Building an Asset-Rich Community for our Children

By: Elisha Freeman, Executive Director Think back to when you were a child. Can you think of an adult outside of your immediate family (not your parents or grandparents) who had a positive influence on your life? What are three things about that person that stood out to you? I sat in a training session with my coworkers recently and we were asked to go through this exercise. Here are the things we said out these special people in our lives: authentic, real, consistent, vulnerable, relatable, willing to fight for me (literally), advocate, honest, they showed up, they were nonjudgmental, they affirmed me, they had high expectations of me, they valued me, they validated me, they invested time in me, they ‘recognized’ me, they modeled their values and beliefs (they walked their talk), and the most often repeated sentiment is that the person was there for them, present in their young life. In a group of professional, on-the-top-of-their-game women, tears flowed as stories about these special people were shared. It’s my guess, that many of the adults who had so significantly shaped our lives, had absolutely no idea what impact they had (I know I never told mine) and that led me to think, outside of my own children, what other children am I influencing? Who are you influencing? Our training was on something called the “40 Developmental Assets” for children. Years and years of research have identified some forty “assets” that, ideally, a child should have a good number of (an ambitious goal would be 31) present in his life to develop to full potential. While you may...

Mental Health Services Lacking for Local Children

By: Elisha Freeman, Executive Director I’ve heard two comments in the past week that are disturbing. One was from a local pediatrician who lamented that there was only one pediatric psychiatrist (a different level of training than a psychiatrist who treats adults) in WNC who accepts Medicaid, leaving many of the children in her care without quick access to the help they need. A few days later I listened as a local Kindergarten teacher talked of a student who, at age five, suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and how it affects his young life in the classroom, as a learner and a peer. I shudder to think of what must have happened to him. To some extent, I’ve avoided writing about this critical need for children because I’m certainly no expert. The issues are complex and layered and, while a whole lot of people are talking about them, the solutions seem elusive. The American Psychological Association reports that “an estimated 15 million of our nation’s young people can currently be diagnosed with a mental health disorder.” The NC Infant Mental Health Association notes that social and emotional problems impair up to 10-14% of children nationally and in North Carolina, that equates to 91,000 children. As stated in their annual report, social and emotional health is the foundation for everything that is critical to well-being in life, from physical health to our ability to learn, to connect with others, to thrive. And it must be cultivated from the very beginning through nurturing relationships, positive experiences and supportive environments. Improving access to mental health care services for children was...

“The Talk”

”My child is too young to talk about that” “I don’t know what to say” “What if my child asks something I can’t answer?” There are a lot of different reasons Parents hesitate to discuss puberty, relationships, and sexual health with their children. Kids trust and want to learn this information from parents. In fact, many wish their parents bring would up topics about relationships and sexual health with them more often. This is great news!  Now where to start…Check out these 5 tips for tackling “The Talk”: Start early “The talk” starts way before they go through puberty. Everything parents do from helping their kiddos learn the accurate names for body parts (including genitals) to letting them know it’s their choice to give or get hugs are all part of raising sexually healthy young adults. So congrats, you’re already on your way!  Check out this comprehensive series by Robie Harris (all available at the Henderson County Public Library) that explore what your child will be ready for depending on their age. Incorporate it into everyday situations or “teachable moments” An often forgotten part of sexuality education is helping young people develop their own guiding values. Ask them what they think about a specific song you heard together on the way to school or a movie you watched together (before you say what you think). Sometimes our well intentioned efforts of informing them of what is the “right thing” to do can fall flat. This is an ideal time to help them think about what they would do in a tough situation before they get there.  If they share...