School Supplies You'll Want to Steal From Your Kids

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Back-to-school often means a shopping excursion specifically for, well, office supplies for kids. But too often, school supplies leave something to be desired. Boring composition notebooks, bland folders and run-of-the-mill markers probably run rampant at your local office supply store. After all, pencils and paper aren’t exactly beautiful food for the aesthetic soul — except when they are. 

Get ready to actually get excited about school supply shopping, folks. Because we’ve rounded up the most insanely stylish and functional school supplies that just miiiight find their way out of your kid’s backpack and into your own office. 

Plus, with the amount of homework assigned to kids these days, they’re going to be spending plenty of time at their desks, which are probably currently crowded with unattractive and uninviting supplies. And after all, haven’t pretty pens been proven to increase productivity or something? No? Whatever. 

Ditch your trip to the big-box supply store, toss out those plain planners, and look no further, because you’re going to want every item on this list. I mean for your kids. This is all for your kids. Right.

1
/15:
Rifle Paper Co. Bouquet File Folders


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Rifle Paper Co. Bouquet File Folders

2
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Avocado & Fig Notebook Pair


2/15
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Avocado & Fig Notebook Pair

3
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Hydros Water Bottle


3/15
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Hydros Water Bottle

4
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Bando Garden Party 13-Month Planner


4/15
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Bando Garden Party 13-Month Planner

5
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Bando Ultimate Planner Pack in Pearlescent


5/15
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Bando Ultimate Planner Pack in Pearlescent

6
/15:
Dormify Grass Charging Station


6/15
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Dormify Grass Charging Station

7
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Joggo Canvas Backpack in Pink


7/15
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Joggo Canvas Backpack in Pink

8
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Funkins Insulating Neoprene Lunch Bag


8/15
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Funkins Insulating Neoprene Lunch Bag

9
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Sharpie Art Pens


9/15
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Sharpie Art Pens

10
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White Euler Wall Organizer


10/15
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White Euler Wall Organizer

11
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Lil B Backpack


11/15
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Lil B Backpack

12
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Rifle Paper Co. To-Do List


12/15
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Rifle Paper Co. To-Do List

13
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Scribedelivery Box


13/15
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Scribedelivery Box

14
/15:
‘Get to the Point’ Pencil Case


14/15
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‘Get to the Point’ Pencil Case

15
/15:
Midori Alpaca D-Clips


15/15
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Midori Alpaca D-Clips

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HIV, syphilis screening low with ED-diagnosed PID in adolescents

(HealthDay)—HIV and syphilis screening rates are low among adolescents who are diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in the emergency department, according to a study published in the August issue of Pediatrics.

Amanda Jichlinski, M.D., from the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., and colleagues used data from the Pediatric Health Information System (2010 to 2015) to identify 10,698 visits to the emergency department by female adolescents who were diagnosed with PID. The frequency of HIV and syphilis screening at these visits was assessed.

The researchers found that 22.0 percent of patients underwent HIV screening, and 27.7 percent underwent syphilis screening. Hospitals varied in screening rates for HIV and syphilis from approximately 3 to 60 percent. Screening was more likely to occur in patients who were non-Hispanic African-American (HIV: adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.4; syphilis: aOR, 1.8). Screening was also more likely for non-privately insured patients (HIV: publicly insured aOR, 1.3; uninsured aOR, 1.6; syphilis: publicly insured aOR, 1.4; uninsured aOR, 1.6), and admitted patients (HIV: aOR, 7.0; syphilis: aOR, 4.6), as well as at smaller hospitals (HIV: aOR, 1.4).

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Breastfeeding benefits mom and baby both in the short- and long-term

Breastfeeding has benefits for both infants and mothers, both in the short-term and the long-term alike, according to Ohio University’s Ilana Chertok, who added that the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to six months of age and continued breastfeeding (along with appropriate complimentary meals) for up to two years or beyond. Exclusive breastfeeding refers to six months of feeding babies with only breast milk (other than medications, vitamins or minerals.) Continued breastfeeding mixes in solids and other foods while continuing breast milk.

Chertok (Ph.D., MSN, RN), a professor and the associate director of nursing research and scholarship for OHIO’s College of Health Sciences and Professions, offered information on breastfeeding in light of World Breastfeeding Week recognized from Aug. 1-7. Chertok, an international board-certified lactation consultant, is currently researching the differences in breastfeeding and breast milk properties of women with gestational diabetes and women without diabetes. Based on her work, she said women with gestational diabetes have difficulty either with the amount of breast milk available or the timing of milk coming in. She said with a better understanding of the problem, methods of addressing the issue can be developed.

Chertok said evidence shows an infant’s immune system matures around two years of age and that breast milk up to or beyond that age yields healthy benefits.

“Babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of acute and chronic diseases such as respiratory infection, diarrhea, pneumonia and other childhood illness. Breast milk also provides the necessary nutritional and metabolic requirements for infant growth and development, supports the development of the neurologic and immune systems and promotes the entire health mechanism,” said Chertok.

She added that some of breastfeeding’s long-term benefits—even after weening—are lower risks of allergies, asthma and inflammatory diseases as well as an association with higher cognitive scores.

“The longer mom breastfeeds, the better it is for baby,” she said.

“For moms, breastfeeding also helps decrease the risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and risk for diabetes. Again, it’s dose-dependent; The longer breastfeeding occurs into toddlerhood, the more protective it is for mom,” Chertok added.

While a mother’s milk is best for her child, those who have trouble producing enough breast milk can order donated human milk from nonprofit human milk banks. Likewise, infants who are admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit may benefit from donated milk if their mothers are unable to sufficiently produce milk. Chertok said this alternative is better for babies than artificial formulas.

Currently, breastfeeding rates across the United States stand around 81 percent and the trend is increasing.

“What we’re not seeing enough of is a boost in moms exclusively breastfeeding their babies through six months of age,” said Chertok. “We know how important exclusive breastfeeding is for mothers and babies, but that rate in the U.S. is only about 25 percent. Ohio is under the national average with about 22 percent and rural Appalachia has even lower rates.”

To help educate and promote breastfeeding, some states have introduced legislation supporting breastfeeding, including breastfeeding in public. Hospitals can also invest in promoting breastfeeding by following the standards and recommendations of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.

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Lake Bell Says Working Moms Need Weed Not Wine

Actor, director and entrepreneur Lake Bell is just fine with California’s Jan. 1 legalization of marijuana. In fact, Bell will opt for weed over wine any evening after a hard day on the set.

“As a parent I think pot’s almost better than a glass of wine,” Bell told MedMen’s Ember magazine. (Ember is a new cannabis-themed mag from the team at Paper.) “Just the time it takes to get the wine and open the wine and find the glass, pour the wine, chill the wine. With a vape, you take a hit and you’re good, you know. Much better for a working parent.”

Not everyone in Hollywood is so upfront about their affection for marijuana, but Bell’s always managed her career and her life her own way. Lake and husband Scott Campbell — a tattoo artist — are so fond of cannabis, in fact, the two have founded Beboe — an array of high-end THC and CBD blended products. Do they keep the cannabis under wraps with the kids around? Nah, not exactly. To Nova, 3, and Ozgood, 14 months, they’re growing up learning it’s no big deal — no more so than Mom or Dad sharing a bottle of wine.

“I don’t really hide it," Bell told Ember. "We wait until they go to bed, in the same way. We have a wine company too, Saved wine. We have the wine around and we have the Beboe around. It’s not mysterious. It’s nothing strange or weird or coveted.” 

Bell was quick to note that she isn’t smoking to get "fucked up." And that’s why she digs her company Beboe so much. “Its purpose is to enjoy the benefits and the more sort of sophisticated elements that the plant holds and can offer,” she said. “So I think of it like the rosé of weed.”

Bell is loving life as a working mom, but she admitted in an Instagram post that balancing work and motherhood is a challenge: "It’s my priority to be a good mommy, but secondly to fulfill my dreams as an artist. I struggle with it and I continue to work hard to not compromise either…though I don’t always win. But it’s worth it."

Keep living your best life, Lake. We’re loving your mama candor.

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Pippa Middleton Revealed Her Favorite Pregnancy Workout

Pippa Middleton has been working hard to stay healthy during her pregnancy. In her first trimester, Middleton did a wide variety of exercises: from yoga and Pilates to walking and Barrecore. In her second trimester, Middleton focused her attention on tennis, an activity which she told British supermarket Waitrose’s monthly magazine she has enjoyed since childhood. Now, Middleton, who is expecting her first child with husband James Matthews in October, revealed that her third trimester go-to workout is swimming.

“From personal experience, I’d confidently say I find it [swimming] has been the most enjoyable and rewarding form of exercise since I found out I was expecting,” Middleton told Waitrose magazine. “It’s comforting to know that it’s safe throughout pregnancy, and you don’t need to adapt and change too much (unlike most other sports). It’s so good for you that you could swim every day – as long as you don’t overexert yourself – right up until the end of the third trimester.”

Middleton added that swimming is great because it “offers a wonderful feeling of weightlessness” while still getting in a good workout.

“As with other forms of exercise it boosts oxygen levels and strengthens the heart, enabling you to get more nutrients to your unborn child to help them grow. It’s also one of the most therapeutic ways to work out," Middleton said, "particularly when you become less mobile, and it helps prevent your shoulders rounding forwards – a common symptom as your belly expands. It can also offset the tendency for your pelvis to be out of alignment.”

Of course, the benefits of exercise during pregnancy are well known. According to the American Pregnancy Association, 20 minutes of physical activity a day three to four times per week has the potential to reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling and can increase both your energy and your mood; and regular exercise can help you sleep (something many moms-to-be desperately need).

That said, you should be sure to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.

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Chrissy Teigen Feels 'Super Insecure' About Post-Baby Body

Chrissy Teigen got up close and personal with her fans and her trolls alike on Monday when she posted a video (captioned "mom bod alert") of her stretch marks and mosquito bites. She and her husband, John Legend, are vacationing with their kids, Luna and baby Miles, in Bali.

In the video, in which she’s wearing just bikini bottoms, Teigen pointed out her stretch marks on her lower back and thighs, narrating, "I guess these just aren’t going to go away. This is my new body."

She also posted a mirror selfie of herself with Legend. And yes, she looks gorgeous. We know. But we also know that postpartum changes to your body can be very hard to process — even if you’re Chrissy Teigen. Honestly, the reason we can’t get enough of Teigen is that she’s so damn open and irreverent when it comes to poking fun at herself (and society at large). Case in point:

Teigen edited her waist to nearly nothing and bootified her booty, then captioned the pic: "I have been training. to be an Instagram fitness model. this is after one bag of tea and 5 reps of 2 squats !!!! If I can do it so Can U!!!!"

She tweeted about Instagram creating unnatural expectations when it comes to body image:

“Instagram is crazy. I think it’s awesome people have killer bodies and are proud to show them off (I really do!!) but I know how hard it can be to forget what (for lack of a better word) regular ol’ bodies look like when everyone looks bonkers amazing,” she said.

In a separate tweet she wrote, “Also I don’t really call this ‘body confidence’ because I’m not quite there yet. I’m still super insecure. I’m just happy that I can make anyone else out there feel better about themselves!"

Lately, Teigen’s been sharing photos of herself nursing Miles, 11 weeks (often in the nude, because, duh, Bali, people) on vacation.

Advocate for normalizing breastfeeding? Check. Real talk when it comes to adjusting to postpartum bod? Check. Hilarious photo editing to make a point? Check. Ah, Chrissy, you’re our kind of peeps. Stay real. We love you.

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Mindy Kaling Won't Reveal Baby's Dad, but at Least She Revealed Her Baby's Nickname

Mindy Kaling has been pretty mum (heh) on the subject of single motherhood, but we’re getting the clear feeling from the few things she has shared that she is simply rocking life with baby. Her daughter, Katherine, was born in December, and in case you were wondering, Kaling still declines to reveal the paternity of her baby. Best kept secret ever?

Kaling has also been winning with great roles lately in A Wrinkle in Time and Ocean’s Eight. But it’s obvious her heart is all Katherine, whose nickname Kaling confirmed on her Instagram Stories this weekend — along with a homemade recipe for banana-date peanut butter. 

Luckily for us, the Daily Mail compiled some of Kaling’s Stories in this sweet YouTube vid, which includes a Sunday post confirming her daughter’s nickname: "Kit will LOVE this!" (Kaling also shared her daughter’s nickname in an interview with Self back in May.)

Kaling is grooving on making Kit’s food: "I know that there are so many prepared, organic baby foods out there that you can buy, but because I work, I like making them on the weekends because it makes me feel like I’m part of my daughter’s life," Kaling said in her Stories:

Kaling told Today that she went with Katherine for a first name because you can’t go wrong with a Katherine or Katie. "I always liked the name. I have a lot of great Katherine and Katies in my life," she said.

Kaling mostly keeps Kit info to herself. “People say, ‘Did you even have a baby?’" she told Today. “I’m keeping her under wraps for now. I would kill someone who said anything [cruel] about her… I’m such a worrier — I can’t do that. I’m far too fragile. [Someday] she’ll be big enough and people will see her. Am I even doing the right thing? Maybe she’ll be mad at me later on but I’ll deal with it then.” 

She did share on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon that Fallon had sent a gift basket with a very special outfit inside: old-fashioned pinstriped pj’s. "She looks like Hugh Hefner," Kaling quipped, provoking giggles from Fallon. Oh, how we hope we get to see that pic someday. In the meantime, enjoy this excellent interview between Kaling and Fallon.

We’re still hoping Kit’s papa is B. J. Novak. We can’t pretend otherwise. I mean, come on.

Even Kit is probably wondering if it’s Novak. Just saying.

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This One Thing Saved Me From the Postpartum Abyss

My first pregnancy was like a dream. Shiny hair, radiant skin, fruit salad cravings and beautiful, sentimental sonograms. I even made an album of all my sonogram pictures, coordinating with our wedding colors. If this was motherhood, I had nailed it. Yup, even peeing in my pants every now and again was all still magical. You couldn’t tell me otherwise. I loved being pregnant. 

Then I gave birth — and it took me through one of the most challenging moments of my life. When my daughter was born, I knew that I was now responsible for someone else, but it took a while to feel that overwhelming maternal love that you’re "supposed" to feel. So a few days into having a newborn, I felt like I was messing up on the big "supposed to." I was "supposed to" be head over heels in love with this child, right? 

Everyone in my life kept telling me how lucky I was, so why was every thought of mine about how I’d gladly rip off my nipple rather than have to breastfeed anymore? Why was I obsessing over what would happen if I woke up one day and forgot the baby was there and just left the house? When were the loving thoughts going to begin? I was too worried about keeping her alive — in between figuring out how to nurse; when to sleep; what to eat; how much ice I could put down my pants; relearning how to sit down, pee, poop (those hemorrhoids are no joke); and, of course, how to include my parenting partner, aka my husband, in any of this. 

Overwhelmed and stressed, with seven people visiting my tiny apartment the day I came home with the baby, I zoned out. I didn’t remember the last time I had brushed my hair. I was still wearing a Hulk-sized maxi pad that paired nicely with my gigantic nursing pads (with my mesh underwear holding it all up) and a nursing gown. My mom, who has an emotional radar that would rival military equipment, took one look at me and knew I was in trouble. 

She sat me down, and in between sniffles, I said, "I just don’t know if I love her like I’m supposed to." What she said next may be the reason that mothers have survived through these dark moments at all: "You have just given life, and you need to rest. You haven’t slept, you’ve barely eaten, and you’re trying to figure out how to keep this baby alive." 

And then she said the phrase that has stuck with me ever since: "You know, they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture.” 

In that moment, I broke down and ugly-cried (but very gently so I wouldn’t burst a stitch or lose any of that liquid-gold boob juice). "Give yourself time," my mom added. "Once you get past this newborn stage, you’ll see that you’ll love her more than you’ve ever loved anything before." 

I knew she was right, but at the time, I had no idea how I was ever going to feel normal again. I didn’t need to launch a start-up or run a marathon; I just wanted to know if I would ever wear normal clothes again or plan my life in longer than two-hour increments. 

I wish I could tell you that after my ugly-cry on the couch, I instituted a routine, involved my husband more and actually slept — but that didn’t happen. I couldn’t bear the thought of handing my baby over to anyone, which meant I also signed myself up to do all the childcare. So here I was with a newborn, giant boobs, awkward nap schedules and a pile of laundry gearing up to become a total long-term train wreck.

But around six weeks later, something started to change. started to change. Maybe I was finally sleeping for longer or maybe I had just finally figured out the nursing thing. My husband and I started to give our daughter a bottle of formula at night to give me a break (another one of my mom’s ideas). My husband could pitch in more now. I started going outside again to let the sun shine on my face. The visitors slowed to a trickle. I traded in the Noah’s Ark maxi pads for the more demure super-nighttime-deluxe-mega-ultra pads. I discovered new shows on Netflix, read all the crappy free romance novels on iBooks, sent emails to my boss and colleagues with baby pictures, and I even learned how to sit down again.  

Most important, I found my mom tribe: the moms of MOMally Parenting. Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. at our local restaurant were sacred times. We sat together, eating overpriced omelets and sharing tales of those scary first few weeks and months. We laughed about the “shoulder shits” and listened as moms with older babies talk about starting solids (*insert Jasmine singing "A Whole New World" here*). We spoke about going back to work and how on Earth we would ever manage to sleep again. In varying quantities, we all had some baby bodily fluids on us at all times, but we didn’t care. This was my lifeline: My way out of what I now realize was some form of the "baby blues." We were all lost, and yet somehow, we were all helping each other make it through.  

As corny as this sounds, I found hope in that group. Hope that I would be a decent parent and that the raw, ugly, “I don’t know what I’m doing, and how do I raise another HUMAN BEING” emotions were more than OK; they were normal. It was OK not to feel this insane love for your baby from the start — and also to feel overwhelmed. It was normal to start crying out of nowhere but then stop because you might pee and then start crying again. It wasn’t a bad thing to want your old life back but also not be able to remember what that life was like in the first place.

I became confident that I would love my daughter more than anything I had loved before (mom was right again), even if I didn’t know it — or rather, was too sleep-deprived, overwhelmed and anxious to recognize that feeling. It was OK not to know what I was doing, and it was even more OK to tell other people that I didn’t know what I was doing. 

And all the thoughts and feelings I had about who I was “supposed to" be as mother? It was OK to throw those in the trash with the smelly diapers. My fellow moms helped me see that.  

Then, on my birthday, roughly two months after my daughter was born, she smiled at me — and I thought my heart would burst. I took a picture of her that day and realized it was a birthday for both of us. That night, I put on my “leave the house” clothes and got ready to go out to dinner. It was my first birthday as a mom, and I finally felt like one. 

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Yes, Kids Can Get Depression Too

If you’re a parent of a young kid, you probably spend a significant chunk of your life tending to upset stomachs, fevers, bumps and bruises and scraped knees. And while mental health problems can be harder to detect and treat, they should not be ignored. Kids can get depression just like adults do.  

According to The Whole Child, children who have suffered trauma, experienced loss or have behavioral, learning or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk for depression. 

Knowing the most common signs of depression in children is crucial. "Often, children will display signs that mirror those of adults struggling with depression," says Kubala. "These include sadness, social withdrawal, hopelessness and an inability to enjoy previously enjoyable experiences."

In young children, signs of depression may also include: 

  • Being overly irritable
  • Being more reactive than typical to perceived criticism/rejection
  • Going through intense/extreme crying spells
  • Having difficulty concentrating at school
  • Displaying changes in appetite and/or sleep
  • Increasing physical complaints 
  • Showing a reluctance to participate in groups or sports they previously valued and enjoyed
  • Increasingly declining social invitations

If your child displays more than one of these signs of depression, don’t bury your head in the sand. Depression in children is real, licensed psychologist Dr. Wyatt Fisher tells SheKnows. "Never underestimate mental illness in a child or dismiss it as nothing to worry about," he says. "Keep close tabs on your child’s behaviors, and if they seem depressed, get them evaluated so they can receive treatment."

This is also a time to be honest with yourself. "Remember, you may be part of the reason your child is depressed, so be open to changing your parenting style," warns Fisher.  

More: How to Keep Kids From Getting Bullied Online — or Becoming the Bullies

Kubala recommends normalizing a variety of emotions for yourself and child to help your child develop resilience and hopefulness. "Allowing your child to experience and outwardly express different emotions in a supportive relationship that is comforting and consistent will help them recognize that many feelings come and go," she says. "This has the potential to make a child feel stronger and healthier, having overcome a difficult situation." 

It can be difficult to get a diagnosis of depression for a very young child — but not impossible. "To receive a formal diagnosis, symptoms must present for a specific time frame and certain criteria must be met, which take into account if the observed symptoms are due to bereavement, a medical condition, a traumatic event, etc.," explains Kubala. "Some children may be diagnosed at age 6 or younger, depending on the severity of symptoms." 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, the manual from which psychologists diagnose, includes several diagnoses that children may receive within the spectrum of depressive disorders, including major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, among others. 

More: Body Neutrality Is the New Body Positivity — Here’s Why It Matters for Your Kid

Whether you have an official diagnosis or not, there are many books and resources available for a variety of experiences that children may face, which can facilitate a conversation. "Focus on listening rather than lecturing, and offer support to your child in an effort to enter and understand their world," says Kubala. "Reaching out to a professional, licensed therapist while allowing your child to be part of the process can add a layer of support and monitoring for your child." 

Just like their bumps, bruises and scrapes, your kid’s mental health needs your help too. 

The Balanced Mind Parent Network, from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, provides information and support to parents raising children with mood disorders. 

If you think your child may be suicidal, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for confidential help 24 hours a day.  

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My Mom Sent Me to a ‘Concentration Camp for Wayward Teens’

They stored us in a warehouse. For 12, sometimes 15 hours a day, we sat there, packed into rows, confessing fake sins and brutalizing each other. We sang songs about it: “Here at Straight, feel great! Nine to 9, feel fine!” There were thousands of us in warehouses across the country. We were bruised, often bloodied, terrified kids who’d been disappeared by their parents, signed into notorious “tough-love” program, Straight Inc.

Straight’s marketing was slick. Billed as a last resort for teen drug addicts, Straight had the U.S. government and the British royalty singing its praises. After all, it’s hard not to trust a place when Princess Diana, in all her doe-eyed innocence, is there on the news smiling at the incarcerated children. Especially when she’s seated next to first lady Nancy Reagan, who deemed Straight her “favorite anti-drug program.”

One of Straight’s lies was that song, “Nine to 9.” We weren’t in the warehouse from 9 to 9; we were there from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. On Fridays, it was midnight or 1 a.m. because Fridays, we had our never-ending late-night open meetings, then our bi-weekly bloodbath, review. In review, we used attack therapy, spit therapy and fist-swinging, head-cracking motivation. We forced each other to “get honest about our moral defects,” to admit we’d been druggie whores before Straight.

Straight’s other big lie was that we were addicts. Most of us had barely done drugs. For instance, me. In September, I smoked weed for the first time. In October, I ran away from my abusive home. In November, a Straight staff member with an intake quota diagnosed me as a 14-year-old drug addict. I had drunk beer once, tried weed three times. My mother signed me in by writing a fat check. She continued to write checks for 16 months.

Straight came down hard on us younger kids, who didn’t have much of a past to reveal. Our dramatic confessions in open meeting were the grist that moved the money mill. We had to stand up, with our brand-new scrubbed faces and our hand-me-down dork clothes, and tell the hundreds of parents how Straight had saved our lives. We had to describe the thousands of lines of coke we’d snorted. The hundreds of men we’d screwed for drug money. The smack we’d shot up. The vodka we’d swilled. The houses we broke into. The fires we started. If we didn’t have coke lines or house fires, we learned, hard and quickly, to lie.        

We learned from watching the horror show around us. For kids who didn’t comply, who didn’t “confess,” life at Straight was ugly. There were no windows in the warehouse, so no one could see in. The doors were guarded, so no one could get out. Like I said. We learned fast how to lie.

Here were my lies. My one time drinking beer and three times trying weed became, “I drank alcohol, smoked pot and Thai weed and hash and took over-the-counter and prescription drugs to try to kill myself.” Those “over-the-counter and prescription drugs” were in reality a handful of aspirin and a swig from a little brown bottle labeled Ipecac

But the “trying to kill myself” part was true. Like so many other kids in Straight, my childhood had been a merry-go-round of loss, neglect and abuse. My father died when I was 1; my mother got remarried — this time to an alcoholic child molester — and checked out. By the time I hit 12, I was ready to be dead. Instead, at 13, I ran away. A month later, after my 14th birthday, I got locked up in Straight.

First phase in Straight was hell, and we were kept there, away from our parents, until we deep, zombie, brainwash-believed we were addicts. That everything before Straight was our own fault. During first phase, we were belt-looped — an upper phaser’s fist clamping our waistband, pulling it up into a wedgie and steering us around with knuckles in our spine — every time we stood. I was on first phase for 10 months. I finally got second phase when I apologized to my step-father in front of 300 people in open meeting for "making him molest me."

On first phase, we stayed in host homes, where we were locked and alarmed into an upper-phaser’s empty bedroom at night. When 60 Minutes did an episode on Straight, a host dad described asking staff, “‘What if my home were to ever to, uh, catch on fire during the night?’” He got staff’s standard reply: “‘If your child was on the street, the child would die. In the case of a fire, the child would die. So you’re not any worse off.’”

We were stared at as we used the toilet. If we cried, we were whiney babies who needed diaper therapy: instead of pants, we’d wear a diaper all day. If we asked for extra saltines at snack time, we were greedy brats who needed toilet paper therapy: our upper-phaser would hand us three squares of toilet paper after we used the toilet. Exactly three. Period.

Kids who didn’t confess to their addiction, didn’t sit up ramrod straight, didn’t scream and spit in other kids faces were misbehavers. Misbehavers were restrained. “Sit on him!” staff would yell, pointing at the kid who refused to sing a preschool song. Ten upper-phasers would lunge at him, tackle him to the floor and wrench his knees into place behind their own bent knees. If the misbehaver bucked, someone would straddle his chest. If he tried to fight with his teeth, hands slammed down on his mouth.

Restraints were effective because a kid who thinks he’s a badass — or thinks he wants to die — can’t do much when he’s crushed under 900 pounds of teenager. A girl won a $37,500 settlement against Straight after being “sat on” for 10 hours. A boy who won $721,000 described on 60 Minutes a kid who’d had seven ribs broken but wasn’t taken for medical care. I read about a guy who was sat on so long, his arm had to be amputated; he then went on to speak to groups of potential Straight parents about how he was so grateful to Straight for saving him, he was willing to sacrifice an arm.

We tried to kill ourselves. They wouldn’t let us. The host home bedrooms held nothing but a mattress and blanket. Our upper-phaser crawled the floor every night searching to see if we’d hid a spork tine, a toenail clipping. We had to get creative, chipping at thick flaps of industrial wall paint; storing them between gums and molars for 3 a.m. wrist carving. In long-sleeve weather, we were bolder. With covered wrists in our laps and eyes on the kid standing and confessing her “sins,” we used our pants’ zipper pull to dig for a wrist vein. 

Sometimes staff got sick of the arm-carvers. “Fuck it!” they’d yell at the upper-phasers assigned to hold the kid’s arms behind their back. “Let ‘em rot in the back of group.” Belt-looped past them on our way to pick up our meal trays, we couldn’t not study the designs the kids made, finger-painting with their own blood on the chair backs in front of them. 

When we tried to kill ourselves, there was no medical care. Because of course, a non-Straight doctor would never understand the "truth" (which, we were told, was that our sliced arms were proof of our manipulative druggie nature). Instead, we stood up for attack therapy. Only this time, instead of spitting in our faces, our peers sang to us.

“Nobody bakes a cake as tasty as a Tastykake!” the hundreds of smiling kids would sing, laughing at the "whiney baby" standing in the middle with the gauze-wrapped arms. In Straight, a suicidal kid was a Tastykake: sweet on the surface, but disgusting underneath, faking pathetic to cover their evil druggie core.

Princess Di, though? Nancy Reagan? They didn’t see any of that. Nobody did, because we had strict, sacred rules to keep our secrets safe: no cameras, radios or tape recorders In the building; what you see here, what you hear here, what you do here remains here; no talking behind backs and confidentiality at all costs. 

When the outsiders came in, the screaming misbehavers were gagged and restrained in the time-out rooms. When the lawsuits piled up and investigators came a-knocking, we brainwashed Straight-lings put on a show for the cameras. 

Yet a few did see through the charade. On 20/20, a Florida state prosecutor described Straight as "…a sort of private jail utilizing techniques such as torture and punishment, which even a convicted criminal would not be subject to." 

Washington Post reporter DeNeen L. Brown penned multiple articles with no-bullshit titles like, “Va. Cites Drug Treatment Center For Not Reporting Alleged Abuse; At Least 45 Violations Found Previously at Straight Inc. Facility.” 

But it was the ACLU that came closest, calling Straight “a concentration camp for throwaway teens.” They saw the truth that our parents couldn’t: Before we were trapped in that warehouse, we were just kids. A bunch of lonely, desperate kids.

The reporting and lawsuits eventually closed the program down. I believe my sudden “graduation” 16 months after my sign-in date was part of a hemorrhaging of clients. Straight needed to be lean and mean, hanging onto only its most lucrative clients, when doomsday arrived. Fewer kids made it easier to close up shop and reopen down the road with the same staff, the same programming, the same abuse drills and a new name on the sign over the door.

Today, only one Straight spinoff is still standing — in Canada. 

But I’m still standing too. Thanks to a caring high school English teacher and a string of pro-bono therapists, I’m one of the few Straight kids who was able to work through the depression and PTSD to carve out a happy life. I’m one of the lucky ones.

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