Mrs. Ring's Weekly Update
West Harrison Principal
Effective Communication with Teens
Hello Hawkeye Family! Not only are you working to raise your teen right, but their friends view you as a role model and mentor as well. As you are talking with teens, here are some tips, taken from my Teen Mental Health First Aid (p. 27-28) to assist you in navigating some of those tougher conversations. I know I reference it multiple times a week when trying to help our students with their mental health, ranging from anxiety to depression, and everything in between. 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses develop by age 14 and 75% develop by age 24. Mental health among our students is of the utmost importance to us at West Harrison.
Young people are very adept at recognizing when an adult is faking it. If you are uncomfortable in a discussion with a young person, admit it. For example, you might say, "This is hard for me to talk about, and perhaps it's difficult for you, too."
Be careful about using slang.
Use language you are comfortable with. If you try to use slang you are unfamiliar with or not used to, a young person will be able to tell immediately.
Allow for silence.
Young people may struggle at times to express what they want to say. Interrupting a silent moment may prevent the young person from having adequate time to form their words.
Try different settings for communication to see what works best.
There is no right setting for tricky conversations, but where you have the right conversation might make you or the young person more comfortable. You might find that taking a youth out for a snack offers and opportunity in a different setting to talk about anything they need to. Some adults find it easier to talk to a young person while doing another activity. Others may find that talking to a youth is easier while driving in the car, washing and drying dishes, or taking a dog for a walk. Activities that do not require much eye contact can make it easier for the young person to talk, and time-limited activities that have a definite endpoint can be less overwhelming for young people as well. Talk to the young person you are helping to find out what would make them most comfortable.
Do not compare the young person's life with your own experiences from that age.
Adults often fall into the trap of thinking that young people today have a much easier life. Remember that your parents' generation thought the same thing about you. Saying "If I had the opportunities at your age that you have today, I would..." is not helpful. The world changes constantly, and new opportunities mean new challenges.
Do not trivialize the young person's feelings.
Mental illness can occur at any age. Wondering what a young person has to be depressed or anxious about implies that their life experiences are less valid just because of their age.
Watch your body language.
This is always important, no matter who you are talking to. However, with a young person, body language needs extra attention because you may be silently communicating that you, as an adult, are the expert. Defensive or authoritarian body language (arms crossed, hands on hips, standing over the young person) will make it very hard to have a useful conversation. If the young person seems relaxed and open, try to match their body language. If the young person appears defensive, make your body language as open as possible by appearing relaxed, keeping your palms out, sitting alongside but angled toward the young person, and keeping your voice calm and low.
Student Expectations: Dress
We have had some dress code violations this week and I really had to dig in and find out what happens when a student does not follow the dress code. Click the button below to read it.
One point of clarification: a student is not allowed to wear their hood over their head while in school. Only headbands used as a hair control device are considered appropriate. Since the hood does not serve this purpose, we expect students to keep them down.
If your student violates the dress code, here is what will happen, according to our discipline matrix:
1st time: Verbal warning (and asked to cover up/change)
2nd time: Detention after school
3rd+ time: In-school suspension (1 day)
This can accumulate over the course of the year--an inappropriate shirt one day and then a hat worn in the building the next will result in two dress code violations. Typically, a student is always given a warning unless it becomes a trend or an issue.
If you have any questions regarding this (or any other behavioral infraction), please contact me. We are working hard to create a positive and consistent climate, where students know their expectations and can learn and grow while at school.