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.”

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.

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 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.

Eating Laundry Pods Really is a Thing Kids are Doing

Today’s post is taken in part from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), highlighting their latest warning about laundry pods.

You might have heard the recent reports of an online challenge for teens which is dangerous and can be deadly. The challenge shows teenagers filming themselves while ingesting laundry pods. Already in 2018, there have been 40 reported exposures nationally to liquid laundry detergent pods by 13- to 19-year-olds. That figure represents 20% of the total number of similar incidents in all of 2017. In addition to teens, the pods are colorful and look like candy to a young child.

Poison centers receive many calls each year about children getting into laundry detergent. Swallowing it often causes mild stomach upset, if there are any symptoms at all, but poison center experts say the new highly concentrated single-load liquid laundry detergent packets seem to be different.

In 2017, through December 31, poison centers received reports of 10,570 exposures to highly concentrated packets of laundry detergent by children 5 and younger. Note: The term “exposure” means someone has had contact with the substance in some way; for example, ingested, inhaled, absorbed by the skin or eyes, etc. Not all exposures are poisonings or overdoses.

Experts at your local poison center urge parents and caregivers to:

  • Always keep detergent containers closed, sealed and stored up high, out of the reach of children.
  • Follow the instructions on the product label.
  • Call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately if you suspect a child has come in contact with this detergent.

Find out more with the AAPCC fact sheet on laundry pods.

Photo © 2014 by Mike Mozart under Creative Commons license.