Tag Archive for: Nolan Miller

By Nolan Miller, MSW, LCSW – July 17, 2024 –

Picture this. You are in school and kids are choosing teams for a basketball game. Five students are very good at the sport and five may need to work on their skills a bit more. No matter how the teams are chosen, one team will have an advantage over the other. As a result, what should we do? Quit or play the game?

For some, this question is not so easy to answer. As a school social worker, I often see children who love to play games, sports, or anything that is competitive in nature, but they do not like to lose.

It’s safe to say none of us, even adults, really want to lose. It can make us feel like we are not good enough and therefore shouldn’t even try. However, this is far from the truth. We learn more from losing than from winning.

A better question is: How do we help our children understand that it isn’t always about winning and it’s okay to lose sometimes?

For example, when playing a board game (and I know as an adult I can win this game nine times out of ten), do I let the child win sometimes or beat them every time? Perhaps try to find a balance between victories and losses. It’s all about the discussion after the game and how the child reacts. When they win, are they enjoying the win or are they gloating that they are more skilled? This may give insight on how they feel when they are losing. When they lose, are they brushing off the loss or running away from the game saying they never want to play again? 

I grew up playing sports and games with my family. I didn’t enjoy losing. However, understanding that I was more than just a competitor in a game was a lesson I could use in different aspects of my life. Bad days happen, and we have the opportunity to learn and grow from them. Some factors are not in our control, and we can either run from our struggles or learn to control our reactions.

No one expects a child to take every loss in stride, but you can begin laying the foundation to accept losses with grace and courage. Whether they are competing on the field, the court, the stage, or just playing on the playground with friends, keeping the lines of positive communication open can lead to a more positive experience with others. 

By Nolan Miller, MSW, LSW, Youth First, Inc.

Throughout the school year, kids are constantly learning new material and building upon their strengths. Even after the first day jitters dissipate and students settle into a routine, new academic and social stressors can emerge that cause anxiety for students. As a parent you want the best for your child, and the teacher wants the best for their student.

Teachers can’t always perceive when a student is having a rough day or is struggling with something socially. Parents are more likely to notice if their child is coming home upset or just seems off. The only way to help fix the situation is with communication. This could be as simple as talking to your child at home to see what is going on and reaching out to their teacher to express your concerns.

Communication between the school and parents is vital to a child’s success. If a student is struggling with a subject, a teacher can relay that information to their parent to start a plan towards improvement. If a student is stressed and upset about something going on at home, letting their teacher know they are having a rough day can allow the teacher to be on the lookout. Building that trust with the teacher, as well as the school, can allow your child to find success.

Good communication starts from day one on Meet the Teacher Night. It is important to understand how to contact your child’s teacher and to be aware of the expectations your child will have in the classroom. Make sure the school always has up-to-date contact information for you. This is vital, not only to keep you as a parent in the loop, but to keep your child safe if emergencies occur.

Another way to keep communication flowing is to volunteer when you can. Many schools allow parents to come in and tutor or help a teacher with extra work that needs to be completed. This will allow you to be a part of your child’s life while they are going to school and help you understand what goes on from day to day.

One of the last ways that you can get involved at your child’s school would be to join the PTO. Parent Teacher Organizations can serve as extensions of the staff and help strengthen the bond between parents, teachers, administration, and your community as a whole. 

Understanding what your child does on a day-to-day basis avoids any miscommunication between schools and parents. Working as a team is best and will help our students find success.

Nolan Miller, LSW – Youth First Social Worker at Elberfeld Elementary School and Lynnville Elementary School in Vanderburgh County

Q: What called you to become a social worker?

A: I have a passion to be the voice for people who are not being heard. I understand that me being a white, Christian, man makes it where I do not face discrimination. I have seen through this profession, as well as through friends and family, that we are not all treated equally. Joining this field and becoming a social worker meant that I could be the person who helps advocate for people who face such harsh realities.

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

A: The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to help someone be themselves and find their voice. We all have those walls that we put up in certain aspects of our lives. I find it rewarding when I can see those walls come down and the person feels safe enough to tell me how they truly feel about what is going on around them.

Q: What does mental health mean to you?

A: To me, mental health means that you feel comfortable in your own skin. Meaning that when you are struggling or facing hardship, it takes us out of the life we want to live. Anxiety, depression, grief, etc. are things many of us deal with on different levels. When we are facing those difficulties and not feeling like ourselves, reaching out for help can be so beneficial. I think being mentally healthy is understanding that we do not have to face challenges alone and can find the strength to reach out for help. Most of the people that meet with a therapist are just taking that first step, which shows how resilient they really are.

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

A: Always come at any situation with an open mind. The way I would react to something is not the way a younger or even older person would react. That is perfectly fine, we are all going through life with different lenses. My way is not always the right way and being able to understand that someone sees a situation differently can bring more people together.

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

A: My number one rule for many situations in life is to take a break from it. You’re never going to solve a problem if you are stressing out and stewing on the situation. Taking a mindfulness walk or doing a breathing exercise then coming back to the problem can help with solving it. Many difficulties that my students face are caused by racing thoughts or feeling the weight of passing a test or quiz on top of what they might be dealing with outside of school. Understanding that this is not forever and that they are more resilient than they give themselves credit for can be very effective.

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

A: I think the biggest impact is the uncertainty. They have not had a normal year in a while and with many of us facing hardship from grief to financial burdens our youth see the struggle. They struggle with how to deal with the anxiety of the new world we are living in. It also can be very confusing to them when things go back and forth so much. They don’t know if they should feel safe or unsafe regarding the pandemic. I think that is why as social workers, teachers, and parents, it’s important to show them we can be resilient through the struggle. It  gives them the reassurance that they can get through what they are going through.

By Nolan Miller, LSW – February 9, 2022 –

Many parents have been there. Your student athlete attended every practice and worked hard to improve their skills. Then when game time rolled around, they struggled to find success on the court or field. As a parent, this can be difficult to watch.

For students, defeat can cause strong emotions. Feelings of sadness or embarrassment can occur if they did not play well. Sometimes students feel angry and place blame on their teammates or the officials. From my experience in coaching, here are four ways to help your child cope with the challenge of managing emotions in sports.

  1. Focus on what they did well. Many times children and even adolescents struggle to understand that victory isn’t everything. In basketball, for example, helping their teammates do well, playing good defense, and being a positive team player is just as important as scoring points. Everyone on the team has their role, and if scoring is not their role it can be difficult for many students to enjoy the sport. Helping students focus on how they positively impacted the game can motivate them to keep doing their part to be a good teammate.
  1. Zap negative thought patterns. When it comes to sports, or even schoolwork, we might hear a student talk about how well they did when they succeeded. The same can also be said when they do poorly. When a student doesn’t do well on a test or doesn’t make a play correctly, they might say something like, “I’m not good at this,” or “Why am I so bad?” These thought patterns are going to set them up to fail the next time they try. Our children need our help to know that just because they fail once does not mean they will fail all the time.
  1. Support them even when they lose. When we’re headed home after a bad day, the last thing we want to hear is how we could have done something better. After a tough game or practice, children will look to their caregivers for love, not for their coaching advice. There is a time and place for that. Supporting them should always come first.
  1. Teach them that life is a marathon, not a sprint. We have all heard it before. We learn more when we lose than when we win. This is true in more than just sports. When we struggle we should look at it as a way to grow and not as a failure.

Not every child is going to become the next LeBron James or Tom Brady, but they can be the best version of themselves. Growth will come with a positive mindset. Teaching children to take it a day at a time can help them see gradual improvement in their skills and performance. Day one might not look much different than day five, but day one can look much different than day thirty. 

By Nolan Miller, LSW- December 2, 2020-

Just like a lot of things these days, the upcoming holidays will be different this year. Extended family get-togethers are not safe, and our traditions might not look the same as they did in previous years. 

Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. As we get closer to the holiday season, we need to prepare for the deviations ahead and develop strategies to cope with departures from tradition.

One of the ways we can do this is to accept that there are things out of our control. When it comes to losing control, it is easy for us to start feeling stress. Accepting that this year will be different does not mean that our traditions are lost; perhaps they are just on hold.

The next way we can handle not meeting expectations this year is to practice more self-care. This is something most of us should do more often, but during the holidays self-care becomes even more essential. Giving yourself a break and doing something you enjoy or haven’t had the time to do before can be helpful. Set a time each day to walk away from your cell phone or other stressors and spend time with the loved ones around you. 

Here are some ideas for self-care during this holiday season:

  1. Read a holiday book. Whether it is a book you already have at home or a book that you have been wanting to read, use this time to slow down and escape in the pages.
  2. Take a walk or drive around the neighborhood. We can still socially distance from our neighbors while enjoying the Christmas lights around us.
  3. Watch Christmas movies with the family. Self-care does not necessarily mean “alone time.” Sometimes self-care means spending special quality time with people we love. 
  4. Do something fun or creative. Making cookies or building a gingerbread house can be something you add to your yearly holiday traditions.
  5. Reach out to other family members. Just because we can’t visit our families in person does not mean we can’t meet with them virtually. Video chat may not be the normal we are looking for, but taking time to check in on each other can help everyone feel more connected.

Another way to handle disappointment is to lower our own expectations. Positive or negative, our expectations can have a big impact on our mental health. Holidays are especially hard when our expectations are based on fond memories from years without pandemic restrictions. However, if we are able to drop our expectations and live in the moment, we may find ourselves enjoying the holidays more than we have in previous years.

The most important thing to remember this year is that we are not alone. We are all in the same boat.

We might find that the holidays during a pandemic are not like they were before, but neither are we. This year has made us more resilient and has shown us strengths we did not know we had before.