Tag: teenagers

Body Image and Eating Disorders – All Things Tweens & Teens

Encouraging Positive Body Image

Having a positive body image is defined as being confident and happy in your own skin. A negative body image, however, is feeling unhappy with the way you look, whether it is your size, shape, height or general appearance. Having a positive image of your body is important as it will raise overall self-esteem and mental health.

It can be influenced by a number of factors, including family environment, bullying, disability, social media and more. During puberty, teens will go through a lot of changes as well that can change their body image. As the parent, you have an influence. Because of this, you can help by talking and listening to your teen, and being a positive body image role model.

Eating Disorders and Your Teen

Eating Disorders is an umbrella term for a group of mental health disorders. They are related to persistent negative eating behaviours, such as restricting food intake, forcibly throwing up or binge eating. Eating Disorders can affect anyone, including boys. They are not a cry for attention; they have the highest mortality rate, and the symptoms should be taken very seriously.

Some signs and symptoms of eating disorders include skipping meals, an excessive focus on food, complaining about being fat, dieting, binge eating, excessive exercising and going to the bathroom right after or during meals. The exact cause of eating disorders is unknown. But, they may be due to societal pressure or genetic factors.

Things that may help include encouraging healthy eating habits from a young age, discussing media messaging, fostering self-esteem and if needed, teaming up with your teen’s doctor to seek help. While these conversations can be difficult, remind your teen that they are not alone. Always keep communication lines open.

 

Read more PakMag Tweens and Teens blogs here. 

 

 

 

Hooked on Dopamine – The ‘Feel-Good’ Neurotransmitter

The worlds brands and tech creators spend literally billions of dollars trying to get your attention.

We are the “Attention Generation”. Dopamine plays a role in how they get our attention. But what is Dopamine and how does this chemical work in our bodies?

Nearly all pleasurable experiences involve the release of dopamine. Having a good meal, exercising, shopping and even drugs, gambling, gaming and getting a notification that someone has liked your post on Facebook.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter made in the brain. Basically, it acts as a chemical messenger between neurons, and your brain releases this ‘feel-good’ chemical when it is expecting a reward. It determines whether we want to do something again. Dopamine isn’t acting alone. It works with other neurotransmitters and hormones, such as serotonin and adrenaline. 

The right amount of dopamine usually goes along with a pretty good mood. It’s ideal for learning, planning, and productivity giving you feelings of focus, motivation, happiness, and alertness. Low dopamine however is one reason why you can have trouble concentrating, poor coordination, and low motivation.

When our body is experiencing pleasure, it responds by releasing dopamine. This release causes your brain to focus more of its attention on the experience and it works out pathways to ensure it receives this feel good chemical again. Dopamine activates your brain’s reward centre. When the brain picks up that it may soon receive a reward, whether that reward be food, or likes on social media- a flash of dopamine zaps that reward pathway. Then you get another hit when you get the perceived reward.

For example, suppose your “go-to” comfort food is a bar of chocolate. Your brain may increase dopamine when you see chocolate in advertising, spot it in the pantry, you see someone eating it, or even if you think about it or get a waft of it. When you eat it, another flood of dopamine acts to reinforce this craving and focuses on satisfying it in the future.

It’s a cycle of motivation, reward, and reinforcement that causes us to seek, desire, and expect certain outcomes.

Now imagine that you’ve been longing for that hidden chocolate bar all day, but you discover when you get home that someone in your family ate it. Your disappointment might lower your dopamine level and dampen your mood. It might also intensify your desire for chocolate, making you want it even more (and send someone to the store!).

This can also happen when we post something on social media. We expect some likes and comments and we constantly check and get a dopamine hit if it’s going well. If it’s not, then that can cause internal conflict and lower mood feelings.

While dopamine isn’t the sole cause of addiction, its motivational properties are thought to play a role in addiction.

Experts evaluate something’s potential to cause addiction by looking at the speed, intensity, and reliability of the dopamine release it causes in your brain. It doesn’t take long for your brain to associate certain behaviours or substances with a rush of dopamine. That’s why people can get addicted to drugs, overeating, gambling, gaming, alcohol, caffeine and even exercise.

Addictive substances and behaviours can cause dopamine levels to spike, and over a long period of time, sometimes the brain weakens or eliminates receptors built to respond to dopamine which leads to us needing more of the drug, substance or activity to elicit the same amount of dopamine. This can steadily lead to us losing interest and needing something more exciting to take its place (for and extreme example; those that start out on marijuana can end up on ice).

That is why our phones are becoming an issue for many of us, and why we can easily get addicted to watching a show or playing a video game. Digital technologies, such as social networks, online shopping, and games, use a set of persuasive and motivational techniques to keep users returning. This is why we need to be acutely aware that technology in particular, is built to keep us hooked.

Notifications, responses and rewards are ruling our lives because this attention is addictive. Gaming creators call this the “compulsion loop”.

The Science Behind it?

Every time someone reacts to something you have done online, or you react positively to something someone else has done online, you get a dopamine hit. Dopamine is an addictive pleasure chemical, it’s like a hug for the brain. Who doesn’t want more pleasure chemicals and hugs? The negative though is that the opposite also occurs if we don’t get the attention we desire:

  • Decreased self-esteem/eating disorders and body dysmorphia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression/depressive symptoms
  • Feeling a lack of connection
  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Deterioration in concentration and other symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Researchers have found that addicted players of video games, regardless of gender, were more anxious and depressed, and showed poorer impulse control and cognitive functioning than gamers who were not addicted. Poor impulse control and poor cognitive functioning are risk factors for various kinds of addiction, so those with pre-existing depression, anxiety or under high levels of stress need to be mindful of this.

The brain, according to Dr Win Wenger, can consciously process 126 bits of information per second. However, the brain receives 10 million bits of information per second. That means we can only focus on 1/80,000 of the data our brain is getting.

Our brain loves to build patterns, and even though the brain makes up 2 percent of our bodies mass, it uses 20% of our body’s energy. So, if your brain has been in overdrive, it’s no wonder we can feel exhausted. This is where techniques like meditation, mindfulness, and learning ways to give our brains a rest and reset is really important.

Dopamine is the reward centre in our brains, and the challenging thing for 21st century parents in our high-tech society is our potential addiction to constant rewards, and gratification. Understanding how dopamine works is a great start to teaching our children that not everything in their lives can be gamified and rewarded, and we need to find lots of ways to get these lovely dopamine hits naturally.

Did you know dopamine is involved in many body functions. These include:

  • blood flow
  • digestion
  • executive functioning
  • heart and kidney function
  • memory and focus
  • mood and emotions
  • motor control
  • pain processing
  • pancreatic function and insulin regulation
  • pleasure and reward seeking behaviour
  • sleep
  • stress response

 

Learn more about Bree James here and read more of her PakMag blogs here.  

 

 

 

The Dangers of Challenges and Dares for Teenagers

If I had a dollar for every parent who has said in frustration to their teen “just because your friend dared you to do it – doesn’t mean you should have done it. I didn’t raise you to be a sheep!” then I’d be a VERY rich woman.

And with teens now having connections, not just with friends in their immediate circle, but access to the millions of teenagers on social media around the globe, the “dare culture” and the “world social media challenges” are even more worrisome for parents.

Challenges and Dares

It may not make any sense to an adult, but teens have been engaging in a variety of modern-day dares and challenges. Some are much more dangerous than others. Worrying challenges include the laundry pod challenge, the outlet challenge and the cinnamon challenge. Here’s a brief overview:

As parents, we need to be particularly careful to keep poisonous substances out of young children’s reach. A study in Paediatrics noted that 92% of children ingesting laundry detergent packets between 2012-2017 were under six years of age. More recently, it’s not just young children ingesting laundry liquid that parents need to be worried about. In fact, an increased number of older children are swallowing laundry pods in response to the Tide pod challenge – making teens very unwell!

The outlet challenge is where the plug of the phone charger is inserted into an electric socket. A coin is then inserted between the plug and the socket. This can not only result in a fire but it can also electrocute the person completing the challenge.

The cinnamon challenge is a seemingly harmless challenge. It involves teens filming themselves eating a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without water. However, an article in the American Academy of Paediatrics noted that short-term harms included choking, breathing cinnamon into the lungs and lung damage. Longer term there can be lasting lesions, scarring and inflammation of the airway.

Given the potential for harm, why do teenagers take on these challenges?

Surviving the Teenage Years

Parents often talk about “surviving the teen years” when their sweet young child becomes unrecognisable as an unruly, disrespectful and unmanageable teenager. I’ve heard parents say their children went to the “dark side” during the teens years. Thankfully, most also said that their teenagers eventually came back. However, parents need to take measures to help their children stay safe and survive the teen years unharmed.

The Dangerous Teen Years

Did you know that the teenage years are the most dangerous period of life for human beings? Risk taking is at its most extreme in the adolescent years. Teenagers not only respond to dares and challenges but also engage in other dangerous behaviours including:

  • Experimentation with drugs
  • Binge drinking
  • Attempted suicide
  • Self-harm
  • Reckless driving
  • Unsafe sex

And that’s just to name a few.

Why are Teens so Reckless?

While teens might look like young adults, and even be able to reason like young adults – they are far from being responsible adults. In fact, teen brains are “wired for risk taking” during the adolescent years.

Now, instead of confusing you with a whole lot of brain science, below are the simplified key parts so that you can get a general sense of what is going on inside your teenager’s head.

Teenage Brain – Really Simplified

In teenagers, the part of the brain that experiences emotions, motivation and pleasure is heightened – everything feels so good. This drives teens to seek pleasure and want to experience the euphoric “high” of risk-taking.

However, the “thinking” part of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex), the part that manages impulse control, reasoning, planning and considering consequences, is not fully developed until the early- to mid-twenties for girls and the mid- to late- twenties for boys.

The adolescent brain drives teens to follow their impulses without the ability to curb those impulses and think things through – especially when they are with their friends. Teens feel an intense need to be accepted by their peers, which is often why they engage in risky behaviours like dares and challenges.

Laurence Steinberg PhD, an expert on adolescents, likens teenagers to a “super-charged car with no breaks!” Steinberg has authored numerous articles and books about teenagers including ‘Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence‘, a great resource for parents wanting to navigate the teens years successfully.

What Can Parents do to Keep Teens Safe?

There’s no “one” easy solution for parents and children to safety navigate the teen years. However, while there is no magic solution, we know from experience and the research of Steinberg and others that parents can make a significant positive difference in the lives of their teenagers by:

Focusing on maintaining a strong and open relationship with their teen. Making time to ask about their day and how life is going. Listening to understand, rather than judge, criticise and reprimand.

Understanding teenage brain development and that they aren’t fully able to manage their emotions, make responsible adult decisions. They also can’t fully foresee negative consequences.

Being empathetic, trying to feel what teens are feeling and experiencing – not from an adult perspective but a teenager’s view of the world. Repeat back what they say, to show you were listening and understand. Making it safe to talk to you about anything without being shamed or punished means they are less likely to hide things from you.

Being a good sounding board for teens to test their ideas. Offering options rather than telling them what to do and offering your solutions. We all know that teens don’t take being told what to do well and will probably do the opposite!

Being involved in your teen’s life but NOT micro-managing. Knowing where your teen is and who they’re with. While children are in your care, they will always need some guidance on expectations, limits and boundaries.

Finally, when it comes to dares and challenges, be clear that it’s about keeping your teen safe. Focus on HOW challenges are dangerous and WHY you have limits and expectations. Teens are more likely to comply when they don’t feel like you’re exerting control and want to stop their fun.

Most of all, give your teen lots of LOVE and endless amounts of PATIENCE (a sense of humour helps too). Rest assured, one day, your teen’s brain will mature and they will return from the “dark side”!

 

Visit Dr Rosina’s website here

Read more PakMag Tweens and Teens blogs here and Parenting blogs here. 

 

 

 

Parent Guides Helping to Start Important Family Conversations

Parents are facing a variety of new challenges when it comes to supporting their teens with certain issues. Social media, new drugs and more are just some of the risks that come with being a teenager these days. Parents have the somewhat tricky task of talking to them about it. The Parent Guides, run by Eileen Berry,  are helping to solve this problem by informing parents about drugs, sex, social media, mental health and more. 

The Parent Guides

The guides present up-to-date research and expert advice that tackles difficult issues. They can help you with the conversations that need to be had. David Corduff, grandfather of seven, volunteer, Beyond Blue Speaker and an ambassador for Parent Guides, recognises the need for parents to have help. They need this for not only understanding this fast-changing world but how to approach their own teenagers about the topics. “Parents need as much support and information as possible to be there for their children when life challenges occur,” David says.

“Life is always full of challenges,” David says. “It is our response to these challenges that determines whether the outcomes are good or not so good. In the critical parent/child relationship, it is very important to have resources such as the Parent Guides available, to underpin a supportive and potentially positive outcome.” 

The guides focus on providing the straightforward information that parents need without dancing around the topics or using out-dated language. “They are not ‘preachy’ and do not seek to offer solutions as such. They lead the way as a tool to initiate conversations between parents and children.”

Communication is the biggest part of equipping our children with the knowledge they need, knowledge on topics that can be tricky to understand. Honest and open conversations with your teenagers help them thrive when it comes to young adulthood. They’re at a time in their life where they can’t regulate their emotions as well as an adult. Teenagers are also more prone to risk taking. Yet, they are making decisions that will have real consequences. Keeping them informed on the facts while still being there for support is important. You can’t make their decisions for their whole life, but you can give them the information that they need to make the right decisions on their own.

Click here to find the Parent Guides.

All Things Tweens & Teens – PakMag May 2020

Why Lie?

Teenagers lie – it’s just a part of adolescence. In fact, they lie more than any other age group, with up to 96 per cent of adolescents having told a lie to their parents at some point. This increase in dishonesty may be due to changes in the brain.

So, why do teenagers lie? Generally speaking, most teens will lie to get out of trouble, to protect their privacy, as a way to protect others’ feelings because they believe their parents’ rules are unfair or to establish their independence. Don’t worry parents, it’s all normal. Plus, as they enter early adulthood, emotional regulation and impulse control will improve, meaning they will lie less.

Life After High School

We all go to school for a minimum of 12 years. We then become adults and suddenly, our lives are in our own hands – which is as exciting as it is terrifying.

One of the most important tasks you’ll ever do as a parent is preparing your teen for life after high school. There are a number of options for your teen once they finish Year 12, including going into further study (university or TAFE), going straight into work (such as an apprenticeship or traineeship), or taking some time off.

Have a sit down with your teenager and chat about what they’d like to do after school. It’s okay to bring up your concerns, but ultimately, be supportive of their decisions. Answer any questions that may come up, and offer to sit with them to help them on their path – whether that means applying to universities or writing resumes

 

My Son Plays a Lot of Video Games. How Could This Affect His Hands?

Helping Hands – Hand, Wrist & Arm Clinic

Dear Cassandra, My son plays a lot of video games. How could this affect his hands?

The repetitive nature of finger and thumb movements on keyboards, joysticks and hand held controllers can lead to fatigue, pain and even inflammation of tissues. Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) and cumulative trauma can be the end result if not picked up early. Unfortunately this means the pain continues after the consoles have been put away. In turn this can impact other activities and disrupt sleep. But, on a positive note, it is rare for children to present with RSI. In general, good habits and moderation will certainly ensure your son doesn’t have more serious problems once he hits his teens.

Call Helping Hands on 4755 2337

Learn more about body awareness when it comes to device usage: