Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Darker Side of Caffeine

Most parents worry about the dangers associated with their teenagers driving, drinking, or experimenting with drugs. These dangers are well known and parents tend to worry about them. But would most parents worry about their teenager drinking an energy drink or a caffeinated soda? 

Recently in the news, we learned about a teenager in South Carolina who died from a caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia. Although the teen had consumed quite a bit of caffeine in a short amount of time, I'm not sure that most adults or teens would have seen this as completely out of the ordinary. The teenager had consumed a cafe latte, a large Diet Mountain Dew, and an energy drink before collapsing. 

Caffeine is a legal substance that many of us use on a daily basis. So how much is too much and when is it dangerous? 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents (12-18) should not consume more than 100 milligrams of caffeine per day. More than this has been associated with elevated blood pressure. It is advised that children and adolescents specifically avoid energy drinks, as they contain a significant amount of caffeine and other stimulants. Some energy drinks can contain more than 500 milligrams of caffeine, which is equal to about 14 cans of soda! 

Energy drinks have been shown to raise stress levels, increase heart rate, increase blood pressure, thicken blood, and cause sleep disruption. The possible interaction of caffeine with other ingredients in energy drinks may impact the function of your arteries. Some research has even linked energy drink consumption to an increased risk of symptoms of mental health problems. 

Caffeine can be even more dangerous for certain people, including those taking certain medications, like Adderall, for Attention Deficit Disorder. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, adults can typically consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day without side effects. However, it is important to note that caffeine itself is a stimulant and can be habit forming. 

Energy drinks are popular among teenagers, particularly young athletes. The problem is that there is no regulation of the marketing of these drinks to teenagers and often times, both teens and parents assume that they are completely safe. Educate yourself and your teen on how much caffeine is safe. Parents don't need one more thing to worry about, and caffeine shouldn't have to be one of them!

For more information on what energy drinks can do to your body, check out the CNN article

Friday, May 19, 2017

How to Guide Without Steering.

For those of you with experience with raising multiple children you may have already noticed that while there are some broad milestones in development, each child may reach them at varying times.  Often we discover a shift in maturity, understanding and interactions when the tools that we use are no longer effective.  There is a video in the publication Your Teen Magazine for Parents that does a nice job of explaining how we need to switch up our communication style when addressing teens.  When information imparting appears to hit a brick wall, expressing curiosity about your teen's desired outcomes, perspective and opinions helps them to know you can be a sounding board.

Parenting Education Opportunity

Parenting Resources and Education for Parents: A Community Discussion

Caron Treatment Center's Student Assistance Program invites parents and caregivers of children in middle school and high school to learn how to help teenagers be resilient against substance use.

When: May 23rd, 2017 from 7 pm to 8:30 pm
Where: Northstar Community - 563 Southlake Blvd, Richmond, VA 23236 
   Who: Parents, Caregivers, School Counselors, School Nurses, Community
Agencies, and the Faith Based Communities
Price: There is no cost to attend. Refreshments will be provided.

Program Objectives:

Provide information on the effects and consequences of gateway drugs and other drug trends.

Empower parents with effective communication skills when talking with their children about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use.

Review the importance of establishing clear rules and consequences at home regarding substance use.

Evaluate resiliency factors that help protect kids from substance use.

Provide local resources should parents require addiction support.

   Please RSVP to Vanessa Fletcher at . For more                     information, please call 804-317-8935.  
 Hope to see you there!

 For over 26 years, Caron's Student Assistance Program (SAP) has partnered with school and child-serving agencies to lead efforts in alcohol, tobacco and drug education and prevention. To learn more about Caron, please visit us on the web at

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

Hats off to all of the mothers (and fathers, grandparents, etc.) out there! Parenting is not easy, but it is that much harder when a family is facing addiction. Many times parents feel alone and do not reach out to others for support because of the stigma associated with addiction. Addiction affects the entire family and it can be devastating. So where can you turn for support?

Seek counseling for yourself and the rest of your family. Addiction is traumatic for the family and counseling can help couples to deal with the stress. Other children in the family are at higher risk for emotional problems, problems at school, and addiction due to the addiction of another family member. Family involvement in treatment also increases the likelihood that the addicted family member will get and stay sober.

Stay Connected
Often times, the initial reaction of parents is to isolate themselves due to the stigma of addiction. If it were any other disease, they would probably reach out for support. Treat addiction the same way and surround yourself with people who can support you and your family. Many parents are surprised to find out how many other families have or are currently going through a similar situation.

Learn from Others
Reach out to those who have been through it. Find a support group, talk to a parent coach, or talk to people you already know- they may be struggling to talk about the same thing! Here are some local support groups:

Addiction is not a reflection of your parenting and you are not alone! Make sure to take care of yourself- you can't help anyone else if you're not taking care of you! Remember that it takes a village and give yourself some credit. We're all in this together! 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Diving Deeper on the Topic of Legalization

The legalization of marijuana for both recreational and medical use has made it difficult for some to help their teens understand why it is not a smart or healthy idea to use the substance.  Staying abreast of the research or finding many research studies to support the view that marijuana has negative impacts on the developing brain can be a challenge.  What is helpful is knowing that we are starting to see some data from the states that have moved forward with legalization and how the drug is impacting our adolescents.

A study will be presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in San Francisco on May 8th.  The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that this study highlights some outcomes that the researchers feel are related to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.  Looking at the emergency room visits by age group, and if adolescents ages 13 to 21 years of age had positive tests for marijuana or diagnostic codes for cannabis related conditions, it was found that emergency room numbers had quadrupled from 2005 to 2014.  Colorado's legalization of commercialized medical marijuana took place in 2010 and in 2014 recreational use was put in to place.  Mental health conditions were found to be present in 66% of the marijuana-related visits.

I encourage you to read the entire article and to keep your eye out for more information from the states where legalization has occurred.  Just like an iceberg, we need to look below the surface.  This one study notices that our adolescents with mental health conditions are making up the majority of the emergency room visits where teens are positive for marijuana.  Further knowledge on this subject can help inform our work in educating our teens about how to manage their mental health conditions and seeking interventions that will help them avoid using marijuana and other drugs as a means of coping.

Visit the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids website to download the Marijuana Tool Kit to assist in having informed conversations with your teen about the impacts of Marijuana.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Prescription Drug Take Back Day

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day 
Saturday, April 29th 
10am - 2pm 

Drop off any unused or expired prescription medications, 
no questions asked!


Ashland : Ashland Police Department- 601 England Street
Mechanicsville : Mechanicsville Convenience Center- 7427 Verdi Lane
Glen Allen : Virginia State Police- 9300 Brook Road
Henrico : Henrico Training Center- 7721 E. Parham Road

Why is this so important? 
  • The majority of teenagers abusing prescription drugs get them from family and friends- and the home medicine cabinet. 
  • Unused or expired prescription medications are a public safety issue, leading to accidental poisoning, overdose, and abuse. 
  • The non-medical use of prescription drugs ranks second only to marijuana as the most common form of drug abuse in America. 
  • Proper disposal of unused drugs saves lives and protects the environment!

For more information: 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Redefining the Boomerang Kid

This week Hanover County Junior and Seniors at Lee-Davis, Atlee, Patrick Henry and The Georgetown School high school students had the opportunity to hear from two young adults who are in long-term recovery from the disease of addiction.  Stas Novitsky and Andrew Nelson shared their challenges and lessons learned over a period of three days.  From the adult perspective, and also as parent, I took away a lot of nuggets of information.

I had the advantage of hearing the message five times.  Once at our evening parent event and then at each of the four high school locations.  Each time that Stas and Andrew shared their story I took away something new and had the pleasure of seeing the faces of many students as they listened to these young people who are brave enough to speak out about a topic that many have a hard time discussing.  Here are some of my take aways:

  • As parents and adults we need to educate ourselves about the topics that challenge our children be it drugs, bullying, coping skills, mental health and find teachable moments throughout their lives to talk about these topics.  Andrew and Stas stated that not having these conversations leads to them seeking information from google or peers which they realize now were not the most reliable of sources.
  • Rules and consequences, while important, are not effective if you do not follow through with them when the young person makes a bad choice.  Finding a parenting style that works for you can be challenging.  MADD offers a great pamphlet that can help you determine what style you are using right now and give you some researched based outcomes of each of the styles. 
  • Communicating your love and reinforcing the good in your children is important and goes a long way in how receptive they will be to you and if they then seek you out in times of need.  Stas and Andrew mentioned their parents many times over the course of their talk and what struck me was that they got the message that their parents loved them but did not approve of the choices that they were making.  Stas shared that his parents told him that he could call them no matter what and that they would assist him if he needed their help.  Overtime they found resources and helped Stas get to those resources when he was open to receiving the help. 
  • Check in with your child and ask about their perspective.  Notice changes and mention them in a conversational manner.  Your child may push back but don't give up.  Let them know that you are available when he or she is ready to talk.  Andrew shared that he perceived less involvement from his parents after a certain age and craved that attention.  Andrew sought attention in negative ways which ended up including drug use.   
  • Know our resources in addition to educating ourselves about the issues that our children may face.  This can be a daunting task, but there are individuals and groups out there that can help if you reach out.  Break the silence that often occurs when our youth experience a mental illness or suffer from the disease of addiction.  Contact your school's intervention counselor, school counselor, and/or reach out to the Hanover Cares Coalition.  There are resources and you do not have to navigate them alone.   
  • Help your child find mentors in areas that they enjoy so that they can explore that interest and gain an additional adult with whom they can learn life long skills.  Stas shared that he had always had a passion for graphic arts but wasn't allowed to pursue that at first and it left him floundering and without purpose.  Finding his purpose helped direct his life towards positive choices and he feels strongly that youth will avoid some of the mistakes that they make if they find that drive and set those goals early.
In conclusion, while we let our kids go and we like to see them soar, it is healthy for them to return, to touch back in and gain reassurance, connection and validation.  Like a boomerang, we can see them soar and have success or challenges and return to us for a moment only to be released again.  Find your resources and support networks so that you can be prepared to handle all aspects of your beautiful complicated child.  How you toss your young person out there into the world will determine how quickly and if they return to you to share triumphs and struggles. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Times of Transition

As we near the end of the school year there are many moments that will be exciting and memorable. Celebration days, awards ceremonies and the 8th grade dance at the middle schools.  Senior trips, prom, final season as a high school student athlete, graduation and celebrations of these events.  Our teens who are seniors are looking forward to increased independence and the official title of "Adult."

As parents you may be wondering with your graduating senior, "Have I prepared them for adulthood? ", "Will they be able to be as independent as I want them to be?"  For those of you sending your 8th grader to high school, "Will my child maintain a positive peer group?" "Will our parent/child relationship change?"  If you have older children who are adults you know how some of these questions were answered for that teen.  You also know that while your graduating senior enters adulthood they are, and will always be, your child.  You are tied to this young person with the bonds of love and experience.  Now more than ever it is important to confirm that you are present, available and open to them in times of need and reassurance.

For middle school parents and those sending your teen into the exciting world of high school, create the moments that you can connect each week.  While activities, work and life keep us busy, it is important to let them know that you are there and interested in their daily activities and thoughts.  If a family meal is not possible every day of the week, try to shoot for at least one family meal and keep it consistent.  Consistency and reliability is important as it give a sense of comfort in their unpredictable world.  Set aside some time this summer to do an activity with your teen.  Help them find healthy outlets for their thrill seeking natures.

Parents of graduating seniors consistency is still important and keeping the lines of communication open will allow your young adult to know that you are a safe harbor.  The safety net is widening and it is important to continue discussions about how to navigate the expanding world and the choices and consequences of decisions.  At the end of this month the "So Your're 18" presentations will occur at pir high schools.  A booklet is given out to the seniors and it is a good resource to know about the responsibilities of becoming an adult and the laws that will apply moving forward.  Check with your high school if you would like a copy if your teen does not bring one home at the conclusion of the presentation.

Upcoming blog posts will help you navigate the special moments that will be coming up like prom, celebrations and beach week.