By Jordan Beach, LCSW, June 26, 2018 –

We live in a high-tech world.  Today’s children have been surrounded by technology since the day they were born.

As they get older it’s often more difficult to get kids away from their electronic devices to engage in active play. While it is important for children to understand technology, that importance does not override the need to be healthy and active away from these devices.

We know that children need 60 minutes of exercise a day, but how can you get your kids moving without starting a war in your home?

Here are a few ideas that might help motivate your child:

1. Try using an activity jar. Sometimes children are indecisive. Have them help you make a list of some of their favorite cardio activities. On the days they are unmotivated (or just can’t decide) you can draw an activity out of the jar as a prompt.

2. Whenever possible, get outside! The options for physical activity are endless when playing outdoors. You don’t need to leave your own yard to have a good time running and playing. You can play a game of tag, turn on the sprinklers, have a Nerf war, or practice their favorite sport.  All of these activities can be done in a limited space with little to no equipment.

3. If you’re looking for more adventure, take your activities away from home. Take a walk as a family, and if you have a furry friend bring them along! Check out community parks nearby, and make a point to try new parks. This will keep the outings interesting for your little ones. Inviting friends along is a great way to get your kids excited about outdoor play.

4. It’s clearly not difficult to get your family moving on a nice sunny day, but what do you do if it is raining or too cold to go outside? Utilize some of the same tools your child’s teacher uses in the classroom.  Go Noodle (gonoodle.com) is a great site to get your child up and moving. This would also give your child the opportunity to show you some of their favorite “brain breaks” from school.

5. If you’re trying to get kids away from electronics, try just turning on your radio and having a family dance party. Kids love this!

There is no denying that the older our children get, the more difficult it is to get them away from technology to play like kids again. However, we also can’t diminish the importance of active play. Turning off electronics is good for our children in a multitude of ways; most importantly, it keeps them healthy.

 

by Heather Miller, LCSW, June 12, 2018 –

“It’s probably normal. Every child goes through phases likes this. More than likely he’ll outgrow it.”

I was trying to reassure myself there was no reason for concern, but the growing pit in my stomach suggested otherwise.

By now I should know that, for me, having a child with special needs often means being at peace with the unexpected. Challenges arise, behaviors manifest, and at times progress is made without a clear understanding of why or how. For many parents this lack of control is difficult to accept.

When my child reached a plateau in progress I tried to determine how I could hit the play button and “un-pause” where we were.  It was time for me to do what I have suggested as a school social worker to many parents, to seek help and support.

From my experience, this is what I have found to be helpful:

  1. Friends – Raising a child with special needs can feel isolating at times. There’s uncertainty about what others think of your parenting, your child’s behavior, and why you may have to cancel at the last minute due to a meltdown.  Being honest about the challenges we face as well as what support I need has been helpful.  The website abilities.com suggests the following: “Try to remember that these people lack the context that we are constantly embedded in. Explain, teach, be patient, raise awareness…”  Friends want to help and be supportive but may need suggestions about how they can assist.
  2. Accountability Partners – As the parent of a special needs child, I know what I need to do but sometimes need a little push to follow through. Sharing next steps with one or two friends can help. I needed to look into services for my child, but making the call seemed overwhelming and made me feel vulnerable. Sharing these feelings with a couple of friends and asking that they follow up with me in a week made it feel more manageable. When asked, being able to say I had completed the first step made me feel accomplished and ready to move to the next step.
  3. Services – Once I decided I needed to get an outside perspective, the next step was determining where to seek help. I often refer parents to various organizations and agencies for services. If I hadn’t experienced this as part of my job, I would have been lost figuring out where to start.  If ever in a similar situation, please do not hesitate to call a Youth First School Social Worker at your child’s school. Recommendations for your specific need can be made; there is no need to guess.
  4. Perspective – Parents want what is best for their children, but every parent makes mistakes. Abilities.com suggests focusing on what you have done well and moving past the mistakes. Asking for help is not a sign of failure or poor parenting. It’s recognizing that some rough patches are rougher than others and require some help to smooth the path. After making the initial phone call for assistance for my child, I felt relief and a sense of pride.  I was giving my child the opportunity to be his best at this stage in his life.

I’ve now been on both sides of this experience as a service provider and a parent. My goal is the same in each role – to reduce stress and increase positive parent/child interaction.  Youth First School Social Workers in area schools are equipped to help you with this goal as well.

By Amy Steele, LCSW – June 5, 2018 –

Surprisingly, the average age of a child the first time they see internet pornography is 11 years.  Kids don’t have to be looking for pornography; it is programmed to find them.

To think that it won’t happen to your child leaves them at risk for stumbling upon sexually-explicit material online (whether they are looking for it or not) that they are not developmentally able to handle, emotionally or mentally.

Tweens and teens are at the age of natural curiosity about sex. When presented with the opportunity and such easy access, many are choosing to view pornography – and doing it more than once.  Today’s porn content is drastically more graphic, violent, deviant and destructive than anything ever seen before.

Highly sexualized, violent material poses many risks for a developing brain.  In the adolescent years when brains are still developing, viewing porn can deform the pleasure centers of their brain.

Neurological research has found that pornography is particularly addictive because of the neuro-chemical release in the brain that occurs while viewing it.  For many youth, the euphoric “high” that occurs quickly develops into a coping style for escaping emotional distress.

Studies have shown that kids who viewed pornography for hours each week have less gray matter in their brain than those who did not view it.  This means there are fewer neurons and neuro-connectivity in the pleasure centers of the brain, leaving the brain craving more while making it harder for the same images to provide pleasure.

Therefore, young viewers seek more graphic and violent content, an indicator of addiction.  Males make up the majority of those addicted to pornography, but females are also addicted.

Youth that view pornography once a month or more are at a greater risk of developing depression, anxiety, sexually permissive attitudes, preoccupation with sex, inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, unrealistic ideas about sexual relationships, insecurities about body images in females and insecurities about sexual performance in males.

As an adult, they are more likely to be unfaithful to their spouse.  Fifty-six percent of divorce cases involve one party having obsessive interest in online pornography.  With the increase of internet pornography and pornography addictions, there has been an increase in violent sex crimes, an increase in child pornography, and sex trafficking is at an all-time high.

Parents, it’s time to let LOVE overpower the discomfort of discussing this topic. Talk to your tweens and teens about pornography.  Keep revisiting it; this is not a one-time conversation.

Look for teachable moments in the media and daily life.  Remind your child of your family values.  Tell kids where pornography may pop up online and what to do if they find it – turn it off and talk to a trusted adult.

Reassure them they will not be in trouble if they come to you right away.  Teach them about responsible online behavior and rules.  Establish house/family rules such as computers/laptops must be in main living areas; devices must be kept out of bedrooms; phones must be turned into parents at night for charging.  Block pop-ups on computers.

Most importantly: Frequently check kids’ phones, tablets and computers. Read their texts and emails.  Look at their pictures, social media and other apps.  This is not an invasion of privacy.  It is your responsibility as a parent to keep your tween or teen safe in the age of technology.