Know! To Arm Them With Education, Motivation, Expectations and the X-Plan

In the previous tip, Know! April is Alcohol Awareness Month, we discussed the prevalence of underage drinking and the many negative consequences that can go along with it. We also shared an important fact; young people who begin drinking before the age of 15 are six times more likely to develop alcoholism or have problems with alcohol later in life, compared to those who wait until turning 21.
Communication is key to prevention and essential in building and sustaining a positive relationship with our children, students, youth group members, athletes, etc. While it is vital to have ongoing conversations on the topic of alcohol and other drugs with them, it is equally important to talk about the everyday things happening in their lives. They need to know that we genuinely care about them, respect their feelings and opinions, and that we are looking out for their best interest. That way, when it comes time to talk about the heavier stuff, the foundation of trust is already there.
When sharing information with your child (student, athlete, etc.) on underage drinking, it is important to be clear on where you stand on the issue. Make sure they are aware of your expectations for them not to drink before turning the legal age of 21, and be sure they know the consequences of making the wrong choice.
It is also valuable to help your child find his/her motivation to say NO to alcohol – be it school, sports, spiritual reasons or simply to comply with house rules. And then help them practice saying NO. It may feel a little silly, but it will better prepare them for a real-life scenario.
Even with all this, there may be times where a simple NO may not feel like enough, or the pressure is too overwhelming. For circumstances like this, whether it be about alcohol or other drugs, or any other uncomfortable situation a child may find him or herself in, there is the X-Plan. Developed by Bert Fulks (dad/teacher/youth minister, who works with teens in addiction recovery), the X-Plan is an excellent exit strategy that helps a teen save face in front of peers, but gets them out of a sticky situation quickly and safely.
Here’s an example of how it works:
Taylor, a high school freshman, goes to a gathering at a friend’s house. Once there, he sees his underage peers drinking and smoking. He is feeling tremendously uncomfortable and is getting extreme pressure from his buddies to join them. He discretely sends a text to his brother that simply includes the letter, “x,” nothing more.
But actually, it is more. And it sets in motion a plan that is designed to get Taylor out of situations just like this...
Mom, dad and brother know what to do if they receive this text from Taylor. They promptly call him and the conversation goes something like this:
“Taylor, something has come up and I need to get you right now.”
“What happened?”
“I’ll tell you about it when I get there. Be ready to leave in five minutes. I’m on my way.”
Here’s the tricky part of the deal…when Taylor gets in the car, there is a “no questions asked policy.” It is up to him how much or how little he chooses to share. And in order for this plan to work, this piece must be made known to the child and respected by the parents. This is not to say that a conversation cannot take place later, but if you force your child to spill the beans, you should know that you’re likely going to ruin the chance of your son or daughter reaching out to you again in a similar scenario.
The bottom line is this; we cannot be physically present with our child at all times, but our influence can. Our voices can be heard by them even when we are not there. We can promote prevention by arming our youth with education, motivation, expectations and when needed, the X-Plan.

Sources: Bert Fulks, X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out (#xplan), March 3, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Alcohol Fact Sheets – Underage Drinking. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD): 30th Annual Alcohol Awareness Month – Organizer’s Guide.

Know! To Secure, Monitor and Dispose

Tis the season for spring cleaning. As you’re working hard to get your home decluttered, organized, spotless and sparkling, be sure to include the clearing out of old, unused or unwanted medicines – it’s a vitally important task.

Families are continuing to be devastated and destroyed as children end up in the ER, become addicted, suffer physical pain and emotional turmoil, and some lose their lives altogether - all in the name of prescription drug abuse. Medicine abuse among youth continues to trend at an alarming rate and for what? According to youth, they use to get high, treat pain, sleep, stay awake, fit in or do better in school. And the majority say they can get these drugs easily and for free, from unknowing, unsuspecting family members and friends through unlocked medicine cabinets.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs fall into three categories: Painkillers, Depressants and Stimulants. Because so much attention, nationwide, has been drawn to the dangers of prescription pain pills (and rightfully so), many people are now aware of the hazards they present and are hopefully more vigilant in keeping them properly stored and monitored. However, many people are not aware of the risks other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and how common the abuse of these medications have become.
Doctor-prescribed stimulant medications used to treat anxiety, for instance, are common drugs of abuse, as well as doctor-prescribed depressants, like sleep medications. Young people typically abuse stimulants to stay awake or get ramped up for a night of partying, while depressants may be later used to then come back down, help users relax or to induce sleep.
Some teens are known to grab pills from home, or from the homes of relatives and friends, not knowing what they are or what they do, with the intention of taking them to teen “Skittles” parties, where everyone brings pills, dumps them in a bowl, and pops them in their mouths like candy. In this situation, users have no idea what they’re ingesting or the side effects that might accompany any one particular pill, let alone the outcome of mixing with alcohol or multiple other drugs.
Then there’s cough medicine; the sticky, syrupy stuff that most children turn their nose up to when they’re actually sick, because of the bitter taste…both the prescription strength that contains codeine, as well as the over-the-counter version that contains DXM, are both being abused by teens. Mixed typically with sprite (or other soda) and a Jolly Rancher, this nasty-tasting medicine, often referred to as Purple Drank, Syrup, Sizzurp and Lean (because it literally causes users to lean over), becomes a candy-flavored cocktail that produces a relaxed, euphoric high, when taken in high doses.
ADHD medicines are also popular drugs of abuse among youth, frequently being abused for purposes of weight loss or academic performance enhancement. And as youth get older, parents are more likely to entrust them to handle and self-administer their own medications. But far too often, these pills end up in the hands of unintended users, like friends or classmates.
The side-effects and drug interactions of these medicines can be highly dangerous, and even deadly. It is immensely important for parents, grandparents and other adults to eliminate the ease of access of these drugs by removing medications from nightstands, kitchen cabinets and any other unsecured location, and to then follow these three simple steps:
SECURE: Safeguard all your prescription and over-the-counter medications in a locked cabinet, drawer or safe that is inaccessible to your teens and their friends.
MONITOR: Make note of how many pills or the amount of liquid in each medicine bottle you have in your home. Keep track of refills and be sure you control any medication that is prescribed to your child.
DISPOSE: Take advantage of the many drug drop boxes and drug take-back days that are available across the country. Otherwise, follow these guidelines for proper drug disposal of unused, unwanted and expired medications.

Sources: United States Environmental Protection Agency. U.S. Department of Justice - Drug Enforcement Administration - Diversion Control Division. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Know! The Not-So-Innocent Side of Teen Romance

The month of February is known as a time of “love,” where secret-admirers and Valentines of all ages express their affection for one another through candy hearts, red roses and love letters. In sharp contrast however, February has also become known as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month; to focus attention on abuse in young people’s relationships and provide information to help prevent it.
Are you among the 81% of moms and dads who don’t think dating violence is an issue among our teens and tweens? The fact is, one in three girls in the U.S. will become a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Young ladies between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, but even our middle school children are at risk, with abusive behaviors often beginning as early as 12-years-old.
Violent relationships in adolescence place youth at a greater likelihood for making other hazardous life-choices as well, which oftentimes lead to substance abuse, eating disorders and risky sexual behaviors. Furthermore, a teen subjected to dating abuse in high school is at increased risk for becoming a victim again in college.
It is critical to know that this is as much an issue for sons as it is for daughters. First of all, young men are not immune to becoming victims of dating abuse. And young men - as well as young women - need to learn what a healthy relationship is, and what it is not (and it is up to us to define that for them).
It is easy to assume our child would come to us, but they may not. The far majority of teen dating violence victims, 77%, keep it quiet and do not tell a single person. For the other 33%, that “someone” they do tell is not always mom or dad or even an adult.
One of the reasons victims give for not telling an adult is that they fear they will not be believed or taken seriously. As the parent, we want to take steps to build trust and encourage communication, including:
• Talking with your child about healthy “romantic” relationships, before there is an issue
• If your child comes to you with a “boyfriend/girlfriend” problem, take them seriously and believe them
• Listen attentively, be supportive and understanding
• Do NOT be judgmental and do NOT put down their partner
• Avoid telling them what to do, but rather guide them in the right direction (unless they are in danger, in which case you should take immediate action, including contacting local law enforcement)
• Additionally, you can refer your son or daughter to for helpful and relatable teen dating tips and information
As for parents, we are not guaranteed the opportunity of being able to step in if an issue arises, so we must be aware of the warning signs of our child being in an unhealthy “relationship.” They include:
• Your child’s excessive communication with their “partner” via text, social media or in person
• Your son or daughter becomes depressed or anxious
• Extracurricular activities get put on the back-burner or come to a halt altogether
• Your child’s partner is extremely jealous or possessive
• They begin to dress differently
• They have mood swings beyond what is expected among teens
• They stop spending time with their friends
Regular and ongoing, positive communication with our children will help to build and strengthen a trusting relationship and increase the likelihood of them coming to us in times of need. The topic of healthy relationships should be a part of the communication that begins early, ideally, long before an issue might develop. In our next tip, we’ll give you talking points to share with your child to help define healthy relationships and the importance of mutual respect.

Sources: CDC - Injury Prevention & Control : Division of Violence Prevention – Teen Dating Violence. Dating Abuse Statistics. Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Know! If You Have A Smartphone Addiction

We jokingly talk about our children (and maybe ourselves) being addicted to our smartphones, but in reality, it is no laughing matter. Cell phone addiction is real and can be destructive to the lives of those who truly cannot control their use.
Ever heard of “nomophobia”? It’s the fear of having no mobile phone, as in accidentally leaving it at home or the battery dying with no charger in sight. There are people who simply cannot function “normally” without having their phone on them. Similar to drugs, smartphone use can trigger the release of dopamine, the chemical that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure center and alters a person’s mood. And just like alcohol and other drugs, tolerance can quickly build, causing one to need even more screen time to experience that same pleasurable reward.
New research released by Common Sense Media tells us that parents of teens and tweens are now spending as much time on their phones as their children. About 60% of these parents believe their teens are addicted to their phones, but less than 30% of these same parents believe themselves to be addicted. In this same study, 56% of parents admit to checking their mobile devices while driving in the car with their children, while 51% of teens say they witness it. Dangerous in so many ways!
Smartphone (or internet) addiction is about impulse-control – which we know is not a strongpoint for tweens/teens – and apparently many adults as well. Smartphones can be helpful and fun in a variety of ways, and spending time on them is perfectly ok – until it’s too much.
But how much is too much? According to health experts, it becomes a problem when virtual relationships take precedence over real-world relationships; when one struggles to complete tasks at school, work or home because of time spent online; when a person begins concealing his/her amount of smartphone use or gets extremely irritated when their online activity is interrupted; when there is constant fear of missing out on something if not online; if the person experiences phantom vibrations from a text or update that did not actually occur; and of course it’s a problem if a person is willing to risk their safety or the safety of others for a peek at their digital updates.
Consider these questions, adapted by, to determine your level of dependency on your digital device(s):
1. Do you absent-mindedly pass the time by using your phone even when there are better things to do?
2. Do you lose track of time when on your phone?
3. Do you spend more time on your phone than talking to real people face-toface?
4. Do you wish you could be less connected to your phone?
5. Do you regularly sleep with your smartphone ON, next to your bed?
6. Do you use your phone at all hours of the day/night—even when it means interrupting other things?
7. Do you use your phone while driving or doing other activities that require your focused attention?
8. Are you reluctant to be without your smartphone, even for a short time?
9. Do you ALWAYS have your smartphone with you and feel anxious if you accidentally leave it at home?
10. When you eat meals is your smartphone always a part of the table place setting?
11. When your phone buzzes do you feel an intense urge to check for texts, tweets, updates, etc.?
12. Do you find yourself mindlessly checking your phone multiple times a day even when you know there is likely nothing new or important to see?
While there are no set guidelines to determine if a person has a smartphone addiction, there are certainly behaviors that can signal a problem. If you (or your child) answered yes to four or more of the questions above, it may be time to take action to break your digital habit. If you aren’t able to stick to the limits you set for yourself, striking a healthy life balance, there are experts who can help.

* Contact your family physician for treatment information and guidance.
Sources: Dealing with Devices – The Parent-Teen Dynamic. May 2016. CNN: Kelly Wallace - How much time do parents spend on screens? As much as their teens. Dec 2016. Smartphone Addiction - Tips for Breaking Free of Compulsive Smartphone Use.f

Know! To Get YOUR Cell Phone Use In-Check

Teens spend an average of nine hours a day on their smartphones. Yes - you say - you’ve heard it before, you know it’s unhealthy for them for a number of reasons, and you have rules in place to reduce their screen time. Very good; you’ve got your child’s phone use in check, but how about yours?
According to Common Sense Media, the average parent spends nearly as much time on their phone as their tweens and teens – and no, it’s not all about work. Adults reportedly spend about 1 ½ work-related hours on their phones each day, but as for the other 7 ½ hours, we’re spending it just like our children; texting, playing games, watching videos, listening to music, shopping and checking in on social media.
Picture this; the school day has just ended and parents are lined up in the parking lot, waiting for their children. One child jumps into her dad’s car, excited to tell him about acing her math test. But before she can even speak, dad gives her the “hold-on-a-minute” signal and continues on with his phone conversation. In another car a mom scrolls through Facebook, liking and commenting on her “friends” pictures and posts, while her younger child in the back seat tries over and over again to get her attention. In yet another car sits a mom and dad together, waiting for their child. But instead of talking to each other, one is texting and the other is checking email. Sound familiar?
While cell phones are fantastic at keeping us connected, entertained, up-todate and a whole lot more, they can also serve as a huge distraction in our daily lives, our work and specifically in our parenting, as seen in the above examples. In fact, many experts agree that cell phones are ruining families’ lives. The reasoning behind it comes from studies like the one led by Catherine Steiner- Adair EdD, a clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard. Based on interviews with more than one thousand children ages four to 18, she tells us:
Kids hate our screens: Children say they feel frustrated, sad and angry that they are regularly having to compete with digital devices for their parents’ attention. Being “put on hold” by a parent, for example, so that he or she can continue on with a casual phone call or catch up with “friends” on social media, basically says to a child that the person on the other end of the phone or post is more important.
Just because we can connect to work 24/7, doesn’t mean we should: Being a good employee shouldn’t mean your employer has instant access to you at any given time; yet this is a common reason parents give for remaining “plugged-in,” during family time. But feeling like you’re always “on-call” makes it hard to relax and even enjoy time spent with family – and that may put your other job at risk – your job of being a good parent.
Screens aren’t good for marriages, and that’s not good for kids: When you and your significant other are together with a moment of a free time, do you find yourselves on your phones instead of interacting with each other, like the couple in the example above? If so, you’re not alone. But if such behavior is regular and ongoing, it can cause problems to arise in your relationship. This not only affects you and your partner, but your children as well. Plus, research has proven time and again that children learn behaviors modeled by their parents. This is not likely an example you’d want your children to follow in their personal relationships.
HOW DO WE FIX IT? Balance and Boundaries in both our personal and professional lives alike – setting reasonable and appropriate limits on our phone use for the good of our families and ourselves. Because as we know, the time we have to parent and raise our children is limited. And when that time is gone, it’s gone.
Are you addicted to your smartphone? Keep an eye out for the next Know! Tip and take the quiz to see how much control your phone has over you.

Sources: CNN: Kelly Wallace - How much time do parents spend on screens? As much as their teens. Dec 2016. Smartphone Addiction - Tips for Breaking Free of Compulsive Smartphone Use. Huffington Post: Lori Leibovich - 8 Ways Screens Are Ruining Your Family’s Life. Sept 2013. Your Tango: 5 REAL Ways Your Cell Phone Is Ruining Your Life. Feb 2015.