Tuesday, April 25, 2017

13 Reasons Why

by Anne Lodge

Have you heard of the new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why? If you haven’t yet heard of it, it’s important to be aware of this trending show and the important conversations that can and should stem from viewing it. The fictional series is based on a novel, also titled 13 Reasons Why, and it profiles the character of Hannah Baker, a 17-year old who commits suicide and leaves behind tapes for 13 people who she says played a role in why she killed herself.

The series has created quite a buzz about suicide and the multiple difficult topics that the show addresses throughout the episodes, including bullying, rape, drunk driving, and slut shaming. Many teenagers are binge watching 13 Reasons Why with little or no adult guidance. When topics as huge and as serious as those in the show are covered, it’s important for adults to be aware of what their children are viewing and talking about. I would highly recommend engaging in conversations with your teen about the show and taking some time to view it yourself, especially if your child has watched or plans to watch the series.

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) offers up some talking points to guide a conversation:
      1. Ask your child if they have heard or seen the series 13 Reasons Why. While we don’t recommend that they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.
      2. If they exhibit any of the warning signs [making indirect or direct suicide threats; giving away prized possessions; changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings; emotional distress; preoccupation with death], don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
      3. Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.
      4. Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
      5. Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.

Additionally, they offer some words of caution about the show. The series is intense and teenagers may easily identify with some of what the characters experience in the episodes. It is not recommended that anyone who is vulnerable to suicide watch the show.

Ultimately, the most important take-away from watching 13 Reasons Why and engaging in dialogue about the series should be that suicide is not a solution to problems and that help is available to anyone who may be struggling. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, talk to a trusted adult, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text “START” to 741741.

If you have any concerns about your child or would like additional support in conversing about these topics, please contact your child’s guidance counselor.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Reinventing Homework

by Kathy Mahoney

Digital Learning Day 2017 offered tremendous learning opportunities for the MHS staff. One of my favorite sessions was called “No Homework: Motivating Students to Learn on their Own.” During the session, we were challenged to revisit our traditional notion of homework, questioning whether it lives up to its purpose to extend classroom learning to home. But is homework time well spent? Rather than doing away with homework entirely, the presenter argued that there might be a better way. Additionally, with the role that technology has played in changing the shape of today’s classroom, why should homework stay the same?

There are ways to make homework more engaging, relevant, and supportive of student learning. Giving students some choice in the matter can increase their willingness to put their best effort forward. Encouraging curiosity can spark motivation. Allowing students the opportunity to incorporate their passions can boost their learning potential.

How do teachers transform homework so that it accomplishes these tasks? Finding real world applications to math problems, having students write about their passions, asking students to find an article that’s interesting to them to bring in and discuss, and setting up homework chats on Edmodo are a few examples that the teachers in our session came up with. The possibilities are endless if we can shift the paradigm and reinvent the way we think about homework.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sphere of Control

by Lindsey Warner

I recently came across this article “Teach your Child this Crucial Life Lesson (Challenge #2: Sphere of Control)” that I found to be very interesting. This also reminded me of some of the conversations Kathy Bockhorst had during our parent book discussions with The Price of Privilege. One component of the book that we discussed with Memorial, Wheelock, and Dale parents is the idea of fostering a self of control within children, especially at a young age. This can idea can be confusing at times. While parents and teachers are also focused on encouraging things such as respect for authority and the ability to follow rules, knowing when to give children more choice can be a difficult task. Renee Jain echoes these same ideas of the importance of self-control in her article. She cites research from psychologist Martin Seligman that states, “When people believe they have no control over bad things that happen to them, they eventually stop trying to make their life and circumstances better - they give up.” The difficulty with this idea comes in knowing when to allow children to make their own decisions, and when something in a “non-negotiable”. Jain provides a great example of drawing two circles, one containing things you can control (such as attitude or how I dress) and the other containing things outside of your control (the weather or others’ attitudes). I think this is a great activity to do with children to explain the difference between the two spheres, and ensuring they feel a sense of control in their lives.

Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/teach-your-child-this-crucial-life-lesson-challenge_us_5898a6fde4b0985224db578e?section=us_parents

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fighting the Worry Bullies

by Kathy Bockhorst

Even for young children, learning to effectively manage, worries is an important challenge. I am in the process of visiting first grade classes, to teach strategies for managing worries, and have been delighted with how interested and responsive the students have been. A worry is identified as “a thought that makes us feel bad”. Many students have been able to make the connection between worry thoughts and somatic responses, such as headaches and stomachaches. They have also been able to recognize that though a headache due to a worry may hurt just as much as one due to germs, how we remedy it is very different. For worry headaches, we need to push out the worry thoughts and then get busy to keep the worry thoughts at bay.

To do this, I introduced the strategy of “Talking Back to the Worry Bully” based on curriculum from the “The Zones of Regulation” by Leah Kuypers and “What to Do When You Worry Too Much” by Dawn Huebner. We discussed how worry thoughts are like bullies, in that they repeatedly bother us with lies and/or exaggerations. The first graders have been very open sharing a variety of school worries they experience, such as getting on the wrong bus or not knowing how to do something. They have been able to draw their own worry bullies and practice talking back to ithem For example, the Worry Bully might tell a student that school will be awful because (s)he will miss his/her family too much, and the student Talk Backs saying that “Get lost Worry Bully - Lot’s of people at school care about me too!” Click the link below to access the presentation.

Monday, April 10, 2017

HIPPA Authorization

by Anne Lodge

Attention parents! I recently came across an article on www.consumerreports.org that shared important medical information with parents of soon-to-be eighteen year olds. Although teenagers often can’t wait to turn eighteen so they can legally be considered an adult, some of the ramifications of that page-turn in the calendar can be far reaching if your child ever has a medical emergency. According to a trusts and estate attorney quoted in the article, “‘once a child turns 18, the child is legally a stranger to you’”. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, protects the medical information of the newly-minted adult, regardless of who carries the health insurance. In a medical emergency situation, especially if the child is living away from home, parents may not be able to obtain information about their child’s well-being once they turn eighteen.

For those parents who still feel that it would be important to be able to help protect, guide, and support their child medically after they turn eighteen, there are steps that you can take now so that HIPPA doesn’t prevent you from doing so. Completion of the HIPPA authorization form, a medical power of attorney form, and a durable power of attorney form, will allow parents to still be involved in a medical emergency situation for their son or daughter. The forms can typically be downloaded from the web and completed without the support of an attorney. The article suggests scanning the forms once they are completed so that they are readily accessible on a smartphone or a computer. Taking these few simple steps before your child is ever faced with a potential medical emergency may make all the difference in allowing you the ability to access the medical information to help support your child.

For more detailed information on the HIPPA authorization form, medical power of attorney form, and durable power of attorney form, please see the article, “Will You Be Able to Help Your College-Age Child in a Medical Emergency?” by Susan Feinstein: http://consumerreports.org/health/help-your-college-age-child-in-a-medical-emergency/.