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Expert Advice for WV Parents This Week

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Monday, April 11, 2011   

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - One big topic this week at the annual conference of the National Association of Social Workers West Virginia Chapter in Charleston is a discussion of ideas that could help both social work professionals and parents in dealing with children. A workshop by Jim Harris, a social worker and consultant with Opportunities Consulting Services, is called "Ten Things to Know about Kids." He says raising children can feel frustrating and complicated, but that's normal: it just shows that the parent is taking it seriously.

He says there are some ways to know when you're doing it right.

"When you're with children, do they feel safe, and do they feel like they matter? The answer to those two questions can guide a lot of the work that parents and teachers, early childhood professionals and social workers, do with kids."

According to Harris, it's always important to listen when talking with kids, to keep the lines of communication open.

A lot of parents worry about exposing kids to the growing amount of sexual content in the media and popular culture. Chris Merritt, a social worker and the Region VIII adolescent health coordinator, will be running a workshop on the issue. She says it's important to help kids develop flexible, critical thinking about the tidal wave of sexual images.

"Try to protect your children from it, but it's so saturated into our culture, that we have to learn how to talk to kids about it and kind of help them process what they're hearing."

Another workshop will be on bully-proofing kids. Gary McDaniel, an independent social worker employed by the Morgan County schools, says the key is to help them be assertive, without becoming aggressive.

"Kids, like all other people, tend to want to either fight or run. So, we want to teach them that 'Third Way' - to stand up and say 'Stop!' with a loud and confident voice."

McDaniel says he practices with the kids he works with, so they don't forget when the time comes. And he says it's important for adults not to overreact, and to encourage bystanders to stand up to bullying.

The conference, which runs Wednesday through Friday this week at the Charleston Civic Center, is the largest event of its kind in the country.



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