By Caren Chaffee
February brings to mind Valentine’s Day, Groundhog’s Day and Presidents’ Day … days on the calendar that provide us with good reminders to spread kindness, have some lighthearted fun in the midst of a cold winter or honor our nation’s leaders. However, February is also a time to bring attention to a very serious subject that bears importance: The National Institute of Justice has announced that February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month – certainly not cause for celebration, but an opportunity to bring to light a growing threat to our adolescents’ safety.
Although statistics vary due to differences in defining “violence,” teen dating violence is shockingly prevalent: Approximately one in ten youth in grades 9-12 report being a victim of physical violence from a romantic partner within the previous 12 months (according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) and 20 to 30 percent of youth ages 12 to 21 in relationships reported experiencing psychological abuse in the previous 18 months (according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health).
The preteen and teen years are a formative era. During this time, youth have the opportunity to learn the necessary skills to develop and maintain healthy relationships. When teens can foster positive relationships during their influential adolescence, they have a greater opportunity to make compassionate and cooperative connections with their dating partners during their adult years. Exposure to violence can counteract the development of these skills and could instead initiate a pattern of relationship violence that could extend into adulthood (either as a victim or a perpetrator). Therefore, it is imperative that the cycle of teen dating violence is halted through both prevention and intervention.
There are steps that adults can take to keep adolescents safe from the perils of teen dating violence: Maintaining an awareness of teens’ friends and acquaintances and where they are spending their time; keeping the lines of communication open to allow teens the opportunity to talk to a trusted adult; sharing information about TeenCentral.Net, KidsPeace’s free, anonymous online counseling website for teens (which has a special section on teen dating violence); and directly offering to help if it is suspected they are in a dangerous dating situation are all crucial actions. They might save a youth from becoming involved in a violent relationship or help them to abandon an unhealthy and unsafe partner. They may even help to stop a cycle of violence and impact for future generations.
What are you doing on April 26?
If you are within a few hours of the Lehigh Valley (or looking for a reason to come for a visit), join us at our second annual 5K Family Fun Mud Run.
The fun starts at 11 a.m. on our beautiful 250-acre Orchard Hills Campus in Orefield, Pa. Mud runs are becoming increasingly popular, driving even self-avowed non-runners to compete in the mud. But ours has the distinction of being family friendly. Grab your friends, bring your kids, form a team or run or walk alone – it’s impossible to truly feel alone when you’re on a 3.1-mile course with hundreds of other people.
The scenic, hilly course traverses 10 obstacles, including a pit crawl, cargo net climb, tunnel crawl, slip 'n slide and a mud pit. Participants younger than 13 are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult the whole time. Youth younger than 18 can also choose to do the 1-mile run/walk in lieu of the 5K. Have young kids who want to participate in the fun too? There is a free 100-yard dash for children ages 4 to 6.
See registration fees and sign up through active.com. We’re offering free registration for our 100th registrant. Not sure you want to get dirty? Sign up to volunteer or just donate to help our kids.
Like our event Facebook page to stay updated on all the muddy fun and share photos after the race.
By Dr. John DeGarmo
Nothing says you care for a child than spending quality time with that child. Spending time with your foster child and focusing on him is important for his mental health. Including your foster child in family activities is essential for the well-being of your household. These might include going to the movies, park or church as a family. If your foster child is interested in joining a local sports team, like a recreational or school baseball team, than encourage the child to try out, and attend his games. Learn what hobbies your foster child enjoys, and join in with him. Invite your foster child to help you make dinner, and eat as a family together. Above all, be excited and enthusiastic about your foster child and what his interests are.
It is important that you share all information with the caseworker about your foster child. Be honest with your caseworker about any concerns you might have in regard to your child. If you see signs that your foster child is having trouble adjusting to your home and family, share these concerns with the caseworker.
If your foster child becomes sick, let the caseworker know, even if it is just a day at home from the common cold. Caseworkers have the responsibility of documenting everything when it comes to the foster children in their caseload.
Take steps to develop lines of communication with the caseworker. Make sure both of you have current telephone numbers and email addresses, for both home and work.
Before you meet with your caseworker, make sure you are prepared. Have all proper forms and information gathered that you might need for the caseworker. This includes any school progress and report cards, names and contact information for his teachers, calendar of upcoming events in your household, medical paperwork, receipts and invoices and any other personal observations you may have noted for your foster child.
For more, contact Dr. DeGarmo at firstname.lastname@example.org, through his Facebook page or at his website.
By Denise Morganthall
Being the parent of a troubled teen or adolescent may be one of the most difficult challenges you will face during your lifetime. It is crucial that your child gets the treatment needed before it is too late.
Adolescence is a very crucial time of a child’s life as it is a time to prepare for adulthood. This period is difficult enough without having your child experiencing ‘”abnormal” behaviors. Parents often think this troublesome behavior is a phase that will cease. However, it is not worth waiting until your child transitions into adulthood since the recovery period will be more difficult. As the old adage says, “the sooner the better.” Early intervention is the key to a positive outcome.
But parents may not know where to turn for help/ Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs), have been known to provide successful outcomes for children and families. They are not for every child, however in some cases these centers can be the “turning point” to a child’s success and recovery.
An RTC is a facility that specializes in the treatment of a number of mental health issues. RTCs are dedicated to the complete rehabilitation of your struggling child. Placing a child in a residential setting may make parents feel guilty they are sending their child away, but sometimes removing your child from the family environment is necessary for a successful recovery. Also keep in mind that RTCs support family involvement because professionals know that family plays a large role in the success of the child’s treatment and healing process. RTCs are also temporary, with the goal of having the child return home upon successful completion of the treatment program.
An RTC offers a personal atmosphere where your child is in the company of others who suffer from similar issues. Living and undergoing treatment with other youth experiencing similar difficulties provides a strong support structure, which results in better awareness, faster healing and personal growth. The children are able to share feats and defeats and encourage one another.
An important advantage of an RTC is that the environment may be less threatening and more healing than a psychiatric hospital. Children in an RTC setting often function like a family, and it allows for a much deeper connection between the child and the treatment team. An RTC provides food, clothing, individual and group therapy, therapeutic recreation and social and life skills training. The children also attend schools that meet the education requirements placed by the Board of Education so there is no danger of them falling behind in their studies.
If you are a parent of a troubled teen, perhaps an RTC is the solution to your problem. Kidspeace offers residential treatment in four states and has a proven success rate for more than 130 years. Treatment is essential as it provides the tools needed by youth in crisis to turn their lives around. As always, KidsPeace is there to give hope, help and healing to children, families and communities.
Photo credit: Lisa F. Young/iStock Photos/Thinkstock
Have you ever heard of Lizzie Velasquez?
No? How about the “World’s Ugliest Woman?” Perhaps you were one of the one million people who saw her on YouTube, where that shockingly cruel label was once slapped on the young woman who suffers from a rare disease that renders her unable to gain weight.
Pause a moment before you crack a joke about how many people would not find it a problem to eat whatever they want without gaining weight.
For years, Velasquez was bullied – ostracized by peers, ridiculed by Internet strangers. One person, hiding behind his or her computer screen, even went so far as to say she should do the world a favor and kill herself. Instead, she became an author and motivational speaker who now challenges others to re-define beauty.
Velasquez’s story is one of millions that prove bullying is real, and it continues to happen daily in schools and communities and on social media sites around the world. Children and teenagers are the most common victims, taunted for anything from their looks to their family structure to whether they choose to play soccer or the clarinet.
For years, www.TeenCentral.Net has been helping young people combat bullying through mentoring, education and support. If you are bullying someone else, think about how hurtful your actions can be. Would you want to be treated in a similar manner? And if you are the one dealing with the pain of being bullied, channel Velasquez’s positive spirit, log onto TeenCentral.Net and remember that you, not your tormenters, have the power to define who you are.
By Caren Chaffee
This week, the Associated Press reported that a 9-year-old boy became the youngest person to reach the summit of Argentina’s Aconcagua Mountain. The summit is 22,841 feet high and is the tallest peak in the Western and Southern hemispheres. The boy set his goal, held fundraisers to both offset his costs as well as raise money for a nonprofit organization that funds research for muscular dystrophy and worked out twice daily to prepare for the climb. After receiving special permission from an Argentine judge (ordinarily, no one younger than 14 is allowed to climb the mountain), he accomplished this amazing feat alongside his father and a professional climber.
The story is inspiring in many ways – reaching a nearly 23,000 foot summit is a life-changing accomplishment for anyone, of any age; hearing of a 9 year old who puts forth efforts to raise money to benefit others is heartwarming; learning of a father who had no personal interest in making the climb but trained and completed it to help his son reach his goal is demonstrative of a parent’s commitment.
The 9 year old was quoted as saying, “Any kid can really do this; all they have to do is try. And set their mind to the goal.”
Every day, youth set goals for themselves. Not all of them involve physically climbing a mountain – but to an individual youth, his or her goal may feel just as lofty. Many youth face great personal challenges and work very hard toward overcoming these challenges. As caregivers, mentors and significant adults in the lives of children and adolescents, it is imperative that we foster and support the goals they set for themselves. Our support may not involve physically training to reach a summit, but it is just as important: providing advice, lending a supportive ear, giving guidance and education, allowing for falls and failures, being available to help after a stumble and celebrating the successes along the way are all vital to youth reaching their accomplishments and ambitions.
When we offer our support to youth for a goal that they set, we are giving them tacit permission to try, to fail and to succeed. We are teaching them that all of these steps – attempt, failure and success – are permissible and even desirable. Setting a goal and taking steps toward reaching a goal allows for emotional growth. What may be seen as a “small” goal to some may actually be a significant step for someone else. And therefore, any support that we provide may become an essential part of a youth’s success and emotional growth.
Photo credit: [istock photo]/Thinkstock
Eric Harris. Dylan Klebold. Thomas "T.J." Solomon Jr. Elizabeth Catherine Bush. James Scott Newman. Adam Lanza. Karl Pierson.
These names represent a small percentage of teenagers and young adults who have injured and/or killed students in school shootings over the past 15 years. The attackers came from different backgrounds and families. Some were relentlessly teased or ostracized, leading to assumptions that they finally “snapped,” taking their angst out on their peers or those they perceived to be responsible for their tangled emotions. Though some were found to be mentally ill, others took their own lives after the shootings, leaving added questions in the wake of tragedy.
The family of the latest victim, Claire Davis, gunned down at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., last month, is showing grace in the midst of the most horrific tragedy a parent could endure. The Denver Post shares the words of Claire’s father, Michael Davis, who spoke at a memorial service this week. He said he and his wife had forgiven Karl and implored others to do the same.
"Unchecked anger and rage can lead to hatred, and unchecked hatred can lead to tragedy, blindness and a loss of humanity,” Davis said. “The last thing Desiree and I would want is to perpetuate this anger and rage and hatred in connection with Claire. Claire would also not want this."
The family is turning their anguish into a call to action, with the establishment of the Arapahoe High School Community Fund in honor of Claire. The fund will support mental health care and anti-bullying initiatives, along with other school and community programs. The Davis family seems to understand the need to address the problems behind school shootings and similar tragedies. We can only hope that these programs get young people the help they need before another senseless death occurs.