February 2010


If I had a loonie for everytime I hollered ‘go to bed’ or ‘GET UP’ to my teenage son I’d have enough money to regularly pay for the massage therapist I need to de-stress from parenting him.

I know I’m not alone in this, but that knowledge doesn’t provide me much comfort when it’s 20 minutes before his first class and he still needs to GET UP.

Since the early 1980’s Mary Carskadon, a Brown University psychology professor, has been studying the effect of early morning schedules on teens. According to her research there’s a biological need that pushes teens to stay up later, and keep them hugging their pillow longer in the morning. It has to do with melatonin which apparently older teens get a sleep inducing blast of, about an hour later than younger adolescents.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, most teens — between the ages of 10 and 18 — need between 8.5 and 9.25 hours of sleep each night. My teen seems to need closer to 12 hours of sleep on the weekends, and occasionally even on school days. I’m endlessly fascinated by the colds and stomach-aches that mysteriously disappear at around 3 p.m.

When he ‘approves’ this blog (my teen reviews/approves all of my blog posts that refer to him) he’ll be thrilled to find out that researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that teens who start classes a bit later may get better grades. Oy. Just what he needs – a legitimized excuse to linger in bed for another hour. Or two.
His favourite day of the week (other than Saturday and Sunday), is Wednesday, which his school has wisely designated as ‘sleep-in-day’. Classes start at 9:40, giving the teens a treasured extra hour of precious sleep mid-week.

Is this research having any effect on other school districts? The results of shifting school schedules has been studied by Kyla Walhstrom, associate director of the Center for Applied Research in Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota. “Teachers are saying, ‘This is a remarkable change. The attention that is being paid in my first-hour class is so vast, I can’t get over the difference that one hour of sleep makes.'”

Do you remember your first concert without your parents tagging along? Mine was back in the late ’70’s – Supertramp. Cobo Hall in Detroit City. It was an exciting time, to cross the border without the parental units to join thousands of screaming teenagers for a concert hall experience.

Maxx had his first concert-without-mom this past week, during the Olympic celebrations.

I went through a remarkably intense decision making process before giving him the go-ahead to join his friends for this.   Would he drink, do drugs, get crushed in a crowd, get in a fight, get separated from his friends in the crowd and get lost?

Finally I sucked up my fears and allowed my 14.5 yr. old only child to head downtown with NO ADULTS to his first ever ‘big-time’ concert.

He had a blast.  Of course.

Except maybe for that part when the crowd almost crushed him.  (he did tell me he thought he was closer to death than he’d ever been)

But he survived.  And the memory has been made.  My first concert?  Supertramp.  My son’s first concert?

Deadmau5

with all this technology - who needs a band?

Would you drug test your teen?

When I ask parents of teens that question, it sometimes generates a strong reaction.  Both positive and negative.

This is a unique and complex parenting era.   To drug test or not to drug test isn’t a question that my mother would have considered when I was a teen, although had the tests been available, she may have considered it.  Drugs were readily available in my teen years, but somehow it seems that more than ever before, pot use is glamorized in movies, music and YouTube videos that teens watch.

Whether they indulged in drug use during their youth or not (or still do) many parents today are aware that the marijuana available today is significantly stronger in TCH content than in previous decades.  And research on the negative impact of drug use on the developing brain continues to emerge from the scientific community, heightening parental concern.

As a parent of a teen, I have engaged in conversation with parents in my community on the topic of drug use amongst our teens.   The parents I have spoken to admit that while they are aware that their young teens are experimenting, they are confused as to how to overcome both the social and peer influences.

A recent conversation with the local high school counsellor exposed the dilemma that schools face in addressing drug use amongst their teen population.  Although the local high schools will suspend or even expel students for obvious drug use, the school administration is aware of drug use on the periphery of their property that is difficult to monitor or control.

In the fall of 2009 I invited a small group of local parents of teens to participate in a series of dialogues to exchange information on what we were witnessing with our own teens and in our community.  When our parent group discussed various tools we’d incorporated into our parental tool kit, the drug testing ‘tool’ proved to be a controversial option.   Is it too invasive, does it indicate a lack of trust, is it exerting power ‘over’ are some of the questions we explored. 

I’m continuing to read up on this topic, and would appreciate hearing your stories, and your opinion.