Olathe & Southwest Joco

68% of students struggle with anxiety. Here’s what Olathe School District is helping

Mental health is at the forefront of the Olathe School District’s new class series for parents.
Mental health is at the forefront of the Olathe School District’s new class series for parents.

Mental health is at the forefront of the Olathe School District’s new class series for parents. Bold Parenting with DNA-V is the district’s answer to a recent survey of students and staff indicating that 52 percent of elementary students and 68 percent of secondary students are struggling with anxiety.

This particular initiative isn’t directly for students but for their parents.

“We want to make sure our students are not only learning those (social and emotional) skills but that parents have the tools to support those students,” said Angie Salava, director of social emotional learning and mental health services for the district. “Our ultimate goal is for our parents to have the information to help our students and for our students to carry less anxiety into the school building.”

More than 160 parents have already signed up for the class, and Salava said the room can accommodate up to 450.

“If we get more, we may look for larger venue. It sure loses a lot of its intimacy if you do that, but we’re happy to do it,” Salava said. “We don’t want to turn anybody away.”

Much of the course will focus on providing tools that let students take control of their lives. Some indicators that they might be having trouble include disrupting class, participating in risky activities in person or online and having trouble expressing emotions.

Instructor Jason Bohn, director of adolescents services for The Anxiety Center at Renew Counseling, refers to this type of issue as dysregulation.

One mistake parents make is “not recognizing that the young person is actually struggling. … If you don’t accept that your young person is actually struggling and you just tell them to calm down, you’re not only invalidating your relationship, you’re making them feel like whatever’s going on inside them isn’t right.”

He plans to address ways to effectively show support for kids.

“Validation is not saying all their behaviors are OK. It’s saying that regardless of what they are feeling or thinking or saying, they’re still a worthy, important human being,” Bohn said. “…When parents don’t know how to validate their young person, it really complicates and makes things harder.”

Bohn said the philosophy for DNA-V — which stands for discover, noticer, adviser and values — applies to all ages.

“It’s a way to think about parenting and raising your child that has good research behind it and evidence behind it. It’s a real concrete, practical tool that you can start applying today if you have any desire to change some of the patterns that are going in your family,” Bohn said.

The classes are open to parents who have children from kindergarten through high school.

A key component is that the classes won’t just be Bohn lecturing, but parents participating in small group activities where they can share their experiences with others.

Five weekly sessions make up the class, each running from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sept. 12, Sept. 19, Sept. 26, Oct. 3 and Oct. 10 at Summit Trail Middle School. To sign up, parents must have their child’s name, school and students identification.

The district is offering the classes free with sponsorship from the Olathe Public Schools Foundation, First National Bank, Two Tents Intensive Outpatient Program and The Anxiety Center at Renew Counseling.