Friday, October 30, 2009

Sue Scheff: Sue Scheff: Outrageous School Policies: What Parents Can Do

Has “zero tolerance” gone too far? I hear from parents regularly and I must admit, although I completely understand safety of our children is always a priority, some of the suspensions or incidents that land immature young students in alternative school situations, can be troubling – debatable at least. I believe each incident should be reviewed individually, however at the same time we do need policies in effect. This is another time parents need to be involved. Be an educated parent, you could save your child from being placed in a not so good situation.

Outrageous School Policies: What Parents Can Do

By Bob Ross

There was a lesson to be learned recently in the case of Zachary Christie, a 6-year-old first-grader in Delaware who earlier this month brought a camping utensil along with his lunch. The tool included a folding fork and knife—the reason Zachary took it out during lunch time at Downes Elementary School in Newark last month.

Unfortunately for Zachary, that favorite camping utensil also included a folded knife. That automatically made it a “dangerous instrument” under his school district’s rule, which in this case had zero tolerance for any dangerous instruments brought into school.

So Zachary was sentenced to 45 days in the district’s alternative school, a punishment that drew outrage from parents and lawmakers alike. A few days later, the school board allowed Zachary to return to school and amended the policy to include only a 3- to 5-day suspension for kids caught with dangerous instruments, if they are in kindergarten or first grade.

The incident raises questions about what parents should do if they encounter a school rule that they think is unfair and should be changed. While some observers lashed out against so-called zero tolerance policies—rules that require a certain punishment often without allowing the school principal or administrators any discretion—Diane Cargile, president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, had a different view.

Cargile pointed out that many schools have zero tolerance rules covering a variety of different behaviors. At her school in Terre Haute, Ind., for example, an incident like the one with Zachary would go to a committee with the discretion to determine the intent of the child.

The main point that Cargile made is that parents should, and can be, vital partners with schools in setting up important rules and policies. Principals and administrators want input from parents when rules are being discussed. It’s important for parents to know the policies and rules at school and become active and involved. Don’t wait until there’s a problem to show up at school, Cargile said. “We want parent involvement and that’s how schools are made,” Cargile said. “And then when you are surprised (about a rule), you know what to do to rectify the situation. You aren’t a stranger.”

But Kathy Cowan, director of marketing and communications for the National Association of School Psychologists and a parent of four, said the plain truth is that parents often don’t know the rules and policies at their school. “Parents these days are so busy and may be working two jobs,” she said. “I don’t think it’s because they don’t care, it’s because they are busy.”

Both Cowan and Cargile agreed, however, that parents probably have more power to affect rules and policies at their children’s schools than they realize.

Here’s how parents can flex their muscle at schools around the country, according to the pair:

•Know the rules at school. It takes some work, Cowan said, but that handbook that goes home at the beginning of the school year is worth reading and understanding.
•Make sure your child knows the rules. Once you’ve gone through the handbook, it’s time to sit down with your child and emphasize the rules you think are most important for him or her to keep in mind.
•If a rule seems unfair, contact your school. Whether the issue comes up after reading the school rules or after an incident like the one with Zachary and his camping tool, don’t hesitate to make your opinion known. “It can be difficult for some parents, may be busy or feel intimidated,” Cowan said. “But a really good school administration is open to conversations with parents.”
•The next step is the school’s parent teacher organization. The PTA should have a good working relationship with school officials. “One of the responsibilities of the PTA,” Cowan said,” is to fully understand what the laws are and the consequences.”
• Be prepared to go to your School Board. While changing school rules isn’t impossible, it usually takes a little pushing, Cowan said. Many of the rules started with the School Board, and parents are one of the main constituencies of school boards.
Cowan added that, in the opinion of the school psychologists association, zero-tolerance policies that don’t provide school officials with any discretion aren’t good for schools. Rules that keep kids safe are important, but rules should have clear standards for behaviors and reasonable consequences when the rules are not followed, Cowan said.

For example, a sexual harassment policy that punishes an innocent first-grader being silly on the playground in the exact same way that an 18-year is punished for more serious behavior is absolutely wrong.

“If the parent community doesn’t understand the consequences of zero tolerance and stand up to it, then zero tolerance will live forever,” Cowan predicted. “At its best, zero tolerance is a tool schools use to shield themselves from liability.”

Follow on Twitter @Education_com

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teen and Youth Violence

Teen violence and youth violence is becoming too common.It seems we can't turn on our news without hearing about a violent incident including teens and kids. Over the past month our community has been grieving over the shocking attack on 15-year-old, Michael Brewer, who was doused in rubbing alcohol and set on fire by other teens. This happened in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

More recently our attention is in Coral Springs, Florida where 14-year-old Matthew Gorzynski was stabbed to death by his 15 year old brother. Matthew was a student at Taravella High School. Police said he and his older brother, William Gorzynski, 15, also a student at Taravella High, got into an argument at their Coral Springs home about the noise level on a home computer on Monday. Police said William Gorzynski grabbed a kitchen knife and fatally stabbed Matthew.Both of these stories are tragic and cry out for more education on teen violence, bullying, teen aggression, rage and more. Both parents and educators, as well as everyone that works with children, need to learn more about preventing violence and how to detect warning signs.

I am listing resources that can help you help today's children and possibly prevent another act of violent behavior.

MADE Coalition (Moms and Dads for Education to Stop Dating Abuse): Dating violence is a growing concern that parents need to be aware of. Tips for Teens, Teen Resources and more.

Love Our Children USA: Teen Violence PreventionDon't allow our news to continue with these horrific stories, take a stand, learn more about preventing violence and be proactive in your school and community.

Be an educated parent, you will have a safer teen.

Is your teen at risk or need outside help? Visit Parents Universal Resource Experts.

Updated news on this story visit Miami Herald UPI, NBC Miami.
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Sue Scheff: Last Minute College Application Tips for Parents and Teens

It is that time of year again when many High School Seniors are applying to colleges. Are you running behind? Struggling to get through the application process? Here are some last minute college application tips from Peterson's Guide.

Applications are highly evolved documents, based on numerous admission deans asking themselves if they're asking you the right questions. For that reason, how you fill out an application is almost as important as the information you include. In other words, follow directions!

Review the requirements

Applying to college typically involves a fair amount of paperwork. So before you hit the post office or hit send, take a long last look at your application.

If you're applying electronically, did you type carefully and check your spelling? If you're applying on paper, was your application filled out neatly?

Did you take shortcuts? A partially completed application is a clear signal that you are not an eager applicant.

Did you send too much information? If a two-page essay is requested, did you send in four? Only do so if you’re not sending fluff!

Did you send all the information that was asked for — including transcripts, test scores, and recommendations?

Did you meet or beat deadlines?

Submit as early as possible

With deadlines in sight, keep in mind that admission offices are inundated with applications for a few months each year. When applying to college, consider getting your application in when the staff doesn't have hundreds and hundreds of them to read.Stragglers are accepted of course, but why send yours in at the last minute when you could get it there before the rush hits?Double-check the writing in your college application

Nothing says "I don't really care about this college" like inadvertently putting another college's name somewhere in the application. The same goes with spelling the college's name incorrectly. Either error signals a major lack of seriousness about really wanting to attend that particular school.

Avoid sending gifts

Gimmicks don't impress application readers, either. No matter how tempting it may be when you really, really want to get into a particular school, sending cookies or balloon bouquets doesn't make a good impression. It’s better to get noticed for the right things, like academic excellence and leadership qualities.

For more information visit College Board, Peterson's Guide

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teen Suicide

This is not a subject many people are comfortable with, however critical that parents understand that it is very real. Recently I wrote an article on Examiner about Teenage Suicide and stressed that parents become educated on the warning signs and statistics. Take the time to be an educated parent – you will have a safe teen. Don’t be in denial, this is a serious and growing concern. Also visit Florida Initiative For Suicide Prevention founded by Jackie Rosen.

Source: Connect with Kids

Teen Suicide

“There’s a myth out there that if you talk about it, then you aren’t going to do it. Well that isn’t true. If you talk about it, usually it’s a cry for help.”

– Catherine Marnell, a high school counselor

This year an estimated 5 thousand young people in the U.S. will take their own life. And studies show that for every one suicide, there are nearly 200 teens who try to die and fail. That translates into one million kids who are experiencing serious psychological pain. But there are ways that parents, teachers and even other students can help.

At one area high school, the first line of defense against conflict and depression are the 25 student members of the Peer Helpers program. They talk about all kinds of issues affecting teens today, including youth suicide prevention.

“I’ve known three people [who've] committed suicide,” says Shalisha, 17.

“I had a best friend who tried to commit suicide. I’ve known her since kindergarten, but I never saw anything because she never really said anything about it,” 16-year-old Karina says.

“I’ve had three or four people I know kill themselves and about two attempt it – just one in the past week,” says Alexis, 16. “It’s sad. It’s unfathomable.”

Each year, 16 percent of teens seriously consider suicide. Another eight percent actually attempt to take their own life. It is the third leading cause of death among young people.

“We need to reach out and help these kids who are hurting,” says Catherine Marnell, a school counselor who runs the Peer Helpers program. She says parents should act whenever there are signs of depression. Marnell advises parents not to minimize their child’s pain or assume it’s not real.

“They’ll say, ‘Oh, no, my kid is just having a bad day.’ And I think parents tend to want to believe that everything is going to be OK, when they need to instead seek professional intervention,” Marnell says.

Like their parents, students can help their peers by recognizing the signs of a suicidal teen.

“My friends would give stuff away, they would tell me that they’re not happy. They’d tell me flat out that they’re gonna to try to commit suicide,” Alexis says.

“We try to kinda be a lifeline throughout the school,” 16-year-old Brandon says. “We want to let everybody know that they can come and talk to us whenever they need to.”

Some teenagers feel so overwhelmed with what they are experiencing that they believe their only escape is through suicide. Many parents and friends may not know there is a problem, however, until it is already too late. The risk of suicide may become evident to others if they know the warning signs of suicide. They include:

•Suicide notes
•Extreme depression
•Previous suicide attempts
•Drastic changes in mood, behaviors or tendencies
•References to death or dying
•Extremely risky behavior
•Giving away meaningful possessions

Tips for Parents
Intervention may be the best way to prevent suicide. If your child suspects a friend of having suicidal thoughts or tendencies, share with them the following options, developed by the National Association of School Psychologists.

•Know the warning signs! Read over the list above and keep it in a safe place.
•Do not be afraid to talk to your friends. Listen to their feelings. Make sure they know how important they are to you, but don’t believe you can keep them from hurting themselves on your own. Preventing suicide will require adult help.
•Make no deals. Never keep secret a friend’s suicidal plans or thoughts. You cannot promise that you will not tell – you have to tell to save your friend.
•Tell an adult. Talk to your parent, your friend’s parent, your school’s psychologist or counselor – a trusted adult. And don’t wait. Don’t be afraid that the adults will not believe you or take you seriously – keep talking until they listen. Even if you are not sure your friend is suicidal, talk to someone. It’s okay if you “jump the gun” – this is definitely the time to be safe and not sorry.
•Ask if your school has a crisis team. Many schools have organized crisis teams, which include teachers, counselors, social workers, psychologists and principals. These teams help train all staff to recognize warning signs of suicide, as well as how to help in a crisis situation. These teams can also help students understand warning signs of violence and suicide. If your school does not have a crisis team, ask your student council or faculty advisor to look into starting a team.
If you suspect your child of considering suicide, be sure to act quickly and take it seriously. Many times, the main factor leading kids to consider suicide is depression. If you suspect your child is struggling with depression, consider sharing with him/her the following suggestions, created by Teen Contact.

•Get help. Talk to someone that can help you get the help you need. Depression is a serious condition.
•Be active. Exercise daily and be around people. Don’t isolate yourself.
•Monitor your eating habits and make sure you’re eating a healthy diet.
•Consult a doctor.
•Don’t make any big decisions while you are depressed. You’re probably not thinking clearly. Also, don’t accept any additional responsibility while you are feeling depressed. Keep your tasks manageable.
•Change takes time. It probably took you a while to get depressed, so realize that it will probably take a while to feel better.
•Start using positive thinking and positive self-talk with yourself. Negative thinking plays a big part in depression. When you catch yourself thinking negatively, turn it around. This takes practice, but keep it up.
•Do some volunteer work. Helping others can help you, too.

•National Association of School Psychologists
•Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
•Center for Education, Treatment and Prevention of Addiction
Also visit my website on Teen Suicide Information.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sue Scheff: School Violence Needs to STOP

Last week in Florida is another tragedy involving teens and school violence. BULLYING is a major issue and needs to be taken seriously. The recent incident in Deerfield Beach of the young boy that was bullied and burned by his classmates is nothing short of despicable. It was only a month ago we were all brought to tears by the death of the teen in a Coral Gables stabbing at school.

As a Parent Advocate, I cannot express enough that parents need to be educated on bullying and how dangerous this behavior is.

What happened to 15 year old Michael Brewer should be a wake-up call to all parents, educators, and everyone that works with children today. Do we really need these wake-up calls? We read about these horrific acts almost daily with kids, whether it is in Chicago or South Florida, these stories are in the news.

Help STOP BULLYING today! Be an educated parent, you will have a safer teen.

What is bullying?

Bullying is an aggressive behavior that is intentional and malicious. Bullying can be physical contact as well as verbal abuse. Many have heard the adage “Sticks and stone can break your bones, but word can never hurt.” That has been proven a wrong statement over and over, as words can devastate a young child and scar them emotionally for a long time.

To learn more about bullying visit the following websites and take the time to become familiar with the warning signs, tips, articles, as well as how you can be proactive in your community.

Stop Bullying Now – All about bullying, prevention, intervention and more. Take a stand, lend a hand.

STOMP OUT BULLYING – What you can do. PSA’s and more, take the pledge to stop bullying today.

Kids Health Today – Educational articles, tips and more about bullying and your children.

Love Our Children USA – Report bullying, child abuse and neglect; learn how to protect children today. Bullying Series – Everything you need to know about bullying and more.
Isn’t it time we, as a community, we work together to put an end to bullying and school violence? Let it start at home, talk to your kids about these serious issues. Communication is the pathway to understanding the problem and working together to stop it!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Sue Scheff: New Teen Drivers

When your teen becomes of age to get their driving permit, then their license, it can be one of the most stressful times of parenting. Recently I read a book that is a wealth of information and helps you prepare your teen for the major responsibility called – driving. Crash-Proof Your Kids by Timothy C. Smith is a must read “before” your teen gets behind the wheel.

This past week Connect with Kids also posted an article with parenting tips and revealing studies regarding teenage drivers. Be an educated parent, you will have a safer teenage.

Source: Connect with Kids

Keeping New Drivers Safe

“States with a restricted graduated driver’s license program are reducing the teen crashes by 21 percent. That is huge. That represents thousands of teenage lives that we are saving, and tens of thousands of serious injuries that we are preventing.”

– Robert J. Wilson, National Safety Council

Teenagers who own their own car are two and a half times more likely to get into a car accident than kids who share a car with their mom or dad. Those are the results of a new study funded by the State Farm Insurance Company. How else can you keep your new driver safe behind the wheel?

Last year, 19-year-old Rafael was arrested for street racing.

“You know, I opened the window,” says Rafael, “I see the cop next to me and he says, ‘Please get out of the car, you’re under arrest.’ And I said, ‘Oh, no man, I’m sorry, you know, I’m sorry.’ Cause I wasn’t thinking! “

He was sentenced to community service and three months of driving restrictions. “I was only allowed to drive from school, community service, and work,” says Rafael. “That was about it. Anywhere else I went, and the cops saw me, I would have been in big trouble.”

47 states have similar restrictions like this on all new drivers. Many 16-year-olds can only drive to school, can’t drive with passengers, or not past 10 o’clock at night.

“States with a restricted graduated driver’s license program are reducing the teen crashes by 21 percent,” says Robert Wilson, with the National Safety Council. “That is huge. That represents thousands of teenage lives that we are saving, and tens of thousands of serious injuries that we are preventing.”

Experts say parents should restrict new drivers when the state doesn’t.

They advise to delay driving until age 17, have teens get 30 hours of practice behind the wheel, and keep a learner’s permit for three months before applying for a license.

“A lot of the restrictions can be eased gradually,” says Wilson. “It’s not an all or none situation. So I would say a beginning driver shouldn’t drive at all at night at first unsupervised, and then gradually extend the time-nine o’clock, ten o’clock, midnight.”

As for Rafael, the arrest taught him a lesson.

“That night we were going really fast,” says Rafael, “I could have died, seriously, at the speed I was going.”

Research shows the states that put at least five restrictions on new drivers have the lowest teen crash rates.

Driving is a risky proposition for many American teenagers. Despite spending less time driving than all other age groups (except the elderly), teenage drivers have disproportionately high rates of crashes and fatalities. Experts say that the high accident rates for teens are caused by a combination of factors, most notably teenagers’ immaturity and lack of driving experience. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System collected the following data about teenage drivers:

•Crashes are the leading cause of death among 16- to 19-year-olds.
•The majority of teenage passenger deaths occur when another teen is driving.
•Two-thirds of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes are male.
•Among teenage drivers, alcohol is a factor in 23 percent of fatal accidents involving males, 10 percent of fatal accidents involving females.
•More than half of the teenage motor vehicle deaths occur on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Of those deaths, 41 percent occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Tips for Parents
The risks involved in letting a teenager get behind the wheel of a car are very real, but there are safety measures parents can take to improve the odds for beginning drivers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offers these tips:

•Don’t rely solely on driver education. High school driving courses may be the most convenient way to teach driving skills, but they don’t produce safer drivers.
•Supervise practice driving. Take an active role in helping your teen learn how to drive. Supervised practice should be spread over at least six months and continue even after your teen graduates from a learner’s permit to a restricted or full license.
•Remember, you are a role model. New drivers learn by example, so you must practice safe driving. Teens with crashes and violations often have parents with poor driving records.
•Restrict night driving. Most nighttime fatal crashes among young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight, so your teen shouldn’t be driving much later than 9 p.m.
•Restrict passengers. Teenage passengers in a vehicle can distract a new driver and/or lead to greater risk-taking. The best policy is to restrict the number of teenage passengers your teen is allowed to transport.
•Require safety belts. Don’t assume that your teen is using a safety belt when he’s with his friends, just because he uses it when you’re together.
•Research shows that safety belt use is lower among teens than older people. Insist that your teen use a safety belt at all times.
•Prohibit driving after drinking. Make it clear that it is illegal and highly dangerous for a teen to drive after drinking alcohol or using any other drug.
•While alcohol isn’t a factor in most crashes of teenagers, even small amounts of alcohol are impairing for teens.
•Choose vehicles for safety, not image. Teens should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of a crash and offer protection in case they do crash. For example, small cars don’t offer the best protection in a crash. Avoid cars with performance images that might encourage speeding. Avoid trucks and sport utility vehicles, particularly the smaller ones, which are more prone to roll over.

•Drive Home Safe
•Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
•National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
•Safe America Foundation

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sue Scheff: ADHD School Help: Working with the Teacher

A realistic game plan so parents can set up school help -- special services and ADHD classroom accommodations to help children with ADD and learning disabilities succeed.

From extra time on tests or a seat near the blackboard to a full-time aide, children with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD) are legally entitled to school help, with ADHD accommodations in the classroom. But even though students should receive academic accommodations, there’s no assurance that he or she will actually get them. This is especially true in our time of under-funded schools and overworked teachers.

What does it take to get your child the accommodations he or she needs? “You need to have an understanding of your child’s ADHD, and how it affects him,” says Robert Tudisco, of White Plains, New York, a lawyer who frequently advocates for special-needs children. “And you need to know exactly what you want the school to do to help.”

In addition, says Tudisco (who, like many of his clients, has ADHD), parents must know how to ask for these accommodations — and, when necessary, how to push for them without seeming pushy.

It’s essential to view teachers and school administrators as allies, rather than adversaries — and to mind your manners. If you come across as rude or impatient, says Tudisco, school officials may be slow to provide the accommodations you request — if they grant them at all. In some cases, officials withhold accommodations to “punish” parents they deem “difficult.”

“Administrators and teachers often tell me, ‘You should have heard the way that mother spoke to me,’” says Tudisco. “Or, they’ll say, ‘That father slammed his fist on the desk and walked out of the meeting!’ When getting kids with ADHD the services they need in school, 85 percent of what goes into it is diplomacy, pure and simple.”

Kristin Hill Callejas, a first-grade teacher in Shelley, Idaho, has had her share of run-ins with parents. She recalls one mother’s demands for special help for her son, who had experienced academic difficulties in kindergarten. “She stormed into the classroom, spewing fire from her nostrils and muttering things under her breath,” says Callejas. “Only after she calmed down, and we got to a level of mutual respect and civility, were we able to work together to come up with some effective strategies.”
Starting the conversation

If your child needs only minor accommodations -- a bit more time to complete tests, for example, or a sticker chart as an incentive to behave better in class -- you may be able to line them up simply by speaking with the teacher. Often, the best approach is to contact the school to schedule a meeting just before the school year begins.

During your initial conversation with the teacher, give her your phone number and e-mail address. Let her know that you are always available to talk about your child and the challenges he or she faces. Also, find out how much the teacher knows about ADHD. “It’s perfectly reasonable to ask, ‘Have you worked with students with ADHD before?’” says Callejas. “That can start a discussion about what strategies the teacher has used before and what might work best with your child, and give you a sense of whether the teacher is flexible and open to suggestions.”

No matter how the teacher treats you, treat her with courtesy and respect. Making accusations or being needlessly confrontational is likely to backfire. “Don’t go in with guns blazing, ready to attack,” says Callejas. “When you expect the worst, you set a negative tone from the beginning.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sue Scheff: Girls can be mean - Be an educated parent


What to Do About the Mean Girls

If you have a daughter, take the time to read this. It could save her a lot of heartache. Not to mention stomach aches, headaches, missed days of school, lower grades, eating issues and depression.

The sad truth is that every school, whether public, private or parochial, has mean girls. I bet you can still even remember who they are from your school. As a school counselor and mother of three daughters, I know firsthand - both personally and professionally - how much it hurts when girls are targeted by bullies.

The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” couldn’t be further from the truth. While boys usually bully through intimidation, girls bully through exclusion, also called relational aggression. Here's an example of a case of relational bullying, taken from my experience as a school counselor:

“Heather” was miserable because a girl in her class, “Leslie,” was not only saying mean things to her face, but getting the other girls in the class to exclude her with the age old line “You can’t be friends with me, if you’re friends with her.” In our sessions, Heather would complain that she didn’t have anyone to play with because girls were afraid that if they hung around her they’d become Leslie’s next target. Leslie had immense influence over the social dynamic among these girls.

In order to improve the situation, I had to not only reduce the power Leslie had, but empower Heather as well. Here are some ideas that helped, adapted for use by parents:

•Ask for specifics when your daughter hints at bullying. Who? Where? How?
•Tell the principal and classroom teacher the specifics of how she is being bullied. Have them tell other teachers (i.e., gym, art, music), recess aides, hallway monitors and cafeteria staff so that everyone who comes in contact with her can be on the lookout and poised to intervene.
•Explain to her that reporting an incident is not the same as tattling, and have her tell an adult at school when she is being bullied.
•Encourage her to stick with a friend at recess, lunch, in the hallways, on the bus or walking home because she is more likely to be targeted when she is alone.
•Teach her to convey self-confidence by walking confidently, with her head up. Bullies target those they think are weaker.
•Pay attention to how she is sleeping, eating, feeling and doing in school. If you notice changes in any of these areas, have her see the school counselor.
•Arrange opportunities for your daughter to socialize with her friends outside of school to help her maintain a strong social support system.

In Heather's case, these steps alleviated the problem. But because it’s tougher to catch girl bullies, it’s extremely important for girls to tell an adult if they are being bullied. Unlike boys, who usually bully physically, mean girls often spread rumors, whisper as their target walks by, talk loudly about a party she wasn’t invited to, give her the silent treatment, and as discussed above, tell others not to be friends with her. School personnel are there to help, but in order to do anything they must know a problem exists!

To read more about relational aggression, I recommend the following books:

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons
Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman

Shannon Hutton has a Master's of Education, and currently works as a school counselor for kindergarten through eighth grade. She counsels students on a host of issues, including anger management, peer relationships, divorce, and test anxiety. She is the mother of three children.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sue Scheff: Motivating Teens to Help Others

There is nothing funny about the word cancer, and I recall Gilda Radner stated something similar to that in her book, “It’s Aways Something” which chronicled her battle with cancer.
Cancer has touched many lives. Whether you are a survivor of cancer, know someone battling it, or have lost someone to this disease, cancer is not a welcome guest in our lives. Unfortunately we don’t have control over all aspects of our ever changing life.

What can we do to help those that are suffering? Especially young children that are struggling with different forms of cancer such as Leukemia or other causes of hair loss. We need to give them hope and a sense of normalcy. These kids want to reach their teens, and hoping someday they will be going to college, have a family and so much more we take for granted.

You don’t have to have deep pockets to help. You don’t even have to write a check! All you need is hair! Do you or your kids have 10 inches or hair or more? Maybe you can work towards this and encourage your kids too. This is great way to not only bring self confidence and a smile to a child that has lost their hair; you can feel good about yourself. The benefits of giving will not only change the life of the recipient, it will change you too. Everyone knows it is better to give than to receive, and in this case, the gift is priceless and costs you nothing. You truly are the one that will be gaining so much.

Locks of Love is a win-win organization all the way around. During this month of Breast Cancer Awareness learn how you can help, and you don’t have to have a bank account. As a Parent Advocate I encourage parents to get their kids and teens involved. Giving back to your community is part of building their self esteem which in the end will help them to make better choices in their lives.

Be an example for your kids, reach out and give to children that need a boost of self confidence and a sense of normalcy simply by donating something that you are fortunate enough to have and will grow back faster than you realize. However the best part is how your heart will grow.

What is Locks of Love:

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.

Mission and Vision for Locks of Love:

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics.

Our mission is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need.
Benefits for Children:
The children who receive these hairpieces have lost more than their hair; they suffer from a loss of self. Many children have been teased by classmates and/or embarrassed by the attention they receive because of their hair loss. They often will withdraw from normal childhood activities such as swimming, going to the mall or even playing with their friends. While wearing a hairpiece is certainly not a cure for these children, it can help restore some of the normalcy to their everyday lives that most of us take for granted. It is our goal to help provide a foundation on which they can begin to rebuild their self-esteem.

As holidays approach, think about this. Today’s economy will cause many cut-backs on commercial gifts, but this gift will keep on giving and doesn't cost you anything but time and love.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sue Scheff: Moms helping moms!

What a fantastic website! Parenting today is challenging, however the resources to help us are expanding. An exciting and engaging website - offers educational advice, informational articles, and ideas to help you be all you can be as a parent.
Take the time to read MomsMaterial Parenting Articles!
Follow them on Twitter at @MomsMaterial

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sue Scheff: Single Parents: How to Raise ADHD Children – Alone

Seven expert strategies to help single parents raise confident, successful children with ADHD.

You're sitting in the principal's office, waiting to talk about your child’s misbehavior. You consider how much easier this would be — not to mention running the household — if your spouse were still in the picture. Raising a child with ADHD can challenge parents in a strong marriage. Doing it alone seems impossible.

It doesn’t have to be. I’ve worked with many single parents who have done it without losing their sanity or their sense of humor. What’s more, their children have thrived, developing a full complement of social skills and flourishing at school and in their careers. All successful single parents have a plan — strategies for taking some of the parenting pressure off their shoulders and nipping little problems in the bud. Here are my best suggestions for going it alone.

1. Make and stick to routines.

When you find your car keys in the cutlery drawer and Chinese food containers in the cabinet, it’s time to make hard-and-fast routines for your home. Set up chore charts, with firm times for accomplishing each task.

Consider listing chores on separate charts, so that children can choose a task from each chart each day. No one wants to be consistently stuck with the most unsavory one — like cleaning the downstairs toilet.

2. Schedule “together time.”

Being the breadwinner and raising a child can drain your energy, leaving you exhausted and irritable. Too many skirmishes, however small, can erode a child’s perception of feeling loved. Every week, press the “love-reset” button by spending some recreational time with each of your children.

The shared time should be child-oriented and involve high-quality interaction between the two of you. Reading together, playing a board game or cards, watching a DVD or video, riding bicycles, or making a favorite meal will do nicely. Sibling rivalry, often a concern in families with ADHD, will decrease considerably if you schedule regular together time.

3. Outsource activities.

Music or art lessons, martial-arts classes, or after-school sports enrich the lives of children with ADHD. Such activities develop their abilities and social skills. Getting your children to lessons and appointments, however, may seem like more than you can manage. Don’t ditch the activities; get help.

Arrange for your children to share rides with other kids in the same program. Call relatives or friends to see if they can occasionally run your child to his guitar lesson or gymnastics hour.

4. Streamline mealtime.

Kids with ADHD benefit from helping out with menu planning, meal preparation, and setting and clearing the table. To shorten your list of chores, make children responsible for preparing part of one meal each week, whether it’s dessert or a salad. While you’re at it, prepare double portions of the main course, and refrigerate or freeze them for next week. Get into the habit of clearing and washing dishes immediately after each meal or snack. No TV or computer time until the “clean team” places the dishes in the dishwasher and the condiments back in the fridge.

5. Put a sock in it.

Many single parents act like super-cops, because there is no one else around to remind their child about homework, taking a shower, whatever. The problem is, nagging creates tension in the household. Be alert for opportunities to let your child take the lead. Ask him to tape-record reminders for himself, so you don’t have to do all the reminding. A laid-back approach brings peace and harmony into the family, and empowers an absentminded child to take control of his day.

6. Agree on treatment.

When your child visits your ex-spouse, his treatment program may be interrupted or called into question. Arrange a joint session with your child’s counselor, therapist, or physician to educate the other parent about why treatment is needed. If the non-custodial parent decides to take the child off medication, and symptoms flare up, use that potentially unpleasant experience as leverage to require your spouse to maintain the treatment plan during the next visit.

7. Agree on responsibilities.
If your child can’t wait to get to Dad’s house every other weekend, Dad might be spoiling him with unadulterated fun. ADHD children often yo-yo between the excessively permissive parent and the taskmaster. The contrast between fun-and-games visits and daily routines at home can create problems for you. Ask your ex-spouse to assign the child some tasks when visiting with him, even if you have to sit down and map them out. Also, make sure that life at home isn’t all work and no play (see “Schedule ‘together time’”). Single parenting is challenging, but it can be fun as well.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sue Scheff: Charter Schools in Florida

In Florida parents have options for education for their children.

• Public Schools

• Private Schools

• Parochial Schools

• Montessori Schools

• Home Schooling

• Virtual Schooling

• Charter Schools

The Examiner is exploring Charter Schools in our state. In Florida Charter Schools is one of several options that parents consider for their children. Take the time to see if a Charter school is right for you and your family.

What is a Charter School?

Charter schools are non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations that have a contract or charter to provide the same educational services to students as district public schools. They are nonsectarian public schools that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools.The "charters" establishing such schools are performance contracts detailing the schools’ mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years.

At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school's contract.

Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor, usually a state or local school board, to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them, and the public that funds them.

What is the purpose of charter schools?

The Florida Charter School Statutes require charter schools to be guided by the following principles:

* To meet high standards of student achievement while providing parents the flexibility to choose among diverse educational opportunities within the state's public school system

* To promote enhanced academic success and financial efficiency by aligning responsibility with accountability

* To provide parents with sufficient information on whether their child is reading at grade level and whether the child gains at least a year's worth of learning for every year spent in the charter school Additionally, Florida charter schools are authorized to fulfill the following purposes:

* Improve student learning and academic achievement

* Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on low-performing students and reading

* Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including ownership of the learning program at the school site

* Encourage the use of innovative learning methods

* Require the measurement of learning outcomes, along with creating innovative measurement tools

* Provide rigorous competition within the public school district to stimulate continual improvement in all public schools

* Expand the capacity of the public school system

For more FAQ for Florida Charter Schools – visit the list of frequently asked questions including finding the nearest Charter School in your city.

For more info: Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Florida Public Charter School 2009 Fact Sheet

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sue Scheff: Educational Things Your Child Should Never Know

Educational Things Your Child Should Never Know

Source: Nurse Practitioners Schools

Because education doesn’t just begin and end with school, parents can take an active role in shaping their children by discussing the following.

28. The Holocaust. Waiting until an appropriate age is always a good idea when discussing this tragedy. A good idea is to check with your school to see when they are teaching it, so you can help your child through it. The ADL also has a very useful guide containing the stories of the children who survived the holocaust.

29. Sex ed. Chances are they will come across it in school, but parents are still the best place to learn. Find out when and what your school is teaching to your child regarding sex so you can be ready. You can also consult with your family or church on ways to discuss. If you need a starting point, Advocates for Youth has help for getting started, keeping the conversation going, and more.

30. Just say no. A good starting point, but children need to know why to say no. Explain to them carefully and in context how drugs ruin lives and the best way to defend against it is to never start. The best thing parents can do in this situation is set the example.

31. Alcohol is okay. Children see parents, movie characters, and others drink alcohol, so why shouldn’t they? Talking to them about why and how much adults drink, if it all, is essential for children. Talking With Kids even provides a useful online guide that can be found here.

32. Sometimes violence is okay. Although an adult may know when and when not to use violence, it is a heavy burden to place on a child. Yet even the most cautious parent has a child that is exposed to violent imagery at sometime in their life. Stop here to download a booklet on how to speak with your kids about and even get booklets for other issues.

33. The family finances. All families go through their highs and lows financially. If a parent lost his or her job, reassure the child that everything will be okay and even suggest things such as turning off lights and clipping coupons that the child can help with. If the family suddenly comes into money, set an example by spending, saving, and investing it responsibly.

34. The nightly news. Full of horrific and graphic images, the news is generally not a family friendly program. However, much discussed news items have a way of finding your child’s ears. Create an open environment where your children feel safe in asking about something they saw that is troubling them. A helpful guide for discussing the murder of Sandra Cantu can be found here.

35. Homosexuality. Whatever your views are, children will be exposed to it at some point in their life and may not understand what they hear. Make sure they get information on homosexuality from you the parent before anyone else so that your values and beliefs are not infringed upon. Dr. Nancy Brown wrote an excellent article on explaining homosexuality to kids under the age of 11, and it can be found here.

Read all 50 at

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parenting Solutions by Expert, Dr. Michele Borba

The BIG Book of Parenting Solutions is your recipe to parenting kids today. This tremendous book is similar to a cookbook of extra special, proven results for parenting! This book is not only for today's parent, it is a perfect baby shower gift, holiday gift, or simply to give to a parent today raising kids. They will be forever grateful.

Here is just a sample of the hundreds of proven and simple tips from Dr. Borba’s latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. The best news is that these solutions work for all ages, take less than a minute to do, are based on proven research and when consistently used will reap lasting change.

1. Get attention: Lower your voice almost to a whisper and then say your request. Kids aren’t used to a quiet request.

2. Increase positive behavior: Research shows that giving kids the right kind of praise (called “positive reinforcement”) is one of the best ways to shape new behavior. So, catch your kid doing the action you want. Just make sure your praise is specific and tells your child exactly what he did right. (Adding “because” or “that” takes your praise up a notch. “I’m so impressed that you started your homework all by yourself this time.”)

3. Stretch persistence: Praising the child’s effort (“You’re working so hard”) and not inherent intelligence (”You’re so smart”) is proven to enhance perseverance and performance, but the child is also more likely to bounce back from a mistake—all because he feels success is not mixed.

4. Reduce fear: Expose your child to a fear in small manageable doses and help them develop a statement to speak back to the worry (“Go away worry!” or “I can do this!”)

5. Curb a tantrum: The longer you give attention to a tantrum the longer it lasts. Ignore, ignore, ignore!

6. Nurture kindness: Encourage your child to use the Two Praise Rule everyday. “Say or do at least two kind things to someone.” Random acts of kindness really are catchy!

7. Increase assertiveness: Stress: “Look at the color of the talker’s eyes.” Using eye contact helps kids appear confident. Strong body posture also helps a child be less likely to be bullied.

8. Friendship builder: The two most commonly used traits of well-liked kids are “smiling” and “encouraging.” Reinforce those traits in your child to boost his friendship quotient.

9. Develop healthy eating habits. Eating relaxed family meals regularly enhances kids’ psychosocial well- being, boosts grades and deters behaviors like smoking and drinking and eating disorders as well as teaches the child healthy eating habits.

10. Curb nagging. Say "no" the first time and don’t back down. The average kid nags nine times knowing the parent will give in.

Read more about Dr. Michele Borba in our one on one interview earlier this month. Big Book of Parenting Solutions belongs in your kitchen today! Whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, daycare provider, coach, therapist or anyone working with today's kids, this is a must have book.