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The Power of Choice – High School Edition Fall 2021, Issue 1

Parent Post

The Power of Choice – High School Edition

Fall 2021, Issue 1

Jamie Horner, Naperville Police Department Social Worker,
Power of Choice High School Committee Member

‘Mental Health Is Just As Important
As Physical Health’

by Jamie Horner

When you set up your child’s yearly back-to-school physical, are you also considering how you’re caring for your child’s mental health? Mental health is just as important as physical health. Just like physical health, mental health needs to be monitored, but may go untreated due to any variety of reasons. Most commonly, professionals find that parents and guardians may be hesitant to engage in a conversation around mental health with their child. Similarly, youth may be fearful to come forward with symptoms they are experiencing or may not even fully understand that what they are experiencing deserves attention and help.

When thinking about how to best support your child’s mental health, remember that you know your child best. If you feel their behaviors seem concerning or have deviated from their normal routine, don’t ignore that feeling. A child sleeping in on a Saturday following an extremely hectic week may not be worrisome. On the other hand, a child who won’t get out of bed all weekend, is not eating consistent meals and/or neglecting their basic hygiene is a child who is displaying alarming signs of possible mental health concerns.

With kids going through so many hormonal changes with moods and behaviors that seem to fluctuate daily, how does a parent decipher the difference? As a clinician, I use the phrase, “It’s just a conversation” regularly. Simple, direct questions such as, “I haven’t heard about your relationship with {insert your child’s significant other’s name or a friend’s name here}, is everything going okay?” can be extremely enlightening. Some conversations may seem more daunting. Saying something like, “Last night when you came home, your clothes smelled like smoke. Have you been experimenting with smoking recently?” can be intimidating. But if you don’t ask your teen, they probably won’t share that information voluntarily. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to know what’s going on with your teen. You are their first and strongest line of support.

Once you start asking those questions, it’s important to be prepared for whatever answer you may get. Your child may indicate that they haven’t been feeling themselves lately or they have been struggling. Do not be alarmed. Your child needs to see that it is okay to speak up and speak out about what is going on with them. As their first line of support, you also have to be their first line of trust. They need to trust that you will help them figure out how to get help and improve what they’re struggling with. That is when the adage “It takes a village” comes into play. As a parent, you may feel that all the weight is on your shoulders, but you’re not alone.

You don’t have to have all the answers for your child, but you can work with your child to get them the answers they need by utilizing community support. As a Naperville Police Social Worker and Co-Chair for the Community Alliance for Prevention, I can assure you that parents are surrounded with resources.

You may be your child’s first line of support, but you don’t have to be their only line of support. Learn more about available community resources by visiting the Naperville Police Social Services webpage

and 360 Youth Services Community Resource Guide

A Positive Opportunity for Your Teen

Before beginning a conversation around alcohol, gauge

The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) is a diverse group of District 203 & 204 high school students who develop leadership skills by spreading substance use prevention messages! Meetings are monthly. For more info email the YAC Coordinator Sarah:

Follow YAC on Instagram @yac_360

What Is the Power of Choice?

The Power of Choice is a substance use prevention communication campaign supporting students, parents, and schools, focused on building resiliency and providing education to increase the number of students making healthy choices regarding substance use. The Power of Choice is a collaborative project led by 360 Youth Services in District 203 and 204 middle schools and high schools.

2021-2022 School Year Theme: Authentically Me!

Before school started, high school students voted for a new campaign theme. Authentically Me edged passed Be Yourself and Endless Possibilities. As for the design, more students voted for pop-art, eclipsing retro 90s and memes.

Connect With Us!

Power of Choice High School Coordinator
Janyce Hamilton

Funded in part by the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery through a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.

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