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Straight From the Shrink

Jenna Behrens is a licensed professional counselor who has been practicing in the mental health field for seven years. She owns Behrens Psychotherapy Services, LLC which has four office locations around the Milwaukee area. She works with children, adolescents, families, and adults on a wide array of issues including depression, anxiety, ADHD, childhood behavioral disorders, adjustment disorders, stress and parenting.

Human Growth and Development and Drug Education

I recently read an article that was posted on regarding the Mequon-Thiensville school district updating their human growth and development curriculum (you can find the exact article here: I think it's great that students will be receiving more and new information earlier and there will no longer be only abstinence being taught in older grades.  Research has showed us that the more knowledge and education students receive on contraception and sex education, when age appropriate,  the less likely they are to aquire an STI than those who are taught abstinence only.

This article made me think of a situation I frequently encounter in my therapy practice. There comes a point around 4th or 5th grade that clients come to me with severe anxiety. Now, I expect severe anxiety out of some of my clients, but I know that when schools are teaching human growth and development and drug education, the children I see who otherwise are able to manage their anxiety or don't typically have much at all, come into my office with a million questions and looks of worry and shock on their face. It leads to some pretty interesting and humorous conversations. "My body is doing what?" "What's going to happen?" "I think my Dad is an alcoholic because I see him drink a beer with dinner sometimes." I often recommend my client and parents work together to get the facts especially with drug and alcohol education. Usually, after the client researches alcohol and drug dependence and abuse and what it really means, they come back much more relaxed.

This reminds me of a humorous story of my own which I often share with clients to help normalize their fears. When I was in about fourth or fifth grade, I participated in the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Program at school. I remember coming home and lecturing my Dad about the beer he was about to drink while he sat in his chair to watch the news. Mind you, my Dad maybe had a beer a few nights a week. I've never seen him drunk to this day. Clearly, no LOGICAL concern, but boy oh boy, DARE had really scared me silly. So, as the clever parent he was, my Dad told me "If you give up candy, I'll give up beer." Of course I took that challenge to save my Dad from alcoholism, or so I thought. So, there we went. I didn't eat candy and he didn't drink any alcohol. After awhile, I really wanted candy and realized that my Dad wasn't an alcoholic and we ended that challenge. We still joke about that and every time a client comes in for a session worried about their parent being an alcoholic, I can't help but laugh and share my story.

Education is always good. No matter how old we are and what we are educating ourselves on. However, educators need to make sure they normalize normal behaviors and parents need to be teaching their children early and making sure they are aware of the education that is happening at school so they can process any questions with their children.  Otherwise, parents are going to have a lot of children coming home and asking about puberty, sexuality, and where babies come from all in one day. It could really make a parent want a beer. But wait, what will your child think???

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