Families Together in Tough Times

Silhouette of Person Sitting Beside Body of Water


Tragedy keeps striking again and again and we need to pull together for ourselves today and the future for our children. The events in Las Vegas following repeated hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions may shake us deeply, but we must not let them shatter us.

The first step is self care for the adults in the family. Before you talk to your children, find a way to calm yourself, at least a little bit. Connect with your resources, inner strength and spirituality as well as outer connections. You might pause just to visualize a calm safe place until your body begins to self-regulate. Take some deep breaths. Get out in nature, or at least look out the window or at some nature pictures. Take a walk. Say a short prayer. Sometimes the short version of the Serenity Prayer can be helpful: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Sometimes all you can manage is a simple: “Help!”

When your head is clearer, be sure you have accurate basic information and weed out the graphic or fake news.  Keep the TV viewing to a minimum, ideally recording what you will watch so you can control what you present, especially  for any children under 12. Then go ahead and initiate a conversation with your children.  Better to be the one to bring it up than to wait for other less caring sources to prevail. Your children, if they are 4 or older, may have already heard something and not know what to say or do with the confusing feelings. Keep it short, simple and straightforward. Ask if they have questions. Just answer the question asked.

You may share your feelings if you can do so without drama that will alarm them. Encourage your children to express their feelings in words if they can, but action and art may be easier. They can scribble, squash play-doh, beat a pillow, scream or cuddle in a soft blanket depending on what they need. If they are able to talk, don’t interrupt or disagree. Repeat back, reflecting or paraphrasing what you think you heard them say. Hold them or let them go as they need, not by your need. They may just want to be quiet and rock with you.  Ask what helps them calm down; don’t assume that what helps you will be the same for them. Expect a range of emotions to change over the days but keep an eye out for lasting changes in sleeping, toileting, eating or acting out patterns. Keep your schedule as normal as possible, but also plan to pause being sure to eat together or get out to a park if you can.

Free stock photo of road, landscape, fashion, person

If you’re reading this during a lull between crises, plan ahead now by checking out a resource to review what is age appropriate for your children. One source to consult could be “Talking to Children About Tragedies” by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Now, back to the adults: We need each other in times like this. Introverts may need to heal in quiet solitude, then return to provide comfort to others. Extroverts may need to process verbally, thinking out loud while others mostly listen. Some people will curl up and cry; others may clean everything in sight. We may differ about causes and cures. We’ll need patience with each other. Remember, in spite of differences, we’re better together.

baby, blur, cat



Basketball Reflections

Renewal Resources is a nonprofit, public benefit organization serving our community through therapy, classes, groups, support teams and retreats. We offer care and compassion, strategies and support to nurture your inner resources with hope, meaning and healing. 



Life lived well can be a little like being on a good basketball team. Wouldn’t it be good to know that we aren’t alone, but we are part of something bigger, with purpose and built in support? I’d like to think that there are some people in my life who would be willing to charge into the fray, fearless for me when I’m afraid, furious for me when necessary. It would be great if at least one person in my life somehow towered above the others and could be counted on to catch the rebounds if I don’t make the shot. Sometimes in life, we make that 3 point shot and people start to believe in our potential. Other times we get the fast break, and then trip over our own feet and are crushed. The pressure to “succeed” gets so great we develop depression, anxiety or are tempted to cheat.

We have to be intentional in building the network of our lives much as a coach is intentional in recruiting players with a variety of skills.  We need to build the team of our lives with depth. A good team doesn’t just rely on a few stars, but has strength on the bench, ready to provide respite for the first string or move into play in case of injury. And building a team means contributing to the life and strength of others, not just looking for what they can do for us. Psychologist Alfred Adler believed that personal mental health improves as we increase our social interest. The more we cooperate, encourage others and make decisions in light of the greater good, the healthier we will be. A team that builds each other up, will get better as a whole. A second string player may be able to coach the first string player in chemistry between classes and the game. Life: we’re in it together.

I usually recommend having at least 5 unrelated sources of support–(our own team)-and being an active part of the team for those people. That can be a Herculean task in our increasingly isolated existences amidst the anonymity of urban/suburban living…when just surviving at work or school requires vast hours of time. Still, it can be done. One or two people could be ones with whom we have a lot in common, who are accessible and know how to listen, ideally without giving advice. At least one should be someone from a very different background, with different skills, who can provide a different (perhaps even opposing) perspective from our own to keep us open and balanced, to challenge us. Some might be relatives; some might become the family we choose. It’s very helpful if we have multiple people in whom we can confide in case one is not available; everyone is chronically busy these days. It’s also helpful to have a group in which we participate without telling all our troubles, a place we can go just to serve or have fun. A group provides a buffer against isolation and bullying. A choir, sports team, religious or service group, hiking/cycling club or the like can fill that role.

Finally, being part of a team means being willing to do your own individual work so that when you come to the team, you’re ready. If you’re playing basketball, it means getting in shape, eating right, and practicing shots on your own time as well as with the team. In life it means self-care through diet and exercise, plus meditation, mindfulness, journaling or sometimes counseling. In confidential counseling we can work through the issues that are too embarrassing to tell friends or too heavy because we don’t want to wear out our welcome. We might expect to go for counseling to deal with grief, loss, communication problems or trauma recovery. But just as some private tutoring/coaching helps us become a better team player, counseling can also contribute to our personal growth and ability to enjoy the game of life. Who are we?