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Letter - Attitude change is tough

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After four tragic episodes of violence in Obama's four years in office, his response was, "We must change -- because we have no choice. We must try."

How can we try? What issues might he be looking at?

Two issues stand out: gun use and mental health. Having spent my professional years as a secondary counselor at Minnetonka Schools, my mind springs to mental health and to a huge factor within it: attitudes.

Gun use will be debated and legislated at national and state levels, and is not a topic here.

Mental health's successes or failures will manifest themselves right down to each small community in the country, including us.

Mental health is far broader than a shingle outside the door. Examples can be prescriptions for working out in a gym, exploring in woods, fishing, doing crafts, fascination with a hobby, a good job. This calls for all of us in the community creatively helping one another.

Families -- parents and children -- are the very core of a healthy society. As we speak of children, we must also speak of parents; they are inextricably related (no pun intended). After all, the parent is the child's very first teacher and role-model in their first several years of life. Observation must include family systems. The broader we can seamlessly make the reach of availability of mental health care in whatever form or however networked, the better.

Possessing good healthy parenting skills is crucial to the new parent. Life is totally problem solving; the parent must be able to teach positive, non-violent problem solving.

For example, what if the student seriously breaks a rule at school? If parents' attitude is to communicate immediately with the school matter-of-factly, the student learns that such behavior is not acceptable and must change to accommodate school's rules and parents' requirement.

Conversely, if parents support the child against the school, all three parties lose. The student, now feeling empowered, sees no need to obey the school's rules, as s/he has parent support. That, sadly, carries out into life; society loses as well.

The school loses because their rules become pock-marked; other students repeatedly test them. Parents lose, for in the long run, the kid will test, break or ignore requirements parents might put forth.

Responsibility for role-modeling good citizenship and well-rounded attitudes is primarily the parents'. If skills fail them and they are confused or unsure, parents need to feel safe in seeking or learning to seek remedies within their community that will build their own emotional strength as an adult and parent. Learning healthy problem solving techniques is a must, and there are many ways to go at it.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy* created a panel to improve mental health systems and to protect schools. He anticipates that ultimately it might be the local communities that make independent decisions.

Detroit Lakes/Becker County could have its own panel. To explore the many avenues for emotional and mental health, representatives of many venues, broad networking, could be included: schools, courts, health and mental health clinics, merchants, artists, environmental services, county, city and area agencies. In thinking empathetically about needs of the population, creativity can come from many sources. Here's a local example. An exasperated teacher of eight adolescents in a half-way house asked for a tour of Sucker Creek Preserve. The seven boys and one girl arrived amid guffaws and haw-haws, their ongoing misbehavior. We walked and we talked. I pointed out significant things nature had to offer. By the time we neared the end, their behavior was exemplary. Serious questions came up now -- and all ears to hear the answers. Surprised? Absolutely. What an attitude reversal! Now, we must pounce on it. It can happen.

The brainstorm process** could be used to get a broad range of ideas. Categorize them and focus on most workable. True, this effort or one similar would take some time. But isn't safety and peacefulness of our community worth it? "We must try."

-- Sally Hausken, Detroit Lakes

*USA Today, Friday, January 4, 2013, page 3A

**http://documents.stanford.edu/michaelshanks/admin/download.html?attachid...

(Hausken has an undergraduate degree in Business Education at Northwestern University in Evanston and a graduate degree was the Master of Personnel Service at the University of Colorado. She taught three years at Littleton High School, Littleton, Colo., and had 24 years counseling in Minnetonka Schools.)

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