Early Learning Council’s New Guidelines for Community Engagement

The value of PTA can be measured in a wide variety of ways, but one of the most strategic is representation of the parent community at the state level through participation in meaningful relationships. One such relationship is with the Illinois Early Learning Council. Created by Public Act 93-380, the Council is a public-private partnership designed to strengthen, coordinate, and expand programs and services for children, birth to five, throughout Illinois. The Council builds on current programs to ensure a comprehensive, statewide early learning system (preschool, child care, Head Start, health care, and support programs for parents) to improve the lives of Illinois children and families.

The mission of the Council is to collaborate with child-serving systems and families to meet the needs of young children, prioritizing those with the highest need, through comprehensive early learning services for children and families prenatally to age five. The Illinois PTA continues to be part of the Early Learning Council, and a representative serves on the Principles and Practices subcommittee. Ongoing dialogue about the need for age-appropriate learning experiences has prompted the development of the Guidelines for Community Engagement (included in the ZIP file).

We believe these guidelines can assist parents of young children, as well as PTA leaders, in creating a dialogue with teachers and administrators centered on the Illinois Early Learning Standards, as well as with the community at large with regard to the value of high quality early learning programs. In addition, PTA Councils in districts with an early learning program may wish to meet with their district about forming an early learning PTA to serve as a resource for family communication and education.

Talking to Kids About Violence

As the nation deals with yet another school shooting, many parents may be struggling about how to talk about violence with their children. Parents can no longer just keep the TV news off and assume their kids won’t see or hear much about an event, as the latest shooting had students sharing videos and pictures from inside the school on social media. Many schools now have active shooter drills that they practice, just like fire drills and tornado drills. It has become impossible to shield our children from these acts of violence, and thus important that we talk with them about those events.

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has an article, along with a shareable PDF and infographic, on how to talk to children about violence. The key points:

  • Reassure children that they are safe.
  • Make time to talk.
  • Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
  • Review safety procedures.
  • Observe children’s emotional state.
  • Limit television viewing of these events.
  • Maintain a normal routine.

When talking with your child, NASP suggests emphasizing these points:

  • Schools are safe places.
  • We all play a role in school safety.
  • There is a difference between reporting, tattling, or gossiping.
  • Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and the probability that it will affect you or your school.
  • Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand.
  • Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others.
  • Stay away from guns and other weapons.
  • Violence is never a solution to personal problems.

Read the full article for additional information on all of these points. Share the PDF with your PTA members. Use the infographic on your PTA’s social media.

It’s Not Too Late to Get a Flu Shot

This year’s flu season is worse than usual, with diagnoses and hospitalizations continuing to increase every week and over 4,000 deaths last week (10% of all deaths) from influenza. To make matters worse, there is a lot of misinformation out on social media regarding the flu and the flu vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) have a page on common misconceptions about the flu and vaccines that everyone should be aware of. Popular Science has also run an article on the importance of getting a flu shot. Here are some important points:

  • The flu vaccine’s effectiveness can vary from season to season and for different strains of flu, but vaccination reduces the severity and duration of the symptoms even where it is not completely effective.
  • Flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from influenza. This flu season, at least 53 children have died due to influenza.
  • The flu shot will not give you the flu. The most common reaction to a flu shot is soreness at the spot where the shot was given. Some people have a mild low-grade fever and achiness as their body builds its response to the shot, but this is not the flu and symptoms usually last only one or two days. Finally, some common cold viruses have some symptoms similar to the flu that are also common during flu season, causing some people to think they have the flu when they do not.
  • The flu shot, or any other vaccines, will not give your child autism. The original study indicating a link between vaccines and autism has been retracted due to falsified results in the study, and no later studies have shown any link between the two.
  • It’s not too late to get a flu shot. The ideal time to get a flu shot is in October before flu season starts, but getting one now can still be effective. It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to reach its full effectiveness. “Flu season” typically runs through the end of March, but that is just the peak time for flu. This year’s season appears to be bigger and perhaps will be longer than usual, and the influenza cases are reported year-round.
  • If you don’t know where you can get a flu shot, the CDC has a flu shot locator tool.

Characteristics of Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships

With the #MeToo movement all over social media and Valentine’s Day coming up, it is a good opportunity to have a discussion with your teen about relationships. February is also National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Today’s guest post comes from youth.gov and covers the characteristics healthy and unhealthy relationships. It is part of their Dating Violence Prevention pages.

Respect for both oneself and others is a key characteristic of healthy relationships. In contrast, in unhealthy relationships, one partner tries to exert control and power over the other physically, sexually, and/or emotionally.

Healthy Relationships

Healthy relationships share certain characteristics that teens should be taught to expect. They include:

  • Mutual Respect: Respect means that each person values who the other is and understands the other person’s boundaries.
  • Trust: Partners should place trust in each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt.
  • Honesty: Honesty builds trust and strengthens the relationship.
  • Compromise: In a dating relationship, each partner does not always get his or her way. Each should acknowledge different points of view and be willing to give and take.
  • Individuality: Neither partner should have to compromise who he/she is, and his/her identity should not be based on a partner’s. Each should continue seeing his or her friends and doing the things he/she loves. Each should be supportive of his/her partner wanting to pursue new hobbies or make new friends.
  • Good Communication: Each partner should speak honestly and openly to avoid miscommunication. If one person needs to sort out his or her feelings first, the other partner should respect those wishes and wait until he or she is ready to talk.
  • Anger Control: We all get angry, but how we express it can affect our relationships with others. Anger can be handled in healthy ways such as taking a deep breath, counting to ten, or talking it out.
  • Fighting Fair: Everyone argues at some point, but those who are fair, stick to the subject, and avoid insults are more likely to come up with a possible solution. Partners should take a short break away from each other if the discussion gets too heated.
  • Problem Solving: Dating partners can learn to solve problems and identify new solutions by breaking a problem into small parts or by talking through the situation.
  • Understanding: Each partner should take time to understand what the other might be feeling.
  • Self-confidence: When dating partners have confidence in themselves, it can help their relationships with others. It shows that they are calm and comfortable enough to allow others to express their opinions without forcing their own opinions on them.
  • Being a Role Model: By embodying what respect means, partners can inspire each other, friends, and family to also behave in a respectful way.
  • Healthy Sexual Relationship: Dating partners engage in a sexual relationship that both are comfortable with, and neither partner feels pressured or forced to engage in sexual activity that is outside his or her comfort zone or without consent.

Unhealthy Relationships

Unhealthy relationships are marked by characteristics such as disrespect and control. It is important for youth to be able to recognize signs of unhealthy relationships before they escalate. Some characteristics of unhealthy relationships include:

  • Control: One dating partner makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. He or she is unreasonably jealous, and/or tries to isolate the other partner from his or her friends and family.
  • Hostility: One dating partner picks a fight with or antagonizes the other dating partner. This may lead to one dating partner changing his or her behavior in order to avoid upsetting the other.
  • Dishonesty: One dating partner lies to or keeps information from the other. One dating partner steals from the other.
  • Disrespect: One dating partner makes fun of the opinions and interests of the other partner or destroys something that belongs to the partner.
  • Dependence: One dating partner feels that he or she “cannot live without” the other. He or she may threaten to do something drastic if the relationship ends.
  • Intimidation: One dating partner tries to control aspects of the other’s life by making the other partner fearful or timid. One dating partner may attempt to keep his or her partner from friends and family or threaten violence or a break-up.
  • Physical Violence: One partner uses force to get his or her way (such as hitting, slapping, grabbing, or shoving).
  • Sexual Violence: One dating partner pressures or forces the other into sexual activity against his or her will or without consent.

It is important to educate youth about the value of respect and the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships before they start to date. Youth may not be equipped with the necessary skills to develop and maintain healthy relationships, and may not know how to break up in an appropriate way when necessary. Maintaining open lines of communication may help them form healthy relationships and recognize the signs of unhealthy relationships, thus preventing the violence before it starts.