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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hot Flashes and Teen Hormones

Those of us who waited until the very last second to have children find ourselves in a double whammy. As our children are entering puberty, and teen hormones are raging, so are our own.

Since menopause is only discussed in hushed whispers, with anyone not experiencing it turning away llike you are cursed somehow, I’m writing this for the rest of us.

Menopause is a tough time for women, we are emotional, our bodies eject heat like a rocket propelling itself towards space, and our waistlines disappear as weight seems to attach itself, as if through some sort of scientific sludge process, to parts of our bodies we never thought possible.

At the same time, that young boy or girl who said I love you all the time, liked to spend time with you, wanted your help and approval on schoolwork, and made you feel like parenthood was all worthwhile, has become a nightmare. Oh there are still flashes of the sweet, loving child in the alien teenage being who suddenly lives in your house. But they are rare and fleeting.

You become the chauffer, bank account, major embarrassment, and most grunted at person in your own house. And that’s on a good day.

I’ve heard that boys are better than girls in their teenage years, and I hope that’s true because the boy I have makes me want to tear my hair out. He’s obnoxious, cutting, sarcastic, selfish and so obsessed with how he looks or wants to look, that I just want to transport him to thirty years from now so he’ll have a new respect for his mother. Will someone please build me a time machine so my son can see that what goes around comes around?

So how do these two edges of the hormonal spectrum live together, without hurting each other? Not easily. Fortunately, once menopause starts you are done with the “I should have had more children” phase, that plaugues women in their late forties when it was still kind of possible. So at least the dilemma of whether to make more kids is over. We have enough trouble dealing with the ones we already have.
But let’s face it menopausal women are moody. We don’t sleep without pills. We scream at people and then don’t know why we did it. Oh the hormones help, but they don’t make it go away. I still sweat like I’m in a hot yoga class after a glass of wine or an Advil.

The one positive thing I can say, is that women in menopause get the hormone thing. We may have long ago forgotten what it feels like to be an actual teen, but we know what raging hormones do to us. And we have to learn to control that craziness. Not just to work and function in a world that is afraid to acknowledge menopause exists, but to deal with our teenaged children.

So let’s look at this menopause thing versus teenaged hormonal thing in a positive way fellow mothers of a certain age. Let our own hormonal mess act as a constant reminder of what our teens are going through. And if we take a deep breath, before we scream at our kids, we’re likely find a better way to deal with them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer Love, Drinking and Drugs - That Transition Year

Research shows that the transition from middle to high school is an extremely vulnerable one for adolescents. In our book, Delaying that First Drink: A Parents Guide, I interviewed two recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, both who began drinking early in high school.

Both were quiet somewhat reticent, but very bright kids, from families with major addiction problems. The young guy said what tipped him over the age was transitioning from a private, very small middle school, to a high school with 900 kids. The young woman said she went to boarding school for high school, developed a new group of friends who were heavy partiers, and fell fast and furious.

I've been thinking about high school and drinking a lot because I've a 15 year-old son whose friends are definitely drinking. Awhile ago, I put what was left of a case of beer in the basement and found a couple of empty cans in a bathroom. He explained the cans (he had an ill-fated party months ago and no one really uses that bathroom), but when I checked on the case it was empty.

Yes you heard me, empty. My son was at a friend's house and I called him and told him to get home immediately, which he did. His explanation: He is not drinking because he had tried it and had a really bad experience with it. His mom has a similar story from high school. But in order to get into high school parties,  they have to pay at the door or bring booze. So he's been sneaking the alcohol out and using it to get in.

Did he get in trouble? Of course. Did I freak out completely? No. Why? Because he's a good kid who gets good grades, is holding down a full-time job for most of the summer and I don't see any evidence of alcohol or drugs when he comes home at night. 

So what's a parent to do. I don't know. Talk, watch, listen, trust to some extent, read the Facebook pages to keep up. Teenage boys don't exactly confide in their moms, but we do talk and the lines of communication are always open. Keep them that way.

Oh and yelling and screaming really doesn't work. It just starts bitter, angry fights that can cause really lasting damage to your relationship. Instead, take a deep breath, walk out of the room and talk when you are both calm. It's much better and life is a lot less stressful.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's Your Brain on Drugs Stupid

A new report out from Columbia University's drug czar CASA Columbia surveyed 100 students and found almost half are drinking, taking drugs, smoking cigarettes or a combination of all three. 

Yet I don't see any of this in my home. Am I blind? Am I crazy? Are my kids just not interested? If one in two kids are a mess than what of all my son and daughters alcohol sodden, cigarette smoking,  (well she's a little young) drug ridden friends. Sorry folks haven't seen it. 

Not that I'm denying it happens. I wrote a book about it - I know it does. But CASA Columbia does love to get attention by being alarmists. Pure academic researchers don't agree with them on a lot of things. Judge for yourself. http://www.casacolumbia.org/templates/PressReleases.aspx?articleid=641&zoneid=87

Anyway the point of all this is It's the Teen Brain Stupid. We've been talking about this for over three years. The teen brain isn't finished yet. If it ingests substances it's not supposed too, ones that are meant to alter it's perception and focus, it freaks out. The majority of kids who end up addicted to alcohol and drugs, start that process in middle or high school. That should be the wake-up all. 

Remember that old ad - This is Your Brain on Drugs where they fried an egg. One of the simplest, most effective at getting its point across ads ever. Well what it didn't tell you - because at the time they just didn't know - was that the frying process of your brain will affect you far into your adult life.

Here's an excerpt from the CASA press release:

The CASA report underscores the fact that addiction is a disease with adolescent origins. The underdeveloped teen brain makes it likelier that teens will take risks, including using addictive substances that interfere with brain development, impair judgment and heighten their risk of addiction.

The CASA report reveals that:
  • 75 percent (10 million) of all high school students have used addictive substances including tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine; 1 in 5 of them meets the medical criteria for addiction.
  • 46 percent (6.1 million) of all high school students currently use addictive substances; 1 in 3 of them meets the medical criteria for addiction.