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Midvale Journal

Canyons Family Center: Helping All Kinds of Families

Mar 09, 2016 01:14PM ● By Bryan Scott

By Stephanie Lauritzen | [email protected]

Midvale - Looking for ways to help your elementary school student manage stress at school? Or maybe you’re struggling with a high schooler who just can’t seem to make it to fourth period each day.  For families with students in the Canyons School District, the Canyons Family Center offers parents and students a variety of courses and counseling services at no cost. Their goal?  “Help families of all kinds-and with all kinds of challenges –  discover gentle and genuine avenues to assist each other, connect with each other and learn from each other.”

Dr. Sarah Harward teaches the Effective Parenting course at the Canyons Family Center. As a school psychologist, she focuses on working with “with educators, parents and other professionals to create safe, healthy and supportive learning environments for all students that strengthen connections between home and school.” She brings the same expertise to her classes at the Canyons Family Center, where she works with parents and caregivers on developing positive parenting strategies.

“Over the six-week course we discuss the building blocks of child development, patterns of behavior, motivation, reinforcement, consequences and ultimately gain more insight on how to ‘get your children to mind without losing yours.’  By collaborating, we troubleshoot and problem-solve strategies in order to develop a foundation of good habits in your children that will lead to independence and self-control,” Harward said. 

Sometimes the challenges that bring parents and students to the Canyons Family Center are less obvious than a student acting out in class. Angela Bate also works as a school psychologist while teaching stress management classes geared toward students. Bate notes that often the child who needs the most help managing stress is the student who “seems great at school with lots of friends but struggles with internal anxiety and lots of worry. Often, we focus on external problems that are easy to see, so we miss the student who may be shy or overlooked but still performing well.” 

For these students, Bate focuses on teaching a variety of strategies to be used in a variety of settings, allowing students to manage stress or anxiety based on their own needs and circumstances.  

“We start by teaching basic breathing techniques. It’s a great place to start since we are already breathing, so we might as well make it work for us in reducing worry or stress,” Bate said. “We really focus on developing simple skills that can work throughout a student’s schooling. I recently heard from the parent of a former elementary student, who is now in Jr. High and still utilizing the stress management skills we worked on in class.” 

Dr. Lane Valum, the Canyons District school psychologist coordinator and director of the Family Canyons Center, believes the services and classes offered are a direct response to needs of the community. “Because the center is run by school psychologists, we have a greater understanding of what families need. We want to help parents access additional services and help work with school staff,” Valum said. Valum notes that all the classes are taught after work hours, which respects parent schedules and doesn’t take students out of their academic classes during the day. 

What are some of the challenges Valum sees in schools? “There appears to be an increase of students struggling to self-regulate and manage their emotions and behaviors in the classroom, and being patient with the rigors of the school day,” Valum said. “By taking parenting classes or behavior management classes through the center, parents and students can expand on a plan of action developed by the school and work on collaborating on the home front to make sure that the skills that work at school are in harmony with what works at home.”

Valum also recognizes a need to teach students effective social skills, especially in the school setting. 

“Students need to learn how to utilize friendships and practice problem-solving skills,” Valum said. “So much of academic learning is based on collaboration and group work. We help parents recognize strategies they can do at home to help students develop these skills.” 

The Canyons Family Center is located at Copperview Elementary School, and translation services are available. In addition to classes, the center offers individual and family-based counseling as well as support groups for students and parents.