The wild that was parenting in 2017 – and what lies ahead

If the year 2017 was an actual person, I envision he or she would have a fidget spinner in one hand, a smart phone in another while driving a car with his or her knees.

It was a wild year for parents and at times even a little scary. But there were also some lighthearted trends.

Perhaps one of the biggest stories from 2017 was the political and cultural divide in the country. It seemed to pervade everything and trickle into our schools. For me and many of my friends from both ends of the political spectrum, raising socially conscious and children is an important goal. But it wasn’t always an easy one last year.

Parents and children alike are connected to a news cloud like never before, as seen in this Parent Today article from January.  How do we help them determine what is real and what is not? Parent Today also took a look at that issue.

For some families, politics is something that is best avoided. For others, it is front and center.  For many more, it is somewhere in between. There is a wide range of reaction among students too.

The kneeling controversy that began with Colin Kaepernick and spread through the NFL in the early part of the football season also took root in public schools in New York and across the country. This was Niskayuna Central School District’s measured response when student-athletes chose to kneel for the National Anthem, an act, which like in many places, generated publicity.

The heroin and the opioid epidemic made headlines far too often in 2017. And although heroin and opioids may not always be seen as a “drug of choice” for teenagers, there is certainly reason to be concerned. The obituary columns in 2017 were filled with far too many young names.

School Resource Officer John Lowe at Unadilla Valley Central School in Central New York shared his thoughts on the issue.

Marijuana continues to be a problem in many schools, and part of the reason, according to Lowe, is that many states, including New York, have legalized it for medical use. There are several states that have no legalized it for recreational use, most recently California.

This sends a message to teens that marijuana is harmless, Lowe said.

Parent Today took a look at the drug issue and had some tips and resources on what parents should know when it comes to kids and drugs.

There was some good news about drug use and teenagers in 2017.

According to the Monitoring the Future study published in the academic journal Child Development in September, there are big shifts occurring in the lives of American teenagers. Parent examined the findings in this article.

The study found that alcohol and prescription opioid use continued to decline for teens, while marijuana use remained steady.

But one troubling trend was pointed out by researchers, one of whom published an article in The Atlantic.

Since 2011, according to Jean M. Tweng, rates for teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed.

One of the ways this trend was reflected in popular culture was the popularity of the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why.

Released in March 2017, the show – based on a book of the same name – details the 13 reasons why a 16-year-old girl kills herself.

While many experts agreed the show raises awareness about an important issue, some were concerned it could also be sending harmful messages. It was an issue that parents and schools alike contended with in 2017.

A concern for parents in 2017 was a familiar one – how to pay for college.

Rising costs of education and the massive student debt problem is something with which many families are struggling.

Parent Today took a look at preparing children for college in an article on college supply lists and an article on getting the most out of college visits.

With the Excelsior Scholarship now available in New York State, there is another tool for young collegians to help avoid student debt. Adopted last year, the program is expected to grow next year. Information can be found here.

Now on to the fun stuff.

It was sometime in April when I first heard the word “fidget spinner.” My kids were watching YouTube videos in our living room and they suddenly got really excited.

“Dad! Dad! Dad! Can you get me a fidget spinner!”

“A fidgetwhat?”

And it seemed the week after that, you could buy a fidget spinner at every gas station from Buffalo to Hempstead.

Parent Today took a look at the fidget spinner craze in this article and examined how a gimmicky toy had its origins as potential aide for children with ADHD or problems staying focused.  As the article explains, the jury is still out on their effectiveness.  My son, who has a diagnosis for ADHD, has a “tool kit” in his classroom and at home to help with attentiveness. For him, simply having some headphones or a piece of felt to knead between his fingers seems to help.

With this article I had intended to take a look at what some of the 2018 trends and issues will be in parenting and in our schools. I can bet that some trends and issues will be familiar to us: Bullying, drugs, teen mental health, paying for college, managing screentime, etc.

But if I learned anything from fidget spinners, it’s that fads – and sometimes vitally important issues affecting our children – can come out of nowhere.

Have a great New Year, it will surely be another interesting ride.

Jake Palmateer is a public information specialist for Capital Region BOCES. He is the father of a 7-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. Their adventures include camping, hiking, metal detecting, painting, stargazing, reading, fishing, soccer, mowing the lawn and baking cupcakes.

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