April 13, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers!

In today’s parenting newsletter, we look at an innovative youth court in northern California that’s designed to end the school-to-prison pipeline. In other news: A traveling play helps Miami high schoolers open up about mental health. Why intergenerational friendships are disappearing. How recent books on eating disorders and teens offers some hope for parents. Plus: The troubling news that Big Soda has come out with a full line of hard seltzers, canned cocktails, and other alcoholic beverages, which health experts warn may boost youth drinking. And more.

Blocking the school to prison pipeline

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Expelling or suspending students from public schools or even calling the police to arrest them at school – a trend that began in the 1980s – is still going on, fueling kids’ entry into juvenile detention and the criminal justice system. In fact, some U.S. schools have had students as young as five and six arrested for throwing a temper tantrum – something that has sparked outrage internationally as well as calls for reform.

In Marin County, California, however, a program designed to end the school-to- prison pipeline serves as an alternative. One of some 1,400 youth courts across the country, Peer Solutions uses restorative justice to keep kids accountable while removing shame and stigma from the process. In this MindSite News story by reporter Laurie Udesky, you’ll get an inside look at this thriving peer court and its participants.

Traveling play helps Miami high school students talk about mental health

I Am Me at Miami High. Credit: Morgan Sophia Photography

In South Florida’s Miami-Dade County, a theatre production designed to help teens find hope and comfort in each other and themselves has played to some 18,000 Miami students. The play I Am Me – created by the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts – revolves around mental health. The young stars confront issues that include first-generation woes, poverty, societal pressure, climate anxiety, parental expectations and discrimination. In some performances, students wept. In others, they rushed to talk with the actors afterward. Some also had discussions about the play and their own experiences, which one student said deepened her relationship with her classmates because she realized they were struggling with the same issues.

“Mental health is taboo in my family, as in many families,” said I Am Me actor Dayron Leon, 23, in our MindSite News exclusive. “Being strong and never struggling is seen as a sign of strength. And it’s not.” Had he been exposed to this production as a 9th-grader, he said, “my life would be so different.”

For many, intergenerational friendships are disappearing

How many intergenerational relationships do you have? Is anyone in your friend group – outside of close relatives – much older or younger than you? If you can’t say yes, take this as your cue: It’s time to form bonds with people across different ages, according to the Los Angeles Times

A few generations ago, intergenerational friendships were as normal as spring showers. Now? Not so much. With the advent of nursing homes, retirement communities and families dispersed across the country, “older people are often disconnected from the rest of society,” the article noted. So what can you do to change that? Push yourself out of your comfort zone and seek friendships with people of different generations, experts suggest. You might check out the organization CoGenerate, which works to connect people of different ages. The LA Times also suggests heading into libraries, community centers, choirs, or museums – places where people of all ages congregate – to learn what opportunities to connect are available.

And definitely try to watch “Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds,” a delightful, charming and poignant streaming series from Australia that Sarah Henry reviewed for MindSite News – a show that highlights the importance of intergenerational friendships between young children and elders.

Dr. Barbara Greenberg on 8 major friendship missteps

Like everyone, we parents need our friends. We rely on them. We cherish them. So why isn’t a dear friend calling us back or getting together anymore? In an article for Psychology Today, teen and parent psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg looks at ways we may unintentionally hurt or undermine our friendships. Greenberg, who is an advisory board member and columnist for MindSite News, also offers some advice on being mindful about the way we interact with our friends. Read the whole article here.

In other news…..

Big soda is expanding to alcohol soda. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, among others, have rolled out a new category of ready-to-drink beverages: hard seltzers, flavored malt beverages, wine coolers and canned cocktails, according to The New York Times. (You may have already noticed them if you pick up a can of soda from the gas station or local pharmacy once in a while.) Public health experts told the New York Times that the easy access to the products and the fact that they don’t taste like alcoholic drinks has them concerned it will encourage higher rates of youth alcohol consumption—even though that has long been trending downward.

Famished for care: Two recent books may help parents dealing with eating disorders in their children. In MindSite News’ review of books, writer Melanie Haiken reviews Famished and Parents’ Guide: Cutting Yourself on the Inside. Said author Shannon Michelle, who struggled with anorexia as a teen, “If I had had the support of my parents earlier and they had books like this to help them understand my behavior and mental state, I believe I would have found this journey a lot easier.”

Some Atlanta moms have a special reason to celebrate this Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17). There, 600 or so expectant moms are enrolled in a research project called Moms To Be THRIVE, led by researchers at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital, reports 11 Alive News. It’s aimed at helping Black pregnant moms meet their mental health needs with the support of other expectant mothers, mothers who have given birth, and trained clinicians. “I hope to share with other Black pregnant women or just mothers in general that have little babies that they aren’t alone, and we are all in this together,” Alesha Bell, mother of two, told 11 Alive News. “Sometimes, you know, people need to know that there’s somebody that identifies with what they’re going through.”

Are you unintentionally hurting your child’s self-esteem? You don’t yell at your kid. You don’t hit them, either. But Fatherly wants to know: How often do you ask “Are you sure you want to do that?” about an action they take? Pause before you do it again, the author suggests. “When we question our kids, we subtly undercut their autonomy and the idea that it’s OK for them to have some independence even if they make a mistake,” child psychologist Tish Taylor says. “And a harshness of tone, an undercutting sarcasm or even a hint of sarcasm when parents question their kids, can create separation.”

Ever heard of Teen Mental Health First Aid? In many schools, students like New Jersey teen Kayla O’Rourke who take the training program receive peer training in how to recognize and respond to the symptoms of a mental health or substance use crisis. O’Rourke told NBC News that she never knew she should ask someone who is acting suicidal, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” After receiving the training, she said, “You don’t wanna try and avoid the question; you could be saving their life.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

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Type of work:

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...