Social Media Etiquette

Hello, parents!

This month, we are going to be speaking with your children about social media etiquette and the differences between sexual harassment and flirting. Social media plays a huge role in our daily lives, and is an often-overlooked integral aspect of the teenage experience. But teens often don’t fully comprehend the level of information that is so easily accessible by others when using certain apps or sites, and this lack of knowledge can be dangerous. Social media can also create a feeling of disconnection from whom you’re speaking with, making it easier to be mean to another person without understanding the ramifications. We will also discuss digital boundaries to ensure your children are giving and receiving the respect they deserve when using social media and are in a relationship.

We will further the conversation about boundaries with our discussion on sexual harassment and flirting. Understanding the differences between sexual harassment and flirting can be difficult for a variety of reasons. Often, society teaches children and young adults that some actions are flirting when they are actually pushing an individual’s boundaries, causing discomfort. In reality, these perpetrations are forms of harassment. Personal boundaries, reading body language, and open communication are essential components of any interaction, flirting included. So, we will break down the differences between harassment and flirtation; unpack individual boundaries and levels of comfort with the intention to promote happy, fun, enjoyable flirting experiences while mitigating all potential forms of sexual harassment.

We urge you to have the same conversations with your children after we meet and discuss these topics. There is always more to discuss.

We hope this newsletter finds you well and that you are enjoying this early coming of Spring-like weather. As always, if you have any questions about any of the topics presented above, please feel free to contact us at [email protected] or call at (919) 828-7501.

How Black Panther is Good for Our Mental Health By Vanessa Soleil

The newest film from Marvel Studios is getting a lot of well-earned attention. It wows with its creative visuals, exciting action, compelling story, strong characters, and stellar acting. The fictionalized African nation of Wakanda is a richly imagined world with innovative technology, and powerful and principled leaders. As many are taking note, Black Panther’s impact goes beyond its entertainment value and blockbuster success. With its predominantly black cast, production crew, and director, this film makes history because it expands and widens representations of Africa and African Americans in the media. Research shows that seeing images from one’s own cultural and ethnic background increases self-worth and contributes to a sense of hopefulness and possibility. When popular culture offers up positive representations of people who are often stereotyped or overlooked, we all benefit. Youth from diverse backgrounds are provided with models to which they can aspire, and research has found that depictions that better reflect the humanity of marginalized people promotes greater empathy among the rest of us. In contrast, when there is a lack of representation, it can lead people to feel like they are invisible, or that their existence does not matter.

People across the globe are taking notice of Black Panther due to Marvel’s tremendous fan following. I wanted to take a moment to highlight some other family friendly movies, shows, and books that can have a positive impact on mental health and wellness through their inclusive representations that may be lesser known. These titles can uplift and promote a healthy self-concept through the visibility and inclusion of underrepresented identities.

Movies: Meet the Patels, Akeelah and the Bee, Hidden Figures, Moana, Los Punks, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
TV series: Born this Way, Fresh off the Boat, One Day at a Time, Huge
Comic books: Ms. Marvel, Black Panther, El Deafo by CeCe Bell
Young Adult Fiction: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo, Antisocial by Jillian Blake and Tara Sands, Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, The Garden of my Imaan by Farhana Zia, The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera, Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, This Book isn’t Fat, It’s Fabulous by Nina Beck
Children’s books: Wings by Christopher Myers, Skin Again by bell hooks, Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino

Part of our vision at CCERC is to offer world class, multicultural, social justice counseling. As advocates for media that is affirming and improves mental health, we applaud these efforts. We also call for more stories and heroes that reflect the wide spectrum of human diversity in our society. Maybe it’s time to tell your story!

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM)!

Hello parents,

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM)! Teen Dating Violence (TDV) often goes unnoticed and discussed due to our belief that these are not “adult” issues. However, this is not the case: one in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner and one in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend (loveisrespect.org). Further, abuse and violence that begins in adolescence become more extreme in adulthood. We at InterAct aim to drastically lessen these statistics by talking to your children about boundaries, expectations, and TDV.

Boundaries and expectations often go unspoken during romance, leading to unhealthy assumptions and standards within romantic dynamics. By addressing individual boundaries, expectations, desire, and beliefs, we will deconstruct expectations to ensure that what your children are looking for is healthy, fair, and realistic. Further, by acknowledging the prevalence of dating violence, red flags, coping skills, and self-reflection, we will help your children better fathom the gravity of TDV while providing them the skills to lead healthy lives as individuals and as romantic partners.

This topic can be heavy and triggering for parents and students, alike. Websites and organizations such as Break The Cycle (breakthecycle.org), Love is Respect (loveisrespect.org), and RAINN (rain.org) offer fantastic education for teens and adults, and we recommend you search them if you have any concerns whatsoever. Also, please continue to talk about these difficult topics with your children. We can only do so much in the few hours we see them, and these discussions merit much more than we can offer in this limited capacity.

As always, if you have any questions about any of the topics presented above, please feel free to contact us at [email protected] or call at (919) 828-7501.

Hello, Parents!

Last month at Teen Talk, our InterAct staff discussed personality types and how unique characteristics of a person can affect how they act in relationships.  Specifically, we addressed how to utilize one’s natural strengths while acknowledging areas for growth.  Further, we talked of how your children can use their skills to be active and responsible in relationships while promoting an understanding that their partner may have different strengths, weaknesses, and overall values than they do.   It was our goal to leave them with a more expansive perspective on differences amongst themselves, their peers, and their romantic interests to ensure nonjudgmental, healthy interpersonal dynamics.

In December, our first meeting will build off of the past discussions, promoting your children to create-a-date, i.e., what is their ideal fun date?  How do their boundaries (deal-breakers) and requirements (must-haves) factor into what they expect when going out with someone?  We hope that your children will utilize that knowledge for more in-depth self-exploration, as well.  Our second meeting will then be a switch in tone with a joint holiday party with North Carolina State University’s Community, Counseling, Education, and Research Center (CCERC)!  We will eat some food, play some games, relax, and wind down our year in festive fashion.

We at InterAct would like to thank you for supporting your children through one more year.  It has been a pleasure talking with them, and we are looking forward to continuing our discussions next year.  As always, if you have any questions about any of the topics presented above, please feel free to contact us at [email protected] or call at (919) 828-7501.

Merry holidays & happy New Year,

InterAct Youth Services

How to Stay Stress-free This Holiday Season by Dave Hughes

Well, they’re here again.  And while they may represent different beliefs and mean different things for each of us, they tend to bring with them visits from relatives, turkey-induced tryptophan comas, gift shopping, work parties, traveling, cooking, school plays and events, breaking a budget or two, and oh yeah: stress.  Let’s face it, the holidays can be tough.  Let’s talk about how to take care of yourself during this busy festive season.

Own where you’re at

There can be a lot of social pressure on us to embody some sort of Hallmark picturesque image of 24/7 joy and cheer this time of year.  This is especially true when we can scroll through pictures and updates from the best 5% of everyone else’s life on our phones and compare it to the messy (aka normal) 100% of ours.  There seems to be an unspoken message that that 5% is what we should be experiencing all the time.  For many of us though, this season can be marked with feelings of depression, anxiety, grief, or any number of difficult emotions and you know what?  That’s OK.  Take some time out each day and have an honest check-in with yourself.  Ask yourself: where am I at right now?  What am I feeling?  Allow it to stand in stark rebellion to what our social media feeds and televisions tell us we should be feeling.

Don’t own where you’re not

This time of year, many of us spend time visiting with family members we haven’t seen for a while.  While these relatives may bring us joy or fond memories, they can also bring us baggage that doesn’t belong to us.  That aunt that keeps trying to fit you into the box you don’t belong in?  The sibling who has the answer to all your problems and won’t stop asking you why you’re still single?  The parent who keeps telling you how to parent your own children?  It’s OK to have some healthy boundaries with them.  You don’t have to be aggressive but you don’t have to be a doormat either.  You can be assertive and kind in insisting that people be as respectful of your boundaries as you are with theirs.  And remember, at the end of the day they don’t get the last word on you and how you live.  It’s okay to spend time with people that bring emotional baggage, but wedon’t have to take all that baggage home with us.

Listen (and be kind) to your body

Stress shows up in more than just our emotions or our thoughts; it shows up in our bodies as well.  Notice your sleep and eating patterns, and try to work in some exercise and time outside in nature.  We tend to drag our bodies around all day while our brains are busy trying to fix the past or off making sure our future turns out right.  Take some time to yourself.  Notice what it feels like to take 5 minutes for yourself and unapologetically do nothing with them but enjoy them.

If you’d like more information about CCERC (the Community Counseling, Education, and Research Center) located at the WELL, please contact us at [email protected] or by phone at 919.856.9233 ext. 107. You can also go to our website: go.ncsu.edu/ccerc. Please note that CCERC will be closed for NC State’s winter break from December 13 until January 8th.

Interact Challenges Stereotypes in Teen Talk

By: Interact

Hello, parents!

Welcome back to another year of academia.  We at InterAct Youth Services are excited to educate our students, your children!  This month, we will be focusing on challenging stereotypes.  Questioning normative standards is an essential aspect of critical thinking, and high school is the perfect time to hone one’s skills.  By looking at gender norms, self-love, and the value in other people’s differences, we will open a dialogue for your children to discuss our culture.  We will then further analyze individual biases and how they impact personal relationships, as well.

This choice of content is largely in part due to October being bullying prevention awareness month, stating the goal of “…encourage[ing] communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on all children of all ages.”  Bullying can occur due to a variety of factors: age, gender, gender orientation, sex, race, ethnicity, class, and religion.  Constant bullying can have a powerfully detrimental effect on a child’s cognitive and social development, self-worth, and self-confidence; can increase stress, and can lead to substance abuse.  It is essential that we converse about loving one’s self, valuing others, and being accepting of other’s differences.  Everybody deserves to be accepted for who they are, and our goal is to promote this belief to create a healthier, more joyous world.

Our first meeting will consist of discussing normative standards, particularly gender stereotypes, to decrease stigma and increase understanding of differences.  We hope to mitigate bullying and propagate a culture of valuing differences through acceptance.  Our second week will look at our individual biases and how they impact our relationships directly.  This is all with the goal of enhancing your children’s critical thinking and promoting a culture of acceptance.

Outside of our class time, we urge you to have these conversations with your children.  If you suspect your child is being bullied or is bullying, please reach out and try to help.  When you hear your child make a gender-normative, racist, sexist, classist, or other oppressive statements that trivializes another’s experience, please do not let it go unchecked.  Together, we can create a culture of acceptance.  Together, we can strive to better the world.  For, as they say, it takes a village.

If you have any questions about any of the topics presented above, please feel free to contact us at [email protected] or call at (919) 828-7501.

Enhancing Wellness: Nurturing Your Coping Self

By: Vanessa Soleil

A warm welcome back from the staff at the Community Counseling, Education, and Research Center (CCERC). As we resume counseling services after summer break and launch into another school year of partnership with the WELL, we’re continuing to explore wellness for all in our community. Our belief at CCERC is that counseling can support growth and positive development for anyone, in any stage of life, and help families and individuals to live a full and meaningful life. Central to this approach to our counseling is the model of the Indivisible Self.  Last spring, we shared information with readers about 4 of the 5 components of this wellness model. Those were the social self (family, friendship, and romantic love), the essential self (your spirituality, cultural identity, and self-care), the physical self (exercise and eating well), the creative self (your thoughts, your emotions, what you do for work/study, and your sense of humor). Our final installment in this series focuses on the coping self (what you do in your leisure time, your stress management, and your self-worth).  Reach out and connect with a counselor at CCERC if you would like support in using this model to make positive changes in your life.

Coping relates to our ability to move through difficult emotions and events and to adopt beliefs and behaviors that reduce our levels of stress. Knowing our inherent value as a person and having a strong sense of self-worth is one aspect of the coping self that can go a long way in fostering positive mental health. While self-esteem is based on our accomplishments, activities, and external standards of beauty or success, self-worth is instead based on who we are, not what we do or what we look like. We don’t have to buy into the competitive culture of comparing our relationships, careers, vacations, or attractiveness to anyone else’s. Instead, we can develop our self-worth by knowing our values, acting in integrity with them, and practicing self-compassion by speaking to ourselves in a kind way. Often, we are our own biggest critic, while we see the best in others and are willing to forgive our friends’ flaws and mistakes. Learning to encourage and assure ourselves the way we would a friend, can help to soften the inner critic.

How we spend our down time is another piece of the coping self. Being able to experience pleasure and find flow while absorbed in leisure activities and hobbies can help lift us out of the day to day routines of work and domestic responsibilities, and bring out our creative, spiritual, or social dimensions. Research shows that participating in enjoyable leisure activities or hobbies is linked to a decrease in stress, and to favorable outcomes in physical health measures such as lower blood pressure.

Lastly, learning to manage stress means understanding what brings on stress in your life, knowing how it impacts you, and developing tools to prevent or overcome stress. Stress management is the skill of organizing our time and energy so that we don’t get burnt out or overextend ourselves.

Here are some specific ideas that may help you to build up your coping self:

  • Take a self-compassion break. Writer and therapist, Dr. Kristin Neff, offers this exercise for when we are facing a stressful or painful circumstance. We bring the situation to mind and tune into what we are feeling. We then say to ourselves: 1) “This is a moment of suffering.” Or, “This is stress.” 2) “Suffering is a part of life.” Or, “I am not alone.” 3) “May I give myself compassion.” Or, “May I learn to accept myself as I am.” Choose language that feels right to you. You can also imagine what a friend would say to you in a challenging moment, and say these words to yourself.
  • Set healthy boundaries. Part of managing our time and energy includes being able to say “no” to invitations or requests on our time and effort, as well as building in free time into our calendars to account for unexpected events and distractions. Some questions you can ask yourself before agreeing to take on another commitment are: “Does this line up with my core values?” “Does this bring out my strengths or work towards my goals?” and “Is this something I will easily be able to fit into my schedule?” Alexandra Franzen offers this advice on how to say “no” to someone when you are worried about hurting a relationship or are feeling obligated to say “yes,” but know you cannot comfortably add more into your schedule.
  • Practice 4-7-8 breathing. Intentional breathing with awareness can slower breathing, improve blood pressure, reduce stress and enhance wellness. Start by sitting up in a comfortable position, spine long, shoulders rolled back and body alert and relaxed. Touch the tip of your tongue to the ridge of your upper gums, behind your teeth. Slowly inhale through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for another count of 7. Open your mouth slightly, keeping your tongue in place, and exhale for 8 counts. Repeat this cycle 4 times.
  • Rediscover an interest or develop a new passion that helps you lose track of time. Getting absorbed in an activity and forgetting about all of life’s lists and labors is great for your health. I lose myself in music and making mixes for friends. Some of my clients feel flow in their yoga practice, boxing classes, poetry writing, comic book reading, baking, or painting. Is there a craft, sport, or field of knowledge you used to love that you lost track of as life got busy? Carve out some time to reconnect or explore new possibilities in your community. If you’re not sure where to start, flip through the Indy’s Fall Guide for inspiration and see if an event jumps out at you to join in, or explore classes that Wake County Parks and Recreation offers here.
  • Come in and speak with a counselor at CCERC. We will take the time to listen to you, discuss your goals, and together we can create a wellness plan that nurtures the coping self, as well as the physical, social, creative, and essential selves.

What Parents Should Know About Mental Health Awareness Month

By: Kathleen Shumaker, BSW – Youth Education Services Specialist, Interact

Hello WELL Parents!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and even thought the month is almost over, it’s important for parents to know how to best care for their children. Teens can suffer from the same mental illnesses that affect adults, but they may look much different in teenagers. Teens may also suffer from mental health disorders as a result of abusive relationships.

Break the Cycle, a national teen dating violence agency, estimates that 1 in 3 teens are in an abusive relationship. That is higher than the 1 in 4 adults who suffer from dating violence. Violent teenage relationships are very similar to adult relationships, and follow many of the same patterns. Often, verbal and emotional abuses are downplayed as ‘not as serious’ as physical or sexual abuse. Alternately, victims and friends may struggle to understand how emotional and verbal abuse is used to manipulate a victim. These types of abuse can leave a lasting impact on a victim’s mental health.

According to Break the Cycle, emotional abuse is a series of “non-physical behaviors” such as “constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.” Emotional abuse is really any tactic used to influence how a person thinks or feels, particularly about themselves. Emotional abuse takes many forms, such as the ‘silent treatment,’ using guilt, blaming the victim for problems, or constant and sudden mood swings. Healing from this type of abuse takes a long time.

Verbal abuse is also non-physical, and can include threats, insults, name-calling, and belittling. However, verbal abuse is not just what you say, but how you say it. Tone, word-choice, and volume can all be used to abuse a victim. Think of all the different ways you could say “I’ll see you later,” and all the different intentions they might imply.

Victims of abusive relationships are more likely to suffer from depression, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, and PTSD. For teens, lower self-esteem, cigarette, drug, and alcohol abuse, and depression are common. Break the Cycle also reported that teens may have persistent memories about particular events and general feelings of hopelessness.

So what can you do as a parent? Be supportive and non-judgmental. Telling your teen to “just get over it” or “suck it up” will not help, and could further deteriorate their mental health. Let them know you will always be there for them and are willing to help. Educate yourself about warning signs of mental health disorders and dating violence. Familiarize yourself with all the resources available. Above all, let them know that what happened to them is not their fault.

InterAct is located at 1012 Oberlin Road. Have questions about dating violence? Our crisis line is 919-828-7740 and is available 24/7. Break the cycle can be found online at breakthecycle.org or by texting “loveis” to 22522 to speak to a peer advocate.

5 Components of Wellbeing — The Creative Self

By: Vanessa Soleil (CCERC)

As the month of May comes to a close, the Community Counseling, Education, and Research Center (CCERC) prepares to take a break for the summer, bringing you the fourth piece in our ongoing series on the five components of well-being. In our previous articles on the Indivisible Self, we talked about the social self (family, friendship, and romantic love), the essential self (your spirituality, cultural identity, and self-care), and the physical self (exercise and eating well). This month we will focus on the creative self (your thoughts, your emotions, what you do for work/study, and your sense of humor), and return in August with the coping self (what you do in your leisure, your stress management, and your self-worth). The counselors at CCERC are passionate about wellness and working with our clients to harness their strengths to live their best lives. Reach out to talk to someone today if you would like support in using this model to make positive changes in your life.

Not everyone wants to be a painter or professional dancer, but we all have an innate creativity that comes through in our ability to learn, laugh, think outside of the box, and express our authentic selves and natural talents. Tapping into the creative self means realizing how unique we are and recognizing the strengths and gifts we bring to the world just by being ourselves. Nurturing this aspect means attending to our thinking—being mentally active and open-minded, willing to learn and bring curiosity to our lives and interactions—and our emotions—knowing how we are feeling, and expressing those feelings appropriately. The creative self also includes our satisfaction in a job or vocation that we feel uses our skills, a feeling of mastery and competence and a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at our mistakes. There is a lot of research that supports the benefits of positive thinking, emotional regulation, and laughter—reducing depression and anxiety, while strengthening the immune system. Read on to spark some ideas of how to connect to your creative self.

  • Engage in life-long learning. Take advantage of events and programming at your local public library, universities, or museums. Watch the 25 Most Popular TED talks of all time. Enroll in a free online class through Coursera, whether it is how to speak Korean, intro to philosophy, or how to do web design, there are so many fascinating topics to dive into and learn.
  • Understand the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Sometimes we believe that our goals cannot be reached or feel discouraged at a new challenge. Our thoughts are powerful and if we approach life with the idea that our abilities and knowledge are limited or “fixed,” then we are less likely to succeed or even risk the challenge of new opportunities. In a growth mindset, we know that with practice and effort we can learn new skills, adapt, and succeed. Catch yourself when you have thoughts like “I will fail,” or “I don’t have talent,” and turn it into: “Before people succeed, they often experience some failures along the way,” and “I may not be able to do it now, but with practice and effort, in time I can probably learn.”

Don’t Let Homework Hassles Ruin Your Appetite

This post comes to us from our amazing partner, Raleigh Tutoring, who has helped more than 1,500 Raleigh-area students of all ages improve their understanding—and their grades.

If you’re a parent of a school-aged child, you’re probably no stranger to homework drama. Some kids balk at having to pause play time to sit down for more school. Others are willing but need lots of help from Mom or Dad. Then there are the kids, usually older, who wait until the last minute to do homework only to find they don’t have the right materials or underestimated how much time they need.

While homework hassles vary according to a child’ s grade, temperament, and school, almost all affect the dinner hour in some way. Helping a kid with long division or running out to Target for posterboard can leave less time to prepare dinner. With older kids and teens, dinner may have to be scheduled around after-school activities and homework, resulting in some not very appetizing early or late meal times.

Here are some parent-tested, teacher-approved tips to help reduce homework-related stress in your home:

Plan ahead: Rejoice if your child is among the many elementary-age students who brings home all or most of their homework in a Monday folder filled with four days of assignments due by the end of the week. This way, if you know Emma has piano on Wednesday and Billy’s scout meeting is Thursday, you can make sure they get the week’s homework done by Tuesday.  Fortify your kids for these extra-long sessions by ensuring that they’ve had a light snack. For those of you with middle and high school kids, most teachers have websites where they post procedures, expectations, assignments, and grades. Bookmark these pages on your home computer, so they are easily accessible for you and your young adult. Teach your child to use a paper or smart calendar to plan ahead.

 

Hover, don’t help: The whole point of homework is to give children the opportunity to independently practice skills they learn in school. The urge to help our kids is strong, but try to resist it. Limit your involvement to answering quick questions about an assignment’s instructions and checking to make sure all the work gets done. If your child has to ask for help to handle the work, don’t step in and do it for them. Teachers need to know if students are not mastering material on their own. If struggling with homework becomes a pattern, check in with your child’s teacher and ask for support.  Homework shouldn’t be so hard that it requires a parent’s constant hand-holding.

 

Encourage routines: Designate a regular homework spot. Depending on your child’s age and level of independence, this could be the kitchen or dining room table, a desk in the family room or even a desk in their room. Working at the same place every afternoon or evening helps reinforce good study habits, as does sitting down to homework at roughly the same time every day. It doesn’t have to be right after school–some kids have extracurriculars or just need time to blow off steam. But unless your kids are in high school, homework should be done well before bedtime to minimize everyone’s stress.

 

Stock up: Nothing disrupts family harmony more than learning at 7 p.m. that you’re all out of glue sticks–and your kid needs one stat. Store school supplies in a cabinet in the homework area or in a portable caddy and go through them once a week–say before you do your weekend shopping–to note which supplies need replenishing. To help you keep track of what your child needs, keep the list their teacher supplied at the beginning of the year in or near your storage space.

Let’s face it: Kids may never find homework fun. But it needn’t be a dinner-spoiler, either.