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Tips for Parents of New Drivers

MARCH 2015


teaching coping skills


» Helping Teens Make the Right Choices » 4 Myths About Concussions » Test Taking Tips & Tricks

MARCH 2015


6 Teaching Coping Skills 14 Helping Teens Make the Right Choices 16 4 Myths About Concussions 20 Test Taking Tips & Tricks 23 Tips for Parents of New Drivers IN EVERY ISSUE

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



TO ADVERTISE OR CONTRIBUTE Coleen Smith: (406) 324-1032


Wandering Albatross Photography




March 2015


ON THE COVER Allison is a 7th grader who using stretching as her form of coping with bad days and adverse experiences. She also loves to read and listen to music. She took gymnastics when younger, then used those skills to enhance her flexibility. She enjoys trying different styles and colors on her hair and her friends’ hair. She was recently nominated by her teachers as a “positive attitude kid,” an honor bestowed on only 40 7th graders per year. She has been student of the month and is on the honor roll. Allison’s favorite class is computer arts.

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


March 2015




director from the

e’ve got a smorgasbord of articles this issue with topics to help parents with kindergarteners to soon-to-be graduates. We chose to have our feature article on helping kids cope. I have a friend whose 30-year-old son attempted suicide. Luckily it was uncompleted. He said if he had learned coping skills, he wouldn’t have gotten to the point of wanting to coleen take his life. I often hear from teachers smith that students are unable to deal with everyday adversities. With 20% of Helena teens reporting they have a plan to commit suicide, it’s an issue that’s critical for us all to address. Speaking of mental health, the Core Management Team (a group of community providers who oversaw the grant) has developed a report to the community about the successes and continued gaps after the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative. A list of continuing programs is available on the inside front cover. Cut it out and put it on your refrigerator as a handy reference for services. A full report is available on our website but highlights include: > The percentage of high school dropouts decreased from 6.52% in 2008 to 2.14% in 2014 > Percentage of high school students reporting alcohol use reduced from 48.39% to 41.73% between 2008 and 2014 > High school and middle school students reported that physical fighting on school property reduced from 18.83% to 12.37% between 2008 and 2014 All good news, however, the number of at-risk children referred for additional services related to developmental, social, or emotional delays increased from 69 in 2009 to 173 in 2014 – almost double! There remains a clear need for further support and resources put toward these important programs because some great strides were made. Lastly, having a new driver in the house is something every parent will have to experience sooner or later. It’s nice to have another chauffeur (especially if there are siblings involved in activities), but it can also be scary. A recent study that stated half of all deaths of young adults from car crashes involve alcohol or pot. Talk early and talk often about the dangers of driving under the influence…of any substance!

Can’t get enough great resources? Follow us: Twitter: @Youthconx Facebook (for parents): Youth Connections Facebook (for kids): Find Your Spot

Coleen Smith, YC Director Phone: (406) 324-1032


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March 2015




confessions from The kitchen table

in pursuit of perfection had my first child when I was twenty-six years old, and I knew as soon as the doctor confirmed my pregnancy that I was going to be a perfect mother. I was never going to make the mistakes my mother had made with me. I read all the literature from La Leche League that I could and devoured all the information I could find on the La Maze Method of Natural Childbirth. I even bought a small hand grinder so I could steam and puree vegetables for my baby. I vowed that no store bought baby food or formula would ever pass his lips. When my second child arrived just two years later, I was less devoted to perfection. I was all too happy to put her in the baby swing and crank it up so I could get supper cooking or put in a load of laundry, One day a friend of mine, whose childrearing days were long behind her, stopped by. “Do you think you might be overusing that swing,” she asked. “Maybe you should call it the Neglect-omatic.” Ouch. Both my children survived my lack-adaisical parenting. They are grown now, with jobs they love and adorable new babies and toddlers of their own. And I have promised myself I am going to be a perfect grandmother. This time around maybe I could make up for my parenting flaws. I have been reading everything about successful childrearing, like Happiest Baby on the Block and Brain

Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five. But now I have come across something called the ACES study – the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. I learned that children who are neglected or abused in their early years are at higher risk to experience various health and social problems as adults. I discovered that being raised in a home where a parent struggles with substance abuse or mental illness means that a child is more likely to experience depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other harmful conditions in adulthood. I took the ACES questionnaire that was available on the web for myself, then took it as my children. I arrived at a terrifying conclusion: I broke my kids. I should have tried a whole lot harder to be a perfect parent. But sometimes life deals us hands we have no control over. As a grandmother, I watch my children parent their children. They discipline their children differently than I would at this point. They let their children eat more sweets than I ever would. And television may be the new “Neglect-o-matic.” I fret my children are going to break my grandchildren. Is it my fault, because of how I raised them? These are the worries that have kept me awake at 2:30 a.m. However, just last week I was able to re-establish for myself a sense of perspective about what it takes to parent well,

or at least the best we can. It takes trust. It takes optimism. And I learned this as I drove down the highway listening to the audiobook of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s life, titled My Beloved World. I listened as if she was telling her story to me personally. I realized that, as impressionable and vulnerable as children are, they are also resilient. As delicate as the development of the infant brain may be, it is a miraculous process of wiring and rewiring, learning and re-learning. Sonia Sotomayor had juvenile diabetes, lost her father to death by alcoholism when she was nine years old, and had to assume a lot of the household duties. Yet, in spite of all these setbacks, in defiance of all the ACES in her life, Sonia Sotomayor grew up to become a strong woman. She does not lament her childhood. She celebrates her beloved world. And now, inspired by her, so do I. My children have fashioned their own successful lives, however clumsy I may have been as a single parent. I recognize that my grandchildren are not fragile eggshells. They probably are going to be just fine – even if their parents make some mistakes, just as I did, just as we all do. I am sleeping through the night now. There is much to love about our world, so much to do with our children, family, and friends, so much things to strive for – but the unrelenting pursuit of perfection, at the expense of hope and optimism, is not thankfully one of them. ■

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




March 2015


teaching coping skills Finding the optimal balance of physical health, mental/emotional health, and social health


March 2015




By LoRIE COPE, Middle School Teacher

oping,” I say as I answer my classroom phone joking with the school secretary about the unbelievable number of interruptions and emergencies that need to be juggled within a day. It is ironic that my last name is Cope and my job title requires me to teach coping skills to seventh graders. To cope means to be able to handle a problem or situation successfully. Having a way to cope requires balance, which we all seem to struggle with in our lives at one time or another. When children feel like they are going to fall off the balance beam, or I see students struggling with how to cope, I always try to remind them that good health depends on a balance among the three parts of the health triangle: physical health, mental/emotional health, and social health. Within these three parts of a triangle lies the underlining truth of reality vs. what we think is reality. There are 10 building blocks that our health depends on and that we use daily with every decision we make. There are three questions I ask myself and others that indicate how we are coping with life.

what are you feeling?

Question 1: What does your Health Triangle look like? This is an example of a Health Triangle and some goals that an individual might set: PHYSICAL HEALTH + Want to be able to run a marathon + Want to run a mile under 7 minutes + Want to feel energized

SOCIAL HEALTH + Want friends who enjoy running to train with + Create a group that meets at least once a month for coffee + Start scrapbooking for fun


MENTAL/EMOTIONAL HEALTH + Control clutter in my life to reduce stress + Take 5 minutes at the start of each day to reflect on goals + Prioritize to-do list

I ask my students to draw a Health Triangle weekly and to reflect upon life and the situations that are affecting the three aspects of their triangle. When we are sick, our physical health affects other parts of our triangle because we often don’t feel very social, so children will feel sad and not understand that they are sad because they are sick. A friendship that is struggling can stir up feelings of abandonment, which affects our social, physical and emotional health. Acknowledging these feelings by talking, drawing, writing, singing, boxing, and/or dancing can release anger and sadness. Feelings about events, friends, and triggers seem to come to the surface and life can be put into categories. Mental/emotional health is often the hardest part of the Health Triangle because identifying a feeling can be overwhelming and scary, so having pictures can help with identification. I use the above chart in my classroom, and my students find it very helpful and can acknowledge that many feelings can be going on at the same time. We all learn differently and have different strengths and weaknesses, and being able to identify the 10 health skills in our life, just like reading skills, math skills, and sport skills, will improve our overall wellness and allow us to cope with life’s curve balls. 1. Accessing Information: Does your child need reliable information? There is a world of information at our fingertips and we can all learn more information on whatever we want from the internet, but we have to make good choices and have good research skills. Reliable information is a trustworthy and dependable source. 2. Practicing Healthful Behaviors: When children begin practicing healthful behaviors, they can see benefits quickly. Getting a good night’s rest, drinking plenty of water, eating healthful foods, and exercising regularly will help the heart and muscles grow stronger. Avoiding drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and having positive peer

relationships and setting goals can prevent injury, illness, disease, and other health problems. 3. Stress Management: Stress is part of daily life and learning strategies for dealing with stress is an important life skill. We all have negative and positive stress. Positive stress can help us focus, take action, and set goals. Negative stress can make us doubt ourselves and make children fearful and unsure of themselves and keep them from trying new things. Finding activities that provide outlets for stress including; fitness, communication, goal setting, and meditation techniques, can build self-esteem and confidence. 4. Analyzing Influences: What influences affect your decisions? Decisions that affect our health are often connected to our personal likes and feelings. When a child is able to understand his/her own family’s values, beliefs, and culture, and know that the media is sometimes biased, they are better able to make wise decisions about personal safety and wellness, finances, peers, media knowledge, and time management. 5. Communication Skills: We are all sending messages through our words, posture and expressions. Children often struggle with non-verbal language and need to be supported with understanding how to read body language and share feelings with others. 6. Conflict Resolution: Having the ability to end a disagreement or keep it from becoming a larger conflict is an important and normal part of life. This is not when someone is being bullied. That needs to be addressed by a teacher, administration or officer. Tools to help children navigate conflict include: » Take a time-out to let everyone calm down » Allow each person to tell his or her side of the story » Let each person ask questions of the other » Keep thinking of creative ways to resolve the conflict continued on page 9




March 2015


Be a Good Role Model. Be Tobacco Free

The Friendship Center helps survivors of domestic and sexual violence gain access to community services and resources which provide the assistance they need to resolve their crisis and begin to rebuild their lives.

For help, call the Montana Quit Line 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)

SERVICES INCLUDE: • 24 hour a day crisis line • Safe shelter • Emotional support • Domestic violence and sexual assault support groups • Case management • Legal advocacy • Order of Protection assistance • Information and referrals • Community education and outreach

Lewis & Clark City-County

Health Department Be Active • Eat Smart • Get Screened • Be Sunwise • Be Tobacco Free

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March 2015




continued from page 7

7. Refusal Skills: Ways to say no effectively. Children need ways to tell friends no without feeling like they are judging or letting their friends down. Suggest they use these tactics:

Intelligences » Emotional

» Say no. “No, I can’t go with you today.”

» Curiosity

» Tell why not. “I promised my parents I would not lie.” Or “I would be breaking a promise.”

» Offer other ideas. “What if we think of another option or place to hang out?”

» Intention: Make a conscience decision to act in a certain way

» Promptly leave if they need to or are in danger.

8. Decision Making: This is a process where children might need extra help with making a choice or solving a problem. Helping children understand the role that family, community, and cultural attitudes play when people make health-related decisions can encourage children to take their time and not be impulsive when making a decision.

» Confidence

» Self-Control » Relatedness: Being connected by common origin; music, games, kinship » Capacity to Communicate » Cooperativeness Learner Differences » Right- or left-brained thinkers

9. Goal Setting: Goals help children focus and accomplish what they want in life. Have them make a list of goals they want to accomplish this year, but make sure they’re attainable. For example: I want to raise my grade in math by one letter grade; I will practice the piano for a half hour every day; I will exercise every day. Post the goals where they can see them.

» Types of learning: Auditory, visual, or kinesthetic=hands-on

10. Advocacy: Taking an action in support of a cause can help children see they are not alone and have the ability to make little changes in this world to help others. Take them with you when you volunteer, or ask what causes are important to them and then find a way to get involved.

» Gender

Question 2: What are you good at and what are you passionate about? When the question is asked, “Are you smart and how do you learn?”, children, even adults, often answer, “I don’t know.” Helping children understand that there are many ways to be smart or intelligent will help empower children to advocate for their own learning differences and interests. This is the list that I provide for my students and I ask them to write down people (and even write their own name) by the categories, so they can begin to identify differences and accept others who may learn and cope with life differently than they do. 9 Kinds of Smart » Naturalist: Ability to empathize and understand the natural world; environmental awareness. » Existentialist: Ability to stand back and look at life. “Who am I? What is the meaning?” » Linguistic: Literature, reading, grammar, English abilities » Logical: Science and math » Spatial: Geometry, building, engineering abilities, photography » Physical: Sports, activity, kinesthetic abilities » Interpersonal: Understanding or relating to interactions between individuals » Intrapersonal: Understanding how one can affect the world » Musical: Play, sing, dance, and read music

» Multiple Intelligences » Culture » Disabilities » Personality Style » Approach to Materials: Impulsive vs. reflective Question 3: Is your situation a pebble, a rock or a boulder? Pebble: A problem that can be solved by self by maybe just being honest about something. Rock: This problem may require a pro/con list, parents help, friends’ opinions, admitting a lie, saying sorry, or time away from conflict to calm down. Boulder: Help is needed to solve this problem. Who will you go to that you can trust? Give your children options; parents, other family members, teachers, counselors, administrators, coaches, tribal members, priests, pastors or other trusted adults. Look at the people who were identified in the lists above. When children run into problems and feel like they can’t cope, sometimes they don’t know when to ask for help, or they don’t go to a trusted adult when they should have. When children let problems go unsolved, it gets hard to cope with life and things seem unmanageable and out of control. Often times I ask my students to think about and label their situations and put them in categories. Once they realize they have the power to solve their own problem, seek out help to solve a problem, and/or help someone else with their problem, they gain strength and independence in life’s struggles. Coping skills can look different for us all. Being able to identify that there is a disruption in our lives, whether it is physical, emotional, or social, attaching a feeling to it, and/or listing ways that will help solve our problem can help alleviate stress and give children power in their lives to cope. ■




March 2015


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

Adella Harris


central-linc school, 2nd grade

Adella Harris is going to change the world. Already, as a second grade student at Central School, she is well on her way. This sweet girl is always coming up with new ideas on how to make the world a better place. A recent example was her recently coming to her Principal, asking how she could help Central to win Governor Bullock’s SMART Schools Challenge so that we could use the money to repair our old school. She is a bright child with a smile that lights up the room. More importantly, though – she is a child with a huge, kind heart.

Russell Howard


Russell recently won Youth Connections’ Rx Drug Task Force competition to develop a public service announcement about the dangers of prescription drugs for youth (view it on our website www. Russell is a model student who is active in his church. He is a Boy Scout and enjoys various scouting activities. He plays in the band and jazz band at school. For fun he enjoys skiing, ice skating, camping and minecraft. To help out his community, he likes to volunteer at God’s Love. Thanks, Russell, for your contributions to make Helena a great place to live!

Taylor Canright

Helena High school, 12th grade

Throughout much of Taylor’s high school career she has been on a club volleyball team, a member of Business Professionals of America as well as a cheerleader. She has participated in community service activities through her church as well as been involved in Upward Bound. Taylor was also chosen to be one of 35 students on the State Student Advisory Board. Recently she also testified in front of the Montana State Legislature in support of two bills. SB 14 would raise the legal drop out age to 18 and SB 13 would provide funding for students who need more than four years to complete high school.

Catherine McNeil

community volunteer

Catherine has been an asset to the Helena community for years. She has been active in 4-H and is on the board for the Lewis & Clark 4-H Foundation. She volunteers with Operation Military Kids and helps organize camps each year for kids with deployed parents. She is currently teaching the babysitting class for the YMCA’s after school program for middle school students. Her real job is being a secretary at Helena Middle School. She has volunteered in the past with her church. She loves being around kids and helping them succeed. Thanks, Catherine, for all you do for the youth in Helena!

Big Sky Fellowship

Each year Big Sky Fellowship hosts a free Easter Egg hunt at 4 pm on Easter Sunday at Jim Darcy School. At the hunt there are over 12,000 eggs, cotton candy, popcorn, bounce houses, a climbing wall, face painting, and carnival style games. It’s a great event for kids and families. Throughout the year, the church also hosts other free events for the community including a clothing swap, a firefighter appreciation event, and a variety of sports camps for elementary and middle school youth. Thank you, Big Sky Fellowship, for all you do for the kids and families in our community.


March 2015




for Adults & teens cleAr & metAl brAces

creating beautiful smiles for patients of all ages! 442-1899 • 301 Saddle Dr, Ste A

40 developmental assets

Live Life SmiLing

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

Turn the page to learn more!




March 2015


assets in action


16 Support

High school student-athletes are role models for elementary students

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.




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 Helping his family with a home-improvement project Dad and daughter working out at the YMCA together


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

Community member sharing her expertise in snowshoeing


March 2015




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 with a picture and the number of the asset the picture represents.

Not all pictures are guaranteed publication.

26 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.

Young ladies proud of their contributions to the community


Student loving life and enjoying the great outdoors

Student’s selfie about why she filled out the FAFSA

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.


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.

Student graduates from learning program

21 |



March 2015


Helping Teens Make the

Right Choices By ART BECKER, LAC

s parents we constantly try to mold our children’s beliefs and values. The purpose is to provide our children with a solid foundation on which they can build their lives. Then all of a sudden, adolescence hits. Our efforts are tossed aside and the people we care about the most begin to judge, mock, and rebel against any efforts we, as parents, make. Worry and anxiety will undoubtedly follow all of these interactions. But what if there was a way to more clearly identify what fuels your child’s adolescent angst, besides simply the angst itself ? We have all seen the commercials about talking to our kids about drugs and the negative effects drugs have on people. We all know that our kids want to be liked and considered popular by some form of a social group. We also all remember the misery of being a teenager. When alcohol and other drugs come into play, can we really convince ourselves that our children think substance use is cool? Such convincing is a very easy way to glaze over one of the largest truths of adolescence: teenagers are insecure about almost everything. Our children’s main concern is focused on what other people think about them. It is the beginning and end of every trend that floats through the schools’ hallways and it has taken precedence over your child’s perception of your opinions. In these hallways what mom and dad think doesn’t matter; it’s what the other kids think that


March 2015




is important. So why do all of these kids look up to and idolize substance use? Freedoms hold high regard throughout everyone’s life. Hanging out with friends more, having less adult supervision, later curfews, driving, and leaving school for lunch are all new freedoms to teenagers. The problem is that the thrills of these freedoms are often overshadowed by those risks they see other kids taking. This is where teenage rebellion kicks in. The time will come when your children will see a peer taking matters into their own hands with complete disregard for adult influence. This is a new freedom which cannot be overshadowed because its possibilities are perceived to be limitless. In the teenage mind, this is the epitome of independence, and with this independence comes a highly sought sense of popularity. Teenagers believe that they are being true to themselves, gaining respect, expanding their social circle, and becoming comfortable around the opposite sex while making such rebellious decisions. Couple these perceived benefits with substance use that lowers inhibitions and makes everyone appear to get along and we have a recipe for disaster. Kids know alcohol and other drugs aren’t cool. What they don’t know is how to achieve personal acclaim, satisfaction, self-respect, and an overall sense of security. They believe alcohol and other drugs provide them with a façade behind which they believe they can attain the unattainable without

the nervousness and general discomfort they normally feel and fear. Finding a social role that provides acceptance is what your children think is cool. The way that children attain this role is often through substance use. So what steps can you take to help influence your children’s decision making surrounding substance use when they are already rebelling?

» Don’t try to pick their

friends. If you want them to rebel, just try to take away the one thing they believe they have developed on their own.

» Don’t tell them what they

should do. The word should is very judgmental and they could easily think that what they do is never good enough for you.

» Don’t compare them to

others. If they think that you don’t accept them for who they are, they will use this belief to fuel further rebellious actions such as using substances.

» Do remind your children

of healthy recreations they enjoy participating in. Pointing out what you admire about your children and giving them healthy options for recreation helps them make better decisions.

» Do give your children

praise for accomplishments, especially in adverse situations. If your children think they are not doing well they will try to escape this feeling. Praise their accomplishments and efforts

with the same intensity.

» Do offer support and

understanding when your children rebel. If they feel ostracized your children will only develop further defenses meant to keep you out while letting unhealthy influences in.

» Do encourage healthy

social interactions with peers. They don’t always want to be around you…and that’s okay. Let them find comfort with their friends in healthy environments rather than searching for acceptance through negative attention seeking behaviors. If helping your child make healthy decisions were as easy as following the steps above, I would be the world’s wealthiest man. Rather than attacking a teenager’s choices we can support different choices. The home is where a child needs to feel accepted and secure because the world is full of scary things. Your kids don’t think drugs are cool but they do really want to be cool themselves. Each parent owes it to their family to help their children develop a sustainable sense of worth. Throughout my experience as a Licensed Addiction Counselor I see many pervasive patterns in people with substance use disorders. Two which resonate throughout most of my clients’ adolescent years are a lack of comfort at home and a lack of self-esteem. By making our children comfortable and confident we have the ability to prove that our kids are cool and drugs are not. ■




March 2015



Myths about

concussions By MELODY TAYLOR


March 2015




Although most people have a general idea of what concussions are, there are still some myths surrounding the injury. MYTH #1

The two most dangerous high school sports in terms of concussion rates are football and hockey. Although high school football accounts for around 250,000 concussions each year, the second most dangerous sport isn’t hockey; it’s girls’ soccer. Other school sports known for their concussion rates include boys’ wrestling, girls’ basketball, boys’ ice hockey, and boys’ lacrosse. In addition, cheerleading has the highest rate of catastrophic injury.


The best predictor of post-injury symptom severity and neurocognitive deficits is loss of consciousness. On-the-field amnesia is actually the most predictive symptom, and loss of consciousness occurs in fewer than 10 percent of concussions. In terms of general concussion symptoms, watch for: headache, confusion, light-headedness or dizziness, blurred vision or tired eyes, memory loss, ringing in the ears, bad taste in mouth, convulsions or seizures, numbness or poor coordination in limbs, fatigue or lethargy, agitation or restlessness, changes in sleep patterns, mood swings and behavior changes, and trouble with concentration, attention, or thinking.


There’s nothing parents can do to protect their young athlete from concussions or their effects. There are plenty of things that parents (and coaches) can do to help prevent concussions and reduce their damaging effects. + Check the condition of your child’s protective gear (helmet shells and cages for football, lacrosse, and hockey) and make sure it fits properly. + Ensure that your child’s coach is aware of­—and following—the safest practices for suspected concussions (such as a required waiting period before putting a player back in the game).

+ Make sure the team’s athletic trainer has a cordless screwdriver on hand during games to remove a helmet’s face mask if there’s a possible spine injury. + Encourage your school to create or enforce rules regarding concussions. In 2010, Massachusetts enacted a rule that requires high school and middle school athletes with a suspected head injury or concussion to be removed from the game (or practice) for the entire day. They can’t return until they receive written medical authorization, and everyone (coaches, trainers, parent volunteers – even marching band directors) must participate in annual concussion training. + Talk with your young athlete about the risks associated with concussions— especially repeated head injuries. Explain how to identify the symptoms and discuss their options to sit out during practice or a game, even if the coach doesn’t require it. Remind your athlete that helmets don’t always prevent concussions and may even give them a false sense of security, causing them to take greater risks.


Other than rest, there’s nothing you can do to regain your brain skills after a concussion. If you know that your child has cognitive changes due to a concussion, there are scientifically proven brain training programs that can help. Also known as “cognitive skills training”, intensive, one-on-one brain training forces the brain to better utilize or grow more synapses (the pathways between neurons). By reorganizing how the brain relays signals between cells, you can strengthen the cognitive skills that were weakened by the injury. These brain skills are what we use to focus, understand, plan, think, prioritize, remember, visualize and solve problems. Remember, while one concussion doesn’t typically do permanent damage, repeated concussions (especially in close

succession) can. There can be immediate or delayed long-term neurological impairments in memory, problem solving, processing speed, planning, and attention A 2011 study published in Neurosurgery reported that high school football players who suffered two or more concussions reported mental problems at much higher rates than other athletes, including headaches, dizziness, and sleeping issues. The authors of the study refer to these symptoms as “neural precursors.” In other words, take these as warnings that the brain is not on a healthy track. While most young athletes will recover from a concussion in a few days, some can have symptoms for a month or longer. A recent study found that the total score on a patient’s Post-Concussion Symptom Scale is linked to the duration of symptoms. In other words, the more severe the concussion, the longer the recovery time. It’s unrealistic to expect active youth to be 100 percent injury-free throughout their many practices and games. But learning about prevention, symptom identification, and treatment can minimize the chance and severity of injuries. Do what you can and then encourage them to have fun! For the most part, the positives of school sports will far outweigh the risks. ■




March 2015




Q. How do I know if my child is ready

for Kindergarten?

26 million


Despite the focus on cut-off dates for birthdays, age is not necessarily the best way to determine if a child is ready for kindergarten. There are academic as well as social factors to consider and no one has a better gage on where your child is at than you the parent. You know your child’s social skills, understanding of concepts, learning skills and level of independence. Here are a few questions that you can ask to decide if your child is ready. 1. Can she dress herself? Have her lay out several outfits for the first week of school and post photos of each in her room so she can get dressed without help – or hassle. Work on buttons, snaps and zippers, which will also play a role in using the bathroom independently at school. 2. Does she know how to share and take turns? This may be a bigger issue for only children or those who never attended daycare or preschool. As many kindergarten teachers will attest, in some ways it’s more important that children entering kindergarten have social skills than academic proficiency.

The number of pennies the Philadelphia mint produces per day.


The length of a giraffe’s tongue, which it uses to clean its ears!


3. Can he focus and sit still for at least 15 minutes? Attention is a learning skill that can be strengthened. At home, you can increase focus by reading stories, working on crafts, taking music lessons and eating dinner together. 4. Can she use basic classroom tools? Children need to refine their motor skills in order to work on handwriting. One way to work on this at home is to teach them how to use things like scissors, a pencil sharpener and a hole puncher. 5. Does he go to the bathroom without help? Children entering kindergarten should be toilet trained. But as one teacher reminds parents, “Urinals can be surprising for boys who have never seen one, so parents should talk to their sons in advance.”

In hours, the lifespan of a dragonfly.


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

15 million

6. Can she follow simple directions? Kindergarteners will need to hang up their own coats, get in line, put items in their backpacks, etc. Make sure your child can follow two- or three-step directions without needing them repeated.

The number of red blood cells our body is creating and killing per second.

Finally, ask yourself if YOU’RE ready to send her off to kindergarten. The answer will probably be no, but you can’t keep her home forever. So pack her lunch, her backpack and enough tissues for both of you!

Have a question? We cannot guarantee all questions will be published; however, we will do our best to respond to all questions submitted.


March 2015





Percentage of the world’s population that has green eyes.

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March 2015



tips & tricks March 2015





Students in the United States take more tests than kids anywhere else in the world. Some tests simply determine if a student has mastered knowledge and skills. Others have higher stakes and can determine class placement, grade level or college acceptance.

hese tips can help students on any test – whether it’s the weekly spelling quiz, annual state standardized testing, or entrance exams. Use these tips to help your child have a stress-free test. Preparing for the test:

 Don’t cram. Trying to cram in loads

of information the night before a test can increase anxiety which interferes with clear thinking. Plus, being sluggish from lack of sleep will likely negate the benefits of the extra knowledge. Instead of a massive cram session, spread out studying over several days. People are more likely to remember and recall information learned over time than in a single session immediately before test time.

 Focus on the positive. Test taking

can be a huge source of anxiety – especially high-stakes standardized testing. So what’s the positive? Often these test times mean a break from homework, extra recesses, few “regular” classes and a school-provided snack.

 Rely on the right type of

encouragement. Studies show people do better work when praised for their effort, not for their grades or results. Try to avoid pressure to get top scores and instead, encourage hard work.

 Practice. Taking a “practice” test on

everyday classroom work is a great way to gauge mastery of skills and knowledge. When it comes to standardized testing, practicing by taking a previous version may reduce stress simply because the student will know what’s coming.

 Teach someone else the material.

This can help students gain a better grasp of the material and remember it more effectively.

 Make sleep a priority. Adequate

sleep is crucial to proper brain function,

and studies continue to show that a sleepy brain works harder and accomplishes less. The perfect amount of sleep varies for every person, but The Nemours Foundation recommends 10 hours of sleep for kids 6 to 9; 9 hours for 10- to 12-year-olds; and 8 to 9.5 for teens.

 Eat good-for-you foods. To keep

cognitive function at its peak, the brain needs “good” fuel. A quality breakfast is essential for optimal brain function. Dozens of studies over six decades consistently show that students who eat breakfast perform better academically, and are able to remember things better, than those who don’t eat breakfast. Before the test, eat a meal or snack that contains complex carbohydrates to fuel the brain, and protein which is important for attention and alertness.

 Practice breathing. When people

are stressed they generally breathe way too fast. At that point their brain is getting 40 percent less oxygen than it needs for normal functioning. This oxygen deprivation is often why kids who should do well on tests, simply don’t. To reduce the stress and increase the oxygen levels, before the test, or during any stressful situation, take a deep breath, hold it for two or three seconds and let it out slowly. Repeat five times.

 Stay hydrated. Studies show that even slight dehydration slows the rate nutrients enter the brain, producing short-term memory deficits, reasoning difficulties, and other cognitive problems.

 Know what to expect and come

prepared. Bring the right kinds of pencils, erasers, or calculators. Or, if required, be prepared to leave it all at the door.

 Chew gum. Studies suggest that

chewing sugarless gum can reduce stress, improve alertness, relieve anxiety, and lead to better test scores. In one study, teachers reported that gum chewers needed fewer

breaks, sustained attention longer, and remained quieter. One thing to chew on – in one study the benefits of gum only helped improve test scores if chewed before, not during, the test. At test time:

 Actively listen to, or read, all of the directions. Don’t assume you’ll know what to do or when to stop.

 Use all of the time. If you finish the

test and have time left over, review your work. Make sure you’ve answered all the questions, shown your work, and used proper punctuation. Revisit questions you may have struggled with, because other questions later in the test may have jogged your memory.

 Breathe! Remember, if you’re getting

stressed, you’re probably breathing too fast.

 Skip the hard questions and come

back to them. If you hit a problem that you can’t figure out, don’t spend all your time on it. Move on and come back if you still have time when you’ve finished.

 Finish the test! If you feel yourself

running out of time, quickly scan through the remaining questions and try to make the best guess possible on multiple choice questions. This way you have a better chance at getting the answer right than if you write down nothing at all.

 Look for clues. Watch for qualifiers

like the words “always,” “never,” “none” or “generally” to guide you to the right answer. If the statement is long or complicated, break it into smaller parts – if one part is false, the whole statement is false. The longer the true/ false statement, the more likely it is to be true. And remember, tests usually have more true statements because they’re easier to write. Consistently using these tips will help your child become more confident at tackling tests no matter the significance of the test . ■




March 2015


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March 2015




Tips for Parents of

new drivers By Carolynn Bright

eaving a child on the first day of kindergarten can be pretty emotional for parents, but they soon learn it pales in comparison to the first time their teenager walks out the front door with keys to the car. Combine that with the statistic that one in four crash fatalities in the United States involve drivers between the ages of 16 and 24, according to State Farm Insurance, and you have the recipe for one frazzled parent. While managing that worry is easier said than done, experts encourage parents to take an active role in setting guidelines when their child starts driving. Establish clear expectations from the beginning and be prepared to deliver consequences if a young driver deviates from the mutually agreed upon plan. Parents’ fears about inexperienced drivers are not completely unfounded, according to

Officer Mardis, a high school resource officer. He states that the most common citation for young drivers is careless driving — a broad category that basically covers anything that is not careful. “It’s easy for young folks to not concentrate on what they’re doing,” he said. “That can mean playing with the stereo or getting distracted by occupants in the car. The biggest concern is those distractions. It can take just a fraction of a second for their vehicle to veer.” Many states have established graduated drivers’ licenses (GDLs) for new drivers (under 18 years of age) in an attempt to limit distractions. Those dictate supervised driving practice with a parent/guardian, limits the number of teen passengers, and restricts night time driving. Mardis said the GDLs appear to be effective. It’s rare that he issues citations

related to GDL violations, however he suggests that parents should remain aware of their teens’ driving skills, and institute their own rules based on their observations of problem areas. Cell phone use should be one of those banned activities in the car. “I try to understand that youth will make mistakes,” he said. “But if they break the rules, parents need to be ready to follow through with consequences.” Guidelines that Mardis said should always be emphasized to new drivers are to avoid driving or getting into vehicles with someone who appears to be under the influence of any substance (alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription medications – whether prescribed or not), and to be aware of road conditions. “The biggest factor in accidents related to road conditions is speed,” he said. “Drivers need to allow extra time to arrive safely.” ■




March 2015


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what you can do tO save a lIFe

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

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