By Sophia Blaha, MSW, LCSW, and Hailee Wolfe – May 15, 2024

The perfect summer camp experience can provide children with an opportunity to explore new friendships, engage in new activities, and gain new insights. For children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), summer camp can also be a valuable source of self-assurance. Campers often feel more confident venturing out of their comfort zones when they are part of a supportive group of kids and adults. However, we can’t always count on everything to go according to plan during camp.

Unfortunately, each year there are stories from parents whose ADHD children were asked to leave camp for various reasons. Maybe parents were unaware that the camp was unprepared to support their child until it was too late. When a camp lacks an understanding of ADHD, there’s a chance campers may experience unfavorable outcomes. Oftentimes, these children are not required to participate in activities, and although they don’t usually cause trouble, they may wind up feeling isolated or sitting by themselves.

If you’re curious whether a summer camp will serve your kids’ needs and interests, it might be beneficial to favor programs that involve physical activity, which can benefit the body and mind. As someone who has experience working in a summer camp setting, I have seen some children with ADHD thrive in this setting but have also seen some who have struggled.

Below are some questions that might be important to ask before enrolling your child in a summer camp:

1.  What is the structure of the camp schedule for my child’s age group?
How much time do campers have to participate in free play or activities of their choosing? Some children with impulse control problems do not do well in unstructured camps, and “free time” is when they have the hardest time.

2. Are campers required to participate in activities or can they choose to sit out?
The ideal answer would be that they are strongly encouraged and supported to participate in all activities but are not forced. Additionally, parents should be notified if their child is sitting out of activities more often than not.

3. If my child needs some time to “decompress,” where would they do that?
Children with ADHD benefit when they develop self-soothing and calming strategies, which prove invaluable in moments of emotional dysregulation at school and home. Camps may have a special accommodation form where you can include some self-soothing strategies that may help your child. A camp should encourage its campers to develop these regulatory skills while ensuring they aren’t left out or forgotten.

4. What is the staff-to-camper ratio?
A summer camp’s staff-to-camper ratio is an important factor to take into account. If this is your child’s first time attending camp, you might want to ensure they will have adequate supervision and attention from staff members who have experience working with children with ADHD.

5. How much time is spent on screen-based activities?
If your child likes a lot of screen time, less is better here. This will enhance their interactions with other children at camp.

6. What can I do to help my child succeed at camp?
Camp staff should know your child’s strengths and how to support them if they are struggling. A good camp staff will appreciate parent transparency, proactive strategy ideas, and opportunities for collaboration. Things that are not helpful include holding off on your child’s ADHD diagnosis or scheduling a “medication vacation” to coincide with camp. Summer camp demands high levels of attention, emotional regulation, and impulse control from children. If your child is taking ADHD medication during the school year, it might be a good idea to have them continue taking it during camp. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about what they recommend.

How the camp director responds to these questions should provide you with information about whether the camp is a good fit for your child. Additional resources on this topic can also be found at the website ADDitude.com.

By Chelsea Rasch, MSW, LCSW – May 8, 2024 –

America’s youth are in the throes of a mental health crisis. Professionals continue to observe a rise in mental health-related struggles in school-aged children since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.

According to the Center for Disease and Control (CDC), 67 percent of US high school students reported that schoolwork was more difficult; 55 percent experienced emotional abuse in the home; 11 percent experienced physical abuse; and 24 percent reported they did not have enough food to eat during the pandemic.

All of these issues can have a detrimental effect on mental health. Another study conducted by Pew Research Center (2022) found that four in ten US parents have reported being “extremely” or “very” worried about children struggling with anxiety or depression.

To respond to these mental health implications in our school-aged youth, we are seeing a bigger push for mental health services both in and out of the school environment. Children are being referred at alarming frequency for outside therapeutic services and are being seen by psychiatrists/primary care physicians for medication management. Inside schools, we are seeing a bigger push for school behavior interventionists, as well as more counselors and school-based social workers and/or psychologists to combat these mental health-related struggles.

All of these interdisciplinary professionals, schools, and families are working together towards one common goal: to strengthen resiliency skills and supports within our schools and communities to foster successful student outcomes. Resiliency skills refer to our ability to face and adapt to challenges and overcome them.

Many parents have come forward with one common question: How can I help my child build these resiliency skills at home?

  1. Discuss resiliency and coping skills with your children. When we practice and build our skills in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship building and decision-making, we are better equipped to navigate stressors, anxieties, and challenges. We can solve problems and work together at a higher level—in the classroom, at work and at home. Talk with your child about strategies that help them deal with difficult emotions. Do they practice deep breathing, listening to music? Or do they become argumentative and dysregulated? Identifying your child’s coping and resiliency patterns can give you a foundation to build upon.

  2. Model the behavior you wish to see. Children learn by watching their parents. One way to foster resiliency skills in children is to model these healthy behaviors at home. Dealing with difficult feelings/situations in an appropriate way and including children in these conversations can help build these skills. It’s important to stay calm and realistic. Children sense when we are worried and anxious, and our emotions can directly affect the emotions of our children. Remember, no one is perfect; it is not realistic to expect yourself to respond the right way every time. Practice keeping yourself regulated so you can model emotional regulation for your child.

  3. Remember the importance of self-care. Children are often sensitive to the stress of their caregivers. To cultivate their resiliency skills, we must ensure we are taking care of our own mental, social, and emotional wellness. Building in time (even if it’s only 15 minutes per day) for our own wellness practices – journaling, walking, meditating, exercising – can not only help model appropriate self-care, but also mitigate our own stress levels. Much like putting on your own oxygen mask before putting on a child’s, take care of yourself so you’re able to show up for others. If this is difficult for you, start out with a small goal and build on it. For example, listen to your favorite music for a “mindfulness moment” or go on a short walk at the beginning or end of the day.
     
  4. Connect with school/community professionals. Research and connect with professionals in your community to discuss how to optimize your child’s resiliency skills and success. Reach out to community providers, agencies, or local non-profits for additional education and activities. Connecting your child with a local club (YMCA, Boy Scouts, etc.) can be a great way to build resiliency skills and connect them with other children. Reach out to your child’s Youth First Mental Health Professional or school counselor to discuss additional ways to support your child.

  5. Practice, practice, practice! Regularly practicing healthy coping skills in response to stress is imperative, just as it is for any other skill like reading, math, or dribbling a basketball. In the same way we practice those skills, we have to practice identifying, expressing, and managing our emotions. By continually doing so, we build a toolkit we can readily draw upon to navigate stressors or de-escalate conflicts.

By Heather Miller, LCSW – May 3, 2024 –

Food. Fuel. Utilities. Clothing. Medical bills. Vehicle maintenance. The cost of everything has increased substantially, leaving many Hoosiers wondering how to stay afloat.

The struggle to meet basic needs is overwhelming for many. According to the Department of Agriculture, almost 7 million families noted missing meals during 2022 due to need. Pew Research Center found that 52 percent of lower-income families reported not having the funds for food or rent/mortgage payments.  According to US News, nearly 40 percent of Americans struggle to provide necessities, with 23 percent experiencing food insecurity in the last year.

The impact goes beyond the need for additional funds. Struggling to meet basic needs is likely to increase familial stress. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy notes that financial distress can lead to academic, behavioral, and mental health concerns. Anxiety and depression may surface or increase when a person is experiencing financial distress.

There are resources to help. By utilizing such resources, families and children are more likely to be productive at work and school and experience decreased stress and greater happiness.

Being aware of options for help is important with so many persons in need; yet many individuals may not know how to find help. Researching individual resources can be time consuming. Indiana offers databases to help families looking for assistance.

One of these databases is located at the website https://www.in.gov/dwd/job-seekers/other-assistance-programs/.  Information about childcare assistance; the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program; and energy assistance are just a few of the links available from this database.

Other resources are available by dialing 2-1-1. Data shows that 2-1-1 provided over 18 million resources in 2022. Dialing 2-1-1 offers access to a navigator that will help connect individuals with resources. Resources may also be explored at https://in211.communityos.org/advanced-search.  After selecting the resource desired and entering a zip code, agencies and programs dedicated to that need appear. Most have information about how to access the resource as well as when it is available.

Many assistance programs depend on volunteers and donations to continue to provide for those in need. If meeting basic needs is not a concern for your family, consider helping others in need by organizing a clothing drive, raising funds, or donating time as a family.

According to Feeding America, adolescents who volunteer report better grades, better self-esteem, and even reduced substance use. Setting an example of volunteering as a family will help instill the importance of helping others in younger generations. This is beneficial to society as a whole.

Youth First Mental Health Professionals can also assist families with accessing resources. Please reach out to your school’s Youth First Mental Health Professional for more information.  If you are unsure if your school is served by Youth First or need contact information, please visit this website: https://youthfirstinc.org/findsocialworker/

By Leah Doughty, LMHCA – April 30, 2024

The term “grit,” coined by psychologist Angela Duckworth, is characterized by a combination of resilience, determination, and persistence, even in the face of setbacks and obstacles.

In the face of all of life’s challenges, helping your child develop grit is more important than ever. However, it is not necessarily comfortable for parents. It can be easier to “fix” than to teach.

Parents may find it uncomfortable to let their child experience failure and disappointment, so they resort to rescuing, an aspect of helicopter parenting. Helicopter parenting refers to a “hover” style of parenting that is highly protective. While helicopter parents typically have good intentions and may believe they are acting in their children’s best interests, research suggests that this style of parenting can have negative consequences. Children of helicopter parents are more likely to struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, and a lack of resilience; in other words, they lack grit.

The following are some ways to help your child develop grit:

  1. Instead of jumping in to rescue your child, let them experience setbacks and failures while showing them support and encouragement. Tell them you believe in them and ask them what they learned from the experience. Encourage your kids to try again, be persistent, and not give up.
  2. Help your child set goals, take risks, and celebrate small victories and milestones along the way to larger goals.
  3. Demonstrate your trust in them by giving them space to problem-solve and overcome obstacles on their own.
  4. Talk with them about your own experiences of overcoming challenges through hard work and determination.
  5. Encourage your child to stick with activities when they become challenging or frustrating.
  1. And finally, model resilience and grit in your own life.

We can’t protect our kids from all of life’s hardships. Parental qualities that foster grit can be challenging but come with great rewards for our kids in the long run.

By fostering a growth-oriented mindset, you can help your child develop grit, setting them up for success in school, relationships, and life.

By Paige Byrd, MSW, LSW – April 18, 2024

Self-care is a vital part of our everyday lives. It promotes healthy living, reduces stress, increases relaxation, and improves our overall well-being. Self-care can help your mental and physical health by boosting your mood and increasing your activity rate.

The fun part about self-care is that you can incorporate it at any time of the day. Just five minutes of self-care can boost your mood and increase your dopamine levels! According to the National Institute of Mental Health, self-care means creating time to do things to help improve your life and increase your well-being. Your mental health is important, so taking the extra step to improve it can have a huge impact on your daily living.

Self-care helps you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Some great self-care tips include incorporating at least 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine, eating healthy meals, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, setting goals and priorities, and staying positive!

There are numerous ways to add self-care activities to your day. Some ideas include meditation, reading, painting, dancing, listening to relaxing music, taking a bath, going on a walk, watching your favorite show, and getting enough sleep. The list is endless. Creating a routine to incorporate self-care can reduce the percentage rate of burnout.

According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, burnout is defined as “physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes towards oneself and others.” Burnout occurs when a person overworks or becomes overly stressed in their daily lives.

When you are constantly on the go with a million different tasks and activities, it is important to take some time for yourself, to do something for you that allows you to breathe. I like to take fifteen minutes in the morning, as soon as I wake up, to do a quick meditation. This helps me start my day off in a positive mindset. I also incorporate breathing activities in between client sessions to ground myself throughout the day.

Self-care is also a great tool to share with others. It allows more people to be aware of its benefits. Remember, self-care is for everyone! It leads to a happier and healthier way of living. 

Take a moment to pause and reflect on three activities you enjoy doing. Now find a time in your day, even five minutes, maybe an hour, where you can pause for a moment and put yourself first. Got that? Now do it! Start small. Building a routine or adding in something that is unusual may seem challenging at first, but once you start, it will get easier! The more you practice, the easier it gets, so start now! Do yourself a favor, start incorporating self-care into your daily lives. You will be glad you did!

By Hannah Smith-Quirey, MSW, LCSW – April 10, 2024 –

Boundaries. They are a necessary part of any relationship. Boundaries enhance our well-being in so many ways. So why do we have so many feelings around setting healthy and effective boundaries? And how do you go about setting the boundaries you need or want in your life?

There are so many benefits to putting boundaries in place. It clearly communicates to others what we need and want. Setting boundaries decreases our stress level and prevents us from experiencing burnout. Boundaries enhance our relationships, both personally and professionally. They are important for self-care and improve our emotional health.

There are many reasons people don’t set boundaries. Society sends a message that politeness is important and that somehow creating boundaries is rude. People don’t want to disappoint others or not have their acceptance. Many are scared to set boundaries and may feel like they don’t have the right or don’t deserve to protect themselves.

The idea of creating and identifying what boundaries you want to set may feel overwhelming at times. First, you must determine what your values are and what matters to you. You need to be able to identify what your limitations are. You must begin to understand that the word “no” is a complete sentence. Boundaries should be stated assertively and directly. You also think about and practice how you would respond to boundary violations.

What is the difference between setting healthy boundaries versus being controlling? Setting healthy boundaries involves our own behavior, choices, and actions, while being controlling seeks to change the behavior, choices, or actions of others.

It is important to realize that your voice, needs, and wants matter. Boundaries are unique and specific to each person. It is also important to remember that boundaries are flexible. We can adjust and change them as we go.

A big part of setting healthy boundaries involves making sure you are consistent when you respond to violations of your boundaries. Remember, other people do not have to like or agree with your boundaries. Eventually, you will start to feel less guilty or not feel guilty at all when setting a boundary. You will stop letting others take advantage of you and find that you are not feeling responsible for other people. Setting healthy boundaries also includes not feeling offended by the boundaries that others choose to set.

Boundaries are necessary for your well-being. You will have to know who you are and what you value in order to set effective boundaries. Even though you may have difficulty or struggle to set them, you should still work to make sure you put them in place. We all have different needs and wants, and that is okay. 

Make sure you are indeed setting boundaries and not trying to control others around you. Boundaries aren’t easy but will, in the end, benefit you and those around you.

Grant to Provide Expanded Mental Health Support and Substance Misuse Prevention for Morgan County Youth

The Kendrick Foundation continues to invest in the health and well-being of Morgan County youth and families. A grant award of $100,000 was recently presented to Youth First, Inc. to provide mental health support and substance misuse prevention.  

The Kendrick Foundation invests in conditions that support the physical and mental health of all Morgan County residents and is leading health initiatives to address mental health, substance misuse, physical activity and nutrition.

Keylee Wright, Executive Director of the Kendrick Foundation, states, “We are more committed than ever to providing additional mental health services, resources and supports to our communities, schools, families, and youth during this unprecedented time of need. Since 2018, the Kendrick Foundation has invested in Youth First programs, and we continue to see results. We are truly grateful for the work of Youth First and the support of our Morgan County schools to make these vital programs and services more accessible for our youth and families.”

The grant to Youth First will allow for continued mental health support for students in selected Martinsville and Mooresville schools. Youth First partners with 125 schools across 14 Indiana counties to embed prevention programs and over 90 skilled mental health professionals (primarily master’s level social workers) in school buildings, where they provide extra mental health support for students and prevention coaching for parents and teachers. Youth First Mental Health Professionals build caring relationships, foster readiness for positive change, and boost resiliency along with other valuable life skills.

Research shows these protective factors are the keys to effective prevention of negative outcomes for young people. The organization’s positive work and strategies are driving growth, with more schools seeking Youth First’s help to address the growing need for mental health supports for students.

By Cameron Williams, Youth First, Inc. – April 4, 2024

Indiana has a youth mental health crisis. To set the stage, let’s address a few facts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most current Youth Risk Behavior Survey data (1991-2021) has found that 46.9 percent of Indiana high school students have “felt sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row.” The same survey found that over 22 percent of Indiana’s high school students seriously considered suicide, with 17 percent of them making a plan and 10.2 percent of Indiana high school students actually attempting suicide.

As indicated by the data, our youth are having a mental health crisis that has worsened every year since the Covid-19 pandemic. An American Federation of Teachers survey conducted in 2020 found that 95 percent of educators agreed that “social and emotional support for students has never been more important than it is now.”

Unfortunately, in 2022 the Indiana Youth Institute reported that the state of Indiana has the worst counselor to student ratio in the United States, at 628 students per one counselor. The ratios for other mental health professionals are significantly worse, with only one psychologist for every 2,698 students and only one social worker for every 2,788 students.

I’m not presenting these statistics to create fear or make the situation seem hopeless. Rather, I hope to clarify just how serious the state of Indiana’s youth mental health crisis truly is, with the hope that it will inspire some change. Thankfully, there are actions that can improve the current situation.

Parents and community members can ask their local schools how many counselors, social workers, or psychologists are available for students to see. They can advocate for mental health training and/or specifically trauma-informed-care training for the teachers and school staff. Parents and community members can also present the statistics found in this article to their local school board, politicians, and governing bodies. If these statistics are presented with information about what services and mental health professionals are available at the school system in their community, a compelling case can be made to improve or increase the services available to the students and youth of that community.

Youth First, Inc. has done an outstanding job of providing services and improving the lives of students at Indiana schools, but there are still many areas in the state of Indiana that currently do not have access to social workers or other mental health professionals in schools. Sharing the relevant data and information that accurately portrays the state’s youth mental health crisis and advocating for change can make a difference for Indiana’s youth. If change is enacted now to save our youth, Indiana can foundationally alter its future course and build the road to a better, brighter future.

By Ellen Dippel, MSW, LSW – March 27, 2024

Body positivity is having its moment, and I think we should all be excited about that. Through the decades we’ve seen fashion change, and along with that so do beauty standards. It seems as though the bar is always moving and always out of reach.

In the world kids live in today, they are surrounded by images of what “beauty” is and constantly being told what they can do to achieve that standard. But as more people come forward and embrace their bodies with all of their beautiful imperfections, how can we capitalize on this to help grow body-positive children?

To start, we need to understand the harm caused by commenting on a person’s body, even our own body in front of our kids. Even when we think they are not listening, they are, and those little sponge-like brains internalize whatever message we’re putting out into the world. When we are constantly putting ourselves down in front of our kids, they hear that. In addition, making comments on a child’s weight has lasting effects such as decreased self-esteem, depression, body dysmorphia and disordered eating.

We should always encourage our children to live a healthy lifestyle. It is important to teach kids from a young age that weight does not equate to health. When kids see or hear their parents or other trusted adults talk about people with bigger bodies in a negative way and deem them “unhealthy,” they internalize it.

When teaching kids the power of body positivity, the most important thing to do is start by being a good role model. Be careful about the words you use to describe yourself and how you talk about your body. Be sure to speak of your own body using positive terms. Also, talk to your kids about how all bodies are different and their body isn’t expected to look just like anyone else’s. Make sure you set yourself up as someone they trust and can talk to when they are feeling self-conscious.

Trying to work on your own relationship with food and exercise can also be a great way to role model for children. So often we look at foods as “good” or “bad,” but really all of it is just fuel for our bodies. Some foods give us more fuel, while others might make us feel like they have drained the fuel. This is a great way to talk about food with kids. There is a time and place for all types of snacks and treats. Talk about fueling our bodies, what foods give us more energy, and what foods are going to make us feel stronger. It’s also important to stress that you never have to “earn” food through exercise. Be sure you’re showing your kids that exercise is there to make you feel good, get stronger, and have more energy, and not just to be thin or fit a specific body type.

Eating disorders for young people are on the rise every year, but with more people coming forward and actively loving their bodies at all different shapes and sizes, we are moving in a direction to allow kids to feel comfortable and confident. 

By Angel Wagner, MSW, LSW – March 20, 2024

Being a teenager can be rough. We think we have it hard as adults, juggling work, home, family finances, and more. Imagine having some of those responsibilities, plus you’re not quite sure who you are, where you want to go in life, and what you want to be. It’s no wonder our teens are experiencing anxiety.

Teens report feeling significant pressure when it comes to making immediate decisions about exactly what they want to do after high school. Four years go by in the blink of an eye, and some teens report they don’t even know what hobbies they enjoy, let alone what they’re going to study in college or what career they’re going to choose.

These suggestions on how to show support may help ease your teen’s anxiety about themselves and their future. First, a supportive environment with a lot of options is key. As a school social worker, I hear teens say every day how they just want to make their mother, father, or other parental figure proud. However, they worry that because they are interested in something like art and their parent is a lawyer that they are a complete letdown. Allowing your teen to explore their options and find what they are passionate about with a supportive “I’m so proud of you” attitude can help ease their mind. Kind words go a long way.

Encourage your teen to take a break sometimes. High school is challenging! Teens have multiple courses in their high school curriculum, and some even juggle college credits to get a head start on their post-secondary education. When you add sports, clubs, maybe a part-time job, and social activities, there’s a lot on their plate!

As a parent, you have a lot on your plate as well, but it’s important to spend quality time with your teenager. Use vacation time, put your phones away, and take your teen somewhere you would all enjoy. If you can’t get away, create a “staycation” by enjoying activities close to home, visiting local parks or attractions, or even pitch a tent in the backyard! We all need a break, and your child will enjoy the memories for a lifetime.

Last, but definitely not least, talk it out. Life is so busy. Adults have hectic schedules and work obligations, and teens are trying to figure it all out before May of senior year. Sometimes a vent session is needed. Even if your teen is not receptive right away, just knowing they can talk to you goes a long way. You may even consider having them talk to a professional. Therapy can help your teen learn the coping and communication skills needed to navigate the decisions they are facing in the years ahead.

Life gives us so many paths to take and decisions to make, which can leave our heads spinning. Giving your teen praise and support, making memories, taking breaks, and providing a free space to vent about their struggles are just a few simple ways you can help ease their minds about the big decisions they are facing during this season of life.