Cut the Baloney: Summer Safety
ADVENTURES IN ADOLESCENCE » The 40 Developmental Assets: Constructive Use of Time » Balancing Tech Time and Tree Time
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6 Adventures in Adolescence 40 Developmental Assets: 14 The Constructive Use of Time 16 Balancing Tech Time and Tree Time to Focus on Keeping 20 Time Children Safe Around Water 23 Cut the Baloney: Summer 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
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TO ADVERTISE OR CONTRIBUTE Coleen Smith: (406) 324-1032 firstname.lastname@example.org COVER PHOTO BY Megan Lane Photography youthconnectionscoalition.org
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Preslie just completed 8th grade at CR Anderson where she has maintained a 4.0 throughout her time in junior high. She is excited to start at Helena Capital and is interested in pursuing a career in dermatology. Preslie has a passion for travel, highlighted by her recent trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She will be competing next season as a Level 6 gymnast at H.A.C. having just completed the competition season with multiple 1st place all-around and event finishes. She enjoys time with her friends and family, snowboarding, boating and fishing, all while enjoying the Montana outdoors.
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.
t’s hard to believe that another school year has already passed. As a parent, the last day of school was always my least favorite, but probably not for the reasons you’re thinking. I hated that another year of my kids’ lives were gone, never to have them back again. I love Dr. Nolen’s article about letting kids be kids…within reason. They need our help to navigate the COLEEN difficult times of being a teenager. I SMITH remember talking to a therapist one time when she explained that when you ask kids, “Why did you do that,” and they answer, “I don’t know,” that they truly don’t. Like my mother always used to say, “At the time it seemed like the thing to do.” Teens truly celebrate and live life with that mantra; unfortunately they don’t always consider the circumstances. The magazine committee chose to focus on Constructive Use of Time as the topic in this issue’s 40 Development Assets. During the summer, kids need to be kept busy with constructive activities in addition to being able to be a kid. It’s hard as a single parent, or having two working parents in the household, to keep track of kids every minute of every day, let alone make sure they’re making good decisions. We know that kids who are active in positive things are less likely to be involved in negative ones. Summer is a time that is especially important. Lastly, knowing where they are, what they’re doing, and who they’re with is key in being supportive, as well as helping direct their decisions. Research shows that parental influence truly does have a role in whether kids get involved in drugs, alcohol, and risky behaviors. I know it seems like they’re totally tuning us out, but all this research can’t be wrong! Our summers are so short. Take advantage of every minute you can spend with your child(ren). It will definitely pay off in dividends. CAN’T GET ENOUGH GREAT RESOURCES? FOLLOW US: Twitter: @Youthconx Facebook (for parents): Youth Connections Facebook (for kids): Find Your Spot
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CONFESSIONS FROM THE KITCHEN TABLE e’ve all been there. It’s a big game/performance/ competition. Your child has been practicing for months and this is IT, the defining moment in their life (or so it seems at the time), and your child doesn’t do as well as they have in practice and they lose. Ugh. You’re heart broken. They’re heart broken. We run up to them to soothe their hurts, tell them there’s always next time, that it’s just a game, they tried hard and that’s what counts. Nothing seems to help. What can we do or say to make it all better? The answer—nothing. I recently read an article by a mom who received excellent advice from a dad who experienced this very thing. After a heartbreaking loss in a girl’s soccer game to a rival, a loss that kept them out of the state championship, this very wise dad said, “Go to your car and don’t say a thing. Your daughter will find you.” This mom had the same response I would have, “I just want to tell her I’m sorry.” The dad urged her not to speak until her daughter had spoken first. Yikes—I’m not sure I could have done that. But she did, as hard as it was. She heard the conversations of other parents and their kids’ responses, “I sucked, there won’t be a next time.” Then the parents understandably
got defensive saying, “I’m just trying to help. You don’t need to be rude.” In contrast, this mom and daughter’s ride home was quiet until her daughter finally said, “That was a horrible game. They shouldn’t have won.” The mom quietly agreed. As they were getting out of the car at home, the daughter asked what was for dinner. That was it. No more conversation and no fights. Wow! That was some magical advice! When my daughter was in competitive cheerleading, she was to compete at nationals in a stunt group. We fundraised to travel to California, and there were rumors the competition was going to be televised. The girls were in sync. Their coach was not remotely worried because they had been practicing so well and nothing seemed to rattle them. She had messed with their music and trained them to keep going no matter what happened. They had been sticking every stunt for months. You know where I’m going with this…. All five of the moms were sitting up front waiting to cheer them on to victory. During the second stunt the flyer fell out of the stunt. This had never happened before! The girls scrambled to re-group, but they struggled to figure out where to re-start in their routine as the music keep going. The moms and
coach were shocked and devastated. All this work for it to end like this. After the routine the girls ran off the floor to back stage. It was a couple of minutes before we found them. My daughter ran up to me for a hug. She was sobbing, cheer makeup running down her face. I’ve never felt more inadequate as a parent. How can I fix this and make it better? I couldn’t. As I look back, I wish I would have had the advice of that dad. I couldn’t say, “You did a good job” or “There’ll be a next time.” But I did say I’m sorry and it will be okay. She sobbed some more and said how embarrassed she was and hoped it wasn’t on TV. Poor things! They’re in eighth grade and put themselves under that kind of pressure. By the end of the day they were laughing about it—and even recreated the stunt, sharing with us what they were saying to each other. When they saw the video, they even said, “Well, this wasn’t as bad as we thought it was.” I think as parents we often want to fix everything at that moment. We need to understand that we can’t, and in fact our kids will be better off in the long run if we don’t. In times where we don’t know what to say to make everything better, the best advice is—say nothing. ■
YOU CAN SUBMIT YOUR STORY AT: firstname.lastname@example.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.
Why “Letting Kids be Kids” is Sometimes the Best
Way to Support Their Well-Being By DR. JULIAN NOLEN, Licensed Psychologist
Adolescence. For many, these four syllables are enough to fill us with terror—searching warily for distracted drivers or checking our teenagers’ beds to confirm that they are, in fact, in their beds. In our own lives, we remember this as a time of poor decision-making and curfew defiance, while fearing the same from our children. et for all of its challenges, adolescence also includes a wealth of opportunities and strengths that play a crucial role in our teens’ search for self-discovery. For that reason, it is our responsibility as adults not simply to correct and limit their exploration, but to guide and support them in this journey—and to celebrate this opportunity for growth. For it is a crucial aspect of adolescence not only to make mistakes, but to learn from them. And if we take it upon ourselves only to control and inhibit our teenagers’ adventures, then we not only incite rebellion but also rob them of a crucial opportunity for self-exploration. Instead, our role requires a careful balance of letting kids be kids, while also acting as mentors, confidants, and (when necessary) sources of consequence. I currently teach 18 and 19-year-olds at a local college. Yet even looking back just a few years to their own early adolescent selves, my students have identified powerful memories of challenge, self-discovery, and triumph. They describe their adolescent years as impulsive and full of regret, but they also describe them as formative. For every memory filled with shame, my students have also experienced youthful moments of adventure that have forever shaped their understanding of the world and compassion toward others. For those of us already years removed from adolescence and equipped with a lifetime of mistakes, it can be terrifying to know that our loved ones are in the midst of such a reckless, passionate stage. But we must also draw upon our own continued on page 9
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memories of wondrous self-discovery in order to fully understand and celebrate the adolescent endeavors of our own children. In technical terms, a psychologist might tell you that adolescence is characterized by a limbic system that rapidly outpaces the prefrontal cortex. In practical terms, this means that most teens do first, then ask questions later. Led by a brain that is highly responsive to rewards (e.g., peer acceptance) and immediate consequences (e.g., embarrassment) adolescents are both the victims and the benefactors of a developmentally unique psychological state. They explore, they leap before looking, and they struggle with a need for belonging that often drives the majority of their behaviors. At the same time, however, our teenagers are increasingly capable of complex problemsolving and creativity. Together, this combination of impulsivity, risk-taking, and advanced thinking enables a unique capacity for growth, personal development, and learning. As teachers, mentors, and parents, it is our job (and our privilege) not only to keep teens safe, but also to channel their strengths toward healthy self-exploration and individuation. From middle school to senior prom, adolescent cognition is characterized by “dualprocess thinking,” a constant battle between what feels good vs. what logic and intelligence so dutifully recommend. Frequently, spontaneous, reward-based thinking wins out, leaving our teens with a memorable night past curfew, a couple of weeks of grounding, and (hopefully) limited injuries. At other times, these same architects of self-destruction may surprise us with their brilliance,stating their case for a new cellphone with the eloquence of an accomplished legal attorney. As a result, those of us in charge of supervising these youngsters often face the exasperating task of guiding those who are capable of making great decisions, but often do not. Yet while our temptation in responding to these challenges may be to take control, it is often far more helpful to encourage our adolescents’ increasing capacity to control themselves in healthy ways. When I first met James, I was fully confronted by this paradox. While sitting in the locked room of a detention facility, James had noticed that the entrances were not wheelchair accessible. With little hesitation, James took his next opportunity and literally leapt for freedom, hoping that the drop from a second-floor balcony might temporarily
place him in a wheelchair and thus force his transfer to a more accommodating facility. Instead, James received only a sore ankle and a safety assessment in my office. Eventually, however, the same creativity and passion that led him to jump out a window became his greatest assets—as we worked to regulate his impulsivity and channel these strengths toward positive goals. I didn’t make James’ decisions for him (nor would he have let me), and I didn’t decide the direction of his life. Yet with supportive communication, mutual respect, and many good-natured debates, James eventually became a positive leader for his peers and transitioned into successful adulthood. And although James’ story is an extreme one, his case nevertheless demonstrates the unique challenges and opportunities we face in supporting our adolescents’ development. Toward that end, consider the following strategies as you work toward a collaborative and supportive (but still influential!) relationship with your teen: 1. Provide guidance, structure, and problem-solving. Research has proven that parental influence does help to reduce high-risk behaviors and improve teen health. Go parents! In particular, such intervention is most effective when it incorporates the strategies below. 2. Listen to your teen. Validate their struggles and ideas. Whether you agree with your teen’s decision-making or not, helping them to feel understood will limit their resistance while supporting their need for independence. A teen who feels adequately supported is also more likely to speak with you regarding future issues— potentially reducing their impulsivity and providing you with more opportunities to encourage healthy decision-making. 3. Treat your teen with respect and appreciation. Teens are intelligent, passionate, and highly invested in the world around them. Acknowledging their many strengths will not only improve your relationship, but also help them to feel supported rather than caged—potentially reducing their rebellious feelings or behaviors. 4. Be a part of your teen’s decisionmaking, not always the one making decisions. Be a sounding board for your teen. Help them to process ideas, assess the
“pros and cons,” and consider long-term outcomes without simply telling them “no.” In particular, encourage your teen to use their own increasingly-advanced problemsolving skills to “think through” impulsive temptations and identify healthy solutions. In addition to building trust and collaboration, this practice will help your teen to further develop problem-solving skills and process their own future decisions. 5. Lead by example. Although teens often resist authority, they are also searching desperately for positive role models to “lead the way” through life. Modeling positive decision-making is a powerful, non-confrontational way of supporting your child’s healthy lifestyle. 6. Encourage positive relationships and activities. You can’t (and shouldn’t) stop your teen from spending time with friends or seeking adventure. But you can support them in doing these things in healthy ways. Encourage communication with positive peers and role models, support your teen’s engagement in school activities, and join them in exciting family adventures. Besides, the teenage years are fun, and you deserve to be a part of that. As parents, teachers, or mentors, it is crucial to understand the many challenges that our teenagers face. Yet is no less important to appreciate the corresponding opportunities and wonders inherent to this age of crucial development and exploration. From middle school to college, our children will undergo enormous changes in height, intelligence, and personality—gradually setting a course toward the wonderful adults that they will someday become. And although it may be tempting for us to take the wheel, there are also times when we must let them lead the way. For on their journey toward selfdiscovery, our teens must be captains of their own ship, while we may serve as their first mate. We must guide them through dangerous waters, certainly, while also helping them to chart their own course. To do otherwise would be to tempt a mutiny. But more importantly, it would rob us of the opportunity see where their adventure might lead us—and to join them in that wonderful journey. After all, adolescence itself is an adventure. And though it remains our responsibility to ensure our teens safely navigate that adventure, this doesn’t mean that we cannot enjoy the ride. ■
Dr. Julian Nolen is a licensed psychologist at Intermountain in Helena, Montana, who has worked in both Residential and School-Based Services and now provides psychological evaluation in Outpatient Clinical Services. He has been working with children and adolescents for 14 years, and was once a teenager himself.
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FACES IN THE CROWD
BROADWATER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, 5TH GRADE
Caroline is the student body president and has been exceptional because she leads by example and follows the Broadwater universals. She is always respectful to peers, teachers, paras, and anyone who walks in the door at Broadwater. She always completes her homework and keeps her school day items organized. She comes to school ready and eager to learn. She helps keep everyone both physically and emotionally safe. She follows the rules on the playground and always uses kind words and actions. She strives to achieve and knows that it takes hard work to excel. Caroline is also involved in Grandstreet Theatre. She is able to juggle her school life and extra-curricular activities successfully. Caroline is a rock star!
EAST VALLEY MIDDLE SCHOOL, 8TH GRADE
Addee maintains straight A’s in the classroom and was a member of the volleyball team this past fall. What sets Addee apart from others is her willingness to reach out to others and help whenever and wherever she can. Teachers and students agree that she is one of the most positive students in the school and is constantly putting smiles on faces with her great attitude. Her work ethic is described by teachers as inspiring, and she is continually striving to improve both academically and as a leader. The staff and students of EVMS will miss Addee as she moves on to high school. Thanks, Addee, for all your work in making EVMS such a great place!
Shayly Peterson PAL
Shayly is a recent graduate of the Project for Alternative Learning (PAL). Shayly is a volunteer with Youth Dynamics in Helena, a group home organization for children and teens who need help with behavioral problems, get into trouble, or have other issues. The Helena location is unique in that it is set up to have horses. Shayly has been volunteering her time (and her horse) to Youth Dynamics for a little over a year now. They have put a lot of time into working on group and individual therapy and cleaning and organizing the barn and facility. Shayly plans on attending the Oklahoma Farrier School for their advanced three-month course and then on to the Western Montana School of Equine Massage.
Darla Dexter YOUTH DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR, HELENA FAMILY YMCA
Darla has an education degree from Carroll College and has been with the Y for four years. Darla supervises the Bryant After School program, summer Day Camp, Summer Learning Academy, and Broadway Early Learning Center. Darla’s goals are to help kids achieve their full potential—they are happy, safe, and healthy, while learning social and intellectual skills. She helps parents engage in their child’s growth. Darla epitomizes the Y’s Core Values: Caring, Honesty, Respect and Responsibility. The favorite part of her day is getting a hug from a kiddo. Thanks, Darla, for your commitment to our most precious assets—our kids!
The Helena Symphony offers four free Symphony Kids Concerts per year. These educational concerts are created for five to 10-year-olds and their families. Young learners participate in an exciting program that not only introduces them to the world of music and instruments, but also engages young students and their families in the concert experience. Following each concert, children are invited to try instruments at the Instrument Petting Zoo. Additionally, fourth and fifth graders are invited through their school’s music programs to attend a concert created just for them. Students are entertained and inspired, all while learning the importance of music in one’s education and life. Thank you, Helena Symphony, for educating and entertaining our kids and families!
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40 DEVELOPMENTAL ASSETS
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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.
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assets in action
40 DEVELOPMENTAL ASSETS
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.
Dawn and Aurora studying owl excrement together
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 Principal for a day having lunch with family
McDonald’s presents livestock project scholarship to 4-H member
Bengal tennis players taking a break
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with a picture and the number of the asset the picture represents.
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22 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.
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.
Amber at the HHS Science Circus
Shopping for Spring Break snack packs
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.
Learning about Native Americans at the Interpretive Center
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.
Emma wins Junior Theatre Outstanding Female Performer
constructive USE OF TIME By KELLY ACKERMAN, Parent Educator
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 risktaking 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 one in a series to highlight the eight categories of assets in order to more fully engage families, schools, agencies, businesses, and community members in ensuring our children experience as many assets as possible. CONSTRUCTIVE USE OF TIME This developmental asset consists of the following four aspects: 1. CREATIVE ACTIVITIES 2. YOUTH PROGRAMS 3. RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY 4. TIME AT HOME Free time is necessary and important to add balance and allow for necessary choices. Constructive use provides a beneficial network that promotes healthy development. There are vast benefits to being involved in youth programs and creative activities while balancing adequate time at home. Some of these benefits are exactly what parents are hoping for their children and include: increased self-esteem, development of life skills, greater family communication, increased academic achievement, decreased involvement in risky behaviors, and fewer psychosocial problems such as loneliness and hopelessness. Creative Activities such as music, art, theater, or other activities that engage kids in the creative process for three or more hours each week is recommended. As kids tap into their creative brain, amazing things begin to happen which are well researched and established to promote health and
well-being. Plus, the goal setting process is learned as kids break down larger projects into smaller tasks to produce a finished work. It typically takes planning, vision, and persistence to accomplish creative tasks which can be shared with others. This process eventually leads to a greater intrinsic motivation that influences lifelong success both in school and eventually in the world of work. Further, kids can rely on themselves to accomplish complex projects because they have had the gifts of experience, support and encouragement through the process. This then becomes internalized until self-motivation dominates and there is less reliance on others for assistance or completion of projects. Youth Programs like sports, clubs, or community/school organizations are suggested for three or more hours per week. The obvious benefit is that keeping children occupied in these activities reduces the chances and opportunities for participating in risky behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, or sexual relationships. Being coached and guided from non-family adults continues to provide a positive learning environment that supports parents in their quest for raising healthy, active children. As children participate in organized activities, cooperation and communication skills are strengthened. This also assists in reducing screen time while providing natural pleasure through real-world experiences. Nonetheless, caution should be used in this category as extreme competition can tip the scales into a negative and sometimes detrimental experience. Highly competitive sports programs can create potential for increased alcohol and drug use as kids attempt to cope with the high levels of stress and pressure. However, not all kids choose sports in this category. Involvement in scouting, civic activities, and other community programs generally do not have the pressure demands that some sports programs have, and provide all the benefits. Religious Community activities are recommended for at least one hour per
week. Interestingly, the benefits from this involvement have little to do with the faith or spirituality of the child, but are believed to result from being around friends, families, and adults that foster similar values and positive support. While providing the same benefits as other activities, religious involvement also provides an increase in life satisfaction. This of course is a great gift because adolescents in general have a slightly negative outlook. The enhancement of life satisfaction can ward off mental health issues such as depression while increasing the sense of well-being in the context of positive, like-minded friends and adults. Time at Home protects children and adolescents from being over programmed while increasing their sense of control in their life. Defining oneself in the family unit is essential and provides necessary time for connection that all people are designed for. Although popular culture sends the message that teenagers do not like their parents and do not wish to be around them, the opposite is actually true. It is the intimacy of the parental relationship that provides a sense of safety to which all children, including teens, return to fill their emotional cup. Once that safety is experienced, the child is ready to confidently venture out again into the world of exploration of school and activities. Time at home is different than time “hanging out” with friends which should be limited to two or less evenings per week. All of the elements of constructive use of time play an important role in the healthy development of kids. Developing a plan with kids to stay involved while factoring in the amount of stress from competition requires communication and cooperative decision making. It is important to factor in the family’s time, resources, and each individual child’s temperament and personality while allowing for freedom to make healthy decisions in the development of a plan. Overall, involvement enhances the child’s well-being and provides a greater community in which learning and skill development prepare him/her for venturing out into the adult world. ■
balancing tech time AND TREE TIME By DR. TIM ELMORE
or the last few years, Americans have experienced an epiphany. Parents and educators realized our young adults have remained indoors in front of a screen for far too many hours. So now— we’ve begun to do something about it. According to a report from Kampgrounds of America (KOA), an organization of privately owned campgrounds, more and more Americans are now spending their discretionary time camping. Since 2014, the percentage of people going camping three or more times a year has increased by over 36 percent. In 2017, half of all campers surveyed said they plan to spend more time camping this year. Even Millennials are getting in on these outdoor ventures. More than half of Millennials said they planned to do more camping in 2017. These young adults also represent the ones who most enjoy camping in large groups, made up of ten or more campers. While I do not consider myself an avid camper, I’ve said for years that kids develop more healthy lifestyles when empowered to spend time outside—in a three-dimensional world, not merely inside in front of a twodimensional screen. We develop emotionally, socially, and physically into more healthy people when we add outside experiences to our extensive hours spent inside. We need time climbing, sightseeing, hiking, and reflecting in the great outdoors. Now, here’s the catch. Campers, young and old alike, still do not want to unplug completely. According to the KOA report, 95 percent of campers bring some kind of technology with them on their trip. What’s more, 37 percent report that some kind of technology was actually required for their trip; technology enabled them to spend more time outdoors. Almost half of respondents
said that free Wi-Fi was a big factor when determining where to stay. There’s nothing wrong with taking your phone on your camping trip…but is there a balance? Do we really “get away” when tethered to our portable device? My goal in writing about this is to allow our outside time to do its best work on us. When I am outside, I want to get enough time in the sun that I absorb some Vitamin D without inviting skin cancer. I want to walk and hike enough that I gain strength in my legs and heart, but not have a heart attack. You get the idea. So what are some simple steps to experience the best of both worlds? Set limits and boundaries. If you take your portable devices with you, be intentional about the limitations you set on using them. One of the greatest benefits of getting outside is the freedom we feel from the normal stressors of life. Gadgets can be a source of stress. Be sure that your “unplugged” hours are more than the hours you spend plugged into a gadget. You may suggest that everyone unplug from their phone at night—to foster conversation. Spend enough time that you forget about checking your phone. Going camping or spending time outside should offer you a sense of relief. Be sure that you allow yourself enough time away from the rat race that you actually forget about the routine of checking your phone for messages. Phones have been proven to be addictive. Being outside should represent temporary relief from that addiction. Try to be outside long enough that you build a new routine. Try to go a day without depending on technology to live. I’m amazed at how much I rely on 21st Century technology
to make it through my day. When possible, attempt to do your outside activities without relying on a gadget to help you. Build your intellectual and social muscles by figuring out how to reach your goals without using your Google reflex. This may sound absurd, but I love the challenge of problem-solving the old-fashioned way—by thinking on my own. Stay until your sensory awareness increases. We’ve all heard of blind or deaf people who say their other four senses become stronger since they must make up for their lack of eyesight or hearing. When we cut the cord to our technology, we can actually grow more aware of our surroundings and be more sensitive to the outside world. I encourage you to plan for extended periods of time away from your devices; long enough to get stronger in new categories like: + Cognitive problem solving + Emotional and social awareness + Empathy and human understanding + Spiritual awareness and even passion New research on teens from the American College of Pediatricians shows that as their screen time increases, so does the likelihood of negative outcomes—like bad grades or depression. The report says, “Excessive exposure to screens (television, tablets, smartphones, computers, and video game consoles), especially at early ages, has been associated with lower academic performance, increased sleep problems, obesity, behavior problems, increased aggression, lower self-esteem, depression, and increased high risk behaviors, including sexual activity at an earlier age.” Let’s lessen the risk of these negative outcomes by getting outside. ■
Tim Elmore is an international speaker and best-selling author of more than 30 books. He is founder and president of Growing Leaders, an organization equipping today’s young people to become the leaders of tomorrow. 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.
Q. My kids are good—why do I need to lock up
First of all, all kids are good. They sometimes make bad choices, and we need to limit their access to certain items, like medications. Just like we wouldn’t leave a loaded gun on a kitchen table, we shouldn’t leave medications out in the open either. It provides too much of an opportunity for not only kids, but anyone who may be in the home to take them. Nearly 70 percent of people who become addicted to prescription pain killers get them from a friend or family member—often without that person knowing. Having medications sitting out in the open—like the kitchen window or in the medicine cabinet—offers any child easy access to those drugs. For older youth, it’s risk of experimentation, curiosity, feeding their addiction, or taking them to share or sell. Pills are easy to get, easy to hide, and easy to take without adults knowing. For younger children, it’s risk of poisoning. Many pills look like candy and little ones can’t tell the difference. For high risk youth, it’s not enough to put a locking cap on the bottle. The medications need to be out of sight. A locking medicine cabinet or file cabinet should offer enough protection from those drugs getting in to the wrong hands. It’s important to talk to family members, especially grandparents, about locking their medications away as well. Kids know that grandparents’ homes can be a treasure trove of all sorts of medications. By the time it’s discovered that the medications have been taken, it’s too late. In addition, opioids aren’t easily refilled/replaced if they’ve been stolen. So no matter how good our own children are, it’s important to lock medications away so there is no temptation or an opportunity for anyone to take them. We know that kids take them to get high, perhaps they think it helps them study better, and we know medications have been used to attempt suicide. It’s not worth the risk of pills getting into the wrong hands. Better to be safe than sorry. Keep all medications, including over-the-counter medications, locked up and out of sight.
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TIME TO FOCUS ON KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE
AROUND WATER By DAVID SMITH, YMCA
There is a list of basic life skills all parents instinctively know they must teach their children to keep them safe and healthy. It includes habits like looking both ways before crossing the street, washing hands with soap and water, and eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables every day. For too many parents, safety in and around water is not on the list.
atal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages one to 14 years old. The problem is particularly acute among minority communities. African American children ages five to 14 are three times more likely to drown than their white counterparts. The disparity is partly due to the lack of swimming experience among these children. For those who know how to stay safe in and around water, swimming can be a lifelong source of fun and exercise. Instead of keeping children away from water, adults can help them learn fundamental water safety skills by enrolling them in lessons. These classes can provide them a new, exciting way to keep active and meet new friends. Experts urge parents to get their children swim lessons as early as possible. After beginner swimmers learn basic skills like floating on their back and holding their breath, they use tools like kickboards and barbells to learn how to save themselves in an emergency. Swim instructors say it’s just as important to let kids play around in the water and get comfortable as taking swim lessons. In many areas across the country, summer means recreation activity and fun in the water. It’s crucial to have kids in swimming lessons from an early time to learn about safety. Public pools and YMCAs are popular for swimming lessons, but safety is about more than having a lifeguard present. Most drownings occur in streams, lakes, backyard pools and rivers. Often there is a responsible adult nearby. Stories are painfully abundant of a backyard barbecue, time at a lake or at a neighborhood party—everyone at that party might think that someone else is watching the kids, but it turns out that no one is watching the kids. Drowning is less likely for kids who know how to swim. Learning to be safe around water is a life skill. While swimming lessons certainly focus on skill development, that skill is often developed later in the learning cycle. Most swim lessons start with safety around water—teach a child how to know their limitations, overcoming a fear of water and mastering skills in the pool build confidence and competence. Safety around water includes more than just swimming protection. Lightning is generally thought of as a threat to outdoor facilities, but inside the building there is also a threat of electrocution. Most states have laws requiring that pools be closed during a lightning storm. If lightning occurs in the area, plan on vacating the indoor or outdoor pool or any water body when either of the following occurs: (1) cloud-to-ground lightning is observed, and
less than 30 seconds pass from seeing a flash and hearing thunder from that flash; (2) in-cloud lightning is occurring overhead. The pool or water body can be considered safe to reoccupy 30 minutes after the last lightning is seen or thunder is heard. Organizations such as YMCAs, the Red Cross and recreation departments are committed to reducing water-related injuries, particularly in communities where children are most at risk. Even with lessons, there is no substitute for adult active supervision. It is the primary layer of protection. In the time it takes to run inside to answer the door or take something out of the oven, a child could drown. Children should never be left alone while they’re swimming. Not even for a minute. Reading a book, cooking on a grill, being on technology, or talking to friends is not adult supervision. Assign an adult in 15-minute intervals to be the “water watcher.” It will save lives, and everyone will have an enjoyable experience.
TIPS THAT WILL SAVE KIDS’ LIVES THIS SUMMER + Teach children to always ask permission to go near water. + Never leave a child unattended in a bath tub. + Empty kiddie pools immediately after use. + When visiting a new home, check the premises for potential water hazards. + Stay close, be alert, and watch children in and around any water source. + If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first. + Learn to perform CPR on children and adults and update those skills regularly. By following these simple rules, everyone can have a safe and memorable summer. ■
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summer safety By LINDA COLLINS, Prevention Specialist
ews Flash* The Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 87 people under the age of 21 die PER WEEK from alcohol-related factors. This includes motor vehicle crashes, homicides, falls/burns/drownings, and suicides—all involving alcohol. If 87 kids were dying each week from eating bologna sandwiches, wouldn’t we as a society say ‘no more bologna sandwiches’? Alcohol is a drug. Unfortunately it’s so ingrained in our culture that we sometimes forget that. We also forget the dangers of alcohol, especially for underage drinkers. Summer is a particularly dangerous time for teens. More youth try drugs and alcohol in June and July than in any other time of the year. Teens have more free time and their whereabouts are monitored less than during the school year. Fortunately, parents are the first line of defense and are the number one reason teens decide to drink or abstain. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do. Enforcing the rules of the four Ws is one successful strategy. Who are you going to be with? Where are you going? What are you going to be doing? When are you going to be home? Along with the
four Ws comes the parental responsibility of following through. It is not unreasonable to show up at the “Where,” call the parent of the “Who,” follow up on the “What,” and set the limit of “When” to be home. Additionally, parents need to be aware of other risks out there to which their teen may be exposed. Unsupervised bon fires, lake parties, camping, overnight stays, and other get-togethers where alcohol, marijuana and other drugs are present are not uncommon in the summer. “Rave” events advertised through social media are held frequently throughout the summer. These events have music and a party atmosphere where access to illegal substances is prevalent. There are numerous concerts and summer events where unsupervised youth have opportunities to access drugs as well. Lastly, keep kids busy! Limit screen time, leave chore lists, sign them up for camps, or help them get a summer job. Be sure to lock up alcohol and prescription drugs if kids are going to be spending time home alone. It’s better to remove the temptation than have to deal with unintended consequences later. Let this summer’s “news flash” be that it was a fun, healthy, and successful time together. ■ youthconnectionscoalition.org
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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;
such as searching online or buying a gun.
v Talking about feeling hopeless or
having no reason to live.
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