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Communicating With Your Teen
I'll bet several of you are saying "Communicating? Who communicates anymore? We
argue, I get ignored, but communicate? It doesn't happen!"
Parents often feel frustrated when their children become adolescents. All of a sudden
you find you can't say the right thing anymore. You're charged with nagging, being
intrusive, negative or worse. "What did I say?" parents are apt to wonder, head spinning
as their teen stalks out of the room because of some imagined offense. But being able to
talk with your teens - really talk so they'll be able to listen - is critical. More than at any
other time in a child's life, parents need to be able to communicate not only their love
and respect for their child, but also their ideas, values and concerns. At the very time
that parents lament the feeling that they're "talking to the wall," research points out that
when teenagers feel good about the way they communicate with their parents they're
less likely to smoke, drink, use drugs and have early, unprotected sex. In fact, one of the
most important reasons teens choose not to use alcohol and drugs is because they don't
want to jeopardize their relationship with their parents!
OK, so it's important to continue to communicate in a positive, open way, even with an
emotionally prickly teen. So how do you do it? Here are some tips that can help smooth
the rough waters in conversations between parents and teens:
*Give teens your undivided attention. That means stop cooking, working on the
crossword puzzle, or watching the news out of the corner of your eye. Listen.
Show teens you respect them and their point of view. That means no talking
down to them, no preaching, and no belittling remarks.
*Check out your understanding of your teen's point of view. Many times parents
think they know what their teen is saying when they've actually misinterpreted
their child's main message. Check things out by restating in your own words what
you think you heard and ask, "Did I get it right? Is that what you meant?"
*Avoid one-sided conversations that sound like you're conducting the Spanish
inquisition. Nothing turns teens off faster than feeling like they're being grilled for
the minute details of their daily lives.
*Don't let teens turn the tables on you when you ask them to do something or
confront them with their behavior. How many times does your teen get on the
offensive and complain of your nagging or foul mood in response to a simple
request to take out the garbage? Keep your eye on the ball - the issue is not your
bad mood, it's a request for your teen to do his or her chores.
*Pick and choose your battles. Sometimes it seems like everything turns into an
endless tug of war between parents and teens. Hours can be spent on the same
old arguments - a messy room, wearing sloppy clothes, loud music...the list goes
on. If you're not careful, negative interactions will far outweigh the positive ones.
Keep your sights on what's really important to wage a battle over - things like
substance use, for example.
For more information and resources on adolescent health issues visit the American
Medical Association Adolescent Health Web site at www.amaassn.

Make A Difference cover


                                      YOUR TEEN AND ALCOHOL

Under-age alcohol use is an issue for many families. Experimentation with
alcohol can begin in middle school and may escalate in high school. Teens who
begin to drink before the age of 15 are four times as likely to develop alcohol
dependence than those who start at age 21. Teens - with questionable judgment
to begin with - can get themselves into dangerous situations in a car or at a party
if they drink alcohol (date rape is more likely to occur when teens are drunk). In
addition, frequent alcohol use can lead to symptoms that mimic depression -
irritability, lack of energy, and loss of interest in school or other activities.
Despite the dangers of under-age drinking, and despite the fact that it is illegal,
some parents say they want to teach their children to drink "responsibly." They
may argue that it's a good thing to allow their teens to have one or two beers at
home under "supervised" conditions. Others allow parties at their homes with
alcohol and take away car keys so no one may drive home. One parent recently
decided to have a high school graduation party for her daughter. She provided
beer for the teens with the stipulation that they were only allowed two beers
Parents need to be aware of the message these behaviors give to adolescents.
Teens have a hard enough time making good choices as they navigate through
adolescence without being confronted with confusing messages from parents.
When teens are allowed "supervised" drinking, they hear this as a message that
drinking is permissible. They do not necessarily make the distinction that it is all
right to drink at home but not outside the home. They may also come to believe
that the law in general can be overlooked if it is inconvenient or a barrier to their
The summer is a time when a teen's social scene can be very active because
there is no school, rules tend to be more relaxed, and kids have more free time.
Parties or informal get-togethers may crop up almost any night, and kids tend to
hop from one house to another as plans change from moment to moment. When
parents are out of town and teens are left behind, their homes are likely places
for parties to happen spontaneously - and they can quickly get out of control as
word spreads and more and more kids arrive on the doorstep.
What Can Parents Do?
*Take a firm stand against under-age drinking. Talk to your children about
alcohol and do not condone any drinking. This firm stand will help your
teens say no.
*If there is a history of alcoholism in your family, make sure that your teen
knows about this and the danger it poses for him or her.
*Teach your teens skills in saying no to alcohol and other illegal
*Make the consequences for drinking very clear, indicating that the type of
consequence mirrors the seriousness of the behavior.
*Do not allow any other teen to bring alcohol into your home and do not
allow it to be served at your teen's party. You will have to supervise and
monitor the comings and goings of the other teens who might carry
alcohol in via backpack, or hide it in the bushes to be retrieved later. So
don't be shy about searching backpacks. You can alert your teen
beforehand that you plan to do this so that all the partygoers will know the
rules in advance. You can also tell your child that you will not hesitate to
call the parents of the teen bringing in the alcohol so that he or she can be
brought home. If word spreads about this, you are less likely to have a
problem. Finally, it's a good idea to have some help with supervision. One
or two parents can't effectively watch over a large gathering.
*If you are going out of town, do not leave teenagers unsupervised. They
may be responsible and mean well, but when word gets out that parents
are away, others may show up to party. Some may be people your teen
does not even know. These gatherings can get out of hand quickly, with
damage to your property, or worse, with someone getting hurt. In fact, in
many states the adults of the house are legally responsible if they allow
alcohol in their homes at a party and then someone gets hurt or hurts
another in an alcohol-related accident while driving home.
*If your child is going to a party, set firms rules about notifying you about
when it is and where - get an address and phone number. Talk to the
parents hosting the party beforehand to make sure that they will be there
and that no alcohol will be served or tolerated. Most teens hate it when
parents insist on calling other parents, but a realistic response can be that
either you call or the teen does not attend. Also, have some rules about
changes of location as teens tend to change plans all evening long. Make
it clear that they need your permission to go somewhere else.
Be prepared to be unpopular. Your teens may not like your rules, and other
parents may disagree. But remember, your job is to be a parent to your teen. He
or she does not need you to be a friend. Keep in mind that you are protecting
your child's health and well-being.
For more information and resources on adolescent health visit the AMA
Adolescent Health Web site at or the
AMA Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Web site at http://www.amaassn.





Summer is here and teenagers are off to the pool, the beach, or an outdoor game of
basketball. Despite your advice, applying sunscreen may be one of the last things
teenagers are considering as they head out the door. Yet, 50% to 80% of the sun
damage done to our skin occurs during childhood and adolescence. Intermittent but
intense sun exposure contributes to significantly increased risk for skin cancer later in
life. Every sunburn counts so it is never too early to improve sun safety!
Health Problems Related to the Sun
*Skin cancer is potentially the most dangerous consequence of overexposure to
the sun.
*Premature aging results from years of sun exposure and leads to thick and
wrinkled skin.
*Cataracts have been associated with lack of proper eye protection (sunglasses)
from the UV rays of the sun.
Types of Skin Cancer
*Melanoma is the most serious and life-threatening form. The rate of this type of
skin cancer is doubling among Caucasian Americans every eight to ten years.
Melanoma begins with the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells which
leads to a dark pigmented mole. These moles begin as a light brown to black flat
mole with irregular borders. They are usually at least one-quarter inch in size,
may turn shades of red, blue, or white, and may bleed. Pigment spreading from
the border of a mole to surrounding skin is cause for concern and medical
consultation. Left undetected, melanoma can spread to internal organs and may
result in death. However, with early detection melanoma can be treated
*Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a second most common form of skin cancer,
accounting for approximately 16 percent of diagnosed skin cancer. Sun exposure
is one of the major contributing causes. Squamous cell carcinoma appears as a
crusty, scaly patch with a hard surface. If untreated, it can spread internally to
other parts of the body. However, if diagnosed early, the cure rate is 95 percent.
*Basal Cell Carcinoma accounts for 80 percent of skin cancer. These lesions
usually appear as small, pearly nodules or bumps on the skin. Although these
tumors do not grow quickly or spread to other parts of the body, they can grow
below skin level and cause damage to the bone below the lesion. If detected and
treated, the cure rate is over 95 percent.
Facts About Skin Cancer from the American Academy of Dermatology
*By using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 until 18 years of age, the risk of
developing skin cancer can be reduced by 78 percent.
*Each year, over one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United
*Squamous cell carcinoma has a 95 percent cure rate if detected early but in
1998, approximately 1,200 died from this type of skin cancer.
*One in 79 Americans has a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.
*One person dies every hour from melanoma. According to the American Cancer
Society, there were 7,300 deaths in 1999.
*With a family history of melanoma, the risk of getting the disease increases, even
without sun exposure.
*Sun exposure is one of the most important factors associated with developing
skin cancer.
Facts About Teenagers and the Sun
*Surveys have indicated that most teenagers know about the dangerous effects of
sun exposure. However, they still fail to translate this knowledge into sun safe
*Most teenagers believe that having a suntan makes them appear more healthy,
attractive and sophisticated.
*Although teenagers tend to apply sunscreen when going to the beach, they fail to
apply sunscreen on a regular basis when they are involved in other outdoor
*Less than 30 percent reapply sunscreen after swimming.
*Most teenagers believe that sunscreen should only be used during the summer
months, not to prevent sun exposure during other times of the year.
*Less than half of teenagers surveyed reported that they wore sunglasses to
protect their eyes from the sun.
Tips from Dermatologists About Playing It Safe
*Limit the amount of time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun's
UV rays are the strongest.
*Thirty minutes prior to being in the sun, apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 15.
Remember to apply to all exposed skin including ears, nose, neck, and hands.
*Reapply sunscreen after swimming, toweling off, or excessive sweating.
Otherwise, reapply every 2 hours. Even waterproof sunscreen wears off!
*Remember the lips with a lip balm with a SPF of at least 15.
*Sunscreen is not just for the summer! Help your teenager get into the daily habit
of applying a sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF 15.
*Wear sunglasses that block UVA/UVB rays or a wide-brimmed hat (at least a 4
inch brim) to protect the eyes. Your neck, ears, and face will also be protected
when wearing a hat.
*Trees and umbrellas offer great protection. Whenever possible, stay in the
*Cover up with tightly woven clothing.
*As a parent, be a good role model by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and
by avoiding the sun during peak hours. By doing this, you will be protecting your
skin and your teenagers!
For additional information on adolescent health issues visit the AMA Adolescent Health Web site

No sunscreen gives total protection. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.


The Truth About TANNING BEDS

Most parents worry about their children drinking and driving on prom night and during summer vacation.

Yet how many think twice about letting their adolescents go off to a dozen or so sessions in tanning beds in anticipation of the prom and vacation?

"These are the kids who end up coming to me with skin cancer," says Douglas W. Kress, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Dermatology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "Why? Because they're exposing themselves to dangerous ultraviolet rays - mostly because of tanning beds."

Those who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than nonusers, according to one study.

SHADY ADVICE: Stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest. You don't have to go inside. Play board games or read with your kids on a covered porch. Set up a picnic under a shady tree.

The National Institutes of Health confirms that the rate of skin cancer, which can result from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, has jumped significantly in the past 10 years among young people - particularly among Caucasian girls.

The Ultraviolet Ray MYTH

There are two kinds of ultraviolet rays, both of which can create an increased risk of skin cancer.

  • Ultraviolet-A (UVA) are the tanning rays (they penetrate to deeper layers of skin) that, until only a decade ago, were believed to be safe. They are not. Over time, UVA rays break down the skin, making it more susceptible to skin cancer, says Dr. Kress.
  • Ultraviolet-B (UVB) are the rays that produce sunburn. There is scientific evidence that children who get sunburned are at higher risks of getting skin cancer, he says.

To date, 22 states have adopted legislation either limiting or banning the use of tanning beds by minors. Legislation has been proposed in Pennsylvania.

"We have laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors," says Dr. Kress. "Letting our kids use tanning beds is dangerous, too."


  • Do NOT use sunscreen on babies under 6 months old. Instead, cover them with a big brim hat and lightweight long pants and shirt.
  • For sunscreen to be effective, rub it on your children one half-hour before they go outside.
  • The SPF in sunscreen indicates the length of time skin can be in the sun with little risk of sunburn.
  • The effectiveness of sunscreen diminishes with age. Buy new sunscreen every year.
  • Use waterproof sunscreen for children who swim, or who are active and sweat easily.


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                                                      EagleCam | BioDiversity Research Institute                                

The EagleCam

Welcome to BioDiversity Research Institute's live eagle webcam. The camera is 70 feet up in a white pine tree on the coast of Maine, and is providing live video of a nesting pair of bald eagles, 24 hours a day. These eagles are the most successful pair in the state. They have nested at this site for 13 years, and raised 20 offspring. Read the latest about the eagles on our blog, written by expert wildlife biologists.


          LoonCam | BioDiversity Research Institute


This wildlife webcam follows the nesting behaviors of a pair of loons that nest on an island in mid-coast Maine. The adults were first banded in 2001, and have returned to breed every year, since. When the video is live, and the loons are active, viewers should be able to see the brightly colored leg bands that we use to identify individual loons. Also, during the breeding season, follow the latest about the loons on our loon blog, written by an expert BRI biologist.



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