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Parents: The Key to Kids’ Safety




» The 40 Developmental Assets: Social Competencies » Holidays in Reality


» When Teens Try to Cope Alone

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what you can do tO save a lIFe

> If you see the signs, ask the person, “are you suicidal?” > Offer hope, don’t leave them alone, and tell others the person to the nearest eR, call the police, take them to > take a health care professional or > Call the Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)



6 Don’t Should on Me 40 Developmental Assets: 14 The Social Competencies 16 Holidays in Reality 20 When Teens Try to Cope Alone 23 Parents: The Key to Kids’ Safety IN EVERY ISSUE

2 From the Director 5 The Kitchen Table 10 Faces in the Crowd 11 40 Developmental Assets 12 Assets in Action 18 Q&A and By the Numbers BROUGHT TO YOU BY




TO ADVERTISE OR CONTRIBUTE Coleen Smith: (406) 324-1032 COVER PHOTO BY Jacqui Smith with Floating Leaf Studios




December 2016



Clara Thamke is 18 years old and a senior at Helena High School. She has participated in cross country and tennis while also taking AP classes. She spent a year abroad in Taiwan last year through the Rotary Youth Exchange scholarship program and is now proficient in Mandarin Chinese! Next year she is looking forward to attending MSU as a graphic design major. She’s in the Art 4 class at Helena High and does design projects on the side. She’s been playing the violin for about ten years, as well.

ABOUT YOUTH CONNECTIONS Youth Connections is a coalition of over 1100 community members representing parents, educators, churches, youthserving organizations, businesses, and more who want to make Helena a healthy and supportive place for kids and families. Youth Connections recognizes the need to reduce negative behaviors including substance use and violence while also working to increase positive opportunities and mental wellness for all our local kids. So how do we do that? We know there is no silver bullet to making communities great, and so we do LOTS of things that we know make communities better. We support agencies and businesses who offer youth activities because we know kids who are involved in positive activities aren’t involved in negative ones. We support student mentoring relationships because research shows it helps kids stay in school and be successful. We also know that when kids know better, they do better, so we support classroom education in the areas of bullying prevention and substance use prevention. Youth Connections also understands we must support the adults in kids’ lives and therefore we provide training, education, networks, and collaborative opportunities for parents and professionals to connect with others who care about kids. Youth Connections is well known for its quarterly publication, YC Magazine, a resource for parents and the entire community. These are just some of the projects we’re working on to serve our mission of engaging our community to create environments where youth thrive and succeed. For a comprehensive list of activities, services, and ways you can get involved, please visit our website at


December 2016




Director FROM THE

t Hometown Helena recently, we gave a presentation on the dangers of prescription drugs and why it’s so important to lock them up and dispose of them properly. Two very brave individuals got up and shared their story of prescription drug addiction. “John” shared that he was given pills by family members. “Jane” stated she had suffered a terrible loss with the death of a boyfriend in COLEEN high school and turned to prescription SMITH drugs to cope. Luckily they are both in recovery and are upstanding members of the community, but it didn’t come without a very long and hard battle – which continues every day. If they had been given the information about the dangers of prescription drugs, and tools to cope, could they have avoided all the hardship? As I write this, we are headed into Red Ribbon Week. It’s such a great opportunity to focus on giving kids the skills to say no to drugs, but also the education of why. I have attended a couple of seminars recently, and the focus has been giving kids tools to cope so they can overcome adversity, which often leads them to drugs and alcohol. It’s all about teaching them resiliency. Our feature article really talks about this – letting kids make their own decisions and, more importantly, letting them experience the consequence. Too often we jump in to try and make everything perfect for our kids, which really doesn’t do them any favors. It may seem great at the time but really doesn’t give them the skills to be successful and well-adjusted adults. In line with this, I’m very excited about our article by Joelle Johnson on good coping skills. It’s so critical that we give our kids the tools to take care of themselves. We know that depression in people of all ages can increase during the holidays, which Pastor Chris talks about in his article about “What Happens When the Holidays Don’t Look Like They Do in the Movies?” I hope your holidays are filled with great memories, family, and healthy coping!

CAN’T GET ENOUGH GREAT RESOURCES? FOLLOW US: Twitter: @Youthconx Facebook (for parents): Youth Connections Facebook (for kids): Find Your Spot

COLEEN SMITH, YC DIRECTOR Phone: (406) 324-1032

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All Year! • Be Active • Eat Smart • Be Sun Wise • Be Tobacco Free Be Active • Eat Smart • Get Screened • Be Sunwise • Be Tobacco Free

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and pay no joiner fee. Financial assistance is available.

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date nights Relax together. Laugh together. And make a Lucca’s date night a priority.

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December 2016



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December 2016




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CONFESSIONS FROM THE KITCHEN TABLE y husband and I are both in our second marriage, and we have no children together. We use our dog as our surrogate child. However, as “our” last child graduated from college, the empty nest started to set in, and I felt like I needed to still nurture someone. I became a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters where I spend one lunch hour a week with my Little, but that still did not seem to be enough. Hence, the conversation about being a host family for an exchange student began. I had heard of horror stories from other families who had hosted selfish kids from privileged homes, and they counted down days until the brat left. Through Rotary, the commitment was only for three to four months, so I figured I could deal with anything for that long. Two and a half months in, and the newest member of our family has ruined us from ever hosting again. She’s so wonderful that anyone would pale in comparison! It’s like having a small child again, where everything is new and exciting. We are also looking at the world through a different lens. What was a normal day for us is a new experience now. Going to a football game was a normal Saturday occurrence; now it’s the excitement of the crowd, seeing the mascot for the first time, and learning when to cheer. Going to a national park was always exciting, but there’s an added anticipation of spotting a wild

animal that “Clara” has never seen before in her life. Even food that we consider normal has an added thrill. I never knew there was not corn on the cob in France! I started thinking – why are the “everyday” occurrences that we’ve experienced over and over so exciting now? I also wondered if we made them that exciting when our kids were little, or were we too busy being parents and living life that we missed a lot of things that actually develop the great memories. I took my kids to football games and national parks, and we had corn on the cob. We’re not doing anything different with our French daughter than we did with our own kids. I don’t know if being older makes us appreciate experiences more, or if we have the knowledge to live in the moment and cherish simple things. It’s caused me to really think back to make sure that I was living in the moment and enjoying every little thing I did with my kids. We always hope our kids look back on their childhoods with fond memories. Unfortunately when they’re grown and gone, we don’t get the opportunity to have a “do-over.” Perhaps that’s why grandparents are so much more laid back and truly enjoy the time with their grandchildren, because they know those times are fleeting and are meant to be savored and enjoyed. We now have a new appreciation of the holidays. I’ve always decorated for every one

but tapered back when it was just us. This year everything came out! We always carved pumpkins, and even did when it was just the two of us, but it was a bigger production this year. And pictures! Every little event has a picture – mostly so we can post them to social media so her family can see what she’s doing. But did we take pictures of our kids when they had their first corn on the cob? Every new experience should involve a picture! I remember my mom saying when I was born (I was the first) there were pictures of everything. When my brother came along 13 months later, she was too darned busy to get pictures of him so, unfortunately, his baby book is considerably smaller than mine. Are we doing that with our kids? Too busy running here and there – getting them to practices, doing homework, working, cooking, etc – that we forget to stop and take a picture? Even if it’s a mental picture. Are we stopping just a moment to enjoy the simple things – the good grade on a paper, a surprise stop for ice cream, the excitement of seeing a wild animal for the first time? We will greatly miss this newest member of our family, but I think we have a new appreciation for every little thing – whether it’s with our kids, our grandchild, or even with ourselves. Life is too short not to enjoy every corn on the cob. ■

YOU CAN SUBMIT YOUR STORY AT: For many of us the kitchen table represents the typical family experience. We have laughed while having family game night. We have cried over our children’s choices. We have blown out the candles on many cakes. We have argued our way out of doing the dishes. We have struggled through those “three more bites.” We have learned hard lessons and celebrated many deserved successes. One thing is for sure though – if our kitchen tables could talk, there would be plenty of stories! So often it is in relating to others’ stories that we realize there isn’t always one answer, or even a right answer. Parenting is hard work! If you have a story of lessons learned, we invite you to share it with our readers. Sometimes, knowing we aren’t the only ones struggling to find the answer is all the help we need.




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December 2016





By KELLY ACKERMAN, Independent Parental Enrichment Educator

It has happened to all parents. Children come home and begin on the bad things that have happened in their day. It may be that the teacher was unfair. It may be that a kid was mean. It may be that a best friend didn’t invite them to an after school outing. Or perhaps it was that the grade on their test wasn’t stellar and the problem, in their opinion, was test anxiety, so the grade really isn’t fair. n swoops the well-meaning parent whose years of experience can be imparted in this one scenario to their child who is ripe for listening. This is the big moment when a true life lesson can be learned. After all, the child has brought this problem right to the forefront so she or he must want parental guidance. So, before the story has even been completed, the parent’s brain is swarming with answers just waiting to share this wisdom and knowledge from parent to child to make all things right in the world once again. Just as the child takes a break to breathe, out pops, “Well sweetie, you should (fill in the blank).” Just as “you should” leaves the gateways of the mouth, the ears of the child have just as quickly been shut to any further messages. Further, should the message actually squeeze through the closed ear drum to the brain, and the child chooses to act in the way the parent has recommended, the parent is fully responsible for the result. The parental superhero cape can be donned with pride as the day has been officially saved. continued on page 9



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December 2016




continued from page 7

Or is this really the case? Let’s examine an example of the parent taking responsibility for a problematic situation. For instance, “You should just tell your friend that if that’s the way you are treated, you just can’t be friends anymore.” If this works out and the friend apologizes, you will now get to solve all your child’s problems because you are indeed a superhero and problems become too much for the child to solve independently. If this does not work out and the friend abandons the relationship in a mess of hurt and resentment, it will be your fault and your child will become angry with you, not the friend who left. Truly, no matter what results, your child suffers in the end. This is not a time to don the superhero cape at all. First of all, in the life of a child, hearing the words, “you should” indicates that the parent has all the pieces of information about the situation needed for solution. In reality, parents do not. When a child voices a problem, they are sharing their limited perception of what has happened. If wise parents take a moment to realize that the teacher or other child may well be reporting the same problem to a parent, boss or spouse, this version of the same situation may sound much different. In this moment of reflection, a parent can understand that the depth and breadth of the situation is never as shallow or simple as the child is making it sound. Further, it is usually obvious in these instances that children and teens are ultimately struggling emotionally with the presence of sadness, fear, anger, or shame. At this moment of parental realization, remove the superhero cape, the need to find the answer, and fully listen to the emotional message. It is at these moments that children truly need to be heard. Though it feels foreign and unfinished, it is the proper time to simply let the child know that their

feelings have been received and affirmed. It may sound something like this: “Oh, my goodness. That is really terrible and frustrating.” In this small gift, the unconditional acceptance of the child has just been granted, regardless of the feeling they are expressing. This emotional connect is honestly the need of all children and teens – to be accepted by their parents for who they are and not what they do. Yet, sitting with a child in a painful state is easier said than done. Though necessary, it takes practice, patience, and perseverance. Second of all, allow your child the opportunity to problem solve independently. If, after the emotion has been acknowledged, the urge to slip on that superhero cape returns with the need to spew greatness in order to return your child’s emotion back to a more positive state, bite your tongue. In this moment of reflection, remember that the bigger picture of parenting is to coach and support children into being able to handle problems in the world on their own so that when they leave the nest, they can fly and feel confident in their ability to navigate through joy and through sorrow. In this moment, gently ask one question, “What do you think you will do?” This question opens a huge doorway of possibilities and communicates a great deal of confidence. If the problem belongs to the child or teen, and the message of confidence that it can be resolved is delivered in a gentle and loving way, the power to problem solve begins to develop. In addition, it paves the way to further communication as problems get bigger and trickier. A teen who has support to solve problems independently is more likely to continue engaging parents and adults who provide thoughtful support. Those teens who do not have this gift are likely to solve problems on their

own in potentially harmful or negative ways without seeking the support of others. Additionally, teens may shut down completely, thinking they are unable to handle the world at all, feeling lost, alone, and rejected. Sending the message of confidence while opening the doorway to further communication leads to healthy parent-child relationships in which parents have superhero powers that do not need capes, masks, or theme music. The power simply transfers to their children who are able to recognize problems as setbacks with solutions. It is important to recognize that in handing a problem back to a child or teen, the response may be a shrug of the shoulders indicating that she or he does not know what possibilities for resolution are available. It is in these moments that parents can ask permission to share some thoughts and ideas. However, it is essential that the phrase “you should” be left out of the conversation, or this process gets lost. Nevertheless, sharing similar experiences and ways in which problems were successfully handled, while discussing things in the third person, still leaves the door open. Taking great care not to move into lecture or diatribe, this may sound like, “When I was your age, I remember a similar situation.” Moving to the point of resolution in this story and being honest about whether the situation was resolved or not resolved is the golden opportunity to share this expertise that has been on the tip of your tongue. Follow up your message with the question, “How do you think that would work in your situation?” This allows the child/teen to engage in a bit of critical thinking. Here’s the gut wrencher: If your idea is rejected, do not take it personally. Your child knows the situation better than you do and your ideas or suggestions may not feel comfortable for

him/her. When rejection happens, reiterate that you know they are struggling but that you believe they have the ability to handle this on their own, and that you look forward to hearing how it turns out: “This is a really tough situation. Even though my idea doesn’t sound like a good one to you, I know you have the ability to handle this. Let me know how it works out.” Again, leaving a situation unresolved feels uncomfortable for parents. Getting our children out of discomfort and distress is what feels good to all involved, but it sends the wrong message. Sitting in the discomfort, while offering authentic love and support, allows our children to experience and share their emotions, move through them with the company of those who love them, and gain confidence in their ability to handle their lives. Overall, children and teens can be supported in their journey to solve everyday problems. Yet, it is important to remember that there are difficulties that may be too big for kids. When battling mental health issues, bullying, addictions, etc., parents need to actively engage in the solution by finding and utilizing appropriate resources. Not every problem has a solution that is within reach for an individual and help is absolutely necessary. Notwithstanding these circumstances, for handling the day-to-day dilemmas of life, parents can hang up their “you should” superhero cape, replacing it with the often invisible cape that leads to true parental success by making the child the hero of his/her own world. Keeping the big picture of parenting in mind, that in the end, giving children the gifts of feeling emotionally secure while navigating, and finding power over life’s struggles, prepares young adults to live with self-assurance and independence, makes both the parent and the child true superheroes. ■




December 2016


Check out who’s standing out in our community. IS THERE SOMEONE YOU’D LIKE TO NOMINATE? Please email and tell us why this individual has stood out in your crowd.

McKennah Danielson



A warm smile, heartfelt laugh, and positive outlook make McKennah a young lady who embraces life for all it has to offer. McKennah has a great love for getting to know both kids and adults alike. She easily engages in conversation while making others feel welcome. McKennah also has an incredible love of animals. Providing great care while accepting the companionship they bring demonstrates her genuine care for all life. McKennah can be found offering a helping hand to those around and is eager to serve and fill in where there is a need. She dons a fashion all her own which exudes her bubbly personality, enjoys music, and generally provides a great example to all who meet her.

Tyleigh Burchard


Tyleigh is an extremely dedicated student who carries a 4.0 GPA and is a standout athlete, as well. Tyleigh participates in volleyball, basketball, softball, and golf. Teachers, coaches, and peers alike agree that Tyleigh is a natural leader and a very important part of the East Valley community. Tyleigh comes to school with a positive attitude and a smile every day. It is obvious that others follow her example of being a natural leader and a student with character. Thank you, Tyleigh, for all of your hard work and effort in making EVMS great!

Tiffany David


Tiffany always puts forth her best effort. Through the Health Career Exploration Course, Tiffany earned a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate. She has been actively involved in Fitness Club, Bruin Pure Performance, and National Honor Society. She is committed to being drug- and alcohol-free and serves as a great role model for her peers. After several set backs, her hard work and perseverance paid off and she led her team in kills at Crosstown Volleyball. She also plays in the Helena Adult Volleyball League and for Capital City Volleyball. She is a recommended black belt in Taekwondo. Tiffany is interested in anything with science, and her favorite subjects are biology and math. She plans on majoring in nursing in college.

Terry and Somer Gauthier


We’d like to honor Terry and Somer, owners of McDonald’s in Helena, and their commitment to their staff, especially teens. The Gauthiers offer the Archways to Opportunity Program to employees who do not have a high school diploma. Employees can enroll in the nationally accredited career online program and obtain their diploma at no cost. The Gauthiers also offer tuition assistance, advising service to help students identify a career route to help them achieve their goals, and management classes that receive college credits. They know a job at McDonald’s may be a teen’s first job, so are committed to teaching them responsibility, teamwork, and social skills that they can use wherever life takes them. Thank you, Gauthiers, for being committed to Helena’s youth!

Megan Lane Photography


Megan Lane, with Megan Lane Photography, wanted to do something to empower girls in their tweens. Knowing it’s a trying time in their lives, she developed a program called Project Empower where she donated her time to do a photoshoot of a girl, making it special and all about that child. The girl could bring items that she was passionate about – violin, shoes, gymnastics items – and she was photographed with those. Megan wanted the girl to remember something good about the awkward time in her life as something positive. Thanks, Megan, for focusing on the positive, giving kids something to feel good about themselves, and building their self-esteem!


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2625 winne avenue | suite 1 | helena, mt | 59601 | 406.442.4933 508 north broadway | suite A | bozeman, mt | 59715 | 406.219.2216

• Hurting themselves • Suicide – thinking or talking about it. • Drugs, alcohol, or misusing prescription drugs. • Unsafe sexually or at risk of sexual assault/abuse • Aggressive or violent behavior • Breaking the law • Rules or directions - not following • Intense conflict or disruption in the family/home • Abuse or neglect – showing signs of • Running away • Isolating or withdrawing from friends, family, or normal interests • Panicky or overly fearful behavior

24-hour response line (406) 461-2382 (calls will be returned within 24 hours) Caution: If you are experiencing a true emergency (immediate danger of harm to self or others),

call 911.


...working with the Helena community since 1981.

40 Developmental Assets are essential qualities of life that help young people thrive, do well in school, and avoid risky behavior. Youth Connections utilizes the 40 Developmental Assets Framework to guide the work we do in promoting positive youth development. The 40 Assets model was developed by the Minneapolis-based Search Institute based on extensive research. Just as we are coached to diversify our financial assets so that all our eggs are not in one basket, the strength that the 40 Assets model can build in our youth comes through diversity. In a nutshell, the more of the 40 Assets youth possess, the more likely they are to exhibit positive behaviors and attitudes (such as good health and school success) and the less likely they are to exhibit risky behaviors (such as drug use and promiscuity). It’s that simple: if we want to empower and protect our children, building the 40 Assets in our youth is a great way to start. Look over the list of Assets on the following page and think about what Assets may be lacking in our community and what Assets you can help build in our young people. Do what you can do with the knowledge that even through helping build one asset in one child, you are increasing the chances that child will grow up safe and successful. Through our combined efforts Helena will continue to be a place where Great Kids Make Great Communities.

Turn the page to learn more!




December 2016


assets in action



1. Family support: Family life provides high levels of love and support. 2. Positive family communication: Young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek advice and counsel from parent(s). 3. Other adult relationships: Young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults. 4. Caring neighborhood: Young person experiences caring neighbors. 5. Caring school climate: School provides a caring, encouraging environment. 6. Parent involvement in school: Parent(s) are actively involved in helping young person succeed in school.

Families In Training (FIT) hike Mount Helena




7. Community values youth: Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth. 8. Youth as resources: Young people are given useful roles in the community. 9. Service to others: Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week. 10. Safety: Young person feels safe at home, at school, and in the neighborhood.

BOUNDARIES & EXPECTATIONS Pure Performance learning leadership skills from NFL player Lions Swim Team helping with YMCA pool renovations

Competitive cheerleaders show off their skills at Octoberfest

11. Family boundaries: Family has clear rules and consequences and monitors the young person’s whereabouts. 12. School boundaries: School provides clear rules and consequences. 13. Neighborhood boundaries: Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behavior. 14. Adult role models: Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior. 15. Positive peer influence: Young person’s best friends model responsible behavior. 16. High expectations: Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.


17. Creative activities: Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts. 18. Youth programs: Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in the community. 19. Religious community: Young person spends one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution. 20. Time at home: Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week.

18 12

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If you or your child would like to submit a picture that represents one of the 40 Developmental Assets, please email with a picture and the number of the asset the picture represents.

Not all pictures are guaranteed publication.


21. Achievement motivation: Young person is motivated to do well in school. 22. School engagement: Young person is actively engaged in learning. 23. Homework: Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day. 24. Bonding to school: Young person cares about her or his school. 25. Reading for pleasure: Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.


26. Caring: Young person places high value on helping other people. 27. Equality and social justice: Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty. 28. Integrity: Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs. 29. Honesty: Young person “tells the truth even when it is not easy.” 30. Responsibility: Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility. 31. Restraint: Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.

Students learning from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks



Teens filling out FAFSA to fund college


32. Planning and decision making: Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices. 33. Interpersonal competence: Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills. 34. Cultural competence: Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds. 35. Resistance skills: Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations. 36. Peaceful conflict resolution: Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.

Our Redeemer’s youth group helps at Food Share



37. Personal power: Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.” 38. Self-esteem: Young person reports having a high self-esteem. 39. Sense of purpose: Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.” 40. Positive view of personal future: Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.

New friends made at Rocky Boy Reservation




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40 THE





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YC Magazine highlights 40 Developmental Assets in each issue. These assets are evidence-based to positively contribute to the development of children across their lifespan.

esearch clearly shows that the more assets a young person has, the less likely they are to participate in risk-taking behaviors during adolescence including drug and alcohol use, violence, illicit drug use, and sexual activity. Sadly, the average young person has less than half of these assets according to Search Institute. This article is the second in a series to highlight the eight categories of assets in order more fully engage families, schools, agencies, businesses, and community members in ensuring our children experience as many assets as possible. SOCIAL COMPETENCIES This developmental asset consists of the following five aspects: 1. PLANNING & DECISION MAKING 2. INTERPERSONAL COMPETENCE 3. CULTURAL COMPETENCE 4. RESISTANCE SKILLS 5. PEACEFUL CONFLICT RESOLUTION Young people need the Planning and Decision Making skills to interact effectively with others, make difficult decisions, and cope with new situations. These are life skills that will help them be independent, capable, and competent. How many times have we learned at eight o’clock at night that a major project that was due the next day? Providing daily planners for children can help them organize their homework, tests, and after school activities. We can teach them to plan and make decisions on the steps necessary to complete the task on time. If it’s a presentation, do they need poster board or additional supplies? Asking ‘what if’ questions help them think about what needs to be done and identify

possible consequences. All these skills will help them become better students, and eventually good employees. Interpersonal Competencies give a young person tools to have empathy, be sensitive, and have good friendship skills. We can do this by reminding them they need to treat us with respect, which includes saying please and thank you, and acknowledging our presence. Often kids are so involved in their technology that they can become oblivious to everything around them. On the flip side, we as parents can be the same way. When conversing with our kids, we need to use active listening, which means asking good questions, paraphrasing what they’re saying to make sure we understand, and showing empathy. This will go a long way to building meaningful relationships with our kids, as well as letting them know we truly care how they feel. We also need to teach them how to share their feelings with words, rather than actions. Modeling and explaining “I statements” will give them the skills to tell us what is going on, rather than getting frustrated and shutting down. “I statements” are “I feel ____ when you ____, because of ____.” It avoids statements that may solicit a defense, for example, “You make me so mad.” Cultural Competencies allow a young person to be knowledgeable and comfortable with people of different cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. We need to pay attention to what we say and how we say it about people. Kids are like a sponge and will absorb and pick up on our comments. We need to teach kids that everyone has personal values, even if they are different from our own. We can teach them to respect differences by attending cultural events and even talk about the subtle messages given in a TV show or movie by discussing if all characters look, sound, and dress a certain way. Resistance Skills give kids tools on how to resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations. Peer pressure is a

powerful motivator for youth. By talking about how their peers mark life changes, like hazing, gambling, sexual activity, and substance abuse, skills and plans can be developed before a child is confronted with the situation. Talk about the importance of thinking for oneself and encourage them to believe in the value of their own good choices. Teach them nonviolent resistant skills like walking away, being assertive but not passive or overly aggressive, and where to find a trained peer mediator to help. Kids need to have the skills to deal with conflict that won’t send them to the principal’s office or interacting with law enforcement. Mostly, affirm when teens make good choices. They need to hear that they’re doing the right thing. Peaceful Conflict Resolution teaches kids to seek to resolve conflict nonviolently. A great tool to use is the stoplight: red – I’m too angry to talk right now; yellow – I’m not as upset, but I still don’t have a clear head; green – I’m calm enough to discuss the situation. Anyone in the family has the option of identifying with a color. It’s not a way to dispense with the issue, it does need to be dealt with, but it’s put off until both parties can speak calmly and with a clear head. Lastly, we need to know when to tell our children that we’re sorry. It needs to be honest and sincere, and we must avoid the temptation of soothing our own conscience by offering gifts. Things we can do to support kids and create environments where they can thrive:  Expose

them to new people and things

 Model

and teach the skills that they need

 Challenge

them to use their skills

When we all work together as a community, including parents, teachers, coaches, neighbors, churches, and businesses, we have the ability to lay a foundation for many wonderful things to happen. ■




December 2016



What Happens When the Holidays Don’t Look Like They Do in the Movies? By CHAPLAIN CHRIS HAUGHEE, Intermountain Residential

hile far from ideal, my childhood provided me with great memories of the holidays. I recall special days of decorating cookies with my Aunt Shirley, sharing a bowl of homemade Chex mix with my Grandpa Haughee while watching football, attending candlelight services at church, and enjoying special meals where family came together. We were a firmly entrenched middle-class American family, and one of the few times of excess and celebration centered around the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It seemed a time when it was “all about the kids,” and being a kid, therefore, was pretty great. Through my adolescence and young adult years, music and movies took a significant role in shaping my images of the holidays. I still love to crank up Bing Crosby’s Christmas album and watch the Christmas classics when they come on TV. One of the best parts of moving from the Pacific Northwest to Montana a decade ago was that I could sing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” with an expectation that my “dream” will actually come true! I love the lights and the decorations and can honestly say that the holidays are my favorite time of year. This is despite the fact that they are also the hardest time of the year for me. Try as I might, my holidays don’t look like they do in the movies. Only as an adult can we appreciate the stress that the holidays must have brought our own parents. It is as if, through our own experience as parents and adults, we can

look back on those memories of childhood with a clarity we didn’t have then. Behind the bows and lights, and hidden in the dark corners where the candlelight didn’t reach, there were all the stresses and hurt I feel now as an adult. I am sure my parents were missing their loved ones who had passed, just as I miss my dad who passed last year. The running around from school program to church service to the mall for Christmas shopping undoubtedly tempered their enthusiasm for our celebrations. There were substance abuse issues, strained marriages heading to divorce, and dire health diagnoses that existed throughout my childhood that were as ever-present as our family gathered to share meals and make memories. That’s why my expectations of the holidays, shaped by the movies to conclude with a happy ending despite any difficulty, leave me confused and always a little melancholy as an adult. Intellectually, I recognize how silly it is to mourn the loss of an ideal holiday that never truly existed, but my heart longs for that happy ending and saccharine sweet Hollywood storyline. So, what should we do when we are stressed out, disappointed, or depressed at the prospect of the holidays with no sign of immediate relief ? I have a few suggestions that have proven helpful for me. First, name false expectations out loud. Sometimes just speaking the words, “I can’t have a great Christmas unless [fill in the blank]!” helps you see how silly it is. Our joy shouldn’t hang on the outcome of the

weather, our family’s gratitude, or getting that item on our Christmas list. Joy comes from within, not without. Take a deep breath. It will be okay, and okay is good enough. Secondly, manage moments and take time for people, not tasks. Some of the greatest moments during the holidays can be found in chance encounters. If you rush around getting tasks done, you’ll miss these moments of joy. Plan for connection with people, realizing that being together is what’s important — whether it’s over a store-bought cookie or one you spent six hours baking in your kitchen. It’s about being fully present at your child’s concert or performance, not capturing it for Instagram or other social media. Third, get outside yourself by serving. When our holidays are about our experience and how we feel about them, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. But, if we look for opportunities to serve someone else and brighten their day, lightening their load, we shift our gaze from our expectations to another’s need. It just may tap us into a deeper reality behind the holidays. Lastly, if you take good care of yourself as a parent this holiday season, you’ll be better equipped to provide that wonderful holiday you want for yourself and your family. Your children will thank you for it, and they will appreciate the tradition you build around a more balanced and relationally-focused holiday more than any present you could buy them. ■

The Reverend Chris Haughee is a licensed minister of the Evangelical Covenant Church and has served since 2012 as chaplain of the residential services at Intermountain in Helena, Montana. An adoptive father to two, Haughee is an advocate for greater inclusion of foster and adoptive families in the life and ministry of local congregations. You can follow his ministry at or learn more about Intermountain’s many services for children and families at


December 2016






Q. How do I overcome having a high ACE score? A. Having a high ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score

– or any ACE score for that matter – is only one component of understanding how childhood adversity may affect us. Second, ACE scores are not “apples and apples.” I may have an ACE score of two, and you may have a score of five. Yet, how I experienced my two ACEs has resulted in more significant negative health and/or social outcomes than how you experienced your five ACEs. The key word is experienced. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study is rock-solid, data driven, deep research that is sweeping the nation and changing how we think of ourselves and those around us. It is probably the largest public health study ever, and its implications will result in elevating the well-being and futures of our children and families. How the human brain develops is heavily influenced by what we experience. The ACE Study shows us that abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction can result in toxic stress, which is when the stress response system (primarily the hormones/chemicals cortisol and adrenaline) is activated frequently or prolonged. These chemicals can actually become toxic in a child’s brain. And when they do, they can impair proper brain development, which may result in serious negative health and social outcomes throughout one’s lifetime. They may result – not necessarily do. Adversity is not destiny. Which is why my two ACEs may hurt me more than your five. The most powerful component in dealing with ACEs (no matter the score) is a healthy, consistent, nurturing adult relationship. That is what we all need to be for all of our children. If you’re an adult, pretty much the same thing…it’s all about healthy relationships. Yes, your ACE score may have had negative effects on your physical and social health. What do you do? Find your ACE score (, then find your Resilience score ( Learn about ACES and resilience, not just your scores. Next, find a trusted person you can talk with. Forgiveness is a huge component. Let the blame and shame melt away. Learn about mindfulness. Consider this book: Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal by Donna Jackson.

HAVE A QUESTION? We cannot guarantee all questions will be published; however, we will do our best to respond to all questions submitted.


The number of different bacteria on every dollar bill you touch.


The number of ounces a human hair can support.


The number of minutes a Crayola crayon will burn for when used as a candle.


The number of years it would take to go broke if you had $1 billion and spent $1000 every day.


The number of straight days the longest game of Monopoly lasted.


The number of megapixels the human eye would have if it were a digital camera.


December 2016




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December 2016



cope alone By JOELLE JOHNSON, LCSW, LAC, Intermountain Co-Occurring Therapist


December 2016




Identify and talk about the problem

Spend time outside and exercise

ecently, a young girl was brought to my therapy practice by her mother. The girl had attempted suicide a week earlier, which was a sudden and traumatic alert that her daughter was struggling with depression. The first therapy session held more surprises as the daughter revealed she had been feeling very depressed for over a year. With both genuine shock and concern, her mother asked why she had never told her mom about her feelings. The hopelessness so often prevalent in depression shone through the young girl’s response; “I didn’t talk about my feelings because I didn’t think it would help.” For over a year, this young girl attempted to cope with her depression as well as her overwhelming hopelessness on her own. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have witnessed this interaction between parent and child in my therapy office. Parents are sometimes caught off guard by the extent of their teen’s emotional challenges and attempts to cope with these challenges. Often, teens are confused by their own emotions, have difficulty putting their experiences into words or knowing how to ask for help. Trying to communicate their emotional struggles — or even understand them — teens often attempt to cope in isolation. They may withdraw from important people and activities that are creating anxiety. Ongoing feelings of sadness may been seen through increased irritability, conflict, and even aggression. They may begin to use substances to numb or dull the intensity of emotions. Self-harming behaviors such as cutting or burning on the body are also sometimes used to create physical pain as a distraction from intense emotional pain. And though these attempts are unhealthy and often downright dangerous, they can also be understood if we compare them to our own attempts to cope with physical

Eat well and get enough sleep

pain. Think of having a sore back. We may be able to shift our sitting or standing position to offer some temporary relief, but if the pain is being caused by a slipped disc or pinched nerve, the pain will return and will likely intensify and worsen if measures to address the underlying issue are not taken. A more effective approach might be going to the doctor for an examination and then following through with recommendations like physical therapy or surgery. Obviously, while having

When teens share emotional difficulties, open communication by asking them, “How can I help?” They may want a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, or they may want advice — let them guide the response. much more positive and lasting outcomes, these measures also will take more time and effort. Additionally, we cannot fully execute these measures on our own, but will need the partnership of a medical professional and also likely the support of friends, family and co-workers to effectively heal. Effective coping for mental health challenges is much the same. Often the first step toward healing is to identify and talk about the problem. Besides clueing others

Get professional assistance if needed

into the problem, the simple act of reaching out to another person to share emotional struggles can be therapeutic in and of itself. Feeling cared about, understood, and experiencing the compassion and concern from another person can lessen the intensity of feelings of anxiety or depression. Parents are in the perfect position to provide this support to their children. When teens share emotional difficulties, open communication by asking them, “How can I help?” They may want a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, or they may want advice — let them guide the response. Wonder with them about specific stressors or fears that may be impacting their mood, but if they aren’t able to identify anything specific, don’t get stuck there. The biological component of a mental health challenge may make it difficult to identify situations or reasons for experiencing emotional shifts. A continued focus on identifying “why” will likely shut down communication from a teenager. An empathic response will help a teen to feel understood, opening the door to identifying any underlying issues and effective coping strategies. Strategies may include increasing activities that produce dopamine and endorphins such as spending time outside, exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep. Relaxation techniques or taking planned and frequent breaks from stressful or anxiety producing tasks may also be useful. Above all, parents should continue to support and encourage an ongoing conversation with their teen about their emotional health. Parents also need to be aware of when their teen may need professional assistance. Two weeks is a good guideline, meaning, if a teen is experiencing feelings of depression, hopelessness or anxiety lasting two weeks or more, a referral to a mental health professional is warranted. ■

Joelle Johnson, LCSW, LAC has over ten years of experience treating adolescents with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse issues in outpatient and correctional settings and served as the project director to help shape the unique co-occurring treatment program at Intermountain in Helena, Montana.




December 2016


Rx Drug Disposal Poster Contest

4 T H / 5 T H G R A D E D I V I S I O N , WA R R E N S C H O O L


PARENTS: The Key to Kids’ Safety By MACKENZIE ANTILA, Prevention Fellow, Prevention Resource Center

arents are one of the most important sources of information teens have regarding drug use, misuse, and abuse. Although 34% of parents believe there is little they can do to prevent their kids from trying drugs or alcohol, that is simply not true. Youth who learn about the risks of drugs at home are at least 20% less likely to use drugs than those who do not hear that critical message from their parents, (2013 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study). Know and explain to children the levels of prescription drug abuse. Improper use is taking someone else’s prescription to selfmedicate. Misuse is taking a prescription medication in a way other than prescribed, such as in higher doses or mixing it with other substances. Abuse is taking a prescription medication with the intention to get high. Just because it was prescribed by a doctor, doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. Prescription drug abuse is over 15 times deadlier than meth, heroin, and cocaine use combined when comparing overdose death rates. Get educated on the slang terms teens use. Prescription medications with the highest abuse potential are: OPIOIDS Prescribed to treat pain, include Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet. Slang: Vikes, Roxies, Oxy, or Cotton

CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM DEPRESSANTS Used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, include Valium, Xanax, and Ambien. Slang: Benzos, Z-bars or Downers STIMULANTS Often prescribed to treat ADD and ADHD, include Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvance. Slang: Vitamin R, Candy, Addy, or Speed OVER-THE-COUNTER (OTC) MEDICATIONS Include cough and cold medicines such as Benadryl, Sudafed, and Robitussin. Slang: Robotripping, Tussin, Skittles, or Dex Nearly 70% of prescription drug abusers get their drugs from friends or family, and most are getting them for free. They may be given these prescription medicines or often they are stolen out of medicine cabinets, bathrooms, and purses. When medication is no longer needed, it is best to remove it from the home by safely and responsibly disposing of it. Finding a disposal site takes a simple Google search. Sites are most often located in police stations, pharmacies, or justice centers. Disposal is anonymous and serves only to remove expired, unused or unwanted pharmaceuticals to reduce risk of them being improperly used or stolen. By properly disposing of unneeded medications and speaking to your children about the dangers of abusing medications you can greatly reduce the chances of them getting involved in drugs or alcohol. ■




December 2016


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December 2016




Joy, Love, Peace, Health.

406.457.0000 | | Helena, MT

Youth Connections 1025 N Rodney Helena, MT 59601

Partners for Life... East Helena Public Schools School District No. 9 “Success For All�

Know the Signs

Suicide Warning Signs These signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. v Talking about wanting to die or to

v Increasing the use of alcohol

v Looking for a way to kill oneself,

v Acting anxious or agitated;

kill oneself.

such as searching online or buying a gun.

v Talking about feeling hopeless or

having no reason to live.

or drugs.

behaving recklessly.

v Sleeping too little or too much. v Withdrawing or feeling isolated.

v Talking about feeling trapped or in

v Showing rage or talking about

v Talking about being a burden

v Displaying extreme mood

unbearable pain. to others.

seeking revenge. swings.

Stay with them and take them to help (counselor, ER, police, teacher) Tell someone (no secrets) Remove guns and pills immediately

Profile for Deanna Johnson

YC Magazine | Helena | December 2016  

YC Magazine | Helena | December 2016