Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

dMay is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and because your child is graduating from high school, now is the perfect time to talk to them about the temptations of college life. It is important for your teen to understand that abusing alcohol and other drugs clouds your judgment and greatly increases their probability of having unprotected sex. Simply telling your child not to have sex or not to participate in using drugs or alcohol does not work. Teens need to be provided with the skills and tools to make responsible decisions.

Use these tips when having “The Talk”:

  • Utilize open communication and build trust for future conversations.
  • Don’t lecture.
  • Remember to listen.
  • Remind them of the law: Let them know the importance of not drinking before age 21, using illegal drugs or taking medications that are not their own.
  • Help them prepare: Explain how Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) works and the signs of alcohol poisoning.
  • Stay involved.

For more tips on talking to your kids about this or substance abuse, please visit http://metrodrug.org/parents/talking-kids/

Mental Health Awareness Month

tumblr_nnt850yPgi1u9yt0oo1_500Good parenting is more than providing for your child’s physical needs like food, water and shelter. Your involvement in your child’s mental health will help him or her live a healthier, more productive life. There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness and most people develop a mental health problem before they reach the age of 14. Out of all high-school drop outs, 52.3% of students with disabilities tend to have emotional/behavioral disabilities.

How does substance abuse affect your child’s mental health?

Substance abuse can increase the chances of your child developing a mental illness and vice versa. People with mental illnesses are 2.3 times more likely to develop nicotine dependence, 3 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and 30 times more likely to develop drug dependence.

What are the consequences of untreated mental illnesses in children?

Consequences of a mental illness going untreated include, but are not limited to, suicide, school failure, involvement in criminal activity, higher healthcare costs due to the development of co-occurring mental illnesses and many more.

How can you get help for your child?

Early detection is crucial in successfully treating a mental illness. Follow this link for treatment resources in the Knoxville community.

Grand Families: Healthy Self-Confidence

Grand Families LogoCookie Oakley, LCSW

            An extremely important message to all Grand Families who are raising “Grand Children.”  As you have realized parenting today’s children is much different than when you were parents previously.  Please review my previous blog about healthy boundaries with the biological parents of your “Grand Children.”  The most important strategy for Grand Family parents is to realize you have the responsibility to shape and improve the life of the child you are parenting—especially to help them learn healthy self-confidence in order to make good life choices and decisions to avoid the destructive life-style of their biological parents.  The remainder of this blog is about encouraging and teaching healthy self-confidence in your “Grand Children.”

Healthy self-confidence is extremely important because this encourages children/adolescents to be themselves, be able to interact socially and academically, and learn to tell parents how they feel and listen to their teachings.  Children and adolescents who have healthy self-confidence are less fearful of new challenges and willing to learn new academics, new life skills, new social skills, and new physical activities.  Learning new skills and achieving accomplishments continues the building process of their self-confidence.

It is parents’ responsibility to nurture and encourage, not push their children.  In other words, help the child to learn about a new challenge or activity before they actually get involved.  For instance, a four-year-old that has not played soccer but feels afraid to try to play with a team.  A parent’s responsibility is to interact with child by playing backyard soccer — just kicking the ball around to help them learn the basic concept and feel comfortable with new sport, and encouraging the child to learn from coach as they have learned from preschool teacher.  Yelling to a child is unsuccessful because they will become fearful, anxious, feel unloved or valued; and most obvious is their listening and cognitive abilities are impaired.

A school teacher who is patient and teaches in a calm but stern manner will help a child learn easier and more effective becoming more self-confident with every accomplishment.  Praise and acknowledgement is crucial when a child accomplishes a new task, whatever it is.  Parents and teachers should always tell them they did a good job and praise the new accomplishment.  It is important to remember children are not alike – each child will learn at different pace and in a different style.  All humans are unique –think and learn differently.  This approach and thought process should be consistent all through child, adolescent, and young adult stages.

An adolescent who starts to become aware of their personal appearance and the importance of social acceptance can have a set-back with self-confidence.  This stage in life is more challenging and fearful for many adolescents.  They can develop social anxiety when they realize that peers are looking at them and making opinions.  Parents must help and coach an adolescent through this stage–especially the same gender parent– encouraging and teaching self-awareness is crucial such as teaching adolescent that being themselves is more important than trying to dress or act like other kids.  This phase will play out the family values and self-confidence already learned.  Another words, if the adolescent has learned realistic and good personal values such as respect for others, their behavior will show these characteristics.  This is the stage when personal character will begin to be more obvious and adolescents will feel good about their choices.

Character building is taking place all through a child’s life.  Parents are teaching them right from wrong, societal norms, social appropriateness, and “treat others how you want to be treated.”  Character building skills are learning that there are others in our world, respectful and mindful of their feelings, understanding that all people are different, and will act and perform differently.  These dynamics are especially important in family environment.

Parents must teach their children that criticism of others is inappropriate; just that other people learn and act differently.  No one person is perfect, therefore criticism is hurtful to others and not appropriate.  If a child is hurt emotionally or physically by another child, the child should express how they feel and walk away.  Healthy self-confidence will help a child to cope with criticism and bullying. A parent should teach the child or adolescent the intelligent way to handle a difficult situation.  A child/adolescent must feel they can express or explain their feelings to parents without punishment. This relationship develops early in a child’s life so they must be encouraged and helped to learn how to express themselves to parents without fear or judgment. Their life is a constant learning process, therefore many mistakes will occur.  Parents must teach that mistakes are a learning process, not failure.

Eye Contact and Hugs – This behavior must be initiated by the parents.  If this behavior is used by parents in infancy/toddler years, the child will learn this behavior and be comfortable.  Eye contact and hugs from the parent sends a message to the child that they are loved and valued, and it will establish trust and bonding.  The eyes are the window to the soul of each human being.  Communicating through sincere and loving eye contact will send the unspoken message to a child and help establish healthy self-confidence.  They will be learning to trust themselves and make decisions more confidently.  Teaching and helping children to learn healthy self-confidence is as important as providing basic needs.  Without healthy self-confidence, a child/adolescent or teenager are constantly confused about simple decisions, can fail in academics, social interaction, and basic life skills that are crucial for healthy adult life.


UTK Center for Health Education & Wellness Hire!

chew_logo_mdThe University of Tennessee is excited to announce that Rebecca Juarez, LCSW, joined the Center for Health, Education and Wellness’ team at the beginning of April.  Rebecca will serve as university’s Alcohol and Other Drug Wellness Coordinator. She will work with the Center’s staff to design, implement and evaluate alcohol and other drug outreach programs to educate students about health risks and wellness opportunities directly affecting their academic, physical and emotional well-being. Rebecca brings experience from the therapeutic and clinical community mental health settings at Peninsula Lighthouse, The Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, and Cherokee Health Systems. Rebecca has worked with a variety of client populations in both individual and group settings. Rebecca enjoys working with individuals as change agents as well as in community practice to help elicit broad change in culture and policy. She is enthusiastic about working to develop immediate and long-term evidence-based educational programs with risk reduction strategies. Some of the initiatives on which Rebecca will focus include: environmental management, social norming campaigns, alcohol and drug prevention programming and interventions, the development of a Collegiate Recovery Program, the VOLS 2 VOLS Peer Health Education Program, and collaborating with the university and surrounding community to support and further these endeavors. Current initiatives in which Rebecca is involved include: sexual assault awareness month, planning a designated driver program for UT students, and advising the future recovery student group on campus. We look forward to working with Rebecca! For more information on what the Center for Health Education & Wellness offers, please visit http://wellness.utk.edu/.

Prom Season: Make it a Night to Remember

You don’t always have to be the life of the party

Prom seaProm poster 2015son is finally here. Parents may think that supervised drinking at prom parties will keep their kids safe and out of trouble. Your intentions may be good, but underage drinking is illegal.

While it may seem harmless, providing alcohol to a minor is a class A misdemeanor with serious legal consequences. In all 50 states, the minimum drinking age is 21. In Tennessee, parents can spend up to 11 months and 29 days in jail for providing alcohol to a minor.

Tennessee’s social host liability law states it is illegal for a parent or guardian to knowingly allow an underage person to buy or possess alcohol. Social host liability is a legal term meaning the adult can be held legally responsible if they provide alcohol to a minor. Other possible consequences include community service, loss of license and fines up to $2,500.

Parents often believe that allowing teens to drink at home is safer because they can control the amount of alcohol being consumed. Parents may also think that if they model responsible, moderate drinking to their teen, their child will mimic that behavior when parents are not present. However, teens that drink with their parents are more likely to drink when they are outside the home and vice-versa. They also tend to consume more alcoholic beverages on average than peers who do not drink with their parents.

Safe party tips

You can protect your children by following these guidelines when hosting teen parties:

  • Host safe, alcohol-free activities and events for youth
  • Refuse to supply alcohol to children or allow drinking in your home or on your property
  • Be at home when your teenager has a party
  • Make sure your teenager’s friends do not bring alcohol into your home
  • Talk to other parents about not providing alcohol at youth events
  • Report underage drinking

If your teen is heading to a post-graduation or prom party, find out where they are going and who they will be with. Call the hosting parents and share your rules and expectations. Make sure adult supervision will be available to ensure the party remains alcohol-free.

Message to Teens

In the age of social networking and text messaging, photos are uploaded in seconds and videos are streamed live for the entire world to see. It is important to ask yourself, “If pictures of this party pop up on Facebook, will I be humiliated?” If the answer is yes, chances are this is a decision you will soon regret. Just one drink can lower your inhibitions, and in our world of digital connectedness, dangerous and embarrassing activities may be photographed, uploaded, texted about and shared with friends. These images now serve as a permanent reminder of a night you would probably rather forget.

Parents, protect yourself and your kids. You don’t always have to be the life of the party- Be a Parent. Not a peer.

Grandparents as Parents – Primary Struggles

Grand Families LogoThis article was written by Cookie Oakley, LCSW. She is a family counselor and one of the co-founders of Grand Families. 

As we all know the number of grandparents raising grandchildren is at all-time high.  The primary reason is the epidemic of substance abuse of parents of these children.  All over the country State Child Protective Services and Juvenile Courts are overwhelmed with the large number of these cases.  In this blog I will address the primary struggles that grandparents face with this new and very challenging family dynamic.

As a family counselor, grandparents state the primary struggle is dealing with the adult parents of their grandchildren.  The struggle with establishing and keeping healthy boundaries with the biological parents is almost impossible. Grandparents love their adult child very much, and do not want to alienate them so they fall prey to their manipulation.  The addiction or substance abuse has taken control of their life therefore the reason for losing custody of their children.  When addiction or substance has taken control of anyone, they make poor decisions, and can certainly not make responsible decisions related to being a parent.  Grandparents as parents often are still influenced by their adult child and struggle with telling them no as related to their involvement with seeing their children and/or wanting to participate in the parenting process.  In the February Blog I wrote about healthy boundaries with the parents who are substance abusers.  Please review this article if you are struggling with this issue.

The other primary struggle is getting the grandchildren to respect the grandparents as parents.  Previously they have known their grandparents in the ‘grandparent role’.  The normal grandparent role is spending playful or quality time with grandchildren.  Grandchildren have not viewed grandparents as the disciplinarian.  Therein is a huge problem.  They often do not listen to rules required for parental disciplining.  The grandchildren will often challenge their authority as parents.  This is a tremendous problem because the children are not learning normal childhood discipline and parental guidance.  Family counseling is recommended for grandparents and grandchildren together.  A family counselor can give you a plan of action and coach grandchildren how to change behavior and cooperate with grandparents.

There are many other significant struggles and challenges for grandparents as Pparents.  The everyday emotional struggles caused by the adult child/biological parent’s dysfunctional and often dangerous situation, and the grandchildren’s emotional struggle to understand and cope with their absent parents.  I suggest learning all you can as grandparents/parents how to best manage your situation and family dynamics in order to give your grandchildren an appropriate childhood.  These skills may be best learned in family counseling.  Your community has many resources for this counseling.  Any challenging situation can be best managed with the best possible tools, and learning the correct emotional, parenting, and family management approach reduces significant stress and allows families to enjoy life and reduce the emotional stress.  ­­­­­­

Prescription Painkillers Linked to Rising Death Rate Among Younger White Women

taking medicineA new study finds prescription painkillers are largely to blame for an increase in the death rate among white women ages 15 to 54 in the United States over the past 15 years, The Washington Post reports.

The Urban Institute study found 15.9 per 100,000 white women died from opioid-related complications in 2011, up from 3.3 per 100,000 in 1999.

Between 1992 and 2006, death rates for women increased in 42.8 percent of U.S. counties. Death rates for men increased in only 3.4 percent of counties during the same period. Between 1999 and 2011, death rates climbed significantly only among white women ages 15 to 54. Half of the increase was due to drug overdoses, according to the study.

“A lot of theories out there suggest stress has major effects on our health,” said co-author Nan Astone, a senior research fellow at the Urban Institute’s Labor, Human Services and Population Center. “We know that white women are single parents more often than they ever have been before. They’re more often the breadwinner. They’re juggling a lot of roles.”

The study found death rates from accidental poisoning for non-Hispanic black women also increased between 1999 and 2011, from 4.8 to 7.4 per 100,000 per year. “This increase, however, was not nearly as much as it was for white women,” the researchers wrote. “In fact, the death rates from accidental poisoning are now much lower for blacks (7.4) than for whites (15.9).”

Diseases associated with smoking and obesity also contributed to higher death rates among white women, the study found.

Text from Join Together Partnership for Drug-Free Kids article. 

Healthy Boundaries

Grand Families LogoThis article was written by Cookie Oakley, LCSW. She is a family counselor and one of the co-founders of Grand Families. 

As a counselor I have worked with many grandparents that are raising their grandchildren.  There are many challenges for grandparents becoming parents to their grandchildren. One of the most challenging problems is enforcing healthy boundaries with their adult children and parents of the grandchildren.  Substance abuse is the most common reason grandparents have custody of their grandchildren.  Parents who have lost custody of their children have not become responsible adults.  Therefore, they have irresponsible behaviors and are not a healthy influence for their children.   In fact, they often continue to cause additional problems for the grandparents that are trying to provide for their grandchildren.

The grandparents who are parenting their children’s children must provide healthy parenting so these children can grow up learning healthy life skills in order to function well in school and social life.  The issue of when and where parents can visit their children is most often decided by Child Protective Services or Juvenile Court.  Child Protective Services must have Juvenile Court approve all custody arrangements for children who are removed from their parents.  Often these visitations are “supervised.”  Depending on the severity of the neglect or abuse, the court determines where and how often visitation can occur.  Many grandparents struggle with enforcing these visitation arrangements.  The primary reason for the struggle is because of their emotional attachment to their adult child and “give in” to the parent or grandchildren wishes of bending the rules for visitation.  What most grandparents don’t realize is that Child Protective Services can remove the children from the grandparents’ custody if the visitation rules are broken.

What are healthy boundaries?   All family dynamics are totally different, therefore the grandparents must only allow responsible parents to visit their children.  Irresponsible parents can make false promises to the children causing more emotional harm in addition to what has already occurred.  Irresponsible parents can influence the children which can encourage defiant and other difficult behaviors by the children.  The grandparents then have additional struggles trying to parent an unruly, defiant, or difficult child.  The grandparents’ primary responsibility is to protect and provide for the children, and teach the children healthy and appropriate behaviors.

The most common emotional distress for the children is feeling rejected and missing their parents. They mostly do not understand their parents’ irresponsible adult behaviors that has required this change in living arrangements.  These emotional struggles for the children make it more difficult for the grandparents to teach and enforce the required rules they must learn, and manage the situation.  My recommendations for the grandparents are to enforce strict boundaries with the adult parents.  The parents must follow certain guidelines and respect the boundaries set by the grandparents.  Juvenile Court or a community facility that host supervised visitation monitor the parents’ behavior, and if the parents are acting inappropriately, the visitation is terminated.  This is a clear message to anyone who has temporary custody of children that they must enforce the same guidelines and boundaries.

When I counsel with children, I explain on their age-appropriate level how and why the change has occurred, and that their parents are struggling with becoming responsible adults.  Children adjust much better when they are given enough explanation to prevent worrying or feeling rejected.  They often do not understand the substance abuse life style, unless they are teenagers and have been exposed to this lifestyle.  Even then they do not want to believe the actual facts.

The purpose of healthy boundaries is to allow only responsible adults to have visitation with their children.  If they are continuing to live the substance abuse life style and have chosen not to put their life back together as responsible parents, they should not be allowed to visit the children.  The primary reason is the parent will continue the irresponsible and unhealthy interaction with the children and this irresponsible behavior causes emotional harm to the child.  Neither should the irresponsible parent be allowed to instruct the grandparent on how to parent their child in any manner.  The grandparents must eliminate all contact with the irresponsible parent if necessary.  Terminating visitation may seem harsh but it is simply tough love.  They must come to realize how their behavior is harmful to their children.  I counsel with so many grandparent families that are struggling with this situation.  The adult child will often try to manipulate the grandparent because manipulation has become a way of life for them, especially if they are substance abusers.

Grandparents who are raising grandchildren absolutely must create a positive, healthy, low-stress living environment because it is the best for all involved.  Children feel more loved and safe in a low-stress home.  Grandparents are often overwhelmed with the parenting responsibilities so they have no time or energy for additional stress.  And the children are much easier to manage without the irresponsible parents confusing them.

Enjoy your grandchildren by creating a low-stress and happy living environment.

Top 10 Articles of January 2015

Each week, Join Together News Service from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids send out articles on different topics involving substance use. These articles range from things such as drug overdose rates to new FDA trials. For the staff at MDC, these articles keep us in the loop about what is going on in the nation around substance issues.

The following articles are the Top 10 most-read Join Together articles of January 2015. Please take the time to read or share these articles with your colleagues and community. The more that people know about these issues will result in that much more light being shed on the issues we have at hand!

1) New Device, “E-Joint,” Brings Together Marijuana and E-Cigarette
2) E-Cigarette Vapor Can Contain High Concentrations of Formaldehyde: Study
3) DEA Bans Three New Strains of Synthetic Marijuana
4) Drug Overdose Deaths May Peak in 2017: Study
5) Federal Judge to Rule on Whether Marijuana is Schedule I Drug
6) Heroin Overdose Deaths Rose 39 Percent in 2013: Report
7) “Synthetic Marijuana” – Nothing Like Real Marijuana, Expert Explains
8) Commentary: Federal Preemption of State Laws Regarding Medical Marijuana
9) FDA Approves Non-Opioid Painkiller Injection
10) Six Americans Die From Alcohol Poisoning Daily: CDC Report

Don’t Be Pitiful When You Can Be Powerful!

Grand Families LogoThank you to Donna Henson with Grand Families for this week’s guest blog. We appreciate you sharing your journey and thank you for all the wonderful things you are doing! 

Happy New Year to everyone! We had a wonderful Holiday! However, after several days of cooking, spending, hurrying and most of all being home with the kids, my husband and I were sounding very pitiful. Early one morning, before anyone was awake, I read this quote on Facebook. It hit me right between the eyes and I began to think about the power we have as Grandparents who are raising our Grandchildren.

“We have the power to change lives! We have the power to teach a new generation to make better choices than their parents did. We have the power to help children go out into the world without addiction. And, most of all, we have the power to prove to these kids that someone does love them and want them. But, it isn’t easy. It takes empathy, commitment, energy, and love.”

Grand Families wants to make 2015 the year of the “Mighty Grands” by offering tools of effective parenting for grandchildren. Every month, our blog will be on a topic that will help with the challenges we Mighty Grands face. In February, my co-founder, Cookie Oakley (the counselor who saves our sanityJ), will write about “Dealing with Birth Parents.” Some of the topics that will follow throughout the year are “Behavioral Challenges of Grandchildren”, “Effective Parenting in Today’s World” and “Internet Safety and Social Media”.

And now for the most exciting news!

Our first meeting will be March 1st, from 3:00-5:00 pm!
The Coop Cafe, 3701 Sutherland Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37919
Due to limited space, there will be no child care available. 

Please come and meet other Grands and share with us some of the needs of the Grand Community.

Spread the word to anyone who is raising grandchildren or children of extended family members!

Thank you for being Grand Families.