Monday, March 31, 2014

Effective families

Radio Commentary

In a report titled “The Evidence Continues to Grow,” the National Committee for Citizens in Education made a strong case for parental involvement in education. 
The report found that effective families have several identifiable characteristics. These included:
• A feeling of control over their lives — individually, and as a group
• Frequent communication of high expectations to the children
• A family dream of success for the future for all members
• A consistent message that hard work is the key to success
• An active lifestyle involving physical activities
• A view of the family as a mutual support system and an effective problem-solving unit
• Clearly understood household rules, that are consistently enforced, and
• Frequent contact with teachers by at least one parent, and both if possible.
The report maintained that this type of family lifestyle helps lead to a child’s increased self-confidence and self-control. 
These characteristics create a protective network that is an ongoing source of strength and support for young and old alike.

In families with these traits, parents tell their children through their attitudes, behavior, and encouragement that they can succeed in school and in life.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bucking peer pressure

Radio Commentary

            Parents can help prepare their children to fight peer pressure, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
It helps to role-play about how to say “no.” Act out ways that your child can refuse to go along with friends without becoming a social outcast.
You can’t envision all the circumstances that might arise, but you can cover typical examples of when young people find themselves in awkward situations.
For example, you could say to your child:  “Let’s play a game. Suppose you and your friends are at Andy’s house after school and they find some beer in the refrigerator and ask you to join them in drinking it.
“You know that the rule in our family is that children are not allowed to drink any alcohol, right? So what could you say to your friends in that situation?”
If your child comes up with a good response, congratulate him enthusiastically. 
If nothing springs to mind, offer options. He could say: “No thanks. Let’s play Nintendo instead,” or “No thanks. I don’t drink beer. I need to keep in shape for basketball practice.” 
Or, even better: “That doesn’t sound like fun to me. Let’s go outside.”
The actual response doesn’t matter, as long as your child feels comfortable saying it.
Stress the point that real friends respect each other’s feelings and opinions. And that people who make their friends do harmful things aren’t really friends at all.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Radio Commentary

            Sometimes, family conflict can lead to divorce.
            For children of any age, divorce or even separation is a major loss.
            One psychiatrist who specializes in this area said, “The scariest thing about divorce for kids under age 6 is the unknown. It can be stressful, sad, and confusing. It is not uncommon for children to think, ‘What will happen to me?’ ”
            To ease a child’s anxiety, reassure him or her that things will be okay.
If possible, allow the child to stay in the same school and neighborhood with one parent, to maintain current routines. Stability, structure, and comfort are very important.
For the sake of the children, it’s important to remain as cordial as possible with a former spouse and be cooperative while discussing plans and schedules, especially in your children’s presence.
            It also helps to maintain the same rules in both households, if possible.
Try not to undermine each other’s decisions, and try not to blame or criticize your ex-spouse in front of your children. It’s confusing and distressing for them to hear.
Presenting a united front can be comforting and helpful for children.
            The main goal is to let children know that even though their parents aren’t together, they are still loved. The most healing and reassuring message is to say “I love you” as often as possible.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cyber crimes

Radio Commentary

It’s very common for any young person with a camera phone to take a picture with a friend and upload it to a Facebook page or post it on a website.

 Parents may be unaware that every picture taken by a cell phone now has a geo tag, which provides the exact latitude and longitude where the picture was taken.

 This means that anyone who means harm to young people can see a picture online, even an innocuous one, and use the geo tag to find out exactly where the young people are. That’s cause for great concern.

 Our office is working in partnership with District Attorney Joyce Dudley to be aggressive in the new battles against cyber crimes and cyber bullying. 

Incidents of bullying via text and online sites are mushrooming, and their impact can be devastating. 

 A good tool for parents is to pay attention to the ways their children respond to criticism at home. If they have an especially short fuse, and react badly to even mild criticism, they could be experiencing cyber bullying that is making them much more sensitive to all negative statements.

 It’s also important to notice changes of any kind in a child’s behavior, such as a good student not wanting to go to school, or an outgoing child becoming withdrawn.

 Most important of all, parents must monitor their children’s Internet behaviors and make sure their children know not to frequent sites that are dangerous. We all have to work together in this area, because adults are truly playing catch-up.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Talking with Teachers - John Dent

John Dent
Dos Pueblos High School

Monday, March 24, 2014

Local children and families find help, hope, and healing.

Newspaper Column
March 24, 2014

Consider the power of these “seven C’s” for little boys and girls who have a loved one suffering from drug or alcohol addiction: “I didn’t Cause it, I can’t Cure it, I can’t Control it, but I can take Care of myself by Communicating feelings, making healthy Choices, and Celebrating myself.”
This message is one of many folded into the children’s services offered through the Betty Ford Center, where dozens of Santa Barbara-area children and families have been referred.
Recently, the Betty Ford Center and the Hazelden Foundation merged, creating what I believe was a great day in the history of recovery — two of the most renowned national leaders in addiction treatment and services joining forces and beginning a new journey together. As a member of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation board, I am very excited about what this joint effort will mean for the youth and families who benefit most from their services.
Through the Betty Ford Children’s Program, 7- to 12-year-old children of parents or siblings who are addicted learn skills and techniques to deal with their painful family situation. No child is ever turned away because of an inability to pay. There is a sliding fee scale made possible through scholarships raised by the center’s foundation.
National Director Jerry Moe explained that science tells us these young children are at the highest risk of having addiction problems of their own. The program targets these children before they have taken their first drink or drug, and provides skills to help significantly reduce the risk that they will fall into the same pattern. It also gives young people the skills, tools, and strategies to cope with the chaos and inconsistency of living in a family hurt by addiction.
Talking about the parts of the program he is most proud of, Jerry said recently, “It is the joy of watching little boys and girls truly understand that it’s not their fault. So many of them carry guilt and shame and think they are somehow responsible for mom or dad or an older brother or sister’s addiction.”  He said it’s truly liberating for them to fully understand that’s not the case.
He also pointed out that when young people come into the program the very first morning, they realize immediately that they’re not alone. “One out of every four kids in the U.S. is growing up in a family with someone who has this awful disease,” he explained. “It is a disease of silence, isolation, and secrecy. Seeing other kids dealing with the same problems and issues is relieving. It normalizes the experience,” he said.
Through the four-day program for children, which entails about 24 hours, the center gets to develop solid relationships with the children, and when the program is finished, staff members stay in touch. Little boys and girls receive newsletters plus an 800 number they can call and an email address they can use if ever the need arises. This keeps the relationship going and continues as a source of strength and hope.
It’s important to note that parents do not have to be patients at the Betty Ford Center for their children to take part.
The program helps kids learn about addiction through age-appropriate activities and enables them to talk openly in a safe, supportive environment. It is considered a nurturing haven of help, hope and healing.
Locally, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission has already referred more than 20 children and families to the center in Rancho Mirage, with great success.
Said Rescue Mission director Rolf Geyling: “As addiction can have a devastating impact on relationships, we have the highest regard for Betty Ford Center’s programs to assist children and family members of addicts. We not only refer clients but send staff for professional development, which has led to several principles being integrated into our own treatment efforts.”
He explained that despite the prevalence of addiction, there are few effective treatment options for those who struggle. “This becomes even more evident when we look at more specific at-risk populations, such as children,” he said.
“Addiction is dangerous to individuals of any age, but given research that demonstrates the long-term damage addiction can wreak on developing adolescent brains, it is even more urgent that children and teenagers struggling with addiction receive immediate and effective treatment.”
As the largest residential treatment center on the Central Coast, the Rescue Mission is approached every day by people of all ages, ethnicities, and walks of life, desperate for treatment. In the face of overwhelming need, the Rescue Mission focuses efforts on adult treatment and refers people to a network of partners for those who fall outside its scope. The Betty Ford Center has been one of those important partners for serving youth.
Both the Children’s Program and the Family Program at the Betty Ford Center are open to the public and don’t require that a loved one be in treatment at the center.

I believe it’s important that local families are aware of the program and especially its services for children. Help, hope, and healing for the family can begin with one phone call to the center, at (760) 773-4291, or an email to Help is that close.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Local Leaders

Bev Taylor
Santa Barbara County Probation Department

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Parents and reading

Radio Commentary

Sometimes the list of parental responsibilities can appear to be overwhelming. Generations ago it seemed sufficient to feed, clothe, and house a child, providing love and warmth whenever possible.
But the list of “must-do’s” has grown through the generations, and the impact of parental involvement has come into focus.
One item on the list, as most parents know, is the “must-do” of encouraging reading. And it’s clear that most parents are doing a good job of encouraging young children to read.  
But research shows that their help plummets drastically once youngsters reach age nine.
A recent study showed that more than half the parents with children under age nine said they read with their children every day.  
But only 13 percent of parents with older children reported that they read with them on a daily basis. And shortly after parental reading involvement drops, a child’s television viewing increases dramatically.
As the late Al Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said: “Parents are doing a good job of helping their children learn to read. But they give up too soon. Once a child begins to read independently, a parent’s job isn’t over. It simply changes.”
The study found that teachers see a major gain in reading ability when parents remain involved.

As parents review their “must-do” list of responsibilities, reading should remain high on that list.