While en route during your normal routine, you may have noticed that there are several large groups of pinwheels throughout the city. These are placed as part of a national effort to bring attention to Child Abuse Prevention.
The pinwheel represents the hope and promise of a happy childhood for all children. A pinwheel, while completely captivating to a young child, somehow loses its lustre as one grows older. The lens of which we see the world, quickly grows from the childhood excitement and wonder to a sense of responsibility and safety.
Child safety locks, lead in paint, peanut allergies, bullies in school, child predators, childhood obesity…it seems like children are being sent out to a war zone every day with the hope of survival.
What if I told you that your child’s best chance of survival lies within you?
Parenting is beyond the physical needs of a child (food, shelter, and clothing) but incorporates the emotional needs as well (love, safety, and attachment.)
Studies have shown that children who do not have a secure attachment to at least one adult are at higher risk for symptoms of mental illness, including anxiety and depression.
Unlike the common cold, mental illness doesn’t always have clear symptoms. Having a secure attachment and open communication will help you to notice the changes in your child’s behaviours or see the increase of anger, fear, sadness, or anxiety.
Securing a healthy attachment may seem like an abstract concept so I want to use a visual: Your child is a pirate (or a fairy princess) who sails out every day on a boat, pinwheel in hand, to have adventures and learn about the world.
You are the dock for your child, the place in which they safely return, with hugs and stories of the day, or tears of defeat after rough seas.
What type of dock are you?
• Are you a stable dock, every day are you readily available to greet your little pirate/fairy princess and have time to hear their stories and wipe their tears?
• Is your dock unstable, sometimes available for safe landing and other times needing careful footing? Does your child access the safety first before landing?
• Does your dock need fixing every day, your child, feeling it is their duty to help protect and secure the dock so that they have someplace to land?
We all need a safe landing spot, even as adults, and especially as a child. We all make mistakes but attachment is something that is ever-changing and can be ever-improving.
Here are some tips to help allow smooth sailing for you and your child:
• Give warnings around transitions or changes.
• Increase the predictability of the environment (including you!)
• Provide physical comforts (hugs, cuddles).
• Increase sensitivity to cues.
• Let them have time for age-appropriate exploration.
• Time in: be available for emotional outbursts, allow your children to feel.
• Model healthy coping skills.
• See the world through their eyes. Remember the pinwheel!
If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, talk to someone. You are their biggest advocate and resource!
Big Bend 2-1-1 has listings of all area agencies dealing with these issues.
Apalachee Center can be reached at 1-800-342-0774 for Detox, Crisis or inpatient treatment, and 1-866-472-3941 to schedule an outpatient appointment.
Lynette Moriak is an MSW who received her graduate and undergraduate degree (BSW) from Florida State University. She has worked in the areas of child welfare, HIV/AIDs, mentoring, school social work, and mental health and substance abuse as it relates to children and families for the last ten years. She is currently employed as a Clinical Program Coordinator at Apalachee Center.
For over half a century, Apalachee Center has been dedicated to helping the individuals and families of North Florida succeed in recovering from emotional, psychiatric, and substance abuse crises. These crises are often painful and frightening, and leave families and individuals feeling as if they are all alone and have nowhere to turn. The Apalachee team is here to help.