Relationships

Healthy Relationships – What do They Really Take?

Written by: Kim Frierson, Training Specialist, RHYTTAC / NSPN

Healthy relationships – the goal for the relationships we want for ourselves and the young people we work with. However, a healthy relationship is hard to create and maintain. How do we teach healthy relationships to youth? Do we model them? Is there a book to read?

What gets in the way of our young people forming and preserving appropriate relationships?

  • Trauma and its impact – Many youth have experienced traumatic events that make forming genuine relationships difficult, frightening, and unsafe. Past relationships may have been volatile and inconsistent, and it can be a daunting to initiate a relationship where one is vulnerable.
  • Lack of role models – Young folks do not model what they do not see, and some young people have not seen healthy relationships modeled. Their models may have been problematic, dysfunctional, or downright abusive. Offering examples of healthy friendships, romantic relationships, co-worker relationships, etc., gives young people a different perspective on how to operate in their personal and professional interactions
  • Lack of exposure to relationship skills – Communication skills, empathy, conflict resolution, listening. These skills and many others are not innate; they must be learned. Psycho-educational groups and information sharing with youth is another means to improve their relationship IQ.
  • Opportunities for practice – Practice makes perfect. For young people to master any skill, they must be opportunities to succeed and/or fail. As practitioners, creating safe environments for youth to “try on” new skills is invaluable.

As we move through Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, keep in mind that young people (and adults – hello!) need the skills and opportunities to forge and maintain healthy relationships. These social and emotional competencies will give young people a foundation to be a successful adult; a self-sufficient citizen that thrives in today’s world.

Here are some healthy relationship resources to brighten your day!

Love is respect – http://www.loveisrespect.org/

The Dibble Institute – https://www.dibbleinstitute.org/

Office of Adolescent Health – https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-development/healthy-relationships/index.html

Futures Without Violence – https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/

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.

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Read Across America Day

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

Today is Read Across America Day—also known as Dr. Seuss’s Birthday! Dr. Seuss is best known for his wonderfully whimsical children’s books, including The Cat in the Hat; Green Eggs and Ham; Horton Hears a Who!; The Lorax; Oh, the Places You’ll Go!; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; and so many more. These books have inspired youth and adults to read since his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which was published in 1937. Dr. Seuss’s favorite book was There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!

Here are the favorite books of your NSPN family:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “I don’t have one favorite. I love, love, love cookbooks—so I have many.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “Jane Eyre—Have loved it since childhood. I have lots of favorites that reflect my different moods, but this one stands out above the rest.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “I love the imaginative world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry along with its characters and relationships. My favorite among the books is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s an extraordinary story of adventure, danger, strength, and hope; a lesson that people aren’t always what they seem; and a quintessential demonstration of positive youth development!”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “The Bible—best stories of intrigue . . . love, hate, death, drama, miracles, free will, temptation, togetherness, divide, character, salvation, etc. It reflects the in-between phase of life, death, and even beyond.”
  • Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist: “Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas. (You’ll have to read it to discover why. J)”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “I find myself re-reading Slaughterhouse-Five every year or so. So it goes.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “The Stand, Stephen King.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I really like The Shack, by William Paul Young.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L’Engle; Anne of Green Gables; and Pride and Prejudice.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “I don’t really know. I recently read Me Before You and it was brilliant, funny, and heartbreaking.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I pretty much like any book—as long as it’s on a shelf. I receive no joy from reading. I’d rather be designing the cover of it—and other pictures—who doesn’t love pictures in books?”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “The Bible.”

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

Feel free to share your favorite book by leaving a comment below.

 

pi-sm-ns-feb-read-across-america-day

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Did Someone Say Pie?

pies

January 23 is National Pie Day – not to be confused with Pi Day which is in March. This day has nothing to do with a continuous number that goes into infinity and everything to do with a continuous deliciousness that goes into infinity!

As a way to celebrate this day and to help you get to know your NSPN family, we’ve asked NSPN staff members the following question:

“What is your favorite pie (and why – if there is a specific reason you’d like to share)?”

  • Laurie Jackson, President / CEO: Cherry
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: My grandmother’s chocolate pie – There isn’t one thing about it that was good for me except that it always made me feel better. Love is always the most important ingredient.
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: Hot apple pie with streusel crumble and vanilla ice cream
  • Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy: I’m really an equal opportunist when it comes to pie, though I tend to lean more toward fruit and chocolate-nut pies instead of creamy or meringue pies.
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: It was hard work as a child cracking bags and bags of pecans. Our hands would sometimes bleed but there was no stopping us because we knew that the sweet, gooey pecan pie would soon sooth any bleeding hands and messes to clean up; it would make the tummy very happy.
  • Sherry Casey, Operations & Administrative Manager: Pecan or buttermilk
  • Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist: Cherry pie is my favorite!  My grandmother always made it and it is the first pie she taught me how to bake. When I eat cherry pie, I always think of her.
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: Pumpkin pie – It reminds me of Thanksgiving and family.
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: Apple (double crust if that’s an option) or the Chess pie from Homemade Pie & Ice Cream Kitchen.
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: Either coconut custard (my mother used to fix it) or Dutch Apple with caramel icing (just because I like it).
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: My favorite pie is none. Why would you have pie when you can have cake?
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: Fudge pie from The Fresh Market
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing & Events: My favorite pie is sweet potato pie, but not just any sweet potato pie! It MUST be from Mothers in New Orleans, LA. Mothers has the best sweet potato pie in the world. If I can’t get sweet potato pie from Mothers, I tend to lean towards custard and meringue pies, but not lemon or key lime – I’m allergic to lemons, limes, kiwis, oranges, and pineapple.
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: Apple pie

Feel free to leave a comment below and let us know your favorite pie!

Then and Now

Then and Now: The Reality of New Beginnings
By: Shauna Stubbs, RHYTTAC Principal Investigator for National Safe Place Network 

Human beings tote baggage around everywhere we go.  Sometimes we hold that heaviness inside and struggle to let it go.  Experiences of disappointment, pain and loss teach us to survive by limiting expectations, eliminating vulnerability, and disconnecting from others.  Other times that baggage gets stuck in the environment around us.  Failing an assignment at school colors a teacher’s perception of a student’s potential.  A mistake at work results in colleagues or supervisors doubting a young person’s reliability.  A common but destructive error in judgment breaks a parent’s trust and makes it difficult for a youth to restore it.

For those of us who work with runaway and homeless youth, it isn’t hard to see how such baggage might trigger a chain of events and reactions that could ultimately lead a young person to isolation, hopelessness, and life on the streets.  Knowing how important both resilience and relationships are to positive outcomes for runaway and homeless youth, we have an opportunity to encourage youth, families, and communities to explore such challenges from a different perspective.

Change is hard for any of us.  Feeling pressure to change makes it harder.  Working to change in the face of expectations that we will fail can make the odds seem insurmountable.  Our youth and families experience these struggles every day.  Coping skills that cause harm are difficult to replace.  Unsupportive communication patterns are hard to break.  We who serve runaway and homeless youth recognize those challenges, and we know that pushing through them can produce extraordinary results.

As RHY service providers, our knowledge and experience uniquely equip us to help youth and families navigate these changes.  Here are a few of the ways we can help:

  1. Normalize these experiences. Help youth and families see that they are not alone.
  2. Facilitate realistic expectations. Don’t set families up to fail.  Help them recognize that old patterns were practiced for a long time, and it may take some time to practice newer ones.
  3. Teach and demonstrate healthy communication skills. Use reflective listening and practice “I” statements.
  4. Teach and demonstrate skills for giving meaningful and effective feedback. Specific acknowledgement and lessons learned about effort, strategy and persistence build self-esteem.  Celebrate each positive step!
  5. Encourage youth and families to take risks. Vulnerability is a powerful connection facilitator, and it can be very scary.
  6. Build relationships with local schools, businesses, churches and other organizations and advocate for youth in our communities.

This skill-building and advocacy can help youth and families lighten the load they carry and move forward with a perspective of hope and possibility.

Follow these links to helpful resources available from National Safe Place Network:

NSPN Training Members can access the following webinars on e-Learning at http://nspnetwork.training.reliaslearning.com/

NSPN: Motivational Interviewing (NSPN201503)

Additional resources available through RHYTTAC on e-Learning athttp://rhyttac.training.reliaslearning.com/

Engaging Families of RHY (RHYTTAC47)

Meeting “Connection” Needs of RHY (RHYTTAC48)

Family Assessment and Intervention (REL-FAI-BH-0)

Other resources available online:

Stages of Change Model: http://stepupprogram.org/docs/handouts/STEPUP_Stages_of_Change.pdf

Assertiveness Formula: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/romance-redux/201108/the-abcs-assertiveness