* Discuss the Dangers of Underage Drinking at Prom and Graduation

By Diane Braun, April 17, 2018 –

Prom and graduation are two of the most exciting events in a teen’s high school experience.  It’s a time to celebrate the end of the school year and remember for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately too often prom and graduation night end tragically for teens that die from drinking and driving or alcohol poisoning.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in three deaths from alcohol-related incidents occurs during prom or graduation weekend.

Drug-Free Action Alliance has developed a public awareness campaign to provide parents with accurate information about the health risks of underage drinking and the legal consequences of providing alcohol to youth.  The campaign encourages parents and the community to send a unified message that teen alcohol consumption is not acceptable at prom and graduation time.  It is illegal, unsafe and unhealthy for anyone under age 21 to drink alcohol.

Here are the facts:

  • Parents who give alcohol to their teen’s friends under any circumstances, even in their own homes, are breaking the law.
  • Parents who knowingly allow a person under 21 to remain in their home or on their property while consuming or possessing alcohol can be prosecuted and everything associated with such a violation can be confiscated, including personal property.
  • Parents can be sued if they give alcohol to anyone under 21 and they, in turn, hurt someone, hurt themselves or damage property.

Parents play a major role in their children’s choices about alcohol and other drugs.  Underage use of alcohol is a serious problem that too often leads to harmful consequences for youth and their families.

Parents can help their teens and their friends remain safe by taking responsibility, getting involved and setting limits.  Always be clear about your expectations.

You may have talked many times about healthy choices, but it’s important to be very clear about no alcohol use before the age of 21.  Parents should discuss the dangers of a) drinking and driving and b) getting into a car with a drunk driver.

Present possible scenarios and what to do in these situations.  Set a curfew that you can be awake for.  Make sure teens are home at the agreed-upon time and you see them walk in the door.  Use that time to hear details of their evening.

If hosting a party, do not serve or allow alcohol.  An adult who provides alcohol to a minor is breaking the law and risking that teen’s life.  Indiana passed a social host liability law in 2014 which prohibits anyone from “furnishing property for the purpose of enabling minors to consume alcohol.”

Parents and teens are encouraged to make the decision before spring events to be safe, which means staying alcohol-free.  Make sure your teen understands your expectations and the consequences.  Healthy choices and good communication can create those happy memories that last a lifetime.

 

* Binge-Watching and Your Brain

By Diane Braun, Courier & Press, March 13, 2018 –

We all know that sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for your body, but what does sitting in front of the television do to your brain?

A recent conversation with a colleague made me curious about this phenomenon called “binge-watching.”

Binge-watching is defined as watching between two and six episodes of the same TV show in one sitting. A recent Netflix survey found that 61 percent of about 1500 on-line respondents say they binge-watch regularly.

Why do we do it?  According to Robert F. Potter, PhD., director of the Institute for Communication Research at Indiana University, we do it for a few reasons:

  • Production companies encourage us by offering up the next episode as soon as the previous one ends.
  • Writers structure dramas with cliffhangers at the end of every episode.
  • We want to keep watching. Television captures our attention in more ways than one. Plots, subplots and dialogue require us to pay close attention to scene changes.  Our brain is hard-wired to monitor changes in our environment as a survival mechanism, so it’s hard for us to tear our eyes away.  As long as something’s moving onscreen, we’re watching.

Sitting still for long periods of time slows one’s circulation and metabolism, resulting in sluggishness.  At the same time, great TV shows with complicated storylines and complex characters can wear you out emotionally and mentally. Excessive TV watching has long been associated with health problems such as obesity and diabetes as well as mental health problems like depression.

Cliffhangers, on the other hand, leave us with a heightened sense of excitement.  If something positive happens afterward, the excitement may carry over into your real life and make it more intense.

Your emotional state at the end of a show is also affected by how you felt when you started it up.  Research shows that people who tried to forget about their anxieties by watching television had a 4 percent increased risk of developing insomnia.

This is similar to any addictive behavior, Potter says.  If you use something to help you escape from problems you almost always feel worse later.  Research shows that the longer you stay in the world of a TV show, the more it influences the way you see the real world.  A better strategy is to use TV as a reward for confronting and dealing with an issue.

Want to break the binge addiction? If you are addicted to hour-long dramas, watch one episode and then just 20 minutes of the next episode.  That will likely resolve the previous episode’s cliffhanger but won’t draw you in for the entire hour.

The world of Netflix and other streaming services is still relatively new.  More research is needed to understand the true effects of binge-watching on physical and mental health.  As this behavior continues to be a part of our culture, just remember to exercise some caution once one episode concludes and resist the urge to click that “next” button.

* Believe It or Not, Birth Order Does Matter *

By Diane Braun, Courier & Press, January 24, 2017 –

My husband and I have three children who are now all adults: two sons born 2 ½ years apart and a daughter born three years later.

As our children were growing up, I noticed our sons were very different even though they have the same parents and grew up in the same house.

It was fascinating to me that our oldest son was always the thinker — looking at every situation from all angles before making a decision or answering a question.  My mother said he was “born old,” demonstrating more patience and maturity than others his age.

My second son has always been impulsive and never hesitated to try a new sport or activity.  He was described by his older brother as the true example of the Nike logo “Just Do It.”  A gifted athlete, he could step into any sport and do well. We had our share of trips to the emergency room, however, when his impulses outweighed caution.

According to Meri Wallace, author of Birth Order Blues, “Some of it has to do with the way the parent relates to the child in his spot, and some of it actually happens because of the spot itself.  Each spot has unique challenges,” she explains.

Simply by virtue of being a couple’s first child, a firstborn will naturally be a sort of experiment for the new parents.  Going “by the book,” new parents will be extremely attentive to the firstborn, strict with rules and overly cautious about the little things.  This in turn may cause the child to become a perfectionist, always striving to please the parents.

Firstborns tend to be reliable, conscientious, structured, cautious, controlling and achievers.  Firstborns are diligent and want to be the best at everything they do.

In contrast, if the couple has a second child, they might raise the second born with less stringency due to their experiences with the firstborn.  They might also be less attentive to the second since there’s another child competing for attention, and they probably will be less inclined to call the doctor’s office for every little scratch and bruise.

In our family, my youngest son was also the middle child.  Middle children tend to be people-pleasers and peacemakers, thriving on friendships and having a large social circle.  Their daring nature is often a ploy for getting attention and can be described as rebelliousness.

Even more important than birth order is creating an environment that is positive, safe, healthy and stimulating.  Though peers, siblings, genes and circumstances all play into how a child’s temperament develops, Wallace states that “parents still are the major influencing factors because, truthfully, the first year of life is the bonding with the primary caretaker that impacts upon self-confidence, trust and the ability to interact with another person.”

Birth order, along with other factors, does play a role in the traits of each child. Focus on each child’s personality and adapt your expectations to their individuality to produce confident, productive people.

Kids Benefit From Playing Outside

Kids playing outside

By Diane Braun, Courier & Press, May 3, 2016 –

Spring and summer brings blue skies, warm breezes and the sound of children playing outdoors. Most parents have no problem sending their children outside to play.

Why? Because we all know there are quite a few real benefits to playing outdoors.

Children who play outside learn how to solve real-life problems better than children who are always in their rooms playing video games in seclusion. Examples of problem solving include learning to get along with friends or trying to figure out the best way to build a fort.

Playing outside provides children with exercise, something many children don’t get enough of anymore. Outdoor play combines exercise with having fun. Riding bikes, playing tag with friends and throwing or hitting a ball all get our children’s bodies moving, something playing most video games can’t accomplish.

It may be hard to accept that children could experience stress or suffer from conditions such as depression or anxiety, but these issues are becoming more common with today’s kids who have busy schedules with long school days and extracurricular activities.

Physical activity in the form of outdoor play can help kids reduce their stress. The Children & Nature Network says contact with nature can help reduce stress levels and positively impact conditions such as anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

One of the qualities many children are lacking is imagination. In today’s age of technology, children are provided with images for everything.

Why go outside and play astronaut in outer space when we can watch a movie about it or play a video game? Playing outside helps children develop their imagination, which is something television, video games and computers can’t do.

Free play and discretionary time has declined more than nine hours a week over the last 25 years. A new Nielson Company report indicates children 2-5 now spend more than 32 hours a week on average in front of a TV screen.

According to the Keiser Family Foundation, the amount of screen time only increases with age with school-aged children spending 7.5 hours a day on electronic media.

Finally, it’s important that children get vitamin D, and the best source is the sun. Vitamin D helps promote better moods, energy levels, memory and overall health. Just 10-15 minutes out in the sun will give our children their daily dose of vitamin D.

Encouraging children to go outside, get moving and connect with the natural world are all ways to reverse childhood obesity rates. But the benefits don’t stop there. Kids who play outside are happier, healthier and stronger!