The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining R.I.V.E.R Educational Consulting.  This ride will be a hard one, filled with rapids and ravines, but the other end of the course is one that is worthwhile.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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An urgent need remains unanswered for social-emotional, behavioral, and mental health instruction within our schools across the United States.  Most important, a growing number of administrators and staff members highlight the lack of training options designed specifically for educational arenas.  We, at R.I.V.E.R. Educational Consulting, seek to fill that void.

The primary goal  of R.I.V.E.R. Educational Consulting is to provide the essential training and practical knowledge to address the needs of all staff and students within an educational building.  During our sessions, staff will participate in several interactive seminars. The initial training session will assist all staff members in developing their own social-emotional, behavioral, and mental well being through reflection, highlighting the possible identification of negative thought processes,  harmful behavioral markers, and emotional escalation points.  To address these factors, our staff will provide effective, research-based strategies that will provide positive cognitive reinforcement, lessons in the avoidance of harmful engagements, and train staff in various deescalation skills.

The subsequent sessions will guide your staff members in the ways to identify students and other staff members who may suffer openly or silently from various social-emotional, behavioral, and/or mental concerns. We provide lessons on how to recognize the warning signs of self-harm, suicide, negative coping strategies, and much more.  R.I.V.E.R. Educational Consulting will guide your school community as you develop a personalized school-wide intervention plan, which may include the formation of a cohesive external web of safety within your community.

The next objective is to equip your staff members with the essential knowledge for them to feel confident and ready to contribute to the overall health and wellness of the individual school community.  We will help you and your staff to implement basic strategies within the existing curriculum and school routines that will result in significant development of student and staff social-emotional, behavioral, and mental health skills.

“Just as some teachers try to accommodate different learning styles, it’s helpful to remember there are different social styles.”  -Peter Greene

In addition, R.I.V.E.R. Educational Consulting will guide your school as you develop or review your reintegration and safety protocols for those who may be returning from outside treatment. This can include the thoughtful examination of inside factors that may possibly trigger a student or staff member in the future and the containment of school-wide contagion.

Some Resources for Parents with Children/Teens using Online Apps

Many teenagers and young adults desire to showcase what they are wearing, eating, thinking, what they like to do during their free time, and to show off their new relationships – all online. However, internet safety continues to be an ever-growing concern, with parents often asking RIVER Educational Consulting about the safeguards of online media use. This Blog will answer some of your questions on how to approach conversations with children and young teens regarding the content they should or should not post online.

REC recommends the use of the Online Media App, BARK, to monitor safety of children. It is a paid service, but will grant you peace of mind, especially if your teenager tends to be a bit more conservative with sharing of her/his online profiles & activities.

https://www.bark.us/

Below are some articles & videos we recommend to parents that help to open the conversations about online safety with children & teenagers: 

  1. A Local Tennessee newspaper reported about online safety using the BARK app. It is bland in nature, but seeks to explain BARK and its uses.

https://www.wsmv.com/an-app-and-service-every-parent-needs-to-start-using/article_9fcce26e-236f-11ea-96e8-9fcb25ae02d8.html

  1. **This one is the BIG article – that will made the most impact on your children. Caution: there are messages sent by pedophiles to this “11 year old” that are pretty graphic. Parents, we suggest deciding together if you should have your children read all of the messages. We do suggest reading some, as that will give them a baseline to know what type of behavior is joking around lightly and which is clearly NOT decent behavior. 

https://medium.com/@sloane_ryan/im-a-37-year-old-mom-i-spent-seven-days-online-as-an-11-year-old-girl-here-s-what-i-learned-9825e81c8e7d

Bark app
  1. The following article references the App TikTok. It is bland in nature, but informative about the common sense use of the app.

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-tiktok

  1. This article is a bit more intense and includes a video about TikTok.

https://www.the-sun.com/news/445815/what-is-tik-tok-and-how-does-the-app-work/

Indian political party renews calls for a ban on TikTok | The Drum

5. Another article about staying vigilant regarding your child’s use of TikTok. https://www.scarymommy.com/parents-beware-dangers-tiktok/

  1. This article addresses a lack of censorship on TikTok. https://www.cbc.ca/kidsnews/post/5-not-so-great-things-about-tiktok-dangerous-challenges-censorship-security

Instagram's new group chats sticker for Stories lets your ...

  1. This article addresses the app of Instagram. In this article, the author discuses how nasty people can be – even when an account is set to private.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/sep/17/instagram-is-supposed-to-be-friendly-so-why-is-it-making-people-so-miserable

  1. This CNN article is pretty harsh, but if you read it and your child still wants to enter into instagram life, just make sure to monitor her/his account.

https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/19/health/instagram-worst-social-network-app-young-people-mental-health/index.html

  1. This is a Beginner Agreement for online safety you may want to use with your child.

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/net-safety.html

IMPACT of these Conversations

Once each article/video has been reviewed, we recommend that you discuss that your trust in each of your children is solid. However, let them know that their child/teenage minds are not fully developed and decisions aren’t always going to be sound. This is why conversations like this must be had. Explain to your children that mistakes, even online media mistakes, are a part of the learning-in-life process. Yet, if these conversations can help to force additional thought by your children before they post or respond to posts, some mistakes may not be made.

The articles above have spoken about pedophiles, how they blend into society like everyone else, and how they “train” you to do what they want without your conscious thought.  We also urge you to take you conversations a step further and talk to your children about possible emotional and physical trauma from online media. Children and teenagers spend a great deal of time comparing themselves to others they see online, this ultimately can deteriorate your son’s/daughter’s self-worth and self-love. Heading off such impacts by having open conversations about body image, ideas of perfection, and real love for one self will have a big impact in the long run.

Using the BARK articles, you will be able to open up a conversation about human trafficking as a result of online connections. With some additional research, you will find plenty of other articles relaying stories of missing children and teenagers who may have had a link to online grooming and human trafficking through profiles they thought were children their own ages. The object of such conversations is not to frighten your children completely, but to make them understand that there are not always good people out there with their best interest at hand. With your help, they must learn to decipher which contacts are real and which ones are fake.

Lastly, the articles above will also help to open the discussion of possible early-onset encouragement for inappropriate human sexual expression – which can lead to trauma, emotional scarring and shutdown. This can be done via online “pruning” by older individuals, especially through the preface of “I dare you” or “truth or dare” games. Children, teenagers, and parents must be on the lookout for the beginnings of such conversations and put an end to them before they fully develop.

Once you feel that you have hosted your essential conversations as a family, and the children are aware of all the possible dangers of online usages, we suggest asking them again if they would like to access the particular media apps. Should your children wish to have such apps on their phones & tablets, download it together. Make sure to talk about the content that they are allowed to publish, and agree that at any point in time, either mom or dad are allowed to view everything on their phones without much contention (there will always be some). 

As a parent myself and a respected professional in the educational and mental health fields, I often go further in my family discussions to include points of instruction on self-harm, suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide), and addictive substances. We speak about how these negative coping strategies are subliminally placed in many music videos, statements, pictures, etc. I talk about how they can influence their developing minds and even encourage depression as “looking cool and fitting in” to their peer groups. We talk about the female body shape, thoughts of perfection, true to life people versus celebrity images, and more. 

Should you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please email us at rivereducationalconsulting@gmail.com.

-written by Tara M. Kfoury, MEd, PhD

Dr. Kfoury discusses Gun Control, Mental Health, and other critical topics in our contemporary Society with other experts in the field.

On the 7th of September, Dr. Tara Kfoury attended a one hour televised round table discussion concerning firearms, laws regarding the right to bear arms, and the role youth play in recent tragedies involving guns. During this discussion, experts from various fields of study critically examined the current federal and state laws as they pertain to gun control, gun possession, and abuses of the laws by citizens. Mr. Jim Wallace, the Executive Director of Gun Owners Action League, explained the complexities of gun ownership and shared his thoughts about gun control in contemporary society. The panel was able to openly analyze the importance of addressing the psychological, emotional, behavioral and mental health of young adults, the roles that faith and religion play in our lives, and the critical need for all of us to have a nurturing and loving support system in place in our lives. Together, they examined if a lack of one or several of these important life factors can propel a citizen to break down and seek homicidal and/or suicidal results when a firearm is present in the home. Lastly, the panel proposed several comprehensive ideas and solutions on fire arms in america, how to reconnect with community, how to support current and future educators, coaches, and community members alike with mental/psychological/behavioral/emotional health strategies and practices, and worked to unveil the scapegoating of mental illness as the leading cause of gun massacres in the United States.

https://newtv.org/recent-videos-community/106-living-in-the-21st-century/5855-living-in-the-21st-century-gun-report-on-massachusetts

Dr. Kfoury Presents at Saint Theresa of Avila School Community Meeting

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“Addressing the Monkey on your Back: How to identify Anxiety in your child and how to actively de-escalate its effects. “

This discussion teaches parents about the nature of anxiety in children and provide tools parents can use to help their child cope with anxiety and  learn to self-regulate.  

Many children and early adolescents do not recognize their anxiety for what it actually is.  Often, they may think there is some “wrong” with them. Young Children tend to focus on physical symptoms, such a stomach aches, headaches, lethargy, etc). Young Adolescents and teenagers may feel “odd”, “weird”, out of control, or even “crazy”.  Such thoughts may create further anxiety, continuing this negative cycle.

In this brief Open Forum Discussion, Dr. Tara Kfoury will help you

  • To define what Anxiety is and what is may look like for your child
  • To identify the early onset of anxiety in your child
  • To anticipate changes and/or triggers in your child’s behaviors in the moment of an anxiety-attack (sensory, over-stimulation, prior trauma)
  • Develop a protocol for brain breaks, distractions, and other anxiety-reducing strategies
  • Engage in-the-moment de-escalation strategies (physical touch, mindfulness breathing techniques, visual & voice calming strategies, Tapping)
  • To maintain your calm as you try to calm your child
  • To speak with your child about his/her anxiety & concerns

“What should you do when you just never get to where you thought you’d be in life at this point?”

What should you do when you just never get to where you thought you’d be in life at this point? This is a question I have been asking myself frequently as of late.  I really don’t have a road map to this answer, but here are some of my thoughts at this point.

 

Let it go. What you thought you may have been is not your actuality. It simply sucks to hear, but lets face it, sometimes the truth is not pretty, nor wanted.

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So then, what do you do from here?  My advice – rebuild your dreams. Evaluate what is meant to be for your future now.  Deeply, truly, wholeheartedly ask yourself several questions: What do you want to spend your days and nights doing? What type of job will make you happy and fulfilled? Where in the world do you want to work? Who do you want to be with in life? Lastly, what is it that truly makes you happy at this stage in your life?

Remember, you are not who you were even a year ago, let along 10 years ago.  Your personal rules in life have changed, and so should your goals and life aspirations. This is not to say that you don’t keep some of your original goals and dreams that you still hold dear – it simply means to build upon those, renew your goals, and add new ones as you move forward into your future.  

So, Step one: think about what makes you tick. If you close your eyes, take several deep breaths, what do you visualize doing for a career? Who are you spending your time with? What type of life are you living?  Once you answer these questions, which may not be immediate, start to make a plan.

Step Two: how are you going to move yourself toward this life that you are creating for yourself? What are the financial, social, and emotional steps you will need to fulfill to gain your life goals? Devise a budget, begin a savings plan, enumerate action steps toward your ideal job, and work at seizing that love that you want. Make a calendar, a chart, a step-by-step to-do-list with specifics to provide a constant reminder of your journey.  Watch how you grow, reward yourself when possible, and revise your list as needed. Above all, TAKE THE LEAP toward your goals, as frightening as it can be. I know the words I am saying as I write this advice. I know, because I am currently in the leap phase. I am flying in the air without the knowledge of knowing where my net is – yet, I feel so free and enthusiastic about my journey. I have waited so long for it, pined for it, refrained from it, excused it, and finally, welcomed the chaos and hard work.  

Join me, as we venture into a more fulfilling and healthy future for our present and future selves.

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“Your Demons May Have Been Ejected from the Building, but They’re Out in the Parking Lot Doing Push-Ups.”

I often ask myself, what makes people continue to make the same mistakes over and over during their lifetime? Shouldn’t the lessons learned from those mistake guide them into a future clear of those harmful situations? Clearly the old teaching is “let the baby touch the hot stove to learn never to touch a hot stove.” So, why doesn’t this apply to human behavior? Why is it that humans continue to make the same mistakes repeatedly, especially in relationships?

Image result for hitting your head

Take a client of mine: a young, slender woman in her early 30s, with long brown hair, piercing brown eyes and a subtle, yet mentionable personality.  She is stuck in an endless cycle of love and hate with her boyfriend of many years. After many sessions, it appears that as soon as *Alanna becomes strong enough to break apart from this relationship, he promises to change, better himself, and begins to dote on her continuously in efforts to regain her companionship. Yet, no sooner than recommitting to the relationship, he begins to ignore her needs and slip back into his unaccommodating ways.
This pattern is quite damaging to my client, as now she feels not only used, but more so, stupid for believing that “this time “ he was really going to change and they would make it work. I find this to be more damaging than the lack of action because this tears to her core of beliefs and her impression of worthiness. Now, not only is she left beating herself up mentally for being “dumb” enough to believe her boyfriend, but now she has to begin to build up her strength to begin her fight for independence again. At times, she spends more time in our sessions tearing herself apart, referring to herself as stupid and weak, comparing herself to the Disney character Dumbo, instead of strengthening her. This can then shape her subsequent weeks fighting her way towards strengthening her damaged self-esteem and self-worth. On average, we spend 3/4 sessions attempting to pull her out of a downward depressive spiral, and the remainder 1/4 sessions building her to be more independent and self-fulfilling.

I often wonder when the last time she truly felt happy- without interruption- wholeheartedly happy. When she really felt that her life was what she chose, and not what she morphed her life into for her relationship. When I begin to address that topic, she prefers not to think to deeply- as it causes her to examine the question “Would she be happier without him?”
I press her at times to consider what she would do with her life if she had no other person to consider when making decisions. Where would she go? Where would she live? What job would she take? What would she do in her free time? Every now and then, I see a sparkle in her eyes, filled with dreams of her future. This quickly fades as she realizes that these dreams would never happen- since she chooses to continue to play the round-a-whirl relationship game. Knowing she may possibly have continued happiness, or at least more happiness than she currently has, why does she choose to stay?

*Lori is a strong, intelligent wife and mother of three, who owns her own business with her friend. At times, she looks beautifully put together and other times, completely run-down when she comes to see me. It is evident that she wears her emotional battles on her face. She struggles with her decision to accept what she terms as “mediocre marital conditions” and leaving her husband of 25 years. Although our conversations are geared more toward examining why she chooses to stay in her marriage, we do have the occasional discussion of why she has not dissolved her marriage. She is self-made, independent, strong willed, and motivated in business. So, then why stay? Ironically, the question of her choice to stay in a marriage is even perplexing to her. She has stated that she is afraid of being alone for the rest of her life, but not enough to prevent her from divorce. For her, the mitigating factors are her children. Although they are maturing, and becoming more self-sufficient, Lori is afraid of missing out on her children’s lives if she has to share custody. For her, the choice doesn’t come down to nuances of child support, palimony, or finding a new place to live- it comes down to valuable time spent with her children in their family home. She considers the fleeting moments of her children’s childhood before the conditions she lives in with her husband. So, she stays.

So that then morphs into the question, if women such as the two I have spoken about entered a relationship as independent, strong, and intelligent women, how did they surrender their needs to another human being, not of their own flesh?

Although I mentioned two women in the previous paragraphs, self-sacrifice in relationships can also happen to men. Many men are culturally taught to be the provider, sometimes at the expense of their wants and desires. Some men work mundane 9-5 jobs, just to maintain a household. Over time, resentment toward the wife (at times, children) continues to build, until one day the male provider has had enough. So, let’s examine the male perspective in the same way using *Joseph’s story.

Joseph was a good looking, young teenager who had the potential to play college lacrosse. Too much partying and not enough studying led him to loose his partial scholarship. However, with the help of financial aid and loans, Joseph was able to finish college and begin to work at a financial company with great potential for growth. Although Joseph did not want to work in finance beyond his third year there, he had met his girlfriend there and liked working together. Over time, both his girlfriend and Joseph were promoted and increased their yearly salaries. They had both grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle and enjoyed the perks the company offered them. Still, Joseph disliked what he was doing and started to look for jobs elsewhere, without telling his now-fiancée. Within two weeks, Joseph had landed an interview and a job offer at a local high school in the role of athletic director. Considering his love of lacrosse, football, and other sports, Joseph thought his fiancée would support the decision for Joseph to work at a job that, he felt, gave meaning to his life. His fiancée did not agree with his desire and gave him an ultimatum to choose between their relationship and the new job. I am currently awaiting his final decision.

“When is it ok to say ‘I’ve had enough of you and your wants. It’s my turn now!”

So, if Joseph chooses his relationship over his personal happiness, won’t that in of itself cause life-long resentment and anger- in the name of providing for his relationship? At what point in their lives should Individuals like Joseph, Lori, and Alanna choose themselves over their partners? When is it ok to say “I’ve had enough of you and your wants. It’s my time now- take it or leave it?” When is it ok to make those they love recognize that it takes two people to run a partnership/relationship/family- that is it only sacrifice by one, but compromise and equal sacrifice over the course of the relationships? I know it is human nature to want to be attached to another human, but at what cost to the self?

I find myself urging my clients to find their own voices in their relationships, yet at times, I struggle to find mine in my marriage. It is hard to be the spouse or partner that sacrifices their own needs and wants when fulfilling the role of relationship caretaker. I know, I return to that lane at times. Although I can answer the questions I have asked in this article using deep explanations of neuroscience and physical chemistry, I don’t really think those answers would help us to really “feel” the answers that we are searching for in relationships. Instead, my belief is in being mindful of all our decisions, when concerning individual decisions and partnership decisions. Weigh your options, create your pros and cons lists, and talk through the decisions, both with your partner and yourself. If it means sacrificing your dreams, hopes, and goals, for your relationship- consider how that will play out for your relationship in the long run. If contempt and hated of your partner cross your mind- well, I think you know the answer to that decision. If you are willing to go without a job, vacation, home, etc, without contention- then perhaps consider making a decision that benefits your partner more. However, the best way for each partner to make decisions is to compromise when possible. Most decisions have the possibility of compromise. It takes giving up of individual wants and putting the ego on hold at times, but often it is the most beneficial and strengthening for your relationship.

Sadly, there are times, like in the case of Alanna, where she had to walk away for good. It took her a few months to solidify her decision in her heart and mind, but she found herself happier for more days in a month than unhappy- which made her decision obvious to her. Today, she has re-entered the dating world, after a reasonable hiatus, with a clear picture of what she wants from her partner, but more important, what she wants from herself. She has worked at strengthening her self-esteem, self-worth, and her confidence. She has adopted a rescue dog for companionship and even joins weekly play dates at the local dog park. Her road was long, tumultuous at times, but she will tell you her story and she will shine at the thought of her future – the same future she thought wasn’t previously possible.

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*Names have been changed for client confidentiality.

Turnbridge Drug Treatment

On behalf of R.I.V.E.R. Educational Consulting, Dr. Kfoury was honored to have spent the day learning about Turnbridge Treatment Programs and Turnbridge Academy in New Haven, Connecticut.  Dr. Kfoury was able to visit the clinical intake center, the residential homes, as well as visit with the wonderful staff at all locations.

Dr. Kfoury could not speak more highly of a group of dedicated staff members, the carefully and comprehensibly designed multi-tiered program, and the extensive consideration given to those fighting addiction and co-occurring disorders and their families. What stood out to her the most was the carefully constructed support system for the families, especially addressing the emotional and social needs of siblings of those fighting addiction.  Too often, siblings are a forgotten link – one that Turnbridge actively sought to bring wholeheartedly into the process.

If you are or know of someone actively fighting an addiction, please do not hesitate to contact Turnbridge at 877.996.4395

Here are a few of the pictures that were taken on the visit. A big Thank you to the Turnbridge Staff and Justin Cambria, the Outreach Coordinator for hosting our Dr. Kfoury!

Home

The preeminent addiction treatment program for young men in Connecticut

THE PREEMINENT ADDICTION AND CO-OCCURRINGDISORDER TREATMENT PROGRAMS FORYOUNG MEN & YOUNG WOMEN

To speak with an admissions representative call 877.996.4395

Turnbridge has helped thousands of young adults and teens recover from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.


For nearly 15 years, Turnbridge has been positively transforming the lives of men, women, and their families through a comprehensive three-phased approach to addiction treatment that is designed to gradually reintegrate our clients back into the real world.  Learn more about their unique combination of clinical best practices, life skills development, academic & vocational support, and recreational experience by visiting their website at:

https://www.tpaddictiontreatment.com/

Turnbridge Academy

Turnbridge Academy is a comprehensive system of recovery-informed academic services designed to help our emerging adult and adolescent clients plan and pursue their educational goals. Whether you need help finishing high school or if you want to utilize our relationships with various colleges – such as SCSU, University of New Haven, Albertus Magnus College, Quinnipiac University, and Gateway Community College – Turnbridge Academy is available to help young people re-launch on their journey toward a successful future.

Turnbridge also offers a comprehensive Outpatient Care Program to help

Our outpatient program makes our exceptional clinical care available to more people close to home. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and depression, Turnbridge outpatient services may be able to help.

 

Check out the Recent Outcome Study:
drug rehab success rates

What do I do now? An Introspective.

What should you do when you just never get to where you thought you’d be in life at this point? This is a question I have been asking myself frequently as of late. I really don’t have a roadmap to this answer, but here are some of my thoughts at this point.

Let it go. What you thought you may have been is not your actuality. It simply sucks to hear, but lets face it, sometimes the truth is not pretty, nor wanted.

So then, what do you do from here? My advice – rebuild your dreams. Evaluate what is meant to be for your future now. Deeply, truly, heartedly ask yourself several questions: What do you want to spend your days and nights doing? What type of job will make you happy and fulfilled? Where in the world do you want to work? Who do you want to be with in life? Lastly, what is it that truly makes you happy at this stage in your life?

Remember, you are not who you were even a year ago, let along 10 years ago. Your personal rules in life have changed, and so should your goals and life aspirations. This is not to say that you don’t keep some of your original goals and dreams that you still hold dear – it simply means to build upon those, renew your goals, and add new ones as you move forward into your future.

So, Step one: think about what makes you tick. If you close your eyes, take several deep breaths, what do you visualize doing for a career? Who are you spending your time with? What type of life are you living? Once you answer these questions, which may not be immediate, start to make a plan.

Step Two: how are you going to move yourself toward this life that you are creating for yourself? What are the financial, social, and emotional steps you will need to fulfill to gain your life goals? Devise a budget, begin a savings plan, enumerate action steps toward your ideal job, and work at seizing that love that you want. Make a calendar, a chart, a step-by-step to-do-list with specifics to provide a constant reminder of your journey. Watch how you grow, reward yourself when possible, and revise your list as needed. Above all, TAKE THE LEAP toward your goals, as frightening as it can be. I know the words I am saying as I write this advice. I know, because I am currently in the leap phase. I am flying in the air without the knowledge of knowing where my net is – yet, I feel so free and enthusiastic about my journey. I have waited so long for it, pined for it, refrained from it, excused it, and finally, welcomed the chaos and hard work.

Join me, as we venture into a more fulfilling and healthy future for our present and future selves.

115929477