#ChildrenMatter

“It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglas

From birth to adolescence children are vulnerable. They are in a time where the most critical pieces to who they are and who they will become are developing right before our eyes. Childhood is a time to learn and explore the endless possibilities. All children expect from the moment they arrive is that they will be cared for and looked after; that they will be guided and protected. They do not expect that factors outside of their control could dictate their future, and it shouldn’t. Unfortunately, we live in a time where medical, financial, developmental, linguistic, mental health and many other factors can cause barriers during this critical time. But we can change that.  Our future is shaped by the experiences and the development of these children. Whether that is a positive or negative outcome is our responsibility. It is up to us to ensure that all children have every resource they need and every opportunity to live, learn, work, and play in his or her community.

“Kasserian Ingera” is a phrase that the Masai tribe in Africa used to greet each other. Every day and every interaction began with “Kasserian Ingera” meaning “And how are the children.”  Whether they had children or not the members of the Masai tribe knew that the well-being of the children should be placed above all else and that caring for the well-being of the children meant the well-being of the whole tribe was positive. Once a warrior would ask “And how are the children” the traditional answer was “All the children are well.” This response meant that the conditions of the tribe were well. It meant that it was safe, that there was food and shelter, and that the most vulnerable members of the tribe had the optimal environment and opportunities to grow up healthy, strong, and with the knowledge they needed.

Together, we can all do our part to ensure the children in our community thrive. By advocating for their rights, keeping them safe, by providing access to quality and affordable education, and by ensuring nutritious meals and the access to critically needed care we can empower our children and strengthen our community.

The month of June we are putting a focus on the importance of the children. Why they are the focus of our efforts, how we each can help ensure their success, and spreading the knowledge that Children Matter. This month we would like you to join our #ChildrenMatter campaign by sharing and spreading our messages, by using #ChildrenMatter, by asking yourselves and each other “how are the children” and discussing ways we each share in answering “the children are well.”

Easterseals North Georgia helps to unlock the potential that lies within every child. Starting at birth and at every critical point throughout their childhood, ESNG is there creating solutions that change lives. We have a vision of a world where all children can realize their dreams. If you would like to join us in making a difference in the lives of young children, their families, and communities you can donate today and help continue to make essential programs and services possible.

Donate Now.

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Mentally Speaking: A Mother’s Reflection on Self-Care

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Environmental factors play a critical role in a child’s social-emotional development which is why we cannot simply work with children but we must also focus on the mental health of our teachers and parents. Day in and day out they are the ones shaping the minds and emotional states of young children. If they are not mentally and emotionally sound then the effects could be detrimental. Managing stress and making self-care a priority minimizes the potential for passing on the stress to the children who are watching, learning, and depending on these environments to grow up healthy and successful.

Since Mother’s Day is quickly approaching we thought it was a perfect time to hear the first-hand experiences of an Easterseals North Georgia Mother discussing how she practices self-care while being a mother of three. Meet Kelly.

“Being a mother is such a selfless, all-encompassing job and privilege. I think all women, whether they work out of the home or in the home, struggle with finding the right 25348569_10213806071859357_2620267842567015593_nbalance in terms of juggling kids, partners, and taking care of ourselves. As a mother to a child with special needs and two typically developing children, I have found that self-care is something I really need to stay on top of.  I learned the hard way that giving all of myself to my kids, my husband, and my job while completely neglecting my own mental health actually impacts my entire family. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of incorporating more self-care into my routine, although I do admit it is still a struggle. These are some of the things I have found that have really helped me.

First and foremost, therapy. Being a mother to a child with special needs can feel very isolating. I’ve run the gauntlet of emotions, including anger, resentment, and depression to anxiety. It’s so beneficial to be able to speak to a qualified professional regularly who can help navigate through these emotions. A good therapist can work on coping skills and stress management and discuss possible medications that might help alleviate some of these symptoms if they are ongoing.

I have found that jumping back into old hobbies and interests has really helped me as well. For several years, I lost sight of the things that brought me joy; things like reading novels, cooking and baking and exercising. I always felt like I had no time to engage in these activities anymore. Now, I carve out specific times of the day to be able to devote to these hobbies. I hold these times pretty sacred, and I try very hard not to let other things take priority over them. Obviously, there are instances in which I’m not able to keep my scheduled time for myself (like sick kids), and that is fine. I just remember to jump back into those hobbies as soon as I can. I have found those are excellent ways for me to recharge.

Friends, friends, friends. It’s so difficult to coordinate with friends to find times to reconnect. We are all juggling several things in our lives, and sometimes trying to schedule time with girlfriends or with a partner seems daunting. We all get out our calendars and compare dates. And honestly, sometimes we have to schedule things 3 or 4 months out into the future, but if that’s what it takes to carve out time it’s worth it. I manage to go out with girlfriends at least once every few months and with my husband at least once per month. There’s nothing better than just escaping reality and being silly with friends and completely forgetting about life’s responsibilities for a few hours. True, sometimes we get together and talk mostly about parenting struggles, but I find that we balance serious discussions with lighthearted ones. One thing that has meant so much to me is actually finding a group of other special needs moms to spend time with. There is an ease in being with people who understand the ups and downs of raising children with special needs.

Finally, one of the biggest aspects of self-care that I”m still working very hard on is self-compassion and forgiveness. I’ve really had to work on being kind to myself. They say we are our own worst critics, and I have found that to be very true. I feel like I could devote all of my free time to my child with special needs helping him learn to talk and achieve skills that he has not mastered. However, I have a job and two other children and a husband that deserve my time as well. I have beaten myself up (and still do sometimes) about not being able to spend more time being that perfect “therapeutic” mom who always has some way of incorporating my child’s therapy into every activity. I’ve started to forgive myself and realize that raising him in a home full of love is what is most important. I focus much more now on gratitude and being thankful for what I have, either by journaling about this every day or through meditation. I make it a point every night to recognize all of the wonderful things I accomplished that day.

When all else fails and I’m really having a hard time or feeling guilty about the need to take time for myself, I always remember that phrase “If mama isn’t happy, nobody’s happy”. It brings a smile to my face and helps reaffirm the importance of taking care of myself.”

By: Kelly Bowman Griffith, Easterseals North Georgia Parent

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Don’t forget that “good tidings of comfort and joy” applies to you too

Happy Holidays! It’s that time of year again when we spend our days shopping for gifts, running from place to place trying to catch the best deals to put a smile on the face of those we love! While it is an exciting time, it can also be time that we neglect the most precious gifts we already have, our families, especially our children. While we are taking care of holiday business let’s find ways to keep our family and children knowing how special they are to us. Continue reading “Don’t forget that “good tidings of comfort and joy” applies to you too”

2016: A Year in Review and A Look Forward

The theme of 2016 at ESNG was expansion. We expanded our programs, reach, events and accreditations. Let’s take a look back at what we did as we get ready for a fun and exciting 2017.for blog

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Last year, we piloted the innovative STEM in early education at our Brookvalley location. Thanks to funding from the Sibley Award and Frances Hollis Brain Foundation, we are expanding the program to our Guice, Mansell and Warsaw locations.

20151112_143926_resized Continue reading “2016: A Year in Review and A Look Forward”

Tips to Make School Transition Easier

I know it’s hard to believe, but the new school year is right around the corner (if it hasn’t started yet). ESNG’s Early Childhood Mental Health Manager Dr. Juanita Brigman offers some advice to help you and your young child have an easy transition as he/she starts preschool.

Weeks before starting school:

  1. If your child had a later bedtime during the summer, help him/her get into a preschool schedule by keeping to his school bedtime about 2 weeks before school starts.
  2. Read books about starting school. Here is a list of recommendations.
  3. Visit the school and let the child tour the classroom and meet the teacher.

The night before the first day:

  1. Let your child choose (weather- and school-appropriate) clothes for her first day.
  2. Pick a bedtime that gives your child a good night’s rest before the first day. Keep the bedtime routine soothing and relaxing. Don’t focus too much (or at all!) on the first day of school unless he wants to.
  3. Have a nutritious breakfast that helps your child focus on fun not hunger.

The morning of the first day:

  1. Children pick up on the reactions of the trusted adults in their lives. So try not to look worried or sad, and don’t linger too long. Say a quick, upbeat good-bye and reassure your child that all will be well.
  2. Think about creating a special good-bye routine. For example, you can give your child a kiss on the palm to “hold” all day long. Or, the two of you can sing a special song together before you leave. Good-bye routines are comforting to children and help them understand and prepare for what will happen next.
  3. When you enter the classroom on the first day, calmly reintroduce the teacher to your child, then step back to allow the teacher to begin forming a relationship with your child. Your endorsement of the teacher will show your child that he or she will be happy and safe in the teacher’s care.

Resources:
https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/78-preschool-prep-how-to-prepare-your-toddler-for-preschool

http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=1372

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/adjust-to-preschool.html#

Raising healthy children – inside and out

Successful early learning and development systems must include a strong and well-financed Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health component. – Zero to Three

When most people think of addressing mental health issues, we often think of disorders that affect older children and adults. However, we cannot ignore the importance of the social and emotional well-being of our youngest children.

According to Zero to Three, “Infant-early childhood mental health, sometimes referred to as social and emotional health, is the developing capacity of the child from birth to 5 years of age to form close and secure adult and peer relationships; experience, manage, and express a full range of emotions; and explore the environment and learn – all in the context of family, community, and culture.”

How can we help foster  healthy social and emotional well-being of our children?

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For newborns:

  1. Spend as much time as possible with your baby by wearing her in a sling or carrier, rocking her on your lap, or singing her a song. Your voice and touch can be very comforting.
  2. Try making skin-to-skin contact with your newborn. This practice, called “kangaroo care,” is often used in premature babies, but studies are finding that it’s also calming to babies born full-term.
  3. If a few months have passed and you’re worried that you still haven’t bonded with your baby, talk to your pediatrician. He or she can determine whether a psychological or health issue may be the cause of the problem.

Courtesy of Webmd.com

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For toddlers:

  1. Encourage pals and playmates – A good place to start when helping your children to foster social skills is to encourage them to make friends and to bring them over. A toddler may require you to deliberately organize play dates where he can meet andplay with kids his age.
  2. Keep talking to your child – Proper communication, expression of feelings and thoughts are essential social skills. A family where children are encouraged to talk, express their feelings and to openly air their opinion is likely to bring up confident children and adults. Ensure that your kids feel safe talking to you about anything and more so, about their experiences with their peers. Encourage conversations at dinner time, ask your children how their day was, and tell them stories. Just keep the talk going in the house so your children learn good communication skills. At the same time, be a good listener and encourage them to listen to others.

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For older children:

  1. Teach How to Solve Problems- Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., author of Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential asserts that teaching social skills entails showing your child how to evaluate other people’s behaviour. Children usually end up in conflicts with their peers and other people because they misunderstood the other person’s behaviour. In teaching your child how to relate with others, encourage her to empathize and look at issues from a different perspective. ‘Why did Erika refuse to play with me?’ Could it be that she was in a bad mood, could it be that she has not forgiven me for shoving her yesterday? Could it be that she just wanted to be alone? It is also important to teach your child to focus less on the problem and more on finding solutions to avoid unnecessary conflicts.
  2. Foster an Environment of Tolerance – To get along well with others, it is important to have a sense of tolerance. Teaching tolerance starts in your home and with you as a role model. Do you make discriminatory remarks about others? Do you use harsh remarks such as “I hate people who…”; do you discourage your children from playing with other children because they are “different” from them? The world, and indeed, local neighbourhoods are cosmopolitan, filled with people from different walks of life. It is important to teach your child how to accept these differences, to look beyond them and to relate courteously with people regardless of their differences.

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For all our children:

From ESNG’s very own Mental Health Manager, Dr. Juanita Brigman, “During the day today, if you can remember, reach out to our little ones and give them a hug. You never know, you just may be healing an emotional pain in their little hearts, or instilling confidence and courage they did not have, or giving them hope for another day, all because you took the time to give them a hug.”

For more information on ESNG’s early childhood mental health program, click here.

ESNG has issued its signal for #GAGivesDay. Will you answer the call?

 

Facebook Cover Photo - GA Gives 2 (5)Georgia Gives Day is Thursday, November 12. This day is dedicated to giving to local nonprofits that do such great work to make our state beautiful, healthy and educated. At Easter Seals North Georgia, we encourage you to give on Thursday. Of course, we hope that you support our early education, early intervention and support services.

This year our theme is SUPERHERO because that is what we consider all of our generous donors. We are able to offer these life-changing services at little to no cost because of SUPERHEROES who donate to our programs.

We have issued the ESNG signal – will you answer the call?

Step 1: Suit up – Set up a fundraising page through GA Gives here. (Video instructions are here)

Step 2: Call your SUPERHERO FRIENDS (I mean even Batman was a part of the Justice League)! Email, tweet, post to all your social media platforms and ask them to give. (Sample posts with graphics can be found below).

Step 3: Use your SUPERHERO powers for the good of your community. In 24 hours of giving on November 12, you will make a difference in your community.

 Sample tweets: 

Sample posts:
November 2: As some of you may know, I support the programs and services of Easter Seals North Georgia. When you get a chance, take a look at their website [link to www.easterseals.com/northgeorgia]. Not only do they help children with special needs and their families during the most critical time of their lives, they help OUR community thrive. #GAgivesday

November 5: #GAgivesday is a week away on November 12. I encourage you to join me in supporting Easter Seals North Georgia. High-quality comprehensive early education makes a difference in OUR community. [ATTACH INFOGRAPHIC]

November 9: Thursday is #GAgivesday. I will be donating to Easter Seals North Georgia. Did you know a children living in poverty has 0-2 age-appropriate books in their home? A generous donation of $50 will supply an entire classroom with books. [ATTACH PICTURE]

November 12: Todays the big day! Have you participated in #GAgivesday yet? I have and I chose Easter Seals North Georgia. One of my favorite successes from their early intervention services is Anna. Through in-home speech and occupational therapies provided by Easter Seals, Anna is doing what most children with autism cannot do – engage and speak with others. Will you join me in supporting vulnerable children in our community? https://www.gagivesday.org/c/GGD/a/northgeorgia-easterseals

Infographic can be found here: http://goo.gl/RLinQp

Photo can be found here: http://goo.gl/8yKBYU

Questions? Please call Laura Kahn at 404-943-1070 and I can help!