“We are a product of our environment.” Most of us are more than familiar with this saying, and the sentiment rings true in everything we do. Our history, connections, family, and friends help to create the person we are. Our experiences continuously shape who we will become. It’s incorporated in the work we do. Whatever your occupation, you bring your life experiences, expectations, and knowledge to your professional role and to your interactions with those you serve.
In the latest Sexual Behavior in Children and Youth (SBCY) series webinar, “Engaging Families in Clinical Services: A Discussion on Engagement in the Family Advocacy Setting,” we discussed how service providers and the families engaged in clinical services are impacted by their unique history and experiences. And how these factors shape the work of supporting children exhibiting problematic sexual behavior (PSB) and families impacted by PSB.
During each developmental stage, children experience unique milestones of celebration and unique challenges to overcome. As children grow and discover the world around them, it is normal for young children to become curious about their bodies. Young children begin to explore sexual behavior. These behaviors fall on a continuum from developmentally appropriate behaviors normative to their age and social-emotional growth, to cautionary, to problematic. More information about the continuum of PSB, including how these behaviors often show, can be found here.
When families seek intervention and begin working with clinicians for the next steps in addressing PSB, practicing mindfulness and self-reflection in the provider role can be a key factor in establishing meaningful, impactful relationships with families.
Overcoming barriers and building connections…
In today’s environment, our connection and engagement with one another have fundamentally shifted. Is it often difficult to find true connection and engagement with new acquaintances. This is no less true when connecting with caregivers and families currently dealing with behavioral problems with their children on top of the added stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic. Client’s past experiences with other services and/or helping professionals may impact their willingness to become open and receive the assistance provided.
Caregivers, fellow professionals, and families may believe common myths associated with PSB. Some common misconceptions include: there is little to no hope for the future, children exhibiting PSB can’t live with other children, or that youth will grow up to be adult offenders. There is no evidence suggesting this is the case. While there are some common factors associated with certain behaviors, there is no distinct profile or clear pattern of demographic, psychological, or social factors in youth exhibiting PSB. For more information on the impact of PSB, watch our SBCY webinar, “Problematic Sexual Behavior: The Importance of a Multidisciplinary Evidence-Based Approach.” We also covered how to dispel common misconceptions and strategies for connecting with professionals across disciplines to best serve families and those impacts by PSB. Fully understanding how families, children, and non-offending caring adults are impacted by this can go a long way when beginning the journey of advocating for these clients.
Working collaboratively to create a space of safety…
By the time caregivers and families reach you, they are probably experiencing feelings of trepidation, judgment, and concerns of confidentiality. This may lead to a reluctance to share or engage during sessions. Spend some time orienting yourself to what the family may be experiencing, taking into consideration external factors, added stressors, common stigmas around this topic, and cultural considerations. Prior to your initial meeting, you may take some time to think of how their environment has shaped them.
To prepare yourself to meet with the family and begin delving into these often hard to discuss experiences, take a few breathes in between meetings to check in with yourself. Ground yourself in your breath and allow the past and future to fall away. Breathe in and breathe out and give the air moving through your lungs your full attention. Allow the past and future to fall away as you focus on the now. In service areas that require significant emotional labor, finding moments to be mindful can go a long way in managing your personal feelings and preparing to meet the emotional requirements of meeting with new clientele and families. For some more suggestions on building mindfulness into your professional work, watch our “Healthy Moms, Happy Babies I: Supporting Staff to Help Families Remotely” webinar.
Orienting yourself to the family’s experiences…
It is important to not assume the caregiver has been given information about meetings, services, or how they can be utilized. This will allow you to identify and address other needs the family may have, along with the mental health clinical services being provided. This can help inform you as you prepare to introduce yourself, your expected role, and what this process will look like for the family.
Keep in mind the overall message that this is hard, but we are on your team and will work together to get through this. Working to find a common goal with the caregiver and acknowledging they have taken the first step to show they care by just showing up and being there with you will help set foundations for collaboration between yourself, the family, and potentially involving other external systems. And this support will continue to grow as you get to know your clients through each session. By preparing to navigate and address these concerns, you can work in collaboration with the family and give them tools and strategies to work through the needs of the family.
Walk-in their shoes…
Sometimes, you may feel disconnected and may find yourself investing less when working with families. Burnout may be looming due to working with such difficult cases, especially if the number of clients is adding up and becoming overwhelming. Working to put ourselves in the caregiver’s shoes and understanding their experience allows the perception to shift. Focusing on what they are going through, and helping empathize and understand their reactions allows you to advocate for them and listen to their specific needs.
Carl Rogers notes, “Being empathetic is seeing the world through the eyes of the other, not seeing your world reflected in their eyes.” Putting aside your personal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and focusing on the client and their experiences will help in building a strong foundation in working to best support the family in stressful, seemingly overwhelming times. As a family advocate, reframing work with clients to best understand how their environment and past experiences lead them to you will also help shift your energy to best help those you are working with. By working together, we create a better environment for every member of the family and their community to move forward towards their success!
Continuation of the SBCY Series…
Read more takeaways from this session in our “Go Beyond the Webinar” blog for this webinar. If you would like to watch the webinar session, an archived recording is available here. Free continuing education credits for this event are still available from select agencies through December 2022. Visit the webinar event page to get more details on obtaining CE credit.
We will continue our exploration of this topic area in our February 25, 2021 webinar “Overview of Treatment for Children Impacted by Problematic Sexual Behavior of Other Youth.” In this 90-minute session, Dr. Esther Deblinger will provide an overview of treatment for caregivers and children impacted by the PSB of other youth using a Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) framework. Find more information and RSVP to participate in the live session on Thursday, February 25, 2021, by visiting the event page here.
Explore all archived and upcoming programming in the SBCY series by visiting the homepage here. Sign up for our mailing list to stay updated on upcoming SBCY webinars and other Family Development programming!
Asset-based Community Recovery Workshop
This workshop, facilitated by Bob Bertsch and Jessica Beckendorf and based on the Asset-based Community Recovery Framework, will allow you to discover the assets and capacities of your community to make our military families more resilient and aid in their recovery after a disaster. This framework is different because it’s a bottom-up approach allowing individuals, organizations, and businesses to think about the roles people and communities play in moving forward.
We encourage Extension educators and service providers to contribute their voices, experiences, and lessons learned to this workshop. Register today!
March Webinars – RSVP today!
Asset-based Community Recovery Workshops
Contribute your voice, experiences, and lessons learned to this workshop! Engage in practicing connection and collaboration while creating a shared resource we can all use in our work with families and address the challenges we face from multiple perspectives. Through this workshop you can discover the assets and capacities of your community to make our military families more resilient and aid in their recovery after a disaster.
Preparing for Disasters During a Pandemic
We are living in a time of teachable moments, when we can be both proactive (planning ahead for social and mental impacts) and reactive (taking note of what is being done and what has worked). Dr. Tidball shares strategies for building in extra layers of protections on disaster and hazard planning, being cognizant of impacts as they occur, and incorporating different impacts and lessons learned into dynamic plans.
2021 Tax Updates
This webinar addresses the tax implications of stimulus checks, unemployment, the increase to standard deductions, changes to key provisions for popular tax credits, contribution limits and income thresholds for retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s, increases in other tax-favored accounts for healthcare and education, and exemptions from gift and estate tax, tax brackets for ordinary income, as well as qualified dividends and long-term capital gains.
Supporting Parents and Children Through Hazards and Disasters
This session explores tips and strategies for clinicians, Extension educators, and support-service providers working with parents as they navigate challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic considering socio-emotional development and resilience. The importance of planning for increases in domestic violence and child maltreatment during emergencies is also addressed, as well as what serving victims in this context looks like.
Going Beyond the Checklist in Emergency Preparedness — Taking Action
Caregivers can play a vital role in assisting families living with disabilities as they plan and prepare for disasters. Participants will gain the knowledge and understanding, especially regarding disability, needed to encourage families to take action now, before disaster strikes.
Families in Disaster Recovery: Coordinating Support at the Installation Level
This interactive panel presentation provides a general overview of Red Cross services as they relate to individuals, families, and communities in hazard and disaster readiness and action. Special focus will be given to military families and communities.
Food Waste vs Food Safety: A Balancing Act
This webinar examines the problem of food waste and how we as consumers can safely reduce the amount of food waste in our homes. One of the biggest contributors to food waste is produce and as such, this webinar provides insight into how to properly handle, store and increase the shelf life of food in the home.
Surviving the 2020 Pandemic: Lessons Learned on How to Best Support our EI/ECSE Communities
This session addresses systemic changes that can be made to prepare EI/ECSE systems to be immediately responsive to the needs of professionals, families, and young children served during and following a disaster or hazard. Ways in which EI/ECSE practitioners and Extension educators can prepare to provide crucial support to young children with disabilities and their military families in times of disasters or hazards also are shared.
Aging with Disabilities
In this session, we discuss the similarities and differences between aging into and aging with disability. We also reconcile the roles of caregivers and family supports as the person with disability grows older.
Connecting with Communities in Asset-Based Disaster Recovery
In this session, we share the community interconnections and assets that have emerged from the Asset-based Community Recovery workshops and provide resources for forging the community connections that will help us aid in disaster response and recovery for military families in the future.
Preparing for Disasters
Food and nutrition are core elements of survival. Therefore, it is vital to know how to access safe food before, during, and after disasters. While there is little that can be done to prevent disasters, there are many steps that military families may take to prepare themselves for the emergency state brought on by disasters.
What is “Learned Helplessness?”
Individuals with cancer or other long-term illnesses and their caregivers can and do experience “learned helplessness.” Care receivers are prone to “learned helplessness” because they are continually hearing bad news, experiencing medical complications and feeling stressed about their life and how it has and will change.
Early Intervention Telehealth: Thoughts from Providers’
Historically, in the U.S., individual states have varied greatly in their delivery of early intervention services; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered even greater differences. During this time of confusion and changing guidance, it is important to listen and learn from those implementing early intervention telehealth, many of whom are doing so for the first time in their career.
Maintaining Healthy Military Couple Relationships Despite Transitions
As we know, service members and their families face several unique transitions over their time in military service. With each transition a service member and their partner faces, it is important that they feel well-prepared, have resiliency skills, and are able to access resources and lean on their networks for support so that they can weather whatever storm comes their way.
A Discussion on Art Therapy for Military Families with Melissa Walker, Jessica Herman, and Valli Rebsamen | Anchored Episode 22
In this Anchored podcast episode, we will be discussing the application of art therapy and military families. We will be joined by three art therapists; Melissa Walker, Jessica Herman, and Valli Rebsamen, to discuss their work, the therapeutic practices used in art therapy, and the prevalence of mental health issues and “invisible wounds of war” (traumatic brain injury, PTSD, etc.) for active duty service members and how these issues affect both the individuals and each member of the family.
Practicing Reflection (Ep. 6) | Practicing Connection in a Complex World
In this episode, Jessica and Bob take some time to reflect on 2020 and look forward to 2021, sharing some of the questions they find most helpful for reflection and their answers to those questions.