sh and Norwegian, as well as some German, Swedish and French Canadian.
It’s rare that her students at LEAP (Limited English Academic Proficiency) High School in St. Paul speak any of those languages. But all are trying to learn English while earning a diploma.
The 40-year-old Maplewood resident teaches writing and English at the school for new immigrants. She said Sunday that she has learned as much from her students as they have from her.
“I have learned to be much more humble and much more appreciative of the life I have been given,” she said. “Anyone who wants to complain about menial things in their lives — do you have food in your stomach, do you have food at home? Not all kids have those basic necessities.”
Hewett-Olatunde came to LEAP during her stu
Problem-solving skills can help students keep from being overwhelmed Juliann Garey
Tuition isn’t the only thing that’s relentlessly on the rise on American college campuses. Multiple studies show a significant increase in college mental health problems in the last few years, and campus counseling services report being overwhelmed with students seeking help.
Why so much emotional distress, especially during the first year away from home? Everything from academic pressure to over-protective parenting to excessive engagement in social media has been blamed for the spike in anxiety and depression.
What’s clear is that adolescents making the transition from high school to college need not only academic skills to ace the classwork, and time-management skills to stay afloat, but emotional problem-solving skills to handle the challenges. As parents, we can’t shadow them in the freshman dorm, but we can help supply them, before they leave home, with a toolbox of skills and habits to use when they become stressed or overwhelmed.
“What we’re seeing is a lot of kids are getting through middle school and high school doing okay, but they go off to college and it’s too much,” says Dr. Lindsey Giller, a clinical psychologist in the Mood Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute. Some kids are just overwhelmed by organization and time management issues, increased academic pressure and managing their lives independently — the emotional roller-coaster of a new social universe.
And if they’re away from home, they don’t have the support network they’ve been used to. This is especially true of kids who find themselves on a large campus where it’s difficult to get to know their professors and harder to find their social niche.
“Often the result,” says Dr. Lindsay Macchia, an associate psychologist in the Mood Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute, “is what’s called emotional dysregulation — their mood is all over the charts. What we want to figure out is what skills are going to help them re-regulate and take better control over their mood, so it doesn’t get in the way of their friendships, their academics, or typical day-to-day life.”
College mental health skills
So how do we prepare our kids for the rigors and life challenges that college brings?
One increasingly popular answer is teaching them skills derived from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT was originally designed for adults with borderline personality disorder, who experience extreme emotional instability. But DBT skills are, more and more, being used successfully to treat almost any kind of emotional dysregulation.
While traditional DBT is an intensive, highly structured program, Drs. Giller and Macchia note that basic DBT skills can be adapted to help prepare incoming college students to better handle the challenges of college.
What would that look like? “Near the end of high school,” explains Dr. Macchia, “parents can shift the family dynamic to encourage kids to be more independent, and practice emotional regulation and problem-solving skills for themselves.” Here’s how you can help.
Don’t try to ‘fix’ every problem
Many of us have grown used to jumping in at the first sign that our child is distressed, to come to the rescue.
“The first thing parents should do is stop trying to fix things,” says David Romano, a psychotherapist and member of Active Minds, an advocacy organization that works to encourage open discussion of mental health on college campuses, to avoid suicides. Romano, who sees a lot of college-bound adolescents, says that what teens need to hear, especially when they’re feeling depressed, anxious or overwhelmed, is that “It’s okay not to feel okay.” The goal is to validate their feelings, but not solve their problems.
When parents notice that their teen is in distress, Dr. Giller suggests responses like:
“I see you’re really struggling right now.”
“I’m guessing that this is really hard for you.”
“I see that thinking about this test tomorrow is making you really anxious.”
And then, let them deal with the problem knowing you’re there as a support net. “That can build a bridge so the teen can start thinking on their own, using their own problem-solving skills, while still feeling listened to and heard by their parent and supported in that way,” says Dr. Giller.
Practice mindfulness with your teen
Mindfulness, the ability to be present in the moment and to be nonjudgmental towards yourself and others, is at the core of DBT. It’s learning to live in the present moment — not project into the future — without judging your thoughts and emotions. An example of a nonjudgmental reframe to reduce emotional intensity could be to think, “Wow, I didn’t do as well as I wanted on that exam,” rather than “I suck, I can’t make it in this school” explains Dr. Giller.
Sometimes mindfulness means just stopping to notice how you’re feeling internally, noticing what’s around you and even taking some deep breaths before deciding how best to handle a difficult situation.
Help your child establish good self-care
Self-care is often the first thing sacrificed in the first year away from home. Self-care involves “making sure to take care of your body in order to promote the best mood you can,” Dr. Macchia says. “And so it includes making sure your sleep hygiene is as consistent as possible, that you’re not staying up all night, you’re limiting drugs and alcohol, getting regular exercise and healthy eating. All of it is an attempt to keep your mood as regulated as possible.”
Sleep is one of the first things stressed college students sacrifice, so helping kids establish and practice good sleep habits before they leave home is crucial. It’s important for college-bound students to understand that sleep deprivation can not only make academic functioning more difficult, it can also make it harder for them to exercise self-control, make good decisions and regulate their mood.
Eating habits also affect mood: the college years are when the majority of eating disorders develop, as overwhelmed students attempt to gain a sense of control by restricting their diet. Restricted eating, in turn, undermines judgment and contributes to depression.
“Taking care of themselves physically in order to take care of their mental health is one key to reducing the likelihood that unwanted emotions will flare in the first place, or become so intense they’re overwhelming,” says Dr. Giller.
Related: Parents’ Guide to Eating Disorders in College
Work on planning and ‘coping ahead’
A lot of distress can be avoided by helping kids learn to plan ahead. That means not only thinking through how they’re going to get a big assignment done, and thinking carefully about how they use their time, but planning how they’ll handle challenging situations. Hana, 17, is about to go off to college next year. She’s done two rounds of traditional DBT and she says it’s done a lot to prepare her for leaving home and college life. One of the key skills she is using to prepare is called “coping ahead.”
“It’s essentially just preparing yourself to be equipped to emotionally handle a certain experience,” she explains. That could involve practicing what you would say in different potentially triggering scenarios. Who would you call if you were feeling depressed? What would you do if you got a bad grade?
“More than anything I think people don’t like being blindsided,” she said, “and this is a way to sort of expect the worst but also hope for the best. I’m expecting the worst, which is why I’m coping ahead, but I’m hoping for the best, so there’s some optimism there.”
Develop strategies for self-soothing
Even with a good foundation in practicing time management skills and “coping ahead,” there are going to be times when your teen will feel overwhelmed. But, borrowing from DBT skills, you and your child can make a plan for what to do when difficult emotions are threatening to take over. “They can come up with a written plan that includes weighing the pros and cons and thinking through consequences,” says Dr. Giller. “And then they can take a picture of it on their phone and have easy access to it when they anticipate or experience something that may be challenging.”
The goal is a toolbox of things to try when they are feeling highly emotional or overwhelmed — things that will make them feel better instead of spinning out of control. “It’s having some things that people can really use when they feel they’re on overload,” Dr. Giller says. It could include specific pieces of music, going for a run, or things to touch or smell that have a calming effect.
No formal training or individual therapy is necessary for establishing good habits and coping skills, but when a parent and teen work in tandem, they can establish a strong foundation for starting college. And starting early — before there’s a difficult situation to deal with — is a good idea. As Romano says, “If you don’t use the skills you lose them, so it’s about practicing them all the time. It’s about making and maintaining mental health.”
Check out this valuable new research that shines insight into how romantic relationships are influenced by growing up with digital technology. Inform yourself on how to help your children navigate a fast evolving digital world.
Digital technology and young people’s sexual and romantic relationship practices
Sending nude or sexual images
Meeting up and starting relationships
Communicating in relationships
Sex, romance and intimacy
Control, pressure and abuse in relationships
The post break-up period
Current education and support strategies: a view from young people
Young people’s education experiences
Young people’s views on future education and support strategies
The centrality and affordances of technology
Education and support: themes and useful directions of travel
‘In real life’
Being a stayer is not easier than being the leaver or the arriver. At times, it might even be more difficult. Valérie Besanceney
…It the first day of the school year and I am going back to the same school where I have been for five years now. It is the same building, but to me it is not the same school. My best friend, Ben, moved away and will not be back. Two other friends who I have known since first grade moved away as well. I am supposedly returning to the familiar, and already know exactly who my teacher will be, but I feel so incredibly lonely. At recess I will miss my ‘to go to buddies’. Who will I sit next to at lunch? Maybe I should not have spent so much time with Ben in the last two months of last school year. Maybe I should have spent more time hanging out with Mike, the new friend I made in January after the winter break. However, Mike just told me he will probably leave at the end of this school year…once again I will be left behind.
A few years ago, when I showed one of my (international school) friends my newly published book (B at Home), she read the back blurb with interest and then turned to me with a slightly reproachful look.
“Great,” she said, “I love that you wrote a book for all those kids who move around a lot, it must be hard for them…but do you think you could write another one for people like me, who never moved, but always had to say goodbye to at least one good friend at the end of the school year?”
That’s when I realized it never occurred to me what it was like to be a stayer. I had been the leaver and the arriver so many times and had always felt envious of the stayers. I had been so busy thinking about the predicament that international school kids found themselves in when they had to move around a lot that I had never even questioned how the ones felt who were always left behind and expected to welcome each new lot with open arms.
Without even realizing it, I have become the stayer. We have settled in Switzerland, have been working at the same international school for almost eight years and neither of our daughters have ever moved. My best friend came and went. My parents are thinking about moving back to my home country (the Netherlands). My daughters have had to deal with classmates, and other loved ones, moving. And we have stayed. And saying goodbye is just as hard as when I used to leave. Even when we stay, we have to learn to navigate the painful goodbyes and must continue to embrace the hellos.
Interestingly enough, the stayers are often not asked how they feel about the constant transitions that take place around them, and therefore within them. However, research tell us mobility and moving hurts and it affects our students’ learning: the leavers, the arrivers, and the stayers. In this article, we have addressed the leavers, and this article the arrivers. So how can we help our staying students?
1. Comfort instead of encourage
Acknowledge their feelings and the fact that they are staying. While the leavers are recognized and are busy saying their goodbyes, the stayers might feel neglected. They will not only feel sad, but perhaps angry. They might direct those emotions at the same person they are so apprehensive to say goodbye to. I will never forget when, at the age of thirteen, a good friend told me to “just go to your stupid Luxembourg” a few days before moving. Although her words initially hurt me a lot, I later realized this was her way of expressing her sadness as well as her frustration. The stayers need to feel that their feelings are heard as well, and they need to understand that it is okay to feel many different emotions.
Pollock, Pollock and Van Reken encourage anybody in transition to build a RAFT (Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewell and Think Destination). Help the stayers ensure that their relationships are intact before leaving. The emotional burden of carrying unresolved conflicts is equally challenging for the stayers as for the leavers (reconciliation). They also need to have time to recognize and thank those that are leaving for being in their lives (affirmation) and they need to be able to say their goodbyes (farewell). When the leavers are thinking about themselves in a new place, the stayers will be thinking of the empty place left behind. The stayers will also have reinvent their social circles and routines. In the new edition of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds (2017), another acronym is provided to help younger students process the above-mentioned steps, SHIP: Saying Sorry and I forgive you, Heartfelt thanks for each other, It’s time to say goodbye, Plan for the New Place. Alternatively, in the case of the stayers, the P could stand for Plan to Stay.
3. AFT: Move AFT on your RAFT 
Doug Ota, psychologist and author of Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it (2014), encourages all persons facing transitions to question themselves in terms of their Actions (what am I actively doing to be involved?), their Feelings (How am I feeling about seeing friends leave and about making new friends? Do I feel a sense of belonging in my school community?) and Thoughts (Is this home now?). Not only is it important to address these actions, feelings and thoughts in the Leaving and Arriving part of the mobility cycle, but also in the STaying part, to “produce a cumulative change that will LAST”.
4. Give them the CCK/TCK language
The famous words of wisdom from Winnie the Pooh ring so true (“How lucky are we to have something so good that makes saying goodbye so hard”) for those who leave, but also for those who stay. Help your students understand what it means to be a Cross Cultural Kid (CCK) and Third Culture Kid (TCK) and how that influences their identity. Apart from celebrating the positives, they also need a language to express the challenges and grief that goes along with saying goodbyes, time after time again. Your students are never too young to understand the CCK/TCK language. These days, there is a list of TCK literature available to children. Stories about the TCK experience, especially fiction, will give them characters and situations that they can identify with. It is often easier to connect to how someone else’s feelings than to adequately express your own emotions. Children should know that they are not alone and that the CCK/TCK definition is rooted in the idea that TCK children find that “the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar backgrounds”.
5. Help them take ownership of their school
The stayers play a vital role in the well-being of those who are arriving to the school. If they feel a sense of pride and ownership of their school community this positive energy will likely transfer to those who are new. In his book, Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it (Summertime Publishing, 2014), Doug Ota mentions the importance of providing the stayers the opportunity to be an instrumental part of a transition program. Not only will offering leadership positions help students develop and gain experiences that can help them in their future endeavors, but it will also help them feel valued as a staying member of the community. When stayers might be busy tending to the arrivers and leavers at certain times of the year, it is important for the admin and staff to recognize and support the student leaders who are helping their peers.
6. Set up a mentor/ buddy system
Help stayers become buddies for the new students. Depending on what your school already offers in terms of transitions, there is a variety of possibilities for stayers to become buddies or mentors. Stayers could show the new students around on orientation day before school starts (consider giving them a t-shirt or something else to distinguish them from the other students). Alternatively, with older students they could become ‘mentors’ to the new students and already get in touch with arriving students a few weeks or months before their actual arrival. Either way, by allowing the stayers to have an essential role in the well-being of new students, the stayers could also benefit from the experience of reaching out to others while saying goodbye to their friends.
7. Find ways to create stay in touch
Help your students think of ways to stay in touch. Teenagers have obvious access to numerous social media platforms. You might want to remind them that there is a thin line between living your friendships mostly on social media rather than in real life, and help them find ways to establish a healthy balance. For younger students and with their parents’ permission of course, you could have Skype conversations with the leaver(s) and the stayers in your classroom. I recently had a delightful conversation with a student that left in the middle of the school year and his classmates.
8. Throw a goodbye party
A goodbye party is not just for the ones who are leaving. Give the students who are staying the opportunity to give letters, keepsakes, or little gifts to those departing, but also think of ways for the stayers to receive something similar. The leavers often take the signed t-shirt (or something similar) with them and the stayers often having nothing tangible to hold onto. When one of my daughters’ best friends left, her friend gave her a beautiful frame with pictures of their time together that my daughter still has on her wall.
9. Throw a welcome to the new kids party
The students who are leaving will be in the midst of settling into their new destination. During this time, the stayers can open their doors and lives to the students who arrive. Help you students understand that they can still miss their old friends but should need feel any guilt about forming new friendships. Encourage them to reach out to new people, especially if these stayers are the ones feeling just as lonely at the beginning of the year. Devote some special time and attention to helping students to get to know the new people in their lives. Ensure that you not only keep an eye on those that are new, but also those who feel left behind. Although they might become more apprehensive about saying hello, help them understand that relationship fatigue is part of being a TCK, but remind them that each goodbye did initially start with a hello, and that the moments in between are often very much worth it.
10. Remind yourself, as a teacher, that no learning will take place until your students feel safe and secure in their new surroundings
Even if those surroundings may appear familiar to those who stay, the student who stays may feel like they are entering a whole new universe in which they will have to redefine who they are every single time they say goodbye. Remind yourself, as a human being, transitions affect all of us in our international schools. We must support each other, our students, and their families in order for all of us to thrive through them.
This article was written by International School Community member Valérie Besanceney. Over the past eleven years, Valérie has been a primary school teacher at five different international schools on four different continents. Valérie is also the author of the children’s book B at Home: Emma Moves Again (Summertime Publishing, 2014). It is a fictional memoir about the experiences of a ten-year-old girl and her teddy bear who have to move yet again. During the different stages of another relocation, Emma’s search for home takes root. As the chapters alternate between Emma’s and her bear’s point of view, Emma is emotionally torn whereas B serves as the wiser and more experienced voice of reason. My Moving Booklet (Summertime Publishing, 2015) is workbook that can be used with or without the chapter book and intended to help children to welcome the new challenges and adventures that lie ahead of them, together with their parents and teachers. It is available in English and French. For more information on her books and the topic of Third Culture Kids, please visit her website: www.valeriebesanceney.com.
 Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing.
 Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth. P. 240.
 Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth. P. 347.
 Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing. P. 182.
 Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing. Pp 182-186.
 Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth (chapter 2 and 3).
 Definition of TCK by David C. Pollock in the TCK Profile seminar material, Interaction, Inc., 1989, 1.
Barron, Jane (www.globallygrounded.com). “6 Steps Towards Being a Successful Stayer in an International School”. Found on: https://globallygrounded.com/2017/02/28/6-steps-towards-being-a-successful-stayer-in-an-international-school/. Originally published in Vol. 31 No. 3 February 2017 The International Educator
Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing.
Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth.
Photo credit: free images from Pixabay.com
Helping Children Cope With Unsettling News – What parents can do to aid scared kids in processing grief and fear in a healthy way
When tragedy strikes, as parents you find yourself doubly challenged: to process your own feelings of grief and distress, and to help your children do the same.
I wish I could tell you how to spare your children pain, when they’ve lost friends or family members, and fear, when disturbing events occur, especially when they’re close to home. I can’t do that, but what I can do is share what I’ve learned about how to help children cope and process disturbing events in the healthiest way.
As a parent, you can’t protect you children from grief, but you can help them express their feelings, comfort them, help them feel safer, and teach them how to deal with fear. By allowing and encouraging them to express their feelings, you can help them build healthy coping skills that will serve them well in the future, and confidence that they can overcome adversity.
- Break the news. When something happens that will get wide coverage, my first and most important suggestion is that you don’t delay telling your children about what’s happened: It’s much better for the child if you’re the one who tells her. You don’t want her to hear from some other child, a television news report, or the headlines on the front page of the New York Post. You want to be able to convey the facts, however painful, and set the emotional tone.
- Take your cues from your child. Invite her to tell you anything she may have heard about the tragedy, and how she feels. Give her ample opportunity to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions about upsetting details. Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.
- Model calm. It’s okay to let your child know if you’re sad, but if you talk to your child about a traumatic experience in a highly emotional way, then he will likely absorb your emotion and very little else. If, on the other hand, you remain calm, he is likely to grasp what’s important: that tragic events can upset our lives, even deeply, but we can learn from bad experiences and work together to grow stronger.
- Be reassuring. Talking about death is always difficult, but a tragic accident or act of violence is especially tough because of how egocentric children are: they’re likely to focus on whether something like this could happen to them. So it’s important to reassure your child about how unusual this kind of event is, and the safety measures that have been taken to prevent this kind of thing from happening to them. You can also assure him that this kind of tragedy is investigated carefully, to identify causes and help prevent it from happening again. It’s confidence-building for kids to know that we learn from negative experiences.
- Help children express their feelings. In your conversation (and subsequent ones) you can suggest ways your child might remember those she’s lost: draw pictures or tell stories about things you did together. If you’re religious, going to church or synagogue could be valuable.
- Be developmentally appropriate. Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Instead, try to answer your child’s questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters. Difficult conversations like this aren’t over in one session; expect to return to the topic as many times as your child needs to come to terms with this experience.
- Be available. If your child is upset, just spending time with him may make him feel safer. Children find great comfort in routines, and doing ordinary things together as a family may be the most effective form of healing.
- Memorialize those who have been lost. Drawing pictures, planting a tree, sharing stories, or releasing balloons can all be good, positive ways to help provide closure to a child. It’s important to assure your child that a person continues to live on in the hearts and minds of others. Doing something to help others in need can be very therapeutic: it can help children not only feel good about themselves but learn a very healthy way to respond to dealing with grief.
Viewing shows together and discussing content can have big benefits
“once kids have the shared experience of watching difficult or uncomfortable content with a parent and then talking about it, they’re probably more likely to come to that parent when they face a similar problem in their real lives”
Now that teenagers are watching television and other media on a range of devices —phones, tablets and laptops as well as TVs — it becomes harder and harder for parents to keep a handle on what they are watching. But making a concerted effort to watch their favorite shows with tweens and teens can pay off big time.
Not only can it bring you closer to your child at a time when they are becoming less likely to confide in you, but watching together can spark conversations about difficult subjects — issues your child might not otherwise feel comfortable discussing with you. And talking about what you’re watching, even if it’s content you object to, gives you an opportunity to identify and correct media messaging that goes against the values you want them to develop. The key lies in making screen time into quality time.
Navigating the land mines of middle school
As our kids hit middle school, they frequently start confiding in us less. Just when identity issues, friendship dramas and peer pressure are becoming more intense. Television programs and other forms of media are often influential at this age.
“In middle school I think it’s really great to watch TV with your kids because it’s how you will know the cultural memes they’re tuning into,” says Catherine Steiner-Adair, clinical psychologist, school consultant, author of The Big Disconnect and a research associate at the Harvard Medical School. “The challenge is to watch with them and talk about it with them without being intense or scary or condemning. You can’t demonize the world our children are growing up in but you can help them learn how to deconstruct the values.”
When Dr. Steiner-Adair’s own daughter was in middle school they watched the Canadian show Degrassi High together. It became an opportunity to talk about all kinds of teenage issues that wouldn’t necessarily come up organically. “It left no stone unturned,” she says. “There was not one teenage issue that didn’t come up in that show. It became a very fun way to just talk. To talk about people’s feelings. To talk about the impact you have on other people. To talk about differences. To talk about race and class and identity.” Now several years later Dr. Steiner-Adair says she thinks “those are conversations kids are having more and more in school but it’s really important that they have them at home as well.”
Creating bonding experiences
Jane never imagined that she and her 10 year-old son Henry would end up bonding over the hit zombie TV show, The Walking Dead. She had no interest in watching it. But Jane and her husband are separated and Henry (who struggles with both depression and anxiety) was having trouble with the separation. He had started watching with his dad. “So I tried it and just fell in love with it,” she says. “It’s not just about these crazy zombies. It’s really about these families bonding,” she explains. “Henry’s pretty heartbroken over the separation so he really appreciates the family aspect of the show and watching it together helps with that.”
She also understands Henry’s identification with the main character, who is a resourceful survivor in a tough situation. “He’s attached himself to that and it’s good for him,” she says. Now watching the show together has become a ritual for Jane and Henry, who replaced the two chairs that used to be in front of the TV with a sofa they can sit on together. “We just kind of wrap our arms around each other,” she says. “It’s definitely quality time.”
Getting kids to open up
Matthew Rouse, a clinicial psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, says that once kids have the shared experience of watching difficult or uncomfortable content with a parent and then talking about it, they’re probably more likely to come to that parent when they face a similar problem in their real lives.
“When kids are talking about things that are very, very kind of sensitive and personal,” he says, “it’s easier sometimes to talk about them in a third-person way or talk about the issue as it’s related to a fictional character. And then, as they broach the topic they may eventually circle around to bring it back to something they’ve been struggling with.” So if you’ve already talked about the distorted body image issues some shows seem to be glamorizing, hopefully, if it begins to happen in real life, your child will feel you’re already “in the loop.”
Doing damage control
With the proliferation of devices on which teens are now consuming content, many parents are finding it almost impossible to keep kids away from programming that doesn’t reflect their values, or they feel may be harmful. “If you’re concerned about how someone’s portrayed, or messages about race, ethnicity, gender or identity,” says Dr. Rouse, “in watching it together it becomes a chance for you to counter whatever message that they may have gotten.”
This goes especially for content that could be traumatic or even dangerous to your child. The recent Netflix series 13 Reasons Why — which was widely criticized for depicting the suicide of a young girl in graphic detail — is a perfect example of this. “Teens are impressionable and I think parents need to know what their children are watching,” says Dr. Peter Faustino, a school psychologist and member of the Board of National School Psychologists. Dr. Faustino has three daughters of his own — only his 15-year-old chose to watch all of 13 Reasons Why. His 12-year-old twins decided they’d had enough after two episodes.
“I’m very fortunate I think, my daughters can handle the content in something like 13 Reasons Why,” Dr. Faustino says, “but there are a lot of children who are dealing with stress, trauma, mental illness. And in particular these vulnerable youth shouldn’t be watching this or should be watching this under parental advisement.”
But Dr. Faustino doesn’t advise forbidding your child to watch something all her peers are talking about just because it may be upsetting. “Saying no to watching these things kind of closes the door to conversations with teenagers. I think it’s better if parents can listen to their kids and ask questions that can clarify why they’re interested in certain topics,” he advises.
Why does that matter? “Because if a child says I want to watch it because everyone else is watching it, that’s very different than if they say ‘I’m feeling some of those things and I think that may be a way to solve my problems,’ ” Dr. Faustino adds. “That’s obviously a very different conversation and then parents have to correct those misunderstandings and misconceptions.”
Peter Faustino, PsyD April 20, 2017
As a parent and a school psychologist, I pride myself on staying up to date. So when I asked my teenage daughters if they had heard about the newly released Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, I was shocked by their reply: “Dad, we just finished watching the last episode!”
Spoiler alert: The last episode is the graphic depiction of a suicide.
So I binge watched all 13 episodes. What I saw was an authentic and uncensored account of high school. Every topic I have dealt with in my career as a school psychologist (bullying, cliques, drugs, drunk driving, slut shaming, guns, sexual assault, and suicide) was covered in heart-wrenching detail.
The Netflix series, co-produced by Selena Gomez and based on a 2007 book by the same name, is a hit with adolescents. It’s the story of Hannah, a teenage girl who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes telling different parts of the story behind her motive. As the mystery unfolds, the series ensures that no subject is off-limits or glossed over.
Parents and professionals should know that our children and students are not only watching this show — there is a good chance they are living it. Teens immediately identify with how various individual choices and actions can combine to have outsized effects on people in high school. It made me think about whether impressionable viewers might romanticize the series. In the social media landscape of Facebook Live and Snapchat Streaks, creating “tapes for friends” that play out like a mystery to uncover your secret pain feels all too possible.
Shows like 13 Reason Why connect with young people because they see themselves and their classmates in those stories. This can be a good thing: it offers a real opportunity for youth to process the pressures of adolescence and consequences of certain choices. It also presents real risk. Research shows that exposure to suicide or to graphic accounts of death are triggers for suicidal thoughts and attempts among youth struggling with mental health disorders.
It is critical that as parents and educators we are aware of what are children are watching, reading and talking about, and are available to discuss what they are thinking and feeling. If we aren’t, we can’t prevent a potential tragedy or address underlying factors such as bullying
What 13 Reasons Why gets right, which can be as valuable to adults as it is to teens, is that there is no single cause of suicide. It most often occurs when multiple stressors exceed the current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition. The show does an impressive job of helping viewers see the missteps that people make every day. This is not to say that anyone is at fault for Hannah’s suicide, or that anyone can be at fault for the desperate decision of another person. But we can all help prevent it.
Unlike exposure to dramatized violence or self-harm, asking someone if they are contemplating suicide does not put them at increased risk of suicide. Quite the opposite; it gives us the opportunity to offer hope.
Every adult needs to recognize signs of a young person struggling and be ready to offer support. We must listen to our children’s stories without judgment and actively listen: understand, respond, and remember what they have said, putting our own agendas aside. We must give teenagers the tools they need to help a friend or themselves get support. And we can tell them, while watching 13 Reasons Why, that though it may seem like it sometimes, there are actually zero reasons to take your own life and many more to live.
Peter Faustino, PsyD, is a school psychologist in the Bedford (NY) Central School District and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of School Psychologists.
The National Association of School Psychologists offers guidance for educators on concerns raised by the series.
Common Sense Media suggests “parents need to know that 13 Reasons Why is an intense, dark Netflix drama based on the popular young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and is definitely not a light watch or for younger kids. The disturbing story explores a troubled teen’s motivations for committing suicide, opening after the fatal event, with all appearances by deceased Hannah in the reflections of a boy who harbored a secret crush on her. Messages about treating people with respect and not taking others for granted are prominent, but the fact that Hannah blames others for her suicide is problematic and may send the wrong messages to some sensitive teens. The series doesn’t shy away from mature issues, as Hannah’s suicide is shown in great detail, as is more than one graphic rape scene involving a teenager. There’s teen drinking, voyeurism (a boy circulates a picture of a girl in a compromising position after a sexual encounter), and lots of swearing (“f–k,” “s–t,” and “a–holes”). While this challenging story could help parents start conversations with teens about issues like bullying, isolation, and depression, the way the series addresses these issues is complex and may be confusing for impressionable viewers.”
Topics for family discussions are also suggested
Teens and Depression – Why Teens Are More Vulnerable, and the Risk Factors Parents Need to Know About
During adolescence, our teens will go through more changes than at any other time of their lives. Nothing will stay the same – their friendships, their bodies, their brains, their place in the world and the way they make sense of it. For many of them (and us!) there will be times it will feel confusing, exhausting and stormy.
During adolescence, the rates of depression show an alarming increase. According to the National Institute of Mental Health…
Author: Karen Young
Read the Full Article Here: http://www.heysigmund.com/teens-and-depression-risk/
Kids who seem oppositional are often severely anxious.
How to help kids who are struggling without empowering their fears.
How much of what your children get up to online are you actually aware of?
Children are naturally curious and intuitive, and are usually at least one step ahead of us parents when it comes to adopting the latest technology.
It provides children a fun way to engage with their friends, express their creativity and indulge their natural curiosity which is part of growing up.
It is important now more than ever for us parents to learn about what our young people are seeing, saying and doing online.
The sheer volume of apps available can leave parents feeling very much out of the loop. I always recommend that parents learn about the apps their children are using. When you read this, you may think I am recommending you do online research into the potential risks and the settings of very app. However the best thing any parent can do is download the app themselves and have a go. By learning about the app, you will be able to see what potential risks there are. For example, does the app include chat? And if it does, have you discussed with your child the importance of not sharing personal information online?
With so many different apps around, here’s some information on a few different types of apps to help you understand them.
Instant messaging apps allow users to chat with other users. Parents should always be aware of who their children are communicating with online, and need to be aware of how to adjust privacy settings to ensure unwanted contact cannot occur. Messages on these apps include video, text and images. Cyberbullying is a very real concern for many children when using these types of apps, so parents need to know how they can assist their child if they experience this difficulty. Instant messaging apps include WhatsApp, Messenger, KiK Messenger, Snapchat and Yik Yak.
Live streaming apps allow users to share video with others in real time. It is very important that the privacy settings on these apps does not allow contact from strangers, who may share inappropriate content or in the most extreme cases, attempt to groom children. Parents should do everything they can to make sure their children feel safe talking to them or a trusted adult if someone’s behaviour makes them uncomfortable, or they come across inappropriate contact. Live streaming apps include Livel.ly, Musical.ly and Facebook Live.
Online gaming is one of the most popular forms of entertainment for children and adults alike. There are many mobile gaming apps as well as traditional console and computer based games that have a chat function that allows players to contact one another, either through direct or group messaging, or voice chat. Many parents aren’t aware that gaming apps have these chat functions. Always be aware of how to adjust privacy settings in order to restrict conversations to people your children actually know. Online gaming includes Minecraft, Clash of Titans, Pokémon Go and Animal Jam.
Disappearing media is an emerging apps category and is now being included as a function on existing instant messaging apps. These apps ‘delete’ a sent image or video after a set period of time. Snapchat for example, allows users to send a ‘snap’ to another user which will then ‘disappear’ after a period of up to 10 seconds. Instagram and Messenger now include a similar function. Parents and children should be aware that there are ways these images can be saved and distributed further. The simplest method being to take a picture of the image using another device. Once an image or text is online, what happens next is out of our hands, which can have implications for privacy and reputation. Although the photo ‘disappears’ from the app, they are often stored as part of terms and conditions of the app usage, which means they never technically ‘disappear’.
More information on apps is available at thinkuknow.org.au
How to build self worth in children and help them feel they can handle what comes their way
Right from birth, kids learn new skills at a dizzying rate. And along with those new abilities, they also acquire the confidence to use them.
As children get older, that confidence can be as important as the skills themselves. To thrive, kids need to trust in their own capabilities while, at the same time, knowing that they can handle it if they aren’t successful at something. It’s by experiencing mastery and rebounding from failure that they develop healthy self-confidence.
Here are 12 ways you can set kids up to feel capable and get the most mileage out of their skills and talents.
1. Model confidence yourself. Even if you’re not quite feeling it! Seeing you tackle new tasks with optimism and lots of preparation sets a good example for kids. That doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be perfect. Do acknowledge your anxiety, but don’t focus on it—focus on the positive things you are doing to get ready.
2. Don’t get upset about mistakes.Help kids see that everyone makes mistakes and the important thing is to learn from them, not dwell on them. Confident people don’t let fear of failure get in their way—not because they’re sure they won’t ever fail, but because they know how to take setbacks in stride.
3. Encourage them to try new things.Instead of focusing all their energy on what they already excel at, it’s good for kids to diversify. Attaining new skills makes kids feel capable and confident that they can tackle whatever comes their way.
4. Allow kids to fail. It’s natural to want to protect your child from failure, but trial and error is how kids learn, and falling short on a goal helps kids find out that it’s not fatal. It can also spur kids to greater effort, which will serve them well as adults.
5. Praise perseverance. Learning not to give up at the first frustration or bail after one setback is an important life skill. Confidence and self-esteem are not about succeeding at everything all the time, they’re about being resilient enough to keep trying, and not being distressed if you’re not the best.
6. Help kids find their passion. Exploring their own interests can help kids develop a sense of identity, which is essential to building confidence. Of course, seeing their talents grow will also give a huge boost to their self-esteem.
7. Set goals. Articulating goals, large and small, and achieving them makes kids feel strong. Help your child turn desires and dreams into actionable goals by encouraging her to make a list of things she’d like to accomplish. Then, practice breaking down longer-term goals into realistic benchmarks. You’ll be validating her interests and helping her learn the skills she’ll need to attain her goals throughout life.
8. Celebrate effort. Praising kids for their accomplishments is great, but it’s also important to let them know you’re proud of their efforts regardless of the outcome. It takes hard work to develop new skills, and results aren’t always immediate. Let kids know you value the work they’re doing, whether they’re toddlers building with blocks or teenagers teaching themselves to play the guitar.
9. Expect them to pitch in. They might complain, but kids feel more connected and valued when they’re counted on to do age-appropriate jobs, from picking up toys to doing dishes to picking up younger siblings from a play date. Homework and after-school activities are great, but being needed by your family is invaluable.
10. Embrace imperfection. As grown-ups we know perfection is unrealistic, and it’s important for kids to get that message as early as possible. Help kids see that whether it’s on TV, in a magazine, or on a friend’s social media feed, the idea that others are always happy, successful, and perfectly dressed is a fantasy, and a destructive one. Instead, remind them that being less than perfect is human and totally okay.
11. Set them up for success. Challenges are good for kids, but they should also have opportunities where they can be sure to find success. Help your child get involved with activities that make him feel comfortable and confident enough to tackle a bigger challenge.
12. Show your love. Let your child know you love him no matter what. Win or lose the big game, good grades or bad. Even when you’re mad at him. Making sure your child knows that you think he’s great — and not just when he does great things — will bolster his self worth even when he’s not feeling good about himself.