Thursday, February 15, 2018


What mental health experts say to their kids about school shootings

How to help your kids feel safe when their world feels out of control.

by Nicole Spector / 
Like mass shootings in general, school shootings have gone from being a rare tragedy to a tragic reality. Already in 2018 there have been at least 17 instances of gun violence in U.S. schools, including the shooting Wednesday at a high school in Parkland, Florida. In one recent attack at a Kentucky middle school, two children were killed and 18 others were wounded when a fellow student opened gunfire. When I saw the news, I felt the all too familiar sinking in my gut, the clench of anxiety in my throat as thoughts of the victims and their families careened through my mind. I took a moment to do my version of praying for those affected and to ponder a question that has been on my mind since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012: How can you possibly explain these shootings to your kids and how to do you talk about it?
I put these questions to mental health experts who are also parents dealing with these concerns at home. Here are their best strategies to keep the lines of communication open and your own emotions in check.

HAVE YOUR OWN SUPPORT SYSTEM AND SELF-CARE RITUALS

For your own sake and your children’s, it’s critical that you make time to quell your own anxieties before diving into the issue at hand.
“To have these conversations open and honestly you need to take care of yourself as a parent,” says Kristin Wilson, a licensed professional counselor and clinician with a teenage daughter. “Have your own support system in a spouse or friend or another go-to person, so that when you're talking to your child you've already processed through it.”
Wilson adds that she experienced her own scare when her daughter’s school was on lockdown for over six hours due to the possibility of a shooter. She found out on the news, when it was leaked to a local media network.

To have these conversations open and honestly you need to take care of yourself as a parent.
To have these conversations open and honestly you need to take care of yourself as a parent.
“I was on the phone with my partner and my friends trying to process everything,” she says. “Having your own support group is important as is indulging in self-care so you're not so reactionary. Yoga, mindfulness practice, exercise and really anything you can do to better your mental health is essential, because sadly, this is a reality now.”

LET YOUR KIDS TAKE THE LEAD

You may be unsure where to even begin with such a heavy topic. Consider asking your kids what their questions are before you give your two cents.
“It is often best to let your child take the lead in asking questions about difficult situations so that you only share what you feel is necessary to satisfy their inquiries,” says Dr. Allison Agliata, a clinical psychologist, head of an independent middle school in Tampa Bay and the mother of three children ages 12 and younger. “Otherwise, as parents, we tend to either share too little and leave them wondering, or over-explain and freak them out.”

SET A TIME TO TALK DAILY OR WEEKLY WITH NO SCREENS

Most of the mental health experts I spoke with strongly recommended having screen-free routine family time, and using that time to talk one-on-one with your kids about school shootings and any other issues that may be top of mind. For Wilson, this means a daily check-in at the dinner table.

Consider asking your kids what their questions are before you give your two cents.
Consider asking your kids what their questions are before you give your two cents.
“Sometimes my check-in is as simple as, ‘How was school today?’ And other times it’s a more uncomfortable topic about drugs and alcohol or school violence,” says Wilson, adding that this longstanding ritual has enabled her daughter to always count on this time to talk, trusting that it’s a space to discuss both the good and the bad. “If you set the groundwork early, they will naturally come to you with concerns as well as really awesome things.”
And it doesn’t have to be at the dinner table. Christopher Gerhart, a licensed and certified substance abuse counselor finds that he and his preteen daughter have their best talks about serious matters such as gun violence while he walks her to school. Kelley Kitley, a licensed clinical social worker talks with her four kids ages 11 and under individually at bedtime.
“For us it's a lot calmer. Our household is chaotic [during the day], but at that time lights are dim. It’s usually about 15 minutes each and they really look forward to it,” Kitley says. Dr. Agliata has found bedtime works best for her family as well adding, “we reflect on the day and they have some one on one time with me to share their thoughts.”

TEACH THEM HOW TO DE-STRESS WITH BREATH-WORK AND GRATITUDE

The choice to talk deeply to kids at bedtime could have parents asking, “Can’t that create anxious thoughts?” Not if your kids are equipped with de-stressing mechanisms such as deep breathing exercises.
“They lay on the bed, hands on tummy inhaling through their nose, then blowing out like they’re putting out a candle,” says Kitley of the technique she teaches. “And they take five long deep breaths.”
After talking, Kitley also has her kids focus on the stuff they enjoy rather than the stuff they fear.
“I say, ‘think of five things you really loved about your day.’ It’s a way of acknowledging that, yes, bad things happen to good people but let’s be grateful for where we are. It’s not avoiding, but rather validating how they’re feeling and understanding what is our reality right now.”

ENCOURAGE YOUR KIDS TO FEEL THEIR FEELINGS

If your child is really upset about this or other issues, that’s okay too. Allow them to experience those feelings rather than to suppress them.
“[My son] is inundated with violent videos being shared on Snapchatof fights at school,” says Lynn Zakeri, a licensed clinical social worker and the mother of two adolescents. “I talked with him recently about allowing himself to have feelings about these videos: be overwhelmed; be worried; be sad; be scared, and then, more importantly, have empathy. These are natural responses. Allow them to happen.”

I focus on what we have control over. I don't make promises I can't keep.
I focus on what we have control over. I don't make promises I can't keep.

DON’T MAKE PROMISES YOU CAN'T KEEP — BUT DO ASSURE THEM

Perhaps the most troubling issue for parents is that part of their job is to help their children feel safe in a world that can turn deadly in an instant.
“The truth is, they trust me to keep them safe,” says Zakeri. “I can't succumb to what if’s because they are not practical and they perpetuate anxiety. Instead I focus on what we have control over. I don't make promises I can't keep.”
Zakeri likens this to the sort of talks they have when getting on an airplane. “[Saying] ‘I promise you will be safe’ is very different than, ‘We can only trust what we know for sure which is [X,Y,Z].’”
But perhaps the most important thing you can do in all of this, is what you’re already doing: loving your kids and putting care and time into how you address these frightful facts of life.
“As long as parents are putting thought, energy and love into their conversations, it is unlikely you are going to really mess things up,” says Dr. Agliata, adding that even she wishes she had more definitive answers for her children about why violent situations occur and how we could stop them. But she doesn’t. “Humanity is complicated and so rather than concentrating on the fear of what could happen, my main objective is to instill a sense of power in my children so that they don't let random, single incidents impede their love of life and quest for adventure. There is so much to experience in life that I never want them to take the safe route out of fear.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/how-mental-health-experts-talk-their-kids-about-school-shootings-ncna845586

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


It's important to talk to your children about Netflix's 13 Reason's Why

A letter from Nicole Manganelli at Opportunity Alliance

Dear Adult Allies, Educators, and Parents, 

Many of you may be hearing discussions among the young people in your lives about a popular new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. The show, which has received a great deal of media coverage and is produced by Selena Gomez, features a graphic rape scene as well as a vivid portrayal of the main character Hannah’s suicide.
Unfortunately, the show is already showing signs of contributing to a culture of self-harm where parents and educators are ill-equipped to appropriately discuss mental health issues or sexual assault with youth. According to a Washington Post article, "A Florida schools superintendent told parents in a letter that his district has seen a rapid rise in at-risk behavior at elementary and middle schools — including
self-harming and suicide threats..." When asked about their behavior, students specifically cited the show as a reason for self-harm.

Given the nature of streaming services, it's fair to assume many young people, even those in elementary and middle school, have seen the show. We took a moment to ask Sheila Nelson, the Program Manager for Maine's Adolescent Health and Injury Prevention Program, for ideas about how to safely and responsibly guide the discussions happening about the show. 

At the Maine Youth Action Network, we believe in open dialogue with young people about the issues that affect their lives. We also know that in the case of suicide and self-harm, there are some critical points to include in these dialogues—and some important best practices to use when addressing dangerous myths or receiving disclosures. We've included a few of Sheila's tips below, as well as contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
For more information, you can also visit this helpful guideline created by the National Association of School Psychologists.
Thank you for all you do to support the young people in your life to grow and thrive.
Best,
Nicole Manganelli

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Free money for books at University College at Rumford Center!




Community Investing in Students attending University College @ Rumford

James Bradley <james.bradley@maine.edu>



[Rumford, Maine] Students accessing their college courses through the University College Center in Rumford now have some extra added financial support. Students at the Rumford Center can now get some extra help purchasing books - just by taking advantage of tutoring support services available at the Center or online. Thanks to the “Tutoring Pays Off!” Program, students who access tutoring support two distinct times are rewarded with a $50 book voucher, up to twice per semester. And students will tell you, book costs are a major expense each year, so that voucher comes in handy. The Tutoring Pays Off program hopes to motivate students to
seek the valuable support services they need to be successful in their course work through their local University College Center.

“I look at this as a real win-win for our students,” said Lisa MacDonald Cooper, Director of University College @ Rumford. “Even better, I think it demonstrates how communities can invest in themselves. By supporting students staying in our community and taking college courses, lowering a cost barrier, and encouraging active success strategies, we are encouraging the persistence needed to complete a degree. These are our community members, our neighbors we’re helping. I believe that comes back to us in the end.”

Another recently added scholarship source comes from a wider-based community effort. Cooper is a working member of a non-profit development group called Maine West, a partnership of local and regional organizations dedicated to addressing systemic rural challenges and enhancing community well-being in Western Maine. Thanks to her work with that group, the Western Maine Scholarship Fund was established at the University of Maine at Augusta in 2016 with a gift from the Betterment Fund and Maine West.

The resulting Western Maine Scholarship is now available to UMA students attending the University College Centers in Rumford or in South Paris who have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and have completed a minimum of 24 credit hours (sophomore standing). Two $1,250 scholarships will be awarded each Fall and Spring semester the fund is available. According to Cooper, director of both Centers in Rumford and South Paris, she worked to establish this Scholarship, “because it was regionally focused. The Maine West group is an interesting blend of community partners developing ideas through increased collaboration across the economic, education,
health, and conservation sectors. The focus on cross-sector collaboration is a great approach to addressing many of the issues facing Western Maine. We see those issues play out in the stories of our students. The Scholarship is a way of encouraging those students to stay with it, despite some of the challenges they face, and to be rewarded for their hard work.”

If you know a student taking courses through our local University College Center, pass the word along. That too will prove to a student that their community is behind their success. Students can contact the Center in Rumford at 207.364.7882 for more information.

***

University College has a system-wide mission to provide centralized services to students and faculty engaged in online and distance programs offered by the campuses of the University of Maine System. University College operates Centers at Brunswick, East Millinocket, Ellsworth, Houlton, South Paris, Rockland, Rumford, and Saco which allows students access to over 100 certificate and degree programs from the University of Maine System. Students access the resources of campuses while studying online, at their local Center, or pursuing a mix of online and traditional classroom instruction while staying close to home.


"Online, Affordable &
in your Community."
Jim Bradley, M.Ed
Assistant Director
University College Rumford/Mexico
p:
207-364-7882
a:
60 Lowell Street, 3rd Floor

Rumford, ME 04276
w:
s:
Schedule with me: jamesbradley.youcanbook.me

Monday, April 4, 2016

Earn College credits while a student at MVHS and have the tuition waived!

A number of colleges are offering a chance for high school juniors and seniors to earn college credits at a substantially reduced rate.  Often these classes will earn high school credit as well.  You just pay for books and fees.*

Some of these classes are taught right here at Mountain Valley High School.  For instance Central Maine Community College will offer Intermediate Algebra here on Tuesday afternoons from 3-5:55 and Introduction to Psychology on Wednesday afternoons from 3-5:55.  University of Maine at Fort Kent will offer English Composition I and II throughout the year as part of the curriculum at Mountain Valley High School.  You may also take online classes from the University of Maine at Augusta and Husson College.

If you would like more information including application requirements, follow the links below or you may contact me at Mountain Valley High School.

University of Maine at Fort Kent

University of Maine at Augusta

Central Maine Community College

Husson College

*Some financial assistance with course fees may be available based on income guidelines.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Camp Dragonfly; A day long grief camp for children, teens & their families.

The loss of a loved one can be incredibly difficulty.  Having the chance to share your feelings with others can help ease these feeling and feel less alone.  Attached is the flyer for Camp Dragonfly.  This is a free camp, open to your entire family. 

If your family is grieving or know someone that is, please contact Amy Dulac at (207) 795-9468 or pass this information along to any families that might benefit from attending.  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Homeless students in the Mountain Valley Region

McKinney-Vento Homeless Education

Homeless students that reside in the Mountain Valley Region of RSU #10 are protected by law to help minimize educational disruptions. The law is the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act

Under McKinney-Vento, homeless students are guaranteed the right to a free, appropriate, public education. When students become homeless, they can remain enrolled in the schools they have been attending, although they might no longer meet residency requirements. McKinney-Vento also guarantees homeless students the right to enroll in a public school even if they lack the typically required documents and immunizations. In addition, homeless students are guaranteed the transportation they need to attend school.

According to McKinney-Vento, "homeless" can be defined as an individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, including children and youth:
  • Sharing housing due to loss of housing or economic hardship
  • Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate housing
  • Living in emergency or transitional housing
  • Abandoned in hospitals
  • Awaiting foster care
  • Having a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, regular sleeping accommodations
  • Living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations
  • Migratory students meeting the descriptions above
For more information, please visit http://www.maine.gov/doe/homeless/index.html

If you have any questions or need information about homeless students in the Mountain Valley Region, please contact me at Mountain Valley High School.