Tag: #mentalhealth

Tag: #mentalhealth

Coronavirus and COVID-19: How We Are Caregiving for the Elderly.

Protect A Girls’ Image Organization takes pride in taking care of the elderly.

We have members of our organization who collaborate with hospices in Lynden Washington USA to take care of them.

When this Coronavirus Pandemic began, we were really worried because research showed that the elderly are the most vulnerable.

Research is showing that adults 60 and older, especially those with preexisting medical conditions, especially heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or cancer are more likely to have severe — even deadly — coronavirus infection than other age groups.

While we have no control over certain risk factors such as age and while questions remain unanswered, there is much we can do to prepare and protect ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Our work in the industry is facing unprecedented pressure due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

Should the situation continue, we have created a contingency plan to support all the elderly people who are in our care now or may need care in the coming months.

I want to give you a few tips and guidance from some of our experts at PGIO on what you can do to help your loved ones during this time.

Keep yourself well.

First and most important, as a caretaker you should take all the precautions you can to avoid becoming infected yourself. Here are the basics:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after providing care, preparing food, using the bathroom, or touching surfaces in public places.
  • Avoid crowds, and if you cough or sneeze, do so into the bend of your elbow or into a disposable tissue.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces in your home often, including mobility and medical equipment used by your loved one, such as walkers, canes and handrails.

We Practice social and physical distancing but not social isolation.

One important way to lower the risk of your older family members catching COVID-19 is to limit in-person visits. But this may be tough for older adults who cherish time spent with friends and family members.

Our CEO Margaret Wangui says, “Social distancing doesn’t have to mean isolation or loneliness. We need to keep older adults safe, but also keep in mind that social isolation can have a negative impact on older people’s  immunity and mental health.”

She notes that in terms of social contacts, seniors should be encouraged to think beyond their usual circle of friends and family. “Saying hello to the mail carrier or checking in on neighbors close by can add to a sense of connectedness,” Margaret says.

With many houses of worship closing their doors until the pandemic eases, congregants, especially older ones, may feel cut off. “Faith communities are often a big part of older adults’ social lives,” Wangui says. Caregivers might help their loved one access online services and outreach for spiritual solace and support.”

We Use Technology for Staying Connected.

We have really tried to help older residents feel involved, purposeful, and less lonely during the pandemic. This is how we do it:

  • We show them how to video chat with others using smartphones, laptops, or tablets.
  • We use apps on these devices to provide captions for adults with hearing challenges.
  • We encourage friends and family outside of the household to telephone, write notes, or send cards to lift their loved one’s spirits.

We Keep elders involved.

Arbaje recommends giving homebound older adults a project they can work on.

“Think about going through and organizing old photos and memories together, and enjoy the stories and happy memories they inspire.

It can be a good time for an elder to demonstrate cooking a favorite family recipe or share favorite songs or movies with other people in the household.”

We Minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection.

We have really tried to postpone unnecessary doctor visits.

If an older adult in our care is feeling well, we consider helping them postpone elective procedures, annual checkups, and other non-essential doctor visits.

We keep in mind that many older people, especially those living with chronic illness, have important relationships with their caregivers.

To help them stay in touch, we ask their doctors’ offices if they offer telemedicine which enables doctors and patients to communicate over the video, email, or other means rather than face-to-face.

We decide on a plan.

We try as much as possible to involve the older family members in discussions of how they will manage interruptions of routines and what will happen if they (or someone else in your family) becomes sick.

Talking things through ahead of time as a family can reduce stress and help everyone feel more involved and prepared.

We normally pick an emergency contact.

If you’re the main caregiver, designate someone nearby whom you could rely on to care for your elderly family member if you yourself become ill.

We keep regular medications and other supplies well-stocked.

Given the vulnerability of older individuals and those with chronic conditions, we recommend that you should have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case they need to stay home.

Monitor food and other medical supplies needed and create a plan in the event that such resources become depleted.

For families, know what medications your loved one is taking and see if you can help them have extra to hand.

We have gathered one to three months of medications, and at least two weeks’ worth of food, over-the-counter remedies, pet supplies, and other essentials.

It is also good to find out which delivery services are available in your area.

If there are symptoms or exposure? Call ahead.

If you or your loved one learn that you might have been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or if anyone in your household develops symptoms such as cough, fever, or shortness of breath, call your family doctor, nurse helpline, or urgent care facility.

For a medical emergency such as severe shortness of breath or high fever, please call 719 or text *719# which is a toll-free number provided by the Government of Kenya.

You can also call the following County Hotline numbers 0800721316 (tollfree) / 0732353535.

We respond to multigenerational living situations.

Some of our households are multigenerational, with different people at different levels of risk residing under one roof.

Households, therefore, will need to consider the risks of all its members.

One important consideration is that many older adults live in homes where other members, such as children, may have frequent colds.

Your family institute can change now by not sharing personal items like food, water bottles, and utensils.

If possible, choose a room in your home that can be used to separate sick household members from those who are healthy. If possible, also choose a bathroom for the sick person to use.

We keep abreast of essential, up-to-date information.

The situation with COVID-19 is changing rapidly.

For example, in some areas, China has moved from in-home quarantine and isolation to dedicated facilities for suspect cases and others for confirmed cases.

That means everyone should find and regularly check a trusted information source such as the WHO’s dedicated website or their national public health agency.

Protect A Girls’ Image Organization continues to work with public health authorities to identify specific coronavirus related issues relevant to the over 50s.

Meantime, in this setting of well-founded concern, occasionally unfounded fears and rapidly evolving dynamics, it’s always important to remember your health basics for a strong mind and body: maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes engaging in moderate exercise, keeping a healthy diet and getting regular sleep.

Household clusters of COVID-19 infections demonstrate the virus can spread more easily among people living under the same roof.

However, with planning, and incorporating additional steps as more information emerges, together we can try to minimize the impact of the COVID-19.

I hope all these tips help you when it comes to taking care of your elderly loved ones. If you have any questions or contributions, feel free to share in the comments below.

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How to talk to Children and Help them Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19.

Families all over the world have to adopt new changes and routines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Children can no longer go to school, Parents cannot go to work, all businesses are closed, and public gatherings have all been restricted.

Parents and caregivers are therefore forced to help their families adjust to the new normal.

I am sure as a parent you are struggling to keep your children occupied and safe during this trying period.

I understand, keeping children busy and helping them keep up with school work is not easy.

However, you should remember that our children look up to us especially on how we react to stressful situations.

I am sure our kids are confused about why they are not in school and why they are not allowed to go outside and play with their friends.

Many parents are wondering how to bring up the epidemic in a way that will be reassuring and not make kids more worried than they already may be.

Here is some advice on how you can start the conversation about coronavirus.

  • Don’t be afraid to discuss the coronavirus.

Your child has already heard about the virus or has seen people wearing facemasks and the constant washing of hands and sanitizing.

Do not be afraid to talk to them about it because keeping them in the dark will actually make them worry more. Summarize the most important facts that they should know.

This will be so reassuring and at least they are more likely to understand better when it comes from you as opposed to hearing it from the news and friends.

  • Be developmentally appropriate.

Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming.

Instead, try to answer your child’s questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters.

  • Take your cues from your child.

Invite your child to tell you anything they may have heard about the coronavirus, and how they feel.

Give them ample opportunity to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions.

Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.

  • Deal with your own anxiety.

When you’re feeling most anxious or panicked, that isn’t the time to talk to your kids about what’s happening with the coronavirus.

If you notice that you are feeling anxious, take some time to calm down before trying to have a conversation or answer your child’s questions.

  • Be reassuring.

Children are very egocentric, so hearing about the coronavirus on the news may be enough to make them seriously worry that they’ll catch it.

It’s helpful to reassure your child about how rare the coronavirus actually is (the flu is much more common) and that kids actually seem to have milder symptoms.

  • Focus on what you’re doing to stay safe.

An important way to reassure kids is to emphasize the safety precautions that you are taking.

Kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe.

For example, you can tell them that the coronavirus is transmitted mostly by coughing and touching surfaces and that they should thoroughly wash their hands as the primary means of staying healthy.

So remind kids that they are taking care of themselves by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom.

If kids ask about face masks, explain that the experts say they aren’t necessary for most people.

If kids see people wearing face masks, explain that those people are being extra cautious.

  • Explain social distancing.

Children probably don’t fully understand why parents/guardians aren’t allowing them to be with friends.

Tell your child that your family is following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which include social distancing.

Social distancing means staying away from others until the risk of contracting COVID-19 is under control. Showing older children the “flatten the curve” charts will help them grasp the significance of social distancing.

Explain that while we don’t know how long it will take to “flatten the curve” to reduce the number of those infected, we do know that this is a critical time—we must follow the guidelines of health experts to do our part.

  • Stick to a routine.

Nobody likes uncertainty, so staying rooted in routines and predictability is going to be helpful right now.

This is particularly important if your child’s school or daycare shuts down.

Make sure you are taking care of the basics just like you would during a school break.

Structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes are an essential part of keeping kids happy and healthy.

how parents can help their children heal from trauma

 

Having a Conversation is very important.

However, you can use this opportunity to teach your children life skills they don’t learn in school.

The following are skills you can teach your children during this self-isolation period.

Resilience 

A crisis like a coronavirus can evoke feelings of anxiety and fear.

Parents can turn this around and model a sense of hope and positivity.

Teaching children emotional resilience can help them learn the areas of life they can control in uncertain times.

We can teach them resilience by how we control our attitude, how we are kind to others, how we control consumption and spending too.

Showing children that they are privileged and should be very grateful for what they have is important too.

 Use it as an ultimate training ground

Parents could view this time to provide children with the “ultimate training ground,” giving them an early start to learning life skills for when they no longer live at home.

Restrictions are now in place around the world, limiting how often people can leave the house to visit shops, for example, as part of efforts to reduce outside human contact and curb the further spread of COVID-19.

Signs have also appeared in many shops, rationing the number of certain products people can buy at one time, to combat the panic stockpiling that has taken place amid increasing fears about the pandemic.

At home, however, this offers the opportunity to teach children about rationing, cooking, and budgeting for food.

Fun activities like playing games, sewing, knitting, and gardening, like some other skills that can help children to become more self-sufficient.

Positive messages about money 

Parents can take this opportunity to teach children about money. Budgeting and saving can teach children how money can grow over time. Do not underestimate the ability of children to understand and engage with finances.

Online safety 

Since we are spending a lot of time cooped up inside, this is a good time to teach children about online safety.

They will be online a lot trying to keep themselves occupied and so it is good that we start teaching them how to navigate the digital world safely.

You could also teach children how to use their digital skills more altruistically, to connect with the wider community during self-isolation, or even entrepreneurially.

 

I hope these tips will help you remain sane during this global pandemic. While we all ride out the corona storm, wherever you are located, the Protect A Girls’ Image team wishes you, and your families good health. Remember, we’re in this together, and we’ll come out of this together! Lots of Love!!

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6 Tips on How to Nurture a Child’s Mental Health.

If you had one wish for your children, what would it be? For me, I always think about how I want my children to be happy and strong physically and emotionally.

As the children we care for at Protect A Girls’ Image get older and more submerged into the world around them, I often find myself hard-pressed on how well they will be able to cope after they grow up and leave their rural homes.

February 3rd to February 9th was Child’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a topic near and dear to my heart. During that week I kept asking myself, Have we really prepared these children for the trials and tribulations of life that is to come? Have we implemented all the tools necessary to ensure a happy life for them?

Surely we can’t guarantee their happiness, but we can give them a strong foundation for their mental health – and that could be everything. Sometimes happiness sounds a lot like the main components of mental health.

As a parent, you can really get overwhelmed by scary statistics about how children are having mental health issues all over the world. The Good news is you have great power when it comes to nurturing your children’s mental health.

 

How common are mental health problems among children and youth?

One in four Kenyans is likely to suffer from a mental illness at some point in their life and they will find it difficult to get the healthcare they need, reveals a Nation Newsplex investigation.

The review of mental health data also finds that the suicide rate for men is three times higher than the rate for women. Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the suicide rate per 100,000 people in Kenya is seven, with the rate for men being 11 and women three.

Mental health issues can affect youth at any age. But certain situations can place some young people at a higher risk, including:

  • A family history of mental illness.
  • Children who experience difficult economic circumstances.
  • Children and youth who have poorer overall health, live in isolated communities and have scarce educational and work-related opportunities.
  • Children and youth who experience bullying and/or rejection from their families.
  • Big life changes such as moving to a new city or new school, caregiver separation or divorce, serious illness or death in a close relative or friend.
  • Facing or witnessing trauma, including abuse.
  • Substance use.

Unfortunately, too many children and youth don’t get help soon enough. Mental health disorders can prevent children and youth from succeeding in school, from making friends, or becoming independent from their parents.

Children and youth with mental health disorders may have trouble reaching their developmental milestones.

The good news is that mental health disorders are treatable. There are many different approaches to helping children and youth struggling with emotional or mental health problems.

Getting help early is important. It can prevent problems from becoming more serious and can lessen the effect they have on your child’s development.

How do I know if my child or youth has a mental health problem?

All children and youth are different. If you’re concerned your child may have a problem, look at whether there are changes in the way they think, feel or act.

Mental health problems can also lead to physical changes. Ask yourself how your child is doing at home, at school, and with friends.

Changes in thinking

  • Saying negative things about themselves or blaming themselves for things beyond their control.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Frequent negative thoughts.
  • Changes in school performance.

Changes in feelings

  • Reactions or feelings that seem bigger than the situation.
  • Seeming very unhappy, worried, guilty, fearful, irritable, sad, or angry.
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, lonely or rejected.

Changes in behavior

  • Wanting to be alone often.
  • Crying easily.
  • Showing less interest in or withdrawing from sports, games or other activities that they normally enjoy.
  • Over-reacting, or sudden outbursts of anger or tears over small incidents.
  • Seeming quieter than usual, less energetic.
  • Trouble relaxing or sleeping.
  • Spending a lot of time daydreaming.
  • Falling back to less mature behaviors.
  • Trouble getting along with friends.

 

Physical changes

  • Headaches, tummy aches, neck pain, or general aches and pains.
  • Lack of energy, or feeling tired all the time.
  • Sleeping or eating problems.
  • Too much energy or nervous habits such as nail-biting, hair twisting or thumb sucking.

Remember: Just because you notice one or more of these changes does not mean your child or youth has a mental health problem.

 

As an advocate for mental health, I want to share tips on how you can help nurture children’s mental health. Here are just a few :

 1. Build Their Self-esteem.

Helping your children develop strong self-esteem so that they feel good about themselves is very important. You should create a sense of safety and security by building confidence in their abilities. You can do this by;

  • Praise them when they do well. Recognize their efforts as well as what they achieve: Regularly support and encourage your child. Make sure to praise their efforts, achievements, and to believe them and believe in them.
  • Let Them Learn Naturally: Promote independent learning. Have your child experience and accept the natural consequences of life and experience the benefits of positive actions as well.
  • Encourage Healthy Self-Talk: Use words of encouragement and daily affirmations.
  • Show lots of love and acceptance. Your child needs to feel like they are invited, accepted and loved. Make sure to spend family time together, play with them and remind them how valuable they are.
  • Ask questions about their activities and interests.
  • Help them set realistic goals.

 

2. Model Healthy Behavior.

Children learn from the behavior modeled by the important adults in their life – so be sure to lead by example the best strategies regarding self-care, healthy social interactions, communication, and emotional stability.

 

 3. Establish Healthy Habits.

Do not underestimate how much creating healthy habits at home can impact a child. Make sure your child is getting enough rest, eating healthy foods and getting enough playtime. So what more can you do?

  • Be aware of your child’s media use, both the content and the amount of time spent on screens. This includes TV, movies, the Internet, and gaming devices. Be aware of who they might be interacting with on social media and online games.
  • Be careful about discussing serious family issues—such as finances, marital problems, or illness—around your children. Children can worry about these things.
  • Provide time for physical activity, play, and family activities. Physical activity is important to our overall mental wellness and therefore a healthy home environment should include activity, play, and family interaction.
  • Be a role model by taking care of your own mental health: Talk about your feelings. Make time for things you enjoy.

 

4. Help children build strong, caring relationships.

A strong relationship consists of communication, respect, trust, problem solving and affection. Healthy relationships share common goals and responsibilities as well as acceptance and commitment. Further, strong relationships will promote resilience which is the ability to tolerate difficult situations in positive ways. This is what you can do;

  • It’s important for children and youth to have strong relationships with family and friends. Spend some time together each night around the dinner table.
  • Show your children how to solve problems.

 

RELATED CONTENT:  Tips on How Parents Can Help Children who have Experienced Trauma.

 

5. Listen to and Respect their Feelings and Reactions.

Listen to how your child is feeling and validate their emotions. Guide your child through big feelings and show them important coping mechanisms and ways to manage challenges (like meditation). Teach them the importance of expressing their emotions through language. You should know that;

  • It’s OK for children and youth to feel sad or angry. Encourage them to talk about how they feel.
  • Keep communication and conversation flowing by asking questions and listening to your child. Mealtime can be a good time for talking.
  • Help your child find someone to talk to if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you.
  • Children often learn from modeling; with exposure to a variety of feelings, language, and coping mechanisms, children, in turn, will become more self-aware

 

6. Distress tolerance.

Finally, children require direction on learning to relax and self-soothe; talking, quiet activity, walking and alone time are all healthy reactions to stressful situations.  In difficult situations, you can help children and youth by;

  • Teach your child how to relax when they feel upset. This could be deep breathing, doing something calming (such as a quiet activity they enjoy), taking some time alone, or going for a walk.
  • Talk about possible solutions or ideas to improve a situation and how to make it happen. Try not to take over.

 

When do I go for help?

There are many ways to help your child achieve good mental health. Sharing your concerns with the doctor is one of them. Talk to your child’s doctor:

  • if the behaviors described above last for a while, or if they interfere with your child’s ability to function.
  • if you have concerns about your child’s emotional and mental health.
  • Talk about your child’s behavioral development and emotional health at each well-child visit.

 

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Your child’s mental health matters.

Good mental health is essential to overall health in every child. When you strengthen your child’s mental health not only are you positively affecting how your child thinks feels and behaves, you are increasing their chances of success in school, with peers, and in life.

These guidelines aren’t just for children either, but are important for everyone looking to take care of their mental health! If you enjoyed this post, you might want to read this post on how you can teach your child about sex and consent at every age.

 

 

10 Tips on How Parents can Help Children who Have Experienced Trauma.

As much as parents try to keep their children safe, it is not always possible be to protect them from impending traumatic experiences. In the wake of a traumatic event, your comfort, support and reassurance as a parent can make children feel safe, help them manage their fears, guide them through their grief, and help them recover in a healthy way.

Before I get into it, let us first be clear what trauma is.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to an intense event that threatens or causes harm. The harm can be physical or emotional, real or perceived, and it can threaten the child or someone close to him or her. Trauma can be the result of a single event, or it can result from exposure to multiple events over time.

Potentially traumatic events may include:

  • Abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional).
  • Effects of poverty (such as homelessness or not having enough to eat).
  • Being separated from loved ones.
  • Witnessing harm to a loved one or pet.
  • Natural disasters or accidents.
  • Unpredictable parental behavior due to addiction or mental illness among many other things that affect a child.

 

 How does Trauma affect your children?

The intense, confusing, and frightening emotions that follow a traumatic event or natural disaster can be even more pronounced in children and teens. Such events can undermine their sense of security, leaving them feeling helpless and vulnerable—especially if the event stemmed from an act of violence, such as a physical assault, mass shooting, or terrorist attack. Even kids or teens not directly affected by a disaster can become traumatized when repeatedly exposed to horrific images of the event on the news or social media.

1. Bodies

  • Inability to control physical responses to stress
  • Chronic illness, even into adulthood (heart disease, obesity.

2. Brains (Thinking)

  • Difficulty thinking, learning, and concentrating
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty switching from one thought or activity to another

3. Emotions (feeling)

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling unsafe
  • Inability to regulate emotions
  • Difficulty forming attachments to caregivers
  • Trouble with friendships
  • Trust issues
  • Depression, anxiety Behavior
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Fighting, aggression, running away
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide

 

RELATED CONTENT: Ten Ways to teach your children about consent at every age.

How do you help your child heal from trauma?

1. TEACH YOUR CHILD TO TALK.

It is important to remember two words when working with anyone experiencing trauma and hurt: “hope” and “encouragement.” This isn’t about telling someone they should paint over all their problems with happy thoughts. Instead, it is about offering a way out from the despair left over from trauma.

Talk to your child about what happened. There is no way to manage trauma without at least acknowledging that it happened. Most people are raised in homes where no one talks about “the elephant in the room.” But if you want to help a person heal from any type of hurt or trauma, it is important to discuss it.

Once you begin talking about difficult subjects, you give your child permission to as well. You are teaching them it is okay to talk about these things.

Reassure your child. The event was not their fault, you love them, and it’s OK for them to feel upset, angry, or scared.

Don’t pressure your child into talking. It can be very difficult for some kids to talk about a traumatic experience. A young child may find it easier to draw a picture illustrating their feelings rather than talk about them. You can then talk with your child about what they’ve drawn.

Be honest. While you should tailor the information you share according to your child’s age, honesty is important. Don’t say nothing’s wrong if something is wrong.

Do “normal” activities with your child that have nothing to do with the traumatic event. Encourage your child to seek out friends and pursue games, sports, and hobbies that they enjoyed before the incident. Go on family outings to the park or beach, enjoy a games night, or watch a funny or uplifting movie together.

 

2. ENCOURAGE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY.

Physical activity can burn off adrenaline, release mood-enhancing endorphins, and help your child sleep better at night.

Find a sport that your child enjoys. Activities such as basketball, soccer, running, martial arts, or swimming that require moving both the arms and legs can help rouse your child’s nervous system from that “stuck” feeling that often follows a traumatic experience.

Offer to participate in sports, games, or physical activities with your child. If they seem resistant to get off the couch, play some of their favorite music and dance together. Once a child gets moving, they’ll start to feel more energetic.

Encourage your child to go outside to play with friends or a pet and blow off steam.

Schedule a family outing to a hiking trail, swimming pool, or park.

Take younger children to a playground, activity center, or arrange play dates.

 

3. TEACH YOUR CHILD TO TRUST THEMSELVES.

Children are often impressionable. It is so easy to teach a child that they cannot trust themselves. Particularly in abusive homes, children are taught not to feel or to think on their own. They are usually taught to do what their parent says without question and to overlook their own experiences.

Teaching a child to trust their intuition is not overly difficult, though it often takes time. Start by having a discussion with your child about how important it is to trust one’s own inner voice, or conscience. Continue asking your child how they feel about certain experiences. This act will help your child learn that to look inside is an important aspect of life.

 

4. MINIMIZE MEDIA EXPOSURE.

Children who’ve experienced a traumatic event can often find relentless media coverage to be further traumatizing. Excessive exposure to images of a disturbing event—such as repeatedly viewing video clips on social media or news sites—can even create traumatic stress in children or teens who were not directly affected by the event.

Limit your child’s media exposure to the traumatic event. Don’t let your child watch the news or check social media just before bed, and make use of parental controls on the TV, computer, and tablet to prevent your child from repeatedly viewing disturbing footage.

As much as you can, watch news reports of the traumatic event with your child. You can reassure your child as you’re watching and help place information in context.

Avoid exposing your child to graphic images and videos. It’s often less traumatizing for a child or teen to read the newspaper rather than watch television coverage or view video clips of the event.

 

5. SHOW YOUR CHILD HOW TO GRIEVE.

Most children (and really, most adults) are not taught how to grieve. Most people are taught “Don’t cry,” “Keep difficult emotions to yourself,” “Be strong,” “Move on,” and other similar methods of coping with loss. When working with emotionally injured children, you can best help them by not only teaching them how to talk about their feelings, but also about how to grieve.

How do you do this? There are a couple of ways:

One is through personal example. Here, you demonstrate your own grief about something.

Another is when you ask your child questions, such as, “What do you miss about so-and-so?” Or, “If you could talk to so-and-so, what would you say?” Try to ask open-ended questions that generate feelings.

Grieving involves processing through feelings until they are complete. Children need not analyze this concept. They just need permission to talk, cry, be angry, and express their emotions until they are done. Grief is finished when it’s finished. There is no timeline for grief, and everyone processes emotions on their own schedule. Talk to your child about these concepts and give them permission to “process” through any feelings at their own pace.

 

6. FEED YOUR CHILD A HEALTHY DIET.

The food your child eats can have a profound impact on their mood and ability to cope with traumatic stress. Processed and convenience food, sugary foods and snacks can create mood swings and worsen symptoms of traumatic stress. Conversely, eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can help your child better cope with the ups and downs that follow a disturbing experience.

Focus on overall diet rather than specific foods. Kids should be eating whole, minimally processed food—food that is as close to its natural form as possible.

Limit fried food, sweet desserts, sugary snacks and cereals, and refined flour. These can all exacerbate symptoms of traumatic stress in kids.

Be a role model. The childhood impulse to imitate is strong so don’t ask your child to eat vegetables while you gorge on soda and French fries.

Cook more meals at home. Restaurant and takeout meals have more added sugar and unhealthy fat so cooking at home can have a huge impact on your kids’ health. If you make large batches, cooking just a few times can be enough to feed your family for the whole week.

Make mealtimes about more than just food. Gathering the family around a table for a meal is an ideal opportunity to talk and listen to your child without the distraction of TV, phones, or computers.

 

7. TEACH YOUR CHILD ABOUT BOUNDARIES.

One important topic you can introduce to your child is the concept of boundaries. Boundaries can be physical and emotional. Physical boundaries include a person’s body and physical space. Emotional boundaries include how a person is treated emotionally, mentally, and psychologically.

Art is one effective intervention for teaching children this concept. You can draw a picture of a line, wall, or some type of boundary indicator. On one side of the line, write down attributes of healthy boundaries, such as, “respect,” or “does not touch me in a way that is unsafe.” On the “boundary violation” side of the barrier, write a list of unhealthy boundary violators, such as “name calling,” or “yelling.” You and your child can create this drawing together.

Of course, you will need to use age-appropriate language. The main concern is to teach your child emotional intelligence and about how to protect themselves from unsafe relationships.

 

8. IDENTIFY THE ‘HURT SELF’ AND THE ‘STRONG SELF’.

Teach your child that it is okay to talk about difficult memories. Explain that they have a “hurt self” that needs to be healed. In addition, let your child know they aren’t only hurt, but that they also have a “healthy self” or “strong self” capable of overcoming hard things. The strong self will help heal the hurt self.

To help your child identify what is hurt, you can ask questions about thoughts, fears, feelings, and dreams. See if your child can identify how they experience the pain from the trauma they have endured. If your child is not interested in going that deep, just talk to them. Say, “I know you are hurt. Here are some suggestions for helping yourself heal.”

It is helpful for parents and other significant leaders in a child’s life to learn how to teach them important life lessons, especially those involving emotions. Since most people generally do not understand emotional health, this can prove challenging—mainly, because most people haven’t been taught themselves.

I recommend drawing two pictures for your child: one a hurt child, and one a healthy child. The hurt child could look sad and have tears. The strong child could look steadfast and concerned. Teach your child that these two “parts of self” exist within them, and that their job is to learn how to nurture and heal the hurt part of the self.

 

9. REBUILD TRUST AND SAFETY.

Trauma can alter the way a child sees the world, making it suddenly seem a much more dangerous and frightening place. Your child may find it more difficult to trust both their environment and other people. You can help by rebuilding your child’s sense of safety and security.

Create routines. Establishing a predictable structure and schedule to your child’s or teen’s life can help to make the world seem more stable again. Try to maintain regular times for meals, homework, and family activities.

Minimize stress at home. Try to make sure your child has space and time for rest, play, and fun.

Manage your own stress. The more calm, relaxed and focused you are, the better you’ll be able to help your child.

Speak of the future and make plans. This can help counteract the common feeling among traumatized children that the future is scary, bleak, and unpredictable.

Keep your promises. You can help to rebuild your child’s trust by being trustworthy. Be consistent and follow through on what you say you’re going to do.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to admit it. Don’t jeopardize your child’s trust in you by making something up.

Remember that children often personalize situations. They may worry about their own safety even if the traumatic event occurred far away. Reassure your child and help place the situation in context.

 

 10. IDENTIFY HURTING BELIEFS AND HEALING BELIEFS.

Help your child identify things they tell themselves about life or personal identity. Beliefs children often have when hurt tend to be very personalized; beliefs such as, “I am unlovable,” “The world is not safe,” or “I will never be happy again.” Any type of negative, devaluing belief can be ingrained in a child’s head for years, decades, or even a lifetime. It is beneficial to help your child identify these beliefs early on.

Have your child write down a list of unhealthy beliefs. Some include thoughts such as, “If I were a better child, my mother would not be on drugs,” “If I were thinner, my friend would not have rejected me,” or “I need to be a perfect student to have a good life.” If your child is old enough, work with them to identify unhealthy beliefs.

Once these unhealthy thoughts have been identified, make a list of helpful, healing beliefs for your child to replace the unhealthy thoughts. After this, remind your child to replace the unhealthy beliefs with the healthy beliefs. Make sure they understand this process is building an essential inner recovery “muscle” and will require practice to develop.

 

When should you seek treatment for your child’s trauma?

Usually, your child’s feelings of anxiety, numbness, confusion, guilt, and despair following a traumatic event will start to fade within a relatively short time. However, if the traumatic stress reaction is so intense and persistent that it’s interfering with your child’s ability to function at school or home, they may need help from a mental health professional—preferably a trauma specialist.

Warning signs include:

  • Six weeks have passed, and your child is not feeling any better.
  • Your child is having trouble functioning at school.
  • Your child is experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks.
  • Physical complaints such as headaches, stomach pains, or sleep disturbances.
  • Your child is having an increasingly difficult time relating to friends and family.
  • Your child or teen is experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  • Your child is avoiding more and more things that remind them of the traumatic event.

When children experience abuse, abandonment or other deep hurts, the adults in their lives may not know how to help them. Many people believe topics like psychological healing only belong to the professionals. But “professionals,” however helpful they may be, do not have enough time to impact children in the same way as those who are involved with them daily.

Whatever the age of your child, it’s important to offer extra reassurance and support following a traumatic event. A child’s reaction to a disaster or trauma can be greatly influenced by their parents’ response, so it’s important to educate yourself about trauma and traumatic stress. The more you know about the symptoms, effects, and treatment options, the better equipped you’ll be to help your child recover. With your love and support, the unsettling thoughts and feelings of traumatic stress can start to fade and your child’s life can return to normal in the days or weeks following the event.

Why don’t Victims of Sexual Assault come forward sooner?

 

WHY DON’T VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT COME FORWARD SOONER?

 

Reasons why sexual assault survivors don't come forward sooner.

Sexual assault survivors don’t come forward sooner due to shame, guilt, denial, and fear of the consequences that might follow them.

It is very common for victims of sexual assault to not disclose their trauma as soon as it happens that is if they ever do. But since everybody in the world is continually confused by why women don’t come forward, I offer some information based on the psychology of abuse to help answer this question.

To make sure we are all in the same page, when I talk about Sexual harassment and behaviors, I include cat calling, inappropriate touching, invasion of privacy, sexual jokes, sexual bribery, and coercion just to mention a few.

Below I have listed the most significant reasons why women do not come forward more often or delay in coming forward.

  • Shame

One of the primary reasons women don’t come forward to report sexual harassment or assault is shame. Sexual abuse, by its very nature, is humiliating and dehumanizing. The victim feels invaded and defiled, while simultaneously feeling the indignity of being helpless and at the mercy of another person.

Shame is a feeling deep within us of being exposed and unworthy. When we feel ashamed, we want to hide. We hang our heads, stoop our shoulders, and curve inward as if trying to make ourselves invisible. Most people who have been deeply shamed take on the underlying and pervasive belief that they are broken, unworthy and unlovable.

Victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault in adulthood or sexual abuse in childhood tend to feel shame, because as human beings, we want to believe that we have control over what happens to us. When that personal power is challenged by a victimization of any kind, we feel humiliated. We believe we should have been able to defend ourselves. And because we weren’t able to do so, we feel helpless and powerless. This powerlessness causes humiliation  which leads to shame.

  • Denial, Minimization

Many women refuse to believe that the treatment they endured was actually abusive. They downplay how much they have been harmed by sexual harassment and even sexual assault. They convince themselves that “it wasn’t a big deal.” I know a lot of women who were brutally raped, and I have friends who were sexually abused in childhood. So when a scenario of a girl being sexually harassed by her boss arose, she said that it was nothing compared to what these women went through. She tells herself to just move on and forget the whole thing.

Other women are good at making excuses for their abusers. I have often heard victims of sexual harassment say things like “I felt sorry for him,” or “I figured he wasn’t getting enough sex at home,” or even “I knew he couldn’t help himself.”

And finally, women convince themselves that they are the only victim of a sexual harasser or abuser. It is often only after other women step forward to say that they were abused by a perpetrator that a victim may realize that they are dealing with a serial abuser.

  • Fear of the Consequences

Fear of the repercussions is a huge obstacle women face when it comes to reporting sexual harassment or assault. The fear of losing their job, fear they won’t find another job, fear they will be failed in school, fear of being blamed, fear of being branded a victim, fear of being blackballed by people, fear of their physical safety. This is so true.

Many don’t disclose, because they fear they won’t be believed, and until very recently, that has primarily been the case. The fact that sexual misconduct is the most under-reported crime is due to a common belief that women make up these stories for attention or to get back at a man who rejected them. Victims’ accounts are often scrutinized to the point of exhaustion. Victims are often labeled opportunists, blamed for their own victimization, and punished for coming forward.

  • Low Self-Esteem

Some victims have such low self-esteem that they don’t consider what happened to them to be very serious. They don’t value or respect their own bodies or their own integrity, so if someone violates them, they downplay it. Sexual violations wound a woman’s self-esteem, self-concept, and sense of self. The more a girl or woman puts up with, the more her self-image becomes distorted. Little by little, acts of disrespect, objectification, and shaming whittle away at her self-esteem until she has little regard for herself and her feelings. There is a huge price to pay for “going along” with sexual exploitation. A woman doesn’t just give away her body; she gives away her integrity.

Even the most confident girl cannot sustain her sense of confidence if she is sexually violated. She feels so much shame that it is difficult to hold her head up high. She finds it difficult to have the motivation to continue on her path, whether it be college or a career.

  • Feelings of Hopelessness and Helplessness

Research has shown us that victims who cannot see a way out of an abusive situation soon develop a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, and this in turn contributes to them giving up and not trying to escape or seek help. Specifically, learned helplessness is a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed and considered to be one of the underlying causes of depression. A concept originally developed by the research of psychologist and Steven D. Meier, learned helplessness is a phenomenon that says when people feel like they have no control over what happens, they tend to simply give up and accept their fate.

Women feel it is useless to come forward, because they have seen the way others have been treated. They feel it is hopeless, because they won’t be believed, and their reputations will be tainted, if not ruined. Women who have already been sexually assaulted or harassed feel especially helpless, since the chances are extremely high that they did not receive the justice they so desperately needed. These fears can cause women to think there is nowhere to turn, to feel trapped and even hopeless.

  • A History of Being Sexually Violated

Women who have already been traumatized by child sexual abuse or by sexual assault as an adult are far less likely to speak out about sexual harassment at work or at school. Research shows that survivors of previous abuse and assault are at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted again. For example, research shows that 38 percent of college-aged women who have been sexually violated had first been victimized prior to college.

Those who experienced previous abuse will likely respond to overtures of sexual harassment much differently than women who have not been abused. A friend shared with me that she freezes every time a guy makes a sexual advance towards her hoping he will just walk away. This “freezing reaction” is a common one for those who were sexually abused in childhood. And as was mentioned above, those who have previously been victimized are more likely to keep quiet about the abuse, since they may have already had the experience of not being believed and not receiving justice.

  • Disbelief, Dissociated, or Drugged

Finally, sometimes women don’t report sexual harassment or assault, because at the time of the abuse they were drugged, inebriated, or dissociated. Others may have been so drunk before the assault that they doubt their memories, and as we know, some are so traumatized that they dissociated during the attack and have only vague memories. It usually takes one woman coming forward before a woman is able to trust her own memories of the experience. Unless other women come forward to make a complaint about someone, most will continue doubting themselves and assuming they will be doubted if they report.

It is understandable that women have a difficult time coming forward for a number of reasons. These women deserve our recognition about how difficult it is and our compassion for what they have been through. Women need to be encouraged to begin to push away their internalized shame with anger and to learn how to give the shame back to their abusers.

Instead of focusing so much energy on trying to figure out why victims don’t report, it would be far more productive to ask, “Why do we allow men to continue to sexually harass and assault women?” Perhaps even more important, we need to stop asking why victims wait to report and instead focus on how we can better support victims in their quest for justice and healing.