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Teenage Binge Drinking

Teenage Boys Drinking Beer at home
Teen Boys Binge Drinking Beer at Home

 

Why are teens turning up at Marin General after a night out with their friends? Because they’re escaping stress, having fun or trying to fit in, and they don’t know their limits.

Binge drinking to the point of becoming unconscious is a recent epidemic that’s escalating. Parents call me because their teen was taken to the hospital after blacking out during a slumber party where they had access to alcohol.

I’ve been a teen therapist for 20 years, and I’m stunned by the stories I hear. The combination of the internet, social and academic pressure and easy access to alcohol is putting teens over the edge. What’s a parent to do? Unfortunately, because experimentation is so common, it’s normalized. “Everyone’s doing it.” “I can’t find any friends who don’t drink.” These are statements I here from teens after a trip to the emergency room.

Things are different now. We can’t compare the drug and alcohol experimentation of today to previous decades. Today’s teens are driven in a way they haven’t been before. They’re growing up too fast through social media and are exposed to more than they can handle. In this competitive culture, their drug and alcohol use is “too much, too early, too often” as the Ross Valley Healthy Community Collaborative states in their educational brochure at www.rvhcc.com. They’re trying to keep up with their friends in every area, including how much they drink, and it’s killing them. We need to change this.

Parents can start by taking a “no tolerance” attitude. Underage drinking is illegal because teens can’t handle alcohol. They’re not physically, mentally or emotionally developed enough, and this is proven by recent brain science. Adolescents have enough impulse-control issues without adding a mind-altering substance to the mix. They’re looking to us for guidance and to keep them safe, even if they resist boundaries.

Even if they don’t admit it, being out of control is very scary for them. Girls confess to me that they use their strict parents as an excuse to not go to parties when friends try to coerce them. It’s important to make it easy for them to do the right thing. If they’re given the option, they’ll do what feels good in the moment and regret it later. This applies to other risk-taking behavior like sexual experimentation, which is much more likely to occur under the influence of alcohol.

It’s essential to know where your teen’s going, who they’re with and when they’re coming home so you can support them to be safe. Parents need to ensure they have responsible supervision during sleepovers because sometimes alcohol is available. Before agreeing to let your teen participate, call the friend’s parents and make sure this isn’t the case. Your teen will hate you in the moment but will thank you later. It shows them you care. You wouldn’t believe the stories I hear about girls sneaking out once the parents are asleep. If they’re drunk when they do this, it’s very dangerous – think cars, boys, drugs.

Speaking of cars, if you think your teen is using alcohol, don’t let them get their driver’s license. As a parent, you have leverage to provide positive motivation. Most of the teens I see after a visit to the emergency room don’t have their license yet. Parents can require a period of sobriety to show they’re ready for this responsibility. Remember, your teen has no life experience and is relying on yours. Let them see that you’re paying attention and taking their needs seriously.

Bottom line, binge drinking is a serious threat to your child’s health and well-being, and prevention is essential. Call us at Teen Solutions (415) 360-5445 to see how we can support you and your child. Sign the Parent Pledge against teen drinking and receive valuable tips for handling this important issue.

Lorraine Platt
Teen Solutions Therapy
(415) 360-5445
www.TeenSolutionsTherapy.com

Why We Love Nature

Three Friends on the Beach at Sunset - Teen Solutions
Sunset After Turtle Release in Nuevo Vallarta

 

Why We Love Nature – Spring Break 2017

There’s a theme to our vacations – NATURE! Whether we’re in Nuevo Vallarta swimming in the ocean or hiking in a national park, we’re out absorbing the negative ions. To have a break from screen time, our phones often stay at home. We leave behind the narrow focus of being in our heads and get into the expansive quality of being in our bodies.

Nothing supports this more than moving and breathing fresh air. A new place opens our minds and our experience of life expands. Being in the ocean or on top of a mountain gives us that momentary relief of being small in comparison to the vastness of nature. In this environment, problems fade and worries disappear.

Couple standing in front of rock arch in Arches National Park
Richard and Lorraine Platt – Arches Natl. Park

 

This is the opposite of being on phones or computers where it’s all about heady information and what other people are doing. Teens especially need this. They’re so inundated with peer pressure and screen time. Unplugging from their culture frees them up to be themselves without gossip or Instagram postings.

Adventures in nature get us in touch with our emergent energy, that free-flowing creative force that gives a sense of meaning and fun. It inspires us to be more than our egos, incomes, grades, and how we dress. Being in nature actually resets our nervous system.

Family on Vacation in front of Resort
Fun for the Whole Family

 

What messages are you giving your teen about priorities and living a healthy life? If you’re stressed out and running around to survive, your teen will pick this up as a way of life. If you demonstrate a sense of trust that there’s enough time and money and that you’re in charge of your life, they’ll feel more confident and relaxed too.

Richard and I are always practicing this – slowing down, trusting, balancing the demands of daily life, which brings me back to nature. For those of us in Marin, hiking trails are easily accessible and even a short walk can make a huge difference. Get out there! Perhaps your teen will follow.

Sunset Scene over mountains
Twilight in Arches

 

Lorraine Platt
Teen Solutions Therapy
(415) 360-5445
www.TeenSolutionsTherapy.com

Mistakes – They Are Not What You Think

Many of us go to great lengths to avoid making mistakes, and feel ashamed when we do.  We forget that making a mistake is something we did and not who we are.  If we learn from them and make amends to others when necessary, they are valuable learning tools that can actually increase our level of confidence and connection.  Recovering from mistakes requires a sense of trust that we will be forgiven and loved even with our flaws.  This creates real relationships and a sense of acceptance and relaxation.

The perfectionist culture we live in today (especially in Marin County) puts tremendous stress on teens.  Often they are driven to participate in too many activities in order to compete with their peers for acceptance to the right college and don’t have time to rest, play or integrate what they’re learning.  While it’s positive for them to reach their full potential, balance is essential and teens need room to try different things to discover who they are.

Mistakes are unavoidable when taking risks in life.  If we’re not taking risks, we’re not fully alive and are playing it too safe.  Mistakes deserve celebration when we use them as an opportunity to learn and grow.  They can even bring people closer because they are honest.  Perfection is about hiding who we are to be accepted, but that artificial acceptance never feels like enough.  Deep down we know we’re human and fear rejection if someone finds out.  This is especially true for teens who desperately want to be accepted by their peers.  Mistakes are about revealing who we are, which can lead to greater understanding and acceptance.  This is the culture we want to create for our youth.

The only way to accept your teen’s mistakes is by accepting your own imperfection.  As a painter, I often avoid making mistakes.  I want to produce something pretty so I try to make my painting look a certain way.  Then I notice I’m all locked up and not having fun because I’m choosing to look good instead of trusting, creating and expressing myself.  I’m trying to control the outcome and the aliveness is lost.  This is what teens bring to their families; aliveness, unpredictability, and chaos.  In chaos theory, things are broken down so they can be rearranged at a higher level of consciousness.  If things are breaking down in your family due to your teen’s withdrawal or chaotic behavior, it’s an opportunity for the whole family to learn and grow and reconnect at a higher level.

Lorraine Platt
Teen Solutions Therapy
(415) 360-5445
www.TeenSolutionsTherapy.com


Lorraine Platt is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Marin County, Mill Valley, CA.  She co-founded Teen Solutions Therapy with her husband Richard Platt, LMFT. She specializes in mentoring teen girls and coaching parents.

Minimizing Teen Anxiety Through a Divorce

Blended families are common these days since the divorce rate in the U.S. is 50%. Many couples who get divorced already have children and then remarry. This creates a situation where teens are moving between two households, often with new siblings, where the rules in each home are different. This causes anxiety and confusion for teens and their parents, so here are some helpful guidelines to keep things easy during and after a divorce.

1.  Be Clear and Consistent. If things are similar between households and they know what to expect, it can reduce your child’s anxiety tremendously. Change causes stress, so try to keep routines the same. Consistency creates predictability which allows them to feel more secure so they can focus on school and other priorities. Pick your battles and come to an agreement with your former spouse about what’s most important for your child’s well being since you won’t agree on everything.

Continue reading “Minimizing Teen Anxiety Through a Divorce”

5 Ways to Support Your Introverted Daughter So She Can Shine

I work with a lot of smart, creative, and sensitive girls, and many of them are introverts. In terms of academic achievement, this is a great asset. Introverts are often studious, focused and mature for their age. Because they’re deep, reflective, and good listeners, they take in the world. While everyone else is talking, they’re absorbing, analyzing and making sense of everything.

However, in high school, being an introvert can be socially challenging. We live an extroverted world that promotes constant contact, with everyone being in touch through social media. This is overwhelming to an introvert who recharges by spending time alone. How does any of this pertain to you and your teen daughter?

Some of the Mom’s I work with are worried about their introverted daughters. “Will she make friends?” “Will she stand up for herself?” “Will she be okay?” or “Why won’t she talk to me?” (though all the Moms ask me this question!). Parents believe if they push their daughter to be involved in group activities, they will get more comfortable. This often backfires and makes them withdraw because they don’t feel accepted. Being an introvert is like being born with red hair – it’s in your DNA. Recent brain research confirms this.

5 Ways to Support Your Introverted Daughter

There’s a great book called The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World that sings the praises of your unique daughter and how she will shine when she feels understood. It also explains how and why introverts are different and, of course, what’s so great about them that most extroverts often miss.  No need to worry about her future, just focus on the useful ways to support her genius.

These tips can get you started:
Continue reading “5 Ways to Support Your Introverted Daughter So She Can Shine”

Moms: These 5 spot-on ways to connect with your son will keep him close (and make both of you happier)

The biggest complaint Richard Platt hears from boys: “My mom doesn’t understand me.”

What he hears from moms: “I can’t control him! I can’t talk to him! What do I do with him?”

(Full disclosure as a mom: I didn’t transcribe the above from my own real-life teen-son experience. Though I could have!)

Teen Photography” by Ursula Le Guin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The disconnect between mothers and their adolescent sons is rooted in a lot of common misconceptions parents have, says Platt, a family therapist and parenting coach in Mill Valley, CA, who specializes in boys ages 13 to 20. They’re not so much trying to pull away and separate from us as they are trying to figure out who they are as their own person.
teen boy

“What we see as ‘teenage rebellion’ is actually abnormal,” Platt told me. “We call it normal because there’s so much of it in our culture. Kids rebel because they’re pissed. They’re desperate for their parents to understand them rather than just react to their behaviors.”

So what should we know about our tween and teen sons? Platt has some ideas about mother-son communication that really work:

Continue reading “Moms: These 5 spot-on ways to connect with your son will keep him close (and make both of you happier)”

To help your teen plan for the future (gulp), maybe skip the lectures and pep talks. This works way better.

Do any of these parent-to-teen comments ring a bell?

“Have you done your homework yet?”
“You have to do better if you want to go to college.”
“You just have to try harder—do you know how much your tutor is costing us?”
“If you don’t get moving, you can forget about getting into a great school.”
“What do you want to be? You can be anything! You just have to go for it!”

I think I see a few hands going up…oops, starting with mine.

Continue reading “To help your teen plan for the future (gulp), maybe skip the lectures and pep talks. This works way better.”

What to do when you discover your teen is sexting. Hint: Skip the lecture.

You picked up your teen’s phone and saw some explicit sexting messages between, say, your son and his new girlfriend. What to do? Teen therapists Lorraine and Richard Platt offer these tips:

Don’t panic. It’s not an emergency. Before you do or say anything about your teenager sexting, make sure you have a game plan. Talk to your partner if you have one to think through what you want to say, and make sure you’re not reactive or fearful when you go to your son.

Continue reading “What to do when you discover your teen is sexting. Hint: Skip the lecture.”

What teen girls really need (more than cellphones). Plus a cry for help parents often miss.

Teens are the canary in the coal mine for what’s going on in a family. They’re full-on emotion and intuition. They don’t censor themselves, so they can be great teachers to all of us. Be curious about what they’re saying, even if it comes across in a harsh or dramatic way.

For instance, if your daughter says, “You never let me go anywhere. You don’t trust me,” ask yourself, “What’s true about this statement? Why don’t I trust her? Is it her friends? Did she lie to me?” Then figure out how to rebuild the trust. Her feelings usually point to something that needs attention.

Continue reading “What teen girls really need (more than cellphones). Plus a cry for help parents often miss.”

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