Unbabbled Episode 16: High-Risk Behavior

High-Risk Behavior in Children and Teens with Dr. Crystal Collier

Research shows that children as young as elementary school are having experiences with drugs, alcohol, suicide and bullying, with cyber bullying peaking in sixth and seventh grades. However, there are strategies parents and educators can implement to help children avoid engaging in these high-risk behaviors. 

In this episode, Crystal Collier, PhD, LPC-S discusses risky behaviors in children and teenagers. She gives concrete, practical tips on how to talk with children about these difficult topics in a simple and easily understood manner, and explains how bringing up these subjects up at an early age can reduce the chance of engaging in these high-risk behaviors down the line.

Topics mentioned are important for all families to consider and discuss with their children in a developmentally appropriate manner. However, this episode is geared toward adult listeners and contains mature content. Listener discretion is advised.

About Dr. Collier

Dr. Collier has worked with individuals suffering from mental, behavioral and substance use disorders since 1991. Her areas of expertise include adolescent brain development, parent coaching and prevention programming. She created a comprehensive prevention model to teach the neurodevelopmental effects of risky behavior to children, teens and parents. In 2018, Dr. Collier was awarded a research fellowship from the Hope and Healing Center & Institute. Her upcoming book, The Neuro Whereabouts Guide, will be available in spring 2020. 

Additionally, Dr. Collier will be presenting an adult education session at The Parish School on Thursday, May 14, 2020. Save the date!



Stephanie:                          00:05                     Hello and welcome to Unbabbled, a podcast that navigates the world of special education, communication delays, and learning differences. We are your hosts, Stephanie Landis and Meredith Krimmel and we're certified speech language pathologist who spend our days at The Parish School at Houston helping children find their voices and connect with the world around them. In today's episode, we discuss high risk behaviors in children and teenagers with Dr. Crystal Collier. Dr. Collier is a licensed professional counselor. Her areas of expertise include adolescent brain development, parent coaching and prevention programming. Dr Collier created a comprehensive prevention model to teach the neurodevelopmental effects of risky behavior to children, teens, and parents. She recently wrote a book, The neuro whereabouts guide, which will be available in spring of 2020 if you're in the Houston area, be sure to Mark your calendars to hear her speak at The Parish School on May 14th of 2020 this episode contains mature topics. Listener discretion is advised. During the episode, Dr. Dollier discusses the most common risky behaviors children engage in including drugs, alcohol, bullying, and sexual behaviors such as sexting. She gives concrete and practical tips on how to talk to your children about these difficult topics in fun, simple and developmentally appropriate ways and explains how talking to children at an early age can make a big impact. We also discussed simple things parents can do at home such as having family dinners and making a family code to help prevent their children from engaging in risky behaviors.

Stephanie:                          01:36                     Welcome Dr. Collier. We're very excited to talk to you today. Can you start off with just giving us a little bit of background about your area of expertise and a little bit of your history?

Dr. Collier:                           01:47                     Most definitely, but let me say thank you guys for having me. I'm really honored to be here today. My history is maybe not so pretty or sweet, I suppose. I had a pretty tough childhood, moved around quite a lot and grew up with a single parent who struggled with her own mental health issues and family issues and so it was interesting. Every year she tried to find a nicer place for us to go, but it just left me missing a school that I had just attached to. And so by the time that I got into about middle school, I was around 12 years old when I took my first drink of alcohol. And that sent me straight down a path of decisions regarding high risk behavior that led me to an intravenous drug problem by the time I was 16. Always making straight A's because that's what mom wanted to see. And so I really learned some healthy manipulation and some not so healthy manipulation tools with her. But um, so by the time I was 16, 17 and a half, I had so many credits because I took summer school every year to get to know people before I go into a school system, which is not always the best way to meet people who are on the right track. Right? Yeah. And so when I was about 17 and a half, I had enough credits to graduate early. I went straight into college, which was just so much fun. But I was really not developmentally ready for that because of my own arrested development and substance use problems. So my first semester I had a 4.0 and things were great. And then my third semester, uh, I just dropped out and, and uh, a couple of weeks later, overdosed from substance use and just by the grace of God was found and reached out to my mom for help, which was one of the most difficult phone calls that I ever had to make sure.

Dr. Collier:                           03:49                     And then, um, she helped me get into rehab and I went to 28 days of rehab in February of 1989. So my sobriety date is February 3rd, 1989. And I've been working on understanding why I made those decisions for quite a few decades. By the time that I got stabilized in my recovery, I went to a different city to live in a sober living facility, a really great place in Omaha, Nebraska, where I re enrolled in college and just felt so much shame outside of my recovery bubble. I saw other people kind of drinking or using or just going about their lives normally. And yet I couldn't achieve those things and I wonder what was going on with me. So I studied, started studying everything I could about addiction and genetics and Oh, it was a really great time because that's when Dr. Jay Giedd started publishing these wonderful functional MRI studies that showed how adolescents grow from childhood into adulthood, how the brain develops. So I started learning specifically about how drugs and alcohol affect brain development specifically that phase two, the part when those higher level executive functioning skills are coming online. And I started putting those puzzle pieces together and thinking, Oh, that's why I didn't have good impulse control. Oh, this is why empathy and attunement were not easy for me because I really had the effects of arrested development and my prefrontal cortex. And so, uh, I was very lucky that I, I got into recovery at age 18 because I had seven years of brain development that allowed me, hopefully to bounce back, maybe not all the way, but I think that I was able to heal a lot of those pathways in my prefrontal cortex. And so started studying everything I could about it and putting into presentations. And today, now I do a literature review every summer on 15 different high risk behaviors.

Dr. Collier:                           05:56                     Put those in presentations and go out to parent groups in schools, elementary, middle, high school, college, and teach parents and faculty and students about how each of these high risk behavior affects their brain development.

Stephanie:                          06:09                     Wow. Wow. Can you share a little bit about what those 15 different areas are?

Dr. Collier:                           06:13                     Sure. I never can remember them all. So alcohol, which is still the most widely abused substances for teens and young adults and then, uh, marijuana and then heavier drugs. So I kind of break those up into different categories. Also focus on bullying and cyberbullying. Interestingly that alcohol and drugs use peaks in later adolescence, but bullying and cyber bullying peak in the sixth and seventh grade. So our prevention needs to be focused at very different time spans and then things like a healthy sexual behavior. Um, so I, I study a lot about dating violence, date rape and sexting and how that affects the brain, uh, eating disorders and body image. Since so many teens struggle with that today on all the surveys that I do at schools, that's one of the most requested pieces of information is on healthy diet and weight because they're so struggling with body image, younger and younger, anxiety and depression. I've been doing more presentations in third and fourth and fifth grade because kids are are struggling with anxiety younger and younger. It's so amazing when I asked them different automatic negative thinking that they struggle with is it more of a worry ant or a perfection and or a victim. And most of the kids raised their hand when we talk about the perfection, automatic negative thoughts and how to deal with being so performance-based and the lack of play in our schools I think greatly contributes to that. In addition to all of our awesome technology, which is another one of the behaviors that I studied quite a lot is how technology affects the brain and video game aggression and video game friendships and play what that looks like. So I looked at a little bit of of criminal behavior and activity and how that plays out cause we see a lot of that starting to peak in adolescence as well. So I think I probably covered the majority of them.

Stephanie:                          08:17                     You mentioned anxiety and depression and we know through research that children who have language delays, language disorders or learning differences so often have some anxiety, depression or other mental health struggles. Have you found with some of your research, any correlation in ways that parents can address that at a young age?

Dr. Collier:                           08:37                     So I've learned a lot about working with kiddos who have learning differences or emotional issues that are, that show up may be younger by working with a really great school in the community, The Gateway Academy. And I've learned that a lot of kids that um, function in those categories are potentially victims of high risk behavior more so than they may be perpetrators of it. For instance, sexual health issues or dating rape or dating violence may be higher level of victimization within that population as well as depression and anxiety. And it may be in part due to a lot of executive functioning difficulties that these kiddos have. So we, you know, I always think about the two levels, the lower level executive functioning skills like flexible thinking or organization and planning, prioritizing, um, that they may struggle with. That hampers their ability to go on to the second level of executive functioning skills, which are the more abstract thinking, empathic connection, attunement, problem solving, decision making, impulse control and things like that.

Meredith:                           09:50                     So you mentioned prevention. What types of things should parents be doing at home or what types of services should they be looking for if they're concerned their child might be at high risk for some of these behaviors?

Dr. Collier:                           10:01                     I've worked with so many parents over the years and I have so much empathy and validate that these are not easy discussions to have, but there are a few things that are critical that if you know what the definition of is and then do it, uh, on a regular basis throughout elementary, middle, and high school, you have so much better of a chance. And the first one is family dinners. There's a large body of research that shows as family dinners decrease, high risk behavior increases. So just maintaining eye contact at a dinner table. It doesn't have to be a long drawn out affair, right? It can be KFC over 20 minutes, but if you're sitting looking at each other, there's the beautiful connection that happens. And in the brain there's wonderful oxytocin and dopamine that connect us to each other. So it has a beautiful calming effect. And then we're also able to talk with our kids and really get to know them and talk about what our family values, what our code is, our family code is on a regular basis. The second is refusal skills. So if you know what a refusal skill is, I always say that it's the hip slick and cool way of saying no. There's lots of different ways to be able to say no. And if you're at family dinner with your kids, you can role play that and talk about, let's see how your refusal skills make a game out of coming up with the funniest refusal skills, right? And think about what you can do also to rely on your executive functioning skills. Uh, how can you locate peers who don't engage with high risk behavior and what kind of ego strength does it take to hang out with them instead of the others? What to do about peer pressure, how to say no to the pressure. You might feel just walking into a room where there are kids engaging in a behavior. So those two kind of major areas, if you keep those up, the family dinners and the refusal skills, then you'll have a really good foundation of prevention starting that early.

Stephanie:                          12:12                     And when age would you start that with?

Dr. Collier:                           12:15                     Well, family dinners..birth birth. Exactly. It's really interesting though. A lot of the research shows that in middle school and high school, that's when the family dinners start to decrease because our kids are so activated probably in elementary now too and so busy. We are so busy, right? We are so much to do after school. But even if your family dinner is in the suburban on the way to yoga or the on the way to soccer whenever that you or your kiddos is doing to actually be able to connect in something some way. And then you can also, you know, create a, a minimum, like a good minimum is three a week. It's really three to five is fantastic. But you see some of the research that shows any less than three, you can see the numbers really start to shift. Not only do kids engage in more high risk behavior, but they're also not as connected to their parents. And just that connection, you know, one or two or three or four or five times a week actually increases that.

Meredith:                           13:17                     So what about the conversations? When do you suggest starting those conversations with your kids?

Dr. Collier:                           13:21                     So I would, when it comes to high risk behavior, like for instance, drugs or alcohol, cyber bullying, suicide. Unfortunately we see, um, kids in elementary school, the numbers are really small, but there are kids who commit suicide or somebody who knows someone who commit suicide in elementary school. So elementary school is when I suggest starting those conversations and one of the best way to is to do it is to have a family code. And so what you can do as a family is get a poster board and some markers or crayons and sit down with your third, fourth, fifth graders and say, okay, we want to create our family code of ethics and values regarding high risk behavior. For example, in the Collier family, the Collier family code is that we treat others with kindness, compassion and respect as well as ourselves. Good self care on and offline we are upstanders don't tolerate bullying or cyber bullying of any kind. We don't use drugs ever and only alcohol when we're 21 or older. Nice short, brief family code. Then we can create a family crest or a family tree or something and then that goes up in the house. And then at the family dinners, when you're sitting around talking about what's going on in the world or what you've heard is happening in your community, if somebody engages in a high risk behavior. A good example is the vaping epidemic and the deaths that we're seeing from vaping. You can say to your kiddos, how did you hear on the news? Over 23 people have died now because of this.

Dr. Collier:                           15:11                     That wouldn't happen in our family because it goes against our code. Vaping has what drug in it? Nicotine and what's in our family code. We don't do drugs ever. Very nice. I love how your memory, good executive functioning skills so that conversation is not a lecture because as you guys know, kids just turn their brain off, right? Their eyes glaze over after 30 seconds of you lecturing and you've really lost them. But if you engage in topics and then create family unity with, well this is our code, we wouldn't necessarily engage in that because this is what we believe in. Then you can repeat that actually often and not come across as lecturing. You can just refer to that. You know as kids go to high risk events like sleepovers, because unfortunately sleepovers have been very high risk. You don't know what someone's gun control policy is. If they have medicine locked in cabinets or if it's a, you know, within reach of your child. If they have an, uh, a mini bar that is out in the open where kids could get to or what kind of monitoring technology they have on their computers, you just don't know. So when your kid is developmentally ready to go do those things and they're walking out the door instead of saying, don't do this and don't do that, you can just refer to the code and say, Hey, what's the family code? Let's recite it, recite it together. And at one point your kid's going to go, Oh my God, mom's off. I'm like, how'd, as blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And that's fantastic because that's what you want to hear, right, is that they know it so well and they've repeated it so many times, then you can praise and reward them for that good memory.

Stephanie:                          16:57                     And upholding that. I think oftentimes parents feel like children when they're younger aren't ready to talk about hard topics or they feel like if they bring them into their world and talk about them, then they're losing a bit of their innocence. It sounds to me like your suggesting that we bring it in and normalize it at a younger age so that they're ready and they have those skills when they encounter them.

Dr. Collier:                           17:20                     So please remember, I'm a therapist by trade. I work with kids who have high risk behavior and it's really interesting to me because I mean, as parents we've got our heads stuck in the sand. We think, I don't want to bring this up. I want to maintain my child's innosense. However, they've already learned it maybe a year or two earlier or they've heard about it and you didn't talk about it with them and so they, they go elsewhere to find that information. It's really sad to me today. Oh, one behavior I forgot to mention is pornography been studying quite a lot of the effects of pornography on the growing brain and the main source of sexual education of our teenagers today is pornography, the internet and the internet, and so you know, always tell parents, would you want to be the one to tell them about this or do you want them to learn on the internet or do you want them to learn from their friend or for it to happen? All of a sudden in school, maybe someone commit suicide that they know and they don't know what's going on. It's better for you to sit down and tell them that in a developmental way that's healthy, which is something that I've been working on putting together in in the book that I'm writing.

Meredith:                           18:35                     I want to go back a little bit. You talked about the lack of play in schools and how that affects high risk behavior. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

Dr. Collier:                           18:43                     Oh, it makes me so sad. I was thinking about this earlier today that I, I work with a lot of kids who get into trouble as soon as school starts. Like they make this transition from summer where they were sedentary and bored and using drugs or alcohol or getting into high risk behavior and then they have to transition back to a full day schedule at school. Um, it's like coming back from a two week vacation. I mean it's a jolt to the system for these kids. And I always ask them, what'd you do over the summer? And they said, Oh no, I thought I couldn't figure out what to do. It was so boring. And I'm thinking, gosh, you guys are 16, 17 years old. There should be no question. But I think that they don't have play skills when they're younger, right? We're on the computer all day long and if we're not playing the game, we're watching somebody else play the game on a YouTube video and our poor bodies are atrophying as well as our mind. Our frontal lobe needs to engage with other people and creativity and creating things and building self efficacy and that all is accomplished by play and imagination. Letting the mind run wild in daydreaming and imagination. It doesn't happen anymore. We're not as aware of our environment because we don't people watch anymore. We are on our phones when we have those opportunities are buried in, uh, being what a technology researchers call absent presence. We're really not there. And so, uh, but I also sometimes don't fault them because I think their parents don't know how to play.

Dr. Collier:                           20:23                     The only play that they may do is the vacation that they schedule once or twice a year. They don't even walk or get into evolved in activities after work because we binge on Netflix so often, which please know I am guilty of doing that. But I also want to make sure that my body and my brain have a good balance. I don't know if I, if you guys have, you know the food pyramid, right? So now they've created the activity pyramid so that you can figure out which types of different activities your body needs for each group. So when parents say to me, my kid's coming to me and saying, I'm so bored, I don't know what to do, print out the activity pyramid and put it on your refrigerator and say, go pick something off of there and go.

Meredith:                           21:10                     What kinds of things do they have on the pyramid?

Dr. Collier:                           21:12                     Going outside and playing. So I've seen little neighborhood coalitions pop up where parents are walking out to the neighbor's house and saying, do you have children? Could we please lock them out of the house so that they've are forced to play with each other, making sure they, they go out. And then that's really all you have to do because then the kids will figure that out. But you know the days of being gone for hours and hours and hours until the street lamp shots on are over for good reasons and bad. But we have to figure out how to adapt to that so that our mind, body connection can, can grow.

Stephanie:                          21:53                     You mentioned in there a little bit of studying technology and the technology used on the brain and can you give us a little bit of what the research is currently showing?

Dr. Collier:                           22:01                     Sure. Well, I've seen over and over again in the literature and in practice, if you give a child whose frontal lobe only has about 10 to 15% executive functioning skills, a smartphone with a camera, they're going to engage in some high risk behavior because they only have 10 to 15% impulse control, problem solving, abstract reasoning. And it's so sad to me because I've seen so many middle schoolers lives be completely derailed and traumatized because of something that they sent out on their cell phone or some snap that they sent that they can't ever get back. And now it is forever colored their reputation going forward. So I think that technology should be earned depending upon your frontal lobe development. So if you have a frontal lobe that has the capacity to control impulses, like if you're, if your frontal lobe is smart enough to use a smart phone, that's when you should earn it. And until you do it should definitely be monitored and every child is going to be different. It really is, and so I think it really needs to depend upon that particular child's skill level and the parent's ability to be present in monitoring that. I think it's a really unfortunate and a bad practice to give a child technology and say, Oh well they're going to have to learn how to use it at some point without monitoring that because a child with 10 to 15% impulse control can't be trusted to just learn how to use it responsibly. We have to teach that and monitor that. There's a couple of great apps out there that use algorithms to search your child's behavior online for keywords like pornography or drugs or or suicide, and then it sends you a text and it gives you some options about what to do and intervene. I think it can be a great tool, but you have to use it as a tool if you just give it over. I also see that it's a source of anxiety as well for kids being hyper-connected, constantly looking for the dopamine spike with those little red notifications that we get. I had a parent who was texting her son multiple times a day. He came into my office one day frazzled and I was like, dude, what is going on? You're in his cell phone was just blowing up and he said, it's my mom.

Dr. Collier:                           24:39                     She had been texting me like all day. So I asked him, count how many texts that she sent you. And it was over 30 texts throughout the day. And when I'm thinking about the learning research and technology, you know, they looked at attention span and focus when kids are really connected and focusing on a subject or an activity during the day, you guys know that takes a lot of brain power, right? Holding all that information in your working memory and then pulling that down and using that, integrating it into your learning takes a lot of focus. And when you get a text message, it's almost as if all those bubbles that are in your working memory just fall and you lose on average about nine minutes of learning whenever that happens. So I was thinking, Oh my gosh, I've got to tell this parent. And it was really interesting. She really had no idea. She was just reminding him of things and asking him how things were going. It was really healthy intention but creating a frazzled, anxious kiddo and this is a high schooler during the day. So I really think that it's technology is a wonderful, beautiful tool and I would not give up my smartphone for anything, but we have to meet kids where they are.

Stephanie:                          25:59                     Yeah, I like how you talked about the family code and you can bring that in with technology of bringing it back to our family code is this is how we talk to people online. Our family code is these are the boundaries we have when we are using our phones. We put it down during dinner, we keep it in the kitchen at night and you can just bring it back to the family code and you can start that young and you can then model it young by like we, I have young children and we talk about how our phones are off during dinner and that, and we tell them like, these are the times when our phones are definitely down and we don't use it here. And I've been practicing sending text messages with my daughter and she's only five and she likes to use the emojis and she went to go send an emoji to, luckily it was only my mom and I was like, wait, stop. We only use these certain emojis. And she was like, okay. And luckily she's five so I didn't quite have to go into too much detail, but I was like, if we send this one, she'll have a thought that we're trying to tell her something negative and we only want to send happy things to Nana. And she was like, Oh yes we do. So she deleted it. But you can start using that at a younger and younger age of this is how we communicate to people through our family code.

Meredith:                           27:18                     And I also love how you talked about direct teaching with technology. I mean we, we directly teach our children almost everything else in the world. Why would we not teach them this skill that's so important for really the rest of their lives.

Dr. Collier:                           27:29                     We live in a techno culture today. Our identity is created online today, sometimes before it's created in the physical world. So yes, I applaud you for doing those things with your daughter because you're teaching her the why of it, the social skill behind it, how to use technology in a way that's healthy for your brain and for someone else's brain. Good job stuff. There are a few things that I try.

Stephanie:                          27:54                     I'm sure there are other things I did in the day that weren't so, but you know, we take the little wins where we can.

Meredith:                           28:00                     So when you were talking about kids starting the school year and getting into trouble because of their summer, you mostly talked about how those kids had nothing to do new activities and they were older. A lot of times we see parents who are overbooking their children. Do you know a little bit about the research and what happens if you overbook your children?

Dr. Collier:                           28:15                     Well, it really starts with under booking. So let me look at that first because a lot of times kids will try a sport and figure out it's not for them. And parents kind of always figure out like how far do I push them? So what I always recommend is that they have to finish what they started, right? So if they sign up for something, they wait until the end of the season. I can never drop out in the middle of it. You keep going for tenacity in building resiliency in those skills. Right. And so we all know that it is a skill to do something that bores you just to be able to finish it. But that's integrity, right? Following through. So I think that when kids decide, okay, I don't want to do this, the rule needs to be that you have to be in a minimum of one pro-social activity at all times. And if you're not, you gotta work. Now when they're younger working maybe difficult to figure out however you can figure that out because some kids would prefer to work and that kind of self efficacy feels better for them necessarily than play so little, I'm not talking about child labor here, I'm talking about you know, chores around the house and then and then doing things. But I think then overbooking can, it's like that continuum. Overbooking - having three, four, five pro social activities can overload a kiddos brain and that's when we forget to play. We forget to breathe, we forget to have good self care. So self care needs to be integrated and taught into that. It's like the rule about technology. When we engage in an activity for three or more hours consecutively, our brain literally grows dendrites that lay down new pathways. So if you want your kiddo to be great at debate or good at soccer, let him practice for three or more hours a day. And so they all have pathways for those skills. If you want him to be good at Fortnite binge watching, let them do that for three or four hours consecutively at a time. So it's like that same concept is that we need their brain to be engaged in a pro-social activity for that amount of time, but then an equal amount of time to rest and become passive and not do anything or do something creative and play to use a different side of the brain. Right. A really well rounded whole brain child, right, is what we're, what we're wanting.

Meredith:                           30:53                     Yeah. I like how you said that the rule is that if you start something, you have to finish the season.

Stephanie:                          30:58                     You've spoken a lot about older kids, older, elementary age. Is there something that parents can start doing other than family dinners? Any sort of play-based things they can bring in for our younger elementary or preschool type children.

Dr. Collier:                           31:12                     After seeing y'alls activity play campus outside, what is it called again? Adventure play. Oh my gosh. I wanted to go out and come to that every day. So I think that we have to start with parents and teaching them what play looks like today because our culture, techno culture has become so performance-based. So I think also giving parents permission to play themselves or adding it into their things to do. This sounds terrible, but I'm guilty of this because I love to feel busy and productive. That's who, you know what my personality has grown to be within this culture and if I put nail day massage on my calendar to do, then I will do that even though it's self care. But if I don't put it onto my calendar, it doesn't get done. And so I think that for our kids too, we need to, as parents realize, we have to play with them. Even if that means just going to the park on the weekend and having a picnic, it doesn't have to be contrived. It doesn't have to be preplanned. It can be spontaneous parents who go, I don't know what to do on the weekends. It's also almost as if we have this template in the back of our head that it has to be novel, that it has to cost money, that it has to be something big, that we take a picture of it at the end and make it look like a Pinterest worthy activity and it doesn't have to be. Yeah, no, but you can actually make really cool abstract, weird selfies at the park sitting on a blanket all day long and if kids are like, I'm bored, then you go, let's walk around the park. You know, there's, there's tons of simple things to be able to do. There are meditation centers all over the city that provide free meditation classes. There are yoga studios that have parent and kid yoga classes concurrently. Yeah. There's just so many great fun play things to go do that. Maybe parents just need a list.

Stephanie:                          33:23                     Yeah, that very helpful. This is backing up a little bit, but you were talking about refusal strategies and going through restrict views. A lot of times when we talk with our kids, we give them scripts, language scripts. It sounds like they're very similar and that you use them and practice them over and over again, so it becomes almost second nature. Can you explain what a refusal strategy might sound like?

Dr. Collier:                           33:46                     Sure, so I've actually got worksheets of this, so people for different topics because we can work on refusal skills for 15 different topics, but we're giving the same lesson each time. But making it more fun because it's a new topic. Like for instance, when your child earns their own smartphone and they have the ability to start texting someone or they get on the computer and they start communicating via technology, that's when you can start talking about sexting and the ability to refuse it because about 68 to 75% of kids in middle school are asked to send a nude or some sexually explicit text messages in middle school. Wow. So we have to start that conversation. If somebody asks you for a nude picture, if somebody asks you to send them a picture of somebody, um, parts that usually are covered by a bathing suit. Let's talk about how to say no to that. And then you just make it fun. Like what are some funny ways to say no to somebody and you know, you do that. And then the next topic is if you see someone bullying or if somebody asks you to vape or if somebody offers this or if you see somebody who does that, let's practice food refusal skills for this. And you just keep going until they have a good repertoire of it. And then what's really key is when you hear that they did it, reward them, praise them as if they just went to the toilet independently for the first time. Oh my God, that is amazing. Your refusal skills are so fantastic. I love how your frontal lobe is developing. You really represented the family code well.

Stephanie:                          35:38                     And I think that can start young because kids do engage in behaviors. Even like kinder first, second that they can start noticing is like, Oh that doesn't feel good to me. Or as a parent you're like, you know, that seems like it wasn't kind, it wasn't outwardly mean, but it wasn't kind. And some kids are like, well I didn't do it, but they also didn't stop and stop it or didn't say anything. And this kind of gives them the tools and strategies so that they can say like, this is part of what our family believes and this is how I can step in and say, you know, we don't treat people like that. There are so many different, no, I don't want to do that.

Dr. Collier:                           36:17                     There's so many different ways to be an upstander and there is, um, the Ned show is one of my favorite tools actually put up a whole page for their strategies in the book that I'm writing because they offer kids four options of being an upstander. Only one of them is going into getting involved in saying something. There are lots of other options. You can go get an adult, you could just stand next to somebody, you could walk into the middle of the situation and say nothing because each kid who has a different temperaments and personalities is going to feel the ego strength or not to be able to get involved in those. And so I think a lot of parents have this idea of perfectionism. You have to actually say something not true. If your child does anything upstanding worthy, they should be really praised and honored for that.

Meredith:                           37:12                     And this really can start young because even in preschool, kids are saying, Oh, you're not invited my birthday or you can't play with us and all that, which they're not being bullied. They're four, um, but, but it's just part of the culture of a preschool classroom. But if you're already T, that's a low stakes way to teach your child how to be an upstander and how to treat people with respect.

Dr. Collier:                           37:32                     And, and on the flip side of that too is for the person that that happens to, to teach them assertive skills. So I think one of the things is a therapist that makes me really sad is I'll ask adults, tell me how you feel. And they're like, ah, well. So I have a feeling chart and I like, okay, identify which one of these feelings fits you and then do education with them. That could start much younger. Using a feeling wheel with little kids to share what's going on inside of them and also use those labels when you see them exhibiting an emotion and then ask them to use those emotion vocabulary within their daily communication is really key. So that child be able, being able to say, Hey, that hurts is something that I don't think kids are empowered to learn how to do. I mean I was thinking about, I used to go to massages and not have the right pressure, but feel unempowered to say anything. I would sit through a whole massage and not say anything and same, Oh my gosh. So, and I thought, man, why do I do this? Why do I feel so afraid to ask for what I want? So I just started practicing it. I actually saw a girlfriend ask for something and I was like, Oh my God, that's amazing. Look, she just asked, Oh my God, she got it, but my mom didn't teach me that. Right. I don't think my mom was taught that either. To be able to say, Hey, that hurts. I really want to be involved in that and then walk away.

Meredith:                           39:07                     And you can even teach feelings to children with language delays and learning differences. It's the way we do it here is we use the zones of regulations so they don't even need to label or have the vocabulary. They can just label the color color. Yeah. Yeah.

Stephanie:                          39:20                     That's great. You've mentioned a few times that you have a book coming out. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Dr. Collier:                           39:24                     Thank you for asking. I'm really excited about this. I was actually awarded a fellowship by St. Martins, the hope and healing center, which was a really fantastic opportunity to fund my time while I was writing this book. So, and it's, it's about a two year project, it's called the Neuro Whereabouts Guide. And it is a neurodevelopmental guide for parents who want to prevent high risk behavior. So the first chapter is all about healthy brain development. The second chapter is about how high risk behavior that we've been talking about today affects that brain development. And then there's an elementary, middle, and high school chapter which discuss which of those behaviors pop up at different ages and then what parents can do to prevent it. And then the last chapter, chapter six is all filled with those scripts of what to say to your kids, how to start those conversations. And then also the skills that you can learn or teach to build as they grow and develop as well as lots of different resources. So if this happens, go to this are some really great books for certain of issues all be in the sixth chapter. So, uh, we are online to, uh, to publish and finish that by the end of this year. So by next spring it'll be out, which is very, very exciting.

Stephanie:                          40:40                     That is very exciting and sounds like an excellent resource that I'll be looking into. Well we appreciate having you on at the end of every podcast we ask all of our guests one question, if you have one piece of advice to give to our listeners, which are made up of parents, educators, therapists, and it can be about today's conversation or it can be any piece of advice you'd like. What would you give them?

Dr. Collier:                           41:02                     It would be to intervene. I see so many parents and clinicians who think, well it's just a developmental phase. This will pass and especially when we're talking about high risk behavior, when you fail to intervene, the message covertly that you're sending kids is that I don't care if you do this. And so they are much more likely to engage in the behavior again if they have little to no consequences. And there are healthy ways to offer consequences that keep kids coming back and speaking to you. And so one of the best ones is if you share with kids, if you go against the family code, and sometimes that happens because people experiment sometimes and they get curious. But if you come and tell me that you did it or you call me and say, Hey, I made a bad choice, you'll have a consequence, but it'll be really small. But if I find out from someone else besides you that you went against our family code, then your consequence will double or triple. So best bet is let us know.

Stephanie:                          42:10                     I like that. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much for coming and we do want to mention that you'll be coming back to speak to parents this spring and we're very excited for that.

Dr. Collier:                           42:19                     Great. Great. Well thank you. Thanks guys.

Meredith:                           42:24                     Thank you for listening to the Unbabbled podcast. For more information on today's episode, including where to find Dr .Collier's book, The Neuro Whereabouts guide, please see our episode description for more information on The Parish School. Is it parishschool.org if you're not already, don't forget to subscribe to the Unbabbled podcast on your app of choice, and if you like what you're hearing, be sure to leave a rating and review a special thank you to Stig Daniels, Amy Tanner, Amanda Arnold, and Stella Limuel for their hard work behind the scenes. Thanks again for listening.