Hey all. It's stressful out there. And in here, a little, I'll admit. But that doesn't mean that we have to let that internal feeling of stress/worry/anxiety dictate how we live our lives. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to do something that I don't usually make time for- actively posting here. I will let you know cool resources as I know about them, assure you that you don't have to do anything for schooling your children at home (and they will still learn!) and help you find some sanity. I hope.
Feel free to reach out. Ask questions. Let me know if it's helpful. Let's begin.
Portland Public schools are closed until April 28th. I know it's the right thing for the community safety, but I'm worried. I'm worried about those kids for whom home is not as safe as it could/should be. I worry about how kids who rely on school meals, and school library books and school friends are going to manage. And I also worry about all those parents putting all that pressure on themselves and their kids to school at home.
Worry has done so little for me in my life, but action and gratitude have done so much. The actions I can take around kids' safety includes checking in on friends with kids and encouraging them to do the same. I can share information about where to get meals (schools are providing meals and sites are updated here, so is Laughing Planet) and how to keep those kiddos entertained for one freaking minute so their parents can get some work done (Reese Witherspoon and Oliver Jeffers are reading books every day as are several other folks, Carson Ellis is doing a drawing class every day around 9am and at 10am, so is Wendy MacNaughton ).
And while we're in this crisis, I'm going to use this little blog space to talk about how schooling at home does not have to be horrible/stressful. Yay!
First things first. It's the first week. Take it easy. Your first day of work probably wasn't very productive and your kiddo's first day at home probably won't be either. Maybe not even their first week (or two).
At least, not productive to your mind.
Kids are always learning. And teens are always processing. And adults are often trying to get that to look like something. It's okay if it doesn't. This is the time to start setting up the space. Do you have paper to draw on? Pencils to draw with? Okay, good start. Do you have some books? Have you downloaded Libby yet?
Did you do it? Okay. You're done for today. Take a break- you earned it.
The most recent mass shooting in Orlando had me and my friends discussing the question that every parent seems to be asking, “How am I going to tell my kids?” Some of us may be wondering if we should even tell our kids or what to look out for if our kids are particularly sensitive or easily worried. Here are a few guidelines to talking about tragedy with your kids and some links to other articles that we at Clearer Skies think are especially helpful.
Talking to Kids about Tragedy – 5 Things to Remember
1. Talk to your kids
Like any other important topic in life, if we as parents don’t talk to our kids, other people will. With the advent of social media, it is almost certain that you cannot keep information about tragedy in the world away from even very young children. Even without social media, mass tragedies tend to come up in otherwise benign situations – the cashier may ask what you think of the availability of guns, their schools may suggest an extra lock down drill and so on. Bringing up tragic events like the Orlando shooting can be intimidating, start by asking some direct questions, such as “Have you heard anything about what happened in Orlando?” or “Were you watching the news last night?”
2. Answer questions directly and age appropriately.
Gently correct misperceptions they may have about the incident. Present clear information without exaggeration or conjecture. For the youngest of kids, a clear statement along the lines of "There was a person who hurt people, but there were also lots of people who bravely tried to help and are still helping" can suffice. When older children and teenagers ask more complex questions about motivation or risk, it's okay to say that you don't know the answers, but will help them feel safe however you can.
3. Limit news exposure
Keep in mind that repeated exposure to traumatic information can be overwhelming, even for adults. Limit news exposure for your entire family – get the facts and then focus on processing and healing. Young children, especially, may perceive multiple news reports of the same tragedy as multiple tragedies.
4. Helping and healing
Tragedies such as this recent shooting can make us feel powerless and vulnerable. Participating in a vigil, sending support to the victims or helping another cause nearby can restore a sense of control in our lives. It could be useful to ask your kids to help decide how to help others in this time of crisis to increase their feeling of being helpful.
5. Watch for signs of heightened distress
Our bodies are physical reflections of our emotions, even when we cannot name those feelings. Children often express their emotions through their bodies – they complain of constant aches and pains when they are feeling depressed, they move around a lot or can’t sleep when they are anxious. Hearing distressing news can have a lasting impact on children, especially the closer that they are to the event. If you’re worried about your kids’ reactions, seek extra support. These are times in which it doesn’t hurt to offer extra love or support or kindness – to anyone, really – but especially to your children.
And really, we’ll add a 5b.
5b. Take care of yourself
Not only is it important for you to be able to care for your children by being healthy and present as much as possible, it is important for you to role model taking good care of yourself. It is absolutely okay for you to show emotions – even difficult ones – to your kiddos, but also let them see the healthy ways you cope with these emotions and what you do to heal. If you're tearing up while talking about the Orlando (or any other) tragedy, make a point to relate what you do when you're sad to cope with big emotions, such as "This is really hard and sad, but I'm going to go for a walk and take some time to listen to music later, which I know will help me feel better."
When tragedy happens, we know that we will be holding our kiddos closer and for a bit longer each hug. We hope that you are able to do the same. Take care out there.
For more information: http://grievingstudents.scholastic.com/talking-with-children/
Clearer Skies Counseling is a project that has been on my mind for a long time- a collaboration of therapists, specifically social workers, who are able to help individuals and families both by being resources to the clients, but also by being resources to each other. A place where the clinicians all believe that it is not only the individual storms that impact our day, but also the political climate, the social neighborhood that we live and grew up in, and the residual effects of traumas both big and small.
After working with Child Welfare, domestic violence shelters and the emergency department of a major hospital, I have had the opportunity to hone some serious trauma and crisis skills. I have developed a passion for helping people during these intense times to find resources, supports and care in a compassionate way that they may not have experienced before. I have found myself spending more and more time with each patient in an effort to provide the therapeutic connection that many of the patients seem to need and I know I want to offer. I have been asked repeatedly if I can offer regular counseling to patients, co-workers and colleagues but I knew that I wanted to have some other pieces in place first.
In the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to have met some incredible clinicians who share the same values and world views and the vision of a collaborative work space was finally coming together. I knew that I wanted to be able to offer any client that I worked with referrals to incredible services in the community that could support their entire well being, not just the part that we were working on. Through support from other great providers in our community, including a doula team, midwife team, several medical doctors, drug and alcohol counselors, social work mentors, counselors and colleagues in other healing modalities, we are excited to be opening our doors to see clients, complimented by a full spectrum of caring referrals.
Clearer Skies Counseling will officially open hours in May, 2016 with the goal of helping our community here in Portland, OR be a healthier, happier place. Please check back here for updates on our process, thoughts about trauma informed care and other great stuff!