Health and wellness tips from Indiana University
EDITORS: This monthly tip sheet is based on Indiana University research, teaching and service. "Living Well Through Healthy Lifestyles" is the guiding philosophy of IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In keeping with that philosophy, this tip sheet offers information related to both physical and mental well-being. Faculty and staff in other IU schools and centers also contribute their expertise in this area.
July's tips have a back-to-school focus and feature sleep and behavior problems, college parties and sexual assault, parent-teacher communication regarding students with disabilities, and after-school programs that help keep middle schoolers off drugs.
If your preschooler acts out in school, sleep disturbances could be to blame. Inadequate or irregular sleep can contribute to social problems in children, said John Bates, a professor of psychology at Indiana University Bloomington. "Sleep is sometimes a miracle cure," Bates said. "You implement a reasonable bedtime every night and find you have a much more manageable kid." In his work with preschoolers, Bates found that both amount of sleep and consistency of sleep patterns were linked to kids' ability to get along with others, respond to adult guidance and engage in complex tasks. Children who aren't getting enough sleep are more likely to be impulsive and uncooperative. "These problems are more noticeable in a structured setting," Bates said, "so you might go all summer without realizing a child is sleep-deprived. When school starts again, it becomes clear that something is wrong." Children aged 4 to 6 typically need 11 or 12 hours of sleep each night, but a regular bedtime can be as important as a full night of sleep. Shifting bedtimes can create a "jet lag" effect that disturbs the quality of sleep and may lead to difficulty focusing and regulating behavior. In their clinical work with families with "oppositional" children who resist adult guidance, Bates and his colleagues teach parents how to establish a bedtime routine that helps children relax and make the transition into sleep. He suggests a simple routine that is pleasant for both parent and child and includes one-on-one quiet time. "Keep this up seven days a week if you can," Bates said. "A well-rested child is a happier child."
Sexual assault is common at college parties. As many as one in four women experience unwanted sexual intercourse while attending college in the United States, and many of these incidents happen at or after parties. Despite the dangers, most female students choose to attend parties, since partying and having fun with friends are part of the college experience. The danger of sexual assault arises in part from conflicting expectations between men and women, said Elizabeth Armstrong, an assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University Bloomington. "Female college freshmen come to events expecting to kiss and make out, but the male students often expect sex. These different expectations of sexual contact can create a number of problems, especially when alcohol is involved," Armstrong said. In a study that included interviews, focus groups and observation on a dorm floor, freshman college women said they enjoyed wearing sexy clothes and flirting at parties, but most of them were not interested in casual sex. The male college students thought women were looking for sex partners. The majority of sexual assaults involve alcohol. "Clearly there are men who think it is OK to have sex with a woman who is very intoxicated, even passed out," Armstrong said. Her findings on rates of sexual assault were consistent with studies at many universities across the country.
Some male students systematically take advantage of college party situations to coerce or manipulate women into sex. Knowing the techniques of these "party rapists" can help women avoid them.
(1) Alcohol. Party rapists use alcohol or date rape drugs in order to undermine women's ability to resist sex. Party rapists also target drunk women because they are more likely to blame themselves, are likely to lack credibility if they report assaults, and may be unable to remember a night's events clearly.
- Watch for men who pressure you to drink or seem overly enthusiastic about getting you drunk.
- Be careful with mixed punches or "jungle juice." Their contents and alcohol volume are often a mystery.
- Don't leave your drink unattended.
- Never leave a friend alone when she's had too much to drink.
(2) Divide and conquer. Party rapists target women who are alone and try to separate women from their friends.
- Make arrangements with friends to stick together and agree on when to intervene if things look like they are getting out of hand. "Many women said they had the most fun when they went to parties with a mixed group of guys and girls," Armstrong said. "Their male friends could 'run interference' if a guy was making someone feel uncomfortable."
- Stay in a public place like the dance floor or seating area, and stay out of private rooms.
(3) Disorientation. Party rapists target women who are disoriented and try to put women in unfamiliar situations.
- Know where you are and how to get home. "You don't want to get a ride somewhere and then not know how to get out. Stick a campus map in your purse and bring cab money so you don't have to rely on someone you don't know to get you home," Armstrong said.
- Trust your instincts. "If a guy seems like a creep, he probably is a creep. You don't have to be nice to him!" Armstrong said. "Forget about being polite to someone who is making you feel uncomfortable."
Women who are assaulted are often blamed for choices they've made. "It is never a woman's fault when she is assaulted," Armstrong said.
Parent-teacher communication and students with disabilities. "The lack of positive communication between parents and school personnel can be a sticking point in educating students with disabilities," said Joel Fosha, a spokesperson for the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University Bloomington. "Lately, we have received calls from families indicating their displeasure with school personnel regarding services and supports for their children. At the same time, an increased volume of phone calls from educators indicated parents were being unreasonable in their expectations," Fosha said. "The situation can get very tricky, because parents now have higher expectations for the education of their children, but money and time are both tighter for the schools." The Family and Individual Resource and Support Team (FIRST) at the IIDC conducted a survey of 80 families and 98 educators throughout Indiana to determine the major hurdles in parent-teacher communication. FIRST found that accountability, parent-teacher conferences and participation in school activities were major areas of concern for parents and school personnel. The research team developed a checklist for parents and teachers to review before the start of each semester or at case conference time. Items for parents include participating in school activities and sharing responsibility for their child's education. School personnel items focus on facilitating parent involvement and implementing the students' Individualized Education Program. "The checklist works as a neutral third party to help parents and educators find common ground," Fosha said. "Already we have had more than 500 downloads of the checklist from our Web site and have received positive responses from parents, school personnel and state officials, so it looks like the folder is effecting some positive change."
"Tips to Promote Positive Partnerships Between Parents and Families" along with the white paper "Family and School Partnerships" can be downloaded from http://www.iidc.indiana.edu. Fosha can be reached at 812-855-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
After-school program helps keep middle schoolers off drugs. Youth aged 10 to 14 years who are engaged in after-school substance abuse prevention programs are less likely to experiment with alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, according to researchers at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University Bloomington. "The after-school hours, Monday through Friday between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., are the critical hours for youth across the country," said Randi J. Alter, an IPRC evaluation specialist. "This is a time when adolescents are vulnerable to peer pressure to experiment with alcohol, tobacco or other drugs and to engage in other unhealthy activities due to a lack of adult supervision. Nearly all new drug experimentation in Indiana begins between the sixth and ninth grades, a developmental period when youth are becoming independent but still need guidance." The IPRC collected data to chart the effect of the Afternoons R.O.C.K. program (standing for Recreation, Object lessons, Culture and values, and Knowledge), an Indiana state-sponsored after-school program focusing on drug prevention. The IPRC's survey -- Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use by Indiana Children and Adolescents -- revealed reduced patterns of drug use following the implementation of Afternoons R.O.C.K. in Indiana. "Although it is difficult to determine the exact cause of these changes in reported use among Indiana youth, we feel that the evidence suggests that Afternoons R.O.C.K. in Indiana programs played a positive role," Alter said.
The IPRC is funded, in part, by a contract with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, Division of Mental Health and Addiction, financially supported through HHS/Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. The IPRC is operated by the Indiana University Department of Applied Health Science and the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. It is affiliated with the department's Institute for Drug Abuse Prevention. The IPRC Web site is at http://www.drugs.indiana.edu.