Dear Medfield Families, I hope this letter finds you well. As we enter the new school year, I thought it might be helpful to give you a bit of information and to bring back into focus some of the things that may have become blurry due to the stress of many things affecting our kids and families right now. It is no secret that lots of people, students and parents alike, are on edge right now, and are feeling heightened levels of stress on a daily basis. There is no dishonor in feeling unsettled with the many complex variables facing our children and families right now. The only pitfalls occur when we ignore, repress or refuse to acknowledge our own feelings of anxiety or stress and/or refuse to see and deal with the feelings of our kids. In her Psychology Today article, 10 Ways to Create an Emotionally Healthy Home, author Amy Morin, LICSW, gives some strategies on how to build and maintain emotional health, even as our focus is largely on physical health at the moment.
As the warm days of summer wane, so to does the access to outdoor living and outdoor activities. As the colder weather pushes in, people tend to stay indoors more, which may lead to an increase in emotional difficulties. Currently, according to the CDC, two out of five Americans are feeling symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. This number is likely to grow as the isolative conditions of the winter months approach. Boston Globe writer Hannah Krueger, in her article, Struggles with mental health could get worse as winter looms, gives some tips on how to “stave off feelings of isolation and confinement.”
Finally, SPARK Kindness is offering a free webinar, Back to School Worries: Helping Your Family This Fall with Lynn Lyons, LICSW, on Thursday, September 24th, from 7:00-8:00PM. This presentation describes the skills needed to help manage emotions, including how to increase flexibility, tolerate uncertainty, communicate effectively and replace catastrophic thinking with problem-solving. Lynn Lyons is great at understanding and teaching the skills necessary to break the patterns that anxiety can create. I have benefitted from her work, so I think this will be of value.
Dear Medfield High School Parents and Families, I hope this letter finds you safe and well. I understand that this is a complicated and anxiety-provoking time for many of you. Please rest assured that a great deal of thought and effort goes into each step as we move forward to educate your children. As we begin to edge closer to the start of school, I thought I would share a few opportunities for parents in regard to helping your teen manage his or her complex experience.
Families for Depression Awareness is presenting a free Navigating Teen Depression and Substance Use as a Family webinar on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020 from 7:00 to 8:15 PM ET/ 4:00 to 5:15 PM PT. Registration Link (From Families for Depression Awareness) - If you are new to the topic of teen depression or in need of a refresher, please watch our Understanding Teen Depression as a foundation to this upcoming webinar.
Watch this 8 minute video with your teen. Psychotherapist Lynn Lyons speaking about the challenges teens face that have been intensified because of the pandemic: A Message for Teens Lynn has a lot of great information about anxiety at Lynn Lyons, LICSW
We look forward to seeing your kids very soon, and wish you a great finish to this summer!! Be Well, Dave Worthley, Ed.D.
June 9, 2020
Dear Medfield Parents and Families, I hope this email finds you and your family well. I wanted to reach out to discuss the events that have unfolded recently regarding the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breona Taylor, and most recently George Floyd. There is little doubt that by now, you have likely seen the news and have some sort of updated reaction to the systemic racism that is being experienced by people of color in our country. These most recent events are a painful reminder of how much work there is to be done in order for so that we as a society can stand united against bigotry, racism and hate.
As Dr. Marsden discussed in his Blog post last week, our children are watching and listening. The twenty-four hours newsfeed has displayed graphic images of violence, assaultive behavior, and venomous action. It has also shown peaceful protests, and allowed us to hear from experts in the field of racism about ways to continue the conversation in our society regarding inequality, injustice and the moral and ethical treatment of people of color. The words of Barack Obama and Martin Luther KIng III have replayed in my mind over and over as I listen to their plea for a continued push along the path of positive action. Barack Obama stated recently, “If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.” I interpret his message to be a call for us as a society to focus on what we are teaching our kids in relation to racism and equality, and to examine our own feelings, thoughts and philosophies so that we may deliver the strongest, most constructive message to our children, so that they may continue to shape our society in a way that leads to a healthier and sustainable future: a future based on the moral and ethical treatment of all people.
I have had many requests recently from parents who would like support or direction in having these important conversations with their children. I am pleased that there is a willingness and desire to not only speak with children about difficult concepts like racism and social justice, but also a strong desire to do as well as we can to get it right. I am lucky to be a member of a professional learning community that collaborates and shares information on an almost daily basis. I am including some resources that you may find useful as you begin to explore ways to navigate these complex discussions and concepts with your children. I know that there are other Medfield educators putting together resources as well, which is great.
Obviously, this is a very difficult time, locally, nationally and globally on many levels. I don’t pretend to have even scratched the surface of the race issue confronting our world. The problem is gigantic. What we can do, however, is open the dialogue with our children, based on age appropriate level. Certainly the conversations I am having with my eight and ten year old daughters about race are different than the ones I am having with our high school students, but they are all important, vital and necessary. Although I am not an expert in all matters pertaining to race, civil rights and inequality, I recognize my privilege and also my responsibility to point you towards those people who are, and to those resources that will be helpful in developing the next generation of young people who will make this world a better, equal and just place.
With the global pandemic, remote learning, social isolation and the difficulties with racial inequality, there is no lack of things to discuss with your kids. The Medfield teachers, staff, and administration are committed to furthering the ideals of social justice. Much of this teaching would be taking place in classrooms and in hallways, before, during and in some cases, after school. Obviously, this is not happening, making each complicated discussion you have with your children exponentially more important.
We understand that there is much work to be done. Our strength lies in our ability to continue to discuss important concepts with our kids, and embrace the opportunity to lead and engage in difficult conversations with them. It is our responsibility to continue to reflect upon our own beliefs and attitudes, and to provide our young people with the information they need to be healthy, happy, kind and productive as they grow and mature.
I hope that this email finds you safe and healthy as we navigate these uncharted waters. As you have heard, we are in the beginning stages of a statewide three week school closing. This closure brings about challenges on so many different levels, and families and kids will undoubtedly face some difficult days due to the uncertainty we are facing as a society on a national level, but also locally, as kids and families are altering just about every routine they have ever created. Regardless of age, kids need the adults in their lives to model stable, positive and healthy behaviors during times of increased stress. When speaking to teachers over the years, I have stressed that in twenty years, most kids will not remember the specifics of the content that is taught. What they will remember is the way each teacher made them feel. The same psychology applies here. Later in life, our kids will likely not remember the specifics of the viral outbreak, the anxiety about Italy or China or toilet paper shortage or the lack of meat at the grocery store. They will remember however, how the crisis was handled by the leaders of their respective family units. It is our job as parents to stay on top of the information, and to model appropriate safety practices. Anxiety levels are high in our academic population on the best days, so kids may be feeling an increase in anxiety, as well as a feeling of isolation from peers. Reassure your kids that the leaders of medicine, the government and the school administration are all working hard to figure the best course of action, and that we will get through this if we support each other, follow of safety protocols, and talk about anxieties, questions and concerns with trusted adults.
There are lots of great articles out there that can help guide you if you are unsure of how to best support you student. Colleagues have sent a few my way (which I will share with you) and I have added a few, but the information in each article, while similar in nature, gives a pretty solid baseline from which to work. School districts are collaborating several times a day to share and process information that leads to best practice. You will be receiving information from other departments as well, outlining resources and services available. For now, take care of those in the highest risk categories, take care of each other, play with your kids (a lot) and let them know we are all working to be OK.
I wish you and each member of your family good health and happy, calm days. Our kids are 8 and 10, so I understand the days can be long. Do your best to try to limit screen-time, enjoy the walks, reconnect with nature, or whatever you do as a family to spend time in a healthy manner. Feel free to reach out if we can help in any way. Be Well, Dave Worthley, Ed.D. Director of Social and Emotional Learning Medfield Public Schools
Dear Medfield Parents and Families, I hope this email finds you healthy and making the best of this tough situation. I wanted to bring to your attention some great resources that are available in the world of SEL. The Office of Social and Emotional Learning has content related to COVID-19 coping strategies, tips and tools for families to utilize. We have broken the material into Elementary and Secondary levels, and have a section for Educators as well. We also want to let you know that we have partnered with many other districts in the state to form a collaborative, comprehensive and ever evolving website that has lots of great information that may help with mental health and wellbeing in this tumultuous time. We hope these resources can be a tool to support health and wellness in our community. The websites are listed below: Medfield Office of SEL Mental Health and Well-being Partner Website There will be two Social Emotional Learning based webinars next week hosted by Dr. Plummer. Dr. Plummer is a clinical psychologist from Brown university who provides consultative services for a variety of school districts in Southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The information on the presentations can be found below as well as on theSEL Directors Mental Health Website: Supporting Our Kid’s Mental Health - With Dr. Barry Plummer When Mon, March 30, 2:00pm – 3:30pm Description The focus of the presentation is to discuss the impact of the current situation on children’s mental health and how as adults we can intervene. This presentation is for caregivers and educators. Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/484949652 Meeting ID: 484 949 652 How to Manage Online Learning at Home and Maintain Contact with your Friends When Tue, March 31, 2:00pm – 3:30pm Description This presentation is for students in upper elementary to high school. Dr. Plummer is a clinical psychologist from Brown University who provides consultative services for a variety of school districts in Southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/347469901 Meeting ID: 347 469 901 There is also other programming being run by other members of the SEL community for staff, students, and families that can be accessed on theSEL Directors Mental Website. Please go to the calendar section to see all of the offerings. I am sure that you are managing this situation quite well. Please understand that all of this is intended to be a tool to use if a little extra information could be useful. Be Well, Dave Worthley, Ed.D. Director of Social and Emotional Learning Medfield Public Schools
January 24, 2020
Dear Medfield High School and Blake Middle School Families: We hope that the new year is bringing forth happiness and good health! We wanted to bring to your attention a couple of troubling trends that we are seeing in schools across the state, and hope that this information will lead to some meaningful conversation with your kids around making positive choices, avoiding dangerous and high risk behavior, and understanding potential consequences around unsafe practices. You may or may not have seen the news recently regarding a “Viral Video” that is encouraging kids to slide a penny behind a plugged in phone charger, in an effort to cause the outlet to spark, short out, and in some cases, start a fire. The video that has gone “viral” is from TikTok, and has given rise to three documented cases in schools in Massachusetts, and there are reports of kids trying this challenge at home as well. This video and associated actions have prompted the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal’s Office to send a YouTube video out to Fire Departments warning them about the new trend. They urge parents to speak to kids about the dangers of electricity misuse, and fires that this can cause inside of the walls that may be undetectable until it is too late. Below are a couple of links about the “Penny Challenge” that might be helpful to look at before speaking with your kids. Please keep in mind when discussing this topic that Plymouth has opted to charge two boys with Attempted Arson and Malicious Destruction of property Under $1,200.00. Officials warn TikTok viral video challenge is causing fires Fire officials: Students imitating viral trend used iPhone charger, penny to scorch Plymouth classroom Along a different but similar vein, we have also seen some other concerning and very dangerous behaviors related to misuse of electricity and potentially very harmful actions associated with vaping. If a person does not have a battery or the main ignition body that ignites to turn the liquid in the vaping cartridge into vapor, a common practice is to cut the end off of a phone charger. The wires are then stripped, exposing two wires (in some cases there are more). The person plugs in the USB into the outlet, and presses the exposed wires to the leads on the cartridge, or pod, heating the liquid so that it is easily vaped. There are, of course, many things wrong with this action, including the inherent risks associated with vaping in general, but also the electricity flowing through the wires and potentially into the mouth. I have also included a couple of pictures of altered phone chargers that you might find helpful. There are lots of YouTube videos out there that explain how to do this, but they are made by kids. I just think it is good for you to know what your kids may have access to as far as content goes on the internet.
The biggest takeaway here is this: Keep talking to your kids. Ask about what they know about these issues, and ask about how they feel about the dangers and risks versus the rewards. Look for signs of risky behavior and talk about these things with your kids in an open and honest manner. Sometimes as parents we don’t bring topics up because we don’t want to put the idea into the heads of our kids. In reality, it is unlikely that our discussions and concern for the wellbeing of our kids is going to lead to poor, unsafe decision making. Thanks for taking the time to address this with your kids. Be well, Dave Worthley, Ed.D., Director of Social and Emotional Learning
March 9, 2019
Dear Medfield Public School Families,
As we come back to school after a gloriously unstructured and potentially restful and relaxing summer, I thought I would give you a few thoughts to consider in regard to digital use, “digital addiction”, and some of the algorithm-generated content choices that you may not be aware of. Please keep in mind that there is no judgement in this letter, but only an opportunity to let you know about some of what is out there and what kids are viewing and being exposed to, much of which is engineered by marketing and large scale gaming companies and internet-based social-media and digital content platforms.
In an article out of the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education titled, “Its Time to Confront Student Mental Health Issues Associated with Smartphones and Social Media", author Jeff Cain states, “One of the major concerns of psychologists and digital media experts is the propensity toward addiction in today's "attention economy." In their efforts to capture attention (and market share) of users, device and app developers may have unwittingly (or in some cases, intentionally) designed for addiction, by using psychological tricks to develop a craving for the instantaneous "highs" of texts, social media "likes," comments, etc.”
This article speaks to the problems that our college aged students are experiencing as well, and about the increase in the calls to the college counseling centers. Along the same vein, the article by Kevin Roose of the New York Times, “The Making of a YouTube Radical” highlights the algorithms that digital content companies use to keep users clicking the next video, over and over and over. (I just spoke to a high achieving student who reports that the “autoplay” feature makes it very easy to keep watching videos when she should be doing other things.) Basically, these platforms have developed algorithms that will predict what you will want to watch in order to keep generating advertising dollars. This might sound OK is your student is watching kittens, but it is not nearly as OK if the content goes darker, and devolves into content that you may not know about or that you would generally not approve. I know from experience that this can happen quickly, as a simple kids video about baking can lead into some bizarre content. Our daughters do not have unsupervised device time yet, but we allow some viewing from time to time. It is important to stay vigilant in this area, as artificial intelligence has no moral compass. This concept is seen in an article written by the PBS Newshour “After compulsively watching YouTube, teenage girl lands in rehab for ‘digital addiction’”. There is a school of thought that indicates that online and digital addiction is very similar to chemical addiction. Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist and the director of Stanford’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic, says there’s also increasing physiological evidence that the internet is addictive. “There are studies that have looked at people’s brains while they’re online, and their brains start looking like those of someone who has a substance abuse disorder. Similar pathways seem activated.” The research is ongoing, but the conversations with our kids need to include this information.
To piggyback on the topic of digital/social media and technology addiction and overuse, you may be interested to read “Racism, misogyny, death threats: Why can't the booming video game industry curb toxicity?"This article speaks to the negative and sometimes toxic interactions that may or may not be happening when your son or daughter is playing online video games, and points out some of the dangers associated with anonymous online interaction. A founding member of the Medfield E-Sports Team, which plays other schools in online gaming, states, “I suggest that parents teach their kids about the mute button and watch it closely. Things can get pretty nasty when it becomes competitive.”
Please know that I am not anti-technology, anti-gaming, or even anti-social media. There is a great deal of good that comes from technology and the ability to utilize digital content. However, as in many facets of life, there exists a potential for toxic interaction and negative consequence if not monitored with some fidelity. Talk to your kids, discuss these concepts as a family unit, and come up with some solutions and guidelines together. It is very easy to lose track of time when your child is online, and just as easy to assume that no news is good news.
I hope the summer months were rejuvenating and positive, and that this new school year is filled with positive moments, healthy relationships, and family, school and social harmony.
Be Well, Dave Worthley, Ed.D. Director of Social and Emotional Learning
April 29, 2019
March 8, 2019
October 18, 2018
Dear Medfield PreK12 Families, I am writing to inform you of some information relating to Social and Emotional Learning that may be of interest to you and your families. The Medfield Public School District recognizes the importance of developing and maintaining wellrounded students, and is working on several fronts to create and incorporate measures that directly correlate with the overall health of our student population, across all grade levels and ages. One example of this work is the Social/Emotional (SEL)Task Force established last year by Dr. Marsden. This collaborative group consists of forty members of the academic community, K12 (students, parents, teachers, administrators, School Committee members, School Resource Officer) who meet as a group to examine the SEL topics that affect our students. Minutes and more information can be found here: SEL Task Force . Another example includes the participation of the Medfield Public Schools in the Challenge Success program, which is a Stanford University program based on the following mission: “At Challenge Success , we believe that our society has become too focused on grades, test scores, and performance, leaving little time for kids to develop the necessary skills to become resilient, ethical, and motivated learners. We partner with schools, families, and communities to embrace a broad definition of success and to implement researchbased strategies that promote student wellbeing and engagement with learning. After all, success is measured over the course of a lifetime, not at the end of a semester.” Medfield High School and Blake Middle School sent a team of administrators, teachers, students and a parent to Stanford University in September to be trained in the Challenge Success philosophy, and the relationship and training will continue as we implement the Medfield specific concepts that will serve to create an experience for our students based on emotional, academic, physical, and social wellbeing. Great thought goes into each step, and we are excited to introduce the philosophy and next steps in the coming months. For more information, please use this link: Challenge Success . The Medfield Guidance Department continues to support SEL in everything they do. Guidance curricula and innovative SEL ideas are being created by the Guidance Department, and the collaborative effort between all of the SEL related groups is ensuring that we, as a district, are heading in the right direction. In an effort to make access to parent and community education easier, we have added a tab to our website that will allow community members to find parent/educational events in the area. We encourage all Medfield community members to attend these educational events, as these events support our SEL focus. The website, which I hope you will find helpful is: Medfield SEL , and the tab to find these educational opportunities is: Medfield SEL Parent/Education Events . We attempt to post articles that will be of interest on the site as well. We hope that your student is feeling healthy, challenged and well in all areas of life. We will keep working to promote and develop SEL skills in our students and in our academic community. Sincerely, Dave Worthley, Ed.D. Director of Social/Emotional Learning
May 17, 2018
Dear Medfield High School Families: Last year I sent a letter out to families of Blake Middle School and Medfield High School in an effort to respond to the concern around the Netflix Series, “13 Reasons Why.” By now, I know that many of you have either heard of or have watched the series. If you have not, please know that many of your kids will be either watching, discussing, or hearing about the series within the next few days. “13 Reasons Why - Season 2” will drop all 13, hour long episodes at once, on Friday, May 18th. The series is the most tweeted about and most viewed Netflix series to date, and brings to the table sensitive topics, including suicide, sexual assault, bullying, substance abuse, guns, and mental health topics including depression and anxiety. The series is based on a book by the same name written by Jay Asher in 2007. In the story, a high school student narrates the reasons for her suicide after the fact, and has left 13 cassette tapes behind to help shape the story. Series creators came under some measure of scrutiny for “glamorizing suicide and other difficult themes,” and have taken some steps to provide resources and discussion guides for parents or other trusted adults. I have read them, and feel that they are pretty well crafted to use as a general guide. Links to this information are below. In examining available information thus far, it appears that the Season 2 continues the story, as students attempt to “heal and recover,” but also deals with “ a series of ominous Polaroids that will lead Clay and his classmates to uncover a sickening secret and a conspiracy to cover it up”. There are many articles online from entertainment outlets offering commentary on this series. I encourage you to start reading about the series and decide if the show is appropriate for your child, and to consider the discussion you will lead during and after the viewing. As in the letter last year, we have provided links to some resources that may be helpful: National Association of School Psychologists Medfield High School Guidance Blog PsychCentral - World of Psychology About the Blog Archives The Importance of ’13 Reasons Why’ and It’s Reflection of Teen Mental Health Riverside Trauma Center Impressions 13 Reasons Why - You Should Talk Tech With Your Kids (Carl Hooker) It is important to note that if your kids have questions, they should always feel able to access the supports that we have in place in our schools. These supports include Guidance Counselors, School Psychologists, Adjustment Counselors, teachers, advisory leaders, administration, or any trusted adult in the building. Also, please remember that we are part of the Interface Referral Service, if you think your child would benefit from counseling services. The following links have information about the show, content, social issues covered, and resources available, as well as a link to the letter that was sent last year, when the series was first aired. We encourage you to talk to your child about the things they will be hearing about, talking about and watching. 13 Reasons Why Discussion Guide 13 Reasons Why Information 2017 Parent Letter - 13 Reasons Why INTERFACE Referral Service Letter Please know that a similar letter will be sent to high school students about this topic as well. I am not reaching out to Blake Middle School students specifically, but encourage you to discuss these topics with your child. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this with your kids. Most kids that I have talked to are well aware of the new season being released on May 18th, and colleagues at other schools and in other districts are reporting the same. Best Regards, Dave Worthley, Ed.D. Director of Social/Emotional Learning
February 15, 2018
Dear Medfield Public School Families, The tragic news out of Florida yesterday has had an effect on many in the Medfield community, both in and out of the schools. As a district, we thought it would be of value to provide you with some guidance on how to best support your kids as they attempt to make sense of the negative events that are unfolding at an alarming rate across the country.
Please keep in mind that these are guidelines, and that we understand that each family has its own style and parenting philosophy. When major events happen, especially involving kids, the news coverage can be overwhelming and incredibly stressful for adults, and to a higher degree, for children to watch. It is a good idea to keep the news completely off for kids under the age of 10-11. The internet and social media are important to monitor as well, so it is vital that parents know exactly what their kids are seeing online. For kids of all ages, it is very important to remember that they are going to look to you to see how to respond. Stress to them that home and school are safe places, and that while there are bad people in the world, there are many, many more good people in the world than bad, and that our job, as adults, is to keep them safe at school and at home. For middle and high school aged students, it is imperative that you talk to them about how they are feeling about the world in general, and about things that are scaring them. They will be getting the news from sources other than you, so give them a chance to talk to you. Try not to dismiss their fears or concerns, as they are valid. They may not always be founded, but they are very real to a young mind. It is great to add your own point of view into the mix, but attempt to do so without putting their thoughts down.
Below are some of the basic tips to use with your kids: ● Limit the news, especially for young kids ● Talk about it(depending on developmental levels) and really listen to what they are experiencing, thinking and worrying about ● Keep home a safe place and explain that we are keeping school safe, too ● Stress that your family is safe, and that THEY are safe ● Watch for signs of anxiety or stress ● Hug them...a lot. This is good for them AND you. They know you are there to protect them, but kids need frequent reminders, especially when tragedy/school violence is in the news.
There are many articles that deal with response to these types of events. Below are links to four articles that will hopefully serve to provide a good starting point.
Please remember to reach out to the Guidance staff if your child needs an extra layer of support. Our counselors are our front line, and they are very skilled in providing the necessary support and direction in this area. In addition, provided is the link to the Interface Referral Service. Medfield is a member of this service, and they are great as matching people up to counselors/therapists that will be an appropriate fit. I urge you to check them out, and if you are concerned about the emotional wellness of your child, or anyone in your family, give them a call and start the process.
This website also has several resources that may be of interest to you as you navigate the waters of emotional wellness with your kids. The tabs, “In The News” and “The College Years” contain information for parents as kids move up the developmental ladder.
These are difficult times, and our kids are right in the middle of a complicated world. Thank you for talking to them, listening to them, and trying to understand how they are perceiving this difficult news that seems to be coming with greater frequency. Sincerely, Dave Worthley, Ed,D.
November 6, 2017
October 4, 2017
Dear Medfield Public School Families, As the tragic news from Las Vegas continues to be present and available to us in every form of media, it seems as though it may be helpful to provide some guidance on how to talk to your kids about these types of tragic events, across the different developmental ages. Although we all try to do our best to shield our children from things that may harm or frighten them, it is not easy to keep all of the negative information from them. Tragedy leaves most adults unsettled, and young people can be affected to an even greater extent, as they have less experience negotiating the odds of something bad happening, and have little context in terms of their own mortality.
The American Psychological Association has provided the following tips on guiding conversations and generating meaningful discussion with your kids: *Think about what you want to say. It’s OK to practice in your head, to a mirror or with another adult. Some advanced planning may make the discussion easier. You won’t have to think about it off the top of your head. *Find a quiet moment. Perhaps this is after dinner or while making the next day’s lunch. This is a time and place where your children can be the center of your attention. *Find out what they know. For example, there was a shooting at a school or a bomb set off in another country. Ask them "What have you heard about this?" And then listen. Listen. Listen. And listen more. *Share your feelings with your child. It is OK to acknowledge your feelings with your children. They see you are human. They also get a chance to see that even though upset, you can pull yourself together and continue on. Parents hear it often: Be a role model. This applies to emotions, too. *Tell the truth. Lay out the facts at a level they can understand. You do not need to give graphic details. For young children, you may need to have the conversation about what death means (no longer feel anything, not hungry, thirsty, scared, or hurting; we will never see them again, but can hold their memories in our hearts and heads). Say, "I don’t know." Sometimes the answer to the question is "I don’t know." "Why did the bad people do this?" "I don’t know" fits. *Above all, reassure. At the end of the conversation, reassure your children that you will do everything you know how to do to keep them safe and to watch out for them. Reassure them that you will be available to answer any questions or talk about this topic again in the future. Reassure them that they are loved.
My advice is to unplug, get some exercise, and go do something fun with your kids. Even if they don’t seem affected right now, difficult things are happening in our world (floods, hurricanes, shootings, etc.) and the kids will eventually feel it. They need to know that they are OK.
Dave Worthley, Ed.D.
July 12, 2017
Dear Medfield Public School Families:
We truly hope that your summer is off to a fantastic and restful start! As an administrative team, we do our best to stay up to date and current regarding trends and issues that can either positively or negatively affect your children/our students. In doing so, we identified a few items that we urge you to consider. These topics are fluid, and will change as our kids change, but it is important that we pay close attention as our kids develop the skills to make healthy decisions, decide which relationships are positive and which are not, and also when to set their own limits around appropriate use of social media and technology. As we all know, the Internet is an unbelievably valuable source of information, and also provides instant gratification in just about any arena, from restaurant menus to Facebook Likes regarding the latest family vacation photos. There are some negative aspects as well. Some of the things I will discuss here may or may not be relevant to you or your child right now, but it is important to know what is out there, and what your kids may have access to in terms of internet content.
There are thousands of Apps available that are designed to keep users connected, but some of these Apps are dangerous. For example, in late May, the mainstream media informed us of an App known as The Blue Whale Challenge, which is a challenge created by a man in Russia (who is now in prison because of this, according to the BBC). In this challenge, the user of the application takes on a “curator” and is walked through a series of 50 challenges, from self mutilation to watching horror films at a specific time of day, with the final challenge being a completed suicide. It is important to know that there have been no confirmed cases of this in the United States. The majority of alleged participation occurred in the UK and in Russia. A case involving the suicide of a San Antonio teen on July 8th exists, and the parents of the teen are alleging a connection, but the investigation is ongoing. The game has been removed from Google Play and the Apple App Store, but some reports online caution that teens are using Twitter and Instagram to participate and recruit other players. It may also go by the name “A Silent House” and “Wake me up at 4:20.” The concept plays on the desire of acceptance and inclusion in the adolescent profile, and plays to kids suffering from anxiety and depression.
Along the same vein, the very popular Apps Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter each come with pros and cons as well. Many of our teenegers have not really known a world without social media, and the feelings that are created while using the social media are very real. There are a great deal of articles and research available that demonstrate the effects of some of these Apps on adolescent mental health. An article from CNN (Status of Mind Study) reports that Instagram, followed closely by Snapchat, then Twitter and Facebook, demonstrated negative effect on the mental health of adolescents. Basically, adolescent self-esteem is wrapped up in the perceived acceptance of other peers, as well as a never-ending comparison dilemma, in which kids compare their lives with the lives they see online, which only show the best parts. This carries into college, which is of great concern, as social media has turned into a way to gauge happiness, although students often mask the issues at hand.
In short, our message is as follows: Please speak with your kids often about what they are doing online. Ask them about things that they are involved in. When things like the “Blue Whale Challenge” come up, ask them if they have heard of it, and check the devices for content. Speak to your kids about the amount of time that they spend on Apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Some of our kids post close to 500 times per day! Check search histories to see what your kids are doing, and engage in conversation about what you find. This is a very real and uncharted territory for us. Telling kids not to be involved in certain digital behaviors is not going to work. Teaching kids how to manage their time, make good decisions, and pay attention to their digital profile will more likely keep them on the right track. And above all, we must model good digital use behavior. Also, ask your kids how they are feeling. Ask about pressure, depression and anxiety. Dive in and let them know you are always thinking of their best interest.
In terms of appropriate internet content for specific age groups, I feel that Common Sense Media (www.commonsense.org) is a great site that gives realistic information about what is happening in the digital world. In an effort not to inundate you with emails whenever we see a concerning internet, Netflix, or social trend, we will post articles and opinions and resources around the relevant issues facing our kids during this stage of their life on our website. Please visit www.medfieldsel.com, and click on the tab, “In The News.” This section will have information about the current topics that need attention. For example, in August, Netflix will air a new series that had mental health professionals concerned that looks at eating disorders, and it is being loosely compared to the “13 Reasons Why” series, in terms of potential fallout for fragile teens. There is information about the series on our site.
Please remember that this office, administration and the Guidance Department spends a great deal of time thinking about your kids and looking at the things that affect your kids. Even if you have the most well-rounded, highest achieving child, ask the questions and talk about what they are experiencing. There is no limit to the value of these conversations.
Sincerely, Dave Worthley, Ed.D.
June 14, 2017
Dear Medfield Public School Families:
As the end of the school year approaches, there are a few topics that I would like to discuss with you as members of the school community. Each new year bring with it a wide range of new experiences, and our goal as a learning community is to not only celebrate the achievements, but to encourage our students and each other to make and learn from mistakes, as this is the way to spark well-rounded growth, thus becoming better students, teachers, administrators, counselors, support staff, parents, and caretakers. The Medfield Public Schools have worked hard to put into place the resources to allow our students to grow not only academically, but also physically, socially, and emotionally as our students rise through the different educational levels.
Although the start of summer vacation allows for some much needed and well-deserved downtime for our students, it also means that the support of the counselors and all other support staff diminishes as well. In anticipation of the summer break, and in recognizing the needs of families in our community, the K-12 Guidance Office and the Office of Social/Emotional Learning have compiled a list of mental health resources, articles, and links to related services. While we understand that these resources can change over time, we do our best to keep the lists relevant and up-to-date. We invite you to explore our websites, as they are full of useful information regarding supportive services, local mental health treatment providers, managing stress, healthy choices, and the pursuit of a healthy emotional profile. The website of the Office of Social/Emotional Learning will provide parents, families and students with information on Medfield’s RISE Transition Program, both local and national Mental Health Resources, information on Social/Emotional Learning, and relevant articles associated with child/adolescent mental health, parenting tips, and other related content, The Medfield Guidance Websiteand Bloghave information for families related to all things Guidance, from navigating the college process to counselor thoughts on a variety of mental health topics, We are committed to the well-being of the whole child, and understand the need for a balanced experience for each student as they grow and develop, both at school and at home.
From the Central Office to the High School, Blake, Dale Street, Wheelock, and Memorial, the Medfield Public Schools are committed to the academic, physical and mental well-being of each of our students. Our students change rapidly, and we are ever-evolving to keep up with that change. It is exciting to be a part of a district with an eye not only on academic achievement, but also on the emotional development of each student. Please check out our websites, as I am confident that the content will be valuable as you head into the summer break and beyond.
Sincerely, Dave Worthley, Ed.D
April 28, 2017
Dear Medfield High School and Blake Middle School Families:
My name is Dr. Dave Worthley, and I am the Director of Social/Emotional Learning. I have met and have worked with many of you, and look forward to meeting more of you as time goes on. As an academic community, we feel that it is important to keep the lines of communication open in as many areas as possible, be they academic, vocational or social. I would like to take a moment to discuss a topic that is on the minds of many of the middle and high school students across the country, and one that is very much on the minds of students in our school community.
Netflix has created a series which consists of 13, one hour long episodes and is co-produced by Selena Gomez. The series is called “13 Reasons Why”, and is based on a young adult book by the same name, which was written by Jay Asher in 2007. The series, which premiered on March 31st, tells the story of a fictional high school student (Hannah Baker), who leaves behind 13 cassette tapes after she commits suicide, and gives a copy of the tapes to each person who she feels contributed to her ending her own life. There are differences of opinion amongst experts in the field of Mental Health regarding whether this is a positive or a negative premise. That is for you to decide with your child. Most people have heard about the series by now, but some have not. The students I have talked to have mixed feelings about the series, which is understandable. Some feel that it is purely entertainment, and some feel that it sends the wrong message to kids who may not have the skills to cope with difficult emotions.
I have spoken and have been in contact with several schools in Massachusetts, and I feel that it makes sense to let you know what the kids are talking about, and to give you some direction as far as talking points, if indeed you would like to discuss this with your own children, which I strongly advise. The series depicts strong and graphic themes of bullying, sexual assault, drug use, and other social issues. While“13 Reasons Why” is very popular, some mental health experts are concerned. Dan Reidenberg, Executive Director of SAVE (Suicide Voices of Education) states, “The show does not address mental illness or present viable alternative to suicide.”
Some tips around this issue: ●Watch the show. Check out an episode, or part of an episode yourself. See what your kids are dealing with and talking about.
●If your kids are watching the series, talk to them about it. Discuss the show while watching it with them. Ask if they can relate to any of the situational content. Ask them how they feel about the series. Ask about if they are concerned about someone at school.
●The series shows kids keeping a lot of secrets from their parents and school counselors. This is not a new phenomenon, but it is a great talking point. Talk about how dangerous it is NOT to seek help from parents or counselors. This is a perfect, built in excuse to have this sort of conversation with your kids!
It is important to note that if your kids have questions, they should always feel able to access the supports that we have in place in our schools. These supports include Guidance Counselors, School Psychologists, Adjustment Counselors, teachers, advisory leaders, administration, or any trusted adult in the building.
Please know that a similar letter was sent to high school students about this topic as well. I am not reaching out to Blake Middle School students specifically, but encourage you to discuss these topics with your child. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this with your kids. The majority of students I have spoken with have either watched, or plan to watch this series, and I am hearing the same from educators both locally and nationally.
Best Regards, Dave Worthley, Ed.D. Director of Social/Emotional Learning