Suicide Prevention – May Spotlight

The Netflix original series, 13 Reasons Why and the Blue Whale Suicide Challenge is causing quite a buzz among teenagers and has created a flurry of discussions among educators and parents for all the wrong reasons. This suicide-focused frenzy has raised many concerns and questions about the subject and what would entice a young person to make such a permanent decision.

13 Reasons Why 
The new series was adapted from the 2007 novel, by the same name, written by Jay Asher. The show revolves around a teenage girl’s perplexing suicide after a series of culminating failures, brought on by select individuals within her school.

Blue Whale Challenge
A dangerous social media game that challenges students to harm themselves for 50 days and commit suicide on the final day. Students supposedly tag each other on the social media platform Snapchat and challenge them to play along. Once a student downloads the Blue Whale app, which hacks into their personal information, it cannot be deleted.

In 2016, the National Institute of Mental Health showed that the risk factors for suicide include depression and substance abuse disorders which are often combined with other mental disorders. In fact, more than 90% of people who die by suicide posses these risk factors. However, it is not just these factors alone that are predictors of a possible suicide. Studies show that the risk of suicide often occurs in combination with other factors that begin to overwhelm the student who is unable to deal with perceived challenges in life challenges; examples include:

  • Disciplinary problems at home or school
  • Family issues/abuse, including divorce
  • Bullying
  • Lack of adult support
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Family history of mental disorders
  • Sense of hopelessness/helplessness
  • Sexual orientation confusion

There are nearly as many signs that someone you know is contemplating suicide as there are people. Each person’s struggle is uniquely theirs but here are a few of the common signs.

  • Talks about wanting to die or killing self & searching for a way to do it
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Talks about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Talks about feeling trapped
  • Showing rage or seeking revenge
  • Talks about being a burden to others
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs

Never make the assumption that your student is acting in this manner to just get  attention. Any professional counselor would advise that a student who is making comments and acting out in the this way does not comprehend the fear they are inflicting on others. These behaviors warrant immediate attention by a mental health professional.

Students are easily influenced. Watching or reading content such as 13 Reasons Why could appear as an enticing option for their problems. We always encourage you to be alert, involved, informed and smart about what is going on in your student’s life. It’s vital to know who their friends are, where they go, what they like to do, what they are reading, watching and listening to at all times. When it comes to your children, you can never know too much.

To read more about suicide and 13 Reasons Why, visit the following resources for additional information.

Helpful Resources

Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts
What is Suicide?
Teen Suicide is Preventable
Teen Suicides: What are the Risk Factors?
13 Reasons Why, and Its Unintended Consequences
13 Reasons WHY – A Christian Perspective
A Counselor’s Response to 13 Reasons Why
Childhood and Teen Depression Handbook

If you and/or your student would like to discuss this further, please contact PCA’s guidance counselors, Pat Dean at pdean@4pca.org or Lisa Reid at lreid@4pca.org.

 

Autism Awareness – April Spotlight

April is recognized internationally as Autism Awareness Month. While most have heard of autism or maybe interacted with someone diagnosed with autism, many are not able to accurately describe what it is and how it affects the body.

According to Autism Speaks, autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. Autism is caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.  The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.  ASD can affect a young person in one or several areas of their life, including social interactions and relationships, verbal and nonverbal communications, and limited interests in play or activities.

Autism studies are ongoing but there are still many questions that remain about it. However, some details are known, including autism generally runs in families but some question if it is inherited. Still other studies research whether autism is linked to other medical problems. We also now know that autism, according to many reputable sources, is not linked to vaccines despite the hysteria several years ago. The Center for Disease Control encourages all parents to vaccinate their children as it is in the best interest of the child. Vaccinations ensure that children aren’t infected with serious diseases that can cause severe harm or even death.

Successful treatment for autism involves special behavioral therapy and training. This type of behavioral training rewards appropriate behavior with positive reinforcement which teaches children how to communicate and helps them learn appropriate social skills. Web MD has great information on these types of behavioral therapy and more. Early intervention is absolutely best. Learning to communicate is one of the keys to positive socialization, relationships, listening and being heard. As a result of their diagnosis, some children and teens also battle depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders which must also be treated.

While autistic symptoms may appear similar, each person and their diagnosis is different. Many exhibit intelligence in a variety of ways, they all have talents and skills they enjoy exploring and each have interesting personalities that make them the person God designed them to be in this world.  And as with any human, autistic children love to show love and be loved in their unique ways.

To read more about autism, visit the following resources for additional information.

Autism Science Foundation 

Autism Speaks

 

Experiencing Grief – March Spotlight

For most children, experiencing the death of a loved one is inevitable. Everything from the emotions of other family members to attending a funeral can be a strange and foreign concept for them. Children will have questions but not always the words to use to ask the questions. It is our job as parents to anticipate this response and ensure that we explain the situation in an age-appropriate manner. There are several things parents can do to help children cope with the death of a loved one.

  • Tell children quickly. Informing them soon after learning of the death will eliminate them overhearing it from another source or even being misinformed.
  • Keep it simple. Think through what needs to be said before breaking the news and keep it simple. Understand that most children think literally so be cautious in the words used. For example, sometimes death is referred to as going to sleep and never waking up. For children, their thoughts immediately turn to the fear of going to sleep.
  • Make funeral plans. Attending the funeral may or may not be part of the grieving process for your children. Depending on the age of the child, funerals can be scary and traumatic or serve as closure in the death of the loved one. If you allow your children to attend the funeral, there will certainly be more questions. Be prepared with age-appropriate responses.
  • Express emotions. It is important to share with your children the stages of grief. Help them determine where they are and what’s coming next. Most importantly, allow them to express their grief and help them by finding positive ways to do so. Drawing pictures or writing letters to the loved one who has passed away is a therapeutic way express grief.
  • Children are resilient. Whether the death is expected or sudden, we may fail to adequately prepare our children while dealing with our own grief. The most important thing is be there for your child, hold their hand throughout the process and remind them of God’s plan for all of us.

To read more about helping your children cope with death, visit the following resources for additional information.

KidsHealth 

Psychology Today

Healthy Children

Mental Health America

 

Snack Food Awareness – February Spotlight

Did you know that February is National Snack Food Month? Americans love snacking so much that we dedicate an entire month to chips, popcorn, candy, nuts, pretzels and more.

Healthy snacking is good for you! Smaller meals eaten more frequently throughout the day maintains blood sugar levels and reduces the urge to overeat during meal times. While snacking can be a benefit to your health, it can also be a source of bad habits and overindulgence. Most Americans can’t resist their favorite candy bars, potato chips and sugary beverages and are raising children who also exhibit the same habits. However, for our children, these snacking habits are causing potential harm by developing long-term issues and in most cases, parents don’t even realize what’s happening.

The artificial colors and dyes being used in some of our most favorite snack foods are creating quite the discussion with nutritionists and scientists. In recent years, much research has been done on the effects of these dyes and other chemicals such as artificial sweeteners. While researchers haven’t yet reached a general consensus on the topic, most agree that snack foods with artificial dyes, flavors or sweeteners have no nutritional value and further more negatively affect our children. Educators across the country can testify to the change in behaviors when students consume a lot of dyed or artificially sweetened candy or snack foods. According to an study covered by Forbes,  the artificial color yellow #5 is undergoing further testing due its possible link to hyperactivity, migraines, anxiety and cancer. Due to these potential health hazards, the ingredient has already been banned in Europe.

While we do not want to deny a fun treat from our kids, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the artificial dyes, favors and sweeteners used in today’s pre-packaged food era or better yet…enjoy fruits and vegetables that are naturally free of artificial ingredients. To learn more about nutrition and food dyes, visit the following resources for more information.

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service: Food & Nutrition Education

US Food & Drug Administration: Evaluation of Studies on Artificial Food Colors and Behavior Disorders in Children

KidsHealth

HealthLine: Understanding Food Dye Allergies 

For more information about this topic or to discuss it further, please contact Lisa Reid or Pat Dean, PCA’s Guidance Counselors, to schedule an appointment.

 


Eating Disorders – January Spotlight

When most people think of eating disorders, the typical image is that of a frighteningly thin teenage girl who refuses to eat because she views herself as fat. This description is no longer accurate when describing those who are most likely to suffer from eating disorders. In fact, the new reality of eating disorders is quite the opposite of popular thought.

In today’s society, more teenage boys are succumbing to eating disorders than girls and  children at much younger ages are being diagnosed. School administrators can stroll through most elementary lunchrooms and observe food choices and amount of food consumed by any number of students, and in most cases, confirm that their school is being negatively affected by an increased fixation on calorie consumption, fat content and grams of sugar by students as young as second grade.

Eating disorders are defined as a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits; the negative perception of one’s self that displays itself in the disruption of a healthy diet and lifestyle. The cause of eating disorders is not known; however, it is suspicioned that it’s a combination of biological, behavioral and social factors. It could be the result of something as simple as repeatedly hearing someone being called a derogatory name that describes their physical features or the cultural view of “beauty” in today’s world. For children and teens who struggle with food fixations (which often lead to eating disorders), most will deal with at least one of the following issues.

  • stress or anxiety
  • fear of becoming overweight
  • feelings of powerlessness or helplessness
  • low self-esteem

As parents, we want our children to be healthy, happy and without a care in the world. It is important to teach nutrition beginning at a young age in order to develop healthy habits for a lifetime. We want them to know the difference between good and bad food choices. However, when students worry themselves over fat content, whole wheat, processed sugar, or how many steps are on their fitness trackers, what will they worry about in middle school, high school and beyond? While teaching age-appropriate nutrition is important, spend as much time as possible building up their self image, validating their worth and reminding them that we are all made differently but ultimately in His image. God doesn’t make mistakes and He created each of us for a unique purpose in this life.

To read more about eating disorders, visit the following resources for additional information.

WebMD

Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center

National Institute of Mental Health 

Kid’s Health

For more information about this topic or to discuss it further, please contact Lisa Reid or Pat Dean, PCA’s Guidance Counselors, to schedule an appointment.

 

Relational Aggression – December Spotlight

Every school has it…girl drama! In most situations, the issue can be resolved very easily once tempers cool and enough time has passed. However, girl drama has a way of becoming a monster that can overtake a classroom quickly, if not handled appropriately. When this happens, the situation has escalated to an extreme behavior known as Relational Aggression.

Relational Aggression is a type of bullying in which harm is caused by damaging someone’s social status. It is also described as any non-physical behavior that is intended to harm someone by damaging or manipulating relationships with others. Research indicates that girls are more prone to participate in Relational Aggression than boys. Behaviors may include rude noises, calling people names, not wanting to be friends with those who had been our friends, being goofy in class, pouting, and selfishness. While these are considered normal negative behaviors in most children, it only becomes bullying when it is repetitive and escalates in its severity being aimed at a particular person.

The top reason that many girls engage in Relational Aggression involves their social status at school. Girls will use this type of bullying to isolate someone while increasing their own social status. Many factors trigger this type of extreme behavior, including jealousy, fear of competition from other girls, anger and need for attention. Each year, schools experience these signs in younger students. In today’s society, it is not uncommon for students as young as first or second grade to be engaged in the behavior. Relational Aggression has grown so much that most counselors attend specific workshops and seminars to understand the sociology that drives this extreme behavior and learn from the experts new strategies to deal with it effectively. There are several great resources in which to learn more below.

relationalaggression.com

opheliaproject.org

apa.org

psychologytoday.com

For more information about this topic or to discuss it further, please contact Lisa Reid or Pat Dean, PCA’s Guidance Counselors, to schedule an appointment.

 

Making the Best of Divorce – November Spotlight 

Being blessed to be a part of a private school community does not shield us from the hurts of the world. While we may not experience all of the issues that other schools do, PCA’s students do commonly endure the pain caused by divorce.

Divorce is painful for everyone involved but especially for children. There is much to be considered when a divorce is unavoidable but none compares; however, to the initial conversation you have with your children about what’s to come and what’s to be expected in their “new life.” Many separated couples struggle to find a congenial tone with one another in order to talk with the children but I believe it’s a must for your their sake. If at all possible, sit down together to discuss the situation with your children as they will have questions for both parents.

When sharing with children about your separation and/or divorce, a critically important reminder is that most children naturally take the blame for the situation. For most, when the shock begins to fade and their new reality sets in, children begin to ponder and evaluate the kind of young person they have been and think how much better things would be if they hadn’t done this or that. This reaction is to be expected and as a parent, you should plan ahead for this behavior. There are some great resources for parents on this topic, including Focus on the Family, helpguide.org, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Webmd.com.

In addition, the manner in which divorced parents interact moving forward is paramount. In some cases, the relationship between mom and dad after the divorce may define how children view marriage and relationships, trust, and commitment. In the end, appropriate and timely communication as well as showing respect for the former spouse will determine a large part of how your children react to and deal with the future. If for no other reason, work together as a team in the raising of your children to ensure a bright future.

For more information about this topic or to discuss it further, please contact Lisa Reid or Pat Dean, PCA’s Guidance Counselors, to schedule an appointment.

 

Managing Stress – October Spotlight

Modern families lead extremely busy lives! There are many contributing factors but ultimately the ever-connectedness that the digital world offers plays a large role in society’s busyness. It is easy to get overwhelmed with job responsibilities, children’s school and activities, church and even trying to squeeze a little fun in the mix too! According to various parenting sites, like parenting.com, empoweringparents.com, and webmd.com, here are a few tips that can easily be implemented to add a little calm into our daily lives.

  • Set the alarm for 15 minutes earlier. The additional time allows you to be prepared for the unexpected; a calm morning sets the tone for the remainder of your day.
  • Prepare for the day ahead by getting ahead the night before – make lunches, lay out clothes, place backpacks and athletic gear by the door and make a list of items to check off before jetting off in a morning rush.
  • Schedule everything! Don’t rely on your memory to keep up with events and activities or even the everyday activities like picking the laundry, studying with the children, specific errands, etc.
  • Keep Up Vehicle Maintenance. Maintaining your vehicle will decrease the number of unexpected “uh-oh’s”. Just like you, your car needs regular check ups!
  • Schedule Travel Time.  Allow 15 minutes of extra time to get to appointments. There’s a wise old saying, “if you’re on time, you’re late. ”
  • Get enough sleep. This is easily overlooked as we pack more and more into our schedules but proper sleep is essential for performing at your best. Enough sleep helps to keep us healthier and happier.
  • Just say no! We are constantly being asked to serve here, volunteer there and be in ten places at one time. Before you commit to the next board or committee, evaluate your current responsibilities, family time, health and time with God to ensure you are up for the task.

Just like their parents, children can also become easily overwhelmed with school and extracurricular responsibilities. Evenings create the perfect storm because there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day and in many homes there is no sense of peace and calmness. And when bedtime comes, a time when peace is needed, we can’t seem to find it anywhere. Some children go to bed anxious and upset – two ingredients which do not induce a restful night’s sleep. Here are a few great ideas to help create a calm home in the eye of the ever busy storm of today’s world.

  • The week starts on the weekend. Prepare your schedule for the upcoming week – set a family meeting to ensure nothing is left out. Review school projects, activities and expectations and get a head start, if possible.
  • Review family expectations. Everyone contributes to the tidiness of the house. Create chore charts that are age appropriate. Bottom line – eliminate stress with an orderly house
  • Reduce Screen Time. Limit the time your children are able to spend on electronic devices.
  • Allow Down Time. Unplanned time for your children allows them to unwind and relax by doing fun, kid things. Reasonable time for them to decompress gives them an extra boost of energy for what comes next.
  • Arrange homework schedules based on child’s energy level. If math is the worst subject, do that when he/she has the most energy and vice versa. Don’t save the worst for last.
  • Establish a Parent Home Base. Designate one spot in your home where all permission slips, teacher notes, etc. are to be placed.
  • Morning Prep. Lessen your work load but gather everything and placing it in a designated spot (by the door) so nothing is forgotten. Make a list for everything else.
  • Create a bedtime routine.  Routines are essential for inducing calm, peaceful evenings. Once the daily tasks are complete, bedtime plans so kick in. As a part of the bedtime routine, incorporate calming tasks such as reading a book or quietly discussing the day. Most importantly, stick to the plan. For younger children, provide a fun countdown.
  • Bath time after homework. Bath should be a part of your bedtime routine and never before homework or other tasks that require the attention of children. While baths are essential for cleanliness, they also help soothe and clam children in preparation for the restful night’s sleep.

For more information about this topic or to discuss it further, please contact Lisa Reid or Pat Dean, PCA’s Guidance Counselors, to schedule an appointment.

Resources

WebMD

Child Mind Institute

Sleep for Kids

Parenting.com

Early Experiences Last a Lifetime

 

ADHD Awareness – September Spotlight

September is National Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness month.

Many children wiggle in their seats or appear to be busy all the time with the seemingly inability to sit still for even just a few minutes. For most, that is the natural, God-given behavior of a child; however, for others it is the sign of something greater. ADHD is a different kind of wiggle and constant busyness.

ADHD is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. In some children, ADHD is coupled with other medical issues that further complicate a child’s diagnosis such as Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder and/or Sensory Processing Disorder.

With today’s medical advancements, we are experiencing more children who are diagnosed with the aid of new studies, testing and observation procedures. These advancements have provided us with a wealth of information for parents and caregivers who may have concerns about their child’s behavior patterns. Below are some resources from subject matter experts on the issue.

For more information about this topic or to discuss it further, please contact Lisa Reid or Pat Dean, PCA’s Guidance Counselors, to schedule an appointment.

Resources 

 

Anxiety Mitigation – August Spotlight 

The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time for parent and students. It can also be filled with first-day jitters too. However, for some students, these jitters can be a much larger anxiety issue. Thoughts of being away from mom or dad or thoughts of a new teacher can weigh heavy on some children.

We’ve seen many parents and students experience the difficulties of departing on the first day of school. Most children recover quickly but that negative experience generally lingers with the parents throughout the day. There are some great resources filled with useful information on how to minimize or even eliminate parent and student anxiety before the school year starts.

For more information about this topic or to discuss it further, please contact Lisa Reid, PCA’s Elementary and Middle School Guidance Counselor, to schedule an appointment.

Resources