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When the Levees Break

Article posted on Wednesday, July, 28th, 2010 at 8:00 am

Our family is fortunate to have a strong support network among our friends and family.  We didn’t have to look far when we were in need.  My sister, Carrie B. Potter, has spent her career helping children to cope through traumatic experiences.  I was thrilled when she offered to create this series of posts (Health through Crisis) to help families who are struggling.  Check back often to see new posts in this series.

In situations like these, when a family member becomes suddenly ill or hospitalized, the family unit enters crisis mode.  We define a crisis as some dramatic emotional or circumstantial disturbance in a person’s life.  Sudden illness, an accident, death, a broken relationship, and natural disasters are all examples of events that throw us into crisis.  No doubt about that.   How can a family pull together and become stronger when they are in crisis?  The answer is quite simple.  Focus only on what is truly important.  This is the first of a three part series that Neely’s Miracle has allowed me to post about maintaining the mental and emotional health of a family in crisis.  Here are some important things for you to remember.

1.  Keep Yourself   Healthy.

As the parent and primary caregiver of a family where this crisis has become the center of your universe, you cannot afford to lose yourself.  Take time each day to re-focus on your purpose for the day and de-compress.  Just 15 minutes of meditation and prayer can get you through hours of anxiety and stress.  You owe it to yourself and your family to stay well both spiritually and emotionally.

2.  Remember Other Family Members.

Your spouse needs you.  Your other children need you.  You need your spouse and children.  You are a family.  Depend on one another, pray for one another, and allow each person their space.  Every family member is feeling the same worry, dread, fatigue, and hope, especially the children.  Make an effort to maintain open communication with each other and with your children.  Children can’t always communicate well their fears and concerns.  Make sure you take time to listen and answer their questions honestly.

3. The Power of Being Positive.

Think about activities that your family likes to do together and continue to do those things.  My sister plans regular game nights with her husband and two children.  They play games like ‘Go Fish’ and ‘Yahtzee.’   Another mom I know has a weekly arts and crafts night with her children where they get out art supplies and draw and color until they can’t draw and color anymore.  These types of activities travel!  They can be easily relocated and played just as well around a hospital bed as they can a dining room table.  Keeping these happy ‘family traditions’ going during this time of crisis provides an anchor and a reminder of times when family life was more peaceful.  These moments can be especially calming to children.  The point is to spend time together as a family and find a way to laugh a little even when there seems to be little to laugh about.

4. Know your limits.  Ask for help.

You can’t do it all.  That statement deserves repeating.  Say it again to yourself.  Crisis situations can push a family to its breaking point.  It’s ok to ask for help.  Talk with your pastor, a trusted friend or family member, or a counseling professional.  Sometimes you and your spouse may just need a sounding board.  Speak with your child’s school counselor about ways that you can lead your children through this crisis.  You can’t do it all, but don’t worry there are people around you that can help.

In addition to addressing your family member’s medical needs, these are the things that matter the most.  Take time to remember what is most important to you and your family and you will find peace again.

Posted By:
Carrie B. Potter, NBCC
School Counselor, South Carolina Counselor Association (SCCA), South Carolina School Counslor Association (SCSCA)
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