When You Need More Than A Friend to Talk To: Reasons You Might Want to See A Therapist

When You Need More Than A Friend to Talk To: Reasons You Might Want to See A Therapist

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we think it’s an important time to talk about keeping your teen’s mental health in check. As teens, you face a ton of things that take a toll on your mental health. Family issues, hormones, relationships, peer pressure, financial strains, and school can either enhance or hinder your mental state on a daily basis. When you are at the age that your brain is still developing and learning how to make informed decisions, these mental swings can be a lot to handle and digest.

Your parents and guardians try their best to help you learn how to deal with what life throws at you but sometimes it’s just not enough. You probably find it comforting to talk to friends about what you are going through but there may be times when talking to your parents and friends doesn’t cut it. It’s those times when it’s best to seek the help of a professional. Talking to a therapist can do wonders and really put things in perspective. Okay, so you’re open to talking to someone, but when do you know it’s time to ask your parents to make an appointment?

Here are the top 5 reasons that teens seek help from a therapist:  

  1. Behavioral issues. Have you found yourself in trouble in the past for your behavior? Have you been suspended? Do you get in trouble at home for acting aggressively? Do you get mad easily and lash out at your parents? A therapist could help you work through your anger problems and find ways to express yourself in a calmer manner.
  2. It’s perfectly normal for someone to feel down at times or to want their own space, but if you are experiencing sadness that lingers, the urge to withdraw from activities you once enjoyed, and/or are more irritable than normal, you may want to seek help from a therapist. Teens with depression should not be afraid to talk to a professional because the earlier they seek help, the better chance they have of not having it follow them into adulthood.
  3. Extreme stress. It’s normal for people at any age to feeTeen sitting with his head resting on his knees crippled with stressl stressed out. If you feel that despite your best efforts, it’s hard for you to manage your stress or if you are developing high levels of anxiety, a therapist can help teach you different techniques that can help you keep your stress at a manageable level and your anxiety in check.
  4. Problems at school. If you are being bullied or feel like you don’t fit in with others your age, your self-esteem can start to take a hit. Know that there is help for you. A therapist can help you build back up your self-esteem and help effectively address the problem of bullying.
  5. Processing grief or trauma. It’s very sad, but the reality is that teens experience trauma in their life such as a sexual assault, abuse, or a sudden death of a loved one or friend. The key is to seek help from a professional immediately, so you have the tools to process what happened and learn how to move forward.

A lot of the students that come to My Virtual Academy have had a lot of “life” happen to them. They’ve had to grow up quicker than most and are often left holding the bag with things that typically are left to adults. If you have faced a lot more than most teens and are looking for a different way to get your education, we’d love to discuss our virtual learning program with you. It’s a tuition-free, internet-based program that allows you to learn from the comfort of your own home, at times that best fit your daily schedule, and at a pace that’s just right for you. See how My Virtual Academy has helped thousands of teens just like you earn their high school diploma. Visit our website by clicking here or give us a call at 800-297-2119. We look forward to talking with you!

Tackling Test Anxiety When You Have Learning and Attention Difficulties

Tackling Test Anxiety When You Have Learning and Attention Difficulties

When you have learning or attention difficulties, even the easiest task can be quite the challenge. Things that other students whiz through can leave these students struggling to decipher the directions, let alone complete the assignment. Now picture those difficulties but apply them to a test taking environment. It’s a recipe for failure, especially if their anxiety rises and their difficulties get the best of them. There are a few tips that will help you prepare your student to the best of your ability prior to a big test, especially tests such as the M-Step or SAT. Let’s take a minute to go over them.

Schedule Prep Time

In order to make sure you have enough preparation time worked into your student’s schedule, you need to know a bit more about the test. How many questions is it expected to be? Is the subject one that your student feels comfortable in or do they struggle to learn the concepts that the test covers? How much information is the student being tested on? Make sure you and your student are on the same page and understand how much time should be carved out for studying for the specific test. Blocking out the right amount of time will avoid them cramming for the test and will decrease their anxiety regarding the test.

Share as Much Information as Possible

Think about your life for a moment…if your boss passes by your desk and says she wants to see you for a minute regarding a project you are working on, wouldn’t your nerves kick in and your anxiety increase? You would want to know why she wants to see you, what area of the project she has questions in, and perhaps if you’ll have access to your files to pull up notes if you need to refer to something. The same exact feelings and thoughts run through your teens mind when a test is mentioned. If a study guide is not provided, reach out to the teacher and ask a few questions like how the test is formatted (multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the-blank, etc.), will they have access to their notes, are their certain areas your student should focus on (definitions, graphs, etc.)? Being able to provide your student with enough information that they can conjure up an idea of what the test might look like will be beneficial during the studying phase and when it comes to actually taking the test.

Know What Support is Available

For students with learning and attention difficulties, Teen with test anxiety looking at her computer with her hands on her headhelp can be made available. If you know your child has these differences to overcome, be an advocate and make sure they have an IEP or a 504 Plan on file. These plans allow for certain accommodations that might make test taking a little easier on your student. It’s important that your student knows what accommodations are set in place and that they should speak up if their needs aren’t met.

Even the best, well-intended plans can go wrong, but by talking with their teacher, school administrators, and test administrators, they can have other stipulations put in place that will help them do their best on the test. Take the time before the test to talk with your child and see what fears they have regarding the upcoming tests. This will be an eye-opening experience and will help you to guide your child in the best, most effective way possible. If you should ever need our assistance or have concerns regarding your student, give us a call at 800-297-2119. Should your student still receive a score that displeases them after all of their hard work and accommodations, remind them that it’s okay. We don’t all hit it out of the ballpark every time, and they can use the test as a learning tool to adjust their game plan for next time.

Anxiety: The Signs May Be Hiding in Plain Sight

Anxiety: The Signs May Be Hiding in Plain Sight

Every person on this planet of ours has anxiety. Some people can handle stress and anxiety with no problem, while others may show signs of more severe anxiety, which is actually a signal they might have an anxiety disorder. You may be wondering just what exactly is anxiety? Well, anxiety is a normal Anxiety drawingreaction to stress. Our bodies typically respond to stressful events or situations by giving us a rapid heartrate, sweating, and a feeling of jitter or nervousness. That’s all perfectly normal and are healthy responses to stress that we encounter.

Some teens have anxiety that goes to the next level. For some, their anxiety symptoms get so bad that they actually interfere with their daily living. Their friendships, relationships, school work, and extracurricular activities all take a hit because their anxiety makes it impossible to live life in a “normal” way. During the teen years, signs that your teen may be struggling with anxiety can be very hard to spot. Think about how their behavior has changes since hormones came into play. There’s a good chance that the kid you once knew is flipping their behavior and attitude on a dime, and it can be very hard to distinguish when anxiety has gone to the next level.

All hope is not lost! There are some warning signs to keep an eye out for. If you notice your teen displaying any of these signs of anxiety, it is a good idea to bring it up to their doctor.

  • Increased irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Isolating themselves
  • Restless
  • Frequent outbursts
  • Wanting to spend time alone
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Reoccurring headaches
  • Stomach issues
  • Overall ill feeling
  • Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • Lack of appetite or insatiable appetite
  • Nightmares
  • Sudden drop in grades

After reading all of those symptoms, it’s clear that having an anxiety disorder would be no fun to live with. If your teen is having a hard time and you think they may have an anxiety disorder, please seek help from a mental health practitioner. There are a variety of treatments for anxiety disorders ranging from simple breathing techniques to medications in more severe cases.

Does your teen suffer with anxiety? They are not Teen with anxiety talking to a therapistalone! At My Virtual Academy, students come to us for a variety of reasons, one of which is bad anxiety that makes it impossible to function in a traditional classroom. Once enrolled with My Virtual Academy, students are able to do their schooling from the comfort of their own home, without the stressors that a typical classroom can give. Students are able to carve out times each day to do their school work that best fits their unique schedule. If your teen struggles to keep up with the rest of the class and feels as though they are being pushed along, they’ll be happy to hear they can work at their own pace. Best part of all is that we are a tuition-free program! If your 5-12th grader would benefit from virtual learning, please visit our website to learn more or give us a call at 800-297-2119. Hope to hear from you soon!

What’s Got You Down? Depression in Today’s Teens

What’s Got You Down? Depression in Today’s Teens

You probably noticed that around the age of 12, your child became moody, temperamental, rebellious, and wanted to spend more time alone in their room. Adolescence is always a trying time for parents and for their kids! It’s perfectly normal for kids this age to feel a bit down from time to time, but what happens if your once happy-go-lucky teen is now down-in-the-dumps-Debbie?

Think back to a recent time when your teen asked what was for dinner. Did they overreact and get upset when they found out it was something that they didn’t like? Now think to a time when they were looking for a shirt to wear for school. Even though they had 12 shirts hung up in their closet, did they break down and overreact because their favorite shirt wasn’t ready to wear? Teens tend to overreact and get dramatic over little things – it’s just in their nature at that age. Teens also get stressed out easily and stressors at school, things going on with their friends, breakups with boyfriends, failing a test, can all weigh on their shoulders heavily and send some teens into a downward tailspin.

How do you know if your teen is showing typical teen behavior or if they are showing signs of a more serious problem, like depression? When their behavior and moods stop them from living a normal life on a daily basis, that’s when you know it’s a problem and it’s time to seek some help. There are ways that teens can effectively deal with their moods, so it doesn’t turn into depression and take a lifelong toll on them. We’re going to share with you some tips that they can use to try and ease them out of the funk they are in and assist them in accepting themselves and their situation.

Make sure they talk to a trusted adult.

Sometimes just venting your problems to a trusted person can be enough to put the situation in perspective or help a teen realize that what they thought was a terrible situation isn’t actually all that bad. A teen may feel they can be more open about themselves with an adult that is not their parent so don’t take offense if they open up to an aunt or grandparent.

teen playing basketballEncourage them to make new friends.

The people your teen hangs out with are either going to build them up or tear them down. Make sure they are surrounding themselves with people that help them be a better person. Positive relationships can improve a teens self-esteem and provide them with a better sense of who they are and what they have to offer the world.

Foster the love of hobbies, sports, and other organizational activities.

Teams help instill a sense of pride, accomplishment, and drive in our teens. Whether they join a soccer team, cheerleading squad, or a church group, they will have a sense of belonging and a group of other people counting on them to show up and contribute. Having a strong feeling of self-worth helps to combat depression because you feel like what you do and who you are matters to the world.

Depression is an illness and should be taken serious at any age. If your teen struggles with depression and doesn’t seek treatment, it can worsen to the point of being life-threatening. Therapy can be extremely beneficial and can help discover why your teen is depressed. If your child struggles with depression, a therapist can teach them how to deal with stressful situations, so they have the tools to deal with them. Sometimes, if a teen is in a deep depression or struggling really bad with anxiety, medications may be prescribed. That is nothing to be ashamed of. Just as some people have to take medication for high blood pressure, some need to take medication for depression. The important thing is that your teen gets the help they need.

Teens struggle with enough things, school shouldn’t be one of them. If you have a child in 5-12th grade that fell behind and is feeling there is no way out, we’re here to say that there is! My Virtual Academy helps students every day realize their dreams of graduating high school. Students that join our tuition-free program learn from the comfort of their own home, at a pace that is just right for them. They have flexibility in choosing what time of day they wish to do their schooling and they have access to lessons 24/7, so the choice really is theirs. If you feel that your teen would thrive in this type of program, please give us a call at 800-297-2119 or visit our website. Hope to hear from you soon!

Worried About Your Teen’s Behavior: Signs Of A Troubled Teen

Worried About Your Teen’s Behavior: Signs Of A Troubled Teen

It seems like every time you turn on the news, they are reporting on another school shooting. Everyone always talks about the warning signs and how people should have investigated further or reported unusual or scary behavior. Every teen gets moody from time to time – it’s just the nature of their hormones at that age. Every teen is different but you know your teen. You know their behavior. If you are unsure if your teen is simply “being a teen” or if they are showing signs that intervention may be needed, please continue to read this article.

Parenting a teen can sometimes leave you at your wits end, but if they exhibit the signs below, you may be faced with a troubled teen that needs additional help beyond what you can give.

Mood extremes

As we mentioned, teens are moody creatures. Their bodies are full of ragingTroubled teen or normal teen behavior? hormones and changing moods is part of the package deal during the teen years. However, if your teen has extreme changes in moods (extreme anger, extreme sadness, and hatred towards family members or others), this may be a sign something deeper is going on. Try to determine what the triggers are for their mood swings. If the moods continue despite the removal of those triggers, it may be time to seek help from a counselor or psychiatrist. They can meet with your teen and dig deeper to find the root of their problem.

Obsessions with new friends

Whenever your teen totally switches up friends, it could be a sign that something has changed in their life. They are bound to make new friends throughout their life, but when they completely cut off their old friends and start changing their appearance to fit in with new friends they made, that could be a signal that trouble is looming. Make sure that those new friends are not into dangerous or reckless behavior.

Harming themselves

Have you noticed that your teen is suddenly hiding parts of their body? Are they insisting on wearing long sleeve shirts even on warm days? If you notice that your teen is mutilating their body in any fashion, get help immediately. This behavior commonly exhibits itself before other violent or suicidal behavior. Definitely don’t push this behavior aside because it’s very serious.

Unearned Money

If your teen suddenly seems to have money that has appeared out of nowhere, it’s time to do some digging. If they are all of a sudden coming home with new electronics, clothes, or jewelry and are showing signs of being withdrawn, something bigger is going on. They could be into the selling of drugs or are stealing. Both are unsafe situations that need to be dealt with.

Mood ExtremesLying

Do you feel like your teen is lying to you? Small white lies are one thing, but lying all the time about their whereabouts or who they are with is another. They obviously don’t want you to know where they are or who they are with, and that’s a warning sign they are up to no good. Try to get to the bottom of what they are hiding.

Lack remorse

If your teen lets you down, gets caught doing something they shouldn’t, or makes a mistake, do they show remorse? Teens that show no remorse when they are caught doing something they shouldn’t be is playing with fire. If your teen has no respect for you or others and is constantly defying you and showing no remorse, it’s time for some action.

Is Your Teen at Risk?

Some teens have certain factors that may put them at higher risk for developing the dangerous behaviors we discussed. Risk factors include teens that have been:

  • Sexually or physically abused.
  • Victims of bullying.
  • Dealing with a stressful life at home.
  • Exhibiting a past of violence and anger.
  • Abusing substances.

If you feel that your teen is a threat to themselves or others, please seek help. Your local mental health offices help teens on a daily basis and could work with you to help yours too. Please don’t take the warning signs lightly and get your teen the help they need.

Looking for more helpful information on various things that may affect your teen’s behavior? Check out our recent post on positive role models for teens.

Head over to our Facebook page and give it a “like.” Our staff is always posting great information on our page!! if you have any questions regarding your teens education feel free to call 800-297-2119 or head over to the Contact Us page on our website.

What is Personalized Learning?

What is Personalized Learning?

Personalized Learning

Danielle Yanssens

Personalized Learning “refers to a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students”, according to The Glossary of Education Reform by Great Schools Partnership. How does Back on Track, offer personalized learning?

When a student submits an inquiry online or calls the Back on Track office, we are able to offer them several different options to acquire their high school diploma. For students who have previously dropped out of high school and are 21 or older, we enroll them into Clintondale Virtual School, a credit recovery program which, for a small fee, allows adults to achieve their high school diploma. This appeals to adults who had considered getting their GED in the past, which limits their options for post-secondary education.

For those students who have previously dropped out of high school and are between the ages of 18 and 20, we suggest our tuition-free Step Up program where students work on one class at a time and are required to complete a minimum of one class per month, with the ability to work year round. This gives students the opportunity to work on completing their high school education at a faster rate than if they attending a full time high school. We have also found that for this population, students are able to find more success when focusing on just one course at a time, rather than the full six class course load.

Girl smiling by computer

Many students who are between the ages of 16 and 20 choose to attend one of our brick and mortar alternative education schools. This student population includes students that are teenage parents, potential dropouts, have been expelled from their traditional school, or have been court-ordered by the juvenile detention systems. Our alternative education locations offer various skilled trade courses where students can graduate with a certificate of completion to help them obtain employment right out of high school. While there is increased security at these locations, they are also staffed with caring employees who encourage students to complete their education and get on a better path for their future.

Parents with students in grades 6 through 12 will often contact us requesting information about our virtual school, My Virtual Academy. MVA partners with school districts throughout the state of Michigan, offering a fully online option for students. This appeals to a wide variety of students, including those looking to graduate early, students who struggle with mental or physical illness, teenage parents, students who do not feel safe in their traditional school due to bullying or students who have to work full time in order to help support their family.  We have students who are pursuing their passion, such as the theater or gymnastics, and choose online schooling to work around their schedules. Some parents even prefer their children attend a virtual school based on their cultural and religious beliefs.

In addition to the several different educational programs Back on Track offers to help meet the different learning needs of our students, we also offer a variety of learning experiences and instructional approaches. Our highly qualified, certified teachers ensure that the curriculum meets all Common Core Standards. Teachers have the ability to offer students different types of assessments based on their instructional needs, and offer in-person tutoring in addition to daily online tutoring. Students receive one-to-one instruction, with teachers contacting them a minimum of once per week, as well as participating in whole group activities in our weekly live sessions.

2016 graduates

While there are some obvious limitations to virtual and alternative learning, the many benefits often make Back on Track the best option for many students.