Twitter Facebook RSS Feed Print
Daily Dose

The Reality of Teen Suicide

1.30 to read

I have been saddened by the recent suicide of Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski. It is hard for me to fathom the pain his parents are suffering at the loss of their son. There are really no words for the shock and grief that is felt on so many levels.

Unfortunately, teen suicide is not as uncommon as you might think. Each year, there are thousands of teens that commit suicide. Suicides are the 3rd leading cause of death for 15–24 year olds. In 2000, the CDC reported 1 out of 12 teens attempts suicide and up to 1 in 5 teens state that they have contemplated suicide at some point during their adolescent years. The statistics also show that the incidence of teen suicide has been increasing over the last years, which seems to correlate with the mounting pressures, both real and perceived, that our youth feel. As an adult I think "what could be that terrible to drive a teen to end their life when so much lies ahead of them?”.  But a teen’s brain is not fully developed, and as any parent with a teen knows, teenagers are often impulsive with little thought of the true consequences of their actions.

Teen suicides are usually related to depression, anxiety, confusion and the feeling that life is not worth living. An event such as a break up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, substance abuse, or failure at school may lead to suicide.

There are also gender differences among teens who commit suicide.  Teen girls are more likely to attempt suicide than teen boys. With that being said, teen boys are more likely to complete a suicide.  Girls are more likely to use an overdose of drugs to attempt suicide while boys are more likely to shoot themselves.  While a girl may use an overdose or cutting  as a “call for help”, there is often little opportunity for  intervention with a male who sustains a self inflicted gun shot or may even hang themselves.  Male suicide attempts are typically more violent and are 4 times more likely to be successful.

There are several things that parents, teachers and friends should be aware of as “warning signs” for adolescent depression and the possibility of suicide. A teen who suddenly becomes isolated, changes friends, has a change in their school attendance or grades,  has a substance abuse problem, is being bullied  or begins to make statements in reference to ending their life,  should be taken seriously. Professional help is absolutely necessary when dealing with these issues and parents should not attempt to “solve the teens problems” on their own.   

There are numerous resources available and the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE is a 24 hour service. Lastly, over half of teen suicide deaths are inflicted by guns.   Firearms should not be kept in a home unless they are locked, and the key should always be in the care of a parent.  It might also be prudent not to have ammunition in the house if you do have a gun. If an impulsive, depressed teen has to go buy ammunition before attempting suicide they might be more likely have an epiphany and realize that things are not as hopeless as they think.  Any deterrent may be all that is necessary to prevent a suicide and the ensuing heartbreak for all those that knew them.

Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue.

Daily Dose

Teen Drivers

1:30 to read

As you know, when teens start to drive, I am a huge advocate for parent - teen driving contracts. I wrote my own contracts for my boys but I recently found a website that all parents who are getting ready to have teen drivers need to be aware of.

Injuries from motor vehicle crashes are the #1 cause of death for teens in the United States.  Studies have shown that having limits and boundaries in place for new drivers reduces the number of motor vehicle accidents that new drivers experience. Although not all states have “graduated driver’s licenses”, all parents can have discussions about the privilege and responsibility of driving and set their own guidelines for their new teen driver.

The website www.youngdriverparenting.org was developed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and is an interactive site for both parent and teen.  The program is entitled “Checkpoints”.  The website includes teen driving statistics to help parents keep their teen drivers safe as well as giving information about state-specific teen driving laws.

The site has a great interactive component to help parents create their own parent-teen driving “contract” that addresses such things as teen driving hours, number of passengers allowed, and boundaries for driving. These parameters can be modified as the teen becomes more experienced and meets the “checkpoints” that were agreed to.  It is a great site as it not only gives you a template for the agreement, but sends emails as the allotted amount of time has passed for each step of the contract.  You don’t have to remember what you and your teen agreed to, they email you and then you and your child can revisit the agreement and expand it over time as your driver becomes more experienced.

Instead of handing out my “dog eared” old driving contracts that I wrote for my boys, I am now going to send my patients to this site (which is also being sustained by the American Academy of Pediatrics).  

Teen drivers whose parents are actively involved in monitoring their driving are not only less risky drivers but know ahead of time what their parent’s expectations are. Having a teen involved proactively with driving rules is far preferable to regretting that limits, boundaries and parental rules were not discussed prior to allowing your new driver on the road.

The website is not only free it is also evidence based, and within 5 - 10 minutes of reviewing the site a family is set to go with their own checkpoint agreement.  Here’s to teen driver safety!

Your Child

New Guidelines for How Much Sleep Kids Really Need

2:00

As adults, we all know that without a good night’s sleep, we’re going to be struggling to get through the day’s activities. When we’re not running on all rested cylinders, small troubles seem like mountains, being able to focus and complete a project is difficult and nodding off while driving is more likely to happen.

Restful sleep is a wonderful thing and unfortunately, many of us just aren’t getting enough.

Most adults know about how much sleep they need the night before to feel their best the next day. Children, on the hand, need a certain amount of sleep depending on their age.

For the first time, a new set of sleep guidelines specially tailored to children, have been released from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The new recommendations give a precise number of hours for each age range, spanning from infancy up until 18 years old.

"Sleep is essential for a healthy life, and it is important to promote healthy sleep habits in early childhood," said Dr. Shalini Paruthi, fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, in a statement. "It is especially important as children reach adolescence to continue to ensure that teens are able to get sufficient sleep."

A team of 13 top sleep experts conducted a 10-month research project to find out how much sleep children actually need. The team reviewed 864 published scientific articles that revealed the link between sleep duration and the health of children across all age categories.

Here’s what they found:

·      Infants between 4-12 months of age should get 12 to 16 hours of sleep for any 24-hour period. This includes naps.

·      Children between 1 and 2 years of age need 11 to 13 hours for every 24-hour period.

·      Children between 3 and 5 years old need a little less at 10 to 13 hours per 24-hour period.

·      Children between 6 and 12 years old need 9 to 12 hours of sleep – not including naps- in a 24-hour period.

·      Teens between 13 and 18 years old need 8 to 10 hours per 24-hour period.

All told, babies, kids, and teens spend roughly 40 percent of their childhood asleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

The panel points out that the right amount of shut-eye is critical for a child’s developing brain and body and overall mental and physical health.

Researchers also noted that when children do not get enough sleep, their behavior is affected and their long-term health can be negatively impacted.

"Adequate sleep duration for age on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health," the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wrote. "Not getting enough sleep each night is associated with an increase in injuries, hypertension, obesity and depression, especially for teens who may experience increased risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts."

According to Dr. Nathaniel Watson, the president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, making sure that their child gets enough sleep is one of the best ways parents can lay a foundation of healthy habits that children can take with them into adulthood. With more than one third of the adult population sleep deprived, sleep becomes paramount for children to avoid the slew of consequences that come with a lifetime of sleep problems.

"The AAP endorses the guidelines and encourages pediatricians to discuss these recommendations and healthy sleep habits with parents and teens during clinical visits," they announced. "For infants and young children, establishing a bedtime routine is important to ensuring children get adequate sleep each night.”

Story source: Samantha Olson, http://www.medicaldaily.com/how-much-sleep-do-kids-need-sleeping-baby-constantly-tired-389448

Daily Dose

Pay It Forward!

1.30 to read

During my check-ups with adolescents, I like to talk about their outside activities, that is things that teens do once they get out of school. Many of my patients are involved in sports, and others like dance, theater or they may be in the orchestra or band. There are others who really don’t like the “usual” after school activities, but prefer to do volunteer work. 

Being a volunteer is such an important aspect of adolescence. Learning about “giving back” and helping others is important for all of us, but I think especially important during the teen years.  Teenagers are often self-centered, and narcissistic. It is normal part of their development. Think about toddlers and teens, the “me” years. 

But, teens also have so much to give back. Their generation is full of talents. I see this among my teenage patients.  Many of them have already chosen to volunteer and participate in little league coaching for baseball, lacrosse, and football. Others enjoy their church and synagogue and help with the young children in Sunday school or Hebrew school. I have teens who are talented in art and volunteer in nursing homes. The list is endless, but the results are the same...... giving back. 

Many schools encourage or even require that a student volunteers. I think parents should also be instrumental in encouraging their own teens to volunteer in their community. This is often done by “modeling the behavior” yourself (one of my favorite parenting lines).  If you get up on a Saturday morning to go help build homes at Habitat for Humanity, it is easy to wake up your teen to join you.  What about opportunities in the community to deliver Meals on Wheels one weekend day a month, perfect time for chatting with your teen while in the car, and serving others at the same time. There are so many options that everyone should be able to find something that interests them while giving of themselves as well. 

The lessons from volunteering will continue through out a teenagers life and hopefully into their adult life as well.   As is often the case, when one volunteers, I am not sure who benefits more, but your teen will for sure. 

Daily Dose

Monitor Your Busy Teen for Depression

1:30 to read

This is hard fo rme to admit, but I am beginning to see a fair amount of adolescent kids (way too many!) who are feeling overwhelmed with school and all of the other things thing have going on in their lives.

For many of my patients the day begins before dawn as they head out the door (frequently without breakfast) to begin their very long day. Many have before school practice for drill team, band or even an off-season sport that involves an early workout. These teens then get finished with their early morning commitments just in time to shower and head to class. Still, no time to eat or even down a smoothie or granola bar, or so they say. Next comes a full day of classes, often with honors and AP classes (up to five in one semester) with a 30 minute break for lunch, if they choose to eat. For those that do eat, it is not a well-balanced lunch, but rather pizza, hamburgers, or a bagel and Gatorade. Remember this is the first food they have had since the previous night (when I am sure they went to bed far too late).

As the end of the school day approaches many of these teens will head to after-school jobs, or extracurricular activities such as yearbook staff, newspaper staff, debate team or a different athletic team than their morning workout. If they remember, they might eat a Power Bar, or grab a Red Bull or Starbucks to keep them going until they eventually head home. For many they will not get home from their school day until long after dark with a lot more still to do. Hopefully, these kids will manage to sit down for dinner (can we say well-balanced) with some family member (many may have already eaten earlier), but they jump right up after gobbling down their food, to head off to do homework.

For many high school students, especially those carrying a heavy pre-college load, there may be several hours of homework, which won’t be finished until 11 p.m. or later if they are lucky. Somewhere they will also fit in on-line computer time to catch up on FaceBook, or emails and texts, while doing a multitude of other things like watching their favorite TV show that has been recorded to fit their schedule. Many report that they have difficulty falling asleep. DUH – their brains are on overload and can’t stop, and then they only get about five to six hours of sleep a night. With all of that being said I can totally understand how stressed out our adolescents are. They want to succeed, they want to be involved, and they constantly worry about what lies ahead. There are actually seventh and eighth graders already talking about SAT prep, and college resumes as if they were already high school juniors. How is this happening? How can we stop this out of control pressure? I certainly don’t know how to solve all of the issues surrounding adolescent stress, but I do know that parents can play an active role in helping their teens manage their time.

While we don’t want to be overly involved or helicopter parents, parents do need to discuss the issues of stress and over commitment when they see their child struggling. Sometimes it is appropriate to step in and say, “I see you need some help with this” and work together on time management. The days will come all too soon when you are not there to help lead the way or ensure that your son or daughter eats breakfast and dinner, or gets enough sleep. For many teens just helping them see the “big picture” and re-adjusting their schedule a bit, will be all they need to feel a little less pressure. Sometimes, they just need to talk about it and will move on. But if your adolescent seems to be overwhelmed, and is getting more anxious or depressed, make sure to talk to their doctor about getting some professional help. There are many people ready to help our teens, we parents just have to recognize when it is needed.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. What do you think?  I welcome your comments and thoughts below!

Daily Dose

Teen Drivers

1.30 to read

As you know, when teens start to drive, I am a huge advocate for parent - teen driving contracts. I wrote my own contracts for my boys but I recently found a website that all parents who are getting ready to have teen drivers need to be aware of.

Injuries from motor vehicle crashes are the #1 cause of death for teens in the United States.  Studies have shown that having limits and boundaries in place for new drivers reduces the number of motor vehicle accidents that new drivers experience. Although not all states have “graduated driver’s licenses”, all parents can have discussions about the privilege and responsibility of driving and set their own guidelines for their new teen driver.

The website www.youngdriverparenting.org was developed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and is an interactive site for both parent and teen.  The program is entitled “Checkpoints”.  The website includes teen driving statistics to help parents keep their teen drivers safe as well as giving information about state-specific teen driving laws.

The site has a great interactive component to help parents create their own parent-teen driving “contract” that addresses such things as teen driving hours, number of passengers allowed, and boundaries for driving. These parameters can be modified as the teen becomes more experienced and meets the “checkpoints” that were agreed to.  It is a great site as it not only gives you a template for the agreement, but sends emails as the allotted amount of time has passed for each step of the contract.  You don’t have to remember what you and your teen agreed to, they email you and then you and your child can revisit the agreement and expand it over time as your driver becomes more experienced.

Instead of handing out my “dog eared” old driving contracts that I wrote for my boys, I am now going to send my patients to this site (which is also being sustained by the American Academy of Pediatrics).  

Teen drivers whose parents are actively involved in monitoring their driving are not only less risky drivers but know ahead of time what their parent’s expectations are. Having a teen involved proactively with driving rules is far preferable to regretting that limits, boundaries and parental rules were not discussed prior to allowing your new driver on the road.

The website is not only free it is also evidence based, and within 5 - 10 minutes of reviewing the site a family is set to go with their own checkpoint agreement.  Here’s to teen driver safety!

Daily Dose

Girls: The Teen Years

1:30 to read

It’s the time of year when I am seeing a lot of my adolescent patients who come in over the summer for their check ups.  An important part of an adolescent female’s yearly exam is a discussion about her periods.  

The average age of a first period (menarche) is 12.43 years and in my practice this has been the norm for the last 30 years. Yes, I do have a few patients who start their periods at 11 years (and typically their mother’s did as well), but I also have patients who don’t begin their menstrual cycles until they are 14 - 15 years old.  Remember, genetics plays a big role in determining the timing of puberty, and there is a wide range of “normal”. 

While we still talk about younger girls having “irregular” periods in the first 1-2 years after menarche, studies now show most adolescents have fairly regular cycle intervals (32 days) and bleeding patterns even at a young gynecologic age.  Studies also show that 88-94% of girls have menstrual bleeds that last 3-7 days, with less than 1% having bleeding episodes lasting more than 10 days.

It is important to ask specific questions about an adolescent’s periods and intervals between her periods (cycle length) as well as length of bleeding. With all of the smartphone apps available to record menstrual cycles, most young girls are pretty savvy and have the dates of their periods which makes this easier. Having a period 28 days apart and then the next being 32 days apart is not “abnormal” but many girls “worry” if they don’t have a cycle every 28 days and they need to be reassured that there may be a few days of variability every month.  

I also ask questions to see if an adolescent is having excessively heavy periods (but this is sometimes really difficult to judge early on as a girl doesn’t have a big frame of reference).  If a girl feels as if she is having very “heavy” periods I also look at past history for signs of excessive bleeding or bruising as well her family history for any bleeding abnormalities.  Having her pay attention to pad count for the next month is sometimes helpful.

Many young girls (and their mothers) also ask when they may were a tampon?  It is safe to wear a tampon whenever you begin your period, it really has nothing to do with “age appropriate”. I have a group of adolescents who wear a tampon from the “get go”, while I have others who swear “I will NEVER put in a tampon”.  It is totally about personal preference. I do let young girls know that if they are going to swim during their periods they will need to learn to wear a tampon.  Many of my patients learn to put in a tampon out of necessity!!  They are involved in cheerleading, sports or maybe they are going away to a water sports camp.  I tell all of them, whether your mother, best friend, camp counselor or the direction on the box teaches you to insert a tampon….once you have done it you realize it is certainly not as difficult as imagined.  (one of those check the box moments as a girl!!)

Lastly, I discuss menstrual cramps and how to treat them…which means don’t wait until you are doubled over in pain. It is important to begin an over the counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or naproxen when cramps begin…don’t wait too late. I encourage these girls to carry these products in their purse so that they may be more comfortable sooner rather than later. 

 

Daily Dose

Give Your Family a Sleep Check-up

Now that school is back in session, I wonder if everyone has gotten back into healthy sleep habits.Now that your kids are back in school this new year, I wonder if everyone has gotten back into healthy sleep habits?

It seems that the high school and college crowd takes advantage of long weekends or breaks to “catch up” on sleep. That means sleeping from about 1 or 2 am until at least noon. That also means that I rarely saw my children awake. The same thing was reported by many of my adolescent patients. The ones that came in for morning appointments looked like they had literally rolled out of bed, and were not even fully awake. They looked at it as a “punishment” to have to go to an appointment before noon. I, on the other hand know that morning appointments tend to get seen in a more timely manner than those late in the afternoon when I have had a chance to get behind (despite my best efforts, I promise!). Now the statistics released from the Youth Behavior and Risk Survey of 12,000 high school students just reinforced that our teens are truly sleep deprived. Only about eight percent of teens reported getting the recommended nine hours of sleep on school nights. There were 10 percent of teens that reported sleeping only five hours a night, while another 25 percent reported getting six hours of sleep on average on school nights. Thus, it appears that adolescent sleep deprivation is rampant and cumulative. As any parent knows, kids of all ages get irritable when they don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep also leads to difficulty learning and concentrating, but may also affect other activities outside of academics. Teen drivers may be more prone to have automobile accidents when sleep deprived. They are also found to have a higher incidence of depression. There are also studies that lack of sleep may contribute to obesity. With a new semester starting what better time to review bedtimes and sleep habits. I firmly believe that all children need to have bedtimes and that means adolescents too. For that to happen a family needs to not only be organized to get everyone ready for bed, but a parent needs to check on their teen to make sure that they are going to bed. I know it is hard to stay up after a long day at work, but if unsupervised many teens will stay up. They are not only studying, but they are on line on Facebook, or texting on their phones or playing video games or watching TV. Teens are the kings and queens of multitasking, or so they think and somehow the time just slips away. That is until morning when they are exhausted. So make a commitment to “tuck in your teen”, even if that means setting your alarm to get up and do it. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Drinking and Driving

1.15 to read

An article released this week in the journal Pediatrics re-iterates the need for parents to discuss the risks of drinking and driving.  With spring break in full swing for students around the country and proms and graduation following soon thereafter, this study seemed timely.

In the study researchers looked at data from 10th graders over a three year period beginning in 2009.  They found that teens who rode with an impaired driver (due to either drugs or alcohol) were significantly more likely to drive while impaired, compared to those who never reported riding with an impaired driver. The study also found that the earlier and more frequently teenagers reported driving with an impaired driver, the more likely they were to drive “under the influence” themselves.  

The study only serves to confirm what one would think.....teens have to make choices and refuse to ride with friends (or adults) who have consumed alcohol (or used drugs).   It is often hard for a teen to turn down a ride with a friend who they know may have consumed alcohol (even one drink), especially if they do not have their own car or driver’s license.  

The study also showed an association between driving while impaired and obtaining a driver’s license at a young age.  Some states are not only implementing a graduated driver’s license but are taking the lead and have raised the legal driving age.  

The research presented in the study serves as a reminder that parents need to continue the dialogue about alcohol and driving.  Parents need to be clear that there is a “no tolerance” rule in the family and let their teen know that if forced with the decision to ride with a friend who is “impaired”, to call a parent to come and get them rather than getting into the friend’s car. No questions asked....just go get them.

The other serious subject is that parents may be guilty of driving while impaired as well, and a teen should not get in the car with an adult either. That includes coming home from a school event, a sporting event, or a ride after a baby sitting job.  

Make sure that you the parent are modeling behavior and do not drink and drive. How do you expect your teen to take your advice if you do not listen to your own advice.

So, sit down with your teen and continue the discussion about decisions and consequences.....they need to think about this all of the time.  

 

 

 

Pages

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.

 

DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

What every parent needs to know about teen suicide.

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.

 

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.