The Teen Brain is Under Construction: 5 Tips to Help Parents Get Their Teens Through Adolescence

Posted January 30th, 2013

The teen brain is mysterious. Parents often stand in disbelief as their teen’s behavior fluctuates from acting like a 22 year old one second to a 2 year old the next.  Believe it or not, this is actually normal behavior.  The teen brain is still under construction and differs greatly from an adult’s in the way it makes decisions and solves problems.

There are three main areas of the brain that are struggling to grow, interact, connect and develop during the teen years.  These three areas of the brain make up the pre-frontal lobes.  The pre-frontal lobes regulate logic, common sense, judgment, reality, and problem solving.  All of these skills are part of the journey that will continue until the mid-twenties when hopefully the brain becomes fully developed as an “adult brain.”

A perfect example of a teen brain under construction is 21 year old Manti Te’o!  Spoken like a true parent, Manti’s dad, said on Katie Couric’s show, “he’s not a liar; he’s a kid.”   Until a teen’s brain is fully developed they will struggle to develop mature problem solving skills and will make bad decisions.  Due to hormone surges there are a lot of emotional mood swings and struggles with sorting reality from fiction.

It may not always be easy, but a parent is still the biggest influence in a teen’s life and does not have to stand idly by. Parent Action for Healthy Kids offers these 5 tips for parents to help their teens make healthy choices while their brains are still under construction:

1.  Provide lots of physical contact, from hugs to rough housing;
2. Speak and show love as much as possible;
3. Constantly nurture by protecting, supporting and encouraging;
4. Communicate clearly without yelling and lecturing;
5. Allow teens to face logical consequences whenever possible.

Parents who would like to gain more knowledge about the adolescent brain, as it relates to sexual behavior and decision making, are invited to register for the Talk Early & Talk Often℠ Parent Connection Conference. The conference is being held on March 2, 2013 in Livonia, Michigan for parents of middle and high school aged youth. The keynote address, The Adolescent Brain: Under Construction, will humorously explore the mysteries of the adolescent brain. This conference will be the first ever sex education conference exclusively for parents. For additional information and to register, visit

Be sure to use the hashtag #TPCC2013 when tweeting about the conference, or when looking for tweets about the conference.

Parent Action for Healthy Kids Announces the First Ever Sex Education Conference Exclusively for Parents

Parent Action for Healthy Kids, with support from the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Michigan Department of Education, is excited to announce the first ever sex education conference designed just for parents. Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their children and yet talking early and often about sex can be a real challenge for parents. The Talk Early & Talk Often℠ Parent Connection Conference will offer parents of middle and high school aged youth the opportunity to learn how to talk to their children about sex. The conference, loaded with workshops, will highlight the facts about sexually transmitted diseases, how to navigate through sexting, texting and social media, how parents can work together to support effective sex education and much more.

This first of its kind conference is the brainchild of Barb Flis, Founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.  Flis’ track record for parent workshops, webinars and trainings debunks the myth that parents don’t support sex education.
“Hosting a sex ed conference exclusively for parents has been a dream of mine since I first started working with parents on this topic,” said Flis.  “For nearly two decades I have been hearing from parents that they want more content and more information.  More than anything parents have said they want to connect with other parents for support. They are thirsty for information, and this conference will finally give them exactly what they are asking for.”

The conference keynote address, The Adolescent Brain:  Under Construction, will humorously explore the mysteries of the adolescent brain and how the adult and adolescent brain are different.  Also, for parents who want to hear the real deal unfiltered, the conference will close with a panel of teens engaging parents in an honest conversation about how to make the most out of parent/teen relationships. The keynote, youth panel, as well as conference workshops, will provide parents with the knowledge and skills necessary to help their children make it through adolescence.

The conference will take place Saturday, March 2, 2013 from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the VisTaTech Center – Schoolcraft College, Livonia, Michigan. Conference fee is $25 / $35 after January 21.  Parents must pre-register; there will be no on-site registration the day of the event.  The conference includes a continental breakfast and lunch.

A pre-conference workshop, Roles & Responsibilities When Serving on Your School’s Sex Education Advisory Board, will be held on Friday, March 1, 2013 from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the VisTaTech Center – Schoolcraft College. The Pre-Conference is intended for parents who serve on a Sex Education Advisory Board (SEAB), or would like to learn more about the SEAB’s roles and responsibilities.  Pre-Conference registration is $25 and includes dinner.
Visit for conference information and to register.  Be sure to use the hashtag #TPCC2013 when tweeting about conference, or when looking for tweets about conference.


Talk Early & Talk Often℠ (TETO) was developed by Parent Action for Healthy Kids with support from the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Michigan Department of Education.  Since its roll out in 2005, it has received high praise from parents and media. The initiative has now expanded from workshops across the state of Michigan to a conference exclusively for parents in March 2013 and a growing social network for parents. The Talk Early & Talk Often Parent Connection Conference will be held in Livonia, Michigan.

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Wayne State The Magazine: Barb Flis Changing Lives

Wayne State alumni are making a difference in their community through their work and volunteer activities.


Life.Learn ‘02

“Reaching parents is my niche. It doesn’t seem hard to me, yet it is so stifling
to other people.”

When former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm wanted to launch a pregnancy prevention
initiative for middle school-age children, her staff reached out to the Michigan Department
of Education and Michigan Department of Community Health. However, when it was decided
that someone on the task force should represent parents, staffers sent out the call to an
unassuming home in Farmington Hills.

“You’ve got to have Barb Flis,” they told the governor.

At the time, Flis (“rhymes with ‘bliss,’” she says with a laugh), who went on to establish
the organization Parent Action for Healthy Kids and become one of America’s leading advocates
for health and sex education in schools, wasn’t sure she wanted to be gotten.
“There I am, going to the governor’s office and meeting with her assistants,” she remembers.
“I’m thinking, ‘You can’t possibly want me.’ And they’re asking, ‘Is this something you
would like to do?’ I’m like, ‘Whoa!’

“So I come home and say to my oldest daughter, ‘Julie, I don’t know. This is big and she’s
the governor. One slip on this sex education stuff and she could be mud.’ Julie goes, ‘Mom!
Do us a favor and just take it! Because if you don’t, we’ll have to hear about how the person
they appoint could have done it better and that’s not how you would have done it. So just
cut to the chase and do it!’”

Flis, Life.Learn ‘02, has listened to her two daughters since they were schoolchildren
because she considers herself a mother above all. (Both grown, Julie lives in Royal Oak; Mary
teaches dance in Chicago.) But heeding their words and dedicating herself to their learning
environment frequently thrust Flis into situations far outside her comfort zone. She credits
— and praises — the interdisciplinary studies degree from Wayne State she earned as an
adult for helping her transform her commitment into a career while handling whatever challenges
it presents — even a call for advice from First Lady Michelle Obama.

“My daughters certainly played a part in my doing this work, but taking to this level, I
never could have dreamed it, charted it or set it as a goal,” says Flis, who receives federal
funding from agencies like the CDC to develop programs aimed at helping parents improve
kids’ health. “If you’re listening, the universe directs you to where you should go. I was
definitely directed to the (Wayne State) program because I’m an out-of-the-box thinker. I
felt so odd because of that, then I went to a program that encouraged it. It’s interdisciplinary
studies, and that’s what I do now.

“I work with parents and connect them, with schools and other parents. Because I got
so involved in Northville, I saw what schools had to go through, how parents felt, and I saw
the disconnect. It wasn’t intentional, but they weren’t putting themselves in each other’s
shoes. You have to be an interdisciplinarian to do that.”

Laurie Bechhofer, HIV education consultant for the Michigan Department of Health, says
Flis is passionate about improving the health and well-being of Michigan young people.
“She sees parents as true partners to engage, not just tacitly involve, in change,” Bechhofer
says. “She gets how to connect with people and inspire them to take action.”

Born in Detroit, Flis felt she “didn’t get the best education at all” in the private Catholic
schools she attended. “I wanted my children to get what I didn’t have, so I became really
involved in their education.”

She raised her daughters in suburban Northville, primarily because of its school system, and
became so invested as a volunteer that she was elected PTA president.
Even so, equipped at the time with only a two-year degree earned in the ‘70s from an area
community college, “I always felt everybody knew more than I did,” Flis admits. “I felt I didn’t
have an education. So I just kind of sat back. I was a silent observer.”

However, when a parent came to her and accused the school system of “hypnotizing” students
with its health education program, her one-woman investigation went from the principal
to the district curriculum director to a seat on the school board committee looking into the
coursework. From that point on, Flis became an energetic representative for parents.
“I’m sitting with people who have Ph.D.s and I knew nothing about curriculum, let alone
health education,” she recalls. “I think I felt so strongly about advocating for kids that I overcame
my fear of not feeling smart or confident enough to serve.

“I didn’t realize until I went back to school at Wayne State that I am a lifelong learner, and
I ask a lot of questions,” says Flis, who was active on Student Council and president of the
College of Lifelong Learning Student Senate despite being in her 40s. “I didn’t know that about
myself then. I’ll never forget my first class with Professor Roz Schindler, Introduction to Interdisciplinary
Studies. I can still feel the fear I had. I was so nervous. But once I started taking
classes, all of a sudden I realized that this odd person I felt that I was, always asking questions,
was actually embraced by these professors. They’re going, ‘Gosh, you ask good questions! Keep
asking them.’ So I know that now. Now I don’t care if it’s a stupid question. I ask it.”
She had a slew of questions last year when the White House came calling for guidance. Mrs.
Obama wanted input on the parent portion of her “Let’s Move” website to help end childhood

“You’ve got to have Barb Flis,” somebody at the CDC told her team. It was a bittersweet
acknowledgment: the same week she was flown to Washington, her father, Frank Patak, who led
the construction crews that enclosed Northland and Eastland malls, passed away.

“Several months later when they released the website I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, they actually
listened!’” Flis marvels. “I said, make it easy for parents, they need answers quickly, and take
away any language that is shaming or blaming. When our babies are born we automatically feel
inadequate as parents. We don’t need anybody else judging us.”

Flis continues to support “Let’s Move” on her own website,
“Everybody throws up their hands and says, ‘What can we do?’ How can we reach parents?’” she
says. “They say when you have a business you need a niche. Well, reaching parents is my niche.
It doesn’t seem hard to me, yet it is so stifling to other people.

“Then we have to work with schools to not get defensive when parents ask them questions.
It’s always both sides. We can both be teacher-learners.”
— Jim McFarlin


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Zeeland Parent Recognized as Grand Prize Winner in Health Champion Hall of Fame Contest

Posted May 17th, 2012

Lansing, MI – Amy Sheerhorn, a parent from Lincoln Elementary School, is the grand prize winner in the Michigan Department of Education’s Team Nutrition Health Champion Hall of Fame.  Sheerhorn was recognized for her involvement in shaping new health standards for snacks during school fundraisers and parties at Lincoln Elementary School.

Amy has helped make healthier changes in the school possible by being an active member of a parent advisory group that has implemented healthy snack alternatives in the schools snack shack. Not only is Amy recognized for standing as a strong health advocate in food programs at Lincoln Elementary School, but she also leads the Walk It school wide walking program, and has successfully engaged students to participate in the program events.

“With Amy’s passion for building a healthy lifestyle for our youth, and support of our school, the parent advisory group was able to bring healthy snack alternatives to Lincoln Elementary food programs,” said Kelly Adkins, who nominated Scheerhorn for Health Champion Hall of Fame induction.  “Thanks to Amy’s dedication and continuous advocating, students at our elementary school can choose nutritious snacks, and get involved in programs that promote physical activity. She not only is helping create a healthier school environment, but she is leaving a positive impact on the lives of all the students.”

Because of Sheerhorn’s dedication to making healthy the easy choice for students at Lincoln Elementary School and as a reward for induction into the Michigan Team Nutrition Health Champion Hall of Fame, the United Dairy Industry of Michigan has made it possible for students at Lincoln Elementary to be treated to an afternoon with Former Detroit Lions All-pro, Herman Moore.  Moore will be onsite at the school on May 21, 2012 teaching students how to make a healthy “Power Smoothie” during their lunch time. 

The Michigan Team Nutrition Health Champion Hall of Fame, which began in March, sought out nominations of parents who do their best to bring healthy options to students while they are at school. 

“We are thrilled to honor Amy Sheerhorn as the 2012 Health Champion grand prize winner,” said Nick Drzal, Michigan Team Nutrition Co-Director.  “It is parents like Amy that shape a healthy future for our students, and empower the rest of the community to get involved, and become health advocates as well.”


About Michigan Team Nutrition

Michigan Team Nutrition is funded through a United States Department of Agriculture grant awarded to the Michigan Department of Education. It is a national initiative designed to motivate, encourage, and empower schools, families and the community to work together to continually improve school meals and to make food and physical activity choices for a healthy lifestyle.  It is a team effort that involves schools, families, and the community in providing nutrition education to kids.  Join Michigan Team Nutrition on facebook  and follow them on Twitter at


# # #


In accordance with Federal Law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.  To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call toll free (866) 632-9992 (Voice).  Individuals who are hearing impaired or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339; or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish).   USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


Lisa Gill

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Rockford Parent Recognized as Runner Up in Health Champion Hall of Fame Contest

Lansing, MI – Dana Kraus has been recognized as the runner up in the Michigan Department of Education’s Team Nutrition Health Champion Hall of Fame.  Kraus was recognized for her dedication to creating healthy environments through healthy fundraising tactics at Lakes Elementary School in Rockford.

Kraus, along with the Lakes Elementary PTO, created a fundraiser called “Move n’ Groove”.  The walk-a-thon encouraged students to make healthy choices and lead active lifestyles.  Students collected donations to Move’n Groove around a track at the school.  The walk-a-thon was made extra special and fun for students with music, hula-hoops, limbo, and other fun activities around the course. The fundraiser raised $14,500 to support classroom grants, library books, assemblies, DARE, musical adventures and other programs.

“Fundraising is important to most schools, but more important is the health and wellness of our students and staff,” said Jennifer Olsen, who nominated Kraus for Health Champion Hall of Fame induction.  “Dana’s ingenuity allowed Lakes Elementary to combine both fundraising and wellness into one successful and fun event. This is an event we will continue for years to come.”

The Michigan Team Nutrition Health Champion Hall of Fame, which began in March, sought out nominations of parents who do their best to bring healthy options to students while they are at school.

“We are excited that we have the chance to recognize Dana for her commitment and enthusiasm to creating healthy environments for young people,” said Nick Drzal, Michigan Team Nutrition Co-Director.  “Dana and Lankes Elementary are setting a great example for schools everywhere.”

About Michigan Team Nutrition

Michigan Team Nutrition is funded through a United States Department of Agriculture grant awarded to the Michigan Department of Education. It is a national initiative designed to motivate, encourage, and empower schools, families and the community to work together to continually improve school meals and to make food and physical activity choices for a healthy


lifestyle.  It is a team effort that involves schools, families, and the community in providing

nutrition education to kids.  Join Michigan Team Nutrition on facebook  and follow them on Twitter at


# # #


In accordance with Federal Law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.  To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call toll free (866) 632-9992 (Voice).  Individuals who are hearing impaired or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339; or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish).   USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


Contact: Lisa Gill

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“Activist turns from sex ed to food ed for White House”

Posted May 27th, 2010

Thank you, Laura Berman, for supporting my Call to Action in your Detroit News column today! Read the column from today’s Detroit News below.

If you haven’t already, join my Call to Action for Parents and let’s work together, support each other, and raise healthier kids! 

May 27, 2010         The Detroit News  

Activist turns from sex ed to food ed for White House


It says something about these times in which we live that the state of Michigan’s go-to sex educator is turning her thoughts, and expertise, to another area that excites passions and desire: food.

Sex and food have much in common, says Barb Flis, including this central key to talking about either one: “You can’t blame them or shame them.”

Her sudden turnabout in subject matter is a direct result of a call from the White House in March, when Flis was summoned to Washington: The first lady’s team wanted to hear her thoughts about getting parents involved in kids eating healthier foods and exercising more.

At that point, Michelle Obama was preparing to roll out her “Let’s Move” program (“> Flis offered very specific expertise: For a dozen years, she’s been working with parents to help schools devise sex education curriculums. Her forte is defusing the emotion around a sensitive subject and getting people to talk — and to understand the importance of good information, rationally delivered.

What works for sex ought to work for food.

With childhood obesity rates at epidemic proportions, and the first lady campaigning to intervene, Flis opted to help: If her advice was useful to Washington, why not help with the effort, she reasoned.

“The government isn’t going to be able to create change,” says Flis. “Parents are going to have to.”

Now she’s reaching out to activists like Rachael Hilliker, a Lansing-area government worker and mom, who is screening “Two Angry Moms,” in Lansing next month — a documentary about two women who declared war on their local school lunch program and actually created change.

She’s made contact with a couple of Chelsea neophyte gardeners who named their community vegetable gardening effort, undertaken with the help of a master gardener, “Two Dirty Virgins and a Hoe.”

See? There’s that link between food and sex again. “There are a lot of similarities: It’s all about practicing good behaviors, good habits, thinking critically about how you act — or eat,” she says.

And she’s incorporated Obama’s official “Let’s Move” banner into her own website, Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

Flis is working on a statewide survey of parents that will canvas health habits, the state of school lunch programs, and how parents plan meals and snacks.

Activists like Hilliker — who sees herself launching a grass roots effort to force healthier school lunches — are part of her focus. But after a decade of talking about sex with parents and teens, she believes in the wisdom of a gentle approach.

As an advocate for making good choices, Flis was already a fairly healthy eater. But even she has adopted better habits over the past few months. She stopped eating sweetened low-calorie yogurt, switching to a high protein, unsweetened Greek-style brand.

She kicked the diet soda habit, after reading that artificial sweeteners can cause food cravings. Now she intends to quietly encourage others to change their behavior, in their homes.

Wary of being panned as a “food Nazi” or health nut, Flis is more educator than activist. She’s all in favor of small changes, duly rewarded.

So join the movement: Steam up a batch of broccoli and brown rice, exercise for 30 minutes, and congratulate yourself.

Laura Berman’s column runs Tuesday and Thursday in Metro. Reach her at“> or call (313) 222-2032

℠ Copyright 2010 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.

First-ever national standards for sexuality educations in public schools have been released

Posted January 25th, 2012

New Gold Standard for Sexuality Education in Public Schools.  I am happy to say that I assisted with the review process of these new standards to give the parent perspective. Let me know if you have questions. 

For Immediate Release – January 9, 2012

Four leading health organizations released the first-ever
national standards for sexuality education in schools. Published in
the Journal of School Health, the ground-breaking National Sexuality
Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12 provide clear,
consistent, and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum,
core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and
age-appropriate for students in grades Kindergarten through grade 12.

The standards are the result of a cooperative effort by the American
Association of Health Education, the American School Health
Association, the National Education Association Health Information
Network, and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical
Education, in coordination with the Future of Sex Education (FoSE)
Initiative. Nearly 40 stakeholders including content experts, medical
and public health professionals, teachers, sexuality educators, and
young people developed the standards in a two-year process.

“These National Sexuality Education Standards provide teachers,
schools, school districts, and state education agencies with a new
national standard—the minimum they need to teach to set students on a
path to sexual health and responsible adulthood,” said Jerry Newberry,
Executive Director of the National Education Association Health
Information Network (NEA HIN). “They set forth essential sexuality
education core content and skills responsive to the needs of students
and in service to their overall academic achievement.”

For years, research has highlighted the need to provide effective,
comprehensive sexuality education to young people. The United States
has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized
world and teens bear a disproportionate impact of the sexually
transmitted disease (STD) and HIV epidemics facing our nation. One in
four sexually active teens has a STD and two young people every hour
become HIV positive. Furthermore, there is also a pressing need to
address harassment, bullying, and relationship violence in our
schools, which have a significant impact on a student’s emotional and
physical well-being as well as their academic success. The National
Sexuality Education Standards set the groundwork for the minimum of
what sexuality education should look like in America’s public schools.

“These standards are presented in a user-friendly way, making it
possible for a health education teacher or parent, say, of a
seventh-grader, to easily find out what is the next step in the
learning process for a thirteen-year-old in regards to sexual health,”
said Stephen Conley, Executive Director of the American School Health

The standards focus on seven topics as the minimum, essential content
and skills for K–12 education: Anatomy and Physiology; Puberty and
Adolescent Development; Identity; Pregnancy and Reproduction; Sexually
Transmitted Diseases and HIV; Healthy Relationships; and, Personal
Safety. Topics are presented using performance indicators—what
students should know and be able to do by the end of grades 2, 5, 8,
and 12—and are based on the National Health Education Standards.

“The National Sexuality Education Standards translate an emerging body
of research related to school-based sexuality education so that it can
be put into practice in the classroom,” said Brian Griffith, President
Elect of the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical
Education. “These standards, developed by education and health
professionals, present sexual development as a normal, natural,
healthy part of human development that should be a part of every
health education curriculum.”

The National Sexuality Education Standards were developed to address
the inconsistent implementation of sexuality education nationwide and
the limited time allocated to teaching the topic. General health
education is given very little time in the school curriculum. Even
less time is dedicated to sexuality education. According to the School
Health Policies and Practices Study, a national survey conducted by
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of
Adolescent School Health, a median total of 17.2 hours is devoted to
instruction in HIV, pregnancy, and STD prevention: 3.1 hours in
elementary, 6 hours in middle, and 8.1 hours in high school. Studies
have repeatedly found that health programs in school can help young
people succeed academically and programs that included health
education have a positive effect on overall academic outcomes,
including reading and math scores.

To view the complete National Sexuality Education Standards, click
here. To schedule an interview, please contact Danene Sorace,
Consultant to the FoSE Initiative, at 717.585.0503.


The American Association of Health Education serves educators and
other professionals who promote the health of all people through
education and health promotion strategies.

The American School Health Association works to build the capacity of
its members to plan, develop, coordinate, implement, evaluate and
advocate for effective school health strategies that contribute to
optimal health and academic outcomes for all children and youth.

The National Education Association – Health Information Network works
to improve the health and safety of the school community through
disseminating information that empowers school professionals and
positively impacts the lives of their students.

The Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education utilizes
advocacy, partnerships, professional development and resources to
build the capacity of school health leaders to implement effective
health education and physical education policies and practices that
support success in school, work and life.

The Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative is a partnership between
Advocates for Youth, Answer, and the Sexuality Information and
Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) that seeks to create a national
dialogue about the future of sex education and to promote the
institutionalization of comprehensive sexuality education in public
schools. To learn more and view the complete National Sexuality
Education Standards, please visit

About me

I’m Barb Flis, Founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids. I insist that every parent has the power to make a difference. I’m a parent guru, a published expert in advocating for children’s health, and most importantly, a mother of two daughters. My focus lies in connecting families, schools and communities on children’s social, emotional and physical health. Areas of work include asthma, diabetes, sex education, mental health, school wellness programs, physical activity and nutrition. I design and implement trainings and workshops for parents, teachers, school administrators, public health professionals and community-based organizations. I’m also motivational speaker throughout my home state of Michigan and across the United States.


School Attendance Myths

Kids come out ahead when schools and parents work together to keep all kids healthy and in school.  Did you know that one in 10 kindergarten and 1st grade students misses at least a month of school every year.  And do you realize the hours of precious class time used to repeat material to help children catch up.  If we can get schools to look at chronic absence patterns the answer will be clear …. working with parents and community to keep kids healthy and in school.  Click on this link to read more from Education Week Attendance Counts: 5 Myths about School Attendance by Hedy Chang.

Grand Rapids Family magazine October 2010 Issue

Moms Today: Calling for action

Michigan Mom Barb Flis was one of 10 parents nation-wide invited to the White House to help Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, designed to reduce childhood obesity and raise a healthier generation of children.

The Farmington Hills mother of two daughters has since launched her own grassroots initiative, Parent Action for Healthy Kids.




Fuel Up To Play 60 Kickoff to School Health

Posted September 24th, 2010

On Tuesday, September 28, I’m leading a group at the Fuel Up To Play 60 Kickoff to School Health at Ford Field in Detroit.  The kickoff will highlight the importance of student leadership in creating a healthy school environment where nutrient rich foods and physical activity are top priority.  Approximately 32 schools and 400 students and adults from throughout Michigan will be participating.

It is a really cool event and I’ll be a referee for a school team that consists of 5 middle school students and 5 adults/teachers from their school.

The First Lady is even getting in on the Fuel Up To Play 60 action taking place across the county.  This week, as part of her Let’s Move! initiative to raise a healthier generation of kids, she joined children and NFL players for football drills during a Fuel Up To Play 60 event in New Orleans.

First Lady and the NFL's Fuel Up To PLay 60 program

In addition to the in-school wellness program, the NFL’s Fuel Up To Play 60 also hosts Youth Football Camps, flag football, and more. Go to to learn about events and camps in your area.  If you live in the Detroit area, get on the Summer Youth Football Camp mailing list for next year’s camp schedule.  Email your name, mailing address and phone number to and Play 60!

Here are excerpts from the official Detroit Lions press release about the Fuel Up To Play 60 program and kickoff event at Ford Field. Get your school involved in the Fuel Up To Play 60 program today!

Click here to view the press release in it’s entirety. 

The Michigan Departments of Education and Community Health; United Dairy Industry of Michigan; and the Detroit Lions are joining forces to support the Fuel Up to Play 60 Kickoff to School Health, which highlights Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school wellness program launched by the National Football League and National Dairy Council, in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture. Fuel Up to Play 60 encourages kids to “fuel up” with nutrient-rich food choices and “to play 60” by getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Many children are overweight and undernourished—missing out on important nutrients because they are not making the proper food choices. With these health risks, it’s possible that today’s children could become the first American generation with a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Students at the Kickoff will learn healthy eating and physical activity “plays”— action strategies that will help create healthier school environments.

“Students and staff who attend the Kickoff will learn ways to implement these lessons in their own schools by participating in hands-on activities, which we hope will inspire them to eat right, remain active, and encourage others to do so as well,” said Mike Flanagan, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Michigan Department of Education, “Youth are empowered to take action at their schools and develop their own road maps to better fitness and nutrition through Fuel Up to Play 60.”

The Kickoff’s pre-game and first half events include a well-balanced breakfast and an interactive session focused on the link between learning and movement, led by author and international speaker Jean Blaydes Madigan. In addition, rookie attendees will learn all about Fuel Up to Play 60 from “MVP Teams”, schools that implemented the program during the 2009-2010 school year.

Attendees will take the field for “training camp” where Detroit Lions’ Defensive End Kyle Vanden Bosch, Former Pro Bowler Luther Elliss, and the Detroit Lions’ trainers will lead students in NFL drills and skills. At halftime, a “Try It, You’ll Like It” tailgate lunch will encourage teams to sample new healthy menu selections, including whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables, and vote on items they think the fans in their school would like best.

During the second half, Go Comedy!, a metro-Detroit professional improvisational group, will perform skits on the importance of good nutrition and engaging in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, and will lead an interactive workshop to help teams prep for Fuel Up to Play 60 Kickoffs and Challenges in their own schools. The day concludes with Detroit Lions’ Kicker, Jason Hanson, and Elliss sharing tips on how professional athletes eat healthy and play hard for optimal performance.

The Fuel Up to Play 60 Kickoff to School Health is designed to inspire and motivate students to take action for their health by moving more and eating smarter, an overall win for Michigan health. For more information, log on to

About Fuel Up to Play 60
Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and NFL, with additional partnership support from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods (low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and achieve 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Fuel Up to Play 60 is designed to engage and empower youth to take action for their own health by implementing long-term, positive changes for themselves and their schools. Customizable and non-prescriptive program components are grounded in research with youth, including tools and resources, in-school promotional materials, a website and student challenges. Fuel Up to Play 60 is further supported by several health and nutrition organizations: Action for Healthy Kids, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association and School Nutrition Association. Visit to learn more. Media resources, including related video footage and photos are available at

About National Dairy Council
National Dairy Council® (NDC) is the nutrition research, education and communications arm of Dairy Management Inc™. On behalf of U.S. dairy farmers, NDC provides science-based nutrition information to, and in collaboration with, a variety of stakeholders committed to fostering a healthier society, including health professionals, educators, school nutrition directors, academia, industry, consumers and media. Established in 1915, NDC is dedicated to educating the public on the health benefits of consuming milk and milk products throughout a person’s lifespan. For more information, visit

About NFL PLAY 60
Designed to help tackle childhood obesity, NFL PLAY 60 brings together the NFL‟s long-standing commitment to health and fitness with partner organizations like the National Dairy Council. NFL PLAY 60 is also implemented locally, as part of the NFL’s in-school, after-school and team-based programs. For more information, visit

Rachael Hilliker received the “Call” and “Took Action”

To support and raise awareness of September now being *Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, I would like to tell you about a parent who signed on to our Call to Action and is really taking action! 

In May I blogged about Rachael Hilliker.  She’s still taking action and is still as bound and determined as ever to change the food that is being served in public schools.

Rachael is hosting various screenings of “Two Angry Moms”, a documentary about food served in public schools and how we can change it through school gardens, nutrition classes, buying local farm foods, etc.  Following each screening Rachael will speak to parents about what parents and community members can do in regards to lobbying for change, grants for school gardens, and the upcoming AmeriCorps FoodCorps which will be placing service members in schools across the country to implement school gardens, farm to school programs and nutrition curriculum’s, as well as legislative lobbying.

If you are interested in attending a viewing, show times and locations are as follows:

Saturday, September 25th, 2010 will be hosting a free screening at 10am at Celebration! Cinemas in Lansing (on Edgewood Blvd).

Saturday, September 25th, 2010 Natural Families of Kalamazoo will be hosting a free screening at 5pm at People’s Church in Kalamazoo.

Sunday, September 26th, 2010 Slow Food Huron Valley and the Ann Arbor District Library will be hosting a free screening at 2pm at the library’s downtown main location in Ann Arbor.

Keep up the “Action”, Rachael!


*On March 26, 2010, a resolution was unanimously passed in the Senate to designate September 2010 as “National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month”, bringing national attention to a growing epidemic among youth in the United States.

Mom appointed president of adolescent sexual health organization

Posted September 15th, 2010

I am honored and excited to announce that on September 10, 2010 I was elected as the new board president of the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH).  I look forward to working collaboratively with parents to address the growing number of teen births and the issue of adolescent sexual health. 

Here’s the official announcement and information about MOASH.

Mom appointed President of statewide adolescent sexual health organization

The Board of Directors of the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH) recently announced the election of Barbara Flis as president.  The aim of the non-governmental state-level 501(c)3 is to provide statewide leadership on evidence-based approaches to adolescent sexual health and pregnancy prevention. Flis, mother of two and founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids, joined the MOASH board as treasure in 2009.  Flis’ responsibilities will begin in September.  

“We are truly blessed to have Barb Flis as our new president,” said Cheryl Gibson Fountain, MD, FACOG-President Wayne County Medical Society of Southeast Michigan and MOASH Board Member. “Barb is an extremely kind, caring, compassionate person who is well known and respected for her tireless dedication and work on behalf of our children, families and communities in our state.  I look forward to Barb’s leadership as she continues to play a key role in shaping the manner in which we serve the needs of our adolescents.” 

“I am honored to be elected President of MOASH”, said Flis. “Our board represents diverse organizations.  For this board to put at the helm a person representing the parent constituency, speaks volumes about the importance of working collaboratively to address the issue of adolescent sexual health.  For the first time in fourteen years the teen birth rate has increased.  The total cost to Michigan taxpayers with regard to teen childbearing, in Federal and state funds, was conservatively estimated at $302 million for 2004.  These public costs include lost tax revenue, health care, and child welfare costs.  If we want to create a vibrant workforce and brighter future for Michigan’s youth, families, and the economy then we must all take a vested interest.    Together we can empower young people in Michigan to make informed decisions on sexual health, pregnancy prevention and parenthood.”

Flis has more than 15 years of experience advocating for children’s health issues and working collaboratively with parents, schools and community in the arena of health, HIV and sexuality education. She is a nationally recognized expert, keynoting conferences for professionals working in school health, teen pregnancy prevention, and parent engagement arenas. Her work coordinating the Michigan Talk Early & Talk Often℠ program, designed to help parents gain knowledge and skills to talk to their middle school children about abstinence and sexuality, has been cited in national press including Newsweek. Her inspiration for this work comes from her grass-roots experience being “just a parent” in a suburban Detroit community.

MOASH, established in 2009, empowers young people in Michigan to make informed decisions on sexual health, pregnancy prevention and parenthood.  Their Mission is to provide statewide leadership on adolescent sexual health, pregnancy prevention and parenting, through education, advocacy, capacity-building and creative partnerships. For more information send an email to


**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids and president of the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH).

Back to School – Proof that “Our Babies Don’t Keep”

Posted September 7th, 2010

Nothing marks the passage of time more than the first day back to school.  Our kids are another year older, and another year closer to growing up and flying out of the nest!  I can feel the anxiety in the air, mixed emotions — excited to go back, and yet dreading to see summers’ end.
Remember these words from Fred Rogers Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss.  To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind.  Give your kids an extra hug and kiss, send them off to school and congratulate yourself for being a great parent!

A good reason to shut off the TV and get the kids outside!

Posted September 1st, 2010

Children and teens are seeing fewer television advertisements for fruit drinks, regular soda and sweets such as candy, cookies and pastries, according to a study recently published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.  However, youths of all ages are exposed to substantially more TV ads for fast-food resaurants. 

What does this all mean? 

Self-regualtion pledges by major food and beverage companies to eliminate uhealthy TV ads targeting children ages 11 and younger must be monitored and assessed.  As the report indicates advertisers, despite self-regulation pledges, are finding alternative ways to build brand loyalty among kids.  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., said:  “Research shows that marketing has a strong influence on what children consume.  Yet unhealthy foods are still marketed to kids.  Restricting the marketing of uhealthy foods is one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to change what children consume and reduce childhood obesity.  Studies such as this one will help us evaluate the impact of industry self-regulation.”   

Click here to view a summary of the study.

Schools starting and survey shows parents are ready to create healthier learning environments for their kids!

An online survey of parents of children in grades K-12 revealed what we (parents), already knew.  Parents nearly unanimously agree that schools should provide more physical activity throughout the day; and schools should limit access to unhealthy snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages. Nearly two-thirds of the parents surveyed believe schools play a major role in instilling healthy habits in students. 

School will start in just a few weeks.  Now is the time for parents to work with the PTA or other parent groups to make sure schools create a healthier environment for our children.  Go to the resource section of my websit for help in working with your school.  To get ideas, download a copy of the “Let’s Move” nutrition and physical activity toolkit.

The survey was conducted for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation by KRC Research.  You can read the report on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website.

**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action For Healthy Kids.

The First Lady’s “Let’s Move” toolkit for parents is here!

Posted August 16th, 2010

I am so excited and proud to direct you to the First Lady’s Let’s Move website where you can benefit from all the great tools just released for parents.  You might recall that last March I was honored to be one of 10 people invited to Washington D.C. to provide input in developing tools for parents for the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative to end childhood obesity in a generation.  I am so proud to say these great tools are a reflection of what the First Lady’s staff heard from those of us at the table who work with parents and families. 

The links for parents on Let’s Move recognize that parents are busy and benefit most from simple steps that include specific examples of what parents can do to help their families eat healthy and move more.  Whats more, the parent links give you direct, on the spot assistance.  If you are looking for a local playground, just type in your address and you will see a map of your community with all the local playgrounds; the same for nature, outdoor events, forests and parks.  Do you wonder how many fruits and veggies your child needs?  There is a place to type in their age, gender and amount of physical activity and it will give you the exact amount.  These are just a few examples of the support Let’s Move provides to parents. If you are determined or even just a little curious about whether you can help your family eat healthier and move more, then the Let’s Move website is definitely worth exploring. 

I would like to hear how the Let’s Move web site helped you!  Please email me at or send me a message on Facebook.  Include a picture if you like.  I’ll blog about you on my website so that your stories can be shared with others.

Thanks Mrs. Obama for acknowledging the powerful role of parents. 

If you haven’t already, join my Call to Action to raise healthier kids!


Is your family up for the 100 days of eating right challenge?

Posted August 14th, 2010

North Carolina family takes the 100 days of eating right challenge.

After reading “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan, Lisa Leake realized all the junk she was feeding her family.  She and her husband Jason decided to take the challenge! They challenged themselves to eat only “real” food for 100 days.  Processed foods came off their grocery list and they only allow themselves to purchase items with five ingredients or less and nothing they buy is refined.
You can read more about the Leakes in this inspirational article written by Jennifer Rothacker at the Charlotte Observer. Read “100 Days of Eating Right”.  You can also read Lisa Leake’s Food Illusion blog at and her 100 Days blog at  Here you can learn about her 100-day challenge and see if you and your family might consider giving it a try.  Congratulations to the Leake family!


Creative and easy ideas for healthier schools and communities

Posted July 21st, 2010

What a great group of parent leaders at the Kentucky PTA Leadership Convention.  Here I am with Leigh McGuire (left) and Cyndi Gatman (right) from Kelly Elementary and Past Kentucky PTA State President Janice Jackson (center).  Our workshop about the importance of parents when it comes to school health opened the door to many creative and easy to implement ideas like healthier food at classroom parties and PTA meetings, getting kids more physical activity like doing recess before lunch, developing safe walking routes to school and Family Fun Days to raise money as opposed to selling candy. I know many of these will be implemented in the coming school year.

Leigh and Cyndi are anxious to go back to Kelly Elementary with their action plan to make their school and community a healthier place for kids.

Lucky for me, I get to return to Somerset, Kentucky to talk more about school health on November 6th.

Share ideas and learn more on our Facebook page! Look forward to talking to you there. Barb

Leigh McGuire, Cyndi Gatman, Kelly Elementary Janice Jackson


In the words of Erma Bombeck…”flies die from happiness” on the 4th of July

The 4th of July is a time to be with family and friends and get outside and play.  Take a bike ride, a swim, or toss a ball.  Let’s be real, this probably isn’t going to be the day when your eating is going to be 100% healthy. 

In the words of the late Erma Bombeck:   You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July everyone!