- Why is teenage substance abuse so dangerous?
- Review of Tech-Savvy Parenting: A Guide to Raising Safe Children in a Digital World
- Are we raising self-obsessed children?
- Protecting kids on the internet pt 1 – guidelines for parents
- Helping kids use cell phones responsibly
- The demon of depression
- A family’s struggle with addiction
- Heel skates for cool kids
- Shower wars with my teenage son
- Who’s raising your children?
- Moms and teens, the agony and the errrrr….agony.
- What do teen pageants say?
- Some freaky stuff at schools… drugs, etc challenge a deeper look
- Help us find the winner of our competition.
- Talking to Miss SA Teen
By Mich Robb, a clinical & educational psychologist. He is the managing directory of MWELL ( Mental Wellbeing interventions) which specialises in help for addiction, substance abuse, trauma and other psychosocial interventions.
For many teenagers “having fun” at a party is synonymous with binge drinking and smoking weed. Parents are often reluctant to interfere with this so called “adolescent” behaviour without realising how damaging and life altering this can be. They often don’t realise that the adolescent brain is much more vulnerable than the adult one.
Is there a difference in an adolescent brain and an adult brain?
Yes there is! The teenage brain is still a work in progress, and it continues to develop until early adulthood (when you are somewhere around 25 years old). The part of the brain that takes longest to develop is the part that sits just behind the forehead. It’s known as the prefrontal cortex, and it’s responsible for self control, and it manages other cognitive processes such as planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, and mental flexibility.
At this point, keep in mind that adolescents are at the stage of their lives where they are seeking and exploring independence. The areas of the brain that are responsible for governing emotions and rewards are more developed than the part that is responsible for inhibitions. This disposes them to risky behaviour (that displays their independence), and they don’t always consider the consequences of their actions as much as adults would like them to – or as much as they should.
Teenage substance abuse can interfere with normal brain maturation
If teenagers start using alcohol, drugs or cigarettes at this age, they are far more likely to become addicted than if they started later on in life – after their brains are fully developed. This addiction has damaging effects on the maturing brain.
Binge drinking can actually kill brain cells in the adolescent brain whereas less damage occurs in the adult brain.
Because of the developing brain, adolescents become addicted more easily than adults do.
A recent study of marijuana users showed that those who began using it in their teens had substantially reduced connectivity among brain areas responsible for learning and memory.
A large, long-term study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teen years lost an average of 8 IQ points between ages 13 and 38, even when they stopped using as an adult.
MWELL conducts research at schools which looks at the prevalence of mental health issues such as depression; anxiety; stress; anger; alcohol use disorders; and the use of other substances. Our results at a leading Independent School in South Africa were :
Early Intervention makes a difference
These are shocking facts but these brain differences don’t mean that young people can’t make good decisions. Nor does it mean that they can’t tell the difference between right and wrong.
It also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions.”
But it does mean that if we are aware of these developmental differences, we can understand, anticipate, and manage the behaviour of adolescents and be more constructive in our interactions with them.
Remember that the earlier the intervention, the less harm there is, the less the likelihood of permanent risk or damage and the better the treatment outcomes!
Reviewed by Tiffany Markman, copywriter, editor and mom to an almost-three-year-old, who tries to balance her workaholism with cuddles, books, caffeine & reining in her intrinsic kugelry. Follow her on twitter.
In Tech-Savvy Parenting: A Guide to Raising Safe Children in a Digital World, parenting expert Nikki Bush and tech guru Arthur Goldstuck put their considerable brains together to guide us, ‘digital immigrants’, through an increasingly scary world.
This world is peopled by ‘digital natives’ – our children – who are tech-savvy but not always life-savvy; application-literate but not always emotionally literate; conversing but not always listening. And we, the immigrants, barely speak the language.
One of the reasons I really value this book as a reference work is that it’s comprehensive; containing the info, explanations, lists and additional references that a parent would need to dip into at each phase of his/her children’s development – both in terms of age and in terms of growing technological involvement.
For instance, my 3.5-year-old doesn’t give me grey hairs when it comes to over-sharing on Facebook or downloading violent games, but I do find it hard to manage her iPad use, especially before bed-time. And in-app purchases? My worst!
In Tech-Savvy Parenting, you’ll find guidelines, tips and advice relating to:
• The fact that kids are still conversing, but in multiple layers
• The different categories and age-appropriateness of games
• NetNanny (and other filtering software) and what to block when
• When to give your kid a cellphone
• How to manage the ubiquitous and annoying in-app purchase
• Being honest with yourself about your own attentiveness
• Online reputation, pornography and privacy issues
• Practical parenting guidelines (that are tech-related), per age group
Be warned: If you’re an active tech user yourself, you may find Chapters 1 and 2 a bit patronising. I’m a 30-something parent who fully appreciates the attractiveness and appeal of the small screen, interactive media and tiny devices. I get why my kid wants to play with tech, because I want to play with tech. I’m not the post office generation, nor the library generation – at least, I haven’t been for 20 years. So I only really got into this book from Chapter 3, which deals partly with gaming.
Look out for: Lists – towards the end of the book – of common text message acronyms and emoticons, as well as useful teacher guidelines and digital policies.
Bottom line? This book is great. Yes, it unpacks the technology, but the authors (both of whom are parents) never ignore the human element; placing children’s use of technology in the context of the relationship between themselves and their parents. If you have kids and don’t live off the grid, under a small wifi-less rock, in a remote corner of the Klein Karoo, you need to own this book. Serious.
Tech-Savvy Parenting: A Guide to Raising Safe Children in a Digital World is available at all good book-stores and was supplied for review by Nikki Bush.
By Sholain Govender-Bateman – Pretoria-based New Media journalism lecturer and editor who worked for The Star & edited magazines. She is mum to two gorgeous girls, Isobel and Aishwari, and wife to Barry Bateman. Visit her on Twitter @sholain
I think that many of us parents are focussed on giving our kids the best that we can afford and making them confident and independent, teaching them to always seek the best for themselves… but how do we know that we’re not raising our kids to be so self-involved and narcissistic that they forget about other people’s feelings and lives and just carry on thinking that the world revolves around them well past toddlerhood?
I don’t profess to be a perfect parent; in fact the whole point of this piece is to express my fears of raising self-obsessed, disrespectful children. However, I do think that hubby and I try our best to teach our children the value of what they have and the importance of respect. Will that stop them from always focusing on number one when they reach adulthood? I don’t know.
We’re raising our children in a society so different from the one we grew up in. Millions of people are part of online communities and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter that encourage self-promotion, aka showing off. Taking selfies (photos of yourself) and posting them online are so popular that it was literally Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in 2013!
Of course, one can argue that people have always been self-serving…even if they are discreet about it. Even though you won’t admit it, whenever you make a choice, one deciding factor is how it will benefit you or effect you. Does this make us bad or narcissistic? Maybe not so much, but I think that we are grooming our children, voluntarily or not, to live their lives based on what other people think of them and to prove to everyone else that they are better looking, smarter and more spectacular than anyone else.
I’m not a psychologist but I do think that I want confident children, but they should not be over-confident to the extent that they can’t accept criticism. I want them to handle failure with grace but I don’t want to raise them thinking that they are failures. And most importantly, I want them to love who they are without the need to prove their worth to anyone else or to feel the desire to change for other people.
Note: If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the uniquely detailed free weekly newsletter for parents in Gauteng – Jozikids – or KwaZulu-Natal – Kznkids.
By Mike Saunders, keynote presenter and consultant at TomorrowToday, a company which helps their client navigate the ‘New World of Work’. He teamed up with Tamryn Coats of Ububele Psychotherapy and Educational Centre in Johannesburg, and created a short booklet entitled “Raising Digital Citizens – Parenting in the Digital Age”. Click here to download the booklet.
Our children are being raised unsupervised in a digital world, and parents are ill equipped to protect them. Here are some guidelines which I hope will help empower you to parent effectively in this digital age.
Guidelines for Parents
Take an active and informed interest in your children’s lives, online & in the real world. Talk to them about their life online; that way if problems arise you’ll be the one they turn to.
3 things to say in that conversation
1. Never share an image or do anything on a webcam you wouldn’t be happy for family or friends to see.
2. If someone threatens you online, tell someone you trust. You can talk to me about it and I’ll understand.
3. If you do get into problems online, it’s never too late to get help. We will understand. You won’t be blamed.
3 ways to open a conversation about online activities
1. I wonder if someone threatens you online who you feel you could tell?
2. How do you think you could get into trouble online?
3. I wonder how you think Mom or Dad would react if you ever did get into trouble online?
4 things to do if your child tells you they’re being blackmailed online
1. Acknowledge the courage and maturity it took for your child to come and tell you.
2. Believe your child and tell them you believe them. Their experience needs to be acknowledged and understood.
3. Don’t blame them, and tell them you don’t blame them. Even if they’ve engaged in risky behaviour, understand that risk-taking is a normal part of adolescent development.
4. Don’t immediately ban them from the internet. Although you may need to take short-term safety steps, the best way for children to stay safe is by learning how to negotiate the online world in a responsible manner.
If you suspect something damaging is happening in your child’s digital world, it’s important you adopt a level-headed and informed approach to what is taking place. A major reason why children don’t disclose online problems is the fear that they’ll have the technology taken away from them, thereby taking away a large part of their social lives.
You will better comprehend your child’s online environment and its dangers if you at least have a working knowledge of the sites, social media and apps that he or she utilises.
Develop Home Values for a Digital World
David Coleman recently wrote an excellent article which outlined a number of things that parents can do to promote a healthy digital life for kids in your home.
One of the best ideas I have heard to promote healthy digital boundaries has been to have a family charging station. A place in the home where all family members charge their digital devices at night. This is outside the children’s bedroom and in a family room. This is a good idea for a number of reasons:
Click here to find a list of related articles on zaparents.
By Zaheer Khan, a specialist in technology related security, an idealist but most of all indulges with computers, apps and new phones when not running around with his Light Saber and his kids through the parks of JoBurg
Children and young people have always been keen to grasp the opportunities offered by new technologies, and mobile phones are certainly no exception.
So, what is an appropriate age to buy your child a cell phone? More importantly is it safe for children to use and what are the long term effects on them.
Buying a cellphone for under 12 yr olds makes no sense because:
I am not opposed to limited usage of a borrowed parents’ or siblings’ phone. Parents who see a specific need to introduce it to their children earlier should take precautions to ensure that it becomes a tool and not just a toy that becomes abused
Ways to Introduce a cellphone responsibly :
If a child wants their own phone, let them enter into a contract with a service provider and take responsibility for paying the monthly fee until the contract expires. Make it clear that the payments continue until the end of the contract even if the phone is lost or broken. The phone can also be used as a disciplining tool where its privileges are taken away while the responsibility of paying the bill still continues.
Be aware of the risks involved which include:
Computers and other digital technologies like games consoles and mobile phones have parental controls. These let you do things like:
The best way to set reasonable rules for your child’s phone use is to :
- Inappropriate behaviour ie being on the phone when having a guest over, or texting at the dinner table
- use of abusive or threatening language in any online communication
To keep your child safe you should tell them not to:
Parents should also remember that most smart phones are doors to the internet and that any risks posed by the internet similarly apply to cellphones as well.
We need to rely on our kids to teach us about the dangers facing their generation (technology and otherwise) – we teach them the basic values and morals, they teach us about technology, and together we figure out how to bring our values and morals to the new technology/situations in a way that is reasonable and not overly restrictive.
This week memorial services will be held in Pretoria and Johannesburg for a wonderful young man. After a three-week search, his body was found in his car in the veld near Pretoria.
Stunned friends cannot believe that he would have taken his own life and his tragic death has affected all of those who knew him.
His story has brought my own deep and painful memories to the surface and I would like to share the story of my own daughter, in the hope that this may be of help to parents and young people who have been affected by depression.
My daughter began her matric year with the world at her feet. She had been elected as deputy head girl, captained 3 school teams and represented her province in 2 disciplines. She was beautiful, bright, popular and caring and she had so much to give the world.
Her year was very tough and the responsibilities loaded on her were enormous. Yet she was adamant that she could do it all. She was an achiever. She never knew how to say “No” , or “ I need help with that” She pulled away and became more distant from our closely knit family. I began to worry about her behaviour, and suspected that she was using drugs.
Although these new and scary behaviour patterns weren’t entirely consistent with drug use – at least not from what I had read – I knew her well enough to know that she was in some kind of awful trouble. I agonized over whether I was being too interfering, or too controlling, or too suspicious, until my gut instinct told me that my mother’s intuition had to be acted upon.
Our wonderful family doctor made a preliminary diagnosis of severe chronic depression and advised me to remove her from school and get her help urgently as she had been planning her own suicide.
With the intervention of an amazing psychiatrist we were on the road to healing her dreadful, deep and destructive depression. She stayed out of school for much of the second half of the year and we wrapped her in as much love and care as we could. I was terrified to leave her on her own in case she was overcome with “the sadness” again, but we slowly built up our trusting relationship and we began to understand this disease and its awful effects.
She wrote her final exams and went on to medical school. Her battle with depression will never be over, but she has the power and the ability to recognize the warning signs.
My wish is that more people could be educated about depression and that the stigma of mental illness could be removed. If my daughter had been diagnosed with cancer, we would have been overwhelmed with support and sympathy and bombarded with information on modalities. Instead, we were constantly faced with negativity, denial and some frightening psychological diagnosis.
I pray that our story can help just one person reach out for help.
by Katherine Farrell, Idea generator, Creative Director, interface designer, mother to 2 boys, wife to a 3rd boy haha … Find her on twitter
Once upon a time I had the perfect life. Mom to two gorgeous healthy little boys – Ronan (5) and Darcy (3), happy marriage to a good man, nice house in the suburbs and a successful corporate job. One morning I woke up and discovered my husband was an addict and that I had been living a lie.
I had been living in denial, a fantasy reality. Now my husbands’ strange behavior and our multitude of maxed out credit cards started to make sense.
The first solution that I came up with was to divorce my husband and start looking for someone new to cast into the role of Perfect Husband (George Clooney perhaps?). And then someone asked me what kind of wife that made me. Did I not take the vows for better for worse, in sickness and in health? Worst of all, I had been so addicted to perfection that my husband could not come to me for help.
Then I realized, I really and truly love my husband and life without him was unimaginable. I had to find another way and so began my own recovery. It has been just over six months and now I see my husband’s addiction as a gift.
I heard a statistic recently that for every addict something like 22 people are affected. If you consider the immediate family, the friends, the employer and employees – that’s a lot of people! So even if you are not an addict you can be severely affected by this disease. Therefore treating the system of people around the addict greatly improves the chances of recovery.
Addicts survive because people rescue them, prevent them from suffering the consequences of their actions, lie for them, give them money and enable them to be dysfunctional. I found myself being SuperMom, twice the breadwinner and when the crisis hit I was so burned out from my everyday life I had nothing left.
The main reason I am taking my own recovery so seriously is for my two little boys. I believe our children are born with unlimited potential but sometimes they have to shut down parts of themselves in order to survive in the family or society. I recently attended a co-dependency workshop (at Changes) and learned about the 4 roles that children create in a family – the Hero who overachieves and is super responsible, admired for their successes, takes over the role of parent. The scape goat who is always in trouble, a rebel who gets attention by behaving badly. The lost child who withdraws, isolates and keeps to themselves. And the mascot, the happy-go-lucky class clown that refuses to be serious.
Addiction is often handed down generation to generation. I have met many Mothers with children in rehab – a pain I cannot begin to imagine and I often wonder if I will be in their shoes in 20 years time.
I wrote this story for my children and my husband while he was in rehab:
As High as a Kite
Once upon a time there was a woman who met a man.
She didn’t notice but he was hiding something behind his back. It was a kite.
Together they made a home and started a family.
The man went outside to fly his kite.
One day the family needed the man and they called to him
but the kite had lifted him off the ground and up into the sky and he couldn’t hear them.
And as the kite pulled him closer to the sun he knew he had one last chance to let go
but he was too afraid it would hurt to fall.
So the kite fell back down to the ground alone.
And when their child grew into a man he found the kite, picked it up
and hid it behind his back.
In recovery I have learned that I need to have spirituality in my life in order to find balance. I need to believe there is something bigger than me so I don’t have to have all the answers. I have learned that progress is more important than perfection – I try to make things a little better one day at a time. I have learned that my emotions are warning signs that I need to observe and I have learned to express them more appropriately or just contain them until they pass.
I attend 12 Step meetings and I am working the 12 Steps of AA, a free, anonymous and confidential recovery programme that welcomes everyone who needs it. The AA literature is not available in self-help sections of your local bookstore, but the books are the most incredible insightful tools.
My life coach (David Collins) said to me this week that all children want are parents who are relaxed, happy and loving. I am working as hard as I can to be able to give that to my children. I have let go of perfection, control and denial (although they try sneak back all the time). In place I have faith, serenity, responsibility for my actions and I am learning to stop taking life so seriously.
I am grateful to JoziKids for covering the topic of addiction. It is a sensitive subject that a lot of people would rather not talk about. Children are taught to keep family secrets – we behave one way at home and another way when we go out. The only way out of this insanity is through open mindedness, honesty and a willingness to change.
I still have the family, the house, the job – for which I am eternally grateful – but never again will I pretend to myself or anyone else that I am perfect.
Reading and links:
Have you ever heard of Roller Kidz?
They’re really cool. My mom recently gave me a pair.
Here’s how I learnt how to use them:
First my sister and I watched this video that shows you how to use them.
………… until I’d mastered them enough to fetch my shades, beanie and ghetto blaster. If you look closely you’ll see the flashing brightly coloured wheels.. cool wouldn’t you say?
by Sine Thieme, a writer and mother of four who is new to South Africa and busy chronicling her experiences on her blog, Joburg Expat.
If anyone has figured out how to curb a teenager’s excessive showering, please let me know! I am at my wit’s end. I have tried everything: I have threatened, cajoled, tried to reason, pulled out the monthly water bill as evidence, pleaded for the environment, invested in technology – a shower sand timer that can be turned in five-minute intervals – and even made myself ridiculous (“When I was your age, I only took one weekly bath in our one bathroom shared by five people” – I barely resisted adding “in the same bathwater”).
Nothing has worked. If anything, 12-year old Zax’s showers have gotten even longer.
When I wake up each morning and doze in my bed for a few minutes, I can already hear the water running upstairs. I go through my morning routine, including my own shower, get dressed, and make my way to the kitchen to prepare lunches, and the shower is still on. I have seriously wondered how much the installation of one of those coin boxes I remember from camping in National Parks would cost, where the water turns cold after a set time. I’ve even invoked the old “the doctor said so” routine that worked so well when he was little, and I didn’t even have to lie, since Zax’s excema had lately gotten particularly bad, and “excessive showering” is usually a culprit. It did resonate a little bit in that he has stopped taking showers when he doesn’t “have to wake up,” meaning we are now treated to views of his hair (the battle over which he has definitely won) standing in all directions all weekend long. It seems, though, that this has made the weekday showers even longer.
The only method that has shown some promise is for me to barge in after precisely ten minutes every morning and unleash an angry tirade, then retreat leaving all doors wide open. I don’t enjoy this by any means, as I have to pick two locks and carefully wade through an ocean of clothes and scattered homework (most likely late homework) and two years worth of sports magazines, painfully reminding me of yet another battle I have made a shameful retreat from, plus I am repaid by his not speaking a single word to me on his way out the door. But somehow the idea of no physical barrier between his exposed body and the world at large is compelling enough for Zax to hurry up and turn off the water so that he can lock the door again.
If there is a better way, I’d like to know!
by Zelna Lauwrens, founder of Equal Zeal Training, an organisation that specialises in self development programmes for young people and their families. For more information visit Equal Zeal .
Your child is born amidst teddies, new clothes, bouquets of flowers and many visits from excited family and friends…when the hustle and bustle dies down and your happy family returns home from hospital, you are left hoping, praying, and wishing that this child will be an easy one. That your child will cruise through the journey of life without a hitch or a problem. That your child will be different from all the ones that you hear about in the media that make bad choices or are exposed to negative circumstances. That your child will be the one where homework is always done, suitable friends are chosen, manners are good and model behaviour is displayed.
As baby grows steadily and the developmental stages are ticked off one by one, you shower the little soul with so much love and affection that there is no doubt that they will grow up into anything other than your special and gifted child with so much good to offer the world. Then school starts, and so the uphill battle of homework, bullying, pressures of tests, strict teachers and reduced playtime steps in. Your once precious little soul that adored being with mommy and daddy and loved hugs, kisses and piggy back rides now pulls a face at the thought of mom dropping them off at the classroom door. Fights and arguments are reduced to having the latest gadgets and toys and which clothing labels are the best to wear alongside why fast food is way better than vegetables.
Before you know it, your once adorable 6-year old with two front teeth missing turns into a revolting teenager adorned in black clothing and enough piercings to resemble a Christmas tree. Your beautiful daughter insists on wearing skimpy, provocative clothing that relays the message that she is no longer a child. The cheekiness and sullen behaviour steps in and nothing you do is good enough and so the endless cycle of habitual arguing in the household begins.
So what are we debating here? Are the swift changes in technology to blame for a value shift and decline in positive behaviour in our children, or is it the lack of distinct traditional parenting, perhaps we need to look to the media to find a scape goat, or is it the overwhelming toxic influence of alchohol, sex and drugs that are impacting on our children’s precious lives along with not enough exercise, poor diet, role models in the form of singers and scandalous movie stars and crime statistics on the upswing?
We can point fingers, we can allocate blame, we can raise our hands in the air in frustration, but as parents we need to realise that it is reasonable to assume that a generation shaped by this new fast paced world of ours will be different from those who have gone before it.
Albert Einstein said that “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” Let us acknowledge that times are changing and that we need to move with the times rather than stay stuck in the rigid confines of parenting with blinkers on that can sometimes exacerbate problems in our children.