Anxiety: Plugged In Or Out? How Can We Help Mitigate The Effects Of Social Media On Our Kids?

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guest post by: S. Helen MacKinnon

The impact that social media has on kids is undeniable. A recent article in the New York Times highlights some of the more concerning issues.

I don’t think we need  much convincing that social media has had an impact on all our lives and it is not going away anytime soon. I am a neophyte when it comes to social media, but in my work with children and their families over the past 30 years has allowed me a first hand insight into the world of children and their families.

What can we do as parents, counsellors and educators to mitigate the impact that social media is having on our young people? As in any situation where we are trying to teach children, we ourselves need to be the role model. We need to examine the message we send our kids when we are engaged in use of our own devices. What parameters do we have for ourselves when it comes to use of devices?  Do we actually have discussions with our kids about amount of usage, times and places that are no go zones for adults and kids? Do we understand the  safety issues and if not do we educate ourselves about these issues and discuss them with our children?  Yes, with any privilege comes responsibility, both for us as the adult and for our children whom we must guide to be ethical digital citizens. Don’t let their media skills fool you! Although they appear to be very savvy in the area of technology, they do not have the life experience or a fully developed brain that allows them to project the outcome of what they may see as just having a little fun or wanting to fit in. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teen Mental Health Programs: What Works — and Why — in Schools?

Stan Kutcher is one of the leading experts when it comes to mental health. “Stress can be good and bad, Kutcher reminded us, and we need to be able to distinguish among the three types of stress responses identified by the Harvard Center for the Developing Child”:
1) positive (daily)
2) tolerable (regularly)
3) toxic (extremely rare)
“Instead of pathologizing “stress” as “anxiety,” what children and youth need most is “inoculation” to help build a more robust stress immune system.”
How do we inoculate stress ? It starts in early childhood and continues throughout adulthood. You may wish to check out one of my previous blog posts on coping skills.

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Seeing some 400 teachers and school service providers flooding into the Halifax West High School auditorium on July 20, 2017 was an eye-opening experience. In the middle of the summer, they committed time to a two-day conference focusing on child and teen mental health. Led by Dr. Stan Kutcher, the Mental Health Academy was filling a real need in the school system.

With the news full of stories warning of a “mental health crisis,” teachers in the K-12 system are feeling anxious and more conscious than ever of their role in the front lines of education.  What Dr. Kutcher’s Academy offered was something of a tranquilizer because he not only rejects the “crisis” narrative, but urges classroom practitioners to develop “mental health literacy” so they can “talk smart” with students and their parents.

The fifth edition of the Mental Health Academy, initiated in 2006 by Dr. Kutcher, studiously avoided…

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If We Know How to Do It … So Will They

With the new emphasis on digital leadership , I strongly believe we as parents and educators need to learn how to develop our own digital identity. How can we truly help guide students to learn concepts of digital citizenship , becoming a digital agent, a digital interactor, etc?

How can we help young people learn how to create change in their community or how to make the world a better place online if we don’t fully understand how to do so ourselves?

Joanna Sanders asks  great questions: What does this new emphasis on digital leadership look like in the classroom? How will this benefit our students?

Learning how to be digital leaders starts the day children are born and is a never-ending lesson. How do we celebrate all the good that our youth do while teaching them about privacy, collaboration and how to vet online sources? How do we become the models they need?

Let it begin with me I say … and yes it is never too late. I started learning how to become a good digital citizen almost five years ago after joining #etmooc. I am still learning today and take every opportunity I can to learn. I have made many mistakes along the way just as I did in my own parenting, teaching and counselling , but I really try to learn from those mistakes and model for others what I am learning daily.

I think we need to give educators the time during their days to learn along with their students. Being proactive means we need to learn alongside the students trying to master these skills we want them to have. They can teach us and we can teach them. If we want to drive change through technology we need to face the fear ourselves and take positive risks online. You may wish to join communities like #immooc, where you will find educators learning every day.

Digital citizenship is essential to what educators do. Join me as I learn along the way. You may find a few tips here .

Digital Citizenship Lessons are vital. Empowering proactive digital learners is a process. If we know how to do it , they will too . What do you think?

 

 

Anxiety: Threat or Gift?

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A guest post by : S.Helen MacKinnon

Often I am asked the question, ” Why do so many kids today suffer from anxiety ?” There is no easy answer to this question but there are many more questions that we need to ask. In particular, “What is it that appears to be causing such an increase in child and adolescent anxiety? Is it related to social media?  Are we over pathologizing what may be normal reactions to stressful situations in our environment. According to Dr Stan Kutcher, a leading psychiatrist from Dalhousie University, “anxiety is a gift we have inherited from our ancestors to protect us from threat and to kick-start ambition; to fight it we have to face it.” In order to “face it” we need to  first of all understand what is happening and then respond to it in a manner which will allow us to maximize the outcome.

In other words we can use the anxiety or stress, to benefit us in our day-to-day functioning.  If we see it as a gift, we respond from a totally different  repertoire or mindset than if we see it as a threat. A gift is something positive, something we welcome, something that may make things easier for us, or at times may challenge us and help us grow. How can we work with our kids to help them understand and see anxiety as a gift? What are some strategies that will help them develop a different mindset?  Additionally, what part does social media play and are we, as parents, educators, and counsellors, contributing to the mindset of threat or gift? In my next guest post I will explore these very questions and discuss ways to unpack the gift of anxiety.

 

 

Optimism

As a Counsellor or Psychologist you are surrounded by people who are not always optimistic. Is it important that you remain optimistic? I absolutely think it is essential.

How did I get to be an optimist? For me I believe there is a genetic component to why I am the way I am. I also believe it is because I have chosen to cope in the best possible way to the many negative things that have happened in my life. It is unrealistic for me to expect that I will feel optimistic in every situation, but in every situation I attempt to look for the good and what I can learn. Does this mean I look through rose coloured glasses? No, I fully recognize that there are some situations I have not handled well or times I have felt very sad or hurt or unloved, but I have worked very hard in my life not to stay in negativity. I feel my feelings , reach out for support and move towards a more optimistic outlook.

I surround myself as much as possible with people who lift me up , not tear me down. I hope you too will find the good in each possible moment you can , not just for you, but for the people you serve or love.

Hope doesn’t mean denying reality , but looking it in the eyes and remembering the heroes and events that challenged injustice in the past.

Rebecca Solnit

A NEW TEACHER COUNSELLOR GUIDE FOR HAIKU DECK

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There are so many ways to use Haiku Deck and any teacher and counsellor can do so with students. I strongly recommend you check out the new teacher guide for step by step information that is extremely helpful. SCCHAT this is a great resource for you.

Supervising School Counsellors

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I have been very fortunate to work with and supervise many great School Counsellors. I learn from them and they learn from me. Giving back matters and I believe seasoned School Counsellors should supervise our future School Counsellors. It helps us stay on top of our profession and allows us to be in a constant state of learning.

According to Bradley and Gould (2001) all supervision models should incororate a collaborative relationship which focuses on the indiviuality of the supervisee and one that facilitates growth and autonomy.

 

Some things to reflect on if you are ever in the position of supervising a student counsellor :

  • Have they developed a conceptual map with each client?
  • Which theoretical models are they adding to their toolbox?
  • What actions should they take in varing situations?
  • Are they developing the instincts and comfort level required of a beginning counsellor?
  • Are they aware of professional informed consent and record management for School Counsellors? 
  • Are they developing a leadership role within the school?
  • Are they being culturally sensitive?
  • How are they collaborating with staff? How are they optimizing their role?
  • Do they understand how a comprehensive counselling program plan is executed?
  • Have you discussed limits to their scope of practice?
  • Have you let them know they will make mistakes, misjudge situations, and lose track of sessions , but time and experience will take care of all of this.
  • Have you let them know lifelong reflection is essential?
  • Have you discussed dual roles, boundary issues and confidentiality?
  • Have you discussed ethical issues as they arise?
  • Have you modelled on a regular basis your counselling skills?
  • Have you updated read about updated models of supervision?
  • Are you in a constant state of professional development?
  • If you are a psychologist are you constantly aware of your own code of ethics?
  • Do you model and practice self- care strategies yourself?

The above are but a few thoughts to get you started. For more information on supervision and supervisory practices click here. The ATA Council of School Counsellors also offers excellent resources for a new School Counsellor.