Tag Archive for: Jessie Laughlin

Jessie Laughlin, LSW – Youth First Social Worker at Edgewood Junior High School in Monroe County

Q: What called you to become a social worker?

A: I started college as an education major. During early field experience, I crossed paths with a school social worker. In learning more about their role, I knew that could be a great fit for me as I’ve always been an advocate for both mental health and education. Being a social worker allows me to work in so many different capacities; counselor, advocate, educator, community resource.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: It is an honor when a student lets you into their world. It’s really special to see a moment when a student overcomes an obstacle, finding and using their natural strengths and putting into play the skills they’ve been working hard on. I love that I get to be part of nurturing a student’s mental health so they can best learn and grow. 

Q: What does mental health mean to you?

A: Every being has mental health, and it’s complex and changes day to day. The stigma around mental health is really unfortunate, and I hope that one day everyone will treat mental health like physical health; just another part of our holistic self-care. 

Q: How has social work influenced the way you view younger generations?

A: I have seen the power and change that comes with youth having at least one positive adult in their life, who cares for them and is looking out for them. That one person can make such a difference in their outcomes. 

Younger generations are eager to learn about the world, movements, injustice, and change. I’m really hopeful their awareness, engagement, and discussion surrounding mental health is moving our outlook and treatment of mental health in the right direction. Youth mental health seems to follow trends and is ever changing, depending on what is going on in the world and our culture. 

Q: Which mental health tools/strategies do you think are the most impactful or effective for students?

A: I am a big fan of mindfulness strategies. It’s helpful and effective for most people in many different situations; self-care, attention/focus concerns, stress and anxiety, self-esteem, anger, etc. 

By Jessie Laughlin, LSW – February 23, 2022 –

Body image and self-awareness begin at a young age, even before kindergarten. As children transition into teenagers, they become more aware of themselves and who they are becoming, which includes their body that is drastically changing due to normal development.

Body image can be influenced by family and peer relationships, cultural norms, societal pressures, and media. Youth with a positive body image are more successful, happier, and more comfortable with themselves. Those with negative body image are at risk for developing low self-esteem and mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, substance use, and eating disorders.

As caregivers, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help young people shape a healthy self-image. Here are some ways to do just that.

  1. Be a safe space. Create an environment that feels comfortable and allows freedom to express concerns and feelings. Listen, be honest, use empathy, and refrain from judgement.
  1. Lift them up. Compliment your child’s achievements, hard work, and resiliency. Praise their unique qualities and positive personality traits. Focus on attributes not related to their size, shape or weight, such as their eyes, their smile, or their hair.
  1. Limit media exposure. Comparison is an easy trap to fall into and can cause feelings of insufficiency and envy. Seeking “likes” becomes a reward system that can turn into an obsession and a measurement of someone’s value. Limit screen time, monitor social media, and talk about the unrealistic features of filters, photoshop, and aesthetic curation. Encourage them to follow people and causes that make them feel good about themselves. Keep in mind that even media that encourages health and athleticism can have negative messages.
  1. Focus on health. Health has different shapes and sizes. Prioritize a healthy sleep schedule, nutrition, and hydration. Explore and offer a variety of foods and cook together, encourage a balanced diet, and talk about nutrition in terms of how food fuels our body, not with labels of “good” and “bad” foods. Encourage healthy movement that makes them feel good and improves strength, rather than achieving a figure.
  1. Embrace diversity. Have conversations about diversity in bodies. Educate your child about normal changes that occur throughout life, especially during puberty. Have routine conversations about prejudice and stereotypes towards bodies and beauty norms. Never shame or compare other body types, including your own.
  1. Be a role model. Young people watch and mirror adults, including behaviors and choices surrounding health. Model and support a healthy lifestyle and be positive towards yourself and others so those around you adopt a similar focus. Check in on your own self-image. Avoid using nicknames and insults that are shameful. Use caution with diet culture and workout obsessions that are often masked as a “lifestyle.” This verbiage can be very harmful and influence a youth’s future relationship with food and movement. 

If you feel your child is struggling with an unhealthy body image, consult with your family doctor, nutritionist, and mental health provider for professional guidance and a plan best suited for their personal needs. 

By Jessie Laughlin, LSW -January 6, 2021-

“New normal” is a phrase we’ve heard a lot of lately. Staying in for dinner, wearing masks, keeping six feet of distance, and using lots of hand sanitizer are all commonplace in our lives. While these new elements in our routines can be inconvenient, all have become part of our “new normal.”

Virtual learning is also a “new normal,” with 65 percent of households involved in online learning of some capacity, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, many students and families are struggling to adapt as easily to e-learning as they are adapting to wearing a mask every day. Academic, social, and mental health challenges can arise from virtual school, but committing to these recommendations may help while learning from home.

1. Create a Workspace. Set up a space that is calm, quiet, and feels similar to a school setting. A desk and chair are great, but if not available, try the kitchen table. If your student’s bed is the quietest place at home, make it a desk, but be watchful for napping.

2. Establish a Routine. Decide when learning hours will be and stick to it. Get up at the same time every day, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, and set up learning spaces. Check email and learning platforms daily. Predictability encourages motivation, allows fewer distractions, and eases stress.

3. Set Goals. Set measurable, realistic goals regarding schoolwork. Incentivize those goals, since a reward for work may increase motivation. Rewards may include privileges, allowance, special treats, and should always include verbal encouragement.

4. Be Flexible. Learning at home is not the same as learning at school. Tricky factors come to play in virtual learning, like guardian work hours and computer availability. Make a school work plan that fits both your family’s needs and the school’s requirements. Be careful not to compare previous functioning to COVID-era functioning.

5. Get Organized. Incorporate tools like a planner and folders for each class. Keep supplies (pencils, earbuds, paper, books, computer) nearby and within reach. Keep login information written down just in case your student forgets.

6. Practice Time Management. Teach your student to start paying attention to how long assignments take to complete. Help them plan ahead, including when they’re going to complete assignments. If you’re unsure how long an assignment will take, double the estimated time. A timer is a great tool to help students learn to keep track of time.

7. Manage Distractions. Avoid learning around distractions like video games, phones, and TV. Family can also be distracting. Find a quiet place in your home so they can give schoolwork full attention.

8. Take “Brain Breaks.” Brain breaks allow our brain to process and relax from continuous learning. A child’s attention span is about two minutes per year of age. Allow “brain breaks” when their attention span decreases. A National Academy of Medicine study found that physical activity changes the structure of our brain and encourages learning and memory. Movement throughout the day may improve academic achievement, along with physical and emotional health.

9. Stay in Touch. Students are missing out on day-to-day interaction with teachers and peers. To foster those relationships, students should check in with their teachers by email and attend all virtual class sessions. Before small problems escalate, encourage your student to email their teacher about struggles. Help your student remain social with peers by setting up Zoom friend meets.

These tips and tricks aren’t difficult to implement and will work wonders if you are struggling to make e-learning work for your family. Learning should be functional and fun, no matter the setting. Even the smallest adjustments in our daily routines can ultimately make a big difference.