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ALSO

Marijuana’s Impacts on the Teenage Brain

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EMPATHIZING WITH A BIGGER WORLD In Your Own Backyard » The Five Sources of Stress in Teens » What is Negative Peer Culture?

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» Occupational Therapy and the Parent/Child Connection


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DECEMBER 2019

FEATURES

6

Empathizing with a Bigger World in Your Own Backyard

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The Five Sources of Stress in Teens

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What is Negative Peer Culture?

Occupational Therapy and the Parent/Child Connection

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Impacts of Marijuana on the Teenage Brain 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 / By the Numbers BROUGHT TO YOU BY

PARTNER AGENCY

PRODUCED IN CONJUNCTION WITH

TO ADVERTISE OR CONTRIBUTE Coleen Smith: (406) 324-1032 coleen@youthconnectionscoalition.org COVER PHOTO BY Wandering Albatross Photography

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ON THE COVER

Hayden Ferguson, a senior at Helena High School, is an excellent athlete and a top student. Hayden maintains a 4.0 GPA and was recently recognized as a National Merit Semi-Finalist. He has participated in football, basketball and track all four years of high school, earning multiple letters and Academic All-State recognitions, along with a First Team All-State Linebacker selection for football. Hayden plans to attend college to study engineering. When not studying or practicing sports, Hayden enjoys hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities.

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 www.youthconnectionscoalition.org.

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Director FROM THE

elcome back to winter! Ugh, it seems like we just came out the back end of it a couple of months ago. The magazine committee has assembled a great slate of articles this round, and we’re very excited to have Kelly Ackerman writing for us again as well as a couple of new authors. With the push to legalize recreational marijuana sweeping the country, it’s a COLEEN hot topic, and so we’re continuing to SMITH focus on the detriments, especially for youth. It’s very important to talk to your kids and give them the science and facts about why this is so harmful. We are wrapping up our series on Social Emotional Learning, focusing on social awareness, which is the ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports. Being able to recognize resources and supports is extremely important, especially this time of year when kids seem to struggle the most. Knowing there are people who care is imperative when kids, or even adults, are struggling. The ParentingMontana.org website has so many amazing tools to help parents and caregivers with all sorts of issues. If you haven’t, I hope you check it out! We’re just opening the door to a topic we’ll delve into more in the next several issues: screen addiction. It’s something that not only kids, but adults, are dealing with. It’s gotten to be such an issue there are facilities that deal strictly with screen addiction. The technology ‘addiction’ is starting younger and younger and will continue until we can get a handle on it. As I mentioned earlier, Kelly Ackerman is writing for us again and is addressing negative peer culture. It’s a real problem our youth are having to navigate. Kelly’s perception and advice are a great resource for parents. With the holidays upon us, I hope you take time to enjoy all the little moments. Those are the things that our kids will remember, long after the hype of the season is over. CAN’T GET ENOUGH GREAT RESOURCES? FOLLOW US: Twitter: @Youthconx Facebook (for parents): Youth Connections Facebook (for kids): Find Your Spot Instagram: @Youthconx

COLEEN SMITH, YC DIRECTOR Phone: (406) 324-1032 coleen@youthconnectionscoalition.org


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Parents Unite To Prevent Underage Substance Abuse

Let’s face it, it’s difficult to start a conversation about underage substance abuse; the important thing is that you start.

www.letsfaceitmt.com

LET’S FACE IT Parents Unite To Prevent Underage Substance Abuse


CONFESSIONS FROM THE KITCHEN TABLE Editor’s note: This is a continuation of a series from a family who struggled to keep their child mentally well. The first and second submissions can be read at: https://www.youthconnectionscoalition.org/archives in the June 2019 and September 2019 issues. am the child who struggled, whose family embarked on a difficult, but helpful journey to support me move beyond surviving to thriving. This journey has been very complex, very difficult and very rewarding all at the same time. My family, including my sisters, parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles engage in the journey with me, but others cannot even begin to understand the way in which returning to my same school and peer group have been the biggest hurdle I face on a daily basis. When I left my peer group, I was a different person, struggling to identify myself in a positive way and caught in a negative peer culture with other peers who were struggling. What people don’t realize is that I still deeply care about those peers and their struggle and that cutting them off was agonizing for me. It was like stealing my very breath because this is a group where I felt accepted. I may not have been making healthy choices and I may have not thought much of myself, but I often felt valued and loved. After doing my work away from home, I chose to return into my same home school. Entering that place makes me want the power of invisibility more than anything, while at the same time longing for people I once knew to embrace and welcome me

back. That is not the welcome I received. I feel shunned and judged, being blocked on social media and called names when I walk down the hall. It takes more energy to exist in the school which is like a city jammed into an itty-bitty city of only a few thousand square feet with people who are unable to see the different me I have become, instead hanging on to their previous version of me. I am exhausted and have felt more isolated than ever. Here I sit and walk alone, feeling too afraid to allow any openness because of the hurt it has caused me. Additionally, my teachers have no idea what kind of strength it takes just to get through the day, let alone focus on what I am supposed to learn. Nobody can hear or see the struggle inside of me, and nobody really reaches out to make sure I am getting all I need to support my education. My teachers do not know that when I make a mistake, because I have learned that all people make mistakes, calling me out in front of others only spikes my social anxiety, shame, and despair. I don’t mind critical feedback, but I would like it to be done in a respectful manner rather than one based on fear. I have learned to communicate while acknowledging my own emotions and

taking responsibility for my role in difficult interactions. I want the adults in my life to consider me as a valuable person who can learn from my mistakes. When I am confronted in a public, humiliating way, I learn to shut down and distance myself from those adults, not trusting them and not wanting to be in a relationship with them. Finally, I would not have chosen to go away from my family but it may have saved my life. I want people around me to show respect and learn to acknowledge their emotions without making decisions from these emotions. I have learned that, and will be supported in my attempts as a teenager to continue when adults can do the same for me. However, the distance I feel from people because of the emotional work I focused on for 10 solid months is as far as the east is from the west. A kid like me can appreciate her family and the support and growth offered within that family, but I want to have friends with whom I can be myself, including the me that has grown. I want to laugh, hang out, and experience the thrills of adventure. But I also want to share my feelings and thoughts with friends who can handle that and share theirs, as well. It is difficult to find that in my world, so still I feel very alone. ■

We would like to thank this family for sharing their journey with us and hope that providing a glimpse into what youth and their families have to endure to be mentally well encourages others to get help and seek support.

YOU CAN SUBMIT YOUR STORY AT: coleen@youthconnectionscoalition.org 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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EMPATHIZING A BIGGER

in your own ba

How Parents Can Support a Child’s Gro 6

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Isabella’s eleven-year-old son, James, walked in their door after school. He threw his backpack across the room and ran down the hallway to his bedroom clearly upset.

WITH WORLD

ackyard:

owing Social Awareness By JENNIFER S. MILLER, M.ED.

sabella waited until James finally emerged, hungry for a snack. As he searched the kitchen, she asked, “Are you okay?” James sat down with a bag of chips and explained that he was “sick of school,” or more accurately, the students he encountered. One of his long-time friends, Dakota, had been hurt by some of their supposed friends today, and he felt angry and helpless to do anything. James loved hanging out at Dakota’s house and getting to know his family – his father, a Native American of Crow ancestry and his mother, a Latina-American, both of whom grew up in Montana. Frequently he would catch his “friends” labeling Dakota. They had hung out with the same group since kindergarten, but now those “friends” were making fun of Dakota because his mother would speak to him in Spanish. He had attempted to befriend some others who labeled him “the Mexican,” when his family had no heritage from Mexico whatsoever. Today felt like the last straw for James when he had watched Dakota fight back tears at their lockers after the group had insultingly mimicked his mother’s Spanish. Not only was he mad at the others, but he felt sick about his own role. “I know I should have stopped them, but I just stood there; I didn’t do anything,” James told his mom. He was frustrated with himself. “Why didn’t I stop them?” he uttered to himself. Why couldn’t classmates just take Dakota for who he was, a devoted student and good friend? Clearly, the group of friends involved in labeling Dakota were struggling with social awareness and not accepting Dakota for who he was. And James, though feeling empathy for his friend, struggled to take action. He too was trying to figure out how to respond when others were treating a friend unfairly. From birth, our children are growing and exercising their social awareness, defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as “the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures and the ability to understand the social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.” CASEL recently further defined social awareness through the lens of equity. Children continued on page 9

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continued from page 7

and teens are more likely to learn to empathize when adults accept and value cultural differences and discuss power dynamics that disadvantage some and advantage others. If we don’t discuss these issues with our children, we can perpetuate old stereotypes and limit growing social awareness skills. Social awareness also includes recognizing shared interests and life circumstances. Dakota was a classmate, a friend, played on a sports team, and loved his pet dog just like nearly every other child in his class. His classmates’ mistaken interpretation of his heritage and what that meant about his identity were separating him out and hurting him and his friend. Growing our children’s social awareness poses a number of challenges for the adults who love them. First, if we are to prepare our children for contributing to our global community, we have to recognize and admit bias. We must challenge our own thinking as we raise important questions for our children to consider. This puts us in the uncomfortable position of not knowing it all. Yet, that model of vulnerability, of standing in the face of challenge and admitting we have much to learn, will aid us considerably with our next challenge. As our children develop greater social awareness, their social anxiety rises in direct proportion. Why? As our children work to exercise their perspective-taking muscle, they make wrong interpretations about others’ thoughts and feelings. After all, we are not born mind readers. Empathy requires practice. In the preteen years, feelings of heightened sensitivity complicate this as children’s brains and bodies are dramatically changing. The preteen through teen years can feel isolating as our children become increasingly anxious about their peers’ potential criticisms of who they are. Our opportunity to show vulnerability will not only model what our children are experiencing — “It’s okay not to know it all” — but also open the door to a more trusting connection where parent and teen can wrestle with the tough questions together. There are a number of ways we can help our children and teens become more socially aware. Here are some specific ideas. 3- TO 5-YEAR-OLDS Practice physical awareness. Our young children are working hard to figure out how their bodies can cooperate with the hopes of their minds and hearts. Through pretend play, they work on their fine and gross motor skills. They are interested in learning about their own body parts and curious about others’. This is an ideal time to practice body

awareness. For example, play the game “What does your body tell you? What do others’ bodies tell you?” According to The Definitive Book of Body Language, body language is five times more powerful than words! Work on identifying facial expressions, body postures, and ways of moving that communicate emotion. This focus will assist a child in noticing nonverbal cues from others. Discuss race, culture, differences, and commonalities. Use children’s books to spur conversation. Because children are more regularly engaging in play with others, this is an ideal time to talk about differences and commonalities. There are people with a variety of skin colors, different beliefs about a higher power, and a range of traditions around the world. What can we learn from those differences? And, how many commonalities can we discover? Be sure to seek common ground as there is always more that unites us than divides us. Also, practice acting with kindness and inclusion. Model bringing others in the circle of play who were not naturally there. The seeds of exclusion can be planted at this stage; it’s critical that we offer children the chance to practice inclusion. 6-TO-8-YEAR-OLDS Act as a feelings detective. Children require practice in naming emotions in order to manage them and grow a sense of empathy for others. Create a dinnertime game to discover what Dad is feeling when we ask him, “How was your day?” Use errand runs to see if you can figure out what people are feeling through their facial expressions. When your child comes home and tells a story about classmates, ask the question: “How do you think they were feeling?” These simple games will simultaneously promote valuable selfawareness, self-management (name it to tame it), and social awareness skills. Advance your conversations on inclusion and equity. Your child may be encountering children from other cultures, races, and abilities for the first time as they enter elementary school. Make a point of discussing race, culture, and differing beliefs and abilities whenever the topic may arise. Equate “different” with “an opportunity to learn and value” versus “weird.” At the beginning of each school year, you might ask: “How would you feel in a new school where you didn’t know anyone? Can we come up with ways that you could welcome the new students and help them feel comfortable?”

9-TO-12-YEAR-OLDS Prepare with peer tools. How do you coach your child when they encounter mean words or actions at school? Consider offering your child some simple ways to stop harm without causing more and move to safety. You might practice together saying, “Stop. You know that’s wrong (or unkind),” and then walk away. Isabella could have coached her son to help his friend, Dakota, by agreeing to walk him away when verbally attacked. Did you know more than half of bullying attempts stop when another child intervenes? Agree with friends to help one another stay safe. Then, express compassion: “You know when someone is lashing out, they are hurting inside.” Criticizing other children may put your child in harm’s way. Instead, how can you express empathy and compassion while keeping your child safe? Share stories of fairness and justice. Children at this age are keenly attuned to issues of fairness. Build on this rising insight by discussing the complexities of acting in just ways. When friends make poor choices, ask, “What other choice did they have? How would those choices have resulted in different outcomes?” Point out ways in the larger world that individuals and cultures struggle for rights and talk together about ideas to solve those big problems. Read age-appropriate biographies together about Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, or Rosa Parks to learn about those who risked their lives for justice. FOR 13-TO-18-YEAR-OLDS Engage in powerful conversations. Teens are ready to engage in powerful conversations about more complex issues. Movies, social media, and everyday experiences provide opportunities to practice empathizing. Asking your teen questions like: “What would it be like to be in someone else’s situation? How would you have reacted if you had been them?” Or “Have you seen examples of people being mistreated because of their race, ethnicity, or other differences? How did that make you feel? What could you do about it?” Practicing social awareness with your child is a meaningful contribution to our next generation. Offering your child access to your own open mind and grappling with some of our world’s toughest issues of fairness and justice together will strengthen yours and your child’s empathy and compassion. You may just change the world for the better in your own backyard. ■

About The Author: Jennifer S. Miller, M.Ed., author of the popular site, Confident Parents, Confident Kids, has twenty years of experience helping adults become more effective with the children they love through social and emotional learning. She serves as a writer for ParentingMontana.org: Tools for Your Child’s Success, a statewide media campaign to educate parents on social and emotional learning. Her book, “Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence in Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers” releases November 5, 2019. youthconnectionscoalition.org

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

Khloe Koch

FACES IN THE CROWD

FOUR GEORGIANS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, 3RD GRADE

Khloe loves to go to school each day to learn and play with her friends on the playground. She is kind to her peers, is always respectful, and works hard in class. Her favorite subjects are math, reading, and gym. This school year she has worked hard to be above her reading level and part of the 3rd grade challenge reading group. She is also an aspiring actress and will be featured in the upcoming Grandstreet Theatre production of Frozen Jr. as a Child of Arendell. Khloe is excited for her theatrical debut in December. Keep up the good work, Khloe!

Dymon Root

EAST VALLEY MIDDLE SCHOOL, 8TH GRADE

Dymon is an 8th grader at East Valley Middle School. In addition to being an outstanding student, athlete, and person, Dymon is very active in a variety of activities. She is recognized by students and staff alike as someone who goes the extra mile to help others, demonstrate a positive attitude, and work hard on a daily basis. Dymon is a standout athlete in volleyball, basketball, and track. She is involved in the mentoring program and maintains a 3.9 grade point average in her classes. Her ability to work with others and come to school every day with a genuine and obvious approach sets her apart from others. Thank you, Dymon, for making EVMS a great place!

Bailey Schatz

ACCESS TO SUCCESS, 12TH GRADE

Bailey is a senior at Access to Success. She is a great student and enjoys her English classes the most. She is always looking out for her classmates and making sure that they feel comfortable and welcome in all of their classes. She loves to be outdoors and will camp whenever she can. Bailey is always willing to face a challenge and will be taking a full load of classes this fall, as well as working a part-time job. One of her teachers said this, “The best way to describe Bailey is respectful, polite, supportive, and has a great sense of humor.” After graduation, Bailey is interested in pursuing a job in the construction industry.

Manny Garza

HELENA HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER AND COACH

Mr. Garza is the teacher of numerous health science classes at Helena High School. In addition to his work, Mr. Garza enjoys fishing, hunting, and watching his kids enjoy their extracurricular activities. Mr. Garza also fills numerous roles in the Helena community. He is the advisor of the HOSA club at Helena High, which allows students interested in the medical field to listen to different health professionals in Helena, as well as provide volunteer services such as the annual Helena High blood drive. Mr. Garza is also a volunteer coach for junior football, basketball, and baseball teams. Thank you, Mr. Garza, for creating a sense of community in Helena.

Lewis and Clark County 4-H

COMMUNITY PARTNER

4-H empowers young people with the skills to lead for a lifetime. It’s a research-based experience, including a mentor, a hands-on project, and a meaningful leadership opportunity. They recently held an Open House event highlighting their local clubs and available projects, like robotics, dog, teen leadership, citizenship, shooting sports, and more. The 4-H year runs from October-October, with sign ups at any time. All youth aged 5-19 are welcome, and volunteer opportunities are available. They can be reached at (406) 447-8346 for more information, or by visiting http://bit.ly/lcc4hpage. They can also be found on Facebook and Instagram by typing in lcc4h or Lewis & Clark County 4-H.

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40 DEVELOPMENTAL ASSETS

For every “oh no,” there’s an “oh yeah.”

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, we will continue to be a place where Great Kids Make Great Communities.

Turn the page to learn more!

The 40 Developmental Assets® may be reproduced for educational, noncommercial uses only. Copyright © 1997 Search Institute®, 615 First Avenue NE, Suite 125, Minneapolis, MN 55413; 800-888-7828; www.search-institute.org. All rights reserved.

FCB_Youth Connections.20191108 youthconnectionscoalition.org

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assets in action

40 DEVELOPMENTAL ASSETS

6 SUPPORT

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 enjoying Gates of the Mountains tour

EMPOWERMENT

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.

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BOUNDARIES & EXPECTATIONS 4-H open house highlighting their community service

Our Redeemer’s youth and adults volunteer at Carroll game

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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.

CONSTRUCTIVE USE OF TIME

Helena Youth Chorus visiting the Governor

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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.


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

Not all pictures are guaranteed publication.

28 COMMITMENT TO LEARNING

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.

Working Red Ribbon Week volleyball game

POSITIVE VALUES

SOCIAL COMPETENCIES

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.

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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.

Student receiving Carroll College Character Award

Future college students on application day

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POSITIVE IDENTITY

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.

Students after the Nadine Long Memorial Run

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THE FIVE SOURCES OF

stress in teens Dr. Tim Elmore

had lives with his grandparents whose income is so low they live well below the poverty line in his school district. Because the school is understaffed and has only one counselor, Chad is consistently living in distress, possessing no coping skills. Sara is bullied and sexually harassed as a middle school student. Her grades and demeanor reflect the poor school climate she endures on campus. She is withdrawn and doesn’t ask for help, even though she’s in survival mode. Peyton has been sent to the vice principal’s office four times since the beginning of the school year. There appear to be no significant problems at home, but Peyton spends far too much time on smartphones and is reacting to social media posts. STRESS LEVELS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT All of these scenarios are sources of stress in students. The stress begins as early as elementary school and extends all the way through college. According to the Wall Street Journal, “One recent study found that the rate of moderate to severe depression among U.S. college students rose from 23.2% in 2007 to 41.1% in 2018, while rates of moderate to severe anxiety jumped from 17.9% in 2013 to 34.4% in 2018.” I have found that anxiety and depression often begin with high stress levels. FIVE COMMON SOURCES OF STRESS IN TEENS 1. The Filtered Life Living in a world of constant updates leads to something called “FOMO”—the fear of missing out. Students are constantly comparing themselves to others they see on Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. This often leads to feelings of stress and anxiety. Alexander Brent, a law student from the University of Tennessee, put it this way: “Social media provides a filtered view of our

One recent study found that the rate of moderate to severe depression among U.S. college students rose from 23.2% in 2007 to 41.1% in 2018, while rates of moderate to severe anxiety jumped from 17.9% in 2013 to 34.4% in 2018. friends and peers—the good shines through while the bad stays hidden. This can make us feel as if everyone is happier than we are, as if we’re the only ones with problems, and as if our problems can’t be solved.” 2. The Constant Notifications You already see the influence of the smartphone—and what it does to us all. Students from Generation Z have grown up with smartphones, not just cell phones. Thousands of pings, notifications, pop-ups, and personal messages bombard them daily, minimally distracting them, but often damaging them in a far worse manner. The most common word today’s college students use to describe their lives is overwhelmed. 3. The Supervised Norms Today’s parents, teachers, and coaches are conditioned to prescribe every minute of the young people they lead. Kids’ lives are so overly prescribed that by the time they hit college, many of them don’t have any experience with self-direction.

Elizabeth Hildebrandt, from the University of Toledo, describes this new reality this way: “The typical college student arrives on campus after 18 years of being scheduled and micromanaged by parents. College preparation begins at least at age five, when kids can be shuttled from activity to activity—apparently that’s what ‘successful parents’ must do.” 4. The Undue Pressure Students tell me they feel pressure from every direction: college applications, scholarship competitions, test scores, parental hopes and fears, club sports, you name it. In fact, when we ask high school students in focus groups what causes them the most stress, school is the number one answer. Emily Kaib, a student at Vanderbilt University, describes her feelings this way: “College is so expensive that students feel as if they have to be perfect. Otherwise, they might think they’re failing themselves and their families, who have invested so much in them and their futures.” 5. The Instant Gratification Perhaps no greater cause of misplaced expectations exists than a culture of instant gratification. The fact that young people can easily gratify almost any desire means that they often grow accustomed—even addicted—to that gratification. This can lead to a lack of resilience in tough situations. Alexander Brent, from Tennessee, revealed the consequences of growing up in a culture of instant gratification this way: “By pressing a few buttons we can have meals delivered to our homes; receive step-by-step directions to our destinations; and even find people to date. This ability to satisfy our wants and needs instantly has created a tendency in many of us to panic when faced with real problems. We often lack the ability to grind through adversity, as we’ve come to expect quick and easy solutions. When things don’t go smoothly right away, they can seem hopeless.” ■

About The Author: Tim Elmore is an international speaker and best-selling author of more than 30 books, including Generation iY: The Secrets to Connecting With Teens & Young Adults in the Digital Age, Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults, the Habitudes® series, and 12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid. He is founder and president of Growing Leaders, an organization equipping today’s young people to become the leaders of tomorrow. Sign up to receive Tim’s blog at www.growingleaders.com/blog and get more information on Growing Leaders at www.GrowingLeaders.com and @GrowingLeaders @TimElmore. Used with permission. All content contained within this article is the property of Growing Leaders, Inc. and is protected by international copyright laws, and may not be reproduced, republished, distributed, transmitted, displayed, broadcast or otherwise exploited in any manner without the express prior written permission of Growing Leaders. Growing Leaders, Inc. names and logos and all related trademarks, tradenames, and other intellectual property are the property of Growing Leaders and cannot be used without its express prior written permission.

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what is NEGATIVE PEER CULTURE By KELLY ACKERMAN, LCPC

ne of the major tasks in the tween and teen years is self-identity in which kids search not to identify who they are, but how they fit into the world. Additionally, they begin to transition more toward a peer-view of the world where acceptance and peer influence increases. This movement toward independence and peer culture is normal and exciting. Identifying with and connecting with peers in healthy, positive ways often affirms healthy choices, decisions and improves mental health and family relationships. However, parents often find themselves in a losing battle when kids make decisions to identify with a negative peer culture that may increase unsafe risky behaviors, disobedience or declining motivation. Please note that a negative peer culture is not made of “bad” kids, but the dynamic of the group leads to behaviors that often increase tension between the parent and child, and the school and the child while limiting the potential of the child. Of course, starting early as a family to engage in conversations about healthy peer groups is best practice, however, it is never too late to enrich relationships with children and continue to support healthy decision making. Included here are three starting points for parents to maintain positive influence in the lives of their children as it relates to friends and peer groups. GET TO KNOW YOUR CHILD THROUGH LISTENING AND REINFORCING THE POSITIVE Preteens and teens are eager to move toward independence. Actively listening to their feelings and thoughts without attempting to change them becomes a key relationship builder during this developmental change. It is a time to be curious and ask questions rather than instructing and telling which can result in distancing, isolation, or rebellion. As teens begin to question who they are, they may discover they have a

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It is possible to share a different viewpoint than the child without needing to be “right.” Keep their development in mind and remember they have a need to explore different options without causing dramatic reactions from the adults around them whom they look to for support. different thought about the world than what they’d been told. Listening fully to those differences without shutting them down will build trust and relationships, strengthening your credibility and trust as a parent. It is possible to share a different viewpoint than the child without needing to be “right.” Keep their development in mind and remember they have a need to explore different options without causing dramatic reactions from the adults around them whom they look to for support. TAKE TIME TO DEFINE VALUES When our behaviors are not in line with our values, it creates internal conflict often in the form of negative self-talk. However, very few people take time to define their core values. Through defining values, we then have a concrete compass to guide our choices and decisions. It is important that each family member define their own set of values and for the family to define a set to utilize for

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boundary and rule setting. These values can be different with the understanding that family expectations will be decided based on family values. Yet, gentle confrontation can be utilized with a child who is making decisions that do not align with his/her personal values. This personal set allows for an internal motivation during the adolescent search for self. KNOW WHEN TO SEEK HELP Notice when your child begins to shift into a peer group with whom you are not comfortable, and engage in asking about how the group supports the child’s values and growth. Make it a priority to meet and get to know the peers in the group, setting limits when you become aware of unhealthy patterns. If your child begins to refuse to change friendships or seems stuck in a negative group, seek the help of professionals, school teachers and administration, and let your child know that you love them enough to help them to make this change. When negative peer groups are not addressed, the behaviors and struggles are not likely to change, and will most likely result in further consequences. However, as a parent, you have limited ability to assert control because adolescents will sometimes stop at nothing to exert their own power and control. Seeking outside help is a positive step to showing up for your child when your influence is no longer being considered.

Parents play a key role in the lives of their pre-teens and teens. However, that role begins to weaken as children make the normal, developmentally-appropriate shift to increased peer influence and involvement. It is important to recognize this developmental task and offer support in positive ways to increase the likelihood that children will gravitate to and choose friends who will support their growth and development in healthy, fun, and motivating ways. ■


NUMBERS Is my child addicted to screens? Games and social media apps have become the preferred coping mechanism for kids. For some, it is the only coping mechanism they know. Whether recovering from a bad day or suffering from the teenage angst that comes with hormones, brain development, and navigating difficult social situations, teens say the ability to escape with technology helps them from dwelling on life situations they can’t control. Unfortunately, brain research is finding that the stress and anxiety students use technology to escape from is exacerbated by its use. Video games are only engaging to individuals if they raise blood pressure to a level that floods the body with cortisol (the body’s stress hormone). Studies also show that cortisol is also released with every text or snapchat left on “read”, and while waiting for the number of “likes” and “views”. Moreover, everyone else’s life looks a little more awesome than ours, since very few people are posting anything but their best, completely filtered self. None of this is new information to parents, but many are asking, “How do I know if my child is addicted or just doing the same thing all of his/her friends are doing?” Things to consider:

400

The average number of times a child laughs a day.

13 MILLION

The weight in pounds of the tallest snowman.

3,000

1) Is the person beginning to choose videogames or technology over interactions with friends and family? 2) Does the person feel anxious, depressed, or moody when attempting to cut down on his/her use?

The speed in mph a crack travels when glass breaks.

3) Is the person neglecting school work or other activities in order to spend more time online? 4) Are the person’s closest friends people from an online community (video games or chat groups), more than people he/she sees in daily life? 5) Is the person using technology for longer periods of time in order to get the same sense of satisfaction and wellbeing? 6) Does the person need to immediately respond to an alert on their phone, computer, or gaming device?

200,000 The number of glasses of milk a cow produces in her lifetime.

A Duke University study reported that teens who use screens four hours a day or more are at higher risk for mental health issues (the maximum hours recommended is 2). A word of caution ... as you begin to question your child’s screen time, they will be checking yours, as well. If you are like me, you may need to find a different way to keep your patience in a grocery line.

33

The percentage of dog owners who say they’ve talked to their pet on the phone.

RECOMMENDED READING: Glow Kids by Nicholas Kadaras iGen by Jean Twenge

HAVE A QUESTION?

coleen@youthconnectionscoalition.org We cannot guarantee all questions will be published; however, we will do our best to respond to all questions submitted.

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The number of years summer lasts on Uranus.


DRIVE

HIGH GET A DUI Driving under the influence of marijuana will get you a DUI, even if you have a green card. BE SMART. DRIVE RESPONSIBLY.

T H I S M E S S AG E B R O U G H T T O YO U BY

While the use of medical marijuana is legal in Montana, driving under the influence is not.


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OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY

and the parent/child connection: Activities and Strategies for the Developing Child and Adolescent By EMILY WASHUT, MOTR/L s a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, I have been lucky enough to work with many families and parents – each as unique as the child I’m working with. I stress the importance of carry over in the home setting to ensure the strategies and skills we address in therapy are reinforced to increase success and independence. This may be as simple as utilizing a visual schedule in the home to help with transitions with a morning routine or the use of tight squeezes and “big hugs” from the parent to give their child increased deep pressure input when they’re showing signs of their sensory system being out of balance. This also requires the promotion of a healthy and positive parent (caregiver)/child relationship and stresses the importance of connection for regulation, learning, and the ability to thrive in different environments and at different stages and ages. Self-regulation is frequently addressed and discussed in my field. As more extensive research is done behind the neurology of connection and child development, new programs are being implemented and developed to support the child, family, and professional to increase successes, attain new skills, and refine existing skills. Many of these pertain to social-emotional development – especially throughout childhood. Another “angle” where Occupational Therapists have a unique take on parent/ child connection is through extensive knowledge of childhood and brain development. This knowledge provides us with the ability to help parents in parenting through a place of appropriate developmental timelines while also promoting connection. For example, some children may show a “chronological age” far superior to their developmental and regulatory skills. In these instances, we help parents take things back to a more developmental level to look at the

bigger picture and to help make these connections in a place where the child better understands and is successful before increasing expectations or parenting requirements. Each strategy and “game plan” is unique to each child and family. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) notes the acknowledgement of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) to “prepare the children of today to be productive, caring, and responsible citizens”. Where does this start? Connection throughout childhood. This begins to develop in utero and lasts not only throughout childhood, but throughout the lifespan. All 50 states in the United States have even developed SEL standards for preschool programming, only further highlighting the importance of these foundational skills in being a successful peer, friend, family member, coworker…the list is endless. One of my personal favorite programs is the “Positive Discipline” program developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen. This program utilizes a tool referred to as “Connection before Correction”. This particular tool addresses the importance of connection to establish a trust and a feeling of safety before the child is open to successful correction. Also popular is the “connection before regulation” saying that’s been seen floating around so many OT and parenting websites. Basically, before a child can be open to correction, open to regulating their sensory system (this can look different for every child, sensory processing and sensory processing disorder is something many children I see struggle with and regulation before expectations is huge), this connection must be established and in place. So how do we develop these connections? Like I stated above, it starts early and the importance of connection doesn’t stop as our children age. There are MANY different strategies and activities than the ideas I’ll give here, so please…take these, make them your own.

PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN. Simple, but can be so difficult to do in the world we’re currently living in. As adults and parents, we have responsibilities that need tending to (sometimes immediately), but when we look at the importance of connection with our children we have to look at what this means. Being able to put your phone in a drawer or out of sight in the time it takes to do an activity or have a conversation with your child promotes eye contact, engagement, and sends the message of “you are most important” is huge. SNUGGLE THOSE BABIES There has been extensive research in the area of physical touch and brain development in infants. I’ve also found this can be very generational. You may have to kindly tell grandma, that no, you’re not going to “spoil” your child; you’re simply helping them promote healthy connections and relationships. CARVE OUT SPECIAL TIME As a mom to a vibrant and hysterical twoyear old, I’ve been lucky to focus solely on her, as she’s our first (and currently only) child. No matter what your family makeup is, it is important to have special time, special routines, or special one-on-one time with each of your children to promote connection and growth. SHOW INTEREST Adolescents and teenagers can be a tough age group to really feel connected to as they develop and establish their independence. However, it is important to check in and establish an open rapport and conversation without fear of judgment. This will look different for everyone, but by showing interest in his or her life, friends, and his or her interests, that parent/child connection can still exist and thrive. ■

About The Author: Emily Washut is a licensed and registered Occupational Therapist practicing in the state of Wyoming. She is the co-founder and Director of Occupational Therapy for Trilogy Therapy, LLC, focused on promoting a mixed model of teletherapy and onsite practice to serve rural and underserved school districts. youthconnectionscoalition.org

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In Montana, parents want what’s best for their kids.

ParentingMontana.org has information

and tools for parents of children at every age.

TOOLS FOR YOUR CHILD’S SUCCESS This product was supported [in part] by CFDA 93.959 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of SAMHSA or Health and Human Services.


IMPACTS OF MARIJUANA

on the teenage brain By NICOLE HACKLEY, Prevention Technical Assistance Leader

ately, the topic of marijuana is being brought up in more and more conversations. Federal laws still classify it as a Schedule 1 Drug, meaning it is a substance or chemical with no currently accepted medical use, a high potential for abuse and the ability to create severe psychological and/or physical dependence. As 11 states with recreational marijuana laws have legalized its use for adults over 21, and medicinal marijuana can only be obtained by a medical professional in 33 other states, the perception of risk in using marijuana has decreased among youth-meaning they do not see using the drug as risky. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), youth ages 12-17 have reported a significant decrease in the perception of harm of weekly marijuana use from 40.6% in 2015 to 34.9% in 2018. Substance abuse prevention professionals work to increase perception of risk of drug use, with the goal of reducing usage rates. They do this because the effects of marijuana on the developing teen brain can have lifetime repercussions. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that one in six youth who try marijuana will become addicted. Affecting the

hippocampus part of the brain, it impairs attention, memory and concentration. When people begin using marijuana as teenagers, the drug may impair thinking, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions. At a time when mental health is at the forefront of problems being discussed in America, it is important to point out a clear relationship between youth marijuana use and the increase of major psychiatric episodes. Those who used cannabis more than ten times before age 18 were 2-3 times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. This statistic alone is disturbing, but is compounded by the knowledge that the average concentration of THC, the active drug in marijuana, has more than tripled from about 4% in 1995 to 13.18% in 2017. Higher doses can lead to acute toxic psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions. Parents and caregivers want their kids to grow up and be the healthiest, best versions of themselves. Marijuana greatly restricts that, so it’s imperative parents talk to their kids about how dangerous this drug is, and that its effects can lead to a lifetime of problems. For additional information visit: samhsa.gov/marijuana. ■youthconnectionscoalition.org

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IT CAN BE HARD TO GET HIS ATTENTION. While you’re dropping off your child, discuss a plan to help him avoid alcohol and other drugs. Talk with your children about what to do if they are faced with a decision about alcohol and other drugs, such as texting a code word to a family member. Practice the exit plan in a safe environment. For tips on how—and when—to begin the conversation, visit:

www.underagedrinking.samhsa.gov

SMA-18-5086PSTCRD

0 to 36 Have questions about months your child’s development?

by Family Outreach

> Motor

The FREE Child Find Screening Clinic is for you!

> Adaptive Behavior > Communication > Social Emotional

SCHEDULE APPOINTMENT Call Ray Bjork Learning Center

406.324.2900

2019-20 SCREENING DATES 8 AM–NOON Sept 6 • Oct 4 • Nov 1 Jan 10 • Feb 7 • Mar 6

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> Cognition > Autism Screening

34 months to 5 years

by Helena Preschool Staff

Dec 6 Apr 10

Screening takes approximately one hour. Results will be shared and follow-up recommendations made via mail.

> Motor > Hearing/Vision > Communication > Cognition > Social Emotional > Self-Help

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YC Magazine, Helena - December 2019  

YC Magazine, Helena - December 2019