An evening with parents of elementary age children and MIYFS
Earlier this month over 35 parents of young children gathered at a private home of a Mercer Island Youth & Family Services (MIYFS) Foundation Board Member to enjoy a “Fireside Chat” with MIYFS Director Cynthia Goodwin and MIYFS licensed mental health counselor Liana Montague who works at Island Park Elementary School. Mercer Island is fortunate to have licensed mental health counselors in all six public schools.
The Fireside Chat offered a brief talk from Cindy and Liana, then opened the floor for questions. The objective was to discuss mental health challenges facing our youngest students, learn about the “day in the life” of MIYFS counselors and also pick up some parenting tips to help raise emotionally healthy children.
Below is a recap of the evening’ conversation:
MIYFS Licensed Mental Health counselors are available to help all children and youth, and those with social and emotional challenges to help them take advantage of the school and learning environment.
The three primary issues our children experience are 1) Anxiety (concerns with not doing well in school), 2) Friendships, and 3) Life Events (such as divorce, death of a parent or someone close, parent’s substance use/addiction).
Parents three primary issues for their children are 1) Child self-regulation behavior (concern with child tantrums due to child’s anxiety then spiraling out of control and not knowing how to calm down), 2) Helping child with friendships and developing skills to build friendships, and 3) Help with Child’s ADD/ADHD or other mental health issues.
Overall Mercer Island children have many strengths. The majority are doing well and they will continue to do well. Island parents are actively engaged in their child’s life and help when a child is experiencing difficulty. Even with these strengths, Mercer Island youth have stressors unique to growing up in affluence. These issues are also prevalent in youth from affluent communities throughout the US and parts of Europe:
• Increased levels of anxiety, most commonly due to academic pressure (at every age level)
• High rate of binge drinking (though the general drinking rage is within state and national average),
• Lack of opportunity for meaningful activities – many activities are resume driven. The risk here is that MI youth have fewer meaningful activities which acts as a protective factor to life stressors
• Success is often measured externally (achieving, what one has, where one is going to school, etc.) and less attention is focuses on internal assets (empathy, honesty, responsibility, caring, equality and social justice, etc.) that play a major role in success in personal, emotional and professional success.
All island children can succeed and thrive with the appropriate connection, care and nurturance. These five primary ingredients are helpful in raising children to be healthy and happy adults: Connection, Play, Practice, Mastery, and Recognition.
“Dr. Hallowell argues, we don’t need statistical studies or complicated expert opinions to raise children. What we do need is love, wonder, and the confidence to trust our instincts. This inspiring book outlines a 5-step plan that all parents can use in giving their children the gift of happiness that will last a lifetime. Connection, play, practice, mastery, and recognition: as fundamental as these five concepts are, they hold the key to raising children with healthy self-esteem, moral awareness, and spiritual values. Dr. Hallowell explores each step in depth and shows how they work together to foster trust, respect, and joy.” From Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness by Edward M. Hallowell, M. D. (Available through Island Books ; 206-232-6920)
Questions and further discussion at our Fireside Chat ranged from talking to children about scary subjects to ensure they feel you as parents are keeping them safe, finding the balance of keeping kids away from worries and at the same time helping them to understand the world around them, and the perennial issues about bullies.
MIYFS Foundation will host additional events of this nature again, and also for middle school age parents, and high schools age parents. Please let us know if you have a specific interest to be included on those invitations as well. Thank you for being engaged with your children, and with your community.
Happy Holidays, from Mercer Island Youth & Family Services Foundation Board of Directors
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To connect with your Mercer Island Youth & Family Services – call 206-275-7611