College Survival Tips for the First Month of College

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You might need some college survival tips when you go away to college for the first time, it can be overwhelming. You might not know many people going to your school, and you won’t know what to expect from classes. Some people drop out of college due to anxiety. Luckily, there are many ways to get through anxiety and excel during the first month of school. Read this article to learn more.

College Survival Tips for Before School Starts

Seek Support from Family and Friends

A few weeks before I started college, my friends and family could sense my anxiety about the new school year. Luckily, some of my friends went to the same school one year before me. So I knew that I could talk to them. They answered questions about what to expect. They also gave me tips on how to balance academics and a social life.

A few days before school started, I had a panic attack and told my mom that I would be wasting her money on school if I fail. She assured me that no matter what happens, it would not be a waste of money. She knew that I had the work ethic and discipline necessary to succeed.

The support from my friends and family gave me the courage that I needed to walk onto campus. That was ultimately what I needed to start a new chapter of my life. If you have not started school yet, getting support from loved ones can help a great deal.

Talk to a Therapist

One thing I wish someone had told me before starting school was to talk to a therapist. If you already see a therapist and school has not started yet, try to make an appointment as soon as possible. If you cannot make an appointment or you do not have a therapist, that is okay. You can text the Crisis Textline or call the Crisis Hotline. There are also many helpful online support groups and apps that you can use at your convenience.

Prepare for Classes

A week before I started college, I constantly worried that my classes would be too hard. To get rid of some anxiety, I bought some of my books ahead of time and read the syllabi that were posted online. Reading the material helped me feel prepared for the first day of school.

While preparing for classes can be helpful, over-preparing can trigger more anxiety. So it is very important to schedule a fun or relaxing activity before school starts.

College Survival Tips for After School Starts

Get to Know Your Roommate

If you have a roommate, getting to know him or her can help you navigate the dynamics of dorm life. Sure, there is a chance that you and your roommate will not get along. But there is just as much a chance that you and your roommate will become close friends.

Most dorms have a Resident Assistant (RA) on each floor. An RA is responsible for monitoring students’ behavior in the dorms. So if you have an issue with your roommate, your RA can help you resolve it.

Take Advantage of Activities in the Dorm

During the first few weeks of school, the RAs on my floor held game nights. Anyone on the floor was welcome to join, but it was not mandatory. Having the freedom to choose whether to meet new people made me feel comfortable and more social. The game nights were fun and relaxed. I made some good friends through those events.

Remember That Grades Are Important, But They Are Not Everything

You are spending a lot of money and time on your education. So of course, grades are important. At the same time, college allows you to find out who you are and what you enjoy outside of academics. So it is really important to enjoy the social experience. This does not mean that you have to go to parties and get drunk. It means that you can try new things (that are healthy) and form lasting friendships.

Reach Out When You Need Help

You might find that you need academic and/or emotional support. Do not be ashamed to seek help. Keep in touch with loved ones from back home. If your campus has counseling services, find out about therapy. You might get free counseling for being a student. For academic assistance, take advantage of professors’ office hours. If you feel uncomfortable meeting one-on-one, send a professor an email. If you show that you care about your grades, your professors will most likely be happy to help you succeed in the class.

If you have any college survival tips for how to get through the first month of college, please share in the comments. Best of luck to everyone starting college this year.

How PTSD Can Cause Depression

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Depression can be caused by posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After someone goes through a traumatic experience, it's normal to feel sorrow, confusion, and anger--all of which can manifest into depression.

While some people experience major depressive disorder (MDD) and PTSD concurrently, I only experience depression as a symptom of PTSD. My depressive episodes are directly linked to my trauma, meaning that PTSD caused my depression. 

My depressive episodes last about two weeks at a time, and most of them happen sporadically throughout the year. Some episodes are easier to anticipate than others. For example, I always get depressed in the weeks leading up to my birthday. It's so predictable that I even save vacation days for that time of year so I can process my feelings somewhere private.

What PTSD Caused Depression Feels Like

Depression caused by PTSD will be different for each of us. Everyone experiences depression through the lens of their own life, and there are plenty of different ways to describe how it feels. For me, depression feels like being stuck in the mud. No matter how hard I try to pull my legs free and step into the grassy field ahead, I can't get loose. I'm stuck in place as the world passes by me, unable to free myself from the heavy weight that's holding me down.

There have been times in the past that I've experienced circumstantial depression rather than trauma-related depression. In those instances, I've been able to slowly loosen myself from the metaphorical mud by moving forward in my life. When I unexpectedly lost a job, I found a new one. When I had to move away from a partner I loved, I started dating again.

With trauma-related depression, it's much harder for me to move forward. I often wonder what my life would be like if I had not experienced my trauma, and it's this thought process that drives the majority of my depressive episodes. I get lost in a sea of what-ifs, wishing I could go through life without feeling trapped by my past. The things I went through were scary, and I don't like having to relive those memories in the present.

How to Cope with Depression Caused by PTSD

The best way I have found to get out a depressive PTSD episode is to remove my mind from the past as much as possible. PTSD has a way of luring me into negative thoughts and memories, and getting away from those are necessary to lift myself out of my depression.

I usually spend the first week of a PTSD caused depressive episode suppressing my feelings and the second week dealing with them (I'm still working on building healthy coping skills). Since isolation seems to make my depression worse, going back to my normal routine is a big part of my recovery process. Lying in bed all day isolates me from other people; going to work and the gym does not. 

If your depression is linked to your trauma, your recovery and coping methods will be unique to your experiences as well. It's important to check in with a doctor or therapist if you're feeling depressed, as they'll be able to help guide you through it. If you're suffering from MDD and PTSD concurrently, a doctor or therapist will also be able to give you a treatment plan that helps both issues without aggravating one or the other.

Depression is undoubtedly a tough PTSD symptom to handle, but it doesn't have to consume your life. You can learn to manage it just like any other symptom of your PTSD, and you can lead a fulfilling life in spite of it. 

Healing Toxic Shame from the Past

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Healing toxic shame is a process, it takes a lot of time and self-awareness and a willingness to confront the sources of shame in your past, but it is definitely possible. Personally, I have been working on healing toxic shame a lot in therapy lately, because it's impossible for me to truly recover from my issues with anxiety or depression if I believe the toxic shame from my past that tells me I'm not good enough.

I don't have a lot of surefire strategies for healing at this point because I'm still pretty new to the whole idea of toxic shame and its effect on my brain, my heart, and my life. However, I can offer one piece of advice: reclaim the words that were once used to hurt you.

Healing the Toxic Shame of Being "Dramatic"

In my case, I was often called "dramatic" when others wanted to dismiss my emotions. I internalized this message to mean that I was wrong; my interpretation of the situation was wrong, my reaction to it was wrong, and in general, I was just wrong. For years, the word "dramatic" held all of these shame-filled, harmful connotations, and I did everything I could to seem less dramatic. I cut off my emotions at the knees when I could, I hid my true feelings all the time, I tried to be different, to be better, to be "right."

Now, I am working on reclaiming the word "dramatic." Because it doesn't have to be a bad word. Being dramatic lends itself well to also being funny, empathetic, and communicative, which I often think of as some of my best qualities.

It's just one word, and reclaiming it won't suddenly make me feel like a good person, but it does help me see that I didn't deserve the toxic shame in my past, and I don't need to continue to internalize it in order to be "better." Because I'm already good enough, dramatics and all.

What about you? Are you working on healing toxic shame? If so, share your story with the community below, and know that you are definitely not alone.

How to Know If Your Child Might Be at-Risk Online

Dear Parent:

Our children are our Nation's most valuable asset. They represent the bright future of our country and hold our hopes for a better Nation. Our children are also the most vulnerable members of society. Protecting our children against the fear of crime and from becoming victims of crime must be a national priority.

Unfortunately, the same advances in computer and telecommunication technology that allow our children to reach out to new sources of knowledge and cultural experiences are also leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and harm by computer-sex offenders.

I hope that this pamphlet helps you to begin to understand the complexities of on-line child exploitation. For further information, please contact your local FBI office or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.

Louis J. Freeh, Former Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Introduction

While on-line computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different cultures and ways of life, they can be exposed to dangers as they hit the road exploring the information highway. There are individuals who attempt to sexually exploit children through the use of on-line services and the Internet. Some of these individuals gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts. These individuals are often willing to devote considerable amounts of time, money, and energy in this process. They listen to and empathize with the problems of children. They will be aware of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These individuals attempt to gradually lower children's inhibitions by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations.

There are other individuals, however, who immediately engage in sexually explicit conversation with children. Some offenders primarily collect and trade child-pornographic images, while others seek face-to-face meetings with children via on-line contacts. It is important for parents to understand that children can be indirectly victimized through conversation, i.e. "chat," as well as the transfer of sexually explicit information and material. Computer-sex offenders may also be evaluating children they come in contact with on-line for future face-to-face contact and direct victimization. Parents and children should remember that a computer-sex offender can be any age or sex the person does not have to fit the caricature of a dirty, unkempt, older man wearing a raincoat to be someone who could harm a child.

Children, especially adolescents, are sometimes interested in and curious about sexuality and sexually explicit material. They may be moving away from the total control of parents and seeking to establish new relationships outside their family. Because they may be curious, children/adolescents sometimes use their online access to actively seek out such materials and individuals. Sex offenders targeting children will use and exploit these characteristics and needs. Some adolescent children may also be attracted to and lured by on-line offenders closer to their age who, although not technically child molesters, may be dangerous. Nevertheless, they have been seduced and manipulated by a clever offender and do not fully understand or recognize the potential danger of these contacts.

This guide was prepared from actual investigations involving child victims, as well as investigations where law enforcement officers posed as children. Further information on protecting your child on-line may be found in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Child Safety on the Information Highway and Teen Safety on the Information Highway pamphlets.

What Are Signs That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?

Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night.

Most children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large amounts of time online, particularly in chat rooms. They may go online after dinner and on the weekends. They may be latchkey kids whose parents have told them to stay at home after school. They go online to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and sometimes look for sexually explicit information. While much of the knowledge and experience gained may be valuable, parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent online.

Children on-line are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While offenders are online around the clock, most work during the day and spend their evenings online trying to locate and lure children or seeking pornography.

You find pornography on your child's computer.

Pornography is often used in the sexual victimization of children. Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is "normal." Parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may hide the pornographic files on diskettes from them. This may be especially true if the computer is used by other family members.

Your child receives phone calls from men you don't know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize.

While talking to a child victim on-line is a thrill for a computer-sex offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk to the children on the telephone. They often engage in "phone sex" with the children and often seek to set up an actual meeting for real sex.

While a child may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number, the computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. With Caller ID, they can readily find out the child's phone number. Some computer-sex offenders have even obtained toll-free 800 numbers so that their potential victims can call them without their parents finding out. Others will tell the child to call collect. Both of these methods result in the computer-sex offender being able to find out the child's phone number.

Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know.

As part of the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent plane tickets in order for the child to travel across the country to meet them.

Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.

A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.

Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.

Computer-sex offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child and their family or at exploiting their relationship. They will accentuate any minor problems at home that the child might have. Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization.

Your child is using an online account belonging to someone else.

Even if you don't subscribe to an online service or Internet service, your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend's house or the library. Most computers come preloaded with online and/or Internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Communicating With A Sexual Predator Online?

  • Consider talking openly with your child about your suspicions. Tell them about the dangers of computer-sex offenders.
  • Review what is on your child's computer. If you don't know how, ask a friend, coworker, relative, or another knowledgeable person. Pornography or any kind of sexual communication can be a warning sign.
  • Use the Caller ID service to determine who is calling your child. Most telephone companies that offer Caller ID also offer a service that allows you to block your number from appearing on someone else's Caller ID. Telephone companies also offer an additional service feature that rejects incoming calls that you block. This rejection feature prevents computer-sex offenders or anyone else from calling your home anonymously.
  • Devices can be purchased that show telephone numbers that have been dialed from your home phone. Additionally, the last number called from your home phone can be retrieved provided that the telephone is equipped with a redial feature. You will also need a telephone pager to complete this retrieval.
  • This is done using a numeric-display pager and another phone that is on the same line as the first phone with the redial feature. Using the two phones and the pager, a call is placed from the second phone to the pager. When the paging terminal beeps for you to enter a telephone number, you press the redial button on the first (or suspect) phone. The last number called from that phone will then be displayed on the pager.
  • Monitor your child's access to all types of live electronic communications (i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, Internet Relay Chat, etc.), and monitor your child's e-mail. Computer-sex offenders almost always meet potential victims via chat rooms. After meeting a child online, they will continue to communicate electronically often via e-mail.

Should any of the following situations arise in your household, via the Internet or online service, you should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

  1. Your child or anyone in the household has received child pornography;
  2. Your child has been sexually solicited by someone who knows that your child is under 18 years of age;
  3. Your child has received sexually explicit images from someone that knows your child is under the age of 18.

If one of these scenarios occurs, keep the computer turned off in order to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use. Unless directed to do so by the law enforcement agency, you should not attempt to copy any of the images and/or text found on the computer.

What Can You Do To Minimize The Chances Of An On-line Exploiter Victimizing Your Child?

  • Communicate, and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential on-line danger.
  • Spend time with your children online. Have them teach you about their favorite online destinations.
  • Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child's bedroom. It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
  • Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software. While electronic chat can be a great place for children to make new friends and discuss various topics of interest, it is also prowled by computer-sex offenders. Use of chat rooms, in particular, should be heavily monitored. While parents should utilize these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on them.
  • Always maintain access to your child's online account and randomly check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. Mail. Be upfront with your child about your access and reasons why.
  • Teach your child the responsible use of the resources online. There is much more to the online experience than chat rooms.
  • Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child's school, the public library, and at the homes of your child's friends. These are all places, outside your normal supervision, where your child could encounter an online predator.
  • Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and is the victim. The offender always bears complete responsibility for his or her actions.
  • Instruct your children:
    • to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online;
    • to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know;
    • to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number;
    • to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images;
    • to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;
    • that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true.

Frequently Asked Questions:

My child has received an e-mail advertising for a pornographic website, what should I do?

Generally, advertising for an adult, pornographic website that is sent to an e-mail address does not violate federal law or the current laws of most states. In some states it may be a violation of law if the sender knows the recipient is under the age of 18. such advertising can be reported to your service provider and, if known, the service provider of the originator. It can also be reported to your state and federal legislators, so they can be made aware of the extent of the problem.

Is any service safer than the others?

Sex offenders have contacted children via most of the major on-line services and the Internet. The most important factors in keeping your child safe on-line are the utilization of appropriate blocking software and/or parental controls, along with open, honest discussions with your child, monitoring his/her on-line activity, and following the tips in this pamphlet.

Should I just forbid my child from going online?

There are dangers in every part of our society. By educating your children to these dangers and taking appropriate steps to protect them, they can benefit from the wealth of information now available on-line.

Helpful Definitions:

Internet - An immense, global network that connects computers via telephone lines and/or fiber networks to storehouses of electronic information. With only a computer, a modem, a telephone line and a service provider, people from all over the world can communicate and share information with little more than a few keystrokes.

Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) - Electronic networks of computers that are connected by a central computer setup and operated by a system administrator or operator and are distinguishable from the Internet by their "dial-up" accessibility. BBS users link their individual computers to the central BBS computer by a modem which allows them to post messages, read messages left by others, trade information, or hold direct conversations. Access to a BBS can, and often is, privileged and limited to those users who have access privileges granted by the systems operator.

Commercial On-line Service (COS) - Examples of COSs are America Online, Prodigy, CompuServe and Microsoft Network, which provide access to their service for a fee. COSs generally offer limited access to the Internet as part of their total service package.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) - Examples of ISPs are Erols, Concentric and Netcom. These services offer direct, full access to the Internet at a flat, monthly rate and often provide electronic-mail service for their customers. ISPs often provide space on their servers for their customers to maintain World Wide Web (WWW) sites. Not all ISPs are commercial enterprises. Educational, governmental and nonprofit organizations also provide Internet access to their members.

Public Chat Rooms - Created, maintained, listed and monitored by the COS and other public domain systems such as Internet Relay Chat. A number of customers can be in the public chat rooms at any given time, which are monitored for illegal activity and even appropriate language by systems operators (SYSOP). Some public chat rooms are monitored more frequently than others, depending on the COS and the type of chat room. Violators can be reported to the administrators of the system (at America Online they are referred to as terms of service [TOS]) which can revoke user privileges. The public chat rooms usually cover a broad range of topics such as entertainment, sports, game rooms, children only, etc.

Electronic Mail (E-Mail) - A function of BBSs, COSs and ISPs which provides for the transmission of messages and files between computers over a communications network similar to mailing a letter via the postal service. E-mail is stored on a server, where it will remain until the addressee retrieves it. Anonymity can be maintained by the sender by predetermining what the receiver will see as the "from" address. Another way to conceal one's identity is to use an "anonymous remailer," which is a service that allows the user to send an e-mail message repackaged under the remailer's own header, stripping off the originator's name completely.

Chat - Real-time text conversation between users in a chat room with no expectation of privacy. All chat conversation is accessible by all individuals in the chat room while the conversation is taking place.

Instant Messages - Private, real-time text conversation between two users in a chat room.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) - Real-time text conversation similar to public and/or private chat rooms on COS.

Usenet (Newsgroups) - Like a giant, cork bulletin board where users post messages and information. Each posting is like an open letter and is capable of having attachments, such as graphic image files (GIFs). Anyone accessing the newsgroup can read the postings, take copies of posted items, or post responses. Each newsgroup can hold thousands of postings. Currently, there are over 29,000 public newsgroups and that number is growing daily. Newsgroups are both public and/or private. There is no listing of private newsgroups. A user of private newsgroups has to be invited into the newsgroup and be provided with the newsgroup's address.

Source: www.FBI.gov

APA Reference
Richfield, S. (2019, August 19). How to Know If Your Child Might Be at-Risk Online, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/warning-signs-of-problems/child-might-be-at-risk-online

Last Updated: August 19, 2019

Coaching Optimism To The Pessimistic Child

Any advice for the child who sees the world as half empty?

Parents can attest to the fact that some children see the world through an optimistic lens while others from a pessimistic outlook. To the former, life's challenges are viewed as opportunities to stretch oneself and defeats are taken in stride, easily assimilated and placed in perspective. The pessimist prevents disappointment by restricting experiences or not putting maximum effort into goals due to a belief that things won't work out. Parents are stymied by this child's gloominess despite attempts to point out the positives in life.

If your child sees their world as half-empty read on for ways to coach optimism:

Educate yourself about the psychological process of interpretation error whereby a prevailing thinking bias distorts the perception of ambiguity. Think of it as somber subtitles that appear in one's field of vision each time an event has an uncertain outcome. Imagine statements such as "I won't have a good time" or "I may as well not bother trying" sucking the enthusiasm out of life, along with the capacity to push oneself to the limit. Now imagine that your child is bombarded by such harmful thinking a lot more than they verbalize. Pessimism can be likened to a hovering cloud of doubt that rains on our children's spirits and provides a false sense of familiar safety.

Understand that the development of optimistic thinking involves a broad range of experiential and internal factors. A child's accomplishments and successes within the academic, social, activity, and interests spheres of life are not enough to chase the cloud away. The older child must accept they hold a pessimistic bias, identify it when it erupts into their thinking, and practice disrupting it with a different train of thought. Don't expect them to replace it with rosy optimism but if they can arrive at a neutral mid-point in their thinking this is a good start. For instance, "I won't know unless I try," rather than "This is going to be terrible."

Practice "optimistic evaluation" of future and past circumstances as life presents the family with uncertainty and adversity. Although disappointments and trying situations are inevitable they need not be used as evidence for the validity of pessimism. Point out how often one can see the ripples of good fortune that began with an undesirable outcome. For instance, the tickets were sold out for the must-see movie but as a result the family unexpectedly bumped into old friends at the restaurant and your child renewed one of their favorite friend connections. Similarly, parents need to monitor their own pessimism since these character traits can be handed down.

Gently educate and encourage your pessimistic child when you hear the familiar refrain of their cloudy outlook. Ask them, "Can you rewrite those words in your mind?" as if you are editing one of their school papers. Point out how important positive thinking is for their future goals since it impacts upon confidence and competence and thereby the many doors of opportunity that await them in life. Consider the possibility that anxiety may be lurking under the surface of their pessimism since it often serves as fuel for this type of thinking. If so, address the anxiety with appropriate strategies.

APA Reference
Richfield, S. (2019, August 19). Coaching Optimism To The Pessimistic Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/articles/coaching-optimism-to-the-pessimistic-child

Last Updated: August 19, 2019

Signs Your Child May Be Involved in Gang or School Violence

The first defense in protecting our kids against gang influence is a good offense. Just as we warn our kids against the dangers of smoking, alcohol, and drugs before we discover evidence of such activity, we must take similar precautions and talk to our children about the dangers of gang involvement. That is, making our children aware that gang association of any kind is harmful and will not be tolerated. They need to hear it from you and know where you stand.

Discuss the consequences of being in a gang. We must teach them that they should not associate with gang members, communicate with gangs, hang out where gangs congregate, wear gang-related clothing or attend events sponsored by gangs. We must try to make them understand that the dangers here are real and "just saying no" may save their lives.

What to look out for

Parents should be alarmed and take appropriate action if a child exhibits one or more of these warning signs. Although we should exercise caution, we need to determine the degree (if any) of a child's involvement. We can assume that a child has some level of involvement with a gang if he/she:

  • admits that they are involved in any manner with a gang
  • is obsessed with a particular clothing color
  • prefers sagging pants or gang clothing
  • wears jewelry with distinguishing designs or wears it only on one side of the body
  • requests a particular logo over others such as British Knights (BK) - known as "Blood Killer" in some areas
  • adopts an unusual desire for privacy and secrecy
  • exhibits a change in behavior and conduct and withdraws from the family
  • is frequently deceitful about their activities
  • declining grades at school
  • truancy and/or being late for school
  • begins keeping late hours
  • breaks parental rules repeatedly
  • is obsessed with gangster music or videos
  • associates with the "wrong crowd" (changes friends)
  • begins using hand signs with friends
  • has paint or permanent marker stains on his/her hands or clothes. Or, is in possession of graffiti paraphernalia such as markers, etching tools, spray paint, bug spray and starch cans.
  • show evidence of physical injures and lies about how they were received
  • displays unusual drawings or text on school books or displays graffiti in their bedrooms and on items such as books and posters
  • produces unexplained cash, clothing, jewelry, music CDs, etc.
  • exhibits use of alcohol or drugs

Be careful

None of these warning signs alone is sufficient for predicting gang involvement, aggression or tendencies toward violence. Also, it can be detrimental to use these signs as a checklist against which to measure children.

Early warning signs are just that, indicators that a child may need our help and guidance. These are behavioral and emotional signs that, when considered in context, can signal a distraught child.

Early warning signs provide us with a means to examine our concerns and address the child's needs. Early warning signs allow us to get help for the child before problems escalate.

Source: Warning Signs

APA Reference
Richfield, S. (2019, August 19). Signs Your Child May Be Involved in Gang or School Violence, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/warning-signs-of-problems/signs-your-child-may-be-involved-in-gang-or-school-violence

Last Updated: August 19, 2019

Coaching The Argumentative Child

A parent writes: Our nine-year-old son argues about everything! How can we get him to stop long enough to just have a reasonable conversation?

Among the many frustrations of parenthood one ranks among the top: the chronic arguing child. It takes so little for them to express an opposing opinion or to debate issues that seem so petty to other family members. Attempts to curtail disagreements seldom work but tend to fan the flames of their ire. This argumentative nature tries the patience of parents and siblings, sparking family conflict and perpetuation of the problem. At times, the child stops only when the level of tension has reached such a feverish pitch that parental screaming ensues.

If this antagonistic environment describes events at your home due to an "arguer in residence" read these coaching tips to nurture peace and compromise in your family:

Don't be lulled into denying the need for attention to this problem. Many parents resist directly approaching this problem due to the child's reactive nature. It's easier to understate the issue and reassure oneself with the euphemism that "our child is a future lawyer." Family life will take on a subtle type of "arguer enabling" wherein parents too often give in to the arguer's demands or script life in favor of the child. This only serves to make the problem worse and reinforces the child's narrow w view that imposing their will is acceptable to the outside world. When others do not tolerate their disagreeableness, the arguing child tends to collapse in tears or tirades, creating more problems.

Addressing the problem starts with a substantive discussion during a peaceful point in time. Your child deserves to understand how their arguing sets them up for troubles within the world, and how it is your responsibility to help them outgrow this habit. Compare the arguing habit to rough edges that need to be smoothed out in their approach to other points of view. Explain how giving in and going along with others, in the interest of getting along, is a vital skill to learn in life. Compare the arguing habit to other unpleasant habits that people need to be aware of and let go. Suggest that the issues they argue about can be divided into the meaningless, meaningful and the ambiguous area in between the two categories. Try to engage them in placing past arguments into one of the three categories.

Consider what fuels their argumentativeness. Chronic arguers engage in their habit for specific reasons. Hidden behind their belligerence is often a deep seated insecurity about what can happen within relationships. Their "argue first and talk about it later" approach to people may grew out of sensitivity to criticism, unwillingness to surrender control to others, or the need to blame others for life's disappointments. The arguing child carries the burden of these insecurities and covers them up with an antagonistic approach. To successfully help your child emerge from the chronic arguing trap it is important to determine what is fueling the problem.

Carefully identify the source of the problem and offer a way out. If you have established sufficient safety and trust your child may be willing to discuss what is truly below the arguing surface. Help them see how the bottom issues feed emotion to the top reactions, setting the stage for their offensive approach. Give them the words to express how they feel about lowering the arguing barrier to let their true feelings be expressed. Stress words like "hurt feelings, worries about what can happen, trouble accepting anything that doesn't seem fair, etc."

APA Reference
Richfield, S. (2019, August 19). Coaching The Argumentative Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/articles/coaching-the-argumentative-child

Last Updated: August 19, 2019

Coaching Flexibility To The Overly Rigid Child

What can be done about an incredibly rigid 8-year-old who just can't deal with life's twists and turns?

Despite parents' efforts to raise a child who goes with the flow in life, this goal can be elusive due to the presence of personality rigidity and its associated problems. Uncompromising adherence to routines, paralyzing ambivalence when faced with distinct choices of action, and a presumptuous repudiation of adult decision making when it fails the "consistency test" are common expressions of rigidity in childhood. When contending with a child in the throes of rigid lock-down, parents often feel helpless about getting through this formidable wall of one-way thinking.

If these examples are unfortunately familiar, consider the following coaching tips to stretch your rigid child into a more flexible one:

  • When discussing the problem with your child, don't confuse rigidity with simple stubbornness. Avoid blaming and any suggestions that the child is "deciding to be this way." Personality-based rigidity can be likened to mental restraints that trap the child in perceiving the world in an extreme black and white fashion This is quite different from the stubborn child who chooses not to cooperate. Children gripped by rigidity are in as much anguish as the adults trying to help them be released from it. Use this realization when approaching the topic for discussion. "We want to help you free yourself from that trap in your mind that makes you see change as bad and that routines must always be followed," gets the discussion underway.
  • Introduce terminology that pinpoints problems and leads the way to solutions. Explain how rigidity stiffens up their ability to mentally move beyond a thought and flow with the course of events that follow. Expectations of how things are supposed to happen at home, the need to provide answers to questions in school, or sudden shifts in routine during a play date are times when rigidity can trap them into extreme reactions. Rigidity makes them think that prior routines or specific rules must be followed, no matter the circumstances. Emphasize how circumstances are actually far more important than "rigidity rules" because life is constantly changing, and rigidity fools them into thinking that things must stay the same.
  • Spell out how circumstances will free them from rigid thinking. "This means asking yourself questions such as Where am I? Who is with me? What is expected of me? What is different that changes what to expect?" Provide examples such as the Friday family movie night routine not being followed if special guests were visiting since this would be rude or wasteful of available time to spend together. Review previous situations when they fell into rigidity traps but if they opened their mind to circumstances they might have been able to control their reactions to change. Stress the idea that life "throws curve balls" at all of us and we can stretch ourselves to accept these shifts from expectation.
  • Gently discuss the emotional toll of their failure to accept change. Rigid children may be quick to meltdown in extreme reactions when unwelcome change violates a rule, routine, or expectation. Parents are wise to work on "making change their friend " instead of their adversary. Inoculate them by gradually introducing change, first in minor ways such as changing the seating arrangements at dinner, and then proceeding to more challenging change tests when they are ready. Explain the importance of them accepting change much like they accept a new school teacher every year. Tell them that inconsistency and randomness are part of life, and expect more if it!

APA Reference
Richfield, S. (2019, August 19). Coaching Flexibility To The Overly Rigid Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/articles/coaching-flexibility-to-the-overly-rigid-child

Last Updated: August 19, 2019

Setting Ground Rules for Teen Dating

 

Establishing dating ground rules for your teen encourages responsible teen dating.

As your children grow up, it's normal for them to think about having a boyfriend or girlfriend. They've probably been hanging out with friends of both sexes and doing things as a group, but they may be thinking about one-on-one dating. It's time to talk about the different types of relationships and love and to prepare to set rules for dating.

Talking about relationships in regular, everyday conversations lets you and your child talk about your family values when it comes to friendship, dating, and love. Dating helps young people learn to get along with others, communicate, negotiate, make decisions, and learn to be assertive. It's an important part of growing up, and talking about it together will help your teen mature.

So, how will you handle the teen dating scene? Parents approach teen dating in different ways. Some set strict rules while others let teens make their own decisions. However, a more "middle-of-the-road" approach may be best. This includes setting ground rules while giving young people options from which they can choose. It also means being available and open to ongoing conversations.

Setting Ground Rules

Even though they can make many decisions on their own, teens still need boundaries from you. Exactly what those boundaries are is something that you and your teen should discuss. Here are a few suggestions that may work for your family:

  • Meet all of her friends, and insist that her date come into the house so that you can say hello.
  • Lay down some basic rules, including what you consider a proper dating age for both your teen and the teen's dates.
  • Know the details about each group outing or date, including what adults and teens will be present, where it will take place, who is driving, what they're doing, and when they'll be home.
  • Discuss issues surrounding sex and morality; including pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases along with emotions surrounding sex.
  • Make sure your teen knows that alcohol or drug use is not allowed by anyone on any date or group outing.
  • Explain that if she wants to come home from a date, you are willing and available to pick her up at any time.
  • Make yourself available if your teen wants to talk after a group outing or date.

There are many areas to discuss when it comes to teen dating. You will need to set rules that are appropriate for your child's age and maturity level. These rules will change as your child grows up and as he handles different dating situations. For example, you may extend his curfew as he gets older. His curfew might change based on whether he is driving, his date is driving, or if a parent is driving. The curfew also might change based on the day of the week (weekend versus school-night dates) and time of year (summer versus school year).

Dating is a big deal to teens. They need you to stay involved and attentive to what's going on. By setting rules with your teen about dating, you will help her learn to make good choices and to build healthy relationships while she navigates the teen dating scene.

Sources:

  • Families Are Talking: Friendship, Dating, and Love: Young People Experience Many Types of Relationships, written by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States in 2004. Last referenced 1/7/05.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2019, August 19). Setting Ground Rules for Teen Dating, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/relationships/setting-ground-rules-for-teen-dating

Last Updated: August 19, 2019

Coaching Assertiveness To The Overly Passive Child

Compliant, approval-seeking children tend not to pose behavior problems for parents but may mask a different obstacle in life: unassertiveness. Lacking the necessary skills to stand up for themselves, personality barriers hinder their efforts to achieve goals outside the safety of the family. Unassertive children struggle mightily when contending with the inevitable adversities of peer relations or when required to self-advocate in their school life. Excessive dependence upon parents to intervene on their behalf, self-esteem injuries, and sacrificed opportunities are some of the common costs of passivity in childhood.

If you are a parent who once smiled with pride at your child's unquestioning adherence to the rules but now find yourself worried about their lack of backbone, read on for coaching tips:

 Build a dialogue blending praise for all their good choices and concern about the circumstances that reveal their passivity. Highlight situations when they took the correct action since the line between right and wrong was morally clear and familiar to them. Explain how there are times when the lines are blurrier and the choice is between taking an assertive stand or falling back upon a passive position. Describe some of the times when they were confronted by this option and chose to remain silent, follow the path of an unwise peer, or could not muster the mental muscle to effectively handle a challenge. Label this behavior as passive while expressing confidence that they can learn how to become a more assertive person.

 Delineate the building blocks that underlay assertiveness: words, actions, and delivery. "Your words tell people how you view and think about things, your actions show how much you will back them up, and your delivery suggests to people if they should take you seriously or not.," is one way to get the point across. Stress the importance of tone of voice, verbal volume and clarity, eye contact, body posture and facial expression when reviewing how an assertive message is delivered. Offer examples of how a weak delivery sounds and looks as opposed to one with power and persuasiveness. Encourage them to role play assertive deliveries and offer ratings until their "strong assertive signal" come in loud and clear.

 Encourage and elicit assertive responses in the home environment. Sometimes childhood passivity is related to a parent's intolerance for defiance or intimidating style of discipline. In this case it is especially important for the "passivity inducing parent" to tone down their authoritarian approach and allow the child to speak their mind with respectful resolve and reasonable disagreement. If the child's assertive will has been particularly squashed by the "power parent" this task will be daunting. The parent can make it easier by offering the following admission: "Maybe you think its not safe to be assertive and maybe I have taught you that by accident. Let's try to replace that with another lesson: it's safe to be assertive if it's done with respect - even at home."

 Review some of the benefits of assertion and costs of passivity in childhood and adulthood. Help them understand how people who balance good decisions with self assertion demonstrate leadership and earn respect and admiration among their peers. Conversely, passive people invite bullying, suffer exclusion, and pass up various opportunities in life. If past history has borne this out in your child's life, emphasize how passivity was directly connected to these unfortunate outcomes. Challenge your child to pursue a path that balances "personal might with decisions that are right."

APA Reference
Richfield, S. (2019, August 19). Coaching Assertiveness To The Overly Passive Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/articles/coaching-assertiveness-to-the-overly-passive-child

Last Updated: August 19, 2019