Hopetown Highlight #4: 9th and 10th Grade Camp

The heart is considered the seat of personality. It’s what makes us unique and impacts what we think, feel, and do. And it’s what we spent our 9th-10th Grade Retreat talking a lot about.

Yes, we skied and tubed and swam. We biked 14 miles through farmland to a yummy restaurant for lunch. We cooked Thanksgiving dinner together and exchanged $3 Christmas gifts bought from an antique store to represent someone else. We did all the fun things that usually happen at Hopetown…

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Talking with Teenagers: Sports

I recently saw a movie called “The Miracle Season.”  If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d highly recommend watching it with the teenagers in your life. It can create some great conversation around not only the plot, but many of the conversations and lines contained therein.  In fact, many sports movies can.  They tug at our heart strings from an underdog kind of place, but also from a place of remembering the messages we heard…

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Talking with Teenagers: Substance Abuse

Just heard for the I’m not sure how many’th time in my 25 years counseling kids, “I don’t know why my parents got mad at me.  It wasn’t my weed.”  You can substitute alcohol, or Juuls, or any other substance that’s trending these days.  And, honestly, in all of those years, that statement has almost never been true.  If you find a substance in your child’s room, or in their car, chances are it really is theirs.  Or, at least 99% of the time it belongs to your child, not the friend they’re trying to “keep out of trouble.”  They are not keeping it for someone else and wouldn’t risk,,,

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Talking with Teenagers: Big Decisions & Big Questions

As I’m writing this, I’ve talked to multiple kids in the last few weeks who have had to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives:  where they’ll go to college.  But, ultimately, there are big decisions for the adolescents we love to make often.  Will she take AP or regular classes?  Will he apply for Governor’s School?  What clubs will she join?  Which friends will he choose?  And then, of course, there are the big decisions we hope that will involve a lot of “No’s” to the culture around them, and a lot of “Yes’s” to God.

How can we help?  The first thing, maybe the most important thing to remember…

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Talking with Teenagers about Relationships

Relationships are foundational for teenagers.  They can bring your adolescent son or daughter more happiness—and more sorrow—than almost anything in their lives in these years.  They have profound power.  We want the teenagers we love to have friends who encourage them, speak truth into their lives, and help them be the best versions of themselves.  If they date at some point while they still live under our roofs, we want those relationships to bring the same…

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Technology Tuesday: A Boy and his Video Games

We love introducing you to our amazing staff at Daystar.  We happen to believe we work with the most talented, invested, passionate group of folks, who have such a heart for kids and families. They are a huge part of why we love the work we do so much.  Getting to work alongside such amazing people (and dogs!) makes the meaningful work we do even more extraordinary. Today we’re excited to introduce you to Alex Hopkins.  Alex does amazing work with boys of all ages. One of his many talents includes integrating play therapy into the work he does with children and families.  He sees boys on an individual basis, and leads some wonderful groups with elementary aged boys all the way through high school.  

Today he shares some needed thoughts on navigating the world of video games, and some insight on what gaming accomplishes for boys…

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Talking With Teenagers: Inspiring Social Justice in the Adolescent You Love

It is in a teenager’s bones to want to take risks.  The more we help them find their way to appropriate risk-taking behavior, the less likely they are to… engage in unhealthy risk-taking behavior.  Social justice is one way that many teenagers I know take healthy—and even hopeful kinds of risks.  I see teenage boys who coach sports for underprivileged children.  I know adolescent girls who go on mission trips every spring and summer, to countries and children they’ve taken to heart.  I have one teenage girl I counsel who is committed to spending her senior year doing all she can to change the culture of her school by…

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Technology Tuesday: Are Teens Who Spend Less Time In Front of Screens Happier?

We’ve long suspected there to be a correlation between screen use and happiness.  We now have our hands on even more data to confirm an adolescent’s psychological well-being decreases the more hours they spend on screens.   The newest findings align with previous studies linking frequent screen use to teenage anxiety and depression.  

We’d strongly recommend you spend a few minutes reading about the findings from this recent study.  Take a close look at…

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Talking With Teenagers

With parents of teenagers, I have two words I repeat over and over in my counseling office:  empathy and questions.  Basically, we talk at teenagers way too much.  We lecture more than have conversations.  And conversations are honestly what they need most.  Conversations help them connect the dots, rather than us connecting the dots for them.  And our dots won’t lead them into adulthood or carry them into college.  They need to learn…

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Technology Tuesday: Doki Doki Literature Club

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Really.  It’s called Doki Doki Literature Club.  It took me three times to get the name right when a girl I was counseling mentioned it to me.  And, even though you might not be familiar with it, either, you want to pay attention if you’re a parent.  Kids watch videos of it on YouTube.  It was nominated for “trending game of the year” at the 2018 SXSW Gaming Awards (which are evidently a big deal in the gaming world).  But, what you really need to know is that, in its first three months of release, it was downloaded over one million times, and exceeded two million downloads about a month later (according to Wikipedia).  And that kids are talking about it.  

At first glance, Doki Doki Literature Club appears to be a lighthearted dating simulator, but is actually a psychological horror game.  The game opens with a warning: “This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed,” and then has an intro similar to your kids’ favorite cartoon.  The girl characters talk about “valuing happiness”, “finding comfort in the world of books,” and being “deceivingly cute girl with an assertive punch.”  Sounds harmless enough.  It’s about a male high school student who joins the literature club, which is made up of these four female students.  

As a player, you interact with the other characters, with the feeling that you’re controlling the action.  But, in reality, you aren’t.  And things turn very dark fairly quickly.  There are themes of depression, rape, abuse, and suicide.  A website called kotaku.com, discusses the plotline and the evolution of a character named Sayori.  “By the time Sayori tells the player character that she’s severely depressed, she’s clearly teetering on the edge of a breakdown, tearfully confessing her love for the player character. Even if you say that you love her back, her mood doesn’t improve. In fact, her inability to be happy that her crush is reciprocated makes her even sadder.”  

The game contains optional endings.  In one ending, one of the members stabs herself to death, and another finishes the game sitting beside her dead body.  In another ending, another member takes her life.  And, even adult game reviewers talk about how frightening and disturbing the game is.  On Polygon.com, a reviewers says, “As I crawled into this “second run,” I wasn’t just horrified; I was mentally trapped in the game's world and its antics. But I still wanted to dive back in, and I spent time with myself to understand what I had to overcome in order to continue the game. In the process, I realized how Doki Doki Literature Club utilizes an underrated aspect of the horror experience: control, or the lack thereof.”

And this is a game the kids we love are playing.  As always, we want to safeguard our kids online.  We want to play the games they’re downloading first.  Make sure we have parental controls set up, so we know what they’re watching.  And we want to have conversations about the dangers of even seemingly innocent content.  

I read one website that said that The First Rule of Doki Doki Literature Club is not to talk about Doki Doki Literature Club.  We don’t want the kids we love to have that rule about this game, or any other trend that catches their technologically hungry eyes.  For more information on how to help, you can grab a copy of Taming the Technology Monster.  And follow along with us for more information on Technology Tuesday’s about what kids are watching (and playing and posting) and what we can do to help.

Technology Tuesday: YouTube, Logan Paul, and the Allure of Suicide

Suicide has become an increasingly popular topic in our counseling offices.  More kids than ever are talking about it, in one way or another.  Tragically, exponentially more kids are talking about ending their lives.  Many of these kids are genuinely contemplating suicide as an option.  And, as always, if you ever hear your child mention it or seen any reference your child has written about suicide, in person or on social media, our recommendation is always the same:  take them directly to the hospital…

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Hopetown Highlights: 9th and 10th Grade - Being Un-Dragoned

We started out our 9th-10th grade camp with a boy named Eustace.  Eustace wasn’t actually at camp with us…except that he was. Eustace was a character in the movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that we watched the first night of camp.  And Eustace, basically, is every one of us.

Eustace started out as quite a grumpy young fellow.  Nothing quite suited him…no situation, no environment, and certainly, no one.  He grumbled his way, much like a little monster, through the beginning of the movie until a certain scene when Eustace was transformed… 

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Technology Tuesday: Juul-the New E-cig Disguised as a Flash Drive

“I saw a guy drop his Juul the other day.  The teacher picked it up and handed it back to him, thinking it was a flash drive.”

One of the high school students in a group counseling session told us this story just last week.  And then every one of them went on to talk about the kids in their classes who were bringing their Juuls to school and using them in class...  

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Technology Tuesday: Decoding the Teenage Code Language

Are you doing your best to keep up with your kids’ texts, but only able to understand a word or two inserted in between cryptic emojis?  Welcome to the world of teenagers today.  They use Acronyms and Emojis to communicate more than words these days.  And, as typically happens, we’re often behind the 🎱 

So, I sat with some teenage girls recently to decode their codes.  I asked them about the slang words they’re using lately, the acronyms, and the emojis.  Buckle up for their answers…

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Technology Tuesday: Should my middle schooler have access to Social Media?

This is a question we're asked weekly in our counseling offices. We always recommend having development serve as a backdrop in making the best decisions for the kids and adolescents we love.

This medical professional (and mom of four) wisely coaches us through what's happening with the brain in this stage of development as we make this important decision. Take a look.

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Technology Tuesday: The Companion App

An App for College Kids…or anyone who might need someone to walk them home...

Over the past month, I’ve seen countless photos on social media of friends dropping their college freshmen off—in cities faraway surrounded by people they hardly know.  I am sure every parent drives off those campuses filled to the brim with lots of hope, and more than a little fear...

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Technology Tuesday: An Open Letter (Challenge) To Teenagers with Cell Phones

I was recently meeting with a young woman in high school I respect very much.  I already did respect her when she told me the following story.  Now, I respect her even more.  She’s swimming upstream in this age of technology.  And I wanted her to write a Technology Tuesday because I believe her thoughts…her passion and her commitment can help the teenagers you love.  Actually, they might can help us all learn to be better stewards not only of technology, but relationships.

In our daily lives, we are constantly surrounded by technology. Everywhere we go phones, laptops, and other devices are always in use. Not long ago, phones were used for a means of communication, and that was it. Now phones are more commonly used for social media purposes. Weather it be snapchat, twitter, or Instagram, people close themselves off from the world and instead engage in what’s on their screens...

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Technology Tuesday: Snapchat Streaks

 “I only have like 10 streaks going, but a lot of my friends have 30.”

A middle school girl went on to describe a Snapchat “streak” to me in my office this week.  By her definition, a streak is when you snapchat each other every day for a given number of days.

“Some people have streaks with 100 days.  I know a girl who has a streak for 600 days with someone.  Basically, if you don’t have a streak going with someone, it means you don’t like them...”

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Technology Tuesday: Going Live!

“I walked out of my bathroom yesterday, wrapped in a towel, only to hear my ten year-old yell, ‘I’m going live!’”.

“Going live” is now evidently the thing.  This ten year-old was “going live” on Musical.ly, only to show her latest “slime” to her five followers, including grandparents and an aunt.  “Going live” basically means live-streaming a video of you—doing whatever you want to do.  People who follow you can click to watch and comment, unless you turn off the commenting feature.  (And slime, by the way, is exactly what it sounds like).  Facebook has a live component, as well as Instagram.  In fact, TeenVogue recently did an article called “6 Tips for Instagram Live.”  The article went on to say...

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