Thrilled to be joining the Cairn Guidance Team!

By Casey Hazlett

Hello from Seattle, WA! My name is Casey Hazlett and I’m thrilled to be joining the Cairn Guidance team as our new Chief Operating Officer. When I first met Jess in 2008, I was drawn to her positive energy and expertise in school health. I had no idea that over 10 years later I would be lucky enough to work with Jess as part of the Cairn Guidance team. At that time, I was part of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national non-profit working with schools, youth-serving organizations, and businesses, to build healthier communities and empower kids to develop lifelong healthy habits. I was working on the Healthy Schools Program (HSP) to develop the information and data tracking systems to grow the program in schools across the US.

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 After three years on the HSP team, I had the chance to become the Operations and Finance Director, where we set-up systems and processes for the organization to become an independent 501(c)(3). It was a time of growth as we developed new finance, operations, benefits and technology systems. In 2010, wanting to gain experience in the programmatic work, I transitioned to the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative where we provided training and professional development to after-school programs to implement national healthy eating and physical activity standards. I supported a team of nine leaders to drive change and create healthy environments for youth across the US.

I’ve always been dedicated and enthusiastic about organizing, setting up systems, and helping things run smoothly. With these passions, I decided to change course a bit to build and run a productivity and organizing business where I developed a unique process to create sustainable systems for clients in Portland.

In 2018, my husband and I, along with our black lab Gabby, transitioned up to Seattle for his career. That transition provided the opportunity to reflect on my next career step and when the opportunity to join the Cairn Guidance team came up, I felt like it was a perfect fit! I look forward to working with the Cairn team and our clients to build systems, develop solutions and support open communication channels that allow us to collaborate with teachers, students and partners so that all young people can grow and succeed in healthy communities. I love that I get to combine my passion for systems, process and continuous improvement to increase opportunities for youth to be healthy, happy and thrive.

Educator Professional Development Provides Opportunities to Connect with and Teach Today’s Students

Written by Cairn Guidance, a Dove Self-Esteem Project partner

Attending professional development that is well organized, on-target and recognizes the needs of the adult learners can bring on exciting new skills and re-energize the participant.  Professional development provided by a school, district, state, regional or national organization can open the door to new ideas, innovations, or the retooling of existing ideas, strategies or teaching methods. 

Educators often reach into their “hat” or “bag” of teaching strategies designed to support and enrich learning, grabbing hold of ways to better teach a concept or better meet the needs of their students. Professional learning communities (PLCs), school and district in-person offerings, online or virtual professional development experiences and opportunities to learn and grow through attendance at state, regional or national conferences can increase educator knowledge and skills.  Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) shows its support of educator growth by participating in many professional development opportunities.

Thousands of health and physical educators will be heading to Tampa, Florida April 9-13, 2019 for the SHAPE America’s (Society of Health and Physical Educaters) national conference. And so will DSEP! We will be facilitating a session on April 11, 2019 at 11:15 a.m.  This session will introduce attendees to the lessons, explain why they are needed, and how to implement them.  Participants will engage in a hands-on experience and learn how the interactive lessons help students improve their body confidence and self-esteem.  DSEP will also be located at Booth 317 where conference attendees can receive a copy of the lesson, ask questions and connect with other educators who have implemented the lessons across the country.

Like you, DSEP knows students that struggling with body confidence and self-esteem issues may not perform well in academics, they may miss school, not engage well with peers, not participate in clubs/organizations/athletics or they may not freely engage in large group, classroom, discussions. Having the desire to provide students with the best academic environment coincides with supporting their need to feel competent and confident. Stop by our booth to get a copy of the program and connect with passionate educators just like you.

DSEP Confident Me!  single and five-lesson curriculum provide a no cost, interactive way to help 11-to-14-year-old students delve into the issue of poor body confidence and self-esteem.  Educators have a tool designed to help them help their students experience a brighter and more realistic picture of who they are and what they offer.  They are unique, talented, knowledgeable, and skillful individuals.  They are valued.  Students learn how to value and appreciate themselves and others, as well as becoming more compassionate and thoughtful peers. Please visit DSEP at Dove Self-Esteem Project to learn more about the research-based lessons and how they support educator efforts to help students achieve at their highest levels.  We hope you join the many educators across the United States who implement these lessons with their 11-to-14-year-old students.

When Teachers are Resistant to Change…

We all have resistance to change. It’s scary and unknown and we are creatures of habit, routine and comfort. The habitual brain is actually part of a survival technique. If we had to truly think through every step of everything we do each day as if it were our first time doing it, we wouldn’t get anything done. If you haven’t read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I strongly suggest you do.

We need not only skills-based health education, but skills-progression health education.

Many best practices or updated lessons don’t get implemented as a result of many reasons:
• Teachers hardly receive the amount of professional development they need to guide new practices, try new things and develop innovative, relevant approaches.
• Teachers do not have the time or energy. Being a teacher is so emotionally and physically exhausting. I wore a pedometer when I taught and averaged 8 miles of steps in a day. That’s the physical exhaustion. The emotional stress of working with over 100 children with 100 different needs is a challenge, both rewarding and leaves you with not much else to give to planning, changing, adapting and innovating.
• Many teachers do not have the support due to a lack of job-alike positions. In many schools, there is one health or physical educator, not a whole team to collaborate with.
• Lack of funding to purchase evidence-based materials/curricula is rare/minimal.
• Systems are in place as a result of textbooks lobbyists that keep evidence-based curricula from even getting on the state adopted/approved lists (don’t get me going on that one!).

These reasons that prevent educators from excelling, innovating, varying their curricula are out of teachers hands in many cases. Although, if you’re the only health teacher at your middle school, the opportunity to engage on social media, watch webinars, listen to podcasts, read books can help with a decrease in isolation.

However, I want to focus on resistance to change. I’m talking about the teacher that teaches the same 10 tobacco prevention lessons for five years in a row without adapting, updating, or determining if the students need it the way it’s always been taught. In the business world, people adapt their approaches to marketing, processes, creating, communicating constantly. They have to, to make a profit. Teachers are held accountable, but it’s not a profit like a business. I mean, the health and education of students is, but even then, I think we can do better.

Teachers that teach health education sometimes give our profession a bad name. And, I hate saying that, because I want to embrace all of them and give them tons of PD and help them teach through the lens of effective practices. However, it’s true. So many teachers are still using old practices and teaching from textbooks (and trust me, I’ve reviewed all the ones ya’ll think are good- they aren’t. They are FULL of un-functional knowledge that students do NOT need to know in order to lead to behavior changes). The amount of content is ridiculous and unimportant. If you want students to drink more water, they do not need to draw their digestive system and color it in. If you want students to learn about the harm of secondhand smoke, they don’t need to know what the chemicals look like under a microscope or even, really, how to spell the chemical names. I’m not going to mention these textbooks by name, but let’s just say, none made the cut when reviewing for a State DOE (un-named) through the lens of comprehensive skill-based health education. Do they incorporate the skill-standards? Yes, many do. But, it typically looks like this at the middle and high school level- 11 pages of content and one skill activity at the end. That is NOT skills-based health education. There is no logical skill progression over the lessons in order. There’s no scope and sequence that tells, you, the teacher, when the skill is introduced, reinforced and mastered. There are rarely rubrics and performance checklists. So, I urge you to ditch the textbook, or encourage your district to not buy it in the future. Save the thousands of dollars and purchase something stronger. Or, develop something on your own.

Textbooks don’t allow you to actually make local data-driven curricular decisions. They are written with assumptions on what your students need to know, when they need to know it and how. I’m not suggesting teachers change everything at once. Maybe take one unit and really look at the skill you want to incorporate and use RMC Health’s Health Skills Models (trust me- these are awesome!) to look at your grade level band to determine what mastery looks like for that skill. Check out the rubrics that accompany that skill. And, build a unit using a progression of the skill (see the Health Skill Model- it outlines it out!) and use content (unit topic) as context for teaching the skill. In fact, I guarantee the skill practice is more important than the content taught.

If you want to see an example of a high school unit with skill progression around analyzing influences- check this out. I wrote this unit (fee/accessible to all!) from the perspective of the unit being about the skill, not the content. So, I understand that may be a leap that’s too far for many of you, and that’s ok. Look at the 5 lessons and the assessment to see how much emphasis is put on the skill. Starting with the assessment (lesson 6) in mind, I developed the lessons to lead up to it. Lesson 1 begins here. There’s a menu at top to view the rest. I’m working on a middle school unit now- so stay tuned. Since I know it’s nice to have examples, here is the scope and sequence I’ve developed for middle school. This shouldn’t be your scope and sequence, since you need to use your own student data to inform when topics and skills should be taught. However, it’s an example.

So- as far as resistance to change... I’m not saying to teach all units through the skills lens versus content. I know as a field, we aren’t there and we don’t know if it actually works. However, I am asking that teachers push themselves to use local, county, state health YRBS data to drive what their students need, and focus on skills-progression. Not only skills-based health education, but skills-progression health education. What are the steps that students have the opportunity to practice multiple times through a planned scaffolding approach? Consider that and see where there might be gaps in your program!

Leveraging Every Student Succeeds Act $$ to Support the Whole Child

Tomorrow, Liz Thorne and I will be headed to our first ESEA Conference in Kansas City. The National ESEA Conference is an annual project of the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators and the largest conference focused on federal education programs for disadvantaged students. The Conference emphasizes the critical nature of doing what’s right and what’s needed today – to help every child succeed and achieve at high levels.

Our workshop proposal, Leveraging Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) Dollars to Support the Whole Child was accepted in a 90 minute slot on Wednesday from 11:30-1pm. Our workshop will bring participants through engaging activities including understanding ASCDs Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child framework, reviewing our analyses of each states’s ESSA plans through the lens of the whole child & school health & finally provide participant’s with success stories at the state and local level on how State Education Agencies and local districts have supported the whole child using ESSA funding. Some of these stories include:

  • Using Title IV dollars to purchase comprehensive health education curricula such as ETRs HealthSmart;

  • Using Title II dollars to send teachers to the SHAPE America National Convention for professional development for physical education, health education, recreation and dance; and

  • Using Title IV dollars to implement a pilot mental health initiative in 10 elementary schools.

We are looking forward to learning more from our peers in the field in how more districts and schools can support the whole child and leverage federal program funds to do it!

KAHPERD Health Education Cadre of Trainers- Call for Applications!

The Kentucky Association for Health, PE, Recreation and Dance (KAHPERD) is looking for educators with a background in school/classroom health education. Any interested applicant can click on this link and apply by February 15. Applications will be reviewed and scored by Board of Directors members and a performance checklist on how they will be scored is within the application.

Thank you for your interest in the KAHPERD cadre of teacher trainers!  Please complete all questions on this application and make sure you have read and understand the attached qualifications and expectations.


KAHPERD Cadre Background 

The KAHPERD Board of Directors supports the development of a health education cadre over the 2019 fiscal calendar year, with hopes to sustain into the future. The goals/objectives of this cadre will be to:

  • Create a pathway for strong, relevant professional development for health teachers in Kentucky;

  • Encourage cadre trainers to be health education leaders in their regions, therefore providing support to others and advocating at the local, state and national levels;

  • Share with cadre trainers the most up to date, research practices in the health education field;

  • Encourage trainers to present at least one health education session at KAHPERD each year and recruit others to do the same; and

  • Build Kentucky’s pool of health education contacts to further ensure strong representation on state level content panels and other opportunities to inform education and legislative leaders.


2019 Cadre Expectations

  • A Bachelor and preferably Masters or related degree in the field of education.

  • Commit to one year, with the intention of staying on beyond that.

  • Apply to present a health education session at KAHPERD (can be in partnership with another trainer or educator)

  • Support the field of health education (i.e., promote and use evidence-based practices, discuss what you do with school leaders, etc.)

  • Participate in strategic planning sessions as a group to determine what Kentucky Health Teachers might need for PD and support.

  • Attend the Cadre retreat, date TBD (but expect it to be 2-2.5 days in length, all expenses paid

  • Participate in 1-2 hour video-calls at least every other month.

  •  The first year of Cadre membership is a probationary year.  Periodic performance reviews will be conducted by the Cadre coordinators.

Applications are due on Friday February 15, 2019.  Please submit your completed application and attachments via email to Jess Lawrence at You will receive a confirmation email, if you do not, please call Jess at 503.784.2932

To apply, click here.

Using Art to Raise Awareness of Gun Violence

#NoMoreEmptyDesks uses school desks as a way for high school students to create a message about the impact of loss from gun violence, whether in their school or community. The idea was conceived by Robin Cogan, a school nurse in Camden City School District (New Jersey) after receiving the idea in response to one of her tweets. She partnered with an art teacher (Lisa Wallenburg) in her district and a student (Christian) to paint the desks. Desks are being crafted in the art room at Brimm Medical Arts High School in Camden, New Jersey. There are two so far, with much interest for others to be created. Christian created a multi-cultural depiction of hands intertwined, symbolizing the prevalence of gun violence across all communities. The rose, a symbol of love and remembrance, was strategically placed as an offering to families of lost students as a message that they are not alone in their grief.

Christian hopes that this movement will go viral, with every high school will embrace the project and making it part of their curriculum to raise awareness about the impact of gun violence on schools and communities while elevating the voices of students.  

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Listen to Christian in his own words describe his experience participating in #NoMoreEmptyDesks, and his teacher, Lisa Wallenburg, who championed this initiative.

Watch Christian & his teacher Lisa Wallenburg talk about #NoMoreEmptyDesks

You may contact Robin Cogan at  and access her story about starting #NoMoreEmptyDesks here.

Robin Cogan (School Nurse, Christian (Student) and Lisa Wallenberg (teacher)

Robin Cogan (School Nurse, Christian (Student) and Lisa Wallenberg (teacher)

It’s More Than Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmatic

Written by Antionette Meeks of Cairn Guidance, a Dove Self-Esteem Project Partner

 Reading, writing and basic mathematics are fundamental skills that individuals need in today’s world. While these are necessary skills enabling a person to conduct daily living activities and experience success in both their personal and professional lives, these aren’t the only skills needed by youth as they grow into adulthood.

 Youth need to feel confident and competent.  These feelings may be short-circuited by poor body confidence and low or no self-esteem. The results of which may lead to such outcomes as poor academic performance, absences from school, lack of participation in extra-curricular activities, such as clubs and athletics, and sharing opinions in large groups. In fact, Dove research shows that low body confidence in girls result in 8 in 10 reporting opting out of such activities.

 Some may say schools are only responsible for developing a student academically and not focus on the other affective determinants that are seen as primarily the responsibility of parents.  Others see the connection between social and emotional development as a partner in the growth of students.  If an output of education is to produce successful, contributing community members, then there is the necessity to focus on the needs of the whole child – intellectual, physical and emotional development.  Part of that emotional development includes body confidence and self-esteem.

 Thousands of educators across the US have implemented the Dove Self Esteem Project Confident Me! Lessons in 2018.  What they are telling us is straightforward: providing students with the space and skills to analyze influences and build their own self-concept is critical to their success in school and life.

“...this topic can often be “taboo” between kids and adults or parents. Both parties are uncomfortable talking about real life issues and topics, so they never thoroughly get discussed. Kids end up hearing about these issues from their friends or older siblings. Oftentimes, this information is not accurate and lacking important details. Confident Me! provides a great opportunity for these issues to be talked about, in class, and with peers that are dealing with similar struggles” — Teacher, Oregon
“Young people are bombarded with so much from peers and social media. I believe these lessons will help my students be more aware about themselves and how self-confidence and body image will enhance their confidence as they pursue various areas in their lives.” — Teacher, Tennessee
“Many students now understand how they can be manipulated by media. Many students were shocked at the transformation with photoshop and now look at advertisements as ‘fake’ images.” — Teacher, Florida
“We talk a lot about everyone being different and unique and how that is ok. We incorporate growth mindset and multiple intelligence concepts to help students see everyone has strengths and weaknesses and that with a positive mindset we can grow our skills.” — Counselor, North Carolina

Growing up can be an arduous journey within itself without the additional “drama” caused by feeling on the outside, unpopular, or unable to fit in, etc.  Youth are better able to learn and excel at their reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic skills when their body confidence and self-esteem are both in good places.  Educators cannot reach the core of the student’s academic prowess, if the student is concerned about other issues.  In this case, how they feel about their bodies and having low self-esteem.

 A respected partner helping educators increase both body confidence and self-esteem in our 11 to 14-year old youth, is the Dove Self-Esteem Confident Me! lessons.  These single and five-lessons  rooted in research and use evidence-based tools designed to support positive student growth in these two very important areas.  The single lesson can be used alone or as a booster to the five lessons.  While the content remains the same, the lessons have been refreshed with a new layout and graphics.  Visit the Dove Self-Esteem Project or contact Antionette at for more information.



Why I Choose to Promote the Dove Self-Esteem Project – From a Male Perspective

Written by Brett Delaney, Middle School Health Teacher, Coach and Dove Self-Esteem Project Cadre Trainer with Cairn Guidance, a Dove Self-Esteem Partner

I am a father to three young girls.  I coach softball and teach middle school students.  Self-esteem, body image, and body confidence are topics addressed on a daily basis with all the women and girls in my life.  What I have noticed in any conversation about self-esteem everyone, including my students, related it back to women and girls.  As I mentioned, I teach middle school students and yes, I do see girls struggle with issues regarding self-esteem and body confidence - but  I see boys struggle with this issue just as much.  I knew I needed to set out and find a way to help my students realize that self-esteem and confidence are important for everyone.

So, what is one reason I got involved as a Dove Self-Esteem cadre member?  The weight room!  In a 2013 Psychology Today article, Drexler (1) cites statistics relative to my classroom experiences. First, 40 percent of boys in middle and high school exercise regularly.  Second, boys overwhelmingly reported feeling pressured to fit a certain physical ideal of lean, muscular, and broad in the shoulders. The weight room can be a very daunting place for anyone of any physical ability.  It can be even more daunting for an 8th grade boy (in a class of 8th and 9th grade peers) who has not gone through the growing process yet, as some of his peers have. I’ve seen one of my student go through this. He came into strength class at a level he wasn’t satisfied with. He got really frustrated with his numbers and the appearance that he was “weak” compared to his peers.  He would not engage in group activities/ interact with peers, would be last to show up for class and the first to leave, his head dropped and shoulders rounded.  He also was not a member of any extracurricular activities. It was easy to see how comparing himself to others shaped his self-perception and ultimately held him back.    

Students in today’s society are influenced by so many internal and external factors.  These external factors, out of the control of the teenager, have influenced this opinion of self.  With a lot of these factors coming from different social media outlets where they can only post a picture or 140 characters, my students choose not to talk about their feelings and beliefs of themselves but rather post their negative thoughts.  My student from the weight room, I found, was posting things about his perceived strength level on social media.  Just one of many ways I have noticed middle school boys being critical of themselves. 

When teaching my unit on body confidence/body image, the biggest hurdle I have to overcome is self-talk.  Typically, teenagers are wired to think they are the only ones dealing with a given situation.  What they do not always realize is the person sitting next to them or two rows back is dealing with the same situation.  We start every year in health class with our social-emotional unit not because it is easy (it’s actually the most challenging), but because it sets the tone for the students to begin getting to know themselves and others, so the rest of the year they can find various ways to relate the content back to helping them grow as young men and women. The Dove Self-Esteem Project Confident Me! lessons helped with this problem of negative self-talk.  The discussion prompts led to great conversations about self-esteem and appearance ideals that were happening at my school.  Students were challenged with this curriculum to begin looking at themselves and stop comparing to others. 

Boys are going to continue to be pressured by different outlets which lead to comparison about self and possible negative self-talk characteristics becoming more evident.  From the Dove Self-Esteem Confident Me! lessons done in class, the discussion that ensued about negative self-talk and realizing times it happens clicked in my weight room student’s head.  He came to me after a lifting session and said he could tell he was having negative self-talk but was starting to use strategies his peers gave him from health class to help overcome those negative thoughts.  This was something done by the students themselves and not me! How powerful is that!  That is why I do what I do and help promote this great free curriculum anyway I can.  

Oh, the weight room student…  When he left as a 9th grader, he was standing tall, looking teachers and students in the eyes when communicating with them, and engaging in class and extra-curricular activities.  I don’t see this student as much now because he is in another building, but when I do, we talk about the positive things going on in his life.  I always try and tell him and other students that I am proud of them and ask them one question: What is going well in your life today?


Brett Delaney is a middle school health and physical education teacher in Iowa.  He is also a member of the Dove Self-Esteem cadre trainers who seek to increase awareness and encourage educators to implement the no-cost Dove Self-Esteem Project’s single or five-lesson Confident Me! curriculum.  For more information about the Dove Self-Esteem Project’s Confident Me! lessons, please visit the following link:  Dove Self-Esteem Project.


1. Drexler, PhD, Peggy.   January 17, 2013.  The Impact of Negative Body Image on Boys.  Psychology Today,  Retrieved from:







The Price of Joining the 100 Club

By Monica Coleman, Dove Self-Esteem Cadre Trainer

Written by Cairn Guidance in partnership with the Dove Self-Esteem Project

The way we look at ourselves and others has changed dramatically with social media and tools used to engage with the world online.  We have replaced our pocket mirrors with the selfie function of our cell phones and made habits of posting our self-checks online for all to see.  Filters, angles, and edits help erase any blemish and accentuate features beyond their reality.  We can add muscles, lose weight, increase our height or decrease it, all with a few clicks before we post images on social media.  The manipulation of professional media, like ads in print and TV, are well-documented and has been shown to distort girls’ perception of beauty.  Now, anyone with the right app can complete many of these edits in less than a minute right in the palm of their hands.  You better believe that young people struggling with accepting their appearance might succumb to the instant gratification of likes, shares, hearts, and praises that are often the result of heavily-edited, filtered photos.

While nothing is wrong with a young person wanting to look beautiful or handsome, the problem arises when their vanity becomes so important that it drives them to doing things that affect their ability to think critically and make good, safe decisions.  It may seem harmless to alter images before posting them.  However, consider the price young people are really paying to join the “100 Club,” which really isn’t a club as much as it is the achievement of gaining 100 or more likes on a photo.   For some young people, getting 100 or more likes is the only reason they post anything on social media.  If they don’t reach that goal, they may delete the picture and only leave pictures that have 100 or more likes.  This leaves a false impression and sense of who that young person really is in life if they only display photos that are popular.

As adults working with youth, we can reverse this trend by helping young people understand that their value is not based on their appearance or ability to achieve 100 or more likes.  One quick way to do this is tucked inside lessons in the Confident Me! curriculum, available at no cost through the Dove Self-Esteem Project.  This curriculum contains a module on media messages and addresses the detrimental impact social media can play in a young person’s life.  The lesson helps students explore how personal media can impact their self-esteem and lead to serious mental health problems like depression, for example.  Further, the lesson encourages students to create goals to resist images that promote ideal appearances, such as those that edited images seek to achieve, by selecting a small, simple action to start making a change in this area.

I have been thinking about the ‘100 Club’ idea and would like to put a spin on it to show young people just how many adults out here care about them and accept them just the way they are.  I now challenge any adult reading this to join the “Confident Me! Club” with me by sending an email to me to get a copy of this curriculum to implement in your school.  My goal is for this curriculum to be implemented in 150 schools by December 1, 2018.  Let me know if you would like more information on Confident Me! Email me at



We Can Affirm AND Challenge Young People

By Liz Thorne

A recent article in the Atlantic explored gender and the intersections of adolescent development, medical care, and parenting. Through the experiences of young people, trans and gender non-conforming folks, families and researchers, the article explores the central question of how to balance providing young people the support (from family support and mental health services to puberty-blocking drugs, hormones and/or surgery) they need while keeping in mind that adolescence is a time of identity exploration, and there is a diverse spectrum of gender identities beyond cis and trans- over 50 different identities are listed on Facebook. The article has received criticism from some readers, often those in the trans/gender non-conforming community for the focus on people who “desist” or “detransition”. Needless to say, there are so many layers to unpack in this issue, but setting that aside for a moment, I want to bring forward the pieces I found poignant as a cisgender female, heterosexual, White parent and professional working in adolescent and school health.

One thing that stood out to me in the article was the central tension between fully affirming and accepting young people’s (whether it is your child, student, or patient) identity with the pacing of young people making medical decisions that impact them for the rest of their lives. From the perspective of a parent, I fully understand wanting to give your kids all of the resources they need to be successful. I also recognize the experiences of trans and gender non-conforming folks in the medical community, and moving away from any sort of gatekeeping or putting in place hoops to jump through in order to get care.  Youth development practices came to mind while I was reading this article, particularly the tenants of Developmental Relationships, a framework created by the Search Institute’s research in what makes relationships powerful for young people. The elements are:

-       Express care

-       Challenge growth

-       Provide support

-       Share power

-       Expand possibilities

Developmental relationships not only express care and provide support, but they challenge growth. We need both. Mental health, influences of peers and social groups and societal and cultural norms all contribute to the development of gender identity, and all of these layers need to be interrogated by young people as they figure out who they are. However, that nuanced and critical analysis of themselves and their culture by young people needs to happen in an environment where they are affirmed and supported.

A well-trained team of providers working in partnership with youth and families will lead to better outcomes.

Sharing power, particularly with regard to the medical community for trans and gender non-conforming young people is paramount. A well-trained team of providers working in partnership with youth and families will lead to better outcomes. Finally, expanding the possibilities for young people as they explore their identities, to me, is to continually challenge stereotypical gender norms and roles. This is something we talk about a lot in our family. Case in point- my 2 year old son loves to wear his big sister’s dresses. It is fascinating to see how this one clothing choice changes the way the world interacts with him. Yet, when he plays loud and rough he is “all boy”. We constantly challenge those gender stereotypes as they come up (which is almost everyday). Boys can wear dresses. Girls can have short hair. Boys can play with baby dolls. Girls can be loud and climb things.

Whether you like or dislike the Atlantic article as written, one thing that I think even critics can agree with is that the foundation of any healthy identity development must be affirmation, love and support.  It stood out to me that many of the young people in the article were surrounded by affirming and supportive parents and had the means and ability to access medical professionals who also affirmed their identity. This is not the case for many young people in this country. We all can do our part to create a more affirming and loving society- in our homes, communities and institutions. Below are lists some actions I came up with, and would love to hear others from anyone reading this as well!

-       Support statewide policies that make access to medical services for trans and gender-non-confirming youth available and affordable.

-       Make sure your state department of education and school district has a non-discrimination and student rights policy that includes trans and gender-nonconforming students as a part of Title IX, as Federal guidance on the issue was rolled back by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

-       Support your school to have an all-user bathroom and policies that allow students to use the locker room that aligns with their gender identity.

-       Call students by their preferred pronouns. Let them wear clothing that makes them feel good.

-       Ensure comprehensive sexuality education includes information and skill building around respect for people with different gender identities.

-       Bring voices from the trans/gender non-conforming community into your classroom. Engage your school’s Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) and reach out to organizations run by and for folks in the trans and gender non-conforming community.

-       Challenge stereotypical gender norms and tell the young people in your life you love them, for who they are, daily.

-       Support and donate to organizations in your community that serve trans and gender non-conforming youth and families.



-       The Trevor Project

-       Human Rights Campaign, Welcoming Schools professional development program.

-       Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project