Gift Supports the Social and Emotional Needs of Morgan County Students

Home Bank has awarded a $15,000 gift to Youth First, Inc. to strengthen the social and emotional well-being of students in Morgan County. The funds will help Youth First protect and heal the hearts of children through its highly impactful model of prevention.
For the second year in a row, Youth First’s prevention services and evidence-based programs are embedded in Martinsville and Mooresville schools. Youth First Social Workers at Bell Intermediate Academy and Paul Hadley Middle School are working to build caring relationships, foster readiness for positive change, and boost resiliency along with other valuable life skills. Research shows these protective factors are the keys to preventing addiction, suicide, violence, and similar outcomes for young people.
The organization’s positive outcomes are driving growth, with more schools seeking Youth First’s help to address the growing social and emotional needs of students. Statewide, Youth First is partnering with 80 schools across 10 counties to place 59 Master’s level social workers in school buildings, where they become specialized mentors for students and prevention coaches for parents and teachers.
“Our children are growing up in an increasingly complex and challenging world that puts them at greater risk for substance use, bullying, social media abuses, and other harmful behaviors,” said Parri O. Black, President & CEO of Youth First, Inc. “We are so thankful for Home Bank’s investment, which is critical to furthering Youth First’s mission in Morgan County. Working together, we can strengthen more young people and their families.”
If you would like to know more about Youth First’s work in Morgan County, please contact Becky Jessmer, Regional Development Officer, at bjessmer@youthfirstinc.org or (812)322-8123. Donations designated for Youth First services and programs in Morgan County may be made online at youthfirstinc.org/morgan or by mail to 111 SE Third Street, Suite 405, Evansville, IN, 47708.

By Abby Betz, LSW – January 28, 2020

With high profile acts of violence on the rise, particularly in schools, it is important that parents and caregivers talk with children about these types of incidents and teach them ways to protect themselves. 

Schools have been working to prevent violence and make schools safer places for our children.  Not only do staff and faculty play a vital role in promoting school safety, it is imperative that parents also help reassure children that schools are generally safe places. 

Creating a safe atmosphere for students helps establish a sense of normalcy and security. It is essential students feel comfortable talking about their fears, as mental health concerns also continue to be on the rise.

Schools can promote a safe school environment by providing support from social workers and counselors and fostering positive interventions and school-wide behavioral expectations. It is also important that children take part in maintaining a safe school climate by participating in safety planning and drills. 

Frequently reminding children of the importance of school rules and requesting that they report potentially hazardous situations to school personnel can help reduce the instances of violence. The presence of school resource officers, security guards, and/or local police partnerships also plays a large role in keeping schools safe. It is important for staff and faculty to remain a visible, welcoming presence at school by greeting students and visitors to the building.

At home, parents and caregivers can reassure their children they are in a safe place. It is important to validate feelings children have and explain it is normal to feel scared or worried when tragedies such as school violence occur. Letting children talk about their feelings helps in processing these fears, puts them into perspective, and assists them in expressing these feelings in an appropriate way.

Making the time to talk with children is extremely important. Look for clues they may want or need to talk. Also keep in mind that some children may be able to express themselves more freely while coloring, drawing, or engaging in other artistic activities.

It is important to keep conversations appropriate for the child’s developmental stage. Early elementary school-aged children need simple, concise explanations coupled with reassurance that their school is a safe place. Upper elementary and middle school-aged children can be more verbal in asking questions about school safety.

For high school students, it is important to emphasize their role in fostering a safe school environment by reporting threats and communicating safety concerns to school personnel. For children of all ages, it is essential for parents and caregivers to look for changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep. Providing assistance to help children separate real-life from fantasy is also very important.

Monitoring and limiting what children are viewing on the internet and television can help lessen their fears. Maintaining a normal routine is also crucial to the healthy development of all children and gives them a sense of safety and security.

If a parent or caregiver has any concerns for their child, they should reach out to their child’s school and also seek the assistance of mental health professionals.

Gift Supports the Social and Emotional Needs of Students in Posey County

Valero Renewable Fuels – Mt. Vernon has awarded $7,000 to Youth First, Inc. to strengthen the social and emotional well-being of students in Posey County.

This school year, Youth First is partnering with 80 schools in 10 Indiana counties to embed 59 Master’s level social workers in school buildings, where they become specialized mentors for students and prevention coaches for parents and teachers. Youth First Social Workers build caring relationships, foster readiness for positive change, and boost resiliency along with other valuable life skills.

Research shows these protective factors are the keys to preventing addiction, suicide, violence, and similar outcomes for young people. The organization’s positive outcomes are driving growth, with more schools seeking Youth First’s help to address the growing social and emotional needs of students.
“This is just one of several Valero locations that will proudly distribute funds to children’s charities throughout the United States this year,” stated Chris Rea, Plant Manager of Valero Renewables – Mt. Vernon. “These gifts enable our community agencies to continue their good work for the many children they serve. We appreciate all that these agencies do to improve children’s lives. And it gives us great joy to be able to support the children of the Tri-State area once again.”

Youth First President & CEO Parri O. Black stated, “Our children are growing up in a complex and challenging world that puts them at greater risk for substance use, suicide, violence and harmful behaviors. The investment of Valero is critical to achieving Youth First’s mission. Working together, we can protect and heal the hearts of more young people and their families in Posey County.”

By Leah Lottes , LSW – Jan. 21, 2020

For many, the recent holidays reminded us to be thankful no matter what our circumstances are, focusing on being thankful for what we have rather than what we don’t have. The holidays are a great time to express gratitude. However, expressing gratitude every day is even better!

Gratitude is beneficial for your mental and physical health, so why not express gratitude every day?

As listed by Amy Morin on the website psychologytoday.com, here are some of the ways gratitude can benefit you:

Gratitude can improve your physical health. People who express gratitude tend to experience fewer aches and pains. These individuals are also more likely to take care of their health by attending regular doctor visits and maintaining a healthy diet with exercise.

Gratitude can help you sleep better. If you express gratitude at the end of the day by writing down a few things you are thankful for, you increase your chances of having a better night of sleep.

Gratitude can help boost your self-esteem. When you are thankful, you are more likely to appreciate your positive life experiences rather than focus on the negative ones. You are also less likely to compare yourself to others which can help you appreciate the accomplishments of others. Gratitude is also likely to increase your overall happiness.

Gratitude can help foster resiliency. Expressing gratitude is a great way to cope with stress and trauma at any time in your life. 

One of the best things about gratitude is that you can express it at any age. Because gratitude has been proven to have so many benefits, the younger you teach children about it, the better.

According to Dr. Kevin Solomons’ website borntobeworthless.com, there are many ways you can express gratitude throughout the day. The easiest way is by simply saying thank you to people when they help you out. Thanking someone for their help not only makes that person feel good but also makes you feel good, which encourages you to keep saying thank you.

When adults say thank you to others, this encourages kids and adolescents to do the same. Parents and teachers can model this behavior every day to students at home and in the classroom.  

Another way to express gratitude is to send thank you notes. This is a very good way to encourage kids and adolescents to say thank you. When you instill the habit in them when they are younger they are more likely to continue the habit throughout their lives.

It’s also important to teach kids that writing thank you notes isn’t just for gifts. A nice hand-written note can be sent to show appreciation when someone does something special for them.

An additional way to express daily gratitude is by keeping a journal. This can be something as simple as writing one thing you’re thankful for each day. Getting into a routine of adding to your journal allows you to train your brain to be thankful every day. Teachers can incorporate gratitude into their days by taking having students write down what they are thankful for or allow them to share their gratitude out loud. Parents can also do this activity together with their kids to show what they are thankful for and how it is important to their lives.

Expressing gratitude has many benefits. It may seem like a small task, but it’s the little things that can make such a big difference. Gratitude positively affects your mindset and your lifestyle, and that in itself is a reason to be thankful.  

By Dawn Tedrow, LCSW – January 14, 2020

Many teens struggle with forgetting daily assignments and losing their homework, or they become overwhelmed thinking about the amount of work that needs to be completed. Being unorganized creates tremendous stress for people. 

It is important to teach our students good organizational skills to not only reduce stress at school but to help them continue to be successful throughout life.  I have some useful tips for helping your teen become more organized.

First and foremost, get them in the habit of using an agenda book. Most school bookstores sell them to students for a small fee. If they aren’t already in the habit of using an agenda book, I recommend reminding them daily and rewarding them with praise until they have gotten used to carrying it to every class and filling it out. 

I also recommend that students write in the book even if they don’t have an assignment due, by simply noting, “No homework.”  This will help them get into the habit of using the book during every class. If they forget to use it, simply remind them to start again. 

You can easily see if it is being used by sitting down with your teen at a designated time to review what homework needs to be completed each day.  Using positive and encouraging statements will help them view this as a pleasant task rather than you “nagging” at them.

Try to find ways to make the agenda book more interesting by purchasing different color ink pens or stickers.  I use different colors of sticky notes to put extra notes in my planner.  I find most agenda books to be too small for all of my tasks. If your teen runs into this problem, you might consider purchasing a planner with larger spaces for notes. 

One of my favorite planners is the Panda Planner, which can be purchased at www.pandaplanner.com.  The spaces are larger, allowing for more room to write necessary details about assignments to be completed.  They also break down according to the week and help teach the individual how to plan their month, week, and day. I easily plan my week and identify the top priority for each day.

Another simple tool for teens is what I refer to as a “homework folder.”  This is such a simple tool to keep homework assignments in a place that is easy to find so they don’t get lost.  I get a red folder with 3 clasps and place sheet protectors inside. 

There should be a sheet protector for each class (even gym) and then an extra one for documents that are sent home for parents, such as picture day or emergency contact forms to be completed.  I use colorful labels to identify each class. The folder is carried to every class. Students are instructed to place homework to be completed inside the appropriately labeled sheet protector. 

Once they have completed the assignment, they place it back in the sheet protector until they turn it in to their teacher. Graded assignments do not go back into the homework folder. They are placed in separate folders for the class. This is a quick and easy way to avoid lost homework.

Supplying your teenager with these simple tools will help them to stay organized and reduce school-related stress and anxiety.

By Valorie Dassel, LCSW – January 7, 2020

Parenting in this era can be overwhelming. There are many opinions and parenting styles that can be argued. 

However, when we are facing drug and alcohol use among our teenagers, there must be an “all hands on deck” approach. It is a community issue that requires parents and adult mentors to communicate clearly with our teens while understanding both sides of the coin.

There are clearly reasons why our teens engage in risky behaviors, and it is important to acknowledge this while at the same time educating them on the severity of the risks. Visit websites such as drugfree.org and youthfirstinc.org to educate yourself on how to talk to your teen about drug and alcohol use. 

The following are some tips to guide substance use conversations with your teen:

  1. Ask your teen open-ended questions about the dangers of vaping, drinking and drug use. Use this conversation to guide discussion around the consequences about the things they care about in the “here and now.” Points to bring up include how substance use may affect their relationships and reputation. These are things they do not feel invincible about. They may do something that is embarrassing and have to deal with the social consequences at school on Monday morning. They may do something that they regret and consequently hurt a relationship or friendship. It is also helpful to aid in connecting their athletics and academics to substance abuse. If they are tired and hungover on the weekends, they will not feel like studying or practicing. 
  2. Be open with them about substance abuse issues in their family. According to the Genetics Science Learning Center of Utah, scientists estimate that a person’s genetics account for 40-60% of their risk of developing an addiction. Sharing family history and stories aids in the development of decision-making based on risks specific to them.
  3. In addition to genetics, individuals who suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc. are at a higher risk to abuse substances. The website dualdiagnosis.com is a good resource to help teens connect their emotional struggles to how they may self medicate with substance use.
  4. Clearly share your expectations and the consequences they will receive at home if they are found to be drinking, vaping, smoking or using drugs. It is important to create a relationship that allows the teen to share their struggles or experiences while also being aware of the consequences if caught using. 

Get to know the parents of your teen’s friends. Share with them your values and that you do not approve of them drinking, smoking/vaping or using drugs. There are parents who mistakenly feel they are protecting teens by allowing them to drink or use substances under their supervision, as they feel it is a safer alternative.

Developmentally, teens are beginning to individuate from their parents, which gives them the sense that they can make their own decisions and act independently. Educate yourself and others that this concept inadvertently gives them permission to drink/vape/drug on their own.

Remember that we as parents can educate and guide, but our teens will be the ones who make the decisions. It is our responsibility to keep them as safe and as educated as possible.  Most importantly, be there when they fall and help them back up.