Looking Back at Older Topics

I’m surprised at the number of topics I have covered on this blog- I still have so much left to discuss.

Here are five interesting posts to ponder:

The Dangers of Ignoring Mental Illness

Suicide and The Media

Should You Emphasize Grades or Mental Health?

Moving Forward: The Last Fifty Years of Psychiatry

Drinking, Drugs and Your Teen

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Making Your House the “Fun” House

Kids make friends. It’s a part of growing up. Things get interesting when they want to start having friends over. That’s when you have to talk to the other child’s parents and make arrangements and stock up on food and patience.

Depending on your kid’s noise level, you may want to grab a set of earbuds. Speaking of those, if there’s a bunch of kids coming, it might be a good time for a podcast or Netflix (with a break or two, of course).

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Ingredients For Fun

Most of us want to make our hones a nice place for our kids’ friends to come to so maybe they’ll come back. Right?

To do this, start with thinking back to your favorite hangouts. Which friend had a home that you loved hanging out at?

In my case, this would be a tie between Ashley’s and our other (now former) friend Stacy’s homes. Ashley’s apartment was very close to a mall and a new grocery store so we often walked to both. We stayed up late on sleepovers and her parents were somewhat laid back. Ashley’s mom is like a second mom to me- I love her.

Stacy lived with her grandfather and he basically let her (and us) do whatever we wanted. Lots of freedom.

This doesn’t mean to not set rules, because the 1990s and now are way different times. It might help if you give the kids space to have fun but maybe peek in every so often to make sure no disasters are occurring. Make rules with your child and enforce them.

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Food is a necessity. Kids eat a lot- but you can feed them for cheap. It’s amazing what you can do with some popcorn, bread, peanut butter and jelly. I’ve done this and not a complaint was heard.

Do you need an activity? Maybe not like you did when your child had playdates in their younger years. Sometimes kids are good with unstructured play or hanging out- this is good. If they’re content playing video games or playing in makeup and watching tutorials, let them be. If there is something in particular, like cooking or sports- related, this is also great. I think it depends on the kid.

Let The Fun Unfold

Kids will have fun with their friends and hopefully, they prefer your home. This cuts down on anxiety about what’s happening without you being there.

Platypus

Every house and family is different. Rules will also vary. We are pretty open around here- just don’t tear up the house or be mean to my cats. Pantry’s open. I do appreciate manners, however. I still get weirded out when a kid calls me “Mrs. Sanders”.

Who’s that? My MIL isn’t that anymore- well, not legally. (My inlaws are divorced, but she kept the last name.)

Open the door and let the fun roll in.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Pexels

Information courtesy of Kars 4 Kids

What are your rules for your children having friends over?

The College Mental Health Strain

College is a time of huge transformation- many freshmen have never lived away from home. If your child is going to a college/university far away from home, it can be an intense change. This is to be expected. Everyone looks forward to this move but not many anticipate the feelings that may appear when it happens.

I am years away from sending a kid to college, but Cameron starts high school in August. I AM NOT READY.

The Big Move

College does have its good points- so much freedom! You can pick the time of your classes (kinda), when you come in at night (let’s get real if you come in) and many other choices. I loved not having classes before 11 am.

This was fantastic until I transferred universities and the only classes left towards my major (Clinical Psychology) were all at 8 AM at the new university.

UGH. Throw in two toddlers and things get outrageously fun.

The Factors Add Up

However, things can get stressful. There’s a lot of pressure. Grades are a thing. Scholarships depend on grades, as does most of the financial aid. Many college students work. Working plus studying can create stress. If you have other factors adding to it- kids, issues with parents, etc, things can seem almost unbearable.

Another factor is coming into college with a mental health condition, either diagnosed or not. The extra stress can exacerbate these illnesses and contribute to “breaks”, in which someone loses touch with reality and almost always needs hospitalization. Many of those with severe mental illness (SMI) have the first break around college age. A break can also mean a severe depressive episode.

This is just a short list of mental health conditions that are seen in many college-age students:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-injury
  • ADHD
  • Addiction/other Substance Abuse Disorders

This information can be found at: Affordable Colleges Online

Colleges and Universities Have Options for Care

Your child has an option right on campus- may have an office for mental health care. It’s usually free or very low cost. Some take insurance, some don’t, depending on the school.

They are run by graduate-level psychology students and faculty. The major downside is that they can only offer so much help due to their limited training, hours and other factors. These offices can, however, refer patients out to local therapists or other locations like the ER in case of emergency.

Another option is a more difficult one- reducing hours or even taking a semester off. This can mean a loss of financial aid in many cases. Nobody wants that. Many don’t want to take time off, even a semester, especially not for mental health issues. It makes the condition come out in the spotlight.

Some colleges and universities are seeing the issue and doing more to help- therapy dogs during finals week, encouraging students to seek help earlier instead of waiting. They are also encouraging students to look out for their friends. This can be a huge help. Some are including self-care topics in their freshmen seminars.

From (Not So) Far Away

What can you do?

  • Talk to your child. Ask how things are really going. Let them know it’s okay to struggle a bit. It doesn’t have to be easy all the time.
  • Encourage your child to look out for their friends- not like they already don’t. This is a different kind of looking out.
  • Remind them they can come to you if they don’t feel okay. You’re here to help them.

College can be a great experience. It’s full of change, fun and sometimes really dumb things. Growth is scary. That’s why our baby birds need to know they can always come back to us.

Pictures courtesy of Pixels

Unsplash

For further reading: Learning and Performing Under Pressure

Have you had a child go off to college? How was it?

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Book Review: “The Warner Boys: Our Family’s Story of Autism and Hope”

This month’s book review is early, but thanks to the holidays and other events, this should have been done long ago. My apologies to Sabrina, the publicist for the Warners. I forgot to mention this to her, but I’m a Seahawks fan. #GoHawks!

Curt Warner is a former Seahawks running back who met his wife, Ana, while out shopping. Ana is from Brazil and was working to make ends meet after moving back from her home country. They quickly fell in love, got married and started a family.

After the devastating loss of their first son, Ryan, Ana and Curt welcomed another son, Jonathan, then twins, Austin and Christian. Later, they adopted a daughter, Isabella.

The boys began to show signs of autism as early as toddlerhood but were not officially diagnosed until elementary school.

It’s extremely difficult to hear that sort of diagnosis, so it is not surprising that Curt and Ana were devastated. They dealt with their sons’ autism differently.

Ana was able to stay at home while Curt worked and immersed herself in trying for a cure. When that wasn’t a possibility, she tried for perfection. This led to a crippling depression that made her suicidal at one point.

Austin and Christian faced struggles that many kids with autism do- lack of danger awareness, obsessions (Disney movies), issues in school and diet issues.

Jonathan, their older brother, is also featured in the book. I liked this- siblings of children of special needs should also have a voice. Sometimes they intentionally get left out.

Ana and Curt tell their story alternately, with a lot of heart and description. Their sons went through good and bad times, like many other children. The good thing is, they never lost hope in them. Austin and Christian will be taken care of their whole lives and for that, they are very lucky young men.

Any parent that needs a word of encouragement through a rough patch can get just that from this novel.

Teen pic

Drinking, Drugs and Your Teen: Tips for Discussion

I’ve been very open on this blog and in many other areas of my life about my struggles with drinking. My kids were center stage for some of the dumber things I did during that time, and I regret that so much. They finally stopped the barstool jokes, but it took a couple of years.

I took Julian to his 12 year checkup last week- his pediatrician talked to him about drugs and alcohol, if he had been asked to use anything. (He said no.) On the way home, we talked about this and then we talked about my drinking.

I told him that if he chooses to drink, that’s entirely his decision, but not to drive drunk. We also discussed a few other things, which you will see below.

He hates the idea of Uber/Lyft (“They might do something mean to me, Mom”) so I told him I would always come get him if he needed me. I’d prefer if he waited until he’s 21, but in the age of underage drinking, I know this might not happen. I’m also not sure of the interactions with his meds, but that may be something I need to look into.

Ritalin+Clonidine+alcohol=potential yikes.

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Drugs Are Bad, Mkay

I’ve watched too much “South Park”, but you get the idea. The talk that we need to have with our kids isn’t meant to be a funny one- I can’t figure out a way to make it funny or else I would. Matthew has decided to hand this talk over to me. I’ve worked as an addiction counselor and chemical dependency technician. When I was a mental health associate, I also got a lot of first-hand experience with people who had been using drugs and/or drinking. Let’s leave it at it’s not always pretty. I think I’m prepared?

A Few Tips on Talking to Your Kids about Drugs/Alcohol:

  • Bring up the topic calmly. The conversation I had with Julian was a pretty calm one, it just happened to follow his checkup. Let it happen naturally if you can. Sometimes these conversations don’t happen calmly, as in if your child is caught with a substance- many parents would be very angry.If you have to, let some time pass before speaking to your child. Nothing will get accomplished if both of you are angry. Ask them why they might want to use anything- boredom, wanting to fit in?
  • Discuss the dangers. In Cameron’s case, he can’t drink energy drinks. It may trigger an SVT episode, so he can forget the entire amphetamine category of drugs. His cardiologist had a very long discussion with him in the hospital about drug use, and I think it scared him. If kids know the dangers of what they’re trying out, they might be a little (or a lot, hopefully) less likely to try it again. Alcohol can lead to liver damage, and smoking can damage the lungs, throat and other areas, for example. Remind them how drugs and alcohol can affect their brains. This can affect their decision making and other skills in the future.
  • Remember that your influence matters. If you have had an drug/alcohol problem, it is up to you to decide whether to discuss it with your child- every situation is different. My kids saw some of the effects of my drinking and they remember it, so it’s not like we can skip over it. I don’t plan on discussing why I drank so heavily, because that goes into marriage issues. I plan on discussing the not-so-great things I did and what could have happened had I kept drinking. If you haven’t had this issue, you can discuss stories of people you know that have had issues- kids can relate to this pretty easily. Just be prepared for questions.
  • Provide support. Today’s teens go through a lot. Peer pressure is a bit different than it was 20 years ago. For more on this, you may want to read Why You Need to be Ready for Peer Pressure Our kids need to know we support and love them.

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Looking for Signs

It can be troubling to worry about or even see signs that your child may be using drugs/alcohol, but it’s something to watch for.

Behavioral Changes:

  • changes in relationships with friends/family
  • breaking curfew
  • locking doors
  • has increased appetite (marijuana will cause this)
  • clumsy behaviors
  • disappears
  • changes in energy levels
  • stealing

Personality Changes:

  • mood changes
  • withdrawn/depressed
  • hostile/angry
  • lack of motivation
  • secretive
  • silent
  • deceitful

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If you do realize that your child is using drugs/alcohol, there is outpatient treatment for teens, but if it is a heavy problem, your child may need inpatient rehabilitation. Please try to treat your child with love, not confrontation, as hard as it may be. They may be angry with you, but inside they are struggling. You can reach out to a local mental health professional or treatment center.

Talking to teens can be hard, and everyone involved can feel awkward. This talk, however, can save lives. If you haven’t had this talk, it may be time.

FREEBIE: Talking to Kids

If you have found this post helpful, or know someone who can benefit from it, please share! Thanks!

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Information from: Phase 2 Parenting

Teen Alcohol Abuse