Sunday, January 27, 2013

School Safety: How Safe Is Your School?

In the light of the Sandy Hook tragedy and a smattering of school shootings over the course of 2012, many parents are beginning to wonder in earnest if their children are actually safe in their schools. Fears of violent attacks aside, you may also be wondering if your little ones would be adequately protected and looked after in the event of a natural disaster or catastrophic weather conditions.

While there is no surefire way to predict the future, there are steps you can take as a parent to ensure that the children in your child’s school are being protected and kept safe to the best of the administrators’ abilities.

The only way that you can actively observe your kids’ schools and the daily procedures that are in place is to visit. Be sure that you stop at the office to explain your presence, prove that you are the parent of a student and ask for a tour. Watching the children as they make their way to classes and seeing common areas and safety features for yourself will allow you to not only determine how the school is operated and if you feel that their practices are safe, it will also help you learn more about the layout of the school in case of an emergency. Taking the time to visit your child’s school will also provide you with the opportunity to do a bit more in-depth investigation.

Communicate With Administrators and Teachers
During a visit to the school, you’ll be able to see the daily operations and routines. More importantly, however, you’ll be able to meet with and talk to your child’s teachers, school administrators and others in positions of power. You can ask them about any procedures they have in place for managing a violent attack on the school, how they deal with violence between students, the official stance and repercussions for bullying and what procedures are in place for managing dangerous weather conditions. Sometimes speaking to administrators and getting the chance to become acquainted with them will be enough to ease your mind altogether.

Talk to Your Child
The best source of information at your child’s school is your child. He knows more about the daily goings-on than you could ever determine just by visiting, and also understands the inner workings of both the student body and school administrations. If he seems hesitant to discuss certain subjects or exhibits signs of fear, reluctance to go to school or frequently feigns illness, there may be a chance that he simply does not feel safe there. While it is wise to keep in mind that kids can be prone to exaggeration when they’re under stress or worried about world events, there could be some truth to your child’s statements. Administrators and staff can put on a convincing face for visiting parents, especially when they’re expecting them and have time to prepare statements. Kids that spend the majority of their days in the school, however, may have a more realistic view of them.

Examine Disciplinary Policies
In the hustle and bustle of the back-to-school rush, it can be easy to toss your child’s student handbook aside for later perusal and simply never get to it. Those documents, however, almost always contain valuable information about procedures and policies, including disciplinary actions. Knowing what the school is willing to subject a child to in the name of punishment and whether or not those disciplinary actions line up with your own parenting procedures can give you an even greater idea of the school’s safety level.

Consider Emergency and Disaster Plans
After a violent attack on schoolchildren is sensationalized in the news, it’s easy to focus solely on the possibility of violence. Because some areas of the country are more prone to some natural disasters and weather problems than others, you’ll need to know what the emergency and disaster plan is for severe weather in your area. Knowing what plans the school has in place for such situations and how well-prepared they would be in the event of a disaster striking your individual geographic area will help you be more informed when deciding whether or not your kids are safe in their schools.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Getting Your Teen to Talk to You: Breaking the Ice

At some point, every parent will start to get grunts and nods when asking their kids simple questions, like “How was school today?” or “What would you like to do this afternoon?”

Separating from parents and keeping more and more of their thoughts and feelings to themselves is a natural stage kids go through, but that doesn’t make any less difficult for parents to endure. It also doesn’t have to be the natural progression of the parent/child relationship.

It takes some extra time and effort, but you can stay close to your child. Here are some ways to keep the lines of communication open.

Avoid questions that start with why. It’s often surprising how regularly we question rather than converse with kids. Kids often get defensive as soon as they hear the word “why.” Instead of opening up the lines of communication, asking questions like “Why did you do that?” can make the child feel like there’s a right and wrong answer, even when it’s asked with a genuine interest. Instead, ask questions that will encourage your child to share his thoughts, feelings and motivations.
Ask open ended questions. We often ask questions looking for specific information. Wonderful things can happen when we don’t have a specific agenda and instead welcome wherever the conversation may lead. Questions like “What was the best part of your day?” or “What was the funniest thing that happened today?” make kids think outside the box and often gives you a great jumping off place for a deeper conversation.
Resist the urge to offer advice or solutions. Whenever a parent learns that her child is struggling with a problem, even a small one, her first instinct is to jump in and offer advice and a solution. Even when you offer your child great suggestions, jumping into a problem solving mode often turns the conversation into what feels like a lecture. When your child is facing a problem or struggling with how to handle a tough situation, use that opportunity to connect. Ask her about how she sees things, how she feels about what’s happening, what she sees as her choices, and what she thinks the results of those choices would be. By creating a safe space for your child to work through her thoughts and feelings, you’re strengthening your relationship and helping your child develop valuable critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Talk on their timetable. Sometimes it seems that kids want to talk at the worst possible moments. Your daughter wants to give you all the details of an argument she had with her best friend when you’re trying to finish a big presentation for work. Your son wants to ask you about joining the hockey team when you’re rushing to help your 6th grader finish a science project that’s due the next day. You only have so much time and energy, and often there is just not enough of it to go around. Unfortunately, as children get older the times when they initiate a meaningful conversation get fewer and fewer, so take advantage of the opportunities you’re given whenever possible. If you have to postpone a conversation, let your child know why and pick a specific time to finish the conversation.
Plan time to connect. Your child is much more likely to open up to you when connection and conversation are an integrated part of your relationship. From an early age, spend one on one time with your child on a regular basis. This is a great way to get to know your child outside the hustle and bustle of family life and it gives you the chance to create special memories together. That regular one on one time early on can make it much easier to continue to connect as they get older.
Take advantage of small windows of time. Not every conversation needs to be a sit down, face to face talk. In fact, many of the best conversations won’t be. Take advantage of the time you and your child spend in the car driving to and from activities, getting ready for bed, cooking dinner over the weekend, or shopping for school clothes. Talking while involved in another activity creates a no pressure environment to talk with each other. Of course it’s important to carve out time when you’re focused on each other as well, however, in between those times try to take advantage of the many chances you have every day to connect and talk.
It’s important to both you and your child to connect and talk with each other. Although the parent/child relationship naturally changes as your child gets older, you can still have a close connection through the years.

Source: Babysitting Jobs

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

What Happens When Good Kids Start Making Bad Choices?

Post Newtown tragedy and we as a society not only mourn the loss of precious lives, we are debating what we can do from to prevent this from happening again.

The conversation of gun control and mental health will continue for a long time.

As someone that works with parents of struggling teenagers, I am faced on a weekly basis with families that are at their wit’s end.  They have exhausted all their local resources, the therapy sessions are going nowhere (if you can get your child to attend), school has usually reached their limit with the student, and in some cases the local authorities are now involved.

Over the past few weeks we have heard from parents that feel like their teenagers are holding them hostage in their own homes.  They will punch holes in walls, they will scream at their parents, the level of disrespect today is at an all time high.  Sadly, though we are only hearing about this in the media lately, it has been going on for years.

Some of these homes consist of only one parent or both parents are working leaving less supervision and guidance at home.  Gone are the days when kids came home to at least one parent.  Is this part of the problem of today’s society?  I am not convinced of that.  In my opinion it could be one of the excuses.

Kids today lack the respect that generations prior were born and raised with.  Gone are the days when a parent told a child to be home at 10:00pm and they were actually home at 10:00pm without question.  Today the teen will argue that every other kid has a curfew of 2:00am and that is when he/she will be home whether we like it or not.

Yes, that is the way many parents are living today – at the mercy of their teenager.  I am sure some of you are recognizing your child here.

It’s not just pot anymore.

When a teen has escalated to a point that they are now controlling your home, failing in school, using drugs, hanging with the less than desirable peer group (which by the way they have become themselves), and you have determined this is more than typical teenage behavior – it may be time to seek residential therapy.  These are typically good kids making bad choices.  Some may label them spoiled rotten brat syndrome.

Residential therapy is sometimes mistaken for mental illness.  Though there are residential treatment centers that help the mentally challenged, I am discussing residential therapy that is aimed at building a child back up to making the better choices, teaching them self-respect and respect for others, continuing their education (underachievers) and offering enrichment programs.

Many of these teens are spoiled brats.  The problem; entitlement issues.  Many parents today are guilty of over-indulging our kids and the results are coming back to us during the puberty years – in spades. The sweet angel of a toddler we once had is now a troubled teenager that is driving us mad.  We literally don’t recognize the person they have turned into.  From sneaking out of the house, to dropping out of their favorite sport – that once happy-go-lucky child has gone missing.   It is a parent’s responsibility to find them again.  It is not about shipping them off, it is about giving them a second chance at a bright future.  Sometimes that does involve removing them from their comfort zone; their environment.

Researching for residential therapy can be daunting.  The sticker shock of the price to get your child help can leave you feeling completely helpless and hopeless.

Don’t allow this to happen.  Yes, residential therapy can be costly, however there are some that accept insurances and there are others that work with parents in accordance to their income.  You need to do your homework, there is help out there.  Don’t be a parent in denial, be proactive – it is our responsibility as a parent to get our child the help they may need.

As far as private residential programs for teen help, even though they can be a bit more expensive, don’t assume anything.  You need to do your due diligence and research.  Visit for a list of tips and questions to ask schools and programs.  Being an educated parent helps you to find the best program for your individual child.  Learn more in Wit’s End!  Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen (HCI).

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Teens That Think they are Invincible: Tips for Parents

Does your teen make poor choices?
“I just like to see how far I can go and what I can do and what I can accomplish out[side] of the everyday norm.”
– Allan, 17

It has been said a thousand times: the biggest reason kids drink and drive, take drugs and do all kinds of crazy, dangerous stunts is that they think they’re immortal, invincible and bullet-proof. But is this what teenagers really think?

“It’s a sense of freedom, I guess,” says Allan, 17.

Allan is a self-proclaimed risk-taker.

“I just like to see how far I can go and what I can do and what I can accomplish out[side] of the everyday norm,” says Allan.

Risky behaviors can include rock-climbing, skydiving, street racing and even unprotected sex. It’s often said that teenagers feel invincible – but do they really feel this way? Researchers at UC San Francisco say no. In fact, they found that teenagers actually overestimate the danger of certain activities. And, while they know there are risks, they think the benefits and the fun are worth it.

“[Teenagers] are — compared to an adult — relatively uninformed. And if they are a novice and inexperienced with alcohol, drugs or sex, or any of those things — as everyone is in the beginning — they don’t know what to expect. Very often they don’t fully understand the complete nature of the risks they’re taking,” says Jeffrey Rothweiler, Ph.D., clinical psychologist.

“It might be that because the frontal lobes are not yet fully developed during adolescence that they’re more likely to make decisions, that they don’t fully think through the consequences of their actions,” says Elizabeth Sowell, Ph.D., neuroscientist. The prefrontal cortex matures the most between the ages of 12 and 20.

Allan knows there is a potential for injury with some of the risky actions he takes.
“I guess death is a factor, or getting paralyzed or … hitting the ground while you’re climbing. But you just try not to think about it, keep a positive attitude,” says Allan.

But in his mind, the benefits are worth it.

“Just being able to look back and see that you’ve done something. That you’ve accomplished … a rapid or a rock or a trail or something like that,” says Allan.

Tips for Parents

  • Research shows that certain approaches to parenting can help prevent teens from engaging in all types of risky behaviors, from drug and alcohol use to dangerous driving to sexual activity. This includes having a warm, loving and close relationship with your teen; setting and consistently enforcing clear rules and consequences; closely monitoring your teen’s activities and whereabouts; respecting your teen; and setting a good example, especially when it comes to illicit drug and alcohol use. (Office of National Drug Control Policy)
  • Encourage safe driving, healthy eating and good school performance; discourage drug use, teen sex and activities that may result in injury. (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, HHS)
  • Teach healthy habits. Teach your teenager how to maintain a high level of overall health through nutrition, physical fitness and healthy behaviors. Make sure your teen gets eight hours of sleep a night — a good night’s sleep helps ensure maximum performance in academics and sports. Sleep is the body’s way of storing new information to memory and allowing muscles to heal. (HHS)
  • Promote safe driving habits. Make sure your teenager uses a seat belt every time he or she is in a car, and ask your child to ensure that all other passengers are wearing their seatbelts when he or she is driving. Encourage your young driver to drive responsibly by following speed limits and avoiding distractions while driving such as talking on a cell phone, focusing on the radio or even looking at fellow passengers instead of the road. (HHS)
  • Promotion of school success. Help your teen to become responsible for attendance, homework and course selection. Be sure to have conversations with your child about school and show your interest in his or her school activities. (HHS)
  • Prevent violence. Prevent bullying by encouraging peaceful resolutions and building positive relationships. Teach teens to respect others and encourage tolerance. Teach your teens that there is no place for verbal or physical violence by setting an example with your words and actions and by showing them respect as well. (HHS)
  • Know the 4“W’s”—who, what, when, where. Always know who your teen is hanging out with, what they will be doing, when and for how long they will be out, and where they will be. And check up on your child. Be aware of the dangers that can arise at teenage parties. Teen parties present an opportunity for your teen to experiment with alcohol or tobacco. One approach is to host the party so you have more control over ensuring that these parties stay safe and fun for everyone involved. (HHS)


  • Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)
  • Connect with Kids
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