We Will Never Have All The Answers: Talking to Your Children About Violence

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Sarah Senst

We first published Sarah’s article in 2012 in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  At that time, she was a counselor a Families First, a front line Colorado resource for families experiencing trauma, violence, or other issues.  

Many people have and will be affected by the horrific event in a Thornton, Colorado Walmart and other recent gun incidents. Here are a few tips to support parents and caregivers during these extremely difficult times:

All people experience trauma and hearing about trauma differently. Here some suggestions for talking to your kids about what they hear on the news and from friends and how to address common fears and concerns: “The American Humane Association offers these tips for parents and other caregivers to help children cope with the fear and uncertainty caused by school shootings:* Keep an eye on children’s emotional reactions. Talk to children – and just as important – listen to them. Encourage kids to express how they feel and ask if anything is worrying them.

* Regardless of age, reassure them frequently of their safety and security, and reinforce that you, local officials, and their communities are working to keep them safe. Older children may seem more capable, but can also be affected.

* Keep your descriptions to children simple and limit their exposure to graphic information. Keep to the basic facts that something bad happened but that they are safe. Use words they can understand and avoid technical details and terms such as “smoke grenades” and “sniper.”

* Limit their access to television and radio news reports since young children may have trouble processing the enormity of the experience, and sometimes believe that each news report may be a new attack.

* Be prepared for children to ask if such violence can occur to them. Do not lie but repeat that it is very unlikely and that you are there to keep them safe.

* Watch for symptoms of stress, including clinging, stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, trouble eating or sleeping, or changes in behavior.

* If you are concerned about the way your children are responding, consult your doctor, school counselor or local mental health professional.”For more ideas on talking to your children about violence, tragedy and loss  call the Family Support Line at 1-800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373) OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family.

Families Readjusting to Civilian Life

Military Letter

Craig Hall

Staff Writer

 

The men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces of today feel a connection to those of past generations, they want to be a part of something that offers a greater purpose in life. These individuals put the needs of the country above all else for their belief in the greater good. They sacrifice their personal lives both at home and abroad for their belief. They are not the only ones who serve; their families suffer as well, shoulder the burden of worry about the lives of their loved ones. Many families lack the resources to aid them when a family relative is deployed for combat, has their assignment rotation changed, or when a veteran returns from duty.  All these difficulties lead to the dilemma of how a veteran and his family become re-integrated with society, as well as each other.

 

“I think it’s generational,” offered Dennis Potter as to the ever changing nature of military veteran’s re-integration difficulties into society. “My father served in World War II, for two years before getting injured. He didn’t talk about his experience much with the family as far as therapy. The only real therapy was him attending get-togethers with fellow veterans once a week. They would talk about their experiences in the military. It was like an AA meeting.”

This was typical therapy during Potter’s generation regarding military service. “The men had to be stoic. They were the head of the family, and couldn’t show weakness. The family went along afterwards, dealing with my dads’ nightmares and drinking. We just didn’t know what to do at the time,” added Potter.

For today’s veterans, resources and services for them and their families have drastically improved from the generation of Potter’s father. Today there is more outreach and more organizations that offer assistance with veterans who are making the transition from military to civilian life.

Project Sanctuary located in Douglas County, Colorado in one such enterprise that specializes with the re-integration of veterans transitioning from military to civilian life. This non-profit enterprise brings the whole military family together by offering services for the entire family by reconnecting the family unit through a holistic approach. This approach allows for veterans to become re-integrated with their families and communities in a healthy and sustainable manner that will preserve a family (Project Sancutuary).

An organization such as this would have been beneficial to Adam Arellano,35, of Lone Tree, Colorado when his tour with the United States Marine Corps ended in 2005. Mr. Arellano entered the corps at the ripe age of 18 because, “I felt I had to serve my country first and foremost. When I got out, the benefits and support were lacking. Too many of us transitioning from the military to civilian life I suppose.”

Organizations such as Project Sanctuary are but one means to aid veterans and their families to become re-integrated within society and personal lives. Some of these services that are now helping these veterans are coming in the forms of writing seminars and workshops that are popping up around the country. Within these workshops, veterans and their families have the opportunities to interact with other veterans in a casual environment. The family members can interact with other individuals that are experiencing similar issues in regards to a veteran. The veterans themselves now have an outlet to share their experiences in a way that the people that they love and love them will understand. Plus, the vets and their loved ones gain news skills by the means of writing on paper the experiences of military life, both positive and negative.

This approach to re-integration for veterans maybe of immense benefit as it allows for another outlet for these individuals to tell their stories. It could be noted that not many veterans are as open to talking about their time in the military as Mr. Arellano is to tell their stories.

“I’ve never had problems talking about my time in the military. I would never tell anyone until they asked what happened while I was in. Otherwise, I kept a quiet lip about it,” he said.

These are but a few ways for veterans and their families to become reconnected after ones time in the military.  Helping both parties to gain a fuller understanding of what a military veteran has faced will help with re-integration and reconnection with family. As Mr. Arellano stated, it was difficult to reconnect with family and society because there were things his family and friends wouldn’t understand so he wouldn’t discuss those issues. And, the military was making choices for him during his tour.

With these advancements of helping veterans become reconnected with family and society, Mr. Arellano is proud to have stated, “I would do it again if I had a chance,” about serving in the military.

Hope for Denver’s LGBTQ Homeless Youth

homeless_teen

 Craig Hall

Staff Writer 

Homelessness in America is at a staggering level. It is estimated that over half a million individuals are homeless on any given night, and out of those, the NAEH estimates that more than a fifth of them identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) youths. (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2015)  These young people face a great many challenges because of their gender and sexual identity when they are in need of services. For its part, the state of Colorado is implementing measures to address this segment of the population.

“When I was homeless I had a very hard time finding resources for LGBTQ people. What resources could find were often depleted,” offered Ashley Hall on her experience of being a LGBTQ homeless young adult, adding, “Some shelters do not accept you if you are gender non-conforming. Some shelters run by religious organizations or churches would have clear statements to not accept any LGBTQ people.”

Therein lies the problem that many LGBTQ homeless teens face, lack of resources. Without adequate resources to offer LGBGQ teens a safe and supportive environment, these teens will have to turn to other methods to survive. Most will turn to sex as a means of survival. To them, “survival sex” is the only way to obtain money for food. Once down this road to survival, many teens end up becoming a product of sex trafficking.

State representative Cheryl Secorski, of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) offered her assessment of youth sex trafficking, stating it is a big issue both in Denver and the whole nation “It starts off as a very loving supportive environment, then snowballs very fast. It’s very hard to get out of. A lot of times youths don’t know they are actually engaged,” she added.

One of the ways that Colorado is addressing this issue according to Secorski, is working with several agencies around the state that sit on the Advisory Board for Homeless Youth. In this capacity, the advisory board offers many services that integrate youth representation, state level coordination, and community members that are interested and wanting to participate. These organizations accept homeless youths without discrimination, and offer a variety of services for the homeless. One such organization is Urban Peak, which specifically works with youths in Denver and Colorado Springs, and Attention House in Boulder.

“Urban Peak was the only place I could find shelter when I needed it. Granted it was first come, first serve for beds. I think there was like 30-40 that were available,” said Greg M. “At least, I was safe, and didn’t have to sleep on the streets around Mile High, or the 16th Street Mall. Plus, as the LGBTQ community is small, many of us knew each other which helped being homeless.”

For its part, Urban Peak is leading the way to assist the homeless youth regardless of gender and sexual orientation. They offer services, such as street outreach teams that meet youths on the streets, providing them with food and hygiene items. Within the shelter, they offer breakfast three times a day, showers and computer resources that were indispensable to the like of Ms. Hall, “Without the resources of Urban Peak, I would have only been able to eat three times a week, or would not have a place to bathe. Sometimes I had to bathe in the school sink. It also gave me a place to do homework, as I was in college at this time. It helped to break the cycle by giving me the resources.”

Colorado is also stepping up to the plate when it comes to addressing the limited resources for the homeless and LGBTQ teen communities. One of those ways the state is addressing the issue is by the use of a voucher program called Family Unification Program (FUB), which is a program that assists with housing regardless of gender and sexual orientation. What makes this program unique, is that the state of Colorado has allocated 150 vouchers from this program for youth housing, albeit for young adults 18-24 years of age who have been in foster care. According to Ms. Secorski, it’s the largest youth housing enterprise in the country. “We are leading the way with that,” she added. The state is also reworking questionnaires in regards to the circumstances of individuals becoming homeless and if their gender identity or LGBTQ status played a role. With this information, the state effort to address the homeless issue can direct the needed resources to the appropriate areas. In addition, the state is helping agencies that have mentoring programs within the LGBTQ community. This assistance will offer a solid support base for LGBTQ teens as they will now have a more natural support system in place. These teens will have the ability to interact with someone who walked a similar path and encountered the same struggles as they have. These mentors understand their plight.

While Colorado is making strides to address issues of LGBTQ teen homeless, the one piece of advice that Ms. Secorski offers to parents is, “Know your kids. If you’re not supportive of them, you’re going to miss a lot. I’m a parent, and I would do anything to make my kids happy.”

Living In The Shadows: Children of Incarcerated Parents

shadow-parent

KELLY KINDER

Staff Writer Kelly Kinder is a graduate of Metropolitan State University’s writing program.  She is currently working on a stage play for children.

An American epidemic is robbing millions of kids of a normal childhood and nobody is talking about it. There are more than twice as many children impacted as those diagnosed with Autism and Type 1 Diabetes combined. According to the Department of Justice, 1 out of every 28 children under the age of 18 have experienced the stigma and challenges related to having a parent in jail at some point in their lives. When was the last time you heard a public service announcement or call for donations to assist these children in need? Children of incarcerated parents can experience emotional, behavioral and academic challenges that could perpetuate the cycle of criminal behavior that their parents began.  Children are resilient and with the right support, these children can become productive, satisfied members of society.  Children of incarcerated parents don’t need a scientists working on a cure, they need communities rallying around them to provide the kind of support that will allow them to break the cycle of incarceration that threatens them.

According to the 2008 Bureau of Justice Special Report, the number of children with a parent in jail had increased an estimated 79% between 1991 and 2007. This outcome is primarily a result of tougher sentencing laws 1. As of 2011-2012, 60,000 children in Colorado had experienced parental incarceration 2.  These children are innocent of the crimes of their parents and they are often suffering in silence. According to the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership, their needs “go not just unmet but unacknowledged.”

Exact data is impossible to obtain. Surprisingly, the agencies involved in investigating crimes, prosecuting criminals and administering sentences are not required to inquire or record information regarding whether a criminal has minor children. Nor are they required to provide services or support in instances when they are aware that children exist. As a result, care of the children is often left to extended family members who may not be prepared financially or otherwise to provide a safe and supportive home environment. During the arrest, parents are often resistant to provide information regarding their children for fear that their parental rights could be terminated.

According to the Bureau of Justice, the average felony prison sentence is four years. Consider this in relation to the disruption in the life of a child with an incarcerated parent. The child would experience the loss of their mother or father as their primary caregiver, in addition to possibly having to relocate to a new home and change schools.  These struggles are only amplified by the financial hardship and feelings of shame and confusion that often accompany having a parent in jail. Then, when the parent reenters their lives they are likely to experience the same disruptive events all over again in addition to challenges of re-establishing the child-parent relationship. All of this occurring over a period of just four years, during a crucial time in the social, emotional and academic time of a child’s life.

In a small study of children ranging in age from 8 to 17 years, findings showed that while the stress and risk factors can not be underestimated, there was evidence to support children’s resiliency, both in shouldering the responsibility of having an incarcerated parent and in identifying ways to get involved in community activities to alleviate some of the burden of their situations 3. This small sample supports the bigger argument that changes in public policy and providing a solid support system for children, parents and caregivers could significantly impact child outcomes across the board. In particular, studies have shown that any support that can preserve continuity of care of a child can be considered a promotive factor for at risk children 4. Factors such as visitation, the role of the caregiver and access to community resources, as well as community support, are key in providing continuity of care to these children.

Parent-child contact through visitation is a complex issue that can be impacted by a number of factors including, the age of the child, parent-child relationship prior to incarceration, the parent-caregiver relationship and the specific characteristics of the visitation area of the jail or prison. In 2010, Poehlmann, Dallaire, et al. compiled all of the known, small-scale studies regarding parent-child contact for the purpose of evaluating and making recommendations.  While results regarding visitation were mixed, the studies unanimously concluded that alternatives to visitation, such as letters and phone calls, benefited both parent in child. These forms of contact remove the potential negative aspects associated with visitation.  Experts also agree that forms of intervention, such as parenting programs, can be beneficial both in increasing the quality and results of visitation and with parent-child interaction during reentry.

The role of the caregiver is incredibly important. Caregivers can take many forms. In some instances, the caregiver is the non-jailed parent. Other times the care giver is a relative, often a grandmother, or in some cases a foster parent. While the role is filled in different ways, the emotional and financial strain endured by a caregiver is universal. Their role is significant because it has been shown to impact the child in many ways. Providing a stable environment can benefit a child greatly. Additionally, the quality of co-parenting relationship between the caregiver and the incarcerated parent can impact everything from the quality of visitation to the frequency of non-visitation communication. These caregivers in particular need community support. They need introduction and access to programs that will support the financial, emotional and social needs of both them and the children in their care. They need to be connected with services and with others in their community experiencing similar situations.

The majority of research on this subject has been done with small test groups. Many of the studies involved less than 100 participants. In addition, most studies focused on risks and negative outcomes. The most encouraging study instead focuses on resilience and achievement despite difficult circumstances.  In Kate Luther’s study of 32 college students who had experienced parental incarceration during their childhoods, she examined how individuals can be insulated from stressful experiences through social support, also referred to as “buffering.” Specifically, caring adults were able to promote resilience in subjects through facilitating participation in community activities, such as athletics and religious activities; helping subjects visualize a better life free of crime and focused on education; and finally instigating turning points in the subject’s life. Turning points are characterized by a specific behavior or life path headed in the wrong direction and someone reaching out to the subject in a supportive way to encourage or insist on a change in behavior or new path.  In some instances, these caring adults were teachers or counselors at school and in others it was the incarcerated parent themselves encouraging and reinforcing these ideas 5.

 

While these children do not garner the attention of a broad section of the public, there are those who are diligently working on their behalf. Douglas County, like other prosperous communities in Colorado, is not immune to the struggles of children of jailed parents. Fortunately, Captain Kevin Duffy of the Douglas County Sheriff’s office has recognized the impact on children, their families and his community.  He and his team have taken the initiative in several key areas including arrest protocol, collaboration between entities, and keeping inmates connected with their families through the Read-A-Book program, which offers the opportunity to record their voice reading books that can be sent their children. In addition, they are working with the Douglas County Parenting Coalition to offer parenting classes that will allow incarcerated parents to make the most of communication with their children, as well as prepare themselves for reuniting upon reentry to the community.  Parenting programs can improve the reentry process and help to develop their parenting skills for use once they are back in their homes. Improved arrest protocol could also help to alleviate resentment and distrust of law enforcement that can develop in children of incarcerated parents 1. This negative view of law enforcement could be a factor in the intergenerational cycle of crime and incarceration that these children are often caught in 4. Reconceived, the arrest process “could also be an opportunity to intervene and offer support” 1. The Douglas County Sheriff’s office is capitalizing on this opportunity.

 

Look for opportunities to support initiatives within our state and local legislature that will benefit children of incarcerated parents. For instance, sentencing alternatives for non-violent crimes, addressing the disproportionate number of minority inmates, considering family preservation, perhaps in the form of impact statements prior to sentencing, and financial support for caregivers, as well as support for parents upon reentry to the community 2. In the meantime, as we become aware of the prevalence of children with incarcerated parents and realize that these are children living in our community, recognize the actions we can take today.  These are our neighbors, members of our churches, and peers in our student’s classrooms.  Research supports the resilience of children in supportive environments and the difference that a caring adult can make in their lives. As teachers, coaches, mentors, friends and community members, we can make a difference. Awareness is the first step to change.

As aware and informed community members, we can put ourselves in a position to offer nonjudgmental support to these children, their caregivers and their parents. We have the opportunity to identify resources, educate and prepare ourselves to offer compassionate and encouraging support.  The most recent data from the Bureau of Justice shows a decrease in the number of inmates in state and federal prisons, the lowest since 2005 6. Unfortunately, during the same time, the report indicates the number of female inmates increased more than 1%, which suggests while the overall inmate population is going down, the number of children of incarcerated mothers could be on the rise 6.  There is still work to be done.

Making the Grade Through Community Engagement: Recreating the Benefits of Home Ownership for the Children of Renting Families

Owner, Renter Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.
Owner, Renter Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

KELLY KINDER

Staff Writer Kelly Kinder is completing a writing degree at Metropolitan State University in Denver.

In 2008 the mortgage crisis crushed the American Dream of homeownership for many families. If not impacted by a foreclosure, families likely felt the tightening of restricted lending, a drop in their home’s market value and, perhaps a return to the rental market. In light of studies that conclude higher academic performance and fewer behavior problems for children of families who own their home, these could be disheartening circumstances.  While the mortgage crisis has passed, for many families the aftermath has not. If you are one of these renting families, asking yourself what you can do to help your children achieve the academic and behavioral benefits enjoyed by the children of home-owning families, read on.

What you must know about existing research is that the same factors that increase the likelihood of homeownership may also increase positive academic and behavior outcomes, so it has been suggested that there may not be a direct correlation. Child-rearing is complex and cannot be narrowed to cause and effect formulas. However, valuable information has been highlighted in the studies of this topic, information that renting parents of young children can extract and use to model the positive characteristics of homeownership in their rental homes.

Perhaps the strongest data was put forward by Haurin, Parcel, and Haurin (2002) who found “that owning a home compared with renting leads to a 13 to 23% higher quality of home environment, greater cognitive ability and fewer child behavior problems. For children living in owned homes, math achievement is up to 9% higher, reading achievement is up to 7% higher, and children’s behavioral problems are 1 to 3% lower.” The study attributes stronger investment incentive and greater geographic stability as the two driving factors that set the stage for better home environments, greater social capital and more stable school environments (Haurin, 2002). 

These factors can be examined by renting families for the purpose of recreating homeowner characteristics in a rental home. Regarding greater geographic stability, families who own their home tend to stay in their homes and neighborhoods for longer periods than renting families. Therefore, one of the greatest considerations for renting families is to carefully research location prior to renting. Renters should ask, does this location suit our long-term needs? Families should examine their prospective neighborhood to answer important questions. What are the traffic patterns and crime rates? Who will their neighbors be? Are they young singles, older adults with no children or young families with children, and do community activities revolve around family? Once the best rental home is identified, families can seek longer rental contracts to increase stability.  In the event that a move is necessary, efforts should be made to find a rental location within the same community and school district as the existing rental home to maintain geographic stability and preserve community ties. In some cases, families are faced with multiple households due to divorce or other circumstances.  In these instances, efforts should be made to maintain continuity between the two households by maintaining involvement in common community activities, including school events, as well as agreeing on behavior expectations and academic performance.

Once in their rental home, families can accelerate the process of building community by reaching out and taking the initiative to engage.  This can be done in person by meeting the people in the neighborhood.  Take the role of welcome wagon ambassador to greet your neighbors and find common ground. Find shared social opportunities, such as the local school, to make connections with other families in similar situations. Initiative can also be taken through the use of technology, apps such as NextDoor and Facebook. These can also be valuable platforms for offering and asking for help.

While rental families don’t share the same financial investment in their homes as home-owning families, they can work to ensure that their rental home is safe, well maintained and suitable for their family’s well-being. Investment in a home often equates to pride in homeownership. Historically, affordable rental housing has garnered a bad reputation. Known for dilapidation, high crime, and low property values, a family would be hard pressed to take pride in their subsidized rental home.  Thankfully, during the past few decades, there has been a shift to Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) programs.

The federal tax credit program is gaining interest and traction in private sector community development. The result is often beautiful, efficient, well-maintained rental properties that offer community amenities characteristic of single-home neighborhoods. This shift in affordable housing holds promise for families seeking quality affordable housing in which they can take pride in investing in their family’s future. LIHTC properties often contain community rooms that can be reserved for social events in addition to sponsoring community activities. In many cases, the properties are so updated and well-maintained that they blended seamlessly within their single family home neighborhoods.

Few studies have been done on the effects of neighborhoods on renter children. The Moving-to-Opportunity (MTO) demonstration program suggests that better neighborhoods are not better for renters’ children. However, the conclusion is based on an assumption that the frequent mobility of renting families prevents children from developing close ties in the community. Perhaps those statistics can be overcome for long-term renter families who make deliberate efforts to maximize their community involvement.  The following chart identifies a number of opportunities for renters to model characteristics identified in home-owning families.

Common Homeowner Attributes Renter Opportunities
Greater geographic stability Rent selectively. Consider long-term suitability. Seek longer rental contracts. If a move is necessary, seek rentals within existing community and school district.
Stronger investment incentive While a renter isn’t financially invested in their property, they can become “invested” in their community through many of the following actions.

Financial investment often equates to pride, renters can take equal pride in a property that is safe and well-maintained.

Better home environment Seek rental homes with consideration for safety features such as no lead paint, quality construction, and good maintenance history.
Neighborhood involvement Participate in local organizations and civic groups – boy/girls scouts, local church affiliations, library programs, city programs.

Use programs such as NextDoor to create a platform for offering/asking for help with household needs and childcare.

Build community by taking the initiative – reaching out, getting to know people, start a single parent group or become a welcome wagon ambassador.

Opt in to the community directory or suggest/start one.

Better citizens Attend meetings involving city initiatives, read communications regarding city activities, volunteer for city programs.
Higher voting rates Study local political candidates, become educated on ballot issues and cast your vote.
Better school districts/stable school environment Seek rental homes in better school districts. Consider open enrollment, vouchers or charter schools to maintain school stability. Attend school events such as back-to-school night, parent nights and other school functions.

Create continuity in multiple family homes – communicate consistent homework requirements, parent/teacher relationships, attendance.

Neighborhood amenities Utilize parks and open space, recreation facilities, hiking and biking trails.
Support crime prevention Participate in initiatives by local police and fire departments. Attend seminars, sign up for emergency alerts, seek community outreach programs such as neighborhood watch.
Support public schools Volunteer. Look for opportunities to attend board meetings, participate on school committees, and vote for school ballot issues.

Identify the school/community liaison to make connections for assistance or with families in need of assistance.

Greater social capital Build a network of parents and professionals. Surround your children with responsible adults that they trust.
More space for play Utilize local parks and recreation facilities in addition to available open space at or near your rental home.
Higher Parent self-esteem Seek assistance for concerns such as stress, finance/budget, marriage counseling, parenting courses and vocational assistance.
Satisfaction/Happiness Take pride in your rental home and in your efforts and successes. Set goals and track progress to celebrate milestones.
Informal social participation Take the initiative to welcome new neighbors, plan barbeque or potluck events, organize holiday giving drives.
More intent monitoring of children’s activities Get to know the parents of your children’s friends, create a network of parents to encourage accountability for your children.
Foster a stimulating, emotionally supportive environment Schedule family dinners at least 3 nights a week. Designate homework time and time for games and relaxation.

According to Artie Lehl, Douglas County Housing Partnership, as a renting family it is important to periodically reexamine your circumstances to determine if homeownership is in your future. Numerous resources are available for exploring affordable housing options including Credit and Budgeting Counsel and First-time Homebuyer programs. For a variety of reasons, you may find that your family is better suited to a rental home either permanently or temporarily. There are costs associated with homeownership such as maintenance and adjustable mortgage rates that can make homeownership costlier than renting. If homeownership causes a financial strain or allows fewer opportunities for parenting time or family activities, renting may be a better option until homeownership is more financially feasible.  Do not be discouraged; continue to emulate the characteristics of homeownership in your rental home until homeownership is right for your family.

There are those who will say that the data is incomplete and that homeownership alone is not magical and will not guarantee higher academic achievements or better behavior. These are true statements. But as parents and guardians we know that we can’t always wait for additional studies to be complete or for findings to be affirmed; we must do what we can now.  We must apply our common sense, our logic, and our instincts to do what is within our power now. The data that does exist clearly supports the idea that homeownership, combined with the positive characteristics that accompany it, can provide stability, structure and resources that will benefit our children and that can result in higher academic results and better behavior outcomes.  As a rental family, you have the opportunity to

model these characteristics in your community.

References

Barker, D. R. (2010). Cityscape (Vol. 15). Evidence Does Not Show That Homeownership Benefits Children. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Harkness, J. M., & Newman, S. J. (2003). Effects of Homeownership on Children: The Role of Neighborhood Characteristics and Family Income.

Haurin, D. (2010). Cityscape (Vol. 15). The Relationship of Homeownership, House Prices, and Child Well-Being. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Retrieved August 18, 2016.

Haurin, D. R., Parcel, T. L., & Haurin, R. J. (2002). Does Homeownership Affect Child Outcomes? Real Estate Economics Real Estate Econ, 30(4), 635-666. doi:10.1111/1540-6229.t01-2-00053

Shlay, A. (2006). Low-income homeownership: American dream or delusion? Urban Studies, 43(3), 511-531. doi:10.1080/00420980500452433

Woo, A., & Joh, K. (2015, September 13). Beyond anecdotal evidence: Do subsidized housing developments increase neighborhood crime? Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014362281500212X

Older And Wiser: What College Students Wish Someone Would Have Told Them

Staff Writer Kaitlin Benz hopes to one pursue a career in television journalism.

By: Kaitlin Benz

 

The transition from high school to college is unknown and scary for both the parent and the student. Everything about college is new, and although there are lists all over the Internet about how to find scholarships and what to pack and not to pack for a college dorm room, there is still a dichotomy between what resources exist for students to assist in making the transition and what students actually wish they had known.

I recently conducted a random survey of 55 current and former college students asking them one question, “what is the one thing you wish you had known about college prior to starting and during your first year?” The results varied, yet several common themes existed: time management, financial literacy, and building social skills. This got me thinking about the resources that were available to first year college students and why, across the board, so many students felt ill prepared in such major areas. I turned to the Auraria Campus, home of three public universities, the University of Colorado at Denver, Metropolitan State University, and the Community College of Denver, with a total of approximately 42 thousand students that attend classes.

Fostering the first year experience for students on Auraria Campus is Advising and Retention Coordinator for the First Year Success Program, Camelia Naranjo. The First Year Success team created and manages various programs for first year freshmen to aid in the high school to college transition.

“Our programs include proactive advising, financial literacy, campus involvement, finding a sense of belonging, and developing a positive mindset,” Naranjo stated.

The First Year Success team’s motto is “connect, empower, and grow,” which is exactly what their programs are designed to help students do.  They have implemented a peer ambassador program to facilitate relationships between incoming freshmen and upperclassmen students. Each peer ambassador has a caseload of students who they reach out to, provide support for, and reminds them of important dates and campus events. The peer advisor program is full of students who have a wealth of knowledge about what it takes to be successful in college. Naranjo said that the data from previous school years has shown that students who participated in this program were proven to have higher GPAs and completion rates than their peers who did not participate.

Programs like First Year Success are completely optional to first year students, which is why so many students are feeling left in the dark about how to choose majors and classes and manage their time more effectively in school. Other than a daylong freshman orientation, incoming freshmen often do not have the means to get necessary advice on all things college. First Year Success provides these services, but students are often left unaware that they exist.

Time Management

Out of the 55 students surveyed, approximately one out of every five students said that they wish they had learned better time management skills. This is a critical skill that college students need and many college students lack. Balancing newfound freedom with a load of courses, discovering clubs and organizations, jobs, internships, and a social life is harder than it was in high school under the guidance of helpful parents. Even the students who feel they are the most prepared, or those who have been the most successful in high school, will still find themselves in times of confusion, exhaustion, and stress from just how much there is to take in. I myself am a fourth year college student who has transferred schools four times because I lacked the advising that I needed as a freshman.

Universities across the country offer resources for freshmen that teach vital time management skills. Workshops are common, especially for new freshmen living in dorms. There are also tutoring centers and writing centers that are free resources to tuition-paying students. The writing center can help students develop story ideas, outline papers, and even edit and revise papers with students. This is a huge time saver and educational resource that students can and should take advantage of! They usually offer writing clinics as well, where students can network with their peers and brush up on the skills learned in high school that they may have forgotten about. These skills include but are not limited to formatting on Microsoft programs, finding reputable sources for stories, and properly citing sources in MLA, APA, and Chicago Style formats.

College tutoring centers helps both students who are struggling academically and students who are looking to excel in their work. They also provide resources for students looking to overcome test anxiety, learn time management skills, and even stress management. These resources are free and available at universities all over the country to assist students with organization, time management, and learning course material at a more efficient and productive level.

Finances

Students responded to my survey often by saying they wish they were better versed in financial literacy and independence. This comes from having to pay for bills, rent, and groceries for what is likely the first time in their adult lives. Luckily, there are campus resources to assist students with their newfound financial freedom. Almost always, a university will be affiliated with a specific bank, and that bank will actively attempt to get students to sign up for checking and savings accounts through their branch. The thing that is different about university banks, however, is that they want to give students the knowledge that they need to understand their finances.  The Auraria Campus banks with the Credit Union of Colorado, which has several articles explaining financial literacy on their website and in their on campus branch location available to students.

An additional resource for college students making the transition learning to understand financial freedom is courses geared toward specifically that, such as Personal Finance or Economics courses. They are typically available through the business school and are available at the introductory level for all students to take, regardless of their year in school or their major. The courses are tailored to teaching students how to manage their personal finances.

Social Skills

Students often have the book smarts to power through their first few semesters of general education courses in college. What is lacking, however, that is not taught in high school are social skills. These skills are critical for many reasons, such as learning how to type a professional email to professors, advisers, and peers or making a presentation in front of a freshman English class of 200 students. Social skills groups provide the necessary education and resources to students who are making the transition from high school to college in order to put their best foot forward taking on the future. For Valerie Calvillo, counselor at Iolite Counseling, LLC. in Castle Rock, CO., on a day-to-day basis she sees clients and provides them with this much needed mentoring.

“Communication development is the biggest lack with students, and with people in general,” said Calvillo. For this reason she and her business partner have set up social skills groups for elementary school students and high school students to provide them with those skills. The skills groups provide information on self-esteem and self-care, how to tackle bullying, building friendships, and forming meaningful relationships with people in their lives. These skills translate to relevant and useful skills to be used in a college setting, as students are navigating building professional relationships with peers and professors alike.

Calvillo stated that a lot of teenagers just don’t know what they want to do with their lives when they are in the transition period at the end of their high school years. This is where she steps in to provide career mentoring and counseling, to let them take control and discover where their passion lies. She prepares students for college, the armed forces, or starting a career immediately after college. The key is to develop the social skills to be able to determine what the student wants to do, and then get them on the right track to reach their goals.

There is a lack of education from university to student about what resources exist in their schools for their students. My survey proved that students were often all on board about the same things, and felt like they did not learn enough about some of the most important things that make a college student successful. The problem isn’t that universities don’t have the programs implemented to make students succeed, because they do, and they are free! There is just a communication gap that is making it so students simply do not know about the resources that are available to them at their school and in their community. It is up to everybody to bridge that communication gap: university to teacher, teacher to student, and peer to peer. The most important thing to know as your students start college this fall is that if they have a problem, there is a place that can help them right on campus. Reaching out and utilizing those resources will take a student far in both their college career as well as in their life.

Educating Parents About Parent Education

parenting skills 3

LYNN GALLOWAY

Writer Lynn Galloway steps out of her role as objective reporter and into the first person as she shares her experiences as a parent.  Lynn is a staff writer for Parenting PhD. and a student at Metropolitan State University.  Watch for Lynn’s fiction and young reader titles soon. 

I’m not a perfect parent, nor should I be, but I am willing to learn how to be a better parent. I am the mother of a lively, chatty six-year-old girl who fills my life with her energy and confidence. She is a happy kid who loves to play with Barbies and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, loves watching movies, playing dress up, creating imaginary friends, and enjoys reading and cooking with her dad. She also is incredibly independent when it comes to personal hygiene, dressing herself, keeping her room clean, and even doing her laundry! All of that is a blessing in itself, but what about all the times in between that are not positive, that are a struggle and a battle to get through? Those are the times I feel the weakest, but know that I need to be my strongest and I do not always know how.

My husband, Lee, and I were blessed with the chance to be a part of a government program within Boulder County in which our living expenses were reduced in order for both of us to go back to school and continue pursuing our degrees. This program is called Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) and I say we were blessed because we did not have to worry about both having full-time jobs with a full-time school schedule while being parents. However, this program does not just hand out assistance. All participants are required to attend financial classes, parenting classes, meet with their case-managers once a month, check-in with Boulder County Housing with any changes to income, and have yearly home visits. It may all seem like a hassle, a giant waste of time, but it has all proven to be invaluable and helpful.

I was reluctant to do the parenting classes because I did not want someone else telling me how to raise my daughter, but I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome with my experience. During our most recent meeting with our case manager, Katie Frye, I inquired as to the benefits she has seen from mandatory parenting classes for the program. “Once somebody goes to a class or watches a video, I get 100% positive feedback,” said Frye. “I hear a lot of ‘I actually got something out of this’ or ‘there are a couple of things I want to try’. Once people do it, they have liked it.”

I am a guilty party regarding positive feedback. These various parenting classes were nowhere near what I thought they were going to be. There was not a complete stranger standing in front of me telling me all of the things I was doing wrong and how I needed to be a “perfect parent”. These classes revolved around tips, tricks, tactics, and advice on handling certain situations or certain personality types that are seen in children.

It also let me know that I am not alone in struggling through a particular time or situation with my daughter. “These classes are about helping parents become more successful in their home life and with their kids,” said Frye. “It is about giving support and showing that there is help out there.”

Natalie Tafuri works for CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties in which she manages cases involving children who have a difficult home life and/or are in the foster care system. “These parents are placed on parenting plans and a treatment plan in order to help their kids,” said Tafuri. “They [parenting classes] help them to become a suitable parent.”

A lot of the cases Tafuri deals with involve divorce which can be especially hard on the children and parents alike, making these parenting classes imperative. “It is just another way of gaining access to resources you may not have had before; resources that help you to be a successful parent,” said Tafuri.

I have been grateful for the parenting classes that my husband and I participated in, but I also wonder if I would have sought them out on my own? I can already answer that as ‘no’, but then I have to ask myself ‘why?’ I know the answer to that one as well and it comes in two parts. The first part being that there is a negative stigma that surrounds the notion of “parenting classes” and getting help from someone outside of your family. For me, it was a feeling of shame and embarrassment that I was not living up to the expectations of a parent that I had for myself.

“There is an embarrassment factor in play when it comes to parents seeking out classes on their own, but there shouldn’t be,” said Tafuri. “Not understanding the concept of parenting classes, they’re limiting themselves to options because they are not taking the time to fully understand what is available.”

When participants step in Katie Frye’s office, they already know they will have to take these parenting classes whether they want to or not, like me. “They do not want to ask for help,” said Frye. “But being in this program they are already asking for help, therefore their mindset is different.”

It comes down to the mindset of individuals. Whereas one of my hesitations was what will they think of me for asking for help?, I came to realize quickly that it did not matter what someone else thought of me as long as my daughter thought I was the best mom ever. And I knew I was a far cry from that, but I was smart enough to realize my strengths and my weaknesses as a parent.

Quite a few people believe the myth that parenting comes naturally, but that is not the case. “The reality is, nobody is ready for it [being a parent],” said Tafuri. “Even if you plan for it, it is a new experience and a huge responsibility.” There are those motherly and fatherly instincts that come once your flesh and blood is brought into the world like recognizing various cries, the ability to imagine the worst-case scenario in every possible situation, and worrying to the ends of the earth for your child, but when it comes to actually raising these small humans, there is no instinct for that.

“Every child develops differently and you never know what resources you need for your child,” said Tafuri. “All their personalities are going to be different, learning developments aren’t going to be the same. It is all a learning experience for both the child and parent.”

I know that my shortcoming as a parent is that I am not patient enough with my daughter when it comes to her learning to read because her attention span is nearly zero. If I were to follow my “natural parenting instinct”, then I would just constantly be getting aggravated and yelling at her. This is both unhelpful to her as well as harmful. It is not conducive for a healthy environment or a learning experience. I have accepted that I need help in this area and because I had taken previous parenting classes that showed me different ways to handle things, I was not hesitant to seek out more information. I submerged myself into books and various resources on helping my child to focus and what I could do to be able to take a step back and be more patient. This was just a small incident, but it made a huge impact when I made the choice to be a better parent for my child.

Because that is what it comes down to, being the best parent you can for your child, not for anyone else. I will never regret my choices to ask for help, seek out resources, and find positive solutions when it comes to the health and happiness of my child.