by Kelley Lane for Seward Prevention Coalition–
Winter can be emotionally and financially challenging in Seward. Fewer hours of daylight can affect mental health and our winter job market makes employment more difficult to obtain. These two factors alone can have far reaching impacts on the health and wellbeing of individuals and our community as a whole. These seasonal hardships often draw to the surface past traumas, including those experienced during childhood.
Earlier this month I wrote about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), a new method for measuring and understanding how trauma during the first 18 years of life has a large impact on lifelong physical & emotional health. There are ten factors of abuse, neglect and household dysfunction that are measured by a simple self test, available here: ACEs self test link.
This test allows you to learn your ACE score. Research has proven that just knowing your personal score can help with treating the ill effects of the early trauma.
The corollary to an ACE score is one’s resiliency score. This is a tool that evaluates the strengths present during childhood, such as feeling loved by one’s caregivers and having trusted adults available & involved in a child’s life. There are a variety of resiliency tests available online, here’s one that focuses on resiliency factors present during childhood: Resiliency Evaluation
Seward Prevention Coalition has been spreading the word about ACEs and resiliency for the last few years. On Tuesday night, February 27th at 7pm (doors open at 6:30) at Seward High School, the group will be screening a movie on the topic, aptly named “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope.” The movie was submitted by director James Redford to the 2016 Sundance Film Festival & was chosen as one of its featured documentaries. It’s a one hour film, which explains the surprisingly effective impact of acknowledging childhood trauma & implementing trauma informed care into schools & other institutions. The movie trailer can be viewed here: Resilience Movie Trailer. A panel discussion will follow the film.
Back in December, Josie McClain, of Seward’s Teen and Youth Center “TYC” gave a training to the staff, (I was amongst them) in which she explained some of these approaches. One example she gave was of allowing safe, quiet space for children to use for self-calming. McClain provides her office for this purpose, so that kids can have a protected space in which to rebalance themselves when past traumas over take their present reality. This is one simple and easily implementable example of how to use research to have more successful child and youth programming in Seward.
Another strong asset for resiliency are intergenerational spaces, as they provide opportunities for children and youth to positively interact with trusted adults in safe, public spaces. Resurrect Art Coffee House provides a year round, indoor space where I regularly see all ages using the space, from young children to what I affectionately call ‘the old dudes.’ The architecture and table placement allows for interaction to take place and the many meetings and gatherings that utilize the coffee house mean that it is also a functional work space. Owner Micheley Kowalski said of ‘Rez Art,’ that the space being a “healthy place for all ages […] That was always my intent.”
Seward boasts other strong community assets that provide safe and nurturing spaces to our children and youth. We have three excellent public schools, strong after school programming for elementary school age through Boys and Girls Club and a public library that’s open every weekday until at least 6pm. At the Middle and High School, the Sources of Strength program, implemented by Andrew Scrivo, provides the framework for peer mentorship, with adult advisors to support the youth. This model builds hope, help and strength by encouraging youth to support one another, as teens listen more to one another than to adults.
For children and youth to be able to build resiliency, they need safe, nurturing spaces and adults in their lives. Public spaces and programming are two of the surest ways to build resiliency into our City’s infrastructure. Seward is fortunate to have many assets, including the strong support of healthy adults who continually strive to make our town even stronger.