Parent Alert: The Choking Game

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Stay connected to your teenagers.

When Amanda Bryant of Alberta found her nine year-old-son, Kalib, in his bedroom with a belt around his neck eleven days before Christmas, it changed her life and the lives of her family forever. Kalib’s death was initially ruled a suicide. Amanda found it hard to believe that her outgoing, happy child would commit suicide. She began a search for answers

That search led her to another mother whose son had died in an eerily similar way. In California, Sarah Pacatte’s 13-year-old son Gabriel was found by his twin, Samuel on May 6, 2005.

“I saw Gabe with the rope around his neck and a math book on his lap. He was just sitting on the ground. And so I thought he was just joking and so I said Gabe, knock it off, or like quit messing around…I looked over at him and he hadn’t moved. I said his name a couple of times.”

Gabriel was rushed to hospital where he died 15 hours later. He had died playing “the choking game”. Sam remembers playing the game with his brother.                        www.cbc.ca/fifth/chokinggame/

The choking game is voluntary suffocation, to the point of unconsciousness, for the purpose of obtaining a ‘rush’ or light-headed sensation. Pressure is used to cut off the blood and oxygen supply to the brain. When the choking pressure is released, blood rushes back into the brain causing a euphoric rush, a momentary physical thrill.

Initially one kid will do it for another, sometimes at a party, and then the kid will seek the sensation again, alone.

Many names are used for this game such as Pass Out, Gasp, Space monkey, Hyperventilating, the Elevator Game, the Funky Chicken, and the American Dream Game.

 “At this point, there is a need for public education,” says Angela Boak, Research Coordinator and Analyst at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. After studying this phenomenon, she believes “parents, physicians and educators should be aware of this game.”

-cited byTawnya Pancharavski, AboutKidsHealth

This is an alert to all parents. Many parents don’t even know the choking game exists and many didn’t suspect their child was doing it until it was too late.

The kids think the choking game is challenging,and  thrilling — without realizing it is dangerous and can be deadly. Typically, they are 9 – 16 years old and are well behaved, good kids. It’s done at school and it’s done at home. Did you know that they can get specific directions on the internet? They do it for fun, to see if they can succeed at it, and to get a high. This behaviour can be addicting.

Every time someone plays this game, their brain cells die. Anytime the brain is deprived of blood and/or oxygen, cells begin to die. Brain cells cannot regenerate. Those brain cells are dead forever. Death of brain cells is actually the least serious effect of this “game”. Broken bones and fractured skulls from falling, blindness, and coma are a few of the consequences. Worse still, unfortunately, some kids who do the choking game have one thing in common – death.

Studies show that 45% of kids knew someone who tried it. 40% of kids perceived no risk. They think it’s just like fainting. They are wrong. It will kill as long as our kids are uneducated — and consider this a game.

Prevention:

Parents need to be alert and vigilant, to be educated about the risks of the choking game,  and to talk to their kids about it. This is an opportunity for closeness and teaching. Just as you talk to your kids about alcohol and drugs, incorporate this topic into those conversations. This is your job. Don’t leave it to anyone else. You could save a life — maybe your own child’s. Even if you didn’t know about this, kids do know. You can initiate the conversation by asking them about it.  Ask them if they tried it or know someone who has.

Warning signs:

  • blood shot eyes
  • marks on the neck
  • wearing high-necked shirts, even in warm weather
  • frequent or severe headaches
  • long periods of time spent alone in the bedroom
  • disorientation after spending time alone
  • ropes, dog leashes, scarves, or belts, tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor.
  • acute vision changes or vision loss

Even as your children get older they still need to experience connection and closeness with you. They still need your counsel and your supervision. Monitor the sites they visit on their computer.

As well, encourage your school to teach parents and students about the risks of this game and the irreversible damage this game can cause.


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How You Can Support Your Children After the Tragedy at the Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut

All children are
our children.

School shootings can deeply affect us and our children. For children who hear about the event, reassure them that it is natural to worry and feel scared about their safety and the safety of their school.

Limit exposure to news coverage

First, please keep children away from news media, at least for a couple of days, especially news coverage on television and other screens. Children do identify with the fallen children and the children who survived the shooting. This is scary for them and they can imagine themselves in that situation.

Talk & Listen to your children

Our children are our future.

It can help children to first hear you tell them what happened. Be open. They need to know that you are open to talking about it.

Before talking with your children, make sure that you are in a good emotional space–calm, not angry or scared. Children can handle sadness, and you can tell them that this violence is scary for you too. Your children tend to model you.

Start the conversation. Don’t lie. Don’t over-share. How much you share depends on the age of the child. You know your child better than anyone so trust your own assessment of how much to share.

We used to think that there is no need to burden children under 5 years with this information, but now — if they are in school, on school buses and in school yards — even these young children may find out about the event and need support.

Although this took place in an elementary school, the shooter was a 20 year old young person. Adolescents and young adults will, also, be affected by this event. Open up the conversation with them, if they don’t: “Have you heard what happened?… What do you think?…”

Psychologists who work in the area of trauma and recovery advise parents to use the troubling news of school shootings as an opportunity to talk and listen to their children. It is important, say these psychologists, to be honest. Parents should acknowledge to children that bad things do happen, but also reassure them with the information that many people are working to keep them safe, including their parents, teachers and local police.

Young children may communicate their fears through play or drawings. Elementary school children will use a combination of play and talking to express themselves. Adolescents are more likely to have the skills to communicate their feelings and fears verbally. Adults should be attentive to a child’s concerns, but also try to help the children put their fears into proportion to the real risk. Again, it is important to reassure children that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to make their environment — school, home and neighborhood — safe for them.

Parents, teachers and school administrators also need to communicate with one another not only about how to keep kids safe, but about which children might need more reassurance and the best way to give it to them.

From the American Psychological Association:

Keep it simple and age-appropriate. After giving the facts of the event, follow your child’s lead. Some children will be clingy due to the stress that they are feeling. That’s okay. For some children the facts are enough, and they want to move on. Some children will come back later to talk and ask questions. Some won’t.

Be your child’s emotional coach

When children can talk about their feelings it lowers the intensity, makes feelings more manageable, and it connects you with your children heart to heart.

  • Allow all feelings. What is your child feeling? What are you feeling?
  • Don’t try to fix or change their feelings. Just help them tell their story.
  • Help your children to label their feelings as sad, mad, glad, frustrated, scared…
  • Show empathy.

Reassure them

Tell them: “This rarely happens.” “Right now we are safe.” “Right now you are safe.” “We and your school will do everything we can to keep you safe.”

Help them to connect this tragic event to something positive

Tell them some positive things about this tragedy–how people showed support–the policemen, the firemen, and the helpers. People brought food and flowers and people all over the world sent supportive wishes.

Role-model and teach coping skills.

Your children need you. No one–neither teachers, nor friends–can take your place. This is a reminder of how important it is to spend time engaged with your children, and to connect with them heart to heart.

  • Spend time doing something that they want to do. Spending as few as 15 minutes doing this can make a difference for your child. Boys, especially, often talk more when you are doing something with them.
  • Take a walk, watch a funny movie–anything that helps you to cope.
  • Perhaps you and your children could do something to show support–send a card, a drawing…

Know the warning signs*

Most children are quite resilient and will return to their normal activities and personality relatively quickly, but parents should be alert to any signs of anxiety that might suggest that a child or teenager might need more assistance. Such indicators could be a change in the child’s school performance, changes in relationships with peers and teachers, excessive worry, school refusal, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches or stomach aches, or loss of interest in activities that the child used to enjoy. Also remember that every child will respond to trauma differently. Some will have no ill effects; others may suffer an immediate and acute effect. Still others may not show signs of stress until sometime after the event.

From the American Psychological Association:

*If you child shows any of these warning signs don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

 

From my heart to yours.


 


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