National Safe Place Network

Receiving RHY Funding News: When Hope Turns to Uncertainty

Written by: Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network

If you applied for RHY funding this year, the staff of NSPN hope you have received good news. The work you do in your community is important and youth depend on your services. If you were successful, congratulations!

Unfortunately, due to increased competition and static funding levels, there isn’t enough money to go around and some of you will be dealing with significant loss. If you did not receive RHY funding, here are a few things you can do to increase awareness and support for your program(s):

  • If your application was not approved, it’s important to note that applications are often very well written and still may not be funded. NSPN members with the Organizational Development package are encouraged to connect with April Carthorn (acarthorn@nspnetwork.org) to share your reviewer comments. The NSPN team will work to help you understand what may be improved in your response to future funding opportunity announcements.
  • Although you should have well established city, county, and state congressional relationships before you get the notice of the status of your application, it is never too late to reach out to community leaders. Visit your local representatives and share a packet of information to include statistics of service, outcomes of services, and projections of impact on the community if services are discontinued. Gap funding from city and county governments is not unheard of – especially for programs deeply grounded in the community landscape.
  • Reach out to all referral sources to explain what services will or won’t be continuing and ask for assistance from trusted partners in creating responses for youth to meet basic needs.
  • Craft a media release focusing on the impact of the loss of funding and the importance of additional resources for all RHY youth.
  • Create a social media support campaign (consider Go Fund Me) if the loss of funding will mean the discontinuation of all services.

Some of you have built sustainable programs capable of withstanding a loss, especially in the cases where reapplication is possible the next year. Others of you may be faced with closing facilities and laying off staff. There are no words of comfort or encouragement during these times that do not sound trite. All social service organizations face this loss at one time or another. Our best wishes are with you and your team as you make your decisions for what is next for your organization.

Advertisements

Children with Cerebral Palsy at Greater Risk of Bullying

Written by Cerebral Palsy Guidance

Youth and family service organizations serve a multitude of young people, including those with disabilities. Children living with any type of disability are more vulnerable to bullying than their peers. With those disabilities that make a child look different, including Cerebral Palsy, the risk of being a victim of bullying is even higher. The Forum for Equality estimates that nearly 15-25% of students in the United States are victims of bullying. While bullying is a big problem for a lot of children, and the consequences can be serious, there are things that can be done to prevent this victimization and to help victims cope.

 

Bullies Often Target Children Perceived as Different

Cerebral palsy affects a child’s muscle movements. There are different types of Cerebral Palsy and it affects everyone in different ways. According to Cerebral Palsy Guidance, individuals with the most common type of Cerebral Palsy, Spastic Cerebral Palsy, can experience stiff muscles, difficulty controlling muscles, and/or difficulty moving from one place to another. Some children may struggle to chew and swallow food, which can cause drooling. These kinds of factors cause other children to perceive them as being different or not normal. Statistics show that perceived differences are major factors in bullying, and this means that children with disabilities are at risk.

Children with a disability like cerebral palsy are more likely than their able-bodied peers to be bullied. A child with cerebral palsy may be targeted by a bully because they are perceived as being less able to defend themselves due to their various physical make-ups. Some children with cerebral palsy also have cognitive impairments that can make them vulnerable. These children may have a more difficult time distinguishing between friends, and individuals who are trying to hurt them.

 

Bullying Has Consequences

Both the victim and the perpetrator of bullying suffer negative consequences. Some are physical; bullying can cause real and serious injuries. A child with disabilities related to cerebral palsy may not be able to defend himself and can really get hurt by bullying. Of course, the psychological consequences are often the longer-lasting effects of bullying. Bullying increases a child’s risk for developing depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, low confidence, and could potentially lead to substance abuse issues. These psychological consequences can also affect the perpetrator of bullying.

 

Prevention and Support for Bullying Victims with Cerebral Palsy

Preventative measures can help put a stop to bullying. Adults, including teachers, parents, and others, must take an active role in teaching children to empathize with others and to stop bullying behaviors as soon as they are witnessed. Awareness and education can also play a big role in prevention. Teaching children about cerebral palsy helps build empathy and prevent bullying behaviors. This can be done at home, or in the classroom.

When a child with cerebral palsy does become a victim of bullying, they need support and guidance from both adults and peers in their life. A strong group of friends, adults who they feel comfortable talking to, and participation in activities of all types can go a long way in helping a child feel more confident and able to avoid some of the worst long-term consequences of bullying.

Living with cerebral palsy presents challenges that others don’t have to face, such as simply being able to walk. These children shouldn’t also have to face bullying and its side effects. Greater awareness, education, and support can help these children avoid bullying and stand up to it if it does occur.

 

Learn more about helping young people with cerebral palsy at:

cerebral palsy guidance-logo

Sensitivity to the Season

Written by: Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network

Autumn pumpkin background

It’s October and with the season comes such traditions as pumpkins, fall leaves, trick or treat, and brisk mornings. One only needs to look at theater listings or the aisles of your local department store to see signs of Halloween. Who remembers the first time you saw the movie Halloween and heard Jamie Lee Curtis scream? Have you seen any cars named Christine lately? How many hockey masks do you have? Do crows make you shiver? Why is that balloon tied to the storm drain?

If you are one who enjoys the season, frights can be fun and create memories worth sharing. However, for many youth and adults, the signs and sounds of the season can trigger memories of experiences scarier than most of us can imagine. Just like you, Safe Place® is committed to helping youth not only BE safe but FEEL safe. As you think about how to connect with youth during this time of year, consider the following activities:

  • Invite youth to create a collage (on paper or digitally) of the images that remind them of feeling safe. Make sure there are sufficient options to address differences across culture, age, and experience.
  • Have discussions with youth new to your program about any aspect of your organization’s physical layout that is frightening or uncomfortable for them.
  • Host a group discussion of things youth rely on when they’re scared. Be prepared to respond when youth say they are never scared or when they say they have nothing or no one to rely on in those moments.
  • Ensure you are not selecting movies for group viewing or seasonal activities without considering the needs of each youth. Allow for alternative activities without disparagement. Adults working with youth may not recognize specific triggers. Corn mazes may evoke feelings of being lost. Haunted houses may trigger unsuspected reactions. Pumpkins that smile are just wrong.

If the sound of chain saws make you cringe and the idea of summer camp makes you nauseous, you understand the power of images, sounds, and, memories. Work with your staff to create safe memories for the youth you serve. It will be the treat they never forget.

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: A Little Pick-Me-Up Please

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

 Coffee is the most coveted morning beverage of humanity. Coffee is so popular, people write about how great it is—a lot. The Huffington Post alone has a full web page dedicated to numerous blog posts about coffee, one of which is titled “19 Things You Didn’t Know About Coffee.” The article shares some interesting information. For example, legend says “coffee was discovered by a goat herder,” “a coffee plant can live up to 200 years,” and “coffee beans can vary in color”—not for the strange “cat” reason shared that no one would spend money on. Anyhow, who knew? Someone must really love coffee to dedicate precious time just to write about the goodness these little beans bring to the world. 

 Coffee can be consumed in many ways; however, most people like traditional coffee—black or with cream and/or sugar. But there are also some coffee concoctions that are unique, yet delicious: 

  •  Thai iced coffee 
  • Steaming mocha cocoa 
  • Turkish coffee 
  • Creamy iced vanilla caramel coffee 
  • Iced espresso marvo 
  • Coffee imperial 

Image credit: http://www.food.com/ideas/15-easy-coffee-drinks-6102?c=10188 

 These flavors are actually easy to make! You can get the recipes here 

Because there are so many different ways to make coffee, we thought the topic might offer a fun way for you to get to know your NSPN family. We asked them, “How do you like your coffee?”  

· Laurie Jackson, President / Chief Executive Officer: Flavored with a little cinnamon and cream

· Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: In someone else’s cup. I am so not a coffee drinker.

· Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: Medium Roast in a large mug with two packs of Splenda and a 4-count pour of real heavy cream.

· April Carthorn, General Specialist: Not at all.

· Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: Iced vanilla coffee

· Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: Black. Regular in the morning, decaf after noon.

· Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: Don’t drink coffee anymore. Made me sick while I was pregnant and I never picked it back up. I do enjoy a good cider or lemonade, depending on the season.

· Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: I love strong coffee – but not Starbucks strong – with nothing in it.

· Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: I only like the smell of coffee. Coffee is a lie because it smells amazing but tastes horrible. I don’t even like coffee ice cream.

· Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: It depends on my mood. Somedays, I like it black and other days, I like it with a generous portion of milk. I also enjoy a good cappuccino – it’s great for the soul.

·Autumn Sandlin, Marketing & Communications Intern: ICED! If I drink it hot, I have to have lots and lots of sugar and milk or creamer. I want it as far from black as possible.

· Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: I love coffee! To me, the perfect cup is 10oz of “Golden French Toast” or “Wild Mountain Blueberry” straight from the Keurig with a 3 count pour of “Sweet Cream” creamer. I can drink it all day – everyday. YUM

· Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: I like my coffee with two creams and three sugars.

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

 How do you like your coffee? Feel free to let us know by commenting below. 

Laughter Isn’t Always the Best Medicine

Written by Candace Leilani, Guest Blogger

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin

I remember incidents where laughter got me through different life events. Some of my favorite memories include me laughing. Some people can say that laughing has made their life better. Some people can say that laughter has sometimes made their life unbearable. What is laughter? A feeling? Something we do? The word, “laughter,” is defined as “an expression or appearance of merriment or amusement.”  I have often heard “Laughter is the best medicine.” If this is true, I wonder why and if it is true for everyone? There are many health benefits to laughing, more than I originally knew before writing this blog post. Laughter has been proven to not only be a stress reducer, but a pain reliever too. Laughter causes serotonin and endorphins to increase in the brain and decreases stress hormones. Why are these health benefits important? It can help you get through tough times physically, mentally, and emotionally. As an example, when a child is learning how to ride a bike and falls off, his or her scraped knee may not be as painful if laughter is encouraged by a smiling, joking father. One memory I have where laughter helped me physically is of when I was at my grandma’s farm-house and got a splinter in my finger from the old porch swing she had. I cried my eyes out; but, my loving grandma took a minute to make me smile by pretending to cry hysterically in the hopes of making me laugh. Believe it or not, it worked. My memory ends well with both of us laughing as she wiped away my tears and lead me inside the house for her to doctor up my finger as she did in the hospital some twenty years earlier as a nurse. Not only did laughter help me physically, it also helped me mentally and emotionally. I realized having a splinter was not as big of a deal as I thought it was and the event provided me with a memory of my grandma I will cherish forever.

 

However, I have also experience times in my laugh when laughter wasn’t uplifting or helpful. I was raised in a sheltered, Christian home where I did not have many friends. As a result almost any attention from guys in my grade seemed like flirting. When a guy even pretended that he liked me, I would freak out and think he did truly like me. One day in middle school, a popular guy acted extra nice to me. I was too shy to make first contact with him in person, so I did what I thought was the next best thing: write him a note asking for clarification of his intentions and for him to meet me to talk after school in the hallway. I put the note somewhere where I knew he would find it and waited for him to read it. The moment I saw his reaction to the note, I immediately regretted it. We were not alone and I was confronted with almost all the popular kids with their phones out to take video or photos of our interaction. I didn’t even get to talk to him due to everyone laughing and all the photos being taken. I went home that day crying, begging for my parents not to make me go to school the next day. During that incident, laughter caused me emotional pain and reminded me kids can be cruel.

Erma Bombeck was correct when she said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

I have shared two instances when laughter impacted who I am today as a person. One filled with joy and the other pain. I will always be sensitive to the sound of laughter and will always wonder, at least for a moment, if the laughter is with me or about me. However, the sound of laughter is something I long for in my life. It reminds me of my grandma and it reminds me I am stronger than those who may use their laughter as a weapon. When you laugh at a situation involving others, please take a moment to think about if you are making things better or making things worse.

I know I am the person I am today because of my experiences. I appreciate God for all the events that have happened in my life. I am a stronger person mentally and emotionally because of them. Science has proven that laughter is good for the soul, mind, and body.  And I am ready for a good laugh. How about you?

“Laughter is important, not only because it makes us happy, it also has actual health benefits. And that’s because laughter completely engages the body and releases the mind. It connects us to others and that in itself has a healing effect.” – Marlo Thomas

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.

NSPN: Meeting Your Personal, Organizational and Community Needs

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

nspn-membership-campaign-flyer

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.