing is that it provides a reasonable and built in excuse for your child to refuse temptation or peer pressure to use, and saying “no, I can’t, my parents will test me when I get home” is clearly understood. If framed in a positive manner, ie, “I just want to do this so we can get this concern out of the way and not be bothered by it”, most kids will not protest too much. If a request produces great anger, resentment, and refusal, that may be a sign that there is something to hide.

 

When should one consider testing? The clearest answer is if there is concern or suspicion of use, obviously. It is a much more difficult decision if one is trying to use it as a precaution or preventative measure. If you have a good relationship with your child, if they talk to you about the pressures of use in the community, then you can discuss the issue with them. Letting them know that your relationship, trust, and communication is of utmost importance, allow them to have a voice in the decision. When there is any suspicion or concern, drug testing is a good tool.

 

If you decide to test, there are some important considerations. Testing should be random, and not announced. It can and should be linked to those times that you are especially concerned. Know that some substances, like alcohol, cocaine, meth clear the system relatively rapidly, within 1-3 days, while marijuana, which is stored in the fat cells, will stay in the system and continue to test positively for 30-60 days. You need to have a strategy for positive test results –

what will you do? Having this in place will lessen anger and battles that may result. Finally, be aware that results of drug testing can be inaccurate. There are a small percentage of false positives, or substances which may trigger a positive test that are not drug related. The percentages of these are small, but they do exist. More significant issues involve tampering with tests. If your child is having a problem, then the desire to hide it from you will be great. Teenagers have vast availability of resources aiding them in covering up their use, including ingesting substances, diluting, or even using someone else’s urine. When you are dealing with this level of deception, then it is best to consult a professional and decide upon a course of assistance. Please know that the Thelma McMillen Center provides free drug testing for teens, and if results are positive, provide resources to parents.

 

In summary, I believe drug testing is a useful tool to both lower anxiety among parents, provide a built in excuse for teens, and ultimately to build trusting relationships.

 

Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at askdrgelbart@gmail.com.

 

Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center

 

 

DOC’S CORNER

11/1/18

 

UNINTENDED NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES

 

When the topic of teen drug or alcohol use comes up, many parents do not pay close attention. The majority feel that their children do not have major issues. When there is a presentation or lecture, they do not feel the need to attend, thinking it does not apply to them. For those where there is an issue, concerns around shame and embarrassment and not wanting to publicly air problems prevents them for seeking help. Compared to most medical problems, substance abuse is endured in silence, and when one needs assistance, there is reluctance to go to a friend, neighbor, or physician, and ask for a good referral. The reality is, the vast majority of your children will not develop an addiction problem. Only about 7% will fall into the most severe category of use in their lifetime. While that may bring some measure of relief, at the Thelma McMillen Center we have learned that the real danger for most is what we call “unintended negative consequences”. Any use by a child or teenager exposes them to significant risks. I use the analogy that using is like walking through a mine field, and accidentally stepping on a mine will a major negative impact. The following are the major unintended negative consequences that teens encounter, with any degree of use:

School Problems. For teens who experiment with alcohol and drugs, their school performance often suffers. Some drugs, like marijuana, have significant impact on memory and concentration. While impact may only be a grade or two, such impact has effect on college admission and future. Their friends and activities could change. The vicious cycle then turns towards low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. These consequences are often a result of experimental use, and do not require full blown addiction.

Legal Problems. Using substances or alcohol is illegal. The consequences for even a single use can be significant. Being ticketed, or even arrested for a substance related issue will follow the child for a long time. Certain legal actions can effect the ability to gain college admission, or to qualify for financial scholarship or assistance. I worked with a law school graduate who was ticketed for alcohol as a teen, and had to defend himself to the moral character committee in order to be admitted to the bar. These are not problems of addiction, but of experimentation.

Sexual Issues. The use of drugs and alcohol correlate with higher incidences of sexual experimentation. Substance use reduces judgment and good decision making, and can result in sexually transmitted disease, unwanted pregnancy, and accusations of sexual assault. (did anyone watch the Supreme Court confirmation hearings). I have worked with teens who have been accused of sexual assault, and have undergone severe legal and financial consequences. These were not kids who were addicted, but just experimenting.

Accidents. Over the last twenty years, life expectancy has increased for all ages except 15-24. The three leading causes of death are accident, suicide, and homicide, all linked to drug and alcohol use. Although only 17% of the population, 15-24 year olds are involved in 48% of the fatal accidents. I have worked with many kids who have injured or killed others while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and have undergone significant consequences. The majority of them were not addicted, but just experimenting.

 

I write to you about unintended negative consequences not to frighten you, but to make you aware of things that could happen without your child having a drug or alcohol problem. It is essential to have a belief and philosophy when it comes to substance use, and to make sure you effectively communicate that to your children. While you will not be able to fully control their behavior, clear messages from you could make a difference. The goal is to delay experimentation. In our program, we have recognized the need to work with early intervention as much as with abuse and addiction. The research indicates that the sooner one intervenes, the less the likelihood to develop an addiction.

 

Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at askdrgelbart@gmail.com.

 

Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center

 

 

DOC’S CORNER

10/25/18

 

A NEW EPIDEMIC: THE BASICS OF VAPING

 

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, there is a new major problem targeting teenagers: VAPING. The Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) has declared youth vaping an epidemic, and is trying to ratchet up the control of these devices and substances to teenagers. Vaping has become the most popular tobacco product among teenagers, with nearly 12 percent of high school students, (almost 2 million) and 3 percent of middle schoolers (500,000) admitting to using the devices in the last 30 days. Of greater concern is the incredible growth daily of the number of kids trying it. While cigarette smoking is decreasing among teenagers, vaping is on the rise, as kids falsely perceive it to be safer than smoking tobacco. In this week’s column, I will cover some of the basics that parents should know about, and in future columns will address the allure for teens, the neurological and psychological basis for using, the consequences, and what can be done.

According to the Partnership for Drug Free Kids, “Vapes and e-cigarettes are battery operated devices that people use to inhale an aerosol, which typically (though not always) contains nicotine along with flavorings or other chemicals.” Vapes come in an array of styles, looking like cigarettes, pipes, and everyday objects like flash drives, pens, inhalers, and other objects. As popularity and use increases, manufacturers go to great lengths to assist teens in hiding the devices and deceiving adults around them, like putting them in hooded sweatshirts with the teens smoking through the seemingly harmless cord. These are strange manners of administration created by the vaping companies, considering they strongly declare that vaping is for adults only – sure! E-cigarettes are known by many different names, including e-cigs, hookahs, mods, vape pens, JUULs, jeweling, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). The devices work by placing a liquid cartridge into a battery powered heating element, which atomizes the solution, and is breathed in by a mouthpiece. Although the liquids are often flavored, the vaping is usually odorless and smokeless, and generally undetectable. The liquids are also often flavored and packaged to give the appearance of something fun and harmless. Unfortunately, that is where the problem starts. Most vaping products that teens use have high levels of nicotine. According to the manufacturer of JUUL, the most popular device, a single JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes! The younger kids start using a vaping/nicotine product, the higher the chances for addiction to nicotine, and the stronger the addiction. 40% of kids who vaped started using tobacco products, compared to 10% of youth that did not smoke at all. That is just the beginning. Teens who begin to vape are twice as likely to move on to marijuana products as those who do not vape, with marijuana in the form of hash oil, wax, and other potent THC products. Nicotine and THC are extremely

dangerous and damaging to the vulnerable, developing teen brain. Again, that is just the beginning. There are a host of severe medical, psychological, and developmental problems which arise out of vaping. I will cover these in future articles in detail.

Knowledge is the first step in battling this epidemic. It is, literally, happening right under our noses. Although our kids believe, and want us to believe, that vaping is harmless, that is far from the truth. They are being manipulated by big business, who are motivated by huge profits, both now and in the future. What teens perceive as harmless actually has severe, and long term negative consequences.

 

Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at askdrgelbart@gmail.com.

 

Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center

 

 

DOC’S CORNER

10/18/18

 

MYTHS RELATED TO TEEN DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE

At a recent parent support group that I run, the topic of children lying about vaping and drug use came up. At the first experience, parents were greatly saddened, concerned that they could no longer trust their children, and feeling a certain sense of innocence slip by. It was an experience that, not surprisingly, was commonly shared by most. The group came to understand not to take such truth challenged communications personally. When it comes to behaviors teens know they should not engage in, ie, alcohol use, drug use, vaping, excessive gaming, etc, they will not tell the truth. It is important for parents to understand, accept, and expect this, and to remain vigilant to warning signs. Being told what we want to believe feeds our denial needs, and temporarily calms our anxiety, but it is not good in the long run.

For starters, for example, you find marijuana or vaping device in their drawers, or back pack. What is the first thing your child will say to you? “it’s not mine!”. This is a reflexive response, rooted in their DNA, that all kids say. Mark this down: IT IS ALWAYS THEIRS. They are never carrying someone else’s drugs or paraphernalia. When you walk into their room, and catch them smoking marijuana, or vaping, what is the first thing they will say to you? FIRST TIME! It’s the first time I ever used, and you caught me. Of course, when you catch them again, sometime later, you will probably hear: “Oh no! The second time I ever used, and you caught me again”. Of course, almost all the time, this is not true.

What are some of the myths they would like us to believe? Among the most common are;

1. It’s only beer. The reality is that a 12 ounce can of beer, a 6 ounce glass of wine, and a 1 ounce shot of liquor, all have the same amount of alcohol/ethanol content, so that drinking six beers is the alcohol equivalent of 6 shots of vodka.

2. Everyone drinks and uses. It may feel that way, but the reality is that not all teenagers drink alcohol or use drugs. In fact, the data in the South Bay shows that 4% of 7th graders, 25% of 9th graders, and 42% of 11th graders reported using alcohol or drugs in the past 30 days. (interestingly, for 9th and 11th graders, our data is higher than the state averages). In regards to marijuana use, the data shows that 13% of 9th graders and 27% of 11th graders in the South Bay reported using marijuana in the past 30 days. To a child who is experimenting, it may feel like everyone is because they often spend their time with others who are similarly experimenting, but the truth is that not everyone uses.

3. It’s only marijuana. Teens who experiment with marijuana become “experts” in what they perceive as the harmlessness of the substance. They study the internet, and find articles to confirm their biases. I constantly hear things like, “it’s a natural herb and harmless”; “everyone used it in the 60’s and nothing happened”; “it’s not addicting”;

“it’s legal, so it can’t be bad for you”. These are myths. The reality is that marijuana is very dangerous, very harmful, and especially so on the young, developing teenage brain. It interferes with concentration, memory, drive, and motivation. The potency of marijuana today, that is the THC levels, is significantly higher than it was years ago, and therefore more damaging. There are methods which make the potency even greater. (I will go more in depth in a future column on marijuana and the problems related). In our treatment program, for both adults and teens, we see that marijuana is both addicting, and leads to other drug use as well. The notion that it is a harmless, natural substance is a myth.

Knowing the myths surrounding teen age substance use is a major tool in increasing awareness, and being prepared for early intervention when needed.

 

Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at askdrgelbart@gmail.com.

 

Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center

 

 

DOC’S CORNER

10/11/18

 

PARENTAL STRATEGIES FOR HELPING TEENS IN TODAY’S PRESSURE COOKER:  PART IV – PICKING YOUR BATTLES, THE A-B-C METHOD

 

There is the inevitable, seemingly never ending struggle between children and teens trying to establish their own identity, and live by their own rules, and we parents trying to teach them, guide them, and protect them from dangerous behaviors and actions.  Sometimes it feels to both sides like there are rules for everything, nothing is acceptable, and there is a constant tug of war regarding rules and expectations.  To cope with this, and ultimately achieve better relationships and results, I advise parents to adopt what I call the “A-B-C” method.  The core principle is to understand that all behaviors are not equal, and for parents to be able to distinguish between essential and non-essential issues.  I suggest dividing the issues with your teenagers into A, B, and C categories.  “A” category issues are essential, and non-negotiable.  It is important to note that for each of these categories, there are no hard and fast rules as to what is to be included – each set of parents decide what fits for them.  The most important issue is that both parents be on the same page, or the result will be massive splitting.  “A” category issues are things like taking drugs or drinking, attending school, not being verbally or physically abusive, and behaviors which are absolutely unacceptable.  The child needs to know that these behaviors and rules are non-negotiable, and parents will do whatever it takes to insure compliance.  Most parents can identify “A” issues relatively easily.  “C” issues are things your child does, that you don’t like or agree with, but that you can live with.  Again, it is each parent’s personal decision as to what constitutes a “C” item, but it is things like the color or length of their hair, how well they clean their room, how they spend some of their time.  My recommendations regarding “C” issues are to let your child know how you feel, but let them make their own choices.  This is an important step in them developing their self-identity and to independence.  Finally, “B” issues are those areas where parents express their desires and expectations, children express their points of view, preferences, and choices, and there is an attempt at negotiation, bargaining, and compromise.  “B” issues can be things like curfew times, attending events or parties, screen time on cell phones or devices.  The goal on “B” issues is to try and arrive at compromise and understanding, learning to give and take, and both points of view receiving respect and validation.  Although not a hard and fast rule, you should try and achieve a balance between A-B-and C behaviors, perhaps close to a third for each.  When caught in a battle, you can ask yourself, “is this A, B, or C” and act accordingly.  The problem for many parents, and children, is when everything begins to  be an “A”, ie, how you clean your room becomes as much of a battle as whether you try drugs, and the child then begins to tune everything out, and hears everything as an absolute demand.  These children experience and perceive their parents as trying to control all aspects of their life, and a common reaction is to rebel against everything. 

 

Think about your own situations, and try and place rules/expectations into A-B-C buckets.  I think you will find a much more pleasant response from your children.  I am impressed that parents with whom I have presented this to have taken it to heart, remembered if for years, and found it works extremely well.

 

Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at askdrgelbart@gmail.com.

 

Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center

 

DOC’S CORNER

9/26/2018

 

PARENTAL STRATEGIES FOR HELPING TEENS IN TODAY’S PRESSURE COOKER: PART II – SETTING LIMITS

 

Here is a secret. Kids love limits and boundaries. You would never know it from their behavior, and their reactions to limits. It is in their developmental DNA to push against boundaries and rules and limits, and in doing so it is how they come to understand themselves and the world around them better, and how they grow emotionally. While they will rebel against most of the limits you set, limits actually provide a safety net for them to explore their environment. They know how far they can go, and know if they cross those lines, they will be taken care of. Those who grow up with little or no limits, experience fear and uncertainty, which leads to anxiety and the need to predict the future and plan for all possible outcomes. Growing up with inadequate limits develops distrust in one’s ability to live in the present and develop good coping skills.

 

Limits by themselves are not enough. Parents need to develop limits, consequences, and follow through. All three aspects need to be present. Limits without consequences or follow through are the proverbial “bark without bite”. Limits need to be set clearly and objectively, and understood by the child. As much as possible, they should be set out in advance of behaviors, and not reactive to issues and events which come up. Naturally, all behavior is not always predictable. We will use an ongoing example for demonstration. A curfew limit could be “you need to be home by 10 PM”. The child needs to understand it is not 10:05 or 10:10, but 10. Consequences should be explained in advance, and not as a reaction to an event. I believe it is important for consequences to be related to the offense, and not random. If curfew is the issue, the consequences need to be related to privileges for staying out, and not unrelated issues. It is very important to not have consequences of removing things which are positive for the child’s development. In our curfew example, the consequence could be something like “if you come home after 10, you won’t be able to go out next weekend”. The consequences should be meaningful enough to change behavior, and should BE DISCUSSED IN ADVANCE. Children will learn they have choices, which have consequences and have a right to make those choices. This approach enables parents to diffuse their anger over broken limits. Imagine, instead of getting angry at your child for coming home late, you said “ I respect your right to have an extra 10 minutes out today, knowing that as a result you will not be going out next weekend”. The final piece, and most critical piece, is follow through. You must think clearly about the consequences you set, and be certain you are able/willing to act on them. If you do not, if you soften, then your child will learn to not trust your words, and internally ignore your limits. We have all seen rambunctious 2 year olds in shopping carts in the grocery store

throwing items. The parent screams “if you don’t stop, I’m never taking you shopping again”. Even at 2, the child smirks internally, knows this is not true, and their willingness to listen is eroded slightly. Before you set consequences, make sure it is something you will see through.

This process – LIMITS/CONSEQUENCES/FOLLOW THROUGH is essential in raising children who will feel secure and safe in a stressful world.

Next week, I will discuss Delayed Gratification.

Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at askdrgelbart@gmail.com.

 

Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center

 

DOC’S CORNER

9/4/18

 

As parents, we are all concerned about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Given all that is known, all the publicity, all the problems that teenagers are aware of, one wonders, Why do teens use? The reasons, of course, are complex, and there is no single answer. The unique development of the teenage brain sheds some light. We now know that it takes about 25 years for the brain to fully develop and mature. During the teen years, the pathways for physical coordination, sensory processing, motivation, and emotions have been well formed. However, the prefrontal cortex, which controls judgment, is not yet fully in place. This leaves teenagers as highly emotional, preferring lots of physical activity, and seeking high excitement and low effort tasks (any of your kids enjoy video games, for example). With judgment not fully formed, teens like high risk behaviors that stimulate them, and often do not think of safety or long term consequences, rendering the teenage years as quite vulnerable. That leaves the door wide open for experimentation with mind altering substances.

 

Teens experiment with drugs and alcohol because it is fun (at least at first) and because it makes them feel good. In a later column, I’ll address the biochemistry of what makes them feel pleasure. Substance use is also used to deal with unpleasant feelings. Almost 60% of kids self- medicate issues concerning depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar, learning disabilities, and other psychological concerns. By numbing and distracting their feelings, they may experience temporary relief. However, as we know, the problems are not solved, but exacerbated by this tactic. Peer pressure, and peer acceptance is another factor for teens beginning to use. Striving for acceptance, or wanting to avoid being singled out, can often be a powerful influence, and wanting to be part of what is perceived as “the in crowd” can push someone to action. Today’s teenagers are experiencing a great amount of pressure, via social media and high expectations to achieve, and they often turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to relieve that pressure. For those who perceive themselves as falling short of expectations, in school performance, athletic performance, or other extra-curricular activities, substance use is often attempted to deal with feelings of low self-esteem. Alcohol and drug use can also be a misguided attempt to cope with life traumas, including loss, abuse, illness, and other serious family issues. Finally, there is a genetic component to substance use problems. If there is a family history of drug or alcohol dependence, teens must learn that their brains may be wired differently than others, and need to be even more cautious about the desire to experiment. Often knowing the risk factors is the first step to increasing awareness and developing a plan for recognizing and dealing with difficulties.

Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at askdrgelbart@gmail.com.

 

Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center