I left this session feeling energized, a little less anxious, and most importantly, like I had a better understanding of what is happening in my brain, and in my kids’ brains during the pandemic. I have a lot more confidence now in my ability to give my kids what they really need to grow and heal.
On March 21st, we welcomed speaker Billy Kaplan, LCSW, along with moderator Nam Holtz, LMSW, to our speaker series. And while our sessions are generally meant as adoption education, this one was for any parent (every parent!) struggling to manage their stress and anxiety during the past year’s turbulent events, while simultaneously helping their kids cope with the loss, grief, and anxiety of having their lives change completely during the pandemic.
In a safe space, filled with check-ins, breathing exercises and other stress-relieving moments, Billy walked the audience through how our trauma models have changed over the past year, and how our stress levels (and cortisol levels) never get a chance to ebb, leaving us in a place where we are burnt out and struggling to recharge. And for parents, the impulse is to forget our own needs and pour whatever energy we have left into trying to help our kids, which helps nobody.
The first half of the talk focused on anxiety – what it is, and how to recognize the ways in which anxiety might show up for us – and from there, the audience got an excellent practical checklist of concrete things we could do to mitigate our stress and anxiety.
After that, we segued into how parents can best support children. Building on previous work in the field, Billy introduced a parenting model he developed called SPACE: Safety/Support, Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Empathy. For parents struggling with how to support their children during and after trauma, this model, balancing discipline and support with the other elements, can provide the structure that kids need to heal and grow.
We can’t recap everything both Billy and Nam said, but one sentence jumped out at us as being an excellent starting point for us all:
“If you stop a behavior that’s caused by emotion – that’s caused by hurt – and you haven’t touched the hurt that causes the emotion, another behavior is going to pop out.” – Billy Kaplan, LCSW
For more information on Billy Kaplan's work, and to find a list of resources to help you survive pandemic parenting, please visit his web site, House Calls Counseling.
Next month’s Activism in Adoption session is a little bit different. We are honored to have the opportunity to screen Nam Holtz’ film, critically acclaimed documentary, Found in Korea, a film about adoption, searching for one's roots and culture, and family. In addition being a filmmaker, she is also holds a LMSW, and is a transracial international adoptee.