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Why Teenage Boys Do Stupid Things July 21, 2014

Article: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/whats-wrong-with-the-teen-brain/

An 18-year-old boy in Georgia drowns after he is tied to a shopping cart and pushed into a lake while horsing around with friends after his high school graduation. A young man, 19, causes a multi-car accident when he faints from holding his breath while driving through a tunnel in Portland, Ore.

Tragic stories of teens doing stupid things — boys in particular — constantly make the news. And there are biological reasons behind it: this type of risky, defiant and downright dangerous behavior has its roots in distinct differences in the developing brain of a young person.

“The brain of an adolescent is very different from the brain of an adult,” Dr. Amir Levine, an adult, child and adolescent psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Columbia University, told CBS News. “The brain goes through huge changes, initially it grows and then it shrinks. It basically undergoes what we call pruning, which means that the brain becomes more efficient and it does away with neurons that it doesn’t need.”

New data from the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows just how many teens engage in hazardous behavior.

The report finds that despite public health campaigns and a relative awareness, teens are still having unprotected sex; in 2013, the number of sexually-active teens who used condoms was 59 percent, down 4 points from a decade before. Teens also continue to text and drive even though more than 40 states have passed laws that make it illegal. Nationwide, 41 percent of students who have driven a vehicle during in the past 30 days reported they had texted or emailed while driving.

But the CDC report does offer a glimmer of hope because some risky behaviors have actually declined. The percentage of high school students nationwide who had been in a physical fight at least once during the past 12 months decreased from 42 percent in 1991 to 25 percent in 2013. Cigarette smoking is less common among young people as well. The report finds 15.7 percent of teenagers regularly smoked cigarettes in 2013.

Risky teen behavior can have deadly consequences. According the National Institutes of Health, death rates from accidents increase dramatically during early and late adolescence. Death by injury is as much as six times higher among teens age 15 to 19 than kids between age 10 and 14. Overall crime rates are highest among young males.

In the brazen teenage brain, the initial expansion in grey matter means neural pathways are more plentiful, which makes a young person more open to experiences and willing to try out and learn new things than adults generally are. But this can be a dangerous tendency — even more so when teen brains join together in a pack.

Research has found that peer pressure activates certain brain signals that are linked to the powerful drug-like interplay of risk and reward. And a captive audience is the quickest way to bolster the brain’s reward system.

That may be why teenage boys constantly egg each other on to fight, play harder, drink more and drive faster.

Laws in a number of states recognize the serious repercussions of this very real phenomenon. Forty-seven states now place restrictions on the number or age of passengers who can ride along with a teen driver, since teens having friends in the car has been found to be even more hazardous than alcohol intoxication when it comes to operating a motor vehicle.

“The daredevil brain, it goes into even hyper-mode when adolescents are in groups, and in general because testosterone causes more aggression,” explained Levine. “Adolescents are very much conditioned to peer pressure. And we see again across species, even adolescent mice will drink a lot more alcohol when they’re in a group of adolescent mice than adult mice when you give them the opportunity to drink alcohol.”

And it doesn’t help that sex is very suddenly — and constantly — on the male teen brain. Testosterone makes boys “push the envelope” even more.

Social and cultural roles further encourage risky behavior among young men. Michael Thompson, psychologist and author of three books about boys, including “It’s a Boy!: Your Son’s Development from Birth to 18,” says risk-taking behavior is driven by the desire to fit into society’s standards for masculinity.

“Boys believe there’s a test to pass for manhood and this is different than a test for womanhood and femininity,” he told CBS News. “You want to be brave and funny and tie yourself to a shopping cart.”

Thankfully, however, the inherent differences of a teen brain can also facilitate positive and productive behavior, said Levine. These extra neural pathways fuel a young person’s aspirations, interests and education and ultimately prepare them to thrive as an adult.

As long as they don’t do something too terribly foolish first.

Pennsylvania hospital to open country’s first inpatient treatment program for Internet addiction July 21, 2014

Article: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/09/01/hospital-first-inpatient-treatment-internet-addiction/

Ten years ago, Kevin Roberts suffered from an addiction that took over his life. Roberts, now 44 years old, would sit eight to 12 hours a day in front of the pale blue glow of his computer, playing a videogame. During holidays, he “binged,” spending nearly all his waking hours at his keyboard.

Finally, a friend who had been through Alcoholics Anonymous told him he displayed all the same characteristics of an addict. “Like most addicts, I went through a series of self-deception,” said Roberts, who documented his struggle with addiction in his book, “Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap.”

The story of Roberts, who came to grips with his addiction through years of therapy and spiritual retreats, is not unique. Treatment facilities have sprung up in recent years, but a psychiatric hospital in central Pennsylvania is now set to become the country’s first facility of its kind to offer an inpatient treatment program for people it diagnoses with severe Internet addiction.

The voluntary, 10-day program is set to open on Sept. 9 at the Behavioral Health Services at Bradford Regional Medical Center. The program was organized by experts in the field and cognitive specialists with backgrounds in treating more familiar addictions like drug and alcohol abuse.

“Internet addiction is a problem in this country that can be more pervasive than alcoholism,” said Dr. Kimberly Young, the psychologist who founded the non-profit program. “The Internet is free, legal and fat free.”
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Gaming addition is becoming more prevalent. We need to help children learn balance. We have two excellent resources to help parents and educators:

Lost and Found
But its Just a Game

Louisiana boy, 8, shoots 90-year-old relative after playing video game July 21, 2014

Article: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/24/la-police-boy-8-fatally-shoots-0-year-old-relative-after-playing-video-game/

Published August 24,
Louisiana authorities say an 8-year-old boy intentionally shot and killed a 90-year-old woman who was his caregiver after watching a video game with violent themes. East Feliciana Parish sheriff’s deputies did not provide a motive, but they said the boy was playing the video game “Grand Theft Auto IV” — a realistic game that’s been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people — just minutes before the fatal shooting.

The game is rated “M” for mature audiences and recommended for ages 17 and older. Authorities are calling the shooting a homicide. They said it happened shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday at the Country Breeze Mobile Home Park off La. Highway 67 east of Slaughter. Sgt. Kevin Garig told The Advocate that the identities of both the shooter and the victim are being withheld to protect the identity of the juvenile. Garig said the woman died after suffering at least one gunshot wound to the head. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

WAFB-TV reports the sheriff’s office said that although the child told investigators that he accidentally shot the woman while playing with a firearm, evidence has led investigators to believe the child intentionally shot her in the back of the head while she was watching television. Authorities said the woman was the child’s caregiver. Garig said the shooting involved relatives.
___________________
Gaming addition is becoming more prevalent. We need to help children learn balance. We have two excellent resources to help parents and educators:

Lost and Found
But its Just a Game

Honoring Rita F. Pierson – Inspirational Educator July 12, 2013

In brief, children around the county have had a better education because of the influence of this lady, Rita F. Pierson.

NCYI had the privilege of working with Rita and having her speak at many of our conferences. If you have ever heard Rita speak, you’ve never forgotten the experience. If you have never heard her before, it’s more than worth the click and time to hear her inspirational message for educators. Rita passed away in June.

Click here to hear one of her messages.

Click on this link to see a few of her quotes.

Students can’t resist distraction for two minutes … and neither can you! May 23, 2013

Link to article: http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/22288684/students-cant-resist-distraction-for-two-minutes-and-neither-can-you

NBC – Are gadgets making us dumber? Two new studies suggest they might be. One found that people who are interrupted by technology score 20 percent lower on a standard cognition test. A second demonstrated that some students, even when on their best behavior, can’t concentrate on homework for more than two minutes without distracting themselves by using social media or writing an email.

Interruptions are the scourge of modern life. Our days and nights are full of gadgets that ping, buzz and beep their way into our attention, taking us away from whatever we are doing.

We’ve known for a while that distractions hurt productivity at work. Depressing research by Gloria Mark at the University of California, Irvine, says that typical office workers only get 11 continuous minutes to work on a task before interruption. With smartphones reaching near ubiquity, the problem of tech-driven multitasking — juggling daily tasks with email, text messages, social media etc — is coming to a head.

Multitasking has been the subject of popular debate, but among neuroscientists, there is very little of that. Brain researchers say that what many people call multitasking should really be called “rapid toggling” between tasks, as the brain focuses quickly on one topic, then switches to another, and another. As all economics students know, switching is not free. It involves “switching costs” — in this case, the time it takes to re-immerse your mind in one topic or another.

Researchers say only the simplest of tasks are candidates for multitasking, and all but one of those tasks must involve automaticity. If you are good at folding laundry, you can probably fold laundry and watch TV at the same time, for example.

Overestimated abilities
Despite this concern among brain scientists, many people overestimate their ability to multitask, such as the college student who thinks he can text and listen to a lecture simultaneously. He cannot, says brain expert Annie Murphy Paul, who writes “The Brilliant Blog.”

“Multitasking while doing academic work — which is very, very common among young people — leads to spottier, shallower, less flexible learning,” Paul warned in a recent column.

The two studies mentioned above underscore this point.

In the first, Alessandro Acquisti and Eyal Peer at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Interaction lab recruited 136 college students to take a standard test of cognitive abilities, and invented a controlled method of distraction. Test-takers were interrupted via instant message, which they were told contained important additional instructions, during the exam.

(The research was conducted in concert with research for The Plateau Effect, a book I recently co-authored with Hugh Thompson.)

The interrupted group answered correctly 20 percent less often than members of a control group.

The Carnegie Mellon test might seem a bit contrived, however, because the control group was pretty unrealistic. It’s hard to find a group of college students who could take a test without being interrupted by gadgets.

Larry Rosen, a professor at California State University-Dominguez Hills, published a study in the May issue of Computers in Human Behavior that attempted to quantify how often students of all ages are distracted by technology while studying. Even under ideal circumstances, the results were dismal.

Rosen’s observers followed 263 students into their normal study environments — bedroom, library, den — and told them to work on an important school assignment for 15 minutes. Even knowing they were being watched, the students couldn’t resist texting or using social media. So-called “on-task” behavior started declining at about the two minute mark, and overall, only 65 percent of the time was used on schoolwork.

“We really assumed we set up a situation where people would try to impress us,” said Rosen, an expert in the psychology of technology. “Frankly, I was appalled at how quickly they became distracted.”

‘Problem built into the brain’
The two studies, published closely together, generated strong reaction, particularly from students.

“Yes, we text in class, but if my grade in that class is and A or a B I don’t see why it’s a problem,” wrote one student to Paul.

It’s a big problem for both students and adults, Paul counters, for plenty of reasons. Assignments inevitably take longer when learners split their time between tasks, she says. All that task-switching wears out the brain and makes learners more tired and less competent. Most important, several studies have shown that information learned while partially distracted is often quickly forgotten, so the learning is tragically shallow.

The key to transferring new information from the brain’s short-term to long-term memory is a process called “encoding.” Without deep concentration, encoding is unlikely to occur, explained Nicholas Carr in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.”

So Paul is among a group of researchers who worry that the digital divide is not about the gadget haves and have nots, but rather about those who can resist the constant distracting tug of technology and those who cannot. She compares it to the famous marshmallow test, which shows that children who can delay eating one marshmallow for 10 or 15 minutes on the promise of gaining a second one are the most likely to succeed later in life. In a new “marshmallow” test, educators or employers might test to see how long people can resist “a blinking inbox or a buzzing phone.”

“There are those people who think that multitasking is simply the way life is now and we should be focusing on getting better at it … that we are a bunch of old fogies who don’t understand,” Paul said. “But scientifically, there is no evidence for that. There are fundamental biological limits to what the brain can pay attention to. This is a problem built into the brain.”

Follow Bob Sullivan on Facebook or Twitter.

The Creativity Conundrum In Educational Leadership January 14, 2013

By Roslyn Tam
Provided by: EducationalLeadership.com

Many of the men and women who shaped the world over the course of history, from Mozart to Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs, have done so by thinking well outside the sphere of traditional education. Famously, each of these men had some issues with authority, and it’s hard to imagine any of them sitting placidly in a classroom and copying facts and figures from a chalkboard. In the end, their genius was not simply in their ability to understand complex systems, although that was certainly an important part of it. What set them apart was their creativity—that is, their ability to use previously held knowledge to produce something that no one had ever thought to make before; whether a symphony, a scientific theory or a personal computer.

The passing of Steve Jobs in 2011 rekindled an age-old discussion about the relationship of creativity and innovation to traditional notions of intelligence. (Jobs often credited the creative classes he audited after dropping out of college with influencing some of his later decisions at Apple.)  Not everything about this relationship is completely understood, but most people involved in education and public policy agree: creativity will be a crucial characteristic possessed by anyone hoping to succeed in the twenty-first-century economy. And yet, the education system in its current state is not set up to foster this sort of out-of-the-box thinking. One solution currently gaining momentum is the use of community-driven non-profit organizations known as local education funds (LEFs) and public education funds (PEFs), which are committed to improving access to quality education for all members of society. While not the complete answer, these reform-minded organizations might be the key to injecting creativity back into public schools.

Fostering Creative Intelligence in the American Classroom

It is ten years after the passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which was enacted in order to help American schools compete with their foreign counterparts, and their foreign counterparts are still outscoring them in just about every subject. This might be partially due to NCLB’s use of standardized testing to measure school performance. As many teachers will attest to, this emphasis on test scores leave schools little room to focus on anything besides “teaching to the test.” The United States has gone backwards, then, to a so-called “drill-and-kill” system of rote learning and memorization, while many of the rest of the world’s schools, especially those in Europe and Asia, have evolved to place emphasis on big picture concepts, problem solving, and encouraging innovation.

According to a 2010 study by The College of William & Mary education professor Kyung-Hee Kim, creativity has been on the decline among American students since 1990. Using the results of the Torrance Test measuring creative thinking, she analyzed decades’ worth of data and found that, while traditional IQ scores have actually gone up steadily each decade, creativity is on the decline. She also used the results to identify three types of students: those with high intelligence and high creativity, those with high intelligence and low creativity, and those with low intelligence and high creativity. What does this tell us? One theory is that creativity and intelligence, while related, are not exactly the same thing, and placing too much stress on more traditional standards of intelligence might result in stifling creativity in those who possess that quality. As Kim notes, “If we neglect creative students in school because of the structure and the testing movement—creative students cannot breathe, they are suffocated in school—then they become underachievers.” While there are several factors that might be resulting in this “creativity crisis,” Kim puts at least some of the blame for lower Torrance test scores on the culture of standardized testing encouraged by NCLB.

This decline in creativity does not bode well for the future of the country. According to John M. Eger, professor of communications and public policy and director of the Creative Economy Initiative at San Diego State University, creativity is essential to building an economy to compete with the rest of the world in coming decades. In a Huffington Post article from 2011, Eger points out that, while the word “creative” is often associated with the arts, the concept of creativity is just as important for the STEM subjects that have received so much attention from education leaders and government officials in recent years. In fact, a recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs around the world identified creativity as the top quality needed for future success in the global economy.

Is Public Investment the Solution?

As our schools struggle to keep up with the standards set forth by NCLB, they also grapple with staggeringbudget cuts, with fine art and music programs especially vulnerable to the axe. Recently, however, a number of organizations collectively known as public education support organizations, or ESOs, have been created within communities to supply capital for public schools through fundraising. Funds are then appropriated through grants to finance things like teacher training, afterschool programs, community-based projects, and school supplies. There are many types of ESOs, and they vary greatly in both scope and size. LEFs are specifically associated with the Public Education Network, while PEFs are a much broader group of education-related foundations. The Urban Institute reports that between 1997 and 2007, the number of ESOs doubled to more than 19,000, collectively spending $4.3 billion dollars on improving education.

The Decatur Public Schools Foundation (DPSF) out of Decatur, Illinois, is an organization that’s representative of the possibilities for PEFs to create opportunities rewarding creative thinking and innovation. Decatur Science Investigations, funded by the foundation, is a partnership with Millikin University that brings undergraduate science students into Decatur elementary schools to set up science stations and perform science demonstrations at school assemblies. The goal of the program is to encourage young students to use their imaginations and gain enthusiasm for science, and 100% of teachers polled in the district felt that the program increased critical thinking and problem solving skills. Another DPSF program is the musical instrument library, which provides band and orchestra instruments to low-income students who might not have otherwise been able to afford them. After the program started in 2009, participation in music programs increased by 15%.

Compared to some of the larger LEFs operating with multi-million dollar budgets, DPSF is a relatively small organization, but it’s easy to see how these small-scale efforts can really make a difference to students who benefit from them, and how they might be used to fill in the creativity gap that currently exists in public education. As to whether these organizations will continue to expand and become an important part of education funding in the future, there is no clear answer. What does seem clear is that creative thinking will be the only solution to the myriad complex problems facing coming generations. And, appropriately enough, one of those problems might just be how we’re going to fix education.

Helping Kids Cope With Disasters December 17, 2012

Helping Kids Cope with Disasters and Violence:
By Julia Cook
When disasters, both natural and man-made occur, parents are faced with the challenge of discussing tragic events with their children. Although these might be difficult conversations, they are important and necessary.  Always remember, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to talk to your child about traumatic events.  However, here are a few tips that you might find helpful:
Remain calm and reassuring – create an environment where children will feel comfortable asking questions.
Always answer a child’s questions truthfully with simple answers.  You don’t need to go into more detail than necessary, but lying to your children or making up facts will ultimately confuse them.  Eventually, when find out the truth about what happened, they may struggle with trusting you in the future.
You may be asked to repeat your answers several times.   Be consistent in your reply, and realize that your repetitive answers are reassuring your child’s “need to know” and building upon their sense of security.
Children often feel out of control when disasters occur.  Keeping with a familiar routine is very important when trying to reestablish the security of feeling in control.
If your child asks a question that you do not know the answer to, it’s ok to say “I don’t know.”
Acknowledge and normalize your child’s thoughts feelings and reactions.  Help children understand why they feel this way.
Encourage kids to talk about disaster related events on their terms.  Never force a child to ask a question or to talk about an incident until he/she is ready.
Reassure your child that many people out there are helping those who are hurting.  You may want to let your child make a card for someone who is suffering.  Giving to those in need of support allows a child to feel like he/she can make a difference in helping out with a terrible situation.
Keep your child away from watching news stations and listening to radio where the disaster is being discussed and replayed.  Sensationalizing the events that have occurred will only upset and confuse your child further.
Promote positive coping and problem solving skills.  Remember – You are your child’s coping instructor.  Your children are very interested to how your respond to local and national events.  They also may be listening to every word you say when you discuss these events with other adults.
Emphasize children’s resiliency. Fortunately, most children, even those who are exposed to trauma, are quite resilient.
Children who are preoccupied with questions and concerns about safety should be evaluated by a trained mental health professional.  If your child suffers from sleep disturbances, anxiety, recurring fears about death, or severe separation anxiety from parents, contact your school counselor and/or pediatrician.
Strengthen friendship and peer support and foster supportive relationships–There is strength in numbers!
Take care of your own needs.  In order to be there for others, you have to take care of yourself.
Advanced preparation and immediate response will help with healing and coping.   All schools have safety plans in place that are continually being evaluated and updated.  Explain to your child that this is a good thing.
Always Remember:  You are your child’s coping instructor!
Julia Cook is a national award winning children’s author, former counselor, and parenting expert.  She has presented in over 800 schools across the country, regularly delivers keynote addresses at national education and counseling conferences, and has 41 published children’s books. The goal behind all of Julia’s books and efforts is to actively involve young people into her fun and creative stories and teach them to become life-long problem solvers.  Inspirations for her books come from working with children and carefully listening to parents and teachers. For more information on this topic, check out “Grief is Like a Snowflake.” www.juliacookonline.com

By Julia Cook

When disasters, both natural and man-made occur, parents are faced with the challenge of discussing tragic events with their children. Although these might be difficult conversations, they are important and necessary.  Always remember, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to talk to your child about traumatic events.  However, here are a few tips that you might find helpful:

Remain calm and reassuring – create an environment where children will feel comfortable asking questions.

Always answer a child’s questions truthfully with simple answers.  You don’t need to go into more detail than necessary, but lying to your children or making up facts will ultimately confuse them.  Eventually, when find out the truth about what happened, they may struggle with trusting you in the future.

You may be asked to repeat your answers several times.   Be consistent in your reply, and realize that your repetitive answers are reassuring your child’s “need to know” and building upon their sense of security.

Children often feel out of control when disasters occur.  Keeping with a familiar routine is very important when trying to reestablish the security of feeling in control.

If your child asks a question that you do not know the answer to, it’s ok to say “I don’t know.”

Acknowledge and normalize your child’s thoughts feelings and reactions.  Help children understand why they feel this way.

Encourage kids to talk about disaster related events on their terms.  Never force a child to ask a question or to talk about an incident until he/she is ready.

Reassure your child that many people out there are helping those who are hurting.  You may want to let your child make a card for someone who is suffering.  Giving to those in need of support allows a child to feel like he/she can make a difference in helping out with a terrible situation.

Keep your child away from watching news stations and listening to radio where the disaster is being discussed and replayed.  Sensationalizing the events that have occurred will only upset and confuse your child further.

Promote positive coping and problem solving skills.  Remember – You are your child’s coping instructor.  Your children are very interested to how your respond to local and national events.  They also may be listening to every word you say when you discuss these events with other adults.

Emphasize children’s resiliency. Fortunately, most children, even those who are exposed to trauma, are quite resilient.

Children who are preoccupied with questions and concerns about safety should be evaluated by a trained mental health professional.  If your child suffers from sleep disturbances, anxiety, recurring fears about death, or severe separation anxiety from parents, contact your school counselor and/or pediatrician.

Strengthen friendship and peer support and foster supportive relationships–There is strength in numbers!

Take care of your own needs.  In order to be there for others, you have to take care of yourself.

Advanced preparation and immediate response will help with healing and coping.   All schools have safety plans in place that are continually being evaluated and updated.  Explain to your child that this is a good thing.

Always Remember:  You are your child’s coping instructor!

Julia Cook is a national award winning children’s author, former counselor, and parenting expert.  She has presented in over 800 schools across the country, regularly delivers keynote addresses at national education and counseling conferences, and has 41 published children’s books. The goal behind all of Julia’s books and efforts is to actively involve young people into her fun and creative stories and teach them to become life-long problem solvers.  Inspirations for her books come from working with children and carefully listening to parents and teachers. For more information on this topic, check out “Grief is Like a Snowflake.” www.juliacookonline.com

Eh, what did you say? – Tips to protect your child’s hearing October 5, 2012

Tips on How to Protect Your Child’s Hearing – by John O’Connor

Keep the volume for headphones at the mid to low range. This will ensure the volume is not too loud. A good judge as to whether or not it is at an appropriate range: if your child can hear what is going on around them, the volume is at an acceptable level. If they cannot hear the sounds around them, the volume is too loud. This is a positive lifelong habit that will protect hearing for those children who use headphones frequently.

Keep the car or truck windows closed when driving long distances on highways. The combination of wind, speed and sound can affect hearing over a period of time. This is an environmental cause of hearing loss that is controllable immediately.

When you or your family are in a loud, noisy environment, the use of earplugs will prevent hearing damage that may occur over time. Working at a construction site or in a loud establishment or using electronic tools daily are some examples of when a person may benefit from earplugs. This is another action a person can take to protect his or her hearing daily.

Be sure to treat all ear infections immediately. The best course of action is to see a doctor and let the doctor determine if antibiotics are needed. Long term damage to the inner ear from ear infections is preventable if infections are treated promptly.

Remove wax build up periodically so that the wax accumulated can be removed before causing hearing loss. Some home remedies include mineral oil, baby oil or wax removal kits that can be purchased at a local pharmacy. Often, earwax build up goes undetected. If it is suspected, have a doctor check the ears.

When using a cotton swab to clean the ears, avoid inserting the swab into the ear canal. Though, it may seem harmless, an injury from an object to the inner ear may impact a child’s hearing. A general rule to follow is to keep the swab only on the outside of the ear, or, use a wash cloth which will prevent any accidental insertion of the cotton swab into the ear canal.

Helping Kids Fit In to a New School August 24, 2012

Helping Kids Fit In to a New School and Make Friends – Parenting tips to help kids fit into a new classroom, school, neighborhood or social scene
by Michele Borba

Adjusting to any new social scene isn’t always easy. But having all new classmates, transitioning to a new school or most of all moving to a whole new community can be tough. And oh how kids can pour on the guilt to remind us they’re not happy campers:

“You’re ruining my life!”
“Why are you sending me to that dumb new school?”
“Why can’t we move back to our old neighborhood?”
“Do you have any idea how unhappy you made me?”

Let’s face it, as much as we’d love to, we can’t instantly wipe away their pain because their best friends are left behind or they can’t fit in quickly with the new crowd. But we can ease their discomfort by making the transition a bit smoother. We can help them find ways to make new friends. And we even can teach them new friendship making skills that actually may be ones they can use in other social arenas.

So think positively, and stay focused on what you can do to boost your child’s friendship quotient and get your kid through this tough time. The best news: Friendship is made of a host of skills and all are teachable.

11 Tips To Help Kids Make New Pals and Fit Into A New Social Scene

Here are tips to help your child make new friends and feel more comfortable fitting into that social scene from The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. I also shared these tips on ways to help ease those back-to school jitters and help kids transition to a new school on NBC TODAY’s Show.

1. Acknowledge Feelings

If your child doesn’t share her feelings, you can help her recognize how she feels: “You must be feeling lonely and miss your old group.” “I can see you’re worried.” “It’s tough to join a new team when you don’t know any of the kids.” Let her know such feelings are normal. Let him know it may take time to meet new kids and make new friends. Point out that many kids have been friends with one another for quite a while and may not be too receptive to a new person joining in.

2. Keep Communication Open

Even if your kid won’t talk to you—keep talking. “Is there anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable?” “Do the kids wear or have anything different from the kids back home? Do you need anything?” “Would you like me to talk to your teacher?”

3. Get Acquainted With Parents

Be a room parent, offer to carpool, sign up to coach, be the team mom, meet other camper parents, and attend PTA meetings and other school functions. Getting to know parents of your child’s potential friends is often a great way to invite the families over, giving your child the opportunity to have a new playmate. Also, introduce yourself to the neighbors: sometimes our kid’s best friends can be literally next-door. Find out who amongst your work colleagues has children: it’s a way to learn not only about available kid activities, but also to arrange play dates for younger children or find a babysitter! My girlfriend introduced her children to neighborhood kids by having a pot luck and inviting the adults (with their kids) to her home. Another friend rented a huge trampoline and attracted kids galore. Be creative.

4. Take Your Child on A Tour of the New Surroundings

Take your child to visit his new school and neighborhood. Schedule times to meet the principals and his teachers if possible. Get a school handbook. Take a virtual tour of the new school so your child can get an idea of what it’s really like. If possible watch a team practice, talk to the coach or to former members to find out what it’s like to be on this team. Drive by the school to see when kids are most likely to be there then stop in. Many use the school play yards in off hours to ride bikes or skateboard.

5. Find Outlets That Attract Peers

Look for opportunities for your child to meet kids anywhere or elsewhere—for example, scouting, park and recreation programs, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, 4-H, Teen Clubs, church groups, sports teams, library programs, after-school programs, or other youth groups. Pediatricians’ offices and libraries often are a good place for picking up schedules of upcoming kid events. Your goal is to help your kids find ways to meet new kids. Making the friends is her job—helping her find a potential buddy is your role.

6. Seek Activities That Match Your Child’s Interests

If your child enjoys tennis, make sure she’s on the courts. If he likes music, sign him up for classes. If he loves to swim, enroll him in the YMCA. If there’s a particular sport or hobby that seems to be hot in town with the kids your child’s age: soccer, skateboarding, roller blading, dirt biking, jazz, band, chess. The trick is to match the activity with your child’s strengths and interests. Then provide lessons and help him practice so his confidence grows and hopefully he can use the new skill to meet new kids. Meeting kids with the same interests raises the chances of going from acquaintance to friend. That’s because kids who share the same interests are more likely to want to be together.

7. Help Your Kid Blend In

Clothes, hair-cuts, shoes styles, and accessories really do matter in helping kids gain peer approval and each community has their own unique culture. One way to find out “what’s in” is to ask parents for the name of a popular kid clothing store. Then go there and talk to the salesperson appearing the most “with it.” Ask: “What are the kids (your child’s age) buying this year?” You don’t have to break the bank (that’s not the intention). But is there one thing you can buy your kid so he blends into the social scene and feels more comfortable?

8. Provide An Index Card

Provide your child with a small book (or at least a note card) to keep in his pocket or backpack. If he does meet someone new, suggest that he write the kid’s name, phone number, or e-mail address on the card. Or teach him how to add contacts into his cell phone. The art of learning kids’ names is key to friendship making. Writing down those phone numbers helps that friendship form.

9. Teach Friendship-Making Skills

Does your child need a tune-up in friendship making? If so, choose a few skills that would help your child make new friends. Top friendship-making skills are: Making introductions, Starting conversations, Explaining who you are and what you like, Listening, Inviting someone over, and Saying goodbye. Learning new skills takes practice so role-play one new skill at a time as often as it takes for your child to be comfortable using it on his own.

For instance, you might begin by you introducing yourself to your child so he can see what it looks like. Then in the next few days try to find opportunities for your child to see you using the skill in the real world. Deliberately introduce yourself to as many new people as you can (in the grocery line, at school, at the park).

Get other family members involved and turn it into a game.

Research shows that kids learn new skills best by first watching, then trying. So give him plenty of opportunities to see this skill in action, and then encourage him to try it himself. Hint: How to Start A Conversation and Make Friends, by Don Garbor is a great book for an older kid. My book, Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, lists the top 25 friendship skills and how to teach them.

10. Connect with the Teacher

The statistic you should be aware of is this: Twenty-three percent of children who moved frequently repeated a grade compared with 12 percent of children who never or infrequently moved.

The lesson here is this: once school starts stay in close contact with your child’s teacher—even if he tells you “Everything’s fine, Mom.” Ask how he’s transitioning. Is he fitting in and making new friends? Is he keeping up with the content? If not, develop a plan to help him succeed and keep monitoring progress.

11. Check Into Your Child’s Emotional Health

Most kids will have pangs when it comes to changing schools or neighborhoods. But is your child experiencing more than typical “changing pangs?”

Is he making new friends? One way to find out of your child is making buddies is to ask him or her to draw a map of the cafeteria or playground — depending upon age and the school environment. Then ask him to show you where he sits or plays … and then where the other kids sit or play as well.

Does your friend have a buddy? Any pal? One child sitting with him? Kids don’t need a lot of friends but they do need one or two loyal buddies to hang around. If you don’t see a change, talk to the teacher or contact the school counselor. There are friendship groups often available that help kids learn social skills.

Also, are you seeing behavior such as: loss of appetite, problems sleeping, nightmares, outbursts of anger, tears, reluctance to leave the house or you, or difficult concentrating? Are those behaviors increasing, lasting too long or are affecting other areas of your child’s life? If so, please do seek outside help.

All the best!
Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

Top 10 Reasons to Build Student’s Moral IQ August 16, 2012

by Michele Borba, Ed.D.

Author of Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing

Moral Intelligence is what helps youth act right with or without our guidance, and the best news is that this critical intelligence can be taught. Here are 10 reasons why we must build our students’ Moral IQ.

1. Nurtures Good Character. The foundation to good character–or “moral intelligence”–consists of seven core virtues: empathy, conscience, self-control, respect, kindness, tolerance, and fairness. These ultimately form our children’s character and are the principles they’ll use to direct the course of their lives long after we are gone. Building Moral IQ is our best hope that kids will have the foundation to good, solid character.

2. Teaches How Think and Act Right. In these troubling times, parents need to know ways to help their kids learn to not only think morally but also act morally. After all, the true measure of character rests in our actions–not in mere thoughts. Moral Intelligence teaches the specific moral habits that will get our kids on the right course so that they do act as well as think right.

3. Moral IQ Is Not Guaranteed. Moral IQ is learned, though developing it is far from guaranteed. To ensure kids acquire it, we must intentionally model, nurture, reinforce, and teach it. If we don’t the result is tragic: an increase in insensitivity, dishonesty, aggression, incivility, cruelty, hatred, and injustice. We must be deliberate.

4. Protects Against Toxicity. The truth is toxic influences are so entrenched in our culture that shielding kids from them is almost impossible. That’s why it’s crucial to build Moral IQ. It will serve as their moral compass so they have deep-seated convictions to stand by their choices and counter any pressures from inside or outside that go against the principles of good character.

5. Teaches Critical Life Skills. Moral IQ is comprised of the skills needed to protect kids’ moral lives such as resolving conflicts, empathizing, knowing right from wrong, asserting themselves, controlling anger, learning tolerance, negotiating fairly, communicating respectfully, cooperating, using self control, sharing, and knowing right from wrong. These skills are needed in all life arenas, and especially in today’s troubled world.

6. Creates Good Citizens. It’s important to remember that the most important measure of a nation is not its gross national product, its technological genius, or its military might. It is the character of its people. Moral intelligence consists of seven timeless virtues that are the bedrock of good citizenship and responsible living.

7. Counters Temptations. Moral Intelligence gives kids the power to counter outside and inside vices so that they do what’s right. It’s what helps them navigate through the ethical challenges and pressures they will inevitably face throughout life and choose the right moral choices so they do act right with or without adult guidance.

8. Prevents Violence and Cruelty. Of the 26 wealthiest countries, our youth are the most violent. And peer cruelty is rising. Yet we continue to erect metal detectors and hire guards to “protect” students from themselves. The best protection is fortifying them with Moral IQ and to teach three core virtues that lay the foundation for nonviolence: empathy, conscience, and self-control. Without them, kids become time bombs just waiting for explode. We can’t afford not to build their Moral Intelligence: it’s our best hope.

9. Inspires Good Behavior. Moral IQ is comprised of the essential moral virtues needed to help our kids become decent, caring, and respectful. These seven virtues become a template for creating our kids’ character, guiding their actions, and ultimately defining their reputations as caring, good human beings.

10. Shapes Moral Destinies. Moral growth is an ongoing process that will span the course of our children’s lifetimes. But the habits and beliefs of Moral Intelligence we instill in our kids now will become their ethical foundation they’ll use forever. It is what will greatly decide our children’s moral destinies and will be our greatest legacy.

Here are some of Michele’s books!
No More Misbehavin’
Don’t Give Me That Attitude!
Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me

Dr. Michele Borba is an internationally-recognized educational psychologist who has presented workshops to well over a million parents and teachers. She is an honorary board member for Parents and frequent guest on TV and NPR talk shows including Today, The Early Show, The View and Fox & Friends. Author of 20 books, this article is adapted from Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing, selected by Publishers’ Weekly list of “among the most noteworthy of 2001.” Her latest book is 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know: Getting Back to Basics and Raising Happy Kids. To find out more about her work check out: http://www.moralintelligence.com.

© 2006 by Michele Borba www.moralintelligence.com. Permission to reprint if left intact.

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