What is Friendship?

 

 

Today, July 30, is the International Day of Friendship. The day is designed to bridge the gaps of race, color, religion, nationality, and other factors that keep people from forming and enjoying friendships with one another. It is meant to encourage dialogue, acceptance, and understanding between people of different backgrounds. Friendship matters. It can prevent war and promote peace. Research shows it can keep people healthier, happier, and living longer.

Having friends is a good thing. However, what defines a friend? What is friendship?

To me, friendship is a word as big as all relationships put together, yet as unique as any human pairing. In some ways “friendship” is as clear yet as ambiguous as the word “family”: Do you count only siblings or also cousins and nephews? Second cousins? Grand-nephews? In-laws? Third cousins thrice removed? Different people list family differently. Some define “immediate family” and “close family” versus “distant relatives” while others see all kin as kin. Can one argue that one person’s definition is more or less valid than another’s? Who decides who is or isn’t “family?”

Similar variability may be true for friendships, with different ‘kinds’ and types and closeness all jumbled under one rather all-inclusive word.

There are the friends you grow up with. The children of your parents’ friends, with whom you were ‘forced’ to spend time and sometimes had grown close to. The classmates and groups assigned by teachers. The bunkmates at camp, the teammates at sports. There are the neighbors you’d spent time with because they were the ones closest to toss a ball or take turns on the bike with after school. Among all those, some may have become your friends, some might have turned enemies, and a few may have grown to be as close as your own siblings. Maybe more.

Then there are the friends you make during life-changing matters: Military buddies you’d trust your life to; illness buddies who you know understand what other friends may not; the co-worker who had your back when a boss was unkind or another co-worker was out to get you; the neighbor who stepped up when the roof leaked in the middle of the night or who’d offered a safe place for you when they suspected you weren’t so in your own house.

There are also the passing friendships that may or may not continue beyond the moment of circumstance: Like the people you’d met on the cruise or were stuck in the airport overnight with during a storm. Or that single mom you’d helped give the bottle to the baby when the toddler had a tantrum and she hadn’t nearly enough arms for both. You got to talk, and sat together, and then exchanged numbers and never called each other but you still find yourself looking for her anytime you fly, and see her in every single mother flying with small children. She had become a friend. Inside your mind.

And friendships that turn into something more: Like the elderly man across the street on whom you checked after a storm and found out that he had no one to help him change a lightbulb and could no longer climb. And so you had, and stayed a moment longer while he shared a story from his life, and then you invited him over for dinner and he came wearing a suit and holding flowers from his garden … And he now comes to all your family’s holidays and get-togethers. Because he’s a friend now. Of the family.

And, of course, one cannot speak of friendships without those friendships that ARE family. The sibling who is also a best friend, the cousin one is close to, the partners one makes a life with and become both family and best-friends-for-the-real-forever.

So what are friendships? Maybe they are anything and everything we make them. With humans, with your furry friends. How we define them may shift and change, but the connection is recognizable.

How would you define friendships? What is a friend to you? If so inclined, will you comment below?

And on this day of international friendships and on every day: may your friendships be as fruitful and plentiful as you wish them to be. May they fill your life and heart with joy and meaning. May it be so and more.

Broken Tea (“Emilia” excerpt)

 

“…When the little girl was finally sleeping, Marion put her to bed and tucked her in and sat on the edge of the daybed for a long while, looking older and more tired than anything that could be attributed to her eighty-five years. Pushing up from the bed, Marion began collecting the child’s clothing to fold for the next day, only to toss the lot on the floor, swipe a book and a half-empty mug off the table, and storm out of the house. The mug lay shattered on the stone floor, tea stains splattered. KayAnne stared at the ruined cup, reluctant to clean up and somehow needing the brokenness to remain: She wanted to demolish something herself.”

Excerpt from “Emilia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

Lollipop-it

So there’s that child with diabetes. Another whose family only eats raw foods. A third family is strictly vegan. There’s the child who cannot have any food additives. The one whose mom swears sugar turns her angel to a dysregulated mess. The (not so rare) kid who won’t touch fruits, let alone vegetables. The family that wants to move toward less junkfood but hates to put a damper on healthy treats.

There are many different solutions, and different reasons why many would want to try. As you probably know (and fairs and carnivals had proven), most yummy things are instantly better on a stick …

Here are some of the creative ideas parents have shared with me and/or I had suggested over the years. Some we have incorporated into the session (for sequence, cause/effect, before/after, all manners of narrative), others helped desensitize finicky mouths and tender palates. Mostly, they were fun! Enjoy and maybe share own!

  1. Watermelon lollipops! Less mess, better grip, perfect yum.

Watermelon lollies

 

  1. Kiwi lollipops! Good with chocolate ganache, of course … but also as ‘naked’ frozen slices, or if dipped in sweetened yogurt and frozen, possibly with coconut flakes or cocoa nibs.
Kiwi Lollies

via showfoodchef

 

  1. Flower Fruit Pops – fun to make and super fun to eat. Cantaloupe, grapes, watermelon (also works with strawberries, apples, nectarines, firm blueberries … you get the idea!)
flower fruit pops1

Via LindsayAnnBakes

 

  1. Easy Fruit Pops! For another variation on the theme, which works wonderfully for birthday parties, picnics, and other lessen-sticky-fingers-everywhere events.

fruit pops

 

  1. Veggie wands! For a savory alternative on a stick! Works well with ’rounds’ of sliced mozzarella stick, fresh mozzarella (pictured), or any firm cheese. Just as yummy with the whites of hard boiled eggs or cubed cooked meat. Also great with baked tofu cubes, for those who prefer vegan sticks.
sugarfreekids pop

via SugarFreeKids

 

  1. And … even the most incomplete list won’t work without frozen pops … Lollipops’ cool cousin! Make them with fruit, fruit and yogurt, and combinations galore! It works well to partially freeze in small paper cups or in old fashioned ice-cube-trays, then stick a craft stick or lollipop stick in when it is almost but not quite set.
frozen fruit yogurt

Via: Moncheriprom

 

As this list is by no means comprehensive, let alone exhaustive … Will you take a moment to share in the comments what your favorite ways and things are to lollipop-it?

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

Absolutely beautiful! Tribute Art — Steve McCurry’s Blog

Take a few moments to click on the link below to Steve McCurry’s blog and you will NOT be disappointed. This is a lovely, lovely tribute to his photography, and to the talent of the artists who’d sent in their arts-based-on-photo.

Marvelous!

It is a great privilege when other artists send us their own works based on my pictures. It is a wonderful affirmation of the strength and dignity shown on the faces of these people around the world. Nidhi Kakar, India Rukiye Demirci, Turkey Rukiye Demirci Unknown Artist Lana Frye, United States Rodrigo Caldas, Brazil Lana […]

via Tribute Art — Steve McCurry’s Blog

Her Whole Life in a Plastic Bag

three-clock-bears

Photo: threeoclockbears.com

 

Tamina attended first-grade in a Harlem public school. She was homeless most of that year. Her mother lost the apartment after she lost her job. Sometimes they stayed with relatives but mostly Tamina, her mother and her sister slept in shelters where they could never stay very long. They carried their belongings in thick black garbage bags, protection from the weather. Tamina used to have a teddy bear, but it got left in a shelter and her mother was ‘too tired’ to go back for it. Tamina never got it back.

Tamina had very little. Other children had a home, their own bed, place for their stuff, more stuff. So she stole. Mostly small things: erasers, crayons, hair-pins. Things she could hide in her pockets and later in her black garbage bag. If confronted, Tamina would furiously demand it “was always hers.” I suspected she often believed it and wondered if some items resembled things she once had and owning them was a link to a time when life was less overwhelming. Beyond an overall language delay, Tamina seemed confused about concepts like the difference between possessing and owning: in some shelters cots were ‘first-come-first-serve’ and while you had it, it was ‘yours’ even if it did not remain so for long. You had to ‘watch’ your stuff or have it disappear. Why could an unattended eraser not be ‘hers’?

 While children often crave things that are not theirs, Tamina’s stealing was possibly about unmet needs. Her mother was “always mad and cussing” and Tamina could not rely on her for support. Children whose ‘hungers’ are neglected seek other ways: become secretive, dissociate, numb themselves with substances, steal, hoard. These behaviors often further distance them from care and social support, when they in fact communicate confusion, loneliness, anger, loss, and shame.

[The above is an excerpt from “Communicating Trauma” Routledge, 2015]

Communicating Trauma-Yehuda

Homelessness does not necessarily mean neglect, but the realities and causes of homelessness pose many risks, especially to children. In addition to loss and grief, there are increased health and safety risks, along with reduced access to care. Children without homes suffer insecurity, and their caregivers may be too overwhelmed to attend to their emotional needs. Depression, posttraumatic stress, illness, disability, poverty, domestic violence and other life-crises are all too common among parents of homeless children. Any one of these factors can overwhelm a parent and reduce their availability, let alone when such factors combine.

Having no place to call home–in all the forms it takes–can be distressing and occupying. It leaves children anxious and unavailable for learning. Homeless children are often wary and worried, angry or withdrawn. They are three times as likely to require special-education, four times as likely to drop out of school, and almost nine times as likely to repeat grades.

Homelessness devastates. It is crucial we work together to understand it and resolve it as well as support families in crisis and address risk factors before they reach a loss of home, hearth, and heart.

 

 

New Beginning: Habit & Opportunity

opportunity

“He still won’t read.”

The mother’s voice held disappointment and frustration. Her son struggles in school and was required by teachers to read every day over the summer, but hadn’t.

“I did read!” he protested, pouted. Hurt. “I read two whole books!”

“Only because we made you read!” She retorted and turned to me. “Every day is a new excuse. He’s too tired, the book is boring, it’s too hard, he’ll read later, he hates reading, it is stupid … He’ll do anything to avoid it.”

He stomped to the chair. Sat dejectedly. I patted his arm. “I’m glad you read two whole books,” I said. “Which ones?”

He brightened. Threw a “you see?!” look at his mom, and told me. We discussed what he liked about the stories, what he didn’t. What was hard, what wasn’t. We then went over a list of possible titles to follow.

I scheduled a time to speak with the mom. Her frustrations need venting, and she needs solutions, but we can talk about her disappointment without him needing to be present.

♦♦♦

Every child is different but the complaint is not unique. Children and parents rarely battle over things that are fun and easy. It is the stuff that’s hard, confusing, boring, tedious, or appears to be of import to one side but feels less so to the other … where lines get drawn in the sand and stubborn frustration ensues.

Parents cajole. They threaten. They withhold privileges. They might use shame as ‘motivator’ by characterizing the child as lazy or ungrateful, oppositional, immature …

Not surprisingly, these tactics rarely work to ‘motivate’ learning. Nor do they solve whatever problem underlies a child’s reluctance to read: difficulty decoding, difficulty comprehending, delays in language and learning, issues with processing and retrieval, attention issues, stress and overwhelm …

A new school year is seen as opportunity for new ways of learning, new progress, new habits. Parents expect their children to enter school with gusto after a summer’s break and to give it their all. They often expect improvement of whatever issues may have been present the year prior. They verbally and otherwise communicate their expectation that the child prove himself or herself as mature and hardworking, and overcome whatever habits held them back.

A new grade and new beginning indeed offers much new opportunity for doing things differently. However, for that to happen we cannot fall back on failed methods or less-than-helpful habits. If children knew to do better on their own, they would do so already. No child wants to fail. No child enjoys the negative attention of reproach if they can get the positive attention of pride and praise.

♦♦♦

“So what am I supposed to do?” the mother asked when we met. Exasperated.

“You did the best you could last year, and this year we’ll have to work together to do better,” I replied.

She was taken aback. She didn’t expect me to include her in the assessment of last year’s difficulties …

I did not mean blame, but I did mean accountability. Parents often do the best they know, but they are often overextended themselves, and some don’t quite follow through. They may want to follow suggestions but only do so sporadically, or expect the child to take full responsibility for remembering new tasks that they themselves forget … then feel pressed to blame or require … They may get discouraged at the first sign of difficulty (not unlike the child, maybe …) and not continue to work toward new habits when the implementation hits a bump or scheduling needs to be adjusted. They may balk at taking on more responsibility in a life that may already feel too stressful (again, not unlike the child…).

Parents deserve guidance. Shame does not work any better on adults than it does on children … Parents can use encouragement, not blame. Many can benefit from reminders and a pathway to setting new habits. It is not a weakness or poor parenting to make errors or get frustrated or not follow through. People aren’t perfect. We all need help in some areas.

♦♦♦

For this boy, now in mid-grades, and often argumentative and quite fed up with “everything being too difficult”–new habits will (hopefully) include less fighting and more working together, less demand and more playfulness, less critic and more problem solving, less rigidity and more predictability, less shaming and more understanding.

Practically speaking?

  • Setting a weekly schedule where one of the parents reads TO him every night or almost every night (on the benefits of reading check: How early? For how long? ).
  • Separating the child’s own reading for decoding and school, from the parents reading TO him for literary exposure and pleasure.
  • Taking care to not make a parent’s reading time an opportunity for ‘testing’ vocabulary or memory about the story (talking about the story is fabulous, quizzing is not).
  • For books mandatory for school (but too difficult for the child’s reading level), using audio books as accompaniment to printed/electronic book. This helps the child follow the written word and assist him with decoding and comprehension.
  • Placing reminders for reading-time and having a timer he can set to ensure he is reading long enough and can do this independently.
  • Scheduling daily reading (for school and book logs) at a time that is realistic, rather than opportunistic.
  • Providing assistance with homework and/or test preparation, so that the child is not left to manage what is too difficult on his own, and ends up too stressed and exhausted to optimally process information.
  • Incorporating narrative into the day to day and offering modeling of narrative instead of requiring the child to constantly answer questions.
  • Offering a model for making time for reading. Adults who read are more likely to have children who enjoy reading.
  • Setting the child up for success, not failure: rather than focusing on a day he didn’t read or what he isn’t doing well yet, offer praise when he does do his reading without arguing; remind the child what worked before and what he can try to do again; offer solutions, not reprimand.

♦♦♦

In this new school year, what old and less than desirable habits can your child replace with brand new opportunity?

What steps can you take to help?

If you need help to formulate a plan–it is okay to ask for it. That, too, is an opportunity.

reading-extinction-buzzfeed

from Buzzfeed.com

 

 

Heat-wave

Met a neighbor downstairs yesterday. She was sitting on the stoop with her dog by her feet. My neighbor is usually quite peppy. She looked wilted and a little green around the gills. Sweaty. Bleary eyed.

I asked it she was okay, and she shook her head.

“I feel like I’m going to throw up,” she said. “Got dizzy. Maybe it’s the heat.”

I gave her a cold water bottle. Asked the café next door for a towel moistened with ice-water and wrapped that around her neck. I’d have helped her to my air-conditioned apartment but I didn’t think she should climb several flights of stairs.

She didn’t want me to call 911. Said she’d just sit on the shady (but steamy) stoop and rest. I offered to help her into the café next door instead. Had her sit down in the air-conditioned space. The dog could not enter but the waiter understood and let us sneak the leash out through a crack in the door so she can still keep hold of the pooch.

I asked again if to call 911. Didn’t want to scare her, and indeed it could be heat-exhaustion, but heart-attack in women rarely displays the classic ‘clasp your chest’ as in men. It could be something else …

She shook her head. “I don’t need 911. I’m taking this new medication and maybe it made me more sensitive to the heat. I think there was something about it on the label. I’ll be okay.”

She said the cool air already had her feeling better. So we sat. I watched her, ready to call 911 if she got worse. She didn’t. She took small sips of her water. The waiter brought another cool rag to replace the one that already warmed. She took deep breaths.

Her coloring improved. The dog, who’d been standing vigil by the door and anxiously observing her, finally lapped the water we’d placed for him, then lay down with head calmly on front paws. His reaction reassured me. It reassured my neighbor, too. She smiled and took a deeper breath. The dog lifted eyes to her and his tail slapped the ground in return greeting. Both relieved.

We sat a little longer. When my neighbor felt like herself again, we thanked the café workers and I walked her home. She was going to take it easy the rest of the day. Hydrate. Stay indoors.

Summer is lovely, but it can be tricky for many. Medications are often not taken into account, yet should.

I can be a certifiable momma hen … so, bear with me. … It’s been hot yesterday and it is hotter still today. A heat index of 109F or so. Life doesn’t need to stop, but know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Don’t ignore them. Take precautions, check your medications for heat-sensitivity warnings, and take good care of you, of young and old or people who are in any way infirm or vulnerable to heat. Be mindful of pets, check on neighbors. Keep hydrated. Keep cool. Keep well.

SacramentoReady.org heatstroke

Stressful Situations Simulation: A resource

Below is a good resource and simulation of stressful situations that can be immensely helpful to parents and caregivers. I especially recommend the ones involving “Family Support”: “Calm Parents, Healthy Kids” and “Building Family Bonds.” These scenario simulations inform, teach, and actively guide parents and caregivers through various scenarios of interactions with toddlers in commonly challenging situations.

The resource can be invaluable information for parents and caregivers who are inexperienced and/or may have had less than good enough parenting themselves, and who may not know how to facilitate clear, supportive interaction with their own children, especially under stress. The simulation is presented in a non-shaming, educational way, and provides the participant with an active role in choosing different ways of responding … and being able to see the possible reactions to them … It also allows the participant to ‘re-do’ situations so they can experience how better choices can bring better results …

Practicing is important for any skill, let alone for skills one needs to apply in stressful situations. The very way our brain processes information is affected when we’re stressed, so it helps to already know what to do beforehand. Also, our own stress and how we manage it gets communicated and passed onto children in our care. This makes it doubly important to learn and practice (and then be able to model) new skills when one is calm and in neutral situations–as this simulation allows one to do.

Calm, informed caregivers help raise calm, healthy, competent kids. This can help!

I highly recommend you take a look and see:

https://conversationsforhealth.org/#conversations

bubble happy

 

Communication and Collaboration

Upcoming Webinar!

Communication and Collaboration: Multidisciplinary treatment of traumatized/dissociative children

Friday, May 20, 2016
2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Eastern Time

Registration now open! (please see disclaimer in bottom of post)

spacornerJuly12no5

Photo Credit: A.A.

Abstract
Treatment of traumatized and dissociative children is most often discussed in the context of psychotherapy. However, traumatized and/or dissociated children often come into contact with additional professionals. Like all youngsters, traumatized children need to manage everyday interactions with caregivers, educators, and routine childhood medical and dental care. Yet many also face clinical interactions with speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, medical professionals, and more. This is because trauma places children at a high risk for developmental issues, and because children who already have developmental and/or health issues are highly vulnerable to trauma. In addition to clinical care, many traumatized children encounter legal personnel, forensic evaluators, child protective services, foster care staff, etc.

Posttraumatic and dissociative reactions are not limited to the therapist’s office. Just as communication issues aren’t segregated to speech-language pathologist’s office, asthma to the doctor’s, or sensory integration issues to occupational therapy. Various issues can complicate children’s presentation and behavior, and traumatized youngsters are often judged as difficult, aggressive, manipulative, immature, unpredictable, and inattentive. This can result in painful consequences (e.g. loss of placement, shaming, treatment failure), which further increase stress and reinforce the need for dissociative coping. In addition, caregivers routinely face challenges that can affect course of treatment, and professionals do not always ‘speak the same language’ when it comes to describing, assessing, and treating the child (and/or family). Even when professionals are trauma-aware, coordinated care is not always easy to achieve … and yet is essential for effective stabilization, minimizing compartmentalization, and carryover.

This webinar will look into the often complex realities of caring for traumatized/dissociative children and adolescents, the tapestries of clinical encounters many face, and how these may shift throughout infancy, childhood, and teen years. The challenges (and potential) of coordinated care and communication will be discussed, as would logistical and ethical limitations and suggestions for managing them. Clinical vignettes will serve as a window into ways for improving communication among child/family professionals, and will provide examples for practical solutions for increasing regulation and decreasing posttraumatic activation in all involved. The role of caregivers and the child as part of the team will also be examined.

Objectives
Upon completion of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the connection between trauma and care utilization in children and adolescents.
  • Describe three challenges to coordinated care
  • List five strategies therapists can apply to improve communication and coordination in the multi-disciplinary treatment of traumatized/dissociative children

For more information and to register

Disclaimer: I volunteer my time and expertise for this webinar, and do not receive any financial gain from it. Registration fees are collected by ISSTD, which hosts the webinar, is responsible for all fees and/or refunds, and provides an option for CEs for attendance.