Tag Archive for: Jenna Kruse

By Jenna Kruse, LSW – June 29, 2022 –

It’s no secret that there has been a great shift in the types of activities that children prefer. According to the Child Mind Institute, the average American child spends 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outside, while spending over 7 hours a day in front of a screen. These numbers are concerning and are directly correlated to the increase of mental health concerns in young students.

There are many benefits of outdoor, unstructured play for children. Unstructured time outside is said to reduce stress and is important to foster skills such as creativity, responsibility, and confidence. Outdoor play also improves physical health and overall mood. Here are several other benefits to sending your children outside for playtime.

  1. Playing outside promotes creativity. When children participate in unstructured play outside, they are challenged to create their own activities, use their surrounding resources, and interact socially with those around them.
  2. Children learn how to care for the living things in their environment. Responsibility is taught in this environment because children quickly learn that, in nature, living things do not survive if they are not tended to.
  3. Making choices helps children build confidence. Children have the power to make decisions about what activities they want to play and where.
  4. Playing outside reduces stress. Children who play outside can take a break from stressors such as homework, social media, technology, etc.
  5. Another benefit of outdoor play is a dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for bone and muscle health and is absorbed from sun exposure. It is important for children to spend time in the sun, as this vitamin is not as easily absorbed in large quantities through food.
  6. Children thrive in open spaces. Outdoor play promotes better physical health due to the large space for children to move, play, and explore. When children play inside, they are often more restricted. Several sources suggest children need at least one hour of physical exercise a day. To create the right environment for outdoor learning, it is important to eliminate harmful tools or hazards such as chemicals. It is important to listen to your child’s feedback and interests, plan outdoor time into your busy daily schedule, and reduce barriers for outdoor play time.

You can participate in several different outdoor activities with your child. Finding a local park with a playground, taking a walk, throwing a Frisbee, swimming at the local pool, or taking a hike are all great family activities.

It is important to note that students are more willing to play and spend time outside if they have positive role models showing them the way.

Outdoor play has many great benefits. How can you begin to reduce screen time and increase unstructured outdoor play for your child?

Youth First, Inc. is celebrating a $5,000 donation from 7 Sisters to strengthen the social and emotional well-being of students at Holy Rosary Catholic School.

The generous gift from 7 Sisters was presented to Youth First to support Walking for Dreams 2020, a family walk that helps local non-profit organizations raise much-needed funds. Youth First set a goal of raising $15,000 with Walking for Dreams to ensure Holy Rosary had access to a full-time Youth First Social Worker. The school has had a part-time Youth First Social Worker since 2005, and Holy Rosary principal Joan Fredrich was eager to expand to full-time service. The campaign was successful, thanks in large part to the 7 Sisters donation, along with support from the school, numerous Holy Rosary families and Youth First supporters.

Youth First’s school-based social work services and community programs are more critical than ever. Youth First Social Workers are embedded in school buildings to adapt and maintain vital connections with students and families. As the pandemic has continued, Youth First’s mental health professionals are utilizing confidential phone lines and virtual platforms to provide ongoing support whether or not school buildings are open.

The members of 7 Sisters value the professional mental health services provided by Youth First. One of the sisters, Casey Blake, says: “We are happy to be a part of this and excited to have a full-time Youth First Social Worker at Holy Rosary to support families and kids that are dealing with any mental health issues and stressors in their lives.”

7 Sisters is an Evansville-area nonprofit organization that brings awareness to the community through education and informative opportunities to eliminate the stigma of addiction and advocate for recovery options.

Members of the community are invited to participate with Youth First in Walking for Dreams 2021, which will take place on Sunday, May 23rd at the Tropicana Evansville Events Plaza along the riverfront. With a campaign goal of $30,000 this year, Youth First has already secured $2,000 in donations. Donations for Walking for Dreams can be made on Youth First’s website with the designation “Walking for Dreams.”

To learn more about Youth First services and programs or to make a donation to Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org. To learn more about 7 Sisters, visit the organization’s Facebook page. To learn more about Walking for Dreams, visit walkingfordreams.org.

By Jenna Kruse, LSW – September 23, 2020 –

Being a parent of a teenager is difficult enough without adding the stress of navigating a pandemic. After being stuck at home for several months, most teens are ready to stay in school, see their friends, and return to any sense of normalcy.

As guidelines continue to change, here are ways you can safely support your teen during these trying times.

It’s safe to say that teen and adult worries are very different. “I’d look stupid in a mask” and “I need to see my friends” might not be thoughts that cross your mind as an adult, but understand these concerns are vital pieces of a teen’s social development.

It is important to remind yourself that your teen is living in a socially distant society as they are attempting to establish their own identity and independence. Have a clear list of your expectations instead of reciting government-issued mandates that they may not understand and are likely to ignore.

Empathize and validate your teen’s worry and anger. Teenagers are likely to feel the weight heavily; it feels unfair that the pandemic has happened, that it is still happening, and that life cannot yet return to normal.

By validating your teenager’s feelings, you grant them the opportunity to be open and expressive with their feelings. Try phrases such as, “You are right, this is unfair” or “I feel that too, but it’s important that we do what we can to keep others safe.” Validating a teenager’s feelings will make them more accepting of whatever you say next.

Your teen may feel frustrated that they have new restrictions placed on them when they have not been directly affected by this virus. Help teens make the connection by outlining the increased danger for older family and friends. This helps students understand that your fears aren’t far-fetched, and that what we do now makes a big difference down the road. You may also use the mask mandate and current restrictions as a way to teach compassion and the importance of keeping ourselves safe so we can keep others safe.

If your student is going out with friends, incentivize them to comply with safety measures. Let them know if they are willing to take safety precautions seriously, they will have more freedom to spend time with friends.

Make safety fun by practicing what talking to a friend from 6 feet apart looks like. Allow them to pick out a cool mask in which they can express themselves, and sit down with your teen to create a list of outdoor places where they could safely spend time with friends. Remind your student that your family rules may be different than their friends’ rules, but they are still the rules they must follow.

During these trying times, it is important to remind your teen (and yourself) that even though we are in the middle of a difficult time, this pandemic, like other difficult times, will pass. Work as a team and keep communication open, factual, and honest with your student. Remember, what we do now will determine what will happen next.

By Jenna Kruse, MSW – July 9, 2019

Technology has become a large part of our society; we depend on it to learn, inform, and connect with others daily. However, it can have negative effects as well.         

Most of us probably know a young child who watches YouTube regularly. How often do we stop to watch and closely monitor what is on the screen?

A growing trend with children on YouTube is the fascination of watching other children play with toys. There is a countless supply of these videos, such as, “Surprise Eggs” and “Finger Family” which each have hundreds of thousands of views.

YouTube also added an auto play feature which allows similar videos to stream one after the other, continuously. Kids are then exposed far beyond their initial search and are soon plagued by this technology.

Parents across the country can attest to the fighting and tantrums thrown when the tablets, phones, or iPads are taken away from the children because they are so entranced by the videos.

Social media is another black hole, typically for older children. Teens can be subjected to cyber bullying, stranger danger, identity theft, phishing, and sexual exploitation.

Apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Whisper, Twitter, and YouTube can all be dangerous for teens if used incorrectly. Many teens have several accounts, some of which include “ghost accounts” which are used to hide from their parents.

Children are being sexualized by photos of celebrities and are taught that appearance is what matters most. Pressure is put on both girls and boys to look a certain way and “likes” and “follows” become addictive for young teen brains. Children can feel they need to post sexy photos and say extreme things just for more attention.

Now that we know some of the problems with technology, let’s try to avoid them. We need to help and support our children by closely monitoring what they are doing online.

This can include having clear rules for children regarding social media, checking the web browser regularly, activating privacy settings and parental controls on devices, and installing anti-virus hardware on your computer.

Talking openly to your children is the best way to ensure that they know the harms of the internet and social media. These may be uncomfortable topics, but they are very important for their safety. It is much better to have these conversations before a situation occurs rather than after.

There are many safety apps which help parents monitor and control their children’s online usage. These apps include but are not limited to, Netnanny, Mammabear, SafeKidsPro, Social Shield, WebWatcher, MyMobileWatchDog, Teensafe, and Phonesheriff. Each app is unique in what it helps control, so find the one that will work best for your family.