National Hazing Prevention Week, Sept. 23-27

This week is National Hazing Prevention Week, organized by While many might think about hazing in the context of college Greek organizations, hazing is a widespread problem in many settings, from high school sports teams to the military. In some organizations, hazing is a sanctioned rite of passage (this NFL team video goes so far as to mock anti-hazing efforts). Recent reports suggest that many incidents of hazing increasingly involve rape and other forms of sexual violence and degradation. While proponents of hazing argue that hazing is vital to the development of group cohesion, the reality is quite the opposite. Hazing is about power and control; it is a form of abuse that strips an individual of their autonomy and self-respect. History is strewn with horror stories of hazing gone wrong; the result of which is death or serious injury. Yet rarely do these reports consider the emotional and psychological injuries that occur from hazing. Hazing can be the trigger for serious mental health difficulties, such as acute stress disorder, major depression, suicidal thinking or even post-traumatic stress disorder. A well-written article by the psychologist Robert Brooks dismantles the argument for hazing. He notes that parents, educators and coaches need to help kids understand from an early age that hazing is not an acceptable practice and have mechanisms in place to support individuals who have been hazed. I encourage you to take a moment this week and consider what you can do to help prevent hazing in your community.

For more information about anti-hazing efforts, please visit:
University of Maine Hazing Research and Prevention
National Bullying Prevention Center

Teaching Kids Skills to Manage Their Emotions

When I was in graduate school, I was required to read a book titled Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goldman. The book examined the then nascent research by two psychologists, John Mayer and Peter Salovey, who were developing their theory of emotional intelligence (EI). Drawing upon this line of research, the basic premise of Daniel Goldman’s book is that emotional intelligence, and not IQ is critical to achieving success in life. Furthermore, he argued that emotional intelligence could be taught. The book was a bestseller as the concept of emotional intelligence resonated with many people. The educational community recognized emotional intelligence as an important skill to develop within students, and programs teaching emotional intelligence soon began to appear in schools. A recent article in the New York Times Magazine examines this growing trend of schools incorporating social-emotional learning into their curriculum. It’s a balanced examination of such programs, and well worth reading.

In a similar vein, a pilot study out of Ohio State University’s College of Nursing looked at the benefits of incorporating a mental health component to a high school health education curriculum. Called COPE (Creating Opportunities for Personal Empowerment), the program focused on teaching students basic cognitive-behavioral skills. Results from the study were promising, with students showing improved scores on both physical and emotional measures. It’s an interesting study, and hopefully one that will be replicated in a larger randomized study to see if the results hold up.

A New School Year

Summer is coming to a close and for parents this means kids returning to school. For many kids, the new school year is met with both trepidation and excitement, as they have to adapt to multiple changes; a new teacher, new classroom (or even school), new routines and new peers. This can be a stressful time for families as everyone adjusts to the changes. There are many excellent online resources for parents to assist them with this change, such as pbsparents. If your child is nervous about school, remember to validate and normalize their fears. Encourage them to talk about their feelings using “I feel” statements. Maintain a regular daily routine before and after school, including having them spend time with their friends. At the end of the school day, be enthusiastic about learning what they did that day in school. If possible, spend some time with your child in their classroom exploring the space and learning about their daily routine. Some children take longer to make the transition and may need extra support. If your child continues to struggle adjusting to school after several weeks, talk with their teacher or guidance counselor. They can assist in helping your child feel comfortable and confident as they start the new school year.