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For Teens

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Julie's picture of a wave at Kee Beach

     The columns found here have been written for teens or those who live with teens. You are our future. You matter. Your life can make a huge difference in our world. Most of my life has been involved with youth of all ages. I was the oldest of four. I have a Master's degree in Special Education. I've been a  youth education director for four different churches. I've written a book for teens on mediation that I used in the public schools on Kauai.
      When I was the Hale 'Opio Kaua'i Teen Court Manager, my clients were first time juvenile offenders of misdemeanors and status offenses. They could clear their records if they admitted their mistakes, allowed themselves to be tried by their peers, and fulfilled their sentencing requirements. These included serving on juries for other youth, and possibly taking classes relating to their offenses. I taught Substance Abuse, Victim Impact, and Anger Management classes. We found out that often the kids were able to teach their families information that they had learned, which helped at home.
      Please copy or use any of these materials. You can ask me questions if any come up by writing one in the guestbook on the home page.

Alcohol Math
     Recently I had the opportunity to share with a high school class a little math about drinking that they all were very happy to know. I call it "Alcohol Math". Truthfully, I am against teenagers drinking. Your brains are still forming, and alcohol can cause some permanent damage. Remember this. Generally speaking, it takes at least 20 minutes after you've consumed an alcoholic drink for the effect to take place. I didn't know this when I went to college. The legal drinking age in N.Y. was 18 then, and I had no experience with drinking.
     I went to the bar where kids hung out and had a drink, but didn't feel anything, so I bought another. I downed it, and still didn't feel any effect. I had a third, and by now it was about 20 minutes later. and I started feeling it. So I drank another, and then one more.... for a total of 5 in just over an hour. That's binge drinking and can have fatal results! Well, I got really sick. I vomited for 24 hours. I promised myself that I would never do that to my body again, and I never have. Remember:Twenty minutes.
      More math: one equals one equals one. The actual alcohol content of one 12 oz. beer is the same for about a 5 oz. glass of wine, or one shot of hard liquor. You can get just as drunk from beer as you can hard liquor. It may take you longer to down a beer, but one beer will have the same effect: One drink will raise your blood alcohol content roughly .02% for a person who weighs 150 pounds. If you weigh less, it will raise the alcohol content higher. If you weigh more, it will raise it a little less. If you have an empty stomach, it will raise it faster. In Hawaii one can get be booked for Driving Under the Influence with a blood alcohol content of .08% That is 4 drinks. (.02 x 4 = .08)                                                                 
     Your liver is the organ in your body that takes poison out of it. The alcohol is removed at the rate of .015% per hour. Drinking coffee doesn't speed it up. Here's a formula you can memorize. It takes your body roughly 4 hours to get the alcohol from 3 drinks out of your body. (.015 x 4 = .06 and .02 x 3 = .06) With a blood alcohol content of .05%, your driving and ability to make good judgments is significantly impaired.
         Alcohol is a depressant. It slows your body down. That's why people pass out. You may think that it elevates your mood, but what actually is happening is that it is depressing your inhibitor reflex. Our inhibitor reflex is what holds us back from just jumping into a situation. So you may feel freer, and do things that you might not normally do. Girls, are you understanding this? Boys will give you lots of drinks hoping that you might say "yes" to some things that normally you would not dream of.
         The main reason that it is against the law to drink and drive is that your judgment suffers, and your body's reflexes really slow down. Even the tiny muscles in your eye that focus from near to far, or that open and close the iris to let more light in slow down. That means you can't focus, or could be blinded by lights coming around a curve. It's just not worth it. Don't let your friends drive drunk, and make an agreement with your parents that if you think you are too drunk to drive home, they will come and get you.
        Binge drinking is drinking many drinks in a short amount of time. It is the most frightening way to drink, because it can be deadly. If you remember that alcohol is a depressant, you'll understand the potential danger of binge drinking: It can slow your heart or lungs to a stop, which means you die. I know a girl who was working with another girl who binge drank on her lunch hour. She came back drunk, but in a few minutes became unconscious. They had to call 9-1-1, and she had her stomach pumped. There is some disagreement about specific alcohol amounts to be considered binge drinking, but this one is generally accepted: Binge drinking is when girls consume 4 or more drinks in a session or boys consume 5 or more drinks in a session. Just don't do it. You spend time fixing yourself up to look attractive before you go out. A very drunk person is not attractive, and vomit makes it worse. Love yourself enough to take care of yourself.
         What if the girl had become unconscious as she was walking somewhere? She could have fallen and cracked her head. This happened to a boy at the University of Hawaii. There's danger in being alone when very drunk. People have died by passing out, and then vomiting. They then breathe in their own vomit and die by asphyxiation. That was the rumor of how Jimi Hendrix died.
          Don't make a mistake now that you'll be regret for the rest of your life. Find natural highs. We are lucky  in Hawaii that we have beautiful beaches, but I've lived inland, and have always found beautiful places that made me feel good....fields, museums, streams, a comfortable couch and a good book. Jogging, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi or Qi Gong, surfing, dancing, laughing, and chocolate and more can all make you feel better. Take care of yourselves, O.K.? You came to this world with a plan for your life. Take care of your body so that it can be strong for you when you need it. At 21 you can legally drink. The math is still the same.

Let this picture of the Adriatic Sea at Sunset remind you not to let alcohol cloud your light.
In difficult conversations, try to keep as peaceful as these Blue Ridge mountains look.

Keeping Cool When Conversations Get Hot (Learning about the Needs we all Have)
      By the time you speak words in a conversation, you've already accomplished a lot. You've received information from another person, given it a meaning, accessed your feelings and thoughts about it, and attempted to put complex data into often inadequate words. For example,  "I love you." just doesn't capture the passion and joy of new love.
     Sometimes good conversations develop problems when they become emotional. For example, one person gets angry or hurt over something the other person said. A person may even be upset with the other person before the conversation begins! One way improve difficult conversations is to understand where feelings come from. They come from needs that we all have.
     At the simplest level: people feel good when their needs are met, and feel bad when they are not met. Remember that forever. It is a key to understanding and compassion. If  people are sad, angry or confused, at some level their needs aren't being met. No matter what their words say, they believe that something important is missing in their lives.
     Here's an example that occurred often in Teen Court. Police reports would state that the boy or girl called another person a #*&%# and punched him or her, which is Assault. In Anger Management class, I'd always ask if the punches got them what they wanted. Since coming to Teen Court, being suspended from school, and having their friends not be allowed to be with them wasn't what they wanted, they'd say "No".  Through questioning we would find out that over 90% of the time, the fight occurred because the person wasn't feeling respected. We would then figure out better ways for the students to get their need for respect met. The words they initially used basically said, "I'm angry at you." Their need was that they needed to feel respected.
      Besides the basic survival and safety needs that we all have, here are some others. I use the word "community" to mean those that you spend your time with. It could be family, friends, church community, sports teams, school folks, or the community at large.
  • To feel emotionally safe (that others will not try to embarrass us hurt or our feelings)
  • To feel accepted and appreciated in our community for who we really are
  • To feel a part of the decision making in our community
  • To believe that others are honest with us and that we can trust them. We want to feel that if we speak the truth we will be safe.
  • To be able to make our own goals and choose the path to get there
  • To worship and connect with our Creator in our own way.
  • To play, have fun, and celebrate our lives and others'.
  • To make a difference and contribute to the enrichment of life.
  • To know that if we make a mistake our community will be there to support us.
  • To be respected.
  • To be loved
  • To be touched.[Middle school boys often smack each other because it is no longer cool to hold hands with their male friends, yet the need for touch is still there.]
     At times it helps to be patient with ourselves and others when conversations become difficult. It's O.K. to allow spaces between the words to process your thoughts or feelings. If you find yourself getting negative, name the feeling, and determine what you need now." Get as clear as you can. Use "I" statements. Saying, "I don't feel respected, and I need  for you to listen to me now while I tell my side." will go much farther than, "You're a #%&*@!" 
     Use empathy. That means that you try to imagine what the other person is feeling. If a person screams that you stole his school jacket, you might think about the fear he might be feeling about telling his parents that his jacket is gone. Replying with "Dude! I didn't take your jacket, and it's a bummer that yours is gone." might be better than, " You #*&%^$! Why are you accusing me? Let's fight now!"
      I've witnessed conversations where one kid confronted another kid about a difficult subject, but did it respectfully and with facts. You tend to get respect and a solid answer back. Always use facts when you can. Saying to your boyfriend, "The dance is coming up and you still haven't asked me. Are you going to?" Is far better than deciding to create some drama by flirting with your boyfriend's buddies to get his attention. Drama can backfire big time. It's too hard to control.
      It takes practice to learn to listen for feelings and needs in difficult conversations, but if you treat others the way you want to be treated, you'll almost always succeed.  Learn what to do if you make a mistake by reading on to the "Open Mouth Take out Foot" column.
Practice makes perfect, and you'll succeed if you want to.

Blow steam off and get calm before you begin a difficult conversation. [Spouting Horn in Lawai}
Mary and Nicholas relaxing happily

Anyone can Make a Difference
     My middle child, Mary, was born with velo cardio facial syndrome. It is a genetic disorder. Because of it, she had heart problems, was developmentally delayed, had physical coordination problems, speech problems, and more. But she was actually rather popular with her friends, because she knew how to laugh, and she knew how to love. Love is the one thing that everyone needs and wants. Love has no form, but it is the source of expressing kindness, goodness, acceptance, caring and more.
     We are all millionaires of love because no matter how much love we give, we will always have more to give. I loved going to Mary's Special Olympics because it was filled with love millionaires. Each athlete had a "teen coach" who would take them to their events. As a parent I watched closely from afar. The bond was always beautiful to see. Two complete strangers were willing to love each other instantly. There was much hugging and support.
     The athletes weren't really competitive. I actually witnessed a race stop when one runner fell down, and the others went back to help him up. They linked arms and marched to the finish line all together. We were all cheering them on, and they were waving back at us, grinning widely. We were standing, cheering and clapping and smiling with tears running down our eyes as they modeled love for us.
     At the time my husband was a substance abuse counselor. He would bring some clients to the games. In groups they would spout off their excuses as to why they turned to the substances they did, and about how life had been unfair to them...that is, until they went to the Special Olympics. They witnessed the love millionaires with fewer abilities than they had rich, and happy!  Somehow their excuses paled. 
     I also witnessed love millionaires among the parents and friends of the athletes. The athletes felt good about themselves because their parents and friends loved them for the beautiful beings inside that they were, not for the external features or abilities.
     We all have gifts to share, even if it is just a smile or a hug, or picking up the trash on a beach. The bonus is that when we do a good deed for someone, chemicals are released in our bodies that make us feel good. Now that's a high that is good for you!
Open Mouth Take out Foot
(First Aid for Conversational Disasters)
     Everyone one of us has said the wrong thing at the wrong time, or done the wrong thing at the wrong time. There is instant help in the form of apologizing. But there are a few rules that make an apology valid.  The purpose of an apology is to make things right. You also need to have empathy for how the other person might feel.
•    They might be afraid that you’ll do it again.
•    They might not trust you or what you say, so you may have to earn that trust and respect back.
•    You might need to know what your person would need from you to prove to them that you are trust worthy again.

     When I was working in Teen Court, I decided that the kids needed some guidance on exactly what an apology is. It means:
•    You recognize that you made a mistake.
•    You realize that the mistake hurt or affected someone.
•    You want to let that person know that you learned from this and won’t do it again.
•    You want things to be right between you again. You may even ask to be forgiven.

     Why is it so hard to apologize? I know that I hate to make mistakes, but we all make mistakes, and we all want those mistakes forgiven. No one wants to be wrong. The way to be smart again is to learn from your mistake. If you keep making excuses for why you did what you did, you’re not really learning. You’re expecting people to forgive you for your mistake that you might make again if the same choices came up for you. Research shows that people are more likely to forgive you if you seem as though you have learned that what you did was a mistake, that you’ve learned a better way to get your needs met, and you tell them that you won’t do it again.
     No matter how much peer pressure you may feel, you are the only one in control of your choices, and you have to accept responsibility for the choices that you make. If you are being forced with harm to do something you don’t want to do, call the police. Luckily most people truly want to believe that you’ve changed, and will forgive you.
     Sometimes the way we learn how we want to live is by discovering how we don’t want to live. I may think that I want that MP3 player that I see hanging out of a classmate’s backpack, so I take it. But then the guilt, or the embarrassment of being caught, or seeing the sadness in the classmate’s face just aren’t worth it. In my heart I’m really sorry that I caused the pain. By giving it back, and SINCERELY meaning the above 4 points, I have a good chance of healing the relationship again, although once stung people will probably take a while before their guard is completely down around you. Most of the Teen Court kids said that they wished they just hadn't make the mistake in the first place. Undoing it was much more work!
      If we don’t apologize, We're leaving the negative situation between us. Sometimes over time people remember wrongly, and things distort. It is best to apologize quickly when we recognize our error. There is less time for the negativity to fester. Our chances of being forgiven improve. My friend, Arthur DeFries told me that his Hawaiian family told him “Never let the sun go down without forgiving anyone you feel has hurt you.”
     Many of the world’s great spiritual leaders teach us that the outer world we live in is a reflection of our inner world, and that to help create world peace, we need to create peace inside of ourselves. Practice saying "I'm sorry." Once you get it into your system, it is easier to pull out when you need it. But don't take my word for it. Suck on your foot for awhile if you are too proud to apologize.Then be your own scientist, and try the  4-step apology to see if it works for you. I believe in you!


Kalalau Rainbow, fall 2008

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