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Speaker at Lowrie Primary's Parent Night provided parents tools to combat stress in children

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Kathy Masarie MD, gives her talk about simplicity parenting and maximizing family connection.Students are constantly bombarded with stimuli — social media, video games, school and extracurricular activities — and it can cause a negative impact on their mental health.

This is why Lowrie Primary provided an opportunity for parents to receive tools to combat stress levels in their children and create a healthier child.

During Lowrie's Parent Night Wednesday, May 9, Kathy Masarie, guest speaker and doctor, spoke to parents about ways to help children handle stressful environmental factors in the home or school, how to filter out the adult world and tips to allow students to become more independent. Masarie also focused on how screen time affects children's mental health.

"Our district is focused on educating the whole student so mind, body and spirit," said Carmen Ryan, Lowrie's school counselor. "Of course education is important but if the social-emotional (part of a student) isn't good, there's not going to be any learning going on."

This year, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District purchased Second Step — a social-emotional learning curriculum — for every classroom, and Ryan has already seen the benefit.

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - April Abernathy tends to daughter Clara while listening to the talk."It could be (about) empathy, how to play fair, how to handle name calling, problem solving," Ryan said. "The nice thing is every class was on the same lesson every week and then I shared the ideas with the whole staff so that even our playground teachers knew what we are doing so we have common language, common techniques. I have seen a huge difference in our community and I've seen examples of it at work."

Masarie isn't the only speaker Lowrie has brought in to tackle the topic of social and emotional health. In October, author Kathryn Otoshi came to speak about her children's books on bully prevention.

Ryan said she has also led yoga events for Lowrie students to practice self-regulation and mindfulness.

"We have got lots of anxious kids — ADHD, ADD, stressed out — and so we're looking for the kind of tools to help the whole community," Ryan said. "Yoga helps the whole community, but especially the kids that are struggling."

With children being busy and overscheduled, Ryan thought this parenting night tackled important topics.

"There was a focus on the amount of screen time with kids (being) perfectly correlated with an increase in behavioral issues. Screen time research shows it makes any diagnosable mental health problem way worse like ADD, ADHD, kids on the spectrum. So if you have a kid that's diagnosed ADHD and they have a lot of screen time, it's going to exaggerate the symptoms," Ryan said. "(Masarie's) recommendations were limit screen time."

Masarie also talked about the importance of parents giving their children more independence. She mentioned that parents should act as a guide and allow children to discover who they are on their own.

"Let our kids learn to advocate for themselves," said Ryan, adding that if a student receives a bad grade, she urges parents to teach the student how to figure out what they can do to change the grade, instead of having a parent deal with it. "In college, parents are meddling in their kids (lives) in an unhealthy manner and we had a college professor in there that attested to that — that parents call her and she's like 'That's confidential.' By college you should be able to wash your own clothes, take buses, make your own schedule, budget your own money."

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Heather Noelle Lubay, left, and Carmen Ryan, exchange some of their golden moments of childhood with each other.Next year, Ryan hopes to start a book study on one of Masarie's books. Parents would read a chapter each month to discuss as a group.

"Given all the behavioral issues and the violence, parents are scared, and so I am finding that parents are seeking out partnerships to problem solve before it gets to what we're seeing in the news," Ryan said. "This school shooting thing is crazy and it's all mental health. We can talk about (how) we need better gun laws but it's not going to solve the core issue. I am seeing that parents are really appreciating our attention to social, emotional and mental health."

For more information and parenting tools, visit Masarie's website: www.family-empower.com/.

Wilsonville Spokesman reporter Clara Howell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-636-1281.

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