Only connect.

A cache of all that is relevant to middle school counseling, adolescent development and parenting.

When I was in the classroom, I always believed in affect before acquisition.  If a child wasn’t feeling secure, valued and content, his or her learning was at risk.  Now as a counselor, I so appreciate when parents take time on a busy day of conferences to check in with me and ask about the social and emotional life of their child.

Thank you Jennifer Brozost and Vimmi Shroff for your insight.

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Different Children = Different Abilities

For those with more than one child, here is an article worth reading – particularly if you wonder why one seems to be a great achiever and the other less so.

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/05/one-sibling-works-for-bs-one-gets-easy-as/?smid=fb-share&_r=0

The article reminds us that like educators, parents must appreciate and meet each child where they are while setting high standards for all to achieve.  Rather than making comparisons, appreciation of what each child contributes to the world is necessary.

My favourite quote from the article reads:

“Grades, after all, are not the endgame of education. Learning, and the development of life skills such as grit and self-determination, are.”


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Latest Craze among Middle Schoolers: Snapchat!

To many of us digital dinosaurs, there seems to be a new social media innovation every month…every week!

Most recently,  Snapchat is the latest app to hit the social media scene of seventh grade.

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 2.48.00 PM

Snapchat is a fun photo-sharing app which allows users to send a photo to one individual or to a group of friends.  What makes Snapchat unique compared to other photo-sharing platforms is the fact that the photo will only be visible to the recipient for 10 seconds before it disappears from the recipient’s device.  Or does it?

In our continual discussion regarding digital citizenship with our students, we remind them of the importance of their digital footprint and how it is essential to be vigilant of what they share online.  While Snapchat seems to offer a safe option for photo sharing as the photos “disappear”, we need to remind kids that once something is out there – it’s out there and can be saved by a simple screen shot.

Just last week, on November 14, 2013, in Quebec, Canada, ten boys aged 13 – 15 were arrested on child pornography charges.  They are accused of allegedly capturing and sharing explicit photos of teenage girls sent through Snapchat as screenshots.

While my intention is not to fear-monger, it is worth sharing this information with our teens as an example of how poor choices lead to difficult and dire consequences.

What can we do?  Talk to kids.  Ask them if they are using Snapchat, to what purpose and to whom?  Remind them of the importance of “thinking before you send”.  Do they really want a picture of them doing something silly, risky…or illegal to haunt them one day?

Again it’s a matter of a conversation.  To only connect!

Nancy A. Remondi


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Best be AWARE !

A great NYT article to share with your adolescents when they are adamant that what they share online doesn’t make a difference to their future.

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 5.04.43 PM

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/business/they-loved-your-gpa-then-they-saw-your-tweets.html?src=me&ref=general

It’s also worth watching this video together as a family as a great launch to the discussion.  Be prepared to be amazed!

 


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Advantages for Children Living Abroad

Good news for all expat parents who have ever felt pangs of guilt at the prospect of having to move their children to another country.  Studies show that living abroad have a myriad of benefits for children. Key benefits include: integration, global understanding, new experiences, language learning, education, personality development, family bonding and problem solving and open mindedness.

Read the complete blog.

 


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What to ASK about Ask.fm?

Recently in my school, we are learning of the increasing popularity of ask.fm.   Ask.fm is an anonymous question and answer website which is quickly attracting the attention of young adolescents around the globe.  It allows anyone to post anonymous comments and questions to a person’s profile.  Due its aspect of anonymity, ask.fm is unfortunately increasingly being used as a means to communicate abusive and bullying content.

In order to begin receiving questions and posting answers, users must create an account and provide a user name, their full name, email address and password.  Users have the the option of signing in using their Facebook or Twitter credentials, and are encouraged to share their profile on these social networking sites .  After providing these basic details, users are then given the option of filling out more personal information such as date of birth, gender, location and a bio or short personal statement.  Photos of the user can also be added.

Ask.fm operates a similar friend system to Twitter: users can choose to “follow” other users.  However, unlike Twitter, a user can never find out who is following them and can only know the overall number of followers he/she has.

Ask.fm is highly integrated with Facebook which makes signing up even easier for young people, but it also means that they have the option of cross-posting the question they receive and the answers they give to their Facebook timelines.  If the questions and answers are cross-posted, they appear to everyone on Facebook (depending on Facebook privacy settings of course).  This means that any information shared on ask.fm and even abusive, sexualized and bullying content would be showcased to an even larger audience on Facebook. (“Ask.fm:  A Guide for Parents and Teachers.” Webwise, 30 May 2013.  www.webwise.ie/AskfmGuide.shtm)

As adults, it may be difficult for us to understand why adolescents would provide information to anonymous persons, particularly personal and private information.  Questions we have seen on ask.fm range from innocent ones such as “What’s the last thing you ate?”  to the more inappropriate “Who do you think is the most popular girl/boy in “x” House?” or “Who do you like?”.

We know that due to their developmental stage, many adolescents are focused on their peers, how they fit it and their social lives in general.  Ask.fm is providing a platform to find out information without revealing themselves to others.  It’s so easy to give away information when you are not face to face to the person asking.  It’s also so tempting to ask questions you would never dare ask face to face.

So what do we do as adults?  Ask.  Yes, ironically, we need to ask some questions

1)  Ask your child if he or she is using the site.  If so, have them explain it to you by showing you the site.  If they aren’t using ask.fm, ask them if they have heard of it, and if they know kids who are using it.  Chances are they have and do.

2)  Ask why they feel the necessity to give away information to someone who won’t identify him/herself?  This is an opportunity to discuss the importance and sanctity of privacy.  We do not owe anyone information just because they simply asked: especially someone who won’t identify him/herself.

3)  Ask why they feel they have the right to ask others questions without identifying themselves.  Sure it is easier to ask questions anonymously but bring up the fact that there is also an element of cowardice to the gesture.  Could it be that the question is inappropriate and that is why it’s safer to hide behind one’s anonymity?  Is it a question they would feel confident asking to a person’s face.

4)  Ask them to T.H.I.N.K.!  Ask if the content they share is:  True?  Helpful?  Inspiring?  Necessary? Kind?

5)  Ask them if they would show their grandmother their activity on ask.fm?  This question has become a popular and common question to young adults with regards to their digital citizenship.  If they would be comfortable having whatever they post online read by their grandparent, chances are the content is fine.

We mustn’t forget that while adolescents may be considered digital natives, they are not digital experts.  They still need our guidance in using social media in a responsible way.  In particular, they need help in navigating the important life issues regarding the right to privacy and the importance of one’s integrity.  It is in these domains where our life experience as adults is so critically valuable.

Nancy Alessandra Remondi


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Over-Scheduled Kids – Questions to Ponder

In October (10/13/2013), an article on “over scheduled” kids was featured in The New York Times.

While much has been written on this topic, I particularly appreciated Bruce Feiler’s (The Secrets of Happy Families) refreshing view on the issue.  Rather than criticize today’s parents for overburdening their children, he advocates true reflection on what kids are involved in:  how the activities relate to family values, priorities and the basic logistics of everyday life.

Recent brain research highlights adolescent brain adaptability and how exposure to a myriad of experiences and opportunities stimulates brain growth and strengthens neurological connections.  The more experiences we can expose kids to, the better.  Yet, the question lies in whether or not they are truly enjoying and benefiting from the activity?

In order to have buy-in and cooperation, adolescents need to know that their views and opinions are considered.  Are they truly invested in the activity?  Do they understand the significance of the activity as it reflects their family values?  Do they have a choice as to whether or not to participate?  Are the activities interesting and life enhancing?  Are adolescents still able to complete their homework and obtain 9 hours of sleep?

The article provides great reminders and thought provoking questions to consider.  Well worth a read.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/fashion/over-scheduled-children-how-big-a-problem.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Nancy Alessandra Remondi