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Back to School!  Tips for a Healthy Start

Organize your family's time. 
Place a 
weekly schedule for each person on the refrigerator.  All changes should be made on the family calendar which is kept in the same place. This is your ‘what’s going on at a glance’ center. Keep it synced with a shared online family calendar (Google Calendar is really easy to use), which makes it available on everyone's mobile devices.
Buy and organize school supplies. In high school your teen is going to need everything from a sharpened No. 2 pencil for computerized tests to deodorant for gym class. Use your teen’s school list and don't go shopping alone. Your teen can come with you to 
buy supplies, which will give them a reminder about how much things cost, and hopefully prompt them to take care of their things.

Set goals and expectations. A time to re-examine school performance – both academic and extracurricular activities. Remember to set doable goals based on your teenager's skills, and try not to over stress him or her.Keep the lines of communication open, challenging as it might be with a teenager, so you know of any problems with school work before they become too serious.

Get emotionally ready. A new school year can mean a lot of stress. Take some time before school starts to relax and enjoy an activity together. Talk to each other about the school year coming up and reaffirm with your teen that you are there to help whenever help is needed. Don’t assume he/she already knows this. It is easier to handle stress from outside sources – like school – when you know someone is on your side.

You Can Do It!

Healthy Risk Taking

In teen brains, the “GO” light tends to shine bright, but “CAUTION” and “STOP” aren’t completely wired yet. Many times teens give in to temptation by believing that nothing bad can ever happen to them, which is why teens may be more likely to take risks. By guiding your teen toward healthy challenges, you can help steer her clear of taking negative risks and help strengthen her brain at the same time.

If you’re nervous about your teen taking risks, you’re not alone.

Most parents are terrified at the thought of their teenagers taking risks, but that’s because many parents think of teen risk-taking as binge drinking, using drugs, and other negative risks.

But what these parents forget is that there are healthy risks. These are risks that don’t put your teen in danger, but require him to risk something — such as failure or criticism. In the process of taking healthy risks, she’ll gain confidence, courage, and the ability to plan and resist impulses — all important skills she’ll need in life. Most parents understand that when they teach their child to ride a bike, there’s a good chance that their child will end up with a skinned knee — but that risk is worth the reward of motor skills, confidence and self-esteem that come with learning to ride. That’s exactly what healthy risks are about.

Identifying Healthy Risks

The best way to help your teen avoid negative risks is to find healthy risks to substitute for the thrill risk-taking provides in the first place. Most teens are full of enthusiasm, but low on specific ideas. Here are a few questions to kickstart the conversation:

  • What makes you the happiest?
  • To you, what’s the most valuable thing in the world?
  • What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done or can imagine doing?
  • If you had eight hours to do whatever you wanted, what would you do?

Once your teen settles on an activity, asking simple questions is a great way to help her get going and to run with the idea:

  • How much time do you want to dedicate to this activity?
  • How will you get there?
  • What equipment or tools will you need?
  • Who should you contact?

If she’s hesitant to try something new, talk about your own healthy risk-taking – and your failures.  Be sure to model the behavior you want to see in your teen, too, so she has an example set for her.
 Some ides:

  1. Indoor rock climbing, riding rollercoasters and sports can provide a rush or thrill. Look for businesses that provide safety training and enforce safety rules.
  2. Run for a class officer position, try out for a team or a play. There is risk inherent to making oneself vulnerable to critique. Support a young person by helping him or her practice before tryouts or create a campaign for office.
  3. Try something new as a family. Often times risky behaviors are deemed exciting because they are new. Consider activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, trying a new food, taking lessons or going to a theme park. The risk is not always physical, it can be trying something that you may or may not be good at.
  4. Meet new people. Joining a club or making new friends involves a social risk.
  5. Study abroad, host an exchange student or take a college course.

More ideas....

September is National Suicide Prevention Month
 National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is a time to share resources and
stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic.  It is important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention.

How to Talk With Your Teen

Choose a Good Time & Place
  • Look for blocks of time to talk. After dinner, before bed, before school or on the way to or from school can work well.
  • Take a walk or go for a drive together. With less eye contact, your teen won’t feel like he’s under a microscope.
Approach with Openness, Active Listening & “I” Statements
  • Keep an open mind. 
  • Ask open-ended questions. For a more engaging conversation, you’ll want to get more than just a “yes” or “no” response.
  • Use active listening. Let your teen know he is understood by reflecting back what you hear.  You listen without interrupting (no matter what), then sum up what you’ve heard to allow him or her to confirm. Try these phrases:
    • “I hear you say you’re feeling…”
    • “Am I right that you’re feeling…”
  • Use “I” statements to keep the flow going. “I” statements let you express yourself without your teenager feeling judged, blamed or attached. You describe his behavior, how you feel about it and how it affects you. Then you spell out what you need. Like this:
    • “When you don’t come home on time, I worry that something terrible has happened.I'd like you to call me as soon as you know you’re going to be late so that I know you’re okay.”
    • “Because I want to keep you safe, I worry about you going to the concert. I need you to obey our rules about not drinking or using other drugs.
Understand Your Influence as a Parent
  • Keep in mind that teens say that when it comes to drugs and alcohol, their parents are the most important influence. That’s why it’s important to talk — and listen — to your teen. So, try to talk. A lot.
  • Discuss the negative effects of drugs and alcohol. Clearly communicate that you do not want your teen using drugs. Talk about the short- and long-term effects drugs and alcohol can have to his or her mental and physical health, safety and ability to make good decisions.
  • Explain that experimenting with drugs or alcohol during this time is risky to their still-developing brain.

Offer Empathy & Support

  • Let your child know you understand. The teen years can be tough. Acknowledge that everyone struggles sometimes, but drugs and alcohol are not a useful or healthy way to cope with problems. Let your child know that he/she can trust you.
Keep in mind your teen’s brain is still developing
  • The human brain doesn’t fully develop until about age 25. This helps to explains a lot about the way your teen communicates. For example, because the prefrontal cortex isn’t mature, your child may have a terrible time interpreting facial expressions. (You may feel surprised, but he or she thinks you’re angry.) Add that to impulsivity (over-reactive amygdala) and limited emotional control (prefrontal cortex again), and you’ve got a recipe for major communication problems.
Parents, you are the biggest influence in your teen’s life. Kids who say they learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are significantly less likely to use drugs.
MADD AND MOTIVATED: Jammie Boullier and her daughter Megan are spearheading their family’s efforts to raise awareness about the destructive nature of drunk driving.

Click here to view Megan's video
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North Kingstown Prevention Coalition · 300 Centerville Road · Warwick, Ri 02886 · USA

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