Tag: coronavirus

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on April 29, 2021, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine.  

Question: I recently found out my 17-year-old is smoking marijuana. He said he does it to help with anxiety and that he finds a lot of relief in it. I don’t love the idea at all, but I also feel powerless to stop him. How can I talk to him about the risks but also be supportive if I lose this battle?

Answer: This is a difficult time for parents. At 17, your son is on the cusp of becoming a legal adult. This can give teens a feeling of not needing guidance or permission. Passing the milestone of 18 will not suddenly make him mature enough to all make decisions that are in his best interest. However, if your son is just starting to use at 17, studies show he is less at risk than a teen who starts at a young age, who smokes/vapes for years. A University of Montreal study says that the more teenagers delay smoking marijuana (cannabis) until they are older, the better it is for their brains, but there may be little ill effect if they start after age 17. That may give you some comfort. However, the human brain takes 26 years to reach full development so introducing substances does have risks when it comes to full potential.

That being said, I find a troubling issue in your question. What is causing the anxiety at age 17 for him to self-medicate with marijuana to relieve it? Many people have found cannabis calming, yet at seventeen or any age really, understanding the underlying cause of the anxiety is key. There are many non-drug ways of treating anxiety worth exploring.

Teens have lots of reasons to feel anxious and the pandemic has increased this anxiety. Life looks uncertain, relationships and future plans may be on hold, decreased social activity can add to general unsettledness and hopelessness. Under normal times, this age is challenging—adult responsibilities and major life decisions loom and teens question themselves. They are also developmentally pulling away from parental influences which can sometimes cause problems at home.

I commend you for wanting to address his marijuana use, but an overall conversation needs to include healthy coping and understanding of what is contributing to his anxiety. Living with anxiety can be a lifelong struggle and he should seek help at an early age to prevent this. Assure him that he does not have to talk to you about it, but a counselor might be a great help to him. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based successful treatment for anxiety which many therapists use in their work.

I urge you to do more research to give you what you need for the discussion. For parents with younger children, talking about marijuana and substance abuse needs to happen before they start using and should be an ongoing conversation. Here are some talking points (taken from the references below) for you and other parents to begin a conversation about marijuana use.

Marijuana can affect driving. It is extremely important that teens who drive understand how dangerous driving under the influence of marijuana can be. Reaction time and judgment can be impaired coupled with inexperience behind the wheel.

Importantly, marijuana is illegal. The fact that many states have legalized recreational marijuana has given a lot of young people the idea that it is legal and okay for them to use. It is not. Recreational marijuana is only legal for adults age 21 and older. Legal trouble can be incurred by a teen for possession and/or dealing.

Marijuana is not good for teen brains. Studies have shown that early marijuana use (16 and younger) causes problems with judgment, planning, and decision-making that may lead to risky behaviors. Some studies show problems with memory, motivation, and academic performance. Not the best situation with which to step into adulthood. The teens who may have a predisposition (possible family history) to mental illness and/or addiction may find themselves struggling with depression, psychosis, or further substance use.

There are very real health reasons not to smoke/vape cannabis. A 2017 study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine states that teens who vape are twice as likely to experience respiratory problems along with coughs, bronchitis, congestion, and phlegm than peers who do not vape.

Lastly, I like that you want to have a conversation with your son about marijuana. This is hard for parents who are often confused themselves or have mixed messages on the subject. I also like that you want to be supportive no matter the outcome. It is a conversation worth having and it will show your love for him.

Here is further information about cannabis use in teens and about anxiety:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Anxiety-Disorders.aspx
https://www.verywellmind.com/marijuana-use-by-teens-statistics-2610207
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170125214606.htm#:~:text=2,Delaying%20marijuana%20smoking%20to%20age%2017%20cuts,teens’%20brains%2C%20new%20study%20suggests&text=Summary%3A,they’re%20less%20at%20risk.

Click to access evidence-brief-youth-13-17-e.pdf

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 21, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  Phew. I am having a hard enough time getting through remote schooling with my kids these past months and now I am hearing concerns that kids may not be back in school this fall or, if they are, they will be wearing masks, distancing, and maybe even going only a few days a week. My kids want to be back to school in the fall. They are hearing the rumors too. They are asking questions. How do I address these with them–not knowing what the new school year will bring? I don’t want to say they will be back when they may not be. I also don’t want to have them fearing the worst all summer. What’s the best way to approach this uncertainty?

Answer: Although our children think we do, we do not have any control over what will happen in the future. We cannot make it all better or promise that life will return to normal. Uncertainty is hard for all of us. Take heart.  Although this is a very difficult experience, there are real-life lessons here for all of our kids, which will serve them well throughout adulthood. Remember the saying, “It is not the number of times you get knocked down that is important, it the number of times you get back up.”  Life is full of uncertainty and change. Helping your kids learn to accept this with grace (as much as that is possible in children) is so important.  

Here is what might help: 

Offer HOPE: Let your kids know that it is the job of the schools, communities and our government to figure out how to get the students back to school safely. Many people are working on it. It may look different, but a plan will be made. They will soon know what it will look like, and together you will all work on making it work.

Offer VALIDATION: We know that being with friends is a really important part of school. Acknowledge for them that you understand it is hard not to know, and that it is also hard for you. Encourage them to talk about their fears and worries. Talk about this together. This is a way to validate what they are feeling and that you are hearing them, you understand and are feeling it, too. This amazingly lightens the mood.

REFRAME: If you can, reframe the way they, and you, are thinking about this. They are experiencing something extraordinary right now. We are all learning more about science, technology, our interconnectedness and our own ability to be resilient. Because of this pandemic, they are going to be part of a generation that takes big leaps forward in their ability to problem-solve and adapt. As horrible as this virus has been, we have learned so much about ourselves. Encourage them to think about what they are missing and why is it important to them. It can offer a new appreciation.

REDIRECT: Encourage them to take another path in action and thinking. When the worries start to take over, have them focus just on today—what can make today a good day, like building a fairy house or making things from found objects, for example. Check out websites for these kinds of activities together. Foster their compassion. Focusing on the needs of others and getting out of our own heads is the best way to feel better (packing boxes at a food bank, walking the neighbor’s dog, saving the Earth by picking up litter or planting a tree, or reaching out to Facetime with a grandparent).

Try this “formula” I have given you (hope, validation, reframe, and redirect). Hopefully, you will soon have clearer answers to give. Try this on yourself, too. 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on April 27th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

We don’t like things that are not clear and understandable. We don’t like feeling uncertain and lacking control; uncertainty can lead to feelings of insecurity. In the best of times, parenting is about helping kids feel secure, so they grow up hopeful and happy. This is tough to do when parents themselves are struggling during this time.

Although we all are troubled by living with the virus threat, parents and caregivers have the important job of helping their children and teens understand and follow the current health restrictions, while keeping them hopeful and secure.

Some parents recently shared with me how they have tried to help their children deal with the changes caused by the Coronavirus restrictions. Their comments may be helpful to you:

Explain the Coronavirus in age-appropriate ways. For young ones, answer what is asked. Don’t supply more information than they need. Limit their exposure to media coverage. They will be curious and need to process it in pieces. One grandmother, a social worker, assured, “Don’t be alarmed if their play includes the virus. This is normal and a good way for you to identify their concerns.”

Welcome the expression of emotion. Expressing emotion is healthy at any age. If it is safe to do so, don’t try to quiet it, squash it or make it better. Let it come out in a variety of ways. There is time to talk it over after the expressing is done. Sometimes we rush to “fix it” but really we just need to listen. When it was announced the school would not reopen, one mom of a high school senior watched her daughter grieve the loss of her senior year activities—prom, graduation and such. Her daughter wrote a 3-page paper called “Senior Year Ruined” she sent it to her English teacher, who then reached out to talk with her. This expressing of how she felt ended up helping both him and her. This daughter is also learning to bake, and decorated her cake creation with “R.I.P. (Rest in Peace) Senior Year.”

Try to have a routine. A regular school day runs on routine. Children get comfortable with this. Establish a schedule that your child can follow at least on weekdays. One mom who has a high school junior says, “We set up a daily schedule. Each day is a different subject for at least 1 hour, she completes that first, and then 1 hour of something educational but fun. She also has every other day for either practicing dancing or Girl Scout “homework”.

Let kids participate in the planning of the day. This may limit battles over assignments that they resist and gives them some power. Remember, having some control helps kids feel secure.

Knowing what to expect also helps kids feel secure. Another mom said, “Setting-up projects the night before is really important to support the kids with knowing what is expected, and to assist with the day flowing, especially since I’m working from home.” She also found it is important to “keep the routine when co-parenting with kids going back and forth between two homes. When possible, mirror what is happening in both homes.”

Acknowledge the ‘now’ and focus on the future. A mom of a 16-year-old said that “cancellations of outdoor events have been a challenge to explain”—her son likes helping in the pit crew at races, and it is an important activity for him. “We simply talk with him, and acknowledge all of the feelings he has around it. We then talk about plans once the quarantine is lifted.” Another grandmother has a “post-virus bucket list” full of all the things the family will do when the cautions are lifted.

Security for your kids comes from some consistent routines, allowing the normal and healthy expression of emotions, giving them some power to make decisions, a positive future focus, and above all else, love. We are all in this together. We will find our way.

 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children, and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.” 

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