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The Siena School Blog

Discover, Learn, Celebrate, and Empower

Welcome to Siena's blog, your source for helpful, cutting-edge resources tailored to teachers, parents, and other advocates in the learning differences community. We are dedicated to providing a wealth of curated knowledge spanning various topics, ranging from dyslexia advocacy and awareness to classroom teaching strategies, heritage month profiles, and social and emotional health.

 

Posts Tagged "social~emotional~health"

Boundaries: At Home, At School, Online

May 30, 2023
By Haley Scranton, LCPC, and Jessie Felling, LGSW

Mental Health Awareness Month 2023

With Mental Health Awareness Month 2023 winding down, it’s a good time to look ahead to summer and think about how adolescents can continue their good mindfulness and self-care practices over break.

Mental Health and Boundaries

Understanding in-person and online boundaries is important all year, and having unstructured time over summer break might test such boundaries. In our work at Siena this year, we’ve noticed a pattern in the support students have been seeking: how to assert their boundaries firmly but respectfully in their daily interactions.

Part of social–emotional learning involves growing self-awareness, identifying values, and setting boundaries. Here are some ways for adolescents and teenagers to do this:

  • Be clear: State your boundaries clearly and succinctly and lead with “I feel” statements, such as “I feel frustrated when you do ____” or “I feel hurt when you do ___.”
  • Be firm but kind: When you state a boundary, do so respectfully and at a normal speaking volume. If you have to remind someone of a boundary, continue to be respectful. 
  • Focus on you: Boundaries are about how you would like to be treated and what you will do if you are not treated that way. Boundaries do not give you control over other people’s behaviors. 
  • Seek support from an adult: If you are clearly and respectfully stating your boundaries and your boundaries are still being violated, talk to a trusted adult for support.

Parents can help their students practice healthy boundary setting at home. If your child struggles with this, work with them to pick a boundary and practice enforcing it within your family. In addition, model healthy boundary setting for your children.

How Parents Can Help Teens with Online Boundaries

Students—particularly middle schoolers who might have their first cell phone—sometimes need help understanding responsible technology use. Students at this age may not be developmentally ready for the stress that comes from navigating daily digital communications.

Here are a few suggestions to guide your student with social interactions using technology:

  • Monitor their communication: Let them know that you will periodically review not only the communication they send out but also what is sent to them.
  • Set aside time to review texts: Due to the nature of texting and online communication, students are often forging ahead with minimal guidelines. When you talk through text conversations, explore how certain language can be misunderstood and cause hurt feelings. Parents could then brainstorm ways to communicate more successfully.
  • Initiate parent-to-parent communication: If you see a text message that you think another parent should know about, please arrange a time to speak with them. Children are going to make mistakes, and families are encouraged to support each other as we all navigate the complicated world of digital communication.
  • Encourage a variety of in-person, real-life relationships: Learning how to negotiate with others face-to-face and resolve differences are among the many interpersonal skills necessary in adult life. When students develop these face-to-face skills, they can adapt these to online skills more easily.

Here are additional suggestions that came from students and adults we’ve talked to this year:

  • Encourage downtime from tech: Students often receive tons of messages and phone calls, including in the middle of the night. An easy way to give students a mental break and avoid such disturbances is putting the phone in a different room or powering it down.
  • Turn off read receipts: This notifies the sender that the receiver has read the text message and can cause conflict if the receiver does not answer right away and feels slighted or ignored.
  • Monitor cell phone usage: This is extremely important for helping our students navigate their online lives. If you see your child is sending multiple text messages in a row or calling someone multiple times, please discuss boundaries. Have them send one message, make one phone call, and then stop.
  • Utilize tech apps: Whether it is on your child's phone, laptop, or video game console, using tech apps to control the amount of time they spend logged on is super helpful. Popular social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok also have useful tools for parental controls. You can “set it and forget it” and don't have to constantly monitor usage.

Additional Resources for Mental Health Boundaries

Parents interested in learning more about online boundaries for adolescents and teenagers can look up Delaney Ruston’s film Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age, as well as Devorah Heitner’s Raising Digital Natives. Heitner is also slated to publish a new book in September 2023, Growing Up in Public.

For additional information from The Siena School blog to help navigate students’ social–emotional health, see Haley’s posts about learning differences and confidence from May 2023 and about social media and mental health from May 2022. 

Siena’s mission-focused innovative dyslexia education is designed for students in grades 3-12 with language-based learning differences on campuses in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Oakton, Virginia.

Learning Differences and Student Confidence

May 24, 2023
By Haley Scranton, LCPC, Counselor at The Siena School

Mental Health Awareness Month 2023

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Month 2023 is More Than Enough. As the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reminds us,

It’s an opportunity for all of us to come together and remember the inherent value we each hold—no matter our diagnosis, appearance, socioeconomic status, background or ability.

Regardless of whether the school year is winding down or ramping up, families in the LD community can always benefit from up-to-date resources for understanding the social–emotional side of learning differences.

Recent Articles on Learning Differences and Self-Confidence

Here are some salient ideas that I’d like to highlight from these Child Mind Institute articles to help parents and students understand the importance of mental health in the LD community:  

How To Help Kids Deal With Embarrassment

  • Model how to deal with embarrassment—acknowledge it, remain calm, even identify the embarrassment or say it was also funny.
  • Do not avoid embarrassing situations; rather, first work through them and then validate and praise children for their resilience.
  • Key quote: “Helping your child gain perspective without minimizing their feelings will make it easier for them to move past negative experiences—and give them an important tool for building self-awareness in the future.”

How To Help Kids Talk About Learning Differences

  • Help LD students understand their specific learning difference and discuss how it impacts them. 
  • Encourage students to practice advocating for what they need or what strategies help them inside and outside the classroom.
  • Key quote: “If your child has habits or strategies that help them manage their learning difference, encourage them to let the teacher know.”

Social Challenges of Kids With Learning Differences 

  • Understand that a non-verbal learning difference could mean challenges with social cues, rules, and understanding jokes. 
  • Acknowledge that (1) children with ADHD might have trouble organizing an answer, show impulse control issues for sharing, or have trouble listening and (2) children with dyslexia might have trouble with complex language.
  • Key quote: “If they’re getting the right support for their learning challenges, they will feel more confident.”

How To Help Kids With LD Build Confidence

  • Practice reframing negative thoughts into positive ones.
  • Instill a sense of belonging and encourage them to engage in outside activities/interests to help boost their confidence.
  • Key quote: “Help your child develop a sense of belonging by helping them make meaningful contributions to family life, friends and community.”

Online Resources for Mental Health Awareness

In addition to the above pieces from Child Mind Institute, here are some other resources to help adolescents, teenagers, and parents get the support they need:

Additional Resources

See also Siena’s Resources webpage for ample links to material on ADHD, dyslexia, parenting, getting support for learning differences, and more. The Siena School blog has recent posts about social media and mental health and lessons in dyslexia advocacy, among many other relevant topics. 

The Siena School, a national leader in dyslexia education, serves bright, college-bound students with language-based learning differences on campuses in Silver Spring, MD (grades 3-12) and Oakton, VA (grades 3-11). 

It’s Time To Be Social Again: Are Young People Ready?

June 10, 2021
By Holly Rothrock, Counselor at The Siena School
summer, community, school~families, teens, tweens, social~emotional~health

With more tweens and teens getting the COVID vaccine, opportunities for social engagement are increasing. While many are looking forward to this return to normalcy as summer begins, many others are understandably feeling anxious about socializing after 15-plus months of limited social interaction. 

Here are some tips for adults to help our tweens and teens navigate this reemergence while also caring for their social and emotional health. 

Acknowledge the Issue

Engaging with others can feel hard when you’re out of practice; remember, also, that some teens may be nervous around germs and getting sick. Adults, validate your teens’ feelings around these feelings of worry; even share your own hesitations. Once you have validated these feelings, help the teen and/or tween in your life think about ways they’ve successfully coped with similar worries in the past. 

We always want to encourage this reengagement with social activities (even on a small scale) as prolonged absence from socializing can lead to avoidance, which can lead to more pronounced worry. 

This recent blog post from Screenagers has some examples and conversation starters for easing everyone back into social interactions this summer and fall. “We...should be applying scaffolding and can experiment with trying to help in different ways,” Dr. Delaney Ruston writes in the post. “The type of help will vary depending on our kids’ ages and situations, but I want to make sure we are all aware that there is a role for our social engineering at times.”

To begin guiding these social interactions, it may be helpful for parents to make a list of social opportunities that feel comfortable at first, such as outdoor-only activities, and add to that list as they (and you) get more comfortable. 

Start Small

Big group activities may be too overwhelming at first, so it is perfectly acceptable to start small. Invite a small group of people (or even one or two peers for a social outing) and keep the time short to ensure that your teen/tween feels comfortable. Parents could talk with their teen/tween after the small social outing to assess what worked, what might not have, and what could work for a future outing. 

Have a Purpose

A get-together with no purpose may be too open-ended and can lead to more anxiety. Instead, help your teen find a shared purpose while socializing. Some ideas for outdoor or indoor activities include:

  • Walking to a store 
  • Baking/cooking
  • Service learning/volunteering
  • Playing a game (tennis, board game, etc.)
  • Watching a movie
  • Enjoying a meal together in an outdoor picnic
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • A sporting event 

Have a Start and End Time

Establishing a start and end time creates structure, which can assist with teens’ comfort levels. Check in when planning an event and ask them how long seems reasonable. Many people may feel emotionally drained with long periods of socializing at first. Parents and/or teens can always increase the duration of activities as time goes by. 

Get Input

Solicit input from all parties. When teens are excited about an activity, it will help ease some worry and give them something to look forward to.

Practice

Just like with any skill, practicing our social skills is important. If your teen is open to it, work on conversation starters. Discuss a recent social situation you were involved in and go over how it went, what went well, and what was awkward. The more we normalize awkwardness in social situations, the more comfortable we all become; it is normal! 

As we slowly ease back to bigger groups and more social opportunities, you should see your tween’s or teen’s comfort level increase. If you are concerned that they are isolating themselves or seem overly anxious, it may be helpful to reach out to a therapist to practice these skills. Here are some resources that may help you as you navigate finding a therapist:

What we have seen over this last year is that our teens and tweens are resilient and flexible and, given time and practice, these social skills will reemerge. 

See The Siena School blog for more posts about social and emotional health, including some lessons in self-care and tips for returning to in-person school.

Recent Posts

5/29/24 - By Haley Scranton, LCPC, Counselor at The Siena School
2/27/24 - By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator
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1/26/24 - By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator
1/4/24 - By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator
12/4/23 - By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator

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