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Tech Retreat for 7th-8th Grade Students

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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.

 

For more information on teaching kids Digital Citizenship or any questions about setting up this kind of opportunity at your school, feel free to email using the Contact Form.

 

Students Focus on Impact of Tech

Breathing Beads to Teach Mindfulness to Young People

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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:

 

https://www.themiddleschoolcounselor.com/2018/02/teaching-coping-skills-and-self.html

 

 

Does Your Child Worry Too Much?

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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 signe@signewhitson.com or use the Contact form on this site.

 

15 Things Kids or Teens Say That Could Mean ‘I’m Anxious’ – Where They Come From And How to Respond

What Anxious and Angry Kids Need to Know About Their Brain

 

What Parents Need to Know to Keep Kids Safe Online

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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.

Anonymous apps:

 

About Sarahah: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/everything-you-need-to-know-about-sarahah-the-anonymous_us_599b51eee4b0ac90f2cba943

About Burnbook: https://mashable.com/2015/03/26/burnbook-app/#PQ78FHUKkiqF

About Whisper: https://www.teensafe.com/blog/everything-a-parent-needs-to-know-about-whisper/

About Ask.fm: https://www.teensafe.com/blog/everything-a-parent-needs-to-know-about-ask-fm/

About TBH: http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/09/what-is-tbh-app.html

 

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/

About Live.ly: https://www.internetmatters.org/hub/guidance/live-ly-app-parents-need-know/

About Periscope: https://smallbiztrends.com/2015/08/what-is-periscope-how-do-i-use-it.html

 

Teen Dating Sites:

 

About Down: https://www.downapp.com/faq

About Tinder: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/antonio-borrello-phd/the-shocking-truth-about-_7_b_8011462.html

About Hotornot: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2014/06/17/the-new-hot-or-not-like-tinder-but-just-for-fun/#1a18454f3814

About Blendr: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/sep/12/blendr-straight-dating-app-grindr

 

Other:

 

About Omegle: https://www.qustodio.com/en/blog/2014/05/omegle-app-encourages-chats-with-strangers/

About Kikhttps://www.lifewire.com/what-is-kik-an-intro-to-the-free-texting-app-3486317

About Vero: https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/2/17067610/vero-social-media-ayman-hariri-downloads

 

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

Teacher Feedback on Signe’s Recent Presentations

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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 signe@signewhitson.com

 

 

 

Hang on, America. The kids will save you.

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#neveragain

How to Stand Up to Gossip and Cruelty

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    .
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.

Part 2, 4-days later:
So the girl L stopped in her tracks last week used her friendship as a weapon the next day and made L cry. I’ve been giving her scripts to say all year because of the manipulative and triangulative behavior of this girl and another. So, today, the girl said something to L, hoping to get a reaction out of her.  Eventually, L said to her, “I like friends who are respectful and show [school] pride” and the girl reacted negatively, saying “what, I’m not being respectful to you?” L responded, “well, you aren’t being very kind” to which the girl said, “well, I guess you’re not my friend anymore.”   L shrugged her shoulders and said, “OK, I’m cool with that” ………
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This is huge because L likes to be liked by everyone and it’s taken her months to be able to stand up and diffuse this girl’s intentions. I’m so very proud of her for handling it with words and am trying to show her just how effective they can be. I wanted to share in case you can use it somewhere. Each time she stands up for herself, she gets a little stronger. 
My two cents:
I happen to love every ounce of this story, but my favorite part comes at the end when my friend noted: Each time she stands up for herself, she gets a little stronger.   It is so true that each time we practice a skill, we become a little stronger and a little better at using it.  Please remind your kiddos of this–especially if they try out a new skill or strategy and it doesn’t pan out perfectly the first time.  Don’t allow them to become discouraged!  Remind them that standing up for themselves and others in respectful, effective ways is like building muscle–they may not become strong overnight, but every bit of practice in speaking up makes kids braver, stronger, and more powerful.

Look Beyond Behavior

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Mindfulness and Deep Breathing Lesson for Students

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with my students in PK, K and 1st grade on building Mindfulness skills to help our bodies get calm and ready to learn. Today, we made Mindfulness Beads to help us remember to take slow, deep calming breaths. The kids loved it! (I even had a few teachers and a middle school helper ask to make them for themselves!)
 

Essential Skills to Stop Bullying

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Not long ago, a national organization that provides mental health services for school-aged children posted an open question for followers on its social media page: You witness a student being bullied; what do you do?

Hundreds of people responded right away. The majority of their answers focused squarely on punishing the child who bullied—most with the type of language that would shock the very children they felt so strongly about protecting. “Shame the bully!” responded one teacher, who boasted that her 22 years of classroom experience validated her answer. “Kick the kid out of school,” demanded a professional counselor.

Ouch.

If social media is a reliable barometer of public opinion, it seems clear that the knee-jerk solution to the problem of bullying is hostility and vengeance. The response is understandable: adults who were bullied during their own youth often feel a strong urge to protect the current generation of young people from the same kind of abuse. Likewise, many adults feel justice is best served when aggressors are punished for their wrongdoing.

Yet the problem with bullying prevention strategies that center on the behavior of kids who bully is that they leave targeted kids in a powerless position, assuming that their lives will only get better if the child who bullies changes his/her ways. In fact, in their landmark study, Davis and Nixon (2010) found that adult actions aimed at changing the behavior of children who bully are actually more likely to make things worse for their victims—not better.

Bullying Prevention strategies that shift their focus to building positive social skills in all young people achieve better results. Read the rest of my post on Psychology Today.

Please share the post with educators, administrators, parents, and caregivers that you believe can benefit from this info.

 

 

 

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