There’s Always Something to be Thankful For

By Sara Mahoney

As 2020 draws to an end and we find ourselves going into the holiday season, it’s often a time for reflection and being thankful. This year, it may seem a little harder to find the silver lining, but I promise you, it’s there. For example, as we look at how prevention efforts have continued to flourish and how everyone has adapted so well to providing community support in a more virtual world, we are reminded how important our work is.  

A few thoughts I would like to share with you. One of my favorite quotes says, “The most important work you will ever do is within the walls of your home.”  I find this to be truer now more than ever, especially in our neighborhoods, schools and communities.  As Prevention Specialists, we know that real change happens at the community level.   National and state elections can spark fears and worries and debates, but we are all in this together. We will all shop at the same local grocery store, pump gas next to one another, and pick up our children in the same carpool lanes. So I ask, how are you? How are your neighbors? Your friends?  What do you need to do your job and be well?  What do your communities need?  How has 2020 been for your community and your neighbors? 

If they are like me and other parents, we are exhausted, anxious, and facing depression. My family alone, like many, has been in quarantine twice due to contact tracing. I see the teachers and administrators working so hard to keep the schools open and teaching kids online. Small businesses are going into the holidays not knowing what January will bring and families have faced isolation, changed plans, and devastation.  

In March, Youth Connections shared a list of parent resources for activities for children of all ages. I think that link is worth sharing again as we have several new Prevention Specialists and parents are once again facing distance learning and children home over the holidays for extended resources. Click HERE for that list.

November through March is historically a time with higher rates of suicide. Montana has suicide hotline resources and if you or anyone in your community is needing or seeking access to mental health services, is a great virtual option that accepts several insurance plans. It’s teletherapy right from your living room.

Holidays often add additional stressors to individuals with varying workloads, travel plans, financial issues, and family disputes. For others, the holidays are a time they look forward to all year with visiting parents and large family celebrations and traditions. This year, those same celebrations might happen or zoom, instead. Whatever may be the situation, often adults look to substance use such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs as a coping mechanism. According to JAMA, alcohol consumption rose 14% in men and 17% in women since Covid- 19. How are we reaching our neighbors and checking in on our friends to make sure they know they are not alone and what kind of healthy, festive ideas can we give them to get through this season?  

Here are a few ideas:

  • Virtual Family/Friend Dinners.  Every week a family is responsible to pick the dinner theme and even make and deliver it to friends. Log on to zoom to eat together or play a fun game afterwards. Remind parents that this is a great time to set positive examples and encourage family bonding and that the kids’ table is watching. 
  • Host a zoom Gingerbread House or sugar cookie decorating contest. Shannon in Big Horn County is doing this with her Best Beginnings Coalition. Contest winners receive a gift card for several different categories and will be highlighted through social media. 
  • Have your community make a map of the best houses decorated for the holidays.  Share the map online and have families take car rides touring the Christmas lights. Take hot chocolate and popcorn! What a great time to talk to your kids about mental health, positive family traditions, and attitudes and beliefs on alcohol use.  

These are just a few ideas to get the process rolling. The main theme here is that this is a time where we as Prevention Specialists can really assess how our communities, parents, and schools are doing and how can we best show up for them now to build relationships that will help move prevention forward later on.

I am so thankful to work with such amazing, caring, and kind humans. You all have shown such perseverance this year and have taken community prevention to a new level. Many of you have said that Covid-19 was by far your greatest hurdle, but out of it came your biggest successes. In December, Youth Connections would like to highlight those successes at our monthly Roundtable. If you or your community would like to be highlighted, please contact your RTAL or Barbara Bessette at [email protected].  

It’s also important to acknowledge all of us are working in a virtual world and we need additional support and resources to do our jobs well. PTTC has worked hard to come up with several virtual resources for providing Prevention services online. Click HERE to see their resources.  

There is always something to be thankful for. There is always something to grasp hold of and move forward with. Yes, even in 2020. I am reminded of the famous Fred Rogers quote, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” 

We are the helpers. Let’s continue to be the helpers and remember to check on your friends and neighbors, and we are all in this together. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season. 

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