Are You a Rescuer or a Helper?

If you’re a PTA parent, chances are you are pretty involved in your child’s education. But how you get involved matters in your child’s ability to handle problems on their own once they head out into the world. The two main approaches are often described as Rescuers and Helpers.


  • Take responsibility for solving the problem
  • Tend to give advice when presented with a problem (“You should…”)
  • Bring up past issues that were painful (“This is just like the last time when you…”)
  • Are more like to interfere on behalf of their student (“I’ll call ______ and…”)
  • Tell how they solved a similar problem (“When I was your age…”)
  • Tend to see all problems as big problems
  • Unload their frustrations or fears on the person seeking help
  • Are more likely to feel that there is only one solution to a problem

Result: The parent feels burned out and ineffective, while the student feels disempowered and unheard.


  • Focus on shared goals
  • Leave the past behind, focus on the present
  • Remain or appear to be neutral
  • Use curious questions (“What have you tried?”)
  • Encourage their student to problem solve, using available resources (“What are your ideas?” “Who might you go to for help?”)
  • Listen for feelings and empathize (“It sounds like you…” “How can I help?”)
  • Follow up with their student
  • Let the student make their own decision even if you do not feel it is the best decision

Result: The parent feels useful and effective, while the student feels listened to and empowered.

When our kids are little, it’s easy to be a rescuer because they are much more dependent on us and don’t have many experiences to draw on. But that can easily become our default mode of “helping” as they grow up. Even when they’re little, parents can take the helper approach to teach their child how to solve problems on their own.

6 Myths About Suicide

Suicide is once again in the headlines with the recent suicides of two Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who survived the mass shooting in Parkland, FL and the suicide of the parent of one of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Parents can play an important role in preventing suicide by directly asking their child if they are okay and if they are considering harming themselves. The National Suicide Prevention Lifelineprovides free 24/7 support for people in distress at 1-800 273-8255.

Parents often have mistaken ideas about child suicide. An NPR story a few years ago spells out these six myths:

  1. Asking someone about suicide will cause them to become suicidal.
  2. Depression causes all suicides.
  3. We cannot really prevent suicides.
  4. Suicides always happen in an impulsive moment.
  5. Young children, ages 5 through 12, cannot be suicidal.
  6. When there has been a suicide, having a school assembly seems like a good idea.

Every one of those six statements is not true. Read the full articlefor details on each one. Take advantage of the resources at the National Suicide Prevention Lifelineto learn what the risk factors and warning signs of suicide are.

School Wellness Policies—Is Your PTA at the Table?

Do you know if your school district has a school wellness policy, and if so, what’s in it and what the district is doing to implement it? If your district participates in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, they are required to develop such a plan and to permit parents to participate in its development. They are also required to update and inform parents about its content and implementation. There are many resources to help your PTA get involved in your school’s wellness policy, and this year’s Illinois PTA Convention will also feature a workshop on how parents can change a school’s health culture by Action for Healthy Kids.

National PTA spells out how your PTA can be involved and ensure that parents’ rights and the legal requirement to be included are followed. These resources include:

  • A summary of what an effective, comprehensive school wellness policy should include
  • A School Wellness Committee Toolkit from Alliance for a Healthier Generation to help committees convene, plan, and implement their action plans (Note: login required)
  • Model School Wellness Policies from the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity
  • School Health Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Local School Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit from the US Department of Agriculture to help communicate school wellness information to families and school staff
  • WellSAT 3.0 from the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity that measures the quality of written wellness policies.

School wellness is a community issue, and your school district is required to include families in the development and implementation of their policy. Ensure that your PTA has a seat at the table to advocate for your child and the children of your school district.

That Google Doc May Not Be Your Kid’s Homework

Today’s teenagers aren’t passing notes in class any more—at least not physically. And while it looks like your kid is diligently working away at their homework, they may actually be chatting with friends. That’s because kids are now getting around the inability to have their phone out in class, the use of blocking software at school and home, and parental rules about no social media when doing homework by using Google Docs as a chat room.

The collaboration tools in Google Docs make it possible for kids to gather and chat. By using different fonts or colors to identify themselves, they can chat in the document itself or copy a document that they are supposed to be collaborating on and chat in the comments. From a distance, it looks like they are working away, and a quick document deletion or resolve of the comments makes the chat disappear if someone comes to take a closer look.

Kids are going to continue to stay ahead of the adults online when it comes to communicating with each other. They’ve always been able to figure out ways around the ways that adults try to stop them, including using the comments section of old blog posts. That’s why it’s best for parents to approach the online world just like they do with the real world—teach them how to be safe and kind. PTAs and parents can take advantage of the PTA Connected programs, from the Smart Talk to set up family guidelines for how to behave online to events created by National PTA in collaboration with Google and Facebook.