Families United

jenny blog



Let the Sunshine In!

As those cloudy, rainy days becomes less present in our lives, getting outside to soak in the

sun’s rays and move our bodies is becoming much easier. There is a direct link between

increased physical activity and positive mental health. Exercise releases endorphins in our

brains which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Exercise also increases concentrations

of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress.

As parents of teenagers, there are many things that bring on stress. Self-care is so important to

recharge your battery life so that you can continue to show up for your children. We are

fortunate to live in a city where we can escape the concrete by driving in any direction. As a

result, we often take this accessibility for granted. Moving around outside is something you can

do in your neighborhood or nearby parks, with your children or by yourself. How you do it is up

to you!

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine

flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy,

while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir, 1901



Families United


David Douglas High School has countless activities and clubs for our students: Baseball, Dance,

Choir, Homework Club, Wrestling, Red Cross Club, Muslim Student Association, Tennis,

Robotics, Black Student Union, Key Club, Latino Club, Driver’s Education, Slavic Club, Stress

Busters, Book Club, Asian American Youth Leadership Club…the list goes on and on!! We should

feel proud to have such strong programming for our students to live and learn outside of the

classroom setting. DDHS holds events to help families learn about their students’ academic

needs, to create space for specific cultural gatherings and gain access to resources in our

community. DDHS is now addressing the need to further engage with families by providing a

group for parents and guardians to build community.

I will be starting a new group on Tuesday, March 29, at DDHS called FAMILIES UNITED. The

focus of the group will be for parents and guardians of DDHS students to build community, talk

about what it’s like to parent teenagers and discuss specific topics developed by interested

group members and myself. The group with take place every 2nd Tuesday from 6-7pm and last

Tuesday from 5-6pm of each month in the Scots Center, room 122. Free childcare will be

provided for children (aged 2 and over) next door in the SUN Room, room 121. Childcare will be

organized by DDHS students who are enrolled in our Early Childhood Education program. If you

are interested in being a part of this movement toward building community, please email or call

me to ask questions and/ or to register for the group:

Jenny Sopher, LMFT

Trillium Family Services


(971) 334-2016


“What’s wrong with my kid?” is a question that haunts many families of teenagers. There is a dramatic shift in behaviors, attitudes, pressures, relationships and outward appearance of teens that can be troubling to some families, teenagers included. We know that this is a period of intense change for students both physically and emotionally, a time when teenagers push adults away when they actually need support the most. This is a time for empathy. Empathy is a term that you may have heard before, often mistakenly interchangeable with sympathy. They differ greatly though, and lead to a bigger discussion of how to approach the teenager in your life.

  • Sympathy is defined as: feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
  • Empathy is defined as: observing someone else’s situation, recognizing what they are feeling, and experiencing similar feelings yourself. Empathy implies a more active process; feeling with someone, instead of for someone.

Think back to a time when you were feeling alone, lost in a crowded environment, having sadness, worry or confusion. Imagine that this is what your teenager may feel each time they wake up for school in the morning. It is normal to have feelings of frustration and think “what’s wrong with my kid?”

  • A sympathetic approach to this situation would be “oh, my poor son has so much to do.”
  • An empathic response would be to talk with your teen and acknowledge that their life is more difficult than it has ever been and be with them in their feelings.

This interaction may feel weird, given the fighting and power struggles that are all too common between caretakers and teenagers, yet it can create an opening to connect with your teenager in a productive way.

Trillium Family Services’ counselors at DDHS are creating an Empathy campaign that focuses on defining, understanding and encouraging the practice of empathy both inside and outside of school. While your teenagers take part in this shift, I wonder if you could join them in practicing empathy at home to help DDHS feel more positive to your child and the school community. Then, the question may stop being “what’s wrong with my kid?” and become “how does my kid handle all of these changes in their life?”  GOT EMPATHY?
Jennifer Sopher, LMFT; Family Engagement Counselor; Trillium Family Services
Video to include at end of the content:
(Empathy Can Change the World, Published on May 4, 2014. This video was dreamed up, scripted, and acted out by amazing 8th grade students from Kalispell Middle School.)

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