Taking Care of Child’s Physical, Emotional Needs is Essential

By Katherine Baker, LCSW, Courier & Press, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017

Unfortunately, all too often we hear stories in the media about children and teens being neglected.  Neglect can take many forms, including lack of housing, food  and medical care, failure to teach basic personal care, and withholding love and affection.  In neglect situations, the child’s basic needs are not being met by the parent.

For many families there seems to be a “disconnect” between meeting a child’s needs and strengthening the bonds of love, affection, care and support.  Parents can neglect their children for multiple reasons – loss of a job causing financial strain, loss of public utilities, depression, parent inattention due to involvement with a love interest, addiction to cell phones, or abuse of alcohol and other substances.

 As a school social worker, I see the effects of neglect every day.  In this writer’s opinion, emotional neglect may do the most damage.

Neglect can leave a permanent scar on a child’s self-esteem and well-being.  Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own worth or abilities and tends to fluctuate depending on what is going on in your life.

Children that are left alone, unsupervised, and don’t have regular one-on-one time with a parent frequently have unmet emotional needs.  They are not taught the importance of values, morals, and respect for self and others.

Spending quality time with your children should be a priority.  However, many children and teens do not get this much-needed attention from parents.  They are alone, unsupervised, and left to their own defenses.

On the other hand, children that have actively involved parents tend to have better self-esteem, make better decisions, are better able to respond to the stress of day-to-day living, and are able to verbalize their needs in a healthy manner.  The time you spend with your children in elementary school, middle school and high school will promote healthy and responsible relationships.

A big part of parenting is being the parent and not your child’s friend.  In addition to spending quality time with children, parents should make rules and enforce them, give advice, show love, care, and respect, role model positive and encouraging behaviors and discipline when needed.  If a parent is absent these skills are lost, as the child must meet his own needs and function as a mini-adult rather than a child.

Some children who are emotionally neglected become angry and sullen. Others become depressed, develop unhealthy dating relationships, demonstrate poor academic performance, and may show little respect for others or themselves. Showing your child you love them even when their behavior is troubling can go a long way toward building a healthy relationship.

If you are a parent, guardian, or caregiver, make time in your busy schedule – or better yet – eliminate some of the commitments you have and start nurturing and loving your children.  Put down the cell phone and talk to your kids.  Teach your children how to communicate face-to-face versus the push of a button.  Give your children the love and attention we all need and make sure their basic needs are met.  Their future – and their ability to relate to others in our world – depends on it.

Red Ribbon Week Activities Coming to Local Schools

By Katie Omohundro, LCSW, and Jenna Bowman, Courier & Press, October 24, 2017

Every fall communities and schools around the country honor a week known as Red Ribbon Week, sponsored by the National Family Partnership.

Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 to raise awareness of drug abuse and drug-related violence.  Although Red Ribbon Week is now a popular time for theme days and assemblies in schools, it started due to a tragic event.

Enrique “Kiki” Camarena joined the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because he wanted to make a positive impact in the fight against drug abuse.  Unfortunately, in 1985 Agent Camarena was taken and brutally murdered by drug traffickers.

In response to Agent Camarena’s death, people in his community began to wear red ribbons to honor his memory.  Because of anger and concern about what drug involvement was doing to their community, groups gathered to raise awareness, and from these groups Red Ribbon Week was born.

Not only does Red Ribbon Week honor the memory of Agent Kiki Camarena, it continues the battle against illegal drugs and helps educate communities about the associated dangers.

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention and awareness program in the United States.  Raising awareness on this topic is increasingly important, because studies now show that 10.6 percent of youths 12-17 years old are currently using some form of illicit drugs.

This year Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated from October 23-31.  The theme for this year is “Your future is key, so stay drug free.”  The theme encourages youths to think about where they want to be in life and how staying drug free will help achieve their goals.

The purpose of the week is to educate and get the conversation started on how to say no to drugs.  Participating in Red Ribbon Week activities provides the opportunity for students to join together and take a stand against illegal substances.

A dedicated group of students at Evansville’s Thompkins Middle School has worked hard to plan a great Red Ribbon Week.  They will be sharing statistics during the morning announcements to educate their schoolmates on the dangers of drug abuse.  This group helped find the information and statistics for this article. They did an amazing job planning the week!

Thompkins Middle School will look slightly different during this week because the students will be dressing up for theme days to actively demonstrate that they are saying no to drugs.  Thompkins will kick off the week with a “We are Head- to-Toe Drug Free” theme.  Later in the week, students will be dressing up in Hawaiian-themed clothing for “Lei off Drugs” day!

Thompkins Middle School will not be the only school getting into the spirit for Red Ribbon Week, so be on the lookout for activities at a school near you!

The Challenges of Parenting Tweens

By Heather Miller, LCSW, Courier & Press, Oct. 17, 2017

“Why did Jack score two goals and I didn’t score any?” “I’m terrible at soccer. I should just quit.” “Everyone else in my class knows how to do this math problem but me. I’m awful at it.” “You just don’t understand.”

And so it begins… I have a tween. With this new label comes a noticeable change in my once easy-going, happy, confident child. New emotions have set in as well as constant comparisons between my tween and classmates, teammates, and friends.

Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines a tween as a boy or girl who is 11 or 12 years old. The tween years serve as the transitional years between being a child and becoming a teenager.

With this transition comes uncertainty as to what defines the tween.  This uncertainty manifests in various ways such as tears, angry outbursts, and more seriously, depression and anxiety.

Parents and caregivers are often caught off-guard as to how to help their tween navigate this stage of life.  Following are some tips for helping parents and tweens not only survive these years, but to use them to strengthen relationships.

 First, remember to validate and acknowledge the tween’s feelings.  Give permission for your tween to be sad or angry.

This will assist the tween in feeling comfortable with sharing various emotions with adults.  Additionally, this simple acknowledgement will help the tween trust the adult by knowing their feelings will not be laughed at or dismissed.

During this stage, tweens are attempting to define themselves.  Often this is done by ranking their abilities compared to others.  No matter what the tween is comparing, he or she will always find someone who is better than them.

Adults can help by directing praise and compliments toward character traits rather than abilities or accomplishments.  Praising a tween for getting a B in math will likely be followed by the response, “but so and so got an A.”

Focusing on the traits that resulted in the tween earning the B will assist the tween with recognizing the positive traits he or she possesses.  In this situation, stating, “You showed a lot of patience when learning the new material in math.  It would have been easy to give up, but you continually gave it your all,” will bring the focus to the traits of patience and perseverance rather than a letter grade, which serves as a ranking system.

The most important factor in helping your tween is to be available.  According to World of Psychology, it is imperative to give your tween options to communicate their feelings to you.  Allowing your child to choose whether to talk face-to-face, by text, or by calling you about emotions and situations will increase the likelihood of your tween coming to you with concerns and for support.

If you find that your tween is experiencing more serious emotional outbursts or is becoming increasingly withdrawn and isolated, additional assistance may be needed.

Contacting your school’s Youth First Social Worker with these concerns can result in early intervention.   Early intervention by a professional is beneficial to help tweens learn coping skills before the emotions become too intense and overwhelming.

Dealing With Anxiety

By Amber Russell, Courier & Press, Oct. 3, 2017

Thump, Thump, Thump. Everything feels like it’s going in slow motion. All I can hear is my heart beating, which feels like it is going to beat right out of my chest.

I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I’m starting to sweat. Thoughts begin swirling in my head. “It is so crowded.” “Everyone is looking at me.” “I am in the way.” “I am taking too long.” Tears start to well up in my eyes as I think, “Please don’t let me see anyone I know.”

Sound familiar?  This is how I feel sometimes in a crowd or even at the grocery store.  Forty million adults (18 percent of the population) in the U.S. suffer from some form of anxiety disorder.

Read more

The Wonderful Truth About Cats and Dogs

By Lori Powell, LCSW, Courier & Press, September 26, 2017

I have always loved animals, especially cats. Throughout my professional life I have noticed that sharing photos of my cats and keeping small stuffed animals in my office has helped initiate and continue conversations with children and adults, helping me build trusting relationships.

As a result, when I began my employment at Vogel Elementary School as a Youth First Social Worker, I began to carry a stuffed animal with me to help children transition into school in the mornings. If I’m not at the door when children enter the area, some will ask, “Where is the lady with the cat?” Read more

Reducing Meltdowns

By Laura Keys, LCSW, Courier & Press, Sept. 19, 2017

If you are the parent or caregiver of a young child, you have most likely experienced the dreaded meltdown or temper tantrum. You also know it is not a delightful experience for you or your child.

Children do not like to feel out of control or unsafe, which is often what is occurring during a meltdown. If you are new to the game of parenting or caregiving, these meltdowns or tantrums do not magically end when kids leave the “terrible twos” and turn three. In some cases, they can continue through a child’s early elementary years. Read more

Live a Little and Laugh a Lot

By Emily Sommers, MSW, Courier & Press, Sept. 12, 2017

A few weeks ago Dan, my significant other, came home and was in an upbeat mood and chiming, “Hee, Hee, Hee, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ho, Ho, Ho.”  The whole family ended up joining in at some point, and this activity created a lot of fun for us all to engage in.

Dan had been to his weekly Optimist meeting, and they had a guest speaker, Dr. Amodio, who taught laughter yoga.  Thank you for filling our home with another skill to use when we fall too seriously into daily life and demands, Dr. Amodio! Read more

Help for Stressed Out Kids

By Vicki Kirkman, Courier & Press, Sept. 5, 2017

Stress is a natural part of life and something that everyone experiences. It can be positive or negative and affect your daily life greatly if not managed appropriately.

In some situations, stress can motivate us to do better or work toward hard-to-reach goals. Other circumstances can leave someone feeling overwhelmed, anxious and out of control. Read more

Striking a Balance – Time Management for a New School Year

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 29, 2017

With most children already back at school for a new year, many families will find themselves in a struggle for the ages: wants versus needs.

Many families have difficulty finding a balance between work and play. But what if the struggle is between your child’s academics and their extracurricular activities? Read more