Putting Distractions Away

The purpose of a date night is to spend intimate time alone with your partner. The focus of the night should be you and your partner. That means put away the distractions. Things like cell phones, social media and work should be put away until the end of the date. For one night, putting distractions away will help create an even more memorable and enjoyable date night.

Making Date Night a Priority! Series Introduction

By Lavender Williams, HRI Program Specialist

Do you remember your very first date with your partner? How nervous you were? How long it took you to find that just right outfit? Perhaps you were so nervous you were afraid the other person would notice your sweaty palms or bouncing leg underneath the table. Or, perhaps you were so excited you talked uncontrollably and couldn’t stop smiling afterwards. Either way, I’m sure you would say that was an exciting and emotional time.

Dating is about getting to know the other person as much as possible. During this stage, perhaps you see each other a few days a week. You go out of your way to squeeze in a lunch date, a late night dinner or a casual Saturday walk. You simply can’t wait to see that person, continue to learn about them and grow your relationship. The dating stage is arguably one of the best stages of a romantic relationship. We at HRI believe it should also be a stage your relationship never exits.

Dating is not only about getting to know where the person was born, their most embarrassing memory or how many kids they want to have. It’s also about cultivating and maintaining romance and intimacy in the relationship. Especially if you’ve been in the same relationship for a significant amount of time, you have seen both you and your partner develop and change overtime. Taking time out to spend an evening with each other will give you opportunities to learn about those changes. As people are constantly changing and evolving, so should your relationship.

Yes, I’m very aware you have a lot on your schedule as it is. That is a common reason many couples don’t spend much time alone with each other. Between work, kids, grocery shopping, and community events it can be nearly impossible to find time for a night out with your partner. The way to combat these priorities is to add your relationship to the list of priorities. Making date nights a priority is a way to ensure you make time to get dinner, go for a walk, or see a movie.

We at HRI are passionate about improving relationships and we recognize that as time goes on in relationships, couples can get complacent. As demands pile up and routines develop, date night drops lower and lower on the list of things to do. We want to help you find ways to bring date night back into your relationship or improve it. Over the next few days, we will be sharing additional tips on date night. We hope you take some of these tips and integrate them into your relationship and recognize the importance of date night.

 

#FindHelpFriday – Be Still Counseling

This week’s featured #FindHelpFriday resource is Be Still Counseling, a private counseling practice in Greensboro that offers a naturalistic and transformative approach to trauma and adverse experiences healing. Be Still Counseling is operated by Rachel Hutto, MS, Ed.S., LPC. To hear from Rachel with more information about Be Still Counseling, check out the video below:

To contact Be Still Counseling, please visit their web-site at http://www.bestillpllc.com/ or call 803.707.4682

Keep Those Conversations Going!

Having positive, ongoing communicating with teens is possible! It can take some time to figure out the best ways to connect and talk with your teen, but it’s well worth the investment in your teen’s health and wellbeing to build and maintain a strong, positive relationship with your child during the teen years! Although our “Talking with Teens” series is coming to an end, we invite you to keep the conversation going by checking out the resources in our HRI Toolkit for Parenting Teens: http://www.guilfordhri.org/community-resources/toolkits/toolkit-for-parenting-teens/.

Don’t Have “The Talk”

By Christine Murray, HRI Director

For many parents, thinking about having “the talk” with their children about sex is sure to induce a lot of anxiety and stress. As much as parents want to help guide their children, especially as teenagers, toward healthy decisions regarding their sexuality, there can be a lot of pressure around having “the talk.”

One of the reasons that “the talk” can be so anxiety provoking is because of how it’s conveyed as a one-time occurrence. Parents may feel like they have one chance to get it right, and hopefully it won’t be too awkward for them or their children!

What if there was an alternative to having “the talk”? What if parents could forget about having a one-time conversation about sex and move toward having a series of ongoing conversations that evolve in a way that corresponds with their children’s changing needs, questions, and developmental stages?

This alternative is exactly the approach that is best suited to help parents talk with their children and teens about sex and sexuality in today’s world. Not only do children’s needs and questions change related to this topic, but the world around us is changing as well, and there has perhaps never been a more important time for parents to be intentional about talking with teenagers about sex and sexuality.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but this year has been unique in that issues related to sexual assault, harassment, and abuse have been in the media for a prolonged period of time due to the #MeToo movement and the cascade of recent news reports of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. Whether parents like it or not, teenagers are hearing about unhealthy aspects of sexuality very often, and parents can play an important role in helping their children process these news stories and learn how to build a safe, healthy sense of sexuality in today’s world.

Below are eight tips to open the door to a helpful, ongoing conversation about sex and sexuality as you parent teenagers:

  • First, get clear about the values and information that are most important to you to convey about sexuality to your teen. What are your long-term goals for how you’d like your teen to understand sex and sexuality? It may be helpful to journal about this or talk with your partner or a trusted friend to help you figure this out. Although you need to address your teen’s immediate questions and concerns, it’s also important to think about your hopes for their future life and relationships, and consider how the topics you discuss today are laying a foundation for their future development as a person and in relationships.
  • Second, take time to learn about the sexuality-related topics that teens today face. Although some things never change, there are a lot of new issues that parents today either didn’t face or weren’t discussed when they were teenagers. For example, today’s teens need to learn about consent and how to navigate the technology-related aspects of sexuality and relationships. Parents need to understand these topics to be able to discuss them with their teens.
  • Third, let your teen know there’s an open door to talking about sex and sexuality with you. Before you even start talking about specific topics, spend time talking about how you know this is a difficult topic to talk about, but that it’s important that they know they can come to you at any time with questions or to talk through any specific situations they are facing.
  • Fourth, start with some more basic, less-threatening topics to build a foundation of trust and safety for these conversations. Consider what topics are less anxiety-provoking for both of you, and start there. You don’t need to dive into really difficult conversations right away. You might start talking simply about dating relationships and what a healthy relationship looks like. These more basic conversations can show your teen that you’re a trusted source of wisdom and information on topics related to sexuality. 
  • Fifth, be mindful of your reactions when your teen asks questions or shares what they know. If you overreact if your teen discloses something or asks a question, that can shut them down for future conversations. Even if something your teen asks or says is upsetting or scary to you, try to respond calmly, keep listening, and not jump immediately into a long lecture on the topic. Your teen will be more likely to open up to you the next time if they see that they can talk to you without you getting upset or angry.
  • Sixth, if you are concerned about your teen’s health or safety, speak up, but do it carefully. Some parents may be so concerned about shutting down a conversation with their teen that they become afraid of challenging a teen’s behavior that they know is unsafe or risky. Having an open door of communicating about sex with your teen doesn’t mean you get to let them do or say anything they want to do. If your teen is engaging in risky sexual behaviors, let them know you are concerned and the reasons for your concern. Remember that many teens have a sense of invincibility, so they may not fully appreciate what you tell them about the risks associated with their behaviors. So, you may need to share your concerns repeatedly, but you can always reassure your teen that you’re there for them, that you aren’t trying to shame them, but that you do want the best for them.
  • Seventh, be willing to say, “I don’t know,” but then help find the answer. One of the fastest ways to hurt your credibility as a trusted source of information about sex and sexuality with your teen is to provide them with inaccurate information. Be willing to admit when you come to the end of your knowledge, and suggest that you and your teen search for more information together, such as by searching for information online or by speaking with a local professional.
  • Eighth, address media in your conversations. Teens are heavily connected to many different types of media, including music, television and movies, and social media. It’s important to talk with your teen about how they see sex and relationships portrayed in the different sources of media they encounter throughout their days. Help them develop media literacy so they understand how what they’re seeing in the media compares to reality.

 

 

As a parent, you play an important role in shaping your teen’s views about sex, sexuality, and relationships. Although “the talk” is often an anxiety-provoking aspect of parenting teens, you can alleviate a lot of pressure by viewing it as an ongoing dialogue, rather than a one-time event. By keeping an open door to conversations about sex and sexuality with your teen, you are offering a foundation for them to navigate this often complicated and perplexing part of their growth into adulthood.

Talking with Teens about Healthy Relationships

By Javiette Grant, HRI Program Specialist

The start of new relationships can be exciting for teens, but it can be nerve-racking just thinking about having deep conversations with your teen, especially if you don’t quite know how to get those conversations started. These relationships they are building can help form their identity, offer a network of support, and is a pivotal part of the adolescent years. However, sometimes relationships can bring disappointment, conflict, and even abuse. Relationships take time, energy, and care to keep healthy. Teaching teens about healthy relationships is a good step to prepare them for the future.

Set aside time so that conversations don’t feel rushed. Be sure to minimize distractions during that time so you can focus on the conversation and your teen. Try to have your conversations in places that are comfortable for everyone. Some teens may feel more comfortable talking alone or in private, whereas other members may feel more comfortable talking in public places. The more everyone feels comfortable, wherever you are, the easier it will be to focus on the conversation and each other.

Start by discussing with your teen what a healthy relationship looks like to them, ask what makes them feel safe and happy with the people in their life. Healthy relationships are characterized by respect, sharing and trust. They are based on the belief that both people are equal and are willing to compromise so that the relationship is fair. Support, Honesty, Independence, and Communication are some of the other core characteristics of a healthy relationship. Going over these characteristics can help provide examples of what they can look for in the connections and partnerships they make.

Knowing the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship is just as important. Sometimes unhealthy relationships develop and your teen or someone they know can experience distress such as bullying or dating violence. One of the more familiar characteristics during the adolescent years is peer pressure; This is the influence a person or group can have on an individual. However, there are more toxic behaviors that teens should be on the lookout for such as: emotional abuse, intimidation, threats, minimizing/denying/or blaming, sexual coercion, and isolation.

Inform your teen that no one has the right to put them down or make them feel bad about themselves. If someone tries to intimidate or threaten them they should let someone know. Sometimes adolescents who are viewed as popular or more well-known may try to use their social status as a reason to have power and control over others by acting like “the master of the castle”, making all the decisions, or treating others like servants. It’s important that your teen knows that everyone is equal and should be treated as such. Teens may view this behavior jokingly but making light of these behaviors or shifting the responsibility is an effort to have power and gain control, which is at the center of an unhealthy relationship.

Dating Violence is so prevalent that going over the warning signs of abuse can help your teen identify when the line from healthy to unhealthy has been crossed. These signs include but are not limited to: Extreme jealousy or insecurity, isolating someone from family and friends, telling someone what to do or wear, checking their social media or personal accounts without permission, and an explosive temper. It might help to go over steps your teen can follow if they or someone they know find themselves in an abusive relationship. Steps such as talking to an adult they trust right away, remembering that safety is the most important thing, and utilizing various resources specifically for teen dating violence. Lastly, teens should not be afraid to ask for help, assure them that they are not alone, and it is not their fault.”

Commit to really listening to your teen. Good communication is an essential part of any relationship. All relationships have ups and downs, but a healthy communication style can make it easier to deal with conflict and build a stronger and healthier relationship. You can help your teen learn this by mirroring these skills in your own relationship. Be open to disagreements. Everyone does not have to agree 100% of the time about everything in order to have healthy relationships. If your teen says something that you don’t agree with, try to learn more about why they think the way they do.

Some of the conversations may address topics that you’ve never thought much about before, so don’t be surprised if your views on the subject change while you’re talking about them! If you find it difficult to engage in positive conversations with your teen, and especially if this is a pattern over time, it may be a sign that you could benefit from counseling, including individual and/or family counseling. To learn more about seeking counseling, please visit our website for tips on finding a family counselor.

Having deeper conversations can feel strange at first. But, over time, if you engage in these conversations with kindness and respect, you’ll see how they can help to push your relationships to a deeper, more meaningful connection with one another!

 

 

Planting Seeds for College and Career Success with Teens

By Christine Murray, HRI Director

Of all the difficult topics for parents and teens to discuss, future college and career plans should be a relatively simple one, right? Well, compared to sex, drugs, curfews, and other heated topics, college and career plans may seem pretty tame. However, these topics can be more complicated than you might think, especially if parents and teens have different views about what those future plans might look like. We’re excited to partner with Say Yes to Education Guilford for tonight’s Say Yes to College event. Here’s a preview of a few of the tips we’ll be talking about in more detail tonight:

  1. Try to have conversations about future career and college plans in a low-pressure context. Teens can feel a lot of pressure to live up to their parents’ expectations. For some teens, this is motivating, but it can have the opposite effect for others if they feel their parents are only satisfied with extremely high achievement. Parents can work toward filling these conversations with encouragement and support and minimizing pressure.
  2. Focus on listening to your teen to understand their values and goals. Understand that your teen’s views of future success may differ from your own, and take the extra time to listen to your teen’s perspectives on these issues. The more they feel you understand them, the more likely they’ll be to seek your guidance on this subject.
  3. Understand that every person has their own unique educational and career path. For some people, attending a large state school is exciting, whereas others view the same school as overwhelming. As you talk about future career and college plans with your teen, keep in mind that their path may look very different from your own, and even from their siblings and friends. As a parent, you can play an important role in guiding your child to figuring out and then succeeding along the path that is right for them!
  4. Reach out for help! Connect with resources to help you and your teen get the support needed to figure out future plans and take steps toward turning your plans into reality. Tonight’s Say Yes to College is one example of a resource that can help you with these conversations. Other resources may include your high school counselor, a professional counselor in the community, college admissions advisors, people in jobs your teen is considering for their career path, and books and websites. Don’t be afraid to reach out of additional support and information to help you and your teen make the best decisions for their future.

We hope to see you at tonight’s Say Yes to College event, but even if you can’t attend that, know that you can foster a positive dialogue with your teen to help set them on the path toward future college and/or career success!

 

How to Talk with Teens Who are Under Stress and Facing Difficult Issues

By Brenda Stubbs

As the parent of a teenaged boy, and a health professional who often works with teens and teaches them about physical and mental wellness, I often see and hear about – firsthand – what things our kids are stressed, depressed or anxious about.  Things are so different from when I was a teenager – there were no computers, mobile phones or social media to capture every (sometimes embarrassing) move you made.  Bullying wasn’t so commonplace, and it certainly couldn’t “follow you home” by way of being connected to social media 24/7.  Gun violence in schools was virtually unheard of.  Experiencing the death of a classmate or friend, by way of violence or suicide, was something very rare.  And while peer pressure to drink, do drugs or have sex hasn’t really changed much over the years, it still somehow seemed like a kinder, simpler time back then.  I often say that while I remember my high school years with a lot of fondness, I would NEVER want to be a teenager in this day and age.

Now I know many parents right now may be thinking “What?!  Our kids are the most entitled generation there’s ever been!”  And while it may be true that kids today have many privileges and conveniences that we didn’t have – it does NOT negate the fact that they face many stressors and traumatic experiences that many of us parents didn’t have to deal with when we were their age.  For many, this is a really hard time to be a teenager in America – and as parents, we must be willing to acknowledge this and talk with our kids about hard topics, even though it can be very uncomfortable.

Research shows that our youth today suffer from depression, anxiety, and toxic stress at higher rates than ever.  Let me share some statistics with you:

  • 20-25% of teens suffer from a mental health (depression or anxiety) or substance use disorder; only about 20% get help or treatment (Mental Health in Schools:  A Hidden Crisis Affecting Millions of Students; NPR Ed Series, Part One, 8/31/16)
  • 1 in 3 teens will have experienced 2 or more traumatic events by the age of 17 (this can include but is not limited to the death of a parent, divorce, extreme bullying, being physically or sexually assaulted, or living in a home where there is domestic violence, mental illness or substance abuse. (acestoohigh.com)
  • 1 in 3 high school students report experiencing dating violence (physical, emotional or sexual; womenshealth.gov  “Talking to your kids about Sexual Assault”  Jerry Wiechman, PhD, Clinical Psychologist and Adolescent Specialist; 4/24/17)
  • Suicide is now the 2nd leading cause of death for 15-19 yr. olds (car accidents is the 1st)
  • From 1999 – 2014, the suicide rate for middle school girls increased by 25%
  • There are approx. 5,240 suicide attempts EVERY DAY in our nation by teens in grades 7-12; thankfully, the majority of those are not successful (approx. 1,748 suicides completed in 2013; boys are 3x more likely to complete suicide than girls:  pediatrics.aappublications.org  “Suicide and Suicide Attempts in Adolescents”  June 24, 2016)

Indeed, many mental health experts believe that our teens are on the verge of the most severe mental health crisis in decades.  Further, Dr. Jean Twenge – a renown clinical psychologist – and other researchers assert that social media use (and the cyber-bullying that often comes with that) is a contributing factor in – though not the cause of – the drastic rise in depression, anxiety and suicide rates in our youth.  This is, in fact, the first generation of youth that has never known life without social media.

Other than the obvious, why should parents be so concerned about these alarming statistics?  Because the human brain continues to develop until the age of at least 26, and we now know through years and years of research that chronic stress and trauma in childhood (<18 yrs. old) physiologically changes brain chemistry and disrupts the normal development of the brain.  This affects the pre-frontal cortex, the limbic system, and impedes neural connections in our kids’ brains – which can lead to poor judgement, and poor critical thinking and coping skills.  This, in turn, can manifest in more impulsive or risk-taking behaviors by our kids, putting them at higher risk for long term mental and behavioral health disorders, substance use disorders, and yes – even chronic adverse health conditions like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.  Indeed, 50% of lifelong mental health disorders onset by the age of 14, and 70% onset by the age of 24.  Going a step further to look at long term ramifications – these are all poor health conditions that kids could be experiencing as they grow into young adults and enter their prime childbearing years.  And what THAT means, is that these are health problems that can affect their future birth outcomes and be passed down to the next generation.  A woman who enters pregnancy with pre-existing mental health issues is much more likely to develop postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders – which are, in fact, the #1 complication of pregnancy and childbirth AND a leading cause of premature birth.  So, parents, we’re not only talking about your children’s health and well-being, we’re also talking about that of your future grandchildren!

So, what can we parents do?  How can we spot red flags in our kids’ behavior and recognize the signs and symptoms of depression, chronic stress and anxiety?  And how we can talk with our kids about these sensitive issues in a way that will keep them from shutting down or shutting us out?

Let me preface this with an interesting tidbit that you might find surprising…

In a survey of 1,843 teens conducted by Josh Shipp, a nationally known and award-winning teen expert and youth speaker, he asked them what they lie to their parents about, and here’s what they said:

  • 31.6% reported lying/not admitting to their parents about having suicidal thoughts – the #1 thing they are hiding from us! (www.joshshipp.com)
  • 19.6% report lying about sex
  • 16.3% report lying about drugs
  • 14% report lying about looking at porn
  • 9.5 % report lying about everything
  • 9% report lying about nothing

But is this an issue of our kids being liars, or is it a bigger issue of our kids not feeling comfortable or safe talking with us about these things – or not feeling they can be open and honest with us?  I recently participated in a focus group of teen parents at a local high school, and two things stood out.  All of them said that their parents never talked to them about sex or relationships and they wish they had.  Secondly, they all said that they wish their parents would stop acting like they never did anything wrong or made a bad decision when they were a teenager, or that they were a perfect kid — because it just makes your kids think that YOU are lying to THEM!  It’s actually good to talk with your kids about times when you were their age that you DID make a poor choice and what you learned from it.  Or even telling them a traumatic experience you had as a teenager, how it affected you and how you sought help or learned to cope with your feelings.  This creates an element of relatability and trust.

Remember that these conversations don’t have to be one big “TALK”, which can be traumatizing in and of itself for both you and your child.  These can be small talks peppered throughout your child’s adolescent and teen years.

Here are some other helpful tips about recognizing warning signs and having difficult conversations with your kids:

  • How do you know the difference between your child “being in a funk” and being depressed? – Everyone has a bad day – or a few bad days – now and then, when you’re feeling out of sorts or upset. But if your child feels like that for a period of 2 weeks or more, it’s time to get them help.  Some signs of depression are:  a big change in appetite or sleep, wanting to isolate, a loss of interest in things that they usually like to do, having a flat “affect” or seeming hopeless. Parents may see this manifest in emotional outbursts, erractic mood swings, grades dropping, weight dropping, withdrawing from family and friends, or dropping out of activities.
  • Don’t be too quick to dismiss mood swings or emotional outbursts as “hormonal”, “just a phase”, or “typical teenage behavior” – downplaying or missing the warning signs above can have detrimental effects for your child. Depression can be an insidious disease – it is not something to take lightly, and there is absolutely no shame in getting help.
  • Instead of asking “What’s wrong with you?!” ask “What happened to you?” – the first is more accusatory and can cause your child to shut down/clam up; the second is more supportive and can invite more discussion – i.e. “What happened to you today/this week/this year that is making you feel sad/anxious/angry?  How can I help you work through this?”
  • Trauma is all about PERCEPTION! – i.e. if your child went through a bad break-up, or has been bullied at school or online, or maybe they didn’t make the athletic team they tried out for, or they didn’t get into the college they wanted to — even though it may not seem “traumatic” to you, it could, in fact, be traumatic to them. THEIR perception is THEIR reality.
  • Let’s talk about sex and relationships: You can clearly state to your children what your beliefs are around sex and healthy relationships, but try not be judgmental or “push” your beliefs on them.  Again, this could be an appropriate time to share with them what your experiences were when you were their age, or even when you were older.  Help your kids understand their own bodies and how they function, what personal boundaries are, and teach them about consent in a sexual relationship; no one has a right to touch them without their permission.  Help them understand the more subtle forms of abuse – that in addition to physical or sexual abuse, there can also be emotional or verbal abuse – where the scars may not be visible, but can run just as deep and for a very long time.  Perhaps most importantly, model healthy communication and respect in your own relationships!  Our kids are often watching and listening, even when it seems like they aren’t.
  • And by the way, research shows that:
  1. Teaching “abstinence only” does NOT work
  2. Providing condoms or other contraception to teens does NOT increase the likelihood of them engaging in sex if they weren’t planning to
  3. Talking to kids about suicide does NOT make them feel suicidal if they weren’t in the first place
  • Talking to teens, especially boys, about “sensitive topics” can be challenging – experts say: 1) it is hard for them to make eye contact (so don’t always insist on it, and realize that most of the time, even if they aren’t looking at you, they ARE listening to you!)   2) teens often need something to “fidget with” or have something to do with their hands to make them feel more comfortable (ok to insist they put their phone down or turn off the TV/game, but let them have a fidget spinner or a stress ball or a pencil to twirl during the conversation because, psychologically, that can “distract” them from the uncomfortableness they may feel, while still allowing them to pay attention to the conversation)
  • Remember that your kids may not be ready/willing to talk at the same time you are, even though they may WANT to talk with you. Sometimes you just need to open the door for a conversation – ex.  “It seems like you are upset about something” or “You don’t seem like yourself today.  Is there anything you want to talk about?” If answer is no, simply say “Ok, well just know I love you and I’m here to listen if and when you want to talk.”  Then be patient, and wait.  Often they will come to you later ready to talk, and when they do, be prepared to stop what you are doing and LISTEN, just like you said you would do.
  • Use movies, TV shows, events in the news as teachable moments – there are often plot lines or news stories that can be used a great opportunity to dialogue with your kids. Good examples are – “What do you think about that?”  “What do you feel when you hear about something like this?”  “Are things like this happening in your school or within your circle of friends?”  “How would you handle that situation?”  One important caveat here is to be careful about overexposure to traumatic or scary events in the news or on social media; for example – constant coverage of school shootings or of fatal car accidents involving teens.  There comes a point where constant exposure can actually cause secondary PTSD in our kids and cause them to become overly fearful and anxious, or even develop phobias.  But again, you need to be talking with them about this if you see cause for concern.

One final, but very important note … research out of Harvard University shows that “Every child who winds up doing well has had at least ONE stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult!”  Never underestimate the power and benefit of your child having at least ONE ADULT MENTOR in their lives that they can go to or talk to about anything, and feel safe doing so.  These kids stay on the right path to achieve more of their goals, and ultimately do better in life.  Now, I’m going to say something that parents might find a little hard to swallow:

Try not to be offended if you’re not their “go-to” adult when they want to talk – if they are confiding in a teacher/coach/counselor/minister/relative, etc., the important thing is that they ARE talking to an adult, who can guide them through tough situations and assist them in seeking help.  In addition, another responsible adult (as opposed to a peer) is more likely to encourage your child to open up to you, as well.

To quote teen expert Josh Shipp, “Every kid is ONE bad decision away from becoming a statistic, and ONE caring adult away from being a success story.”  Parents who are informed about the “current state” of our teens, and who have open, honest and continuous conversations with their kids about the tough topics are more likely to prevent the former and foster the latter.

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
  • Teen Crisis Text Line: text “HELP” to 741741

 

Brenda Stubbs is a health professional who has worked in health and human services for 22 years, and specifically in maternal and child health for 16 yrs.  She is professionally trained in Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid, Maternal Mental Health, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and Resiliency, and Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders.  She currently serves as Regional Program Coordinator for the March of Dimes’ NC Preconception Health Campaign.  Brenda is also the parent of a 16-year-old old boy who has struggled with depression and anxiety for much of his life and consequently is a strong advocate for youth mental health.