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Family University Provides Positive Alternatives for Dealing with Stress

More than 300 parents/guardians and 8th to 12th grade students packed the Hastings High School auditorium to find out how to understand stress, and learn healthy coping strategies and tactics to reduce it from a number of professionals at the second annual Hastings Family University.
A highlight of the evening was listening to keynote speaker Matt Bellace, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and comedian, who held a student session and a parent session. Through his sense of humor, he was able to capture the attention of the teens and adults, and engage them in listening and learning about difficult topics that teens and their parents face today.

For students, he focused on how to get a “natural high” through healthy activities. He presented L.E.A.D.: Lean on healthy people for support, Express yourself in a healthy way, Achieve natural highs, and Don’t be afraid to take a stand. He also discussed embracing pain, loss and failure, and using the emotions you learn during these times to help you overcome future situations in a stronger, better way. He said often if you ask anyone who has truly accomplished their dream they tell you what they overcame to get to where they are today. Rarely is it an easy ride to the top. 

With parents, the discussion surrounded the high level of anxiety students are facing in school and that they need coping tools. Bellace said that anger is often a failure of compassion. When we are yelling at our kids it’s because we don’t understand them and their actions. He discussed brain development and risk-taking behaviors, that risk taking increases when they are with peers, and risk taking usually peeks around age 19. He joked that with adults their risk taking behavior was whether or not they would eat bread tonight, not the case with teens.

Matt Bellace is the author of the book, “A Better High,” and recommended the website​ as a resource for parents, students, and educators.

Both students and parents had only praises for Family University. Ben Kirschbaum expressed his feeling that kids experience a lot of stress and he attended to learn ways to help his daughter manage it.

Jeannette Kocur, Director of Guidance for Hastings said, “It’s really important for both parents and students to learn coping tools to deal with the high level of anxiety students have in school.”

Two students, Sammy and Adria, remarked that Matt Bellace did a good job of melding humor with real messages; and it felt great to be engaged.

Student workshops included:

1. "I Can't Cope!" Understanding and managing student stress and anxiety
2. "Turn I Can't Into I Can": Ending procrastination
3. Mindfulness for Peak Performance
4. Love Shouldn't Hurt
5. Life Can Be Tough But I'm Tougher: Bouncing back from challenges through resilience and grit
6. Know the Odds - Gaming and Gambling
7. Preventing Burnout

Parent workshops included:

1. "I Can't Do This!" Understanding and addressing your child's anxiety and avoidance
2. Vaping: What you need to know to help protect your children
3. Hidden in Plain Sight: An interactive current drug update for parents
4. Teenagers and Dating Violence. How can we help? What can we do?
5. Bobbing, Weaving, and Bouncing Back: Teaching your child to manage adversity through resilience and grit
6. Gaming and Gambling
7. Preventing Student Burnout

Family University was sponsored by the The WAY, Hastings School District, PTSA and SEPTA.