Archive for the ‘adolescence’ Category

Sexual Assault: How it Happens, What to Do

August 26, 2015
(Courtesey of The Campus Sexual Assault Study from The National Institute of Justice)

(Courtesy of The Campus Sexual Assault Study from The National Institute of Justice)

My letter to the editor in the New York Times discusses the issue of sexual abuse in relationship to the alleged assault that took place at St Paul’s.  Below I offer a more thorough discussion of the role of cognitive confusion in sexual abuse and what to do to help prevent it.

Update: Also see this post from the Harvard Crimson about a young woman’s sexual assault at a campus function.

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Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Encounter with Frank Bruni

March 19, 2015

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A year ago Frank Bruni wrote a series of columns that were to become his book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, published March 17. I read those articles avidly. After many years of offering words of wisdom and comfort to many anxious and wigged out teens and parents during the college admissions process, I, a seasoned psychologist, had become one of them.

Worried that my olive branch wouldn’t stand up to the armored vehicles that now hovered on the junior year turf, I had started to doubt myself – both our family values and our child rearing style. I wrote to Bruni thanking him for his insights and burdening him with the details of what many people call the hell that passes for junior year. We communicated a few times via email. Even though my son’s class dean had warned us all to “stay in your own movie,” I found myself straying into other people’s movies almost daily.

I’m not alone. Both professionally and personally, I’ve now had more conversations with parents about college admissions than I even thought possible. The topics can dizzy one – pre-college summers, Saturday music school, tutors, connections with board members, the lack of middle-class financial aid and legacies, especially legacies with money. All of this I shared with Bruni when he asked to interview me.

Admittedly, seeing my worries and vulnerabilities fully revealed in the last pages of Bruni’s book caused a few internal shudders. Bruni had caught me with my guard down.

Yet, I’m glad that he did. It’s time to reveal the truth about what parents endure when their kids apply to college.

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An Open Letter to Young Adults about Sex, Drugs and Alcohol

February 27, 2015

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Dear Young Person: Alcohol, drugs and sexuality can enhance and create life. They work. They can alter your moods, change your perceptions and disinhibit you. It’s fun to be able to behave differently. Blotting out discomfort relieves anxiety. Going wild can release tension. Alcohol, drugs and sexuality have always been part of the human experience. Think of them as elegant enhancements to already very wondrous life experiences. The young adults I know move me with their energy, brilliance and dedication to causes and creativity. Even those making traditional choices bring unique voices to their work and professions. When I think that you are the future, I want nothing more than to nurture and support you, paving the way for your dreams. Yet, some of you have taken a dangerous detour. The current style of drug, alcohol and sexuality misuse both deprives and potentially harms you.

Our society, and that includes the people who raised you, haven’t figured out how to talk about limits without going back to a more repressive past. Rock and rap stars make tons of money pushing an image of sexy macho hooking-up druggy behavior but it isn’t real. When real people try and live that way, it usually feels really, really bad. People get hurt and violated. Further, attending high school, college or graduate school for the purposes of wild partying disrespects yourself, the concept of education, and all those people in the world who would give anything to have the privilege of education.

I know you have been given mixed messages about all of this stuff and it isn’t your fault if you think the only way to have a good time is to obliterate your mind. So, if you will allow me, I have put together a few modern guidelines for how to navigate the difficult terrain of drugs, alcohol and sexuality. Here goes: (more…)

Teach Your Children Well

February 26, 2015

drugs

I’m not going to link to every reported instance of college or high school partying getting out of hand. Nor am I going to link to the number of emergency room visits that occur every weekend due to alcohol poisoning or drug overdoses; nor every instance of campus sexual abuse. In almost every adolescent community a brilliant and talented student has to be rushed to the hospital each weekend. Or a young woman comes to my office feeling confused and violated by an unwanted sexual experience that arose out of too much alcohol, or having been “roofied.” Pre-gaming and tailgate parties occur openly in our culture. Americans abroad are known for their wild partying.

Recently a private university sent twelve kids to the hospital, two critically ill due to the effects of bad “molly.” The four student dealers were among the school’s brightest students. I’m not going to link to this particular incident or any other because it is too easy to blame individual students or the institutions or the families.

Let’s be clear: I am not advocating prohibition or demonizing the responsible use of drugs and alcohol.

Rather, I’m suggesting that along with a national conversation about campus sexual abuse, it’s also time for a national conversation about how getting wasted has become commonplace for kids as young as thirteen and fourteen. Sexual and alcohol abuse are, after all, related events.  Is it time to start setting some limits on the youthful narcissism and entitlement that makes excessive alcohol use and hook-up sexuality more rewarding than the development of good character?  In ways no one intends, do we not reinforce adolescent substance misuse? Do we cultivate the culture of getting wasted over the development of sober social skills? Consider what I have observed in my work as a psychologist:

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How to Date in Five (not so easy) Lessons

February 23, 2015

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I’m not sure why exactly it is easier to arm the student population than to simply reinforce the idea that sexuality is an extension of a relationship. I’m not advocating a return to a repressive sexuality. Rather, I’m thinking that the brilliant talented kids who constitute our country’s future might benefit from learning how to date.

I once suggested to a client that she have dinner with a man before having sex with him. She looked at me in horror.

What?” she exclaimed, “Have a meal with someone I’ve never met before? Are you crazy?”

No, I’m not crazy.

No matter how it may be publically depicted, the alcohol and drug fueled hook-up sexuality simply feels awful – especially the next morning when your breath stinks and you can’t find your underwear. Let’s get real. Sexuality without intimacy isn’t quite as fun as the hype would have you believe. Further, you get hurt or hurt someone else when you neither know nor understand your partner.

Finally, by popular demand, I am posting my five tips toward successful dating. In other words, here are some ideas for how to behave before you even think about having sex with someone. Here goes:

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Thoughts on Male Sexuality

December 27, 2013

mistletoe

In an age when sexuality has become openly commonplace, both boys and girls find it hard to recognize and value limits. Conversations offer a beginning point, an opportunity to sort out the new sexual mores for the twenty-first century. See my recent post on CNN.com for some thoughts about helping boys find an honorable sexuality.

Binge Sex: How Kids Learn About Rape

October 22, 2013

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Is there an epidemic of binge sex?  Is there a week that goes by without a story about teens or young adults drinking way too much who end up in an encounter of unwanted sexual contact and rape?

In response to the recent onslaught of these stories Emily Yoffe’s post urged women to stop drinking. That provoked a reply from Soraya Chemaly who said that the males need to be told to stop binging and raping.  As a psychologist in private practice my experience suggests that Yoffe and Chemaly both have points. Yet blaming the kids doesn’t get to the source of this problem. Nor does the finger need to be wagged at parents or schools. Rather, it’s the people making lots of money off of binge sex who most warrant the scolding.

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Underage Drinking: The Real Problem

June 3, 2013
from oregon.gov

from oregon.gov

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that alcohol use by those under the age of twenty- one is a major health problem. Research continues to demonstrate that teenage alcohol use endangers brain, liver and endocrine function. Binge drinking can also be lethal to young bodies. In New York City alone emergency visits due to teens who had consumed dangerous levels of alcohol has risen from 7, 958 in 2007 to 15,620 in 2011 according to city records as reported by The Daily News.

Yet underage drinking has other more insidious consequences.  Alcohol misuse by teens circumvents emotional development. The disinhibiting effects of alcohol enable kids to bypass the anxious struggles and subsequent lessons that come from navigating social relationships while sober.

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Sex Tips for Teens, or Sexual Mores for the 21st Century

March 23, 2011

 

from knowabouthealth.com

What is the best way to talk to teens about sexuality?  Surprisingly, I have found that young people respond positively to the concept of a meaningful and sustainable sexuality. Just like kids want to protect their ecosystems, they also want to protect their bodies.  Between high school and the first post-college years many young people seem caught in a vortex of hip cynicism. Yet, in the secret safety of a psychologist’s office these same young adults express a longing for the more traditional relationships they don’t know how to have. By popular request here is a condensed version of the types of comments that have been helpful to teens and their parents. (more…)

Gulf Coast Oil Spill #4: Teens

May 25, 2010

If you are wondering just how bad things really are in the Gulf see this ABC news report. Philippe Cousteau (Jacque’s grandson) calls it a “nightmare.”

Transocean is holding a memorial today for those who died in the Deepwater Horizon in Jackson, Miss. .

People have died.  The US government is now calling it the worst oil spill ever.

While most adults seem to be taking this in stride, rationally calculating the ratio of a country’s need for oil to the spill’s impact, many kids feel defiant and betrayed.  This is their planet.  As they watch adult authority figures still unable to stop the flow of oil into the ocean, cynicism molds childhood laughter in a wary grimace, the dull mask of survival.  They believe that the world they know may be coming to an end, and sometimes, as one adolescent explained, “it is simpler to just harden up and ice over.”

Another young man said, “The subdued reaction to this crisis makes everything seem very false. As long as everyone around us denies that these things are happening, we tag along: the as-if generation in an as-if world.”

Three teenagers from New York City’s Upper West Side, however, tried something different.  This is their story and here is their petition.

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