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Why some parents' misunderstanding of 'soiling the nest' could be excusing unacceptable behavior

Late teen years can be hard, but some parents are excusing extreme bad behavior as a developmental stage.

soiling the nest; teens; parenting teens; parenting young adults; teen mental health

Misunderstanding 'soiling the nest' could be excusing bad behaviors.

If you have older teens and frequent mom groups, you've probably heard of the term "soiling the nest." Sure, there may be plenty of parents who don't know the term, but as someone who belongs to a few social media groups geared toward parents of teens and young adults, I can assure you a lot of parents know it and are misusing it to explain some really poor behaviors.

So what is "soiling the nest"? It's a term used in psychology and child development that encompasses the stage between the last few months of high school and heading off to college. Teens tend to become moodier, more distant and quite frankly, they get on your nerves.

Lots of big life changes are coming up, so they're stressed, nervous and overwhelmed about leaving home. To make the transition a bit easier, they start pushing away from their family unit so as to not miss them as much.


During this stage, it seems like those early teen "I know everything" attitudes return along with those puberty-related mood swings. But it's not a second puberty; it's simply an uncomfortable stage that kids about to head out the door of childhood go through.

Except, not all behaviors indicate soiling the nest. I've seen this term misused both as a licensed therapist and as a mom of teens and a young adult. It can be hard not to chime in every time I observe well-meaning parents explaining away someone else's child's disrespectful and sometimes dangerous behavior.

Behaviors like cussing parents out, extreme anger outbursts, not coming home at night or blocking your phone calls are not really soiling the nest behaviors. Suddenly using drugs, drinking excessively and being verbally or physically abusive are also not behaviors that are "normal," though time and time again, they're being dismissed as this psychological term and parents are being told to let some of these concerning behaviors slide.

But if the behaviors that are being lumped into this developmental stage aren't soiling the nest, then how did it get misunderstood? It comes back to "therapy speak" being popularized by social media and it being used incorrectly repeatedly, which in this case, may have some parents missing mental health concerns. Or at the very least, accepting unacceptable behavior which will, in turn, encourage their own children to treat them poorly.

House rules and respectful behavior don't simply go out the window when a child is preparing to leave for college. Things like teens spending more time with friends and trying to push their curfew, or parents noticing that it's 10 p.m. and their teen still hasn't fed the cats, but when reminded they respond with, "I know. I was going to, you don't have to remind me"? Those scenarios are soiling the nest. Late teens can be sassy, moody, and hang out until they're within 30 seconds of their curfew every day. They suddenly know everything they need to know about college, life and being an adult and roll their eyes any time you try to impart wisdom.

Soiling the nest is absolutely a normal developmental stage, but behaviors that swing to the extreme end of the spectrum aren't.

All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.


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Scientists tested 3 popular bottled water brands for nanoplastics using new tech, and yikes

The results were alarming—an average of 240,000 nanoplastics per 1 liter bottle—but what does it mean for our health?

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Columbia University researchers tested bottled water for nanoplastics and found hundreds of thousands of them.

Evian, Fiji, Voss, SmartWater, Aquafina, Dasani—it's impressive how many brands we have for something humans have been consuming for millennia. Despite years of studies showing that bottled water is no safer to drink than tap water, Americans are more consuming more bottled water than ever, to the tune of billions of dollars in bottled water sales.

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And now, a new study on nanoplastics found in three popular bottled water brands is throwing more data into the bottled vs. tap water choice.

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In contrast to a 2018 study that found around 300 plastic particles in an average liter of bottled water, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January of 2024 found 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter bottle on average between the three brands studied. (The name of the brands were not indicated in the study.)

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“Micro and nanoplastics have been found in the human placenta at this point. They’ve been found in human lung tissues. They’ve been found in human feces; they’ve been found in human blood,” study coauthor Phoebe Stapleton, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy told CNN Health,

We know that nanoplastics are making their way into our bodies. We just don't have enough research yet on what that means for our health, and we still have more questions than answers. How many nanoplastics does it take to do damage and/or cause disease? What kinds of damage or disease might they cause? Is whatever effect they might have cumulative? We simply don't have answers to these questions yet.

That's not to say there's no cause for concern. We do know that certain levels of microplastic exposure have been shown to adversely affect the viability of cells. Nanoplastics are even smaller—does that mean they are more likely to cause cellular damage? Science is still working that out.

According to Dr. Sara Benedé of the Spanish National Research Council’s Institute of Food Science Research, it's not just the plastics themselves that might cause damage, but what they may bring along with them. “[Microparticles and nanoparticles] have the ability to bind all kinds of compounds when they come into contact with fluids, thus acting as carriers of all kinds of substances including environmental pollutants, toxins, antibiotics, or microorganisms,” Dr. Benedé told Medical News Today.

Where is this plastic in water coming from? This study focused on bottled water, which is almost always packaged in plastic. The filters used to filter the water before bottling are also frequently made from plastic.

Is it possible that some of these nanoplastics were already present in the water from their original sources? Again, research is always evolving on this front, but microplastics have been detected in lakes, streams and other freshwater sources, so it's not a big stretch to imagine that nanoplastics may be making their way into freshwater ecosystems as well. However, microplastics are found at much higher levels in bottled water than tap water, so it's also not a stretch to assume that most of the nanoplastics are likely coming from the bottling process and packaging rather than from freshwater sources.

The reality is, though, we simply don't know yet.

“Based on other studies we expected most of the microplastics in bottled water would come from leakage of the plastic bottle itself, which is typically made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic,” lead author Naixin Qian, a doctoral student in chemistry at Columbia University, told CNN Health. “However, we found there’s actually many diverse types of plastics in a bottle of water, and that different plastic types have different size distributions. The PET particles were larger, while others were down to 200 nanometers, which is much, much smaller.”

We need to drink water, and we need to drink safe water. At this point, we have plenty of environmental reasons for avoiding bottled water unless absolutely necessary and opting for tap water instead. Even if there's still more research to be done, the presence of hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics in bottled water might just be another reason to make the switch.

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