Must-Know Strategies for the 5 Most Common Student Mental Health Problems

 

teacher classroom management blog

 

Must-Know Strategies

for the

5 Most Common

Student Mental Health Problems

 
 

 

student mental healthThere is no question that you are seeing many more student mental health problems than ever before. Many educators typically lack extensive or even basic training on student mental health problems and end up lacking many or all of the honed, more effective strategies and tools that juvenile mental health professionals have developed. This how-to article for educators and other non-mental health professionals is designed to remedy that oversight as much as possible given the limited space we have for a complex topic. This Top 5 list of student mental health problems is based on the feedback of the teachers, principals, school counselors and special educators that have attended our in-person Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshops recently. (You can attend too as our next live conference is coming up soon in Seattle on April 18-19, 2019 — and, even better, our conference scholarships are still open! Just call 800.545.5736 to grab one now.)

Hello from Youth Change Director Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. I have spent my career teaching about key student mental health problems and diagnoses to educators and other non-mental health professionals. I am hoping that you will be able to immediately use the information included in this important article for teachers, principals, special educators and other non-mental health professionals who work with children and teens. Even though non-mental health professionals can’t diagnose, the how-to article below is intended to give you the language to better understand, manage and communicate about your students who are struggling with their emotions and/or thoughts.

 

Must-Know Strategies

for the

5 Most Common

Student Mental Health Problems

 

student with conduct disorder1. CONDUCT DISORDER

If you don’t know this disorder backwards and forwards and inside and out, then you are a vulnerable target for your most seriously acting-out students. In our workshops, we spend hours and hours on this disorder because the student who has this disorder is normally by far your most impossible-to-manage student– and this disorder is very common. Affecting an estimated 11-14% of your students, this disorder means that the child or teen is wired differently than other students. Lacking remorse, empathy and relationship capacity, this child’s signature is his extreme acting-out. That was not a misplaced pronoun. “He” is very often a he, not a she. Girls don’t very commonly have this disorder but they can have it, and when they do, their behavior is often beyond extreme.

Here are some passable examples of this disorder from popular culture: J.R. Ewing from the TV show Dallas, Sid the boy in the first Toy Story movie, and Eddie Haskell from Leave It to Beaver. Everyday, ordinary interventions always fail with this population and generally make the situation worse. That means that your go-to interventions that work well or okay with other students, routinely let you down with this population. That’s why working successfully with children who have or may have conduct disorder requires that you use specialized interventions that are different from what you normally use. Since this youngster lacks a heart and relationship capacity, strategies that require empathy or compassion will always fail. There is no way I can capture this problem for you in this tiny space but there are countless free articles on our site to guide you, plus online courses and books. Go to our free, introductory Conduct Disorder mental health article to learn more about this common, serious disorder and to discover the kinds of strategies that must be used– and those that must never be used– with this very difficult-to-control student.

 

student mental health problem

2. CLINICAL DEPRESSION

Sure, lots and lots of adolescents are depressed but that’s not clinical depression. Clinical depression is more serious, more prolonged and more difficult than ordinary adolescent angst. For all mental health diagnoses, a mental health or health professional is needed to diagnose, but whether or not you can diagnose, you can certainly adjust how you work with children and teens who appear to be clinically depressed. The top go-to step for seriously depressed children and teens is working with  a mental health clinician. Next, after that, there are three major strategies that have been shown to be effective. First, depressed students often can benefit from having the chance to vent their concerns. Almost any adult can do a least some listening. Second, exercise, mindfulness training and meditation offer depressed students really useful tools. Along the same line, teaching students how to better manage their upsetting thoughts, can have a lot of value. The third strategy to consider is to arrange with the family for an anti-depressant but there is a risk of self-harm for this option, and this option can be difficult to set up. Studies suggest all three methods together work better than any of the strategies separately.

Depression needs to be taken seriously and it can definitely spur students to behaviors that are very concerning. As a society we are more attuned to paying attention to acting out, not giving as much notice to the more subtle, less obvious, less overt, more quiet phenomena of depression. Don’t let that cultural norm prevent you from devoting time to students whose behavior may be acceptable but their emotional functioning may still be of great concern. Depressed students are just as worthy and needing of your attention as students who command your attention with acting-out behavior. Read more about how to help students who face clinical depression in our free how-to articles.

 

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bipolar disorder

3. BIPOLAR DISORDER

I am including this student mental health problem here not because it is a very common disorder; it’s actually not as common as many other childhood and teen disorders. I am including it because so many of the teachers and principals that I see in my workshops and at conferences, are confused about what this disorder is all about. This disorder used to be called Manic-Depression and I think that old title was really helpful to remind non-mental health workers what this problems is all about. This disorder means that the child or teen gets really depressed then suddenly starts being out-of-control with little in between. They go from 0 miles an hour to 150 miles an hour in a flash. It is a very unpleasant, distressing disorder that can be extremely hard to manage unless the family gets a diagnosis and follows through very carefully on medication. Medication is the first, second and third best strategy. That is my silly way of saying that medication is just incredibly important.

I’m not sure if there is anything that even comes close to being as helpful as meds, but skill training can be very useful. The skill training must focus on teaching the child to take their meds. Skill training also needs to prepare the child and family to cope effectively with any issues that they may develop about the medication or its side effects as regularly taking medicine as directed is crucial to getting and keeping this youngster stabilized. When the child is unmedicated or missing doses, their manic behavior can quickly get very extreme and inappropriate, even illegal. If you are not a mental health professional and you think you are working with a child who could have this serious disorder, you need to alert your supervisor at once and hopefully you will be able to arrange a thorough evaluation. This disorder typically is found to start when the person is a young adult or older adult but it can occur earlier.

 

 

school mental health4. OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANT DISORDER

This disorder looks at first to be just like conduct disorder but that is not a very accurate perception. The difference between conduct disorder (C.D.) and oppositional defiant disorder (O.D.D.) may not be readily obvious but it is incredibly important. Treatment for O.D.D. varies dramatically from that offered for conduct disorder. While students with O.D.D. and C.D. typically both misbehave and can be aggressive and non-compliant, the behavior of the student with C.D. is normally far more extreme, frequent and damaging to people, animals and property. While that difference is important, the really important difference is that the child with C.D. lacks a conscience and that is a huge problem. Lacking a conscience, relationship capacity and empathy for others, the student with C.D. can track towards crime and other behaviors that society doesn’t permit.

The student with O.D.D. is believed to have a conscience, but that conscience isn’t doing very much to help. A good conscience can provide very good brakes for bad behavior. Absent that conscience, a child will do what they want, when they want, to who they want. That is precisely what makes children with C.D. so potentially dangerous and so very hard to manage in any environment. Being diagnosed with O.D.D. is far more hopeful than being diagnosed with C.D. as the hope is that if that conscience can be better activated, the student can behave better.

While both sets of students need extensive training to manage their fist, mouth and actions, the student with O.D.D. has a far more optimistic prognosis. The student diagnosed with C.D. will never learn to care about others and is pretty much always going to be reined in using consequences and possibly rewards. The student with O.D.D. can really do very well once their conscience is more dominant and they have mastered how to be a civilized, law-abiding, compliant human. If you are not a mental health professional, be sure to try to arrange a thorough mental health evaluation so you know whether you’re working with an apple or an onion. While these two disorders can look somewhat the same, you have to be very careful to proceed differently depending on which disorder is actually occurring in a student.

 

trauma informed5. STUDENTS WITH TRAUMA

Unlike the previous items, this issue is not a mental health diagnostic category. However, “trauma-informed” practice has been a prominent concept lately so that combined with the huge frequency of trauma, led me to include this issue here. If you work with kids, you are working with some youngsters who have faced, or are facing traumatic events such as abuse, violence, abandonment or crises. Students facing trauma who are evaluated by a mental health clinician, can receive varying mental health diagnoses (like depression and PTSD, for example), but it is that common thread of trauma that I wanted to address.

Students who are traumatized often have little energy for school or whatever service your site offers. These youngsters need help from a mental health professional but they also need to not face more unnecessary stress in your environment– even when they don’t do much school work, are selectively mute and uninvolved in activities. The key here, regardless of the diagnosis, is to strike a balance between being sensitive to what this child may be living through and your mission. When the child is more functional, increase expectations a bit but if the increase sends the child into a tailspin, then return to the last level where the youngster was successful. When the child is less functional, decrease expectations a bit and work cooperatively to maximize the child’s involvement but without adding to the child’s already heavy load.

Many of your work refusing students are children who are coping with traumatic events. After enduring serious incidents of trauma, children may be diagnosed with PTSD, Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder, which is a very concerning diagnosis. These youngsters, in particular, need your site to be a haven, not more misery, so working with these children very carefully and delicately is strongly recommended. Children who have lived through much horror at a young age and lack resilience, are very brittle and easily broken. The bottom line is that you  may be the only sane, sober adult in the child’s universe. If instead of being helpful, you are yet another harmful adult, you can help track the child in the wrong direction. Conversely, if you offer help, empathy, guidance and a moderate, unstressful intervention plan, you can often engineer some progress, albeit slow.

 

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Social-Emotional, Mindfulness Strategies for Depressed Students

 

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Moderate Depression with Mindfulness Methods
for K-12 Students

 
 

 

teacher professional development trainerThe holidays are happy times for many students, unhappy times for many others. That makes it a good time to load you up with brand new strategies for depression and sadness.

If you keep up with the latest in K-12 education, you know that social-emotional education and mindfulness instruction are really popular right now. I'm Ruth Herman Wells, Director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. We've been offering social and emotional strategies for more than two decades, and many of our approaches are very similar to the mindfulness methods you may have encountered.

Below you will find intervention strategies to help you manage student depression and sadness whether you are a teacher, counselor, foster parent, guidance counselor, therapist, MFT, social worker or school psychologist. While the very simple strategies included here can be useful to almost any student who struggles with their emotions, be sure that you carefully observe for safety issues and immediately consult with your supervisor if you find any. In addition, non mental health clinicians should always seek guidance from a mental health resource person when working with troubled students.

 

Mindful Methods to Mitigate Depression

in Adolescents and Children

 

You Are Not Your Brain

For many students, depression means trying to cope with swirling thoughts that are sad, fatalistic or worrying. Mindfulness methods emphasize teaching children and teens that they are "not their brain'" so that they recognize that they can control their thoughts and potentially feel less victimized and trapped by them. Building this separation between the student and the brain is a key element of Mindfulness.

Introducing the idea that students should not believe everything they think, can be a powerful tool assisting depressed, sad and anxious youngsters. Neurobiologists have noted that this strategy builds new brain pathways. They report that by limiting negative thoughts, the negative pathways can be reduced. They also note that by increasing positive or neutral thoughts, more positive pathways are built. They compare it to shrinking a freeway and building a new, more positive one. Use this image to demonstrate the concept more concretely to students.

 

Productive or Destructive

Another key concept from Mindfulness is to work to limit time devoted to thinking non-productive thoughts. Students may worry about tests or grades or Dad's drinking or Mom's hitting. In some youngsters,  these negative thoughts can trigger depression– especially if the student has profoundly upsetting or persistent thoughts. Many Mindfulness methods offer potential relief.

A simple technique to use is to ask the student to consider if the upsetting thoughts are productive or destructive. They can be asked to specifically identify the benefits and consequences of persistent negative thoughts. Most students can be assisted to realize that they are experiencing significant consequences from frequent negative thoughts while few positive benefits are found. To make this strategy work with younger students and others, have them make a list. Have them start by writing down a frequent negative thought then sorting the Benefits and Consequences in columns.

 

Accepting the Hand You're Dealt

mindfulness posterSome students have trouble accepting the ups and downs of life and become depressed when life isn't what they imagined. You can use card games to teach them to accept the hand they are dealt. Also use card games to explore if becoming sad or depressed fixes or improves anything. To help cement in the message of acceptance, offer and discuss the meaning of the words shown on our Poster #334: If the leaves didn't fall, there would be no spring.

 

Thoughts Are Just Visitors to the House

Mindfulness expert Jack Kornfield has shared a very sweet but effective strategy that stems from Buddhist practice. To implement this simple intervention, simply tell students that they can imagine that upsetting thoughts are like visitors to their home. Next, ask your youngsters to imagine that the visiting thoughts are coming in through the front door of the house. Suggest that instead of screaming at this visitor, cooking for that visitor, or hiding from this other visitor, that students simply watch the visitors and what they do. This wonderful emotion management technique helps students become more detached and distanced from the negative thoughts that have been upsetting them.

 

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Turn Down the Voices Inside My Head

"Turn Down the Voices Inside My Head" isn't just a line from a popular Bonnie Raitt song, it's a very quick and effective technique to help students manage troubling emotions like depression. Ask the student to imagine that there is a volume control and that they can turn down the volume on upsetting thoughts, or even mute them. For younger students, help the child create a drawing of the volume control knob working to help them better manage their upsetting emotions.

 

Fight-Flight-Freeze or Flow

Many Mindfulness practitioners and other mental health clinicians believe that humans have four basic states: Fight, Flight, Freeze or Flow. Mindfulness is an emerging counseling style with distinct Buddhist roots and current neurobiology as its base. Distilled down, it means paying attention to the present while observing thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental manner. It has been clinically demonstrated by neurobiologists to help improve depression and other problematic emotions so you can rest assured the kind of techniques suggested here have wide acceptance and a strong research foundation.

To help students who are depressed or facing similar negative emotions, teach them about the four states and encourage them to move towards Flow. The more students can identify their current state, the better the chance that they can manage that state rather than be swept along by out-of-control feelings. This is part of what is meant by "Name it to tame it." Emotions have less power on people when the emotion has been identified. Conversely, students can feel "freaked out," "crazy" or like they are spiraling down when the emotions seem to be this powerful, frightening unnamed thing that's in charge.

Help students become familiar with each of the four terms by soliciting examples of each. An example of Fight: Verbally sparring with your mom. An example of Flight: Running out of the room when bullied. An example of Freeze: Seizing up and not being able to talk after a car accident. An example of Flow: Pure happiness and joy when swimming.

 

Distraction is Subtraction

Distraction is a fantastic initial strategy to help children and teens manage problem emotions. You can teach them that "Distraction is Subtraction," meaning that by re-focusing, the student can sometimes subtract or reduce the problem emotion. Suggest that students find three things they see in the present and then find three things they like about each. Not only does this simple strategy interrupt what may have been on-going negative thoughts, it also re-orients the student to the present. Being oriented to the present moment is a key principle of Mindfulness, and has the benefit of being a perfect antidote for depression, sadness, anxiety and other troubling emotions that may be impairing students' functioning.

 

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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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How to Help Children Cope with Their Emotions in the Aftermath of Violence at the Boston Marathon

 

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How to Help Children Cope with Their Emotions

 

in the Aftermath of Violence

 

at the Boston Marathon

 

Includes  Free Classroom Posters

 

 

 

 

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In This Issue:

speaker Ruth Herman WellsOur thoughts go out to all of you in the Boston region as well as those of your affected by the tragedy at the marathon yesterday.

When it comes to violence, it's been another rough week for the U.S. It's the third major episode of extreme violence in 5 months. It's also the third major episode of violence that I have a personal connection to. The Boston Marathon bombing occurred yesterday, and the Newtown CT  and Oregon mall shootings happened last December.

This is Ruth Herman Wells writing this issue. I grew up in Massachusetts, about half way between Boston and Newtown. I live 30 minutes from the site of the Oregon mall shooting.

All these connections make the recent outbreaks of large scale violence seem close and personal. Some of your students may have similar connections and similar reactions.

Unlike adults, many of your students lack sophisticated coping mechanisms to manage the fear and anxiety that big incidents of violence can generate. This issue of the blog is going to offer some fresh ideas on what you should do– and not do– to help. The accepted standard methods have changed, and are changing as we speak, so this could be an important update for you to read.

This issue will also direct you to follow-up resources that can guide you to help your children and youth who may be struggling with yet another frightening event of extreme violence. As someone who often ends up helping schools cope in the aftermath of tragedy, I am passing on some of the hard-won wisdom I have gathered in the years since 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and most recently, Sandy Hook.

 

Children in the Aftermath of Violence:
What to Do, What Not to Do
 

Many Common Methods Now Counter-Indicated

Many neurobiologists say that they have learned more about how the brain works in the past 5 years than in all the years preceding. That is a lot of progress. The new research strongly suggests that you can help or hurt children after a violent incident far more than was previously believed. 

The go-to plan in the past has been to encourage talking, writing, drawing and reflection on the traumatic event by affected children and teens.

While obviously some discussion and acknowledgement is inevitable and necessary, in the past mental health clinicians often encouraged children to focus on the event beyond the minimum necessary.

New research now offers the concern that too much of a focus sears new painful paths into the brain. The updated goal: Strike the balance between acknowledgement and refocusing.

What does it mean to help children refocus? Limit the exposure of children and teens to the details of the tragedy especially television or video coverage. Channel their emotions into things that help them cope. Some specific use-today strategies are shown below. These intervention methods were all created or inspired by special ed teacher Chris Wells.


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Soothe the Brain

Just as exposure to vivid depictions of the violence can cause the brain to develop new problematic paths, the reverse is also true: You can help the brain develop new paths that help children cope.

The late children's TV host Mr. Rogers is reported to have said “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”  That type of approach is perfect for today when we are less than 24 hours beyond the Boston bombing.

 

Distract the Brain

When you drive by a big car accident, you know you shouldn't look, but a lot of us do it anyway. Some of us then regret viewing something so upsetting. When there has been a terrible act of violence, like yesterday's Boston Marathon bombing, many of us are tempted to look.  For children who lack the relatively sophisticated coping mechanisms of mature adults, it's very important not to stop and look.

school poster It is really important to distract children from perseverating on what happened. For children who won't let go, you can certainly choose to find things that have some type of connection to tragedy but that aren't likely to deepen pain or anxiety. The classic intervention to use: Have students help those victimized in the attack by taking up a collection, for example.

This is the perfect time for exposing children to how others have triumphed over violence or adversity. You can use stories of marathon survivors, or it's fine to choose stories with no connection. These strategies help create strong, positive paths in the brain that can be of benefit for a lifetime, according to leading brain researchers like Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Rick Hanson.

We created Poster #289 (shown above) to help children who become fearful to the point that they want to withdraw from normal activities. free classroom posterThe poster says "Don't let others stop you from being who you are because of who they are."

You can download a free printable version of Poster #289 here.

Older children can discuss the saying on the poster. Methods like this help children cope without going deeper into the type of exposure that can sear fear into young brains.

Another activity: Provide your students with a background similar to that shown on Poster #289. You can download this printable poster free, then have students use computers or paper for this activity. Ask your students to write a saying or poem, or create a picture to inspire or help others to cope in the aftermath of tragedy. They can also use this background to make cards or signs that can be sent to Boston hospitals to encourage victims, or to thank doctors, police, EMTs and firefighters.
 

Teach Resiliency

Teach students that when runners fall down, they get right back up and keep going. Have your youngsters discuss how they can put on their running shoes, lace them up and keep going.
 

More Resources on
Helping Children in the Aftermath of Violence

Sadly, I have had a lot of opportunity to write down what I've learned about helping children and teens cope with terrorism, natural disasters and violence so I do have more articles for you to expand your skills.

Repeat incidents of extreme violence do take a toll on all of us, including your children and teens. If you think you see a cumulative effect, you are probably right. Unsettled times often worsen unsettled minds. That will be especially true in New England, where two horrific incidents have occurred in a short time frame. Find the additional guides 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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    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.


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

 

rwteach2

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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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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    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.

     

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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.


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

 

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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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    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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Gender-Proficient Strategies for Troubled Girls

 

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Gender-Proficient Strategies
for Troubled Girls

 


workshop trainer Ruth Herman Wells"I just finished counseling a student for 45 minutes. It's amazing how
rough life is on kids, and it seems to especially be girls. She's been to
20 plus schools, hasn't lived with her parents since she was 6, has been
living with first one sister then another. Her parents are into drugs, in
and out of prison. She couch hops through friends' houses so she can
play sports because the last bus out of town is at 7. Now her sister
wants her to change to a new high school, where she doesn't know
anyone. It's hard to see kids under so much stress. Sadly, this is an
epidemic. I'm not sure if girls are just more vocal about what's wrong
in their life or if affects them more, but this is the fifth or sixth girl I've
taught that has had just a dismal life, and has a hard time dealing with
just the daily stresses of what school and friends bring. Of those 5 or 6
girls, I can only think of one or two that have escaped the calamity of
their surrounding to do something. I hope this new girl ends up making
it. I'll do my best to see services start coming her way, but the cycle of
discover, help, and fail is hard to take."

Many of you can relate to the comments above, sent by a high school special ed teacher. His comments are especially true right now. When government faces hard economic times, service cuts are inevitable. Often, cuts to services disproportionately affect girls versus boys. When boys are troubled, they often act out in ways that affect the community. When girls are troubled, they often act out in ways that the community may not even notice. Troubled boys may slash tires, troubled girls may slash their wrists. The boy will leave behind angry victims demanding the child's behavior be addressed and controlled. The troubled girl will have no one demanding anything on her behalf.

When budget cuts come, they are not dispersed across the continuum of children's services. In tough economic times, girls tend to take the brunt of service reductions. In all classes of services, troubled girls receive fewer services, less intense services, for less time, and they're served later in life than their male counterparts. There is no indication that troubled girls have fewer problems than boys; all indicators suggest they may have more. So, in today's difficult economic times, where services for young females are very limited, it is imperative that everyone who works with youth, have gender-proficient strategies for girls. One-gender-fits-all strategies fit no one, so here are some gender-proficient strategies crafted especially for troubled girls.


Gender-Proficient Solutions for Troubled Girls


TEACH GIRLS TO
THRIVE DESPITE ROUGH LIVES

Finding help for troubled girls in these difficult economic times is
tougher than ever. If you're not a trained mental health professional,
it's never wise to attempt to provide therapy when you can't find
qualified help for a girl who is struggling. Instead of offering therapy
without having the necessary training, attempt instead to be a bridge
for the girl until help can be found.

Here is a strategy that may help without becoming as personal and intimate as a therapy techniques. When a girl is struggling to find her way, and feels lost and uncertain, offer her this guideline: Find a course of action that is good for the girl and good for others. This mantra helps train the girl to habitually choose actions that avoid self-harm.

You can vary this strategy by having the girl identify someone she admires, and imagine What Would X Do?, and emulate that.

Another variation on the first strategy: Say "no" to bad thoughts. The girl can imagine erasing or canceling upsetting thoughts so she can concentrate on school and other critical activities. All these strategies are just stopgap measures until qualified help can be found; ultimately severe problems will necessitate professional intervention if the girl is to avoid lasting consequences.

 

TEACH GIRLS TO
BETTER MANAGE DEPRESSION

Studies suggest that depression may affect girls at a higher rate than
boys. While skilled help would be optimal, you can offer some interim
assistance so that your girls can improve their skills coping with
adversity without being overwhelmed by depression. Here are a few
interventions that both mental health workers and others can use. Be
sure to follow your site's rules about reporting safety issues if you have
any concerns that a girl may be at risk of harm.

For girls who are sad about their difficult circumstances, teach them to
"bloom where they're planted," and discuss how to do that. For girls
who devote a lot of time to ruminating about their problems, refocus
them to the present, and help them turn their thoughts to "now"
instead of yesterday or tomorrow, which they can't influence anyway.
To further re-orient girls to focus on now rather than past or future
problems, suggest that every time they catch themselves mulling the
past or future, they stop and find three positive things about the
present. That disrupts the on-going ruminating.

Finally, for girls who report upsetting thoughts like mulling over events
from the past, offer interventions that teach the brain some new,
healthier habits. For example, when a girl is upset by thoughts like "I'm
always going to be upset," teach her to be the boss of her brain and to
reject her "bully brain" hassling her. It's a way of making the invisible
cognitive process more concrete and understandable so the girl can
visualize how her thoughts deepen her upset. Once she realizes that she
doesn't have to submit to the upsetting thoughts, she has a much
better chance of taking control of them, making her less vulnerable to
persistent, deep upset.

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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.


School Skills Training: Better Classroom Management Now

 

classroom management blog

 

School Skills Training:
Better Classroom Management Now

 


Breakthrough Classroom Management workshop instructorWe've been hearing that a lot from weary teachers who are crossing the country to come to our Seattle Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop. Many of them travel in search of better classroom management. I'm course instructor, Ruth Herman Wells, M.S.

When lots of your students are disrespectful, defiant, angry, disinterested, and apathetic, we understand that you want help now, not in a couple months. While we can't pack all 200 interventions from our workshop into this issue, we're going to give you a few of our quickest, most innovative and effective classroom management improvement devices that you can use right now.

We always stress in our workshops that teachers should never assume that their class participants have any idea how to look, act, or sound like students– that teachers may need to teach that before expecting it. That's right. You need to transform kids into students before you are going to get the kind of behavior you need in your classroom.

We call this notion School Skills Training. School Skills Training techniques take untrained, unmotivated, uncooperative kids and helps them become skilled, motivated, cooperative students. You may find that this simple, do-able, time-efficient training approach will rapidly transform your kids and classroom.

Keep reading, and discover that better classroom management can start today.

 

Better Classroom Management Now


TEACH SCHOOL SKILLS BEFORE EXPECTING THEM
 

Improve Attendance and Punctuality


What You Miss Today Makes It Harder to Learn Tomorrow

motivational lesson planEnlarge the student worksheet shown in the picture for better viewing.

Attendance may be the single most important School Skill to teach. If students aren't in class, nothing else matters.

Years ago, parents routinely taught their offspring to regularly attend school. That is not as likely today. If parents aren't reliably teaching attendance, then you must.

Here's a sampling of the thousands of attendance-building teaching tools we have to offer.

This lesson plan and printable are called "What You Miss Today Makes It Harder to Learn Tomorrow." The intervention vividly and memorably convinces students of the importance of regularly coming to school.

It's just one of our endless supply of resources that teach attendance skills to students who are truant, frequently late, or missing part of the school day.

This lesson plan and worksheet are from our Turn On the
Turned-Off Student book (click).

 

TEACH SCHOOL SKILLS BEFORE EXPECTING THEM


Build Motivation and Enthusiasm for School


Even Rock Stars Gonna Need School

motivational worksheetSo many students believe that school is a waste. Fortunately, School Skills training gives you unexpected, innovative techniques to combat the
apathy and poor motivation that you see each day in your classroom.

You're going to really like how effectively this lesson plan and printable start to reverse student apathy.

The lesson is called "Even Rock Stars Gonna Need School." This intervention begins to debunk students' beliefs that they'll never need education because they're going to become rock stars, models, or sports stars. No single intervention can turnaround all the apathy and disinterest, but fortunately, we have thousands more you can use to finish the job.

The worksheet shows an injured star saying things like "I can't even balance my checkbook." Also shown: a rich, beautiful model is suddently disfigured by a huge mark on her face. A wealthy wife is suddenly widowed and broke. A rock star and others meet similar fates. You can ask your students to speculate what happens to all these people that makes school suddenly so very important and necessary.

You don't need to buy this student printable. You can make it, or use the information featured on the worksheet verbally. This lesson plan and worksheet are also from the Turn On the Turned-Off Student book (click).

 

TEACH SCHOOL SKILLS BEFORE EXPECTING THEM


Improve Negative Attitudes


I'm Not the Problem at School

student lesson plan lastch2bigpages_Page_2Students' negative attitudes can quickly create serious, chronic classroom management problems. While there are plenty of negative attitudes around, few resources exist to turn them around.

School Skill Training covers all aspects of being a successful student– even how to have a positive attitude about school.

Enlarge the pages for better viewing here.

This lesson and worksheet are called "I'm Not the Problem at School." This unusual lesson and
printable are designed to reverse students' negativity.

Of course, a single lesson can't accomplish all that at once, but hopefully this sample will get you off to a good start. If you need additional attitude adjustment tools, we may be the only place that can provide you with powerful, gets-the-job-done attitude adjustment resources.

This lesson plan and worksheet are from our Last Chance School Success Guide book (click).

 

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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.


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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    Reprint or Repost This Article
     

    Bring the Breakthrough Strategies Workshop to Your Site

    Help Unmotivated, Failing, Troubled and Unmanageable Students

    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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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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    Bring the Breakthrough Strategies Workshop to Your Site

    Help Unmotivated, Failing, Troubled and Unmanageable Students

    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.