Creating A Strong Bond Between Parent/Teen

The teenage years can be tough to navigate, but these suggestions can help parents and teenagers learn to speak the same language.

Not so long ago, your teenage son or daughter was a toddler who spent his or her time following you around. Now, as your child enters high school, bonding with your preteen or teenager may seem difficult while he or she navigates the tricky balance of becoming more independent but staying engaged with family members. Don’t worry – open communication and mutual respect can help make the teenage years a little less complicated!

To help create a strong bond between parents and teens, try implementing these suggestions and remembering these tips:

  • Be a good role model. Even though teenagers may not be as open with parents as younger children, parents are still an important influence in their children’s lives. Model the kind of behavior that you would like to see your teenager develop – honesty, persistence, patience, hard work, healthy living, and responsibility.
  • Spend time doing hobbies together. Perhaps your teenager is busy with sports, friends and school commitments, but that doesn’t mean that he or she has no desire to spend time with family. Bonding with your teenager could mean being open to learning about his or her developing interests and trying them together, whether it’s working on restoring a car or learning an extreme sport, like kickboxing, together. By showing an interest in your teen’s hobbies, you can create a bond that shows mutual respect and consideration, an important building block as your child becomes an adult.
  • Educate yourself. From family friends with older children, to endless pages of resources available online, take advantage of what others have learned about raising healthy, happy teenagers. Live Free! is a great blog to help you get started!
  • Respect their privacy. This may be the most difficult task to accomplsh, but it may also be the most essential. As your teenager grows and matures, it is only natural for him or her to try on different identities, make new sets of friends, and seek out alone time. Demonstrating healthy boundaries with your teen will help show them that you trust them, which can go a long way toward maintaing a strong parent-child bond.

At LiveFree!, your teenagers are our top priority. We work to provide education, guidance, and support that keeps our teens safe and healthy during their adolescence. Learn more about our mission and vision on our website.

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“Back to School” Blog: Transitioning to High School

Heading to high school can seem intimidating after spending years at the junior level. Follow our advice for making the transition as smooth as possible.

 

Are you (or your teenager) making the leap to high school this "back to school" season? Are you wondering what high school is going to be like?

You're not alone.

From the new subjects you'll be studying to the new students you'll be meeting, the move from middle school to high school is a big one for a young teenager. But don't worry – it's completely ordinary to feel anxiety or nervous about peer pressure, unknown teachers, and cafeteria food.

With a little knowledge, a little help, and a little preparation, you can navigate the halls of your new high school with your head held high! Here are just a few ways that the transition to high school can be made easier for teenagers:

  • Get involved in a school-organized (and supervised) sport, activity, or club. Not athletic? Try something creative, like yearbook, newspaper, or music. You will gain access to a group of potential friends who share at least one common interest, and you will be more likely to feel a sense of belonging in your new environment at high school.
  • Give back. One of the best ways to make use of your time in high school is to join a service organization that spends time volunteering to help others. From running concession stands at little league games, to organizing charity drives around the holidays, you will gain many valuable life skills while helping those in your community. Leadership and public service will stand out on a college resume.
  • Follow our "quick list" of tips for a safe and successful school year. From developing a morning routine before school actually starts, to discussing a balance between school,/friends/family/extracurricular activities, there are easy, effective ways to help your teenager enjoy a happy, healthy "back to school" transition in high school!

With our advice, your teenager will be sure to make the school year a success. Follow our suggestions for a healthy, happy school year or visit our website to learn more about LiveFree! 

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Do You Have What it Takes to be a Teen Influencer?

Teen Influencers have the power to make a difference! Work with MADD to reduce underage drinking.

The facts about underage drinking and driving don't lie. Fact: in 2008, nearly one third (32%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States were the result of alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Also in 2008, "an estimated 12.4% of persons ages 12 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least once during the past year."  

It is crucial that teens and young adults recognize the dangers associated with consuming alcohol and getting behind the wheel of a car. The efforts of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, are helping to raise awareness and reduce the number of impaired underage drivers. 

Now, ten teens are going to have the chance to take a stand against underage drinking as part of MADD’s National Teen Influencer Group! Outstanding and responsible teens from around the United States are applying to lead other teenagers across the country in taking a stand against underage drinking as a part of the 2014-2015 Power of You(th)® National Teen Influencer Group, nationally sponsored by State Farm®.

Out of all applicants, ten teens will be selected "to shape and create initiatives to empower teens to not drink before 21 or ride in a car with someone who has been drinking" and to work alongside MADD National staff members, gaining invaluable experience..

Other perks include: serving as youth ambassadors for MADD within your state and community; building a network of inspiring and motivated peers from across the country; developing and refining "new leadership skills, media training, effective underage drinking prevention initiatives, and new friendships." 

A chance to work with MADD staff and develop real-world job skills is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for a teenager. Even more meaningful than the personal rewards, however, is the chance to help spread a positive message to other teenagers around the country, and to potentially help save lives!

Eligibility rules to participate in the MADD Teen Influencer program can be found here.

If you feel that your teen may be suffering from alcohol abuse or experimenting with drinking, visit Drug Free America for more educational resources. Please visit our website or explore our blog to learn more about LiveFree! 

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Staying Safe While Being Outdoors this Summer

When the school bell rings, make sure that your kids are set to have a safe summer out in the sun!

The summer is no doubt the best time of year for many teens. From summer camp to volunteering to potential summer jobs, there is no shortage of constructive, healthy ways that teens can spend the summer. Another big attraction in the summer months? The great outdoors! Spending time outside is always a good idea, but in hot states like Florida a little planning is necessary to ensure a safe summertime. 

Before letting your teens loose this summer, review our tips for staying safe while outdoors:

  • Pay attention during sports. Sports injuries can tend to rise in the summer as kids are playing sports out in the sun. Know how to recognize a concussion, when to go to the Emergency Room, when to see the doctor, and when you are okay. 
  • Practice helmet safety. When kids are having fun in the neighborhood, it's easy to run out the door without  a helmet. Make sure your kids know that when riding a bike, in-line skating, skateboarding, or engaging in any other potentially dangerous activity, a helmet is essential.
  • Wear sunscreen! Kids and adults of ALL ages should abide by this rule, but it is especially important for young children whose sensitive skin is still developing. Don't feel the burn. Don't underestimate the sun's strength. Whether it's a day on the beach, a few minutes unattended in a car, or simply a walk around the block on a hot afternoon, it can be deadly.
  • Be aware of water. Boating, swimming, and other fun water-related activities are always a big hit in the summer, whether you're on a river, lake, or the ocean. Practice water safety and be aware! Read more water safety tips from the Red Cross.

What are your best tips for keeping teens safe while outdoors this summer?

The LiveFree! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition is a coalition of members of the community who strive to address alcohol and drug use in Pinellas County. Visit us online today to see how you can get involved.

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Tips for Finding that Perfect Summer Job

Teens, find the perfect summer job with a few simple tips.

Finding a summer job can benefit teenagers in a few helpful ways. From earning money to save for college, a car, or another goal, to learning responsibility and new skills, working during the summer is something that teenagers should consider. Of course, work should not come before school when you are a teenager, but that's what makes summer jobs the perfect solution.

Before you start the job hunt, take these tips into consideration:

  • Ask around. Some of the jobs that are available to teenagers go unadvertised, like walking a neighbor's dog or babysitting for a friend of the family. Take advantage of your network and your family's network to seek jobs in your own backyard.
  • Create a resume. That's right. Even for your first job, a resume is something that will impress a potential employer – and the fact that you've put one together while still a student shows resourcefulness. Ask a trusted family member or teacher for help, and remember that many free resume templates can be found online. Skills like teamwork from time on a sports team, or landscaping from years of earning allowance, should be highlighted.
  • Consider summer camps. If you participated in a summer camp as a child, why not get back to your roots and work as a camp counselor? Alternatively, many students under the age of 20 work as lifeguards at community pools or local clubs like the Pinellas County YMCA.
  • Volunteer. If finding the right summer job is not as easy as you'd hoped, you can always give back to your community while earning something almost as valuable as a wage – volunteer hours. Gain personal satisfaction, new skill sets, and a new line for your resume all while helping others! Visit Pinellas County Volunteer Services to learn more about getting involved locally. Plus, volunteering in a field that interests you could lead to a future career path or help you make connections.
  • Visit OSHA's website for Young Worker Summer Job Safety Guidelines in common fields like landscaping, parks and recreation, restaurants, farm work, and life guarding. Know the rules about job safety for teenagers.

With a little bit of effort, teenagers can find a summer job that allows them to learn new life skills, explore future career options, or give back to the local community. Join us at LiveFree! to learn more about getting involved in Pinellas County!

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5 Ways for Your Teen to Stay Safe at Prom

Prom is just around the corner! Have you talked to your teen about safety at the big event?

Is your teen excited about prom season? This tradition is filled with nostalgia, memories, and happy tears for most parents – but many also experience a little anxiety. If you're worried about your teen's safety on the big night, these five tips are for you.

#1 – Monitor pre-prom behavior. Prom can trigger some unhealthy habits in teens that are insecure about their body image. Speak up if you notice that your teen isn't eating as much, has begun exercising excessively, or is talking down about herself a lot.

#2 – Have a discussion. Even the most well-behaved and responsible teens could be tempted by alcohol or drugs on prom night. It's important to have a talk about the dangers of these substances. This is also a good time to review the sex talk, which you've hopefully already had at least once before.

#3 – Find out how your teen is getting to and from prom. If he's riding with friends, do you know them? Do you trust them? Remind your teen of the dangers of drunk driving, and let him know that he can always call you if he is in a bad situation. Set up a code word so your teen can communicate with you discreetly.

#4 – Discuss after-prom activities. Does your teen want to attend a party after the official prom has ended? Get some details before giving an okay, and don't forget to set a curfew.

#5 – Be ready and available to pick up your teen if needed. When the big day arrives, remind your teen that calling is always an option, and that she'll never get in trouble for reaching out when she doesn't feel safe. Then keep your phone close by, just in case.

Are you committed to keeping the teens of Pinellas County safe and healthy? Learn more about how you can get involved at our website, and don't forget to sign up for our newsletter!

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5 Ways to Motivate Your Teen to Stay Physically Active

Get your teens off the couch and on their feet with these tips!

A sedentary life has many hazards, from heart disease to the loss of autonomy as you age. The best time to form healthy habits is in your adolescence. If your teens are always reclined on the couch, watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the web, it's time to make some changes. Teach them early that you can still have a sedentary lifestyle despite regular exercise. Humans were made to be on their feet for most of the day. These five methods of motivation can help your teens embrace a more active daily routine.

  1. Encourage your teen to join a sports team. It's easy to stay moving when you find an activity you love doing! Support these hobbies and interests in your teens whenever they appear.
  2. Get your teen involved in the household chores. Cleaning can rarely be done while sitting down. Make sure everyone has a job to do each day, whether it's washing dishes, vacuuming, or walking the dog.
  3. Plan high-energy family activities. Spend weekends at the park, the beach, or on a hiking trail.
  4. Set up a reward system. Have a conversation with your teen about how much time you'd like to see them standing, walking, or otherwise physically engaged. Set goals and determine some positive reinforcements to provide motivation.
  5. Be a good example. Your teen isn't going to take you seriously if you are a couch potato yourself. Model the lifestyle you want your family to follow.

If the health and safety of teens is an important issue for you, check out the work being done by the LiveFree! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. You can learn more about our goals and vision at our website.

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5 Ways to Set Reasonable Expectations for Your Teen

Parenting a teenager can be tough – find the right balance between setting boundaries and allowing some freedom.

It's natural for a teenager to desire some autonomy. No matter what kind of rules you enforce, you'll probably hear this complaint a lot: "I'm not a kid any more!" This is the age when your children start picking up the final skills they need for adulthood. While experiencing a little personal responsibility is a great thing, the CDC reports that parents who monitor their teen's activities will help reduce their risk for injuries, pregnancy, smoking, drinking, and recreational drug use. Here are five reasonable ways to set the right expectations in your home.

  1. Don't let your teens blow off your questions. Reserve the right to know where your teen is spending his time, who he is spending it with, and what he'll be doing.
  2. Expect a response. If you call or text your teen while he is out, make sure he knows that ignoring you is never an option.
  3. Personalize your expectations for each teen. Each child is different, and rules should be determined based on their individual personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and past experiences.
  4. Be open for conversation. If you are parenting a teen, "because I said so" isn't going to cut it anymore. In a few more years, your child will be making decisions for himself. He'll benefit from knowing why you made the rules you did. Make it known that you are always willing to talk (not argue) about your expectations.
  5. Be clear and consistent about consequences. When you make a rule, make sure you immediately include a consequence to go with it – and don't back down if the rule is broken.

At LiveFree!, your teenagers are our top priority. We work to provide education, guidance, and support that keeps our teens safe and healthy during their adolescence. Learn more about our mission and vision at our website.

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The Dangers Behind Marijuana Legalization

What would happen if Florida decides to legalize marijuana?

Colorado has been in the news a lot lately as the first legal sales of marijuana occur across the state. Is this just the beginning of a marijuana revolution? Could Florida be next in line? If you're wondering which side of the issue you should be voting for, consider these potential dangers of legalization.

Safety Issues

Marijuana is the number one drug involved in fatal car accidents. In 2009, it accounted for 25 percent of road fatalities, with narcotics in second place at 21 percent. When it comes to accidents involving younger drivers, the numbers skyrocket. 43 percent of driver fatalities in the 15 – 24 year old demographic involved the use of marijuana. With easier access to the drug, these numbers will only increase.

Economic Consequences

Those in favor of marijuana legalization often argue that it will help the economy to get these sales on the books. This is a shortsighted view that ignores the negative effect that widespread marijuana use could have on the community's workforce. Employees under the influence of marijuana are more likely to skip work, miss important deadlines, and lose sight of professional goals. The end result of legalization is higher unemployment rates and smaller bottom lines for local businesses.

When students use marijuana, their grades may suffer and their chances of graduating college are slimmer. Legalization will cause our community to suffer both today and tomorrow. Together, we can fight against youth substance abuse. Learn more about the work and mission of LiveFree! at our website.

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Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for Teens

How will your life look different in 2014?

While "now" is always the best time to make healthy changes to your lifestyle, the new year provides a regular opportunity to evaluate your current habits and start working toward a healthier tomorrow. The earlier you settle into the right habits, the easier it will be, and the more effective they will be as you age. Teens, this is the year to start taking your health seriously! Consider these resolutions to get on the right track.

Start meeting your nutritional needs.

Healthy eating habits aren't just for those trying to lose weight or lower their cholesterol – when you are skipping fruits and veggies in exchange for greasy fast food selections, you'll feel sluggish, your immune system will suffer, and you'll set yourself up for an unhealthy future.

Be nice to your lungs.

If you've started smoking, now is the time to quit. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to break the addiction. Don't smoke? Remember that secondhand smoke can be just as dangerous. Don't breathe in your friends' bad habits!

Protect your brain.

There's a reason why the legal age for alcohol is 21. If you're a teen, your brain is still developing, and alcohol can leave lasting damages. Recreational drug use poses an even greater risk. Find other ways to enjoy your weekends.

Give your body the time it needs to recharge.

If you're sacrificing sleep for extra study time or time in front of the computer or television, you aren't doing yourself any favors. Sleep deprivation can lead to a compromised memory, a weakened immune system, or a vulnerability to depression and anxiety. Make it a priority to get eight or nine hours of sleep each night.

If your New Year's resolutions include an end to underage drinking or recreational drug use, LiveFree! can provide the support you need. Learn more about our commitment to preventing and treating substance abuse in our community.

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