Monday, May 9th, 2011

Supporting Children’s Mental Health: Tips for Parents and Educators

Create a sense of belonging. Feeling connected and welcomed is essential to children’s positive adjustment, self-identification, and sense of trust in others and themselves. Building strong, positive relationships among students, school staff, and parents is important to promoting mental wellness.

Promote resilience. Adversity is a natural part of life and being resilient is important to overcoming challenges and good mental health. Connectedness, competency, helping others, and successfully facing difficult situations can foster resilience.

Develop competencies. Children need to know that they can overcome challenges and accomplish goals through their actions. Achieving academic success and developing individual talents and interests helps children feel competent and more able to deal with stress positively. Social competency is also important. Having friends and staying connected to friends and loved ones can enhance mental wellness.

Ensure a positive, safe school environment. Feeling safe is critical to students’ learning and mental health. Promote positive behaviors such as respect, responsibility, and kindness. Prevent negative behaviors such as bullying and harassment. Provide easily understood rules of conduct and fair discipline practices and ensure an adult presence in common areas, such as hallways, cafeterias, locker rooms, and playgrounds. Teach children to work together to stand up to a bully, encourage them to reach out to lonely or excluded peers, celebrate acts of kindness, and reinforce the availability of adult support.

Teach and reinforce positive behaviors and decision making. Provide consistent expectations and support. Teaching children social skills, problem solving, and conflict resolution supports good mental health. “Catch” them being successful. Positive feedback validates and reinforces behaviors or accomplishments that are valued by others.

Encourage helping others. Children need to know that they can make a difference. Pro-social behaviors build self-esteem, foster connectedness, reinforce personal responsibility, and present opportunities for positive recognition. Helping others and getting involved in reinforces being part of the community.

Encourage good physical health. Good physical health supports good mental health. Healthy eating habits, regular exercise and adequate sleep protect kids against the stress of tough situations. Regular exercise also decreases negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, and depression.

Educate staff, parents and students on symptoms of and help for mental health problems. Information helps break down the stigma surrounding mental health and enables adults and students recognize when to seek help. School mental health professionals can provide useful information on symptoms of problems like depression or suicide risk. These can include a change in habits, withdrawal, decreased social and academic functioning, erratic or changed behavior, and increased physical complaints.

Ensure access to school-based mental health supports. School psychologists, counselors, and social workers can provide a continuum of mental health services for students ranging from universal mental wellness promotion and behavior supports to staff and parent training, identification and assessment, early interventions, individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, and referral for community services.

Provide a continuum of mental health services. School mental health services are part of a continuum of mental health care for children and youth. Build relationships with community mental health resources. Be able to provide names and numbers to parents.

Establish a crisis response team. Being prepared to respond to a crisis is important to safeguarding students’ physical and mental well-being. School crisis teams should include relevant administrators, security personnel and mental health professionals who collaborate with community resources. In addition to safety, the team provides mental health prevention, intervention, and postvention services.

Taken from the National Association of School Psychologist’s website: http://nasponline.org/resources/mentalhealth/mhtips.aspx

For more information on Building Resiliency:

“Resiliency Strategies for Parents and Educators” http://www.nasponline.org/publications/cq/mocq363resiliency_ho.aspx

“Seven Ingredients of Resilience” http://nasponline.org/publications/cq/pdf/V38N6_SevenIngredientsofResilience.pdf

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Depression and the Winter Months

Depression

“I’m concerned about John. He has recently been sleeping a lot, sometimes up to 14 hours a day. He no longer cares about track and his grades have plummeted. And he rarely ever hangs out with his friends anymore. Before I could not get him to stay home, he was always over our neighbor’s house. Now, I cannot get him out of his room for hours on end.”

-Statements made by concerned parent regarding her son’s behavior which reflects depression

Depression, by definition, is a state of sadness that lasts for a long period of time (more than 6 months) and interferes with daily functioning. During the winter months, the approximately 10-15% of youth suffering from depression (both diagnosed and undiagnosed) often experience a worsening of their symptoms. In addition, approximately 3% of the population suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is characterized by a depressed mood during the winter months. Depression is a very real, but treatable disorder when correctly identified. Below you will find a list of some common signs of depression, and what you can do if you suspect your child may be depressed.

Signs of Depression

  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Apathy
  • Withdrawal
  • Feelings of worthlessness and/or hopelessness
  • Decreased concentration
  • Crying often
  • Acting out
  • Change in eating or sleeping habits
  • Physical complains
  • Self-injury (e.g., cutting, etc).
  • Discussion of, or attempt of, suicide.

What To Do If You Think Your Child Is Depression:

  • Help your child feel loved and accepted.
  • Take time to listen to them.
  • Talk to your family physician about your concerns.
  • Talk to a school-based mental health worker about your concerns (e.g., professional school counselor, school psychologist or school social worker).

For more information about this topic go to: http://www.nasponline.org/resources/handouts/social%20template.pdf

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Homework Tips for Parents

homework

Set Up a Homework Routine:

1) Find a location in the house where homework will be done.

2)  Set up a homework center and make sure they have the appropriate materials.

3) Work along with your child to set up a daily homework time. It should be done at the same time every day.

4) Have your child, with your assistance, develop a daily homework schedule.

Other Homework Tips:

  • Build in allotted breaks into their homework time. For example, you may want to build in a 5 minute “brain break” every 30 minutes of work to prevent exhaustion and/or frustration.
  • Allow your child a degree of choice in the order in which they will complete their homework.
  • Develop a homework contract with your child where they can receive incentives/rewards if they complete their homework in the allotted time.

For a link to a homework planner and incentive document: www.nasponline.org/advocacy/SP_Improving_Student_School_Outcomes_Final.pdf

Friday, July 30th, 2010

The Economic Value of an Early Childhood Education

A recent New York Times article points out the value of a quality early childhood education. Specifically, they found a correlation between the quality of kindergarten instruction and economic earnings in adulthood. Much of the research in education focuses on test scores. However, once you graduate from college, test scores have no real importance. They become just numbers from our past. However, something very real and tangible to all of us is what’s in our bank account.

This research is extremely important and should stay in the forefront of our conversations regarding education. We cannot undermine the value of a quality and caring teacher. To some of us, our quality kindergarten instruction could equate to $320,000 more over the course of a lifetime for us and all of our classmates. Knowing this, does it change what we think about teachers’ pay? Should our quality teachers be paid for their performance as President Obama suggests? No matter, how you feel about the pay for performance suggestion, this research definitely makes you think about the possibilities….

Read more….The Case for #320,000 Kindergarten Teachers

Read more about Obama’s Race to the Top Program at Obama Defends Race To The Top

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Transforming the Bully Culture

Bullying is, unfortunately, a social problem that has been apart of adolescent and teenage culture for years. The only thing about it that has changed has been the form it takes. Whereas, school yard fights were common say 50 years ago. Nowadays, cyber bullying has increased and grown across the United States. The new forms, while different, are just as detrimental, if not more than the older, more flagarant versions.

In 2010 we have had several major incidents of “bully-cide” in our country. Stories of young people killing themselves, in large part due to the social isolation and ridicule they received from their classmates at school. This is a horrible and terribly saddening trend that must stop. And research shows that prevention will require a comprehensive approach that includes the whole community.

Video About a Father’s Efforts to Promote Bullying and Suicide Prevention: A Cyber Bullying Suicide Story

Resources You May Find Helpful:

Bullying Prevention and Intervention

Cyberbullying

Bullies and Victims: Information For Parents

Locations: Transforming Schools From Bully-Havens Into Safe-Havens

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Dating Violence is Not Going Away

“1 in 4 teens report being victims of verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse each year.”

The above statistics are horrific and alarming. However, in spite of this reality many states do not properly address the issue of dating violence in youth. In many cases, the law does not properly protect these youth, and youth do not receive enough education on the issue.

This is a very real and prominent issue that affects thousands of youth every year. One of the most recent cases involved UVA lacrosse players. What this story brings to light is the prevalence and breadth of dating violence, and how no one is immune from it. These students were attending one of the best schools in the nation and involved in a great NCAA athletic program. However, their positive surroundings could only mask this ugly problem for so long. The deeply troubling conclusion of this situation has raised a lot of questions about how we address the issue of dating violence. We all, as educators, parents, and community members, have a role to play in reducing future tragedies such as this one.

Virginians Take Heed: Dating Violence Is Not Going Away

Adults Role in Developing Healthy Relationships

Today Show Coverage of Dating Violence

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Boys Still Lag Behind Girls in Reading

Statistics show that boys still lag behind girls in reading. We also know that reading deficits are highly correlated with higher rates of aggressive behavior and lower rates of school completion. We must think of new and innovative ways to address this literacy problem in order to help save more young men

Why Reading Matters and Boys That Cannot Read

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The Negative Consequences of Social Media

I am a huge proponent of technology in education and see value in social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, etc.). However, I also understand that technology is used as a tool by some to harrass and socially isolate others. A new social media website called Formspring allows users to anonymously post degrading and abusive comments about classmates and friends online. One parent said that  “the comments are all gross and sexual.” The consequences of this kind of use of technology can be emotionally damaging to our youth. The question we all must ask ourselves when using new technology is will this be a benefit or a detriment to society as a whole? In the case of this website, it definitely looks more like a detriment.

NY Times article: Teenage Insults, Scrawled on Web, Not on Walls

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Dire Consequences of Bullying and Harassment

There was an article in Time Magazine last month regarding the “bully-cide” that occurred in Mass. This case involved cyberbullying as well as sexual harassment and statutory rape. This unfortunate case has brought to light the severity of bullying and violence amongst youth, and the permanent effects of the behavior. What most stands out to me about the case is how sexual harassment/teen dating violence and bullying are so intertwined. In this case you cannot delineate the two. In future efforts to combat these detrimental social problems, it will be effective to attack them both as one major problem rather than two.

The statistics show that currently 1 in 4 teens experience some level of abuse (http://www.chooserespect.org/scripts/teens/statistics.asp). This is far too common of a problem to go unnoticed and unanswered. Below you will find resources and information on this issue, as well as a link to the Time magazine article.

When Bullying Goes From Cruel to Criminal: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1978773,00.html

Additional resources:

Choose Respect: http://www.chooserespect.org/scripts/index.asp

Love is Not Abuse: http://www.loveisnotabuse.com/web/guest/home

Love is Respect: http://www.loveisrespect.org/

Break the Cycle: http://www.breakthecycle.org/

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Patient Voices: Autism

NY Times has done a great piece on Autism, profiling a small group of individuals with autism describing their daily challenges and successes. I greatly recommend checking out this special report. It is informative and inspiring.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/04/02/health/healthguide/TE_autism.html?ref=health

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