Child doing homework

By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, July 26, 2016 –

Does your child put things off until the last possible moment? Does he find other things to do when an important task needs to be completed?

When a child procrastinates it can be extremely stressful and frustrating for everyone involved.

As a parent you might feel discouraged when your child fails to complete tasks. It may feel like your child is being defiant or lazy, but in reality he is more likely bored or distracted from what he should be doing.

There are some simple ways to help your child get back on track and minimize the stress of completing tasks on time.

Allow your child to participate in setting up their after school schedule. This routine doesn’t have to have time limits attached; it could just be a list. Fun things should fall to the bottom of the list. Make sure they know they can’t move on to step B until step A is completed.

This will give your child something to look forward to and incentive to complete the tasks on the list. It is very important to stick to the schedule, however. If you allow your child to skip the “boring” parts one day, he will expect it every time.

Since your child will have a say in creating the schedule, the fun activities listed are things they actually enjoy. The schedule does not have to be set in stone; you could change activities weekly.

If you feel as though you are always giving out punishments or consequences, offer rewards instead when you see good behavior. Offer praise when you see your child doing even small things you like to see. Positive encouragement will boost self-esteem and make them feel more productive.

Be a positive role model for your child. It is much easier for them to procrastinate when they see parents procrastinating. By setting a schedule, staying in a routine and completing necessary tasks on time, you are teaching them important steps to being successful.

Give concrete instructions. Instead of telling your child to complete their homework, be specific and tell them to complete their spelling homework. This way there are no questions about what needs to be done, and they are able to focus on one subject at a time. If possible, break up homework subjects into different nights of the week to help prevent your child from feeling overwhelmed.

When asking your child to clean up, be specific about what you are looking for. If you ask a child to put their clothes away, there is a good chance the clothes will just get shoved out of sight. If you ask them to fold their clothes and put them in the dresser, they will know exactly what you are asking, and there is less room for a misunderstanding.

Procrastination is a learned behavior, which means that it can be unlearned. To help your child be successful, it is important for you to be consistent and a good role model of the behaviors you want to see.

Elderly woman

By Tiffany Harper, MSW, Courier & Press, July 19, 2016 –

Living with and caring for a chronically ill family member is like going for a long run; it is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires a lot of understanding, endurance, energy and empathy.

Caring for the chronically ill impacts everyone in the home on some level. Relationships, household finances, personal freedom and functioning in general can all be affected.

If you are a caretaker, make sure you’re practicing self-care. Here’s how:

1. Come to terms with the change. Depending on how your loved one’s mobility has been impacted, freedom to come and go can be significantly altered. Activity may be limited. If this is the case, household members will be required to adjust to the change.

Patience goes a long way in this process, particularly if there are children in the home. If there is a new diagnosis or the prognosis is not hopeful, fear can set in. There is fear of the unknown, fear of what the future holds, and fear of losing your loved one.

Educating yourself about your loved one’s illness is important. Getting information directly from medical personnel is strongly recommended over website searches, which potentially give misleading information and cause additional anxiety.

It is OK and even important to grieve over changes and the future prognosis. Comfort can be found in cherishing the moments you still have with your loved one.

2. Focus on the positive. While it is important to grieve the loss of the former way of life, it is also important to find the “half full” portion of the glass. Find moments to stay connected to your loved one, but also be sure to focus on other aspects of life, other family members and friends you cherish, and simple pleasures like a beautiful sunset or the sound of rain.

Practice mindfulness. This requires you to focus on specific moments of your day in the present tense, honing in on the sights, sounds and feelings of the moment. This can be practiced during the most mundane of activities, even tasks as simple as washing dishes.

3. Get support. One of the best catchphrases for support is, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Self-care is crucial to those caring for chronically ill family members. Self-care looks different for everyone. It is important to know what activities or practices rejuvenate us physically, mentally and emotionally. Activities as simple as leaving the house for a quick walk, taking a long bath, or talking to a friend can go a long way in renewing body and mind. If you don’t know what works for you, try new things, especially those that fit into the new lifestyle of your home environment.

4. Accept help. If a friend or family member offers help, accept it. This can be very difficult for some. Keep in mind that the people in our lives who care enough to offer probably truly want to help. Allowing them to step in and give you a break, help out with household chores or errands, etc., gives them validation and encouragement in return.

Remember, you must care for yourself to care for someone else. There is nothing selfish about caring for your own health so you can avoid stress and burnout and give your loved one the very best care.

College campus

By Laura Keys, LCSW, Courier & Press, July 12, 2016 –

Last week I took my oldest child to freshman orientation at Indiana University. During one of the parent sessions, they asked us to write a letter to be mailed to our child’s dorm a few weeks after classes begin.

The idea is to give the students a boost a few weeks into the school year, but I think the real reason for the exercise is to help parents start the process of letting go.

As parents, we do need to prepare ourselves for our children leaving the nest, but we also need to prepare our children to fly safely.

The statistics around campus violence are a bit scary. What might be even scarier is that our kids don’t understand a lot of the dangers.

Many experts say that if a student is going to be victimized it will most likely be in their first semester. For that reason, the first six weeks of college is known as “The Red Zone.”

To help both student and parent prepare for this crucial time, a face-to-face discussion on safety needs to happen before departure. Below are some tips and talking points.

Students should always be aware of their surroundings. They shouldn’t walk alone with ear buds. They shouldn’t walk alone at night. Most campuses have many safety options, including free rides on and off campus 24 hours a day as well as strategically placed emergency phones. Let your child know they should not be afraid to use these resources.

Strangers are often not the danger. Most sexual assault victims on campus know their attacker. Stress the importance of getting to know people before placing yourself in a vulnerable situation. It is impossible to really know someone after two dates and going for “nice” over “cool” can’t be emphasized enough.

Be on guard at parties. It’s not enough to tell college students not to go to parties, drink or do drugs. Parents will not be there to enforce the rules, so we need to have a more realistic conversation about the consequences of partaking. They should always monitor their drink and never drink from a common or shared container. Help them understand their judgment is impaired when they are under the influence, and they are less able to defend themselves. In case they get into a dangerous situation, tell them to keep their phone charged and money or a credit card on them at all times.

It’s important to cultivate great friendships. Stress investing in friends that will have your child’s back. The buddy system is the single best safety measure your child has throughout their college career. It’s another set of eyes on your child, and it’s another set of brains to give input when sticky situations arise.

Teach them to trust their gut. If a situation seems scary, it is. If they feel like they shouldn’t be somewhere, they probably shouldn’t. Instinct is one of the few remnants in our DNA from the portion of human history when we were a part of the food chain. Urge them to trust their gut; it’s a biological measure of safety.

If they are listening, all of these points will help improve your child’s security. But the most important thing to say to your child as they leave the nest is that you will always be there if anything bad or good happens. They should never be afraid to call.

Texting girl

Tears. Fear. Guilt.

“Will my parents find out?” “Who else is going to see this?”

They trusted the other person. They thought they wouldn’t get caught. They thought no one else would see it. They didn’t know how to say no without being judged or viewed as “uncool.”

As a Youth First Social Worker, I hear these comments from teens about why they chose to send a sexually explicit message or photo. But by the time they reach my office, it is almost always too late.

Cellphones and the Internet have made it convenient for us to share information, pictures and more, but do adolescents understand the implications of sending inappropriate messages and pictures to others?

Sexting is defined as texting or other electronic messaging that is sexually suggestive in nature. It may sound flirty and harmless, but it can result in very serious consequences.

Sexting applies to all forms of electronic communication through social networking sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) as well as texts. It may include explicit wording or seminude or fully nude photos or videos. Sexting includes receiving, sending or forwarding content.

Whether it is a text, photo or video, digital information can last forever. The sender has no control over the choice of the receiver to copy, alter, post or pass it on.

Sexting can result in many different consequences. Once the send button is pressed, it’s out there and can take on a life of its own. Embarrassment, school discipline, trouble at home, legal problems, bullying, sexual harassment, attention from online predators and damaged relationships are all examples of what could follow.

And don’t forget that because digital information can last forever, there is always the possibility that future colleges or employers could find an old sext from an online search.

Teens, if you feel pressured to send a sexually explicit message, don’t give in. Try saying no or simply ignoring the request. State your reason: “That’s sharing way too much,” or “I don’t do that because you never know who might see it.”

There is also a helpful app called “Send This Instead.” This free app includes things one could say if they’re being pressured to send a sext message. (The humorous replies are witty and sarcastic.)

Every message, photo or video you send or post creates an impression on those who see it. Think about the impression you want to make.

Before you send, post or forward any message, try asking yourself these questions:

How would I feel if my parents, grandparents, teachers or other adults saw this?

Would I want everyone at school to see this?

Would I say or share this in person?

If the answer is no, then do not to share — as tempting as it may be. Never reply to a message from someone you don’t know, and do not post personal information such as your name, age and address.

If someone sends you a sext message or image, do not reply and do not pass it on. Sharing it with someone could mean big trouble.

You should immediately tell your parent, teacher, school social worker or counselor. They will help you deal with it the right way. Wait until you have the OK from an adult before you delete it.

And remember, just because you received a sext message does not mean you are in trouble or did anything wrong. It’s when you pass it on to someone else that it becomes a problem.