Dr. Richard Savage is Executive Director of California Connections Academy, a network of high-quality tuition-free online public schools serving K-12 students in various counties across California via six school sites.

As the Executive Director of an online public school, I’ve seen so many children who were previously struggling because they felt like square pegs forced into round holes. As parents, we can all relate to the age-old challenge of trying to fit in at school, while the evolution of our culture and modern technology has raised the stakes. Studies show youth anxiety and depression are on the rise, as nearly 70% of teens view this as a major problem, with 55% of youth also viewing bullying as a major problem.

When a child is socially or emotionally distraught, their ability to learn will be impacted. A top driver for parents enrolling their children in our schools is the desire for safe environment, while more than half of enrolled students cited the safe environment as a benefit. And when we dug deeper into the profiles of students who attend Connections Academy, 13 percent of students enrolled due to bullying at their previous school.

Whether a long-term or temporary solution, I’ve seen many success stories of students switching to our school with parents exclaiming, “I got my kid back!”

When faced with social and emotional challenges, some effective strategies I’ve seen include:

Remove them from a toxic environment and / or stressor

When a child resists their current academic environment, consider other options. When their social environment is toxic, with constant stressors – from bullies to even social anxiety – changing that environment can give them freedom to express who they are. This autonomy can allow them to better focus on getting an education, and the space to learn new tools to deal with stressors.

Look for the source

As an educator, if I suspect social or emotional issues with a student, I want to ensure the parents are aware and involved. But as a parent, and a principal who has witnessed many incidents of bullying and conflict, I can’t emphasize how important it is to dig into the source of your child’s challenges. The expression of distress, which usually materializes itself as acting out, always has an origin, and inquiring in a non-judgmental way will increase their desire to share what’s really going on, allowing you to more successfully work together to find a solution.

Encourage and help facilitate fellowship

Another benefit for many students who come to our school is finding other students with likeminded interests they can relate to. When sports, student government, or other traditional extracurriculars don’t resonate with a child, perhaps they just need to find their own niche. Encouraging the exploration of unique hobbies and creating ways they can connect with likeminded peers, can boost their social confidence, which can extend to their academics.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Just like if your child was physically ill, a medical specialist could be in order to give them the mental health support they need. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has various online resources and 24/7 helplines. From services to peer support, you and your family are not alone.

About Dr. Richard Savage

Dr. Richard Savage is Executive Director of California Connections Academy, a network of high-quality tuition-free online public schools serving K-12 students in various counties across California via six school sites. He brings more than 20 years of education experience, from in the classroom, to the sports field, and as an administrator. He began his career as a high school Spanish teacher, volleyball coach and soccer coach, and then eventually Vice Principal at Antelope Valley High School, a socio-economically-challenged urban high school in Southern California with an under-served population of more than 2,500 students. Then, as school principal at Calistoga Junior/Senior High School, a rural school serving students in grades 7-12 located at the northern end of the Napa Valley, Dr. Savage coordinated a Distinguished School Award, a successful six-year accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and school-wide project-based learning implementation. He believes that all children can learn, that technology is an integral part of the educational process, and that the teacher-student relationship is an essential component of a child’s education. As a father of four, Dr. Savage understands the educational needs and concerns of parents.


About:  We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device.

Peace on earth begins with peace at home.

Core Connectivity – A Foundation to Empower Families



Core Connectivity is an initiative of Banana Moments Foundation. When you shop at Amazon via AmazonSmile, Amazon will make a donation to Banana Moments Foundation.


Joanna Jullien, Founder & CEO of Core Connectivity
Photo by: Victoria Hatch

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.