INFORMATION & RESOURCES
PARENTS OF ADOLESCENTS
Table of Contents
Alcohol & Drugs
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
Bullying & Teasing
Death & Grieving
Depression & Suicide
In case you haven’t already noticed adolescents and parents are more different than similar in how they think about situations and concerns. Thomas Phelan, Ph.D (1994) in his book Surviving Your Adolescents, indicates that adolescents spend a lot of time dreaming, seeking independence, and looking for peer acceptance. On the other hand, parents live in the real world more than dreams.They fail to see that their responsibility of raising a child is more than 60% over by the time a child reaches 13-18, and parents feel hurt when a child finds it more important to be with peers than with mom and dad. Therefore, the importance of communication cannot be over-emphasized. Listening is a key factor when communicating with your adolescent. Phelan (1994) points out that nagging, lecturing, arguing and spontaneous problem discussions should be avoided because they are highly destructive. When talking to your son/daughter use non-judgmental questions and be sure that they know you are focused on understanding their situation and not waiting to accuse or blame them.
Sources of Information:
Phelan, Thomas W. Surviving Your Adolescents. Rev ed. Glen Ellyn: Login Publishers Consortium, 1994.
Schaefer, Charles E., and Teresa Foy DiGeronimo. How to Talk to
Teens About Really
Important Things. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999.
Faber Adele, and Elaine Mazlish. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen
& Listen So Kids
Will Talk. New York: Avon Books, 1980.
Success in school involves self-motivation. There needs to be dedication to focusing toward a goal. Before a student is willing to learn that student must believe that he/she will succeed. Robert Walsh(2006) states that motivation has four components: “can I do it, is it doable, is it worth doing, and how do I think about the whole idea”. If a student does not expect to succeed, motivation is eliminated. When a student feels that his or her efforts will result in failure, that student will decide not to try at all because it is a better decision than experiencing failure and rejection. Low self-concept is directly tied to motivation and there is a positive correlation between changing a student's self-image and the messages the student receives at home.
Students who are low achievers may exhibit the following behaviors:
unproductive and negative behaviors
decide to give up because of low academic skills
disorganization--have a hard time keeping track of assignments, books, supplies
associate with peers who are also underachieving
bored because they do not see any real purpose in what they learn
rebellion against authority in general transfers to a lack of interest in school
On the other hand students who are successful do the following:
motivated to succeed
set goals for achievement
set schedules for completing assignments and projects
use an assignment notebook to record their assignments
set up a regular homework time
use a study area that provides minimal or no distractions
expect to be successful
take breaks during study time
do not give up if a question or assignment is more difficult
ask for help from a teacher, friend , or family member
spend a reasonable amount of time for studying for tests
listen in class and take notes when needed
participate in school activities
Sources of information include the following books:
Wilde, J. Why Kids Struggle In School: A Guide to Overcoming
East Troy, WI: LGR Publishing, 1996
Armstrong, T. You’re Smarter Than You Think. Minneapolis, MN:
ALCOHOL & DRUGS
Drug use and abuse is an everyday occurrence in today’s society. While alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are the most commonly used drugs, it is important to note that the use of methamphetamine, inhalants, prescription drugs, and steroids have increased. While it may appear that many adolescents are using drugs, the research shows that this is generally not the case. However, students are more apt to try alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana at least once when they are in junior high and high school.
Things to consider in this area are: Why do students try alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana? What are your values regarding the use of these substances? Do you discuss these topics with your son/daughter or do you leave this information gathering to chance or peer influence? Discussion is the key factor so that peer influence can be minimized. How do you talk with your son/daughter about this? Using scare tactics has been proven not to be effective. It is important to listen to your child’s opinion without being judgmental. It’s okay to bring in facts as part of the discussion and let the child understand the possible consequences of his/her decisions.
Some facts that could be used are: (taken from Project ALERT)
• it is more dangerous for teens because their body and brains are still growing.
• motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths.
• 85% of teens who smoke 2 cigarettes completely will become regular smokers.
• each cigarette you smoke takes about 10 minutes off your life.
• “regular use may lead to lower achievement, increase tolerance of deviance, more deviant behavior, and greater rebelliousness”.
• interferes with performance in sports.
• “makes learning more difficult because it impairs logical thinking, reading comprehension, and verbal and math skills”.
There are numerous warning signs that may indicate drug use as follows:
Physical Signs, Emotional Signs, Family-related Signs
fatigue, personality change, starting arguments
repeated health complaints, sudden mood changes, negative attitude
red and glazed eyes, irritability, breaking rules
lasting cough, low self-concept, withdrawing from family
poor judgment, secretiveness
general lack of interest
School-related Signs, Social Signs
decreased interest, new friends who make poor decisions
& not interested in school.
negative attitude, problems with the law
drop in grades, changes to less conventional styles in dress and music
discipline problems: Source: The Challenge, Vol. 14, No.3
The above signs can also be indicators of other concerns such as
mental health issues or medical problems and should be checked out
by an appropriate professional. Many adolescents have one or more
of these signs from time to time and it should not be automatically
construed that they are
Further detailed information can be found at these web sites
NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse): www.nida.nih.gov/
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information: www.ncadi.samhsa.gov/
National Children’s Coalition: www.child.net/drugalc.htm
Street Talk & Drug slang: www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/streetterms
ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER
ADD(Attention Deficit Disorder)/ADHD(Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder) has been described as a neurological
disorder. ADD is generally used for lack of attention, while ADHD
relates to hyperactive behavior due to a lack of concentration.
According to the DSM-I (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders) there are three types of ADHD
(1) ADHD-inattentive: difficulty paying attention: -hard time staying focused
-does not pay close attention to details
-no follow-through on instructions, assignments, or chores
-poor listening skills
-difficulty organizing tasks
(2) ADHD-hyperactive-impulsive: hyperactive-impulsive symptoms:
-shouts out answers
-leaves seat in classroom
-difficulty waiting to take their turn
-does not think before he/she acts
-fidgets with hands; difficulty sitting still in seat
-seems to always be “on the go”
-often interrupts others
(3) ADHD-combined: inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive:
(At least 6 symptoms from one of the categories must be present
for up to 6 months
and be considered inappropriate for the student’s age to possibly qualify for ADD/ADHD.)
It is estimated that 3-5% of the students have this disorder and that more boys than girls are affected. The above symptoms should be evident before the age of 7; however, more and more students are being diagnosed at the junior high/middle school ages. It should be noted that normal children have some of these characteristics but not as many, and they do not interfere with the educational environment, social interactions, or behavioral actions. There is no single test, rating scale, or questionnaire that will accurately diagnose ADD/ADHD. It is important to have a comprehensive assessment to ensure a proper diagnosis. This includes medical, educational, and behavioral histories to be evaluated by an appropriate professional such as a: physician, neurologist psychiatrist, professional counselor, psychologist, and social worker.
What are some of the things that a parent can do to help his/her son or daughter?
-work with the school on strategies
-the ADD/ADHD label should not be used as an excuse that may give a student a
reason to give up or feel that he/she is a failure
-teach relaxation techniques such as deep breathing
-emphasize writing things down
-show how to divide longer assignments into parts
-teach regular use of organizational skills
-create a routine to help remember things
-use sticky notes as reminders
-include your student in making a small list of rules and be consistent in enforcing them
-recognize positive behavior and redirect negative behavior
Other disorders can be present with ADHD as follows:
ODD (oppositional defiant disorder)
CD (conduct disorder)
Developmental disorder (autism, Rett’s Syndrome, Aspergers)
The following web sites and books may be helpful:
Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD): www.chadd.org
Attention Research Update: www.helpforadd.com
Dietary recommendations: www.infoadhd.com
Scholarships for students with ADD/ADHD: www.add.about.com
Support groups and advice: www.adders.org
American Psychological Association: www.apa.org
Lawless, Frank. The ADD Answer. New York: Penguin Group, 2004
Barkley, R.A. Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative
Guide for Parents.
Rev ed. New York: Guilford Press, 2000
Hallowell, E. Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with
Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood. Tappan, New Jersey, Simon & Schuster,
BULLYING AND TEASING
Much has been written and discussed about this topic. An accepted definition of bullying is:“A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more students (Olweus 1986 and 1991). These negative actions can include physical actions (hitting, slapping, poking, punching, pinching, scratching spitting, biting, damaging clothes), verbal comments (name-calling, gossip, intimidating phone calls, taunting, personal attacks, untrue accusations, false rumors), and relational bullying (excluding, ignoring, isolating, rumors). Boys are more likely to use physical and verbal, while girls rely on relational along with verbal comments. Girls use forms of excluding because they have a greater need for social contact.
Barbara Coloroso in her book The Bully, The Bullied, and The Bystander (2002) indicates that“contempt—a powerful feeling of dislike toward somebody considered to be worthless, inferior, or undeserving of respect” is the key to understanding the bully. She explains that there is a sense of entitlement, an intolerance toward differences, and a freedom to exclude. According to Barbara there are three elements that make up bullying: (1) imbalance of power (older, bigger, stronger opposite sex, different race), (2) intent to harm (emotional or physical with pleasure seeing the hurt), (3) threat of further aggression (it will probably happen again).
Olweus in his book Bullying at School points out various signs that could mean a student is being bullied: clothes or books are damaged, bruises, cuts, scratches that are unexplained, does socialize with friends, afraid to go to school, poor appetite, frequent headaches, stomach pains in the morning, bad dreams and restless sleep, lost interest in school and gets lower grades, sad,depressed, mood shifts, requests for more money (to give to bullies).
What can be done if a student is bullied? There is nothing that
works all the time or fits every situation. Bullies tend to focus
on victims who are vulnerable. Teach your son/daughter to walk with
confidence and make eye contact. Ronald Stephens, a former teacher
and school board member suggests “No, go, and tell”—refuse the
bully’s demand, leave the area, and tell an adult. Encouraging
friendships gives students bystanders that can be supportive. Teach
your student that the real reason for being teased is that he/she
gets upset. Whatever succeeds in upsetting a student is exactly
what the bully will do again because the bully gets pleasure from
Being assertive (not aggressive) is a helpful strategy. Eleanor Roosevelt once said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. Sometimes it helps to have a few phrases to use in various situations such as: “I don’t like what you’re saying; if that’s all you can say I’m not talking to you”. “That’s beneath the both of us”. “Why do you want to talk to me if you don’t like me?” “Whatever”. Anything that will confuse the bully is helpful, such as turning an insult into a compliment (“those shoes are ugly”. “Thank you for critiquing my wardrobe”).
Teasing is different than bullying. Both parties know each other well enough to feel comfortable what is being said. There is no intent to hurt someone and is meant for both people to have a good laugh. The teasing will stop when the person being teased doesn’t like it.
Sources of information from web sites and books:
Garbarino, J. (1999). Lost Boys: Why our sons turn violent and
how we can save them.
New York: Free Press
Olweus, D (1993). Bullying at School. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, Inc.
Pipher, M. (1994). Reviving Ophelia: New York. Ballentine Books.
Coloroso, B. (2002). The Bully, The Bullied, The Bystander.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada:
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
Dellasega, C. and Charisse Nixon (2003). Girl Wars: 12 Strategies That Will End Female Bullying. New York: Fireside.
Junior High / Middle School is a good time for students to begin thinking about careers. When exploring careers it is important for students to understand their interests. Deciding on a career involves knowing their skills and abilities along with considering what are their hobbies, books/magazines they read, best school subjects, outside activities, school activities, favorite things such as TV shows, music, vacations, items in their room, and movies. Above all it is important to find a career for which they have a passion. When there is a passion it stirs motivation, determination, and success. One way to think about a career is, "What would I do for nothing?", and then go find a place to earn money for it.
Upwards to 80% of all careers will require education and/or training after high school. There are various educational options: (1) High School only; (2) On-The-Job Training; (3) Trade Schools; (4) Vocational Schools; (5) 2 Years of College (Associate's Degree); (6) 4 Years of College (Bachelor's Degree); (7) Professional Degrees After College (doctor, lawyer); and (8) Masters and Doctorate Degrees are available in many areas to improve knowledge.
According to the ILWorkInfo.com web site, "jobs that require higher education are growing faster than those that require less education." Growth rates for for jobs that require some higher education range from 9% to 18%, while the rates for jobs that do do not require higher education are 6% to 8%. Generally speaking, those students with education beyond high school can earn anywhere from $4,000 to $40,000 per year more than a high school dropout or person completing high school or a GED.
Parents play a significant role in helping students make career decisions. When parents emphasize the value of education, students can better understand the relevancy of school and the impact it has on a successful career. It is important to encourage your son/daughter to follow his /her interests and goals. Be careful not to "push" him/her in the direction you want he/she to go. It is okay to discuss his/her strengths/weaknesses in connection with various careers and the ones he/she is thinking about. When talking to your son/daughter, remind them that employers place a high priority on personal characteristics as much as they do knowledge. Those characteristics are: communication, positive attitude, confidence, reliability, teamwork skills, honesty, good work ethic, motivation, problem-solving, and getting along with others.
Sources of career information:
www.ILWorkInfo.com (The Illinois Career Resource Network)
www.collegezone.com (financial aid, scholarships, grants, etc.)
www.iccb.state.il.us (links to community colleges)
www.collegeboard.com (college information)
www.petersons.com (college information)
www.fastweb.com (financial aid)
DEATH + GRIEVING
When the death of a family member, relative, or close friend occurs children and adolescents experience various stages of grief. These stages are not necessarily in any particular order and can differ depending on the age of the child or adolescent. There can be shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, coping, acceptance and hope. The response to grief can also be affected by the type of death, prolonged vs. sudden, and gender differences.
Donna L.Schuuman, Ed D says that children don't need to be fixed to help them "get over it". They need support, assistance and allowed to grieve in their own way. They need to express sorrow, but not always with words. Playing, listening to music, quiet time, walking, and silence are possible forms of expression. The best thing you can do is listen.
Joyce A. Shriner, MS, CFLE emphasizes the need to reassure adolescents that grief is a unique experience and what they are going through is normal. Allowing them to retell the story can help them make sense out or what happened. There are some things that a bereaved can find hurtful, such as: "I know how you feel", "encouraging a speedy recovery, giving advise, minimizing the loss, forcing cheerfulness, intentionally avoiding the use of the deceased's name, and failing to acknowledge that the death has occurred".
Norma Libman, in her Chicago Tribune article, describes the "Phases of Childhood Grief" as outlined in "Helping Children Cope With Grief" by Alan Wolfelt. These phases are not in any order and some or all of them may not be experienced:shock/denial/numbness, lack of feelings, physiological changes (tired, sleep,appetite), regression (feel safe as in earlier life), big man/woman syndrome (responsible one), disorganized/panic, direct anger or hatred toward anyone, acting-out behavior fear, guilt & self-blame (somehow responsible for death), relief, loss/emptiness/sadness,reconciliation (grief no longer overwhelming).
Helping Children Cope with Death, The Doughy Center, 1997 (call: 503-775-5683)
The Grieving Child, Helen Fitzgerald, Fireside, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1992
Talking about Death, A Dialogue Between Parent and Child, Earl Grollman, Beacon Press, 1990
Children & Grief, When a Parent Dies, J. William Worden, the Guilford Press, 1996
DEPRESSION + SUICIDE
It is normal for people to have mood swings from time to time. Feelings of sadness or the “blues” accompany various life events and people recover from them without professional or medical treatment. Clinical depression is a mood disorder that is not caused by parenting, a character flaw, or is caught like a cold. Depression can be transferred through families and certain stressful events can evoke some symptoms. When someone has depression it signals that there is an imbalance in the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. (National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association). Teenage depression is painful and brings on a “continuing overwhelming feeling of sadness and helplessness that interferes with a teenager’s ability to carry on normally”. (Charter Behavioral Health Systems). Charter also lists the following symptoms of depression:
changes in sleep patterns changes in appetite (weight gain or
inability to concentrate feelings of excessive guilt
feelings of hopelessness, sadness withdrawal from friends and family
loss of energy sudden drop in school performance
neglect of personal appearance outbursts of shouting, complaining
unexplained irritability crying
refusal to cooperate antisocial behavior
use of alcohol or other drugs perception of being ugly when not
loss of interest in activities risk-taking behaviors
recurring thoughts of death/suicide medically unexplained aches and pains
Depression becomes clinical when someone five or more of the above symptoms for more than two weeks and it affects school work or family activities. (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance). If this occurs it is important for that person to be examined by a licensed physician or psychologist.
Teenage depression can lead to thoughts of suicide. Those who
are at risk of suicide are:
teens who had a parent, friend, or acquaintance commit suicide
teens who abuse drugs or alcohol
teens who are self-critical, perfectionists, or over-achievers (Charter Behavioral Health Systems)
In the Healing Magazine (spring/summer 2007) Pat Sullivan wrote an article about Youth Suicide. The article indicated some common general reasons for thoughts of suicide:
“ trying to end pain
avoiding an upcoming stressful event
overwhelming grief over the death of a loved one
getting back at someone who has mistreated them
punishing themselves for feelings of worthlessness
copying the actions of someone who has committed suicide”
Sullivan also listed various warning signs of which suicidal thoughts and hopelessness are the most critical:
preoccupation with death (talking/writing)/suicide
giving away possessions
hopeless, trapped, overly anxious
strong mood swings
People who are considering suicide often give clues and warnings about their intent. Threats and attempts of suicide must be taken seriously. A stressful situation can often trigger an attempt. During this time it is important not to be critical of the person, ask the person directly about his/her intent, and be supportive.
Depression: American academy of Child and Adolescent
(202) 966-7300 *www.aacap.org
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
(301) 231-9350 * www.adaa.org
Child and Adolescent Association of America
National Mental Health Association
(800) 969-6642 * www.nmha.org
Naperville, (630) 355-2585
Central DuPage Hospital, Behavioral Health Services
Winfield, (630) 933-4600
DuPage County Division of Human Services
Wheaton, (630) 682-7000
Edward Hospital, Naperville, IL, (630) 305-5027) (free screening depression/suicide)
Outreach Community Counseling Center
Carol Stream, (630) 871-2700
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
(888) 333-2377 * www.afsp.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Suicide Prevention Services
Batavia, IL * (630) 482-9699 * www.spsfv.org
Depression Hotline: (630) 482-9696
Suicidal Crisis: 1-800-784-2433
Divorce is a difficult time for all family members. Children of divorce develop various thoughts and feelings and very often keep them to themselves because they feel alone and that no one cares. For example, feeling sad, angry scared, worried, anxious, confused, helpless, frustrated, or frightened are common emotions for children (Children In The Middle: Children’s Version, 1995). Frequently children will have some of the following thoughts:
Where will I live?
Will there be enough money for us?
If one left, will my other parent leave me, too?
Will they stop loving me?
Do I have to stop loving them?
Did I cause this?
How often will I get to be with each of my parents?
What will happen on special days?
Will they both come to school events?
Will they still argue and fight a lot?
The above list is from The Family Circus, based on Children In
The Middle and adapted
by Becky McNeely, 2004.
Melissa A. Erickson and Donna Bellafiore wrote an article in the
Downers Grove Reporter (Mar. 1995) outlining a list of “Ten
commandments (divorcing) parents should follow:
1.Treat your children as human beings and do not put them in the middle of your arguments.
2. Allow your children to continue a relationship with the other parent and the freedom to receive love, protection, and guidance from both parents, and to express love and affection towards both parents.
3. Give children permission to love and respect each parent without encouraging guilt feelings by showing disapproval, resentment or jealously.
4. Tell the children that the decision to divorce was not the children’s fault and that they will always be their parents.
5. Provide as much stability as possible and will tell the children when they will visit of live with the other parent.
6. Will provide honest answers to questions regarding changing family relationships.
7. Will refrain from degrading the other parent and will let the children know what is good in each parent.
8. Will become aware when the children are trying to manipulate them and maintain a united front regarding discipline.
9. Will not withhold visitation of the other parent as a punishment for the children’s poor behavior.
10. Will be consistent and regular in their visitation and will let their children know the reason for a cancelled visit.
In Parenting After Divorce: A Guide to Resolving Conflicts and Meeting Your Children’s Need(2000), it mentioned that children have various rights. Children should not be used as a messenger or spy between parents, nor should they be asked to keep secrets from the other parent. They should be free from having to take over parental responsibilities (i.e. “man of the house”). They should have privacy when talking to the other parent on the phone, and have a personal sleeping area and space in each parent’s home.
Divorce is a complicated issue and many times children hope that their parents will get back together so that they all can be a family again. It is important and the responsibility of parents to reassure their children that they are still loved and supported by both parents.
Stahl, P. M. Parenting After Divorce: A Guide to Resolving
Conflicts and Meeting Your
Children’s Needs. Atascadero, CA: Impact Publishers, 2000
Shulman, D. Co-Parenting After Divorce: How to Raise Happy,
Healthy Children in
Two-Home Families: Winnspeed Press, 1997
MacGregor, C. The Divorce Helpbook for Kids: Atascadero, CA: Impact Publishers,
In his booklet The Basics of Encouragement, Gary D. McKay explains the various aspects of encouragement. He points out that it “is the process of focusing upon assets and strengths as opposed to focusing upon liabilities”. “Encouragement reflects an accepting attitude”. People become discouraged when they focus on status and prestige, have negative expectations, set unreasonable goals, never satisfied their performance, overemphasize competition, and focus on mistakes. When parents demonstrate any of these attitudes a child can become discouraged and begin to misbehave. When someone is discouraged they use language like, “I can’t”, “I’ll try”, “He made me”. These statements give someone a way to avoid responsibility for his/her choices. Sometimes “I can’t” also means “I won’t” as away to get out of doing something.
McKay indicates that to develop encouragement it is important to focus on the positive, emphasize contributions, assets and strengths, recognize effort and improvement, and develop a sense of humor about mistakes. Focusing on effort and improvement is a key to developing encouragement, because if “we focus only on well-done completed tasks, we communicate that people are not OK unless they approximate perfection”.
McKay differentiates between praise and encouragement. While praise and encouragement focus on positive behaviors, praise has a different purpose and effect on the individual receiving it. “Praise is only given for well-done, completed tasks.” It is a way to control children by trying to make them live up to certain requirements. “Praise is an external motivator”. It places a value judgment on children (“You did a good job”; “You make me so proud of you” ). On the other hand, encouragement is offered for effort and improvement and concentrates on assets and strengths. It can be given when a child feels down and shows that you have faith and belief in his/her abilities. Encouragement can be given “nonverbally through silent acceptance when a child is trying to work out a problem, or a smile, a pat on the back, etc.”
When using words of encouragement you might want to consider the following:
Acceptance: “I like the way you handled that.”
“It looks as if you enjoyed that.”
“I like the way you tackle a problem.”
“How do you feel about it.”
Confidence: “You’ll make it.”
“That’s a rough one but I’m sure you’ll work it out.”
“Knowing you, I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
Contribution/Appreciation: “Thanks; that helps a lot”
“It was thoughtful of you to__________.”
“I need your help on________________.”
Effort and improvement: “It looks as if you really worked hard
“Look at the progress you’ve made.”
“Look how far you’ve come.”
“I see that you’re moving along.”
In summary, the words that are used when talking to your children play an important role in helping them believe in their capabilities and in developing internal motivation. Linda Metcalf, in Parenting Toward Solutions, says, adolescents who are restricted, scolded, disliked and scorned by their parents look for acceptance elsewhere”. This does not mean that reasonable value and limits that they can follow should not be placed on them. When an adolescent feels “loved accepted and validated”, they tend to misbehave less.
Dinkmeyer, D. and Dreikurs, R. (1963). Encouraging children to
Encouragement process. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
Dinkmeyer, D. and McKay, G. (1989). The parent’s handbook.
Circle Pines, MN:
American Guidance Service.
During the past ten years the number of self-injurious behaviors by adolescents has steadily increased. Self-injury is defined as: "an intentional, self-affected, low-lethality bodily harm of a socially unacceptable nature, performed to reduce psychological distress." (Walsh, Treating Self-Injury, 2006). It is not someone trying to get attention but rather a person trying to reduce stress. "Physical pain provides immediate relief from whatever issue is causing severe distress." (Pat Sullivan, Healing Magazine). Back in the 1970's & 1980's self-injury was used to relieve the pain of physical or sexual abuse. Today, there are varying forms of emotional distress that students are trying to cope with. Students who self-injure are in intense pain and need support until they can learn how to handle their emotions. Self-injurers may have the negative core beliefs of incompetence and unlovable, but one of their major thoughts is a negative body image. (Walsh).
Denise M. Styer, Psy.D., offers various REASONS WHY TEENS SELF-INJURE: lonely, a cry for help, to feel in control, to punish oneself, release tension, to distract/disconnect, not able to tolerate feelings, feel overwhelmed, hurting themselves is better than someone else hurting them, and physiologically there is a 15-20 minute "high" because endorphins are released from our brain.
SELF-INJURY BEHAVIORS CAN INCLUDE: cutting, scratching (pins, pen caps, paper clips, razor blades), carving, burning, head banging, rubbing that causes a burn, ingesting, and continually picking at sores, scabs, or pimples.
SUGGESTIONS FOR ALTERNATIVESTO SELF-INJURY: mark the skin with a washable red marker, apply ice to the area of injury, listen to music, hold a stuffed animal, ask for help, draw a picture of the self- injury area, notice the "triggers" that precede self-injury, journal about the self-injury situation, play a musical instrument, exercise, take a shower/bath, call a friend, play with an animal, call a hotline, tear up paper, and do something fun.
Sources of Information:
Informational and Factual Web Sites
SAFE Alternatives: wwwselfinjury.com
Kids Health: www kidshealth.org
Self-Injury and Related Issues: www.siari.co.uk
Supportive Self-Help Web Sites
Secret Shame: www.palace.net
Self-Injury: A Struggle: self-injury.net
Self-Injury Information and Support: www.psyke.org
Conterio, K., & Lader, W. (1998). Bodily Harm. Hyperion, New York
Levenkron, Steven. (1998). Cutting. W. W. Norton & Company, New York/London
This topic has always been very sensitive. Each year at the junior high the Robert Crown Center presents a program on this topic to sixth grade students. While this is a good program, kids will still have questions and getting the answers from parents helps a lot. As students move through junior high and get into high school, they have to deal with questions about peer pressure, sexually transmitted diseases, and body image. While parents may be a little uncomfortable with this subject, kids are also reluctant to be open about their thoughts.
Books can provide a valuable resource and the information varies from basic to more advanced concepts. Before using a book make sure that you are aware of what it covers so that you won't be uncomfortable. It is helpful for you and your child go through the book together and also let him/her go read the book alone. Be prepared for questions that they might have.
"The Care & Keeping of You" (American Girl Publishing): For younger girls.
"Ready Set Grow!" (Newmarket Press: For girls 8 or 9
"Start Talking": a Girls' Guide for You & Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever by Mary Jo Rapini & Janine Sherman: For Preteens & older.
"On Your Mark Get Set Grow" by Lindra Madaras: For boys 8 or 9
"What's Happening to Me.?" by Alex Frith: For preteens
"It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie Harris: For ages 10 and up
Definition: any change that a person does not feel that they have the resources to be able to cope with the situation.
Stress is a person’s reaction to an upsetting situation that involves friends, parents, siblings, school, etc. There are three types of signs of stress as follows:
Behavioral: “pacing, drumming fingers, biting nails, fidgeting, tapping your foot, and twirling a strand of hair. (Stress Management for Adolescents, Diane de Anda, 2006).
Physiological: upset stomach, wet palms, feeling that you want to cry (Stress Management for Adolescents), sleep problems, weight gain/loss, headaches, fatigue, and digestive problems (kidshealth.org).
Psychological: depression, tense, mood swings, jealousy, fear, exhaustion, feeling hurt, and withdrawal (health.learninginfo.org)
Reasons for teen stress: (kidshealth.org):
• being bullied
• schoolwork problems
• learning disabilities; ADHD
• too many activities and not enough time to relax
Suggestions for dealing with stress:
• eat healthy
• listen to music
• planning and organization
• get enough sleep
• talk with friends
• do something that makes you laugh
• relaxation techniques