Crow Wing Energized

Healthy Snacks for Kids…

At School

By Dave Baloga, Physical Education Teacher at Garfield Elementary in Brainerd, and Crow Wing Energized Healthy Choices Grant Application and Goal Group Members
Healthy snacks in the classroom are an important part of creating a healthy school environment. Nutritious snacks can contribute to a healthy diet for children, help them perform better in academics, and provide an opportunity for students to practice making good choices.


This year Garfield Elementary School, with the help of a grant from Crow Wing Energized and assistance from the University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed Educator, Carolyn McQueen, will provide a Healthy Snack Cart Program.


Carolyn McQueen2016 “There are many children who bring nutritious snacks from home and we hope that they will continue to do this, as it shows, these students how to make healthy choices,” explains McQueen. “However, some students come to school without a snack. Sometimes the snacks are forgotten or there were no snacks available that day at home.  Every child needs a healthy snack to during the day to reenergize.”


According to Principal, Jodi Kennedy, “one of the areas of concern identified by the School Health Index (SHI) that the team members completed is in the area of nutrition services. This project is multifaceted in that it will incorporate policy change for birthday treats, snacks, and classroom rewards as well as create healthier snack options for students. The project will create a healthy snack cart for students to be able to select healthy options that they may not be able to otherwise.”


DaveBalogaDave Baloga, Physical Education Teacher at Garfield Elementary, goes on to explain that because of the great partnership Garfield Elementary has built with Crow Wing Energized, we have been able to purchase and begin a healthy snack cart. In the initial phase this year, the cart will provide healthy snack options, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and grains. To help guide the choices on the cart, we are using nationally approved guidelines that provide recommendations on the number of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium content appropriate for children’s snacks. The options available will take into consideration the budget, ease of eating in the classroom, allergies, and other diet considerations.


The reality is that many of our students do not have access to those types of healthy snacks, so this snack cart will provide those opportunities, which will help them have the energy to better focus and learn in the classroom.


It is our hope that in the next phase we will be able to provide snacks to a broader range of students. A huge thanks is owed to Carolyn McQueen, who works with the University of Minnesota-Extension and teaches nutrition education to third graders at Garfield. She has been instrumental in helping Garfield launch this opportunity for our students!



After School

Teresa FarrellBy Teresa Farrell, Essentia Health Registered Dietitian

With school starting, so does the after school snacking! By mid-afternoon when most children are getting home they are truly hungry. The big question is what kinds of snacks to have on hand for them.


Snacking is a great opportunity to boost your nutrition intake. Snack foods can be easy or more complicated depending on your time and preference.


Fruits and veggies are quick and easy and always a good choice. If your child doesn’t like them, plain fruits can be dipped in yogurt or eaten with peanut butter or reduced fat cheese. A fun option is to make a fruit and yogurt parfait from fat free yogurt, fruit and low fat granola or crushed graham crackers. Kids can have fun layering the ingredients and if you have a clear glass it looks pretty as well!


A smoothie is another good option with fat free yogurt, frozen fruit and fat free milk or a little fruit juice to thin it. Yum! Greens can also be added to your smoothie, such as spinach. Try it you might like it!


Veggies can be dipped in a reduced fat dressing or other reduced fat dip. A salad with reduced fat dressing is a good option.


String cheese, low fat cottage cheese, low fat popcorn, yogurt are more quick and easy ideas.


How about some whole grain cereal and fat free or low fat milk or whole grain crackers and reduced fat cheese, PB&J on whole grain bread is always a popular snack! Sandwiches made from lean turkey, ham or other lean meat is a satisfying snack. A few more ideas would be a quesadilla with fat free refried beans and reduced fat cheese, graham crackers with peanut butter or dipped in fat free yogurt, grilled cheese anyone? Or even an English muffin pizza made with toasted English muffins, pizza sauce, reduced fat cheese and any veggie additions you’d like, pop in the microwave to melt the cheese and enjoy. The choices are endless!


If your child is home alone after school or as a reminder for yourself you may want to write a list of healthy snack ideas for your family. This will help with keeping ingredients on hand as well.


One quick reminder, a snack should be a snack or a “mini meal” and not so large that it’s an additional meal or so large that it curbs your child’s appetite for dinner.


Encourage your kids to stop and focus and enjoy their snack vs rushing though it or doing other things while eating. When we rush through what we’re eating we may not be as satisfied as when we eat slower and enjoy the look, flavor, smell and texture of the food, we also tend to have a better awareness of the amount of food we are eating.


Happy snacking then outside to play!

Crow Wing Energized – August 2016 newsletter

This month we are celebrating the nearly 300 lives changed by increased activity, eating healthier and being supported! Good news is, there are more opportunities to participate in a lifestyle change classes starting this fall. Additional information includes how to prevent falls in our community, prepare healthy fruits and vegetables, getting moving with others, and build your resilience. Please share this newsletter with all in your sphere of influence…employees, coworkers and friends.

Cassie Carey

Crow Wing Energized August 2016 newsletter page 1

Crow Wing Energized August 2016 newsletter page 2

Crow Wing Energized – July 2016 newsletter

Words can’t explain how grateful I am to have the pleasure of leading Crow Wing Energized, our grassroots community health and wellness movement; it rings even more true how amazing our community is.

If you have ever wanted to make a lifestyle change, get energized, or just be a change agent in the health and wellness realm, now is your time! I love to work along side people in the community and welcome new partnerships, and relish in the numerous connections in which have been made to this point!

This month we are starting an email newsletter to keep you informed of the work taking place in our community to make the easy.
Cassie Carey

Crow Wing Energized July 2016 newsletter page 1

Crow Wing Energized July 2016 newsletter page 2


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Emotional Neglect


By Becky Stadem who coordinates the Collaborative Service Team, providing early intervention and prevention services to schools in the Crosby, Pequot Lakes and Brainerd school districts.


The normal stressors in life affect our emotional state. For instance you’re late and have to get your kids off to the bus. One child wants to show you something they wrote, but you are too busy to look. Or maybe your boss calls while you’re waiting to pick up your kids from school. They’re excited to tell you about their day, but you have to tell them to quiet down so you can hear your boss on the phone. Or you decide to take a minute to check out Facebook and get engrossed. When you look up, it’s bedtime for the kids. You say goodnight without hearing about their day or finding out why they were excited. Sound familiar? With everyone’s busy schedules, there are bound to be times when you are distracted from your children. But, if those patterns persist over time, you may be neglecting their emotional needs.


According to, “Emotional neglect is the failure of a parent to provide needed emotional attention, support, recognition, love and empathy so that the child’s emotional health and development are built on a solid foundation. Parents who neglect their children are often struggling with their own need – their own ‘cup’ is often nearly empty, and they find it challenging to give their children what they need (and what they didn’t receive themselves).”

Emotional neglect is particularly harmful during infancy and the early years of a child’s life. This is when the brain’s circuitry around emotional health is largely being built. Having adult caregivers who are tuned into and responsive to the child’s needs builds a sense of being able to trust others into the child’s brain. Trust is the basis of all positive human relationships.


Unlike emotional abuse, where an adult is actively engaged in shaming or blaming children, emotional neglect results from what a parent doesn’t do – pay focused attention to children’s emotional lives.


A child whose emotional life is neglected feels that they are invisible, that their feelings don’t matter, or aren’t important to the people who are most important to them: their parents. People who have experienced an emotionally neglected childhood have a harder time understanding their own emotions, can often feel detached from those around them, have feelings that they’re unworthy, difficulty with self-discipline, and may use food or substances as a way to regulate their emotions.

There are many situations that can affect one’s ability to notice, attend to, or respond appropriately to a child’s feelings. You may be working too much, be the only parent in your child’s life, or have stressful relationships at work or in your extended family. These situations do not mean that a parent definitely is emotionally neglectful of their children, but they do increase the likelihood of not having the energy and emotional state necessary to be attuned to a child. How a child is treated, how their emotions are responded to in childhood, lays the foundation for how they see themselves in the present, and into the future.


Building Resilience

– Become an emotion coach to your children by 1) being aware of your child’s emotions, 2) recognizing that emotions are an opportunity to connect, 3) listening with empathy, 4) naming the emotions, and 5) setting limits and finding good solutions to emotional issues (John Gottman)

– Books, movies, and real life situations all provide opportunities for recognizing and naming emotions.

– Accept and validate emotional expression. Emotional reactions to life situations are normal. Accept all emotions and teach about appropriate behavioral responses to emotions.

– Teach about soothing intense emotions. Taking a break, physical activity, and self-talk strategies can all be helpful. If taking a break from an intense emotional situation is necessary, be sure to make time later to talk about what happened once the emotional intensity of the situation has decreased.

– Help children develop friendships and a sense of belonging to a group. Positive emotional relationships with others is the foundation of emotional health.

– Take care of yourself. Seek out people who will listen to and support you in your own emotional life and growth.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Physical Abuse

KaraGriffinBy Kara Griffin, MSW, LGSW is the Manager for the Social and Health Programs at Crow Wing County Community Services and co-chair of Crow Wing Energized.


Did you know that physically abusing children is an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE)? Physical abuse comes in many forms. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), “physical abuse is when a caregiver causes any physical injury, or threatens harm or substantial injury, on a child other than by accident. Physical abuse can range from minor bruises to severe internal injuries and death.” The website defines physical abuse “as any non-accidental physical injury to the child including striking, kicking, burning, or biting the child, or any action that results in a physical impairment or harms the child’s health and welfare.”


Physical abuse can result in damage to the brain, resulting in developmental delays and lack of growth in vital areas. Physical abuse has an overall long-term impact on the child’s health and wellbeing. Child abuse victims are more likely to exhibit mental health symptoms, struggle academically and display poor physical health.


According to the Center for Disease Control -Kaiser ACE study, 28 percent of adult participants experienced physical abuse as a child. Experiencing physical abuse as a child increases one’s risk for depression and anxiety, along with aggression, delinquency, and antisocial behavior. Physical abuse can have a lifelong impact on health and quality of life for victims.


It is important to realize that while we may think abusive caregivers are bad people, there are reasons that adults act abusively toward children. Adult caregivers may have experienced abuse as a child themselves, and are acting out what they saw as children. Many of the caregivers involved in the child welfare system grew up in unhealthy, chaotic, stressful, and abusive homes. Their early environment lacked nurturing, caring or developmentally appropriate activities. These childhood experiences often lead to mental health symptoms, chemical dependency, inability to control and express emotions, anger, and lack of ability to be self-sufficient. Physical abuse, along with the other ACEs, tends to be repeated in the next generation unless some form of healing intervention takes place.


Much of society sees ACEs children and adults as problems. These are the people who keep getting in trouble, and don’t seem to ever really change their behaviors. Society gives the message of “What is wrong with you!” When this message is internalized, ACEs individuals start to believe that something is wrong with them, that they have character flaws that cause their antisocial behaviors. This internalized negative self-talk becomes a downward spiral and self-fulfilling prophecy.


A more productive perspective on ACEs individuals is to ask the question “What happened to you?” rather than “What is wrong with you?” This question allows individuals to use the best thinking part of their brains, the prefrontal cortex, to analyze and understand how adversity has shaped their lives. It also sets the foundation for the development of an individualized healing plan for overcoming the negative effects of childhood adversity. The good news of resiliency building is that our brains emotional, thinking and behavioral patterns can be re-wired away from past negative experiences to positive and healthier patterns.


Building Resilience


According to the Center for the Study of Social Policy Strategies, communities can do the following to prevent ACEs from developing and heal those people who have already lived ACEs situations.

  • Facilitate friendships and mutual support among parents
  • Strengthen parenting skills, resources and education
  • Value and support all parents through culturally competent practices
  • Promote child’s social and emotional development
  • Provide resources for family crisis
  • Identify and respond to early warnings signs of child abuse and neglect


On a daily basis, this resiliency building takes the form of engaging our community’s youth and families in healthy activities, and removing barriers that prevent them from participating, such as fees or transportation. We can provide healthy and safe entertainment and recreation for families to attend, and build support among parents. As a community, we can break the cycle of abuse and neglect by supporting and educating caregivers and their families.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Domestic Violence

20160504_155724By LaDonna Scott is the owner of Destiny By Choice, LLC.  LaDonna is a State Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and belongs to the National Anger Management Association (NAMA).  She is certified through NAMA and the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth as a facilitator and has an extensive history working in the substance abuse and domestic violence field.


“Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors resulting in power and control over an intimate partner. Witnessing family violence creates significant emotional and psychological issues due to the high stress experienced by the child. Domestic violence is a major predictor of child abuse and neglect fatalities in this country.” (


The term “domestic violence” holds a connotation of physical abuse. Unfortunately, this is far from accurate. Domestic violence is about power and control of another person. Although the legal definition refers to infliction of physical harm, bodily injury or assault, it is the infliction of fear that is a key component of domestic abuse. This can occur with a look, gesture or action that does not involve hitting someone. The “unspoken message” is the implication that someone could be injured or be subjected to a variety of repercussions.


A misperception of domestic abuse is that someone has “anger” issues. Anger is an emotion. Abuse is a behavior. Within the realm of domestic violence, perpetrators don’t lose control because they are angry, they are angry because they lose control. As a result, tactics associated with fear and intimidation are used to gain control and get what they want. Additionally, offenders often present themselves well publicly, yet, privately, are hurtful.


Families and loved one’s often feel helpless and at a loss as to how to address their concerns. Those who have been subjected to domestic abuse have often endured a long history of self-esteem assassination and have legitimate concerns for their safety, and for the safety of their family, children, and pets. It’s not as easy as “just leave”, especially when children are involved.  Access to finances is another factor that limits the ability of families to “just leave”.


Children are often the hidden victims of abuse. Although the abuse may not be directed at the child, they absorb the hostility, fear and helplessness that is present within the relationship.  This often manifests into physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral issues for the child. It is important to hold the offender, not the victim, responsible for this dynamic.  While victims often require support and assistance to address what is happening, they should not experience consequences or be the focus of the dynamics that were created by an abuser.


Fortunately, there are programs available to address the beliefs that support the use of abuse tactics. This requires a commitment to learning about the dynamics of abuse and violence, assuming personal accountability for thoughts and actions, and a commitment to replacing destructive beliefs and behaviors with healthy, equal, supportive and empathetic behaviors.


Many participants enter believing they are not abusive because they do not “physically” harm loved ones. Clarification is provided regarding the multitude of tactics (verbal, emotional, sexual) used to illicit fear and intimidation or to control others.  Addressing what they have done rather than focusing on what they haven’t done and the impact of their behaviors on their loved ones is a step towards personal accountability.  There are also advocacy programs for victims and resources for children to assist with the healing process.


Building Resilience

We need to challenge cultural ideas of gender roles and establish belief systems that do not tolerate abuse and violence.

We need to provide environments free from fear and intimidation so children can grow up feeling safe and comfortable being who they are. This will reduce the potential that they will grow up to be a victim or perpetrator of violence.

If you suspect someone is experiencing domestic abuse, call 1-800-462-5525 or 1-218-828-4357.

The Key to Independent Success

CWE_YEY_Lifestyle_Coach_Banner_ThurlowBy Jackie Thurlow who is from the area and has a Bachelors of Science in Community Health Education and within the next year will be receiving her minor in Nonprofit Leadership. Over the fall semester of her final year in her program, Jackie interned for Crow Wing Energized and became certified as a lifestyle coach for the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP). She now is the Coordinator for the NDPP classes within the central region for Essentia Health and works as a community health specialist for Crow Wing Energized. 


I cannot believe it but the end of the 16-weeks of Your Energized Year Lifestyle Change Challenge is here! Over the course of the last couple months you have heard from many different professionals over a variety of topics whether it was about healthy eating, physical activity, stress management, problem solving, or even making mistakes. As I always tell my participants: these components are what truly make-up a lifestyle change. All components focus on the body and the mind, because we need to have a healthy balance of both for everything to work together. Now, you have the keys to success and should be set for life. The problem is—this is easier said than done.


It’s not always easy maintaining certain parts to an overall lifestyle change. One slip can easily send you spiraling back into old habits and eventually reverse all of the hard work that you have invested into yourself. Behaviors are never something that are easy to change because it took years to formulate those old, unhealthy habits. But, now you are in the beginning stages of discovering how to better take care of yourself. For those in the Your Energized Year program you have had a weekly lifestyle coach there to guide you through any tough times, however soon you will be on your own. I promise the end of the world isn’t coming just because the classes are monthly. Instead think of it as another step towards an independent, healthy lifestyle.


There are a variety of ways to stay motivated:

- Focus on is being aware of and recognizing accomplishments. Whether those accomplishments are big or small they are still something that had to be worked on and overcame in order to make a change. This can be as simple as the fact that you were able to increase your vegetable consumption, or that you now go for walks four-days a week. These simple changes really add up to affect the big picture of a lifestyle change. If this becomes too difficult to always remind yourself to celebrate your successes, make something visual for you to remind yourself every day. For the participants in the classes they have a graph where they had charted their weights throughout the course over the program. This is a great example of a visual cue that can stimulate the good feeling of success and could easily be placed on the fridge as a daily reminder. Otherwise, everyone loves the classic “before and after” pictures. Taking a photo from before beginning to make lifestyle changes and having that on the fridge or on your mirror is an excellent reminder of the progress you have made.

- Continue to use the tracker for food and activity. Although this tool can be time consuming sometimes, it can also be a reality check for many. By having something to constantly write down what you are eating and what you are doing physically can personally hold you accountable. Sometimes we will go blind to what is reality and what we think we are doing is correct. I have heard way too often from participants the harsh reality that they are eating too many calories in a day, or they are not even getting a single vegetable in their day. Accountability is the key here.

- Change things up. Having grilled chicken and steamed broccoli every night may not be the most enjoyable thing and it can easily make you want to steer away from healthy choices. By adding variety into your diet and physical activity it can make life more exciting and enjoyable as you are making the healthy choice. Perhaps you decide to try a new workout class or you want to try a strange new vegetable at the farmers market. Regardless of what you pick—trying something new will make yourself move out of your comfortable zone and make things exciting.

- Celebrate in a healthy way. We as Midwesterner’s highly believe in the reward method of celebrating with food. However, there are a variety of ways to celebrate that are “non-food” rewards. For example: treating yourself to a manicure, going to a game, taking a bubble bath, and taking time for yourself. They don’t have to be huge, but it can be something that you have always wanted to have time for.

- Finally, find a cheerleader. Just as I stated two-weeks ago in my article about social cues, people can make a huge influence on your choices in life. They can act as a reminder of how to act or eat. It’s these individuals who can be your “cheerleaders” in life and push you to continue what you are doing and support you in the small ways to work towards overall success.


You Can Manage Stress

CWE_YEY_Lifestyle_Coach_Banner_BeaubienBy Donn Beaubien is a recently retired mental health therapist.  She was a former social worker and retail buyer.  Currently, Donn serves on three non-profit boards and is secretary of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Brainerd Chapter.  Donn is actively involved in Crow Wing Energized and is a National Diabetes Prevention Program lifestyle change coach.


Stress is a natural part of life. Stress can result from both negative changes as well as changes that are seen as positive.


Regardless, stress disrupts the status quo of life. Research indicates there are four basic sources of stress: 1) the environment that demands ongoing adjustments to conditions such as weather, pollens, noise, traffic; 2) social stressors – deadlines, job interviews, work demands, job promotions, interpersonal relationships – marriage, children, divorce, financial issues, illness, death; 3) physiological – poor nutrition, poor quality of sleep, aging, injuries, lack of exercise; and 4) our own thoughts – misinterpreting another person’s body language, perfectionism, pessimism – all  can be very anxiety provoking.


Our reactions to these changes can lead to stressful symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, stomach upset, anxiety and depression. Typically, people tend to seek an escape from these stressors through various means, such as a defense mechanism, avoidance, withdrawal from the situation, rituals, alcohol and drugs, or constructive physical activity. The way we manage stress contributes to how we feel about our quality of life.


Although we each respond differently in our perception to change, there are some ways in which we all can prevent stress. Pace yourself – don’t rush; it will get done. Take time in making decisions. Acknowledge what you can control and choose what changes you can take on, and then learn to say “NO.” Try to anticipate changes and use problem solving techniques. Take time to appreciate your successes.  Maintain a regular exercise program.


Because stress is a natural part of life there are times when it simply cannot be avoided.  Fortunately, we can change or manage the way we respond to stress. However, we first must become aware of our body’s reaction to the stressor, e.g., muscle tension, irritability, and headache. The body inevitably becomes tense when we are stressed; and once the stress is removed, the tension also goes away. Therefore, catch the stress as early as possible.  First, consciously stop yourself once you realize you are stressed. Breathe deeply and relax; go for a walk or bike ride – change your environment, if possible; hydrate yourself.


As part of a long-term strategy to manage stress and improve self-care, consider implementing these well recognized strategies:

  • Satisfactory quality and quantity of sleep (7 to 8 hours/day); 6 hours or less triples your risk of a car accident. To obtain more health benefits from sleep, avoid caffeine after 3pm.
  • Maintain proper nutrition. Spread your calories out through the day. Focus on eating whole grains, a variety of vegetables and fruits, and lean protein. Stay hydrated with the goal of drinking enough water to equal ½ your weight in ounces. (e.g. an individual who weighs 160 lbs. should drink 80 ounces or 10 glasses of water each day ).
  • Exercise regularly.  Exercise reduces feelings of tension. It helps your body to release endorphins that will increase your feelings of wellbeing. Set a distance or time goal that is achievable and proceed from there. Walk with a friend or use an activity tracker to help with motivation and accountability.
  • Maintain healthy relationships.  Healthy relationships can be a buffer against stress.  Although it is easy to text or email, embrace the opportunity for face-to-face or phone conversations where your true feelings can be better expressed and properly understood.
  • Find hobbies or recreational activities that you enjoy. Hobbies and activities help to re-direct stress. They should be fun and also offer the opportunity for growth.  Hobbies that use the hands, such as gardening or needle work, can be great stress relievers.
  • Pamper yourself. Pamper yourself on regular basis, if possible – massage, manicure/pedicure. Looking good on the outside has a positive impact on your internal/mental state.
  • Keep your mind sharp. Consider stress a challenge rather than a threat. Keep your mind sharp by doing puzzles or brain teasers that are fun, yet help you take on a challenge.
  • Process your emotions. It is ideal to address your concerns as they arise. A good way to process your feelings is journaling. When you write down your feelings, and potential solutions, you can reduce stress and even experience some health benefits.
  • Maintain a spiritual connection or meditate. Studies show that people who incorporate religion or spirituality in their lives generally have a healthier lifestyle. Spiritual practice is very personal, but should nurture the soul. Meditation can help you focus on one thing at a time and create a distance between your emotions and your thoughts. Regular meditation can help you feel more focused and calm, able to make better choices, and less prone to reactive responses.
  • Have the right attitude. Think positively – the glass half-full rather than half-empty.  Schedule time for yourself. Read or listen to a joke every day. Humor can help put things in a different light. Having an optimistic outlook can not only decrease your stress level, but possibly bring you more success in life!


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Addiction of a Parent

This article is one of a series aimed at exploring the problem of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their harmful effects on the physical, emotional and mental health of our community. Substantial public health research confirms that mistreatment of children results in a variety of problems for them as they grow into adulthood. Although the problems that result from ACEs create ripple effects throughout our communities, research shows that we can build resilience to the trauma caused by ACEs. Resilience trumps ACEs!


CharDonovan_smBy Char Donovan, a licensed chemical dependency counselor who is part of the Focus Unit team at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center. In addition to working with alcoholics/addicts and their families, she provides chemical health counseling to the Crosby-Ironton School District.


Children experience undo stress when living with addicted adults. Because of the crisis-oriented nature of addiction, home life is often chaotic. A parent may leave the home suddenly late at night. Children’s sleep can be disrupted. This often causes them to be inattentive in school. Kids may also be worried and preoccupied about their family life. Since children thrive on consistency and depend on adults for their security; instability in their everyday life leads to feelings of insecurity.

As parents in substance abusing families become preoccupied with drinking or using drugs, they may not be aware of their children’s physical and emotional needs. When high or drunk, parents may be inattentive or passed out at critical times when children need adult supervision.

When parents are absent from the home physically and/or emotionally, children do not feel important or cherished. Children may learn that negative attention is better than no attention at all. One reason young children act out is because they are not getting their needs met. They may be disruptive in school and at home in an effort to get attention.

John Bradshaw talks about the dysfunctional affects shaming and blaming have on children raised in addicted homes. He believes kids internalize blame and feel flawed and defective. Since they idealize parents, if adults act abusively, youngsters think this abuse stems from something they have done wrong. Rather than feeling like they have made a mistake, children feel like they are a mistake. Bradshaw goes on to say that children need parents’ time, attention and direction. He says, “Kids ‘get it’ – that what we give our time to, is what we love. If we don’t have time for our children, they feel worth less than our time.”

Everyone in the family needs to know that addiction is nobody’s fault. It is a disease, but a disease that is often present in families.

Partners of the alcoholic/addict can become overly stressed when they are forced to be the primary financial provider. While juggling responsibilities at work, maintaining a household and meeting financial obligations, co-dependent parents may not see how their children are hurting or vulnerable to neglect or abuse. They may not take the time to give age-appropriate explanations regarding what is going on in the family. Children need to develop a variety of age-appropriate life skills, taught mainly by parents. Mastery of these life skills empowers children to feel good about themselves and their capabilities. Addiction interferes with this learning process.

In substance abusing families, older children often care for their younger siblings. They may act older, trying to manage the household, or worry about how bills will get paid. Sometimes these perfectionistic super-kids feel like “it is never good enough” and burnout on trying to make things better at home. They might feel helpless and hopeless, yet appear competent to their teachers, parents and friends.

All children who grow up with familial addiction must learn to get their needs met. Through the modeling of healthy adults, they can come to understand the appropriate boundaries that separate childhood competencies from adult problems.


Building Resilience to this ACE

  1. Offer the child opportunities to build healthy, hopeful relationship with adults, ones that promote attachment and trust.
  2. Encourage the child to interact with their peers in settings where there is adult supervision—to share, practice being polite, play with others, encourage, and discover how others have similar needs, interests and experiences. Youth Centers, sports, and student support groups in schools and community are good options.
  3. Give the child a sense of mastery by providing positive teaching experiences where he/she can practice a skill, see self-improvement and finally do well.
  4. Protect the child from avoidable negative experiences, to minimize stressors they do not need to face.
  5. Find resources for the child that will enhance positive aspects of your child’s personality. Encourage healthy eating and exercise. Help children learn, and make sure there is time for fun. Be light-hearted. Actively teach social skills and encourage your child’s positive feelings about him/herself, other children and adults.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Mental Illness of a Parent

This article is one of a series aimed at exploring the problem of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their harmful effects on the physical, emotional and mental health of our community. Substantial public health research confirms that mistreatment of children results in a variety of problems for them as they grow into adulthood. Although the problems that result from ACEs create ripple effects throughout our communities, research shows that we can build resilience to the trauma caused by ACEs. Resilience trumps ACEs!


20160516_102327By Jode Freyholtz-London, a member of the Crow Wing Energized Mental Fitness Goal Group and as has worked in the human services field for more than 30 years including as founder and executive director of Wellness in the Woods.


“Growing up in a family dealing with mental health issues can cause confusion, fear, anxiety, lack of parental attention, and a concern on the part of the child about their own mental health. Perhaps most importantly, basic relationships within the family can be disrupted and distorted, leaving the child feeling alone and unprotected.”


A mental health struggle within the household is one of ten Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that may cause physical or emotional symptoms in a child. The fact that a parent has a mental health challenge does not in and of itself mean that a child will have difficulty in their childhood or adulthood. Instead, the issue is whether the parent is able to develop support and coping tools in order to positively raise the child.


Some signs that children may be impacted by mental illness are: the inability of the parent to provide a supportive parent child bond, poor communication, substance abuse, lack of healthy co-parenting, or hostile family environments. A child may show signs of distress by being embarrassed about their parent’s illness, being unable to participate in peer activities, having poor hygiene due to poverty or the inability of the parent to care for the child.


One specific concern is that mental illness sometimes has genetic components that can be passed on to children. This does not mean that every parent with a mental health condition will have a child who has those same challenges. At times the inconsistency of the family relationship can cause long term trauma for children due to the unpredictability of the illness.


Adults who are experiencing mental illness are often torn by the desire to be good parents and the very real challenge of raising children for any parent. Phrases like “But mom, the other kid’s parents come to their concerts”, or “Dad you promised you would come to my game this time” can tear at one’s soul. These parents are concerned not only with how to get through life, but this very day.


The biggest challenge to mentally ill parents and their children is the stigma that our communities still hold about mental illness. The shame that this stigma promotes results in families trying to hide mental illness. The average time between awareness of a mental illness and seeking treatment for it is ten years. Community stigma about mental illness is a huge barrier to treatment and healing.


We also know that one in four adults will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives, that mental illness is a biological condition, not a character weakness, and mental illnesses are treatable. Evidenced based treatment and support for families is the answer to the negative impact of parental mental illness on children’s wellbeing.


Building Resilience

In 2006, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration authored a report to Congress outlining evidence based practices to support all parents, including those struggling with a mental health challenge. The key to all of their proposals was support.  Support with resources such as mentors, child care, emotional support, housing, employment and affordable primary medical care for themselves and their children.


The truth is that those of us who have any disease, or choose to be parents, must seek support from a multitude of resources in order to have healthy families. Key strategies include: focusing on the whole family unit, engaging in some form of support, staying connected with your community, supporting kids in activities outside the family, creating a crisis plan, and recognizing personal strengths and building on them.