At our youth summit in March, a high school poetry slam team asked kids in the audience what community means to them. Their answers show they value and need strong support from their communities. And their words—we’re too afraid…breathe in and out…keep your ears wide open…we all want somewhere to fit in…remember to be grateful…fighting to build a kinder world—which were put together in a moving spoken word piece, tell us they are looking to find inner peace in a chaotic world.
Those kids are also taking action. Several groups at the summit have presented projects focused on mindfulness and kindness: intergenerational gardening activities to prevent loneliness in older people, buddy benches to help kids make friends on the playground and yoga and mindfulness lessons during the school day.
Community stakeholders in mental health and children’s services said very much the same thing in a brief survey we conducted earlier this year. They pointed to a definite need for more education and advocacy that supports kids’ mental health.
Starting with the youngest ones
Kids and their communities are asking us to invest in their mental health and we’re more than ready. In fact, we recently secured funding from local foundations to provide workshops on trauma-informed care.
The Health Forward Foundation invested $150,000 and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation invested $177,780 in this project. With their support, we’re partnering with Dr. Nancy Osborn, a licensed counseling psychologist, to develop and deliver workshops for early care and education centers participating in our Healthy Kids Bright Futures project over the next two years.
“KC Healthy Kids is already working on issues like food insecurity, which impacts people’s physical health but also is a form of trauma. That’s just one example of why we feel it makes sense to advocate for trauma-informed policies and practices in early care centers. That way, centers become a place where families can focus on their mental health too,” says Danielle Robbins-Gregory, president and CEO of KC Healthy Kids.
“With trainings, tools and technical assistance offered by Healthy Kids Bright futures, center staff and families can learn how to see children through a new lens, a lens that helps them recognize signs of trauma and respond in a positive way,” said Rhonda Erpelding, director of Healthy Kids Bright Futures.
A move toward mindfulness
A trauma-informed approach helps families and educators reframe their thoughts about a child so they can respond with compassion. That, in turn, may help the child be more calm and cooperative.
“We want to make sure children have the tools they need to manage traumatic events and that they have more opportunities to develop resilience,” says Dr. Osborn. “Early care centers are the perfect place for KC Healthy Kids to begin this work.”
Kids at our Champions for Health Youth Summit wrote on paper table covers to share what community means to them. High school students from the Lincoln College Preparatory Academy poetry slam team turned their words into a spoken word piece that shines a light on resilience and celebrates community.