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December is National Stress-Free (Family) Holidays MonthPosted by SUSD Communications on 12/1/2023
While December is a joyous time of year, the never-ending to-do lists and school being out of session can make everyone feel a little overwhelmed, children included.
Consider these five practical tips to help families proactively manage holiday stressors.
1. Manage expectations. The commotion that often comes with the holiday season can be stressful for young children, but you can help alleviate worries by familiarizing them with what’s to come. Talk to them about upcoming travel arrangements, who they’ll see at events and what to expect throughout the season. If they are cautious in their current developmental stage, let loved ones know beforehand to give them a little extra space at festivities. Parents can also begin familiarizing little ones with relatives through photos and phone calls.
2. Empower children. It’s important for children to understand they have a choice ‒ and family members are willing to respect that choice. Parents should acknowledge their children’s body language and empower them to say “no” in uncomfortable situations. Parents can help by proactively asking questions such as, “Do you want a hug?” and if they say “no,” support them in their decision. This also helps establish healthy, long-term social skills.
3. Maintain your schedule. Children thrive on consistency, and during the holidays it’s important to at least try maintaining as much of what they’re used to as possible, such as naps, meals and playtime. Changes in schedule can result in more behaviors, so be sure to allow space for them to safely work through their emotions.
It’s also important to note that children feed off their parents’ energy, so make sure you’re in tune with your own emotions. When overwhelmed, openly discuss how you’re feeling and involve your children when taking breaks. For example, “It’s loud in here. Would you like to go sit outside with me?”
4. Have fun. Make time to spread joy and integrate activities to bond as a family, such as reading holiday-themed books, crafting, playing games, singing or baking. Whether old traditions or new, these are moments your child can cherish for years to come.
5. Keep others in mind. While it’s important to set children up for success ahead of the holidays, parents should also teach children the holiday season can look different for others. It’s also a good time to consider donating toys to make room for new ones or volunteering at a local charity to show children that joy can be experienced through more than just gifts.
Information adapted from resources found through kindercare.com on supporting families during the holidays.
Support Services – November 2023Posted by SUSD Communications on 11/1/2023
In recognition of Vaping Prevention Month, we want to take this opportunity to remind you that Project Rewind is an early intervention program available to SUSD students and their families. Students, along with their parents, participate in a five-hour course to learn about the dangers of chemical use and abuse, the risk factors that lead to vaping, substance abuse and strategies to improve family communication, trust, and monitoring. The $250 fee is waived for all SUSD families who are referred by SUSD administration. Please contact Shannon Cronn at email@example.com for more information.
Vaping: What Parents Should Know
Vaping is the inhaling of a vapor created by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette). It’s common among teens.
By learning about vaping, parents can:
- Talk to their kids about its health risks.
- Recognize if their child might be vaping.
- Get help for kids who are vaping.
How Does Vaping Work?
E-cigarettes (or “vape pens”) heat a liquid until it becomes a vapor, which is inhaled. The liquid (called e-liquid or “vape juice”) can contain nicotine or marijuana distillate or oil. E-cigarettes can be refillable or pre-filled with cartridges containing the e-liquid. The pre-filled e-cigarettes (called “Puff Bars”) are designed for one-time use. After taking a certain number of “puffs,” the user throws the device away.
What Are the Health Risks of Vaping?
The health risks of vaping include:
- addiction: E-cigarettes contain nicotine, a drug that’s highly addictive. You don’t have to vape every day to get addicted.
- anxiety and depression: Nicotine makes anxiety and depression worse. It also affects memory, concentration, self-control, and attention, especially in developing brains.
- becoming a smoker: Young people who vape are more likely to start smoking regular (tobacco) cigarettes and may be more likely to develop other addictions in the future.
- impotence: There is some evidence that vaping can cause sexual dysfunction in men.
- sleep problems
- exposure to cancer-causing chemicals
- chronic bronchitis
- lung damage that can be life-threatening
Support Services – October 2023Posted by SUSD Communications on 10/1/2023
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. This is a great time for communities to raise awareness about bullying and the role we all play in making a difference. Research indicates that increasing awareness and building a safe and supportive home environment contributes to positive academic, social, emotional and behavioral outcomes.
PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION STRATEGIES
Parents and Caregivers. Parents and caregivers should pay attention to their child’s use of technology, keeping an eye out for signs of cyberbullying involvement. Some behaviors that may warrant attention include changes in emotion after online use, attempts to hide online activities from adults, or a tendency to be insensitive or callous toward peers. There are several preventive measures parents can take against cyberbullying:
- Talk with children early and often about online safety and how to be respectful and responsible in online settings.
- Set clear expectations related to technology use.
- Model safe and responsible online behavior.
- Monitor technology and social media use.
A particular challenge related to cyberbullying is its low report rate ‒ children often hide cyberbullying from their parents for fear of having their devices taken away, among other reasons. Parents should aim to be proactive in supervising their children’s technology use. Parents and other adults who discover a child is involved in cyberbullying should:
- Provide nonjudgmental support.
- Document incidents of cyberbullying (e.g., save screenshots of harmful posts and text messages).
- Report cyberbullying incidents to the child’s school.
- Contact law enforcement in cases of illegal activity or physical threats.
For Educators and Practitioners. Educators can engage in school-wide and individual-level cyberbullying intervention and prevention in the following ways (Fredrick et al., 2023):
- Implement school-based cyberbullying prevention programs, especially programs with interactive components (e.g., class discussions, role playing, or other social learning activities) and programs led by curriculum content experts (e.g., trained psychologists).
- Use social-emotional learning (SEL) programming to promote healthy school climates and decrease bullying.
- Understand that zero-tolerance policies are not effective responses to bullying; no one response is helpful across all situations.
- Consider context and power dynamics between students when addressing cases of cyberbullying.
- Use restorative practices rather than punitive practices to remediate any bullying situation.
- Teach students digital citizenship skills (i.e., skills for engaging in safe and responsible online behavior).
- Monitor activity on school-issued technology and identify warning signs of cyberbullying involvement.
Family-School Collaboration. Given how cyberbullying tends to persist across settings, collaboration plays a key role in prevention and intervention; communication between families and educators is crucial.
- Schools can provide digital literacy education for families. Many organizations (e.g., Common Sense Media, Cyberbullying Research Center) have guides for parents with information about popular apps and online behavior.
- Parents should aim to keep an open line of communication with their children’s teachers regarding bullying issues.
Research shows that digital media use among teens and tweens is on the rise; between 2019 and 2021, media use in this age group rose by 17% (Rideout et al., 2022). Increased exposure to technology and digital media creates more opportunities for cyberbullying to occur. The good news ‒ caregivers, educators, and practitioners can take steps to counter cyberbullying. When adults are proactive and informed, they can help keep students safe online.
A School Safety and Crisis Resource 1 © 2023 National Association of School Psychologists │ 4340 East West Hwy, Bethesda, MD 20814 | www.nasponline.org│ 301-657-0270
Stop, Walk, and Talk CelebrationPosted by SUSD Communications on 10/1/2023
Over the past few years, roughly one third of all SUSD campuses have participated in school-wide Stop, Walk, and Talk trainings for all students and staff to reduce bullying. The training defines bullying and teaches all community members on a process to stop it. Crafting a common language around bullying and giving students tools to combat the negative effects of bullying have created safer, more positive climates on campuses throughout our district. Please click here to view sample resources that campuses use to embed the Stop, Walk, and Talk framework.
Signs of Suicide - Tips for Parents and CaregiversPosted by SUSD Communications on 9/1/2023
September is Suicide Prevention Month, which is a time to raise awareness and discuss this highly stigmatized topic. Our goal here at SUSD is ensuring that our students, staff, and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and to seek help.
SUSD is planning a community viewing and panel discussion of the film, My Ascension, an inspiring look at the story of Emma Benoit, who survived a suicide attempt the summer before her senior year of high school, where she was a popular varsity cheerleader with a supportive family and lots of friends. Inside, she was struggling in silence with depression and anxiety. She now uses her painful experience as a way to spread awareness and help others.
Through this film, we are able to hear firsthand, the experiences of family, friends, school officials, and suicide prevention experts. “The film does not shy away from the difficult realities of the ongoing youth suicide crisis, but shares valuable resources to help keep teens safe.” (www.myascension.us). Our goal is to raise awareness and provide resources to SUSD families.
Signs of suicide - Tips for Parents and Caregivers
If you have concerns for your child, the first step is to start a conversation, and then listen without judgment. Often when teens are struggling, they feel disconnected from the people who love them or fear that they might get in trouble. You can say, “I’ve noticed some big changes in you. How are you?” You can show your support by saying, “It’s okay to feel this way. I’m here for you.”
If they give any indication that they are thinking about suicide, don’t hesitate to ask directly. Asking about suicide will not put the idea in their head. Instead, it will show them that you really see their pain and are not afraid to hear the truth. “When things get this tough, have you ever thought about ending your life?” No matter how your child answers, show your support and keep the conversation going. The ACT message applies to you too.
- Acknowledge signs of suicide in your child
- Care: show your child that you can listen and support them
- Tell someone; reach out to get your child the help they need
There are many pathways to healing. Most people thinking about suicide are struggling with a mental health condition, like depression. With professional help, people begin to feel much better. But it can be hard for a teen who is struggling to ask for help. Be your child’s advocate. You can start by reaching out to their pediatrician or school counselor. Call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 for free, 24/7 support.
Let’s Celebrate the PackPosted by SUSD Communications on 9/1/2023
Last spring, Desert Mountain High School, with Principal Lisa Hirsch taking the lead, moved forward with the MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support) district initiative to implement MTSS fully on their campus.
The first goal was to build a sense of unity and community on their campus. With their mascot being the Wolf, it seemed fitting to coin the phrase, “Lead the Pack.” They then built their school-wide expectations using the word PACK:
Personal Best: Work hard, pay attention, be prepared, respect others and use appropriate language
Act responsibly: Be respectful, be accountable, clean up after yourself
Choose compassion: Help each other, be kind and caring, take another’s perspective, include everyone, remain peaceful
Keep learning first: Participate, focus on instruction, phones away, be on time, get involved
Teachers were asked to start teaching the “new” expectations in March. They were reminded that this was a chance to REBOOT in their classroom! They were to reflect on the things that are going well. Which areas would like to see change? Which of the PACK words could impact that change? This was their opportunity to start fresh or start over. Teachers were setting the stage for this school year.
New DMHS Assistant Principal Kristen Tindall has taken over the charge. Beautiful signage has been painted around the school to support the initiative. Day one of the 2023-2024 school year, all students at Desert Mountain were taught the school-wide expectations throughout the school day. Everyone is excited to feel the sense of community grow and watch as the feeling of belonging to the Desert Mountain family skyrockets.
August 2023Posted by SUSD Communications on 8/3/2023 4:15:00 PM
Away for the DayPosted by SUSD Communications on 8/3/2023
Hello, SUSD Families,
We hope you have been having a great summer! Along with our principals, we look forward to seeing your students on the first day of school, Monday, August 7.
In the coming days, you will be hearing from your school principal on the district’s new “Away for the Day” campaign for pre-kindergarten, elementary and middle school students. The SUSD 2023-2024 Student Code of Conduct (page 69) requires that “While on campus, students will keep cell phones and wearable devices/smart watches turned off and stored unless use is permitted by an administrator or teacher. If the use of the cell phone is permitted, it must remain in silent mode. The cell phone may not make any sounds that disrupt learning, cause a disturbance, or jeopardize the safety of students.”
Studies show that cell phones in schools can have a negative impact on students’ academic performance and emotional well-being. Specifically, the unauthorized use of cell phones in the classroom distracts from learning. Additionally, device use during the school day, particularly for social media purposes, generates many concerns, among them, cyberbullying. When students are not free to access their phones during school hours, they are more engaged, both socially and academically. Several of our middle schools piloted “Away for the Day” last school year with great success.
While the exact manner in which schools align their “Away for the Day” process with pages 25 and 69 of the Code of Conduct may differ slightly, the goal remains the same: to establish optimal school environments that are conducive to student learning and promote positive social interactions throughout the school day.
We appreciate your support with our “Away for the Day” campaign. If you have questions, please contact your school principal.
Dr. Milissa Sackos
Back-to-School: Tips for ParentsPosted by SUSD Communications on 8/1/2023
Support Services – August 2023
Getting a new school year off to a good start can influence children’s attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically. The transition from summer to school can be difficult for both children and parents. Even children who are eager to return to class must adjust to the greater levels of activity, structure, and, for some, pressures associated with school life. The degree of adjustment depends on the child, but parents can help their children (and the rest of the family) manage the increased pace of life by planning ahead, being realistic, and maintaining a positive attitude. Here are a few suggestions to help ease the transition and promote a successful school experience.
BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS
Good physical and mental health. Be sure your children are in good physical and mental health. Schedule doctor and dental checkups early. Discuss any concerns you have over your children’s emotional or psychological development with your pediatrician. Your doctor can help determine if your concerns are normal, age-appropriate issues or require further assessment. Your children will benefit if you can identify and begin addressing a potential issue before school starts.
Review all of the information. Review the material sent by the school as soon as it arrives. These packets include important information about your children’s teachers, classroom, school supply requirements, sign-ups for after-school sports and activities, school calendar dates, bus transportation, health and emergency forms, and volunteer opportunities.
Mark your calendar. Make a note of important dates, especially back-to-school nights and parent- teacher conferences. This is especially important if you have children in more than one school and need to juggle obligations. Arrange for a babysitter now, if necessary.
Make multiple copies of your child’s health and emergency information. Health forms are typically good for more than a year and can be used again for camps, extracurricular activities, and the following school year.
Buy school supplies early. Try to get the supplies as early as possible and fill the backpacks a week or two before school starts. Older children can help do this but make sure they use a checklist that you can review. Some teachers require specific supplies, so save receipts for items that you may need to return later.
Reestablish bedtime and mealtime routines at least 1 week before school starts. Prepare your children for this change by talking with them about the benefits of school routines in terms of not becoming over-tired or overwhelmed by schoolwork and activities. Include pre-bedtime reading and household chores if these were suspended during the summer.
Turn off the TV. Encourage your children to play quiet games, do puzzles, flash cards, color, or read as early morning activities, instead of watching television. This will help ease them back into the learning process and school routine. If possible, maintain this practice throughout the school year. Your children will arrive at school better prepared to learn each morning if they have engaged in less passive activities.
Visit school with your child. If your children are young or in new schools, schedule a school visit before classes begin. Meeting teachers and locating classrooms, locker, lunchroom, and so on will help ease anxieties and also allow your children to ask questions about the new environment. Call ahead to make sure the teachers will be available to introduce themselves.
Designate and clear a place to do homework. Older children should have the option of studying in their room or a quiet area of the house. Younger children usually need an area set aside in the family room or kitchen to facilitate adult monitoring, supervision, and encouragement.
Select a spot to keep backpacks and lunch boxes. Designate a spot for your children to place their school belongings as well as a place to put important notices and information sent home for you to see. Explain that emptying their backpack each evening is part of their responsibility, even for young children.
Freeze a few easy dinners. It will be much easier on you if you have dinner prepared so that meal preparation will not add to household tensions during the first week of school.
THE FIRST WEEK
Clear your own schedule. To the extent possible, postpone business trips, volunteer meetings, and extra projects. You want to be free to help your children acclimate to the school routine and overcome the confusion or anxiety that many children experience at the start of a new school year.
Make lunches the night before school. Older children should help or make their own. Give them the option to buy lunch in school if they prefer and finances permit.
Set alarm clocks. Have school-age children set their own alarm clocks to get up in the morning. Praise them for prompt response to morning schedules and bus pickups. Leave plenty of extra time. Make sure your children have plenty of time to get up, eat breakfast, and get to school.
Prepare for after school. Review with your children what to do if they get home after school and you are not there. Be very specific, particularly with young children. Put a note card in their backpack with the name(s) and number(s) of a neighbor who is home during the day as well as a number where you can be reached. If you have not already done so, have your children meet neighbor contacts to reaffirm the backup support personally.
Review your child’s schoolbooks. Talk about what your children will be learning during the year. Share your enthusiasm for the subjects and your confidence in your children’s ability to master the content. Reinforce the natural progression of the learning process that occurs over the school year. Learning skills take time and repetition. Encourage your children to be patient, attentive, and positive.
Send a brief note to your child’s teacher. Let the teachers know that you are interested in getting regular feedback on how and what your children are doing in school. Be sure to attend back-to-school night and introduce yourself to the teachers. Find out how they like to communicate with parents (e.g., through notes, e-mail, or phone calls). Convey a sincere desire to be a partner with your children’s teachers to enhance their learning experience.
Familiarize yourself with the other school professionals. Make an effort to find out who in the school or district can be a resource for you and your children. Learn their roles and how best to access their help if you need them. This can include the principal and front office personnel; school psychologist, counselor, and social worker; the support specialists, and school nurse.
Let you children know you care. If your children are anxious about school, send personal notes in their lunch box or book bag. Reinforce the ability to cope. Children absorb their parent’s anxiety, so model optimism and confidence for your child. Let your children know that it is natural to be a little nervous anytime you start something new but that they will be just fine, once they become familiar with classmates, the teacher, and school routine.
Do not overreact. If the first few days are a little rough, try not to overreact. Young children in particular may experience separation anxiety or shyness initially, but teachers are trained to help them adjust. If you drop them off, try not to linger. Reassure them that you love them, will think of them during the day, and will be back. Remain calm and positive.
Acknowledge anxiety over a bad experience the previous year. Children who had a difficult time academically or socially, or were teased or bullied may be more fearful or reluctant to return to school. If you have not yet done so, share your children’s concern with the school and confirm that the problem has been addressed. Reassure your children that the problem will not occur again in the new school year, and that you and the school are working together to prevent further issues.
Reinforce your children’s ability to cope. Give your children a few strategies to manage a difficult situation on their own. But encourage your children to tell you or the teacher if the problem persists. Maintain open lines of communication with the school.
Arrange play dates. Try to arrange get-togethers with some of your children’s classmates before school starts and during the first weeks of school to help them re-establish positive social relationships with peers.
Go for quality, not quantity. Your children will benefit most from one or two activities that are fun, reinforce social development, and teach new skills. Too much scheduled time can be stressful, especially for young children, and may make it harder to concentrate on schoolwork. Consider your family schedule and personal energy level when evaluating extracurricular activities. Multiple activities per child may be too much to manage, particularly if the activities have overlapping times, disparate locations, require your attendance, or disrupt the dinner hour. Select activities where you have someone with whom you can carpool. Even if you are available to drive most days, you will need backup sometimes. Choosing activities that occur on-site after school will also minimize driving. Find out from the school or teacher which days will be heavy homework or test study days, and schedule extracurricular activities accordingly. If your children do not want to participate in regular, organized extracurricular activities, you may want to consider other options to help build interests and social skills. For example, check out the local library for monthly reading programs, find out if your local recreation or community center offers drop-in activities, or talk to other parents and schedule regular play dates with their children.
WHEN PROBLEMS ARISE
These recommendations can contribute to a positive and productive school experience for most children. Some children may exhibit more extreme opposition to or fear of school, or may be coping with more specific learning or psychological difficulties. If your children demonstrate problems that seem extreme in nature or go on for an extended period, you may want to contact the school to set up an appointment to meet with your children’s teachers and school psychologist. They may be able to offer direct or indirect support that will help identify and reduce the presenting problem. They may also suggest other resources within the school and the community to help you address the situation. While children can display a variety of behaviors, it is generally wise not to over-interpret those behaviors. More often than not, time and a few intervention strategies will remedy the problem. Most children are wonderfully resilient and, with your support and encouragement, will thrive throughout their school experience.
Authors: Katherine C. Cowan & Ted Feinberg, EdD, NCSP. Updated from an article by the same authors originally posted on the National Association of School Psychologists and Tea
June 2023Posted by SUSD Communications on 6/1/2023