Addiction Issues

A recent article published on “Why Teens are Impulsive, Addiction-prone and Should Protect their Brains” does a great job answering the questions we, as parents and educators, so often ask about adolescent behaviors: “Why would they have ever done that?” “How stupid can they be?” “Why on earth did they think that was a good idea?”

As the article explains, the brain is not fully developed until one is in their mid-20’s, or even later. In fact, the frontal lobe, which controls decision-making, is the last part to develop. As Dr. Frances Jenson, author of the book The Teenage Brainexplains: “Teenagers are not as readily able to access their frontal lobe to say, ‘Oh, I better not do this.

I point this out not to excuse the behavior, but to help us understand why teenagers are more prone to addictions, particularly alcohol, drug and other various digital addictions we are seeing on the rise.

As we discuss these topics in our counseling classes, our approach has been very fact based. The more students know and understand about the reality of these particular addictions and the harmful effects they have on development, the better equipped they will be at making a good decisions when faced with the choice to have a drink, try a pill for fun, or to click on the inappropriate images that appears on the computer screen.

The past two counseling classes we addressed questions relating to Addiction, Alcohol and Illicit/Pharmaceutical Drugs, such as:

Addiction: Did you know 45% of those who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 14 become dependent at some time in their lives compared with 10% of those who wait at least until age 21? (Source: Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent medicine). How is the reward center of our brain affected by addiction?

Alcohol: How does the body process alcohol? How long does it take to “sober” up? Is alcohol actually poisonous to your body? Can you die from overdosing on alcohol like you can with other drugs?

Illicit and Pharmaceutical Drugs: How do the chemicals in drugs affect our brain? What are the current trends in drug use among high school students? Why has heroin become such a big concern for our country, especially among the suburban middle-upper class populations?

So what can you do at home?

We encourage you to continue these discussions and talk with your child about the long-term effects and consequences these substances can have on our lives. The more they know, the better decisions they will make!

We also invite you to attend the NOPE (Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education) Task Force program here at Malvern on Monday, April 13

th at 7:00 in Duffy. The program will include: a local law enforcement and listen to a mother tell the story of her son’s troubling journey with substance abuse and the overdose that eventually took his life. There will also be a special program for the Middle and High School students during the day. If you aren’t able to make the evening program, be sure to talk with your son about the messages they heard.


The Personality and Career Connection

It can be a stressful and sometimes an even impossible question for a fifteen-year-old to answer, “What career do you want post-graduation?” Even describing likes and dislikes can take time to sort out.  To help guide students in a direction of personal growth, the Counseling Department designed a lesson for sophomores surrounding the Myers Briggs Personality Test.

This assessment measures sixteen possible personality types which reveal preferences in how people make decisions and view the world. It can be very helpful information for an adolescent to learn about himself prior to making choices about college and potential careers.

The counselors make it clear to the students that no personality type is superior to the next.  It is discussed that people who are introverted draw energy through reflection and quiet time away from activity. Extroverts gain energy through action and interacting with others. Here is a link to the presentation your son’s received:

If your son is a sophomore or older, please access his results and continue the discussion with him. The Myers Briggs can be accessed by doing the following:

1.)    Go to: a.) b.) Parents and Students c.)Family Connection d.)Enter Family Connection.

2.)    At the Sign-In, enter your e-mail address and password

3.)    At your homepage on the sidebar click on the “About Me” Tab and you will see “Do What You Are.”

(*If you encounter any problems accessing Family Connection, please e-mail Mrs. Sarafinas at She can update an e-mail address or reset a password if needed. In most cases she has already sent an e-mail with sign-in information.)

Click here to check out the prezi that goes along with the lesson (it’ll help all this make sense!).

Digital Drama

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it”

– Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin may not have been referring to the “digital age” when he uttered these words, but they can certainly be used to describe the consequences of poor decisions on social media. Day after day we hear the headlines “Coach dropped recruit because of tweets“ “Penn State drops recruit over social media actions” “Catholic football star expelled and loses scholarship over racist-sexual tweets” “Teens arrested for sexting each other” and we wonder “how could these kids not know better?” all the while holding our breath, praying that our boys won’t be the next headline.

So how do we ensure that our boys’ many good deeds aren’t overseen by one poor decision? We are using two separate strategies at Malvern: Continued dialogue about social media and education through our Augustinian values (Veritas. Unitas. Caritas).

Veritas- Is the dedication to the pursuit of Truth through integrity and leadership. Dialogue starters- What does it mean to have integrity? What does leadership look like? Does your twitter feed reflect integrity and demonstrate leadership?

Unitas- Is our responsibility for the common good. Dialogue starters: What is the common good of our family? Malvern? Your sports team? Do your Facebook comments support the common good of all the groups in which you are a part of?

Caritas- The idea that we grow and give through respect and exceptional love. Dialogue starters: What does respect look like on social media? Is the ‘story’ you’ve created online, through Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc., one of respect and exceptional love?

As we continue these discussions at school, we hope you will do the same at home.

Tools for Study Skills

As mid-terms approach, parents and students alike are interested in how to improve study skills.  Fortunately, it’s not as complicated as you might think.  In general, when students want to improve their study skills, I often recommend they focus on one area that needs improvement and one strategy to strengthen the weak spot.  The theory is that, if you change one behavior and it works out well, it can create a positive feedback loop  sort of domino effect.  Here are some tools and tips for some common student pitfalls.

Time Management:  This is the big one that I’m pretty sure 99.9% of us can say we could do better.  Fortunately, there are loads of tools out there to help us out with that.

  • A new app called Timeful created by Dan Ariely is getting rave reviews.  (Your sons were introduced to Dan Ariely when we discussed academic integrity in class).
  • There are loads of other apps as well that can help with time management and organization, but some students prefer the old standby—the planner. It’s still a useful tool , and a surprising number of students still like using them.  What is often not so useful is using myBackpack as a planner—it does not help manage time.

Study Strategies: There are many different ways to study, but studies have shown that there are some good old standbys (please excuse the terrible pun)

  • Good ol’ fashioned flash cards are still a great way to study, but Quizlet has put a techy spin on them that makes learning terms fun.  It incorporates, games, practice tests and gives users the options of adding pictures to their cards, which is great for visual learners.
  • Make studying as fun as possible. Use rhymes, make songs, act out what you can, and follow some of the other strategies found here.
  • Take lots of breaks. I often encourage students to use the 20/10 rule—study for 20 minutes, then take a 10 minute break.  People tend to remember the first and last things they see in a series, so breaking up study sessions with short breaks aids in memory.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind: Let your boys sleep!  I know it’s tough with homework, but you may need to enforce bedtime… and yes, at the expense of getting stuff done.  This article shows why it will help them get better grades in the long run.

Finally, ditch the phone while studying.  This is far easier said than done for teens, but a compromise might be to at least have them put their phone on airplane mode.  Good luck on mid-terms!

Mindfulness matters

Mindfulness is quite the buzz word recently, and with the myriad of positive impacts it can have, it’s no wonder… But what exactly is mindfulness?  To quote Jon Kabat-Zinn, the psychologist who is the most well known person to popularize mindfulness in the West, describes it this way: “It’s about paying attention in a systematic way for no reason other than to be awake… It’s presence of heart.”

Practicing mindfulness has been shown to have benefits for mental and physical health and can even improve work and athletic performance.  Mindfulness educators and proponents suggest at least 15 minute of mindfulness meditation daily.  For more on mindfulness, check out this infographic.