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By Katherine Baker, LCSW – Dec. 31, 2019

As the year closes and a new one begins, many people focus on improving their health and well-being. Being human in a world filled with drama and losses can be exhausting. 

All too often human sleep patterns are out of sync, causing many of us to be exhausted, grumpy, and on edge.  Not only are children and teenagers affected by the lack of sleep; it has become a human condition affecting everyone. 

Most people can thrive, however, by following these basic tips to help in their day-to-day functioning:

1.  Remember to focus on a sleep routine. Have a set bedtime for yourself and try to stick with it as much as possible. Your brain and body will thank you.

2.  Remember to set limits on social media. Take a social media break from all of your devices one or two times a month. Try it for two hours and work your way up to longer periods of time.  Again, your brain and body will thank you. Besides lack of sleep, the use of social media and the stress and anxiety it is causing impacts our society in numerous negative ways. Think about how your life is affected by your use of social media.

3.  Remember, you are responsible for your day.  You are responsible for how you feel and what you do; nobody else is.  You are in charge of your life!

4.  Remember, everybody doesn’t have to love you or even like you.  If someone does not approve of you, it will still be okay.

5.  Remember, it is important to try.  Even when faced with difficult tasks, it is better to try than to avoid them. You may not be able to do everything, but you can do something. Find your talents.

6.  Remember that you can be flexible. There is more than one way to do something.  Everybody has ideas that are worthwhile. Some may make more sense to you than others, but everyone’s ideas are important. Listen and consider the options.

7.  Remember, other people are capable.  You can’t solve other people’s problems as if they were your own. They are capable and can solve their own problems. You can show care and concern and be of some help, but you can’t – and shouldn’t – do everything for them. 

Start the new year by getting enough sleep, taking charge of your day, demonstrating flexibility and giving your best. Only take on what you are capable of handling. You will soon see a difference in your outlook and stress levels!

By Katherine S. Baker, LCSW, January 29, 2019 –

It appears to me that good manners seem to be lacking these days.  Many of us were taught from childhood how to be polite.  We learn to say please and thank you, how to be respectful to our elders, how to be nice to other children and animals.

However, as our society has become more mobile, fast paced, and “I want it now!” the use of manners seems to have decreased.  With the rise in divorce rates, a prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse, and increasing world violence; many families are struggling to survive and thrive.  Manners are tossed aside.

Take notice, adults having temper tantrums in the fast food drive through, young and old not saying please and thank you but demanding and expecting others to treat them as a King or Queen.

Being rude and insensitive seems to be pretty common these days.  Without good manners people get offended and hurt.  Communication breaks down.

As human beings; we make mistakes, get in a hurry, and sometimes forget how to be nice in the daily rat race.  It can be easy to slip up and accidentally cut off another driver or rush through the door without noticing someone else waiting to go through.

Being able to say you are sorry and mean it can heal many a wrong.  The importance of good manners seems obvious to me but not to others who want to bully, demand, and want entitlement for things not earned.

It is important to acknowledge and appreciate good manners from others.  Give positive feedback when you see someone doing the right thing.

Be a role model for good behavior.  Remember young and old are watching how you respond and manage situations.  Manners create expectations for how people will act.

Would you give yourself a thumbs up or thumbs down to these statements?

  1. I try to be polite and considerate all the time.
  2. I say please and thank you.
  3. I use the Golden Rule (treat others like you would like to be treated).
  4. I keep my word.
  5. I turn off my cell phone in meetings, banks, doctor’s office, etc.

Tips for adults interested in improving children’s social behavior include the following:

  • Stress to children the importance of treating others the same way they like to be treated.
  • Help children understand the harm caused by thoughtless, unkind words and actions.
  • Role-play difficult situations for children in order to demonstrate appropriate responses.
  • Establish a politeness policy for basic manners.
  • Teach children the importance of thinking of others, like writing thank you notes.

Manners have changed a lot through the years and are still changing.  They are more relaxed than they were 100 years ago.   Our society needs manners to function in a healthy and productive manner.

The lack of manners and self-respect does not seem to be working.  Use your good manners- teach your children and let’s strive for a healthier community, city, state, and world.

By Katherine Baker, LCSW, Courier & Press, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 –

Unfortunately, all too often we hear stories in the media about children and teens being neglected.  Neglect can take many forms, including lack of housing, food  and medical care, failure to teach basic personal care, and withholding love and affection.  In neglect situations, the child’s basic needs are not being met by the parent.

For many families there seems to be a “disconnect” between meeting a child’s needs and strengthening the bonds of love, affection, care and support.  Parents can neglect their children for multiple reasons – loss of a job causing financial strain, loss of public utilities, depression, parent inattention due to involvement with a love interest, addiction to cell phones, or abuse of alcohol and other substances.

 As a school social worker, I see the effects of neglect every day.  In this writer’s opinion, emotional neglect may do the most damage.

Neglect can leave a permanent scar on a child’s self-esteem and well-being.  Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own worth or abilities and tends to fluctuate depending on what is going on in your life.

Children that are left alone, unsupervised, and don’t have regular one-on-one time with a parent frequently have unmet emotional needs.  They are not taught the importance of values, morals, and respect for self and others.

Spending quality time with your children should be a priority.  However, many children and teens do not get this much-needed attention from parents.  They are alone, unsupervised, and left to their own defenses.

On the other hand, children that have actively involved parents tend to have better self-esteem, make better decisions, are better able to respond to the stress of day-to-day living, and are able to verbalize their needs in a healthy manner.  The time you spend with your children in elementary school, middle school and high school will promote healthy and responsible relationships.

A big part of parenting is being the parent and not your child’s friend.  In addition to spending quality time with children, parents should make rules and enforce them, give advice, show love, care, and respect, role model positive and encouraging behaviors and discipline when needed.  If a parent is absent these skills are lost, as the child must meet his own needs and function as a mini-adult rather than a child.

Some children who are emotionally neglected become angry and sullen. Others become depressed, develop unhealthy dating relationships, demonstrate poor academic performance, and may show little respect for others or themselves. Showing your child you love them even when their behavior is troubling can go a long way toward building a healthy relationship.

If you are a parent, guardian, or caregiver, make time in your busy schedule – or better yet – eliminate some of the commitments you have and start nurturing and loving your children.  Put down the cell phone and talk to your kids.  Teach your children how to communicate face-to-face versus the push of a button.  Give your children the love and attention we all need and make sure their basic needs are met.  Their future – and their ability to relate to others in our world – depends on it.

By Katherine Baker, Courier & Press, March 7, 2017 –

For the past three years, Youth First has been providing Dialectical Behavioral Training (DBT) to its social workers.  The concepts of mindfulness and meditation, which are part of DBT were new to me.

We are busy people with lots of responsibilities.  Most of us rarely take time for ourselves or our relationships.

The concepts of mindfulness and meditation can be intimidating.  After practicing DBT skills, however, I clearly see the benefits and how it can help you feel more peaceful and in control.

Mindfulness involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them.  Unfortunately, our society is prone to making judgments.

Our brains move from topic to topic.  We ignore and push feelings away.  We find it difficult to focus and concentrate.  Learning how to be mindful and “in the moment” can reduce the stress in your life, improve relationships, and help sharpen your concentration and focus.

One way to begin a mindfulness practice is to find a quiet place, sit in a chair or on the floor, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath for two minutes.  It sounds easy, but you may find your mind wandering.  If this happens, simply return your thoughts back to your breath.

Practice this daily and gradually work up to 10 minutes.  Relax and let your body and mind work together.

According to the website Greater Good (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition), mindfulness is defined as maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment.

Some of the potential benefits of mindfulness listed in this article include the following:

  • Mindfulness is good for our bodies.  Practicing mindfulness and meditation boosts our  immune system’s ability to fight off illness.
  • Mindfulness is  good for our minds.  Several studies have found that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress.
  • Mindfulness helps us focus.  Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us  tune out distractions and improves our  memory  and  attention  skills.
  • Mindfulness  enhances relationships.  It helps people feel more accepting of and closer to one another.
  • Mindfulness is good for  parents  and  parents-to-be.  Studies suggest it may  reduce pregnancy-related anxiety, stress  and depression  in expectant parents.
  • Mindfulness helps schools.  There’s scientific evidence that teaching mindfulness in the classroom reduces behavior problems and aggression among students and improves their happiness levels and  ability to pay attention.
  • Mindfulness helps  health care professionals  cope with stress,  connect with their patients  and  improve their general quality of life.  It also helps  mental health professionals  by reducing negative emotions and anxiety and increasing their positive emotions and feelings of  self-compassion.
  • Mindfulness helps  veterans.  Studies suggest it can reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of war.
  • Mindfulness  fights obesity.  Practicing “mindful eating” encourages healthier eating habits, helps people lose weight  and helps them savor the food they eat.

Instead of worrying about what may happen, try mindfulness and meditation and be fully present.  You will be amazed at how quickly your stress levels decrease.