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Ask the Expert

Get answers - from national experts - to key questions asked by parents/caregivers and those working in the mental health and substance use support fields. A new question is added each month with answers linked to an upcoming event or resource that provides additional information. Visit this page regularly to see our monthly updates and feel free to send a question you'd like us to answer in the future. 

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  • October 2022 - What are the benefits of statewide peer support program?
    Note: In 2021, the Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children established six regional peer support centers. Each Center has two staff certified in Family and/or Youth Peer Support Specialists. Services include individual and group peer support, individualized and self-identified for each person. BARBARA GREENE, Project Director, Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children In February of 2021, we got started in earnest and built the plane while we were flying it. All we knew was this wonderful concept of being able to reach people all over the state with peer support and maybe cut through some of the red tape that they had to go through to get support. Two years later, we know the primary benefit of having a statewide peer support program is ensuring there is some real consistency in policies and practices, expectations, supervision, and coaching, We built a total infrastructure for a statewide peer support programming including setting up a mechanism to collect data, manage services, and we’ll be sharing some of those tools at the National Federation of Families Preconference in November. From a budgetary standpoint, it’s more sustainable and we can reach more people all over the state. One of the great benefits is that it really has demonstrated the incredible potential to do peer support virtually. That was something that we were told back in the day that it can’t be done, Medicaid won’t pay for it. But if we are not concentrated on the traditional Medicaid methods of just meeting face-to-face, then it really allows us to serve more people. There’s also a benefit for the family peer support specialists themselves. They have a much better shot at both leadership and development opportunities if there is a statewide effort. Without a statewide program, we discovered that job descriptions and career movement plans varied greatly were inconsistent from agency to agency or region to region. It benefits families across the state, not just in the regions where we have centers. We don’t turn anyone down Previously, depending on where you lived, if there wasn’t an agency with a hired peer support specialist that could mean you didn’t get that service. But being statewide, we can accommodate all 120 counties in Kentucky. We now have 11 Peer Support Specialists right now and they are serving over 150 families. That is phenomenal. Our waiting list isn’t a big waiting list right now, so more people have access to help. Our referrals come from countless agencies -- Department for Community Based Services, Behavioral Health, Court Designated Workers, hospitals, insurance companies. All of this demonstrates that if you can provide a more cost-effective intervention in the front, then you have a much lower cost at the end: more kids stay in the home, a lot less kids go into a hospital setting, fewer kids go into juvenile detention. I think our project has demonstrated the capacity to really reach families and support them before something happens. KELLY MINTON, Family & Adult Peer Support Specialist As a peer support specialist, I cover the Cumberland, Kentucky region and get referrals from all 18 counties. I usually have a caseload of 20 or more people at any given time. I’m not limited to a specific agency giving me a referral to work with a family or just my region. I may work in one part of Kentucky, but I can be working with someone way across the state. The biggest benefit that I’ve seen is that we are giving more people access to someone who has been through the same scenario as they are facing. Families may not see something that is affecting their own family, but then they talk with somebody else who has been through the same thing and now they are thriving because of just that one voice. The benefit for me working as a Family/Adult Peer Specialist statewide is I have learned of so many different resources that can be utilized by families that are unknown to different communities. That’s especially important for the communities that are so small and do not have many resources. I have also seen different cultures and means of living that differ in different ways. I learn as much from my customers as they learn from me. We also can see the benefit to the families we’ve helped. More families who have become involved with our peer support program are telling others in Kentucky, and we are getting more referrals through word of mouth. There are a lot of surrounding counties that don’t have the resources, but our name is getting out there, and we’re working together trying to figure out better ways to reach their communities.
  • April 2022 - What does mental health acceptance mean to me?
    Sandy Bumpus, Executive Director, Oregon Family Support Network I have had the privilege of working as an advocate for my oldest child who struggled immensely with mental health challenges. Twenty years ago, as my child became more stable, I began working as a professional advocate for other families and turned that into a career developing programs. This has brought me the greatest joy – and yet sometimes I still find myself doubled over in pain and grief for those families and youth who struggle in their quest to get help, to heal, and to recover from all that has caused trauma. Recently, I was asked to respond to this question: ‘What does mental health acceptance (vs. awareness) mean to you?’ I’ve looked at this from multiple perspectives, and below are my thoughts: Mental Health Acceptance means that parents have greater knowledge and understanding of social and emotional development. Parents and caregivers raising a child experiencing early signs of social, emotional, and mental health challenges will recognize through knowledge, information, and the support of others that help is needed in this moment. This would happen because those who work the most with our young children would know more about what ‘normal’ development looks like and would be able to help parents connect to the resources they need early – before serious problems emerge. As the parent of a 3-year-old, we were told that something was ‘not right’ with our daughter, and that we needed to find special help for her. I was very thankful for the preschool’s recognition of these struggles. However, it felt like those who cared most about our child didn’t know where to get help. In fact, it seemed that the services she needed did not exist. Five years later, our daughter received a diagnosis. In that short span of time, she suffered so many negative actions by those who were positioned to be the greatest help. If social, emotional, and mental health challenges were less stigmatized, those who spend the most time with our children would be able to help parents connect with the services that best suit their child’s needs. Mental Health Acceptance at the community level where preschools, or K-12 educators, school counselors, school administrators, or teachers are engaged would be able to partner with parents to ensure that educational and community supports are available to support the child and family at the time that concerns are first identified. Bullying and shaming of all children and youth would never be tolerated and would cease to be a part of the school culture. Children struggling with social and emotional challenges would not be blamed for their behavior or seen as weak. All children would know their strengths, and school-based mental health services would be available in every school. Parents would be given relevant, useful information about special education or special accommodations for the purpose of helping their child. Schools would be transparent about what services and supports are available to meet a child’s need for support, and parents would have important information about their child’s rights to have a subsidized and appropriate education. There would be more interest and support for children and families whose child is struggling with complex mental health challenges. At state, regional, and local children’s Systems of Care levels, there are resources, services and supports for all children and youth who struggle with trauma and other complex mental health needs. Back in 2007, at a national System of Care Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana - two years after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, researchers gave a presentation about the secondary impact of trauma on children and youth. Their research showed that children and youth experienced ‘secondary trauma’ – from events such as 911 or living in East L.A. where increasing violent crimes occurred over a ten-year period. Not a single neighborhood was untouched by this disturbing trend. Many more children were being referred either for negative behaviors in school, and/or were identified as needing mental health services. What we know about children is that they react or respond differently to trauma, based on their age, ability to cope, and the number and frequency of similar traumatic events. Several years later, the ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences Study) further demonstrated that not only do adverse childhood experiences negatively impact our kids, but the more of these experiences they have, the more severe these negative impacts are, even causing lifelong trauma and the inability to function well into adulthood. Mental Health Acceptance means our state and local policymakers and elected officials recognize these levels of need, and provide adequate funding to make sure the services children, youth and families need are available – rather than providing a one-size-fits-all service system. Mental Health Acceptance means that early intervention and early treatment are available – including parent peer supports. When we clearly hear what families tell us they need and understand how to design and fund services and supports to meet them, we can ensure that state and local systems provide an expanded and flexible array of services which demonstrates that we have truly accepted children and youth who experience social, emotional, and mental health challenges. We will have recognized that they are not simply trying to get attention or acting out for no reason. We believe what parents tell us about their experiences, and we provide supports and appropriate services that help the whole family. Finally, when Congress and state legislatures commit to adequate funding for child and adult behavioral health services, the struggle will diminish, and more children and families will find the services they receive both helpful and healing. That is the difference between Mental Health Awareness and Mental Health Acceptance to me.
  • March 2022 - A Cautionary Tale
    Claudette Fette, PhD, OTR, CRC, mom The regret of my life is having entrusted my oldest son, Aaron, to an abusive, tough-love style treatment center at the age of twelve (Read Maia Szalavitz’s 2020 revision of Help at Any Cost to learn more about Straight Inc. and other like legacy programs to avoid). That trauma cast a long shadow over the rest of his life, and it weighs heavily on me. I have spent the 30 years between then and now studying better alternatives. We are literally writing a book on our experience and what I wish we had known to do. However, what I needed to know begins long before Aaron started abusing substances. His journey began with many risk factors, and it would have been useful to have early intervention support build our understanding of effective parenting, communication, and social and emotional learning (SEL). He heard voices from early childhood, yet much of what we accessed focused on behavioral modification and neglected to address basic needs. Implementing consequences without an understanding of where we were failing him predisposed him to substance use. He needed concrete help to succeed in school and learn to regulate himself. Our family needed to understand mental illness, trauma, and how to better enable mental health and well-being. We needed to learn how to advocate for appropriate supports in school, and to better encourage and create enabling niches for his strengths across home, school, and community. Once he began using substances, family, school, and mental health providers needed to understand trauma, and how to support more effective strategies for coping and self-regulation. We needed to recognize his trauma and give him appropriate supports and voice. We needed help to understand how the trauma secondary to his escalating mental illness and school failure were feeding his substance use. Instead, we took a behavioral stance, which was harmful. Yet, it fell in line with what all of our community was telling us we needed to do. That reliance on consequences was further reinforced in the abusive treatment center that we placed our family into. We needed help to shift from a retributive mindset to a restorative one. In short, our family needed an understanding of trauma and how to support trauma recovery. We needed skills in restorative practices and wraparound. We needed to know how to wrap supports around Aaron to assure that he experienced himself as competent and had other alternatives for coping. You can access links to some of the resources I have found at
  • January 2022 - How can a parent(s) support their child experiencing mental health symptoms while in the justice system?
    Neil Pressley, Certified Life Coach and Mental Health Provider (North Carolina) Parenting is hard work. Parenting a youth with mental health issues, who is also involved with the justice system, can be exponentially harder. Although the youth is in the penal system, parents should be mindful that they and their youth have rights. I would encourage parents to educate themselves and build some awareness around the mental health treatment and services offered or provided, whether that is by the detention facilities or by community providers who work with justice-involved youth. Attending court appointments and hearings to ensure family voice is present, complying with the law, and advocating for the youth are additional ways to provide support. A youth with mental health issues, as well as the family members supporting them, may find it difficult to navigate through the justice system. This sometimes happens because they have developed a daily routine to adjust to the demands of the youth’s mental illness that have abruptly been broken. Being in an unfamiliar environment surrounded by unfamiliar people can certainly heighten the youth's anxiety. Parents would do well to communicate with their youth whenever possible to ensure the youth’s mental, emotional, and physical safety during the transition. This could include advocating for mental health treatment, ensuring proper medication management, and seeking opportunities or resources that support the youth’s transition (for example, involving a school or court counselor or social worker). The transition could be in or out of the juvenile justice system, or into the adult justice system. Parents and caregivers also need support to avoid burnout. Supporting a young person who is struggling with their mental health can be severely compounded by justice involvement, which requires a great deal of effort from the family. This includes consistent self-care, establishing a strong support network for themselves, and having a trustworthy therapeutic team for the youth. Connecting with others who have “lived experience” can lead to more positive outcomes for the youth and for the whole family, while reducing stigma and guilt. About Neil Neil Pressley is the father of three amazing children, a certified life coach, a caregiver, and has worked as a mental health provider for the last 13 years. Neil’s lived experience and his 13 years of professional experience have shaped his ability to support youth as they transition into adulthood and adapt to meet their needs. Neil believes strongly in promoting advocacy and self-sufficiency skills in youth and families to help them accomplish their goals. Neil’s motivation stems from his passion for helping others and engaging youth, young adults, and families in services. His experience working with justice-involved youth has increased his awareness of the need for authentic and purposeful engagement with youth, families, and natural supports. Neil's hobbies include spending time with his children, traveling, and watching South Carolina Women's Basketball games.
  • December 2021 - How has your work as a Family Support Specialist evolved in the last 18 months?
    Henry Moore - Director of Family-Driven Practice, Families as Allies (Mississippi) Over the past 18 months, my organization has changed and adapted our response to supporting families throughout different phases and aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first few weeks of the pandemic, my organization - Families as Allies, in Mississippi, reached out to all the families in our database to learn more about their unique needs during the outbreak. Practical information about resources for concrete needs and help understanding COVID were the primary needs that we responded to. We continued to stay in touch with families by phone and provided emotional support, especially with coping with having children home from school. We also increased the frequency of our newsletter, The Ally, from monthly to weekly to ensure timely sharing of resources and support, including COVID-19 related policy updates that affect families. In addition to our regular Facebook page, we started a members-only private Facebook group for families to support each other and share ideas. We launched a virtual family support group with weekly sessions. The parents in the group named it “Parents Unmuted” and seemed to experience it as a safe space for sharing. We adapted all our modules for online training and updated them to include information about coping with COVID. All modules are appropriate for families and those who work with families. We also offered them via regularly scheduled webinars. We adapted our Leadership Training to offer it virtually. We conducted a virtual train-the-trainer session as well. The format offered flexibility so that parents with children at home could participate and included evaluations of each session to ensure participants had been engaged with the material. We continued to offer virtual coaching and support to any parent providing peer support to other parents in any system throughout the pandemic. Initially this focused on supporting them in their own concerns about COVID and then moved more toward helping them support families and conveying information to families about their rights and resources. Because providers initially had more downtime and virtual availability, we offered more training in family driven practice and partnering with families, as well as group and individual coaching in family-driven practice to those working with families. This helped strengthen our partnerships and ongoing relationships with providers. We also began hosting Facebook Live Town Halls at the beginning of the pandemic to get feedback and share ideas about how Families as Allies could be as responsive as possible during this outbreak and in general. Those have continued. As the pandemic progressed, we continued these activities, but also gathered data regarding families’ experiences and concerns, especially about school return and the rights of children with disabilities. We increased our training and newsletter outreach in this area and shared data with state policy makers to assist in decision making. We also advocated for telehealth approaches that would most support families, including a statewide role out of a child mental health consultation line for pediatric primary care providers. More recently, we have focused on disseminating vaccine and safety information in ways that build relationships rather than tap into political differences. We are in the process of creating a vaccine hesitance video that describes how relationships and acceptance have helped people become less hesitant about the vaccine. We are also continually mindful of the ongoing trauma of COVID in our state that was a hotspot for a sustained period and strive to make our approaches with families, our partners, each other, and ourselves trauma-informed. We made a commitment in the beginning of the pandemic to share information broadly and openly and for all staff to have the opportunity to share concerns and give input into policies and procedures affected by COVID. To learn more about how Family Peer Specialists have adapted their way of work to meet the multiple and diverse needs of the families they serve, watch our 3-hour training titled "Next Steps in Family Peer Support: Tools and Strategies for the Workforce" which was presented in November, 2021.
  • October 2021 - How can parents use HIPAA regulations to help support their adult children?
    Diana Autin - Executive Director, SPAN Parent Advocacy Network As your child becomes an adult and it becomes harder for parents to get firsthand information for their child receiving medical attention, who can control access to their health records and information changes? What can a parent do? The following are some steps you may take: You can help support your youth before they become young adults. Discuss with them in advance how these rights will change. Talk with them about the information in their health records and what it means. Work with providers to develop your youth’s understanding and self-advocacy skills as they mature. And explore with your youth options such as Supported Decision-Making. Your young adult can agree (“consent”) to allow you to have access to their records. They can name you as their personal representative through a written directive, medical power of attorney, or health care proxy. You can also learn about your adult child’s health information in other situations. If your adult child can’t make healthcare decisions, a provider may share information with you if they determine it is in their best interests. If your adult child is incapacitated following an overdose, a provider may share information about the overdose and related medical information with you. And a provider may share information with you if they reasonably believe you can prevent or lessen a threat of serious and imminent harm to your adult child or others. The more you know, the more you work with your youth as they become young adults, and the more you partner with healthcare providers, the more you will be able to use HIPAA regulations to help support your adult children. For more information, watch our “Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Privacy Rights for Individuals and Families” webinar which took place Wednesday, October 20th, 2021.
  • September 2021 - What would you tell a parent to include in a plan to maintain housing during a behavioral healthcare crisis that may threaten eviction?
    Gena Fitzgerald, Senior Director for Family Outreach and Support, SAFE Project Eviction - and the threat of eviction - is traumatic for families, especially those who also manage mental health or substance use challenges with a family member or child of any age. For families like ours, we are more likely than others to experience homelessness. Whether it’s a noise complaint, accidentally damaging property, drug possession or use, even repeated minor infractions or behavior can result in facing eviction and homelessness. As a family member, the best thing we can do is prepare for the unexpected. That means knowing where all your important information is for the affected family member. While many of us keep paper files, it’s smart to also have a digital copy on hand that you can keep on your phone - even if it’s just an email to yourself with their diagnosis, medical history, and important contact information. If you have an adult child, consider sharing a copy with them as well. You may also need to have these handy if you need proof of disability when you speak to someone about keeping your housing under the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Here is some of the top information you want to be able to access at a moment’s notice: Medical Insurance information and copy of insurance card Home Insurance Information with account number and 1-800 information (in case of damage) Current diagnosis of your family member Access to treatment records List of their current medications with directions and dosage Contact information for medical specialists Key Family and Friends contact information with phone numbers and emails Contact information for your landlord or Property Manager, including any 800-numbers Contact information for your attorney or legal representative. If you do not have one, use the Legal Services Corporation locator to find a legal aid organization in your area. If you’ve had ongoing issues, it may be helpful to have an initial conversation and not wait. Stable housing is vital to the health and wellness of our families, and for us as parents or caregivers. To learn more, watch our two-part stabilizing housing series ( Part 1 | Part 2) about real-life challenges families face in navigating housing and homelessness.
  • August 2021 - How does a parent prepare their child with school anxiety to return to school full-time after extended time at home during the pandemic?
    Gail Cormier, Project Director, National Family Support Technical Assistance Center (NFSTAC) As the NFSTAC Project Director, I usually ask one of our many family leaders with lived experience from across the country to answer our “Ask the Expert” question each month, but because the idea of school anxiety strikes at the heart of my family and my own personal experience, it is this very question that I feel the most experienced to answer. ​ As a parent, a professional in the field for 30 years, and as someone who was so debilitated by school anxiety myself during my adolescence, I understand the energy and support a child needs to muster to attend school each day and the tools and supports parents need to help their child/ren. As those August nights get closer to the start of school, that fear intensifies. For me just thinking about it now as I write makes my heart skip a beat. For parents, we begin to prepare ourselves for that mid-summer storm that is coming as the days get shorter and school draws near. For our children, here comes those sleepless nights, crying fits, headaches, and stomach aches. The storm will be upon us soon. ​ As parents, we often try to reassure our children, but our children are smart, and they will see through saying 'It's going to be fine.' This is not going to help a nervous child. When children begin to exhibit signs of worry and anxiety, parents can use this as an opportunity to have more dialogue to determine what is making them anxious. The more information you have the better job you can do to make a child more comfortable with school. A word of caution: I have found the worse thing I could ask my child was “what was the worst thing that could happen?”, because she could tell me and then focus on that for the rest of the evening. For my daughter and me what has worked is keeping a consistent schedule of daily activities and evening rituals. Getting plenty of rest during the weeks before school begins is also helpful. My daughter also finds eating healthful foods and exercising very important to keep up, especially as the start of school nears. ​ As a parent, it is important to be positive about the activities your child enjoys at school and that they will be able to resume once school begins. A parent can help the child to look forward to the positive activities that happen in school. For example, my daughter loved band in high school which was very fortunate because band practice starts before the school year begins. This gave her time to gradually get back into the school environment. ​ Focusing on the fun activities that interest your child can ground them in the reality of what does happen in school that is positive. This shifts the thoughts away from all the anxiety-ridden possibilities children can create in their minds. Although my daughter is now a college graduate, we both still struggle with school anxiety (and starting new adventures and transitions), but we have learned to employ tricks to keep us moving forward during those anxious times. As parents, we can hug and reassure our children that everyone worries sometimes, and that they are not alone. There will always be anxious times but if you’re a parent whose child struggles with school anxiety, you are not alone.
  • July 2021 - Why should parents encourage their child(ren) to attend and be an active member of their IEP, Wraparound, and/or PCP team?"
    Lisa Lambert, Executive Director, Parent Professional Advocacy League (PPAL) Children gain many benefits by participating in their own team meetings. Youth gain many skills by doing something, not just reading or hearing about it. By being part of a team meeting, they learn more about creating plans and goals and how to reach them. They observe how group decisions are made. Just as importantly, youth learn about being part of a team which requires good communication, respect for others and often, patience and tolerance. Team meetings should create goals and care plans with your child, not just for them. When those goals and plans are implemented, we know that our youth will feel more engaged than when they feel they don’t have a choice. Unfortunately, research indicates that few young people participate meaningfully in their team meetings or creating care plans. To make the experience more successful for your child, a parent can do a little prep work by letting their child know who will be there, what topics will be discussed and that it’s okay to both chime in or simply listen. Teach them to talk about what works for them and what doesn’t, since this is their area of expertise. ​ Children watch us. In my family, we say “advocacy is the family business” just as other families may own a store where their children work at increasingly responsible jobs or everyone goes into the same line of work. Children learn by watching us in team meetings as we offer information, insist on something we know works and most of all, advocate for our child. Team meetings can be a place where they learn those skills. ​ Lastly, teaching our youth is part of being family driven. When a journey (or team meeting) follows the guidelines of being family driven, the parent/caregiver chooses the path forward, the route to get there and the values that guide them. Sure, we consult experts on the journey and value their input. Then the day comes when we turn the lead over to our child. The decisions now become theirs, but we can help ensure they have skills and experience to draw on. ​ Learn more about Lisa and the Parent Professional Advocacy League (PPAL) here. Find additional information and resources about youth and young adult engagement in mental health services for caregivers and families as well as professionals and the family peer support workforce below.
  • June 2021 - Why is it important for parents to provide input on the types of supports needed for the recovery community?
    Susan Nyamore, Executive Director, Southwest Florida Wellness Network Parents are in recovery too! As a parent I cannot express how important my voice is in the recovery movement. I know that I have been the most important influential person in my children’s life. I have had to be a champion for my children when they most needed me. Being a part of my children’s journey into adulthood has made me recognize the importance of good recovery supports. Being a part of the recovery movement has strengthened our family in the moments when we needed it the most. “We have cried together, we have had sleepless nights together, we have been in fear together, but most importantly, we are in recovery together!” So why not include the family in our conversation about supports needed in the recovery community when families need the supports too!
  • May 2021 - If I find myself wondering if my child may be using substances, but I am not sure, what should I do?"
    Molly Bobeck, Associate Vice President, Family and Adolescent Clinical Technology & Science (FACTS), Partnership to End Addiction Many parents feel a profound worry and deep fear when wondering about their child’s substance use. We encourage you to be present with your child, and pay attention to any observable behaviors or comments that might alert you that they are struggling. Your relationship with them is your most important resource as you navigate these worries. In addition, try to take a step back and remember that behaviors make sense and occur in important contexts. When preparing to speak to your child about your worries, reflect on your past interactions and approach towards your child – what has worked in the past in terms of relating to your child, and what hasn’t been so helpful? You can model positive communication skills for your child; you are more likely to have a productive conversation this way, and they can always use your behavior as an example. You can ask: What is your child thinking and feeling? What is your child hopeful about or worried about? What does your child think is good about using drugs? Is there anything your child worries about related to drugs, or about risks of the behavior? What does your child believe that you do not properly understand or value? We know that engaging in these conversations can be very difficult, so you shouldn’t be hesitant to seek support, or be discouraged if at first it doesn’t feel successful when you aim to engage in a more skillful conversation with your child. Reach out to a network of support (professionals who can help you understand and make meaning of your child’s needs). Think of ways to stay connected to your child in addition to (positive) verbal communication; make plans to spend time together, express physical affection, take an interest in their life and what they enjoy or excel at. Throughout all the worry as a parent/caregiver, don’t forget to take care of yourself and honor your identity outside of your role as a parent. Remain attuned to your own internal experience and emotional life; what are your needs, how are you feeling, what triggers you, and so forth. Make sure to prioritize connection with other parents, friends, or a support community. Above all, stay focused on the positive relationship with your child and your lifelong bond with them, and offer compassion and love. It is truly the most important thing and has the biggest healthy influence on their behavior. Learn more by watching our 3-part Family Support for Behavioral Health Across the Lifespan series. (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3)
  • April 2021 - What advice do you have for parents/caregivers regarding strategies to ensure that they are practicing self-care during the pandemic?
    Sue Badeau, Parent, Author, National Speaker Our families are reporting feeling overwhelmed during the pandemic as they try to balance work and financial commitments while navigating their children through virtual and hybrid learning environments. Families report feelings of stress, exhaustion, and isolation as they attempt to support their children’s social and emotional health. Life for parents in today’s world can be overwhelming in the best of times. If one or more of the children in the family has special needs, parents have stressful jobs, parents are also caring for their own parents, or coping with their own health or mental health issues, the stress level rises exponentially. In the past year, the impact of a global pandemic, political upheaval, and heightened racial unrest, along with weather, social and economic challenges have pushed the stress level off the charts into new and uncharted territory. In such circumstances the call to “take care of yourself” is almost laughable to some and offensive to others. What is a parent to do? I’d like to share 3 strategies I consider most important and also most manageable in times like these: 1. Hold space for and acknowledge the hard feelings. Give yourself grace and space, to be sad, angry, frustrated, exhausted, or overwhelmed. Don’t beat yourself up over the hard feelings. Don’t try to deny or push past them. Give them some space in your life, and then use a moment of joy, laughter or gratitude to bring yourself back into balance. In other words, give voice to the hard feelings, but don’t stay stuck in them.​ ​ 2. Connect every day. Preventing, managing, surviving and recovering well from stress, loss and trauma is all about relationships. Start each day with two questions - (a) Can I name ONE person who I know I can turn to for support today if needed and (b) Who is ONE person I will reach out to today for connection, friendship and support? Starting your day with these two questions is one of the best self-care habits you can develop. 3. Simplify - but don’t neglect - your self-care plan. Focus on the basics: nourish, hydrate, sleep Take simple, small breaks throughout the day – a few minutes of listening to a favorite piece of music, taking a 5-minute walk, watching something that makes you laugh, breathing in a scent that steeps you in calm, drinking a cup of tea, writing in your journal, or calling a friend. None of these things need take more than a couple of minutes but when practiced throughout the day – engaging all of your senses and all domains of your being (body, mind, heart, soul) you will be revitalized and refreshed for the next hour of your day. To learn more, watch the "Who is Taking Care of You? Self-Care with Sue Badeau" webinar which took place in April, 2021.
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