Helping Your Child When They’re Excluded

It’s a powerless feeling as a parent—your child is being excluded from a group at school, often a group they’ve been friends with for years. That exclusion is a form of bullying known as relational aggression, and can occur online and in person. It can include gossiping, spreading rumors, public humiliation, alliance building, and social isolation. But unlike physical bullying or verbal harassment, it can be hard to spot.

According to a survey by The Ophelia Project, 48% of students in grades 5 through 12 are regularly involved in or witness relational aggression. Students between the ages of 11 and 15 report being exposed to 33 acts of relational aggression during a typical week.

An article at Great Schools provides six ways you can help your child deal with relational aggression. The solution involves teaching them coping skills and how to find healthy friendships. The six strategies are:

  1. Watch for the signs.
  2. Use conversation starters.
  3. Make a friendship tree.
  4. Create a personal billboard.
  5. Problem solve together.
  6. Create a coping kit.

Helping your child deal with relational aggression can minimize the issues that can stem from this form of bullying. Children who experience relational aggression are absent more from school, do worse academically, and exhibit more behavior problems, eating disorders, substance abuse, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and low self-esteem. Read the full article for how to implement each of the six strategies.

USDA Provides School Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit

Does your school or school district have a wellness policy? Chances are, they do, but families and even teachers may not know much about it. The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service has created a Local School Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit to help schools (or PTAs) engage staff and families on their school’s wellness policies. The toolkit includes:

  • A cover letter about the kit
  • A letter to the principal
  • Flyers in English and Spanish for parents
  • PowerPoint presentations aimed at families and staff
  • A newsletter article
  • Social media posts and graphics

Talk to your principal or superintendent about how your PTA can help support your school’s wellness policy. If there is a wellness committee, ask to have families represented on the committee as well. Use the USDA toolkit to support your activities.

National PTA Advocates for Gun Safety and Mental Health Services to Protect Children

Last week, National PTA released the following statement on our advocacy efforts on gun safety and mental health services. In addition to the statement, the 2018 National PTA Legislative Conference on March 13-15 will focus on gun violence prevention efforts. National PTA has also created two documents to help PTAs address these issues:

National PTA joins students, families, educators, school administrators, community leaders and the nation in grief over the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and all acts of gun violence involving children and youth. This kind of loss is unimaginable, and our country has experienced far too many gun-related tragedies. It is urgent that we work together to find solutions and make meaningful changes to keep our children safe.

“Every child deserves to learn in an environment that is safe and to have the opportunity to grow into a happy and healthy adult,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “Our top priorities as a nation should be to protect our children, meet the needs of the whole child and ensure every child reaches their full potential. It is critical that solutions are enacted to eliminate gun violence.”

National PTA urges Congress to adopt legislation that would help prevent future tragedies from occurring while preserving the lawful use of firearms for sport and personal protection. National PTA has a strong history of advocating for laws and regulations in the areas of gun safety and violence prevention and supports the following policy recommendations:

At the same time, National PTA urges federal, state and local policymakers to prioritize mental health education, early intervention, prevention and access to school and community-based mental health personnel and services, so that all children can reach their fullest potential (Position Statement on Early Identification and Interventions for Children with Mental Health Needs, 2017). National PTA has long been committed to providing improved mental health programs and services to children, youth and their families and believes that all children and youth have the right to mental health treatment. National PTA recommends:

  • Federal, state and local policies prioritize outreach and education—including professional development for all school-based employees—in schools and communities regarding childhood mental health.
  • Resources are specifically provided to build mental and behavioral health system capacity within schools and communities to ensure students can receive a proactive continuum of behavioral and mental health services.
  • States and school districts provide the necessary resources to ensure adequate ratios of school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers and school nurses, who are the most qualified professionals to provide school-based mental health services.

“Resolutions and position statements inform PTA’s advocacy efforts on behalf of kids and schools,” added Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA executive director. “National PTA urges our members and all child advocates to reach out to their members of Congress and state and local policymakers to ensure schools and communities have the resources and capacity to provide a safer and healthier environment for all students.”

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.