Wilson counselors have a combined length of experience of over 75 years of helping teens and their parents navigate the high school experience. Check back here periodically for information, advice, and helpful tips.
13 Reasons Why Guidance
The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has captured the attention of many students worldwide—perhaps achieving the highest viewership of any Netflix series to date. The fictional story is cautionary tale of a young girl’s suicide, and covers other sensitive subject matter as the series progresses. Educators and mental health professionals are recognizing that this series has captured some of the darkest concerns that adolescents are dealing with, and that adults need to be prepared to respond.
The Jed Foundation in collaboration with SAVE.org has created talking points to help young viewers and adults talk about suicide as it relates to the situational drama that unfolds in 13 Reasons Why. You can find the talking points here.
There is a growing realization in our culture that kids using technology creates some challenges. In Wilson's counseling office we often meet with students who are suffering from anxiety, depression, or sleep problems only to find out that technology overuse is sometimes at the heart of the problem. Here are two great resources for Wilson parents around this important issue.
First, in a recent article in the New York Times, "When Tech is Problem Child," authors interviewed 60 families about how they deal with issues of technology. This article gives lots of helpful suggestions and examples of strategies used by other families. It covers topics like first phones, bedtime, punishments, and family time. There are lots of great suggestions and the article is entertaining at the same time.
Second, Wilson is hosting a screening of the new documentary, "Screenagers" on Tuesday, December 13, at 7 pm. The movie is just over an hour long and will be followed by a panel discussion of parents, students, and staff.
We encourage you to utilize these resources and know you aren't alone in trying to navigate the challenges
Ten Tips to Help Parents Understand the Adolescent Brain:
- The thinking, reasoning, and decision-making part of the adolescent brain (the prefrontal cortex) isn’t done developing until the mid-late 20’s. . .Adults in an adolescent’s life can help by modeling healthy problem-solving and decision-making.
- Model the behaviors you want your adolescent to engage in. . . Often our children become who we are.
- Adolescents interpret emotional expressions and body language differently than adults. . . Let your teen know if you are tired or sad or frustrated, otherwise they may think you are mad at them which can unnecessarily increase conflict.
- Sleep is essential. . . It is the time during the day that the brain decides what information to keep and what to get rid of.
- Substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs can structurally change the adolescent brain. . . Adolescence is an intense developmental period—the brain is very sensitive to the harmful effects of powerful chemicals during this time
- Risk-taking and exploring are an important part of adolescent development. . . Adults can help create opportunities for adolescents to take healthy risks and practice making choices on their own.
- Encourage healthy activities as experiences shape and mold the adolescent brain. . . The adolescent brain is busy making connections—if a certain part of the brain isn’t used those neurons will be pruned away—like a tree. Encourage your adolescent to engage in activities they want hardwired.
- Have clear and consistent expectations and consequences. . . Make sure teens know the “rules to the game” before they start playing.
- Problem-solve when everyone is calm. . . Remember—it is hard to think clearly or retain information when you are angry. Adolescents tend to respond to conflict using the primal, emotional center of their brain rather than their underdeveloped prefrontal cortex.
- Listen more than lecture. . . Really hear what your adolescent is saying—share adult wisdom by practicing what you want to preach.
How and Why to Help your Teen get Enough Sleep
Excerpts from YourTeenMagazine interview with Arianna Huffington:
Research shows the majority of teenagers are sleep-deprived. How does not getting enough sleep impact our teens?
The impact can be severe, and sleep is a particular problem for teens. Studies have shown that insufficient sleep is directly linked to stress and anxiety in teens. And with the distraction of technology and school start times that are too early across much of the country, a high percentage of our teens are not getting adequate sleep.
If teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep, what is the damage and long-term effect of missing several needed hours of sleep each night?
Chronically missing sleep can have the same negative consequences for teens as adults: a heightened risk for an array of physical and mental health problems, including heart disease, obesity, stress, anxiety, and depression. And for students, missing sleep can also mean lower academic performance.
How can parents help their teenagers sleep better?
The first thing parents should do is model good sleep behavior, because showing the behavior we want to encourage is better than just demanding it. Also, parents should guard against over-scheduling their children. Kids need downtime—it lets them think, be creative, connect with themselves, and recharge. Parents should also be careful about the effects of technology: all devices should be turned off well before bedtime and charged outside the bedroom.
How can parents help teenagers learn to prioritize sleep for themselves, so when they go to college, those practices are in place?
There are things the entire family can do to create a family ritual, like having everyone put their phones at a recharging station outside bedrooms. Also, so young people will be able to take responsibility for their own good sleep habits when they're in college, parents should start giving teens responsibility early on. This means not just telling them when to go to bed, but education about the benefits of good sleep habits, which will give them internal motivation to do it themselves.
Suggestions from the Wilson counselors about helping your teen get enough sleep and develop good sleep habits:
- Help your child find balance in their lives. If they have an extremely full academic load they may need to cut back some on after-school activities. If your child plays sports year-round you may want to consider backing off on their academic load a bit. Students need 6 classes per year to graduate—keep that in mind.
- Help your child manage their technology. Take phones and computers out of students' bedrooms—the temptation can be too great. For an evening just monitor your student's phone to see just how many texts they are receiving how late into the night. It can be a shock. Agree on a time (about an hour before bedtime is ideal) to turn off the technology.
- Encourage physical activity and other interests that require your student to put down their technology.
Finally, if you are concerned that your teen is unable to put limits on their technology use be advised that addictions to technology are a real problem. If you notice that your child is not sleeping, grades have fallen, social life has reduced, eating habits have changed, and they are not willing to go for a while without their technology, you may have a more serious problem.
There is a new program for teens who are gaming in excess called Promoting Healthy Gaming & Tech Use Habits.
We encourage you to seek support resources or talk with your child's school counselor!
A Parent’s Guide to High School: How To Survive Their High School Experience
We all remember our high school experience with varying degrees of joy and misery. High school is harder—both socially and academically—than any previous school experience. And we’re not just talking about the students. As parents, you are trying to support their need for independence with the increased rigor of classes. You know that these years really matter when it comes to choices later on. Yet, you want them to still be kids and to have fun.
It’s a tough balance when they insist on making their own decisions about their future, but still want you to make their lunch and drive them to school when they get up late. This is a tough age.
Here are a few tips for YOU on surviving their years at Wilson High School.
Tired of the monosyllabic grunts? Tired of the ubiquitous “fine” when you ask them anything about their day? Ask leading questions. Instead of asking “how was your day?” try asking what they are studying in science right now, or what book they are reading in English.
Communicate indirectly. Sometimes, to be heard, you need to write a letter so your kids can digest your thoughts on their own time when they are less defensive and more open to what you have to say.
Use Wilson staff as a resource. Working with your teachers, counselors, and administrators is key in the ever-complex world of secondary education. We certainly can’t do our job without your support at home. Equally, communicate with us when you have concerns or questions.
Assume they do have homework. Instead of asking “do you have any homework?” ask “what is your homework this weekend?” Better yet, ask to see their homework. If they continuously say they don’t have any or they did it at school, you might suspect that there’s something wrong with that picture. Email teachers and consult Synergy to check in about this.
It’s really not their fault they are disorganized. Certainly, there are degrees, but remember their brain is not fully wired yet, so the ability to plan ahead is not fully developed. You can help them by creating a plan for remembering things. Do they use a planner? Can you place a large notice board at home, so you can all keep track? Do their teachers use the web to post calendars or assignments?
Bite-sized pieces are easier to swallow. Help them break their assignments to projects into more manageable pieces to avoid that feeling of being overwhelmed. Again, these management skills are not yet fully baked in the adolescent brain, so have patience.
- Sadly, too much for their school day is spent sitting and listening. The brain and body need time to absorb and process all the information they receive. Encourage exercise every day.
- It’s an old but a good one: Their brain needs food to function—don’t forget a breakfast that includes protein and complex carbohydrates.
- Consider helping them to limit their screen time, particularly before bed. Students who turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bed have better sleep and are more rested than those who don’t.
Parents are still the most important, influential people in your teen’s life. Despite how it may seem, their friends are not their biggest influence. Nor is mass media. It’s you! Your opinions still carry the most weight. When asked who makes the biggest difference in their lives, teens overwhelmingly name YOU as their source of support, inspiration and learning.