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Social Work

Thank you for visiting the South Spencer High School and Middle School Social Work page.

My name is Klay Kress and I am the School Social Worker at South Spencer High School and Middle School. As the School Social Worker, I am here to facilitate each student’s success collaborating and communicating with teachers and parents, providing appropriate individual and group counseling, and making appropriate referrals to community agencies. I work closely with Matt Martin, who is the guidance counselor at the high school, as well as Abbie Lawalin, who is the guidance counselor at the middle school. We meet with students who are having problems or difficulties at school. These problems or difficult situations may include divorce, retention, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, poor self-control, behavior problems, academic limitations, disabilities, or social and emotional concerns, etc. Students may be referred to us by their teachers, the principal, their parents, or by themselves. Our sessions with students can vary from just once or twice during the school year to once each week throughout much of the school year.

IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS as a parent and need to reach out to me, please do so.

Each link contains useful information for both parents and students in order to promote optimal learning by addressing mental health and interpersonal skills. Our goal is to link students and families to services that are essential for student success.

For additional information, please use the tabs below.

  • Brochures

    Access to informative brochures including: Anger Management, Anxiety, Empathy, Grief and Loss, Growth Mindset, Healthy Boundaries, Healthy Relationships, How to Thank a Hero, Importance of Gratitude, Negative Thoughts, Self Esteem, SMART Goals, Teens and Body Image, The Importance of “I” Statements, The Problem with Comparing Yourself to Others, Eating Disorders, The Teen Brain

  • Eating Disorders

    Confidential information on eating disorders, brochures and a link to the national helpline.

  • Resources

    Important resources in the Spencer County area (Suicide Prevention, counseling, food, etc). If you know of additional resources that you feel should be included within this page, please contact Klay Kress and it will be reviewed).

  • Attendance

    Information on the importance of attendance and school success. Information about South Spencer’s attendance policy is included.

  • Digital Mental
    Health Resources

    Apps you can download on your phone or tablet to help with anxiety and depression and other mental health issues.

  • Technology & The
    Teen Brain

    How technology can affect the teen brain. Is too much a bad thing?

  • Mental Health Test

    Take a quick test to see if you may have symptoms of anxiety, depression or an eating disorder, etc.

Important resources in the Spencer County area (Suicide Prevention, counseling, food, etc). If you know of additional resources that you feel should be included within this tab, please contact Klay Kress and it will be reviewed).

RESOURCES – South Spencer County IN area

*Listed below are a variety of resources in the South Spencer area. If you know of other resources in the area that should be added to this list, please reach out to Klay Kress and it will be added.

Suicide Prevention / 24 Hour Crisis Line

  • National Crisis & Suicide Lifeline
    Call 988 - 24 hours 7 days a week
  • Crisis Text Line
    Text “HOME” to 741741 = 24 hours 7 days a week

Suicide Prevention Organizations

  • Trevor Project Lifeline
    Confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth
  • TrevorChat
  • TrevorText
    Text START to 678-678.

Community Resources

  • Kairos Counseling Rockport
  • LifeSpring Health System Rockport
  • Deaconess Cross Pointe Evansville
  • Within Sight LLC Evansville
  • When Ready Counseling LLC
  • Creative Thoughts Counseling Center Jasper
  • Memorial Hospital Counseling Center Jasper
  • Rooted Counseling and Consulting Jasper
  • Anchored by Hope LLC Newburgh
  • Brentwood Springs Hospital Newburgh
  • Mind Over Matters Newburgh
  • Playful Healing & Counseling Newburgh

Food Resources

  • Christian Resource Center Rockport
  • Bread of Life Ministry
  • Pleasant Valley Community Church Owensboro
  • Salvation Army Owensboro
  • Church Alive
If you would like a food bag sent home with your student each week during the school year, contact Klay Kress
Welcome to the South Spencer attendance page. Attendance plays an important role in our student’s success. We want you to support your child to be successful at school. The South Spencer Attendance Policy has been copied and pasted below. (This can also be found in the South Spencer School Corporation Student and Family Handbook.) This handbook can also be found on the South Spencer High School/Middle School website. Click on “Handbook” at the top of the page.

Tips for Parents

  • Help your child understand that school is their very first job.
  • Please talk with your child about the importance of daily attendance as chronic absenteeism and truancy negatively impacts academic performance. Moreover, chronic absenteeism also impacts students’ personal and social well-being.
  • When students miss so much school they will not be prepared for their classes which often results in failing courses at the middle school and high school level.
  • Only let your child stay home if he/she is truly sick. Sometimes complaints of a headache or stomach ache might be a sign of anxiety and not a reason to stay home. Contact the teacher or school counselor/social worker for support if you think this might be happening.

  • Make every effort to schedule doctor, dentist, and other appointments after school hours.
  • If your child must be out of school for an appointment, get him/her back to school for at least part of the school day if possible.

  • Contact the school every time your child will be absent.

South Spencer Attendance and Makeup/Late Work Policies

Pages 22-23 in SS Handbook

Mental health is an important issue that can go unnoticed in tweens and teens. If your child is in crisis, it’s important to seek professional help. In this digital age, phones also provide a supplemental resource for teens to get help. Besides general health apps, there are several apps that focus on mental health. Here are a few below that are helpful.
  • Mental health is an important issue that can go unnoticed in tweens and teens. If your child is in crisis, it’s important to seek professional help. In this digital age, phones also provide a supplemental resource for teens to get help. Besides general health apps, there are several apps that focus on mental health. Here are a few below that are helpful.
  • Breathe 2 Relax–Breathe 2 Relax is a free app that provides information on the effects of stress and anxiety and provides guided breathing exercises. The breathing exercises show users how to take deep breaths while engaging their diaphragm, which can be used as a stress-management tool.
  • Calm–Named Apple’s 2017 App of the Year, Calm helps users with mindfulness and meditation. The app aims to bring more clarity, joy and peace to your daily life. The app includes guided meditations, Sleep Stories, breathing programs and relaxing music. Calm also has a “Calm Kids” section in the app where younger kids can learn calming techniques.
  • Pacifica–Pacifica helps teens break the cycle of ongoing negative thoughts. It does this by using tools that target stress, anxiety, and depression. The app consists of psychologist-designed tools based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness meditation, relaxation and mood/health tracking.
  • Calm Harm–Calm Harm provides tasks to help users resist or manage the urge to self-harm. The app contains five categories to help you fight the urge to self-harm. Each category includes five to 15 minute activities. These activities turn users’ attention to healthier ways to handle emotions and impulses.
  • My3 Support Network–My3 is a crisis support app for people who have suicidal thoughts. The app features a contact list to call in case of emergencies. The list includes three of the user’s trusted contacts, 911 and the National Suicide Hotline. My3 also includes a safety plan which lists coping strategies and distractions. It’s one of the best apps that help teens with mental health struggles that include suicidal ideation.
  • Mood Path–MoodPath helps teens to detect symptoms of depression. Three times a day, users receive a question about their emotional well-being. After two weeks, users will receive a professional assessment. They can then share that assessment with their healthcare professional.

Too Much of a Good Thing:

The Impact of Technology on Teens’ Mental Wellness

AUTHOR: Clarity Child Guidance Center

Technology is rapidly evolving and regardless of how you feel about it, the changes are here to stay as a part of our daily lives. According to a Pew Research Center survey, “95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.”

Dr. Joshua Essery discusses the effects that technology has on our youth during our weekly Parents Chats. As the Director of Outpatient Clinical Services at Clarity Child Guidance Center, Dr. Essery has significant insight into how technology impacts our kids’ mental wellness.

Identity, Self-Esteem, and Body Image
The use of social media can impact a teenager’s identity, self-esteem, and body image. It cannot be stated enough that people only show the best version of themselves on social media. Genuinely expressing who you are and how you feel might not create something post-worthy. Even mundane topics are given an angle to highlight a point or make a joke. Even when you try to be authentic, social media cannot possibly fit the entire context of a situation.

No matter your age, there is constant pressure for people to compare themselves to their peers. We ask questions like: “who am I?”, “how many followers do I have?”, “how many likes did my last post get?”, “how long are my snap streaks?” Teenagers especially feel pressure to portray themselves in a socially acceptable way to make people like them. Unfortunately, adding marketing metrics to interpersonal relationships can have the unintended effect of damaging kids’ mental health.
Relationship Development
Relationship development and attachment is now being mediated through a screen. Society is shifting more towards online engagement rather than in person activities. During COVID-19, this has been an incredible boon, helping fight off isolation during a pandemic. FaceTime allows us to speak face-to-face in real time with a relative halfway across the world. However, Dr. Essery says that he has had clinical experiences where kids with parents living in another country start to identify their devices as their parent rather than understanding that their parents are speaking to them through the device. For good or bad, we are social creatures who require physical stimulation and social interactions. The lack of in-person connectivity leaves kids missing those important components.

Dr. Jean M. Twenge, author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us”, stated in her presentation at ClarityCon Reimagined, “the number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by over 40%. More teens are spending their free time alone in their room and on their phones, computers or games.”
According to Dr. Twenge
“All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all off screen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.”

Kate Fagan, former ESPN reporter and author, said during her Claritycon Reimagined presentation that one of the possible contributing factors to mental health is the lack of free play. Free play is described as any play that is unregulated by adults. Sociologist Peter Gray noticed that there was a decline in free play while inversely an incline in anxiety in kids. With the decline in free play, kids are not able to experience the minor setbacks. Experiences such as being picked last during a pickup game or falling allows them the opportunity to self soothe and learn how to cope with their emotions. Their micro experiences of “failing” allow kids to build up their self-esteem and independence.
Lack of Empathy
Another problem with technology is that it desensitizes people. Dr. Essery says that this poses a challenge for perspective taking and developing empathy for others. Studies show that 36.5 percent of kids feel like they have been cyberbullied in their lifetime. The price for making derogatory comments to another person does not seem as steep when it is through a screen. Oftentimes kids will not understand that there is a real person with real feelings behind that screen. It is hard for them to understand the magnitude of comments such as “you’re better off killing yourself” during a gaming session.
Emotional Development
How often do you see your group of friends or family sitting around in the living room with their phones in their hands instead of socializing with each other? It may feel uncomfortable to say we have an emotional attachment to our devices, but it is hard for us to put down our screens. Adults and kids alike have a fear of missing out and want the instant gratification of staying constantly entertained. This makes it difficult for kids to learn how to deal with boredom, be patient, and reflect inwardly.
What Can We Do?
What Can We Do? While technology can be great for society and allows us to connect to our loved ones, too much of anything is a bad thing. Over-reliance on technology can damage our children’s self-esteem, slow their relationship development, create a lack of empathy, and hinder their emotional development.

We should put the devices down and enjoy spending time quality time each other! We should encourage kids to spend less time on their devices and more time making memories with their family and friends. Less screen time could result in more happiness in our youths. When teens go to bed, keep their devices away from their room or anywhere they sleep at night.

What Can We Do?

What if teens often complain that they are “bored” without their electronic devices?
There Are Actually Benefits To Boredom

By week two of summer vacation, “I’m bored” often becomes our kids’ constant refrain. Figuring out how to keep your child entertained over the summer can be a challenge. And it doesn’t help when social media makes it look like every day should resemble a Pinterest board.

But the truth is that it’s okay for kids to be bored. In fact, boredom helps kids develop valuable skills, says Stephanie Lee, PsyD, director of the ADHD and Behavior Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute. For starters, it helps kids build tolerance of less-than-ideal experiences. “Boredom might not be super distressing,” she explains, “but it’s not fun. Life requires us to manage our frustrations and regulate our emotions when things aren’t going our way, and boredom is a great way to teach that skill.”

Boredom also helps children develop planning strategies, problem-solving skills, flexibility and organizational skills – key abilities that children whose lives are usually highly structured may lack, adds Jodi Musoff, MA, MEd, an educational specialist at the Child Mind Institute. It’s not the boredom itself that helps children acquire these skills — it’s what they do with the boredom. “Typically, kids don’t plan their days, but when they work on a project to fill their time, they have to create a plan, organize their materials and solve problems,” Musoff explains. “Developing these skills helps children better manage a variety of academic tasks, such as planning for long term assignments, and flexibility when working on group projects and social skills.”

Additionally, boredom fosters creativity, self-esteem and original thinking. “The key is to help kids learn how to manage their boredom so they can develop independence and feel agency over their own happiness and well-being,” Dr. Lee advises. But how can parents do that?
Tackle Boredom Proactively
When a child says, “I’m bored,” it could be code for a number of different things. They might be hungry, seeking attention, curious about what you’re doing or looking for something to occupy their time.

While it’s important to consider what they’re really complaining about (and feed them if they’re hungry!), be careful about your immediate reaction. If you drop everything because they need attention, then they won’t learn how to entertain themselves. Or, if you spend time thinking of activities every time they ask, they won’t have a chance to come up with their own new ideas. “Instead of being reactive, it’s better to be proactive with your kids about their options,” notes Dr. Lee.

To get ahead of the complaints, Dr. Lee suggests setting aside some time with your child to create a list of activities they enjoy and some fun-sounding challenges or longer-term projects. Ideally, this will be a mix of your ideas and your child’s — to get the ball rolling, you can discuss what they’ve enjoyed in the past, new things they’re interested in learning and ways to use things you already have around the house. Use the list to create an activity chart (with pictures for younger children) that your child can refer to when they’re bored, instead of coming to you.

“Use this chart along with a daily schedule,” Musoff recommends. “Open-ended time is uncomfortable for many kids, so let them know the daily plans and the length of time they’re expected to engage with one of the activities on their menu. It will assure them that they’re not endlessly on their own, help them stay on task and provide them with an example of how to structure their time so that they can eventually do it independently.”For younger children, an activity chart could include:
  • Teddy bear breakfast or picnic
  • Bug or nature hunt
  • Build and play in a fort
  • Legos or other building toys
  • Puzzles
  • Coloring or craft project
  • Call a relative
For older children and teens, consider:
  • Board games
  • Drawing or other art projects
  • Read a book from a favorite series
  • Start a garden or another outdoor project
  • Create a podcast or website
  • Learn a TikTok dance
  • Work on sports skills

By doing the work in advance, you can break the cycle of spending time problem-solving when your child has free time. “When they tell you they’re bored, redirect them to the menu,” says Dr. Lee. “Over time, you’ll be able to remove yourself from the process and begin to reward and praise your kids when they find something to do independently.”
Beware Attention-seeking
Often, when children refuse every idea, it isn’t because they don’t like their options — it’s because they want your attention. The longer they can engage you in a discussion about what to do, the longer they have your attention. Giving your child attention often functions as a reward, so having the long discussion encourages your child not to deal with their own boredom — the opposite of what you’re going for.

If your child resists picking an activity on their own, you might need to spend a bit more time redirecting them, but Dr. Lee recommends keeping that conversation short and to the point. “Give them two choices and ask them to pick one,” she suggests. “And if they don’t like either of those, suggest they pick something different. But, if they don’t pick something different within the next five minutes, then you’ll pick for them. Then clarify when you will be available to give them attention and stop responding their request for a never-ending list of options.”
Encourage Creativity
Thinking creatively is key to beating boredom, but the inability to plan and follow through sometimes gets in the way. For example, while a cardboard box can inspire creativity at any age, Musoff says some kids might not even know where to begin. If that’s the case, you’ll need to teach them how to plan out each step and help them develop problem-solving skills. Ask them what they’re going to do first, what materials they’ll need and what steps they’re going to take. Other kids may need a little push to start thinking outside the box.

For young children who are stuck playing with their toys the same way each time, you might spend some time showing them how to think differently. Instead of building the same tower, you could pull out the farm animals. Ask them to build a zoo with an area for each animal. Do some animals need bigger spaces? Could certain animals live together? You can do the same thing with craft supplies or dress-up clothes. Mixing up supplies that don’t usually go together is often a great way to jumpstart creativity.

For older children, give them open-ended tasks (projects that can be done in multiple ways and have more than one possible outcome) to help them build problem-solving skills. For example, creating a scavenger hunt involves developing a theme, planning a route, hiding items, writing clues and determining a prize. Tech-savvy kids can dig into the many different steps of building their own website or podcast. Or, hand them a box filled with old clothing, leftover materials from DIY projects or broken electronics. Challenge them to create a story using the items, build something useful, repurpose each piece, etc. They may stumble upon a new passion or build self-esteem by solving problems that seemed impossible.

You can also encourage kids to get creative with friends whom they might not be able to see in person. Maybe they can trade off writing pages of a story through a Google Doc, or have a video call while they work on a craft or cooking project at the same time.
Be Realistic
No matter how proactive you are, your activity menu won’t fill your child’s time for the entire day. To figure out how long you can expect them to play independently, think about how long your child can sit still in a classroom — circle time in preschool is about 15 minutes, while a middle school class is 50 minutes — and their usual activity level. Very active children may need a break every 20 minutes to run around outside, while others have no trouble sitting still for two hours.

“It’s harder for children with ADHD to occupy themselves for long periods of time because their attention and focus are compromised,” Dr. Lee explains. “Plus, activities quickly lose their novelty, so their enthusiasm for an activity menu won’t last too long.”

You’ll eventually learn how long your child is able to keep busy on their own. Check in before that time is up and reward good behavior so they feel proud of accomplishing something on their own. Rewards could include praise, earning points towards a fun activity together, having a water gun fight or even time on electronics.
Embrace Failure
You’ll also need to help your child embrace failure – another benefit of boredom. Inevitably, a project won’t go as planned, but failing and then taking a different approach is extremely important. “Failure builds frustration tolerance, perseverance and grit,” Musoff says. “We need to help them destigmatize failure as something terrible.”

You can put a positive spin on it by asking them what worked and what didn’t. If your child needs to learn how to stick with something, encourage them to keep trying. If they need to learn how to be more flexible, help them create a different project with their materials.
Respond to Boredom with Excitement
Helping your children view boredom as an opportunity to do something will benefit both of you. They’ll try new activities, develop better frustration tolerance, learn how to take initiative and entertain themselves, acquire planning strategies and problem-solving skills, build perseverance, increase confidence and get to know themselves better. Plus, you’ll hear fewer complaints and have more time to yourself. The next time your child says, “I’m bored,” respond with, “That’s great! I can’t wait to see what you’ll do!”
Online screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. Click on this tab to take a quick “test” to see if you may have symptoms of anxiety, depression or an eating disorder, etc.