Holidays

Sensitivity to the Season

Written by: Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network

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It’s October and with the season comes such traditions as pumpkins, fall leaves, trick or treat, and brisk mornings. One only needs to look at theater listings or the aisles of your local department store to see signs of Halloween. Who remembers the first time you saw the movie Halloween and heard Jamie Lee Curtis scream? Have you seen any cars named Christine lately? How many hockey masks do you have? Do crows make you shiver? Why is that balloon tied to the storm drain?

If you are one who enjoys the season, frights can be fun and create memories worth sharing. However, for many youth and adults, the signs and sounds of the season can trigger memories of experiences scarier than most of us can imagine. Just like you, Safe Place® is committed to helping youth not only BE safe but FEEL safe. As you think about how to connect with youth during this time of year, consider the following activities:

  • Invite youth to create a collage (on paper or digitally) of the images that remind them of feeling safe. Make sure there are sufficient options to address differences across culture, age, and experience.
  • Have discussions with youth new to your program about any aspect of your organization’s physical layout that is frightening or uncomfortable for them.
  • Host a group discussion of things youth rely on when they’re scared. Be prepared to respond when youth say they are never scared or when they say they have nothing or no one to rely on in those moments.
  • Ensure you are not selecting movies for group viewing or seasonal activities without considering the needs of each youth. Allow for alternative activities without disparagement. Adults working with youth may not recognize specific triggers. Corn mazes may evoke feelings of being lost. Haunted houses may trigger unsuspected reactions. Pumpkins that smile are just wrong.

If the sound of chain saws make you cringe and the idea of summer camp makes you nauseous, you understand the power of images, sounds, and, memories. Work with your staff to create safe memories for the youth you serve. It will be the treat they never forget.

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Try a Mantra for 2017

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy for National Safe Place Network

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Looking back in my 2016 work notebook, I have a list of “possible mantras” instead of actual resolutions for the previous year. I was coming back to work after several months of maternity leave and I guess wasn’t quite ready to commit to a traditional resolution. Instead, I was adjusting to my life as a new mom working full-time. Some of my “possible mantras” for 2016 included: “This is enough;” “Don’t forget to breathe;” and “No is a complete sentence.”

I wish I had reviewed my 2016 mantras more frequently than in January and now.

So this 2017, I’m going to try again to pick a mantra, write it down, post it around my workspace and my home, and use it. And I’m going to just pick one, not make a whole list of them.

If you are a person who also has trouble sticking to a resolution, may I suggest a mantra as well? I got the idea here: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/forget-resolutions-embrace-a-yearly-mantra-instead-226656. The author provides an example: instead of deciding to exercise three times a week, your mantra could be “move more.”

Here are some other examples of possible mantras to replace popular resolutions:

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Do you have other ideas for mantras or resolutions? Let us know on Twitter at @nspntweets.

Happy 2017.

Halloween Safety

By: Danielle White, Executive Administrative Assistant, National Safe Place Network / RHYTTAC

As Halloween approaches, many people seek out the seasonal thrills and chills. For some, however, the scariest part of Halloween is not the ghosts and goblins. Children are twice as likely to be hit by cars on Halloween, according to national statistics. Additionally, costumes and decorations can create tripping and fire hazards, while candy and other Halloween goodies can pose health risks.

It’s not all demons and dangers, though. By following some basic safety guidelines, everyone can have a safe and spooky Halloween!

COSTUME SAFETY

  • When picking out costumes, be sure to look for flame resistant materials such as nylon and polyester. Store bought costumes will often be labeled as “flame resistant.”
  • To avoid trips and falls, use face paint or makeup instead of masks for maximum visibility and ensure that the costumes are an appropriate length.
  • If props include swords or other blades, make sure they are pliable and smooth. Such precautions will reduce the risk of fall-related injuries.
  • Test face paint and makeup in a small area before applying it to the entire face. This will minimize the risk of skin irritation or other allergic reactions. Be sure to wash off all paint and makeup before bed.
  • Choose bright or light colors when possible. If costumes are dark, attach reflective tape or other light sources. Have youth carry flashlights or glow sticks at all times.
  • Avoid oversized clothing and shoes, as well as costume pieces that stick out so far as to be uncontrollable around open flames, doorways, or faces.

TRICK OR TREATING SAFETY

  • Establish a pre-planned route.
  • When planning your route, check the sex offender registry and keep youth away from those houses.
  • Go out in groups and make sure there are plenty of chaperones
  • Provide all youth with contact information, including addresses and cell phone numbers, in case anyone gets separated.
  • Serve a filling meal prior to trick-or-treating to reduce the temptation to snack on candy before it has been checked.
  • Review the difference between tricks and vandalism. Hold youth accountable for their actions.
  • Walk safely! Stay on sidewalks when possible. If you must be in the road, stay on the far edge and walk facing the oncoming traffic. Only cross the street at corners or crosswalks. Don’t run across the street and never cross between parked cars.
  • Do not allow youth to enter any homes.
  • As tempting as they may be, avoid homemade treats offered by strangers. Stick to factory-wrapped goodies instead. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering before consuming (common signs of tampering include: unusual appearance, discoloration, torn wrappers, or tiny pinholes). Be aware of any allergies (especially nuts) and help youth steer clear.

DRIVING SAFETY

  • Slow down and be alert when driving in residential areas.
  • Enter and exit driveways or alleys slowly and carefully.
  • Eliminate distractions inside the car so that you can concentrate on your surroundings.
  • Turn on headlights earlier in the evening to help spot children in dark costumes.
  • Be aware of your local trick-or-treating hours and be especially alert during those times.

If trick or treating is not an option, consider hosting an event instead. This can be a fun alternative in a controlled environment and can be accomplished with minimal planning. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Provide healthy treats as well as candy—fruits, veggies, cheese, low-calorie treats, and drink options other than soda.
  • Use party games to promote physical activity while having fun.
  • Keep walking paths, stairs, and other high traffic areas well-lit and free of obstacles.
  • Never leave jack-o-lanterns or candles unattended or on the floor. Keep them on sturdy tables or shelves away from walkways, doorsteps, and curtains.
  • Activities can include: costume contests, jack-o-lantern carving, cookie decorating, ghost stories (try ghost story mad libs for a funny twist), and Halloween themed games.
  • If bobbing for apples, be sure to reduce bacterial contamination by thoroughly washing them with running water and removing any dirt or other obvious spots.

However you choose to spend your Halloween, be sure to celebrate safely so that everyone can enjoy this spook-tacular holiday and live to haunt another day.

Halloween Owl with Witches Hat Sitting on Broomstick with Happy Halloween text Isolated on White Background Illustration

Dear Valentine – Beware the Love Bug’s Sting!

It’s February – that magical time of year when love is in the air, or at least on every commercial and greeting card. With the onslaught of hearts and flowers come the not-often talked about negative consequences of love: heartbreak, mistrust, despair, and no one’s favorite, emergency clinic appointments. As we think about how love, sex, romance, and intimacy permeate the minds of our youth during Teen Dating Violence Prevention Month, here are some strategies to support our young people as they navigate the waters of interpersonal relationships:

  • Model what you want to see. One of the first ways in which we all learn is by observing and mimicking what we see. Young people pay attention to how the adults in their lives handle relationship stress, conflict, and communication in difficult situations. Be mindful of what you project that your young people can see/hear.
  • Building the all-importance self-esteem. We ask our youth to be brave in many situations, and to advocate for themselves in difficult situations. What we must not forget is to instill in our young people the skills and confidence it takes to be your own advocate, stand up for yourself, and know that your voice – in ANY relationship – is important.
  • Expertise is not necessaryAre you stumped as to which STIs are bacterial and which are viral? Not well versed in the four steps of decision-making? Don’t be discouraged. You don’t have to be an expert in sex & healthy relationships to be a caring, trusted, and genuine support to a young person. Unconditional positive regard goes a long way. Still nervous about finding information? You’re in luck; there’s this thing called the internet. See some of the resources below.
  • Teach what love isn’t – Love = respect. Relationships are not easy. They take commitment, patience, conflict skills, and trust. Youth – and adults for that matter – often struggle to identify the difference between love, desire, and affection. What does a healthy relationship look like? Should you be happy all the time? Is it a good relationship if you argue all the time or if you never argue? What does respect look and feel like? How do you know when you’re ready for sex? How do you communicate that you’re not ready? Young people are eager to seek the answers to these questions. However, they’re often not readily available or found in a textbook. Be open to having honest, meaningful conversation about the realities of relationships which, in this lady’s opinion, can be the best Valentine’s Day gift you could give a young person.

Author: Kim Frierson, Training Specialist, RHYTTAC/NSPN

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

Truly. Even if you don’t like chocolate, it is hard to bypass a Valentine’s heart filled with a variety of choices. If it is your box, and you are patient, you look at the candy chart and based on the descriptions, you prioritize and dive deep. If you do not have a chart and you are forced to guess, you rely first on the touch test (to see if pink or white comes out) and then the taste test (a little nibble is enough). Though you might be left with a package that looks as if it has been ravaged by hungry squirrels, you are satisfied that you have made the most of your chocolate gift. Your tummy is happy. Your brain is happy. Life is good. Note – if it is not your box of chocolate, your temptation may get the best of you and anyone who left the box lying around, well – consequences.

Our work is like a box of chocolates. The youth may or may not come to us with a chart. When we see the description, it is far too easy to compare those words in search of those youth we know are easiest to help. Or, the ones “I like best.” Although we know all youth are different and wonderful and filled with goodness, these characteristics are often hidden underneath a shell that is difficult to crack with squeezing a bit. Metaphorically, we squeeze youth with our intake processes, our rules, our assessments and our interviews. Sometimes, we see a youth start to crack open – and much too late – we may realize we didn’t need to squeeze so hard and once cracked, no one else may be willing to give helping this youth a try. Why? Because sometimes it is only when we can see the inside of a youth that we are willing to make a commitment.

As we enter a month that celebrates love and the sharing of hearts, think about how to best share your heart with the youth you serve and with your colleagues. What do we love about our work and why does it make us feel special? Remember, it began way back in grade school. Do you like me? Yes or no? Youth come to us wanting to be liked. Remember to check “yes.”