Posts

By Jordan Beach, LSW – May 12, 2020 –

It’s not pleasant to think about, but unfortunately many children are abused or neglected every day, sometimes by their parents or guardians.

In most states teachers are mandated reporters of child abuse or neglect. In some states, including Indiana, every single person is considered a mandated reporter. That means any person who has reason to believe a child is a victim of abuse or neglect must report it to the proper authorities.

With school buildings closed, Youth First wants to remind all adults that if you see something, it’s important to say something. We can all help care for kids.

With school letting out suddenly in March, many things needed to happen quickly to ensure the success of our students. People came together to make sure students had materials necessary to complete work and meal service was coordinated for students who needed it.

One thing that has gotten far less attention, however, is the safety of students now that they don’t have a safe haven in their schools. This brings up a huge concern regarding increased incidents of abuse and neglect going undetected and therefore not being reported to the appropriate authorities.

During the school day students come in contact with teachers, nurses, counselors, social workers and other key school personnel who have been trained to identify warning signs of abuse and neglect. When students are out of school these warning signs can go unseen or be overlooked. Now it is time to call on the community to help us ensure the safety and well-being of our children.

Per the Department of Child Services (DCS) website, in the months of March and April 2019, there were 42,067 child abuse or neglect reports made to DCS in Indiana. Fast forward to 2020, and during those same months only 30,860 reports were made. That is a difference of 11,207 reports. In a perfect world we could imagine there are just far less reports to be made, but the reality is that without the supervision of school personnel, a lot of these incidents are going unnoticed.

As a reminder, Indiana is a mandated reporting state. This means that any adult who knows of or suspects child abuse or neglect is mandated by the state to report this information to DCS. I understand that the thought of making a report can be unnerving. However, these children are waiting on a caring adult to step in and make the call to help them.

Typically, reports are called in by people who support students daily at school; with school buildings closed right now, these same students are waiting for their community to support them. If you suspect abuse or neglect, it is your responsibility to make the call. It is DCS’s responsibility to decide if the child is in fact in danger.

To make a child abuse or neglect report you will need to call the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556. You will be connected with a person from the statewide call center. You will give them the information you have and answer a series of questions. You may not know all of the answers to these questions, and that is fine. At the end of the call they will let you know if they are going to screen this call out or pass the information on to the county office in which the child resides.

In an ideal world, DCS calls wouldn’t be necessary. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. Kids are vulnerable. We are asking everyone to work together to ensure the safety of our children. If you see something, please say something. Report it to the proper authorities.

Click here to watch Jordan’s video on this topic.

By Jordan Beach, LSW – May 5, 2020 –

As I am writing this I am following our state’s stay-at-home orders by practicing social distancing and working from home. For a lot of us this means working with children and spouses also in the home.

It’s not necessarily the most ideal work environment, but we make the best of what we have, and personally I feel blessed to have the opportunity to continue working. Even though I’m checking in with my gratitude, it can still take a toll on my mental health. It definitely creates new stress when trying to work and meet deadlines while also trying to meet the needs of our children.

With the goal of completing our own work and ensuring our children have enriching experiences at the same time, we’re going to look for activities you can set up for them at home. Obviously it is impossible to have activities that will keep all age groups busy, so if you have a home with differing abilities like my own, you might need to have a couple of different activities going for this to work.

Sensory play is a great way to keep your littles busy for extended periods of time. This can be something prepared before it is needed (like the night before) and used for multiple days. It doesn’t need to be more difficult than necessary. Use items or ingredients you have around your house that are safe for babies and toddlers. We like to use cooked noodles (you can dye them if you’d like). Other easy ideas that are baby safe are dried cereals, Kool-Aid playdough or do-it-yourself moon sand (2 cups of flour and ¼ cup oil). You could separate the dry cereal and moon sand for older children and hide small toys in them.

When sensory play gets old, and it will, I suggest scavenger hunts for older children. This does not need to be something extravagant. I write alphabet letters on paint samples and hide them around the house. If age-appropriate, your children can work together to find all of the letters. This activity keeps them busy because they not only need to find the letters; they have to keep track of what letters they’ve found and still need.

I also like swapping out toys. This one takes a little more forethought. Keep some toys put back so your children don’t have access to them all of the time. When you bring out the toys they haven’t had access to for a while they will think it is awesome. These “new toys” will keep them more occupied than the ones they have regular access to.

Even with distraction plans, working from home with your kids underfoot is not simple. Hopefully some of these small tips will help keep them busy just long enough for you to check some more things off your to-do list.

By Jordan Beach, LSW – August 20, 2019

The beginning of the school year is full of excitement that helps our students start out with a fire in their souls. Unfortunately, that new excitement seems to wear off quickly, which leaves parents scrambling and struggling to look for ways to keep their children engaged.

Sometimes getting a child to complete homework after school feels like a battle we have to fight every day. What can we do to help keep some of that fire we had at the beginning of the year?

A good place to start when discussing long-lasting motivation is to help your child set goals. This is also a great learning opportunity to discuss short term goals vs. long term goals. If they have a goal of making the honor roll all year that’s great but help them break that large goal down into smaller goals. They will stay more motivated with small victories working towards their larger goal.

Rewarding your children for completing undesirable tasks is a great and easy way to help motivate them to complete their work at home. The most important thing to focus on is how you word things and the tone of voice you use.

If you tell your children, “We can go to the park after you finish your homework” it sounds a lot more enticing than “We’re not going anywhere until you finish your homework.” Your children are much more likely to respond positively to a reward with a positive tone rather than a punishment with a negative tone.

Sometimes there is pushback on the idea of rewarding your children for things they are required to do. In these situations, I like to use the analogy of an adult going to work. When an adult goes to work they complete all the tasks that are expected of them in order to receive a paycheck.

School, and sometimes even extracurriculars are considered a child’s job. They put hard work, a lot of time, and effort into these things and in order to stay motivated they need to see some form of compensation for their efforts. 

It’s also important to understand what motivates an individual child. The same type of reward will not work for all children.

Some children are super competitive so creating some form of competition will be enough to motivate them. Some kids need to feel appreciated and hear words of encouragement so positive reinforcement may be enough. Other kids are going to need physical rewards in the form of treats, small toys, activities like time at the playground, or picking a movie to watch before bed.

Every child is different which means there isn’t one solution to the question of motivation. Find what works for each child and use a mixture of methods, if necessary.

The most important thing to remember is to stay positive. Try not to punish kids for not completing tasks, rather find ways to encourage them by rewarding the desired behavior. As the school year goes on and gets busier it gets easier to let schedules slide but staying consistent will help keep your family on track to a successful year.

By Jordan Beach, LSW – May 28, 2019

Summer vacation is here! If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to start planning summer activities for your children.

We perceive summer to be a laid back, more relaxed time, but parents know this is actually a time that requires a lot of forethought. With more hours of the day becoming your responsibility, the pressure to find fun, enriching activities is definitely on.

Have you resolved to limit your child’s screen time this summer? If so, great!  But now how will you fill their time? You don’t have to be a Pinterest-perfect parent to create a memorable summer for your children.

Summer camps are the obvious first option, but they can be pricey. There are summer camps and programs offered all over the area that range in price and provide children with ample opportunity to have new experiences.

Camps are also helpful for working parents. However, keep in mind that this option comes with a price tag that might not be reasonable for your family.

There are a lot of ways to have fun and create memories for your children at home without spending a lot of money. If you’re looking to have more of a “Do-it-Yourself” summer with your children, there are a lot of options to spark their creativity and nurture their imaginations in your own backyard.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Build a fort. A fort can be left up for days. All you need is chairs, blankets and a little imagination. This can be used as a reading nook or expanded into imaginative play for younger children.
  • Create a breakout session in your house. There are many ideas online that can help you design an escape room for your kids. This is a good way to mix in some academics with the fun. Topics range from math to conflict resolution. Your options are really limitless.
  • Put all of those Amazon boxes to good use. Cardboard boxes are gold in the world of imaginative play. You can create a living room “drive-in” where your kids sit in the cars they’ve designed while watching a movie or reading a book. You can make instruments using cardboard and rubber bands. Also, free drawing on boxes with markers or paint always seems to be a good time for little ones.
  • Help your kids expand their culinary skills. Let them pick out recipes and help you shop for the ingredients. This is a great activity to help your child become creative in the kitchen while also teaching them planning and budgeting.
  • Go for the classics – water balloon fights, running through the sprinkler, washing the car. It gets hot in Indiana during the summer months, so cool off in fun ways!

This is in no way an exhaustive list of summer activities. A little creativity and planning can really help you and your children stay busy while bonding this summer.

By Jordan Beach, LSW, Oct 31, 2018 –

Before having children I seriously undervalued the saying, “It takes a village.”  I had serious doubts that someone else could possibly know what was best for my child.

Once that baby came home, however, it became increasingly clear at an alarmingly fast rate that raising this child was going to take a team effort.  As a mom I want to believe that I can singlehandedly handle all of the stressors that are thrown my way. But truthfully it does take a village, and finding your village early is important.

American society sometimes gives fathers a bad reputation, like they are incompetent or don’t know what is best for their babies, but that is simply not true.  Most dads are capable and willing to play an essential role in caring for their children.

Actually, when both parents are involved in the child’s life and sharing the load it is best for everyone involved.

As an infant this helps the child form a healthy attachment to both parents. As the child gets older it allows them to see the strength of their team and understand the importance of their support system.

It’s especially important for parents to communicate early about what beliefs and morals they want to instill in their child. It is also important to decide on a discipline style when your child is still very young.

As your child gets older and starts to challenge the rules parents have laid out, the parents will find more success in changing negative behavior if they share a discipline approach. It’s especially important not to undermine the discipline techniques or strategies of the other parent in front of the child. This gives the impression the child does not need to take discipline from one parent as seriously as the other.

If we’re being honest, it takes more than just the parents to raise a child. It is important to have outside support. Sometimes this will look like extended family or friends.

The role that these people will play in your child’s life is also important. This extended support network can offer you relief as a parent, and they may also have the opportunity to teach your child things that you may not be able to.

As your child grows, so does their village. Often times we underestimate the impact of daycare workers and teachers as part of our village, but these are people who are helping shape the daily lives of our children. Outside of educating our children, they’re also teaching them empathy, teamwork and showing them copious amounts of love while you’re away.

Truthfully, you can never have enough positive role models for your children. It’s good to be picky about the people you surround your child with, but know that allowing more people into their lives allows them to feel more love. It gives them more opportunities to grow and allows you to take a step back and be grateful for the support and love in your own life.

By Jordan Beach, MSW, July 31, 2018 –

Thinking back to childhood, it’s fun to remember those friendships that helped shape us into the person we are today.

Sometimes, if we’re really lucky, we are able to maintain those relationships through our teen years and even through adulthood.  We seem to have less time for friends as adults, and our ability to develop and maintain new friendships seems to become more difficult over time.

You’ve grown up.  You have a career, a spouse, children, and your life is full. Sometimes, even with all of these wonderful aspects of your life, it can feel like something is missing.

It is possible that you miss the platonic bond you once had with friends. You need someone outside the walls of your own home to talk to, share hobbies with, and help you feel complete.

We know that having friends is important, but who has time to maintain friendships? If you’re like me, you have a laundry list of things you need to accomplish every day, and making new friends is not on the top of that list.

Is it even necessary to have adult friendships?  The answer is yes.  Having adult friendships actually benefits your health.

Having friends helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Having people who are there for you during both good times and bad also helps you to cope with life situations and gives you a sense of belonging.

According to the Mayo Clinic, those who have strong friendships later in life have longer, more fulfilling lives than those of their peers.

Making friends as a student is easy. School is a common place where you meet every day, allowing those relationships to flourish.

How exactly does one make friends as an adult? First, let me say this gets easier as your children get older. Once your children are in activities, you again find yourself surrounded by adults who have similar interests, and you will be spending lots of hours together at places like the practice field, band competition or dance studio.

But it is important that these friendships are deeper than the carpool line. Once you find other adults you enjoy, you’re going to have to work to maintain that relationship.

This might seem counter-intuitive. You’re thinking, “But these friendships are supposed to be helpful and enjoyable, not extra work.” The truth is – it’s both.

It’s extra work to schedule time to spend with people who are outside of your immediate family. The payoff for that, though, is fulfilling relationships that help you grow, provide you with a support system, and live happier and longer.

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 Jordan Beach, MSW – Courier & Press – April 24, 2018 –

As a school social worker, I work with kids every day. I like to think that I’m pretty up-to-date on all the newest apps that students at my school use.

I want to be in tune with the ever-changing social media aspects that fill our children’s lives, but if I’m being honest with myself, I know that’s not true.  By the time I figure out what I believe to be the “newest” app, my students are telling me they aren’t using that one anymore and they have moved on to something new.

So what can you do to ensure your child is being responsible online, especially if you find it difficult to even keep up with the apps they are using?

For starters, do your research. Know what apps are popular. Most parents know the basics: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Musically…but what are we missing?

  • Yik Yak: Yik Yak is an anonymous social media site that takes zero personal information to create. Every post from every user is anonymous. This is especially concerning in the hands of younger students who often struggle with using social media in a positive way.
  • Ask f.m.: This app is set up in a question/answer format.  This again is troubling for younger users who tend to use social media for validation. Questions and answers can be posted either using a name or anonymously.
  • Kik: Kik is essentially another way for kids to text each other. It thrives on giving a more “face to face” feeling by using images, and pictures are part of its allure. However, this app is easily accessible and often times used as a way to meet strangers. This app certainly puts your child at risk to predators.
  • Voxer: Voxer turns your phone into a walkie-talkie style device. Youth enjoy the app for this diversity in communication styles but it also poses a concern to parents.  Messages on this app can be saved and replayed.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  Again, this app is concerning when used inappropriately to put people down.
  • Other Programs to be aware of: Programs or instructions to “jailbreak” a phone are easy to find. This means the phone is free of limitations imposed on it by its manufacturer and carrier. Once your child’s phone has been “jailbroken” they can add apps that don’t come directly from an app store.  Most commonly apps being utilized in this way are used to hide other apps from the main screen.  Do some research about these jailbreak apps so you can see what the icon looks like.  This will help you identify if one of these apps is being used on your child’s device.

So what steps can you take to keep your child safe online without being the type of parent that is watching every move they make? As our kids get older we want to give them some additional freedom to learn and make mistakes, but we also need to know they’re safe.

Here are some tips to ensure your child is safe online:

  1. Talk about it. Know what apps they’re using and ask them to be transparent.
  2. Have active accounts and befriend them on major social media accounts.
  3. Have their passwords. Don’t abuse this, but letting them know you have the ability to log in and see what they’re doing at any time can be helpful.

By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, March 27, 2018 –

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are turning into a thing of the past.

I would love to tell you it’s because less people are using them and all forms of cigarette use are becoming obsolete, but that is not the case. The growing popularity of e-cigarettes has just taken on a new form called “JUULing,” which is a type of vape made by JUUL Labs.

According to the manufacturer’s website, its mission is to “eliminate cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes.”

The company says the product is not intended for minors. However, young people are using it, and medical experts are concerned about the health risks.

JUULing is essentially the same concept as vaping using an e-cigarette, but the device itself is much smaller and more discreet. The size and style can make it especially appealing to kids or others who might want to hide use of this product.

Like an e-cigarette, this device needs to be charged, but the difference is it can be easily plugged into a laptop or charged in a car using a USB port. Small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, the JUUL may easily be passed off as a flash drive and brought into homes and schools without the knowledge of adults.

Vaping flavors like fruit medley and crème brulee may also attract a younger market, though the manufacturer states that its products are not designed for anyone under the age of 21.

Outside of convenience stores, these products can also be purchased online through the manufacturer. There are steps to verify the buyer’s age and help prevent minors from making a purchase, but according to news reports, underage users are still finding ways to buy it online.

Using a JUUL has to be better than smoking traditional cigarettes, right? They are made without tar and some other well-known cancer-causing chemicals used to make cigarettes, but they are not harmless.

The manufacturer says one cartridge used for a JUUL contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of standard cigarettes. The American Academy of Pediatrics says nicotine is both highly addictive and toxic. Nicotine has been linked to nerve damage in developing teens. A newly published New York University School of Medicine study suggests nicotine delivered via e-cigarettes puts users at a higher risk for cancer and heart disease.

JUUL products are also expensive. A “starter pack” purchased online will cost just under $50. Each time you need more cartridges it will cost about $25 for a pack of four. This is not a cheap habit (or addiction).

Parents, it is important to educate yourself on the appearance of a JUUL so you know if your child has one with them.  Also, it is important to have conversations with your children about the dangers of these substances. When something doesn’t look dangerous or is advertised as a safe alternative, it is easy for teens to overlook the dangers that lie beneath the surface.

By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, April 25, 2017 –

Having a new baby is a very exciting time. There is so much to be happy about.

Since there is usually a lot to be done before baby arrives, preparing for the newest member of the family can be very consuming.

When you have your first child it is possible to allow the new family member to take up all of your time and energy.  But when there are already children in the home, it’s important to get older siblings ready for the arrival of their new baby brother or sister.

Unfortunately, children are not usually as excited about a new baby as the rest of the family.  They understand at an early age they are going to have to share things they’ve never shared before.

One of the biggest changes they are going to face is sharing the attention of their parents.  There are plenty of things that you, as parents, can do to help make the arrival of the new baby exciting for everyone and help older children mentally and emotionally prepare for the changes occurring in their family.

During the pregnancy, it is important to discuss the new baby with older siblings.  Talk about when the new baby will arrive.  Depending on their age, you could tell them the month the baby is due or talk about the season the baby is going to be born. Help your child understand the amount of time it will take before baby comes.

Other activities that will encourage your child’s relationship with their future brother or sister include reading books about siblings, visiting friends who have infants, including them in prenatal appointments and encouraging them to help you think of baby names.  Many hospitals also provide sibling birth classes to help the older child prepare for the new arrival.

Most of the changes in your family will occur after the baby arrives.  It is great to talk to your child about the arrival of the new baby, but there is no way to really prepare them for the amount of time a new baby takes.

If possible, maintain a normal routine with your older child.  If your son or daughter attends a childcare center or school, continue sending them as normal.  This will help maintain their routine and also make your transition back to work easier when the time comes.

After baby arrives, set aside some special time each day for the older sibling to spend with mom and dad.  This might be bath time or reading a book right before bedtime.  It doesn’t really matter how you spend the time; it is just really important to give them at least 10 minutes of your undivided attention every day.

This would be a great time to talk to children about how they like being an older sibling to get a better understanding of how they are adjusting.  It is also important for them to receive this individualized time with both parents.

Another way to help your older child adjust is to allow them to help with the new baby.  They can help by getting diapers or other things you need for the baby, playing with the baby (appropriately), singing songs and telling stories.

There is no doubt your family is about to change with a new baby on the way, but by taking some of these simple steps you can make the transition as seamless as possible for your older children.