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.

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.