October 12, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Hello MindSite News readers! One of our editors was taken aback last year after hearing from her son that two middle-aged men had strolled onto his southern California campus, filmed young women without their permission and tried to chat them up before they were ordered off campus by a security officer. Taking flight, the strangers threw their camera into the bushes as they ran.

Although it was not proven, the suspicion is that they were sex traffickers scouting for potential victims. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, California is one of the top destinations for human trafficking in the United States. The targets are often homeless youth, teens in foster care, and immigrants or undocumented workers, as well as vulnerable high school or college students, especially those who are unhoused, have little money for food, or are from another country and struggling to find work. Some traffickers lure in victims with promises of legitimate employment, then gradually take over their lives with threats of violence or retaliation if they seek help. Read on to find our resources on human trafficking on college campuses and how to help your young adults protect themselves and others.

Also in this issue: A stellar video on how to help preschoolers navigate separation anxiety, a smorgasbord of free online parenting workshops and a list of age-appropriate books to help you talk to your children across every age and stage about bodies and sex. Read on!

Helping students recognize human trafficking dangers on campus

It may seem like something that can only happen in the plot of a Liam Neeson film, but human trafficking is a serious, real-life danger. The crime has long been misunderstood by many, as people tend to falsely believe that human trafficking requires people to be kidnapped and shipped overseas. In fact, the term simply implies that a person has been tricked, coerced, or forced to engage in sex acts for pay. No border has to be crossed, nor does one have to be transported to a secondary location for it to be considered a crime. Some survivors have never left their hometowns, while others were victimized in their own homes. Others are hiding in plain sight. To drive home this point, The New Yorker recently published an in-depth feature on victims trafficked in franchised hotels near their very own childhood neighborhoods.  It is, however, a worldwide problem. 

The U.S. Department of State estimates 27.6 million victims of human trafficking are exploited across the globe at any moment. That’s why the Department of Homeland Security launched the Blue Campaign to raise awareness across college campuses and other places to help people recognize the signs of human trafficking, identify victims, and reduce and prevent harm.

While anyone can be at risk, people in vulnerable situations are most in danger. That might look like an immigrant working without a green card, or in the case of many college students, someone living away from home without a reliable support network for the first time. Homeless students or those having trouble making ends meet are especially vulnerable. “We know traffickers are looking for hardships,” Maraya Lasinsky, chief advisor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, told Campus Safety magazine. “They’re looking for your vulnerability, they’re looking to see what you need, and then they’re going to try to jump in and fill that need for you.”

In some cases, human traffickers attend campus parties, trying to take photos of young women in compromising situations and threaten to expose them to help force them into prostitution. In other cases, immigration status is dangled as a bargaining chip. Low self-esteem, mental health problems, a history of abusive relationships, and even leaning too far into ‘people pleasing’ increase risk, too. Current students and leaders of organizations across college campuses are encouraged to read through the DHS-created Human Trafficking Awareness Guide for tips on how to engage their local campus communities in the fight against human trafficking. Read it. There’s likely something within the guide you or someone you love didn’t know.

Calming separation anxiety in your preschooler

Daniel Tiger via Twitter

I love PBS’ Daniel Tiger; the playful preschool feline has a song for every social-emotional obstacle I’ve thus encountered with my young child. He’s helped me teach my daughter how to keep calm when she’s ready to burst with excitement, how to apologize when she’s caused someone harm, how to calm down when she’s angry, and even helped me reassure her that “grownups come back.” That’s the melody we chanted when she began all-day kindergarten. She was concerned that I might forget to pick her up at the end of a long day of school – from 8:30 am to 4:15 pm – and the song was like parenting gold. 

Just as valuable, and perhaps even more practical, is this real-life example of a teacher at The Serra Preschool in San Francisco helping toddlers fretfully wave goodbye to their parents while also giving reassurance that they will return. At center is an easy-to-model script the teacher patiently employs, allowing children to feel, express, and process their separation anxiety. “We honor the feeling of sadness that children have when they separate from their parents,” explains director Marybeth Cody. “Because the children feel heard and empowered, they are able to move happily through the day after that.” She also engages children in activities that connect school to home, like drawing pictures of places they enjoy with their families they might share at pick up, or bringing a favorite item from home to share during show and tell. It’s a worthwhile watch that takes less than 4 minutes on Edutopia.

In other news…

Gen Z is mental health aware – and optimistic about the future. Here’s some good news from Good Good Good: Generation Z is largely ambitious and optimistic about their futures, despite anxiety about the dangers of gun violence. That’s the word from a nationwide survey of 3,114 youth and young adults from Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation, representing our fellow citizens born between 1997 and 2011. Young people with positive adult role models are especially confident in themselves and their futures, according to survey results. Notably, Black youth polled the most optimistic, with 44% of Black Gen Z-ers believing their futures will be great. In contrast, 30% of Hispanic and 31% of White Gen Z said the same. 

Parent-child interactions and resilience: What role do parents play in the mental health and social behaviors of their children? Scientists have long been interested in the answer, and researchers recently explored the question in a longitudinal study of 10,703 children, roughly half girls and half boys, from age five, in early childhood to age 17, in late adolescence. They found that children who experienced parental warmth, healthy rupture and repair in parent-child disagreements, and low instances of mistreatment were more insulated against the lasting effects of mental health stressors later in life. Based on the evidence reported in News Medical Life Sciences, researchers concluded that parents demonstrating empathy, kindness, and offering help to those in emotional distress, including their children, served as protection for their mental well-being in the future.

Parent-Ed Talks: Michigan-based Metro Parent Magazine and the Wayne County Community College District are partnering to host a series of free online workshops with clinical psychologist and parenting expert Laura Kastner now through June 2024. You don’t have to be a Michigan resident to attend; a reliable internet connection is all you need. Workshop topics include raising screen savvy kids, navigating cyberspace in the age of AI, conscious discipline, and more. Read descriptions of upcoming workshops and register for one, here.

Body health and sex ed for preschoolers, big kids, and teens: You think you’ve got plenty of years before you have to discuss the birds and the bees. But, as soon as your kid learns to speak, they’ll be asking where babies come from. That’s why Parents.com assembled this hearty list of books on bodies, hygiene, puberty, and even sex with the help of a licensed clinical social worker and a clinical psychologist to ensure they’re accurate and age-appropriate at every stage.

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...