NSPN

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
Advertisements

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.  

 

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.

Cutting Through the Noise: Advocating for our Kids during the Presidential Election

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

As a political junkie, I love presidential election years. I especially love years like this: where a few months ago there was no incumbent and wide-open races on both sides (depending on who you ask). These campaign cycles can also be incredibly frustrating. Candidates visit small towns where they would never otherwise set foot, eat state fair food, rub elbows with locals, and mug for photos. It all feels inauthentic. Fake. How can a long-serving U.S. senator really speak on behalf of working families? How can a billionaire relate to middle class workers? How can privileged white men and women relate to the plights of runaway youth? How can powerful people understand what it’s like to be homeless when they have never had to worry whether they will have a place to sleep, or a hot meal and shower waiting for them in the morning?

This is where we come in. As advocates, youth workers, execs leading youth and family-serving agencies, it’s up to us to make sure the needs of these young people and families are heard. We need to beat the drum to make sure affordable housing, funds for runaway and homeless youth programs, and affordable health care for young people are priorities for elected leaders at all levels of government – from city council to the President of the United States.

Here are some ideas for getting involved this election year:

  1. Host elected officials at your organization or shelter. Show them around and explain how you operate, what you need, and what it means to the young people you serve. This could include your city officials, state senators and representations, or US congress members. If you are in an early caucus or primary state, you may even be able to get a presidential candidate (see above comments).
  2. Write Letters to the Editor of your local papers. Highlight your programs and how proposed legislative changes (at all levels of government), will impact your agencies and the youth you service, for the better or worse.
  3. Communicate with your elected officials. Make phone calls. Email them. National officials track the number of calls and emails they receive on specific issues. State officials often do the same. It may not seems like they are listening, they are tracking!
  4. Encourage your staff to vote. Encourage young people to vote. Take young people to the primaries or election in November. Help them register. It’s their right.

However you get involved, don’t pass up this opportunity to make your voice heard and advocate on behalf of the young people we serve.

August 12 is International Youth Day

international_youth_day_logo-3483

The United Nations declared August 12 International Youth Day in 1999, providing an opportunity to celebrate young people around the world. The focus of this year’s International Youth Day is to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. You can read more about the agenda here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

The United Nations has also developed a toolkit with activity ideas to celebrate International Youth Day: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/documents/Toolkit-IYD-2016.pdf

One activity listed in the toolkit is “Advocate.” While the toolkit stresses advocating for celebrating International Youth Day and encouraging youth to make sustainable consumption choices given this year’s focus, an important advocacy activity in the United States is for the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every country except the United States has ratified the treaty.

Ratification of the treaty has resulted in greater restrictions on employing children, greater focus on child heath, and a decrease in legal corporal punishment against children. It is past time for the United States to pass this treaty and solidify its commitment to children at home and abroad.

Biking with Ninja Turtles: Exploring Boundaries with Kids

Written by: Lisa Tobe, Executive Director, Wildflower Consulting

I lost my six-year-old son Mateo under a yellow helmet with a face-cover. I could see his little hands and knee knobs stick out from what looked like black Kevlar body armor. My friend, Thea, stood beside him explaining the gears, throttle and brakes on the blue four-wheeler their seven-year-old son Trey rides. Mateo nodded gravely. I watched the side of his helmet bob up and down in slow, short movements. She had his rapt attention, but I wondered if he’d absorbed the directions. I hadn’t.

Instead, I thought, “Oh crap, am I really going to let him ride that four-wheeler by himself?” I’d been flooded with panic about the idea of broken bones, concussions and spinal injuries. Up until then Mateo had only ridden a bike attached to mine, a three-wheeled Green Machine that could do a wicked skid at the bottom of a hill or a red, battery-powered, plastic race car that barely moved across our gravel driveway.

Thea lives outside Nucla, a rough and tumble Colorado outpost with a great view of the LaSal Mountain Range. Kids run around outside unsupervised starting at a young age, the outdoors their only playmate when not in school. Unlike their urban/suburban counter-parts, these children have hayfields instead of soccer leagues and ponds instead of spray parks. When we first arrived, Mateo did not want to ride the four-wheeler period, so Trey proudly walked him around his family’s 22-acre ranch. We told them to be back before dark. By then, Mateo and I were several days into our cross-country trip to Quincy, California, a small town I lived in for almost a decade before returning home to Kentucky. Thea and I hadn’t seen each other since before we became moms. We sat on their porch catching up while the boys explored.

I’m a parent-in-training. I had Mateo when I was forty-one. I have been reading books about parenting since before he was born; books that told me how to be pregnant, how to give birth and how to raise him. They talked about attachment, strong-willed children and the whole-brain approach. The authors provided advice about how I could make Mateo happy, smart and compassionate, among other things. I read these books in what we in the south call ‘fits and starts’ whenever I got overwhelmed with his behavior. I thought if I followed their guidance, Mateo would be this perfect, happy child that turned into an amazing man. But I’m learning that parenting is as individualized as our DNA.

Mateo helmet
Mateo wearing his bike helmet. Photo credit: Melissa Simmons

I raise my son in a little village of helpers, which includes my parents. My dad has much more patience with Mateo than he ever did with his kids and perhaps counter-intuitively seems more afraid of bad things happening to Mateo than he did with us. My brother, Artie, and I grew up in the relative freedom like most children raised in the seventies. We scuttled up trees and scurried around the streets and woods in our neighborhood with impunity. We had few rules:

  • Tell our parents where we were going;
  • Stay within a one-mile radius; and,
  • Return home for dinner, when it got dark or when dad whistled.

My parents warned us about cars but never about people. We biked over a mile to school alone as young as seven, and by eight we were allowed to go on solo hikes around our cabin in Western Kentucky. During these excursions, I imagined being an Indian Princess hunting for food or a race car driver flying around the speedway. I felt fearless.

While my parents follow my lead, we have complex generational and personal differences about raising children. They placed a television in Mateo’s room at their house and give him desert after every dinner, often consisting of ice cream with multiple toppings. Both are remnants of my childhood.

Both my parents and I want Mateo to be independent. We know that everyone thrives in the I-can-do-it moments when Mateo learns sometime new. It’s just that we have differing opinions of independent, which have become increasingly divergent as Mateo gets older.

My parents worry about losing Mateo. They asked me to nail Mateo’s first-floor bedroom windows shut. I let Dad drill holes, but kept the nails on the window sill. I wanted Mateo to feel the breeze moving through his room.

As young as two, I took Mateo traipsing through the creeks by my parent’s house. He loved playing in the water and chasing elusive creatures that squirted past his chubby legs. At first I held his hand, afraid he might drown in the 6 inches of tepid water that made up our latest playground. But eventually I let go, following closely behind as he rambled and fell among the brown and green algae covered rocks. The water splashed around him before soaking through his blue shorts. Mateo cried at first. But when I extended my hand, he let me pull him up and tumbled uncertainly forward trying to offset his waterlogged diaper. When Mom saw our appearance, worry lines deepened around her mouth.

Before our trip, I had started giving Mateo a little more room. I exercised during his swim lessons or went biking during his soccer practices. I’d let him go to public restrooms without supervision. At first I hovered outside the door. Eventually, I had him meet me back on a certain aisle or rejoin me at a restaurant table. I admit that each time I saw him walking back, I felt relieved. I also started feeling less trapped by the crushing public perception that a child always has to be supervised.

Mateo and I have never had a long conversation about physical boundaries, just to stay away from the street and ponds. He also has some natural fears that keep him in our yard. I work at home and can often see him from my office window, where a collection of ramshackle fences border our acre in Louisville. Gaps have begun to emerge in the black wooden fence that folds around the side and back of our yard. Several poles lean in or out pulled off center by time and weather. Some slats, held in place by a stubborn nail or two, scatter at odd angles. A wire fence runs half way up the other side of our yard, separating us from a pond and horses. Cars and trucks rush past on a busy street in front of our house, parents running errands or construction workers expanding a subdivision that used to be woods. I’m told that our eighty-year-old house used to be a school and that the fields that surround it were filled with trees before a new owner decided they would get in the way and cut them down.

I mow about 1/3 of our yard. Tall grasses and wild plants grow in the rest. My mom calls them weeds. Mateo pretends they are a rain forest, although I have to admit he’s hardly ever in that part of the yard. Mostly, he stays around his play set and trampoline, beside the house where the grass is cut. I don’t worry too much when he roams out of sight. Like my outdoor cats, I figure he’s not far.

I could only imagine what my mom would do if she’d been standing there when Mateo got on the four-wheeler. After giving him directions, Thea threw her legs over the seat behind Mateo holding onto the steering wheel. She gently coached him. Then she let him drive alone at the top of her driveway where he hopscotched across the gravel as he got used to the engine and the brakes. After about three wide circles, Mateo stopped in front of us, his learning energy depleted. He wanted Trey to take him on a ride. They headed off in dust covered cloud energy. He came back sweaty and ecstatic.

“Mama, mama,” he said tumbling in the house.
“Yep.”
“I’m going to ask Santa for a four-wheeler.”
“Oh?” I grinned. “You’d better tell him to bring 22-acres with him too. There’s nowhere to ride a four-wheeler at our house.”
“OK, I’ll ask.”
“I don’t think it will fit in his bag.”
“But Mama? Maybe Santa can have someone else drop it [the land] off, and then he can bring the four-wheeler.”
“You can always ask.”

More and more lately, I have noticed that Mateo wants both me and his independence, a complex need that we have been sorting out in increments. Still there’s this complicated mix of teaching Mateo to ask for help and letting him just go for it. When we stopped at my friend’s place just off Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mateo made himself home in the wood-covered lot. He scrunched himself up the house-sized granite boulders.

“Do you think I can get down that way?” Mateo pointed down what appeared to be the equivalent of a straight-edged cliff.
“I think you might. If you miss, it will hurt. It’s your choice.” This is standard refrain when I’m unsure.

Mateo peered over the granite face before heading back down the same way he’d come up. I never know what he’ll decide. Thus far his biggest injuries have been scratches and bruises. It probably works this way because of two reasons, he actually does have a pretty good handle on his limits and I won’t let him do anything that seems like sure death. I really like this natural check-in process he has developed. I feel safer because of it, so I continually push all our boundaries, the adult comfort and the child’s will. He has done these new things alternating between wild abandon and mild trepidation.

I watched for a few minutes. “Don’t kill yourself,” I told him before I walked into Seth’s house to sort our laundry.

After two weeks, we finally reached Quincy, a town of 6,000. My neighbor offered him the use of any of their bikes, a balance-bike without petals, one with training wheels or a two-wheeled bike. To my surprise, Mateo picked the big-boy bike.

Last year, he’d tried to learn to bike on our gravel driveway in Kentucky. It had been a hot late spring day. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing, me teaching him to learn to ride without training wheels or him learning. I only vaguely remember learning how to do this. I might have been five or six, no helmet, no knee or elbow pads, just a pile of dusty skin and determination. I’m sure my brain had been flooded with all those confusing chemicals that told me to be excited and afraid.  I’m sure there was blood and Band-Aides before the triumph. Mateo wore full riot gear including wrist guards. When he pushed down on the petal, Mateo lurched sideways and threw out his leg to try to catch himself. He missed. I missed. The red bike landed on Mateo. He wailed. I pulled him up.

“Let’s try again.”
“I can’t.” A small sweat droplet slid down the back of his jaw where one day he’ll sprout facial hair.

I’m not sure what had changed since last year, but now Mateo gets up when he crashes. He still blames me for the falls, but I see that as progress. He told me that I’d held on too long or not enough or … Truth be told, I didn’t’ mind, because his words guided me as I tried to help him find his balance.

“You’re pulling me,” Mateo said in a soft, frustrated voice. I had been running beside him in a sports bra, holding onto his bike with one hand and the shirt I’d stripped out of earlier with the other. At the end of the day, I found myself covered in a dust bath and Mateo able to ride a bike. By the second day, he was a pro.

In many ways, this little rite of passage opened up both our worlds. He wanted to ride to the end of our road, so I let him alone. When Mateo came back, Eli, a six-year-old from the corner, tagged behind him riding an oversized pink bike, his fresh crew cut covered by a bright yellow dirt bike helmet. Book-ended by two single mom’s, who live down the street from each other, these two boys disappear for hours now, somewhere in the expanse between our house and Eli’s. My neighbor’s two grandkids, both boys, have recently joined the fray. As I wrote this, I could hear them urgently creating story lines where their bikes become race cars, horses and Ninja Turtle dirt bikes.

Kids do not have as much freedom to roam today, for a number of reasons. Some families live in areas with high crime rates; schools are farther away; traffic seems more congested and quite frankly our society’s perception of risk does not align with reality. A  University of New Hampshire research center report published in JAMA Pediatrics showed that the rate of crimes against children dropped between 2003 and 2011.[i] As cited in a 2007 Pediatrics’[ii] article, several studies has shown that unsupervised and child-driven play enhances imagination, resiliency and confidence, as well as teaches negotiation and decision making skills.  I can see these things in Mateo. Somehow we have negotiated the boundaries that feel safe to both of us, and this has allowed him to center himself more in this world and himself.

The night Mateo learned to ride his bike, I typed as he related the story to me. He described his fear and new-found confidence.

“I had trouble. Sometimes I couldn’t really start myself. Then my mama helped me, so I thought I could do it and I did. Mama held the back of my seat. Then when I said I was ready, she let go, and I could do it.”

Mateo Bike
Mateo riding his bike.
_________________________________________________________________

[i] JAMA Pediatrics. April 2011.Trends in Children’s Exposure to Violence, 2003 to 2011 David Finkelhor, PhD; Anne Shattuck, MA; Heather A. Turner, PhD; Sherry L. Hamby, PhD

[ii] Pediatrics January 2007, VOLUME 119 / ISSUE 1 The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. Kenneth R. Ginsburg. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182

How to Talk to Teens About Drugs

Written by: Sonia Tagliareni, writer and researcher for www.drugrehab.com

Adolescence is a period of uncertainty, during which teenagers are not inclined to share anything with their parents. It may be challenging to broach the drug and alcohol conversation. Your teen may try to avoid the conversation, or you may not know how to begin.

The conversation must be rewarding for both of you so it is important that you consider the issues you wish to discuss before the talk. Communities have plenty of substance use prevention resources that can help you. Your teenager will be more receptive if you remain calm and collected during the discussion. Be prepared to address any concerns and questions your child may have after your conversation.

Educate Yourself

Understanding the different types of drugs and their effects on the body will help you answer any technical questions your child may have. It is important to explain to your teenager that addiction is a chronic brain disease and to teach them about the cycle of addiction. You should emphasize that drugs affect a person’s judgment and often land them in trouble.

Don’t Lecture

Anticipate your teen’s possible reactions and you approach the conversation. Talk to your teenager when you are both relaxed and free of distractions. You don’t want them to think that the conversation is a lecture; they will not be receptive to you and may become rebellious.

Establish Expectations

Discuss your expectations about drug and alcohol use and provide sound reasons for avoiding substances. If you adopt a negative and authoritative attitude, your teenager may rebel by consuming alcohol or drugs. Also lead by example; your teenager will more likely take your advice if you lead a healthy lifestyle.

Don’t Interrupt Your Teen

Do not interrupt your teen when they are expressing themselves, even if you disagree with them. A good way to respond to your child when you think they are wrong is to show them the source of your information. If you do not know the answer to a question your teenager asked, you should simply say that you do not know and suggest looking for the answer together.

Create Scenarios

Role-playing with your teenager may be a fun way to teach them strategies for avoiding substance use. Create a few scenarios in which your teen is confronted with the choice of using or not using. If they have trouble saying “no,” teach them other ways in which they can refuse the person offering drugs or alcohol, including suggesting a different activity or simply walking away. Teenagers should know that it is acceptable not to consume alcohol at parties or use drugs with their friends.

Talking about the dangers of substance use multiple times over the course of your child’s adolescence reinforces the message. Your teenager will see you as a concerned parent and will be more likely to come to you for advice when faced with difficult situations. The goal of talking to your children about drugs and alcohol is to provide enough resources for them to make good decisions when you are not around.

Aug 2016 - Monthly Tip - Talk to Teens about DrugsImage credit:  https://www.drugrehab.com/teens/prevention/ 

Sources:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2009). Make a difference. Retrieved from http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/MakeADiff_HTML/makediff.htm#Talkingwith

About the author:

Sonia Tagliareni is a writer and researcher for www.drugrehab.com. She is passionate about helping people. She started her professional writing career in 2012 and has since written for the finance, engineering, lifestyle and entertainment industry. Sonia holds a bachelor’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.

Fundraising Success in Two Little Words

Written by: Freddi Birdwell, CFRE, CEO of Red Bird Consulting

4759535970_3467f04902_oImage created by woodleywonderworks: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/4759535970

Thank you.

Do you say it early and often to your donors? If you don’t, then you may be losing some serious leverage when it comes to building support for your cause.

Considering that about 80 percent of first-time givers never make a second gift, the distinction between givers and donors is an important one! When and how you say “thank you” represents the single greatest opportunity for encouraging second gifts, third and so on. Multiple gifts mean you’ve converted a giver to a donor, a casual contributor to a friend with potential for lifetime involvement.

Every gift, regardless of size, is an opportunity to connect, to deepen engagement, and to create advocates and investors for your organization. In fact, I believe that donor appreciation is the “engine” that drives the development process. All you need to do is add a generous dose of “STP” to get and keep your fundraising engine in race-winning shape!

Specific – amount and purpose

When you are specific in your gift acknowledgement, you demonstrate accountability and respect for your donor’s intent. Not only that, but telling the story of how the gift will be used makes it more tangible, and therefore more meaningful, for the donor.

Be as specific as possible, even if the gift is not restricted or designated to a specific program or purpose. You know what it costs to run your organization or program for a year. Divide that cost by units that make sense, e.g. number of clients, services, bed nights, case management hours, days of operation, etc. This is a real-world figure that represents a per-unit cost for delivering on your mission, and it can be applied to even modest donations.

“Your $25 donation will provide diapers, formula, clothing and comfort items for the next infant brought to us for care.”

“Your generous gift of $75 directly supports infant and newborn education for three of our sponsored families.”

Timely – immediately, if not sooner

The best practices standard for gift acknowledgement is within 48 hours of receipt. Prompt acknowledgement demonstrates your professionalism and tells donors you value their support. Slow or, heaven forbid, no acknowledgement sends the opposite message. Be sure you prepare in advance for heavy donation periods, e.g. a special event, a year-end direct response appeal. Being inundated with donations is a superb problem to have, but it’s no excuse for long lag times in the acknowledgement process.

Personal – the warmer the better

Remember, people give to people, not to organizations. A personal expression of gratitude deepens engagement, invites dialogue and creates relationships. You can’t do all that with a tax receipt. Even a quick handwritten note on a standard acknowledgement letter gets noticed.

Personalizing your response is where involving others in your organization really comes into play, from staff at all levels to board members and potentially even clients. A bonus of getting board members involved in thank-you calls, for example, is that it not only deepens engagement with the donor but boosts the board member’s buy-in as well.

Maximizing Performance
Now that you’ve revved up your fundraising engine, make the most of the opportunities inherent in every check, on-line or in-kind donation.  Be ready to educate newer donors, to invite and connect donors to your mission in meaningful ways, and to reflect in your response the significant interest signaled by your largest investors.

  • Educate: Education tools can include a “welcome kit” for new donors, with a special message, pictures or video links; a copy of your latest newsletter or annual report, accompanied by a handwritten note; or program material with more information on a donor’s area of interest. Keep in mind that storytelling is the most effective means of engagement, using statistics only sparingly. Don’t overwhelm.
  • Invite & Connect: Consider how you can “show” and not just “tell” the story of your organization. Interactive activities invite inquiry, spur dialogue and help your donors develop the emotional connections that motivate giving. Site tours, forums featuring testimonials from community partners or service beneficiaries, a “behind the scenes” discussion with the CEO are just a few ideas for launching such engagement. Be creative, and make sure you invite newer donors (like those first-time givers from your special event) and those who have indicated a deepening interest through multiple donations.
  • Reflect Investment: As your largest investors, your major gift donors or prospects need and deserve more detailed information on your work. Fundraising research tells us that high wealth individuals value impact, as in this 2014 U.S. Trust Study, and want to know how their investment is paying off in community benefit.

Two Words, One Plan
Put the magic of “thank you” to work by making these and other ideas work for your particular organization. Work closely with your finance or accounting staff to establish donation processing procedures. Seamless information flow between finance and development supports both fiscal accountability and effective donor stewardship.

All key stakeholders should be involved in your donor acknowledgement plan, including executive and program leadership, board members and, whenever possible, service beneficiaries. Your plan should reflect giving levels that are appropriate for your organization, what acknowledgement/recognition donors receive at each level and who is involved. Use this handy worksheet to get you started!

Thank you. Into those two little words are packed a multitude of possibilities for your organization and those you serve. What are you waiting for? Start your engines!