Thursday, January 31, 2008

(Teen Obesity) Small Changes Prevent Obesity by Connect with Kids

“As long as we concentrate on exercise, eating right, cutting out the sugar, I think we’ll be okay.”

– Tina Scott-Morgan, mother

For kids and adults, losing weight seems like an endless and insurmountable task: flavorless diet foods, gym memberships, hours of sweating and pain. But a new pediatric study reports that it really doesn’t have to be that hard.

To improve her daughter’s health and weight, Tina stopped buying carbonated drinks.

“We don’t drink sodas in this house,” says Tina Scott-Morgan, mother.

“They have too much sugar in them,” says her daughter, Marissa, 9.

Too much sugar and empty calories. According to a study in the journal, Pediatrics, children who walked an extra mile a day and cut out 100 calories daily showed a significant drop in their BMI (Body Mass Index) – an indicator used to determine healthy weight. One hundred calories equals one can of soda.

“When we cut that out and replaced it with water and milk, I could tell that there’s a significant difference in Marissa’s weight,” says Morgan.

“The fact is that you’re adding extra calories into your system that your body technically doesn’t need,” says Beth Passehl, Fit Kids coordinator, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Experts say it’s all about small changes.

“Cut back gradually, cut back by 10 percent each day, cut back by one serving a day, and you may find that starts to make a difference. It’s small gradual steps that lead to life-long habits,” says Passehl.

Step-by-step, Marissa is working her way to a healthier life.

“As long as we concentrate on exercise, eating right, cutting out the sugar, I think we’ll be okay,” says her mom.

Tips for Parents

Eating breakfast is important for weight management. Research shows most people who have lost more than 60 pounds and kept it off for six years do eat breakfast. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Make a rule that no one in the family can eat while watching television. It’s hard for kids to realize how much they are eating when they’re absorbed in a television program. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Find ways to get the entire family more active. Have everyone in the family wear a pedometer, and compete to see who can take the most steps during the day. If the child wins, reward him/her with a fun activity. If the child loses, assign him/her an active chore. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Do not make your family give up foods they love. Instead, find healthier ways to prepare these foods. For example, frozen French fries can be baked instead of fried. Cheesecake or macaroni and cheese can be made with a low-fat cheese. Take a cooking class to get your family excited about healthy recipes. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Teach kids to use portion control when eating out. Since most portions at restaurants are double what they should be, encourage kids to take half home, or to share with another person. (Dr. Lonny Horowitz, bariatric specialist)

Calories are calories. It doesn’t matter where they come from. Keep portion size in mind, regardless of whether you’re eating a salad or junk food. (Dr. Lonny Horowitz, bariatric specialist)

According to The American Heart Association (AHA), healthy physical activity is defined as regular participation in activities that increase your heart rate above its resting level. However, physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial. An active child plays sports, participates in PE class, does household chores, spends time outdoors and regularly travels by foot or bicycle.

The AHA offers the following guidelines:

Encourage your kids to regularly walk, bike, play outside and interact with other children.

Allow no more than two hours per day for sedentary activities – TV, computers, video games.

Promote weekly participation in age-appropriate sports or sandlot games.

Ensure your child participates in a daily school PE class that includes at least 20 minutes of coordinated large-muscle exercise.

Make sure your child has access to school/community facilities that enable safe participation in physical activities.

Provide opportunities for physical activities that are fun, increase confidence and involve friends.
Organize regular family outings that involve walking, cycling, swimming or other recreational activities.

Be a positive role model for a physically active lifestyle.


Dr. Lonny Horowitz, bariatric specialist
The American Heart Association (AHA)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Parents Learn About Online Safety


Parents, get with the times.

That was Sarah Migas' opening message during a presentation about online safety Thursday night at Ottawa Township High School.

Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook and Internet chat rooms and instant messaging are becoming increasingly popular means for children and teenagers to socialize. While they have their positives, digital technology also can be dangerous.

"Kids are seeing the Internet as the wild wild West," said Migas, an Internet safety specialist with the Illinois Attorney General's Office.

Migas and Daniel Spillman, assistant attorney general with the high tech crimes bureau, talked to a handful of audience members, introducing what they referred to as a "travel guide" for parents to navigate their way through some of these social networking sites and learn the languages being used by children to communicate.

Migas said acronyms often are used amongst bloggers and instant messengers and are not always familiar to parents, who should be monitoring their children's online activities.

"It's like going to another country; you've got to learn the places and the language so you can keep up with the kids because predators know where the kids are," Migas said.

She pointed to examples such as A/S/L, which means age, sex, location. Predators can easily find a person with just that bit of information. Also, she cautioned parents about the acronym POS, which means parents over shoulder.

Internet chat rooms, sites people can access to discuss various topics in real time, also present possible dangerous encounters with predators.

Oftentimes, children will stumble upon sites because they're curious about the titles, and find themselves looking at sexually explicit photos, or conversations, without meaning to.

"And if your child actually talks to you about it, they should be praised. Often they are scared to talk because they're scared their computer privileges will be revoked," Migas said.

Spillman stressed he and Migas aren't trying to give out parenting advice, but threatening to yank the child's computer time away often hampers the child's willingness to open up about their Internet activities.

Online predators often will use what is referred to as "grooming" techniques to establish a relationship with a child, often times offering compliments about the child's looks or sympathizing with their problems.

Predators also are taking advantage of Web cams, soliciting children to take off their clothes by blackmailing them with personal information the predator threatens to share with the child's school or parents.

"These guys know how to get a hook in them and reel them in," Spillman said.

According to statistics, one in seven children will be approached online for sexual content. In the majority of cases, the predators are men.

While law enforcement does have the power to criminally charge predators, and authorities constantly monitor possibly dangerous encounters, Migas and Spillman said that's not enough eyes to protect children.

"We rely on parents," Migas said.

Keep the computer in an open area. Ask children about their Internet activities and monitor their social networking sites. Parents also can check recent activities on the computer by accessing the Internet history account in the control panel of the computer.

Blogs also have grown in popularity.

"Basically a blog is an online journal," Migas said, warning, "If you wouldn't want your grandma to see the pictures or read the content, don't post it."

Digital technology also has spurred what is deemed, "cyberbullying."

Instead of bullies preying on their victims in the halls of school or at the park, the tormenting is taking place online -- where the threats and harassment can be seen by anyone around the world.

"It's easy because they feel anonymous, and they don't see the reactions of the victims," Migas said.

Children can no longer take refuge in their homes from bullies.

"It can happen anywhere, anytime," Migas said.

According to statistics provided, more than 40 percent of children are bullied online at some point.

When a child feels threatened or harassed online, Migas and Spillman said the incident should be reported to parents and-or police. Also, any evidence should be printed and saved, and children should not retort in any way, as it can worsen the situation.

While many of the social networking sites do have safety measures, predators often find a way around them. Law enforcement also continues to monitor the Internet, but Internet dangers will be an ongoing issue in which authorities need the help of parents to fight.

"Unfortunately, I don't think this bureau will go under," Migas said of the attorney general's high tech crimes bureau.

Internet acronyms parents should know:

AITR: Adult In The Room

P911: Parent Emergency

PAW: Parents Are Watching

PIR: Parent In Room

POS: Parent Over Shoulder

MOS: Mom Over Shoulder

MIRL: Meet In Real Life

S2R: Send To Receive (pictures)

CD9: Code 9 (parents are around)

E or X: Ecstasy (the drug)

ASL(R P): Age Sex Location (Race / Picture)

TDTM: Talk Dirty To Me

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Teen Pregnancy Rate Up: By Connect with Kids

“I knew a little bit about it just from health class, things like that, but nobody in my family had ever really talked to me about it.”

– Amber Schalk, 19

For the first time in 14 years, the number of babies born to teenage parents in the U.S. is up, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What’s behind the increase?

Amber says she had to learn about sex on her own.

“I knew a little bit about it just from health class, things like that. But nobody in my family had ever really talked to me about it,” says Amber Schalk, 19.

Now, Amber is a 19-year-old mother of two.

“What book do you want to read?” Schalk asks her daughter.

“I wasn’t using any protection, because I guess I just thought I wouldn’t get pregnant. I don’t know why, but I did -- eventually it happened,” says Schalk.

According to the CDC, after a steady decline for more than a decade, the teen birth rate rose 3 percent from 2005 to 2006. Some experts fear that what parents and schools teach kids about sex is superficial or incomplete.

“We’re still grappling with the whole idea that somehow if you have knowledge that you’re going to act on it. That is totally wrong. Actually, the more knowledge you have, the less likely you are to engage in sex,” says Gail Wyatt, PhD, clinical psychologist.

She says teens are powerfully curious about sex. That’s why parents need to be open and honest.

“You don’t want to walk away and say, ‘that’s not a good question, I’m not going to talk to you,’ or, ‘you shouldn’t even be thinking about that.’ To shut a conversation down is probably about the worst thing that a parent can do, and to make the teen feel guilty for having asked the question,” says Wyatt.

“Kids wind up getting these answers, but they’re not going to get them from you. They learn to ask their friends,” says Dr. Mark Schuster, M.D., Ph.D., pediatrician.

Schalk says she loves her kids and yet, there is some regret.

“I wish somebody just would have talked to me. Sat down and talked to me about sex and things that were going to happen during my teenage years, but nobody did,” says Schalk.

Tips for Parents

If kids are left to their own devices, they may simply act on their hormones. If they understand their bodies and their hormones, chances are they won’t choose to be sexually active. (Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, Ph.D., clinical psychologist)

Just as we teach our children how to brush their teeth and take care of themselves, parents and educators need to teach children about reproductive health care. It’s a vital part of who we are as healthy human beings. (Michele Ozumba, Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention)

It can be difficult for parents to talk to their teens about sex. One good way to start the conversation is to use teaching moments from television programs, news reports, DVDs, etc.

“One suggested way to open the conversation is to say, ‘Even though I don’t want you to be having sex now, I know that [some] kids do have sex in high school, and whether or not you’re going to, you’re going to have friends who have sex, or classmates, and I think we should talk about this.’” (Mark Schuster, M.D., Ph.D., pediatrician, researcher, author)

When your teens ask about sex, one of the worst things that a parent can do is to shut down a conversation, and make the teen feel guilty for having asked the question. Listen, try not to be judgmental, and provide age-appropriate information. (Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, Ph.D., clinical psychologist)

“Your child may be sitting at the dinner table pretending not to listen, but they’re absorbing every word. They’re very eager to hear what you have to say about this. Actually, when kids are asked who they want to learn about sex from, it’s their parents.” (Mark Schuster, M.D., Ph.D., pediatrician, researcher, author)

“Don’t just talk about sex, talk about love. Share with your kids what’s wonderful about love. Share how sex can fit into a loving, caring relationship. Kids should get all of that from their parents. They shouldn’t just get the part about how body parts fit together; they should get the whole emotional package from their parents.” (Mark Schuster, M.D., Ph.D., pediatrician, researcher, author)

Talking about sex shouldn’t just be a lecture. Listen to what your teen is saying and thinking. They are exposed to much more sexually explicit material than previous generations, and need to separate the truth from the fiction. (Michele Ozumba, Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention)


Columbia University
Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention
Guttmacher Institute

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Risk Factors for Early Sex by Connect with Kids

“We’re concerned about their behavior, we certainly don’t want [young teens] to be sexually active … and yet they’re exploited daily by the things they see.”

– Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, UCLA professor

Most parents know that there are a number of factors that weigh into whether their child will have sex at a young age. But few parents may realize just how powerful those factors are. A new study sheds some light…

One reason young teens have sex is low self-esteem.

“They were using me. They were using me because I was easy. I was easy to get in bed,” says Katlyn, 16.

Another reason is the influence of the media.

“I think for some people they’ll just see it and they’ll just do it because it’s on TV and you know, it’s casual,” says Christina, 17.

Another factor is how close children are to their parents. According to a study from the University of Wisconsin, the more risk factors a child has, the more likely that child will have sex before age 15. These risk factors include watching excessive amounts of TV, having low self-esteem and feeling alienated from their parents. In fact, the study reports that just one of these risk factors – by itself -- increases the chances that a child will have early sex by almost 50 percent.

“We’re concerned about their behavior, we certainly don’t want [young teens] to be sexually active … and yet they’re exploited daily by the things they see, by the music they hear, by the clothes that they’re reinforced to wear. And they are very poorly guided by parents, by our society, their religions, and generally by everyone that they meet except each other,” says Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, UCLA professor.

Experts say the irony is that the greatest influence on a child’s decision to have sex is the opinion of his or her parents -- but that only works if the parents have expressed their views.

“Parents have 100 percent of the power, because most kids won’t admit that they listen to their parents, but what you say to them in an exchange of information is really what they need,” says Alduan Tartt, Ph.D., psychologist.

“I think other parents should quit being scared and just to talk to their kids about sex. Stop trying to sugarcoat everything, trying to make everything look pretty, just talk to your kid. Because if you don’t talk to them they are going to get lost,” says Tremain, 17.

Tips for Parents

Talking to your child about sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may not be something you look forward to, but it could be the most important step in protecting your child from risky sexual behavior. Studies show that teenagers who feel highly connected to their parents are far more likely to delay sexual activity than their peers. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC)

Start early – Research shows that younger children seek their parents’ advice more than adolescents, who tend to depend more on their friends and the media. Take advantage of the opportunity to talk with your young children about sexual health. (CDC)

Initiate conversations with your child – Don't wait for your children to ask you about sex, HIV or STDs. Although you may hope that your children will come to you with their questions and concerns, it may not happen. Use everyday opportunities to talk about issues related to sexual health. For example, news stories, music, television shows or movies are great conversation starters for bringing up health topics. (CDC)

Talk WITH your child, not AT your child – Make sure you listen to your children the way you want your children to listen to you. Try to ask questions that will encourage them to share specific information about feelings, decisions and actions. (CDC)

Communicate your values – In addition to talking to your children about the biological facts of sex, it's important that they also learn that sexual relationships involve emotions, caring and responsibility. (CDC)


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sue Scheff Featured Author on My Video Partners

My Video Partners is now featuring Sue Scheff's first book "Wit's End!"

See the "Wit's End!" video email here.

For more details about “Wit’s End!” visit the official Heath Communication Inc. website. Home of the beloved Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. I am proud to be part of their family!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sue Scheff: Positive Peer Pressure by Connect with Kids

“Peer pressure is not always bad. It can be very good. It can be encouraging. Sometimes a person may not want to choose hi-risk behaviors and may not want to do the wrong thing because they know their friends aren’t into that.”

– Dr. Marilyn Billingsly, pediatrician

It’s conventional wisdom that peer pressure is a powerful force in the lives of kids, especially teenagers. A new University study reminds us that while peer pressure can push kids into risky behavior, it can also help kids do the right thing.

Alex Shillinger is in court facing drug charges. He says he was “worn down” by peer pressure to try marijuana.

“There were constantly people telling me, ‘Come on, just try it, just one time, it’ll be fine,’” says Alex, 18.

On the other hand, because of peer pressure, Ambra says she’s never done drugs or alcohol or had sex.

“Being around people like that, just like myself, it keeps me motivated,” says Ambra, 17.

Peers can be powerful influences, for both good and bad behavior. A new study from the University of Southern California found that kids were less likely to use drugs if they were in a substance abuse program taught by other kids.

“Peer pressure is not always bad. It can be very good. It can be encouraging. Sometimes a person may not want to choose high risk behaviors and may not want to do the wrong thing because they know their friends aren’t into that,” says Dr. Marilyn Billingsly, pediatrician.

Of course, it depends on the friends -- and parents have little control over that.

“I think it makes it even more important for parents to know their kids’ friends and the parents of their kids' friends and monitor what’s going on with the group of friends,” Dr. Carol Drummond, Ph.D., psychologist.

If you suspect that one of your child’s friends is using drugs, experts say to make your views on drugs loud and clear and tell your child you’re worried.

“Sometimes your kid will come back and say, ‘Listen, Mom, I know he’s drinking, doing drugs; I am not doing that.’ But at least you’ve gotten a chance to plant that message that you’ve got worries. You’ve got to watch your own child. And if you feel like you have some concern that your child is making bad decisions, then you need to act aggressively,” says Dr. Judy Wolman, Ph.D., psychologist,

Tips for Parents

Peer pressure is not always a bad thing. For example, positive peer pressure can be used to pressure bullies into acting better toward other kids. If enough kids get together, peers can pressure each other into doing what's right. (Nemours Foundation)

Some good behaviors that friends can pressure each other to do include: be honest, be nice, exercise, avoid alcohol, respect others, avoid drugs, work hard, don’t smoke. (National Institutes of Health, NIH)

You and your friends can pressure each other into some things that will improve your health and social life and make you feel good about your decisions. (NIH)


National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Sue Scheff - Teen Peer Pressure (Parent's Universal Resource Experts)

Peer Pressure leads to "Good Teens Making Bad Choices" which is very common today.

Teen Peer Pressure can be extremely damaging to a pre-teen or teen that is desperately trying to fit in somewhere – anywhere in their school. They are not sure what group they belong in, and those that are suffering with low self esteem can end up fitting more comfortably with the less than desirable peers.

This can be the beginning of a downward spiral. When a child doesn’t have confidence of who they are or where they belong, it can lead to the place that is easiest to fit in – usually the not the best crowd.

Keeping your child involved in activities such as sports, music and school clubs can help give them a place where they belong. We always encourage parents to find the one thing that truly interests their child, whether it is a musical instrument, swimming, golf, diving, dance, chess club, drama, etc.

It is important to find out what their interests are and help them build on it. Encourage them 100%. They don’t need to be the next Tiger Woods, but they need to enjoy what they are doing and keep busy doing it. Staying busy in a constructive way is always beneficial.

It is very common with many parents that contact us that their child has fallen into the wrong crowd and has become a follower rather than a leader. They are making bad choices, choices they know better however the fear of not fitting in with their friends sways them to make the wrong decisions.

Low self esteem can attribute to this behavior, and if it has escalated to a point of dangerous situations such as legal issues, substance use, gang related activity, etc. it may be time to seek outside help. Remember, don’t be ashamed of this, it is very common today and you are not alone. So many parents believe others will think it is a reflection of their parenting skills, however with today’s society; the teen peer pressure is stronger than it ever has been. The Internet explosion combined with many teens Entitlement Issues has made today’s generation a difficult one to understand.

It is so important to find the right fit for your child if you are seeking residential treatment. We always encourage *local adolescent counseling prior to any Residential Treatment Programs or Boarding schools, however this is not always necessary.

Many parents have an instinct when their child is heading the wrong direction. It is an intuition only a parent can detect. If something doesn't seem right, it usually isn't. If your gut is talking to you, you may want to listen or investigate what your child is doing. Parents need to understand that teen peer pressure can influence adolescents in negative ways. Do you know who your child’s friends are?

If you feel your teen is in need of further Boarding School, Military School or Program Options, please complete our Information Request Form. Please visit Informational Articles for more beneficial information.

*Local Therapist should be Therapist/Counselors that "specialize" with Adolescents.