Monthly Archives: September 2017

Teens are taking their time to “grow up”

What many teens of the past always saw as rites of passage are passing many by these days as new research shows teens are taking their time to “grow up” in today’s world.

The age teens started driving and working for money were two of the criteria which were studied in new research from the US which has revealed teens today are not engaging in “adult” activities as early as generations before them.

Researchers from San Diego State University studied more than eight million teens involved in large-scale surveys from 1976 to 2016, looking at how often teens engaged in activities that adults do but children do not – such as dating, working for pay, going out without parents, driving and having sex.

Lead author and San Diego State University Psychology Professor Jean Twenge said the developmental trajectory of adolescence had slowed according to the research results, with teens “growing up more slowly than they used to.”

“In terms of adult activities, 18-year-olds now look like 15-year-olds once did,” Dr Twenge said.

Researchers used previous large-scale surveys which questioned teens about how they used their time and their engagement in certain adult activities. The team also looked into how changes to family size, life expectancy, education and the economy may have impacted the rate teens participated in adult activities.

The study found teens in the 2010s were less likely to work for an income, date, drink alcohol and go out without their parents than teens of previous decades. The slowing trend was noted across the demographic groups studied, leading researchers to conclude that teens are generally growing up more slowly in contemporary society.

Researchers questioned whether an increase in online activity by teens was a reason behind the cultural shift, noting a marked increase in online use by teens in recent years compared to previous decades.

“The trend toward engaging in fewer adult activities cannot be explained by time spent on homework or extracurricular activities – time doing those activities decreased among eighth and tenth graders and was steady among twelfth graders,” Dr Twenge said.

Researchers also wrote that the revelation teens were taking longer to take on adult activities/responsibilities was neither a good or bad outcome, but rather a reflection of the current cultural climate in the US.

 

 

Tips to dealing with exam weeks

It’s officially exam time for Year 12s across WA this week; here are some simple, straight-forward tips to dealing with exam weeks – good luck!

Sleep

It is the most important study tool a student has. Sleep refreshes the brain and enables it to process all of the information – routine sleep/waking times are optimal.

Keep running

Exercising boosts the brain’s oxygen levels and hence capabilities to store information. Regular exercise also gives exam students an opportunity to release stress and anxiety, clear their mind and rejuvenate with more energy.

Change your ways

With the majority of study already done (hopefully!) it is time to review and compile information ahead of the exam. Try different techniques to retain information (group discussions with classmates, quizzes with siblings/parents) – regular breaks during every hour of study are essential to refresh the brain and concentration levels.

Don’t forget the hands

Using a stress ball while studying and before exams can help to exercise hand muscles to cope with long periods of writing in an exam situation. Another trick is to weight the pen with a small object attached to it while studying/writing notes or practice essays – this makes the hand work harder to write and the muscles to accommodate. When it’s time to complete the exam the weight is removed and the writing hand, used to the added weight and push of the pen, finds it easier to write for a longer period.

Disconnect from distraction

If parents haven’t set ground rules already students should give themselves their own to minimise distraction from social media and group chats irrelevant to exams.

Timetable your days

A study timetable helps to organise thinking and relieve anxiety about spending too much/too little time on one subject over another. It also helps to remind students to take regular breaks (and meals) to refresh and regain energy levels.

Celebrate the end and relax

Students should give themselves a chance to reflect on each completed exam,  celebrate their best efforts in each one and find ways to relax the mind and body before their next study session.

Boys can suffer eating disorders too

Realising your son has an eating disorder can be traumatic and confronting for parents – how long has it been happening? What is it doing to his body? How can we get help?

For many years eating disorders were thought of as a “female disease” despite men and boys suffering them – many silently and unbeknown to family and friends. However, recent research has debunked the previously held “female disease” myth and revealed boys and men also suffer from eating disorders – with figures showing the number of males suffering disorders doubled from 1995 to 2005. (Hay et al, 2008).

Boys are just as likely to gain weight as to lose it when suffering from an eating disorder. From anorexia nervosa and bulimia to body dysmorphia – boys can struggle with trying to lose or gain weight in their search for the “perfect form”.

Perth mother Adrianne shared the story of coming to terms with her 11-year-old son’s battle with an eating disorder, his treatment and recovery on SBS’s Insight program last week – Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Australia.

Adrianne said she was shocked when her sister discovered her son had lost a dramatic amount of weight. He had been successfully hiding his weight loss from his mother by wearing baggy clothing for months.

“How could I have not noticed?” Adrianne questioned.

“I have sent myself crazy over the years, wondering why he developed an eating disorder. Was our parenting to blame? Did I contribute to his anxiety? Was I unintentionally passing on subliminal messages about weight loss?” she said.

She explained when she asked him years later why he thought he had the eating disorder he simply said he did not want to get fat.

Adrianne struggled with his answer and questioned if there was anything else in his family life or personality to blame.

Her son spent a lot of time exercising but Adrianne did not think it was abnormal, especially when her son passed the excessive training off as necessary for upcoming school events such as athletics.

“I was just grateful that he wasn’t spending his spare time on his Nintendo,” she told audience members.

She said her son was eventually diagnosed with an eating disorder when a psychologist saw he was controlling his anxiety with food intake.

“Mealtimes became a battleground and something we both dreaded, with screaming matches, arguments, crying and a battle of wills because I was convinced he was going to die before my eyes. I sat there for hours trying to make him feed just like I did when he was a baby and then slinking around like a spy to see what he did with the food. My placid son started to resent me.”

She said family-based therapy helped her son and he was now a happy and healthy 16-year-old with hopes for the future and great friends.

In hindsight she said; “…parents of boys need to be just as vigilant as they would for daughters about changes in food intake and exercising…unfortunately, it is not uncommon for boys to go untreated longer and receive less professional care than girls because there are few services designed to meet their specific needs.”

The Butterfly Foundation offers parents and carers information and support to deal with a child’s eating disorder.

  • Speak to your child if you think they may be suffering a disorder – as delaying the conversation may put the child at risk of serious, long term effects from the disorder
  • Seek professional help in the first instance through the Foundation or other agencies which can help parents find the right words and offer information and options to their child
  • Speak to the child in a “safe” environment for them – one-on-one, away from the dinner table/food – to make the conversation less confronting for them
  • Discuss concerns in an open and honest way – non-judgmentally and respectfully
  • Focus on your concerns for their health, wellbeing and behaviour rather than weight, appearance and food
  • Avoid blaming anyone for the problem and making assumptions as to why the disorder has developed
  • Offer help and support and let them know they are loved and cared for

For more information on eating disorders and body image visit www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building blocks of learning start in infancy

Parents can start the building blocks of learning for infants and toddlers through reading, learning-based play and engaging conversations.

The human brain develops most rapidly in the first five years of life and research has established the impact reading to toddlers and infants has on their later academic achievements, conveying a literacy-rich environment from an early age enables children to build their literacy skills more readily.

New research from New York University has further established strong links between engaging, quality play, talking with infants and toddlers and academic achievement in primary school years.

The team found infants and toddlers who were provided with appropriate learning opportunities, through books, educational toys, learning activities and meaningful conversations were more likely to develop early cognitive skills.

Researchers from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development published results of their study of more than 2200 children from birth to Year 5 in the Applied Developmental Science Journal last month.

They cited three key features of home learning which were found to support language development and pre-academic skills; participation in learning activities, quality parent/child interactions and the availability of learning materials such as books and toys.

NYU Applied Psychology Professor and lead study author Catherine Tamis-LeMonda said there was growing evidence of the power of early learning environments on later academic success.

“Our study confirms that strong home learning environments arm children with foundational skills that are springboards to long-term academic achievement,” Dr Tamis-LeMonda said.

Researchers tracked children from infancy through to primary schooling, looking at literacy activities used in the home environment (such as story-telling and reading), learning materials available (i.e. books, appropriate toys or games to facilitate learning) and the quality of parental interactions with the children, such as labelling objects and responding to children’s cues.

The team found positive early learning environments supported the development of pre-academic skills which persisted into early adolescence (Year 5). Study results were also found to be similar for children of different racial and social backgrounds.

The 10-year research project also revealed parents tended to maintain initial learning and engagement opportunities throughout their child’s childhood.

Researchers found the learning environments of the children studied were likely to remain stable from infancy through childhood, suggesting early learning and engagement patterns set by parents either continued to support or negatively impact the development of academic skill in childhood.