By Diane Braun, Project Manager – March 10, 2021 –

Most children crave attention, not only from their peers, but also from the adults in their lives. They will search for ways to be in the spotlight, whether positive or negative, in order to get a reaction from those around them.

Parents should always strive to focus on the positive behaviors they see in their children and reward those behaviors.

How to reward them is often a matter of debate. Should it involve an allowance, a shopping spree, or another costly activity? Not necessarily. For most small children, simple and free gestures are exactly the kind of attention that will make them feel acknowledged and loved.

Personal rewards can involve hugs, winks, high fives, praise, and applause. Rewards involving fun activities could include a ride in a wagon, spending time popping balloons or paper bags, piggy-back rides, blowing bubbles together, or playing dress up in funny clothes.

Making an effort to spend quality time with children can make them feel special and acknowledged as well. Simple bonding experiences can include pushing a child in a swing, delaying bedtime by an extra 15 minutes, reading a book aloud, or allowing your child to help you make a meal or hold the TV remote. These action-based rewards involving time spent together can help cultivate positive feelings of belonging.  

Rewards that involve a small cost and can easily be purchased at a dollar store can be hair clips and ribbons, stickers, coloring books, marbles, comics, paints and brushes, chalk, markers and crayons, or balloons. Rewards like these are easy to keep hidden around the house so you can present a reward to your child when they exhibit positive behavior. 

The most important thing to remember is that good behavior should be reinforced right away. Make eye contact and tell the child exactly what you liked. “You did a great job putting the dishes away!” Be enthusiastic and genuine.

If working towards a behavior goal, be sure to acknowledge each step as it is accomplished. When the end goal is reached, that is the time for a more anticipated reward like 15 more minutes of screen time. 

Use of behavior charts is also a good way to show progress toward a goal. Incorporating a particularly enticing reward into the last step on the chart is a sure way to motivate your child to complete the chart. Anticipate inevitable setbacks and encourage your child to keep working towards their goal when they are feeling discouraged.

Once a behavior becomes a habit, rewards can be decreased and new goals can be set.  Parents can be more aware of their children’s attitudes and behaviors by asking them what rewards they’d look forward to and using them to encourage new positive behaviors. Learning to be conscious of when and why you give rewards is a wonderful and productive way to show your children the love and affection they deserve.

In a presentation on March 5, Alcoa Foundation awarded $30,000 to Youth First, Inc. to support school-based social work programs and services that strengthen the social and emotional well-being for thousands of Warrick County students.

Youth First partners with school districts across Indiana to embed social workers in school buildings, where they become specialized mentors for students and prevention coaches for parents and teachers. Youth First Social Workers build caring relationships, foster readiness for positive change, and boost resiliency along with equipping students with valuable life skills. Their presence also contributes to a healthier and safer school environment.

Research shows these protective factors are the keys to reducing and preventing anxiety, depression, addiction, suicide, violence, and similar obstacles for young people. The organization’s positive outcomes and tremendous impact are driving growth, with more schools seeking a partnership with Youth First to address the growing social and emotional needs of students.

Brad Marrs, Alcoa Warrick Site Manager, stated: “Youth First is a crucial program for our Warrick County students. Alcoa Foundation is proud to support Youth First for many years now. With the pandemic and life being anything but normal, to restore normalcy in the lives of some of these children is very important.”

“The Alcoa Foundation has a mission similar to Youth First’s mission, which is prioritizing local needs and addressing them in a sustainable manner. Together, Alcoa and Youth First are helping youth and families face life’s current challenges and emerge with resilient mindsets and real hope for the future. We are grateful to the Alcoa Foundation for this grant that allows Youth First to sustain critical mental health supports for Warrick County kids,” says Youth First Vice President of Philanthropy Julie Hoon.

Youth First, Inc. is celebrating a $5,000 donation from 7 Sisters to strengthen the social and emotional well-being of students at Holy Rosary Catholic School.

The generous gift from 7 Sisters was presented to Youth First to support Walking for Dreams 2020, a family walk that helps local non-profit organizations raise much-needed funds. Youth First set a goal of raising $15,000 with Walking for Dreams to ensure Holy Rosary had access to a full-time Youth First Social Worker. The school has had a part-time Youth First Social Worker since 2005, and Holy Rosary principal Joan Fredrich was eager to expand to full-time service. The campaign was successful, thanks in large part to the 7 Sisters donation, along with support from the school, numerous Holy Rosary families and Youth First supporters.

Youth First’s school-based social work services and community programs are more critical than ever. Youth First Social Workers are embedded in school buildings to adapt and maintain vital connections with students and families. As the pandemic has continued, Youth First’s mental health professionals are utilizing confidential phone lines and virtual platforms to provide ongoing support whether or not school buildings are open.

The members of 7 Sisters value the professional mental health services provided by Youth First. One of the sisters, Casey Blake, says: “We are happy to be a part of this and excited to have a full-time Youth First Social Worker at Holy Rosary to support families and kids that are dealing with any mental health issues and stressors in their lives.”

7 Sisters is an Evansville-area nonprofit organization that brings awareness to the community through education and informative opportunities to eliminate the stigma of addiction and advocate for recovery options.

Members of the community are invited to participate with Youth First in Walking for Dreams 2021, which will take place on Sunday, May 23rd at the Tropicana Evansville Events Plaza along the riverfront. With a campaign goal of $30,000 this year, Youth First has already secured $2,000 in donations. Donations for Walking for Dreams can be made on Youth First’s website with the designation “Walking for Dreams.”

To learn more about Youth First services and programs or to make a donation to Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org. To learn more about 7 Sisters, visit the organization’s Facebook page. To learn more about Walking for Dreams, visit walkingfordreams.org.

By Youth First Staff – March 3, 2021 –

Growing up can be challenging. Some stages in our lives are notoriously more difficult than others.

Most of us remember our various “awkward” phases that took place throughout our time in elementary and middle school. During those years, even the smallest failure could feel like defeat. 

Although all of us experience the struggles of discovering who we are as we grow up, the negative impacts of social pressure during adolescence are significantly higher in girls. Between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels fall by 30 percent.

At 14, when girls’ confidence is statistically at its lowest, boys’ confidence is 27 percent higher. How can we spot the signs of this confidence plunge in our daughters and what can we do to bolster their self-esteem?

This drop in self-esteem may look like fear of trying new things, reluctance to speak up in class or ask questions, people-pleasing, overthinking, or constant comparison. The good news is that confidence can be taught and encouraged if given the right atmosphere to grow during these tough years. 

The single most effective way to build confidence is by taking risks. Comfort zones inhibit growth. Bravery is like a muscle, the more you use it, the easier it is to be unafraid to express yourself.

Encourage your daughter to take risks and normalize failures. If girls start taking positive risks during adolescence, they will be better prepared to overcome failure and will have the ability to move on when things don’t go perfectly in adulthood.

Resist the urge to jump in and save your daughter from failure. It is essential for her to learn to move through tough times, bounce back, and become more resilient. Teach your daughter to become her own coach and learn from her mistakes. Positive affirmations like “I’ve got this” and “I’ve gotten through hard times like this before” are helpful. 

Rumination is the tendency to repetitively think and worry about all the details of a negative situation. Teaching your daughter to identify these toxic mindsets and create a new, more realistic and positive patterns of thinking can be helpful. For example, if she is thinking “Everyone hates me” because she didn’t get invited to a party, you can challenge that thought and create a new more realistic thought in its place.

Lastly, set an example. Let your daughter know when you are nervous about a new challenge. Talk about your past failures. Let your daughter know that messing up isn’t the end of the world. If we are obsessing about being perfect, our daughters will pick up on that unhealthy standard.