E-cigarettes and Vaping: What You Should Know

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What is an e-cigarette?

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale or vape aerosolized liquid (e-juice). There are many different types of e-cigarettes, commonly referred to as “vapes” or hookah pens, e-pipes or Juuls, among others. These products are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth!

So what do you need to know? Nearly all e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm the developing adolescent brain. The brain is still developing until about age 25, so when young people are exposed to nicotine it can lead to addiction and disrupt attention and learning. No amount of nicotine is safe for youth. There are hundreds of flavors that can be added to these e-cigarettes to make it “taste” better. The number of flavors is one reason the market for e-cigarettes shifted from helping adults quit smoking to attracting young people to vaping.

In the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey, 19.2% of high school students reported using an e-cigarette within the last 30 days. According to the US Surgeon General, there has been a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students. Recent evidence suggests that, compared to youth who have never used them, youth who have tried e-cigarettes are twice as likely to start smoking in the future.

E-cigarettes are frequently marketed as being a “healthier” option than the traditional cigarette, but this is not true. E-cigarettes have been shown to be just as addictive as traditional cigarettes. The Surgeon General report on e-cigarettes states “the aerosol created by e-cigarettes can contain ingredients that are harmful to the public’s health, including: nicotine; ultrafine particles; flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.”

So what can we do to keep our young people healthy and not use e-cigarettes? As we say at myHealth, staying well means staying well informed. Knowing what e-cigarettes are, their potential risks, and what they look like are the first steps in helping our young people stay healthy! The Center for Disease Control gives the following tips for chatting with a young person about vaping:

Know the facts.

Be patient and ready to listen.

  • Avoid criticism and encourage an open dialogue.
  • Remember, your goal is to have a conversation, not to deliver a lecture.
  • It’s OK for your conversation to take place over time, in bits and pieces.

Set a positive example by being tobacco-free.

  • If you use tobacco, it’s never too late to quit. For free help, visit smokefree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

 

Check out these great resources for more information on e-cigarettes and young people.

https://www.health.state.mn.us/ecigarettes

http://clearwaymn.org/e-cigarettes/

https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/

 

Healthy Relationships

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It’s February! With Valentine’s Day in this middle month February is often called the month of love! It’s a time to celebrate our appreciation for the loved ones in our life. Did you know February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month? Teen dating violence is more common than one may think. In 2016, 17% of Minnesota 11th graders reported experiencing some form of intimate partner violence, including physical, sexual and verbal (2018 Minnesota Adolescent Sexual Health Report). People ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, especially women identified folks. These stats are one of the reasons myHealth believes it is so important to talk to young people about healthy relationships.

A question we get a lot at myHealth is “How do I know if my relationship is healthy?” That is a difficult question and there is not always a straight forward answer. Our Youth Advisory Board (YAB) created this Healthy Relationship poster for Valentine’s Day/Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month to help answer this question. The poster highlights some common healthy and unhealthy behaviors. YAB members will be posting this in their schools for young people to see!

For more information check out myHealth’s tab on Healthy Relationship or visit LoveIsRespect.org.

Loving Our Bodies

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A lot of the young people we work with struggle with body image. Body image is how we view and think about our body. Positive body image occurs when a person is able to accept, appreciate and respect their body. The holiday season can be especially tough for folks who are struggling with body image. Jokes about elastic-waist pants at holiday dinners, favorite holiday foods that only come around once a year, and the overwhelming amount of New Year’s diet and fitness marketing can make this time of the year tough. 

According to Melrose Center, over 50% of Americans are unhappy with their body’s appearance. This is especially true in our young people. 53% of 13 year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. This number grows to 78% by the time girls reach 17. However this doesn’t just effect women-identified folks, 30% of teen boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors. Another study found that transgender college students had over four times greater risk of being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and two times greater risk of eating disorder symptoms such as purging compared to their cisgender female peers. Studies have found that young people who have negative body image are more likely to have lower self-esteem, be depressed, anxious, and at higher risk for eating disorders.

Learning to love our bodies is a journey and it’s not always easy. Be gentle with yourselves and your young person. Our society pressures us to always seek something “better” for our body, but give yourself permission to love your body, just the way it is! 

 

There are many ways we can help our young people (and ourselves) love our bodies and enjoy holiday celebrations!

  1. Value your body for what it can do rather than what it looks like. Remember, there is no wrong way to have a body!
  2. Be a body positive role model. Our young people take note of how we talk about ourselves. Even subtle comments and messages we may not be aware of can impact our young people. Instead of making a comment about needing larger pants for all the dinner you are about to eat, thank whoever provided all the delicious food.
  3. Watch how we talk with others. During the holidays we may be seeing family and friends we haven’t seen in a while. Instead of commenting on their appearance “you look great – you’ve lost so much weight” or “wow you have really grown a lot” ask them how they are doing or what they have accomplished this year. Focus on the person as a whole, not just their body.
  4. It is okay to indulge! Many holidays are celebrated with special foods. Have you been looking forward to grandma’s signature mashed potatoes? Then eat them!
  5. Don’t judge what others are eating! Resist the urge to say, “Are you really going to eat that second slice?” It may be said with good intentions, but its impact can be hurtful.
  6. Find a fun way to get moving! Moving our bodies reduces stress, and gives us energy; two things we need during the holidays! It can be hard to find ways to be active during a Minnesota winter. Plan family activities that are fun and get the body moving like dressing warm and finding a sledding hill, or heading to a local community center.

 

BODY IMAGE TIPS FOR EVERYDAY OF THE YEAR

Celebrate and love what your body can do for you.

Have a list of things you like about yourself. Read it regularly.

Think of yourself in entirety and as a whole person, not just a body.

Be mindful of who you surround yourself with. Positivity is contagious!

Follow a variety of profiles on social media that show different bodies.

Cancel the thoughts in your head that don’t add value.

Work with your body, not against it. Wear comfortable clothes that make you feel confident.

Take note of the advertisements and media messages that promote negative self-talk.

Do something nice for yourself.

Take the time you normally worry about food, calories, or your weight and help someone else.

Art credit: Maxine Sarah Art and Unknown

National Adoption Month!

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Happy #NationalAdoptionMonth!

The History of November being #NationalAdoptionMonth began in 1976 in Massachusetts when Governor Michael Dukakis announced an Adoption Week. This was then proclaimed as National Adoption Week by President Reagan in 1984. It was in 1995 that National Adoption Week’s awareness and time span was expanded to an entire month by President Clinton. So, why spread awareness of and celebrate adoption?

Adoption is an important, beautiful, and viable option that many people in the U.S. choose as a way to start or expand their family(s). #NationalAdoptionMonth is a month that people use to celebrate and reflect on how their lives have been impacted by adoption. It also provides a platform for spreading awareness of adoption-related news and issues. With so many children in foster care and without families both in the U.S. and abroad, it is vital that people are aware of the need to adopt and that they know the appropriate information on how to become foster parents or how to adopt those children in need.

Statistics (Adoption Network)

  • 428,000 children are in foster care in the U.S.
  • 135,000 children are adopted in the U.S. each year
  • More than 60% of children in foster care spend 2-5 years in the system before getting adopted; many never get adopted
  • Nearly 100 million Americans have adoption in their immediate family
  • 6 in 10 Americans have had personal experience with adoption
  • Around 7 million Americans are adopted
  • 37% of adopted children are non-Hispanic white compared to 73% of adoptive parents that are non-Hispanic white This means a large amount of children of color are adopted by white parents these are known as transracial adoptions
  • The number of international adoptions has been on the decline as many countries become more restrictive with adoption
  • Today, almost 60%-70% of domestic adoptions are open adoptions

There are many different ways to celebrate #NationalAdoptionMonth. For those families and people who have chosen to adopt or who have been adopted, here are some ways to celebrate this month:

  • Tell the story of your adoption or your child’s adoption to your family and friends or to your child.
  • Be aware of and plan a special event or celebration for the anniversary of your adoption. Many people refer to this anniversary as their “Forever Family Day”.
  • Look into, share, and reflect on your or your adopted child’s heritage.
  • Read a book or watch a movie that tells a positive adoption story or experience.
  • Write a thank you letter to the people who make adoption possible, like a social worker, an attorney, a judge, a foster care family, etc. This could be specific to those people who helped you, or to people who make adoption possible in general.
  • Spread awareness of your own unique adoption story on social media.
  • Connect with other families of adoption.

Not affected directly by adoption? There are still ways to celebrate and spread awareness!

  • Donate time and/or money to local organizations that support adoption.
  • Join local adoption-related events that encourage community participation.
  • Educate yourself and/or others about adoption and consider becoming a foster parent.
  • Read a book or watch a movie that tells a positive adoption story or experience.
  • Reach out to people in your life that have been affected by adoption to learn from their experiences and to affirm them.

One of the most important things to remember about adoption is that no two stories are alike. Each adoption story is unique and experiences its own triumphs and hardships. Some parents may struggle to adopt because of relational, emotional, legal, or financial challenges. Other parents may have the resources and privileges available for a more smooth experience. One thing is certain; both the adoptive parent(s) and the adoptee will likely deal with tough emotions and questions when the adoption takes place and throughout their lives. That is perfectly normal and there are endless amounts of families that can attest to differing adoption stories. Although adoption can prove to be challenging, it is still a great and selfless option!

Resources

The Becoming Program: This is a service of myHealth for pregnant and parenting teens. This program provides education, resources, and advocacy for any pregnant or parenting young person in need. As part of this program, nurses and caseworkers will work with the young person to give them the necessary care and information they need to empower them to make the best decision(s) for themselves and their baby. If a young person is unsure of what they want to do or would like to set up an adoption plan, the Becoming Program can help with that as well. The goal of this program is to give a young person the tools and skills to be healthy during and after a pregnancy and while parenting, if that is what they choose to do. To find out more about this service check us out online at: https://myhealthmn.org/becoming-program/  

For Parents Seeking to Adopt (MN):

 

For Adoptive Parents to Read to Their Adopted Child:

 

  • Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born – A little girl asks her parents to retell the story of her adoption and the night she was born.
  • The Mulberry Bird: An Adoption Story – A Mother Bird is unable to care for her baby, so she creates an adoption plan to provide him with the future she wants him to have.
  • A Mama for Owen – When Owen the baby hippo’s mama is lost in a tragic tsunami, he becomes best friends with Mzee the tortoise, who becomes his new “mama.” A new family begins after a painful loss.
  • Elliot – A young rabbit in the foster care system goes through difficult and complex emotions, even though he knows his foster families love him very much. A social worker comes to help Elliot understand that he’ll never be able to go back to his old home and helps his adoptive parents to understand what Elliot has been through.

 

 

For Adoptees:

  • Adoptees On – A podcast where adoptees discuss their real life experiences with adoption; giving listeners a deeper understanding of adoption.
  • The Rambler – A podcast where the host, Mike McDonald, holds candid interviews with adoptees from all around the world.
  • I Am Adopted – A blog in which the author shares her take on dealing with trauma adoptees face during and after adoption.
  • No Apologies For Being Me – A blog that is a resource for anyone coming to terms with their own adoption.
  • The Adoptee Survival Guide: Adoptees Share Their Wisdom and Tools – 30 adoptees share their voices and experiences to this book to provide support for other adoptees.
  • The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child – This book has been referred to as the “bible” for adoptees as it discusses the lifelong effects of adoption.
  • http://adopteereading.com/
    • This website is full of books by and recommended by adoptees for other people affected by adoption

 

These are just a few of the awesome resources that exist! Anyone seeking resources or advice about adoption should check out the resources provided as well as seek out resources specific to their experience and needs.

October: Let’s Talk Month

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Check out what a member of our Youth Advisory Board has to say about talking with parents about sexuality.

We are all familiar with the infamously awkward and uncomfortable sex talk. You can recall the agonizing portrayal in movies where a child is sat down on the living room couch as their parents stand above them blundering their way through the dialogue. The ever so desperate attempt to avoid the awkward discussion of the “birds and the bees”. “The Sex Talk” is a notoriously taboo subject, which parents and kid alike have learned to fear. But the idea of “The Sex Talk” being a singular conversation, ignores the importance of the topic. How we take care of ourselves is so important and as parents, you offer us invaluable guidance. “The Sex Talk” should be an ongoing and open dialogue between kids and parents which should not only be about sex, but also relationships, sexuality, and body image to name a just few of the subjects.

I am lucky enough to have parents who recognize the importance of these conversations and from an early age have welcomed them. Knowing that my parents are always open to talk, free of judgment is very comforting. I have found that not judging and being honest, is so important in these conversations and ultimately makes them a lot more beneficial because it encourages us to talk openly. These conversations have never been an interrogation or a lecture, but a free and multi-sided dialogue. I think if you embrace the awkwardness, which is what my parents have done, and approach the conversations with an open mind, it will become easier and easier to talk to one another about uncomfortable subjects.

While my parents have always aimed to be honest with me, when they were asked the inevitable question, “How are babies made?” by five-year-old me, they, of course, did not explain the biology behind sexual reproduction because I would not have understood. But instead, they attempted to answer my question in a way that was age appropriate yet still forthcoming. Tailoring these conversations to where we are in life makes it a lot more relevant and meaningful. You don’t have to plan a date to have “The Talk”. Sometimes we may seek out your guidance, but other times you will have to recognize the teachable moments. The right time could be anytime— seeing an example of a toxic relationship in the media and explaining why the relationship is damaging; bringing up sexuality after you read an interesting article in a publication; or simply asking us how we are doing and offering your help if you notice we are struggling. I really appreciate how my parents are always open to having these conversations when it is relevant to my life and let me dictate the course of the discussion. It has made a notoriously uncomfortable talk, because if I am being completely frank, talking about sex and your personal life with your parents is not fun for anyone, into a more moderately bearable experience.

Over time these conversations developed into discussions about relationships with others, and not even specifically with romantic partners. Some of the most important conversations came when I struggled with friendships. I remember after moving schools I had a particularly hard time making friends. In turn, I allowed not such great people into my life. While I recognize it was an extremely hard conversation for my parents to have with me because I definitely did not want to hear what they had to say, they sat me down and told me how these new relationships were negatively affecting me. This conversation turned out to be a very difficult one, but definitely one I needed. 

Finally, conversations about sex or even just our personal lives will be awkward, but don’t let that scare you off. These conversations are so important and require your willingness to engage in them. Your knowledge and advice is extremely valuable and will ultimately help us make the best possible decisions for ourselves.