Self-Esteem in Teens

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

As you are standing and perhaps arguing with your teen, you may be wondering how this person “who knows everything” could possibly have low self-esteem. Well, how high the decibel level at which they are shouting all the answers, may be in direct proportion to how low their self-esteem is. As everyone knows, adolescence is a time of great change. Youth are maturing physically and emotionally, and their brains are not even yet fully developed. Peers take over from parents in terms of whose opinion matters more (although don’t underestimate the role YOU still play in your teen’s life). Youth often struggle with body image (yes…even boys), their looks, how they fit in, their future, and many begin to face decisions that would best be put off until they were adults (sexuality, drinking, etc). They are inundated with images from the TV, internet, magazines, and now their phones. These images are often unrealistic portrayals of their more celebrated peers.

So what can we do to help our children develop a positive self-esteem? Start early. Young children need to be reassured about what their strengths are, and that it’s also okay to be human and to have weaknesses and to make mistakes. It’s the positive manner in which we deal with our weaknesses and mistakes that can build self-esteem. Talk with your children when you see unrealistic images through the media. Ask them their opinion, and how they view those images. Check in with your children about how things are going at school or with their friends. Pay attention if they mention that they are being teased or put down, or if they start to put themselves down. Ask where those feelings are coming from. Don’t assume that all of these behaviors and remarks are just a part of “growing up”. If you feel that your child will better listen or take advice from another trusted adult or peer, then certainly try that route. If areas do not improve, or if you are starting to notice signs of depression, you may want to consult a professional.

Children are very fragile when it comes to their self-worth, especially teens, so be careful about any teasing, no matter how innocently you intend it. Also, check in with your own self-worth. Children can pick up on these things, and it may impact how they grow to view themselves.

So, the next time you are in a heated discussion with your teen, remember that he or she is probably (and painfully) aware that they do not know all of the answers, but at least want to feel worthy enough to be asked the questions.

The Great Outdoors

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

If you lived in Indiana this year, you must be wondering, “What is SHE THINKING?” There’s been NOTHING great about the OUTDOORS, lately. Well, what my 40-some years of experience in this great state have proven is: THE GOOD STUFF’S COMING! Soon all the wet, cold weather will be behind us, and we will look forward to warm, sunny days of summer! (I know…we skipped spring, but alas…) Who knows, we may be grilling out, playing a ball game, or walking with our pets tonight! There is so much we can do in the Great Outdoors in Indiana!

First you might check out the back-to-nature state parks! They often have various ways to stay over, either in a cabin, hotel or campsite. You might be able to rent bikes or horses to ride. Or just traipse along a trail that could lead you to beautiful waterfalls at Clifty Falls, or soaring cliffs at Turkey Run!

If you feel like you’ve done everything you can in your own “backyard”, and then take a road trip! Discover a new place you’ve never been. I suggest New Harmony, where folks were hoping to create a utopia of a town. Santa Claus is wonderful fun in the summertime, filled with roller coasters and a fantastic water park! Up north, the dunes of Lake Michigan are like being on any beach, and so much fun! Ft. Wayne and Indianapolis both have fantastic zoos! The county and state fairs will be coming soon too.

Make it a priority to do something new and different with your family this summer. The opportunities are yours to make memories that will last a lifetime.

By Carol Cochard Pool, MSW, Prevention Educator, Prevent Child Abuse IN


Monday, May 16, 2011

Renowned Therapist Virginia Satir has a wonderful quote: (worthy of cutting and pasting, and posting on your refrigerator door for all to see!)…”Feelings of worth can flourish only in a atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible - the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family!”

So, to recap: appreciating each person in our family, whether or not they are like we are; realizing that mistakes are a part of learning and growing; Talking about ANYTHING is OK; and though rules must be set, remembering they need to be flexible…ARE ALL IMPORTANT GOALS FOR FAMILIES.

Becoming (and staying) a healthy, happy family may take time! There are several tips to consider, especially if these concepts are new to a family. Take time to consider what it might look like to be a healthy individual…one might look at his\her: 1. physical needs, like taking care of the physical body by exercising, getting regular medical checks, and practicing good hygiene. 2. Mental/emotional needs, like talking to a trusted individual or seeing a therapist when times are tough. 3. Spiritual health, might be taking care of our inner self on a very deep level, may or may not mean “religion” but ways we nurture our spirit, like walks, appreciating nature, or other meditation. 4. Having occupation, work or school to keep our mind/hands fulfilled. 5. Always being open to self-awareness, as we all have room for improvement. These suggestions might be a great starting point, to look at self wellness, then moving toward family wellness.

Other tips professionals offered on this topic:

1. Do set rules/boundaries/consequences with children, which are developmentally appropriate and flexible, and either reward for appropriate behaviors (BEST CHOICE), or enforce consequences when rules are broken. Even when consequences are enforced, it can be done in a respectful, matter-of-fact manner. There is no need for yelling, name calling or swearing. Consequences might include: taking away a favorite toy, game, time with friend, etc. Or it could be a time-out, remembering 1 minute per age.

2. Talk together as a family (The exception to this tip, might be that parents don’t have to share their “gory details,” about their private lives.)

3. Eat together! Research plays this one over and over. Loads of benefits!

4. Play together!

5. Keep family rituals.

6. Make your home a PEACEFUL place. Remember there are very few times when strong, emotional reactions are necessary. If you find your day is filled with yelling, swearing, etc…maybe it’s time to visit a mental health professional or a support group.

Mostly remember that we all need improvement; no one is perfect. Don’t forget that calling for assistance is a strength! In Indiana, folks can call The 211 number, for general social service calls, or 1-800-CHILDREN.

By: Carol Cochard Pool, MSW; Educator, PCAIN

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Protection from sun exposure is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow.

The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daylight savings time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time) are the most hazardous for UV exposure in the continental United States. UV rays are the greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America.

The centers for Disease Control recommends easy options for sun protection1—

■Seek shade, especially during midday hours.
■Wear clothing to protect exposed skin.
■Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
■Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
■Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.

You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you're outside—even when you're in the shade.

Loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection from the sun's UV rays. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one. Darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors.

If wearing this type of clothing isn't practical, at least try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.

For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.

If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using sunscreen with at least SPF 15, or by staying in the shade.

Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.

Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.

SunscreenThe sun's UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Put on sunscreen before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Don't forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back.

How sunscreen works. Most sun protection products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or call a doctor.

Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15.

Reapplication. Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours, and after you swim or do things that make you sweat.

Expiration date. Check the sunscreen's expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.

. Some make-up and lip balms contain some of the same chemicals used in sunscreens. If they do not have at least SPF 15, don't use them by themselves.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Today, May 3rd, is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. In fact, May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Families and communities need to insure that the emotional health needs of children are being met, and need to insure that their own emotional health needs are being cared for.

Often when we speak of mental health, people imagine extreme situations of mental illness or some type of detachment from reality. Although these types of situations occur, emotional issues are usually much less extreme, and positive mental health is something we should be practicing every day. Emotional issues can occur due to a sudden life change, like a death or some other type of loss, or they can be from some type of chemical imbalance. They can be short term, or in other situations they may linger. The bottom line is that mental health, just like physical health, is a huge spectrum on which many people may fall.

Take every opportunity to maintain your emotional health, just as you would (should) your physical health. Get plenty of sleep, enjoy food, but be sure to primarily eat meals that are well-balanced…this advice is especially true for children, as it will help them in maintaining a healthy weight, as well as assisting in healthy brain development.

Although it’s impossible to be positive all the time, maintaining a general positive outlook aids in stress management, and also is a wonderful trait to model for children. It is also beneficial for interpersonal relationships.

Keep children’s self-esteem at its peak. Children need to be loved and praised, and let them know often what their strengths are. Even when a child is in need of discipline, it can be done in such a way that it is teaching the child, not just punishing. That also aids the child in learning how to deal with adverse situations in a more appropriate manner.

Sometimes there are mental health issues that are more prolonged or serious. Professional guidance should be sought in those situations. There are wonderful therapies out there even for very young children. Mental health issues do not have the stigma they once held, and there are many resources available to assist both children and adults. It takes a great deal of strength to ask for help, and in the long run it will be beneficial to everyone in a family or community. For more information, please go to