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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Internet Safety Tips for Parents of Teens

Understanding how to navigate the internet is important for teenagers and parents today.

The quick-changing online world can seem a little scary and tough to navigate, but with the right tips, your children can use the Internet safely and responsibly.

Safety Tips for Parents of Teens

1. Do Your Research.

The first step to making the Internet a safe place for your teenagers is to spend a little time online yourself. Read well-known tech websites such as Mashable or TechCrunch to learn about which sites are popular today with teenagers.

Are you familiar with Kik, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, Vine, and the other social sites that exist online?

2. Supervise setup.

If your child wants to sign up for a social media website, read the terms and conditions. Once you have helped him create an account, visit the Security or Privacy tabs on each site and select the settings of your choice. Most sites have FAQ sections to help you work through the process.

3. Pay attention to alternative platforms.

These days, everything is connected. Along with the laptops and PCs, many teens have smartphones, which are able to access the internet. Pay attention to the apps and websites that are visited and downloaded.

In addition, tablets, e-readers, and gaming devices that connect to WiFi, along with all of the games that allow players to interact with each other via audio or text-based systems, are all ways to access the Internet. Pay attention to the people that your teenagers are interacting with on gaming platforms such as Xbox, iPads, and other popular tablets.

Don't Ignore the Internet

Talk to your children about the dangers of the Internet. Even if you don't spend much time online, chances are your teens do. Your children are more tech-savvy than you may think. Explain to them the risks of responding to strangers online, engaging in cyber-bullying, and revealing personal information such as addresses, phone numbers, or personal account information. 

Click here to learn more about Internet safety. To learn more about LiveFree! and our mission, visit our website.

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3 Ways to Help Your Teen Avoid Alcohol During the Holidays

How you can help your teens enjoy a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season.

1. Talk to your children about the dangers of drinking and drivingSobering statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, 1982-2006:

  • 40% of traffic crashes during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday periods (each is considered to be a separate three-day period) involve an intoxicated driver
  • More traffic fatalities occur during the three-day “Christmas Holiday Period” than during the other 27 days in December. (December 31 is considered part of the “New Year’s Holiday” period.)
  • The same is true for the three-day “New Year’s Holiday” period in January.

Take a look at these tips for an open conversation about alcohol use with your children. Start a dialogue earlier than you think you should.

2. Provide adult supervision and be available.

If your family is hosting a holiday get-together that includes your tweens and teens, don't allow them to remain completely unsupervised. Be around in case problems with drinking arise. Don't allow any teens who appear intoxicated to leave your home. 

If your teen is heading to a party or holiday gathering at a friend's house, make sure that he or she knows to call you at the first sign of trouble. Often, teens are afraid of the consequences of getting caught – make sure that your children know that safety comes first, and they will never be in trouble for calling you to bring them home safely.

3. Set a positive example. 

Statistics don't lie: teens whose parents never let them drink at home are over twice as likely to avoid alcohol. Meanwhile, "over half (57%) of high school teens who report their parents allow them to drink at home, even once in a while, say they drink with their friends, as compared to just 14 percent of teens who say their parents don’t let them drink."

If you do drink, do so responsibly.

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 to learn more about LiveFree! 

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How to Simplify Holiday Shopping for Busy Parents

Tackle this holiday season with our tips for less tantrums, less stress, and more time for family togetherness!

When it comes to the holiday season, stress can be a close companion to the food, friends, and festivities that the winter months typically bring. Add gift shopping and children to the mix, and it sounds downright impossible! But with our suggestions, holiday shopping can be made more simple.

  1. Shop online. This one sounds obvious, and there's a reason for that: it is. If you need to search for an inspired item, a trip to the mall may be necessary. For more specific purchases, if you have a wish list or a selection of gift cards that need to be purchased, order them over lunch hour or after the kids are asleep. You can often find free shipping or other deals online, making your time-saving trick a money-saving one, too
  2. Pack snacks or eat ahead of time. Many shopping trips have been derailed due to a food court breakdown. Even taking the time to swing through a fast-food restaurant before shopping can be stressful during the busy holiday season. Eat before you go, and bring along healthy snacks for yourself and your children. 
  3. Insist on wish lists. Instead of searching high and low for items that friends, family, and coworkers will love, explain your time constraints and ask loved ones to tell you exactly which gifts they are eyeing. Save yourself the stress of selecting new clothing for your teens when they already know exactly what they would prefer to unwrap on holiday mornings.
  4. Take advantage of free gift wrapping. Many department stores offer free gift wrapping with purchase over the holiday season. Save yourself some time and energy by getting your gift wrapped immediately! Just make a note somewhere about whose gift it is – holiday morning mix ups are never fun. Alternatively:
  5. Make gift wrapping a family activity. Do you have young children at home? Turn gift wrapping or catalog combing into a family-friendly activity.

Please visit our website to learn more about LiveFree! Pinellas.

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5 Healthy Ways to Manage Stress During Exams

Don't let tough academic exams get the better of you. Learn easy ways to manage your stress:

As the semester winds down, students may find themselves overwhelmed by stress from the prospect of taking exams – but test anxiety doesn't have to drag you down. Combat your fear of a bad grade by managing stress in a healthy way.

Consider these five suggestions the next time that an exam stresses you out:

  1. Be prepared. It may sound simple, but being prepared for your exams really is the best way to reduce your test stress. Study, do the homework, and reach out to your teachers, your parents, or a tutor if you need help. Understanding the material is your best shot at getting a stress-free "A."
  2. Be organized. Avoid exam overload. Ask your parents to help you create a studying schedule, so that you don't have to cram for multiple finals at the last minute. Pulling an all-nighter is a sure-fire way to feel tired, unprepared, and stressed out on exam day.
  3. Balance your time. If you are a member of extracurricular clubs or sports, the end of the semester may feel like an especially stressful time as you try to fit in study sessions. By sticking to a schedule, you can balance schoolwork and the activities you enjoy. Exercising or volunteering can be great ways to relieve stress.
  4. Have a game-day plan. It's important to be prepared mentally and well-rested physically on the day of your big exam. Get a good night's sleep, and be sure to eat a high-protein, vitamin-rich breakfast on test day. Try to limit caffeine intake, and drink plenty of water instead.
  5. Make time for "me." With all of these responsibilities, be sure to set aside some stress-free time to relax by yourself, with friends, or with family!

For more ideas about getting through the school year in a healthy way, check out LiveFree! We are a community-focused organization, based in Pinellas County, dedicated to educating people about and ending substance abuse.

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Safety Tips While Traveling

Stay safe this holiday season while on the road or out of town with your family.

The holidays present an opportunity to spend time with friends and family – but it can also involve travel through inclement weather and unfamiliar territory. Before hitting the road for a holiday vacation with your family, review our safety tips to make your trip a happy and healthy experience. 

Keep this checklist close by before heading out on your travels this Thanksgiving break.

  • Pack medications and instructions. If you or your teen takes medication regularly, be sure to pack the right amount for your trip. If your medication is prescribed, make sure to order refills in advance. Write instructions down and make sure that they are accessible in the event of an emergency.
  • Don't drive while tired. Whether you are road-tripping to your destination or picking up a rental car after a long flight, be wary of things like jet lag and fatigue, which can reduce reaction time and increase the risk of accidents on the road.
  • Be informed. Agencies like the Centers for Disease Control issue traveler safety warnings and recommendations, including information about international outbreaks or other health-related issues. 
  • Be prepared. Whether you are traveling with young children or teenagers, be prepared for potential health and safety concerns. Visit the CDC for more information.
  • Exercise common sense when it comes to weather. 

Are your teens traveling alone or with friends? Alert them to the dangers of drunk or impaired driving and basic safety tips for beginning drivers.  Discourage teens from driving while tired, and help map out safe places to stay the night on longer trips in advance.

The LiveFree! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition is a coalition of community advocates who strive to address substance abuse in Pinellas County. To see how you can get involved in this cause to help make our community a better place, visit us online.

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Give Back to Your Community: Ways to Get Involved Locally as a Family

Giving back to your community can bring your whole family together for a good cause.

Volunteering does something very important for local communities. It allows individuals and families to learn to focus on those less fortunate and give back to the town or city they live in. Finding a volunteer project that the whole family can get involved in promotes many things: generosity, commitment to your community, mental and physical health, connections, experience, and a sense of fulfillment. 

Give Back To Your Community

Volunteering allows families to spend quality time together while helping their communities. Participating in a volunteer activity that is relevant to your family's interests will help your family be more likely to remain involved.

  • Do you all share a love of food or cooking? Volunteer at a local food pantry or soup kitchen. 
  • Are you animal lovers? Visit the animal shelters to walk dogs, feed animals, or clean cages.
  • Enjoy connecting with people? Visit patients at a local hospital or help out at a shelter or non-profit.
  • Are you "outdoorsy" people? Volunteer to help with community projects or build houses or shelters.

Resources for getting involved in volunteering locally include:

Volunteer work is about doing something to help others without expecting anything in return. Still, volunteering as a family can be rewarding in many ways, including:

  • College or job applications: Consider volunteer work a resume builder. Applicants with volunteer work experience show a commitment to making the community a better place. 
  • Real-world experience: Many volunteer opportunities require individuals to learn new skills. Volunteers might also discover a calling to an unexpected career or hobby.
  • Emotional satisfaction: Volunteering can create  a sense of well-being and build self-esteem and pride. If the whole family is involved, it can also promote a sense of connectivity.
  • Meeting new people: Through volunteering, you can make new friends who share your family's values. 

Volunteering can help you build a better future for yourself and those around you. Join us at LiveFree! today and take a step in the right direction for your family and your community!

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