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Wellness Integration for Students of Hillsborough (WISH)

Wellness Integration for Students of Hillsborough (WISH)

Parent Toolbox

The Parent Toolbox information provides online mental health resources for parents, guardians, and others who serve children on a regular basis. There are links to Who Can Help at Your School which includes School District resources, Typical Concerns that addresses most behavioral issues, Local & Community Resources for directories, parenting classes, and agencies by specialties, and, finally, State and National Links for your questions on current prevention and mental health issues. We do not endorse these resources but they are for your consideration.

Welcome! Have Questions – Need Information? Reach out to your schools – WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!

Welcome to The Parent Tool Box made possible by the Wellness Integration for Students of Hillsborough Grant (WISH). The purpose of this United States Department of Education grant is to increase student access to quality mental health services by developing effective linkages between current school-based programs and community providers of mental health services.

The key ingredient for WISH is, first and foremost, parent and family engagement – you. Your involvement in your child’s school is needed and you are to be congratulated for taking a look at the Parent Toolbox! The additional participation of parents was instrumental in choosing the type of information you will access here.

We hope you will find answers to your questions regarding who, what, where and how to find the help you need when your child faces emotional, behavioral or developmental challenges that may interfere with learning and good relationships with family and friends.

When we think of wellness we usually think about healthy bodies developed by diet and exercise with lots of fruits and vegetables. We want our children to grow healthy and strong so we make sure they have these things. Another part of wellness is mental wellness – healthy minds. Our mental health is how we think, feel and act as we face the “ups and downs” in our lives and makes a difference in how well we cope with stress and change, make choices, solve problems, and relate with other people.

When a parent lets their child know they believe they will do well, it really helps them to do well. This positive expectation is one of the best tools for a child’s emotional health and development at home and at school.

The Hillsborough County Public School District is committed to helping all students be successful through implementation of the Problem Solving/Response to Intervention (PS/RtI) framework using positive behavioral supports. Briefly, it is a three tiered approach using positive supports for all students, for students needing more support in addition to school-wide positive behavior or academic programs, and for the few students needing intensive interventions.

What is Mental Health? Frequently Asked Questions

If you know what you are looking for by topic, this section contains information for your consideration about some of the most common behaviors of concern. By reading these brief descriptions, you may find answers to your questions about your child’s behavior and resources that will be able to guide you to find out more. If, after reviewing this information, you believe that your child may have a mental health concern, the next category, Local and Community Resources will list places that can help. Remember, getting help at the earliest possible time is the key to feeling better and possibly preventing mental illness altogether.

If your child seems to be unusually aggressive for longer than a few weeks, and you cannot cope with his behavior on your own, consult your pediatrician. The most important warning sign is the frequency of outbursts.

Other warning signs include:

  • Physical injury to himself or others (teeth marks, bruises, head injuries)
  • Attacks on you or other adults
  • Being sent home or barred from play by neighbors or school
  • Your own fear for the safety of those around him

For more information, please visit:

Today ADHD is defined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as developmentally inappropriate attention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity so pervasive and persistent as to significantly interfere with a child’s daily life. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a brain condition that makes it hard for children to focus on tasks and control their behavior. One of the most common chronic conditions affecting children, ADHD is different from the usual behavior problems that children deal with at times.

Hyperactive-impulsive symptoms may include:

  • often fidgets with hands/feet or squirms in seat
  • often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
  • often runs about or climbs excessively in situation in which it is inappropriate
  • often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • is often "hyper”
  • often talks excessively

For more Information, please visit:

Autism interferes with the normal development of the brain in the areas of reasoning, social interaction and communication skills. Developmental delays can signal the presence of an autism spectrum disorder so early screening is important. Children and adults with autism typically have symptoms which may include:

  • Deficiencies in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, leisure and play activities
  • Hard for these students to communicate with others and relate to the outside world
  • These children may exhibit repeated body movements (hand flapping, rocking)
  • There may be unusual responses to people or attachments to objects
  • There is resistance to any changes in routines
  • Aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may be present

For additional information, please visit:

Bullying means often intentional inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students. It is unwanted and repeated written, verbal, or physical behavior, including any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, by a student or adult, that is severe or often enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment; cause discomfort or humiliation; or unreasonably interfere with the individual’s school performance or participation; and may involve, but is not limited to:

  • teasing
  • social exclusion
  • threats
  • intimidation
  • stalking
  • cyber-bullying
  • cyber-stalking
  • physical violence
  • theft
  • sexual, religious or racial
  • harassment
  • public humiliation

For additional information, please visit:

Children and adolescents with this disorder have great difficulty following rules and behaving in a socially acceptable way. They are often viewed by other children, adults and social agencies as "bad" or delinquent, rather than mentally ill.

Behavioral disorders are often classified in two categories: oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder. Oppositional defiant disorder may reflect a pattern of persistently negative behavior with a hostile edge, and conduct disorder is often marked by verbal and physical aggression toward people and animals.

For additional information, please visit:

If your child seems to exhibit far more than just sadness, you may be concerned about depression. Some children and adolescents experience symptoms that are beyond the range of normal sadness.

Depression can be diagnosed when feelings of sadness or irritability persist and interfere with a child or adolescent's ability to function. When normal sadness turns into despair and persists for weeks and even months, then it becomes a worrisome emotional disorder called depression. Depression is a syndrome in which an individual feels discouraged, hopeless, miserable, and despondent; and it can occur at any age.

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Parents should be aware of normal childhood responses to a death in the family or friend, as well as signs when a child is having difficulty coping with grief. It is normal during the weeks following the death for some children to feel immediate grief or persist in the belief that the family member is still alive. However, long-term denial of the death or avoidance of grief can be emotionally unhealthy and can later lead to more serious problems. Children who are having serious problems with grief and loss may show one or more of these signs:

  • an extended period of depression in which the child loses interest in daily activities and events
  • inability to sleep, loss of appetite, prolonged fear of being alone
  • acting much younger for an extended period
  • excessively imitating the dead person
  • repeated statements of wanting to join the dead person
  • withdrawal from friends
  • sharp drop in school performance or refusal to attend school

For more information, please visit:

Most students experience more stress when they perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult, or painful and they do not feel they have the resources to cope.~ Some sources of stress for students might include:

  • school demand and frustrations
  • negative thoughts and feelings about themselves
  • changes in their bodies
  • problems with friends and/or peers at school
  • unsafe living environment/neighborhood
  • separation or divorce of parents
  • chronic illness or sever problems in the family
  • death of a loved one
  • moving or changing schools
  • taking on too many activities or having too high expectations
  • family financial problems

Parents can help their child in these ways:

  • Monitor if stress is affecting their health, behavior, thoughts, or feelings
  • Listen carefully to what they say and watch for feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Learn and model stress management skills
  • Support involvement in sports and other pro-social activities

For more information, please visit:

Parents should consider substance use or abuse when they notice changes in their child’s behavior. Changes that might be a sign of substance abuse include increased moodiness or sudden changes in mood, getting into fights, secretiveness, and associating with friends who are getting into trouble. Signs of substance use can also include decreased progress in school, absences, cutting classes, dropping out of activities or getting into more arguments. Parents can be alert to noticing more direct signs such as missing pills or unexplained over-the-counter medications in the house, cigarettes or rolling paper, or smells of alcohol or smoke.

Adolescence is a critical time for preventing drug addiction. Early use of drugs increases a person's chances of more serious drug abuse and addiction. In early adolescence, when children advance from elementary through middle school, they face new social and academic situations. Often during this period, children are exposed to substances such as cigarettes and alcohol for the first time. When they enter high school, teens may encounter greater availability of drugs, drug abuse by older teens and social activities where drugs are used and available. Some teens may give in to the peer pressure of drug-abusing friends. Drug and alcohol abuse can disrupt brain function in areas critical to motivation, memory, learning, judgment, and behavior control.

For more information, please visit:

National drug use surveys indicate some children are already abusing drugs by age 12 or 13

A person at risk for suicidal behavior most often will show warning signs: depression, previous suicide attempts, recent losses, frequent thoughts about death, and the use of drugs or alcohol. A person planning to commit suicide may also give verbal hints such as "nothing matters," or "I won't be a problem for you anymore." They may also give away favorite possessions or become suddenly cheerful after a long period of sadness. The impact of youth suicides is far reaching, leaving families, teachers, and students to ask themselves how the suicide could have been prevented. Usually those who attempt suicide have more than one problem.

Parents should focus on the following warning signs as well as protective factors:

Warning Signs


  • Changes in physical habits and
  • Appearance
  • Sudden changes in personality, friends
  • Suicide Notes
  • Threats
  • Previous Attempts
  • Depression
  • Final Arrangements
  • Efforts to hurt oneself
  • Inability to concentrate or think rationally
  • Death and suicidal Themes
  • Plan/method/access
  • Trouble with authorities
  • Breakup with significant other
  • Death of a loved one or significant loss
  • Knowing someone who died by suicide
  • Bullying or victimization
  • Family conflict/dysfunction
  • Academic crisis or school failure
  • Disappointment or rejection
  • Abuse
  • Trauma exposure
  • Serious illness or injury
  • Anniversary of the death of a loved one
  • Forced or extended separation from friends or family

Risk Factors

Protective Factors

  • Mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
  • Alcohol or other substance use
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive/aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Break up/change of relationship
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Recent s suicides/contagious influences
  • Lack of social support/isolation
  • Barriers to accessing health care
  • Cultural and religious beliefs
  • Close family bonds
  • Strong sense of self-worth
  • A sense of personal control
  • Good impulse control
  • A supportive home environment
  • Responsibilities/duties to others
  • Best friends
  • Cultural and religious beliefs
  • Opportunities to participate in projects/activities
  • Lack of access to lethal means
  • Access to services for mental, physical, and substance abuse concerns
  • Skills in coping/problem solving
  • School connectedness

For additional information, please visit:

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