One time one of my kids broke her femur and the outpouring of love she received was overwhelming! The nurses gave her a special homemade quilt that had been donated to the children’s hospital. She received lots of cards and sweet gifts. She even had a player from the Phoenix Coyotes go visit her in her room. People from our neighborhood and church stopped by with dinner and desserts and we never even had to ask for help! People saw that she was hurt and they just stepped up! It was so amazing to be loved that much and so cared for by those around us.
We really felt loved all through that experience. While I guess it was an unexpected hardship to have a kid break a bone, we knew for certain that she would one day walk again and be fully healed.
I didn’t feel the same level of certainty the first time I had to take a child to the hospital because they were suicidal. I didn’t have the same confidence that all would be well. There were no crutches, no cast, no ice pack or other specific instructions for healing. There’s no promise that in 6 months all will be healed and back to normal.
The other stark difference when you have a child go into the hospital for their mental health is the lack of support from friends and family. People don’t dare ask you how you’re doing, mostly you just hear quiet whispers about your family. For the most part no one stops by with dinners or treats. No one offers to help out with driving the other kids to their activities. Even if you ask for help, sometimes people don’t understand the severity of what families are going through on a daily basis before it even gets to the point of hospitalization. For the reader, let me assure you that a child has to have very severe mental health needs to be admitted to the hospital. A child can seem completely typical at school or church and still be displaying very unsafe behaviors at home. This “lifestyle” of the every day grind of raising children with mental health needs is really challenging for families.
For people who would like to step up and help families who are raising traumatized children, here’s how you can help next time a trauma mama you know is in crisis:
- Bring her a coffee, or a Diet Coke. She probably wouldn’t mind some snacks and a magazine too!
- If she’s in the hospital with a kiddo, ask if she needs you to bring her a sweater or a phone charger. Parents can end up waiting in the ER for 12 to 24 hours before their kiddo is transferred to a psychiatric unit.
- Ask her if her other kids need rides to their activities.
- Take dinner to the family.
- Some hospitals don’t allow the parents to leave the ER, you could offer to stay so mom can go home and shower.
- Listen without judgement. Please, I beg of you, refrain from using the words “All kids do that.”
- One more request, please resist the urge to compare your perfectly healthy children to your friend’s kids. Just don’t bring up the sticker chart you made for junior. They wouldn’t be spending 4 hours a week in therapy if a sticker chart could fix it.
- Please continue to be a good friend. Love your friends through their challenges and stay by their side. They will remember the friends that were there for them in their darkest times. Your love and friendship is so needed. Keep showing up and keep stepping up to help!
ASA Now’s mission is to “support and strengthen the most vulnerable population” by empowering them with the education, support and skills necessary to be successful in all areas of life. They offer life skills, tutoring, extra-curricular activities, food boxes, social connections, information and trainings on how to receive behavioral and medical services, and much more. ASA Now is “committed to ensure that all families who have been touched by foster care succeed.” Prevention is at the forefront of their purpose, and this fall they will open the doors to Jacob’s Mission Community Center in Mesa, AZ. After school tutoring, life and trade skills, extra-curricular activities, sports, support groups, equine and much more will soon be available to families in need. To learn more or to volunteer visit them at www.ASANow.org.
ASA Now President