The Hidden Dangers of Teen Dating

My 17-year-old son started dating this year, a lovely young woman who has been a friend since seventh grade. They are both nearly adults in age, but still adolescents in many ways. As parents we discuss everything from sexting to STDs to pregnancy with our son, and I know her mom does the same. We have planted books that contain answers to questions he may be embarrassed to ask. But it honestly never occurred to us to talk to him about domestic violence. He does not witness violence in his home, but he certainly sees plenty of it in the media, from games to YouTube to movies.

Domestic violence – specifically teen dating violence – is not a topic we should ignore simply because it is not part of our experience. Just because a child does not experience violence at home doesn’t mean they are not susceptible to violence – as victims or abusers. Here are some important facts from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • 1 in 11 female teens experienced physical dating violence in the last year
  • 1 in 15 male teens experienced physical dating violence in the last year
  • 1 in 9 female teens experienced sexual dating violence in the last year
  • 1 in 36 male teens experienced sexual dating violence in the last year
  • 26% of women and 15% of men who have experienced domestic violence had their first experience before the age of 18
  • LGBTQIA teens are more likely to experience dating violence than their heterosexual peers
image credit: CDC

Many parents are unaware of these statistics and may also be unaware of how teen dating violence is defined. There are four types:

  • Physical violence – when one partner harms another by hitting, kicking or otherwise physically assaulting them
  • Sexual violence – forcing or attempting to force a partner into performing a sexual act; includes sexual touching but also includes unsolicited non-physical sexual activity such as sexting
  • Psychological aggression – using verbal or non-verbal communication to exert control and/or inflict harm on another person mentally or emotionally
  • Stalking – unwanted attention and contact that is systematically repeated in order to cause fear and attempt to control the behavior and activity of the other person

Some of these behaviors, such as sexting, can start at a very early age. Children commonly get their first smart phone at age 10 and a discussion about sexting needs to happen before their personal phone is placed in their hands. Both boys and girls need to understand what kind of pictures are OK and which are not OK. They also need to understand that unsolicited sexual overtures cause the recipient to experience the same kind of distress and anxiety as if they had been physically sexually harassed.

There are a number of behaviors to look out for if you are concerned your child is experiencing or perpetrating dating violence (from the National Domestic Violence Hotline website):

  • Your child’s partner is extremely jealous or possessive to the point where your child stops spending time with other friends and family. When asked how they feel about this, your child might say something like: She thinks my friends don’t like her, so she doesn’t like spending time around them. Or, she thinks they’re a bad influence on me, and she’s just trying to help.
  • You notice unexplained marks or bruises.
  • You notice that your son or daughter is depressed or anxious.
  • Your child stops participating in extracurricular activities or other interests.
  • Your child begins to dress differently; for example, wearing loose clothing because their partner doesn’t like for them to show off their body or attract the attention of someone else.
  • Your child worries if they can’t text/call their partner back right away because their partner might get upset.
  • Your child expresses fear about how their partner will react in a given situation.

It’s important to stay tuned in to your teen as they make their way in the dating world. Teens who experience abuse or violence in their adolescent relationships are at much higher risk in college and adulthood. Teen victims may experience depression or anxiety; may use drugs to escape; may pass along the violence they experience in anti-social behaviors like lying, shoplifting, bullying, or physically abusing others (younger siblings can become a target); or may experience suicidal ideation or even attempt suicide.

Open a communication channel about healthy relationships with your children starting at a young age. Encourage them to think critically about the health of their friendships as those behaviors form the basis for their intimate relationships. Most of all, be that non-judgmental listening ear so they know that you will love and support them in all aspects of their lives.

For more information and resources, visit the CDC’s Dating Matters website.

– Kathy Henry is the adoptive mom to two amazing young men; a writer and business marketing consultant; and an active volunteer in her public school, Unitarian Universalist church, and community.

Six basics of car seat safety

It’s National Child Passenger Safety Week, a time when we focus even more attention on preventing the number one cause of death for kids under 14 in the United States: injuries sustained in a car accident. Parents cannot control road conditions or how other people drive, but we can control how our kids are restrained in the car. That means that it is within our power to protect our kids from injuries if they are involved in a motor vehicle accident!

Here are a few things to remember about the proper use and installation of your car seats.

  1. Always have your car seat installation checked by a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST). Beaumont offers a free car seat safety inspection once a month; registration is required and you can sign up online. You can also go to to find an event near you. Did you know that 80 to 90% of car seats are misused? So even if you think you’re doing everything right, chances are you can make it safer with the help of one of these passionate professionals.
  2. Always read both your vehicle manual and your car seat manual when installing a seat. Every vehicle is different, every car seat is different. That means you can’t just rely on what your friend did in her car or what you did with your last seat.
  3. The weather is getting colder again, but please do not bundle up your kids in their car seats! Harness straps should fit snugly on the child, and they simply can’t if the child is in bulky clothing. For younger kids, use a blanket over the harness to keep them warm. Older kids can put a jacket on backwards over the harness, that way they have it with them when they hop out of the car and can dash into school or to practice.
  4. Secure all loose articles in the car. In an accident, purses, backpacks and loose cell phones are potential projectiles that can cause injury when flying around loose in a car on impact. You don’t want to have your seat belt or car seat harness work great just to have a head injury from your ice scraper.
  5. Use the right seat for the right size of the child. Notice this doesn’t say A child’s height and weight are much more important than age when it comes to using the proper restraint. Check the height and weight limits on the seats you’re using and use them until the child outgrows the seat or the position. Stay rear facing as long as possible, then use a five-point harness until you can’t use it anymore. A seat belt is easier, but race car drivers use five-point harnesses for a reason! They’re safer.
  6. Replace a car seat if it’s involved in an accident or if it has reached its expiration date. Car seats are like eggs: They go bad, and they’re only good for one crack!

So buckle up those kiddos – and buckle up yourselves. Remember that every time you buckle your seatbelt, you’re modelling that safe behavior for your kids. Safe travels!

– Nicole Capozello, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Beaumont Parenting Program Group Coordinator

Bike with care

Pexels, Blaxtar Essentials

Danger zones for bicyclists

  • Nearly 70 percent of all fatal bicycle crashes involve head injuries. To reduce that risk, check out this article on proper helmeting.
  • 51 percent of bicycle-related deaths occur between 3 and 9 p.m.
  • 71 percent of bike fatalities occur in urban areas
  • 35 percent of bicycle-related deaths occur in intersections
  • 79 percent of injured bike riders are 16 years and older
  • Alcohol is involved in over 34 percent of crashes resulting in bicyclist deaths.
  • Males represent 75 percent of bicycle-related injuries.

Tips for safe riding

  • Bicyclists must adhere to traffic rules of the road, which include riding in the same direction as traffic and obeying traffic signs and signals.
  • Ride in bike lanes when available.
  • Use hand signals to indicate changes in direction.
  • Watch for cracks, bumps and obstacles in the road.
  • Call out “on your left” before passing someone on the left or use a bell.
  • Be a courteous rider: Slow your speed and yield if possible when near other riders or pedestrians.
  • Look left-right-left before entering an intersection.
  • Use a bike that fits you properly, is in good working order, and has good brakes.
  • Wear shoes that prevent slippage and protect the feet with closed-toe shoes.
  • Be visible by wearing light clothing and using reflectors and lights.

Additional articles

–  The Beaumont, Royal Oak ThinkFirst chapter. Learn more here.


  • ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Protect your melon

ThinkFirst about protecting your brain! A helmet can decrease the severity of a brain injury and even save your life. During a fall or crash most of the impact is absorbed by the helmet, rather than your head and brain.

  • Helmets are 87 percent effective in reducing your risk for a brain injury.
  • Always wear a certified bicycle helmet that fits and is correctly fastened.
  • Replace any helmet involved in a crash or damaged.

Fitting a bike helmet

  1. Measure your head. Select a helmet that fits snugly, then try it on. Adjust as needed with pads or the universal fit ring.
  2. Place the helmet level on your head. The front of the helmet should be one to two finger widths above your eyebrows to protect the forehead.
  3. Adjust the slide on both side straps to form a “V” directly under and slightly in front of the ears. Lock slide if possible.
  4. Center the left buckle under the chin. Make sure the helmet is level. Adjust the rear or front straps to ensure the helmet is not tilting forward or back.
  5. Buckle the chinstrap securely so that no more than one or two fingers fit between the strap and your chin. Secure all straps in the rubber ring, close to the buckle.

Helmets are for more than biking

Always wear a helmet when:

  • Riding a bicycle, motorcycle, snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle
  • Using in-line skates, a skateboard or a scooter
  • Playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey or lacrosse
  • Batting and running bases in baseball or softball
  • Skiing or snowboarding
  • Riding a horse

–  The Beaumont, Royal Oak ThinkFirst chapter. Learn more here.

  • ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Emergency preparedness for infants and pregnant moms

close up of woman's hands on pregnant belly

Leah Kelley, Pexels.

Emergencies and disasters are unpredictable! The time to get ready is now – you don’t want to be caught unprepared in a tornado or flood. And, as we all know in Michigan, a strong thunderstorm can knock out power in your home for days.

Keep your family safe and healthy by following these tips for pregnant women and families with infants:

  • Ask your doctor what the options are for prenatal care and delivery if your doctor’s office or hospital closes.
  • Stay informed. Be sure you are signed up for emergency alerts through email, phone or text. You can usually sign up with your local emergency management agency.
  • Be sure you have a family communication plan. How will you contact one another? Determine the steps you will take in various situations.
  • Have an emergency kit! Make sure you have everything you need, including pre-natal vitamins if you are pregnant, a portable crib for an infant, emergency phone numbers, and any special medications. Check out this guide from the March of Dimes.
  • If you have to evacuate your home, ensure you have a safe sleep option so baby can sleep in his or her own space that can be kept clear of pillows, blankets and toys.
  • If you are pregnant and must stay in a shelter or other temporary housing, be sure they know you are pregnant and inform them of any special needs you may have.
  • No matter where you are, continue to take prenatal vitamins and any other special medications. Same goes for baby if he or she needs medication.
  • As soon as possible, continue with prenatal medical care, even if you must use a different doctor or clinic. Save any paperwork so your primary physician can add pertinent information to your medical record.
  • Washing your hands is important for keeping viruses and bacteria at bay, and it’s especially important if find yourself in a shelter or temporary housing with many other families.
  • Natural disasters may release dangerous chemicals into the air or water. Listen to public service announcements. If you are concerned, call Mother to Baby at 866-626-6847 or the nationwide poison control center at 800-222-1222.
  • Disasters and emergencies are stressful – Dad, this means you, too. Drink plenty of clean water and get as much rest as possible. Talk to someone – a professional, family member, friend or clergyperson – about how you are feeling. Stress comes with the territory in pregnancy and new parenthood, but too much stress can be harmful!
  • Breastfeeding is the safest way to feed your infant, but if you are using formula, be sure you have prepared formula in your emergency kit. Remember there may not be safe water or clean supplies for mixing formula.
  • If you have any signs of labor, call 911 or go to the hospital immediately if it is safe to leave. But be prepared with a safe birthing kit in case you find yourself unable to go to the hospital. As soon as possible, get yourself and baby to a postpartum visit, even if you have to go to a different provider or clinic.

Make a plan for your peace of mind. Even the most unpredictable situations can be managed safely when you are well-prepared.

– Kathy Henry is an adoptive parent to two teenage boys. She is also a marketing consultant, business coach and copywriter who volunteers for several organizations, including the Beaumont Parenting Program.

Keeping kids safe with poison prevention

poisons wrapped in padlocks and chains

photo credit: Cropped image. Senior Airman Debbie Lockhart, U.S. Air Force.

It can happen in a second, so the key to combating poison consumption is knowledge and prevention. While household cleaners and medications may come to the top of your mind when considering poisonous substances, there may be other poisons lurking in your home, too. It’s a good idea annually to look at possible poisonous substances in your home and revisit your prevention strategies based on your children’s physical and developmental growth and capabilities. A list of commonly ingested poisonous substances can be found below, as well as some tips on outsmarting the little scientists who live in your home and how to respond if your child has ingested a possible poison.

Poisonous substances

  • Household cleaning supplies, lamp oil and furniture polishes. Dishwasher pods and laundry pods are especially appealing to young children and more dangerous when consumed compared to regular dishwasher liquid or laundry detergent given the concentrated formulation and the fact that they can cause respiratory distress and cardiac arrest.
  • Perfumes, cosmetics, nail polish and remover, baby oil, toothpaste, and deodorant.
  • Nicotine refills for e-cigarettes, noting that even a small amount spilled onto a child’s skin can be fatal.
  • Medications [especially those containing acetaminophen (Tylenol) or iron]
    • Prenatal vitamins are a leading cause of iron poisoning in kids.
  • Garage items such as windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, gasoline, paint/paint thinner, and pesticides.
  • Alcohol and hand sanitizer.
  • Batteries and button batteries, which can be found in common household items including musical books or cards, watches, garage door openers, hearing aids, and remotes.
    • Batteries can damage the tissue as long as they are in place and can burn a hole in the esophagus in just two hours.
  • Two magnets or a magnet and another metal object swallowed can cause intestinal loops to stick together leading to tissue death.
  • Carbon monoxide.
  • Some plants can also be poisonous. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the plants you may have in your yard or home as consumption or contact with certain plants can be dangerous. Check out this website for a list.


Most cases of poisonings happen in a child’s own home, usually when he or she is  unsupervised. While supervision is paramount in preventing accidents, safeguarding your home is essential. Even with the best supervision, it only takes a second for a poison to be consumed.

  • Store all poisons out of sight, out of reach, and locked up. What was out of reach one year may no longer be, so it’s always a good idea to continually re-evaluate this.
  • Store all products in their original containers.
  • Add backup safeguards for common household products that are used frequently, such as dishwasher detergent. I store my dishwasher detergent box with the opening facing the rear of a locked cabinet.
  • Always store commonly used household products like toothpaste and baby oil out of reach and do not leave them on the counter. Kids’ toothpastes can be especially appealing.
  • Be extra cautious when traveling or at a relative’s house where poisons are likely not locked up. Be cognizant of hearing aids as the button battery is often removed when the hearing aid has been taken out.
  • Always store the dispensing cup with the medicine and only dose with the dispensing cup that came with the medicine, as it is very easy to confuse teaspoons with milliliters.
  • Discard expired or leftover medicines.
  • Always refer to medicine as medicine so as not to confuse children.
  • Take medicine out of sight of children.
  • Always read labels when purchasing products to evaluate what may be poisonous.
  • Don’t ignore poisons lurking in the garage and make sure to keep them locked up and out of reach.
  • Install smoke detectors in every room and carbon monoxide detectors on ever floor.
  • Keep purses out of reach as they often contain poisonous substances such as hand sanitizer or medications.

How to respond to accidental exposure

  • If a poisonous substance has been ingested and the child has any serious symptoms call 911 right away.
  • If there are no serious symptoms, call Poison control instead at 800-222-1222. Program this number into your phone now so you’ll be prepared if a poisonous substance is ingested. Poison control is free and confidential.
  • Do not try to guess at how to treat a poison exposure or try to induce vomiting and do not use syrup of ipecac.

As we celebrate National Poison Prevention Week, take the time to re-evaluate poisons in your home and make sure you have the best safeguards based on your children’s ages.

– Melissa Rettmann, M.S., PA-C, has a background in pediatrics and allergy. She is the mother of three curious children and volunteers with the Parenting Program.


Busting common concussion myths

man on ground holding head

Cropped image. Staff Sgt. Jonathon Fowler, U.S. Air Force.

Myth: Someone with a concussion should be woken up every two to three hours.

Fact:: Infants or toddlers may not be able to tell you how they feel, so it may be appropriate to wake them up during the night to make sure they are arousable. Older children, teens, and adults who are awake and able to carry on a conversation can sleep uninterrupted. Sleep is very beneficial in concussion healing. Drowsiness and fatigue are common symptoms that people experience after a concussion. If you suspect that someone has had a concussion, have that person evaluated by a health care professional who will advise on what to do next.

read about Beaumont's concussion clinicMyth: Everyone with a concussion needs a CT scan or MRI.

Fact: Damage to the brain from concussion is on a microscopic level and cannot be detected from a CT scan or MRI. These images will pick up structural damage, like a fracture or a bleed in the brain. If a person suffers a concussion, these images will not show any abnormalities.

Myth: A concussion requires a loss of consciousness.

Fact: A loss of consciousness happens in only approximately 10 percent of all concussions. Every concussion is different. In some cases, a person who has a loss of consciousness may suffer less injury than someone who remained awake after the injury.

Myth: Helmets prevent concussions.

Fact: Helmets can prevent skull fractures or a more serious injury, like a bleed in the brain, but they don’t prevent a concussion from occurring. The brain “floats” in fluid that surrounds the brain inside the skull, kind of like pickles in a jar. If the brain gets jostled around inside the skull, even when wearing a helmet, it can cause a concussion. It is always a good idea to wear helmets when biking or participating in sports to prevent a serious injury.

Myth: You need to hit your head to sustain a concussion.

Fact: A concussion can occur without an actual blow to the head. It can occur from whiplash type injuries (front to back) and rotational injuries (side to side). When the head or upper body is shaken with enough force, the brain can move around and slam into the inside of the skull such as in a car accident or being violently shaken.

Myth: A child should not go back to school until he or she is free of concussion symptoms.

Fact: For the first two to three days, it is OK to keep a child home for complete cognitive rest. However, most concussed students may return to school after this time, but may require additional supports at school during recovery. Studies show that keeping children home for too long can create anxiety due to missing school work and social life. Having anxiety can prolong symptom recovery.

Myth: The symptoms of concussion begin immediately after the injury.

Fact: The symptoms of concussion may start immediately after the injury; however, they can also appear the next day or even two or more days later. In fact, delayed onset of signs and symptoms is more likely in younger athletes.

Myth: All concussions have the same clear-cut symptoms.

Fact: No two concussions are alike. Headache is the most commonly reported symptom in both males and females, but there are many other symptoms that can occur with concussion, including nausea, dizziness, trouble sleeping, fatigue, light sensitivity or sound sensitivity. Any person can have a combination of these symptoms or more.

Myth: You must be placed in a dark room to recover from concussion.

Fact: Recent studies show that prolonged, complete cognitive and physical rest do not make the recovery process faster. In fact, people who take active, individualized approaches to resume light activities while still symptomatic following concussion are showing faster recovery rates. Prolonged complete rest, like lying in a dark room and staying home from school for an extended amount of time, can lead to anxiety and depression issues as well as fatigue.

– Susan Musto. ANP-BC, nurse practitioner at the Concussion Clinic, Beaumont Health Neuroscience Center