Monday, February 23, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teen Health - Sexual Orientation

This topic is brought up frequently with parents today. It seems many teens have questions that parents need to be prepared to answer and more importantly, prepared to understand this sensitive subject. Without getting into religious beliefs, parents needs to recognize that kids today are more exposed to many subjects that were taboo years ago - generations ago! However, it doesn’t make them less important. I believe that parents need to take the time to try to understand all concepts of today’s generations, although it has probably been in previous times too - living in the past won’t help us today.

Source: KidsHealth

It’s a natural part of life to have sexual feelings. As people pass from childhood, through adolescence, to adulthood, their sexual feelings develop and change.

During the teen years, sexual feelings are awakened in new ways because of the hormonal and physical changes of puberty. These changes involve both the body and the mind, and teens tend to wonder about new — and often intense — sexual feelings.

It takes time for many people to understand who they are and who they’re becoming. Part of that understanding includes a person’s sexual feelings and attractions.

The term sexual orientation refers to the gender (that is, male or female) to which a person is attracted. There are several types of sexual orientation that are commonly described:

Heterosexual. People who are heterosexual are romantically and physically attracted to members of the opposite sex: Heterosexual males are attracted to females, and heterosexual females are attracted to males. Heterosexuals are sometimes called “straight.”
Homosexual. People who are homosexual are romantically and physically attracted to people of the same sex: Females who are attracted to other females are lesbian; males who are attracted to other males are often known as gay. (The term gay is sometimes also used to describe homosexual individuals of either gender.)
Bisexual. People who are bisexual are romantically and physically attracted to members of both sexes.
Teens — both boys and girls — often find themselves having sexual thoughts and attractions. For some, these feelings and thoughts can be intense — and even confusing or disturbing. That may be especially true for people who are having romantic or sexual thoughts about someone of the same gender. “What does that mean,” they might think. “Am I gay?”

Thinking sexually about both the same sex and the opposite sex is quite common as teens sort through their emerging sexual feelings. This type of imagining about people of the same or opposite sex doesn’t necessarily mean that a person fits into a particular type of sexual orientation.

Some teens may also experiment with sexual experiences, including those with members of the same sex, during the years they are exploring their own sexuality. These experiences, by themselves, do not necessarily mean that a teen is gay or straight.

Do People Choose Their Sexual Orientation?
Most medical professionals, including organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Psychological Association (APA), believe that sexual orientation involves a complex mixture of biology, psychology, and environmental factors. A person’s genes and inborn hormonal factors may play a role as well. These medical professionals believe that — in most cases — sexual orientation, whatever its causes, is not simply chosen.

Not everyone agrees. Some believe that individuals can choose who they are attracted to — and that people who are gay have chosen to be attracted to people of the same gender.

There are lots of opinions and stereotypes about sexual orientation. For example, having a more “feminine” appearance or interest does not mean that a teen boy is gay. And having a more “masculine” appearance doesn’t mean a girl is lesbian. As with most things, making assumptions just based on looks can lead to the wrong conclusion.

It’s likely that all the factors that result in someone’s sexual orientation are not yet completely understood. What is certain is that people, no matter their sexual orientation, want to feel understood, respected, and accepted — particularly by their family. That’s not always easy in every family.

What’s It Like for Gay Teens?
For teens who are gay or lesbian, it can feel like everyone is expected to be straight. Because of this, some gay and lesbian teens may feel different from their friends when the heterosexual people around them start talking about romantic feelings, dating, and sex. They may feel like they have to pretend to feel things that they don’t in order to fit. They might feel they need to deny who they are or that they have to hide an important part of themselves.

These feelings, plus fears of prejudice, can lead teens who aren’t straight to keep their sexual orientation secret, even from friends and family who might be supportive. Kids and teens who are gay are likely to face people who express stereotypes, prejudices, and even hate about homosexuality.

Some gay or lesbian teens tell a few accepting, supportive friends and family members about their sexual orientation. This is often called coming out. Many lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens who come out to their friends and families are fully accepted by them and their communities. They feel comfortable about being attracted to someone of the same gender and don’t feel particularly anxious about it.

But not everyone has the same feelings or good support systems. People who feel they need to hide who they are or who fear rejection, discrimination, or violence can be at greater risk for emotional problems like anxiety and depression.

Some gay teens without support systems can be at higher risk than heterosexual teens for dropping out of school, living on the streets, using alcohol and drugs, and even in some cases for attempting to harm themselves.

These difficulties are thought to happen more frequently not directly because they are gay, but because gay and lesbian people are more likely to be misunderstood, socially isolated, or mistreated because of their sexual orientation.

This doesn’t happen to all gay teens, of course. Many gay and lesbian teens and their families have no more difficulties during the teen years than anyone else.

The Importance of Talking
No matter what someone’s sexual orientation is, learning about sexuality and relationships can be difficult for a teen to come to terms with. It can help a teen to talk to someone about the confusing feelings that go with growing up, whether it’s a parent, another family member, a close friend or sibling, or a school counselor. It’s not always easy for a teen to find somebody to talk to, but many of them find that confiding in someone they trust and feel close to, even if they’re not completely sure how that person will react, turns out to be a positive experience.

In many communities, resources such as youth groups composed of teens who are facing similar issues can provide opportunities for people to talk to others who understand. Psychologists, psychiatrists, family doctors, and trained counselors can help teens cope — confidentially and privately — with the difficult feelings that go with their developing sexuality. These experts can also help teens to find ways to deal with any peer pressure, harassment, and bullying they may face. They can also help parents manage any complicated feelings they may be having as they come to terms with their teen’s sexuality.

Whether gay, straight, bisexual, or just not sure, almost all teens have questions about reaching physical maturity and about sexual health (for example, avoiding sexually transmitted diseases). Because these can be difficult topics, it’s especially important for gay and lesbian teens to find someone knowledgeable who they can trust and confide in.

Parents can help by becoming more knowledgeable about issues of sexuality — and learning to be more comfortable discussing them. Parents also can help their teen gain access to a doctor or health professional who will provide reliable health advice.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sue Scheff: Power Moms Unite

I love stumbling over great new parenting websites - and what a name - Power Moms Unite - Founder, Candace McLane offer a wide variety of articles, thoughts, tips, parenting resources and more on ADHD. As a mother of an ADHD son, I really enjoy this site. Check her Blog out too - great up to date info!

Power Moms are moms working to successfully balance the needs of child, family, and self. Some work outside the home, balancing a career with the needs of their child, family and personal self. Other moms are working from home, managing families while managing a small home-based business or managing large families and a homeschool. There are a wide range of us- all power moms- looking to do our best at our many hats as mom- be that nuturer, coach, educator, cheerleader, psychologist, disciplinarian, party arranger, role-model, etc. The roles are vast and numerous, the balance often difficult to strike. This site hopes to empower these moms by providing timely, valuable and informative resources for celebrating family life and successfully managing ADHD.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sue Scheff - Teen Drinking

Are you concerned about your teen or tween drinking? Do you smell alcohol on their breathe? Maybe they experimented for the first time - maybe they will get really sick and promise never again. Or maybe they really enjoyed it! Parents need to step up and educate their pre-teens and teens of the dangers of alcoholism, especially if there is a family member that suffers from this. Many believe this is a genetic disease, but I encourage all parents to whether this runs in the family or not, to be aware of this peer pressure. Much of this substance abuse can be started by peer pressure - a desire to fit in. To be cool. Well, be a cool parent and learn about this and talk to your kids about it before it becomes a problem.

Teens Don’t Just Drink. They Drink to Excess.

More than 10 percent of eighth graders, 22 percent of sophomores, and 26 percent of seniors report recent binge drinking (5+ drinks on the same occasion).

Statistics show that the majority of current teen drinkers got drunk in the previous month. That includes 54 percent of the high school sophomores who drink and 65 percent of the high school seniors who drink.

Reducing underage drinking can reduce drinking-related harm.

Brain Development and Alcohol Abuse

Research indicates that the human brain continues to develop into a person’s early 20’s, and that exposure of the developing brain to alcohol may have long-lasting effects on intellectual capabilities and may increase the likelihood of alcohol addiction.

The age when drinking starts affects future drinking problems. For each year that the start of drinking is delayed, the risk of later alcohol dependence is reduced by 14 percent.
Drinking and Driving

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 20. About 1,900 people under 21 die every year from car crashes involving underage drinking.
Young people are more susceptible to alcohol-induced impairment of their driving skills. Drinking drivers aged 16 to 20 are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as drinking drivers who are 21 or older.


Alcohol use interacts with conditions like depression and stress, and contributes to an estimated 300 teen suicides a year.

High school students who drink are twice as likely to have seriously considered attempting suicide, as compared to nondrinkers. High school students who binge drink are four times as likely to have attempted suicide, as compared to nondrinkers.

Sexual Behavior

Current teen drinkers are more than twice as likely to have had sexual intercourse within the past three months than teens who don’t drink.

Higher drinking levels increase the likelihood of sexual activity.

Adolescents who drink are more likely to engage in risky sexual activities, like having sex with someone they don’t know or failing to use birth control.

Other Risks

Teens who drink alcohol are more likely than nondrinkers to smoke marijuana, use inhalants, or carry a weapon.

Binge drinking substantially increases the likelihood of these activities.

Academic Performance

A government study published in 2007 shows a relationship between binge drinking and grades. Approximately two-thirds of students with “mostly A’s” are non-drinkers, while nearly half of the students with “mostly D’s and F’s” report binge drinking. It is not clear, however, whether academic failure leads to drinking, or vice versa.

For further information on the risks of adolescent alcohol use, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Don’t serve alcohol to teens.

It’s unsafe. It’s illegal. It’s irresponsible.