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7 Things to Consider As You Send Your Child Back to School

What a difficult time this is to be thinking about back to school! Not only do you need to prepare your child for going to school, you also need to think about how to keep them safe and productive when they’re schooling from home (if they’re secondary students). And then there’s helping them deal with the disappointment of school and extracurricular activities not being what they expect and want.

As you think through these issues, here are some things to consider: 

1. Show you care. Listen to your child’s concerns and complaints and then help your child see the positives. Remind them that everyone is doing their best in a time when there aren’t many good options. Try to demonstrate a positive attitude toward their learning option in front of your children. When kids hear you be negative, it gives them permission to be critical as well and tends to lessen their ability to succeed. Support the school’s guidelines to keep kids safe and encourage your child to follow them, even when they don’t want to. If you have concerns about how things are being handled, speak with your child’s teacher, counselor or administrator in private.

2. Set expectations and clear guidelines for your child when they are learning from home. Have a well-developed routine for them. What time will they get up, have breakfast and be ready for online studies? Set scheduled breaks, lunch and quitting times. We all accomplish more when we work within a schedule.

3. Make sure to build in some type of exercise and/or outdoor activity into their day. Not only does it help their physical health, it’s crucial to mental health as well. Encourage your child to take a walk or do some other physical activity at some point during the day. You can also join them and use the time to connect.

4. Pay careful attention to your home environment. Make sure that any alcohol and/or prescription medications are locked up.  Your child may be dealing with a lot of disappointment and may experiment with things they wouldn’t normally consider.

5. Set aside time in the evening to connect. Family meals are a great venue for this! Now more than ever it’s important to check in with them about what they’re doing, thinking and feeling. Watch for significant changes in sleep, eating habits, and exercise patterns. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you are concerned about their well-being. Your child’s school counselor is a great place to start! They can also guide you to other resources if you need them.

6. If a parent is unable to be home with your child during their at-home learning, communicate with them throughout the day when possible. Think about other people who may be able to help break up their day. Is there a grandparent or other family member who could pop in, bring lunch, or call them? How about a neighbor or trusted friend? When kids know the adults in their life care about them and are empathetic to this particular time, it helps them keep a positive attitude. Maybe some strengthened relationships will come out of this!

7. Help coach your child’s perspective. Last week I came across a great article about coaching our kids through disappointment during this time. “We can give our kids one of two perspectives. That of victimhood: that they’ve lost things they’re entitled to, that they should remain outraged, and that they will be forever scarred by their current losses. Or that of empowerment: narratives of delayed gratification, of resiliency, of grieving and moving on, and of finding new meaning and new coping skills.”  We can’t control so many of the things going on around us, but we can control how we respond!  This can be a time of growth for all of us!  (You can find the full article here.)

Kendra Callaway is currently the Program Director for Liberty Alliance for Youth and is a retired school counselor from Liberty Public Schools. She enjoys watching and helping her 4 grandchildren learn to navigate the world.

The Results are In! New 2020 Data and Looking to the Future

Local Data on Substance Use Declines

The Missouri Student Survey is conducted on even-numbered years and tracks risky behaviors of students in grades 6-12 attending public and private schools in Missouri. The survey, conducted jointly by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri Department of Mental Health, asks youth a variety of questions on health and safety issues. County summaries of the 2020 results are available to view here

From the summary view, the new data is uplifting. Youth across Clay, Platte and Ray Counties are using alcohol, tobacco, e-cigarettes, and marijuana at rates lower than the state average.  The past 30-day use rates of these substances is also lower than what was reported in 2018.  At Parent Up, we are excited to see this downward trend!  We can celebrate that our youth are using fewer substances and that our prevention programs are working to make a difference.

Substance Use Harms Young Brains and Can Lead to Addiction

On the other hand, we still have plenty of work to do to protect area youth.  A study from the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse found that 9 out of 10 people who are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs began using these substances in their teen years.  This statistic is backed by science and research that reveals the vulnerability of the adolescent brain to substance use.  Because the human brain is not fully developed until the mid-20s, vaping, drinking alcohol, using marijuana or misusing medications during the teen years can disrupt and damage brain development.  Substance use prior to age 18 is linked to an increased likelihood of brain damage, addiction, and mental illness such as depression or suicidal ideation.

Preventing the Disease of Addiction

Prevention science points to multiple strategies that prevent the early use of alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs.  Policies that reduce availability and marketing of substances to youth are important in reducing access to youth.  Strong community and family attitudes and expectations that discourage underage use are also proven to decrease the chances that a child will begin using alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or prescription drugs in the teen years.  Establishing strong relationships and connection between teens and adults, providing opportunities for healthy risk, and monitoring and supervision are also proven to decrease the likelihood that a child will engage in risky behaviors like substance use.  These strategies,especially when coupled together, will help ensure that youth substance use rates continue to decline.  Follow along this year at Parent Up as we work to ensure that parents and our community CARE, CONNECT, COMMUNICATE and pay CAREFUL attention to our kids so that we can delay the age of first use of alcohol and other drugs, and protect future generations from the devastation that comes from addiction!

We Are Supposed to Feel: Parenting During COVID-19

This month, Sonya Richardson-Thomas, a Licensed Professional Counselor, gives practical tips and tools for parents as they work to extend grace and acceptance during the current COVID-19 Pandemic.

“Life is like a box of chocolates… You never know what you’re gonna get” -Forrest Gump

If nothing else, coronavirus has brought this idea home! We think we know what is coming next and then WHAM! Pandemic…not a word I’ve used before now. How about you?

When things are unpredictable and chaotic-feeling, we tend to have more anxious feelings than normal. That’s okay AND expected! We are not machines, we are SUPPOSED to feel. Our brains process FEELINGS before thinking. Always. So be gracious and accepting of yourself and your feelings. The good news about feelings: they come and they go.

Also, let’s extend that grace and acceptance to our kiddos’ feelings. We are most able to show we are accepting of their feelings by looking BENEATH the behaviors and asking ourselves where this behavior found its origin: worry, frustration, loss, anger, etc. All are valid feelings in this unique and open-ended historical moment.

Here are some PRACTICAL suggestions for parenting during this stressful season:

  • Connection before Correction: Hear the WHY and REGULATE the feeling, THEN correct the behavior. Your child will be able to listen to you, think, and correct their behavior better AFTER their strong emotions have subsided and they are calm again.
  • Soothing Touch and Soothing Words: Calming touch and calming words help kids become Regulated and ready to move towards finding solutions. Remember: THINKING comes after feelings. They won’t be able to process what you are saying about their behavior until they are able to calm themselves.
  • When parent/child conflict inevitably arises, here are some good questions to help your child problem solve:
    • What are your ideas/solutions?
    • How could this be different next time?
    • What is the NEXT best thing to do?

  • Breathe: The ONLY stress symptom we can control is breathing! Simply drop your breathing from your chest to your belly.  Belly breathing tells your brain that the threat is lessening and this will help you relax.
  • Move Your Feet: BEFORE the big feelings come, head outside and move OR carry books and boxes from one floor to the next …movement is a researched stress reliever!
  • Engage Your Senses: Take a minute to find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Very effective in relieving anxiety!
  • Be Real because this is Real! Resist the urge to minimize or “fix” feelings.
  • LOVE first, Always. Remember when it is so SO hard, this is not forever… Lead with Love!

Here is a printable and shareable cheat sheet to remind you of these Practical Parenting Tips That Lead With Love During Stressful Times:


Sonya Richardson-Thomas is a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing in Liberty, Missouri. She is an experienced therapist in many areas including child and family issues such as attachment, divorce, trauma, and developmental issues. She is also an experienced public speaker. For more tips on parenting through stressful times, follow her on Facebook at:

4 Parenting Trends For 2020

New year, new trends! As we enter a new decade, here are some parenting trends and movements you might see in 2020.

Mental Health Transparency

Today’s kids are more stressed than ever. Data gathered in 2018 by the National Survey of Mental Health indicated that rates of anxiety and depression had increased in kids ages 6 to 17, from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011-2012. Unfortunately, this trend is also consistent across adults, with the American Psychological Association’s 2019 Stress in America survey showing that over three quarters of adults experienced symptoms of stress. 

However, with more and more parents and children feeling stressed these days, we’re also seeing less stigma about anxiety and more transparency on the topic of mental health. It’s important that parents and youth alike gain a better understanding that self-care isn’t selfish.  We are better parents when we take care of our own physical and mental health. We need to model good self-care for our kids.


Image source: CNN


Parents are working to foster empathy and compassion in their children. . As the world continues to break down stereotypes, we can expect to see a greater shift towards diversity and inclusivity. Toy makers, for example, have made strides in creating toys that showcase greater diversity. In 2019, Mattel introduced two new Barbie dolls with disabilities as well as a line of gender-neutral dolls.  How can we, as Parent Up parents, role model more kindness, listen better and have compassion for ideas that are different than our own?

Going Green 

In 2019, the world was introduced to Greta Thunberg, a 17 year-old activist whose efforts to fight climate change gained international recognition. Her activism has inspired youth and adults around the globe to take action to protect the environment. We can expect to see more families rally behind this cause in the upcoming year. Even the small changes will make a difference.  What can your family do to become more eco-friendly? Here are some ideas! 


Vaping Crackdown

Vaping continues to make news headlines as the dangerous trend continues to rise among youth. A report by the Center for Disease Control showed that the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes reached a whopping 5.3 million in 2019. On the positive side, policies have begun to emerge to curb the use by youth. 

In December 2019, the federal government passed Tobacco 21, prohibiting the sale of tobacco and nicotine products to anyone under the age of 21. Increasing the minimum age of purchase is an evidenced-based strategy to reduce youth tobacco use.  Visit our Vaping page to learn more about vaping and vaping-related illnesses.

Parent Up strives to equip parents with information and tools to foster healthy relationships with their children and keep them safe from all substance use. Check out our Tools page and blog for more information and resources.

Secrets Versus Privacy

With teenagers on their road to expanding independence, a parental grip must somewhat loosen. The balance between being present and involved, and allowing our kids space and freedom, can tip easily to one direction or the other. We wonder about asking too many questions or not enough. Maybe we need to push them harder or back off. Too many rules or not strict enough? We encourage them to share and then hear things that freak us out.

Parent Up continually encourages parents to be present and available, interested and deliberate, caring and considerate, invested and open with their kids. To understand the difference between secrets and privacy can help us navigate through this balancing act.

Let’s encourage kids to share their secrets, but promise to protect them with privacy.

Secrets often signal a problem, some harm, or an issue that needs to be aired out. Holding onto secrets is rarely healthy. Privacy is a privilege everyone deserves.

Encourage your kids to have few secrets, to not bury or hide things from you or anyone else. With the same hope for their health, promise them privacy. Privacy means their vulnerability will be protected. When they take a risk to share something, they can be certain their truth is safe with you.

No secrets, protected privacy.

Try one of these simple mantras to guide your relationship with your child:

  • We admit our mistakes, make it right, and move on.
  • Our family is a safe place.
  • Talking about it is always okay.
  • Truth, honesty, forgiveness, and love live here.

For more resources to start conversations with your children, build trust, and help them make smarter, safer decisions, visit our collection of online tools and resources.

The Secret Sauce of De-Stressing

This month, accomplished author and co-founder of The Raised with Love and Limits Foundation, Barbara C. Unell, writes about how parents can help their children cope with stress to be more resilient.

Sources of Stress In Children’s Lives

Children get stressed when they experience simple frustrations, such as getting a bad grade on a test or not wanting to clean their rooms. They also get stressed when big things happen, like when someone they love dies or when they are put down consistently. As parents, we know we can’t prevent our children from experiencing stress, but we can be a buffer from stress rather than a creator or cause of stress.

How Children Learn To Respond To Stress

“Whew! I’m glad THEY’RE gone. They yelled at me and stress me out!” shouts 10-year-old Makela as friends of her family leave her house.

“Where did she get THAT?” her mom asks me, telling the story in disbelief. “How could our friends be stressful? They just didn’t like it when Makela spilled her milk, so they yelled at her. What’s the big deal?”

Where DO children get “that” and many other stress responses? From everyday life, of course. And sometimes that everyday life stress is created by adults in the way they respond to children.

In fact, the way adults respond to a child’s behavior (from infant crying onward) is as important as how they respond to a temperature. When children are frustrated, angry, sad or disappointed, they need adult caregivers to be empathic and teach them how and why to self-calm; follow rules, boundaries and limits; and problem-solve, all with unconditional love. That’s how caring, supportive and protective adults help prevent stress from becoming dangerous to children’s brains and bodies.

How can parents learn to teach children helpful coping skills to manage anxiety and anger and become friends with change? The positive teaching tools in our book, Discipline with Love and Limits, do just that. It gives readers specific “what to do’s” for building positive relationships with children and teaching them how to deal with the stress of life in over 100 common situations.

The One Factor That Can Help Prevent Stress From Becoming Toxic

Why is teaching coping skills so important to a child’s health and well-being? The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has shared groundbreaking research demonstrating that the one factor that can help prevent stress from becoming toxic—and therefore damaging to a child’s brain and body for life—is consistent caring, supportive and protective adults in a child’s life, as many as possible.

When our children are exposed to positive parenting by those adults, they learn: 

  • healthy coping skills
  • good problem-solving strategies
  • the ability to delay gratification
  • how to handle mistakes
  • the ability to self-regulate and to tolerate frustration

These all lead to positive outcomes in health, learning and behavior.

Putting A Plan Into Action

When we teach coping behaviors to our children, we reduce stress so it becomes a teachable moment leading to resilience. In short, we want to help all parents and everyone who cares for and about a child to be a buffer from stress, not a creator or cause of stress. This doesn’t mean that we can prevent our children from experiencing stress—that is impossible. Children get stressed when they experience simple frustrations, such as when they aren’t picked for the team or don’t want to go to bed. And they also get stressed when big things happen—when their parents get divorced, they are spanked, abused or ignored. This kind of stress can become toxic to our children (see Additional Information below).

We know that our good mental, physical and emotional health—both children’s and adults’—depends on not letting the adversity of all or just some of these experiences become toxic by building coping skills, resilience, and tolerance.  When our children get upset, they need to be taught how to get back a sense of hope, gratitude, possibility. Caring, supportive and protective parenting does just that.

When we use caring, supportive, protective parenting, we allow our children to fail and then help them develop tools to avoid that same failure in the future. Above all, we: 

  • Care about our children’s learning to cope with life’s difficulties with optimism.
  • Support our children’s efforts to succeed, even if that effort may lead to failure.
  • Protect them from dangers of life, while allowing them the freedom to explore their world, make mistakes and learn from them.

Every child deserves nothing less. In this way, every parent has the opportunity to discipline with love and limits…and that is the secret sauce of de-stressing that’s healthy for all.

© 2019 Barbara C. Unell

Barbara C. UnellBarbara C. Unell is a grateful mother, grandmother, parent-educator, journalist and social entrepreneur, whose latest book, Discipline with Love and Limits, has sold over 1 million copies. The co-author of over 15 books on parenting, Barbara is the co-founder of the nonprofit organization, The Raised with Love and Limits Foundation, dedicated to preventing toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences. Together with teachers, healthcare practitioners and all who champion kindness, compassion and empathy, she is passionate about translating science into practical, proven, positive, and sustainable solutions of change that lead to optimum health, learning and behavior for us all.

Additional Information

The American Academy of Pediatrics

The landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study was conducted with over 17,000 middle and upper-middle class adults from 1995 to 1997 by researchers from Kaiser Permanente and The Centers for Disease Control. The stunning results of the study, and other groundbreaking neurological and follow-up biological, as well as behavioral research, has led leaders of The American Academy of Pediatrics to release a new Policy Statement in December 2018 recommending that primary care pediatrics meet its fundamental responsibility to help parents teach their child acceptable behavior and protect them from harm.

Three Kinds of Responses to Stress 

According to Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child“It’s important to distinguish among three kinds of responses to stress: positive, tolerable, and toxic. As described below, these three terms refer to the stress response systems’ effects on the body, not to the stressful event or experience itself:

  • Positive stress response is a normal and essential part of healthy development, characterized by brief increases in heart rate and mild elevations in hormone levels. Some situations that might trigger a positive stress response are the first day with a new caregiver or receiving an injected immunization.
  • Tolerable stress response activates the body’s alert systems to a greater degree as a result of more severe, longer-lasting difficulties, such as the loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a frightening injury. If the activation is time-limited and buffered by relationships with adults who help the child adapt, the brain and other organs recover from what might otherwise be damaging effects.
  • Toxic stress response can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity—such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship—without adequate adult support. This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years.”

Top Apps Parents Should Know About In 2019

As a parent, it can feel impossible to keep up with our kids, especially when it comes to apps, social media and all things digital! We want to know what our children are doing online so we can protect them from the growing number of threats like cyber bullying, screen addiction, online predators and inappropriate content.

While you may be familiar with prevalent social media apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, there are tons of other apps currently popular with children and teens. We put together a list of some of the top apps adolescents are using as well as some apps you can use to keep your children safe online.

Apps Popular with Kids and Teens in 2019

Here are some of the most popular apps that children and teens are using and a few things to be aware of:

Messaging Apps


Snapchat logo

What it is:
Snapchat is a wildly popular messaging app that lets users send pictures and videos (snaps) to other users. Snaps disappear within seconds after they’re viewed.

What you should know:
Because of the disappearing  nature of snaps, “sexting” is common on the app. Even though snaps are meant to disappear after they’re viewed, the recipient can take a screenshot and circulate the picture themselves.

kik logo
Kik Messenger

What it is:
Kik Messenger is a free instant messaging mobile app. It’s anonymous, and no phone number is required. Users can simply sign up with a username.

What you should know:
Kik messenger has been criticized for its safety and has developed a shady reputation of being used for child exploitation and inappropriate content.



What it is:
GroupMe is another app that’s popular with teens. This app allows people to create group text chats and works on any phone, even if it’s not a smartphone.

What you should know:
As with any messaging app, teens should be careful about who they’re communicating with and what they’re sharing.



Live Streaming Apps

Tik Tok Logo
Tik Tok

What it is:
Tik Tok is a platform where users can watch and record short-form videos of themselves lip-syncing to sound bites.

What you should know:
Users can leave comments on videos posted, which does open up the possibility of your kid receiving negative messages.



Bigo Live
Bigo Live

What it is:
BIGO LIVE is a highly popular app that allows community users to connect through live streaming.

What you should know:
BIGO LIVE has been criticized for its lack of regulation and accountability. Users can broadcast footage that anyone can see.



Other Apps


What it is:
HOLLA is a live random video chat app that allows users to connect with other users. After signing up, users are randomly matched with a stranger, and both appear on camera. Users have the option to enable location options to meet someone close by.

What you should know:
While HOLLA requires users to be at least 13 years of age, there aren’t any strict age verification methods in place. Connecting over video with a random stranger is extremely risky, and using this app could expose your child to predators and inappropriate content.




What it is:
BitLife is a life-simulation video game. Players who start a new game begin in a randomly assigned country with a name and a pair of parents. Players then navigate through events and can pick options like getting a job or buying a car from a series of menus.

What you should know:
While kids aren’t directly exposed to risky behavior, the game may expose the player to mature ideas as their character progresses through adulthood. Players have the ability to choose actions such as doing drugs and committing crimes.



Apps for Parents to Keep their Children Safe Online

There are a number of apps available to parents to track, monitor and limit the time children spend online. Here are just a few apps that other parents are using to protect their children:

Family Time
Family Time is a parental control app that allows you to moderate your kid’s smartphone use. Key features include managing screen time and blocking apps. You’re also able to track your child’s location, and they are able to reach out to you with instant panic alerts in case of an emergency.

Bark helps parents keep their children safe without micromanaging them or being overly intrusive. The app monitors social media, email and text messages to detect signs of dangerous activity. If a potential threat (such as cyberbullying, sexting, and depression) has been detected, parents are alerted via text/email and also provided recommended steps to manage the situation.

ScreenTime lets you manage how long your children are spending on tablets and smartphones. Parents are able to track the apps their child is using and for how long, websites they’re visiting, and when their child tries to install a new app. ScreenTime also allows you to block certain apps at certain times of day.

Talk. They Hear You.
Talk. They Hear You. is a free app from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that helps parents talk to their children about underage drinking. With the app, parents can learn the questions to ask and get ideas for how to keep the conversation going.

P3 Tips
This app allows the public to share information anonymously with Crime Stoppers programs, local law enforcement and schools. If you have information related to crime, underage drinking or safety, you can submit a tip privately and securely via the app.

Start the Conversation on Online Safety Today

While it’s impossible to track every single thing your child is doing online, it’s helpful to be aware of the types of apps they’re using, as well as a few other apps that you can use to protect your child.

Most importantly, talk — and listen — to your kids. They might tell you everything you want to know or at least drop the name of an app or a website you can check out on your own.

Are there any apps popular with your children that we missed? Have you found any parenting apps particularly helpful for your family? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Welcome to the Parent Up Blog

As parents, we understand how difficult it can be to navigate tough topics with our children. We also understand the feeling of being overwhelmed by advice and opinions from the internet, television, books, talk shows, other parents, social media and more!

At Parent Up, our mission is to prevent underage drinking in the Northland through equipping parents with facts, resources and tools. The aim of our new blog is to provide practical, up-to-date information about parenting from local experts and parents like you.

Together, we can prevent underage drinking and drug use to keep our children safe!

What to Expect from the Parent Up Blog:

  • Expertise from local health care professionals, educators and law enforcement
  • Information on the root causes of underage drinking and how to address them
  • The latest research and trends relating to underage drinking, drug use and mental health
  • Stories from local parents about how they have addressed difficult issues with their children

Where to start?

Alcohol kills more teens than all other illegal drugs combined, which is why our mission is so important! The first thing you can do to prevent underage drinking or any other drug use is to start a conversation with your children. Research shows that parents have the most influence on whether or not their child drinks. What you say really does matter.

Here are some questions you can ask to open up the communication:

  • What are other kids at school saying about alcohol and drugs?
  • What do you think about drinking and drugs?
  • What worries or questions do you have about drinking?
  • [When watching TV or movies together that portray underage drinking] What do you think would happen if teens drank like this in real life?

Remember to ask open ended questions and to listen without judgement. Check out more of ourtips for starting the conversation on underage drinking with your children and teens.

We’d Love to Hear from YOU

Do you have ideas on what content you’d like to see on the blog? Leave them in the comments below! Would you like to contribute to the blog and guest post? Email us at!

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