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A New Year

It’s hard to believe summer is rapidly coming to an end. Everywhere I look I see back to school signs, supplies, and even some excitement on the kiddos’ faces as they talk about their upcoming year. However, there is usually some anxiety for some of the students as they advance to the next year, a new teacher, and possibly a new school. As we work to prepare our students for the upcoming year by getting their needed supplies, meeting their teachers, finding their bus route, etc., we can also help prepare them by speaking with them about their stresses and their fears about the upcoming year.

One easy exercise that can prove crucial for students is identifying their stressors or triggers, and then working with them on a wellness plan of how they will work through those stresses when they arise in the healthiest way possible. It’s much easier to identify things that help calm them or make them feel better when they are in a positive mindset and a healthy place, as opposed to after or during the crisis at hand. You can even have them write it out, put it in their phone or tablet, or place a copy in their back pack. That way, when the stressors arrive, as we know they inevitably will, they will always know where to look for their reminders of what works best for them.

My daughter is preparing to start her senior year. I’m in utter disbelief that my little girl is heading to college soon. This year will be one of many “lasts” – the last dance competition, the last day of walking through the halls of a school that in many ways has shaped who she has become, the last prom, the last Field Day…so many lasts. And while I know the emotions will be high, and so much of it will be bittersweet, I am going to try and focus on being present and enjoying each moment as she navigates her way through college selection and graduation. An entirely different level of stress and anxiety accompanies these major life changes, but as a parent I know I can hopefully guide her through the anxiety and be at peace with whatever decision she makes, while encouraging her to enjoy every last moment of this phase in her journey.

It seems kids these days have so many stresses and frustrations in life, but each of us can serve as a positive role model and support for them as they start fresh in a new year. I want to wish all the kiddos a great upcoming school year, but also the parents as well! I still remember being at kindergarten round up for my “little girl,” and now it’s quickly coming to a close. Enjoy these moments with them and support each other. And to all of the staff of the numerous school districts we work with, I want to wish you the best of luck as well. You have a very important job in shaping these young minds that too often goes overlooked. Thank you for all you do, and have a great year!

Julia Hebenstreit, Executive Director of The Kim Foundation

Julia Hebenstreit is the Executive Director of The Kim Foundation. She received her J.D. from Creighton University in 2005, and her BS in Journalism from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2002. She has been with The Kim Foundation since 2011, and prior to that worked for local non-profits doing development, strategic planning, communications and advancement. She has a passion for helping people and improving lives, and serves on the Executive Committee for Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, as the 2015 Hill Day State Captain for the state of Nebraska, and as an active member of the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, BHECN Advisory Committee, RESPECT Advisory Board, Connections Advisory Board and the Project Propel Planning Group.