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How to Talk to Your Kids About Gun Violence & Help Them Feel Safe

After hearing the devastating news from Uvalde about the shooting death of 19 fourth graders and their teachers, as well as the many other incidents of recent violence, it is clear that the United States is stunningly bad at protecting kids from gun violence.  In the US there are nearly 400 million firearms owned by citizens (almost half of all of the firearms in the world) and children are more likely to die from gun violence than any other high income country.  Additionally, guns are now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the US.  

Hearing these stories and statistics can be very scary for children and parents alike.  Just hearing about it brings up an array of emotions including sadness for the victims, fears for your own and your children’s safety, anger and frustration about gun laws and the easy access to guns in the US,, and maybe grief or helplessness at what feels like an inability to do anything to create change on this issue.

Helping our kids process these complex emotions while still maintaining a sense of safety and confidence in their world is an important task in our current climate.  

In this article in Psychology Today called “How to Talk With Our Kids About Gun Violence,”  Dr Eugene Bersin MD, MA, provides helpful guidelines for talking to kids of all ages about gun violence.

Some ideas include:

  • Control your own anxiety– it is ok and even helpful to share your sadness about the event.  But kids, especially young kids, will feel more distressed about their parents’ reactions than about the actual event.  
  • Use self care measures to help yourself calm down (such as exercise, meditation, talking to other adults to get their perspective, and taking a break from the news).  You will be in a better position to talk to your kids about scary things if you feel calm yourself.
  • Limit exposure to media about these events–This is healthier for everyone and important for younger children especially.  They should not watch coverage of the events, but if they have seen or heard things about it, allow them to talk about their emotions and ask questions.
  • Expect repeat questions and concerns–This is how children process things.  
    • Be patient. 
    • Reassure them that they are safe.  We obviously cannot guarantee that nothing will happen, but statistically it is still unlikely.  Younger kids do not need to hear all of the statistics, nor would it have much meaning for them.  They do want to hear that the adults in their life are there for them.  And having a feeling of safety will benefit them more than going through the world always worried about the possible dangers
    • Remind them that there are many good people in the world.  Encourage to see the helpers and the people doing good things
  • Talk about feelings of anger and how to manage itintroducing at a young age that it is okay to feel anger but we all need to be working on how we express it.  And that expressing it through violence is never a solution.
  • Let them talk about their emotions and worries–do not judge or try to talk them out of these feelings.  Let them know it is okay to feel whatever they are feeling
  • Talk to your kids about gun safety rulesEven if you do not have guns in your house, kids should still understand the safety rules about gun use, storage, and access.

Additionally, activities such as yoga and meditation can be very grounding for kids.  You can view our Movement and Mindfulness classes on our You Tube channel for either K-5th graders or for 6-12th graders.  If you are interested in a group or individual yoga or meditation class with one of our Wellness Center instructors, please contact us.

Check out these other resources below to learn more. 

How To Talk To Kids About Gun Violence

Supporting Families: Young Children and Gun Violence

What to say to kids about school shootings to ease their stress

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Enjoying Vacation Comes Down to a Science

Skipping or putting a vacation on hold may feel ideal at the moment. But ultimately, that is far from the truth.

Not only are vacations fun – but they can benefit your mind, body and soul.

Recognizing the Value of a Vacation

Have you ever felt guilty about taking a vacation? 

Have you ever felt like there isn’t much of a point or that your time would better be spent working? 

Vacations are far from a waste of time. They can improve mental health, boost job performance, and increase creativity.

A great vacation doesn’t have to be long or expensive by any means. Taking a mini weekend staycation at a friend’s house or local hotel can deliver all the benefits and then some.

Mixing Things Up

Even if you thrive on routine, mixing things up for even a few days can help increase motivation, energy and creativity.

When we do the same thing day in and day out – the activities we typically love can start to feel less exciting.

Taking a week off of television can help you enjoy it that much more down the line. 

You know what they say – absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Professional athletes schedule recovery days to let their muscles rest.

We need to do the same thing with our minds!

Above, we listed television as an example. But the activity you’d like to take a break from may be different.

What do you feel you need a break from?

Choose the Vacation Best For You

Our dream vacation may be different from yours, as we all have our own interests.

Some may enjoy a vacation full of back-to-back activities, while others may enjoy a few days sitting by the pool reading a book. At the end of the day, all that matters is your happiness and ability to enjoy yourself.

Most of us declutter our homes pretty often – taking vacations can help declutter our minds from stress. What are you waiting for? There is no time like the present to start planning your next adventure! 

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Letting Go Of Resentments

It’s not uncommon to disagree with the people we love – even our romantic partners. 

But when the past starts to impact the future, it may be time to make some changes.

Decoding Our Resentments

Instead of pushing any feelings of resentment aside, we can try and realize what they’re trying to tell us. 

Doing so can help us work through them, accept them and move forward in a healthy way. All feelings have a purpose and something to teach us. 

Express Your Needs 

If you ever feel like you’re not having your needs met – it’s time to speak up!

Open communication and honesty is a two-way street.

Once you start opening up, your partner likely will as well, which in turn can strengthen your relationship. 

Write And Share

Sometimes the best way to get our thoughts out is to put them down on paper. 

What are your resentments? 

Where do you think they come from? 

What makes you think about them? 

Is there anything your partner can do to help? 

Oftentimes journaling can help us decode feelings we didn’t even know we had! 

If you catch any new feelings pop up alongside your journaling journey, you can share them with your partner. 

Every new conversation can help strengthen your bond and open up new doors.

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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

A promotion or graduation are milestones that should be celebrated!

But sometimes, it can feel like we don’t deserve recognition, or we haven’t earned our success.

When those emotions take over, it can feel like our success is due to luck, not skill or talent. 

If you ever feel that way, you may be experiencing imposter syndrome, which is more common than you think.

Even though you may not always believe it, you have so much to be proud of.

Every milestone you’ve achieved in life is due to your talent and hard work. Celebrating your success shouldn’t be something we avoid. It should be something we embrace. 

Create A Brag Box

Have a college acceptance letter hidden in your junk drawer or a thank you note folded up in your purse?

Go collect those items and place them in a special box!

Looking at the physical content of past achievements can help remind you just how special you are.

The next time you catch yourself doubting your abilities, you can look back on your collection and celebrate yourself. 

Stop Comparing Yourself

“Don’t be busy chasing what other people have.” – Marshall Goldsmith

All people are different, and all have their own journey. 

It may feel like your peers are ahead of you in certain avenues – but what you see is not always factual. 

Most of us tend to discuss and spotlight the high points of our success. 

We can never know for sure the full story of how our peers got from point A to point B.

Open Up 

Surrounding ourselves and opening up to loved ones can help us in many avenues of life. 

The longer we keep negative emotions bottled up inside us, the more intense they tend to feel. Sharing our fears and doubts with loved ones can help us look at them in new ways.

Who knows – your friend may be feeling the exact same way you are.

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Don’t Just Stand There. Get Moving

By: Jen Champion

We have the power to heal and transform from the challenges we encounter. However, when our physical and mental patterns and habits do not support whole quality health, we can feel out of balance and ill. Our bodies develop grooves of anxiety, pain, and beliefs that keep us stuck in our dramas and traumas. If we do not take the time and steps to heal, prolonged stress creates chronic activation of the fight/flight response.

There are many places where we can feel tension. Often the head, neck, shoulders, and back alert us. The muscles, connective tissue, and nerves are intertwined, and at times, it’s hard to tell precisely where the pain originates. One section in the body, often unnoticed and holding tension, is called the psoas (so as) muscles. The psoas has many intricate details. I will speak briefly about them and list a few excellent resources for you to investigate.

The psoas are a group of deep muscles that often contract during times of stress, and they are like to stay contracted for some time once energized. They originate in the middle of the back and run down each side of the low back, pelvis, inner thighs, and hips. 

 

The psoas are continuously in use. The muscles participate in our daily actions, including standing, walking, running, and sitting. When they tighten and shorten, it leads to discomfort in various body parts. Pain can be present in the hips, groin, abdomen, and low back if the lumbar spine curve is too big or small.

Don’t just stand there, get moving. Gentle movements and releasing tensions in the psoas help eliminate the stress and pain. One way to lengthen the psoas is to walk with a short conscious gait. A constructive rest pose is a restorative approach. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor hip-width apart and parallel. Place your heels at a comfortable distance from your buttocks. Breathe and Rest. Lifting the sternum, relaxing the shoulders, and taking deep breaths can also affect the relaxation response in the psoas.

A yoga practice will assist people in gaining presence and patience to move tension out of the body and open to a more fulfilling life.

Yoga improves the core stability in the torso and pelvis and helps the psoas function optimally. Balance in the psoas and abdominal core muscles helps maintain the natural curve of the lumbar spine, neutral pelvic alignment, and good posture. When we are in a stable comfortable position, our breathing capacity improves. With optimal breathing (deep, smooth, even, continuous and quiet), we gain a more profound recognition of how to move with comfort and ease on and off the yoga mat. We feel better physically and enhance our self-esteem. Good physical and mental health make life more enjoyable.

When we move and shape our bodies with patience and awareness, we can change our breath, thoughts, and patterns and live a more fulfilling life.

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Immigrant Heritage Month

By: Christina Bein 

Melting Pot was used as a metaphor for describing “the union of many nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities,” by Israel Zangwill in 1908. 

What is now known as the United States, became home to people coming from various countries since as early as the 1500s. The Americas has a reputation for being a place for opportunity, freedom to live safer than where they were emigrating from, and freedom to exist at all. 

As more and more people immigrated to the U.S. for work and refuge they brought with them their culture, thus creating a diverse country that allows everyone to experience different parts of the world on a local level. 

In celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month, we celebrate the rich culture we have now where we benefit from the diverse melting pot that supports our economy, builds on innovative discoveries, and positively shapes our future.

Learn more about Immigrant Heritage Month through these featured stories:

Out of Many, We Are One

Remitly

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June is for Pride

By: Christina Bein 

“There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it’s now okay to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly until it’s simply the way things are.” – Tammy Baldwin (Senator).

Pride Month celebrates LGBTQQIP2SAA which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit (2S), androgynous, and asexual. Portland has been organizing Pride Month events since the early 1970s. Now it amasses attendants from all over the Pacific Northwest region for the Pride Parade to celebrate the freedom of self-expression and love.

LGBTQ+ has been a part of the human experience for centuries. It can even be traced back to ancient written text and artistic depictions from the time of Alexander the Great. It is well known that history has been recorded, destroyed, and reshaped by the perspectives of powerful male figures throughout time. Whether these figures were in support of or in restriction of the LGBTQ+ community, it remains the same that this way of identity and love has transcended time and will continue to do so.

In today’s documenting of the times, states like Florida and Texas have legislators restricting education and medical treatment for LGBTQ+ related topics. These bills marginalize this community, out individuals before they may be ready, punish them for it, and penalize professionals that try to help. This takes away protection from these individuals and perpetuates discrimination that do not allow people to be their whole selves. These bills take away basic rights and isolate people from support, help, or compassion.

Pride is also about persevering. On a local level, Basic Rights Oregon is an organization that was formed in 1996 to fight against anti-gay ballot measures. It works to reform policies to create a safer environment for the LGBTQ+ community, which has contributed to Oregon being ranked as one of the top LGBTQ+ friendly states in the U.S. To echo Tammy Baldwin’s sentiments, it is important to normalize the expressions of LGBTQ+ so that people can safely show up as their whole selves.

Check out these links to learn more about Oregon’s history and continued efforts in supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

Basic Rights

Gay and lesbian rights movement

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Best Friends Day

Did you know that June 8th is Best Friends Day? It’s a time to celebrate the social connections we have made as well as recognize the benefits that building strong social connections has on our lives.

It’s no secret that friends do so much for us–spending time together, celebrating the good times, and comforting us in the hard times. But having a social connection is also beneficial for our well-being and mental health.

Friends can:

  • Boost happiness and reduce your stress. 
  • Improve self-confidence and self-worth. 
  • Increase your purpose. 
  • Help you cope with challenges you may face. 

On this day we can also remind ourselves of the power of social connection. Research indicates that a lack of human connection can be more harmful to your health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. The pandemic has decreased our in-person connection while also increasing our online interactions.  While technology can help to connect us in new ways, excessive screen use also disconnects us from nature, from our own thoughts, and from others. We need face-to-face interaction in our lives and losing that piece of our society over the last two years has not been healthy.

If you are searching for ways to expand your social connections and make new friends, try some of these suggestions from the Canadian Mental health Association

  • Join a new club, or try out a group activity
  • Reach out to an old friend you’ve lost touch with
  • Volunteer for a cause you care about
  • Eat lunch in a communal space
  • Introduce yourself to your neighbours
  • Ask someone for help when you need it
  • Do a random act of kindness

Now is the time to check in with friends and acquaintances and let them know that they are important to you. 

For more resources, check out the links below. 

7 Thoughtful Ways to Celebrate National Best Friends Day

Connect With Others | Mental Health America

The Power of Friendship

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Social Media Day

June 30th is Social Media Day – which is a time when we can recognize both the positive and negative impact it has made on our world. 

This day was first launched by Mashable on June 30, 2010, and it was meant to show how social media has been used all across the world to connect us.

Over the years, social media has become a form of communication and has been a platform that family, friends, and peers have used. Whether they share posts, photos, and videos about their lives. 

It has been a useful tool where we can share opinions with others, stay informed about news or trending topics, and keep up to date with one another. And teens as well as younger kids are increasingly participating on social media platforms.

For teens, social media can have the same benefits of connection, community involvement, finding like-minded people, and enhancing creativity through sharing art or music.  As most teens will tell you, they feel left out if they cannot participate in this arena with their friends. 

However, it is also important to acknowledge how social media can affect mental health and wellbeing and to be aware of some of the dangers.  This includes self-esteem issues, anxiety, depression, cyberbullying, social media addiction, and low-quality sleep. It can also result in feeling left out or feeling inadequate.  Very few people, teens or adults, put their worst life moments out for all to see.  We share the highlights.  And constantly viewing people’s good times can lead us to forget that these posts are just one facet of life, that also has sadness, pain, and stress.  It can create an unrealistic expectation for what their everyday life should be like.

We can help children and teens to understand the issues associated with social media and to approach it with an understanding of how it works behind the scenes.  Teaching our kids positive social media use is an important skill.  But if anyone has ever tried to have these conversations with their children, you quite likely were met with defensiveness, anger or denial.  Social media and connection to friends become so powerful that they do not want to hear anything negative or are scared you will take it away.

Psychology Today had a recent article by Sophia Choukas-Bradley Ph.D. that offered some suggestions for starting the conversation with your child.  Read her full suggestions here

Don’t lecture–it puts them immediately on the defensive and they may just tune you out.  

Ask open-ended questions.  Use the questions to find out more about what they like about social media.  Let them be the experts and help them explore their thoughts through open-ended follow-up questions.

Practice active listening, instead of proving your own point.  You aren’t really listening if you are planning what you will say next and your child will feel that.

Validate their feelings, don’t dismiss their concerns.  Don’t reassure them or discount their feelings.  They feel them even if it doesn’t make sense to you.  Try reflecting back on what they said in slightly different words.  Validating their feelings will help make them feel safe to open up more. 

Keep talking, don’t give up.  Sometimes the talks will go well, but they won’t always go smoothly.  Addressing these issues is an ever-evolving process.

Another idea is to watch movies or documentaries about social media and then discuss it with your kids. 

The Social Dilemma A shocking look at the inner workings of social media companies as well as the algorithms they use to keep us engaged and scrolling.

Screened Out  The film addresses tech addiction in the modern age. Filmmaker Jon Hyatt and his family take the viewer on a journey through the life-changing effects of screen addiction, how the tech industry hooked global consumers and its impact on our lives. See the trailer here

For more resources, check out the links below. 

Just How Harmful Is Social Media? Our Experts Weigh-In

The Evolution of Social Media: How Did It Begin, and Where Could It Go Next?

The Power of Social Media

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Juneteenth

By: Tanya Kramer

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas.  

They delivered the message that all enslaved black individuals were free by executive decree.  At the time, it was believed that there were about 250,000 enslaved people in this area who were informed of their freedom.  

This message of freedom came to Galveston almost two years after President Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the Civil War ended.  

Juneteenth, considered the oldest African American Holiday, is a blend of two words, “June” and “nineteenth”.

Opal Lee, who is 95, is considered the “grandmother of Juneteenth” because of her lifelong mission to bring national awareness to this important date with the desire for it to be a federal holiday.

On June 17, 2021, she completed this mission when President Biden signed into law Senate Bill 475 (S 475) making “Juneteenth” a federal holiday.

For more information, you can visit the following links: 

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