This post is made possible with support from the American Academy of Pediatrics through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All opinions are my own.
In 2020, no one would have expected that we would be experiencing a global pandemic. This last year has been extremely hard for so many. Over a million people have died from COVID-19, and the numbers continue to rise daily.
Families may have already been dealing with a lot of personal stress. Add COVID-19 to that stress, and it can cause a more toxic environment where children and their mental health are sometimes overlooked.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are events that happen that can affect how a child feels and behaves. Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. The 10 ACEs fall into 3 categories: 1) Abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual); 2) Neglect (physical or emotional); and 3) Household dysfunction (mental illness, domestic violence, divorce, incarcerated relative, substance abuse). ACEs can be prevented or mitigated when adults and children have strong support systems through individuals or organizations. For so many children, going to school and seeing their friends was an escape from a home that might not have let them feel safe and secure.
For the last 3 years, I’ve worked as a Crisis Counselor and have talked with hundreds of people that have been dealing with the effects caused by trauma from their own childhood. Dealing with adversity if it happens is an important part of a healthy childhood, but when healthy relationships are not available for the child, these stressful experiences can have lifelong consequences. It’s so important for parents and caregivers to provide healthy and supportive environments for children.
That starts with spending quality time with children, which is often overlooked as well. Quality time doesn’t have to cost anything. Having meals together, reading a book together, and playing card games can be great experiences for children and create positive childhood experiences.
With my work, I have boundaries that I adhere to but with those that are close to me, I plan to “Be One of The Three”—three people or organizations that serve as a foundation for a person’s support system—for those that need that support the most. It doesn’t take much or have to cost a lot to be there for someone you know who is struggling right now. The “three” can range from having support from a community agency to your next-door neighbor or best friend.
It is so important to have your three sources of support during a difficult time. I’m a huge proponent of taking care of your mental health, so I always remind my friends that I will be their support system no matter what they’re going through and without judgment. Women, especially moms, feel that their children come first and they come last. You can’t take care of someone else if you’re not taking care of yourself. Remember you’re not being selfish, and it’s ok to ask for help.
I deal with stress with humor, which sometimes a good laugh is just what you need. I recently got a Silhouette Cameo 4 and have been enjoying making things for people and sending them things. For the friend that loves plants, I have been sending vinyl decals with funny sayings to put on her pots and also shirts. I also attach a note saying to call or text me any time, and I’m “your person” and don’t ever feel like you’re alone or bothering me.
How will you “be the three” this holiday season and help build safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments? Share what you have in mind and remember just a simple call or letter is all it takes sometimes.