Top 10 Water Safety Tips

With warmer weather finally here, many people are heading outdoors. If your outdoor plans include being around water, whether swimming, fishing, or boating, be sure to follow these top ten water safety tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can find these and other information on how to be safe around water on the CDC website.

  1. DO learn to swim.If you like to have a good time doing water activities, being a strong swimmer is a must.
  2. DO take a friend along.Even though you may be a good swimmer, you never know when you may need help. Having friends around is safer and just more fun!
  3. DO know your limits.Watch out for the “too’s”—too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much hard activity.
  4. DO swim in supervised (watched) areas only,and follow all signs and warnings.
  5. DO wear a life jacket when boating, jet skiing, water skiing, rafting, or fishing.
  6. DO stay alert to currents.They can change quickly! If you get caught in a strong current, don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until you have passed through it. Near piers, jetties (lines of big rocks), small dams, and docks, the current gets unpredictable and could knock you around. If you find it hard to move around, head to shore. Learn to recognize and watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents — water that is a weird color, really choppy, foamy, or filled with pieces of stuff.
  7. DO keep an eye on the weather.If you spot bad weather (dark clouds, lighting), pack up and take the fun inside.
  8. DON’T mess around in the water.Pushing or dunking your friends can get easily out of hand.
  9. DON’T dive into shallow water.If you don’t know how deep the water is, don’t dive.
  10. DON’T float where you can’t swim.Keep checking to see if the water is too deep, or if you are too far away from the shore or the poolside.

Photo © 2016 by Roman Boed under Creative Commons license.

Help with 5 Tough Questions About Teens, Alcohol, and Drugs

With marijuana legalization legislation pending in the General Assembly, families may need to have more discussions about its use. While the proposed legislation would legalize marijuana for those over 21, Illinois PTA continues to follow the bill regarding parts that may affect those under 21, including drug education requirements, protections to prevent sales to those under 21, and expungement of criminal records of those convicted of possession.

Great Schools! published an article answering five tough questions about teens, alcohol, and drugs. While many parents know the basic facts to convey to their child about these issues, there are several nuances that parents may struggle with how to address:

  1. Does talking to my child about drugs or alcohol get them thinking about something they’re otherwise oblivious to?
  2. Should I offer a safe ride home no matter what?
  3. Should I share my own history?
  4. Should my kid learn about drinking at home?
  5. How can I tell if my kid is smoking pot?

The article answers each of these difficult questions with help from experts, and these are important discussions to have with your child. As Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) notes, one in five teens binge drink, but only one in 100 parents think it’s happening.

New Guide on Improving School Climate

We all want safe and supportive schools for our children, and a key part of providing that environment in s healthy school climate. Last month, the US Department of Education released a new guide to help parents and educators improve school climate.

The guide is designed as a series of Frequently Asked Questions about school climate, starting with what school climate is and moving on to how that climate is affected by student discipline and other factors and how schools can improve. Among the questions answered by the guide are:

  • What does the research show regarding positive school climate improvement efforts?
  • How does the use of “exclusionary” student discipline (e.g., out-of-school suspension) fit within school climate improvement?
  • What if my school has never attempted a school climate improvement effort? What if my school has already started a school climate improvement effort?
  • What interventions should be used as part of a school climate improvement effort?
  • What can I do to ensure my school climate improvement effort is sustainable over the long term?

The guide is written in straightforward language and explains any educational jargon as well. Also included are examples of best practices that have been successful in schools across the country. The guide concludes with an appendix listing other programs, guides, and resources to help improve school climate.

The National PTA School of Excellence programalso fits in well with efforts to improve school climate. You can sign your PTA and school up for the 2019-2020 program now through October 1, 2019.

EncourageMe Program Helps Kids Develop Supportive Friendships

It’s not often that a Girl Scout Gold Award project receives national recognition, but that’s what is happening for Atlanta, GA Girl Scout Avery B. For her Gold Award (similar to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout rank), she created the EncourageMe program—a program designed to help teach older elementary school students about supportive friendships.

The program consists of four separate sessions, each with a printable lesson plan, two video lessons, discussion questions about the videos, and activities and games that relate to the topic. The four sessions focus on:

  • Communication
  • Support
  • Trust
  • Conflict

The program is designed to be used in the classroom, but could be used as a PTA event with four stations or as an after school program.

The sessions were all reviewed by a school psychologist, and elementary school counselor, and a middle school counselor to ensure that they covered appropriate skills effectively. She has successfully used the program at four different elementary schools.

Avery B spoke at the Georgia School Counselors Association meeting in 2018 about the EncourageMe program, and it has been featured in the newsletters of both the Florida and Illinois School Counselors Associations. Check out the EncourageMe program as a way for your PTA to help kids develop supportive friendships.