Help your family THRIVE through the holidays!

The holidays are fast approaching; and with them the joy and the stress they bring. mistletoe

Some years it seems the joy diminishes and the stress increases as the busy-ness of the times get in the way of the family fun.

Here are some thoughts on increasing the joy and decreasing the stress.

Focus on Connection. Not Perfection.

While it’s fun to show off our cooking skills, our wrapping skills, our decorating skills, etc., the effort we put into achieving perfection can result in less time and energy for connecting with those we love. And really, isn’t the connection what matters?

One way to make the connection front and center is to have family discussions. Sit with your whole family (especially children and teens) and talk about the upcoming holidays. Have the first discussion at the beginning of the school break before things get really busy. Ask your children what makes the holidays the most fun. If your family isn’t practiced at this type of question it might be uncomfortable to ask your kids about what they like best about the family time, and it may seems down-right weird to them to be asked. That’s why as parents we need to have the patience to sit with our kids as they come up with any answer or non-answer to get us to go away. Stick with them. They do have opinions on this.

Once you know what truly matters to your whole family focus on that. If needed, decide as a family what extras can be eliminated to give a more relaxed pace to the whole school vacation schedule. Say “no” to one event? Buy a pie instead of making one? Skip the holiday cards this year? Focus on the stressors you can control. The more rested and relaxed the family feels, the better you all will be able to deal with the stressors out of your control.

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Bullying: What it is and What You Can Do

By: Crystal Gentry, LSC, District Homeless Liaison, South Washington County School District
(as shared through Washington County’s CONNECT Collaborative)

As we start the month of October, the topic of bullying comes up (especially in schools), as October is National Bullying Prevention Month. One of the most common and complicated aspects regarding bullying is what exactly is bullying? As a school counselor, I hear the word “bully” get used a lot, but it is important to recognize the difference between bullying and conflict. Conflict is a normal part of life, and learning how to handle conflict appropriately will help give students the proper tools they need to be successful.

Normal Peer Conflict Bullying
Equal power; friends Imbalance of power; not friends
Happens occasionally Repeated negative actions
Accidental On Purpose
Not Serious Serious with threat of physical or emotional harm
Equal emotional reaction Strong emotional reaction from victim, and little or no emotional reaction from bully
Not seeking power or attention Seeking power, control, or material things
Not trying to get something Attempt to gain material things or power
Remorse – will take responsibility No remorse – blames victim
Effort to solve the problem No effort to solve the problem


What to Do if Your Child is Being Bullied

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Suicide Prevention: We All Play a Role

By: Emily Johnson, Youth and Family Therapist, & Sarah Holmboe, Parent Education Coordinator, at Youth Service Bureau


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September is Suicide Prevention Month and a great time to review the risk factors for suicide and what we can all do to help. While having a mental illness (such as depression or anxiety) can be a risk factor for death by suicide, suicides typically happen in moments of crisis. A suicide attempt is often an impulsive decision that young people turn to when they feel a breakdown in their ability to deal with their stress, mood, or perceived hopelessness.

According to the World Health Organization, over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. Fortunately, all of us can play a role in preventing suicide. Here are some things we can do to help prevent suicide and offer hope and support to those suffering:

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Prescription Pill Abuse: 5 Things to Discuss with your Kids

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin. IPrescription Medst has become increasingly popular in counterfeit painkillers, which are often laced with potentially deadly amounts of the drug. However, it’s also a legal drug that is prescribed to manage severe pain.

Recently 26 people in West Virginia overdosed on heroin that was likely laced with fentanyl, and investigators have also linked fentanyl to Prince’s death this past April.

Today, more than ever, it is important to talk with your kids about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs, which includes taking drugs that were not prescribed to them.

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Myth vs. Fact: Underage Drinking

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By: Sarah Holmboe, M.A., YSB Parent Education Coordinator
and Michael Huntley, M.A., LP, YSB Youth and Family Therapist

With the growing popularity of drugs such as marijuana and e-cigarettes, underage alcohol consumption in Washington County tends to be overlooked. However, it’s still very much a problem. According to 2013 Minnesota Student Survey data, 15{a64e5c7e062cd1e4e2f9421eef92c66acc8bb07332f04d4f529edfa6a926861d} of 11th-grade males and 15{a64e5c7e062cd1e4e2f9421eef92c66acc8bb07332f04d4f529edfa6a926861d} of 11th-grade females in Washington County reported consuming an alcoholic beverage one or two days out of the month.

Part of the solution to this problem is educating both youth and parents about the risks of underage drinking. In YSB’s Chemical Awareness Programs, we discuss a variety of perspectives from youth and parents regarding chemical use- including underage alcohol consumption. These are important conversations, especially as we find many decisions are made based on myths, versus facts.

So how many do you know? Here are some myths some parents may believe about underage drinking, along with some facts about what’s happening in Minnesota.

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Pokémon Go: What Parents Need to Know

You may have been hearing a lot about a new game/app called Pokémon Go. Based on the popular trading card, video game, and television series, this app allows users to find, capture, train, and battle Pokémon around their very own neighborhoods!

Pokemon Go 2Pokemon Go 1Pokemon Go Screenshot

How does it work? It’s a free mobile app download for both Apple and Android devices. The game uses both your phone’s GPS and augmented reality (where images are superimposed onto your view of the real world, through your device) to allow users to “see” Pokémon around their real-world location. Here are some examples of what the game looks like.

Throughout the game, as users find and catch more Pokémon, they can visit real-world “PokéStops” and Gyms where you can find items for your Pokémon and train them for battle with other users. These locations could be parks, landmarks, libraries, or even street signs!

Even though the game has only been around for a few weeks, it’s already extremely popular with young adults and youth alike.

Should you be worried if your child is suddenly addicted to Pokémon Go? Here are some pros and cons to keep in mind:

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YSB Helps Parents Protect Youth on Social Media

Washington County youth are increasingly exposed to victimization from adult sex offenders, both in person and online.

social mediaYou may have read a recent Woodbury Bulletin article which highlighted this issue. Most recently, a Stillwater Junior High student was the target of an online sex offender. Even though they never met in person, the offender victimized the student over the phone and online over the course of many months.

The County Attorney’s office is working hard through a major crimes unit to find and bring perpetrators to justice, but this alone will not ebb the “supply and demand” situation they face.

For forty years, Youth Service Bureau has stayed true to its mission: to help youth and families learn the skills they need to be more successful at home, in school and throughout the community.

And in the age of Social Media, YSB strives to ensure youth and parents have access to the knowledge and tools needed to protect against those who would exploit vulnerable youth.

Through our Parent Education program, YSB professionals build skills and awareness, providing parents the tools to:

  • Proactively talk to their teens about online safety, such as making safe choices and taking a cautious approach in online interactions
  • Gain knowledge which leads to action, such as knowing when to seek mental health support for their child, or reporting suspicious activity to local authorities
  • Strengthen relationships with their children and open lines of communication so youth feel safe discussing difficult topics with their parents, from chemical use to mental health, and coming forward when they have been the victim of psychological, emotional or physical abuse

YSB’s Parent Education Program offers reliable, up-to-date resources on a wide range of topics, including our Social Media webinar series, eNewsletter, and online resources with articles from YSB staff.

Through YSB Speakers Bureau events, our professional staff engage parents, caregivers, and school staff in small and large group settings, panel presentations, and even Lunch and Learns at local businesses to provide parents with direct learning opportunities, as well as the ability to get straightforward answers and support for the increasingly difficult challenges families face in our digital age.

Your support ensures YSB’s focused resources will reach families and impact a truly critical issue in our community.

Find out how to schedule or sponsor Speakers Bureau events here:

Speakers Bureau

How does Early Intervention Apply to Teens?

By Michael Huntley, M.A., L.P.
YSB Program Director

YSB, and its counterparts around the country, were created 2015 Annual Reportmore than 30 years ago to provide early intervention services for youth that may have been labeled as “delinquent” at that time. YSB continues to uphold this valuable tradition of early intervention in all of our work – and we know it works. As you can see in our 2015 Annual Report, we have fine-tuned a variety of ways to help families learn how to make better decisions which lead to better outcomes, from Diversion Services to Counseling and Parent Education.

YSB Annual Report 2015

Early Intervention is often thought of as a medical, or educational, screening tool used with young children to detect disruptions in development. But early intervention isn’t just for toddlers. At its core, it simply refers to the early identification of behavioral concerns and responding to them with strategies for improvement, rather than allowing them to grow or worsen.

At YSB we apply this approach with young people, through the age of 18. But it’s not just the youth that are served. We involve the parents and the whole family when possible, for the most positive outcome. Through this approach the whole community ultimately benefits.

As a result, we were honored to receive the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Nonprofit of the Year award and we remain committed to continuing to develop and expand our programs and services to help families be successful.

In an effort to continue to meet the ever changing needs of the community, we launched a Parent Education program in 2014 which experienced tremendous growth in 2015 and is on track to more than double in 2016. Our experienced staff delivered parenting presentations on a variety of topics at various venues including schools, churches and businesses.

To better address needs of some of our Diversion Program participants, we redesigned some of the awareness classes to make them even more meaningful and effective. And we provided a therapist at the St. Croix Valley Alternative Learning Center who worked with our Chemical Health Specialist to provide early intervention strategies to meet the needs of teens attending that school.

We believe that if young people and their families are provided with accurate information and effective support, they can make better choices in their lives – and things will improve. I have worked at YSB for almost three decades, and I see this everyday. I am proud that we continue to provide respectful and high-quality early intervention to hundreds of families across Washington County and beyond every year.

We invite you to read our Annual Report to learn more about YSB, our supporters and our impact in 2015- and join our mission by SUPPORTING YSB!

More info and details at

3 Ways to Keep Kids Safe (and Kind) Online

As part of its Internet & American Life Project, in 2011 the Screen shot 2016-05-24 at 4.21.17 PMPew Research Center conducted a survey on teens’ experiences of online cruelty. The survey revealed some interesting information about how teens and parents are communicating about online experiences.

According to the survey:
  • 58{a64e5c7e062cd1e4e2f9421eef92c66acc8bb07332f04d4f529edfa6a926861d} of teen Internet and cell phone users say their parents have been the biggest influence on what they think is appropriate or inappropriate when using the Internet or a cell phone.
  • Of the teens that reported witnessing or experiencing online cruelty, only 36{a64e5c7e062cd1e4e2f9421eef92c66acc8bb07332f04d4f529edfa6a926861d} sought advice from parents for how to handle it, whereas 53{a64e5c7e062cd1e4e2f9421eef92c66acc8bb07332f04d4f529edfa6a926861d} reached out to a peer. Younger teen girls (ages 12-13) were more likely to rely on friends and peers for advice than older girls.
  • While most parents do talk with their teens about safe and risky online behavior, only about half of parents utilize parental controls to manage their child’s online experiences, and only 34{a64e5c7e062cd1e4e2f9421eef92c66acc8bb07332f04d4f529edfa6a926861d} use parental controls to restrict cell phone usage. (94{a64e5c7e062cd1e4e2f9421eef92c66acc8bb07332f04d4f529edfa6a926861d} have talked with their teens about what should and should not be shared online; 93{a64e5c7e062cd1e4e2f9421eef92c66acc8bb07332f04d4f529edfa6a926861d} have talked about internet and cell phone safety; 87{a64e5c7e062cd1e4e2f9421eef92c66acc8bb07332f04d4f529edfa6a926861d} have talked with their child about what he or she does on the internet.)

So what can parents do to help keep their kids safe (and kind) online?

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E-Cigarettes and the FDA

On Thursday, May 5, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a rule that will extend its authority to all tobacco products – including e-cigarettes. What does this mean? First of all, there will now be FEDERAL laws prohibiting retailers from selling e-cigarettes to people under 18. Before this ruling, each state had its own rules (in Minnesota, the age requirement was still 18).

Secigs2econd of all, the FDA will now be able to prevent misleading claims about e-cigarettes by evaluating their ingredients and how they are made. The FDA will also share the potential risks of e-cigarettes and tobacco products.

In the coming months, all e-cigarette manufacturers will be required to show that their products “meet the applicable health standards” set by the FDA – this includes revealing their ingredients, product design, health risks, and appeal to youth and non-users.

More research needs to be done on e-cigarettes, but the research that has been done shows that e-cigarettes may contain a mix of harmful chemicals that can lead to short- and long-term health effects, and that many e-cigarettes contain varying levels of nicotine (even if they claim to be nicotine-free). These new FDA regulations hope to protect us from these and other potential dangers of e-cigarettes.

Although the rule goes into effect in 90 days, the FDA expects that it may take up to 2 years for all manufacturers to submit their products for approval, during which time they will continue to sell. In the meantime, parents – we encourage you to continue to have discussions with your kids about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes.

For more information, visit