Be a pesky parent…it’s good for your teen!

With all the negative talk about “helicopter parents,” sometimes we are shamed into thinking we should be hands off with our teens.  Don’t you believe it!  There’s a difference between being overly controlling and properly supervising.  You child still needs you to keep an eye on things.  He or she may not like it, but your instinct…that being around and being aware will keep your son or daughter safe…is correct.  A study reported on recently in the Washington Post indicates that teens who spend more than the average amount of unsupervised time hanging out with peers are more likely to smoke cigarettes and marijuana, and drink alcohol.  The study’s authors expected to see a greater protective effect from structured activities, but they they found that “Organized time, such as arts classes at school, religious activities outside school and community volunteer work, had a very modest protective effect. Kids with the most time in these activities showed a 7 percent to 18 percent lower than average risk of drinking or smoking.”  Compare that to the effect of unsupervised activity: “They found that teens who spent the most unsupervised time with peers were 39 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes, 47 percent more likely to drink alcohol and 71 percent more likely to smoke marijuana than average.” Apparently, it’s most important to avoid regularly letting our kids simply “hang out” day after day without any adults around to keep a watchful eye on things.

Nothing Good Happens in the Woods

I found this article a great reminder not to settle for “at least” parenting. Too often, starting with young children, the temptation to do the least arises. Give a toddler an iPod because “at least they’re not whining;” give a child a phone because “at least you can get in touch with them;” drive your teen to the party so that “at least they won’t drive drunk.” Parenting is hard work, but when did it become appropriate to do the least? Pick your battles, but “at least” fight them!

It’s a new year. Where in your parenting can you make a resolution to do MORE?

Sifting through the dangerous trends

We’ve shared articles in the past about some of the crazy stunts teens will try (dusting, OTC medication, cinnamon). Here’s another, but with a twist — this time the “trend” probably isn’t that common or dangerous. What Maanvi Singh adds in this article, however, is a reminder to parents of how to sift through all the new and supposedly viral trends to learn what really may pose a threat to children. And in case you were wondering about the music video mentioned in the article, here it is:[youtube=]


Teen driving: Define “under the influence”

Car keys and empty bottlesOnly 5% of teens admit to occasionally driving under the influence of alcohol. But another 9.5% of teens (1 in 10 of the teens who say they never drive under the influence) admit that they do occasionally drive after having had at least one alcoholic beverage. Confused?

These statistics (from a new study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD) remind me of far too many of my experiences with teens. Something that I feel I have made abundantly clear (“Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol!”), and which teens readily agree to (86% of teen drivers agree that driving under the influence is extremely or very distracting), somehow manages to develop a magical grey area that teens use to justify risky behavior.

Take, for example, teens’ scary definition of a designated driver. 47% of teens admit to using a designated driver (yay!) but 21% say a DD is allowed to have “a little” alcohol or other drugs and another 4% define a DD as the “most sober” person in the group (*sigh*).

Such is parenting. It seems that in the area of safe driving, we need to regroup (again) and have a couple heart-to-hearts with our kids. Let’s remind them that people of all ages always feel less impaired than they really are and the safest choice (even for those of legal drinking age) is to have a completely sober driver. And while you’re at it, discuss texting and phone use while driving too. Remind them that reading a text is just as distracting as typing a text, both count as “texting,” and neither is acceptable behind the wheel of a car.

Have any good rules or conversations for teens and driving? Share them in the comments!

Teen Drinking Has a Social Payoff

We knew this, didn’t we?  If you’re a teen who “parties,” you are more popular.  The Chicago Tribune reported on a study showing that “Teens who reported occasional drinking and getting drunk tended to have higher ‘social connectedness’ than their abstaining peers.”  Last year, this blog reported that teens who have good friends who drink tend to get their first drink from a  friend, rather than their parents.  It may be a good time to acknowledge, and bring out into the open, what is probably evident to your teen.  Popularity may go up if he or she drinks and gets drunk…but that still doesn’t make it wise or desirable.  Just having a lot of friends doesn’t guarantee quality friendships.  Friends that are worth having care what happens to you, and want you to have a safe, healthy experience as you go through the teen years.

Study Drug Use More Common Than We Think

Are you SURE your child has never used study drugs?  Ever?  If your answer is 100% sure, then you are pretty much like other parents.  Only 1% of those parents whose child has not been prescribed medication for ADHD believe their child has ever used a prescription amphetamine or other stimulant to get an “edge” while studying or taking tests.

The truth is that quite a bit more teens actually have used these so-called “study drugs.”  According to, a University of Michigan national poll showed that “10 percent of high school sophomores and 12 percent of high school seniors say they have used an amphetamine or other stimulant medication not prescribed by their doctor.”   But, the article says, “only 27 percent of parents polled said they have talked to their teens about using study drugs. Black parents were more likely to have discussed this issue with their teens (41 percent), compared with white (27 percent) or Hispanic (17 percent) parents.”  Knowing that these are powerful drugs that can be harmful to anyone, parents should be warning teens (and college students) not to share their ADHD drugs with others, or buy them from those who have these prescription drugs. 

Teens More Likely to Drink if Close Friends Do

Teens who have good friends who drink are likely to get their first drink from a friend, rather than from family, revealed a study reported on by  “In the study, having pals who drank and had access to booze was the most important factor in predicting when a kid started drinking — trumping a teen’s own trouble-making tendencies and a family history of alcoholism.”

I couldn’t help but think of the times I, in my quest to be cool and popular, brought little “airline” bottles of alcohol (which I had gotten from my parents’ liquor cabinet) to the junior high dances.  And I appeared to most people, including the parents of my friends, as a “good kid.”  I wonder which of my friends back then were introduced to alcohol by me?

So be alert and aware, parents, to the influences on your teens.  And remember, that boy or girl who has been coming to your house since kindergarten may change, and take a different path from the one you want your teen to travel.

10 Medicine Cabinet Meds Abused by Teens

Could your medicine cabinet be a tempting attraction for a teen wanting to get “high”?  Even if they aren’t trying to get high, could they be hurt by medicine that seems safe?  One of my daughters recently incurred over $1000 in medical bills to find the source of chest pain…only to find out that she’d been taking too much ibuprofin for some pain she was experiencing.  Ibuprofin is listed in this article (LINK) about 10 over-the-counter medicines you might have that could harm your teen…whether they know it or not.  Among the ten are diuretics, motion sickness pills, and even herbal products.

Energy Drinks Can Lead to Emergency Room Visits

In a period of four years, emergency room visits tied to energy drinks doubled, with teens and young adults accounting for more than half of the visits, CBS reported this month. According to the article, one drink might contain the caffeine equivalent of 5 cups of coffee, so it’s no wonder that emergency room physicians are seeing  “a clear uptick in the number of patients suffering from irregular heartbeats, anxiety and heart attacks who said they had recently downed an energy drink.”   Two senators are calling for the FDA to study the issue, after reports of energy drinks leading to “insomnia, nervousness, headache, fast heartbeat and seizures….”  The top three energy drink brands (in case you aren’t aware of what your child could be  consuming) are Red Bull, Monster, and Rock Star.

When Teens Drive Other Teens, Accidents Happen

When we release our teens at some point as newly independent drivers, do we just hope for the best?  Do we figure that we made it all right, and they will too?  I can still recall the day that one of my daughter’s high school friends was killed in a car accident.  In some real ways, my daughter’s life was divided into “before” and “after.”  And yet…does she know what driving behaviors are risky?  I know I’ve talked about texting recently, as well as speeding.  As parents, we have the ability to “nag” to the point we get tuned out.  But we still have our kids’ ears as long as they are driving a car we paid for, so let’s look them in the eye, and say it again:

No speeding

No texting

No eating

No putting on makeup

No driving under the influence of ANYTHING…

And, according to a study done by AAA, that “anything” means even the influence of the presence of other teens.  The study showed that fatal crashes among 16- and 17-year-old drivers showed these increased risks when teens had other teens in the car.

  • The prevalence of speeding increased from 30 percent to 44 percent and 48 percent with zero, two and three or more teen passengers, respectively.
  • The prevalence of late-night driving (11 p.m. to 5 a.m.) increased from 17 percent to 22 percent and 28 percent with zero, two and three or more teen passengers, respectively.
  • The prevalence of alcohol use increased from 13 percent to 17 percent and 18 percent with zero, two and three or more teen passengers, respectively.