Friday, October 27, 2006

Snack Attacks

This morning I read Will Play for Food, an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. Harlan Coben expresses his disgust that parents are designated to bring post-game snacks for their 7-year-old soccer players. He writes, “Do our kids need yet another bag of Doritos and a juice box with enough sugar to coat a Honda Odyssey?”

Coben describes his angst at having to follow the “cool” parent in the snack line up who brings Ho-Ho cakes and Hawaiian Punch. Even if Coben took the time to slice 50 orange wedges, the kids would never eat them.

What happened to the post-game cold glass of water and the feeling of satisfaction after a game well played? We’re a society obsessed with food, and waistlines reflect it.

Unhealthy eating habits can lead to obesity resulting in diabetes and heart disease. (About Health TV series, Getting Healthy with Gary) Obesity costs our healthcare system billions of dollars a year. Many communities are trying to promote exercise and nutrition, but millions Americans continue to stuff themselves with junk food.

Coben’s Op-Ed piece reminded me of my friend Olivella’s recent visit from Italy. She stood agape in the cereal aisle at my local grocery store. I don’t eat cereal other than oatmeal. We were perusing the aisle at her request. She had not visited the U.S. in 15 years, and had heard about the breakfast cereal phenomenon. What she saw blew her mind. “There are so many different choices! At our co-op In Italy you can buy three or four kinds of cereal, and that’s all. And they aren’t packaged in these brightly colored boxes – clearly intended to grab children’s attention.”

A few weeks ago I listened as a man shopped with his young son.

Dad: “Want some chips to eat on the way home?

Son: “No.”

Dad: “Are you sure?”

Son: “Yes.”

I almost jumped in on the discussion “Why are you pushing this junk food on a kid who doesn’t want it ? Why don’t you just admit that you want the chips?”

None of my business; I resisted.

When it comes to our food-centered culture, I’m with Coben. He urges parents in his son’s soccer association, and parents nationally, to stop providing the post-game and stick to water.

If more parents spoke up about what their kids eat, the cereal aisles might shrink – and so would our waistlines.

Resources
The Power of Girls: Inside and Out

Related Issues and Answers columns
Anorexia in boys
Anorexia in girls
Bulimia

Related columns for young people

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Close Encounters of the Teenage Kind

Joe is the principal of a high school. We met through my volunteer work with The Perfect Storm Foundation and we've been friends ever since. Every once in a while, I stop by his office to kick around ideas about my work.

I like the big red and white EASY button on his desk. It's from Staples.

I always wonder how many times a day he punches it and hears, “That was easy!” He loves his job, but I bet he hits it a lot…just to pretend things aren't so challenging.

“We need a video for girls about birth control and decision-making,” Joe said. There are 1,000 students at his school. Kim, the school nurse, gave 70 pregnancy tests. Five teenage girls were pregnant.

When Kim stopped by the office, she told me about some of the girls she'd seen. One 14-year-old girl already had two babies. Another girl said she'd been told that she couldn't get pregnant because she was fat.

I asked whether these girls' parents were around. Kim said that one mother of a pregnant teen called to find out when her daughter's baby was due so she could plan a baby shower.

School nurses are on the frontlines. They see and hear it all. Students will often tell them things they won't tell their parents or even their best friends.

Another girl Kim worries about is obsessed with getting pregnant. The girl is having sex with an older guy. They don't date. They have sex. “She's wants to get pregnant so she would have to get an abortion,” Kim said. “That way she says he'll be forced to talk to her.”

I thought about that girl all day. She's so desperate for attention. I thought about the other girls, too. I thought about how Kim, Joe, and I focused on the girls and their decisions. What about the boys?

When I filmed The Power of Girls, 15-year-old Wendy told me how she lost her virginity. She went to his house for a party - but no one else showed up. The guy pushed her on the bed and they had sex. “I had no respect for myself,” she said. “I think that's why I let him do that. If somebody had self-respect, like actually loved themselves they would not let somebody take advantage of them.”

Respect is a two-way street. In Boys on Bullying, 15-year-old Jim said he knows guys who take advantage of girls. “Those guys, they don't really have respect for women. They don't have respect for themselves, because who would do that, you know? They just, they feel like they can use women, and they just want it because they're horny.”

Ninety-three percent of teenage women report that their first sexual intercourse was voluntary. But a quarter of these young women report that they didn't really want to have sex. (Alan Guttmacher Institute)

Joe's right. It's important that girls learn the facts about birth control and making smart choices. But we have to remember to include boys in these conversations - in the classroom and at home.

Challenging? Punch an EASY button. “That was easy!” At least we can pretend.

Resources
Raising Healthy Kids: Families Talk About Sexual Health
Words Can Work: When Talking With Kids About Sexual Health

Related Issues and Answers columns
Growing up gay
Kids and oral sex
Parents as educators
Postponing sex
Self-respect
Talking with kids

Related columns for young people

1 Comments:

Dad said...

The best defense against teen pregnancy is girls' strong relationships with their fathers. It's never too late for fathers to start, or to pick up where they left off when the girl was a tot. In the past 10 years, corporate and other job related demands have sapped men of time with their daughters. Now they realize what they've missed and what their daughters have missed. It's not too late, Dads. Go get ice cream with your daughter!

January 11, 2007 11:19 AM

 

Post a Comment

<< Home

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Survey Finds Parents Ignorance

Survey Finds Parental Ignorance – a recent Boston Globe headline for a story about kids and drug use.

The article reported on survey findings of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University: A third of 12- to 17-year-olds, and almost half of 17-year-olds surveyed, had attended parties where drugs, including alcohol, were available, even though parents were home.

The Globe reported that the statistics suggest that parents are ignorant of what goes on at their kids’ parties.

Ignorant or in denial?

My friend Kim is a well-respected researcher about family issues, and is the mother of two teenagers. She says a lot of parents are clueless about what their kids are doing. Others turn a blind eye. “It blows my mind,” she says, “If they acknowledge it, they have to do something about it, and they don’t want to deal with it.”

As Dr. Brian Johnson of Harvard Medical School explains, “Denial is a defense mechanism,” he says. “When something is frightening, like knowing your child is behaving in an unsafe way, you decide not to think about it. You tell yourself it will be all right. But kids’ drinking (and drugging) is Russian Roulette.”

I’ve talked with a lot of parents who’ve indulged that denial and paid a big price. Ashley’s son, Robert, was seriously injured in a drinking and driving crash. She says in our booklet Words Can Work: When Talking About Alcohol, “It’s hard to think my child might be doing this. Most people want to sweep it under the rug.”

Sweeping it under the rug is easier until something bad happens. Life can be changed in a flash, and then you live with a million regrets.

Read more from Robert and watch video clips from his parents:

Resources
Alcohol: True Stories Hosted by Matt Damon
Words Can Work: When Talking About Alcohol

Related Issues and Answers columns
A community takes action
Drinking and sexual risks
Peer pressure
Schools take action
Underage drinking

Related columns for young people

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sex Ed at Starbucks

I was in Atlanta working on a project to help families talk about sexual health.

I walked into Starbucks with my friend Chad who works in the field of HIV/AIDS.

Clare, the woman serving coffee from behind the counter, saw Chad and screamed, “I read that book you gave me. It’s dirty!!”

At first, I had no idea she was talking to Chad. Then in a flash I thought he’d been reading and sharing romance novels with her.

Chad pointed to me and said, “Watch out Clare! This is the woman who wrote that dirty book!”

Chad told me a week earlier that he’d given my book Words Can Work: When Talking With Kids About Sexual Health to a friend. She was struggling with how to talk with her 8-year-old son about sex. He asked me to bring her a set of our DVDs Raising Healthy Kids: Families Talk About Sexual Health.

Here is the dialogue at Starbucks – which I’m sure caught the ear of every other person there.

Clare: I have such a hard time with one of the words.

Chad: I told her to go home and practice saying the word in the mirror. (Advice offered by experts in the DVD)

Clare: My husband heard me say it and said, “Don’t ever say that again!”

Me: What’s the word?

Clare: I can’t say it. Look at me, I’m red!

Jeanne: Well, tell me the first letter, I’ll guess. Vagina? Penis?

Clare covered her ears and said LA LA LA LA LA, so she couldn’t hear me.

Clare turned to me and whispered, “Uterus. I can’t say the word uterus. I told my son that a baby grows in the tummy and he said, ‘No it doesn’t. When I eat fruit, that’s where it goes!”

We were all laughing. And so was Clare. “It’s so hard!” she said. “I’m really struggling. And I’m a normal parent, aren’t I Chad?”

Me: Of course you’re normal. Most parents struggle with this stuff. But you have to push through your discomfort for your son’s sake.

Then I introduced Clare to Kim who was at the counter with us. She's a leading researcher on family communication.

Me: Clare, this is the woman who found through her research that when you DO talk openly with your kids about sexual health, they tend to delay intercourse. And when they do have sex they are more likely to use protection. You think it’s hard to say “uterus.” Imagine what a hard time you’d have if your son came home a few years down the road and told you he’d gotten a girl pregnant!

Clare: OK! That’s all I had to hear! I’ll keep working at it. But it’s hard!

I can’t wait to go back see Clare at Starbucks. If she’s watched Raising Healthy Kids there will be all kinds of new topics that experts say she needs to address with her son. More importantly, they’ll help her understand why. I predict that she won’t think the book – or the DVDs – are so dirty.

In her fluster, Clare gave me caffeinated coffee rather than the decaf I’d requested. I paid for that visit all day long. But it was well worth it.

Resources
Raising Healthy Kids: Families Talk About Sexual Health
Words Can Work: When Talking With Kids About Sexual Health

Related Issues and Answers columns
Growing up gay
Kids and oral sex
Parents as educators
Postponing sex
Self-respect
Talking with kids

Related columns for young people

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Steroid Problem

I got an email from a Safe and Drug Free Coordinator from a State Department of Education. She wanted to preview our DVDs about substance abuse. In particular, Alcohol: True Stories Hosted by Matt Damon and Drugs: True Stories. But she said skip Steroids: True Stories Hosted by Curt Schilling. “I don’t think steroids are a problem in our state,” she wrote.

A whole state? No steroids? I wanted to write back, “How do you do it? What’s your secret!?”

Her colleagues in other states have been responding differently, letting us know that the materials are badly needed.

This doesn’t surprise me – not any longer. When I began producing the steroids DVD I didn’t know any kids – I didn’t think – who’d pump drugs into their body to give them a competitive edge or a more muscular or toned body.

But I’ve spent a few years talking with people who have used steroids. A neighbor, John, whose story is also told in the Words Can Work: When Talking About Steroids booklet, shocked me when he admitted that as a teenager he’d used steroids – for a month.

“I developed man boobs,” he told me. “I still have them. I tried liposuction to get rid of them, but they came back.”

Man boobs are just one of the many potential side effects of anabolic steroid use.

Nate Hunter, a sophomore at Northeastern University, is profiled Steroids: True Stories Hosted by Curt Schilling. He’s a great kid. Handsome and muscular who throws a record-breaking shot put. He’s earned his success by busting his tail. “Steroids are definitely available,” he told me. “They are very easily accessible.”

Nate says in high school guys were always pushing him to try illegal supplements egging him on. “Imagine how far you could throw if you were tried steroids!” they’d say.

Nate’s former principal, Dr. Joe Sullivan is a friend. I asked him whether steroids were a problem in his school. He looked at me as if to say, “Are you crazy? Of course they are.”

Here’s what Peter Roby, the director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society says about anabolic steroid use.

“Ask yourselves, ‘Is there anyone in our program that we suspect is abusing steroids? Has their appearance changed that much? Are they breaking out with acne like we haven’t seen before? Are you hearing rumors?’ If we’re not willing to have the conversation, we’re not going to fix the problem.”

Resources
Steroids: True Stories Hosted by Curt Schilling
Words Can Work: When Talking About Steroids

Related Issues and Answers columns
A sister’s story
A story of addiction
Avoiding steroids
Girls and steroids

Related columns for young people

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home