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Workshops Shed Light on Issue of Bullying

LEWISBORO, N.Y. – In a series of workshops held earlier this month at John Jay Middle School, Family University presented information to help parents and students deal with social pressures and the dangers teens face today with issues such as bullying.

The well-attended event featured bullying expert and internationally recognized speaker Rachel Simmons, who used humor and stories to teach students about relational aggression, which she defined as use of the relationship itself as a weapon. Simmons also spoke to parents about the potentially damaging effects of social media.

“Kids need us to set limits around their social media,” she said, urging parents to sporadically monitor their teens’ Facebook page and texting.

Simmons strongly recommended that parents discuss their ethical expectations around their teens’ use of technology and urged parents to view technology use by their teens as a privilege that can be lost if abused, rather than as a right.

In her workshop on “TeenSpeak,” local clinician, author and parent, Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder echoed this message.

“Research shows that perceived monitoring is the best deterrent of risky behavior”, Lunder said, citing research she’d done for the writing of her recent book, “Teenage as a Second Language.”

Lunder, clinical director at Four Winds Hospital, educated parents on the types of limit-setting that teens need and secretly want and said every household should have written rules and consequences.

Middle and high school students also participated in a discussion with a panel of young speakers who are in recovery from drugs and alcohol.  Students were visibly moved by the speakers on the panel who spoke about their own experiences in middle and high school, their first time using alcohol and drugs, and how they got addicted. The director of the Drug and Alcohol Prevention Council, Patty Warble, also led a workshop for parents to teach positive parenting strategies.

Simmons also met with Katonah Lewisboro administrators, faculty and staff to discuss effective methods for dealing with bullying and building a community of caring.  According to Family U Director Lauren Smith, Family U Committee members chose Rachel Simmons as this year’s keynote speaker to support and enhance Katonah Lewisboro’s district-wide initiative to address bullying.

Simmons also gave a talk to 150 John Jay Middle School student leaders to equip them with information and practical tips they can use in their leadership roles within the school to help peers navigate social aggression. Dr. Christopher Griffin, JJHS director of counseling, and Susan Malone, school social worker, led further discussions with high school students on Family U night based on Simmons’ talks and the anti-bullying initiative.

These events marked the 18th Annual Family U Night. “We need support to keep these programs going,” said In-School Program Coordinator, Donna Walsh.

For more information concerning Family University’s current and future events, visit www.klfamilyuniversity.org .

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