Author: Jennifer Salerno

Helping Parents Prepare for the School Year

Summer is winding down and youth will soon be stepping into another school year of new experiences, personal and academic growth, new friends, new classes—and a whole new slew of challenges. Whether you interact with youth in a school setting, a community-based organization or as a clinician, chances are you can offer much-needed support for parents during this time of transition, too.

Fostering a trusting, two-way relationship with open lines of communication is one of the key factors for ensuring youth will have a successful school year. Why? If youth feel like they are seen and heard by a trusted adult, they will be more likely to come to them when common, yet challenging scenarios present themselves—like peer pressure, romantic relationships, gossip, academic pressure and stress. Strengthening the family unit is key for building protective factors in the home and community.

Here are a few tips from our Teen Speak® series you can offer parents to help them navigate the school year with confidence, poise and understanding:

  1. Show empathy. Things are a bit different for today’s teenagers. You may be a tad out of step with what it’s like to be constantly connected to your peers and have your life constantly broadcasted on social media. Admit that it’s never easy being a teenager.
  2. Talk with, not at your teen. When discussing the upcoming school year, talk with your teen, not at It makes a big difference! Instead of telling them what you want, include your child in a discussion about bedtime routines, morning routines, academic goals, and new social pressures. Many teens are stressed about the big transition. Moving up a grade means facing more academic demands, a new teacher, and a changing social circle. It can be helpful to sit down and talk with your teen about successes from last year and about your expectations for them during the upcoming school. Listening to your teen and having a two-way conversation supports independence and decision-making skills.
  3. Foster self-worth and self-esteem. It’s no secret that teens live up or down to our expectations. Teens whose strengths are recognized will be motivated to develop those strengths. Teens who are always told something is wrong with them will wilt, and are more likely to use substances, report depression and anxiety, and have sex at an early age. Empower your teen to take care of and value themselves.
  4. Ask open-ended questions. As easy it is to lecture, it doesn’t lead to a productive and honest two-way discussion. Open-ended questions allow teens to think through behaviors and possible alternatives to those behaviors. Put simply: open-ended questions are not easily answered with a yes or no response. If you’d like to have a conversation with your teen about time management, you could say, “How will you handle juggling your social life, school work and sports commitments?”  instead of “Are you OK with all the commitments you have this year?”
  5. Remember that teen behaviors are normal. The biggest thing to remember when you are frustrated with how your child is behaving is that they have no control over the changes happening in their bodies. They are riding a roller-coaster of highs and lows. Think about what it is like to go through menopause and middle age (or what you’ve heard about it), multiply that by 100 and put yourself in an environment where all your friends and co-workers are going through the same thing. Sounds horrible, right? This is what teens are dealing with every day.

Returning to school is a big change after settling into a summer routine. As we head into the new school year, we’d like to offer additional help by providing a new parent resource. Building Strong Connections with Your Teen offers tips for parents to help strengthen relationships and navigate tough conversations. You can use this resource as a parent handout in your office or organization and distribute to parents at the start of school year. This handout also acts as an introduction to our popular Teen Speak® series, which provides communication strategies to help parents connect with their teens and create cohesive family units.

Let’s Get Visual: Presenting RAAPS Data

Whether you’re in a SBHC, primary care office, or other youth serving organization, you know the importance of data and reporting but…

Did You Know: Tracking risky behaviors at the population level is the most direct and valuable way to support youth.

The thousands of professionals that have integrated RAAPS into their workflow have found that quality of care has substantially improved with the help of real-time data and reporting.

 “The RAAPS assessments gave us a better understanding of how to help our students because we had a full view of the issues impacting them, not just the issues we were traditionally accustomed to identifying. It’s one thing to have an assumption; it’s another thing to have actual data—that makes it clearer.”

RAAPS innovative technology collects data to help answer:

  • What are the greatest risks in my youth population?
  • Are we seeing improvements in risks over time after screening and coaching?
  • How are we meeting current quality measures?
  • What does the population data show that could be used to direct services and programming?
  • What risk factor disparities exist in my youth population?

But once you have your data, how do you present it in a way that’s digestible to everyone who needs to see it? A visual representation in the form of an infographic may be your answer!

An infographic can provide a snapshot of your work—highlighting risk factors youth are experiencing and how they change over time, vary by demographics, etc.—which allows you to communicate information quickly and easily, engage audiences, identify trends, and showcase programming that is important to your organization or community.

To get started, we’ve created the RAAPS Reporting Infographic Template. This new resource helps you to visually present your organization’s data in an accessible and customizable way. (You can learn more in the recording of our recent webinar.) Here’s a look at just one of the available pages, populated with the 2018 RAAPS overall data:

RAAPS Reporting Infographic - P4C 2018 - pg 1

The RAAPS suite of reports provides many options for exploring your data, and the examples in the template are just a starting place. For instance, maybe you’re interested in the relationship between bullying and self-harm, or you want to look at the relationship between unprotected sex and other risk factors. This is a chance to learn trends and better understand relationships between risks.

A detailed Reference Guide and Training Video outlining the process of populating the RAAPS Reporting Infographic with your organization’s data is available to customers on the P4C Login Training & Support page under the RAAPS Reporting Infographic Heading. To access the Training & Support page, click the green Help button on your P4C Login blue menu panel.

3 Tips for Even Stronger Connections with Youth

You know the scenario: you administered the Rapid Assessment for Adolescent Preventive Services (RAAPS) risk assessment and are ready to meet with youth to confidently discuss their identified risks. But how do you start the conversation? And once it’s started, how do you help guide them towards healthier behaviors?

Coaching youth toward behavior change is arguably just as important (if not more important) as the risk screening. Luckily, Motivational Interviewing (MI) is here to help. MI has been studied extensively and shown to be an effective approach with youth to reduce risks (like substance abuse, unintentional injuries and unsafe sexual behaviors). Here are three questions to ask yourself to determine if improving your MI skills would be helpful in guiding your youth towards safer behaviors:

  1. What are you doing to connect with youth? MI helps create the spirit of how you’re talking with youth; it shows commitment to evidence-based strategies and helps improve quality of services.
  2. How are you communicating with youth on identified risk behaviors? MI equips you with strategies to improve your ability to discuss identified risks and motivate youth toward healthy decisions.
  3. How are you cultivating your skills in working with youth? Youth risk is different than adult risk, which means you’re going to need specific skills. That’s why adolescent-specific MI training is so important. MI creates an environment that allows youth to disclose information about their risk behaviors, improve their motivation to change, and seek advice on how to do so. Dynamic and engaging MI workshops can help you improve your skills in using MI to more effectively motivate the youth you serve.

 Before you can coach youth on risk reduction, you need to know the risks! RAAPS is a reliable and validated assessment and coaching tool that quickly identifies risk behaviors in youth and provides simple health messages to support behavior change and ongoing discussion with a professional; it’s developed especially for the needs of youth…and the professionals (like you) who care for them.

To learn more about how Adolescent-focused MI Training can facilitate those important conversations and help youth build positive attitudes, language, and actions, check out our newly released whitepaper: Adolescent-focused Motivational Interviewing (MI): Making the case for more effective communication with youth.

For more information on scheduling an MI Training at your organization, contact us at info@pos4chg.org.

No Fear: Youth Risk Screening

Connecting with teens is tough, especially when you’re a professional looking to discuss serious topics like mental health, substance abuse or sex. In short: risk screening can feel overwhelming, even scary—but that shouldn’t hold you back. According to the CDC, risk behaviors are responsible for 3 out of 4 (75%) preventable deaths and illness in youth. Having a trusted adult to confide in is one of the single most important mitigating factors in reducing youth risk.

Luckily, Rapid Assessment for Adolescent Preventive Services (RAAPS) is here to help. RAAPS is a reliable and validated assessment and coaching tool that identifies risk behaviors in youth and provides simple health messages to support behavior change.

Instead of letting your fears of comprehensive youth screening become barriers, let them be your guide! Here are a few examples:

  • Fear of not having the resources to address risks that may be identified. In addition to helping you identify key risks, RAAPS provides built in health education and national resources to help you navigate conversations around risk topics that may be uncomfortable. This opens the door for youth to connect with you as a trusted adult without you having to be an expert on every risk behavior or situation.
  • Fear of not having enough time. Finding practical solutions that minimize impact on time and workflow was at the heart of the development of RAAPS. In less than 5 minutes the 21 RAAPS questions identify the risk behaviors that contribute most to preventable illness and premature death in young people aged 9 to 24. Even in the tightest of workflows, in organizations that run like clockwork, finding a 5-minute window of time for risk screening could save a life!
  • Fear of upsetting parents. We get it, parents may be uncomfortable with the idea of their child being asked about risk factors and behaviors. You can help parents understand the importance by explaining that standardized risk screening is an opportunity to stop an uptick in bullying, prevent a potential suicide, or identify incidences of sexual abuse. Additionally, RAAPS technology provides a suite of resources to use when talking with parents that can help these conversations go a little smoother.

Remember, just by being present and starting the conversation you are helping. If you want to take your skills even further, Possibilities for Change offers Adolescent-Focused Motivational Interviewing workshops to help you better connect with the youth you serve. We’re excited to offer a training with open registration for the first time—taking place on June 3rd in Ann Arbor, MI! This in-person workshop will help you to learn and translate new MI knowledge into effective practice through a dynamic and engaging experience. Only 20 spaces available, so register today!

…And When I Get That Feeling, I Want Sexual…Health Coaching!

Valentine’s Day is nearly here and that means love is in the air. For many teens, that may mean more than just candy adorned cards.

Fast fact: 30% of 12-14-year-olds have had sex with 4 or more people—that number climbs to 48% for 15-17-year-olds and 59% for 18 and over.

Sexual health has always been a hot topic—pun intended—but it’s not the easiest to talk about. Whether it’s parents feeling just as embarrassed as their son or daughter about “the talk” or professionals trying to elicit honesty from youth who aren’t open to sharing. Barriers to having these much needed conversations are common. And even when you do get youth to share, many of us feel overwhelmed when talking with them about the risks they have identified. Adolescent Counseling Technology (ACT) for Sexual Health can help!  ACT-SH functions as a virtual health educator providing interactive and engaging, evidence-based counseling to guide youth in identifying sexual health risks and creating personalized safer sex action plans. ACT-SH can be a powerful tool to help understand the needs of our youth:

Like RAAPS with Adolescent Counseling Technology (ACT), youth respond to a set of questions that identify risk behaviors, in this case specifically on sexual health, but ACT goes one step further by providing motivational interviewing based feedback to youth as they are completing the assessment. And when used in tandem with RAAPS, ACT-SH is automatically launched when youth respond positively to the sexual activity question, creating no extra step in workflow!

Here’s what a current user of RAAPS and ACT SH had to say: “I am a big proponent of RAAPS! The patients generally are honest and able to complete RAAPS quickly. We initiated ACT-SH a couple of years ago and having RAAPS automatically direct sexually active patients to ACT-SH has worked SO well. Although most of my patients are pretty open with me, I do feel ACT-SH has helped the more timid ones share behaviors they otherwise would not. The benefit? I then can better address, counsel, do necessary testing, etc. Thank you!”

For more information on the implementation of ACT SH in a community based setting, check out this case study from Spartanburg, South Carolina.