Tag Archive for: Leah Lottes

By Leah Lottes, MSW, LSW, Youth First, Inc.

Many thoughts fill our brains each day. Some of those thoughts can be positive and some can be negative. This applies to children as well as adults. If children are experiencing more negative thoughts than positive thoughts, it can really affect their self-worth and overall well-being.

Expressing gratitude, identifying the negative thoughts, and reframing the negative thoughts into positive thoughts are just a few ways to help manage that negative self-talk.

Expressing gratitude is a great way to retrain our brains to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. When meeting with students who are struggling with negative self-talk, I often recommend that they start a gratitude journal and encourage them to write down things they are thankful for every day. This practice can help you to get into the habit of focusing on the good in your life.

Helping students identify their negative thoughts is another step toward helping them eliminate those thoughts. Some don’t recognize how frequently they are thinking and expressing these thoughts. If you hear students being self-critical, you can gently point it out to them and help them navigate why they may be feeling that way. Encourage them to be kind to themselves and to give themselves some grace.

Teach your kids to reframe their negative thoughts into positive thoughts. One activity I often like to do with students is a handout where we discuss different types of negative thoughts. We then identify the negative thoughts they are currently experiencing and reframe those into positive thoughts.

We usually start with a generic negative thought that many kids have said expressed before such as, “We have nothing to eat at home.” Then we take that thought and turn it into a positive thought and say, “We have plenty of food. It just might not be something I like.” Then we start discussing deeper negative thoughts such as, “I am dumb.” We can turn that into a positive thought by saying, “I might sometimes make mistakes, but I am not dumb.”

Another example of a negative thought a student might express is, “I’m not good enough. I always get bad grades.” Then we change the negative into a positive by saying, “That’s not true. Tests do not measure my self-worth.” When students practice turning their negative thoughts into positive thoughts they begin to form the habit, a skill they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

It is normal for kids to be hard on themselves from time to time. Hearing students talk negatively about themselves can be difficult, but there are tools and strategies to help turn those negative thoughts around. If your child is persistently experiencing negative self-talk and you feel as though it is causing a shift in their mood or behavior, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. Being kind to others is always important, but being kind to ourselves is just as important.

By Leah Lottes, LSW

There is no denying it. Students face a lot of change and stress as they navigate their high school years. Seniors, in particular, face an overwhelming amount of stress and decisions about the future. As soon as you become a senior, the questions begin and people start asking, “What are your plans after high school?” “Do you plan on going to college?” “What are you going to study in college?”

These questions are great conversation starters and a way to get to know someone better, but they can also be very overwhelming for a high school senior. It’s hard to know what you want to do with your life when you’re just 18 years old.

There are many ways to help support kids throughout their senior year. Helping students identify positive coping skills can be beneficial when they are experiencing stress. We spend a lot of time preparing students for their academic futures, but we also want to prepare them emotionally and socially. Building on emotional regulation and distress tolerance strengthens skills they can carry into adulthood.

Another way to help seniors navigate the last year of high school is to encourage the pursuit of interests and talents. Parents and educators can invite professionals in different fields of study to discuss the possibility of job shadowing or interning, and they can help students establish realistic career goals.

One of the biggest ways to show support for seniors is to encourage them every step of the way. When I meet with high school students who are unsure about what to do after graduation, I always reassure them it is okay be undecided about the future. I encounter some students who are not interested in going to college. I often remind these students that all jobs are important and necessary.

Personally, I started college as an undecided major, and I think it was the best choice for me. It eventually led me to discover the field of social work. I would always panic a little when one of my friends announced their plans for after graduation while I was still unsure about what college to attend or which major to choose. I think it’s good to remind seniors that it’s okay to take extra time when making important decisions.

A lot of pressure is put on seniors to figure out their career paths, and I believe the best way to guide them is to support their career choices and encourage them to do what they think feels right (while being realistic). Overall, helping students navigate their senior year is not always an easy task, but having support systems in place and encouragement from family and friends is a step in the right direction.

Leah Lottes, LSW – Youth First Social Worker at Barr-Reeve Community Schools in Daviess County 

Q: What called you to become a social worker? 

A: Youth First was actually my reason for becoming a social worker! I was studying psychology in undergrad, and I had no idea what to do with a psych degree. I interned with Youth First my senior year, and I loved everything about the internship. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a social worker and work in a school. So I went on to get my Master’s in Social Work and somehow I lucked out and ended up working at Youth First at such an incredible school! 

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

A: The most rewarding part of my job is being able to meet with so many students. I love building connections with students and being able to see them overcome the challenges they face. 

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

A: I think just ensuring students have a support system in place where they have at least one trusted adult for them to talk to makes a world of difference. It’s the greatest tool to help students feel heard, and they then have the opportunity to talk about how they’re feeling and know they are not alone in the struggles they are going through.  

Q: In what ways has the Covid-19 pandemic affected youth mental health? 

A: The pandemic has created increased anxiety with students of all ages. The loss of loved ones, fear of the unknown, and social distancing from family and friends definitely has taken a toll on students, but the pandemic has also shown how resilient kids are.

By Leah Lottes, LSW – December 9, 2020-

When you think about the holidays, it’s likely that you picture your whole family gathering together to celebrate. You look forward to it every year, but in 2020, many families are choosing to stay apart in an attempt to keep everyone safe and healthy. This year is different.

Many of us are upset by the challenges and changes brought on by COVID-19. This is something we’ve never experienced, so it makes sense that so many of us are struggling to adapt. If adults feel as though they don’t know how to cope, we surely can’t expect our children to build coping strategies by themselves.

So how do we adjust? First, it’s important to accept the reality of this pandemic, as recommended by therapist Kim Eisenburg, LCSW, in an article released by Sharp Health News. Allow yourself and your children to be upset, disappointed, and angry at everything that has been taken away from your family. Everyone is experiencing some type of loss, whether it’s big or small.

Sometimes it’s the little things we miss the most, such as going to school, going out to eat, going to church, and gathering with friends – all without fear of the virus. We must allow ourselves to mourn what we’ve lost before we can focus on creating new traditions.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to help your kids adjust to changes made this year, here are some ways to reframe the situation and still add a little bit of Christmas magic to your family’s holiday season.

Zoom with your extended family. If your family is tech-savvy, you can have a big family Zoom meeting. No, it’s not the same as meeting in person, but it’s a great way for everyone to feel like they are all in the same place. It’s also a great opportunity for families to share many laughs and memories together.


Check in on family and friends. Check in on those who have lost family members or friends this year. Call family members who are alone during the holidays. Send a “thinking of you” card. Bake some cookies for friends and deliver them to their front porch. Including your children in these little kind gestures will not only help those who are feeling down this holiday season, but it will also bring your children joy.


Volunteer. Whether it is donating your time, money, or resources, volunteering can be a way to help you feel good and remind you of the real reason behind giving during the holidays.

Create new traditions or modify old traditions. This could include having a family game night, starting a new TV series, or having a baking day. These are all activities that allow you to do something fun in the comfort of your home.


Make future plans. No, we don’t know what the future looks like, but we can still try to make plans for future events, gatherings, milestones, and vacations. Having something to look forward to allows us stay motivated and helps us feel hopeful.

This holiday season looks different than past holidays, but it is up to us to help those around us make the most of it. Remember, kids are resilient. We can choose to have a positive attitude and appreciate the little moments together as a family. Modeling this behavior can help build resiliency in kids and can give meaning to a wonderful holiday season, even during a pandemic.

By Leah Lottes , LSW – Jan. 21, 2020

For many, the recent holidays reminded us to be thankful no matter what our circumstances are, focusing on being thankful for what we have rather than what we don’t have. The holidays are a great time to express gratitude. However, expressing gratitude every day is even better!

Gratitude is beneficial for your mental and physical health, so why not express gratitude every day?

As listed by Amy Morin on the website psychologytoday.com, here are some of the ways gratitude can benefit you:

Gratitude can improve your physical health. People who express gratitude tend to experience fewer aches and pains. These individuals are also more likely to take care of their health by attending regular doctor visits and maintaining a healthy diet with exercise.

Gratitude can help you sleep better. If you express gratitude at the end of the day by writing down a few things you are thankful for, you increase your chances of having a better night of sleep.

Gratitude can help boost your self-esteem. When you are thankful, you are more likely to appreciate your positive life experiences rather than focus on the negative ones. You are also less likely to compare yourself to others which can help you appreciate the accomplishments of others. Gratitude is also likely to increase your overall happiness.

Gratitude can help foster resiliency. Expressing gratitude is a great way to cope with stress and trauma at any time in your life. 

One of the best things about gratitude is that you can express it at any age. Because gratitude has been proven to have so many benefits, the younger you teach children about it, the better.

According to Dr. Kevin Solomons’ website borntobeworthless.com, there are many ways you can express gratitude throughout the day. The easiest way is by simply saying thank you to people when they help you out. Thanking someone for their help not only makes that person feel good but also makes you feel good, which encourages you to keep saying thank you.

When adults say thank you to others, this encourages kids and adolescents to do the same. Parents and teachers can model this behavior every day to students at home and in the classroom.  

Another way to express gratitude is to send thank you notes. This is a very good way to encourage kids and adolescents to say thank you. When you instill the habit in them when they are younger they are more likely to continue the habit throughout their lives.

It’s also important to teach kids that writing thank you notes isn’t just for gifts. A nice hand-written note can be sent to show appreciation when someone does something special for them.

An additional way to express daily gratitude is by keeping a journal. This can be something as simple as writing one thing you’re thankful for each day. Getting into a routine of adding to your journal allows you to train your brain to be thankful every day. Teachers can incorporate gratitude into their days by taking having students write down what they are thankful for or allow them to share their gratitude out loud. Parents can also do this activity together with their kids to show what they are thankful for and how it is important to their lives.

Expressing gratitude has many benefits. It may seem like a small task, but it’s the little things that can make such a big difference. Gratitude positively affects your mindset and your lifestyle, and that in itself is a reason to be thankful.