This Is What Community Healing Looks Like

By Nawal Alomari

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We all want to be happy and healthy, but as we know, life sometimes throws us curve balls.  The curve balls might take the shape of a presidential election, the loss of a loved one, stress at work, economic hardship, cancer, a shooting, a car accident, or something as simple as a bully at school.  Whatever they look like, they will keep coming; and even the youngest members of our community will need to know how to cope with the curve balls to stay happy and healthy.

Healing from trauma and recognizing mental illness is just what Ms. Cralli’s forth graders want to do this year as part of their Grassroots Campaign. Just last Tuesday, Village Leadership Academy parents, family members and students attended and participated in a Healing Night hosted by Ms. Cralli and her 4th grade class. Mental Health is Ms. Cralli’s Grassroots Campaign for the year and they help promote change regarding the topic of mental health and suicide.

The night started with music and pizza, much like many great nights. Then Ms. Cralli opened up the discussion by sharing the data of a survey her class had given to VLA students.  She provided some background information that opened our eyes to the way our students view the world around them.

The fact that stood out most to us was that while younger students felt they had someone to talk to during difficult times, the older students were less likely to feel that way. Results from the survey helped us understand that there is a need for more of a connection between the students and the adults in their lives.

A forth grader’s parent and psychiatrist Mrs. Brewer shared that she felt this was such an important topic for us to understand. She discussed the brain, the way it works and how this influences our relationships was absolutely fascinating!! I spoke next and discussed the value of a healthy child-adult relationship and tips for talking to children about trauma to promote positive communication.

The children and their families then learned about coping skills and different ways we can react positively during difficult times. The families then brainstormed different ways they can do each type of coping skill either individually or as a family.

Finally, we discussed art therapy and how it can be beneficial for children to draw or do an activity when discussing difficult topics because it can be easier to express ourselves through those outlets.

The young people then drew about something that made them feel strongly and talked about it with their parents as a result. The families seemed to really enjoy doing this and saw value in connecting with their children this way. Many parents and grandparents also had discussions about the difficulties of communicating with their growing children and different ways to overcome obstacles. It was a very productive meeting and we can’t wait to hear how families were able to incorporate these great skills in their daily lives!

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One thought on “This Is What Community Healing Looks Like

  1. Dear Nawal:

    Congratulations to you on a beautiful article–and especially positive, optimistic and contributory subject matter for your and Ms. Cralli’s 4th graders. As I read each and every word of it, I envisioned more than healing: I saw WELLNESS.

    In fact, I was reminded of the American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, who did not study or focus on emotional illness, like most other psychologists. Instead, Maslow oriented his work on the causes of wellness, success, fulfillment and achievement. And your article–like your meeting with your 4th graders and their parents and families–mentioned a few of his key common qualities, traits and skills of personally and professionally fulfilled and happy persons.

    The first is our cognizance on the importance of RELATIONSHIPS–and not on blame, guilt or fear. Perhaps the most significant thing we can learn, understand and know is that “just because a person is not emotionally well–does not mean that person is mentally or emotionally ill.” More often than not–one’s issue or trouble has to do with an “unhealthy relationship,” like with a friend, a family member, a person at work, or an intimate.

    So, with this cognizance, we can see HAPPINESS is an “inside job.” Happy people have learned how to create healthy relationships and thus enjoy mental wellness. Instead of blaming others, making others feel guilty for our lack of fulfillment, or using fear as a motivator to get what we want–healthy persons learn “how to get along with others.” They stop criticizing, blaming, judging, complaining, nagging, threatening, and disbelieving–and begin supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, negotiating differences, and even obeying. This attention to the habits of building relationships immediately puts people well on their way to a healthy, fulfilling life….not only for oneself but for others too.

    A focus on relationships and happiness is mute without INTROSPECTION and SELF-ACCOUNTABILITY which is how “healing” comes about–as your article suggested. We can’t control others, we can only “put in order” our own circumstances, priorities, thinking, and mind. Perhaps Mark Twain said it best: “There aint nothing on our ‘outside’ that can whip any of us, but there is a lot on our ‘inside’ that can and will mess with most of us.”

    Again, Nawal, congratulations to you and Ms. Cralli for making your students not only smart, but good.

    Rick Martinez

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