KATU Channel 2 News came to campus to film a story on Blessing Makwera, a young man from Zimbabwe who is volunteering in our Middle School. Blessing was severely injured five years ago, when a land mine exploded near his mouth, and he has been in the U.S. for reconstructive surgery. MS counselor Kristin Ogard and her daughter Hayden have been involved in helping Blessing since 2009, when Kristin visited Zimbabwe with the nonprofit Operation of Hope and met Blessing, and Hayden's class (now juniors) raised money for one of Blessing's operations. Blessing is volunteering at Catlin Gabel as a way of acknowledging the kindness he has received from our community
Personal Resiliency Builders
Environmental Protective Factors
From the Winter 2011-12 Caller
What is resiliency?
Is resiliency an innate trait?
What we can do as a community to help children recover from hardships?
Kristin, how do you teach Middle Schoolers about resiliency?
Kate, do we have that kind of training in Upper School?
Is resiliency connected with bullying and victimhood?
Do you see kids building confidence when they learn how to cope?
Can resiliency be confused with just letting kids fail?
What do we do well as a school to build resiliency in our students?
So if they feel successful, it becomes easier to carry on.
Does the focus on resiliency tie into overprotectiveness?
Dr. Kathy Masarie spoke at a Catlin Gabel parent community meeting in November 2011 about the courage it takes to foster resiliency in children, and how parents can model autheticity, honesty, and self-care. Click on the audio file below to hear her presentation (1 hour, 21 minutes).
Our teens consider much of what goes on in the social lives private, not for parent consumption. Our youth are typically not voluntarily sharing with us the details of daily life, whether it is what happened in class at school, what happened on the soccer field, or what is going on socially with friendships. Adolescents especially do not let parents "in" on what is happening in the arena of teen sexuality or their personal crushes. While this is natural and necessary part of the individuation process, it often leaves parents wondering and feeling out of touch. Despite this neccessary progression toward independence, parents still need to make concerted efforts to stay connected.The goal of this article is to help parents remain proactive with their teens and to provide reliable information.
How Technology has Changed and Continues to Impact Teens
Technology is launching peer to peer communication in new directions, which has created a new culture of teen sexuality. Students across the nation, and in our own community, have engaged in a variety of behaviors from sending naked photos and videos to their peers via cell phone, email, and Skype. "It is a 21st century version of 'you show me yours, I'll show you mine,'" according to a 2009 Reason article by Nancy Rommelmann. While the visual sharing of sexual imagery among teens is disturbing for parents, equally upsetting are the graphic written sexual messages. Texting sexualized messages from one teen to another is relatively common. In a December 2008 publication by Information Week (posted Dec. 11, 2008), a study of 1,280 teens and young adults revealed that one in five girls had sent nude or partially nude photos of themselves via cell phone or email. Of this group 11% were 16 or younger. According to the survey, one-third of all photos sent end up being forwarded and shared with other parties. Two-thirds of girls who sent nude photos said they did it to be fun and flirtatious. Another 40% said they did it as a joke. Most of the sexual content was shared with friends and acquaintances. Only 15% of photography was sent to a stranger.
Why Teens Need to be Well Informed
This article is not intended to alarm readers, but to help parents and educators understand possible outcomes related to impulsive teen behavior. The legal implications are far-reaching regarding sexualized content and electronic sharing of such images. Federal and state laws regulate the production, distribution, and possession of sexual images of underage subjects. These laws have been in place for decades to protect our youth from abuse and pornography. Because technology is advancing quickly, the legal system is trying to play catch-up. We have a young tech-savvy society, and in some instances youth unwittingly find themselves in the midst of legal dealings. Youth need to be aware of this. We certainly inform youth about the dangers of underage drinking, and they also need to be aware of online and cell phone communication hazards.
Teens and Impulsivity
The gap between teens and adults in our culture is widening, especially with the technology available to our youth. Adolescents are eager for independence from adults and acceptance from their peers. When this is combined with developing hormones, and a brain that is not fully matured, impulsivity can lead to poor decision making. Teens cannot accurately anticipate the ramifications of their activity due to cognitive immaturity and lack of experience. In the world of point and click technology, impulsive acts can occur readily. Many adolescents do not grasp the concept that digital technology is permanent. Once a photo or written message has been sent and uploaded it can be shared with other cell phone users and email recipients. "Once content is out there, it is out there forever," according to the Institute for Resonsible Online and Cell Phone Communications. For this reason parents need to take an active role. The safety issues are critical, from date rape, to STDs, to pregnancy and emotional harm.
What Parents Can Do to Make a Difference
Parents gaining new information and educating themselves on such critical matters feel a natural sense of uneasiness and discomfort. But knowledge puts parents in a position of strength and caring, which our adolescents truly want from us. Becoming informed shows that we want our children to be safe, happy, and healthy. It is important to seek ways to support, guide, and protect our children.
For the majority of parents, their sons or daughters have not engaged in such activities, but their teen surely knows a peer who has. The most important role of parents is to become actively supportive and involved in their teenage daughter or son's life. Parents may find it difficult to begin a conversation, yet it is important to do so. This requires parents to think carefully how they can act as guides and when to initiate a point of entry for conversation. Finding a "natural" moment to discuss such topics is more seamless. It makes more sense to teens when the conversations mirror what is going on in the moment. Great launching moments are when you have just seen a newspaper article or TV news story relating to sex, rape, or pornography. Magazines are full of this content as well. Movies and TV shows provide a bounty of such material. Modern music and today's movies depict sexual behavior as a norm. Talk to your kids when the time is right about sexual pressures, friendships, and the difference between sex and love.
Please do not secretly snoop to find out what is going on. This is a significant breach of trust and will deteriorate opportunities for collaborating. Trying to shield teens from using technology is not realistic either. This is why collaborating with your teen and having a trusting relationship is so vital. Converse with them about what they have on Facebook, MySpace, and their cell phones and email. Let them know that you will listen to them and not pass judgment. One of the biggest fears kids face is that you will judge them harshly. Help your teens decide what is right for them. Many teens who become sexually active too early regret it. It helps for adolescents to know this fact.
Being present and involved in your teen's life is important. Even though our lives are very busy, take the time to be aware of what is happening and talk to your son or daughter.
During the middle school years, the age range of 11 to 14 years old, youth rapidly change physically, cognitively and emotionally. Because of the physical maturation process, adolescents need a lot of sleep. Middle school students need to get at least 10 hours of sleep each night. This is important as well as proper nutrition to support focus and mental energy while in school. Students who eat and sleep well do better in school than their peers who do not get adequate rest and nutrition.
Emotionally, middle schoolers are complex because they are beginning to separate and individuate from their parents and the family unit. This is a very healthy and normal process. It is important that adolescents go through this process to eventually become healthy adults. Parents can support this process by keeping lines of communication open, yet provide opportunities for their adolescent to make make some of their own decisions and choices. Where safety is concerned, however, parents need to remain responsible for the emotional and physical health of their child. Patience and understanding go all long way on the part of parents when adolescents exhibit mood swings and test limits. Just remembering this is a normal part of development also helps to embrace these challenging years.
Middle schoolers also undergo rapid brain devcelopment. Higher cognitive processes including abstract thinking and reasoning take place. Each individual undergoes this development on his or her unique timeline. Because of this we tend to see all levels of development along the continuum during the middle school years. It is absolutely vital that teens protect their developing brains and abstain from drug and alcohol use. Teenage brains are highly suseptible to addiction and substance abuse.