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Ways to Change Negative Thinking



We all have thoughts that invade our brains from time to time and mess with our moods. We all get down.

Whether it’s your job, your social life, your family, or something completely different, sometimes the negativity can be too much.

“We all have it. We all have it,” says Mark Reinecke, a professor emeritus of psychology and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Natalie Dattilo, PhD, a clinical health psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, agrees.

“Thoughts that we have that we would classify as negative or unhelpful are pretty normal. We all have thoughts that somebody might say, ‘Oh that’s kind of negative.’ “

Sometimes it is, and sometimes that’s just kind of an accurate description of a bad situation.”

But what can you do about those negative thoughts?

They may be common, but negative thoughts aren’t harmless or to be taken lightly. Research shows that having them over and over, while you have depression and anxiety, can lead to serious emotional and physical problems.

A bout of negative thinking now and then or a random negative thought here or there may not mean much. But having them over and over for a period of time can quickly overwhelm a person. Using words like never or always — “It’s always going to be like this,” or “I’m never going to be any good” — are a red flag.

Ruminating — dwelling on negative thoughts — can be dangerous.

“People often talk about thought loops and thought spirals, this sort of chaining of bad things,” Dattilo says. “It does tend to snowball. And that’s the part where it can become problematic.

“It’s less about the content of the thought, and more about the process, and the inability to let it go, having it run through your mind over and over and over again,” she says “Those tend to be negative for people. People are rarely ruminating on other things.”

How can you tell that the way that you’re thinking is doing more harm than good?

“Is it affecting your relationships? Is it affecting your work? Is it leading you to do things that are really harmful, like alcohol and drug use? Are the ways that you’re coping with it getting you into trouble? If they are, you probably need to talk to somebody,” Reinecke says.

“If it’s persistent, if it goes on for more than 2 weeks, if you just can’t get out of this cycle, you probably need to talk to somebody.

“If you have suicidal thoughts, and particularly if you make any behavior — you write a suicide note or pick up that bottle of pills in the medicine cabinet — you need to talk to somebody,” he says.

Reinecke suggests several ways to help break the grip of negative thinking. Many of the methods he suggests fall under the umbrella of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a treatment that focuses on ways to change unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving.

Essentially, it’s thinking about the way we think. A psychologist or psychiatrist can help you with it.

In the meantime, some ideas:

Acknowledge the emotions. Feeling sad because of the death of a loved one? Laid off? Anyone would be sad. It’s serious stuff. You have to realize that it’s natural to have negative thoughts.

Identify and clarify the thought. Pick apart the most distressing thought. Why is it bad to feel this way? Understand the implications of the way you’re thinking. Treat the thought as an object.

Evaluate the emotions. Sit back and think it through. What’s the evidence for and against this way of thinking? By trying to be clear and rational, you often come to a new insight. Set the thought aside, even for just a moment: “Hmmm, that’s interesting,” or “Well, there you have it.” Taking the emotions out of the equation can help you gain a different perspective.

Come at it from a different angle. Is there another way to look at this? Example: How could this be of benefit to me? Maybe you’ll recognize that adversity builds character, resilience comes from loss, and that good can come from pain.

So what? “And by so what,” Reinecke says, “I mean ‘so what?’ ” The idea is that whatever you’re going through, in the grandest scheme of things, is not that big of a deal. Death is part of life. People go on, and even thrive, after broken relationships all the time. Keep whatever is causing your negative thoughts in perspective, don’t be reactive, and take the longer-term view.

Experts suggest a range of other methods to cope with negative ways of thinking:

Distractions like exercise, reading, doing a puzzle, meeting with friends — simply trying to clear your mind of the problems that affect it — is certainly one way. Writing things down, a form of clarifying your thoughts, is another.

“Sometimes the answer is right there in front of you,” Dattilo says.

Friends and family members can help by staying engaged with, and not withdrawing from, those who are wrangling with unhealthful ways of thinking. Acknowledging their point of view, maybe offering a sympathetic ear — “Well, sounds like you have a lot on your mind,” or “Do you think it would help to think about it like this?” — can be useful.

Certainly, professional help is always an option. The key to quelling harmful, negative thoughts may be more in how we think, rather than what we think.

“There’s a lot of people who tend to see the world [as] glass half-empty but believe that they’re fully justified in the way that they see it,” Dattilo says. “My job isn’t to necessarily argue with them about that, or to convince them to see the world differently.

“My question to them would be, ‘How does it make you feel to think that way?’ And if your goal is to feel better, or have better relationships, or to have more fun, ‘Does thinking like that help you?’ “

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5 Family and Community Engagement Strategies to Improve Student Outcomes



Strong school-family-community partnerships bring exceptional value to children’s education. A recent book by Karen L. Mapp, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and four other co-collaborators synthesizes the available research to explain who benefits from these partnerships and the many advantages of family and community engagement.

Everyone Wins! The Evidence for Family-School Partnerships & Implications for Practice (Scholastic, 2022) cites various research to demonstrate how family-community-school partnerships benefit all stakeholder groups when they’re approached effectively:

  • Students have higher grades, better attendance, deeper engagement in school, greater self-esteem, and higher rates of graduation and college attainment.
  • Educators enjoy better job satisfaction, better success motivating students from different backgrounds, more family support, and an improved mindset about students and their families.
  • Families have stronger relationships with their children and better rapport with educators. They can navigate school policies and advocate for their children more effectively.
  • Schools enjoy a better climate, more support from their community, and improved staff morale—leading to better teacher retention.
  • School districts and communities become better places to live and raise children. They experience fewer disciplinary problems, greater participation in afterschool programs, and more family and student involvement in decision-making.
community members talking and hugging in matching green volunteer t-shirts in front of an outdoor mural

What elements make school-family-community partnerships particularly effective? Here are five tips for how school systems can successfully promote family and community engagement in education and drive better student outcomes.

1. Successful Family Engagement Requires Intentional Leadership

Engaging with families has to be a core activity and not just an afterthought. It requires a total commitment by school and district leaders, and this commitment must include investing in the tools and training needed to help educators effectively engage with families from all backgrounds. It must be a real and intentional focus, and as Mapp says: “It’s real when I see it on your budget sheets.”

2. Teachers and Administrators Must Communicate Clearly and Consistently

To encourage family involvement in their children’s education, educators must interact with families frequently—and in many ways. For instance, teachers and administrators might engage with families in person during school drop-off and pick-up periods, set up a Family Information Board in the school’s lobby, write and distribute regular newsletters or blog posts, and/or send emails or text messages to parents.

Communicating effectively is one of the National PTA’s “National Standards for Family-School Partnerships,” which guides how schools and families should work together to support student success. Teachers and administrators should learn about and meet families’ preferred methods of communication, and families should be able to share and receive information in culturally and linguistically relevant ways.

3. Develop Healthy, Positive Relationships Based on Mutual Trust and Respect

Interactions between educators and families should be positive and reciprocal, with families feeling valued and supported. Educators can establish trust and encourage healthy, two-way communications with families by sharing information about their children’s positive behaviors and accomplishments and which skills may need work. Listen to all parents and provide opportunities for shared decision-making.

4. Be Mindful of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Welcoming all families and fostering a sense of belonging is another National PTA standard. When families engage with your school, do they feel respected, understood, and connected to the school community?

To ensure equity and inclusion, learn about the families you serve and their unique needs and challenges. Use culturally responsive engagement practices. Create opportunities for connection, especially with historically marginalized families and students. Learn about and seek to remove barriers for families to participate fully in their children’s education.

5. Help Families Support and Extend the Learning at Home

Students learn more effectively when they have opportunities at home to practice, reinforce, or extend the skills and lessons they’ve learned in school. Educators can facilitate this process by giving families specific ideas for expanding their children’s learning at home, such as by incorporating core math and literacy concepts into everyday routines.

Schools can also make instructional resources such as take-home packs, activity sets, and other materials available to families to support their children’s education.

How School Specialty® Can Help

School Specialty has more than six decades of experience in providing tools, resources, and strategies that promote successful education both in school and at home. We offer arts and crafts, early childhood, ELA, math, science, STEM/STEAM, physical education, special needs, and social emotional learning resources for families, as well as games, puzzles, and general supplies.

How do you promote family engagement in your classroom and community? Let us know in the comments!

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Preteens and skincare: What parents should know – CHOC




Published on: April 16, 2024
Last updated: April 9, 2024

Should teens and preteens be using so many skincare products with fancy ingredients? A pediatric dermatologist answers parents’ questions.


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Living With Crohn’s: My Daily Routine



By Michelle Pickens, as told to Danny Bonvissuto

As early as I can remember, I’ve had issues with my health. When I was little, I had severe constipation, nausea, vomiting, and food sensitivities.

As I got older, those symptoms transitioned into diarrhea, irregular bowel movements, and pain. I was always very fatigued and my immune system was weak: The second someone in my class had the cold or flu, I’d get it, too. Looking back, it was a sign.

From a mental perspective, my anxiety was high. What if I need to find a bathroom? What if I’m nauseous? Doctors would say, “Oh, you’ll grow out of it. It’s just your anxiety.”

Finally, a Diagnosis

After years of misdiagnosis, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2015. I was 23 and had just finished up college while working full time. My symptoms were getting worse. I had a lot of vomiting and pain. The fatigue was at the point where it was difficult for me to work or even get out of bed some days.

It was so bad it pushed me to seek additional care. I took a couple months off, looked for another job, and went through all the doctor appointments it took to get the diagnosis.

There’s no blood test for Crohn’s. No way to prove what you’re feeling. Eventually I saw the right doctor, who did a test with a pill camera called a small bowel capsule. (This is a pill-sized camera that you swallow, allowing doctors to see inside your digestive system.) It tracked my intestines and was able to get into a blind spot where neither a colonoscopy nor endoscopy can see inflammation. 

It was such a relief to get the diagnosis because it made me feel like I wasn’t crazy. For so many years I knew something was wrong and couldn’t name it. I also felt hopeful. Once I knew what I was dealing with, I knew I could work to get to a better place.

Sharing My Story

In 2016, I started a blog called Crohnically Blonde as an outlet to connect with people as I go through the stages of dealing with Crohn’s. When I first started to share, there weren’t as many people talking about it.

I’ve been able to form relationships in an online community through shared experiences. I hope someone can see my story and feel that, if they’re at the beginning of their journey, there’s a way to get through.

Managing My Medication

At first, I was on a lot of medication that wasn’t working well and was a huge imposition on my schedule. Now I get infusions of an immunosuppressive drug every 7 weeks.

It means being away from my family and job for 4-5 hours, and managing child-care coverage during the treatment and the weekend after, because I feel almost flu-like. The extra help allows me to rest and fuel back up after the treatment.

I have the option to be on more medications to control my symptoms. But I try to shy away from those and manage it on my own because I don’t want to be on medicine for every single thing.

Before I had my son, I was more willing to try different medications. But while I was pregnant, I could barely be on any of the Crohn’s medicines. After I had him, it didn’t make sense to be reliant on them.

Crohn’s, Pregnancy, and Motherhood

Crohn’s affected me throughout my pregnancy. I got very sick in my third trimester because I went off my immunosuppressive drug to avoid passing any on to the baby. I ended up having to be induced early so I could get back on the medication as soon as possible.

My son, Maddox, is 1 now. Crohn’s changed my expectation of what I thought motherhood would be.

I’ve learned that I’d rather be present and able to enjoy him in the good moments than push it when I’m sick. It’s been difficult. But if I’m not well, I can’t be there for my child. I try to be with him as much as I can, but there are times when I need to step back and take an hourlong nap.

I have a great support system: My husband, mom, or mother-in-law can step in and help out for a little while, and when I feel better, I can be a better mom. There are also days when I don’t have accessible help. In those situations, I’ll do lower-key activities that I can enjoy with him but that aren’t physically demanding on me.

Schedule and Adjust

Right now I’m in a pretty good spot. I work from home now, as a recruiter for a tech company, and that makes a huge difference. A lot of my anxiety in the past was around being in an office and being sick. Now that I can work remotely, it’s such a game changer.

But Crohn’s still affects my day-to-day. I have days where I’m feeling sick, and need to rest and change my plans so I’m home and not out somewhere.

No matter how planned-out I have my day or week, if I’m not feeling well that takes precedence. I like to be a very scheduled person. But I have to roll with the punches and have a plan B.

The biggest challenge is managing my sleep and stress. They’re both very influential in symptom flare-ups. I have to get at least 8 hours of sleep, no matter what. And I try to incorporate time to de-stress, like reading a book or relaxing at the end of the day.

Going to therapy helps offset stress as well, and is now part of my ingrained self-care schedule.

Social Life Strategies

My co-workers, family, and friends are very understanding. But that wasn’t the case at first. The more open I’ve been about Crohn’s, the more people understand that I’m not flaking out if I have to change plans; there’s an underlying reason.

I only have a certain amount of energy, so now I pick and choose. I know I need to work and be with my family, which means I have less energy to put into social situations.

I plan out what I’m comfortable doing, but have also become comfortable with changing plans. Even if I’m excited to go out to dinner with a friend, I don’t push it if I feel terrible that day.

Food in Flux

I’ve followed a gluten-free diet for years. I started with an elimination diet and realized that gluten was bothering me.

Other foods aren’t as black and white. I can eat a salad one day and it’s fine, and eat the same salad the next day and it makes me sick. I repeat the safe foods that don’t make me sick and stick to a general schedule of three meals a day that are pretty much all gluten free.

Sometimes the timing matters: I’ll wake up and feel nauseated and need a starchy food like dry cereal. If I’m going on a road trip, or have a big event, like a wedding, I plan it out and try to be careful about what I eat leading up to it because I don’t want to be sick. But it’s hard because you never really know. It’s kind of a gamble.

Flexibility Is Key

I’ve learned to be as flexible as possible. I never know what each day is going to bring, I just have to trust that my body is telling what it needs for that specific day. That’s my priority, and everything else can wait.


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