Guest Post: Preventing Medicine Abuse

Posted by on Oct 14, 2015 in Health & Sleep, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

Please welcome Peggy McKibben to Uncharted Parent. Peggy is a high school nurse, a mother of two and one of the Five Moms at Peggy takes a proactive approach to keeping teens healthy, which includes educating them and their parents about over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription (Rx) drug abuse.

What? Don’t I have enough to worry about with the current heroin epidemic, ramped-up illegal drugs and the omnipresent dangers of alcohol?

Unfortunately, kids may abuse OTC and Rx drugs, too, and access to those medicines may be as simple as opening the cabinet in the bathroom or dropping by the corner pharmacy. But if you arm yourself with information, you’ll be in a better position to educate your teens about the dangers of medicine abuse before they’re tempted to experiment or friends try to persuade them to do so. Below, Peggy offers several tips for helping to prevent medicine abuse by teens.


With the fall season in full swing, October has given way to sweaters, pumpkin everything and multicolored leaves. But here’s something about October you may not know: it’s National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. Take the time this month to learn about the prevalence of medicine abuse and how to prevent medicine misuse by your preteen or teen.

Medicine abuse may not be as common as other types of drug abuse, but it still occurs and should be a topic of conversation between parents and teens when they talk about risky behaviors like illegal drug and alcohol use. Don’t get trapped in the “not my teen” mentality. Even if your teen hasn’t abused over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, there’s a chance that he or she knows someone who has, given that one in three teens know someone who has abused OTC cough medicine to get high.

A 2014 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that approximately one in 30 American teens reported intentionally abusing OTC cough medicine to get high. Additionally, the research explored OTC cough medicine abuse by age and found that 2.0% of eighth graders and 4.1% of high school seniors had abused OTC cough medicine.

So, how can you prevent teen medicine abuse? These six tips can help:

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Banned Books Week 2015: It’s Perfectly Normal

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, Health & Sleep | 7 comments

BBW-logoWelcome to Banned Books Week 2015! I love Banned Books Week, and not just for the obvious reason that it’s about books. This annual celebration is actually less about books than it’s about freedom of thought, of exploration, and of the opportunity for each person to decide for herself what’s appropriate for her family.

(Look below for an opportunity to enter a Banned Books Week giveaway as part of our annual celebration with Book Journey!)

You don’t want your kid to read something? Okay. I suppose that’s your decision. But don’t tell me my kid can’t read the same book. That’s not your decision. It’s mine, or, more likely, it’s my kid’s. If you don’t believe a particular book that the teacher has selected as part of the curriculum is appropriate or you personally think it has “no educational value,” you are absolutely free to raise an objection. Feel free to discuss it with the teacher. But why should you get to say that none of the kids in a class or a public school get to learn from the book just because you don’t like it?

Each year, I peruse the list of the previous year’s top ten list of banned books and pick one to read and review for Banned Books Week. This year, I knew as soon as I saw the list which book I would read: It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley.

You undoubtedly could anticipate the reason for the challenges to this book before you finished reading its title. Despite its universal application, the book delves into an area of adolescence that makes some adults uncomfortable—even squeamish. Some find it immoral. So let’s look at the book’s approach to the subject.

It’s Perfectly Normal is divided into an introduction followed by six sections: “What is Sex?”; “Our Bodies”; “Puberty”; “Families and Babies”; “Decisions”; and “Staying Healthy.” Together, the material covers everything from the basics of how a baby is made to gender identity to puberty to deciding to have sex to staying safe on the internet to making healthy choices when sexually active. That’s a lot of ground for about 100 pages. Cartoonish drawings of a genderless bee and bird take opposing viewpoints of the material as they accompany the adolescent reader through the pages, with the bird feeling confident about its changing body and feelings, and the bee tapping into a tween or teen’s uneasy side.

There’s much that’s good about this book.

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Telling My Son, “No, you can’t play football”

Posted by on Sep 3, 2015 in Health & Sleep, Out of the Mouths of My Kids | 0 comments

My son is crazy about sports. He’s both a participant and an observer: he plays soccer year-round, and he recently took up a bat and glove for the first time. He can also recite for you the numbers corresponding to every sports channel we receive from our cable television provider.

As obsessions go, I approve of this one. I never have to tell this kid to get exercise. He loves his iPod, but he puts it down without complaint for a game, a practice or because he spies a ball in the yard—any kind of ball. Except for the sex-and-violence advertising and the periodic bad-athlete behavior I find myself needing to explain, I don’t even mind the sports-viewing on television. He wants to watch his favorite baseball team? Nothing wrong with that.

But as I watched my son develop an interest in football as he approached adolescence, I grew uneasy. I want him to be able to explore his varied interests and to take chances as he grows up so he can figure out who he is. But I also want him to learn to evaluate risk and make smart decisions, and as I learned more about the long-term effects suffered by football players exposed to repeated helmet-to-helmet collisions, I realized that I couldn’t say yes to the request I knew was coming.

My piece on my son’s request to play football, my refusal to let him and what happened between us as a result continues at The Washington Post’s On Parenting. Hint: he and I tussled over this for a year. It spilled over into other aspects of our lives. Click here to read more.

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Parenting an Adolescent: 3 Guidelines for When to Step In & When to Step Back

Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 in Growing Up, Health & Sleep, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

The adolescent years are a period when parents gradually hand their children’s lives over to them. As the parent of a soon-to-be adult, it’s often difficult to know when to intervene or when to let your adolescent take control over a particular part of his or her life. How do you decide when to step back and when to step in?

There are no easy answers. But a few guidelines can help:

Safety: Do you believe your child is in an unsafe situation—something that may endanger his or her life or physical or mental health? Do you have real reason to believe your child is using drugs, has been drinking, has been riding in a car with a friend who has been drinking, is planning to go to a house where a party is planned and kids who you know engage in inappropriate activities will be present, etc.? Do you suspect that your child is depressed, or that he or she may have an eating disorder? In situations where your child’s safety may be in jeopardy, always step in. This is where the limited teenage appreciation for real-life, long-term consequences could genuinely hurt your child.

Self-expression: Does your child wants to style his or her hair in an electric-blue Mohawk? Or maybe he or she wants to wear t-shirts with political messages you abhor? Step back. Your child is figuring out who he or she is and these are not permanent changes. Let your teen explore. Make sure your teen knows that even if you don’t like a particular thing he or she is doing, you are still supportive of him or her as a person. However, permanent changes and measures of self-expression that violate rules, such as a t-shirt with language that is banned in school, can be more difficult. These warrant conversations with your child.

My piece on figuring out when to step in and when to step back in your adolescents’ lives continues at Stop Medicine Abuse. Use these guidelines until you find a magic 8-ball that indicates the right thing to do when your kid asks to be dropped off before you’re in sight of the school one minute, demands to know what you’re going to do about her forgotten homework the next, then slams a door in frustration because she claims you always treat her like a little kid. And when you do find that sought-after object, let me know.

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Giving a Teen Some Room–at the Doctor’s Office

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Growing Up, Health & Sleep | 2 comments


All of parenting is a slow exercise in leaving the room, so your child can stand without you.

This withdrawal begins—when? The first time your baby picks up a Cheerio and puts it in his mouth, then thinks in whatever infant language he’s got, “Hey! I can do this by myself.” Or maybe it’s when she crawls away from you for the first time, and you wait for her to look back over her disappearing shoulder, but she doesn’t. Perhaps it’s even the that first time he cries in his crib, and you’re in the middle of doing something else—can’t you even go to the bathroom, for goodness sake—and you can’t get to him for a few minutes and a tiny bud of realization sprouts in his mind that no, you won’t always provide instantaneous solutions. It begins early, and you keep backing away, step after step, until your baby is an adult who has taken complete responsibility for himself.

One of the challenges of parenthood is trying to figure out which steps to take away from your child when. How do you know when to let a kid own a piece of her life—when to butt out? My kids are only thirteen and ten, and already I have found myself physically clapping a hand over my mouth to hold back words I want to say but have decided my kids don’t need anymore. You insist on wearing shorts when it’s only forty-five degrees out? You know what, son? You’re old enough to decide. If you’re cold, then you’ll figure that out on your own. I’m out. (On the other hand, if it’s five below and frostbite is a danger, then stop arguing and put on pants. You’re still young enough that I can require you to take measures to avoid hospitalization. Also, don’t be an idiot.)

A few weeks ago, thirteen-year-old “Jack” was scheduled for his annual physical. In case there is anyone who doesn’t remember, if you open a thesaurus to the word “awkward” or “uncomfortable,” you will find, “thirteen years old.” Overall, Jack seems to be handling the age light years better than I did, but still: a physical is about one’s body, and it occurred to me that the last person in front of whom a thirteen-year-old boy wants to talk about his body is probably his mother.

I spoke to him in the car a few weeks in advance. “Jack, you know I’m always happy to talk to you about anything, answer any questions you may have.”


“Well, your annual physical is coming up soon. This is your time with your doctor. After we talk about the basics and a couple of questions I have for her, if you want to ask her anything or talk to her about anything without me in the room, just say so and I will leave.”


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Benign Rolandic Epilepsy, Thank Goodness

Posted by on Mar 11, 2015 in Health & Sleep | 3 comments

The central sulcus, or Rolandic fissure, of the brain

The central sulcus, or Rolandic fissure, of the brain

Back in November, I wrote in “Wanting Answers, Finding Questions” about the seizure my nine-year-old daughter, “Emmie,” suffered. It came seemingly out of nowhere; to our knowledge, she’d never had one before. (I referred to it then as a grand mal seizure, but I now know it was actually what’s called a tonic-clonic seizure.) The weeks that followed made us feel like we were traveling through a maze characterized by a set of unmarked doors at each turn. Each door we opened only led to rooms with more doors, and we feared as we moved forward that our ultimate destination would turn out to be a dark, ominous place.

But we were lucky.

The maze of diagnostic tests and consultations led to us to the room of benign rolandic epilepsy, something none of us had heard of before. Given all of the terrifying possibilities raised by a sudden, significant seizure with no prior history—I won’t list them here; I’ll let you imagine them, as we did—this was one of best answers we could have received to the question, “What happened?”

Benign rolandic epilepsy (also known as Benign Rolandic Epilepsy of Childhood, or BREC) refers to a type of epilepsy originating in the rolandic area of the brain, which controls facial movements. During seizures, kids may experience facial twitching, numbness or tingling, they may have difficulty speaking, and they may drool due to an inability to control the mouth muscles. In some kids, the seizures can spread from the rolandic area to the rest of the brain and induce tonic-clonic seizures with more generalized symptoms: unresponsiveness, muscle-clenching in the whole body, whole-body convulsions and disorientation when they regain consciousness. BREC seizures often occur in sleep, though they can occur during awake hours, too (as Emmie’s did).

The best thing about BREC? It is a childhood-only disease.

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