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INDIAN LAND – Parents in the Panhandle received a lot of insight Nov. 20 regarding issues that may be bothersome to their children.
Indian Land Middle School hosted a parent seminar that shed light on four topics – peer pressure, maturing bodies, eating disorders and gangs.
Local professionals, as well as guests from Charlotte, facilitated the four sessions.
Jeremy Spielman, principal at Charlotte Secondary School, conducted a session on peer pressure and bullying. He shared trends and statistics, ways to help reduce bullying and strategies to talk to your children about it.
Spielman said some students tease others to avoid being the ones picked on. And there’s no limit to what is fair game for teasing – from physical appearance to economics and clothing to the way a person talks.
Spielman believes a lot of those attitudes and behaviors are developed from the media, such as TMZ and other TV shows that highlight people’s flaws and mishaps.
He advises parents and teachers to watch out for displays of peer pressure, but notes that may be a challenge, as a lot of it takes place at lunch, on the playground or on the school bus. There’s also been a rise in bullying via the Internet and cell phone text messages.
Spielman said about 58 percent of children who are bullied don’t tell an adult.
“We probably don’t know half of what’s going on with our kids,” Spielman said. “The most important thing is communication and building that bridge.”
Dr. Carmina Cruz, a pediatrician at The Children’s Clinic in Lancaster, shed light on the grim reality of eating disorders.
Her presentation, accompanied by real-life photos, touched on anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
Cruz said 25 percent of girls ages 12 to 18 have an eating disorder and 80 percent of girls, regardless of their weight, want to lose weight.
Parents were advised to be concerned if they see the following trends in their child – skipping meals, changing food preference, frequent weighing, mood swings and isolation.
“If you feel something’s wrong, chances are there’s something wrong,” she said. “You’ve got to trust your instincts.”
Cruz said to talk to your child in a calm manner and be a good role model, which includes exercising, eating well and developing strong self esteem.
What does your children know about sex?
Robin Estrada, who also works at The Children’s Clinic, spoke to parents about sexual behavior and children’s developing bodies.
She repeatedly stressed that parents must talk to their children about sex early and often.
They are going to be fed information, so it’s up to the parent to ensure that the information they receive is right, Estrada said.
“Start talking as early as possible,” Estrada said. “The earlier you start, the better. As your child ages, you can add more information.”
Estrada admits that talking to your children about sex can be awkward and embarrassing, but doing so gives them a greater chance of staying healthy or preventing an unwanted pregnancy.
Lancaster County sheriff’s deputies discussed gangs in the fourth session of the night.
They showed pictures of local graffiti and other gang paraphernalia while giving parents pointers on what to look out for.
Authorities have said that there’s a presence of widely known gangs such as Bloods, Crips and MS-13s, along with many hybrid gangs that originate here.
Kevin Sexton, whose child is a second-grader at Indian Land Elementary, said he didn’t realize that gang activity was so prevalent in this area.
“It was very interesting,” Sexton said about the presentation. “To think it’s not happening, you’re wrong.”
Principal pleased with turnout
Indian Land Middle Principal David McDonald said the parent seminar was planned after the school improvement councils at the Indian Land elementary and middle schools talked about the greatest issues facing children.
About 50 people showed up at the Nov. 20 seminar and McDonald said the school plans to make it larger the next time, possibly turning into an annual event.
“These were the four big areas,” McDonald said. “The turnout was great. If five people had shown up, that’s five more educated.”
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at email@example.com or at (803) 283-1152