How to Help Children and Teens Cope with the Violence and Tragedy of the CT Massacre

 

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SPECIAL ISSUE:

How to Help Children and Teens
Cope with the Violence and Tragedy
of the CT Massacre

 

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Youth Change Workshops is based outside Portland, Oregon, 30 miles from the Tuesday, December 11 mall shooting. I am Ruth Herman Wells, Director of Youth Change. I grew up just 75 minutes away from Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. Even though I have devoted my life to helping schools and teachers work with students who struggle with problems like coping with trauma and tragedy, like you, I was knocked to the ground by the two horrific shooting massacres. Because I had ties to both shooting sites, the horror seemed very personal and close to home. Many of you may have had a similar reaction.

After 911 and Katrina, I was asked to help many schools and teaching staffs to learn how to best recover from the traumatic events in those regions. Since that time, research into the brain has really advanced, and mental health counselors now have a bit better understanding of what to do– and not do– to help children cope with and rebound from extreme tragedy like last week's deadly violence. Those new insights are incorporated into the guide below.

The guide is intended for use by teachers, counselors, and other adults who may be struggling to understand what to do in the aftermath of the horror at Sandy Hook. This guide covers K-12 students, and both students with pre-existing challenges, and those without. The guide is intended for use with students who were in proximity to the tragedies, as well as those who were not in proximity, but still deeply affected.

Youth Change Workshops exists for one purpose: To help educators, mental health professionals, and other youth professionals to help troubled youth. In addition to the help offered in this how-to guide, Youth Change is available to assist you further (without charge). You can reply to this email, call us at 503.982.4220, reach us via our Contact page, or click on the Live Expert Help icon that is at the bottom right corner of every page on our website, http://www.youthchg.com. This guide is no substitute for consulting a local mental health professional, which you are legally bound to do if you suspect a child may be at risk of serious harm or self-harm.

 

A Dozen New Guidelines:

How to Help Children and Teens
Cope with Extreme Violence and Tragedy

1. Don't Board the Upsetting Thought Train

For children who are having trouble managing their thoughts following the week of violence: Have the child look at the upsetting thought and figure out "if that thought was a train, where would it take me?" If the answer is that the child would end up upset, suggest the child not board that train. Teach children they are not their thoughts; they have the power to control what they are thinking. Recent research by psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel and others suggests we have more ability to manage our upsetting thoughts than previously believed.

2. Who is in Charge of the Thought Train?

Children tend to say "I had this upsetting thought…" New research by Dr. Siegel indicates that it is critical to teach children that they aren't their thoughts, that they have a choice about whether to pursue thoughts that upset them. So, teach children and teens to say instead: "My mind offered me this thought…" That distinction reinforces the idea to students that they are not their thoughts. That distinction also helps them remember that they can be the boss/engineer of their "thought train," not a helpless victim of it. Since the hallmark of depression is powerlessness, this strategy is fantastic for use with depressed students.

3. There is No "Right Way" to React to a Horrible Wrong

A Holocaust survivor wrote that "an abnormal reaction to abnormal circumstances is normal." That means there is no "right way" for children and teens to endure. Watch instead for the severity of the reaction, the denial or avoidance. A "different" reaction doesn't necessarily equate with worse, but if the response appears to be extremely problematic– immediately or long term– that's the signal to become concerned.

4. New Research Changes the Old "Talk About It" Guideline

Mental health experts have always believed that children and teens need to have the chance to "talk out" traumatic events. Counselors call this "processing" the event. We used to think that having youngsters talk about– or draw about, write about, or otherwise process the trauma– was extremely important. New brain research puts a new spin on this long-hold truth.

Studies are showing that while venting or expressing about upsetting events is still important, there comes a point when the processing can become ruminating. The key point here is that processing is supposed to help children feel better, but ruminating can really increase depression and sadness.

When does processing become ruminating? That's tough to pinpoint. Perhaps the best indicator is to watch the impact on the child's body and emotions/demeanor. If the youngster is becoming more agitated, anxious, upset, sad, or depressed, that's not good. If the youngster's body is showing increasing or beginning distress, that's also not good. If you want to help your students process the tragedy without causing harm, stick with brief headlines vs prolonged discussions, and permit no graphic comments within groups. Work individually with students who persist in making graphic depictions to avoid upsetting other youngsters.

5. Watch for Fight, Flight and Freeze Reactions

During extremely traumatic times, children tend to either engage in fight, flight or freeze behavior. These behaviors are built-in survival mechanisms common to many species. If you spot these reactions in your students who are struggling, you can educate students about how our bodies can help us during extremely difficult times by using the fight, flight or freeze reaction. Next, you can talk about how bodies also know how to recover. Discuss with students what rebounding might look like for each of them. Alternatively, have students create art, writing or digital projects portraying how they will look when they have rebounded. Having students portray this outcome can help create the outcome.

6. Radically Revised Rules for Trauma Recovery

Historically, for counselors and other mental health providers, the goal after a traumatic incident was typically to help children and teens process the tragedy. New work by Peter Levine and others, suggests that is not the correct goal, and, even worse, can result in re-traumatizing youngsters.

Dr. Levine believes that by focusing on and re-examining what happened, people re-live the scary events. Levine has studied how animals respond to trauma. After a terrifying event, animals "re-set" their nervous system and return to a focus on the present. Based on his research, he recommends that you and your children do not have a prolonged focus on the traumatic incident, i.e. don't extensively process content. Levine believes that counselors and others should focus instead on helping the ramped-up sympathetic nervous system calm.

Not sure he's right? Watch what happens to the bodies of children who are re-telling the traumatic event and/or recapping their reaction to the incident. You may notice that these students get more agitated and more upset. Now, help the child focus on the present, even perhaps momentarily forgetting the event. You can see the body relax. That's why calming the out-of-control sympathetic nervous system should be your goal instead of processing the event.

7. Cancel the Past, Replace it With the Safe Present

So, in an update to accepted practice, it appears that calming the nervous system is becoming the best goal to have when striving to help traumatized children. One of the best tools to calm the agitated nervous system is to have children focus on the present. A quick way to do that: Ask your youngsters to find 3 things that they see and like, and to tell you what they like about each thing. That stops the focus on the scary or the sad, and can help shift each child to the safety of the present. You can teach children to do that procedure on their own: To "cancel" the upsetting past, and to "replace it" with the "safe present."

8. Switch to the New Trail with Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

In the past decade or so, we've come to understand that the brain works a bit like a trail through the forest– the more you walk the trail, the more defined that trail becomes. If you switch to a new trail, that old unused trail can eventually fade out a lot or a little. Even though I am stating the research in very simple ways, that doesn't denigrate the importance of it. This new insight means that researchers know now that people can literally re-wire their brains. Brain researches often quip: Neurons that fire together, wire together. Teach students to switch trails, to leave the painful path behind.

9. When Students Say They Can't Think, Can't Learn

You may already be hearing students say they can't concentrate, they can't think, and they can't learn. There is a lot of truth to those claims. Brain researchers believe that when the sympathetic nervous system is activated, the brain goes into a laser-focus mode. In nature, this single focus helped animals stay safe, but in humans this survival mechanism can persist long after it is needed for physical survival. When the sympathetic nervous system calms, your students' ability to focus, concentrate and learn should return. You can't demand students just get those lost abilities back on command. If you want to try to encourage this process, engage your students in activities that will help soothe and calm the nervous system. Even simple activities like having students talk about happy experiences or events can help.

10. Stop Thinking and Start Acting

For students who seem to really perseverate on the traumatic incidents, help them stop thinking and start taking useful actions. Actions can be anything positive, from starting a collection for the Sandy Hook students to going for a walk instead of sitting and recapitulating the upset. For students who seem to want to "rummage through the trash," teach them to "dump the trash" then take a "clean-up" action.

11. Watch Out for the Con Man

When you teach students to terminate upsetting thoughts or memories, they may tell you they feel insensitive, or callous, or selfish, or petty for not continuing to suffer. Teach students about the "con man" who will trick them into believing that the "Path of Pain" is the only path to be on. Teach students that children should never have to suffer, and any thought that suggests otherwise is just a sneaky Con Man.

12. Finding the Beauty That Still Remains

Understandably, children and adolescents may believe that there is no road back to happiness. After there is some distance in time from the precipitating event, teach students that throughout history, children and teens have triumphed overly seemingly overwhelming adversity, and that their own minds and bodies are equipped to ultimately rebound too. You want to inspire, and offer hope, but without adding any pressure, time frames, or the expectation of universal conformity. Offer students examples of children and teens who have overcome obstacles. Consider using excerpts from Anne Frank's diary to inspire older students to discover in Anne's words, "the beauty still left around you."

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    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
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Bring Order to Behavior Disorders Insider Secrets for Controlling Uncontrollable Students

 

school counselor blog


Bring Order to
Behavior Disorders:
Insider Secrets for
Controlling Uncontrollable Students

 

Some students' behavior goes beyond just being extremely misbehaved. Some students actually have mental health problems that are called behavior disorders.

Counselor training includes extensive preparation to manage each type of behavior disorder. That is why counselors can sometimes more successfully manage youngsters that educators struggle to control. Most counselors learn specialized behavior management tools tailored for each type of acting-out disorder. Most of these targeted tools work really well for educators too– except that educators are not normally routinely offered this essential training on behavior disorders.

While we are all aware of the hazards of labeling students, we have to have some shorthand to know exactly who we're talking about. If we didn't call a rose a rose, some of us might think Shakespeare was talking about dandelions. If we describe the flower each time, we can end up pretty confused, and long-winded too: "that red, no, I mean pink, no, it's white, no, it's a yellow flower that smells really sweet and may bloom all summer." So, as you read this article, of course you want to be sensitive about students being labeled, but hopefully you can agree that the use of common mental health terms will assure that we all know exactly which students– and which behavior disorders– we're talking about.

workshop trainer Ruth Herman WellsI'm Ruth Herman Wells, M.S., the Director and Trainer for Youth Change Workshops. At Youth Change, we firmly believe that educators and other non-mental health workers are smart enough to make those distinctions. This article will help you understand the categories and corresponding tools to use– or not use– with each type of student. In this issue, we will focus particularly on a single type of behavior disorder.

Unless you're a mental health professional, you can't diagnose the
disorders featured in this article. But you've never been able to diagnose other disorders– like ADHD, for example– but you most certainly have learned how to fine tune how you work with youngsters you believe could have that difficulty. Using that type of adjustment process of carefully tailoring your interventions without diagnosing will work for any mental health disorder that you think you might be encountering. While a diagnosis from a mental health worker would be incredibly useful, you can still work successfully with severely unmanageable youngsters either way.

There are two major mental health disorders that characterize the most extremely misbehaved students. Some youngsters have Oppositional-Defiant Disorder. That is a mental health diagnosis that describes kids that have consciences but sometimes act like they don't. This diagnosis can only be applied by a mental health professional but will be very important for any youth worker to know about and understand. This diagnosis is far more hopeful than the second disorder, "Conduct Disorder," which means the child lacks a conscience and a real capacity for relationships. While the oppositional-defiant child (ODD) may also appear to have little
conscience or relationship capacity, you may be able to improve that
difficulty with the right approach and methods. With conduct disorder (CD), such improvement isn't possible.
 

Understanding Oppositional Defiant Disorder & Conduct Disorder


WHAT DOES OPPOSITIONAL-DEFIANT DISORDER LOOK LIKE?

Oppositional-defiant kids are often some of your most misbehaved students. They may disrupt your class, hurt others, defy authority and engage in illegal or problematic conduct. Though students with ODD may look similar to conduct disorders, their bad behavior is usually less severe, less frequent, and of shorter duration. The ODD label is often inaccurately applied as this dynamic can be a difficult concept to grasp and apply correctly. Because many mental health professionals understandably hesitate to assign the heavy-duty conduct disorder label, they sometimes use the diagnosis of ODD as kind of a parking spot. This convention results in people using methods for ODD with conduct disordered youngsters who would have potentially benefitted from methods for CDs instead. CDs will be adversely affected and poorly managed by the use of strategies designed for students with ODD. In this issue, we are focusing on strategies for children and teens who appear to have ODD.


THE 3 AREAS OF HELP FOR ODD YOUTH

To help the child with ODD, you must focus on:

  1. Skill building
  2. "Pulling up" that conscience– example strategies are below
  3. Improving their relationship skills.


For skill building, teaching them how to regulate their anger, actions, peer skills, verbal output, etc. will be critical. (Note that CDs benefit from this training as well.) But equally important, the child with ODD must be aided to care about others, and to be guided more by conscience. (Note that CDs almost never benefit from this type of aid, and usually become more out-of-control as they assume the adult has "no clue" if they are using methods that involve utterly foreign and irrelevant concepts like conscience, remorse, guilt, and trust.)

In our workshops, we give dozens of effective interventions for stimulating the conscience of children and teens who evidence ODD. We will supply a
few of the best here. These interventions will only focus on stimulating that conscience or "compensating" for it. If you want more than the handful of ideas given here, or you want to see how to build skills and relationship capacity– those other two key intervention areas for students who evidence ODD– consider signing up for our live or online distance learning workshop, or purchasing some of our books that will deliver hundreds of the solutions you need.


STRATEGIES TO STIMULATE OR SIMULATE THE CONSCIENCE

for Students Who Appear to Have ODD

You can use these methods with or without the diagnosis. Remember that these interventions must be combined with the other key focus areas for students with ODD: skill training and relationship training. Also, remember these methods are not appropriate for use with that other type of very misbehaved youngster, children with conduct disorder.

 

STRATEGY #1

Before a child undertakes a problem behavior, ask the youth to imagine that s/he will read about that act on the cover of the local newspaper
in the morning. Ask the child their reaction. If they say that they wouldn't want to read about it in the newspaper the next morning, then you can say "Then don't do it!" This image makes a fast and easy guide for kids to follow to evaluate whether or not to do questionable behaviors. This intervention is a good choice to use with children whose conscience provides little guidance.

 

STRATEGY #2

This intervention can be used before or after the child has engaged in
misbehavior. For example, let's say the child has stolen the teacher's pen, you can say "I want you to imagine that we're making a video about your life. Are you impressed?" That uncomfortable sensation that the child may have in reaction to this intervention may be the conscience stirring.

 

STRATEGY #3

After the child has engaged in a problem behavior, such as stealing a pen, as in the example above, ask the child, "So what's your integrity worth to you?"

 

STRATEGY #4

To adapt the intervention shown above for young children, simply rephrase the question to "So what's people believing in you, worth to you?" Or, rephrase it to "So what's people trusting you, worth to you?"

 

STRATEGY #5

Have students list problem behaviors, and write their responses in a column on a board. Next, in a second column, have them list the most likely consequences of each behavior. Inform students that they can no longer say "I didn't know what was going to happen next," or make similar disclaimers because they have just shown they can make good guesses to predict the future. This strategy is another substitute for the conscience  as students can "guess ahead" before choosing to engage in problem behaviors.

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    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

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    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
    http://www.youthchg.com | 1.503.982.4220 | 275 N. 3rd St; Woodburn, OR 97071
    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.


Teaching in Times of Crisis: What Every Educator Needs to Know

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Teaching in Times of Crisis:
What Every Educator Needs to Know

 


News and graphic images of the recent disasters in Japan are everywhere right now. While some of your youngsters are unaffected by the tragedy, your troubled students are at high risk to deteriorate emotionally, socially, and academically– even when the crises are occurring a world away. If you're an educator, it's critical to successful classroom management and instruction, that you know which of your students are at risk, and what you should do to prevent, moderate, and manage these concerns.

workshop trainer Ruth Herman WellsI'm Youth Change Workshop's founder and trainer, Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. In this issue, we've identified the top questions that K-12 educators ask me about troubled students, along with my best answers. For educators in 2011, updating your skills is critical at a time when mental health counselors are routinely cut from school budgets. All of us here at Youth Change understand that today's educators are expected to manage more troubled students with fewer resources. If you still have questions about your troubled students after reading this magazine issue, Youth Change's no-fee Live Expert Help page is standing by ready to answer your remaining concerns.

 

HOW CAN I TELL THE DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN "NORMAL" FEAR AND OBSESSION?

You can't always tell the difference initially, but time will often give you the answer. While most children move on, or find ways to adapt, troubled students who continue to be fearful may have a problem. You can also watch for the degree of fear vs peers' reactions. Stressed children are like rubber bands. They only stretch so far before they lose their resiliency. You can use a rubber band as a visual aid to help children or parents understand "overreactions" to the Japanese disasters.

 

WHAT ARE SOME METHODS TO HELP CHILDREN
WHO ARE OBSESSIVELY WORRYING?

For younger children, use a map or globe to show the distance between the child and the disasters. Also, stress how the adults will do their best to ensure safety, and consider gently reviewing earthquake and disaster procedures in an age-appropriate manner. Older kids can be encouraged to write poetry, make collages, counsel younger children, donate a portion of their allowance to the relief efforts, volunteer to give blood,donate time to a relief agency, or make posters that encourage Japan to triumph over all the adversity they face. You can also have students undertake a fund raising project, or become involved in the many websites that have been created to help or voice support for Japan. Have students read about Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and others who found courage during frightening times. Remember that the hallmark of depression is often a feeling of powerlessness, so try to use activities that can reduce that feeling.

 

WHAT OTHER METHODS CAN YOU SUGGEST THAT WON'T DO ANY HARM AND MIGHT HELP?

For teens and children who are worrying nonstop, to the detriment of school and other crucial activities, have the child draw or write their fears, then put them in an envelope, then tell the student that you will worry about them for a while. If permitted, give the child a positive phrase or saying they can recite, such as the Alcoholics Anonymous serenity prayer: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

 

WHAT DO I SAY TO VERY FRIGHTENED CHILDREN ABOUT FEAR
WITHOUT SOUNDING MACHO OR UNREALISTIC?

You can say that fear is normal and unavoidable. Even heroes feel fear. Everyone does. Fear keeps you from walking out in traffic. Not recommended to say: "You're big enough not to be scared." Comments like that can help aim kids towards ulcers, substance abuse, and night terrors. Tell them: We all feel what we feel so we might as well all accept it. What can we control? How we respond to the fear. Being overwhelmed by fear at times is normal. The goal to suggest: accept the fear but don't let it run your life. One more idea: Teach students that they are the boss of their brains, and not to let their brain "bully" them with upsetting thoughts. Be sure to encourage students to avoid graphic images and broadcasts of the devastation, and engage their parents if necessary.

 

WHAT DO I DO IF
NONE OF THESE IDEAS WORK
TO ALLEVIATE THE CONSTANT WORRY AND FEAR?

Worst case scenario: Teach children to think "Cancel" every time they have upsetting thoughts. Alert parents and your supervisor to children who appear to be deeply troubled, and do your best to locate mental health consultation. It is critical that you moderate the academic demands on a deeply frightened child, or else you run the risk that like an over-stretched rubber band that has lost it's resiliency, the child can snap. Your goal for the classroom should be to strike the balance between being sensitive to the child's fears and your mission to educate.

 

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    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

    Working with Troubled Students Doesn’t Have to be So Difficult
     


    Behavior & Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog Articles

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    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
    http://www.youthchg.com | 1.503.982.4220 | 275 N. 3rd St; Woodburn, OR 97071
    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.


Human Pressure Cookers: If Anguish Turns Violent Do You Know What to Do?

 

school discipline blog for teachers


Human Pressure Cookers
If Anguish Turns Violent
Do You Know What to Do?

 


workshop trainer Ruth Herman WellsIn 2005, annual state-wide testing in Texas included
an essay section. Of the one million essays submitted, nearly 700 youngsters wrote about their own abuse, neglect or rape (USA Today, March 28, 2005). Around the same time, The New York Times suggested that a recent Minnesota school shooting may have occurred because "anguish turned homicidal." In the next sentence, they wrote: "Teachers are ill-prepared to identify and address the normal emotional difficulties of their students, much less the aberrational ones." Further, they correctly observe that "school counselors, who are better suited for the task, are severely outnumbered."

Those words from 2005 carry even more weight 6 years later as counselors are often among the first staff jettisoned in the ubiquitous layoffs of our current difficult economic times.

For more than two decades, I have criss-crossed North America training teachers, counselors, principals and other youth workers to better understand and assist troubled youth and children. I'm Ruth Herman Wells, M.S., Director of Youth Change. For all those years, I have been saying over and over, in school after school, in city after city, that anguish can easily become rage.

However, the media continues to simplistically lump together all students who engage in serious school violence such as school shootings, and repeatedly names bullying as the sole cause of the extreme behavior. That over-simplified sound bite has made my job much harder because bullying is often not the sole– or even primary– contributing force that spurred tragedy.

The central force was the developing rage and on-going depression. The
simplistic focus on bullying means that quiet anguish that doesn't involve bullying, can more easily pass unnoticed by adults and any opportunity for prevention is lost. It is very discouraging that in my workshops, most teachers, principals, counselors, and other youth workers do cite bullying as the main cause of school shootings. In the 2005 Minnesota case, the young shooter was a pressure cooker. The signs of depression, alienation and frustration were there to see; and bullying may not have been a factor at all.

It is time for youth professionals to refine how they view school shooters. By subscribing to media characterizations that over-emphasize bullying, youth workers are more likely to miss the most important clues: depression, anguish and frustration. These powerhouse emotions can easily occur without any bullying.

If you want to become better prepared to notice and understand youngsters who are human pressure cookers, there is only one option. If your background does not include mental health basics, now is the time to upgrade your skills. Concern about a potential tragedy at your site is not the sole reason that non-mental health workers must finally broaden their expertise. The real reason that these youth professionals must become more skilled in basic mental health methods is that for every sad child who does pick up a gun, there are hundreds more who struggle and suffer more quietly. We now know that by 2005 there were at least 700 of them in Texas.

Children in Oregon have also confessed distress in that state's essay exam. Some of those sad stories lacked proper punctuation, or had sub-standard sentence structure, and ultimately received failing grades. A child tells of beatings or a recent rape, or writes of homelessness, or a lost parent. Not only will the cry for help fail to be answered, the cry for help itself is graded as failing.

In 2005 in Texas, a student died the day before the state-wide exam was scheduled. The school staff asked to delay the exam to allow the children time to grieve. The students were nonetheless required to take the test, seated next to the empty desk of their newly dead friend and classmate.

High stakes testing mania has become the center of the education universe. It consumes countless dollars, aggressively devours teachers' time, and diminishes the importance of every other educational activity. If a teacher wants to keep her job, she must produce the right testing numbers. With eyes firmly focused on testing, teachers are left precious little time to even think, never mind notice children's anguish.

Testing is most certainly not the cause of this country's problems with extreme school violence, but testing has most certainly contributed to the problem. Flunking cry for help essays, compelling testing even hours after death, and our relentless pursuit of magic numbers are just a few of the ways that we sacrifice children's humanity to the gods of testing.

If we put a mere 10% of the effort we devote to testing mania, into noticing and helping deeply troubled children, perhaps we could stop some of the shootings before they occur. Further, since you can't push profoundly distressed children to perform well on tests anyway, perhaps by noticing and attending to the distress, many sad children would accomplish more academically.

 

How Prepared is Your School to Notice and Help

Troubled Children?


How do you know if your team is properly noticing and helping distressed students? Further below is a quick litmus test to determine if your team has a solid, basic mental health knowledge base, plus the inclination and willingness to notice deeply depressed youngsters who might one day explode; brief answers are provided as applicable:

1. Can your staff name the 3 students at highest risk of engaging in
extreme violence?
Answer: Conduct disorders; thought disorders; extreme agitated,
depressed kids.


2. Conventional behavior management methods don't work with the
three students identified in Question #1. Does your staff know how they must intervene differently with each of those three types of students?


3. Can your staff name the symptoms of major, clinical depression, and the three methods that work best to prevent explosive rage?
Answer: There are a vast array of symptoms that can signal depression. While only mental health professionals can diagnose,
all youth workers can watch for sad moods especially without
apparent cause, diminished enthusiasm, anxiety, hopelessness,
feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, problems with concentration, changes in sleep, changes in weight, changes in
appetite, and suicidal gesturing or comments. These are a few
of the most common signs. The best methods to address
depression, especially with the help of your school counselor:
exercise, talking and carefully monitored anti-depressants.


4. Can your staff name the most important methods to use– and not
use– with conduct disordered students?
Answer: The single most important method is to keep the costs
of misbehavior high, and the benefits low. For diagnosed
conduct disorders, all conventional, relationship-based
approaches should be discontinued since they often make the
problems worse while failing to produce improvement. If you
have used conventional methods to rein in conduct disordered
students, you may have ended up feeling that "nothing works"
to control their misbehavior.


5. Is there a mechanism at your site or within your community to
ensure that all children are noticed by their teacher, mentor or other
adult so that warning signs (like violent website postings, essays
expressing distress, threatening remarks, alienation, and desperation)
are not missed?


6. Candidly speaking, what would your staff say is the highest priority at your site?
Answer: Academic achievement and high testing scores really
shouldn't be the top answer in our current violent times. The top answer offered by your team should be site safety, or else safety is not the priority that it must be in our current violent times. Educational goals will quickly assume lower status if your team ever loses students or staff in a shooting or other tragedy. School safety should be the one thing that is more important than anything else that occurs within the walls of your school. Without school safety, nothing else matters.

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    Bring the Breakthrough Strategies Workshop to Your Site

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    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

    Working with Troubled Students Doesn’t Have to be So Difficult
     


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    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
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    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.


How to Help Bullied, Potentially Suicidal Students

 

classroom management blog

 

How to Help Bullied,
Potentially Suicidal Students

 


workshop trainer Ruth Herman WellsIt's been the top story in the news: bullied students committing suicide
because they can't cope with the bullying.

I'm educational workshop instructor Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. with ideas that can help right away.

Even veteran counselors and social workers worry they might not always notice every student who is so distressed that they might engage in serious self-harm, but the reality is that the front line of "first responders" is actually made up of educators, who may not have even have mental health expertise.

Further, many educators may have dozens and dozens of students they see each day. That glimpse into a young person's world may not be enough for a teacher to become aware that a student is in serious emotional distress. Especially as schools increase teacher-student ratios, effectively tracking emotionally fragile students becomes harder and harder for even the most dedicated, aware educator.

Despite the significant obstacles educators face when working with deeply troubled youngsters, none of us ever want to wonder if we did absolutely everything we could to spot and stop bullying, and the staggering consequences that can follow. It is a tough, new job to effectively help bullied students.

This issue of our magazine is designed to help you be as pro-active as possible to prevent a tragedy at your site, but by no means is  this short tutorial comprehensive, so if you suspect safety issues, tell your administrator immediately. In the meantime, you can strive to better equip yourself, your students, and your school to be a place where bullying and ensuing tragedies are less likely to happen. This article is a first step in that effort to help bullied students.

For more help, come to our Seattle or Portland Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop (click).

Bad budget? We've got work-study slots if you need financial aid. Call 800.545.5736 for details.

You can also take the distance learning workshop (click), or schedule us to provide a professional development inservice at your site. We also have free online articles, tutorials, strategies and more throughout our site.
 

New Methods to Help Bullied Students Now
 

EDUCATE VICTIMS
AND POTENTIAL VICTIMS


poster for suicidal studentsA good place to start is by educating vulnerable students on how and when to ask for help from adults.

It may seem obvious to you that a child would seek aid, but to the child the bullying can just seem so overwhelming,
massive, and permanent, that the child can feel there is no useful help out there. The printable poster (Poster 248) makes a good visual that can be an on-going reminder.

The resource can also be used as a worksheet to start off a
discussion of issues like these: "Will adults know how to help? " and "What should you do if you feel so hopeless that you want to hurt yourself?"

Gear the discussion to fit the age of your students, but have the discussion right away. Suicides often seem to engender more suicides, and that is why you need to tackle this safety issue right away.

 

STOP USING INEFFECTIVE APPROACHES TO
CONTROL BULLIES


anti-bullying poster 90If only popularity was the best gauge of a method's
effectiveness. The truth is that many very popular methods that are commonly used to rein in bullies are incredibly ineffective and outdated.

Many bullies are not capable of developing a "normal" conscience and compassion, yet many bullying intervention methods– like character ed– rely on students having those traits, or being able to learn them. If you truly want to become more effective at controlling bullies, you must switch to more up-to-date
interventions that don't require a conscience or compassion in order to have impact.

Here's a few examples of strategies that don't rely on the bully being able to have or rapidly develop compassion. Ask the bully to make a list of all the activities that he wants to do in life, then have the youngster go through the list and cross out all the items that "go well" with bullying. For example, the student may list his desire to be a truck driver. Ask the student to consider if the trucking company boss or the truck dispatcher is going to want to want to take time to deal with a driver who bullies dispatchers, co-workers, customers, or superiors. If the student resists, have the student actually talk to a truck company boss or dispatcher, and ask. If the student says "But I won't bully on the job," challenge the student to prove it by stopping bullying now for
one month. If the student can't or won't stop, ask the student who else will help him learn how to be different by the time he's on the job.

Use the expression "Bully Today. Bully Tomorrow." Notice how all these techniques show the bully that by hurting others, she is hurting herself. It is critical that all the interventions you use with bullies contain that element. Bullies may never care about others, but they almost always care about "Me-Me-Me." Use that to reduce the bullying behavior by convincing the bully "I can't hurt others without hurting me." Our Poster #090 (shown above) is another good example of how the bully will only alter her behavior when she sees it's in her own interest to do so. To order this bully prevention poster for $8, click here.
 

WORK WITH BOTH BULLIES
AND BULLIED STUDENTS

Most schools tend to focus on the bully. While a focus on the bully is certainly essential, since it takes two for the situation to occur, it is as important to work with the victim as it is to work with the bully. If you fail to assist the victim to develop the skills, motivation, and attitude needed to avoid further victimization, you are failing to use half the tools you have available.

To leave all the accountability with the bully– who has a demonstrated record of not being trustworthy or compassionate– is unwise, potentially dangerous, and
inappropriate.

It is always critical that you upgrade the victim's skills to prevent and manage victimization. To not do so could be considered negligent. To upgrade the bullied student's skills, focus on spotting aggression before it starts, what to say or do to avoid victimization, where to go, where to never go, and so on. But the recent student suicides are a reminder that adults have to help victims cope. Learning to cope  emotionally may be as important– perhaps more important– than just learning bullying prevention and survival skills.

Create a worksheet entitled "The Consequences of My Actions." This intervention can be used effectively with both bullies and bullied students. Design the worksheet to have three columns. In Column 1, students list their Behaviors such as bullying or being bullied.

In Column 2 and 3, they list the Money Cost and the Pain Cost of those behaviors.

For bullies, the worksheet captures the consequences of bullying, and how those consequences can be so distasteful that it can make bullying less appealing. For bullied students, this worksheet can show what positive outcome can happen when these youngsters learn and use new skills to actively avoid bullying. This worksheet also shows bullied students how failing to take protective steps can predictably yield poor results.

The hallmark of depression is powerlessness. This worksheet can help bullied students feel that their actions can have impact and power. For bullied students, this worksheet can help convince them to learn and use new skills, while also helping to combat the feelings of powerlessness that lead to depression and potentially, to desperate behaviors.

If you prefer to order this worksheet, purchase our Coping Skills Sampler book here.

 

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    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

    Working with Troubled Students Doesn’t Have to be So Difficult
     


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    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
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    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.


Work Refusers: Strategies That Work

 

teacher classroom management blog

 

Work Refusers:
Remedies That Work

 
 

 

professional development trainer Ruth Herman WellsI bet you know some work refusers. This is professional development trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. and this student is my specialty. I have dozens and dozens of strategies for you.

Our Live Expert Help (click the icon at bottom right on any website page, or call 1.800.545.5736) gets more requests for help with this child than almost any other.

These days, every teacher, every counselor, every social worker, every principal knows students who won't do their work. Some of these work refusers often fail to show up. When they do show up, they often say little, and some may be nearly mute. Some may not even make eye contact, or even look in your direction.

Typically, adults consider two options: pushing the child or backing off. All types of "pushing" can fail, whether rewards, consequences, pressure or logic are used. Backing off can't ever work because if you back off then you're not offering the child an education, or whatever your service is.

The world demands skills from every one of us. No exceptions are made for those who endured abuse or neglect, or have a good reason to seize up. We spend hours thoroughly covering work refusers in our workshop, and can't fit all that comprehensive, step-by-step guidance here, but we'll give you some key tips. Consider coming to our workshop if you want more than just the starters offered here. Learn more about our professional development workshops here. Start reading a few of our best insider tips and tricks for work refusers below.
 


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While Open Dates Still Remain

Learn 100s of Strategies for Work Refusers, Difficult,
Failing, Angry, Troubled and Defiant Students

1.800.545.5736 or email

Classroom Management Problems STOP here


 

Strategies to Help Work Refusers

 

It's Pain, Not a Game

Many work refusers face enormous challenges from severe family problems like violence or verbal abuse, to challenges like disabilities and emotional disorders. Work refusal can appear to be a game, but especially with victimized youngsters, it's not a game at all. Getting "stuck" is the only way they know to survive. It can keep them safe at home, and that survival mechanism comes in with them every day.

Strategy:
Few kids will ever say "I was beaten last night so math seems irrelevant. Can I skip the exam?" For distressed kids who don't wish to disclose the nature of their distress, simply allow them to say whether it's a "good work day" or "bad work day." How much work could you do after a beating? Deeply appreciative of accommodations, most of these traumatized students will work very hard on the days that they're able to.


You're a Life Line

You may be the only sane, sober adult some students know– a fact that you may want to keep in mind.

Strategy:
If you're a teacher, then you may live with on-going "testing mania," and other big pressures to produce results at school. It can be hard to remember that humanity is always more important than scores. Forget the humanity, you won't get good scores. Remember the humanity, you'll maximize your humans and their scores.

 

Tiny Increments

Traumatized kids have so little energy left for school: Surviving the beatings, homelessness, or neglect can demand all the child's resources.

Strategy:
Raise expectations in tiny increments. If a student says your goals are too easy, that's just right. Aim for lots of small successes rather than a big failure followed by seizing up and absences.


Understand: Work Refusal Isn't the Real Problem

Look beyond the work refusal to improve it. Work refusal is almost always a symptom of a bigger problem. It is not the cause. It is not the problem. You can't cure problems by focusing on symptoms, which are merely manifestations of the problem. Symptoms like work refusal are not the cause, they are the result. Focus on just the refusal, you will never get improvement. Focus on the refusal AND the causes, you can get improvement.

Strategy: Ask students why they don't work. When many say "I don't know," reply: "If you did know, what would it be?" This off- beat method can yield important answers. Be ready to arrange help for the serious issues students cite.

 

Listen for What You Don't Hear

Consider this true story as a way to understand your potential impact on vulnerable children who refuse to work: "Mom hasn't moved in three days. I'm worried," the first grader said when asked why he wouldn't work. Tragically, upon investigation, the boy's Mom had passed without any adult knowing. Looking back, would you want to have taken the time to ask, or would you be satisfied that you had only focused on getting the work done? Playwright Harold Pinter, who died recently, once said "The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don't hear." For shut-down, withdrawn work refusers, it is critical that you listen for "that which we don't hear."

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    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

    Working with Troubled Students Doesn’t Have to be So Difficult
     


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    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
    http://www.youthchg.com | 1.503.982.4220 | 275 N. 3rd St; Woodburn, OR 97071
    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.


Depressed Children: Do You Know What to Do?

 

teacher classroom management blog

 

Depressed Children

Do You Know What to Do?

 
 

 

This is a rough time for many families. That is why this issue will focus on ideas for helping children who are sad and depressed.

Since depression often worsens around holiday time, it is always a good idea to be especially vigilant during November and December.

Be sure to carefully watch over any children and teens who show signs of sadness, isolation, withdrawal, distress, or other marked changes in behavior. If you are not a counselor, be sure to seek help if you have any safety concerns about a child or teen; these strategies are not a substitute for that.
 

Strategies for Depressed Children and Teens
 

Yesterday Once More
When children and youth spend a lot of the present being very upset about problems from the past, ask them to "bloom where you're planted."

Power Walk
Vigorous exercise can have almost a magical effect on depressed children and teens. Studies have consistently shown that exercise is one of the top three things that can help a child or youth stay ahead of depression. Don't forget that if you are not a clinician, be sure to immediately seek mental health guidance if you have any safety concerns about a depressed child. It is always better to play it safe as the severity of a youngster's depression is often not readily apparent.

Power Talk
Talk is the other intervention that studies have shown to be potentially quite useful to help depressed children and adolescents moderate the amount of sadness they are experiencing. We recommend that you combine this intervention with the preceding method– exercise. For example, you and the student can walk rapidly around your site while the child gets to talk about any issues that may be of concern. You can "Power Talk while you Power Walk". Children who "talk it out", are far less likely to "act it out". They are also less likely to "act it in"– to hurt themselves with behaviors such as self-harm, self-endangering, substance abuse or other similar self-destructive actions. Depression can be both acted out and acted in. We tend to think of depression as just being acted in, but it can be either.

For Right Now
For children who are sad about things from the past or future, ask them "What's wrong with this moment?" If they say that nothing is wrong right now, then ask them "Why would you waste the present worrying about what's done…or what may never happen?" Assist students to avoid squandering the present moment for a problematic past or potentially problematic future.


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While Open Dates Still Remain

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Classroom Management Problems STOP here

 

Depression Solves What?
For children and adolescents who are often mired in depression, ask them to tell you exactly what depression solves. Assist the students to understand that depression solves nothing, and can make things worse when the child neglects responsibilities or shirks work due to sadness.

Cancel Stinkin' Thinking
Now that you have your students realizing that depression never solves anything, teach them to notice and stop depressing thoughts by thinking "Cancel" whenever they notice negative thinking. You can call the negative thinking "stinkin' thinking." If depressed students protest that they will never be able to turn off all the negative thoughts, reassure them that just noticing the negative thinking is a huge first step. "Sell" the idea of reducing negative thinking by emphasizing that depressed students will be probably more comfortable and experience less pain by simply reducing the amount of negative thoughts.

Take Action
Train depressed students to take an action rather than just wallow in sadness. This intervention is the perfect follow-up to the two approaches shown immediately above.

Depression Time
For depressed students who really hesitate to take steps to stop their negative thoughts, suggest to these youngsters that they simply try to reduce the number of minutes spent on negativity. Next, point out that there will always be plenty of time to be depressed later, that students aren't giving up anything, they can always choose to be sad again later. Alternatively, have depressed students determine how many minutes per day they spend dwelling on sad thoughts, then have them reduce the time by a percentage that is acceptable to them.

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    Reprint or Repost This Article
     

    Bring the Breakthrough Strategies Workshop to Your Site

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    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

    Working with Troubled Students Doesn’t Have to be So Difficult
     


    Behavior & Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog Articles

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    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
    http://www.youthchg.com | 1.503.982.4220 | 275 N. 3rd St; Woodburn, OR 97071
    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.


Children’s Pain Relievers: Your Actions Can Ease or Worsen Children’s Trauma and Tragedy

 

early childhood education expert

 

Essential Children's Pain Relievers: Your Actions Can Ease or Worsen Trauma and Tragedy

 
 

 

early education keynote speakerPresenting our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop at schools in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans and Waveland, Mississippi in the past few weeks was a real eye-opener. While most of our readers will hopefully never have to cope with the level of trauma that the Gulf Coast area still faces, you still will encounter your share of youngsters coping with death, divorce, loss, abuse, and other tragedy. It is critical that you know as much as you can about working with these students as even little mistakes can be quite damaging to youngsters who are struggling.

I'm Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. I write books and give workshops on how to help children and teens to cope with crisis and trauma. I want to share with you some of my best ideas that can help children and adolescents to weather serious emotional turmoil.

We were totally shocked to see that schools throughout the Katrina region are still in pieces. We want to be of service to those of you who are teaching and counseling in tiny trailers or buildings that are still falling down. Whether you work with many traumatized children like professionals on the Gulf Coast, or you encounter them in much smaller numbers, you need to know all you can about helping these fragile youngsters. Here are some of the most important questions posed in our recent Gulf Coast workshops:
 

Helping Children and Teens in Times of Trauma

children traumaComforting Traumatized Students:
In Early Childhood Education,
Elementary, Middle and High School
 

Have more questions on childhood trauma?
Free Live Expert Help is offered on every page of our website.
 

Q: Can traumatized students become ADD?

A: No, trauma can't cause ADD, but trauma can cause symptoms that are similar to some of the symptoms of ADD. So, traumatized students can be distracted, unable to maintain focus, have trouble completing tasks, lose their train of thought, and have little enthusiasm for school. Think back to the last crisis you faced– a car accident, for example. You showed the same symptoms until the crisis ebbed. The symptoms are all normal reactions that can persist.

What To Do: During your crisis, no one could have "forced" you to function better. The same guideline is true for youngsters in crisis. Like you, they are doing the best they can. Since being in pain is no fun, most of us stop feeling bad as quickly as we can. Your students' symptoms should lessen as the crisis lessens, but for on-going crises, expect the symptoms to persist.

For Gulf Coast students still living in trailers, or for youngsters caught in an on-going battle between divorcing parents, the crisis continues– and so do the symptoms. Your expectations should rise and fall with the child's level of functioning. When a child is particularly dissipated, reduce your expectations. On days, the child is more functional, increase expectations. Your goal for distressed children: Work as hard as you can on days that you're able. Is it fair to ask more than that of any distressed human being?

Q: I thought that people are supposed to start "getting over it" one year after major trauma like a death, hurricane or divorce. Is that true?

A: The "One Year Rule" developed because the thinking is that one year after a death, for example, you've made it through all the birthdays, holidays and other painful dates that you will face after your tragedy or loss. That is a major reason why one year is viewed as a marker to gauge the pace of recovery. However, the year starts when the crisis stops. If the crisis persists then the clock really doesn't start ticking toward one year.

What To Do: You probably have no power to hasten the end of the crisis, but that is what the distressed child really needs. Until then, you proceed as described above, expecting students to work as hard as they can on days they are able. In addition, teach students that the One Year Rule is just a guide. Teach them that just as the time needed for a physical wound to heal will vary from person to person, teach them that human beings don't all heal emotionally at one single pace. Conveying this information can alleviate children's guilt over continuing to feel bad after they are "supposed to."

Article Continues Below

 

traumatized children workshop

 

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One Click Can Solve It All

 

 

Article Continues Here

children in crisisQ: Do I let children in pain use problem behaviors without consequencing them?

A: Each distressed youngster manages their distress differently. Two children can face the exact same trauma, but manage their distress utterly differently. One child may become verbally abusive while another may become almost mute. There is no "right way" for youngsters to manage pain. Even though a child faces difficulty, you can not lower your standards for acting in socially acceptable ways. Courts and police won't accept that excuse so neither can you. You also can not just suspend all customary consequences for misconduct, because the real world won't react that way. Plus, if there are no consequences for misbehavior, then there is no impetus to ever stop misbehaving.

What To Do: You can take extenuating circumstances into account as you mete out consequences. Try to strike the balance between maintaining expectations for conduct, and being sensitive to the difficult circumstances that the child is facing. Remember: "An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior." That quote is from Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor. For children who struggle with very grave crises, such as the on-going homelessness of Katrina survivors, there is no "correct" way to react.

While socially inappropriate behaviors can't be tolerated, children in crisis do the best they can. There will never be a "normal" way to react to a year of living in a cramped FEMA trailer. There will never be a "normal" way to react to feeling like a human ping pong ball in divorcing parents' brutal battle. While there may not be a "normal" way to react to overwhelming pain, the pain can't become a license to hurt others or grossly misbehave. Teach your students: "It's okay to be mad. It's not okay to be mean."

Q: Do I have many distressed students?

A: Pain is not always obvious, but here are some guesses on how much pain exists: About 15% of children cope with substance abuse in the home; 10% cope with severe emotional disturbance; 15% live with verbal abuse, beatings, or emotional abuse. A staggering 20% or more live with sexual abuse or incest. Some youngsters face pain in more than one of these areas. Kids seldom announce their distress, but it often drives their behavior. The more you can understand their behavior, the more readily you can manage it.

What To Do: Even though today's teacher works with many traumatized and acting-out students, traditional teacher training typically does not include much course work on the topic. Most teachers need to get this training that their college preparation omitted. If you want more in-depth suggestions on traumatized youth, look at the column on the right side of this page for more educational articles on working with traumatized children and teens.

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    Reprint or Repost This Article
     

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    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

    Working with Troubled Students Doesn’t Have to be So Difficult
     


    Behavior & Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog Articles

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    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
    http://www.youthchg.com | 1.503.982.4220 | 275 N. 3rd St; Woodburn, OR 97071
    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.


What Every Youth Professional Must Know About Violent Students, Part 2

 

classroom management blog


What Every Youth Professional
Must Know About Violent Students

Part 2 of 2

 

 

school violencePart 2 of 2

workshop presenter Ruth Herman WellsHere is Part 2 of 2 sections of this important article on violence prevention.

It is part of the intial three introductory articles inYouth Change Workshops' Behavior and Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog.

I'm author, keynote speaker and workshop trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. If you missed Part 1, find it here.

This is Part 2 of 2 sections on student violence prevention. Feel free to share this critical, must-know safety information about violent students, with your colleagues and administrators.

Recap of Part 1


In the last issue, we explained the term "conduct disorder", and gave an introduction to this youngster, who is perhaps at highest risk of extreme violence. The first part of this article emphasized how you must work differently with CDs compared to any other kids. Hopefully, we successfully conveyed how critical it is to work with CDs differently than everyone else, or risk finding yourself or others in dangerous situations. Hopefully, we also successfully emphasized how important it is for non-mental health workers who are new to the concept of conduct disorder, to thoroughly update their skills for working with these hard-to-manage youth.
 

Students at 2nd and 3rd Risk of Extreme Violence


These youth are not nearly at as great a risk as the child with conduct disorder. We will cover each of these 2 types of youth separately, but must stress that the risk for both of these 2 groups drops off from that posed by conduct disorders. Of course, remember that when any child appears to be potentially violent, you take that concern seriously, regardless of whether the child was on our list. This list is meant only to guide you when you lack any specific events or circumstances that show you how to apportion your time, supervision and other resources to best maximize your violence prevention efforts.

 

Thought Disorders

The risk posed by children who have thought disorder, is probably far less than that of conduct disordered youth. Part of the explanation is that there are probably a lot more conduct disordered kids than thought disordered ones. The other reason that explains the somewhat distant #2 status is that the thought disordered child may be well-intentioned, kind, and loving at times. These children do have consciences. The child with conduct disorder is really never is able to care about anyone else. Another reason to explain the distant #2 status is that often the thought disordered child will act in rather than act out. In terms of violence prevention, that means they probably pose more of a threat to self rather than others.

Unless you work in a treatment setting, just a very small fraction of the children you work with, may have what mental health professionals call a thought disorder. Like diagnosing conduct disorder, thought disorder can only be determined by a mental health professional. A lay person can do grave harm attempting to diagnose mental health disorders. While the thinking of the conduct disorder is clear and lucid, that assumption is not always true for the thought-disordered child. The child who has been diagnosed with this type of problem by a mental health worker, has very serious problems with their thinking. The child may hear voices or see visions that no one else can, for example. The child may believe demons or devils are governing them. If the voices, for instance, tell the child to hurt someone, then the child may feel compelled to do it. As for the implications for violence prevention, this is where potential danger could lie.

The thrust of working with a diagnosed thought disorder on proper medication, although focusing on skill building and structure are also important. The single most important concern will be that the child takes any prescribed medication regularly and properly, because when properly medicated, this child may function almost normally in many ways. When not correctly medicated, this child is at the mercy of any demons, visions, voices or upsetting thoughts that pop into their head.

 

Severely Agitated, Depressed Kids

The occurrence of extreme violence by severely depressed, agitated children probably also greatly lags behind the risk posed by conduct disorders. This term refers to a child who has experienced extremely severe problems with depression, and also struggles mightily at least once with agitation. Many kids, especially teens, struggle with depression, but this group endures some of the most prolonged, profound, deep depression; this should not be confused with typical adolescent ups and downs.

Crisis, sudden changes and the usual adolescent successes and failures can quickly de-stabilize this child who is already seriously struggling. This youngster is very vulnerable to more minor vicissitudes, meaning that the youngster can blow up in reaction to moderate set-backs. Often, it is "the straw that broke the camel's back" that can light the fuse. Bullying can be the source of the blow-up, but it can be almost anything that triggers this youngster. Like all the other disorders discussed here, only mental health professionals can diagnose severe depression. Consult one if needed. When facing violence prevention concerns with this child– or any other student– always seek immediate, expert help if you are even a bit unsure how to proceed.

Any emotion that a child has trouble managing may get acted out or acted in. Depression is generally acted in. Many view it as anger turned inward: the child withdraws, reduces their activities, may eat less, etc. But, depression can also be acted out. Feeling cornered, unable to endure any more pain, some children will act out, sometimes lashing out in very severe ways.

All things in nature strive to come to a conclusion. Storms eventually dissipate, the rain ultimately gives way to sun, and even the snow will eventually end. Humans, as part of nature, also tend to move towards resolution. For some children, extreme violence can be the flash point that offers that resolution. When there appears to be no hope, perhaps the child believes that there is nothing left to lose.

Depression can be tough on adults, but couple the depression with a child's lack of time concept, lack of perspective, their impulsiveness, immaturity, and resistance to understanding the link of actions to final outcomes, extreme violence can seem to be a solution. If this vulnerable child becomes involved with a conduct disordered peer, you can see how under certain circumstances, that could become a deadly combination as the depressed, agitated child may join in the acting-out.

To help this child, alleviating some of the torment will be critical. Help to manage anger in socially acceptable ways, tempering the depression, and alleviating some of the agitation can keep this child from remaining at the level of extreme discomfort they currently experience. If this child receives useful aid to vent the agitation and can find some tempering of the depression, any risk of extreme violence can be significantly impacted.

Of the three risk categories, this group's concerns are potentially the most amenable to intervention by you, and is of the three, the most hopeful diagnosis. You can have much lasting impact on this child. The three best interventions: Talking out problems, exercising and possibly anti-depressants.

 

Appraising the Risk

Now you can look at your class or group and not just wonder where the where potential, serious danger could come from. Now that you have more refined guesses about which youth potentially pose potential danger, here is a way to better rank that risk in your mind. A juvenile court judge in Springfield, Oregon, said after the shooting there, "These kids are like little match sticks waiting to be lit." To adapt that image a bit, here is how you can apply that thinking to the three at-risk groups listed here.

You can imagine that the conduct disorder is already lit; a flame is burning. Whether that flame becomes smaller, flares larger, or creates an inferno, is anyone's guess, but the flame is burning always, the potential for disaster is always there.

The thought-disordered child may be like a pilot light, a tiny flame that is always lit, but is fairly unlikely to inexplicably get massively bigger or out of control. Properly shepherded and assisted, this light may stay forever just a benign flicker. Unshepherded or inadequately assisted, however, this flame can get bigger, even flare out of control.

The extremely agitated depressed child may be the unlit match stick that the judge visualized. Outside factors will likely come into play to incite any flare-up. Outside forces could include peer pressure, bullying, crises, substance abuse, family woes, or just mounting problems that fuel the agitation and create a profound, all-encompassing sense of desperation that leads the child to "spontaneously" combust. Like the thought-disordered child, the severely agitated depressed youth can often be so readily aided if the community can identify them, then consistently care and effectively intervene.

In Summary

If you work with kids, but you are not a mental health professional, maybe it's time to at least learn some of the basics about children's mental health. And, no matter what your role with children, please consider it your obligation to train your kids to be peaceful. That may be the most important contribution you could make in a world that so thoroughly ensures that every child knows so much about extreme violence, and so little about anything peaceful.


For More Information on Violence Prevention:

Be sure to visit the web site for more information you can access right now. If you do come to our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop, we'll spend as much time on this complicated child as you want. Or, you can arrange an on-site workshop presentation on violent students held at your site for your staff.

webtitlesNeed an online alternative? Our Control the Uncontrollable Students Online Class has what you need, plus 1 free clock hour.

Conduct disorder book If you prefer to read, check out our All the Best Answers for the Worst Kid Problems: Conduct Disorders and Anti-Social Youth book or ebook.
 

 

Previous Behavior and Classroom Management Blog Issue:

The 3 Types of Students at Highest Risk of Extreme Violence (Part 1)

 

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