November 22, 2019
Ask the Experts by Dr. Alexander Riegel
Q: As the mother of a 15-year-old boy, I’m concerned about some of my son’s behaviors and the day-to-day stress he feels. Do you have any advice that might help us navigate these teenage years?
A: This is a great question that a lot of parents have but don’t know how, or whom, to ask. Indeed, as the father of a young man (now 20 years old) I recently had to navigate these same struggles. This drove me into an in-depth study of brain development, which in turn drove me into a study of teenage culture. What I realized is that there is a significant mismatch between the teenage brain and the teenage culture our young people must navigate.
In sum, the teenage brain is still in development and lacks a fully functional prefrontal cortex, which is, in general terms, the mechanism by which self-management is possible. At the same time, the teenage brain is highly susceptible to emotional reactions. (In an adult, these two areas of the brain exist in a mutually regulatory relationship.) Couple this still-developing teenage brain with teenage culture, which includes everything from unsupervised 24/7 access to the digital world and everything that that world contains (from violence to pornography) to intense, daily, peer scrutiny, and is not hard to understand why our youth have such difficulty managing life in the modern world. Hence, the alarming rates of anxiety, depression, drug use, and suicide. Read more: Understanding the Teenage Brain – Helping Deal with Their Stress
Ask the Experts Riley Juntti
Q: What is the “13 Reasons Why NOT” campaign and why is it important?
A: 13 Reasons Why NOT” is a suicide prevention campaign that began at Oxford High School after the 2017 Netflix release of “13 Reasons Why.” One student each day for thirteen days spoke via loudspeaker to their peers, teachers and staff (over 1,800 people) and shared a story of emotional vulnerability; of a time they did not feel good enough.
Instead of placing blame however, as the series did, thirteen students thanked someone who helped them during a dark time. The students spoke of abuse, homophobia, body image, special needs and other sensitive issues that teens face but don’t usually share with others. One boy admitted to having been a bully to others. Read more: Creating a Culture of Support for Vulnerable Youth
Ask the Experts by Mary Beth Garvey, LMSW
Q: My children will be dealing with many changes in the upcoming school year. How can I support them in navigating these changes and foster their resilience?
A: What a healthy way to think about change. I love that you are looking at it as an opportunity for growth rather than something to protect your children from. Children take their cues about new situations from those they trust, and when parents are organized around their kids’ strengths, it is a clear signal that you think they can handle the challenges.
Resilience is not finite, and it can be strengthened throughout childhood. There are a few key ways to foster children’s resilience with each new school year. Read more: Ways to Foster Children’s Resilience in The New School Year
Ask the Experts by Training & Treatment Innovations, Inc. (TTI)
Q: Can you tell me about the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training sessions that will be offered through The Family Center this month – who should attend and what can we expect if we do?
A: Just like First Aid and CPR training provide people with the skills to help someone experiencing a physical health crisis, Mental Health First Aid is a course, designed for lay people, to provide the skills needed to reach out to a person experiencing a mental health crisis. The Youth Mental Health First Aid course, scheduled for two mornings in late August, is designed for adults who work with young people, ages 12-18 — teachers, coaches, leaders of faith communities, social workers, and other caring citizens. Anyone is welcome to attend.
You are more likely to encounter someone — friend, family member, student, neighbor, or member of the community — in an emotional or mental crisis than someone having a heart attack. Youth Mental Health First Aid teaches a 5-step action plan to offer initial help to young people showing signs of a mental illness or in a crisis, and connect them with the appropriate professional, peer, social, or self-help care. Read more: Learn the Skills Needed to Reach Out to a Person Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis
Ask the Experts by Veronica McAtee
Q: My daughter is scared to use public restrooms and often refuses. I think it’s the loud sounds that bother her. She has a language delay so it’s hard for me to truly understand what is bothering her. I keep reassuring her she’ll be ok, but that doesn’t seem to help. I know it’s important for her to use public restrooms, so how can I help her overcome this fear without stressing her out too much?
A: This is a common fear for children. Public restrooms are loud, and the sounds are often unpredictable. Some restrooms have automatic flushers that go off when the child is using the toilet and one or two experiences like that might be enough for a child to avoid them altogether. However, the more that you avoid the sounds, the bigger the fear becomes. Be prepared when you out and proactively visit different types of bathrooms to get used to the sounds. Tell your child using simple language that you are going to just visit the bathroom and walk in and then leave after a short time without requiring her to go in the stall. Praise her for staying calm and being brave. The more she is exposed to the sounds, the easier they will be to handle. If you practice this when she doesn’t need to use the restroom, she might be calmer and more relaxed. If you’re using a toilet with an automatic flusher cover the sensor with something and remove it when it’s time to flush. You can also tell your child to cover her ears before you flush and stand outside of the bathroom stall so that she is able to tolerate the sound from a distance. Set small goals along the way and reward your child when she is brave and accomplishes those goals.
Ask the Experts by Sara Martin
Q: I’m concerned about keeping up with my daughter’s language skills during summer break. I am always hearing about the summer slide and I don’t know what I should be doing.
A: This is a great question! During summer, there are many ways to keep up with language skills. Many of these suggestions can be done year-round.
First, ramp up the reading. Visit the library and check out new books often. Read with your daughter everyday. If she’s old enough to read, take turns reading. At least 20 minutes a day is recommended!
Ask the Experts by Charmaine Johnson-Fuller
Q: I work from home and struggle with summer break and maintaining a good balance. How can I create a schedule that supports my business and family over summer break?
A: Summer vacation can be a stressful time for parents that work from home.
How can you make summer vacation a win-win for your business and family? Below are the 5 things that will help create a winning formula to support your summer fun.
Ask the Experts by Dr. Jennifer Mertz
Q: Why does it seem like kids are getting braces earlier and earlier these days?
A: The American Association of Orthodontists recommends children are seen by an orthodontist by the age of 7. This is not so we can put braces on your child even earlier. We recommend some form of orthodontic treatment in only a fraction of the young kids we see. Some problems may be easier to correct if they are found and treated early.
Around the age of 6-7, some of the adult permanent teeth have come in and so have the first set of adult molars, “the six-year molars”. This initial examination helps to identify any concerns the parent may have for their child. Your orthodontist may suggest early interceptive treatment to normalize the eruption of permanent teeth, to reduce the risk of dental trauma, to correct harmful habits, or assist in jaw growth.
Ask the Experts by Kristen DeVooght and Dorothy Heitjan
Q: What are some practical strategies parents can use to build their child’s language and interaction skills?
A: Language is the foundation of learning. Development of language occurs in the pivotal years between birth and 5 years of age. The role parents and caregivers play during this time is monumental.
There are three main strategies parents can use to bolster their child’s language and vocabulary skills. Read more: The Importance of Parent-Child Language Interactions
Ask the Experts by Det. Ryan Schroerlucke
Q: I monitor my son’s social media accounts periodically and some of what I see on his feed makes me uncomfortable. He says I’m overreacting. How can I help him understand the difference between sarcasm/joking and cyberbullying?
A: The definition of bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Cyberbullying uses technology to degrade, harass or humiliate another person or group of people and makes the victim(s) feel as though everyone in their peer group knows what is going on.
The problem with kids thinking they’re being sarcastic or “just joking” on social media and through technology is that it can be interpreted different ways by different people. If your son thinks what he sees (or does) is meant as a joke, but the person targeted takes what is written as literal and harmful, it is bullying. Over time, and with repeated targeting, the victim is more likely to skip/drop out of school, get lower grades, turn to substances or alcohol and show poor self-esteem. Read more: Understanding Cyberbullying