Tag Archives: kids

Look Out for Children!

DJMAX / Pixabay

The reactions to the recent tragedy in Las Vegas have certainly been varied. Thanks in a large part to the ongoing media coverage, it remains a focal point for many.  It, therefore, seems fitting to share several thoughts, including this paragraph from a recent J.E.D. Foundation blog post:

At a time like this, the simple things will help – don’t hold feelings in, talk to friends, family and loved ones. Turn off the TV,  computer, and phone. Get up and get out – tragedies can weigh so heavily on us that it makes it hard to move. Take a walk, go to the gym, run errands, spend time with friends, volunteer to help. And lastly, everyone should take care of themselves and those around them – physical health and emotional connectedness can go a long way toward making you feel like yourself again.

During last night’s Suicided Awareness and Prevention Workshop we discussed briefly the potential impact events like this have on children.  It is so important to remember they are watching and listening and may be much more aware of news and incidents than we might think at first. If it is difficult for an adult to process the “why” of an incident like this, consider how much more so it may be for young people. This is a time when we should look out for our children.

I published a post from Edutopia (an excellent resource for teachers and parents, by the way) on Mr. Boomsma’s Facebook Page. Entitled “Responding to Tragedy: Resources for Educators and Parents.” When time permits, I will be adding many of those resources to this website.

As a general guideline, I encourage adults to listen and watch for signs that a child is struggling to come to terms with the incident. It is not necessary to “force” a child a think or talk about it, but it is important to be willing to listen and answer questions. You don’t have to have all the answers. Provide reassurance and gently shift the focus to the positives. In children’s terms, “Let’s look for the helpers.”

That’s actually pretty good advice for all of us.

Welcome, New Subs!

ZIPNON / Pixabay

The recent Substitute Teacher Workshop sponsored by MSAD 53 in Pittsfield included a nice mix of people who are already subbing and some who will be subbing for the first time. One of my favorite comments on the evaluation was “The class taught that being a substitute was far more than a fill-in babysitter in a classroom.

Okay, so my ego also liked the comment, “Mr. Boomsma is an excellent teacher!

Folks who’ve participated in the workshop know that my bias is that we can worry less about classroom management if we keep a laser focus on teaching and learning. In an engaged and energetic classroom, there simply isn’t time for disruption.

It’s always exciting to welcome new substitutes to what can be an enjoyable and rewarding job. Remember, Mr. Boomsma’s “rule number two” is “we will enjoy learning!

For the benefit of all those who are embarking on substituting, I’ve recently created a one-page Getting Started (fingerprinting) guide. It will remain available on the Substitute Teacher Resources Page for future downloading.

 

Focusing on Solutions

“Did you know that eating mashed potatoes causes Alzheimer’s?” During one of my annual checkups I told my doctor this–he looked at me in disbelief and asked why I thought that. I replied, “Well, everyone I know with Alzheimer’s has eaten mashed potatoes.”

He laughed and called me a statistical nihilist. I replied that I was merely trying to distinguish between “cause and correlation” since he had been citing some statistical risk factors I have. (This was, by the way, a very friendly conversation.)

With that background, I offer some statistics recently published by NAMI. With the notation that all statistics have limitations, I have confidence in their accuracy.


I do not “enjoy” publishing statistics like this and I confess I find myself sometimes wondering if their publication accomplishes the intent. If it’s not clear, the intent of this infographic is to encourage people to sign up for a Youth Mental First Aid Course.

I’ve taken it; it’s a good course and I highly recommend it. I truly believe, as the infographic suggests, it can help those who take it start a conversation that could save a life. Make no mistake, I’m not at all critical of the course or its intent. But if  I’m going to be totally honest, I firmly believe more is needed.

Without opening a debate about the causes of mental illness, what we are looking at here is identifying a high-risk population. The question that is not being asked is “Why?” and “Are there are actions we could be taking that will reduce that high-risk population?”

I’m a bit troubled by the medical community’s increasing reliance on statistics. The conversation I cited at the beginning took place in part because my doctor was assessing my risk factors for certain health issues. Because data is so readily available, it’s in danger of becoming the holy grail. What happened to science and simple logic?

But I digress, probably because I don’t fully understand our approach to suicide prevention. We are very focused on crisis intervention.  Again, that’s not a bad thing. But I see it as comparable to sending someone to the dentist when they have a toothache. Not a bad idea, certainly, but let’s not omit the importance of oral hygiene–aka brushing and flossing.

So why aren’t we teaching kids (and adults) how to “brush and floss” their minds? If we truly are committed to preventing suicide, can we back up and prevent the crisis?  In much the same way we can avoid trips to the dentist with good oral hygiene, we just might avoid some of those 5,240 attempts in grades 7 – 12 every year by teaching and encouraging good mental hygiene starting at a very early age.

I’ll repeat–crisis intervention is valid and important.  I’m simply using the occasion of “mental health month” to suggest we might be a bit more passionate, excited, and enthusiastic in some positive ways. If kids can learn how to take care of their teeth, they can learn how to take care of their minds.

Perhaps the bigger question is, “Can we teach them how?”

Substitute Teacher Workshops…

Here’s a reminder that I’ll be teaching the Substitute Teacher Workshop Tuesday, September 12 at PVAEC. And yes, there’s still some space left! By the way, if you saw the program listed in the PVAEC Catalog, the start time is incorrect; we actually start at 9: a.m. For additional information or to register, contact PVAEC at 564-6525 or visit the PVAEC website. I’ll also be teaching an evening version with MSAD 53 Adult Education at Warsaw Elementary School in Pittsfield starting on Tuesday, September 26. Contact them at 487-5145 or visit the MSAD 53 Adult Ed Website for more information or to register.

We’ll address some questions like “To go or not to go…” Believe it or not, managing bathroom breaks can be a challenge for subs!

Thank you and Thank you!

I cannot resist sharing this email I received last night… and a little “secret” I have. Whenever I teach a Suicide Prevention Workshop, after I’ve packed up, I pause to look at the empty room and say, quietly to myself, “We may have saved a life tonight.”

No, we don’t always know the impact of what we say and do. But occasionally, something will happen that reminds us, “You’re doing good stuff.” This email is one of those somethings. I share it not to brag, but as a reminder of the importance to keep on doing “good stuff” and to point out that with emotional and mental issues, we shouldn’t just look for a crisis. We are supposed to connect and help each other all the time.

My husband and I are the proud parents of four kids – two young children and two teens.

Unfortunately, for the last year or so our daughter has been battling depression and an eating disorder. She’s been seeing a specialist for about six months now and is involved in lots of social activities, but she’s still having a hard time.

We really could use all the help we can get with her so I just wanted to thank you specifically for the information you’ve included on your [Suicide Prevention– 13 Reasons] page – the teen depression resources have been a huge help to us. In fact, our daughter watched 13 Reasons Why earlier this summer and I haven’t known how to talk to her about it so the link you included about the talking points has been great to reference as well.

To return the favor, I thought I would share another page that I found to be helpful http://onlinemph.unr.edu/mental-health-awareness-for-teens/ – this one talks about the importance of mental health awareness for teens which I thought could be a great addition to the resources you currently provide.

If it’s not too much trouble would you consider adding it to your page? I’m hoping that it will help others in similar situations and reduce the stress that comes with keeping our children safe.

Thanks again for the helpful information – enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

and my reply, in part:

Thank you so much for this email… Too often we approach suicide prevention and other mental health issues by waiting until there’s a crisis. I don’t see suicide prevention as only a matter of promoting a hotline–not that hotlines and crisis intervention aren’t important. But most mental health issues are a process, not an event. As you have said, “we really could use all the help we can get…” I think that is true for most of us–just in our daily lives. Obviously, it is even truer when there is an issue.

I’m glad to hear that your daughter is seeing a specialist… and that you are so actively involved in helping and supporting her. I’m not sure when you last visited the site, but I recently created a section on the resource page specific to high school and college students. I’m not sure how old your daughter is… but you might want to take a look at the booklet Starting the Conversation published by NAMI and the JED Foundation. While it is geared towards preparing for college emotionally, I suspect you could adapt some of the information and strategies to other ages. One of the things I particularly like about it is that it’s written to be used by parents and students together.

There are also some additional NAMI Resources geared to youth. If I can help you or your daughter find something specific, please let me know. As you surely know, it’s important that she feels connected (those social activities should be helping). There are some great TED Talks — a few are listed on my site — you might consider “pre-screening” some and then watching together. As for “13 Reasons Why,” it can be a tough conversation, but it is an important one. While I haven’t talked to a lot, the kids I’ve spoken with seem to have a good perspective on it. While much of what happens to Hannah seems real to them, most feel that the point of the series is dark entertainment and it does create an opportunity to start conversations. I think a value for parents is that it can help us understand and develop an appreciation for the stresses our kids are facing. I talked with one Mom who admitted she tried to watch the series and couldn’t–she found it too frightening and sad. I understand that, I think, but we also must face that which frightens us and makes us sad.

Thanks also for your suggested link. I took a quick look this morning and it does look like something I should include on the resource page. I’ll try to get it posted soon.

In taking care of your daughter, don’t forget to take care of yourself… I know that’s often said–to the point it seems obvious and perhaps trite. Take care of you! If you ever need an ear or a shoulder, do not hesitate to contact me… and I would love to hear how your daughter’s doing from time to time!