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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

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What You Need to Know About Teenage Dating

Teenage dating.

Yuck.

We have all been there- but these days it’s probably a bit different from when we were teens. There’s cell phones and tricky little things called apps. As of now, my boys still don’t have cell phones. They are bugging me quite a bit, but I still don’t see the point, so they remain phone-less.

I’m 35. Matthew and I started dating 20 years ago. I’m actually writing this post on our 13th wedding anniversary, September 10, 2018. If you do the math, we were 15 when we started dating. If you keep going with the math, we were 22 when we got married and Cameron was 8 months old. We had to *gasp* call each other’s houses to talk to each other and there wasn’t Facebook Messenger, although that would have been great.

Welcome To The Future

Now, there’s Snapchat, Instagram and other apps that I don’t even know about yet. There’s something else that’s always been there but nobody really talked about a whole lot until recently- consent.

I’m all about consent. I’m not a very touchy-feely person, so if you try to hug me and I don’t know you very well, I’m most likely going to step back. I might break your hand if you even think about touching my hair. I have extremely curly hair, and you’d be amazed at how people have tried to touch it. That’s a whole different post.

Sexual consent? That’s a necessity. It’s a deal-breaker. If a person is drunk or otherwise unable to say “yes” or “no”, then step back and call it a night. “No” means “no”. That’s it. This goes for all three kids, and I don’t care who they date. Everyone deserves that much respect and I can only hope they get that back. Yeah, it sucks to get into the moment and have to stop, but it beats a charge. It also beats going to jail, really angry parents and other consequences. Also, Mom’s not bailing anyone out for this kind of stuff.

The Path To Respect

I think this starts with talking to your kids. Most teens just want to be accepted and liked, and sometimes this can push them into doing things they might not be quite ready for. Each kid has their own comfort zone and going out of it can be a bit scary. Some kids have issues with saying no.

Having a strong parent-teen relationship can help things. I know teens aren’t the best at talking sometimes, but checking in can really help. It can be super hard to discuss sexual things- for both you and your child, but it’s completely necessary. If your child feels they can talk to you, they will come to you a lot more than if you are harsher or close-minded. This can also increase their risk of making bad decisions.

Another way to keep a teen from making a mistake with consent is teaching them healthy boundaries. If they have those boundaries, they will be less likely to push them with someone they care about. Ask your teen what their thoughts are on respecting others’ boundaries. Help them think through what happens if they don’t respect others’ boundaries- teens have issues seeing the consequences of his actions.

Learn your state’s laws on consent. My mom got a crash course in this when I was a freshman in high school. When I was 14, I dated a 17-year-old that turned 18 before I turned 15. For two months, my mom kept a VERY close eye on us, thanks to Kentucky’s laws on underage dating. (For the record, she absolutely couldn’t stand this kid for many reasons.) Knowing these laws can be very beneficial.

Knowledge is Power

Kids need to know more these days about dating. They’re growing faster than we did, almost as fast as we can blink. There are other things they need to know about besides respect and consent:

What is a healthy relationship?

Discuss with your child what makes a relationship healthy. This is important so that they know what to look for in their own.

Discuss what abuse looks like. Some people begin having patterns of being abusive or being abused in their teens. Stalking should also be discussed.

The difference between lust, infatuation and love. These are three very different things and kids may not be able to see the difference. They do need to learn the difference so that they can form healthy relationships.

Discuss sex and relationships realistically. This means the pros and cons of sex, birth control (if that’s your thing), and so on. Include consent in this discussion. Also discuss expectations and boundaries that you expect your child to go with in dating- curfews, restrictions, etc. Of course, let your teen have input.

If needed, discuss sexual orientation and any questions about it. If your child needs to discuss their sexual orientation, be supportive as possible and seek outside assistance if needed. Please see my post LGBTQ Kids: A Guide if you need help on this topic.

Here’s to our kids dating, looking cute and making good choices.

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

Information courtesy of Respecting Physical Boundaries

Talking to Teens about Relationships

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Adjusting to a New World

Many parents, myself included, envision parenting as this wonderful adventure in which kids develop at the pace they should, play instruments and/or sports, learn to drive, go to prom and all that great stuff.

But what happens when those things are altered because of a special needs diagnosis?

Cry a little

The Big Change

Some parents find out about their child’s diagnosis before or right after birth, in cases of Spinal Bifida, Cerebral Palsy and Down’s Syndrome. I know parents of kids with these diagnoses, and it has been life changing for these families. All of them have other kids without any special needs.

The adjustment is hard. I cried my way through Lily’s evaluation for First Steps the day before her first birthday, even though I knew something was not going right. I knew she needed more help than what I could give her. That story can be found in Special Needs Round Two . When her diagnosis of global delays was given, I was even more devastated. The blame game began. It took a lot of talking with Lily’s speech therapist, Denise, to realize that it wasn’t my fault that she was developmentally delayed. We are in the process of getting Lily re-evaluated. At ten, she is still showing signs of issues that we thought she had grown out of. Cross your fingers for us- we may need it.

In Julian’s case, it’s been a tougher road. His psychiatric nurse practitioner, Ann, once said that we have adjusted wonderfully as a family to Julian’s needs. I almost hugged her. I explained to her that it has not been easy and it remains a somewhat rugged path. My question is: Why not adjust? Julian is wired differently and that’s okay. If we didn’t adjust, he would feel badly about himself and I couldn’t bear the thought of this. It would also cause so much chaos for him that he doesn’t need or deserve. It would do the same for the rest of us. Why do that?

He needs the ability to feel okay about who he is, quirks and all. We’ve enjoyed watching him grow and finally develop a sense of humor. Every kid needs that, with or without a diagnosis. In a home with medical issues, this is a necessity.

I have made many mistakes in raising Julian (and his siblings). Even after reading up, trying many different things, therapy for both of us, getting Matthew on board and lots of burnt dinners in the process, things remain interesting. Julian is now 12 and puberty is kicking in.

Learning that your child has a medical and/or physical special needs diagnosis is complex. Some parents grieve the life they feel their child “should have had”. This is a rough one for me, as I’ve never done this. I can see this happening with kids with severe medical problems. A high school friend of mine has a child with spinal bifida and she lives a full life. Instead of being devastated and staying in a hole as some might, Shelly and her kids go out and do all kinds of neat things. Ryan is eight, and she is one of the coolest kids ever. She’s a tiny fighter. Some parents, like myself, are devastated and are not sure where to go next. Some fall into the “research pattern” and find all kinds of information to know exactly what to do.

This can be a great thing- I have read up a lot on Julian’s diagnoses and it didn’t hurt to work with kids with similar issues. (It did physically hurt some days, but that’s another story. I learned a lot from that job.) Some parents, sadly, go into denial. This can be damaging to everyone involved, and I highly recommend seeing a therapist, church member, or another trusted person. If it’s your partner, this can get really bad quickly, and I definitely know the pain of where it can go. Please do what you can to change that path. Talking can help. Easing your partner into information, appointments, and other things can help. Just don’t force them, because that can make things worse.

I recommend reading up, asking questions, and getting all the help from the medical community you can. The more information you have, the more empowered you feel to help your child. Julian’s been very lucky- he has had a great team from day one, because I wouldn’t let him have anything less. I’m a proud mama shark.

Never give up

It’s okay to feel different things- don’t let anyone make you feel different. Julian was diagnosed almost seven years ago, and some days I still feel overwhelmed. As of writing this post, I’m about to battle it out with his school over his IEP because it’s currently not being followed. Some days are better than others. Some days are absolutely great, some are so bad that you want to devour a liter of Cherry Coke, a bag of salt and vinegar chips and call it a day. (Okay, maybe that’s just me. I didn’t do all of that, but I considered it.) If you’re overwhelmed, write it out. Get someone to help you sort out your feelings.

Making The Best of Things

Daily life also changes. Depending on the diagnosis, your child may need assistance with everything, or nothing at all. This can become time-consuming and require an overhaul of your routine as you knew it. Food may need to be altered due to sensory issues- I live in a house with two kids with sensory issues, and I gave up on those battles years ago. Julian won’t eat french fries if he can see the potato skins or if they aren’t super warm. Lily won’t eat anything that resembles soup, any pasta that isn’t spaghetti, mainly because it looks different. Julian actually had a meltdown once over the shape of pasta my father in law used for dinner. These changes can be irritating to make, but they are necessary for the world our kids live in. I’ve learned to look inside Julian’s mind a bit, probably because of my work, and try to see the world as he does. It can get hard, but it’s worth it. Explaining this to others can get even harder, even your partner.

Small steps

It takes time to adjust- it won’t happen overnight. It takes time to learn how your child’s machines work, or how to get the wheelchair to fit in your van. Give yourself space to make those mistakes. I completely screwed up Julian’s 12th birthday party by inviting too many people, which cause him to shut down at the end, but I’m pretty sure he still likes me. He used to get mad at me when I would hold onto him with a death grip in parking lots and large stores, but he had a bad record of eloping. It was terrifying to have to run after a very fast 5 year old, especially in a parking lot. He was seven before I let him walk more than a foot or two away from me. (I never used a leash because I hate those things.)

If you’ve got a kid who takes things literally, you have to change how you talk to them. For example, I once told Julian to drop the jar of jelly he was holding after he was told not to eat anything. I was making dinner and he didn’t need to eat so soon before.

He dropped the jar.

Major mom fail.

Thankfully, the jar was plastic. That would have been an awful mess otherwise. Matthew and I have had to re-think things before we say them, because Julian thinks differently, and so does Lily, to an extent. We are still trying to figure out her thought patterns. She doesn’t quite think on a 10-year-old level, so we have to tread carefully.

Super parent

Final Thoughts and Tips:

If you have to buy things to keep your house, kid and car safe, do it. You’ll thank yourself later.

It really does take a village. I have friends that have kids with all kinds of physical/ developmental disabilities. A few have kids with autism, and they have been so helpful when I’ve needed them.

Being a parent of a special needs kid will make you a different person. I’ve fought for Julian since day one. Lily’s issues haven’t required so much of a fight, but I would do the same for her. It makes you tougher and less likely to take people’s crap.

Breathe and find something that makes you laugh. Comedy will get you through anything.

Get a binder and organize all of your kid’s paperwork. Julian and Lily have their own binders.

You are not alone, and get help if you need it. Take time for you, because your kids need Mom at her best. If you’re tired, sad and cranky, that’s not your best.

If you have other kids, let them be involved in adjustments. It’s not easy to be the sibling of a special needs kid. My kids have been pretty good about Julian, but it can get hard for us as parents. Cameron and Lily have a post about this in The Siblings’ Turn

Allow your child to live their best life. If they can do it- let them. My friend Laura Leigh’s son, Levi, is seven. He is in a wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy, and he is an awesome kid. He smiles for days, gives his younger sister Presley wheelchair rides and loves school. I let Julian run cross country in the fifth grade and he loved it. We have a rule that his diagnoses aren’t excuses for not behaving. He does have bad days, but he doesn’t get to say, “I’ve got autism, so I get to act like that”, “I forgot my ADHD meds, that’s why I’m like this today”.

Most of all, love and accept your child the way they are. It might sound weird that I wrote that, but it is saddening that many parents don’t. Acceptance and love matters- it’s everything.

Quotes courtesy of Pinterest

Recommended Reading: The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius

Twin Mummy and Daddy

My Favorite Podcasts

I’m a podcast fanatic. If you haven’t seen my Instagram you should! There’s plenty of pics, some with my favorite podcasts.

NOTE: I am not being paid to endorse any of these podcasts or apps. However, if anyone from these podcasts wants to contact me…I don’t mind a bit.

I started listening to podcasts in 2017 and currently, my collection sits at 72. I use Podcast Addict. since I have an Android phone. My tastes run to true crime (my favorite), self- help, comedy and a few history based ones. I do have a few based on recovery, and they’ve been quite helpful during my sobriety.

Drumroll, please…

  1. Small Town Murder

Why is it my favorite? The two comedians (James Pietragallo and Jimmie Whisman) behind this podcast are hilarious. They discuss murders in small towns but don’t make fun of the victims or their families. They just make fun of everything else- the town, murderers, legal issues, etc. I started listening to this when Cameron was in the hospital last year. Now it’s not really a Thursday until I hear it. Yay indeed.

2. Murder Dictionary

Brianna and Kelley are a pair of friends that cover murders by going through the alphabet. I’m not sure when I started listening but I went back and listened to the episodes I missed. They do great research and are funny. Brianna does most of the talking and she is very well-spoken. They had to take a break when one had to have sinus surgery and I was like “Okay, I’ll be here, but damnit!”

I don’t miss an episode. Their Facebook page is also really cool. There are a lot of funny memes if you are into that, like I am. New episodes are out on Thursdays.

3. The Vanished

This might have been one of the first podcasts I listened to. Marissa has a great voice, does great research and really cares about helping those she puts a spotlight on. I’m pretty sure I’ve listened to every episode.

This podcast is about bringing attention to cases of missing people that wouldn’t ordinarily get a lot of coverage- people of color, teens and young adults, those who may have issues with mental illness, substance abuse issues (or both) and more. The Facebook group for this podcast is pretty neat, and I’m in it. New episodes are out on Sundays.

4. The Trail Went Cold

Robin Warder is based in Canada. He covers cases of missing people that have never been closed. Some are old cases, some are newer. He’s a huge fan of the old show “Unsolved Mysteries” and the subreddit of the same name.

The episodes are usually less than an hour and are the shortest of my favorites. I like this, because sometimes it’s hard to find a stopping place! New episodes are out on Wednesdays.

5. Once Upon a Crime

This podcast is so much fun to listen to. The host is always doing something new with topics. She’s also very upbeat when she talks and you can tell she enjoys her work.

Anyone who listens can also tell that Esther does intense research for her episodes. She has also been getting out into the podcast community and I think that’s really cool. New episodes are out on Wednesdays.

Bonus: InSight

I didn’t want to leave this one off my list because I love it. Ali is in Australia and Charlie is in Kansas City. I’m not really sure how they coordinate the times but they do a great job. Episodes are out twice a week, but due to summer schedules with their kids, it’s a bit varied right now.

This podcast covers missing people, murders, and a few other super interesting topics. I really look forward to each episode.

Pics courtesy of Facebook and WordPress Free Photo Library

Do you listen to podcasts? Do you have any recommendations? Leave them in the comments.

Getting Assistance for Your Child: Essential Questions to Ask

It’s Not a Parenting Failure to Get Help

I once told my mother that there is a reason that people spend a long time in school, take really hard tests (in some cases, more than once. I’ve been told the BCBA exam is horribly difficult) and get observed for a lot of hours to become mental health professionals. They are dedicated to what they want to do. They have to continue that education by taking classes and renewing their licenses every so often. States want to make sure these professionals know what they are doing and do so ethically. I also told her that there is only so much that I can do as a parent, even knowing what I do. There are a lot of things that I don’t know, and that’s why I felt that at one point, it was time to get outside help for my kids.

In Lily’s case, there wasn’t much of an option. Her delays were severe and required outside help. She needed help learning how to walk, talk and do other tasks that I couldn’t have taught her on my own. In the beginning, I really did blame myself, but after hearing that there was no way I caused her delays, I felt a lot better.

Julian definitely caused some debate. I knew what I was working with after he was diagnosed, and yes, I could have worked with him on my own. With two other kids and a full-time job, plus not really knowing what to do or how to do it, it really was time for the pros. He’s been to group therapy for social skills, which helped a lot. Every Tuesday for almost his entire third-grade year, he got out of school early to go to group. He learned how to interact with others appropriately, to speak up, along with other things. Julian is a quiet kid by nature, and we’re okay with this.

I just don’t want him to be so quiet that he is ignored or entirely left out. He has also seen a psychiatrist, and we loved her. Unfortunately, she had to stop seeing patients after some post-birth complications, so now he sees a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

It is okay to get outside help. We’re not just parents- we are also humans. We don’t know everything, and that’s okay. Your child will benefit greatly from outside services.

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Finding Assistance

There are many ways to find providers, it mainly depends on what you need and if you already have someone helping you, like a social worker or someone similar. If you’re looking on your own, it always helps to start by asking other parents you know that are in a similar situation. You can also ask your child’s pediatrician.

That’s where we started with both Lily and Julian. We moved around a bit by referral. It just so happens I used to work with the psychiatrist that started the practice that Julian is at now. (He’s absolutely great, but for obvious reasons, he can’t see Julian.) If nothing else, there is always Google. Google is everyone’s friend.

A Few Definitions:

Provider- a professional that provides some sort of service for your child

BCBA- Board Certified Behavior Analyst (these people do great things, lots of behavior modification, addressing challenging behavior, among other things)

DSP- Direct Support Provider (people who come into your home and work with your child on life skills, social skills and other things they may need. I worked as one for about a year and it was a lot of fun.)

Respite Care- to give parents or other caregivers time to care for themselves, run errands, etc while their child is being cared for.

I highly recommend checking with your health insurance carrier/Medicaid to see what is covered. These services can get very expensive, and insurance paperwork can be a huge challenge. Waiting lists are a thing and can be very long. It can be a bit weird seeing people you don’t know in your home and working with your child. This may take a while to adjust, especially if there are multiple people. Lily had three therapists a week at one point and it was a very weird thing. If you need to set limits, set them and be as firm as you need to be.

What You Should Ask

There are some questions that can’t be missed like:

  • What is your availability?
  • What experience do you have with this population?
  • Are there behaviors that you feel are too challenging for you? Everyone has their limits, and this is okay. My personal limit is spitting. Can’t do it.
  • How do you view your relationship with the rest of the family- siblings, parents, etc?
  • Best way to reach you? Phone, email, text?
  • How will you update me on my child’s progress/needs?
  • Emergency preparedness? Most agencies have trained their workers on a plan for this, so make sure to ask. The practice I worked for had a very detailed plan for injuries, weather and other emergencies.
  • References.

Of course, follow your intuition on the people/places you look at. If it doesn’t look right for you, most likely it isn’t. You will know when you find the right place or person for your child. Call those references. Read through the notes you made during the interviews. Do your research. You’ll thank yourself later. If you are looking for your child to be part of a practice, the questions above will be slightly different. Most places will allow a walk-through and give you someone to talk to. They’ll be able to answer questions, give you information to take home, and follow up.

The road of parenting is sometimes a rough and bumpy one. Looking for outside help is just a small speed bump.

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Information courtesy of Seattle Children’s Blog

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Easy Peasy Pleasy

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Twin Mummy and Daddy

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