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ALSO

Xanax and Youth

September 2021

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HOW TO BE HAPPY

» Marijuana and ADHD

» The Benefits of Getting Youth Involved

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

» The Hidden Hardships of Back to School


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INSIDE SEPTEMBER 2021

FEATURES

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How to Be Happy

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Marijuana and ADHD

The Benefits of Getting Youth Involved

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The Hidden Hardships of Back to School

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Xanax and Youth

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

Rylee Murgel is an 8th grader at East Valley Middle School in East Helena. She has grown up in the East Helena area her entire life with her parents and younger brother. She also has a lot of family in the surrounding area she enjoys spending time with. Rylee’s biggest passion is playing fastpitch softball. When she is not on the field, she enjoys hunting, fishing, traveling, camping with friends and family, and being on the water– whether it is swimming, boating, or floating! Rylee’s favorite subject in school is math.

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 W FROM THE

ow, it’s already back to school. A time when kids are dragging their feet to return to the classrooms and parents are doing cartwheels down the street. We’ve had a relatively “normal” summer. Symphony Under the Stars returned, I’ve seen kids attending camps downtown, and the pool has been busy. Unfortunately, youth who COLEEN struggle to be mentally well may never SMITH feel that “normal.” I attended a meeting where some adults shared their story of going through drug court. Several stated they struggled with ADHD, and so they used substances to deal with that. Our hope is that parents, teachers, and other adults in a youth’s life will help those they know who struggle with this diagnosis. We know that 90% of addiction starts in adolescence, and it’s not all from experimenting or peer pressure. As we continue our series on risk and protective factors, we’re focusing on the importance of kids getting involved in activities and then being rewarded for their effort. This does not mean everyone gets a medal. A simple “good job” or “you’ve really tried hard and I can see improvement” goes a long way. I recently heard that by 8th grade, kids have developed 80% of their self-worth – another good reason to get kids involved in activities. Our resident teacher/author expert has shared an important article on the hardships of back to school. So often we’re so excited for our kids to jump back into school, get their supplies, and find that first day of school outfit that we forget there may be some hardships we’re overlooking. It’s important that kids get off on the right foot, so Emily has shared her insight as a teacher that may be helpful. In speaking with the licensed addiction counselor on the magazine committee, we discovered that he’s seen an increase in youth using Xanax. Too often we just concentrate on alcohol and marijuana and forget what is right in front of our kids’ faces in the medicine cabinet. We hope the content of this issue will give parents and caregivers tools for a successful school year! 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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Rule No 8

savor it all


CONFESSIONS FROM THE KITCHEN TABLE

L

ooking for something simple the family can enjoy together? A fabulous family read-aloud is a great solution–perfect for rainy afternoons, lazy days, or right before bedtime. Books are a great way to connect, start conversations, and tackle tough topics as a family. However, the opportunity to enjoy books together can go beyond the traditional read aloud. Maybe a family book club or discussion group is more your speed? Audio books make reading more accessible for all levels and are a great option during household chores or on road trips. Keep in mind that it is important to choose books that are age appropriate for younger family members but that still hold everyone’s interest. No easy task. To help, here are a list of some of my favorites that are sure to be enjoyed by all! PRE-SCHOOL AND KINDERGARTEN My Grandfather’s Dragon This is an oldie but a goodie and makes a great first read-aloud chapter book. It has everything four- to six-year-olds could want: a stowaway, a dragon, silly animals, clever but harmless schemes, and daring (but not too scary) escapes. Parents and caregivers will have a blast trying out silly voices for each of the characters. The story lends itself well to discussions concerning respect, freedom, and human (or dragon) rights. LOWER ELEMENTARY I Hate Reading: How to Read When You’d Rather Not Fans of The Book with No Pictures will love I Hate Reading. The book matter-of-factly (but humorously) walks young readers through how to survive that 20 minutes of mandatory reading time that so many kids dread. The irony is, of course, that you just read for 20 minutes and LOVED it. MIDDLE ELEMENTARY The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me One of Roald Dahl’s lesser-known stories follows a young boy who befriends a trio of magical animals – a giraffe, a pelican, and a monkey. This book is full-on silly rhymes and songs that add to the playful tone. Even though this book is a quick read, its plot packs a punch and is not short on adventure and mayhem.

UPPER ELEMENTARY The Worst Class Trip Ever Wyatt and his misfit middle school friends are headed to Washington D.C. on a class field trip. What could go wrong? Everything. And, of course, hilarity ensues. Prolific columnist and author Dave Barry captures the middle school voice perfectly. Wild scenarios and mild rude humor make for tons of highly memorable and hugely entertaining moments that will make the whole family laugh out loud. MIDDLE SCHOOL Nevermore: The Trials of Morrigan Crow This fantastic tale follows social outcast Morrigan Crow. Morrigan is hated by her family and considered “a cursed child.” However, one night she is whisked away to the mysterious and land of Nevermore to live in a magical hotel with an eccentric guardian. Alongside an eclectic and wildly entertaining cast of characters, she must prove herself through a series of unusual tasks. The humorous whimsy in this wild story is nicely balanced with a mild dark streak that keeps all ages engaged. Two more books in this series have been released for when you become hooked! HIGH SCHOOL The Firekeeper’s Daughter Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has always struggled with her identity and feels torn between the two worlds of her white mother and her Ojibwe father. When a new boy shows up in town and people she loves start dying, Daunis finds herself living a life she never imagined. Author Angeline Boulley seamlessly balances the genres of thriller and coming-of-age in this debut novel and skillfully addresses tough subjects such as tribal politics and sovereignty, mixed-race identity, drug abuse, sex, love, and loss. The Firekeeper’s Daughter advocates fierce self-reliance while, at the same time, highlights the value and beauty of community. So, break out the library card, visit the local bookstore, or download an audiobook and get the family reading together. ■

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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HOW TO B

hap

By KATIE GERTEN, Youth Dynamics

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BE

ppy

What does it mean to be happy? It’s a loaded question, right? A recent poll taken by the University of Chicago shows only 14% of us are. Really, that’s a staggeringly low number, even given the events transpiring over the past couple of years. So, what’s going on? Surveys fluctuate, but most dating back as far as 1972 report figures no higher than 30%. Below are some of the common reasons for unhappiness: • Replacing connection with material items • Comparing ourselves to others • Blame, negativity, and fixed mindset • Perfectionism • Dwelling on the past or future For centuries psychologists and philosophers alike have argued the topic of happiness. Really, happiness is something we all strive for but rarely feel content in our ability to achieve. But, what if I told you I’ve stumbled upon a solution? It’s mindfulness! By becoming more self-aware, you can transform into the best version of yourself and improve every aspect of your life. Often, when we’re unhappy, we don’t put our best foot forward. We become self-destructive, lashing out and making impulsive, poorly thought out decisions that reflect badly on us. Really, we end up adding fuel to the collective fire, spreading around negative energy that harms our relationships and ability to be successful in getting our goals met. Personally, I haven’t always been the happiest person. Really, I’m uncomfortably discontent. For most of my life, I’ve carried around the weight of anxiety and heavy sadness, something that’s led to ongoing self-destructive behaviors, setbacks, and isolation. More so, it’s fostered a lack of self-awareness, making me, at times, appear selfish, unintelligent, and lack a basic sense of compassion. Truthfully, I went through the first 30 years of my life, blissfully unaware of my shortcomings. It wasn’t until I moved into a continued on page 9

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How has your life changed over the last 3 years? A lot has happened since 2018. Tell us YOUR story. Make your voice heard. Complete our Comprehensive Community Needs Assessment and tell Rocky how we can best serve you and your community.

20% change in employment

Choose how you participate: Visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/Rocky2021CCNA Use your smartphone to scan here:

30% change in childcare

Call 406-447-1680 to receive a paper copy by mail Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates @rockymountaindevelopmentcouncil

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50% change in housing


continued from page 7

management role that I realized how self-handicapping my actions were. I didn’t slow down to think things through, and while I exceeded every goal set, it happened at the expense of the people involved. Oh, you could say I engaged my team! Everything I did, every communication I carried out was a crisis. Without hesitation, I burned my people out. In the end, I received ongoing criticism from supervisors and couldn’t retain employees. My anxiety led to constant conflict with others, a lack of personal or professional relationships, and stress levels that significantly impacted my health. There’s no other way to put it: I was miserable. But then something spectacular happened. After falling flat on my face, in came the art of mindfulness. And with that? A shocking yet painfully slow transition to a happier, more effective, healthier me. Everything from my professional performance to personal relationships improved. So, what’s the secret sauce to this mystic magic? No need to ponder! I’ve got the recipe on how you can become more selfaware and grow into a mindful, happier version of yourself! SLOW DOWN AND MAKE SPACE FOR OTHERS Did you know that by doing less, you can accomplish more? It’s true! When we move fast, we often do it at others’ expense, negatively impacting our relationships. When we feel overwhelmed or pressured to perform, we skip critical steps in our communications. We cut the fluffy parts of our interactions that are essential to building rapport with others. Moreover, we sloppy-up our messaging and misread critical cues from our environment. But when we slow down? That’s when we start to build healthy relationships that take us places in life! So, how does one lower the pace when we live in such a busy world? First, resist the urge to multitask so you can give others your full attention. Once you’ve done this, engage the person you’re with by asking meaningful questions, listening, and taking the time to show them your appreciation. IS IT URGENT? MOST THINGS IN LIFE AREN’T A CRISIS Do you fall into the trap of feeling like everything is urgent? If so, you’re not alone. It’s a common pitfall! But, few things in life need to be done immediately. In fact,

Did you know that by doing less, you can accomplish more? It’s true! When we move fast, we often do it at others’ expense, negatively impacting our relationships. pressured decisions often aren’t good ones. More so, when we’re in a rush, we create tension in ourselves and stress in others. So, how do you avoid a false sense of urgency? Make the time to prioritize your daily, weekly, and monthly activities regularly. For those who have a tough time with this, Inc.com suggests slowing down to gain some objectivity by asking yourself the following three questions before engaging in a task: Does this absolutely need to be done today? Does this need to be done by me? Does this need to be done at all? EMPATHY? TAKE THE TIME TO WALK IN ANOTHER’S SHOES Before reacting, slow down and walk in another’s shoes. By taking the time to take on other people’s perspectives, we foster connection, appreciation, and lay the foundation for meaningful relationships. But more so, we grow as individuals. Each of us has something to learn from someone else, even if we disagree with their viewpoints. Is empathy a difficult one for you? If so, you can build it by taking the time to understand other people’s experiences. Look for the pieces of commonality you share, and create relationships from there. Doing so will not only help you build stronger connections but also foster a more profound sense of appreciation for those around you. SELF-CARE IS NOT AN INDULGENCE—IT’S A DISCIPLINE A healthy mindset starts with doing what’s needed to take care of yourself. Carve out time daily to engage in what centers you, whether that’s taking a walk at lunch or snuggling up

with a book before bed. Whatever is needed to be a calmer, more peaceful person, make sure you do it regularly. That said, there’s always going to be an excuse for not having time for self-care. But, it’s critical to set boundaries with yourself and others to ensure you’re able to stay at your best. When we burn out, we become less efficient and stomp on ourselves and others. Growth starts when we start taking care of ourselves. DON’T BE A SLAVE TO EXTRAVAGANCE They say that money can’t buy happiness, and it’s true. Studies show that extra cash doesn’t equate to increased satisfaction in life after we have the money to meet our basic needs. Simply put, you can’t fill the void inside of you with stuff. And when you put things in place of people, it only adds to unhappiness. BE AUTHENTIC People are going to judge you no matter what. Life’s too short to be anything other than you! When you bring anything other than your authentic self to interactions, you miss out on meaningful connections and spend your life hustling to prove your worth. BE ACCOUNTABLE Take ownership of who you are, your decisions, and your life. Mistakes are inevitable on the path to growth. When you discharge blame, it fractures your relationships and prevents you from taking in the lessons needed to develop into a better version of yourself. STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE, NOT PERFECTION No one’s perfect! When you get lost in the details, you lose sight of the big picture. Do your best each day, but don’t get trapped in trying to reach perfection; it’s a goal that you’ll never attain. STAY IN THE PRESENT When you ruminate on the past, you can easily find yourself in depression. And when you fixate on the future? It leads to anxiety. But most importantly, living in either will result in missing out on the current moment. By practicing these tips, you will start to feel happier and potentially be a better parent, spouse, employee, neighbor, or family member. ■

If you enjoyed this article, check out the rest of our blog today and make sure to follow us on social media. You can find us at youthdynamicsmt on Instagram, or Youth Dynamics of Montana and People of Youth Dynamics on Facebook.

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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.

Kiya René Keck

ROSSITER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, 4TH GRADE

What makes this sweet girl so awesome and amazing is that she’s a hardworking, loving, and caring person. She goes out of her way to help anyone, and it doesn’t matter if she knows them or not. She works extra hard with learning to read, despite being diagnosed with dyslexia. This girl never gives up. She already has her life planned out, including joining the Air Force and going to veterinarian school. She loves animals, gymnastics, 4-wheeling, swimming, horseback riding, doing crafts with her mom and Aunt Meg, and learning new things. Her friends and family can always count on her. Keep up the good work, Kiya!

Jacob Allick HELENA MIDDLE SCHOOL, 7TH GRADE

Jacob Allick is a 7th grader at Helena Middle School. Throughout his time at Central School, and now as a middle schooler, he has shown resilience and determination. Jacob is extra proud of the hard work he has put into improving his reading. He loves having a break from school during the summer but is looking forward to heading back to school to make new friends. Jacob enjoys bull riding, hanging with his sister, and the Fast and the Furious movies. He values kindness and wants to be a therapist when he grows up.

Sam Petersen

CAPITAL HIGH SCHOOL, 12TH GRADE

Sam Petersen is a wonderful person, a great athlete, and has a pure unshaken personal character filled with old-fashioned class in a modern cowboy. Sam has a strong will to compete and learn. He is a gentleman that can turn on the grit and brawn when the whistle blows and it is time to go on the wrestling mat. Yet, he can switch it off and when the dust settles continue to be an amazing role model for fans, teammates and truth be told a role model for many adults. Sam has and will continue to find success in all he does because of his natural attributes like work ethic, temperament and most importantly his integrity.

Julia Harris

COMMUNITY MEMBER

Julia Harris is a mom of two, a certified yoga instructor, a theater teacher at Carroll College, and a faculty member at Grandstreet Theatre. You may recognize her from a play or two. She has starred in many Helena-area productions, such as Romeo & Juliet for Montana Shakespeare Company and The Sound of Music for Grandstreet Theatre. Julia loves being a part of something bigger through the connection that happens in live theater. She believes in the power and importance of community theater and is grateful to be part of the thriving theater circle in Helena. She encourages young people in the community to be themselves and express themselves artistically.

Montana Contractors Association Education Foundation

PARTNER

To achieve its mission of promoting and supporting careers in construction while stimulating growth of a diverse, skilled workforce for Montana, the MCA Education Foundation provides MCA Construction Trade Awareness Grants. These $1,000 grants are delivered annually to deserving middle/high school industrial arts teachers to help pay for programming that increases awareness of careers in construction. In 2021 nine grants were awarded across the state of Montana. The Build Montana program is a learning partnership with local schools to deliver construction curriculum and hands-on learning opportunities. The program has plans to deliver this unique experience in schools state-wide. Learn more at www.build-montana.org. Thanks, MCAEF, for providing rewarding opportunities for students and teachers.

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40 DEVELOPMENTAL ASSETS

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.

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assets in action

40 DEVELOPMENTAL ASSETS

9 SUPPORT

Boy Scouts help at Symphony Under the Stars

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.

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 YMCA camp counselor and campers having fun

Boy Scouts heading out on a hike

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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

HAC coach helping cheerleader with a move

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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.

POSITIVE VALUES

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.

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.

Youth working together to prep for the fair

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Camper having fun at Montana Learning Center camp Teenage owners of Cookies and Cream saving for college

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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.

Making friends at camp this summer

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MARIJUANA and ADHD By INTERMOUNTAIN CO-OCCURRING STAFF

W

ith the trend toward the legalization of marijuana rising in the United States, there is concern there may be lower perceptions of the risks of marijuana use among adolescents. Cannabis use is becoming more accepted throughout the United States as expanding legalization of adult-use and medicinal marijuana use continues to pass at the state level. Federally, however, marijuana is still deemed a scheduled narcotic and is illegal to possess or consume. Despite cannabis use being largely accepted, there are many negative long-term effects to consider, including a lower IQ, lower career achievement, and reduced life satisfaction. Additionally, studies have shown a link between marijuana use and depression, anxiety, suicide planning, and psychosis. Use among adolescents carries additional risks as an individual’s brain continues to develop until the age of 25 and substance use before this time can significantly impact the brain’s development. Despite the negative consequences associated with cannabis use, some individuals are turning towards marijuana to treat various mental health conditions. Among adolescents, the belief that marijuana can mitigate the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) has been widely spread. This belief has increased in popularity as many online forums have advocated for the use of marijuana without having sufficient clinical research to support this claim. ADHD is a common diagnosis, and it is estimated 9% of all children between the ages of 13-18 in the U.S. are affected by this disorder. Some of the common signs associated with ADHD include behavioral and cognitive symptoms such as: forgetting homework and other important responsibilities, fidgeting, restlessness, interrupting, jumping from one activity to the next, difficulty with academic achievements, impulsivity, risk taking, poor relationship skills, frequent daydreaming, difficulty focusing, boredom, and poor judgement. ADHD has long been recognized as a risk factor for substance abuse, and

therefore individuals should be aware of the risk of developing further complications should they choose to medicate their ADHD symptoms without professional help. It is believed that adolescents are self-medicating to either escape from the frustration of living with ADHD or because they believe it truly helps. Regardless, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted. If use begins before the age of 18, the rate of addiction increases to 1 in 6. Cannabis use disorder (addiction) can develop after extended use and is diagnosed when at least two of the following criteria are met within a 12-month time span: • Strong desires or cravings to use cannabis • Lots of time spent trying to obtain, use, or recover from cannabis • Problems with work, school, or home because of interference from cannabis use • Social or interpersonal problems due to cannabis use • Activities given up or reduced because of cannabis use • Recurrent cannabis use in physically hazardous situations, such as driving • Physical or psychological problems caused or exacerbated by cannabis use • Tolerance to cannabis • Withdrawal from cannabis Research has shown that using marijuana can make ADHD symptoms worse as cannabis can significantly impact working memory and executive functioning—two areas where kids with ADHD struggle. When an individual’s executive functioning is compromised, their ability to plan ahead, start and stop activities, monitor their own behavior, and shift from one activity to the next can be negatively impacted. Similarly, when working memory is compromised, the ability to store and manage information in one’s mind for a short period of time is challenged. Research has additionally shown that those diagnosed with ADHD

who use marijuana have a higher likelihood of using other substances. In fact, nicotine dependence, alcohol use, and other drug use disorders are significantly higher in individuals who use cannabis to treat their ADHD. The most common substance use disorders in individuals with ADHD who use marijuana include cocaine, opioids, and amphetamines. Parents should also know that marijuana use can counter the benefits of ADHD medication and adolescents are less likely to keep up with their prescribed medications when engaging in cannabis use. Research has shown therapy in combination with prescription medication can be helpful in the long-term management of symptoms. Public opinion surrounding marijuana use has changed as a majority of Americans support medicinal cannabis use. Thirty-six states have legalized “medical”marijuana and 18 have legalized adult use. With this outpouring of support, many may believe marijuana isn’t a dangerous and addictive substance that continues to wreak havoc in families across our country. Individuals working within medical settings, mental health centers, and treatment recovery programs have seen increases in addiction rates—and substance use related problems have climbed in states that have legalized marijuana. Some cities have needed to build additional treatment centers to treat marijuana addiction. In conclusion, marijuana use can have lasting effects on the developing brain when used in adolescence, and frequent use is linked to academic difficulties, including failing courses and dropping out. Cannabis use can also lead to addiction, an increase in mental health issues, difficulty problem solving and thinking, challenges with focus, difficulty with memory and learning, and a lack of motivation. Studies have also found increases in fatal automobile incidents as well as increased visits to the ER for a variety of concerns related to marijuana consumption. Despite the trend towards acceptance, the Federal Drug Administration has not approved the use of cannabis for the treatment of any disorder or medical condition—including ADHD. ■

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the benefits of GETTING YOUTH INVOLVED By YOUTH CONNECTIONS STAFF

This article is part of our series about risk and protective factors. Risk factors increase the chances of a youth starting to use substances. Protective factors help insulate youth from influences that encourage substance use.

W

e know that if kids are involved in positive things, they’re less likely to be involved in negative ones. What are some ways that we know will help reduce the chance that kids will start using drugs and increase the possibility that they’ll lead productive lives? Increasing protective factors, those things that wrap youth in a layer of protection from external influences and making unhealthy choices, is one way. It’s easier than it may seem. One of the protective factors that helps build self-esteem, creates confidence, and teaches teambuilding and leadership skills is opportunities for pro-social involvement. People are wired to be social and be around others. If individuals don’t have the opportunity to be involved in positive social interactions, they’ll resort to negative ones. Think of how gangs work; being part of a group who is accepting (often when other groups have shunned an individual) is appealing. Everyone wants to feel wanted, to be involved, and be part of something. This is why it is so important to get youth involved in positive activities at a young age. Research has shown that by the 8th grade, a person’s self-worth is 80% established. If we’re waiting until high school to get kids involved in groups or clubs, we’re missing the mark. In addition, numerous studies have revealed that participation in supervised youth work and sports deters adolescent substance use. Twenty years ago, Iceland had the highest youth use of any European country. Then a multi-agency team focused on increasing adolescent participation in structured and organized youth activities supervised by adults, as well as increasing the time spent together by adolescents and their families. From 1999 to 2017, 15- and 16-year-olds

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reporting being drunk in the previous 30 days dropped from 42% to 5%. Ideally, by 5th grade, a youth should identify at least one activity that interests them. It’s important that this activity is supervised by adults (other adult relationships is another protective factor). Be sure to think outside the box. Getting youth involved is not just about having them play a sport. In fact, getting them involved in service groups teaches additional skills. To the right are some ideas for activities that aren’t organized sports. In addition to learning the skill, youth will gain self-confidence, learn to work with others, develop skills to overcome adversity and disappointment, create friendships, and succeed in meaningful ways. Young people will be treated as equal partners and engage with their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups, and families in ways that are both constructive and productive. All these skills help youth build coping mechanisms, which is critical in preventing substance use and dealing with life’s curve balls. Don’t get discouraged if a child bounces from one activity to the next. Ideally, it’s best if they can get with a group and start to develop friendships, but in the beginning, they may need to try several different activities until they find their true passion. And don’t worry if they’re not the next world expert; that’s not the point of getting them involved. Often parents try so hard that they go overboard in pushing certain activities. It should be the child’s choice. Children who are more reserved or shy may have a hard time jumping in to a group or club with a lot of participants. Offer a few options and allow them to try things out, letting them know they can always try something else if they’re miserable. There

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• • • • •

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Boy/Girl Scouts Choir/Band/Orchestra Civil Air Patrol Any school or community club Non-profit organizations: prevention, food banks, youthserving, environmental, animals Dance, ballet, hip-hop, etc. Drama Religious groups Reading/library groups Robotics or science-based clubs 4-H Swim club – competitive or not Biking clubs Martial arts Automotive/welding Art – all mediums Games – chess, Dungeons & Dragons, etc. Skateboarding Health – occupations, weightlifting, etc. Anime Big Brothers Big Sisters, etc.

are so many options these days, there has to be something that will pique their interest. Just keep trying if the first couple are not successful. It will be worth the effort to get them connected in a positive experience. It’s important to remember that a parent is the most influential person in a youth’s life, so stay involved, be supportive, and encourage their participation. ■


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NUMBERS How can I start a routine? Routines not only help your family move through the day smoothly and on time, they can have a significant impact on your child’s/teen’s success. Routines can have a lasting impact for a healthy future. Summer months can wreak havoc on your family’s schedule and routine, but routines can help your child/teen feel safe because they know what to expect and are more able to learn from the rich experiences you have together every day. Here are some helpful tips to make this school year a successful one: • Start with a bedtime routine. Start to get ready for bed an hour before bedtime. This means brushing your teeth, washing your face, reading a book, and turning off all electronic devices. • Set out the clothes you and your family will wear the next day.

35

The number of miles a typical lead pencil can draw a line.

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

• Make your lunches ahead of time. Meal planning on Sunday for the week can help with time management. What you do the night before will help with not rushing the next morning.

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• Wake up at the same time every morning. Maybe you need to wake up an extra 15 minutes to have time without interruptions, or maybe you wake your kids up at the same time to get the day started together. Find what works for you. • Make a fun visual checklist of things that need to be done in the morning, after school, and evening. Delegate chores for them to do, like feeding the dog or making sure all the lights are turned off before leaving the house. After-school has its own rhythm that changes from the school year. You may have to pick up kids from school, the bus stop, or an after-school activity. • Set a time up for homework or for reading. • Set a time for dinner where you can sit around the table and talk about your day. • And finally, build some time into the schedule for family time and down time. Using a calendar, either paper or electronically connected, can help everyone start up the back-to-school routine and to keep that routine throughout the year. For additional resources, visit ParentingMontana.org and search for routines. There are ideas for every age group.

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 it would take to eat every kind of apple if you tried a new one each day.

11

The percentage of kids aged 12-17 who repeat at least one grade.

8,000

The number of students in the largest school in America; it’s in Illinois.

427,000

The number of school buses currently running in the United States.


IS YOUR CHILD STRUGGLING RIGHT NOW ? Youth & Families Brighter Tomorrow

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Youth Dynamics welcomes families going through difficult times. When children or teens get into trouble or show signs of withdrawing, our staff can help. For 40 years, we have provided evidence-based mental and behavioral healthcare support to children and families across the state of Montana.

LET US HELP YOU.

To find an office near you, visit: youthdynamics.org or call: 406.245.6539

Study, study...school is your buddy! Come in and tell us what you learned today and receive a complementary meal with a parent’s purchase. 442-2595 • 451 Spencer Court • East Helena youthconnectionscoalition.org

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the hidden hardships of

BACK TO SCHOOL By EMILY C.T. HANKINS

M

ost students—and parents—are excited for school to start again. But for others, heading back to the classroom is not a joyous, long-anticipated event. For some school-age families, the idea of going back to school is overwhelming or even fills them with dread. What kinds of things are causing this stress and how can we help support our village? How can we make back-to-school an easier transition for everyone? SCHOOL SUPPLIES AND SCHOOL CLOTHES For many of us, the smell of sharpened pencils, the sight of a crisp box of namebrand crayons, and the feeling of sporting a new first-day outfit elicit feelings of joy and nostalgia. However, not everyone can share in these experiences. The extra money and resources it takes to fund the social expectations of back-to-school is a burden for many families. According to the National Retail Federation, families spend an average of $697 on back-to-school shopping. That is a big chunk of change, even if money isn’t tight. If you are able, consider contributing to organizations or programs, like “Stuff the Bus,” that gather school supplies and distribute them to families. Instead of a school supply list, many schools have switched to asking for a dollar amount (usually around $30) from each student. This allows the school to buy items in bulk and save everyone money. Teachers get exactly what they had in mind, and parents love how easy it is. If your school isn’t already using them, bring up the topic of uniforms. School uniforms downplay the have and have-not mindset often reinforced by new or designer clothes. ANXIETY Heading back into the classroom is a big change in schedule—maybe the biggest schedule change all year. There are so many unknowns when transitioning to a new school year. Who will my teacher be? Who will be in my class? What will I be learning? For the 4.4 million children diagnosed with anxiety, all these unknows can be debilitating. To help these kiddos,

For many of us, the smell of sharpened pencils, the sight of a crisp box of name-brand crayons, and the feeling of sporting a new first-day outfit elicit feelings of joy and nostalgia. However, not everyone can share in these experiences.

arm them with information. Arrange a visit to the school, and maybe even a visit with their teacher(s). Reach out to the school counselor. Ask for a class list (first names only) and a school-day schedule. Act out a mock school day. Talk about what to expect and share what you, the parent/caregiver, are looking forward to. ADHD AND OTHER LEARNING DIFFERENCES For many students school is hard because learning is hard. Attention, hyperactivity, dyslexia, or other learning differences make learning frustrating for many students. Despite the hard work these kiddos put in, reading, writing, arithmetic, and even sitting still are an uphill battle. Teachers are overworked and underpaid. Many have not received adequate training or resources to help students who think or learn differently.

Combine that with understaffed and underfunded Special Education Resource departments, it is often difficult for all students to get the help they need. Consider donating your time or money to a resource program at your neighborhood school. Learn what it means to have a learning difference. As YouTube sensation Penn Holderness of The Holderness Family says, “ADHD is awesome.” SLEEP Sleep is crucial for all of us, but even more so for our growing children. Thirty percent of children don’t get enough sleep. When heading back in to the classroom, it is more important than ever to set up good sleep habits and a strong sleep routine. This can be a tricky transition from the longer days and later nights during summer break. Start easing kids back into a sleep routine a few weeks before school begins. Practice getting up earlier and going to bed at a set time every evening. Another important part of creating a successful bedtime routine is including steps that remain constant each night, like teeth brushing or reading a book. Avoiding screen time and limiting distractions before bedtime also helps the mind wind down. Practicing all this before the big day, when emotions are running high, will make everyone’s life easier. SUMMERTIME COMPARISON Heading back into the classroom, kids are excited to share all about their summer— where they went on vacations, what things they did, and who they saw are the go-to topics of conversation. However, be mindful that some kids are left out of these discussions if their families didn’t or couldn’t make any big plans. Kids and adults can help engage everyone in meaningful conversation by asking about something other than, “Where did you go on your summer vacation?” Bring up topics like, “What are you looking forward to this school year?” or, “What is your favorite animal?” With a little bit of awareness and a lot of modeling we can share confidence and build community for the upcoming school year. ■

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XANAX and youth By CRAIG STRUBLE, LCSW LAC

A

s an addiction counselor, I have seen an increase in youth’s unprescribed use of Xanax. Alprazolam or Xanax is a medication that is used to help treat panic disorders such as anxiety. Xanax falls under the drug classification called benzodiazepines or benzos. Xanax is the top prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States. This medication helps to bring a calmness to the brain’s nerves by enhancing how the natural GABA chemical in the body works. Like opioids, which have risen in concern in our society, Xanax also has the potential to become addictive without close monitoring and proper use. Xanax is generally prescribed only to adults, but it has also become a street drug. Research has shown that just over 50 percent of nonmedical users obtain this substance from friends or relatives. There is also research to support that nearly 70 percent of teenagers who are struggling with an addiction to Xanax, obtained the substance by going through their home medicine cabinet. Xanax is used at events such as parties or concerts to increase the effects of alcohol. Other effects that a person misusing might experience and associate with

pleasure are lightheadedness, feeling detached, feeling numb from emotion, and an increase in sexual inclination. People who use Xanax develop a tolerance very quickly, which will then lead to them taking more pills to achieve the desired effects. People with an addiction to Xanax might use 20 to 30 pills per day. Some signs that addiction is in play might be ignoring daily obligations to work, school, or family. Some additional behavioral signs of Xanax addiction might include obsessing about obtaining and using Xanax, inability to stop using Xanax despite desire to do so, and risky behaviors such as driving while using Xanax. Someone who might have a dependence to Xanax should not quit cold turkey. Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax are like those experienced from alcohol withdrawal. Seizures or convulsions from Xanax withdrawal can be deadly. The withdrawal process should include a gradual taper from the drug. If this drug has been prescribed to someone in the home, make sure it is stored in a locked location where only the prescribed has access. ■ youthconnectionscoalition.org

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less Screen time. more WE time.

Fun Winter Recreation in the

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