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Relationship Between Adolescence and High-Risk Behaviors – Part 2


Adolescence is a time of rapid change. In a span of just a few short years, teens transition dramatically in almost all realms of their lives. Physically, they grow in leaps and bounds and start to appear like mature adults.

Cognitively, their thinking becomes more sophisticated.

Socially, relationships are renegotiated, and teens develop the capacity to form deep intimate relationships with others. At the same time, the roles that they occupy in society also change.

Partly because teens start to look more mature, people surrounding them sometimes begin to treat them like adults — giving them mature responsibilities and adult expectations. While significant development occurs during the teen years, full maturity is by no means complete. Studies show that neurological development is not complete until the early 20s.

Decision-making and future-oriented thinking are not fully developed. Thus, while teens are entering into adult roles and while they may physically appear to be mature, teens might not be fully equipped to deal with these new tasks and challenges. For these various reasons, the teen years can be an especially stressful and fragile time, making adolescents more susceptible to engaging in risky behaviors and be unable to weigh their risks and benefits. At the individual level, youth who have low self-esteem, who have negative peer groups, and low school engagement or educational aspirations are more likely to engage in risky behaviors.

Family factors include poor parent-child communication, low parental monitoring (e.g., parents are unaware of youth’s whereabouts), and a lack of family support.

Not surprisingly, when parents themselves engage in risky behaviors, teens also are more likely to do so.

Finally, extra-family variables also play a role in the risk behaviors of youth.

Negative school climate, and poor (or no) relationships with non-parental adults also are at more risk for negative behaviors. For many, what actually happens during adolescence is that relationships are renegotiated rather than broken. This means that while changes occur in the relationship, most parents and teens continue to maintain a close relationship during these years.

This renegotiation and transition in the parent-child relationship is only natural as the teen is growing up and is having an increased capacity for reasoning, self-discipline and independence. As parents start to experience this ‘renegotiation,’ it is important to remember that parents continue to be the most important relationship in their teens’ lives. And while conflict and resistance might arise when parents show concern or discipline their teens, parents need to know that this is all part of the natural progression of relationships as their children grow. Here are several parenting strategies that parents might find helpful:

1. Act on teachable moments. Talking with teens does not always have to happen on planned one-on-one serious talks. Teachable moments, which are the best times during the day to talk, can emerge at various times of the day, often in the context of doing shared tasks or activities like cooking, driving home or dinner. Issues such as death, sexual behavior or substance abuse can come up anytime. Take advantage of these windows of opportunity, even when they are only 45 seconds long.

Parents who are aware and sense that youth need to talk will look toward these teachable moments.

They are more important over the long run than giving a long lecture.

2. Avoid useless arguing. This does not mean that parents have to avoid confrontation. Useless arguments are those that simply fuel hostility yet have no real purpose. It is important for parents to remember the following:

  • Avoid reasoning with someone who is upset, as it is futile. It is better to wait until tempers have cooled off before sorting out disagreements.
  • Do not feel obliged to judge everything their teen says. Parents and teens need to be able to agree or disagree.
  • Parents need not spend time talking teens out of their feelings. Teens have the right to be angry, confused, disappointed, hurt and insecure. Parents can acknowledge their teen’s reaction without condoning it. This type of response often defuses anger.
  • All this said, parents need not let disagreements dissuade them from talking to their teens. Studies show that parents who talk to their teens (and even disagree) still are closer to their children than those who avoid these types of conversations.

3. Be respectful. Parents get offended when children treat them discourteously.

Yet they need to be careful that they do not do the same to them.

Example: A parent would be very angry and offended if their teen used offensive and hurtful language. Parents also need to make sure that they are not verbally assaulting their teens.

4. Be willing to be unpopular. Parents need to accept that there will be times when adolescents will disagree with them and possibly even act as if they stop ‘liking’ them.

It is essential to remember that parenting (and not being a ‘buddy’) is a parent’s primary role. It is important to resist the urge to win their favor or spend too much time pleasing them.

5. Clearly communicate expectations. It is essential that parents pass along a strong sense of values. This is one of the fundamental tasks of being a parent. Teens cannot read their parents’ minds so it is important that parents clearly communicate what their expectations are in terms of behaviors and values. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, parents need to talk to their children about what’s right and wrong — about appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Again, look for those ‘teachable moments.’ For instance, a good time for these discussions might be while parents are driving with their teen. Not only does the parent have a captive audience, but they can also avoid the need for eye contact. This can help teens feel more comfortable.

6. Encourage participation in positive activities. One effective way of discouraging engagement in negative behaviors is to encourage participation in positive activities. Today, there are many activities that teens can be involved in which encourage the development of various competencies and are enjoyable. When teens develop a sense of competency in acceptable activities, they will feel worthy and accepted. In feeling competent, teens likely will have fun and reduce stress.

Parents need to assist youth in finding these opportunities. For instance, finding volunteer opportunities and developing a supportive network of family and friends will help buffer high-risk behaviors.

7. Focus on what is important. Adolescence is a time of identity seeking and experimentation of different roles. This can be irritating and bewildering to parents.

But as painful as it may be to watch, it is one way that teens learn to function on their own without having to consult their parents about every decision.

Guiding principle: Do not make a fuss about issues that are reversible or do not directly threaten your child’s or another person’s safety.

These issues include unwashed hair, a messy room, torn jeans and so on.

Parents need to save their concern and action for safety. Safety is a non-negotiable issue. Safety rules need to be stated clearly and enforced consistently.

Example: Drinking is not acceptable. If you have a party here, no beer or hard liquor is allowed … and an adult must be present at any party you attend.

8. Help teens learn from experience. No matter how hard parents want to protect their teens from risky behaviors, they cannot watch their teens 24 hours every day or protect them from every risk. When negative consequences arise, parents need to use those situations to help teens learn from experience. Sometimes, dealing with the consequences of their own actions inspires sensible behavior more effectively than any lecture or discussion.

Example: A father went away for the weekend and without permission, his son invited a few friends for a party with no adults present. Several other teens crashed the party, drank heavily and threatened to get violent. The boy felt he had lost control in his own house. After his father calmly talks to him about what happened, the son realizes his father was right in insisting that adults be there

9. Help youth make healthy decisions. Parents cannot be there all the time to help their children make healthy choices; thus, it is important to equip teens with the skills needed to make decisions on their own. An important skill in decision-making is assessing benefits and costs. In helping youth do this, one needs to be honest in helping teens look at the benefits and the costs of various behaviors. For instance, in talking to teens about smoking, parents need to be honest about both sides. Positive consequences might be that some people find it enjoyable or even “cool.”

Negative consequences include adverse health conditions, financial cost and the fact that it can give unpleasant odors.

Similarly, in talking about engaging in sexual behaviors, teens might consider the benefits (e.g., they feel close to someone and want to take the next step), but also consider the risks (e.g., STDs, emotional consequences).

10. Listen to your teen. The most important thing parents can do for their adolescents is to listen to them. Parents must recognize and respect the value of what they say. Too often parents dismiss or underestimate the significance of the pressure their children feel and the problems they face. Listening and valuing teens’ ideas is what promotes the ability of parents to effectively communicate with them.

Listening to a teen does not mean giving advice and attempting to correct or control the situation.

Sometimes all a teen might need is for parents to listen or be there for them. It is essential that teens understand that they are being heard.

Adolescence is a unique period of the lifespan. It is full of changes and challenges, but also of growth and opportunities. Adolescents are particularly susceptible to high-risk behaviors so parents and other concerned adults need to support youth as they go through this period. The process surrounding high-risk behaviors can be complex, and often it is not enough just to tell a child to ‘say no’ to engaging in these behaviors. Risk-behavior prevention must cover a wide range of issues that adolescents face in order to be most effective. Parents and community organizations must address issues such as family violence, psychiatric illness, poor interpersonal skills, learning deficits and the dysfunctional development that might be associated with such behaviors. Parents must clearly express their expectations, and must help equip youth to assess risks, to be assertive, and to have the self-esteem and forbearance to withstand external pressures that might push them toward behaviors that lead to negative outcomes.

High-Risk Behaviors Among Youth – Part 1


What Are Risk Behaviors?

High-risk behaviors are those that can have adverse effects on the overall development and well-being of youth, or that might prevent them from future successes and development.

This includes behaviors that cause immediate physical injury (e.g., fighting), as well as behaviors with cumulative negative effects (e.g., substance use). Risk behaviors also can affect youth by disrupting their normal development or prevent them from participating in ‘typical’ experiences for their age group. For example, teen pregnancy can prevent youth from experiencing typical adolescent events such as graduating from school or from developing close friendships with peers.

Because high-risk behaviors can significantly impact the lives of youth and those around them, it is essential that parents, educators and other concerned adults become aware of the prevalence of these behaviors, the factors that increase their likelihood, and what can be done to abate or prevent those risks.

Types And Prevalence Of High-Risk Behaviors

Several high-risk behaviors have been of particular interest to professionals because of their prevalence in youth today.

Many of these behaviors cause a large number of deaths and injury among teens, or have negative impacts on society.

Behaviors Related To Obesity And Unhealthy Dieting

In recent years, the rate of obesity in the U.S. has reached epidemic levels. For this reason, many professionals have started to consider behaviors leading to being overweight and obesity as risky. Nationally, only 66 percent of youth report engaging in vigorous physical activity at least three times during the past week. While an increasing number of youth are overweight or obese, a large number of youth also are engaging in unhealthy dietary behaviors to lose weight.

Teens use unhealthy methods including vomiting, laxatives, unsupervised/non-prescribed diet pills and fasting.

Risky Sexual Behaviors

Engagement in sexual behavior is considered to be another group of high-risk behaviors for youth because of the potential physical (e.g., STDs or sexually transmitted diseases) and socioemotional risks they present. Youth may or may not be ready for the social and emotional implications of sexual activity, and many sexually active youth do not use safe sexual practices. Teens engage in sexual intercourse at a young age – 47 percent of youth nationwide.

Among those who report engaging in sex, only 63 percent report having used a condom during their last intercourse and 17 percent report using alternative methods of birth control. Unprotected sex exacerbates risks because of the potential for developing STDs and the potential for unwanted pregnancy.

Approximately half of the 19 million new STD cases diagnosed per year are of youth ages 15-19; and 13 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses are of youth ages 13-24. Teen pregnancy is both a possible effect of risky behaviors as well as a risk factor in itself. Teen pregnancy has been linked to higher rates of school dropout, as well as other socio-emotional risks. Rates of U.S. teen pregnancy have declined over the last few years. To date, the rate of teen pregnancy is about 7.5 percent for girls between the ages of 15 and 19, which is 36 percent lower than in 1990.

Nonetheless, this rate remains the highest in all the other developed countries (e.g., compared to Canada, Germany, Japan) (Gutmacher Institute, 2006).

Self-injurious Behaviors, Violence And Suicide

Among teens, many of the most self-injurious behaviors are related to driving.

Obtaining a driver’s license is considered as one of the most exciting milestones of the teen years but unfortunately, car accidents make up the leading cause of death among teens. Many injuries are exacerbated (and deaths are caused) by the failure to wear seat belts, being distracted by others in the car, talking on their cell phones, and texting. Approximately 30 percent of youth nationwide report that they rarely or never wear seat belts. The combination of alcohol use and driving also contributes to deaths among teens from car crashes. About 10 percent of teens report driving after drinking, and 36 percent admit riding in a car where the driver had been drinking. Driving-related risk behaviors continue to be a serious problem during the teen years.

Fighting and aggression include another group of self-injurious behaviors. It is second to vehicular accidents as the leading cause of death among those 15-34 years of age.

Nationally, 36 percent of teens report having been involved in physical fighting over the last year with males (43 percent) outnumbering females (28 percent) dramatically. Similarly, both males and females reported carrying a weapon or a gun (19 percent nationally), however males (29 percent) outnumbered females (7 percent) significantly. Finally, suicide is one of the highest risk behaviors among youth today. Close to 17 percent (almost one out of every five) of youth report having considered suicide within the past year and 13 percent actually planned it (national and state numbers are similar). Among teens, 8.4 percent attempt suicide every year. Suicide now is the third leading cause of death among those ages 15-24, with 86 percent of those deaths from males, and 14 percent from females.

Substance Use

Substance use is another group of behaviors that contribute to immediate as well as long-term damage. Drinking and drug use have been linked to motor vehicle accidents, fighting/violence, problematic relationships and social interactions, and various diseases. Drinking and cigarette smoking are among the most common in this group of behaviors.

Over 43 percent of youth nationwide report that they drink alcohol, and 26 percent of youth nationwide admit to heavy drinking (five or more drinks in a row).

Approximately 23 percent of teens admit to being cigarette smokers with 9.4 percent being frequent cigarette users (smoked on 20 of last 30 days). Like self-injurious behaviors, the prevalence of alcohol and cigarette use has decreased over the last few years, but nonetheless continues to be serious risks to adolescent health. Illicit drug use is both a health and public concern because of the obvious negative physical effects it has on users. Effects of illicit drug use include, but are not limited to, brain damage and damage to major physical organs. It also has been linked to a host of other health compromising behaviors such as risky driving, engagement in high-risk sexual behaviors, and violence. Recent estimates suggest that 22 percent of teens use marijuana and that 10 percent of teens used marijuana before the age of 13. Approximately 3 percent use cocaine.

In recent years, methamphetamine use has become a serious concern in the United States. The low-cost of the drug and the ease at which many youth are able to access this substance have contributed significantly to its rapid spread.

The serious, immediate and long-term effects of methamphetamine have made it a top concern for many professionals and policy-makers. Today, about 3 percent of eighth graders, and over 4 percent of 10th and 12th graders report having tried or used methamphetamine nationally.

Par 2 – Relationship Between Adolescence and High-Risk Behaviors

Sunrise


Residential Treatment Program and Boarding School for Teen Girls

At Sunrise, we know that every girl is different. Because your daughter possesses a unique constellation of experiences, talents, relationships, and struggles, Sunrise offers a teen residential treatment program that is customized to meet her special needs. Sunrise works to uncover the academic, social, and emotional potential of girls who have been held back by emotional or behavioral struggles. Our staff knows that in school and treatment one size does not fit all, so we meet your daughter right where she is and design a program that changes with her as she grows confident, secure, and healthy during treatment. All aspects of our program are designed to form a healing milieu that combines the warmth of a home, the safety and clinical expertise of a residential treatment program, and the community access of a transition program. As a result, many students who would otherwise need two or three programs can move through their entire healing process – from treatment to their transition back home or off to college – all at Sunrise, quickly, effectively, and affordably.

New Haven


RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT PROGRAM AND BOARDING SCHOOL FOR TEEN GIRLS, AGES 12-18

At New Haven, we base our treatment decisions on a simple question: What would I want for my daughter?

We know that underneath her struggles – whether with an eating disorder, substance abuse, trauma, or another challenging emotional issue – your daughter is still there, waiting to be discovered, loved back to wholeness, and reunited with her family. After fifteen years working together, our treatment team is one of the most experienced in the field of girls’ adolescent treatment. We know from experience that girls struggling with complex emotional and behavioral issues need access to a variety of proven therapies. Experience has also taught us that even the most clinically sophisticated approaches to treatment are only effective if those delivering them come from a place of connection, compassion, and hope.

Daniels Academy


A premier residential program & school for young men ages 13 to 18 with learning differences.

(801) 979-6294

Daniels Academy is a small home-style residential program & school that provides both academic and emotional support to teenage boys, ages 13-18, with learning differences.  Each component of the Daniels Academy program is designed to support the development of executive functioning and relationship skills.

Daniels Academy believes in seeing each student individually. Every student receives an individualized education and treatment plan. Daniels Academy strongly emphasizes the integration of meaningful relationships coupled with clear and concise expectations, and dependable routines and structures.

Daniels Academy values authenticity and strives to provide experiences and lessons that easily transfer to life at home, work, or school.  To help the treatment experience generalize into life back home, students spend time in local communities nearly every day.

Shelterwood is a licensed therapeutic boarding school


THERAPEUTIC BOARDING SCHOOL DESIGNED TO HELP TROUBLED OR STRUGGLING TEENS

Is your teenager struggling? Are you looking for qualified, compassionate support, continued education, and a safe harbor for your teen away from peers and other influences at home and school? We invite you to learn more about Shelterwood.

We understand how to transform a vision for a new life and new positive thinking in your child into reality. Shelterwood is a licensed therapeutic boarding school.

We believe that every interaction with teenagers in our care is a therapeutic opportunity that helps them change their behaviors and motivations from the inside out.

Shelterwood provides individual, group, and family therapy along with an accredited school for at-risk youth. Unlike traditional boarding schools, we are uniquely equipped to treat struggling adolescents that may be spiraling out of control. Shelterwood is designed to provide excellence in academics right along with life-changing therapy. Our program for teens is a year-long journey which fosters dynamic growth through small class sizes, one-to-one mentoring, small group discussions, recreational activities, and day-to-day living in community.

Built on our love for Jesus, we walk alongside hurting teens and help them reconnect with their families and build healthier lives.

Redwood Grove Transitional Systems


Redwood Grove Transitional Systems began working with families in 2006, when our founder, Dr. Tolen, sought a way to help his residential treatment clients return home with minimal chance of relapse.

We have trained therapists across the country to apply our treatment model, and continue to recruit therapists nationwide in order to meet all our clients’ needs.

Our program is a research-based, comprehensive home and community-oriented approach that addresses the complete environment in which the family lives.

We identify barriers on five key scales (personal, family, social, spiritual, and educational) and work directly in the home with our clients, their families, and their extended communities to make positive and long-lasting changes in their lives.

Our program generally lasts from one (1) to three (3) months, depending on the level of service that you choose. We always hope to have a client enroll in our program several weeks before the child is discharged from his/her residential or wilderness program so that our team can make contact with the child and begin to establish a relationship of trust with both him/her and the whole family before the child comes home. However, we understand that the decision to enroll in transitional/ aftercare services may be made late in the residential treatment process and we can achieve that relationship of trust after the child has already gone home, if necessary.

The Programs of The Pinnacle School


Elk River Treatment Program – Therapeutic Intervention Program that provides diagnostic, assessment, education and treatment services.


Elk River Academy (Mid-Term Program) – Individualized Transitional Therapeutic and Education Program with a flexible length of stay up to one year.


Elk River Healthy Lifestyles – Teen Weight Management and Education Program focusing on nutrition and positive behaviors while building self-esteem.

(866) 906-TEEN 

The programs of  The Pinnacle Schools provide diagnostic, assessment, education and intervention services for troubled teens, ages 12-18, and their families.
Our programs are based on a medical model with 24-hour medical/nursing care.

We believe “no child left behind” also applies to teen residential treatment programs.

The Pinnacle Schools pioneered the use of year-round individualized academics in the short-term residential setting. Because of our flexible length of stay, students can complete a quarter, semester or full academic year.

Continued medical and psychological therapies, along with education, ensure long-term success.

New Start Transports


Integrity, compassion, respect, along with experience and professional training in appropriate crisis de-escalation techniques, are the building blocks of a safe and successful youth transport intervention.

NST’s founders and their family personally participated in two troubled teen programs. Their personal experiences during this process inspired them to provide an intervention service founded on compassion and care for both the parents and their children being admitted into treatment or wilderness therapy programs.

NST is business licensed, specifically insured, employs all of its interventionist’s, and provides thorough background checks on its entire staff. NST understands not just the need of its youth transportation services, but the need for professional responsibility.

All employees are trained in the New Start Transport Intervention (NSTI) model and certified in Positive Control Systems (PCS). PCS is a crisis intervention training program that can be compared to a variety of other training models: Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (NCI), Handle With Care (HWC), Integrated Crisis Response (ICR), and The Mandt System. Additionally, all employees maintain current CPR and First Aid certifications.

Phone Numbers

OFFICE: 801 805-4785
TOLL-FREE: 1-877-258-2423

Cherry Gulch Therapeutic Boarding School


Cherry Gulch is a small private owner operated, high-end ranch style therapeutic boarding school designed specifically for 10 to 14-year-old boys.

Our goal is to provide early intervention and prevention to help these boys reach their full potential and to become well-rounded prosocial young men. Cherry Gulch offers the wide-open space of country living and the benefit of a metropolitan area.

We are located near Boise, Idaho, on 220 acres of pristine ranch land with beautiful views of mountains and valleys. Students have easy access to natural wonders but are also close to many museums and the cosmopolitan activities of Boise. A unique therapeutic environment is provided where every experience is educational and therapeutic in a fun purposeful environment.

We are dedicated to providing outstanding services to students and their families in the context of a safe, supportive environment. Cherry Gulch staff are committed to providing a premium environment and level of care for each of our students.

Click here to read more.

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