Last week, we offered a Tech Retreat for our 7th and 8th grade students. This day included a total break from regular classes. Instead, students participated in small group activities, heard a panel of speakers from our community, and learned about brain health and screen time. To learn more about how we structured the day and to hear feedback from students, please click on my school’s Blog below.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending the day in beautiful, sunny upstate New York to lead a day-long workshop on How to Be Angry, featuring brain=based strategies for helping young people de-escalate from intense feelings of anger and make positive choices for anger expression.
Among strategies discussed were the benefits of teaching of Mindfulness practices to kids. I showed participants photos of my work with students, including our making of Mindfulness Beads to help us remember to take slow, deep calming breaths. Here’s the video, from the blog, The Middle School Counselor, for all who requested it:
As an independent, nonprofit organization; programs like Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children would not be possible without charitable giving. If funded, Sesame Workshop will tackle another major issue for families in the autism community and beyond: how to prevent bullying by fostering empathy and compassion.
Childhood bullying hurts, and research shows that kids with autism are disproportionately affected. Since 2015, Sesame Workshop has reached millions of kids and families with their work in the autism community. However, in order to tackle bullying prevention, Sesame Workshop is looking to their passionate community of fans and families for help. If the campaign’s first funding goal is reached, Sesame Workshop aims to create a kid-friendly digital storybook about understanding differences through everyday activities and play – plus articles and supplementary materials about bullying for grown-ups.
As with other materials and storybooks featuring Julia, this new content will offer parents and caregivers a perfect starting point for deeper conversations with their children. Here are some fun videos to check out:
If you’d like to help fund Sesame Workshop’s endeavor to bring an end to bullying, please visit their Kickstarter page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sesamestreet/help-prevent-bullying-with-sesame-streets-autism-i?ref=user_menu
This week, I’ll be doing a presentation on how to understand and effectively respond to anxiety in children & adolescents at The Hillside School in Allentown, PA. There’s some natural overlap between this presentation and my Brain-Based Strategies for Helping Kids Calm Down workshop, as both anxiety and anger are brain-issues at their core–uncomfortable states caused by the triggering of the amygdala.
The bad news: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million people or 18.1% of the population every year.
The good news: Anxiety disorders are highly treatable.
Being able to recognize the symptoms of anxiety for what they are, rather than confusing them with stubbornness, drama, or defiance is a key factor in meeting kids needs and helping them feel heard and understood. The article below, 15 Things Kids or Teens Say That Could Mean ‘I’m Anxious’–Where they Come From and How to Respond, is a great resource for helping adults to ‘decode’ the common ways kids describe their anxiety, in order to respond more effectively.
Another priority I’ll be talking about at Hillside is the importance of teaching kids–at a developmentally appropriate level–about their neuro-anatomy. Knowledge is power and even very young kids benefit from understanding the connection between their brains, their feelings, and their behaviors. The second post below, What Anxious and Angry Kids Need to Know About Their Brain, offers a terrific script for teaching little ones about their brain. My book, The 8 Keys To End Bullying Activity Book for Kids & Teens, offers explanations and activities for upper elementary and middle school aged kiddos on this same topic.
UPDATE, 4/27/18: Thanks to all who attended the presentation at Hillside last night. For those who attended–and those who emailed me because they were not able to attend but would like information–here are the video-instructions for making the Mindfulness Beads, as well as well as the HandBrain Model video from Dr. Dan Siegal.
For more information on training programs related to helping young people cope with anxiety, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Contact form on this site.
It’s a fact of 21st century life that kids are connected to each other 24-7. While many professionals and parents feel like digital immigrants in their kids’ native cyberlands, any lack of technological savvy on their parts is usually made up for by the social and moral savvy that comes with age and life experience.
While adults have good reasons to believe that they’ll never be quite as knowledgeable as kids about social media, it’s essential that we do our best to keep up on the options available to young people and offer them our guidance and wisdom (in place of our lectures and thou shalt nots) on how to use technology safely, respectfully, and with dignity.
The following links, offered to help parents and professionals keep up with 17 of the most popular apps of this season, are based on my training, Practical Strategies for Keeping Kids Safe Online.
About Burnbook: https://mashable.com/2015/03/26/burnbook-app/#PQ78FHUKkiqF
Disappearing Media Apps:
About Snapchat: https://www.imore.com/snapchat-everything-you-need-know
About Instagram stories: https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-use-instagram-stories/
About Music.ly: https://www.webwise.ie/parents/explained-musical-ly/
Teen Dating Sites:
About Down: https://www.downapp.com/faq
For more information on what professionals and parents can do to keep kids safe online, check out 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents and Schools
I had a great time visiting Pohatcong School District this week in eastern NJ! This is the third time I’ve been to the K-8 school near Phillipsburg, NJ and each time, I just enjoy the students (and faculty!) more and more. Whether it was during last period on Friday afternoon or first thing on Monday morning, the students of all ages were attentive, engaged, curious, and respectful. They asked great questions, gave spot-on responses, and came up with some fantastic ideas for how to stand up for and reach out to peers who are on the receiving end of cruelty.
A bonus from this visit was that in addition to getting to hear from the kids, three teachers shared their thoughts on my presentations as well:
“Signe Whitson’s presentation was 100 percent appropriate for our students. She was extremely energetic and really connected with our students! It was even helpful for teachers to hear the differences between “bullying, meanness and rudeness.” I know the kids really remember the 3 P’s of Bullying as well. This will really come in handy when students are trying to determine if they are in a bullying situation or not. Thanks a ton!”
I went with the 6th grade girls and it was about recognizing the differences between rude, mean, and bullying behaviors, which I felt was very important to know and well received by the girls. For the most part, I think they realized that most of what they quickly call “bullying” is actually “mean” and now they know to look for repetition and an imbalance of power for it to be labeled bullying. Also, it was made clear that if they feel bullied, they need to tell someone, even a friend!!!!
Thank you, Signe. Your in-services are so valuable and helpful to not only our students but the staff as well.
Visit my Bullying Prevention Workshops page for details on available school presentation topics or email me directly at email@example.com
Here’s a great 2-part story, shared with permission by a friend, about her young daughter learning to use her voice to stand up to gossip and cruelty:
So, this is a story that I hope brings a chuckle to you. My youngest daughter, L, deals with and comes home with a lot of girl drama in her class and yesterday began relaying the latest. As she started, I said I didn’t want to hear anything about these girls because it’s a waste of our energy to keep spending time on their issues. While she’s never their target, they triangulate and manipulate for their own purposes and put kids like her in uncomfortable situations. She quickly stopped me, “No, mom, you need to hear how I stood up for myself. Today, _____ started saying something nasty about ____ and I said, ‘stop right there—I am NOT a part of this situation’ and _____ shrugged her shoulders and walked away”.
With that one sentence she stopped hurtful, negative energy in its tracks and sent a very clear message to a master drama queen. And she felt empowered. We applauded her and she ran out of the room with my phone. She returned with the Wonder Woman theme song blaring and dancing, showcasing her strengths as a young girl facing down mean girls and their manipulations. It’s a big thing when a child learns the power of her words, that they alone are weapons against unkindness. Proud mama moment. May we all raise wonder women.