Does My Teen Have PTSD?

PTSD is the acronym for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Beginning in 2010, Congress named June 27th as PTSD Awareness Day. What’s more, a Senate resolution designated the entire month of June as National PTSD Awareness Month. All of this attention on PTSD is aimed at fostering a greater understanding of this mental condition, how to recognize its symptoms and how to obtain help for sufferers.

What Exactly is PTSD?

Almost everyone will have painful memories after experiencing a traumatic event. For most people, these memories will gradually become less painful over time. However, for others ‘time does not heal all wounds’ as the saying goes. The memories, thoughts, and feelings connected to the traumatic event don’t go away. If these reactions end up disrupting the individual’s everyday life, then PTSD is probably present.

Why Would a Teen Develop PTSD?

Everyone has heard about veterans suffering from PTSD. However, most people don’t know that PTSD can also afflict teens. An NPR program stated that, according to the National Survey of Adolescents, approximately 4% of teenage boys and 6% of teenage girls meet the clinical definition of PTSD. A teen may develop PTSD as a result of being directly involved in or witnessing a serious traumatic event such as:

  • A car accident.
  • A natural disaster (earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire).
  • A violent crime (kidnapping; physical assault; assault or murder of a parent, loved one, or close friend).
  • The suicide of a family member or friend.
  • Physical or sexual abuse.
  • Major surgery and/or extensive hospitalization – e.g., bone marrow transplant, severe burns.

An Example of a Teen with PTSD

Zach is a fourteen-year-old boy who had lots of friends. However, he began to be reluctant to go to school, stayed home after school, and dropped the activities that he loved like soccer and karate lessons. Moreover, he would call his mom many times whenever she left the house.

  • Zach’s Trauma: All of Zach’s problems arose after a trauma he experienced. While driving to the mall with his mom, a car ran a red light and hit the side of their car which spun around several times and hit a tree. Luckily, neither Zach nor his mom was injured, but the other driver suffered a severe head wound. Zach could not get thoughts of the accident and the image of the injured man with blood trickling down his face out of his head. He also has nightmares about car crashes.
  • Zach is Now Terrified of Cars: Zach is scared of being in a car and worries about being hit by one when going outside. When he does leave the house, he wants his mom to accompany him, and becomes extremely anxious when she is out of his sight. He reacts nervously when he hears the sound of a car horn or if he spots a news article about a car accident.

What Can I do to Help my Teen with PTSD?

If your teen has experienced a traumatic event, your first instinct might be to give them time and space alone to deal with what happened. However, this might be misinterpreted you don’t care or even that you are blaming your teen for their reactions to the traumatic event. Here are some helpful suggestions on what can help.

  • Provide support – The most important thing you can do is provide lots of love, support, and acceptance of your teen’s difficulties.
  • Encourage talk – Try to get your teen to talk to you about their feelings and explain that anxiety with respect to a traumatic event is a normal response.
  • Give reassurance – If your teen is experiencing scary symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, or vivid memories of the trauma, reassure your teen that they are not going crazy.
  • Encourage return to daily routines – Do your best to get your teen to go back to school within a few days of the traumatic event (if possible) and to resume their usual habits. This includes getting up and going to bed at their regular times, and participating in their usual school or community activities.
  • Help them face their fears – It doesn’t help to be overprotective. For example, if your teen has been in a car accident, they might refuse to get into a car. However, this fear of cars will not disappear on its own. It could even get worse over time if you don’t gradually encourage them to get back in a car. Be generous with praise after each attempt to overcome the fear.

Where Can I Get Help for my Teen’s PTSD in Arizona?

In spite of your best efforts to manage your teen’s PTSD, you may feel totally overwhelmed and need the help of experts. Doorways is here to give you all the help and advice you need. Our counselors are trained to deal with all kinds of anxiety disorders including PTSD. An initial consultation with us is absolutely free, so make an appointment today.

DBT Skills IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) for Adolescents ages 13-17

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a wide-ranging, evidence-based, cognitive behavioral treatment that has been shown to be a highly effective model for treating an array of disorders and problems. DBT is based on the theory that emotionally sensitive individuals tend to experience negative feelings more often, making it difficult for them to learn appropriate ways to regulate their emotions; this increases their tendency to engage in maladaptive behaviors to manage those negative feelings.  The goals of DBT skills training are to improve emotion regulation, learn mindfulness, strengthen distress tolerance, and increase interpersonal effectiveness.

DBT Skills IOP Group Phoenix AZ

The DBT Skills IOP Program is for males and females, ages 13 to 17. It is open enrollment, which means you may join at any time.

This program is designed specifically for adolescents who are struggling with:

  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Self-Harm/Suicidal Ideation
  • Poor emotion regulation
  • Difficulty establishing/maintaining healthy relationships
  • Substance use

We have two DBT Skills IOPs

  • DOOR is Mon, Wed., and Thurs
  • WAYS is Tues,Wed, and Thurs

DBT Skills IOP includes

  • Use of diary cards/daily check-ins
  • Behavior Chain Analysis (BCA)
  • Skills instruction
  • Experiential activities
  • Goal setting
  • Weekly Parent Group and/or Family Group.

Our IOP groups are contracted with Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and United Behavioral Healthcare.

For more information about the DBT Skills IOP contact our IOP coordinator at 602-997-2880 or [email protected].

 

How to Talk to Your Teen About Alcohol

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) aims to increase awareness of alcohol-related issues. For 2018, the NCADD’s theme is:

Changing Attitudes: It’s Not a ‘Rite of Passage

Because far too many parents do regard underage drinking as a rite of passage, this theme provides an excellent opportunity to talk about alcohol and teens.

The Dangers of Teen Drinking

Teen drinking is directly associated with failure in school, alcohol overdose, violence, unsafe sex, suicide, drowning, and traffic fatalities. The teenage brain encourages teens to take risks, and alcohol can only make these risks even riskier. Alcohol can have unpredictable effects, and teens don’t have the necessary judgment and coping skills to handle it wisely. Too many parents just sit back and hope their teen will “get through it.” A better way is for you to take an active role in talking to your teen about the dangers of alcohol.

What Research Shows

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 2015 questioned high school students and found that during the prior 30 days:

  • 33% imbibed some amount of alcohol.
  • 18% indulged in binge drinking.
  • 8% drove a vehicle after drinking.
  • 20% were passengers in a car where the driver had been drinking.

Another survey found that more girls than boys in the 12-17 age group were drinking.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) believes that teens who have conversations with their parents about alcohol are more aware of its dangers and are less likely to start drinking.

Talking to Your Teen About Alcohol

You may find that your teen tries to dodge a conversation about drinking. It’s sound advice not to just jump in feet first. Before talking to your teen, think about what you want to discuss. Choose a time to have a conversation when both of you have some “down time” and are feeling relaxed. It’s not necessary to try to cover everything at once. And, most important, do your best to have a conversation, not give a lecture!

Find Out What Your Teen Thinks

A good way to begin is to ask your teen what they know about alcohol, teen drinking, and why teens drink. Listen without interrupting so that your teen feels heard and respected. This first step can serve as a natural “lead-in” to provide your teen with the following facts.

  • Alcohol is a potent drug. It slows reaction time, impairs coordination, and clouds clear thinking.

  • Wine and beer are not “safer” than distilled spirits.

  • One drink takes 2-3 hours to leave the body. There’s no way to speed this up – not taking a cold shower, drinking coffee, nor “walking it off.”

  • Teens who drive after drinking are not in full control of their reactions.

  • Teens can develop serious alcohol problems.

Set Boundaries for Your Teen

Most teens see adults drinking around them and don’t perceive that these adults have any problems. Explain that alcohol has a greater effect on the still maturing teen brain than on a fully-developed adult brain, and emphasize the following:

  • You don’t want your teen to drink. Your values count, even though your teen may not always acknowledge it.

  • Drinking under age 21 is illegal. Emphasize that even if the police aren’t involved, the parents of a drinking teen’s friend may ban the friendship.

  • You want your teen to have self-respect. Tell your teen that they are too smart and have too much going for them to need the crutch of alcohol.

  • Tell your teen never to get into a car with a driver who has been drinking.

  • Explain that drinking can lead to sexual assault and unprotected sex.

  • If there is a family history of alcoholism, bring it into the open. Research shows that family history may play a part in alcohol dependency.

  • Point out that imbibing alcohol while the brain is still maturing may lead to loss of IQ and may increase the likelihood of adult alcohol dependence.

  • Talk about how to handle peer pressure. Offer to pick your teen up from a party where drinking has occurred and stress that you won’t scold.

If You Need Assistance

If you suspect that your teen has a drinking problem, consider getting advice from a professional counselor specializing in alcohol problems. Here at Doorways, our counselors are trained to deal with teen drinking issues. Set up a free consultation to find out how we can help your teen. Alcohol use is a risky business for teens, but parents can make a difference.

7 Signs Your Teen Needs Professional Counseling

As parents of teens, sometimes it is hard to determine what could be a sign of a serious problem and what is a normal part of growing up.

7 Signs Your Teen Needs Professional Counseling

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a nationwide survey of students in grades 9 – 12 found that 16% of students reported considering suicide, 13% created a plan, and 8% reported a suicide attempt in the year preceding the survey. About 157,000 adolescents between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries across the US. How do you know what is a sign of a serious problem and when to seek professional counseling for your teen?

  1. Depression

Many teens suffer from mild depression on and off throughout adolescence, but when it persists for long periods of time or is coupled with self-esteem issues, anxiety, or tumultuous life events, it may be time to seek professional help. The Center for Young Women’s Health recommends monitoring depression signs for two weeks, and if symptoms do not lift, it is more than just sadness or mood swings.

  1. Substance Abuse

Substance abuse, an issue on its own, is often seen in conjunction with other mental health issues such as depression and low self-esteem. Your adolescent may be trying to cope with these issues by self-medication with recreational drugs, which will only make the issues worse. Anytime substance abuse is present, it is time for counseling.

  1. Eating Disorders

Signs of eating disorders are changes in eating habits, hiding food, binging and purging, or making excuses not to eat. Like many other health issues, eating disorders are often the result of other mental health problems, and can cause physical health issues as well.

  1. Angry Outbursts

An inability to control their temper or having angry outbursts over small matters are signs of larger mental health issues. It is usually a cover for emotional pain and depression, but may just be a sign that your teen has not learned healthy outlets for emotions. Either way, professional counseling may have great benefits for your adolescent in teaching them healthy coping mechanisms.

  1. Isolation

Having a social life is important for being healthy emotionally for everyone, and especially adolescents. If your teen is isolated from his or her peers, it could lead to depression and self-esteem issues. If they are isolating themselves intentionally, it could be a sign these mental health issues are already present.

  1. Physical Health Problems

Stress, depression, and anxiety can cause stomach problems, high blood pressure, and heart problems. When mental health issues are left untreated, they can cause severe physical health problems as well. These symptoms of emotional issues shouldn’t be ignored.

  1. Self-Harm

Signs of self-harm are often the biggest warning signals parents should watch out for. Whether or not a suicide attempt has taken place, self-harm is indicative of severe emotional health issues and professional counseling should be sought after.

If you think your teen’s mental health might be at stake, seek help right away. Mental health is just as important as physical health and should be taken seriously.

 

How Old Should My Child Be to Stay Home Alone?

How old your child should be to stay home alone is a question many parents agonize over and one that doesn’t have a clear-cut, straight answer.  There are only three states that have laws that dictate the legal age including:

  • Illinois:  Age 14
  • Maryland: Age 8
  • Oregon: Age 10

Here in Arizona, there is no law dictating the age at which a child is old enough to stay home alone, but that doesn’t mean parents can leave children of any age to fend for themselves.  A child’s readiness to stay home alone is dependent on many factors, most of which are very specific to that child.  This is why it is difficult to give a single clear-cut answer.  The only answer is – it depends on your child.

In order to determine if your child is ready to stay home alone, you need to think about how mature they are, how responsible they are, and how much you trust them to take care of things around the house.    The answers to these questions will help you decide.  Most experts agree, however, that most children under the age of 10 are generally not emotionally equipped to stay home alone and take care of themselves for long periods of time.

Gauging readiness

Here are some questions you could ask yourself to determine if your child is ready to stay home alone.

1.  Does my child feel ready to stay home alone for a few hours?

One of the first things you should do is talk to your child and find out how they feel about staying home alone.  Most will be excited and feel they are completely ready for that kind of responsibility.  However, some kids won’t be comfortable with the idea.  For these kids, it is probably better to wait until they are older or become more comfortable.  It is also important to note that just because they say they are ready it doesn’t mean they are actually ready.  This is just a place to start.

 2. Is my child physically and mentally able to care for him- or herself?

Is your child able to regulate their activities and make good decisions about what to do when they are home alone? Do they know how to make themselves a meal, or what to do if someone comes to the door?

3.  Would be child be able to handle an emergency?

Emergencies happen. Do they know how to call 911 or a friend or family member? Do they know what to do in case of fire? What about if the smoke detector goes off?

4.  How mature is my child?

Next, think about your child’s maturity level.  This is one of the places where maturity matters.  You may feel totally comfortable leaving your 13 year old home but worry about your 15 year old simply because the 13 year old is more mature.  You may also want to look at how responsible your child is in their everyday life.  Do they do their homework and chores?  Are they good at following directions?  Are they calm problem solvers or do they struggle when things go off course?  Answering these questions will give you important clues to determining if your child is ready or not.

After you decide that they are okay to stay home alone, here are some tips.

1. Schedule a trial run

If you and your child both feel they are ready to stay home alone, consider doing a trial run or two first.  This will give your child the sense of what it will be like to stay home alone and enable you both to see if there are things you need to do differently.  Taking a short trip that gets you out of the house for 30-60 minutes but that keeps you close to home is a great way to practice.  This also helps you, the parent, learn to let go a little and become confident that your child will be safe when they are home alone.

2. Be prepared

There are some skills that all children who stay home by themselves should have before being alone for any length of time.

  • They should know when, how, and who to call for help if they need it including 911 and non-emergency local assistance.
  • They need to know their address by heart and major cross street names.
  • They need to know how to operate any home security systems in the house and what to do if it goes off.
  • They need to know how to lock and unlock doors and windows.
  • They need to know what to do if the smoke detector goes off, someone comes to the door, the phone rings, or the power goes out.
  • They need to know who they can go to in the neighborhood if they need help.

Remember that being able to stay home alone is a big milestone in a child’s life.  While there is no need to rush it, letting them take on this responsibility once they are ready helps build self-confidence and boosts their self-esteem.

 

50 Fun Ways for Your Teen to Spend Summer Vacation

One of the challenges of summer vacation is that teenagers often find themselves with more time on their hands than sense in their heads.  While getting a job and volunteering their time are both great ways for teens to make use of their summer vacation, those options aren’t always available.

Parents who are concerned that teens will get into trouble or go off seeking thrills if they don’t have anything interesting to do should try to address the issue proactively.  Rather than waiting until your teen is in trouble or until you notice undesirable changes in their behavior, take the first step and help them come up with fun, interesting, entertaining, and even educational ways for them to spend their summer.

50 Fun Ways for Your Teen to Spend Summer VacationTo get you started and give you some ideas, here are 50 of our favorite fun ways for teens to spend their summer vacation.

  1. Make a movie.
  2. Make a music video.
  3. Grow a garden.
  4. Build a fort for someone smaller.
  5. Go swimming.
  6. Plan a picnic.
  7. Make your own ice cream sandwiches.
  8. Learn how to cook.
  9. Learn how to bake.
  10. Host an all night movie marathon.
  11. Setup a Frisbee golf league.
  12. Go for a long bike ride.
  13. Have a pool party.
  14. Have a water balloon fight.
  15. Hold a carwash with your friends and donate the money to charity.
  16. Go to a museum.
  17. Teach yourself to draw.
  18. Go to the library.
  19. Read one book for each year of your age.
  20. Volunteer to mentor younger kids.
  21. Play basketball.
  22. Babysit for extra spending money.
  23. Go fishing.
  24. Learn how to kayak.
  25. Teach someone else how to swim or ride a bike.
  26. Learn how to do your own laundry.
  27. Start your own business.
  28. Camp out in the backyard.
  29. Go to a planetarium.
  30. Go hiking.
  31. Get some friends to go geocaching with you.
  32. Host the backyard Olympics for other kids on your block.
  33. Read to younger children at the library.
  34. Make your driveway into a drive-in movie theatre for bikes.
  35. Host a backyard board game championship tournament.
  36. Have a scavenger hunt.
  37. Learn a new sport.
  38. Play baseball.
  39. Play mini-golf.
  40. Go on a college visit.
  41. Have a yard sale.
  42. Go see a concert.
  43. Put on your own concert.
  44. Play tennis.
  45. Start a band.
  46. Go bowling.
  47. Learn how to drive a boat.
  48. Ride every rollercoaster at the local amusement park.
  49. Learn how to cook on the grill.
  50. Make new friends.

Helping Teens to Breathe Easier Without Tobacco

World No Tobacco Day has taken place every May 31st since 1987. This particular awareness day is sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and aims to highlight the health risks associated with the use of tobacco and to encourage governments to adopt effective anti-tobacco policies.

Tobacco and Teens

The bottom line is that tobacco in any type of product is harmful to the developing brain of a teen and can lead to serious health problems. The following is a discussion of the types of tobacco products that teens may be using.

Cigarettes

The smoke inhaled from a lit cigarette contains over 7,000 different chemicals, more than 70 of which have been linked to cancer. There is no scientific proof that cigarettes advertised as “additive-free,” “organic,” or “all-natural,” are any safer than regular cigarettes. Teens who begin smoking in high school are much more likely to still be smoking in adulthood. Read this Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report on the health effects of cigarette smoking.

Smokeless Tobacco

Tobacco does not have to be burned. Smokeless tobacco types include chewing tobacco, dip, snuff, oral tobacco, and spit or spitting tobacco. All of these tobacco products have high levels of toxic chemicals and cancer-causing substances. Smokeless tobacco users have a high risk of developing mouth and throat cancer. Teens who use smokeless tobacco may become addicted to nicotine and are more likely to become cigarette smokers. Click here for a CDC report on the health risks of smokeless tobacco.

Hookah Tobacco

Hookah tobacco is smoked in a hookah water pipe and is usually flavored. Other names for hookah tobacco are argileh, goza, hubble-bubble, maassel, narghile, and shisha. Just because the smoke from the hookah is passed through water doesn’t make it safe. Hookah smoke contains significant amounts of carbon monoxide and chemical substances that are known to cause bladder, lung, and mouth cancers. Studies of college students have found rising rates of hookah use among them. Here is a CDC report on the dangers of hookah smoking.

E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid that turns into an aerosol vapor inhaled by the user. The vapor from e-cigarettes contains a mixture of harmful chemicals that are unsafe to breathe. Nicotine is also present in many e-cigarettes. The use of e-cigarettes among high school students has grown dramatically and more of them are using e-cigarettes rather than regular cigarettes. Read this message from the U.S. Surgeon General on the risks of using e-cigarettes.

Cigars and Cigarillos

A cigar consists of tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco. Cigars come in a variety of sizes ranging from small filtered cigars or cigarillos to large premium cigars. In comparison to cigarette tobacco, cigar tobacco contains higher levels of some cancer-causing chemicals. Cigar smokers don’t need to fully inhale to be exposed to nicotine which can also be absorbed through the lips and fingers. Marketers are targeting teens with small cigars enhanced with enticing flavors such as candy apple or chocolate. Here is a report from the National Cancer Institute on the dangers of cigar smoking.

Teen Anti-Tobacco Campaign Makes Some Progress

The American Lung Association (ALA) reports a decline from 25.3% to 20.2% in tobacco use among high school students in 2015-2016 (based on research carried out by the CDC). This decrease demonstrates that campaigns to reduce tobacco use among teens can make a difference. However, more work is needed as over 20% of U.S. teens are still using at least one tobacco product.

The Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) Program

N-O-T is an ALA program to promote cessation of smoking among teens. It’s a ten-week program where teen participants learn to gain insights into why they smoke, and are provided with information on healthy options to stop tobacco use and where to find support when they try to quit.

N-O-T Really Works

N-O-T is a structured approach to helping teens to quit smoking and is based on social cognitive theory. The N-O-T program has proven to be feasible and effective, and has been selected as a model program by the National Registry of Effective Programs (NREP).

Talk to Your Teen About the Risks of All Tobacco Products

Having conversations with your teen about the risks of using any tobacco product will help them not to begin use in the first place or help them to quit if they are already experimenting. And, think about contacting the Youth Tobacco Prevention program in Maricopa County to find out about tobacco cessation programs in your area.

Need Help With Your Teen?

Doorways wants your teen to be tobacco-free but also free from all major problems that can affect teens. So, if you are having a problem with your teen and need professional help, make an appointment with us for a no-obligation, no-charge consultation. Treating substance abuse (such as tobacco abuse) is not a Doorways specialty, but we can refer you to professionals who can help you and your teen.

How to Develop a Good Relationship with Your Teenager

Ahh, Mother’s Day! Breakfast in bed, flowers, sweetly crayoned card, matching mother/daughter outfits, smiling kids posing for pictures? Mmm, probably not, if you have a teenager! Perhaps you’re lucky and your teen surprised you on May 13. In any event, even though Mother’s Day is over for this year, it provides a good opportunity to reflect on how to you relate to your teen. So, here’s a discussion of ways to keep and maintain a close relationship between the two of you.

Do Your Best to Listen

Once your child becomes a teenager, they think they know your views about everything under the sun. After all, you’ve been giving them your opinions on things for their entire lifetime. Now, it’s much more important that you listen to them. When you take the time to listen, it’s more likely that your teen will end up asking for your views and advice. Opinions, when asked for, are more likely to be taken to heart than opinions rendered before giving your teen a chance to say anything.

Use Criticism Sparingly

Although parenting involves sometimes offering criticism to a teen, the way you do it is crucial to staying on good terms. Use criticism sparingly and try to do it in as kindly a manner as possible. Even adults have trouble handling a barrage of disapproval, so don’t expect your teen to react well to it. A hail of constant criticism will likely be met with silence and a closed door to your teen’s room.

Learn the Best Way to Ask Questions

Don’t pepper your teen with questions without even waiting for answers – “Where were you?” “Who were you with?” “What were you doing?” Here’s a video which perfectly illustrates this. Ask a question, but then sit back and listen. If your teen doesn’t respond, try simply saying “I’m listening,” but not in a demanding tone of voice. A pause gives your teen permission to gather their thoughts and can lead to a worthwhile conversation.

Keep Your Thoughts About Your Teen Private

Many parents in social gatherings or online seem to think that it’s normal to talk about how their teens have ruined their lives. Even if your teen isn’t there, what you say may get back to them. And, if your teen is standing in a corner of the room hearing you, imagine how they must feel. The same goes for stories about your teen (either at the age they are now or when they were younger) which they will find embarrassing.

Choose What to Make a Stand Over

Teens face many significant issues, so does it really matter if they don’t make their bed every day. If you don’t engage in battles with your teen over small things, they will be more likely to listen to you on bigger issues. Base your rules on sensible guiding principles and let the non-important stuff slide. Most teenagers are doing their best to manage complicated lives, so cut them some slack when they forget to do the dishes.

Apologies Are Important

Every time you raise your voice to your teen or unjustifiably punish them, you’re erecting a brick wall between you and your teen. If you mess up, don’t just let things go. Apologize to your teen, and tell them that you’ll try to do better in future. Your teen will feel better, you’ll feel better, and you’ll be setting a good example of a positive habit that your teen can follow with their friends.

Appearances Aren’t Everything

Teens are very sensitive about their appearance, so try to avoid pouring on the critiques and advice. If your teen adopts the latest teen fashion, gets a purple streak in their hair, or gets a nose stud, try regarding these things as fun (because they are!) and recognize that your teen will eventually outgrow them. Outright and persistent disapproval will only lead to more outrageous appearances.

Praise Your Teen’s Efforts

Don’t indulge in comparing your teen unfavorably to their siblings, their cousin, the teen of the neighbors next door, or their friends. If your teen plays sports, don’t scold and belittle your teen for not performing as well as the team star. If they didn’t receive the drama award or get on the spelling bee team, tell them it’s ok and you know they did their best.

Above All, Use Your Good Sense

Creating a happy, loving, open relationship with your teen is far more powerful than any form of discipline. You can maintain a good rapport with your teen and still expect them to get good grades, read books, not use swear words, wash the dishes, help the neighbors mow their lawn, etc. They may even take over the household chores on next year’s Mother’s Day! However, in spite of your best efforts, you may be having problems with your teen that you don’t know how to solve. At Doorways, our counselors are trained in how to relate to teens, so set up a free consultation with us to see how we can help you.

How to Make Sure Your Teen is a Safe Driver

Global Youth Traffic Safety Month (GYTSM) is an annual event taking place each May. The campaign’s organizers are the members and partners of the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS). GYTSM aims to raise awareness and inspire individual action to change the unfortunate statistic that motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of fatalities among teens, with summer being the deadliest of the seasons. Your teen will be waiting with outstretched hands for car keys as soon as they’ve obtained a driver’s license. Therefore, it’s essential for you to have a full understanding of the dangers your teen faces before allowing them into the driver’s seat.

What are the Statistics on Teen Driver Accidents?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) determined that the per-mile fatal accident rate is three times greater for drivers between the ages of 16-19 than for drivers at least 20 years old. Almost 3,000 teens lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents during 2016, and many more suffered serious injuries. The following discusses the main reasons for teen driving fatalities.

Teens and Distracted Driving

Approximately nine percent of teen drivers involved in fatal traffic crashes were distracted when the accident happened. Distraction in combination with an inexperienced teen driver is incredibly risky. Teens are aware that distracted driving is dangerous, but many of them believe they are expert multitaskers and admit to checking or sending texts while driving.

Teen Drivers and Drinking

Many teens consume alcoholic drinks, and driving and alcohol is a dangerous combination. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), approximately 25 percent of all teen car accidents involve underage drinking. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that at all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of an accident is higher for teens than for older drivers.

Teens and Buckling Up

Unfortunately, many teens are not buckling up. More than half of teen fatalities in 2015 involved teens that were not wearing a seatbelt. This factor plays a prominent role in bumping up the overall teen-driving accident statistics. One reason a teen may ignore buckling up is drinking – a significant statistic is that 70 percent of teen drivers who had been drinking were not wearing a seatbelt when the accident happened.

What Can I do to Make my Teen a Safe Driver?

When your teen is driving or is a passenger with another teen driver, you will probably feel a fair amount of anxiety until your teen is safely home. However, you don’t have to be helpless and just sit there keeping your fingers crossed. Here’s what you can do.

Talk, Talk, Talk

Just because your teen is taking driver’s ed at school, does not necessarily mean they are fully educated about making decisions on the road. So, don’t just rely on your teen’s teachers. Instead, talk frequently to your teen about the consequences of speeding, texting while driving, and drinking and driving. Even if your teen gets annoyed or doesn’t appear to be listening, some of what you say will get through.

Set Boundaries and Make Sure They’re Followed

  • Impose a curfew – You might have a rule that the car has to back in the driveway by 11:00 p.m. By doing so, you are keeping your teen away from being on the road when alcohol-related accidents are more likely to happen.
  • Make rules – Your teen must always buckle up (when driving and when being a passenger) and must put their phone away when driving.
  • Stipulate that you must know who your teen is riding with – The teen driver might be a complete stranger to you and you have no idea what this teen was taught by their parents, what their attitude is, or how safely they drive. Tell your teen to call you, and you will come and pick them up from a party, no questions asked.

Choose the Right Car

Don’t buy a car for your teen that’s on its last legs. What happens if it malfunctions with your inexperienced teen behind the wheel? Find a car that’s in good shape with excellent safety features. Think about installing a GPS that lets you track where the car is going and sets a top speed limit. Your teen might regard this as an invasion of privacy; however, your teen is most likely driving a car that you paid for covered by insurance that you are also paying for.

Need Help with Your Teen?

At Doorways, we don’t do driver’s ed, but we do want every teen to be safe on the road. So, if your teen has a problem that can impact their ability to drive safely and you need assistance, contact us for a free consultation to see how we can help.

Why You Need to Get Inside Your Teen’s Brain

If you’re a parent concerned about the possibility that your teen may be becoming hooked on alcohol or drugs, one thing you must not do is treat them as a mini version of yourself. That’s because your teen’s brain is not a mini version of your own. Their brain is still developing and is different from an adult’s brain. The teenage brain can absorb new information and make neural connections much faster than you can. This makes your teen more inclined to try new things and take more risks than an adult with a settled brain. While this is a vital part of growing up, it does make teens more vulnerable to addictive behaviors than adults.

“The teenage brain is really in a unique developmental stage that is still very much under construction, and it has unique strengths … and weaknesses … Ironically, both play into this increased susceptibility to addiction.”

– Dr. Frances Jensen: Chair, Dept. of Neurology, Univ. of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine; Co‑Author of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults.

How the Brain Develops

The brain is the last bodily organ to fully mature. Brain maturation is not finished until the mid to late 20s. On average, this happens slightly faster in girls and young women than it does in boys and young men, though development varies for each individual. Among other things, what happens in this critical period may affect how intelligent a person eventually becomes. Research has shown that IQ can change during the teenage years.

Why Your Teen May be Drawn Towards Addictive Behaviors

Because your teen’s brain inspires experiential learning, your teen might experiment with behaviors that are undesirable. For instance, your teen may begin smoking cigarettes. The teen brain, as opposed to the adult brain, more rapidly generates circuits in the brain’s reward centers (such as the limbic system) as a response to the pleasure received from addictive substances. Because of this, it’s easier for teens to become addicted more quickly, and the addiction can take a stronger hold than it might with adults. It has been shown that adults who started smoking as teens find it much harder to quit than adults who began smoking later in life. The same is true for other kinds of drugs and for alcohol.

The Last Area of the Brain to Develop

When it comes to deciding to give in to the temptation of that first cigarette, joint, or drink, teens are at a neurological disadvantage. The frontal lobe of the brain includes an area called the prefrontal cortex, which deals with executive functioning – higher-order functions such as emotion, planning, reasoning, regulation, and self-control. The prefrontal cortex is the last area of the brain to develop fully and is still underdeveloped in teens.

Is My Teen Pre-Destined to Indulge in Addictive Behaviors?

What’s going on in your teen’s brain does not necessarily mean that they are preprogrammed to chase pleasure and always throw caution to the wind. Instead, you, as a parent, can help by understanding the brain differences between you and your teen. You need to sit down with your teen and explain the changes in neurological development they’re going through, and why this puts them at risk when it comes to alcohol and drugs. You need to tap into the full potential of your adult brain and speak clearly and accurately about the dangers of addiction, including the risks for overdosing and impaired driving. Be authoritative but also warm. While setting clear limits, boundaries and expectations, meet your teen where they’re at developmentally. Don’t just condemn them for doing things you don’t understand.

If You Need Help

Sometimes it’s challenging to handle teen problems on your own and your adult brain may feel greatly overtaxed. The trained counselors at Doorways understand the ways a teen’s brain development affects their behavior. If you would like to get a deep understanding of how we can help your teen, contact us to schedule a free consultation.