Teen Obesity: How Involved Should I Get In Tackling My Child’s Weight?

Teen Obesity: How Involved Should I Get In Tackling My Child’s Weight?

As an eating disorder therapist, I work with a lot of teenagers who struggle with body image and mental health issues related to food and eating. I’ve blogged about my own struggles with an eating disorder as well as factors that can contribute to disordered eating, like anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. A related topic that I feel isn’t talked about as much as it should be, however, is teen obesity. The scary truth is that teen obesity is up 28% since 1999 and is still on the rise. The reason this is such a severe problem is that teenagers who struggle with obesity also deal with a whole host of other health risk factors, like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as mental health risk factors.

As a parent, it’s difficult to know when to get involved and what the best way is to support your teenager who is struggling with weight. Sometimes it can feel like there’s a fine line between teaching your child to love their body and have self-acceptance while also emphasizing the importance of healthy eating habits. Talking to your child about their weight or their eating habits isn’t easy, but turning a blind eye could lead to severe long-term mental and physical health consequences. If this is something you are struggling with as a parent, know that you aren’t alone in this and there are a variety of resources that can help your entire family. For starters, nutritional counseling can go a long way. Sometimes it takes a certified expert — someone other than their parents — to get a teenager to open up and be receptive.

Another place you can turn is a wellness camp. Many people are turned off by the idea of sending their kid to a camp they believe is simply a “weight loss camp,” but I did a lot of research on the subject and have talked to a lot of people who have experienced firsthand how life-changing a wellness camp can be. Specifically, I was able to tour and meet with Tony and Dale Sparber, who founded Camp Pocono Trails, a New Image Camp. I actually first heard about the camp from my sister, who sent two of her children there who were struggling with weight, and they had an incredible experience. When I toured the camp, I was beyond impressed, and not just with the incredible facilities and program, but with the passion the staff had for what they do.

Wellness Camp for Teens, walking together to the campsite on the lake

A wellness camp like Camp Pocono Trails provides fun, engaging summertime activities while simultaneous teaching teenagers lifelong and transformative healthy habits. It’s important to find a camp that has a good balance of promoting health and wellness, instilling knowledge and letting teens have a social and rewarding summer experience. In terms of their health promotion, I was happy to learn that the camp steers completely away from diets or any kind of food deprivation that’s designed with strict weight loss goals in mind. Instead, campers learn how to lead a healthier life by making smart choices when it comes to food, understanding portion control and engaging in physical activity — while enjoying a spectacular private camp setting.

If you are looking for something transformative and know that your teenager needs to take a big step in jumpstarting a healthier lifestyle, I’d encourage you to check out a wellness camp for the summer. LW Wellness has decided to collaborate with Pocono Trails specifically, so that we can offer after-camp care to ensure consistency and maintenance of the new skills that are learned during the program. Remember that health is a lifelong journey that requires constant attention and reexamining as your lifestyle changes. Having the support of professionals, not just in the nutrition and fitness space, but also mental health counselors to guide your teen on their journey is incredibly vital.

Are you interested in continuing the conversation about teen obesity? We’d love to hear from you and answer any questions you might have about the best program or plan for your child who is struggling with weight. All teenagers are different and finding the right fit means everything to us at LW Wellness.

4 Mental Health Challenges Teenagers Face

4 Mental Health Challenges Teenagers Face and How a Therapist Can Help

4 Mental Health Challenges Teenagers Face and How a Therapist Can Help

Being a teenager these days is extremely challenging. As a therapist working with teenagers and a mom of two teenagers, I am aware of the many psychological issues that they face and the stress that this causes many parents. According to Mental Health America, the rates of depression among teens is increasing at an alarming rate. Each year, almost 5,000 young people between the ages of 15-24 take their own lives. In 2015, about 3 million teens ages 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 2 million reported experiencing depression that impairs their daily function. About 30% of girls and 20% of boys totaling 6.6 million teens have had an anxiety disorder according to data from the National Institute of Health. In the past 15 years of working with teenagers, I’ve noticed an increase in rates of depression and anxiety and requests from parents seeking mental health therapists for their teenagers. In the following article, I will discuss the four main mental health challenges that teenagers face with the hope that it will increase awareness of these issues that cause many of our teens to experience mental health illnesses. It’s also my hope that awareness will lead to action. In many cases, a mental health therapist can provide a teenager with the support they need to work through their struggles, but it’s difficult for a young person to recognize when they need help and even more difficult for them to ask for it.

Challenge # 1 Peer pressure

teenagers walking together in school

Primarily during middle school and high school, many teens feel very stressed because they are trying to be like their peers and fit in. This is nothing new, and I’m sure you can remember it from your own high school days. These pressures lead to teenagers dressing and behaving in ways that may surprise you as a parent or caregiver. Middle and high school teens are well known for forming cliques and groups that have their own norms and rules that people have to follow to fit in. Those who are not included feel a lot of pressure to be in certain groups so they may do things out of their comfort zone to fit in. Since the adolescent years are filled with teens struggling to define and discover who they are as a person, this pressure leads to feeling confused, stressed, and overwhelmed. Just because peer pressure is “normal,” it doesn’t meant that every teenager is going to be able to cope with it in healthy ways. For some, the pressure is too much and can lead to destructive behaviors.

One of the most prominent figures in psychology, Erik Erikson, proposed a psychosocial theory comprising of eight stages of development. I am not going to bore you with all the stages — although I think they are very interesting and can add great value to your knowledge as a parent, educator, or anyone who is interested in human development — but I want to give a basic overview as it relates to teenagers. Basically, during each stage, a person experiences a psychological crises, which could have a positive or a negative outcome for personality development. For the purposes of this article, I will jump right into the fifth stage that is relevant to adolescence.

During the fifth stage (ages 12-18), the adolescent searches for a sense of self and personal identity, through an intense exploration of personal value, beliefs, and goals. This is an important stage where teens are becoming more independent and begin to look at the future in terms of career, relationships, and families. They also have the desire to belong to a society and fit in. Erikson suggests that two identities are involved during this stage: The Sexual and the Occupational. (Yes, he is influenced by Freud for those of you who are familiar with Freud’s work). Erikson also claims that if adolescents are successful in this stage, it will lead to the virtue of fidelity, which involves being able to commit oneself to others on the basis of accepting others, even when there may be ideological differences. If adolescents fail to establish a sense of identity within society, this can lead to role confusion, which can result in identity crisis and most likely feelings of unhappiness. The good news for you as a parent or a caregiver is that while your child is going through whatever it is with relations to their peers, including negative feelings, stress, or anxiety, it all should somehow help him or her learn how to function in our society and grow into the person that they are meant to be. This might not make sense if you are currently a parent of an adolescent child, however.

During such an important stage, a mental health therapist can provide an outlet to process emotions. In addition, a mental health therapist has coping mechanisms and strategies that will help an adolescent deal with societal peer pressures.

Challenge # 2 Grades and school performance

teen experiencing mental health issues

Teens are under constant pressure to perform well academically while trying to become their own person and be independent of their parents. This pressure to succeed and the comparison to other students who might be doing better can lead to depression and other mental health issues. A study by NYU examined the top high school stresses of 128 private school students in 2015. The results showed that nearly half (49%) of all students reported feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis and 31% reported feeling somewhat stressed. Females reported significantly higher levels of stress than males related to grades, homework, and preparing for college. And 26% of participants reported symptoms of depression that were clinically significant.

Sometimes as parents, we don’t realize when we are part of the problem. Wanting your child to succeed academically is normal, but how do you know when you are adding too much pressure? It can be easy as an adult to be consumed with your own stress at work or with taking care of your family, and oftentimes we dismiss how much pressure our kids are under at school. A mental health therapist can help a teenager when the pressure gets to be too much.

Challenge #3 Physical and hormonal changes

The adolescent years are characterized by rapid physical and emotional changes that affect teens in different ways. This period is marked by increased attention to body image, sexuality, and acceptance that often leaves the teen feeling confused, stressed, and depressed. Teenagers are known for their “raging” hormones and drastic mood swings. If you are a parent of a teenager or if you are around teenagers in any capacity, then you must have noticed the mood fluctuations between excitement, anger, anxiety, and depression. Teenagers’ self-esteem is often affected by their appearance or how they might see themselves. The combination of your body changing so rapidly with peer pressure and the desire to fit in is a lot for someone to deal with.

Challenge #4 Family issues

All families experience varying degrees of stress at different times and for different reasons. Being a teenager is hard enough as it is, and when you add familial stresses such as divorce, illness, abuse, separation, merging of families, and financial struggles, it only makes the stresses greater. All these stresses can cause many mental and physical illnesses. Some examples of common triggers and types of stress include career stress, financial stress, personal health concerns, managing parenting responsibilities, and marital and relational stress, among others.

How Can a Mental Health Therapist Help Teens with these Issues?

Now that you are aware of some the biggest challenges that teens struggle with, you might wonder how mental health therapists can help them. A mental health therapist can help your teen learn how to better manage their stress, get more sleep, and make healthier choices. One of the best gifts that you can give your teen is to provide them with a safe space that they can share their thoughts and feelings so that they can reduce their stress and  anxiety and focus better on school and other important areas in their life. In this era of social media where both teens and parents spend so much of their time staring at screens, providing your teen with 45 minutes of quality talk time with a professional can help tremendously.

Many teens are struggling with issues related to control. A therapist can help them understand that their thoughts affect their feelings and behaviors. By explaining that concept and practicing this with teens using examples from their lives, the therapist can help redirect their thoughts to a healthier more productive place. Mental health therapists can work with teens individually, in groups, and with their families. While some teens benefit from individual attention, others might benefit from taking part in group therapy or getting support with the whole family. In some cases, teens might need to work with a therapists individually, in group, and with the family. For example, I am working with a 14-year-old who is struggling with bulimia, and at the same time, one of our family therapists is working with the whole family as well as the teen participating in group therapy with other teens who struggle with bulimia and binge eating.

If you are wondering about the length of treatment the answer is not always easy. Some teens might need to be in therapy on a regular basis as they benefit from speaking to a professional and need the guidance and support. Others can benefit from a shorter term therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy. Regardless of what you might think your teen needs in terms of the length of the time, it is paramount that you know that it takes anywhere from 12-30 weeks to change a behaviors So if you start working with a mental health therapist, you have to make a commitment to yourself and to your therapist in order to see a change in your behavior. If you are not sure, you can always get another professional opinion, but whatever you decide, you must know that it takes times and commitment for your teen to see a change in behaviors.

It is also important to know that while your teen is the one who will be going to therapy, parents play a very big role in the psychological treatment. When your teen is displaying a challenging behavior, parents often need to take an active role and be just as committed in working in collaboration with the therapist and the teen for best results. Furthermore, the therapist can provide parents with techniques and ongoing support to help them with their teen. For example, if the teen is working on anxiety related to his/her parents constantly fighting and screaming, then the therapist might provide the parents with some skills and tools that might help them change the behavior that causes the teen anxiety.

Some therapists will include some less orthodox ways of working with teens, like getting out of the office and doing some activities that can encourage the teen to open up and feel more connected to the therapist. I once worked with a teen who always worried about not looking proper and if she didn’t have time to fix her hair or put makeup on, she would get stressed and depressed. After spending a month with her in my Fifth Avenue office, I realized that she needed something different. So I decided for our next session we would meet at Central Park and spend the time walking around in super casual clothes. I wasn’t sure if my client was going to actually listen and show up casual, but I promised her that I would also be super casual and wear my sweatpants and hair back without makeup. Of course my client stared at me in disbelief, but our next session in the park was spent practicing mindfulness. It was one of her best sessions yet. After that, she said that she felt the most connected to me and that she was able to see me in a different light and be more open and honest. My point is, with teens and adults too sometimes, we have to think outside the box and come up with creative ideas to help and support them. If you or anyone you know has a teenager who is in need of guidance or support, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!

Top 5 Reasons Why You Need A Life Coach

Top 5 Reasons Why You Need a Life Coach

Has the thought, “I need a life coach” ever crossed your mind? Are you not sure you need one, but still feeling like you need help of some kind? Maybe someone recommended that you get a life coach, but you are skeptical? Before you write the idea off, let’s first talk about what a life coach is.

A life coach, also called a personal development coach, is someone who counsels clients on anything from career obstacles to personal challenges. But a life coach isn’t just anyone off the street. Personal life coaches are certified professionals whose job it is to equip you with the tools you need to succeed in whatever areas in which you are struggling. The International Coach Federation (IFC) is an organization dedicated to the advancement of coaching throughout the world. It is a highly respected organization that certifies life coaches. The organization is dedicated to making coaching “an integral part of society.” While it is not the only certification program for life coaches, it is one of the most reputable. The takeaway, though, is that coaching has rapidly evolved into a structured, nuanced profession, and the people who go through the certification process are highly trained and qualified. It’s a profession that is regulated, so you can look up a potential coach’s qualifications, as well.

At the end of the day, asking for help and leaning on the support of professionals is a true sign of strength, not weakness. In fact, there are a lot of reputable organizations who make use of some form of “coaching” for their team members. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) did a study in 2009 of the professional coaching industry. Of the organizations surveyed, 90% reported using coaching. What’s even more interesting is that even as the economy took a hit, 70% reported continuing and even increasing their investment in coaching for their teams — proving many businesses feel like their ROI for coaching is high. Many professional sports teams also use a form of coaching off the field. Teams often hire coaches for leadership and character development for their players. So if all these large organizations are using coaching, why not try it on a personal level for your own unique needs?

If you are doing some soul searching and feel like you need a little help, consider these five reasons on why you should find a personal life coach.

# 1 Get selfish

It’s time to think about yourself! Yes, you read that right. When we think about the word “selfish,” it usually brings up negative connotations, but the truth is, being selfish can sometimes be very productive and healing. When’s the last time you paused to ask yourself what you need? Your list of needs can include everything from material needs to physical needs to mental and spiritual wellness and fulfillment. Working with a life coach will give you the space to first and foremost figure out what those needs are, and then to form a plan to figure out how those needs can be met. It’s easy to say you are going to set aside time for yourself to meditate, journal, or come up with a list of goals. However, the reality is that we often put ourselves last on our to-do lists. A coach will give you the freedom and the time to put yourself first and then hold you accountable to your goals, while offering guidance and support. If you think investing in your own personal happiness is selfish, then it’s important to stop thinking about being selfish as a bad thing.

Personal Development Coach

#2 Get happy

You can lead a happier, more fulfilled life. This seems like a cliché, but all too often, people give up on their own happiness and settle for less. Everyone tells you it’s true, and it is, but you have to make time for it! We know that as humans, we like to be working toward something — to be moving forward in life. We also know that as humans, we crave happiness, even if we can’t define what that means in our lives.The study of happiness — how to get it, what factors play the biggest role, how to measure it — has actually become an area scientists and researchers are studying more and more. Why? Because it’s kind of like a universal goal. If you think the pursuit of happiness is a waste of time, there is science that would disagree with you. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that certain types of happiness can actually have an effect on our genes, specifically antibody and antiviral genes. A Finnish study used body maps to show how emotion is expressed throughout the body, and happiness was the one emotion shown to activate every part of the body from the head down to the feet. Other interesting research reveals that age also plays a factor in determining what makes one happy. As we change, sometimes we need help discovering how to get back on our own personal path toward a life that brings us joy.

A life coach is there to guide you on your personal journey toward happiness — at whatever age or crossroads you find yourself. To use a sports metaphor: “You are the player in this relationship, and it is the coach’s job to help you succeed in the game.” So, if you’re feeling like you are missing out on joy in life, a coach can teach you the fundamentals to take your fulfillment to the next level. Stop and think for a moment about your own happiness. Have you lost sight of what makes you happy? Or do you feel like you are in rut? Are your days comprised of going through the same monotonous motions? Professional athletes invest so much into their physical abilities. Perhaps it’s time you started treating your life like the ultimate game. Isn’t your life worth investing in?

Life Coach

# 3 Get unstuck

According to the current edition of The Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey, less than half of US workers report job satisfaction.

“In 2013, the percentage of workers satisfied with their jobs was 47.7, well below the historical level of 61.1 percent in 1987. Increasing by a mere 0.4 percentage points from the previous year, overall job satisfaction continues to improve from its lowest point (42.6 percent in 2010), albeit at a disappointingly slow pace.” -The Conference Board

why you need a life coach

Considering how much of our lives are spent at work — and the fact that we depend on jobs for our income — it’s discouraging how many of us feel like we are at a roadblock. You don’t have to accept job dissatisfaction. When you feel like you’ve done everything in your power to achieve your career goals, a coach can offer up new and different strategies to get you on a track that makes you feel both challenged and accomplished. It’s easier to believe that nothing will ever change, but if you feel like you are wasting your days — STOP! You don’t have to figure out everything alone.

#4 Get through major changes

Facing life transitions is difficult on your own. Change is hard. That’s just a fact. At different points in our lives we all face life transitions, which can result in feeling lost, confused, sad and even depressed. These feelings can cloud our judgements and affect other areas of our lives, particularly our relationships. Working with a coach who is able to offer an outside perspective will help you organize your thoughts and feelings, as well as provide a consistent voice in the face of chaotic changes. Life changes can happen at any time. Whether you are transitioning from school to employment, changing careers, going into or getting out of a relationship, starting a family, moving, or going through any other life-changing event, it can feel like your entire life is spiraling out of control. Even small transitions, like a promotion at work, can cause other areas of your life to seem confusing. It’s normal to crave stability, but it’s also not practical to think that everything will always be stable. It is ok to ask for help when you find yourself attempting to navigate the uncertain waters of life.

#5 Get the vital tools you need

You may not currently have the skills you need to execute your plan or get to the next level. Some people have very specific ideas and goals for their life, but they feel like they aren’t attainable. A coach can equip you with new skills that will allow you to do more and reach your full potential — whether that’s in your relationships, your job or your mental well-being. You are already creative. You are already whole. You are already resourceful. You might just need to harness a few things to be able to put everything together to rise above your current situation. Think about all the things we learned as toddlers and young children. We learned so much every day and progressed at such a rapid rate in everything from motor skills to emotional intelligence. At some point, that learning curve plateaus, but does it have to stop? The answer is no. A coach is a resource that will allow you to keep growing, keep learning and continue to acquire new skills. We’d never tell a child who just mastered crawling that there was no need to learn to walk. Don’t cut your potential short by not taking the time to see how you can grow with more guidance.

A life coach means you have someone “in your corner” at all times — someone who will listen (and truly hear you), educate (and not judge you) and see you (while viewing you at your highest self)! Whether or not you believe it, you can absolutely be your best self, and a personal development coach is a great way to help you get there. A life coach is an adviser, friend, confidant, consultant, navigator and facilitator. They are trained in this, so why not let them help you reach your highest self? Get happier, more free and more on task to achieving your goals.

If you’re thinking, “Yes, I already have friends and family members who are always in my corner,” that’s great — but often that might not be enough. Our loved ones are vital components to our everyday lives and our happiness, but it’s impossible for them to offer a completely objective perspective because they know us on such a personal level. It’s also not fair to treat our family and friends as though they are paid professionals. They are also trying to navigate life and haven’t studied or been trained in how to dole out advice and guidance. So while building and nurturing personal relationships is always a great thing, a life coach is a unique relationship, one that cannot be duplicated by an already existing friendship.

Yes, a life coach is an investment, as they aren’t free, but consider how much your happiness is worth. It’s just as important to take care of our mental well-being as our physical well-being. This is not a short-term investment, either. The whole idea behind life coaching is that the benefits will last a lifetime. Factoring in your long-term mental health, how much are you willing to spend to get back on track?

Are you ready to step into a life of choice?

Have you ever thought, ““I need a personal life coach?”

Are you ready to nurture your personal self?

It’s time to take the leap!

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists, coaches or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!

6 Signs That It’s Time To Seek A Child Therapist

Child Therapist

What To Do When Your Kid Is Struggling

6 Signs That It’s Time To Seek A Child Therapist

“How do I know when it is time to take my kid to see a child therapist?” This is one of the most common questions that I receive from parents. My answer is almost always the same. If you think that whatever your child is struggling with is affecting his/her functioning, then it is best to consult with a professional. I also tell parents that if there is anything that is going on, it is best to treat it early on. Most importantly, if you think that there is something that is worth investigating with your child, then always trust your instincts as a parent. I meet so many parents who tell me that their pediatricians or their friends and family told them they had nothing to worry about, and it turned out that there was something. Always think that it is better to be safe than sorry. As parents, we know best if there is something going on with our child.

Child Depression

Importance of Early Detection

Depression presents itself differently in children than it does in adults. It’s hard to imagine a preschooler being depressed — why is that? When we think of depression, we think of how it affects an adult: the inability to get out of bed, eating too much, not eating enough, crying unexpectedly, isolation, etc. But what does it look like in a 2-year-old? In a 4-year-old? In young children, the signs can be very different from what we expect to see in a human who has depression, so often it is difficult to diagnose.

It is now widely recognized that preschoolers get depressed, and it is treatable, but not much research has been done on the subject. The importance of early detection is starting to come to light, though. Research suggests that 1 to 2 percent of children ages 2- to 5-years-old have depression, and that undiagnosed depression in toddlers can lead to more of it later in life. Many disorders and symptoms have been linked to early-life stress, including anxiety, cardiovascular disease, fatigue, fibromyalgia, and addiction. Getting treatment early on is vital.

Don’t Bottle It Up

Many of us know that if we bottle up stress, anxiety, and fear, it can live inside of us for years, which is damaging in the long run, or it can explode when we least expect it. If we work through it as it comes, however, it’s more likely to work itself out in our day-to-day lives, allowing us to live healthier lives overall. The same is true for children who do not have an outlet to talk about their feelings or experiences. The earlier we are able to diagnose and detect something in a child, the better.

ADHD

This week, I had a mom approach me with her 12-year-old, whom she claimed wasn’t listening when addressed directly, and was easily distracted, intruding on others, always “on the go,” and forgetful.  As the mom was talking, I counted at least five symptoms of inattentiveness and hyperactivity in her child, and I am certain that if I kept speaking with her, I would have found one more that, together with the existence of these behaviors, would indicate that her child most likely has ADHD (Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).

Many studies have linked depression in children to ADHD, and research has shown that early intervention can make beneficial differences to outcomes for people with ADHD. The earlier ADHD is noticed and treated, the earlier intervention can begin. This will help prevent more severe symptoms from developing down the road.

And now, onto the good stuff! Below are 6 signs that your child may need to see a therapist.

#1 – Exhibiting Signs of Depression or Anxiety

While it is normal to experience feelings of sadness or anxiety, your child might need professional support if these feelings start affecting his or her daily activities. For instance, if your child is missing school or social activities that he/she didn’t miss before because he/she is feeling too sad or anxious, then you might want to explore this further and make sure that there is nothing clinically going on. I find that most parents already know when something is going on with their child, and if it is sadness or anxiety, it is something that requires extra attention. The most common anxieties among children are separation anxiety, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety disorder.

Here are some specific signs that they may be experiencing depression or anxiety:

  • Depressed or irritable mood
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Change in grades, getting into trouble at school, or refusing to go to school
  • Change in eating habits
  • Feeling angry or irritable
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling worthless or restless
  • Frequent sadness or crying
  • Withdrawing from friends and activities
  • Loss of energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

It is important to note that everyone feels sad sometimes! Just because your child isn’t happy-go-lucky all the time doesn’t mean that he or she has a disorder. If the above symptoms persist for long amounts of time, though, and they begin to interfere with your child’s or your family’s daily life, then it is important to get it checked out.

#2 – Acting Out or Struggling at School, Home, and Other Places

If you find that your child is having a hard time across activities, such as hitting others or acting out of control, then you might want to seek professional help. If your child is experiencing issues one day here and one day there, and the teachers are not complaining, then you probably have no real reasons to seek treatment for your child. However, if you are getting repetitive calls from your child’s teachers, and other parents complain about your child’s behavior, then it is time to intervene.

#3 – Experiencing Change in Sleep

Today, I spoke with a concerned mom of an 8-year-old, who shared that her daughter had been having a hard time falling asleep for the past two weeks. The mother told me that she had been working with a sleep specialist, thinking that the issues were related to sleep. However, after two weeks of working together, the mom and the sleep therapist agreed that the daughter had other behavioral issues that required a behaviorist. It turned out that she was suffering from anxiety.

Many children have changes in sleep patterns throughout their childhoods, but if it is interfering with their life, then it is good to look into it.

#4 – Experiencing Regression in Behavior

What To Do When Your Kid Is Struggling

This can include behavior such as going to the bathroom differently, using a pacifier, or bed-wetting. While it can be normal for children to experience a regression in behavior following events such as having a new baby or moving into a new house, it is still good to monitor your child to make sure that these behaviors are only temporarily and not affecting his/her regular functioning.

One example that comes to mind is when one mother called me concerned about her-5-year-old. Her daughter had started drawing on her face while sucking her thumb again, two years after she originally stopped. When I asked for any recent life changes, the mom couldn’t think of anything that would have affected her daughter. When I asked about other people who were involved in her daughter’s life and if they had any meaningful events in their life, the mom told me about her nanny, whose mother had recently died. It turned out that the nanny was depressed and didn’t pay much attention to the 5-year-old, who felt scared and worried about the nanny. The results were that the daughter regressed developmentally and started demonstrating behaviors that had helped to soothe her earlier in life. After I connected the mom with the right child therapist, her daughter was able to express her fears and anxieties surrounding the death of her nanny’s mom. With the help of the child therapist, the mom learned that her nanny shared her feelings of sadness with her daughter and cried during the time she spent with her daughter. This affected her daughter in such negative ways, but with the help of her therapist, her daughter started to feel much better. Also, the mom realized that her nanny was too depressed to work and care for her daughter, and therefore decided to find another nanny.

#5 – Experiencing Loss of Appetite

If you notice that your child is skipping meals or eating less at every meal, than you might want to take note of how many meals he/she skips, and keep track of what is happening around or during meal time. While this can just be a stage or nothing to worry about, you should pay close attention to the number of times your child skips meals or restricts foods, because this could be a symptom that something is going on. It is possible that this is how your child is expressing his/her feelings.

In previous blogs, I talked about my daughter and how she stopped eating bread and pasta because one of her classmates made a comment that pasta and bread would make her fat. She also asked me to buy low fat milk because she was concerned that she would get fat if she drank 2% milk. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to what was happening, but then I found out that she was also hiding her lunch boxes. I ended up calling one of the more experienced eating disorder specialists I work with and consulting with her on the best way to handle this.

As an eating disorder specialist, I wanted to make sure that this was something we handled right away. With the help of Dr. Judith Brisman, who helped guide me, we decided that the best thing to do would be to first contact the school counselor to inform her about what had been going on during lunch. I also set up a call with my daughter’s teachers to make sure that she was doing well in school, and to chat about other issues that may have been going on while in school that I should be aware of. Second, I decided to have an honest and open conversation with my daughter to let her know that I noticed that she had been hiding her sandwiches after school. I also told her that if she didn’t like what I made, if what she took for lunch was too much, or if she wasn’t hungry, it was absolutely okay. I told her I could modify what I made her every day. Most importantly, I wanted my daughter to know that I trusted that she would make the right decision when it came to eating, and that she didn’t have to hide food from me. I was curious about why she was hiding the food from me, as I would not get angry if she trashed it in school or even once she got home. It seemed to me that she was doing that to get attention, especially because her older sister had received extra attention in the weeks before. After we had an open and honest conversation, I told her that we would have special time the next day, and she was excited about that. We ended up going to a sushi place after school, and she ate everything she ordered. I decided not to worry, and to keep reinforcing to my daughter that I honored that she would make the right decision.

#6 – Isolating Themselves from Friends and Family

Therapist Child

This is a common trait in both adults and children, so it can be easier to detect than with other symptoms. If your child is changing how they interact with people who are close to them, it may be a sign that they are unable to connect and are experiencing depression or anxiety.

Children with learning disabilities and attention issues may feel lonely because they may experience life in a different way from those around them. It is common for them to feel isolated from their peers, and research shows that children with these struggles are more apt to feel lonely.

If your child is isolating themselves from friends and family, it could be a larger issue: They may have learning disabilities or attention issues, and/or they may be experiencing depression for another reason. Either way, when there is a noticeable change in how your child presents him/herself with those who are close to him/her, talk to your child about their loneliness. Depending on what you decide together, it might be a good idea to seek professional help.

What Can I Do?

First step? Talk to your child! They may provide answers for you on what steps to take next. They may want to talk to you about how they are feeling, and they may tell you what they need. Really listen to them.

Talk to your child’s doctor. Some medical problems can cause depression, and, if this is the case, your doctor may be able to help you find the cause.

Promote health. Exercise and diet are essential to feeling your best, which is the case for children, as well. Perhaps your child is willing to join a sport so they can get moving. Encourage them to join you on walks, and make the movement fun! Walk to the zoo, or run laps around the lake in silly ways. Many children do better when there is a goal at the end. Do anything to get them moving! And, make sure they are eating well. Even if they are picky eaters, there are many ways to get them to eat better and encourage health. (See our picky eater blog post for more information on that!)

Ask us! This is our specialty. We connect families with the health and wellness services they need. Whatever issue you are concerned about, we can find the best specialists for you in your area, from sleep specialists to psychotherapists to tutors to fitness coaches. Let us help you connect to the person who can change your child’s life! If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert child therapists or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!

What To Do About JUUL in Our Schools?

Teenager JUULing in Class

What To Do About JUUL in Our Schools?

Are our teenagers getting addicted to nicotine in class?

What can parents do about it?

It was brought to my attention today that in at least two middle schools near my Manhattan home, kids are selling JUUL in the school bathroom. This is a major problem! Now, I know what you may be thinking: “Limor, kids have been selling pot and other drugs in school bathrooms for years — why are you so up in arms about it now?” Well, first of all, I would be alarmed if my 13-year-old were smoking in any capacity. But there is a new trend sweeping the country that allows kids to buy drugs and smoke them in class literally at their desks without adults noticing, because it doesn’t give off an odor, and it looks like a USB flash drive. It’s widespread, and it’s scary.

Here’s what’s happening: Something that apparently “blew up” last summer is a trend called JUUL. I’d never heard of it before, and I’m assuming this is new to many of you as well. In this blog, I’ll go over what JUUL is, what the health risks are, and what we can do to stop it. My goal is to start a discussion among parents so that we can all be more knowledgeable and address the problem before it becomes even more rampant. My oldest daughter is 13 and she is the one who brought it to my attention. Raising teenagers today is just insane!

Unfortunately, schools are often limited in what they can do to help out with the problem, but I definitely suggest bringing it up to your school boards and principals. This is not just a “trend” or a “fad” that is going to go away. It’s something that could lead to long-term health problems and more serious drugs with severe consequences.

First off, here’s a brief guide on JUUL that I’ve compiled so we can help our kids by getting to the bottom of this.

What is JUUL?

JUUL is just another form of vaping — but it’s sleek and trendy. The JUUL vaporizer looks like a USB flash drive, and it charges when plugged into a laptop. It can be filled with marijuana, a homemade concoction, or JUUL “pods,” which are vaporizer products that have more nicotine than any other vaping product. One JUUL pod has the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes! JUUL vaporizers were apparently made for adults who are trying to quit smoking, which might be true, but it’s also interesting to consider the fact that the oils have flavors like mango, creme brulee, and chocolate — pretty kid-friendly options, if you ask me.

JUUL entered the market in 2015 and gained quick popularity over the summer of 2017. Currently, many teenagers say that a majority of their peers own a JUUL device, and they even smoke them in school.

On the company’s website, it states,  “The JUUL Labs’ mission is to eliminate cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes.” It goes on to say, “…smokers who want to switch are looking for something that does not look or feel like a cigarette.” For their part, they do talk about sale to minors, and how they are trying to combat it: “While we are dedicated to our mission of helping adults switch off cigarettes, we are also incredibly focused on combating underage use… Underage use of certain product categories remains a persistent problem, and at JUUL Labs we are committed to combating underage use of our product. While we have made strides, we are working on new approaches to address the issue more effectively.”

My question is, how can we all address the issue more effectively as a community, including parents, lawmakers, and the DOE?

Why do kids use it and how do they get it?

People get addicted to JUUL the exact same way they get addicted to cigarettes — they try it once, love the immediate buzz, and keep doing it. Eventually the buzz wears off after each hit, and then they feel like they have to take hits just to feel normal. According to one Yale study, 25% of U.S. high schoolers had tried e-cigarettes, and 3.5% of U.S. middle schoolers had tried them. Many kids stated that they were less afraid of e-cigs, saying that they wouldn’t try real cigarettes but would try e-cigs.

According to the JUUL website, “The Starter Kit” includes a rechargeable JUUL device, a USB Charger, four JUULpods (Virginia Tobacco, Cool Mint, Fruit Medley, and Creme Brulee), and a one year limited device warranty. All for $50.

Kids cannot order JUUL from the JUUL online shop or buy it in a store, but keep in mind that kids can’t buy pot or alcohol in stores, yet they get those anyway. Think of any way that a high schooler might get their hands on weed or liquor — fake IDs, stores selling illegally, older siblings, black market, you name it. We talked to a store owner on the Upper East Side who claimed that they never sell JUUL to underage kids, but that adults sometimes do come in and buy in bulk. The store wondered if those adults were selling to minors. You only have to be 18 to buy nicotine products like cigarettes and JUUL, so many high school seniors can legally purchase these products.

A bit of online research landed us at a Reddit thread titled, “How to get Juul as a minor,” in which teenagers comment on each others’ posts so they can figure out how to purchase a JUUL. Responses included the following: “eBay,” “Just talk to the cool vaper kids at your school lol. Almost every single middle school/high school these days tends to have such a group, and I am sure they have means/would be glad to sell you a real juul,” “Literally any gas station ever. As long as you look like you’re old enough to drive, most workers don’t [care]. If they ask for ID just give them ‘your birthday.’” “Go from gas station to station to gas station that’s how I got mine.”

You get the picture. If a kid wants to find a JUUL, he/she can figure it out.

What are the health risks of JUULing?

There is a common misconception among teens that JUULing and e-cigs are safe because they were designed to help adults quit smoking. While they are safer than smoking cigarettes, they are far from safe. The same cancer-causing lung issues are in e-cigarettes. Nicotine is damaging to brain development, which is especially worrying for people whose brains are still growing, like high schoolers. Nicotine is also addictive.

E-cigarettes are also very new, which means that there are fewer regulations in place. For example, the FDA has banned other flavored drugs such as cigarettes and tobacco products, but not yet in e-cigs.

E-cigs have a different health issue than cigarettes, which is a result of the inhalation of vaping liquid. The liquid is usually a combination of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, flavors, and nicotine or hash oils. The long-term effects are still unknown. Think about how people started getting lung cancer from non-stop cigarette smoking in the 50s and 60s — the generation that is mostly in their 80s and 90s now. They had no idea that cigarettes could have such negative effects because long-term research hadn’t been done yet, and that’s exactly what I’m worried about with our kids today. None of us knows the consequences, and we won’t know them until the current batch of teenagers is older.

According to the American Lung Association, diacetyl, which is found in e-cigarettes, causes Popcorn Lung. You may remember diacetyl from popcorn products, when it was linked to factory worker death and bronchiolitis obliterans, which is a serious lung disease. It caused such a stir about a decade ago that it was quickly removed from all popcorn products… but the same chemical is found in most e-cigarettes today, along with two other harmful chemicals: pentanedione and acetoin. Diacetyl scars the tiny air sacs in the lungs, resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. Even if there is no nicotine present, kids are still breathing in hot liquids full of chemicals, which is harmful by itself.

What bothers me the most is that sales of regular cigarettes to teens have dropped in the past few years. To me, this means that vaping companies are using innocent, young children to make money, which horrifies me. Many experts also say that e-cigs are a gateway to regular cigarettes, which have been widely found over the years to be a gateway to other drugs as well.

In addition, we know that kids are using e-cigarette devices to smoke pot. Why? Well, for one, the smell is much more disguised so it can go unnoticed.

Another scary thing that kids do with e-cigs is something called “dripping.” Dripping is a more labor-intensive way to vape, in which a user manually puts a few drops of liquid directly on the exposed heating coil of the e-cigarette. The flavor, direct hit, and cloud intensify the user’s experience of vaping, which is why people take the extra time and effort to drip. Studies have shown that dripping also releases much more harmful chemicals than just smoking the e-cigarette.

How do I know if my child might be using JUUL?

  • Dehydration – Propulene glycol is a major ingredient in vaporized liquids. This chemical holds water molecules in the body, which results in increased thirst.
  • Aversion to Caffeine – One of the side effects is not wanting caffeine, so if your kid all of a sudden doesn’t want the coke they always ask for, it could be a sign.
  • Needing a Hit – If your child is addicted, they may need a hit every hour, or even less. They may disappear to the bathroom or their room every so often to vape.
  • Nosebleeds – The same effect that causes dehydration also dries out nasal passages, which sometimes leads to bloody noses.
  • Change in Habits – Some parents told us that they recognized the signs after the fact — their child had been doing well in school, and all of a sudden started getting Cs and Ds. Keep in mind that this could be related to something entirely different, so it’s always good to look into it.
  • Scents – There isn’t a distinct odor like with weed or cigarettes, but sometimes you can catch a whiff of flavors like mint, fruit punch, or candy. If there is no gum, candy, or juice around, there is reason to be cautious.

What are schools doing about the problem?

To be clear, this is happening in public schools and in private schools. It’s happening within all demographics, across the entire country. Don’t think that your child is exempt from this trend.

I talked with the assistant principal at my daughter’s school and he said that, unless they are specifically told who the people using are, the only thing that the school can do is monitor bathrooms and other parts of the school in which kids are likely to sell JUUL. I also went to the governor’s office, and they said that a lot of people have been complaining about vaping in schools. In middle schools, administration is trying to be proactive, incorporating drug-related education into the curriculum, monitoring hallways and bathrooms, etc.

However, as parents, we know that those steps simply aren’t enough and unfortunately, not being informed is the worst thing we can do

What can I do?

How do we raise healthy kids in this society where things are so accessible? I strongly feel that this is about the community! We all have to work together to fix this. I want to call on each and every one of you to help me out.

I started a list of helpful tips from my friends who have teenagers. Here is the start of an eventual longer list of suggestions:

  1. Urge schools to bring addiction specialists to speak with students about the dangers of drugs.
  2. Urge schools to perform random searches in bags.
  3. Urge schools to monitor areas where kids sell, and take actions that will prevent kids from selling drugs in schools.
  4. Get involved in the DOE, and invite other parents to as well.
  5. Talk to your kids about the dangers of e-cigarettes, whether you think they may be using them or not. Some kids told me that they didn’t know there were any dangers because it “didn’t seem like as bad of a drug as cigarettes.” Talk to your kids!

Here’s a suggestion I love from a friend. At first, it might seem like over monitoring or policing your kid too much, but you may find that it helps your relationship with your kid, and turns into a positive thing. I definitely think it’s worth a try. She bought a nicotine tobacco testing kit, which can be found on Amazon for under $10, and she told her son that she may use it in the future. She hasn’t used it, but the fact that her son knows that she has it means that he doesn’t want to smoke or vape. He told her that it actually helped him get out of being pressured by his friends because he could use the excuse that his mom would test him at home if he vaped. It passed the blame to someone else other than him, which gave him an easy out.

What else can you do? Here’s a huge one — let’s come together as a community and figure this out! If you are a parent to a teen, let’s get together in a room with other parents to brainstorm as a team! Let me know if you’d like to join. I am forming a parent group to come up with bigger and better ideas about how we can take action NOW to make a change. To start, we will meet monthly in person with a Facebook Live meeting.

Are you concerned about vaping? What can you do as a parent, and what can we do as a community? I want to start a discussion. We can work together as a community, whether you live near me in Manhattan or across the country. If you want to get together and make a change, message me! Tell me your stories. Tell me your challenges, your advice, your worries, your successes!

Let me know if you’re interested, no matter where you reside. Make your voice heard! I can’t wait to get this started!

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!