A Friday ritual. A photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment we want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.
By Megan Smith, MA, LCAT, Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Therapist, SPCC
A local family’s daily activities became widely reported following a traffic stop on 3/23/17 in Geneseo. A woman from Guatamala and her 12-year old brother were detained by Border Patrol or ICE in Irondequoit, NY while her four children (Ages: 2 mos, 6 mos, 2 yrs, 4 yrs.) were separated from her and sent home with her sister, and her sister’s four year old daughter. The woman and her young brother were then sent to Buffalo for further immigration processing.
In my role as the Infant/Early Childhood Therapist working in the Family Trauma Intervention Program at SPCC, the parent-child relationship and early childhood development of social-emotional needs are my primary focus. I honor the potential for this diverse family structure to support the children’s social-emotional needs during this stressful time of not knowing what will become of their family members. I also wonder at the infant and young children’s experience, specifically the loss of being able to touch their mother, and if they are missing her voice and her smell, the familiar way she holds them right before they fall asleep and how she knows which cry means “hungry” and which cry means “set me free”.
I wonder who, if anyone, explained to the young children what was happening to their mother and family member at the time of the traffic stop, and if so, in what language? What kinds of facial expressions were the police and border patrol officers wearing when they acknowledged or didn’t acknowledge them? I wonder what sights and sounds and smells the children will remember from waiting on the side of the road while authorities gathered, and then were sent home without their mom to put them to bed.
To be suddenly removed from your familiar caregiver has potential to be detrimental to children’s developing sense of self, and sense of the world. We know that children’s brain’s grow fastest in the age range of 0-3 years, and the effect of traumatic events can be buffered by primary caregiver relationships. How can we process something that we don’t yet have language or understanding for, but also no one to help us regulate and contain the grief, anger, sadness, and fear?
In a statement by the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, systems such as Border Patrol are encouraged to consider the unique needs of infants and young children, instead of separating them from their mothers due to immigration laws:
The Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health (Alliance) joins the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in firmly opposing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposal to separate immigrant mothers from their children when they arrive at the U.S. border. The science of infant mental health is clear that relational health is the foundation for optimal social, emotional and cognitive development across the life span. That is, the parent-child relationship provides safety, comfort, and security, ingredients required to promote good mental health for infants and children. This relationship provides a protective bond, an interruption to which is traumatic and places the young child at risk for significant developmental and behavioral disorders in early childhood and later years. We know that building on a shaky foundation is risky for sustaining physical and mental health. We encourage all systems that interact with families to take into account the needs of infants and young children for emotional and physical safety by assuring that no young child is separated from his/her parents.
Deborah Weatherston, PhD, Executive Director, Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, Inc. ® Margaret Holmberg, PhD, Board President, Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, Inc. ® Marcy Safyer, PhD, LCSWR, IMH-E® IV-C, Board President, New York State Association of Infant Mental Health
As an IMH specialist I must bring myself into the work, and acknowledge that my experience as a white, straight, American, female offers me privilege and potential for bias. I do not have a meaningful understanding of this family’s culture and values, but I do understand that the evidence-base that makes up our field of IMH is clear in acknowledging that very young children require consistent and adequate care from a primary caregiver to develop into healthy adults.
I would like to use my position to start a conversation about how we can begin to support systemic change that takes the unique and diverse needs of young children and their relationships to their primary caregivers into consideration when developing policies and practices.
To learn more about SPCC’s Infant and Early Childhood advocacy, treatment and training, contact Megan Smith, MA, LCAT at: email@example.com, or Sarah Fitzgibbons, LMHC, MT-BC, IMH-E® (IV-C) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shared with us by: Clarice Lazary, LMSW (Outreach Coordinator for SPCC’s WIC Program)
March is National Nutrition Month. So, naturally, a WIC Nutritionist would be the logical choice to write the blog. A Nutritionist knows how to “eat right” and “be healthy”. We have all heard it before…eat less, exercise more, and make it a life style. But, eating and “being healthy” is harder than it sounds. In today’s complicated, busy, hectic world it can be so overwhelming that we tend to decide “I just can’t do it”, “I don’t have time”. But, I have a feeling, like so many other challenges we face, “being healthy” is a multi-layered, life long process. So, at the risk of offending our professional, well educated, very experienced SPCC WIC staff, I am going to share with you my views.
Living healthy is a commitment, an activity, a life style, a group activity, a personal goal. It can be about eating right, cooking right, exercising, just moving, clearing our minds, taking a slow and mindful breath, breaking bread together, eating our guilty pleasures and ENJOYING them occasionally but more often than not, getting back on the “good food” wagon, again.
All my life have I struggled with weight…but WAIT – that is a WRONG statement!! I used to be skinny! So skinny, that my family called me “beansy” (I think that means tiny). And then, puberty and all the emotions and doubts that come with it, enraged itself upon me. I had an average body in adolescence but thought I was fat (when I look back at my high school year book I think “What was I thinking?!”). But my family controlled my food. Where I ate, what I ate, what kind of foods I ate, how much I ate, what I was “allowed to eat “ (no soda except on Sunday with Pasta, only homemade cookies and only 2 a day, and no candy). All good choices, mind you, but not the environment that could be sustained for a life time.
Then I went away to college and started eating on my own. Oh boy…I was NOT prepared! So much “bad” food to indulge in! I remember a lot of pizza, fried foods, cookies and candy! I attempted to eat healthy and ate a lot of salad, but with tons of dressing which tends to defeat the purpose. Ever since then, I have been on a twisted and turning journey of weight gain and loss. Each time for a different reason. But, each time I learn a new coping mechanism or new trick that I like or a way to avoid an old habit, or introduce a new one.
Being healthy, for ME, is a journey.
There are many people I know, where “healthy” is a life style. Call it genetics, self-control, smartness, but I have had to take the long road. I am still on the trip. I probably won’t get there for another many years to come. I have hated a lot of it, but I really love some parts a VERY lot!
I know that I am not alone in this journey. Our lives are filled with challenges and choices that we all make. Some come easier to others. I have chosen to nourish my life with loving friends and co-workers and a giving husband and healthy happy children. I have learned to accept what comes my way. The good and the bad. I have learned to enjoy “good” foods and figured out ways to share them with others and break the cycle of “over eating” at holidays and at social gatherings. I appreciate that moving and exercising with people that you like, makes the torture of working out a better thing.
But back to this complicated hectic world and National Nutrition month. We will feel better if we nourish ourselves, nutritionally, physically and spiritually. We have to prioritize health over the other chaos in our lives. Baby steps. I am at the toddler stage in my life, and I only have about another 30 years left! I better start running soon!