Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

What Social Apps are your Kids Using?
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What apps are your children using and what do they do?

Texting and instant messaging aside, do you know what your child is doing on the computer and on his/her smart phone? You are probably seeing less of your children’s faces, and more of the tops of their heads as they hunch over the latest gadget, while communicating with friends - at least we assume that they are conversing with friends.  

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular apps being used by teens.

1. Ask.fm- (developer’s minimum age of 13). People can post questions and answer other’s posted questions. The poster may do so anonymously if s/he wishes. Anyone, including those without an ask.fm account can see what’s posted on a profile.

Concerns: Total strangers may interact with your child. Also, this has been an avenue for anonymous teasing and cyber bullying.

2. Facebook- (developer’s minimum age of 13). People are able to connect with family and friends online. Although this social networking site is falling behind newer sites in use, it is still popular.

Concerns: Although there are many settings that promote privacy, many users are not aware of exactly how much information that they are sharing with the public. Strangers may “request” to “friend” your child where they would be able to see all of your child’s information on their profile. People continue to use this site to bully, threaten, and intimidate others by creating fake profiles, posting mean messages, pretending to be someone else.

3. Instagram- (developer’s minimum age of 13). People are able to filter and post pictures and videos to upload on this social networking site.

Concerns: Posts may contain pictures or videos of children without their knowledge. Users can also share their location with others. This site can also be used to bully, threaten, and intimidate others. Users should realize that their posts can end up anywhere.

4. KiK- (developer’s minimum age 17; ages 13-18 must have parental consent).  This app is a texting service that lets texts and pictures be sent without being listed in the phone’s history.

Concerns: Children may use this app to hide their information from their parents.  Strangers can still contact your child by sending friend requests and kids sometimes text inappropriate images that are less likely to be found out by parents.

5. Omegle- (developer’s minimum age 17; ages 13-18 must have parental consent; however, it is unknown if verification is done). A free online chat room, for texting and also video chatting. Users are able to communicate with total strangers.

Concerns: Kids sometimes think that it is safer to share secrets with strangers.  With newer software, the person can make up a “fake stranger” for others to talk to. The bottom line is that you cannot be sure if the person that you are video chatting is real or not.

6. ooVoo- (developer’s minimum age of 13). Users can have video chats with up to 12 people at a time, send instant messages, and text each other.

Concerns: Users are able to talk to many people at the same time. This site can also be used to bully, threaten, and intimidate others. Users can “video” the screen and use the material in the future without the other person’s knowledge.

7. Poof- An app for your phone, you can use it to hide any apps that you do not want others to see.

Concerns: This app will hide other apps that you may not want them to use. If you see the Poof Icon- they are hiding something from you.

8. Snapchat- (the site reports that those who are 13-18 should get permission from a parent, and no one under the age of 13 should use the site; however, no age is requested upon sign-up). Users are able to send pictures to be viewed by others for up to 10 seconds and then they disappear. They are said to be “gone forever”.

Concerns: Children can be misled to believe that they are safe to post anything without repercussions. Users may also take a screenshot and be free to share it on other social networking sites. This site can also be used to for sexting and bullying. It was also discovered that Snapchat had saved thousands of these pictures when they were hacked in 2014. The bottom line is that those pictures are never truly deleted!

9. Snaphack- An app that goes along with Snapchat. This saves all pictures that have been shared on Snapchat without the other user’s knowledge.

Concerns: Users may believe that there are no remaining pictures out in cyberspace. When in reality; someone has saved them for possible future use.

10. Vine- This app allows users to upload 5 second videos that replay over and over again (looping). The videos are shared and reshared with others.

Concerns: This site can also be used to bully, threaten, and intimidate others.

11. Whisper- This app encourages users to anonymously post confessions of their secrets without consequences.

Concerns: This site can give children a misguided sense of safety. The app allows private messages to allow strangers to talk to your child. Anyone with the app in your geographic area can see your Whisper; therefore, it is a real possibility that someone may be able to identify the user.

12. YikYak- (developer’s minimum age requirement is 17). This app allows the user to remain anonymous and post comments that can be seen by the first
500 people within a 5 mile radius.

Concerns: Translation: “I can be mean, and no one will know it’s me.”

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Taking Care of Yourself
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, March 15, 2015

The following is an excerpt/paraphrase from an article by Cathy Taughinbaugh.  You can find her full text by clicking this link.

Are you feeling overwhelmed, guilty, angry, or ashamed because of your child’s drug or alcohol use?  Maybe you are feeling all of those emotions?  You know that your situation is unhealthy for you and your family, but you may feel helpless to do anything about it.
"While there are many things that a parent or family member can do, your child will make the final decision on whether s/he will seek a better life or continue on down his/her destructive path.  Of course, the hope is that one day your child will make better choices and create a more positive life for himself/herself."

But what can you do in the meantime to help yourself, and begin the essential process of healing? Here are nine ideas to get you started:

1. Take care of yourself.
2. Educate yourself on recovery strategies that will help you and your family member.  (Note:  Attend a PSST, NA, or AA meeting!  Read postings on the PSST blog!)
3. Positive reinforcement can make a difference
4. Allow for natural consequences to occur.
5. Create a social network
6. Start a physical exercise program
7. Pay attention to other family members
8. Live in The Now
9. Have Gratitude. 

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You are Invited to Share your Experiences
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, March 11, 2015

You are invited to share your recovery-related experiences at either of two Listening Forums, sponsored by Allegheny County's Department of Human Services.  The forums will be held in March in McKeesport and on the North Side. These forums present an opportunity for individuals/families in the community to share experiences (both positive and negative) of wellness and recovery from addiction and/or mental illness.  All are welcome to attend!  

"We want to hear what you think can be done to strengthen and support Drug & Alchohol / Mental Health Recovery in your community."

The forums are scheduled as follows.  Click on the links for more details.

Date:  Thursday, March 12
Time:  6:30 - 8:00pm
Location:  Twin Rivers Primary School
           McKeesport, PA

Date:  Wednesday, March 25
Time:  6:00-8:00pm
Location:  2801 N. Charles St.
           Pittsburgh, PA  (North Side)

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How to role-play (originally posted 9-19-13)
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, March 01, 2015

There has been some interest in what goes into putting together role-plays. Putting together a role-play at PSST might be easier than you thought. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are leading a parent group and you need to put together a role-play. Usually, role-plays are not planned in advance. The spontaneity of role-plays being planned and run on the spot adds to the excitement.

Remember, parents who attend PSST have the best scenarios. Secondly, our parents are expert at playing their teenager's role. The authenticity is compelling. It's as close to being right there when it happens. We are not just viewing what happens, we are inside it. If it was a hurricane we are the eye. With all this great material and great actors it might be just natural that the role-plays workout. How could it not? Nevertheless, I have some thoughts on this subject to share that can help.

I decided to publish this how to role-play essay on the blog because role-playing is a collaborative effort. Anyone can help direct. Anyone can play. Anyone can learn. Anyone can teach.

1. Trust the group. Listen to the parent’s issue or problems when they share in the first part of the meeting. You will get ideas of what people should do. Hold onto those. Those ideas will guide you in the second part of the meeting. Absent any strong ideas of what the role-play should be, throw it up to the parents to come up with something. Make sure to inject a silent pause and the group will deliver what the group needs. Trusting the group is a very good thing to do if you're at PSST because we simply have the best group of heroes you could assemble.

2. Formulate in your mind what advice you would give BUT DON'T ADVISE! to any parents after hearing them share. It is possible to do more than one role-play so just try to set up in your mind each scenario. Again, think of the advice you would give. Try to picture saying the advice to the parent. You need to do _____ or you need to say _____ to your teen. Of course, you don't say it out loud although before you start the role-play you can say what you're hoping to see happen, which is in a way stating your advice. Advice is cheap. Role-plays aren't. If a picture is worth a thousand words a role-play is a thousand words plus infinity. So, you are now ready to act out, or see other's act out something akin to your advice that you formulated. You are open minded that other's might have as good or even better advice and you want the stage that you set to be available for other's to act out their advice too.

3. Ask if you can use someone's scenario. No one ever refuses. Ask if they want to be in it. Mostly they do; sometimes not.

4. Choose players. The easiest to start one up is to get the parents to play their child. The therapist, or another parent volunteer plays the parent.

5.If it's not you playing the parent; however, you then have to huddle with the chosen one or even share out loud what you are looking to see happen in the role-play. This is optional.

6. Once the role-play starts be in the moment.  No matter what you thought would happen in the role-play, listen to the kid and respond, it does not matter that it was different than what we set up b/c kids always change it anyway; later in comments you can say “that was good even though you changed it a little from what we set up, because that's what kids will do too.”

Keep the following talking points in mind. They are positions or skills that come up repeatedly.

1. Listen carefully to what the teenager is saying. AGREE with part of what the teen says. This more important than active listening. Agreeing with part of what is being said is crucial and you can be CREATIVE here. Be daring, be different, be smart and look the teen in the eye. Really mean it when you agree with whatever PART of what's being said. Don't follow it too closely with the word “but,” which can ruin everything you just said. Really mean it. “I hate my Probation Officer. He’s horrible, mean, nasty and just I think he’s about the most evil person I know.” REPLY “Yes, I have heard things about Mr. Johnson too and most people think he’s one of the toughest if not the toughest PO out there! He’s no one to play with from what I understand.” You are demonstrating agreement skill and you are not going to waste any time arguing if he’s nasty because it’s a red herring. We want to demonstrate avoiding red herrings and joining with the teen for a “partial” agreement. We will usually not agree with the entire thing, e.g., “Yes, he is the worst PO – he really is just a problem for everyone and he should be fired!” At the same time you don't try to make it sound like a partial agreement you make it sound like a real agreement but you "twist" it as much as you need to so that you are comfortable saying it. Sometimes, in group we call that the PSSTwist.

2. I’m NOT comfortable with that! Indicate to parents that saying I'm NOT comfortable is much stronger than saying I'm uncomfortable with that. One is a power-phrase and the other is how you feel when you get sand in your underwear. Not comfortable is how you feel when you are ABOUT TO PUT DOWN A BOUNDARY. “Please don't tell Mr. Johnson that I missed treatment a couple of times; I know he is going to take me to Detention!” Reply: “Yes, you could be in big trouble with Mr. Johnson (agreeing) and I'm glad you brought this issue up (second agreeing) because I have to tell you that I'm Not Comfortable keeping secrets like that from Mr. Johnson. You could tell me other things that I would keep confidential, but your attendance here is not something I feel comfortable hiding from your PO." Notice that I'm glad you brought this up is an easy way to agree and it's help set the stage for the boundary that one is about to set.

3. Keep in mind that HOW you say things is possibly more important than what you say. Strong eye contact, move in closer to make your point, never farther away, use gestures, and to emphasize what you are saying LOWER your voice as though you are sharing a secret. It’s powerful and it models a good thing for parents who have a tendency to yell at teens. In fact, whenever the Parent acting as the teen in the role play raises a voice it's a good opportunity to move in and lower your voice. Like soup and sandwich, move in and lower voice.

4. In a role-play the above process keeps repeating. It’s not like you just partially agree once, you continually keep looking for things to partially agree with because that continually disarms the teen. Still, don't beat around the bush when it’s time to set the boundary..  The I’m not comfortable with that can be said fairly early on in the role-play.  It can be done with an “I’m sorry but I have to tell you" attitude. Kids are trying to manipulate so when they sense that they have hit a wall, they adjust and try from a different angle. The same thing we just did will work just as well on the new angle. First find something in the new angle with which you can partially agree.  Note:  when a partial agreement is not possible, ACTIVE LISTENING done well is sometimes just as good, and then set the boundary. One sure-fire partial agreement is, "You're right about one thing: you and I are not on the same page here. You're seeing elephants and I'm seeing tigers."  It's the "agree to disagree" which can be said as though you both certainly agree with THAT! It's important that you cease any efforts to convince them to see tigers as that leads to debating (see #7).

5. Every once in awhile the angle that the kid is coming from is a step-in-the-right-direction angle and a renegotiation is in order. You can give the kid a win if you maintain your basic boundary and that’s fine.

6. Kids try to wear you down with repetition so sometimes the kid is not coming at you from a different angle or you just feel that the kid is not going to take no for an answer no matter what- that is a time to demonstrate ‘Ask me again.’ It’s important not to jump into this one until it seems obvious that the teen is just going to keep asking until you go crazy, but it comes up a lot because that’s what teenagers do. Then say, “look, I’m starting to see that this is so important to you that you just have to keep on about it. You really need to keep asking and you can't let this one go. Tell you what. Why don’t we just get all the asking if you can ___ out of the way now, so we can relax the rest of the evening. Go ahead. Ask me if you can ___(might be going out somewhere) then the kid asks “Can I go.?” the response is Nevertheless, no you can't go but It’s OK to ask me again.” Soon the kid gets mad and he sees that we are not adjusting this particular boundary and he quits asking. This is very effective and parents love it but point out that you shouldn't jump into it unless you have exhausted other avenues and when you jump into it drop the SARCASM. It ruins it. WE have to sincerely mean it: THEY DO NEED TO KEEP ASKING, and we have to agree that it’s OK to ask. WE are in control because we are challenging them to keep asking now.  They are trying to bug us to death. It’s not fun for the teen if he can't bug us but we need to accept that they really do need to keep asking so that they can see the futility in doing that.

7. Nevertheless and regardless are power words that we want to use and encourage parents to use. It helps parents with the concept that kids want them to debate. Even if you think you have the better argument don't debate. That’s where we can help parents. Just refuse to debate the issues. As therapists and teachers we suffer from this one too. We still hold onto the idea that if we just explain it right to the kid, he will understand and he will agree. No. That doesn't happen. Teen’s already understand. It’s usually not rocket science. They just want their own way. It’s not about logic- it’s about power.

Therapists prefer that the client has an epiphany. "Epiphanies Are Us" would be a good name for outpatient. But really change is the other way around. If we help someone change his own behavior he will change his thinking. Conversely, if we help him change his thinking it really might not help him change his behavior at all. In role-plays we are more teachers than therapists.

In the same vein we want parents to quit trying to use logic with teens. Oh it’s fine when you are having a rare discussion to use logic, presuming that the teen really wants to understand what you are thinking but most of these role-plays happen not when kids are curious but when they want to have their own way.  Once again, it's about power- not logic. Nevertheless and regardless help parents especially when they are just learning these concepts to avoid debating. In a role-play when the players start debating, stop the action. Don't let it go on as if they will eventually see the problem. Stop the action and ask “Who sees what is going on?” Someone will say "They are debating." Give that parent who ways that a big recognition and then agree with the group that avoiding the debate is a very hard thing to do. Time is precious and if we let two players debate we are wasting it.

8. Sometimes after we agree with part of something that the kid says we aren't sure where to go next. It’s fine to say, “I’m not sure what to say.” This is genuine and it’s somewhat complementary to the speaker who just stumped you. Parents feel that they need to always know what to say, instantly, and they do not. Once you admit that you don't know what to say MAGIC happens. Suddenly, you will have an idea. Go with it.

9. Teens will say “Give me one good reason...” This comes up a lot so we can be ready for it and we can help parents be ready.  Ask the group, "The teen is doing what? Right. He is trying to start a debate. IT’s a trap!" Help parents see this as the trap it is and one possible response is:

Teen: Give me one good reason.

Parent: Good, that’s really good.

Teen: what is good?

Parent: It’s good that you are focused on the reasons. I think this is the right question. (We just disarmed him by agreeing that this is a good question!)

Teen: OK, give me one then.

Parent: Well I wish I had as good an answer but here’s the thing. I don't have even one reason that you would think is good. I got nothing.

(When discussion comes up later point out that rather than admitting weakness, this was a real power statement because it operates on a premise that the parent is so powerful he doesn't need a reason. Now we are ready to set up the paradoxical task for the kid. If he persists in pushing you for a reason after you have already told him that you don’t have any reasons that he will think are good ones, then you give him one, he finds it totally unacceptable (hoping you will begin to debate) and now you say:

Parent: See that’s what I mean?

Teen: What?

Parent: You don’t think the reason that I just gave (probably it was I'm not comfortable with that) was a good reason. And you see, no matter what reason I give you (it is now safe to rattle off a bunch of reasons quickly but only as examples of what he won't find acceptable not as an effort to convince him) you won't find any of my reasons very good. I’m sorry but I really have nothing that will help you except that I'm not comfortable with you going out tonight. Period. Stay home, read a book, do your homework, whatever.”

Teen: No I want a better reason than that!

Parent: You're right! You see that you and I could talk about this all night until daybreak, and when the sun finally came up and sunlight poured into this room you would still believe what you believe and I would still believe what I believe. Let’s just save ourselves all of that trouble what do you say? I mean geese we can talk these things to death sometimes but wouldn't you agree that all these long talks don’t help that much?

10. There is anxiety in role-plays. As the teachers we feel like we can't screw up. We will screw up. It’s ok and parents love it when we screw up. Just admit it, they will love you for it, and let them know that maybe you learned something today too, maybe a parent has an idea that that works better than your idea. That’s excellent.

11.It's good to play two parents facing a teen. Sometimes the therapist or teacher is one of the parents. Sometimes you switch seats and roles. If there are two parents demonstrate that talking to each other during the role play is an important power move. The teen is used to tuning out what parents say to directly to him, but he is usually very keep to listen or sometimes to overhear what parents say to each other.

12. It's inevitable that parents will say, "But what happens if he goes out anyway?" That's a good place to stop and ask the parent if they have any way to hold the teen accountable?  Does the teen have a cell phone? Does the teen drive? Does the parent give the teen money?  Often, the parent feels helpless but the teen in question has not been relieved of any of his privileges.  Is there a PO?  Has the parent been honest in keeping the PO up to speed?  This is the place to hit home how important it is before the role-play starts to know what consequence you are likely to use.

Sometimes, the parent has tried all the consequences and nothing has or one can assume will work.  Point out to the group that this teen is clearly out of parental control. A teen who is out of parental control is going to be handled differently than one who is still somewhat within a parent's control. Strategize what steps a parent who is out of control can take. Then the Out Of Control Teen role-play usually goes like this:Parent: I know you are very strong willed.

Teen: So?Parent: You are going to make your own decisions and you're not going to follow our rules here as far as I can see.

Teen: Right, so?

Parent: Well, I just want you to know that we realize that too, and that's why we've taken the steps that we have taken and we want you to hear it from us so that you're not surprised.

Then tell the teens that you have (1) contacted his peers parents to tell them about his drug problem, (2) contacted to ACT 53 to have treatment Court ordered (3) called the PO if there is one, (4) Called the police to press charges of Assault, Theft, or Drug Possession (5) arrange for a drug dog to come through the house regularly (6) taken the teen's door off (7) Put a club on his car (9) Shut off the cell phone or if the child is over 18 perhaps ask them to leave and find another place to live. Or taking other steps but the important first step is to admit that the teen is out of control.    Embrace that because it sets up the radical steps that one will take to try to save an out of control teens life, which are different than taking steps to save a teen who is still somewhat within control.

Also rules I lay down before we start.

1. Anyone either in the role-play or outside of the role-play can call time out and ask a question or have a comment. We can freeze the action. This gives people more confidence. As a teacher you can freeze the action and when you do you might like to say “what’s going on here?” and leave it out there for comments. Then point out if no one has what you wanted them to see.

2. Changing seats is a must. If you change seats not just the role-play characters. So this becomes the mother’s seat, that is the teens. If suddenly you want the one who was playing the mother to play the teen make them get up and change seats. Or if someone watching the role-play has a different idea, say "That sounds interesting can you show us how that would work?"  Then, get up off your chair and offer it to them. t really matters for some reason and also it puts the teacher be it therapist in control. The guy who can tell others where to sit, whether it’s in a role-play, a meeting, a dinner or whatever has the power and we need power if we are to influence them with our ideas.

3. Profanity: When parents what to show us what it’s like dealing with teens they may want to use colorful language. That’s actually good because it lends a air of authenticity; however, it’s not always necessary and if it offends someone in group we need to not do it so ask the group when it comes up or beforehand if anyone would find it offensive. Perhaps some words are OK and some are not. A hell or damn might OK but a you're a bitch or whore is just too much. By asking permission you sometimes find out who’s saying what to whom and that is valuable info as well.

This post is probably a work in progress.  We will add to this post from time to time. Your comments might be important to helping us further define what works for us in role-plays.

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