Two weeks ago, I had the chance to be on a webinar discussion with Dr. Bruce Perry, who, if you haven’t heard of him, is basically THE authority on neuroscience and healing child trauma. He’s also an authentic, genial guy. Dr. Perry talked about what we can do to help families get through this seemingly interminable crisis.
His answer? Offer hope.
Hope is knowing there is a possibility of a positive outcome. Those without hope have no reason to act. They have no reason to try. Despair, the opposite of hope, locks our minds in the dungeons of our stress response, and when we live there, we are biologically unable to access our wisdom, our compassion, and our resourcefulness – our resilience. Hope is the foundation of resilience, and families need to be resilient now. Children need their families to be resilient now.
I acknowledge offering hope may be hard. This pandemic is a barrage of changed plans. We’re grieving the loss of things we had looked forward to, like seeing your child graduate (or yourself!), going to a wedding (or getting married!), or any other meaningful event. It hurts. Give yourself time to recover from that hurt, to vent that hurt to those who support you. In turn, offer space to witness that hurt in others. Then, after that pain is acknowledged and felt, dig for hope.
Then, share that hope with families. I’m not talking about false positivity, or being inauthentically sunny in the face of tragedy. When a family shares with you their anger, frustration, despair, or any negative emotion, acknowledge the real difficulty of those emotions, but don’t join in. Instead, offer evidence of good things being done, and good things to come.
Persistently point out the strengths that you see in families. Those are the tools they’re using to get through things, and pointing them out makes those tools hardier. Acknowledge the heroic work of the people who are helping us get through this. Call out the things being done to move us to solutions.
In case you need some hope examples, here are the things that are bringing me hope:
- The epic generosity that I see. Some people who are financially stable have donated part or all of their stimulus check to nonprofits, including Prevent Child Abuse Arizona.
- The tireless work of the people in our health care system and scientists working on a vaccine
- The valiantly creative ways people have continued to connect with one another (we’re all master’s level Zoom users now)
- Our collective, patriotic effort to physically distance working to prevent the spread
What’s bringing you hope? Dig deep if you need to. Share that hope with families. Be a hope-bringer. That hope is the fuel of a better now and a better future.