Friday, May 18, 2018

Keeping it Real

There are many articles circulating now on finding healthy ways to connect with your teen in the summer months.  I like the site because it has tools for parents, kids and educators.  There are helpful videos that explain how the brain works in easy to understand terms.  A little on the young side for high schoolers, but still valuable information.  On May 22nd in the Blog they outlined four steps to creating healthier summer plans.  I encourage you to check out the full post at and the site for more ideas.  Spending time with your teen trying out new activities, setting goals together, reducing screen time and putting family time over other activities can go a long way in strengthening your bonds.

As you are working on increasing that communication and connection your teen may share ways that he or she thinks you can connect.  It is not unusual, and you may have done it too as a teen, to say "Well other parents are letting their child..."  as a way to encourage you to feel like your rules are not in the norm.  As a family it is important that when setting your family rules to share how those rules fit in with your values and why it is healthy for your teen to have these in place.  During this time of the year prom, graduation and other celebrations some parents may feel tempted to forgo the rule about underage drinking.  On these occasions the teen brain is still not fully developed and it opens the door for teens to feel like rules or laws can be broken.  In this instance you may feel that you are controlling the situation but for the teen it is opening the door for future exceptions.

Understanding the legal implications of providing alcohol to those underage is important for parents.  The Virginia Rules site explains the laws here in Virginia regarding use of alcohol for those under the legal age and the implications for adults who provide alcohol to minors.   It is a Class 1 misdemeanor for an adult to serve guests under 21 alcohol and the adult could get up to 12 months in jail or pay a 2,500 fine if convicted.

As a parent we can assist our teens by having real dialogues about alcohol and other drugs.  Listening to their perspectives while sharing how we want to see them reach adulthood with as many advantages as possible.  The use of alcohol and other drugs can impact their future goals and options.  These discussions can go smoother if we work on the connection with our teens, making time for each other.  Keep it real by sharing quality time face to face, building memories trying something new and setting boundaries that you will keep.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Looking Ahead

The last stretch is here for students and faculties at our schools.  You can feel the wide range of emotions that this transition brings to all involved as you walk through the halls.  Next week is the week leading up to prom at both Lee-Davis and Atlee.  Patrick Henry hosts their prom on the 11th of May.  Hanover High School will host their prom on June 2nd.  Middle school 8th graders across the county will have their last dances of their middle school experience.  School days seem to speed up now through the 14th of June and then the students rush out to enjoy the long summer days.  It is no mistake that next week is National Prevention Week across the country.  Teens will have more unstructured time on their hands between activities that you may put in place and they have to make decisions how they handle the free time and having conversations in advance can help them make better choices. 

Each day of the week has a different focus and these will be highlighted with daily tweets and Facebook posts within the prevention community.  As we work on reducing stigma for mental health, substance use disorders and other conditions that individuals may have a hard time discussing, we see these tweets and posts being shared beyond professionals.  This is where change can happen.  I challenge you to take a moment each day to find a tweet, Facebook post, and Instagram post that speaks to you and share.  What you share may be the information or the validation someone you know needs or they may see you as a person they may approach for understanding and support.

Recently, Thomas Bannard, from VCU's Rams for Recovery shared with graduating seniors at Atlee a message that empathy is one of the essential skills that they should foster.  Along with educating yourself about the risks that are unique to young people as they take the step towards independence, making connections, finding a positive peer group that supports your goals and empathizes with you when you falter.  Mistakes and bad choices can happen but it is what you do with that knowledge that helps you grow and slow down prepare for the next step.   

Friday, April 27, 2018

Discussions Can Lead to Change

As the school year has progressed we have heard more and more in the media about Juuling and how use is noticed as a problem across the nation with adolescents.  As a school system we have provided information for parents to keep you updated about what we know right now about this product as well as others with our handout "Vaping:  A Parent Guide."  The challenge with Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) is that there is a lack of large scale research, but that is changing.

This week in an article in Oath Tech Network by Jordan Crook,  we learn about how the FDA is increasing it's focus on ENDS as a whole with the Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan.  The FDA is looking into how these products are marketed and how that may be influencing our youth.  Utilizing certain flavors, packaging and product design will be evaluated for the purpose of determining if these are leading to the rise in underage use.  The FDA is asking the companies to disclose information about known toxic impacts of the liquids on physical/mental health and behavior of users.  The retailers are also being addressed and the FDA is working on making sure that they are abiding by the age limits set by states.  Here in Virginia individuals have to be 18 and older to purchase these products in retail stores.  Some of the online the sites ask that you be 21 to order these products.  At the federal and state level there is interest in raising the age to 21 across the board in retail as well as online sales.

So what can we takeaway from this spotlight on ENDS?  Nicotine is an addictive substance no matter the delivery system.  Our youth are impacted at a faster rate than adults by addictive substances.  Juuls are all sold with pods that contain nicotine and have some of the highest levels of nicotine on the market.  While the Juul company states that their product is for adults as an alternative to tobacco products, we are noticing as a country that teens are utilizing Juuls as first time users of a nicotine product.

If you haven't had a discussion with your teen about Juuls or ENDS we encourage you to take advantage of the many articles and television spots to initiate the conversation.  The movement to make more immediate change with how this product is marketed and distributed is a direct result of conversations and concern by adults who see how this is impacting some of our youth.

Update 5/1/18:  FDA Press Annoucement

Friday, April 13, 2018

Alcohol Awareness Month

April has been designated as Alcohol Awareness Month by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.  NCADD established the awareness month in 1987 with the purpose of shining a light on alcohol, alcohol use disorders and recovery to reduce stigma and encourage individuals to seek assistance for themselves and others.

Sharing information with our teens about why alcohol use in any amount at their age is detrimental to their health and can impact them at a faster rate than an adult is important.  I encourage you to check out VA ABC Education and Prevention Facebook Page for informative posts on this topic.  One of the points that was highlighted from a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Brochure is that teens are five times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder in their lifetime if they begin drinking before 15.  The growing and developing brain picks up on the chemical and makes pathways at a faster rate in the brain's reward system.

Another wonderful resource that shares information about the impacts of impaired driving and how to have conversations with your child about this topic is MADD's website.  Did you know that a third of all alcohol related teen traffic deaths occur in April, May and June?  Keep talking parents, your teens will listen and it could mean the difference in choosing one action over another when you are not there.

We encourage you to like and follow Hanover Cares Coalition's Website and Facebook pages.  Hanover Cares works in our community to help address issues and concerns that are relevant for our community.  If you are seeking ways to become involved in promoting healthier choices for our youth this is an excellent place to start.  Hanover Cares is the recipient of the Richmond FBI Division 2017 Director's Community Leadership Award for their work in our community.  As a school intervention team we also tweet articles that are relevant to prevention education and display activities where our own Hanover teens are making a difference in prevention through 7th UP.  Follow us @HCIntervention 

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!