National Safe Place Network

Self-Care: So Who Takes Care of You?

Written by: Mark W. Wolf, Training Director at National Safe Place Network

This is my first attempt at a blog so bear with me.  I volunteered to do this one because the most significant thing I have learned in my nearly 40 year career in the youth work field is the importance of taking care of yourself.

It has always struck me how so many youth care workers, who are superstars at caring for others, fail so miserably at taking care of themselves. The other thing I know to be true is how those most effective in this field care down to their core. That kind of care takes a toll on you emotionally and physically, and often leads to burnout.  If you want to continue to work in the field and be effective you absolutely must make a plan to take care of yourself. Many of us learn to take care of ourselves the hard way and many drop out of the field, unfortunately, because they do not learn in time. Fortunately, self-care can be learned.  With guidance, support, and good role models I learned some things along the way about work and self-care that helped me in my career and life.

Before you can make a self-care plan, there are some things you need to figure out about your work.  You have to examine why you are doing the work you are doing, and who are you doing this work for. It’s ok that we all meet some of our needs through our work, but our work cannot be the sole provider, or even the primary provider.  Remember that in our work we are there to meet other’s needs, not our own.  We need to meet our own needs in our own way, on our own time. Most importantly, we must be realistic in our expectations of how much we can do at one time, it is indeed a marathon. Understand that at best, we are support agents that facilitate change and growth that must be self directed. In the end, hopefully we know and believe we are worthy and deserve to be cared about by ourselves and others.

Once you figure all this out, and it can be complicated and take some significant time and effort unraveling who we are and what we need, you are ready to make a self-care plan.  First, understand that self-care is a bit of a misnomer. Much of self-care is making sure you have people around you that care about you and for you. The self-care part is allowing these others in.  As for a self-care plan, make a list of things you do for yourself that energize and inspire you, make a schedule, and keep it. Develop a support system outside of your work that includes a variety of people and activities. Give yourself permission to make time to play, have fun, and be totally selfish with your time and what you choose to do with it.

I was fortunate to have lots of support, guidance and great role models along the way to help me figure out how to create and maintain balance in my life.  Go out and find the support and guidance and care you need along the way.  You already know this but it is worth saying again – if you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to help take care of others.

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Take a Breather

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

Sometimes when one hears the word “relax,” it’s followed up with “Relax? Who has time for that?” “If only.” “It must be nice.” “I can’t turn my mind off long enough to relax.” “If I relax, who’s going to do the work, take care of the kids, and so on . . . ?” But did you know relaxing is actually important for your health? Here are “10 Health Benefits of Relaxation” shared by The Huffington Post:

  1. Relaxing protects your heart.
  2. Relaxing lowers your risk of catching a cold.
  3. Relaxing boosts your memory.
  4. Relaxing lowers your risk of stroke.
  5. Relaxing keeps you safe from depression.
  6. Relaxing helps you make better decisions.
  7. Relaxing keeps you slim.
  8. Relaxing eases acne.
  9. Relaxing will keep you in the mood.
  10. Relaxing could slow breast cancer.

Lucky for you (if you’re one who’s guilty of having the thoughts mentioned above), we found “40 Ways to Relax in 5 Minutes or Less.” Some of these suggestions include the following:

  • Nosh on chocolate.
  • Lay your head on a cushion or pillow.
  • Remember to breathe.
  • Rub your feet over a golf ball.
  • Drip cold water on your wrists.
  • Look out the window/find the sun.
  • Stretch.
  • Listen to your favorite song.
  • Sniff citrus.
  • Talk to a friend.
  • and 30 MORE!

We asked your NSPN family this question: “What do you do to relax?” Here’s how they take a breather:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “I read cookbooks, novels, etc., and I spend time ‘unplugged.’”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “Read, write, and photography.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “To relax, I like to lose myself in a well-written book, movie, or TV show.”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “To relax, I lay on the floor with my dogs, have a beer and a shot of 1800, I listen to music, and people watch.”
  • Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: “Read or spend time with grandkids.”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “I like socializing after work with friends and family. I find long talks with friends as good for relaxation as any exercise.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “Go to the movies or have a well-made cocktail.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I guess I relax by watching TV.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “Working out is really stress relieving for me. I read voraciously. I love naps with my puppy!”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “Read a book, watch a movie or TV show, or drink a delicious glass of Malbec wine.”
  • Autumn Sandlin, Marketing & Communications Intern: “I’m a big fan of naps! Although, I generally take those out of necessity and not for strict relaxation. When I’m actively trying to relax, I usually put on a tv show that I like and do some sort of face mask.”
  • Sabrina Smith, Development Intern: “When I get too stressed, I like to go outside and hang out with our chickens! They’re always so happy to see me – it’s impossible to be stressed when you’re surrounded by chickens.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I feel most relaxed when I’m snuggling with my pugs. Some people get annoyed when their dogs snore, but I find it quite calming. I think it’s because hearing them snore lets me know they are ok.”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “I like to read or do crossword puzzles.”

Learn more about your NSPN family at https://nspn.memberclicks.net/our-team.

What do you do to relax? National Relaxation Day is August 15; feel free to share your “goto” relaxation ritual below.  

 

School Supply Donation Drives

Written by Autumn Sandlin, NSPN Marketing & Communications Intern

The end of the summer season is quickly approaching. School will be back in session soon enough, and with that comes supplies. School supplies can be an underlying source of anxiety for youth and their families. While supplies are essential to a student’s education, they can be expensive and cause a strain on families and their budgets. You can help the youth in your programs ease this burden by holding back—to–school donation drives. Not only will these drives help support youth you serve, but they’re also a great way for the community to become involved with your program(s).

Suggested Items for Donation:

  • Loose leaf paper (college & wide-ruled)
  • Spiral notebooks (college & wide-ruled)
  • Binders
  • Number 2 pencils
  • Black & blue ink pens
  • Pocket folders with prongs
  • Highlighters
  • Crayons/colored pencils/markers
  • Construction paper
  • Composition books
  • Index cards
  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Glue/Glue sticks

Note: These items can change depending on the age of the youth you serve. This is merely a suggested list

There are different routes you can take with a donation drive; and it will be up to you to assess your program’s needs and determine a best fit. You may want to consider placing donation bins at various locations around your area in order to maximize community involvement on an individual, and business level. There’s also the back-pack option, where volunteers would fill back-packs with the items donated to your program. Some agencies may choose to collect donations by placing bins at local businesses and others may plan a community giving day.

When you have decided on the type of donation drive you’d like to do, get the word out! You can hand out fliers/post them around your community, get the local newspaper to do an article on the donation drive, and/or talk to your local radio station. It’s important to get the word out about your drive, and seeking out platforms that have a larger audience is one of the ways to do it.

You should also set goals for your donation drive. These goals can vary. Whether you’d like to see a certain number of volunteers/businesses get involved, or have a number of donated items you’d like to receive, goals will help you maintain organization and give you a ‘bottom line’ to strive for. Try one of these goal charts to track your status and encourage excitement in your office: (click to download)

backpack drive   supply drive   fundraiser

While paper, pens, and pencils may seem like small, insignificant items; they are the some of the building blocks of education. Your decision to hold a school supply donation drive for youth helps ease the stress and anxiety of the school supply list, and puts the young people you serve on a path to greatness starting at the beginning of the school year.

NSPN: Meeting Your Personal, Organizational and Community Needs

Written by: April Carthorn, General Specialist, National Safe Place Network

nspn-membership-campaign-flyer

After forty-years offering support to member organizations who serve youth and families, National Safe Place Network (NSPN) has learned that needs vary by organization, in communities, and over time.  We offer a flexible structure designed to help members affordably access the benefits they need.  Base membership is $200.  We have three additional benefit packages which can be combined in an All-in-One for a $200 discount, essentially waiving the base membership fee.

Package options are:

  • Professional Development
  • Training Center
  • Organizational Development

Pricing for each package depends on the size of your agency budget at one of three levels:

  • Under $500,000
  • $500,000 to $2 million
  • Over $2 million

As we approach the start of a new membership year July 1st, we want to share with those of you who may not know how you could benefit from making NSPN your network.

Base Membership
The NSPN Base Membership is an easily affordable investment for organizations who want updated information, helpful resources and access to a national network of dedicated professionals.  Base members receive discounts on registration for NSPN events like the bi-annual Focus Conference.  Networking opportunities include access to quarterly executive leadership calls and eligibility for national awards.

Base members also have opportunities to share your expertise with peers in the field by participating in Innovation Circles research projects or contributing as a guest blogger on NSPNsights. Tell us about promising practices in your organization, community, or state or something else that you’re passionate about.  We never know how sharing our stories impacts and motivates others.

Learn more about base member benefits here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/base-membership

Professional Development
The Professional Development benefits package is designed for agencies dedicated to educating, motivating, and cultivating their staff.  Succession planning starts with identifying potential leaders and developing their skills to grow people in your organization.  The Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) is one grand example.  Participants examine their past, present, and aspiring leadership journey with other NSPN members.

As a former middle manager, I often struggled most with meeting the needs of both upper management and program staff.  Playing the middle man/woman between two vital entities that each have a different focus, skill set, understanding and responsibility can be draining and at times overwhelming.  Professional coaching for middle managers is invaluable support for learning to create the right balance.

Learn more about Professional Development benefits here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/professional-development-package

Training Center
The NSPN Training Center benefits package is targeted toward organizations seeking access to tools, trainings and other resources that help staff best serve youth, young adults and their families.  Along with access to the Destination for Online Training (DOT), Training Center members receive specialized services.  NSPN staff or Subject Matter Experts will work with members to customize webinars or other training to meet their needs.

Training Center members also received discounts on our most popular site-based learning opportunities, including CYC and Youth Thrive.  Learn more about Child and Youth Care: Foundations Course and becoming a certified youth care worker here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/child-youth-care-certification.  More information about the Youth Thrive Curriculum is available here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/youth-thrive-curriculum.

Learn about other Training Center benefits here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/training-center-package

Organizational Development
This benefits package is targeted toward organizations who seek to strengthen or maintain a solid and sustainable organizational structure.  Disasters can happen anywhere, anytime and to anyone.  Being prepared to respond quickly and appropriately is key to how individuals, organizations and communities recover in times of crisis or adversity.  Some member organizations have suffered losses or dealt with traumatic incidents.  NSPN provides crisis debriefing for staff and volunteers of member agencies with the Organizational Development package.

NSPN can also assist Organizational Development members by reviewing human resources policies and procedures and providing feedback.  It’s a good practice to revisit policies and procedures periodically. Amendments may be necessary as changes in mission, organizational structure or populations served occur over time.

Learn more about Organizational Development benefits here: https://www.nspnetwork.org/organizational-development-package

All-in-One Membership
The value of NSPN base membership and add-on packages increase the more members take advantage of their benefits.  And your best investment is the All-in-One package, with access to benefits to improve your programs and services, invest in your staff and leaders, and develop organizational capacity.  As a bonus, NSPN members receive a $200 discount when they upgrade to the All-in-One package.

I am happy to answer any questions you may have and show you how much we value our members. You can reach me, April Carthorn, at support@nspnetwork.org.

Social Media and Body Image Issues Among Teens

Written by: Hilary Smith, Freelance Journalist

Social Media addiction. young beautiful woman holding a smartpho
Just by scrolling through countless celebrities’ social media accounts, we can see that our society is obsessed with beauty. Everywhere our sons and daughters look they are viewing toned, tanned, and tight bodies. However, what caught me and countless other parents off guard, is the fact that our smart and beautiful children succumb to these impossible body ideals.

As my sons and daughter struggle with molding themselves to meet the physical ideals society deems desirable, it makes me wonder how I can help them see the truth that they are valuable without doing countless “curls for the girls” in the gym or looking up weight loss secrets on pro-anorexia sites. With all this focus on ideal bodies, I want to challenge parents everywhere to help our children understand social media and decode the truth behind body image issues.

Teens, Body Image, And Social Media

Teenager using Smartphone at Home

Body image is often defined as how a person views their appearance and physical features and how they perceive others see them. While the definition appears pretty straightforward, it’s important to realize that body image can be complicated to understand. It’s all about perception and when it is combined with the awkward teen years, many of our children begin to agonize over their changing bodies and each child deals with this in different ways.

It’s no secret that the telly and mags often promote body types and faces that portray an ideal body type, but today’s hyper connected children are living in a culture that is focused on social media and this driving force has considerable influence on our kids.

These images often cause feelings of insecurity to manifest leading to poor body images and self concepts. Numerous apps and social media hangouts rely on profile pics, likes, and comments to function; which place a lot of importance on a child’s physical attributes. This need to project the ideal social media image can lead our children to fixate on their bodies and their inadequacies.

Talking Body Image And Social Media: 4 Tips For Parents

Realizing social media can be connecting children to dangerous sites that fuel and magnify their insecurities is frightening for parents to realize. This is only compounded when experts warn that 70 percent of our sons and daughters will regularly hide their online activity by dimming screens, deleting messages, and closing windows when we walk into a room. A little privacy is understandable, but we need to consider the fact that our teenagers’ brains are still maturing which makes it easier for eating disorder habits to become hardwired leading to a life of addictive habits that are almost impossible to break.

It is heart wrenching to watch a child deal with body image issues and develop unhealthy habits. It is essential that we parents begin a conversation about healthy body images and take measures to reduce the impact social media has on our children before an issue develops.

Listed below are four ways we can help our children look beyond social media to see their true self worth:

  • Teach children that images of celebrities and other media have been changed to project perfection. Look online for some before and after pics of magazine covers to illustrate your point. Remind them that celebrities are human and have flaws, they just have hired professionals to maintain their image.
  • Encourage healthy habits and lifestyles. Provide access to nutritional foods, encourage physical activity, and promote personal hygiene to empower children and give them some control.
  • Lead by example. Be mindful of the things we say about ourselves, others, and even our children. Display a healthy and realistic view of our bodies.
  • Monitor a child’s online activity. Know the sites they frequent, who their friends are, what apps they download, and how they behave online or on their Smartphone. Being in the know can help alert you to any potential problems developing.

In our family, we are taking it one day at a time. Things in our house are improving as we focus on trying to be healthy, rather than achieving a certain size or body fat percentage. How does your family help children keep body images at bay in the social media age?

About the author:
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Hilary Smith is a freelance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent, she now enjoys writing about family and parenting-related topics.

Safe Place – What Are the Benefits?

Written by: Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations, National Safe Place Network

Safe Place logo

Safe Place® is a nationally recognized outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis. As the only nationwide safety net initiative implemented on a local level, Safe Place unites social service agencies, corporations, civic organizations, government entities, volunteers, educators, and law enforcement in an effort to increase the number of access points through which young people can connect for assistance. More than 20,000 locations across the country display the yellow-and-black diamond-shaped Safe Place sign, the universal symbol for youth safety. Safe Place locations include: libraries, fire stations, YMCAs, grocery and convenience stores, public transportation vehicles, social service facilities, and more.

Safe Place provides a variety of benefits to youth, families, and communities. Here are some of the reasons why Safe Place is a vital community program:

Youth get help when and where they need it.

  • Neighborhood Safe Place locations offer help and safety
  • Youth can get help before their problem escalates to a crisis
  • Safe Place connects youth and families to supportive services

Schools collaborate with youth service agencies.

  • This important collaboration helps raise awareness about Safe Place as an immediate connection to help.
  • Safe Place is a resource for schools when a student needs assistance.
  • Students learn about Safe Place through presentations, information cards, and public service announcements.

Law enforcement connects with youth and offers assistance.

  • Safe Place helps reduce unnecessary placement in juvenile facilities.
  • School-based officers provide Safe Place information to students.
  • Safe Place agencies serve as a resource for law enforcement when they encounter a youth in crisis.

Youth service agencies develop unique collaborations.

  • Collaboration opportunities increase as a result of new or enhanced community partnerships.
  • Safe Place connects agencies to a national, well-recognized brand resulting in increased visibility.

Businesses and community locations displaying the Safe Place sign show a commitment to youth safety.

  • Safe Place becomes a resource for local sites.
  • Safe Place offers a standard procedure to follow when a youth is in need of help.
  • Employees are encouraged to engage in volunteer opportunities
  • Business leaders and employees learn about current youth issues.

To learn more about Safe Place and the many benefits associated with the program, please contact National Safe Place Network at info@nationalsafeplace.org or 502-635-3660.

Staying Connected and Reaching Out During Summer

Written by: Karen Sieve, Regional Safe Place Manager, Youth in Need

Summer is around the corner.  Memorial Day means public pools are opening, and temperatures are warming up.  Summer is an important time for youth outreach.  Schools, which provide structure and additional supports throughout the fall, winter and spring, are not in session.  Children, teens and those who care about them are looking for fun activities to keep them occupied and out of trouble.  As temperatures heat up, however, many young people opt to stay indoors and find themselves home alone.  This can make outreach a challenge.

During this tricky time, what does Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team do?  Here are few tips to get you started.

Go to where the youth are.  Reach out to YMCAs, scouting groups, churches, community parks and other organizations that offer summer camps and other organized activities.  They may be looking for fun and educational activities to keep youth engaged.  Community parks and rec centers provide space and a variety of opportunities for young people to swim, jump rope, and play basketball, soccer, baseball, ping pong and pool.  They may have areas designated for teens to hang out and watch movies or use the Internet.  Parks and other public venues often offer summer concerts where youth tend to mingle.  Most parks provide plenty of shade, so youth can hang out under pavilions or trees to keep cool.  Be sure to have plenty of outreach cards and resource information on hand for distribution.  Bring along hygiene kits (with small bottles of sunscreen) and bottled water as well. Indoor skating rinks offer an additional fun option for young people to gather, listen to music, hang out, and stay cool. Most libraries provide a cool place to read and offer free computer access.  Introduce yourself to library staff.  Let them know how you can help young people so they can refer youth and turn to your agency as a resource.

Now is also a good time to check community calendars for upcoming festivals and fairs.  If possible, team up with another youth program within your agency so your agency is not only represented at a booth, but also available to walk around and meet youth, families and other participants.  Distribute outreach cards and resource information, and have hygiene kits (with small bottles of sunscreen) and bottled water available as well.

Bring the youth to you.  Consider teaming up with your Safe Place partners to offer fun events that will bring youth to you.  For example, ask your local fire departments to turn on water hydrants for a quick and fun cool down on hot summer days.

Team up with community partners.  In previous years, Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team hosted a free back-to-school barbeque and grilled hotdogs and burgers.  Ask your community partners to co-sponsor the event and provide donations of chips, sports drinks, soft drinks, bottled water, ice cream and school supplies.  Ask your local radio station to broadcast, or if they are not available, bring your Bluetooth speaker and play some tunes.

Utilize social media.  Promote these events and your agency’s whereabouts on social media.  Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team has a Facebook page that is popular among youth in our community.  Additionally, Facebook Live can be a fun way to inform and engage youth in what your team is doing and how you can help.  Facebook offers some great tips to get you started, https://live.fb.com/tips/.

Summer presents a unique set of challenges for outreach staff.  The key to reaching youth is creativity, flexibility and utilizing existing partnerships and social media to stay connected.

Tips for Hosting a Tweet Chat

Written by Katie Carter, Associate for Research, Policy, and Information; Presbyterian Church (USA)

Want to share information and answer questions about a new program your agency is offering? Want to generate ideas for getting local entities interested in your organization? Want to provide a fun venue for connecting with your current followers and gain new ones? A tweet chat is a great, low-cost way to do this. All you need is a little prep work, a Twitter account and an hour in your day to make it happen.

A tweet chat is like a virtual meet-up connected by a common hashtag that happens during a specified time. For example, a group used  to convene on Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. CST to discuss small business issues and network on Twitter. They used the hashtag #SmallBizChat.

If you decide to host a tweet chat, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t forget to include a hashtag. This is the way people will find your tweet chat. It is important you create a unique hashtag that is relevant to what you want to discuss. It should be simple, short, unique, and easy to remember.
  • Know why you want to start a tweet chat and have a plan. There are as many different reasons for hosting a tweet chat as there are organizations and people hosting them. Think about your target audience – local agencies? Donors? Kids on social media? Policymakers? Then cater to that audience.
  • Become familiar with tweet chats. Reading this is a good place to start. You might join in a tweet chat, or observe ones taking place. Get comfortable retweeting and using @mentions and @replies before hosting a chat.
  • Promote, promote, promote. No one will participate in your tweet chat if they don’t know it’s happening. Make sure you promote it on Twitter and other social media platforms at least a week in advance so people can plan ahead and participate. If you have a listserve, you might share the information that way. This also requires nailing down a time that will work for your target audience. Want to target school-age kids? You might plan a chat in the summer or after school hours. Targeting working parents? Think about what hours they will be available.
  • Actively manage the chat. It’s a good idea to do some planning ahead by preparing tweets in advance. Maybe you want to do a live question and answer session, in which case create a list of questions first that take into account the 140 character limit on Twitter and include the hashtag you are using. Be flexible in case you run out of time to ask or answer all of your questions. And respond to things other people ask.
  • Measure your impact and tell your story. So you’ve hosted your first tweet chat, but what did you accomplish? It’s a good idea to go back and see how many followers you gained during the chat and how many people participated by either retweeting or posting new content. Also, using websites like Storify is an easy, free way to share a summary of your tweet chat, or turn it into a story to share with donors, board members, staff and your social media networks.

Additional Resources:

Best Practices Guide: http://www.hashtags.org/business/management/best-practices-guide-for-tweet-chats/

Best Practices: http://www.slideshare.net/WCGWorld/twitter-chat-best-practices

How Not to Host a Twitter Chat: http://socialmediatoday.com/laurenbubble/1954471/how-not-host-twitter-chat

5 Common Sense Tips: http://blog.wcgworld.com/2012/01/five-tips-for-a-successful-twitter-chat

The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Tweet Chat: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevecooper/2013/09/30/the-ultimate-guide-to-hosting-a-tweet-chat/

Dragon Flies and Night Terrors: Parenting with Your Parents

Written by: Lisa Tobe, Executive Director, Wildflower Consulting, LLC

We’re close together, a landing between two attic bedrooms, so I can hear Mateo when he yells, “No. Stop.” He’s sleeping, and there is nobody else in the house, so I know he’s safe at least in this moment. Still I throw off my covers and open his door, white wood covered in a colorful circle of cartoonish truck and car stickers. He’s deep into a night terror and at first does not know that I’m in the room.

“Mateo, it’s Mama.” I reach over and touch his face with my hand. “You’re okay.”

He never wakes up, but he settles, so I kiss his cheek and leave. The next morning, I ask him if he had a bad dream. He doesn’t remember, so we move on in the rush of getting ready for school. Oats, cereal, lunch packed, jacket handed out and then five kisses before he catches the bus, one on each cheek, his forehead, nose and chin. Mateo kisses me back following the same pattern. It’s our way of staying with each other all day while we’re in different places.

That night, Mateo doesn’t want to go to sleep, says he’s afraid. We cuddle every night through a five-minute count down, which usually lasts more like 20. Often there’s very little cuddling; mostly tickles and giggles and words about his day. Lately he’d become a little clingier, his arms twisted in mine, like he’s not going to let me go. I like his tenderness.

“Tell me something good about your day,” I say.

“We got to go outside.”

“What did you do to fill up your kindness bucket?”

His night light, a series of blue, green and purple dragonflies lining his closet door, casts a glow in his room, so I can see his face scrunch in thought. “I fed the dog.”

“Good enough,” I think. Even though it’s one of his chores, I can see how he’d think of that as a kind thing to do. I smile.

“Time’s up.”

“No Mama.” Mateo clamps down on my arms. “I’m afraid.” My fierce little boy had been splashing in creeks and climbing up boulders since he was two, so at first I think he’s just delaying. I feel frustration rising in me. My dad, a good man from a different generation, might have called him a baby. And personally, I can see the temptation to push him into being brave. But it seems a slippery slope, a gender thing where we expect boys to behave one way and girls another. A feminist and single mom, I had always told myself that I would not parent that way.

Dad calls Mateo a ‘mama’s boy,’ which is not a compliment. This mama has: trekked internationally, including to Everest Base Camp; been a white-water guide that has run class four rapids in an oar-frame; supported herself through two graduate programs; founded a non-profit focused on violence prevention; written a memoir and survived child-abuse, complex post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer. This mama, like her son, is fierce, tenacious and outspoken about injustice. This mama completed her first triathlon six months after giving birth at 41 and learned to play soccer at 48. This mama has always taught her son to get back up when he falls and never quit when he’s behind. So, if Mateo is a mama’s boy, he’s lucky to be this mama’s boy.

Mateo 1

At three, when Mateo seemed drawn to Mom’s coral nail polish, she offered to do his. She set him on the counter, placing the color in quick tiny sweeps. He’d been in awe of the magic that transformed his pale-brown finger beds to brightly colored things he could wave about in front of him.

When Dad walked into the kitchen, he stopped short and announced, “Only girls wear polish.”

Mateo immediately wanted the polish taken off. He did not want to be a ‘girl.’

Mateo challenges me, negotiating, asking questions, wanting to be told what to do and wanting to do it alone. Lately, his whining has turned into talking back. Child development specialists say this will make him a successful adult – if he makes it I think. Apparently, he’s a perfect child when I’m not around or at least that’s what my parents tell me.

I have ways of dealing with these challenges, feeding him, making sure he gets enough rest and escalating consequences that I hope are appropriate to the moment, although honestly sometimes I find myself reaching, wishing for another me to step in. Neither of my parents, my dad especially understands this type of parenting. In their generation, you did not talk back period. If you did, you just might get switched or a spanking. In general, when we are in the same space, my parents follow my lead. My dad provides Mateo a much-needed male role model, since he has no contact with his dad who lives in Peru.

My mom and dad’s entrenchment in their generation’s parenting styles sets some expectations with my son that I would like to avoid, but we have the same core beliefs about being kind, compassionate, helpful and hardworking. We praise the same things, helping people, listening to directions, doing school work and thoughtful actions. And for the most part, we have managed to work out a parenting style that works for both of us.

Since Mateo’s birth, my parents have nimbly taken on the role of what we jokingly call my ‘husband,’ the other half of a childrearing duo. They watch him at least twice a week, putting him on and getting him off the bus; taking him to his games and letting him stay at their house for the day when I’m under a work deadline. Their support with Mateo has made it possible for all of us to lead richer lives, and it has allowed me the energy to parent the way I would like.

So, with Mateo clinging to my own on this night, he and I begin a new bedtime ritual meant to make him feel safer. First, we create an imaginary multi-colored, translucent bubble around him. Each night he will pick the weave of colors he likes; sometimes his favorite, sometimes mine and sometimes his own. Afterwards, I place my hand, palm open on his forehead before bundling it into a tight fist.

“Bad thoughts go away.” I say as I pretend to fling them to the far corners of the room. I move down to his heart and repeat the action again. “Bad feelings go away.” Then back to his forehead, “Bad dreams go away.” Each time his face seems to release a little.

Then we work in reverse trying to create positive energy, with the idea that when you let go of the bad, there is room for new.

“Good thoughts stay.” I take deep breath and with the exhale say, “Awww…”

We repeat this twice. “Good feelings stay,” I say with my hand to his heart.

“Good dreams stay,” my open palm lingers on his forehead. With each release of breath, I can see him sink deeper into a sense of safety until he drifts off to sleep.

National Safe Place Week: March 19-25, 2017

Written by: Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator, National Safe Place Network

National Safe Place Network (NSPN) is pleased to announce National Safe Place Week, March 19-25, 2017 (#NSPWeek2017). This nationally recognized week highlights the Safe Place program and the many valued partners who work together to provide access to immediate help and safety for all youth. NSP Week serves to recognize licensed Safe Place agencies, local site and community partners, and volunteers who are the pillars of strength that support the national safety net for youth.

NSP Week helps garner support for Safe Place and calls attention to local and national issues affecting youth. Well-planned awareness activities provide opportunities for individuals and organizations to share information about Safe Place and youth in crisis as well as opportunities to get involved in local Safe Place program efforts. Effective NSP Week activities and events: increase general awareness about Safe Place; provide opportunities for advocacy; help build community support for Safe Place and licensed Safe Place agencies; and, recognize individuals, organizations, and businesses involved in the program.

NSP Week 2017 will be celebrated nationally using the following themed days:

  • Safe Place Sunday – March 19
  • Make Some Noise Monday – March 20
  • Tell All Tuesday – March 21
  • We Stand Together Wednesday – March 22
  • TXT 4 HELP Thursday – March 23
  • Friends of Safe Place Friday – March 24
  • Safe Place Site Visit Saturday – March 25

Want to get involved and celebrate NSP Week 2017? Here are a few ways you can lend support and celebrate Safe Place:

Make Some Noise Online:

  • Join the Thunderclap: Add your support to the official Thunderclap campaign to help raise awareness about Safe Place during NSP Week. Thunderclap is a social media crowd-speaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together. Thunderclap blasts out a timed Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr post from all supporters, creating a wave of attention. The NSP Thunderclap will launch on March 20 at 1:00 p.m. EST. Please join and share the NSP Week Thunderclap here: http://thndr.me/4Re0Nb
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  • Spread the word on social media: NSP Week is a great time to promote share information about Safe Place and youth in crisis on social media channels, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’ve created sample social media posts you can share throughout the week: http://bit.ly/2lDh95r. Click here to view, download, and share NSP Week social media images along with your posts: https://www.facebook.com/pg/NatlSafePlace/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10154752551031183
  • Change your Facebook and Twitter photos to support NSP Week: Click here to access the official NSP Week Facebook cover image and upload it to your personal and / or organization’s page: http://bit.ly/2l5ukr. You can also add a Twibbon (profile photo frame) to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Add the NSP Week Twibbon to your profile pictures and encourage others to do the same: http://twibbon.com/Support/nsp-week-2017
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Get Involved In Your Community

  • Become a Safe Place volunteer for your local licensed agency. Click here to find contact information for the licensed Safe Place agency in your community: http://nationalsafeplace.org/what-is-safe-place/where-is-safe-place/
  • Visit Safe Place sites in your community and thank employees for their commitment to serving youth. NSP Week is a great time to recognize organizations and businesses that display the Safe Place sign and respond to youth in need of help.
  • Not in a Safe Place Community? Help convene community partners (ie: youth service organizations, local government, law enforcement officials, first responders, etc.) and inform them about Safe Place and the importance of providing immediate help and safety for young people in need. NSPN is happy to provide information, resources, and support to help facilitate this conversation. If you’re interested in bringing Safe Place to your community, please let us know at info@nationalsafeplace.org.

In addition to the above, you may also donate to National Safe Place Network. Help us create more Safe Place communities nationwide and ultimately connect more youth to supportive services: www.tinyurl.com/nspndonation .

To learn more about Safe Place, please visit: http://nationalsafeplace.org/.