By Dawn Tedrow, MSW, LCSW, Youth First, Inc.

When I was younger, my parents knew who my friends were. They knew their parents, when I would be at their house, and what time I would be returning. If I decided to walk to a different friend’s house, I was required to either call my parents first or return home and get permission. Planning was an essential skill we were taught early in life. 

Now that cell phones have replaced our landlines, it is much easier to keep tabs on our children. We feel safer knowing they can contact us immediately. Parents feel safer knowing their child has a cell phone and can even track their location on most phones.  However, do you really know whom your kids are communicating with on their cell phone? Your child has access to much more than you realize, and strangers have access to your child through their phones.

If your child has a cell phone, it is important to monitor it on a regular basis. Who is your child talking to on the phone? They will always say it is a “friend,” because they truly feel like this person is someone they can trust. Unfortunately, kids are quick to trust people they don’t really know and pass along personal information that could put them in danger. If you don’t know this person or their parents, then your child should not be talking to them.

What apps have they downloaded? Many social media apps are popular among teenagers. Younger children hear about apps and want to explore them, but this opens the door to many dangerous situations. If your child wants to be on social media, talk with them about an appropriate age they will be allowed to create accounts.

Games can seem harmless as well, but hackers can use them to get information from your child’s phone or attempt to talk to with them. Educate yourself about social media apps and check your child’s phone regularly to ensure they have not downloaded anything that could put them at risk. 

Cyberbullying is also a risk. Children need to learn appropriate social skills and healthy relationships with their friends. These interactions can be easily monitored in person but become difficult when they occur on cell phones. It is too easy for a child to send a message or text that hasn’t been well thought out. These messages quickly spread to other children and escalate. Encourage your child to socialize with their friends face to face and save phone interactions for important calls or emergency situations.

It’s also important to model appropriate cell phone use. Our children will imitate what they see adults doing. If you want to see your child engaging with people face to face, then allow them to see you doing this as well.

By Ashley Underwood, MSW, LCSW, Youth First, Inc.

How does one describe a traumatic event? Traumatic is defined as “emotionally disturbing or distressing,” which can vary from person to person, so that question has many answers.

“Adverse Childhood Experience” is a term that refers to various forms of trauma individuals may experience in childhood. This includes experiencing violence, abuse or neglect, witnessing violence in the home or community, having a family member attempt or die by suicide, growing up in a household with substance use problems or mental health problems, or instability due to parental separation or incarcerated family members.

According to the CDC, about 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported they had experienced at least one type of ACE before age 18, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs.

There is a direct link between ACEs and physical health. Unfortunately, for each adverse child experience, there is an increased risk of chronic health issues. Center for Youth Wellness shares that those individuals experiencing 4 or more ACEs are associated with significantly increased risk for 7 out of 10 leading adult causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, COPD, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and suicide.

There is also significant detriment that can occur to a child’s brain when experiencing that amount of stress. Experiencing ACEs can impact attention span, memory, stress response, immune system, emotion regulation, decision making skills, and overall learning. We see many of these issues in the school setting on a daily basis, and sadly, it is related to the amount of trauma our children have experienced.

What can we do to help? Prevention is key. The CDC recommends the following six strategies for helping to prevent ACEs:

  • Strengthen economic support for families. This includes churches, community organizations, and non-profits helping with financial distress as well as employers providing adequate pay, time off, and benefits for employees.
  • Promote social norms that protect against violence and adversity. Work to create safe spaces for children and adults to talk about mental health challenges and reinforce the motto, “See something, say something” for children in regards to acts of violence, bullying, abuse, etc.
  • Ensure a strong start for children. This can include funding early education programs for families with affordable options, as well as increasing in-home learning options for parents.
  • Teach skills. Allow programs in schools that promote and teach emotional regulation, conflict resolution, social skills, and boundaries.
  • Connect youth to caring adults and activities. “Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.” -Josh Shipp

Get kids involved in mentoring programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters, encourage teachers to put them in leadership roles at school, have them join after school activities like choir, intramurals, or scouting.

  • Intervene to lessen immediate and long-term harms. Educate the public on ACEs, the risk factors, and the support available including treatment options, resource assistance, and organizations that promote these things.

Let’s do our part! For more information about the ACEs, check out

By Niki Walls, MSW, LSW, Youth First, Inc.

Resiliency is something many of our children utilize unknowingly every day. So, what exactly is resiliency? Resiliency is building immunity to stressors and adversity; or in other words, the many ways we can adapt and learn from stressful experiences. Resiliency is more of an adaptive skill that is trainable and less of a fixed personality trait.

Developing resiliency can help students stand up to bullies, lose a competitive event with grace, say no to negative influences, and even cope with traumatic experiences like abuse or neglect. The adverse childhood experiences that some children face do not discriminate by age, gender, or location, although certain populations are more vulnerable. Although we all face stressors of various kinds, the way we are taught to cope with those stressors determines our ability to overcome adversity.

Resiliency can be tricky to measure because not all stressful events are the same. The way children respond to stressors can influence the severity of the stressor itself. Some situations may seem mild to some and very serious to others. Sometimes stressors are short lived while others last quite a long time.

The way children learn from stressful experiences is a key part of building resiliency. They must be able to grow and adapt from the stressful events they face instead of accepting defeat. Focusing on the growth perspective and positive circumstances will help them improve their ability to bounce back from stressful situations. Working on developing appropriate coping skills and mindfulness strategies is also important when considering resiliency development.

In the past few years, our children have faced multiple stressful events. They have lived through a pandemic and the challenges it brought with it, such as virtual learning, heightened anxiety, financial hardships, loss, and more. Children have proved their resiliency in ways adults had not prepared them for. While it has been challenging, children have been able to grow and strengthen their resiliency despite negative circumstances.

The world can only hope children are able to look back on some of the difficult events that unfolded in the last few years and recognize the ways they became stronger. As adult role models, we can model resiliency for our children by managing our responses to these types of stressful events. The more we respond capably to adversity in front of children, the more we increase their resiliency and the likelihood they grow to become healthy, well-adjusted young adults.

By Sarah Audu, MSW, LSW, Youth First, Inc.

It seems all new parents are warned about the much-dreaded “terrible twos.” I have reflected upon my own journey as a new mom and have given this phrase much thought and consideration.

Throughout pregnancy, new parents dream of what their child will be like, and their love for this child is already indescribable. When the child is born, our love for them only grows a million times more. At the same time, parents are trying to figure out how to care for a tiny human, which is a process full of self-doubt and deep emotions.

Society understands that having a newborn is hard, and support is commonly shown to new parents. Is that same support always given to parents when their baby grows into a toddler?

Imagine a time when you’ve seen a toddler throw a tantrum at the grocery store. Situations like those can often be viewed as annoying, obnoxious, or simply the result of bad parenting. Now that I am the mother of a two-year-old, I have more respect for parents raising toddlers, because this phase is not for the weak! (LOL)

Behavioral tantrums can include kicking, hitting, crying, screaming, throwing themselves on the ground, rolling around, and more. Tantrums may be triggered by something that upset the child, such as being told “no,” or can occur for seemingly no reason at all.

These negative behavioral outbursts are extremely defeating for parents. Parents are typically putting their best effort towards teaching their children to behave positively, make good choices, communicate effectively, and calm down when they are upset.

In my own experience, I try my best to teach my child positive social-emotional skills and practice these things with him daily. However, that did not stop him from screaming, kicking, and refusing to walk with me when we were trying to leave a restaurant.

One arm was carrying a heavy infant seat with my 8-month-old, and my other arm was carrying my toddler, who was still screaming and refusing to walk. I received many annoyed stares from bystanders, and the looks on their faces just communicated, “Why can’t you get him to stop?” I was trying everything. I felt so defeated.

I am forever grateful for the woman who stopped me right before I reached the door and said, “Would you care if I helped you?”

What needs to be remembered is that toddlers are still trying to figure out this big world. They are trying to learn to communicate and express themselves. They are trying to find their independence.

As I reflect on my experiences, the word that comes to mind is “grace.” As adults and parents, we should put more effort into showing grace to toddlers as they navigate the world. We should show more grace to other parents, as they are trying their best. Lastly, we should be intentional about showing grace to ourselves, as we have earned it as well.