Self-Care: So Who Takes Care of You?

Written by: Mark W. Wolf, Training Director at National Safe Place Network

This is my first attempt at a blog so bear with me.  I volunteered to do this one because the most significant thing I have learned in my nearly 40 year career in the youth work field is the importance of taking care of yourself.

It has always struck me how so many youth care workers, who are superstars at caring for others, fail so miserably at taking care of themselves. The other thing I know to be true is how those most effective in this field care down to their core. That kind of care takes a toll on you emotionally and physically, and often leads to burnout.  If you want to continue to work in the field and be effective you absolutely must make a plan to take care of yourself. Many of us learn to take care of ourselves the hard way and many drop out of the field, unfortunately, because they do not learn in time. Fortunately, self-care can be learned.  With guidance, support, and good role models I learned some things along the way about work and self-care that helped me in my career and life.

Before you can make a self-care plan, there are some things you need to figure out about your work.  You have to examine why you are doing the work you are doing, and who are you doing this work for. It’s ok that we all meet some of our needs through our work, but our work cannot be the sole provider, or even the primary provider.  Remember that in our work we are there to meet other’s needs, not our own.  We need to meet our own needs in our own way, on our own time. Most importantly, we must be realistic in our expectations of how much we can do at one time, it is indeed a marathon. Understand that at best, we are support agents that facilitate change and growth that must be self directed. In the end, hopefully we know and believe we are worthy and deserve to be cared about by ourselves and others.

Once you figure all this out, and it can be complicated and take some significant time and effort unraveling who we are and what we need, you are ready to make a self-care plan.  First, understand that self-care is a bit of a misnomer. Much of self-care is making sure you have people around you that care about you and for you. The self-care part is allowing these others in.  As for a self-care plan, make a list of things you do for yourself that energize and inspire you, make a schedule, and keep it. Develop a support system outside of your work that includes a variety of people and activities. Give yourself permission to make time to play, have fun, and be totally selfish with your time and what you choose to do with it.

I was fortunate to have lots of support, guidance and great role models along the way to help me figure out how to create and maintain balance in my life.  Go out and find the support and guidance and care you need along the way.  You already know this but it is worth saying again – if you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to help take care of others.

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Take a Breather

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

Sometimes when one hears the word “relax,” it’s followed up with “Relax? Who has time for that?” “If only.” “It must be nice.” “I can’t turn my mind off long enough to relax.” “If I relax, who’s going to do the work, take care of the kids, and so on . . . ?” But did you know relaxing is actually important for your health? Here are “10 Health Benefits of Relaxation” shared by The Huffington Post:

  1. Relaxing protects your heart.
  2. Relaxing lowers your risk of catching a cold.
  3. Relaxing boosts your memory.
  4. Relaxing lowers your risk of stroke.
  5. Relaxing keeps you safe from depression.
  6. Relaxing helps you make better decisions.
  7. Relaxing keeps you slim.
  8. Relaxing eases acne.
  9. Relaxing will keep you in the mood.
  10. Relaxing could slow breast cancer.

Lucky for you (if you’re one who’s guilty of having the thoughts mentioned above), we found “40 Ways to Relax in 5 Minutes or Less.” Some of these suggestions include the following:

  • Nosh on chocolate.
  • Lay your head on a cushion or pillow.
  • Remember to breathe.
  • Rub your feet over a golf ball.
  • Drip cold water on your wrists.
  • Look out the window/find the sun.
  • Stretch.
  • Listen to your favorite song.
  • Sniff citrus.
  • Talk to a friend.
  • and 30 MORE!

We asked your NSPN family this question: “What do you do to relax?” Here’s how they take a breather:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “I read cookbooks, novels, etc., and I spend time ‘unplugged.’”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “Read, write, and photography.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “To relax, I like to lose myself in a well-written book, movie, or TV show.”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “To relax, I lay on the floor with my dogs, have a beer and a shot of 1800, I listen to music, and people watch.”
  • Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: “Read or spend time with grandkids.”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “I like socializing after work with friends and family. I find long talks with friends as good for relaxation as any exercise.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “Go to the movies or have a well-made cocktail.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I guess I relax by watching TV.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “Working out is really stress relieving for me. I read voraciously. I love naps with my puppy!”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “Read a book, watch a movie or TV show, or drink a delicious glass of Malbec wine.”
  • Autumn Sandlin, Marketing & Communications Intern: “I’m a big fan of naps! Although, I generally take those out of necessity and not for strict relaxation. When I’m actively trying to relax, I usually put on a tv show that I like and do some sort of face mask.”
  • Sabrina Smith, Development Intern: “When I get too stressed, I like to go outside and hang out with our chickens! They’re always so happy to see me – it’s impossible to be stressed when you’re surrounded by chickens.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I feel most relaxed when I’m snuggling with my pugs. Some people get annoyed when their dogs snore, but I find it quite calming. I think it’s because hearing them snore lets me know they are ok.”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “I like to read or do crossword puzzles.”

Learn more about your NSPN family at https://nspn.memberclicks.net/our-team.

What do you do to relax? National Relaxation Day is August 15; feel free to share your “goto” relaxation ritual below.  

 

School Supply Donation Drives

Written by Autumn Sandlin, NSPN Marketing & Communications Intern

The end of the summer season is quickly approaching. School will be back in session soon enough, and with that comes supplies. School supplies can be an underlying source of anxiety for youth and their families. While supplies are essential to a student’s education, they can be expensive and cause a strain on families and their budgets. You can help the youth in your programs ease this burden by holding back—to–school donation drives. Not only will these drives help support youth you serve, but they’re also a great way for the community to become involved with your program(s).

Suggested Items for Donation:

  • Loose leaf paper (college & wide-ruled)
  • Spiral notebooks (college & wide-ruled)
  • Binders
  • Number 2 pencils
  • Black & blue ink pens
  • Pocket folders with prongs
  • Highlighters
  • Crayons/colored pencils/markers
  • Construction paper
  • Composition books
  • Index cards
  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Glue/Glue sticks

Note: These items can change depending on the age of the youth you serve. This is merely a suggested list

There are different routes you can take with a donation drive; and it will be up to you to assess your program’s needs and determine a best fit. You may want to consider placing donation bins at various locations around your area in order to maximize community involvement on an individual, and business level. There’s also the back-pack option, where volunteers would fill back-packs with the items donated to your program. Some agencies may choose to collect donations by placing bins at local businesses and others may plan a community giving day.

When you have decided on the type of donation drive you’d like to do, get the word out! You can hand out fliers/post them around your community, get the local newspaper to do an article on the donation drive, and/or talk to your local radio station. It’s important to get the word out about your drive, and seeking out platforms that have a larger audience is one of the ways to do it.

You should also set goals for your donation drive. These goals can vary. Whether you’d like to see a certain number of volunteers/businesses get involved, or have a number of donated items you’d like to receive, goals will help you maintain organization and give you a ‘bottom line’ to strive for. Try one of these goal charts to track your status and encourage excitement in your office: (click to download)

backpack drive   supply drive   fundraiser

While paper, pens, and pencils may seem like small, insignificant items; they are the some of the building blocks of education. Your decision to hold a school supply donation drive for youth helps ease the stress and anxiety of the school supply list, and puts the young people you serve on a path to greatness starting at the beginning of the school year.

Where to Turn If You’re at Risk for Suicide and How to Prevent Future Suicidal Thoughts

Written by: Jennifer Scott, SpiritFinder
Note: Ms. Scott offers a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can discuss their experiences.

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hoto Credit: BrookLorin, Pixabay

When you’re suffering from suicidal thoughts, you don’t need to keep them to yourself. Help is available through emergency resources, which can provide immediate help. You can also turn to friends, parents, coaches, teachers, and counselors. Working on long-term prevention strategies can help lessen or eliminate future suicidal thoughts.

Emergency Resources

If you’re in immediate danger, dial 911 or visit your local emergency room. You can also visit a local Safe Place® site, use TXT 4 HELP by texting “Safe” to 69866, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). They’re available 24 hours a day, every day of the week. The call is free and confidential, and the staff consists of specially trained counselors who “listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and share any resources that may be helpful.” They also have a chat option.

​Call your mental health professional if you’re having suicidal thoughts. A therapist or counselor is specially trained to handle these situations, and he or she is likely to have a strong relationship with you. The therapist will assess your present state of mind. If you’re not in immediate danger, you may be asked to come in for an emergency appointment, or the therapist may spend some time speaking with you over the phone. If it’s determined that you’re in immediate danger, you’ll be asked to go to the closest emergency room, where he or she will likely meet you.

Fact and Statistics

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States with more than 44,000 people dying by suicide each year. This equates to about 121 deaths by suicide every day. For each death by suicide, there are 25 suicide attempts as well. Men die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women. Research has found that 90 percent of individuals who die by suicide suffered from a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia.

Although teens and young adults are typically associated with being at high risk for suicide, they actually represent the group with the lowest suicide rate. The highest suicide rate is among adults between 45 and 64 years of age, and the second highest occurs in people age 85 or older.

The races/ethnicities with the highest suicide rates are American Indians and Alaska Natives with 20 percent of all suicides. Whites have the second highest rate at 17 percent. From there the percentages are around six percent for Asians and Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and blacks.

 Long-Term Prevention Strategies

Immediate assistance is important, but you should also work on long-term prevention strategies to avoid future suicidal situations. Get support from a mental health professional if you don’t already have one. Ask your family physician for a referral or search online for well-reviewed professionals near you. You should also have a support group of family of friends who you can reach out to when you’re feeling down or just need someone to talk to.

Work on identifying high-risk triggers or situations. Are there situations, people, or factors that increase your negative feelings? If so, avoid those circumstances. If you take prescription medications for mental health issues, take them as prescribed. Report side effects to your doctor if they’re interrupting your daily life, especially if you’re feeling worse. Some side effects are expected in the beginning, such as lower energy, but tend to taper off. An improvement in mood isn’t felt immediately on medications.

Having a routine provides structure and can help you feel more in control of your feelings and life. Try waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. Plan activities for the day, such as going to the gym or watching a movie. Avoid missing school or work. Make time for things you enjoy, especially when you’re feeling low. Set goals, even if they’re small. For example, you can read a book, learn a new hobby, volunteer, or travel.

Even if your situation feels hopeless, there are ways to sort through your feelings and issues to get to a point where you feel better. In the worst times, know that you can reach out to emergency resources, and each day, you can utilize long-term prevention strategies to work toward feeling happier and healthier.

 

My Life as a Gruntled Employee

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

I’m gruntled. I’m so gruntled I sneak around on the weekends, wake up really early, and stay at the “office” really late. I know, I know—you’re probably thinking this sounds like the beginning of a twisted Lifetime movie. I get that these activities can be seen in a negative light, but in this case—I assure you, they’re great!

“Gruntled” isn’t a term most people use to identify a “happy employee,” but I say, “why not?” It’s common to call an unhappy worker a “disgruntled employee.” Anyhow, I’m embracing the phrase. I’m gruntled. I mentioned before that I “sneak around on the weekends”—I like to work on weekends and “sneak” to work when my family members and friends are busy with things they like (my husband likes naps). I “wake up really early”—I open my eyes and my brain starts to think about what new projects we can start, how we can make more meaningful connections with the members and agencies that we care deeply for, and what new information is needed in the field. I have even been known to send emails with ideas before I get out of bed and head for a delicious cup of coffee. Before coffee . . . yes, I know—that’s pretty risky. I also “stay at the office really late”—I cannot “shut it down” at 5 p.m. I have tried (only because I was told about self-care—apparently that’s a thing), but I actually don’t think my mind ever stops. I love what I do so much, that I want to do it—all of the time. You’ve heard the phrase, “you’ll never work a day in your life if you do what you love to do.” Well, that’s it—I am just doing what I love to do and I believe that IS my self-care. I’m gruntled doing it.

Here are some of the things that make me gruntled. Perhaps some of these things will help you fill your organization with gruntled staff—or understand why they are gruntled and help you keep it that way:

  • I care about our mission and vision. I think in order to be truly gruntled at the workplace, one needs to be passionate about the mission and vision of the organization. For the record, the mission of NSPN is to ensure an effective system of response for youth in crisis through public and private partnerships at a local, state, and national level. The vision of NSPN is to create a world where all youth are safe. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
  • My supervisor is a leader. She leads by example. She believes in me. She checks her ego at the door and leaves that door open for input, ideas, and thoughts from all of her staff. She cares about my wants and needs to move forward. She listens—she takes the time to understand what MY idea of success is—and she helps provide the resources to accomplish it.
  • I’m challenged. There’s nothing like a good ol’ challenge to make me use my brain. Tasks can be difficult, but they are always possible. I care about our organization, partners, NSPN members, licensed Safe Place® agencies, and RHY grantees, so when I’m challenged, I know I’m playing a role in the success of all of these. (Being challenged also makes me gruntled, because it tells me I’m trusted.)
  • I have autonomy. I know some employees need a little more hand-holding than others, but I don’t believe any employee likes to be micro-managed. I cannot stand it. I’m happy I have the autonomy to do what I’m paid to do and do it well. You might have heard the phrase, “hire someone who is an expert and then get out of their way.” Well, it’s true. If you’re a micro-manager, stop now. You hired your employees for a reason—get out of their way and let them do it.
  • I’m comforted by transparency. I love that our organization is transparent. Gruntled employees remain content and safe when they know the direction of their organization. This doesn’t mean everyone is involved with every decision, but it does mean we support each other by providing the information and tools we need to carry out our responsibilities. Nothing demoralizes employees more than the phrase “need to know.” Everyone who knows me can tell you I don’t like this phrase. I think people who push “need to know” as a control mechanism, as an explanation or excuse for excluding staff who may think differently or excluding staff who question the status quo—have challenges they or their therapist “need to know.” One of the issues with “need to know” is no one seems to know who all “needs to know.” It’s based on perspective. Only including your “close friends” in a discussion or “accidentally” leaving someone out of a conversation disrupts the flow of the process.  Processes are in place for a reason. To help with this, determine teams (everyone who actually needs to know) and create contact lists (for use across the board), so when you email someone, you email the contact list and you don’t leave anyone out of the conversation.
  • I enjoy our culture. The team establishes the culture. Does it feel good when you walk into the office? Is it supportive and respectful or do you experience tension and stress? Being able to walk into an environment that is supportive enhances productivity—and gruntledness (not to mention it is definitely possible to have fun in the workplace).
  • I feel appreciated. Organizational leaders can’t always give their staff members a raise, but they can invest in them in other ways—including professional development. Don’t be afraid of developing your staff because they will move on—develop your staff so they can move up! They’ve already chosen your organization—show them you chose them as well. (By the way – NSPN offers a terrific Professional Development package with benefits like professional coaching for middle managers, an Emerging Leader Institute, Training of Trainer sessions, CEUs, Certified Youth Care course and certification, and more.  Invest in your employees by letting NSPN help. Take advantage of these benefits and let them grow professionally! Contact us at info@nspnetwork.org to learn more.)

They say happiness is contagious. I hope I’ve been able to share some ways you or your team can be happy—I mean . . . gruntled!

sm-ns-july-gruntled-faces

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Our Independence

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

There are lots of ways to celebrate Independence Day. There are even few web pages that share fun 4th of July statistics. Here are a few of those stats from statisticbrain.com:

  • 63% of people attend a fireworks display.
  • 66% of people display an American flag.
  • 32% of people attend a parade.
  • 80% of people attend a barbecue, picnic, or cookout—of which 150 million hot dogs, 700 million pounds of chicken, and 190 million pounds of red meat and pork are consumed.

There seems to be one statistic missing—how many people actually know what Independence Day is? According to abcnews.com, only 14% of U.S. teens understand that the 4th of July marks the historic day where we declared independence from France. That’s a whopping (more than) “5 million U.S. teenagers who don’t understand the true meaning of Independence Day.”

During your celebration of our independence, take a moment and share the reason for the celebration with the future leaders of America. You can make it fun! International Business Times shares “15 Fun Things to Know About Independence Day.”

You can also comment below to let us know what activities you have planned. As a way to help you get to know your NSPN family, we asked the following:

“How do you celebrate your independence, or what do you do on Independence Day?”

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “Relax, honor our military, and spend time with family, and of course, fireworks.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “My father passed away on the 4th of July. I now think of him on that day and how his passing was his way of gaining independence from the disease that controlled his body for so long.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “My favorite way to celebrate the 4th of July is grilling out burgers and dogs, enjoyed along with a fine craft beer, and watching fireworks after the sun sets.”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “I celebrate my independence with daily demonstrations of good citizenship, positive character (being trustworthy, responsible, caring, fair, generous, and consistent). I make my own decisions. I also celebrate with family and friends at cookouts or public events—and I love watching exploding fireworks.”
  • Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: “Cookout and family time with fireworks.”
  • Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist: “Gather with family and friends and grill out.”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “Family and fireworks. My dad puts on a show that draws most of the neighborhood children, with homemade ice cream afterwards.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “On Independence day, I enjoy having a family dinner.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I don’t do anything special—just relax and do whatever comes up.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “It’s my brother-in-law’s birthday, so usually I go home to visit my family and we have a cookout, some fireworks, and a campfire with s’mores.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “On Independence Day, I like to be with my family, grill out, and watch fireworks.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I celebrate my independence by being thankful for it. Being able to show appreciation for freedom is a privilege—one many individuals don’t have the opportunity to experience.”

Learn more about your NSPN family at https://nspn.memberclicks.net/our-team.

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NSPN: Meeting Your Personal, Organizational and Community Needs

Written by: April Carthorn, General Specialist, National Safe Place Network

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After forty-years offering support to member organizations who serve youth and families, National Safe Place Network (NSPN) has learned that needs vary by organization, in communities, and over time.  We offer a flexible structure designed to help members affordably access the benefits they need.  Base membership is $200.  We have three additional benefit packages which can be combined in an All-in-One for a $200 discount, essentially waiving the base membership fee.

Package options are:

  • Professional Development
  • Training Center
  • Organizational Development

Pricing for each package depends on the size of your agency budget at one of three levels:

  • Under $500,000
  • $500,000 to $2 million
  • Over $2 million

As we approach the start of a new membership year July 1st, we want to share with those of you who may not know how you could benefit from making NSPN your network.

Base Membership
The NSPN Base Membership is an easily affordable investment for organizations who want updated information, helpful resources and access to a national network of dedicated professionals.  Base members receive discounts on registration for NSPN events like the bi-annual Focus Conference.  Networking opportunities include access to quarterly executive leadership calls and eligibility for national awards.

Base members also have opportunities to share your expertise with peers in the field by participating in Innovation Circles research projects or contributing as a guest blogger on NSPNsights. Tell us about promising practices in your organization, community, or state or something else that you’re passionate about.  We never know how sharing our stories impacts and motivates others.

Learn more about base member benefits here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/base-membership

Professional Development
The Professional Development benefits package is designed for agencies dedicated to educating, motivating, and cultivating their staff.  Succession planning starts with identifying potential leaders and developing their skills to grow people in your organization.  The Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) is one grand example.  Participants examine their past, present, and aspiring leadership journey with other NSPN members.

As a former middle manager, I often struggled most with meeting the needs of both upper management and program staff.  Playing the middle man/woman between two vital entities that each have a different focus, skill set, understanding and responsibility can be draining and at times overwhelming.  Professional coaching for middle managers is invaluable support for learning to create the right balance.

Learn more about Professional Development benefits here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/professional-development-package

Training Center
The NSPN Training Center benefits package is targeted toward organizations seeking access to tools, trainings and other resources that help staff best serve youth, young adults and their families.  Along with access to the Destination for Online Training (DOT), Training Center members receive specialized services.  NSPN staff or Subject Matter Experts will work with members to customize webinars or other training to meet their needs.

Training Center members also received discounts on our most popular site-based learning opportunities, including CYC and Youth Thrive.  Learn more about Child and Youth Care: Foundations Course and becoming a certified youth care worker here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/child-youth-care-certification.  More information about the Youth Thrive Curriculum is available here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/youth-thrive-curriculum.

Learn about other Training Center benefits here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/training-center-package

Organizational Development
This benefits package is targeted toward organizations who seek to strengthen or maintain a solid and sustainable organizational structure.  Disasters can happen anywhere, anytime and to anyone.  Being prepared to respond quickly and appropriately is key to how individuals, organizations and communities recover in times of crisis or adversity.  Some member organizations have suffered losses or dealt with traumatic incidents.  NSPN provides crisis debriefing for staff and volunteers of member agencies with the Organizational Development package.

NSPN can also assist Organizational Development members by reviewing human resources policies and procedures and providing feedback.  It’s a good practice to revisit policies and procedures periodically. Amendments may be necessary as changes in mission, organizational structure or populations served occur over time.

Learn more about Organizational Development benefits here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/organizational-development-package

All-in-One Membership
The value of NSPN base membership and add-on packages increase the more members take advantage of their benefits.  And your best investment is the All-in-One package, with access to benefits to improve your programs and services, invest in your staff and leaders, and develop organizational capacity.  As a bonus, NSPN members receive a $200 discount when they upgrade to the All-in-One package.

I am happy to answer any questions you may have and show you how much we value our members. You can reach me, April Carthorn, at support@nspnetwork.org.

Social Media and Body Image Issues Among Teens

Written by: Hilary Smith, Freelance Journalist

Social Media addiction. young beautiful woman holding a smartpho
Just by scrolling through countless celebrities’ social media accounts, we can see that our society is obsessed with beauty. Everywhere our sons and daughters look they are viewing toned, tanned, and tight bodies. However, what caught me and countless other parents off guard, is the fact that our smart and beautiful children succumb to these impossible body ideals.

As my sons and daughter struggle with molding themselves to meet the physical ideals society deems desirable, it makes me wonder how I can help them see the truth that they are valuable without doing countless “curls for the girls” in the gym or looking up weight loss secrets on pro-anorexia sites. With all this focus on ideal bodies, I want to challenge parents everywhere to help our children understand social media and decode the truth behind body image issues.

Teens, Body Image, And Social Media

Teenager using Smartphone at Home

Body image is often defined as how a person views their appearance and physical features and how they perceive others see them. While the definition appears pretty straightforward, it’s important to realize that body image can be complicated to understand. It’s all about perception and when it is combined with the awkward teen years, many of our children begin to agonize over their changing bodies and each child deals with this in different ways.

It’s no secret that the telly and mags often promote body types and faces that portray an ideal body type, but today’s hyper connected children are living in a culture that is focused on social media and this driving force has considerable influence on our kids.

These images often cause feelings of insecurity to manifest leading to poor body images and self concepts. Numerous apps and social media hangouts rely on profile pics, likes, and comments to function; which place a lot of importance on a child’s physical attributes. This need to project the ideal social media image can lead our children to fixate on their bodies and their inadequacies.

Talking Body Image And Social Media: 4 Tips For Parents

Realizing social media can be connecting children to dangerous sites that fuel and magnify their insecurities is frightening for parents to realize. This is only compounded when experts warn that 70 percent of our sons and daughters will regularly hide their online activity by dimming screens, deleting messages, and closing windows when we walk into a room. A little privacy is understandable, but we need to consider the fact that our teenagers’ brains are still maturing which makes it easier for eating disorder habits to become hardwired leading to a life of addictive habits that are almost impossible to break.

It is heart wrenching to watch a child deal with body image issues and develop unhealthy habits. It is essential that we parents begin a conversation about healthy body images and take measures to reduce the impact social media has on our children before an issue develops.

Listed below are four ways we can help our children look beyond social media to see their true self worth:

  • Teach children that images of celebrities and other media have been changed to project perfection. Look online for some before and after pics of magazine covers to illustrate your point. Remind them that celebrities are human and have flaws, they just have hired professionals to maintain their image.
  • Encourage healthy habits and lifestyles. Provide access to nutritional foods, encourage physical activity, and promote personal hygiene to empower children and give them some control.
  • Lead by example. Be mindful of the things we say about ourselves, others, and even our children. Display a healthy and realistic view of our bodies.
  • Monitor a child’s online activity. Know the sites they frequent, who their friends are, what apps they download, and how they behave online or on their Smartphone. Being in the know can help alert you to any potential problems developing.

In our family, we are taking it one day at a time. Things in our house are improving as we focus on trying to be healthy, rather than achieving a certain size or body fat percentage. How does your family help children keep body images at bay in the social media age?

About the author:
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Hilary Smith is a freelance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent, she now enjoys writing about family and parenting-related topics.

Safe Place – What Are the Benefits?

Written by: Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations, National Safe Place Network

Safe Place logo

Safe Place® is a nationally recognized outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis. As the only nationwide safety net initiative implemented on a local level, Safe Place unites social service agencies, corporations, civic organizations, government entities, volunteers, educators, and law enforcement in an effort to increase the number of access points through which young people can connect for assistance. More than 20,000 locations across the country display the yellow-and-black diamond-shaped Safe Place sign, the universal symbol for youth safety. Safe Place locations include: libraries, fire stations, YMCAs, grocery and convenience stores, public transportation vehicles, social service facilities, and more.

Safe Place provides a variety of benefits to youth, families, and communities. Here are some of the reasons why Safe Place is a vital community program:

Youth get help when and where they need it.

  • Neighborhood Safe Place locations offer help and safety
  • Youth can get help before their problem escalates to a crisis
  • Safe Place connects youth and families to supportive services

Schools collaborate with youth service agencies.

  • This important collaboration helps raise awareness about Safe Place as an immediate connection to help.
  • Safe Place is a resource for schools when a student needs assistance.
  • Students learn about Safe Place through presentations, information cards, and public service announcements.

Law enforcement connects with youth and offers assistance.

  • Safe Place helps reduce unnecessary placement in juvenile facilities.
  • School-based officers provide Safe Place information to students.
  • Safe Place agencies serve as a resource for law enforcement when they encounter a youth in crisis.

Youth service agencies develop unique collaborations.

  • Collaboration opportunities increase as a result of new or enhanced community partnerships.
  • Safe Place connects agencies to a national, well-recognized brand resulting in increased visibility.

Businesses and community locations displaying the Safe Place sign show a commitment to youth safety.

  • Safe Place becomes a resource for local sites.
  • Safe Place offers a standard procedure to follow when a youth is in need of help.
  • Employees are encouraged to engage in volunteer opportunities
  • Business leaders and employees learn about current youth issues.

To learn more about Safe Place and the many benefits associated with the program, please contact National Safe Place Network at info@nationalsafeplace.org or 502-635-3660.

Staying Connected and Reaching Out During Summer

Written by: Karen Sieve, Regional Safe Place Manager, Youth in Need

Summer is around the corner.  Memorial Day means public pools are opening, and temperatures are warming up.  Summer is an important time for youth outreach.  Schools, which provide structure and additional supports throughout the fall, winter and spring, are not in session.  Children, teens and those who care about them are looking for fun activities to keep them occupied and out of trouble.  As temperatures heat up, however, many young people opt to stay indoors and find themselves home alone.  This can make outreach a challenge.

During this tricky time, what does Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team do?  Here are few tips to get you started.

Go to where the youth are.  Reach out to YMCAs, scouting groups, churches, community parks and other organizations that offer summer camps and other organized activities.  They may be looking for fun and educational activities to keep youth engaged.  Community parks and rec centers provide space and a variety of opportunities for young people to swim, jump rope, and play basketball, soccer, baseball, ping pong and pool.  They may have areas designated for teens to hang out and watch movies or use the Internet.  Parks and other public venues often offer summer concerts where youth tend to mingle.  Most parks provide plenty of shade, so youth can hang out under pavilions or trees to keep cool.  Be sure to have plenty of outreach cards and resource information on hand for distribution.  Bring along hygiene kits (with small bottles of sunscreen) and bottled water as well. Indoor skating rinks offer an additional fun option for young people to gather, listen to music, hang out, and stay cool. Most libraries provide a cool place to read and offer free computer access.  Introduce yourself to library staff.  Let them know how you can help young people so they can refer youth and turn to your agency as a resource.

Now is also a good time to check community calendars for upcoming festivals and fairs.  If possible, team up with another youth program within your agency so your agency is not only represented at a booth, but also available to walk around and meet youth, families and other participants.  Distribute outreach cards and resource information, and have hygiene kits (with small bottles of sunscreen) and bottled water available as well.

Bring the youth to you.  Consider teaming up with your Safe Place partners to offer fun events that will bring youth to you.  For example, ask your local fire departments to turn on water hydrants for a quick and fun cool down on hot summer days.

Team up with community partners.  In previous years, Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team hosted a free back-to-school barbeque and grilled hotdogs and burgers.  Ask your community partners to co-sponsor the event and provide donations of chips, sports drinks, soft drinks, bottled water, ice cream and school supplies.  Ask your local radio station to broadcast, or if they are not available, bring your Bluetooth speaker and play some tunes.

Utilize social media.  Promote these events and your agency’s whereabouts on social media.  Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team has a Facebook page that is popular among youth in our community.  Additionally, Facebook Live can be a fun way to inform and engage youth in what your team is doing and how you can help.  Facebook offers some great tips to get you started, https://live.fb.com/tips/.

Summer presents a unique set of challenges for outreach staff.  The key to reaching youth is creativity, flexibility and utilizing existing partnerships and social media to stay connected.