Archive for the imagine project

Woodland Elementary Expands Their Use of The Imagine Project!

The Imagine Project (TIP) is currently working with the incredible staff at Woodland Elementary in Cherry Creek Schools in Colorado to make Imagine story writing a foundational piece of their school culture in order to support the social emotional wellness of their students. When you walk in the door, their school’s just cause is proudly framed as an Imagine story.

Imagine feeling a sense of belonging where you are valued, seen, and heard.

Imagine taking action in equity, celebrating diversity, and empowering others.

Imagine believing all children can learn.

Imagine engaging in an inclusive, dynamic, and resilient culture.

Imagine creating a brave space that sparks joy, wonder, and a passion for learning.

The teachers at Woodland first experienced The Imagine Project for themselves during work week in August. The next step was to utilize their students’ imagine stories for a school-wide cultural identity project that involved their entire community. An essential part of the success the teachers at Woodland are experiencing can be attributed to partnering with their students’ families from the outset.  

The first Imagine story that the teachers wrote with their students was focused on the feelings students had starting a new school year.  This was particularly important because Woodland is a brand new school, but it is a topic that all teachers, students, and families have a variety of feelings about.  They used the stories to get to know their students’ past school experiences as well as their hopes for the upcoming year.  They then sent the stories home and invited their students’ families to write a story of their own as a way to communicate past experiences, concerns, fears, and hopes with their child’s teacher.  The letter they sent home can be found on The Imagine Project’s website here. As you can see, not only does the letter explain the purpose and power of writing an Imagine story, it also provides a guided tool for writing one.  From here, every family was informed and invited to participate in Imagining Woodland.

Over the first few weeks of school, teachers have used The Imagine Project in their classrooms to allow their students to talk about any challenges they might be experiencing in their lives, past or present. This gives the students the opportunity to learn the technique and flow of The Imagine Project, as well as creating a safe space for emotional expression, compassion and camaraderie in the classroom. Now, the teachers are moving toward purposefully planning for the use of The Imagine Project throughout their curriculum. Here are some of their ideas:

  • In kindergarten they will be writing/drawing/telling stories focused on identifying different feelings in picture books in order to build empathy and perspective taking skills.
  • In first grade they will be writing/drawing Imagine stories to go with their study of biographies where students will use everything they have learned about their inspirational person to help others understand that person’s life experience.
  • In second grade they plan to write Imagine stories from the perspective of changing landforms (volcanoes, earthquakes, etc.) as a summative assessment where students will show their understanding of the scientific processes involved while personifying their chosen landform.
  • In third grade students will be focusing their Imagine stories on the social studies topic of human migration as they demonstrate a deeper understanding of why people move from place to place and then connect it to their family’s story.
  • In fourth grade students will be studying different perspectives on the important events during Colorado’s history and expressing them through Imagine stories.
  • In fifth grade imagine stories will be used to help navigate the emotions that arise with the transition to middle school.

All the grades are planning to use The Feelings Wheel (download it here) as a tool for conversation and conflict resolution in their classrooms as issues arise interpersonally (friendship issues) and collectively (playground issues).  We have been given generous permission from its creator, Bret Stein, to share The Feelings Wheel with you. It is an integral part of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, and now we are using it to help people identify feelings that can help drive their Imagine stories. Look for future blog posts about how this tool can be used to write Imagine stories. 

It is very exciting to see a school so committed to understanding that addressing the individual barriers to learning, practicing empathy, expressing emotions, and holding space for each other’s story are essential to educating the whole child. If you are interested in helping your school experience and incorporate The Imagine Project into its culture please contact Dianne (dianne@theimagineproject.com) and we will be happy to help. You can begin by downloading The Imagine Project journal for your classroom here (it’s free). 

Happy Imagining! Thank you,

Dianne Maroney, RN, MSN

Thank you to Todd Daubert for contributing this blog to The Imagine Project!

Small Changes That Make a Big Difference in Your Child’s Happiness

Children deserve to grow up happy, loved, and supported no matter their environment. According to an article on child development, various factors contribute to children’s happiness and wellbeing. Beyond economic stability and educational access, it’s important that children have strong and healthy relationships with their families. Children with supportive family members perform well academically and socially, while also reporting higher levels of overall life satisfaction.

The journey towards improving your child’s happiness and quality of life can start with transforming habits and behaviors at home. These may be small changes, but they ultimately make a significant difference in how children think and feel about themselves and the world around them.

Make time to communicate

Despite the busyness of daily life, it helps to communicate with your children. Whether it’s about motivating them at the start of the day or asking them how their day at school went, talking to your children sends them a message that you value their needs, feelings, and experiences. Furthermore, a study about parent-child communication published in Frontiers Psychology emphasizes the quality, and not just the frequency, of conversations. This contributes to the child’s positive self-concept, self-esteem, and confidence.

The quality of the conversations can be improved by ensuring your child isn’t always relegated to being the listener or receiver of information. Allow your child to take the lead in the conversation while encouraging them through nonverbal affirmations like nodding your head and maintaining eye contact.

Seek professional help

There are instances where a child may develop signs of poor mental health, such as withdrawal from social interactions or disruptions in their sleeping patterns. While it’s still our responsibility as parents to address potential or existing stressors, seeking professional help from licensed health professionals allows us to access more tools and resources related to mental health. Despite the shortage of mental health professionals across the country, Forbes lists online therapy providers that either charge per session or per weekly/monthly subscription. Most of the services allow you to choose a therapist that best matches your child’s situation.

With the advent of telemedicine, there are now remote nurse practitioners who can also address specific health needs. Remote mental health nurse practitioners across states are making up for the shortfall to provide all-around care and support starting from initial consultations to follow-up visits and medication plans. Their focus on child and family health can help alleviate common barriers like the availability and affordability of care. These remote services mainly benefit children who are more comfortable receiving counseling in the comfort of their own homes or children whose health conditions or special needs make it difficult to access care services at fixed facilities.

Minimize screen time

Regardless of your child’s age, it’s vital to set reasonable limits for their screen time and use of social media. As much as the increasingly digital world allows them to expand their knowledge and communicate with others despite the distance, nothing beats the organic experience of unstructured and unplugged playtime. Included in our list of ways to mitigate parents’ and children’s stress was scheduling two to four hours of downtime each day. This can come in the form of going for a short walk outside, biking to the park, doing puzzles, singing, and dancing. Not only do these activities let them relax and get in touch with the world around them, but your emotional bond and connection also improve when you make sure you play together!

Have regular family meals

This last change may seem the simplest of all, but parents sometimes overlook the importance of having regular family meals. No matter how busy your respective schedules get, an article on The Hill says family meals are a great way to reduce stress, strengthen connections, and boost the self-esteem of your children. When you mainly serve healthy and hearty dishes for mealtime, your children can find stability and consistency in their eating habits. You can further elevate this bonding experience by preparing the food together, especially on weekends or special occasions.

Overall, quality time together with fun and supportive conversations will support your child’s happiness now and for their lifetime. To help your child communicate emotions they may have difficultly talking about, you can also write your Imagine stories together. It’s fun, easy, and free. Download a journal today at www.theimagineproject.org.

Thank you,

The Imagine Project Team

Article written by Renee Jessa (Submitted to The Imagine Project)

10 Ideas for Infusing The Imagine Project into your Classroom Consistently

Every teacher wants their students to feel emotionally supported in their classroom–when a child feels emotionally stable, they can take in and learn information. The Imagine Project is a tool that will support a student’s emotional health. At first you might see The Imagine Project as a one time use, but it’s meant to be a forever tool that students lean on for their emotional support as many do with journaling. If our dream is for students in our classrooms to choose to write Imagine stories independently during the times in their lives when they need it most, then it is crucial that they have consistent practice using the tool. In order to provide that practice, planning for the intentional use of The Imagine Project across the curriculum is essential. Rather than every experience with The Imagine Project being emotionally intense, we want to show students that anytime we are exploring different perspectives or emotions an Imagine story can be useful. In this blog we will explore 10 ways The Imagine Project can be used as an intentional instructional tool.  

Once you have taken the first step and experienced the power of The Imagine Project with your students by completing the entire process as a class, it is time to plan for its deliberate use in your general instruction.  

  1. One idea to consider is that an Imagine story can actually be just a quick, single sentence as a way for students to process and share their perspective or feelings on a particular topic either before it is taught as a way to assess or after instruction as a way to reflect.  
  2. Another idea is to use The Feelings Wheel (downloadable on our website) and an imagine statement as a weekly/daily check in with students. 
  3. You can write a class Imagine story outlining the expectations for behavior and learning in your classroom.  By framing it around the idea of “Imagine a class who…” you can use it as an aspirational document to set your intentions for the year together.
  4. At the beginning or ending of a grading period, you can write hopeful Imagine stories that can be turned into actionable goals using the frame of “I am… I can… I will.”  Remember that hope happens when students feel in charge of their future and create flexible plans to achieve their goals. 
  5. Take the 30 Day Imagine Challenge where you end each day writing and sharing three things that you imagine happening in your life, three things you are grateful for in your life, and one act of kindness that you have done or plan to do. They say after 30 days new habits form, and this is a habit that can transform the climate in your classroom.  
  6. Choose an emotion of the week to explore with an Imagine story.  This is a great chance to use The Feelings Wheel and build emotional vocabulary and empathy together.  
  7. Explore problems and their solutions using the design cycle but frame it around an Imagine story where students help others to empathize with the problem they are trying to solve and then show how their solution will improve the world.
  8. Develop a deeper understanding of point of view and perspective by writing Imagine stories from the point of view of fictional or historical characters.  The hopeful turn can be used to predict endings to stories.
  9. The Feelings Wheel can be used to identify emotional character traits in fictional or historical characters and how they change over time. This also helps to build a complex emotional vocabulary. 
  10.  When issues arise in class, planned or unplanned, that lead to taking sides and debate, imagine stories can be written so both sides can express their feelings around a position along with what they hope for in the future.  While empathy will grow as both sides share, it is interesting how commonalities arise in the hopeful turns which can lead to shared understanding and solutions. 

*For more ideas check out the downloadable Powerpoint on our website.

These are only a few ideas for infusing The Imagine Project into your daily classroom planning. If we can get students using this tool on a regular basis, then when unexpected issues arise it will be a natural path forward and you will have a built in tool for emotional regulation that will help your students to be more available to learn. If we can create a habit of writing Imagine stories in our students’ lives, then when students are dealing with the difficulties of life on their own, they will have a tool for exploring and expressing their feelings. The work you do every day in your classroom is the work of saving lives and providing hope for the future.  

Download the Imagine Journals (for FREE) and start today! Thank you and good luck!

Written by Todd Daubert, Educational Consultant and veteran elementary teacher

Thank you so much,
Dianne

Dianne is the founder and CEO of The Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps children K-12 (and adults) process and heal from difficult life circumstances through expressive writing. Dianne has her Masters in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing, is a thought leader in stress and trauma in children, has written multiple award winning books, is an international speaker, lives outside of Denver, CO, and has 3 grown children. Learn more about The Imagine Project at www.theimagineproject.org.

How Can Adults Help Children Who Are Victims of Cyberbullying

We want to shelter our children from all forms of harm or danger. In the age of information, however, this can be a challenge. Many — including adults — lack an understanding of how security works online. Hence, they could end up unprepared to deal with the realities of cyberbullying.

This is more common than we think. Around 59% of American teens have experienced some form of online harassment, including children younger than high school age.

Cyberbullying is available 24 hours a day and has a permanent quality, saved and circulated on the internet. In times like these, it’s important that adults help the victims, but this must be done sensitively and efficiently. Let’s take a closer look below at the different ways adults can help.

Prioritizing mental health

The first step to help should always be assessing the child’s disposition. A child’s mental health is delicate and a traumatizing event like being cyberbullied can have long-lasting effects on their welfare. It’s important to show them that they have your support and guiding them through mental health stress reduction tools such as The Imagine Project can provide an outlet for them to express and process their emotions.
Carefully watch out for symptoms that show they’re not coping well, such as becoming easily agitated or getting sick more often. They may require professional support from a child therapist until the situation and their behavior improves.

Seeking legal support

It’s important to show a child their feelings are valid by taking the proper measures to address the severity of the situation. This helps prevent children from withdrawing into themselves and from society, while teaching them about their rights as well.

Explain to them how cyberbullying is a punishable crime. Take note, however, that properly handling a case requires knowledge in psychology and criminology. Here, specialists like victim advocates play important roles in maintaining the welfare of the victims while seeking accountability from the guilty party. Adults can enlist their support to help guide the child through the process of restorative justice.

Finding justice helps the child find closure and allows them to focus on personal healing afterwards.

Creating a safe space

With the severity of cyberbullying, it’s important that the child’s immediate circles are aware of the situation. School teachers, principals, or counselors, who play crucial roles in a child’s upbringing, can also play a role in helping the child cope with the aftereffects of bullying.

This is especially crucial if the bullying involved another student, and can enable schools to strengthen their anti-bullying policies and procedures. Treating bullying as a community issue provides the victim with a supportive environment where their feelings are validated, and they know that they aren’t alone.

Forming preventive measures

While the case is ongoing, adults should immediately prevent any escalation by encouraging the child to block the bully and not engage any further. It’s enough to keep a copy of the bullying so legal measures can be taken.

When justice has been served, adults can take further means to keep the child safe from similar incidents. Talking with them so that they can rationalize what has happened helps, but avoid cutting them off from technology completely.

Instead, teach them that technology is a tool. It can be harmful, but if they know how to defend themselves, technology can be fun and beneficial. For children of young ages, adults can invest in a parental control software like Bark that monitors social media and text messaging. This then uses advanced technology and AI to prevent cyberbullying from occurring.

It’s our responsibility as adults to guide our children through the dangers of the world, and that means prevention as well as aftercare. That’s why besides providing a means for expressive writing to mentally heal, the Imagine Project also aims to lessen bullying. This is done by creating self-awareness and internal understanding, so that children will no longer be victims of their own experiences.In the digital age, cyberbullying can be a worrying reality. Hence why adults need to stay updated on the latest technology and digital trends so we can protect our children for years to come and access the tools for support when they need it.

Article written by Renee Jessa

Submitted to The Imagine Project

 

Tips on Moving and Supporting Your Kids

Moving is not a simple, straightforward process that always goes according to plan. And if you have kids, you can expect a few unexpected surprises to crop up along the way. This is why it is vital to ensure everyone is on board with the decision and on the same page when it comes to executing your move. Below, The Imagine Project shares tips on how to do so smoothly.

Finding the right location

Finding the right house for you and your family is probably not going to be the easiest task. After all, finding the right house has so much more to do than just selecting a home that meets all your wish lists; it’s also about picking a location where you’re going to have peace of mind concerning your family’s safety; knowing that your kids are going to get the best of the best education, as well as having plenty of options when it comes to fun stuff to do outdoors or indoors. Nonetheless, the search is not as difficult as it was, say 40 years ago when there was no such thing as the World Wide Web. Nowadays, you can search for suitable family-friendly properties online using realtor sites to search for available listings. Have your kids help you with the search, making it fun for them to see the future possibilities. You can make a list of things together that you would like in your new home.

Storing your belongings for another day

Of course, you’ll need to ensure your new home can accommodate all your things. If not, you may want to consider finding a local storage unit until you can decide what to do with those things you don’t necessarily need anymore. Alternatively, maybe you want to choose a property that’s smaller than your current one for financial reasons. If so, you could also use self-storage to store your extra belongings for however long you need. Help your kids choose what stays with them and what goes into storage. They may have a hard time parting with certain items, you can always take them to the storage unit and show them their things are being safely kept for later. Create bins with their names on them so they have some ownership.

Make alternative arrangements

Suppose you don’t have the finances just yet to put a down payment on your dream home. While you’re saving up, you may want to consider staying with friends or family while you work on getting your finances in order. However, be sure that if you are moving your pet along with you, they have the space to accommodate your pet too.

Make sure your business functions smoothly

If you are planning on moving your business with you, then you’ll want to ensure that your business functions smoothly despite any disruptions that could cause it to veer off track. Things you can do to ensure everything goes smoothly on this end include packing and labeling your office furniture and equipment carefully and clearly, hiring efficient and trustworthy movers, and even working remotely when necessary to help fill in the gaps when you are out of the office and dealing with things related to the moving process.

Make sure your kids are comfortable with this big change

Since this is likely to be a major adjustment for them, you will have to be extra cognizant of your kid’s feelings. Furthermore, you’ll have to exercise that extra bit of patience should they end up acting out whenever they feel overwhelmed about what’s taking place. Moreover, you’ll likely need to be more thoughtful in terms of including your kids as much as possible throughout the moving process. For example, you may want their input regarding the schools they’d like to attend in the area. Or, once you’ve moved in, you can set up their rooms first so they’ll start getting used to their new home, surroundings, and routines.

Using The Imagine Project journaling process will be helpful in all stages of this major change, from the time you tell them you are moving until after the move. You can write your Imagine stories as a family and share them together so everyone is able to express how they are feeling and can empathize with, and support each other. To learn more about how The Imagine Project works and download the free journals go to www.theimagineproject.org.

Be sure to do your best to manage your own stress. When you are stressed, your kids will feel it. Take some time to just be with your kids, cooking, watching TV, reading a book, going for a walk—these special times can offset the stress you all feel. Your family’s happiness is probably the most important thing to you, aside from choosing a home that you’ll be happy with in the long term. Do your best to show your family that they’re your topmost priority at all times during this challenging process.

Visit The Imagine Project. where we give kids all the necessary tools to assist them with overcoming any daily stress or trauma they may be experiencing.

Thank you to Gwen Payne for contributing to this article.

Good luck and keep Imagining!

Love,

Dianne

Dianne is the founder and CEO of The Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps children K-12 (and adults) process and heal from difficult life circumstances through expressive writing. Dianne has her Masters in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing, is a thought leader in stress and trauma in children, has written multiple award winning books, is an international speaker, lives outside of Denver, CO, and has 3 grown children. Learn more about The Imagine Project at www.theimagineproject.org.

Image via Unsplash

How to Help Your Child Cope With a Divorce

Navigating a divorce is no easy venture, especially if children are involved in the mix. If you’re stressed out or visibly affected by any major life change, this may translate to strong emotions within your child as well. Acknowledging how this split will affect them and making a mature plan of action with your co-parent will minimize trauma and help your kids cope. Here are some of our best tips on how to approach this process.

Communicate Effectively

From the initial divorce discussion and beyond, communication is a major step in easing the tension that a child could be feeling. Let them know why you’re splitting up (in a simplified way) and reassure them that it’s not their fault. If possible, make sure that you’re breaking this news with the other parent present. This way, you can both answer questions in the best way possible. 

You’re also going to want to communicate details about living situations, schedules, routines, and more. The way in which you approach these conversations is going to be different depending on the ages of your children. Kids who are under age six may just need reassurance that they’ll be looked after and able to see both parents. If they’re a bit older, they’ll be more emotionally in-tune and able to think more about the circumstances that led to the divorce.

Respect Their Feelings and Listen

Despite how old your children are, it’s important to be there to answer their questions and continue reassuring them that everything is going to be okay. Make sure you’re a good listener and that you can recognize and validate their feelings. Giving them an opportunity to express these feelings and letting them know when there will be changes to their day-to-day will help them adjust in time.

One of the most important things that you can do is to continue showing up for your child. Staying as involved in their life as possible will remind them of your unfaltering love and support. Going to their band concerts, shopping together for school dances, and visiting them at college family weekends, for example, will prove time and again how important they are to you. Make sure that you continue being conscientious of your child’s mental health. If they’re showing signs of emotional imbalance, you may also want to have them speak to a school counselor or therapist so they can consult with an outside point of view.

Keep Things Private

Make sure you avoid dumping bad feelings onto your children about their other parent. They’re dealing with this process in their own way and don’t need second-hand stress knowing how things ended, especially if there’s hostility. This could translate into symptoms of trauma, immense guilt, and anxiety for your children. The right outlet for this is professional help like therapy sessions or divorce groups with parents who have gone through the same thing. Making sure you’re maintaining self-care, eating well, and staying productive is important to personally cope with a divorce as well.

Though the proceedings of a divorce can last months, you may want to keep meetings with your lawyers and the sticky parts of divvying up assets as private as possible. In the meantime, make sure you’re still sticking to a routine with your children. This will provide them with a continued sense of stability, especially as they’re experiencing so many changes.

Give Them Their Own Space

If you’re looking to purchase a home after the divorce proceedings and bring your kids into a new space, consider speeding along the process with a pre approved mortgage. This will reduce the amount of time they spend with uncertainty and create a new sense of belonging and stability sooner, in turn helping your kids cope with the divorce better. After this step, you can try to involve your kids when house hunting and highlight some upsides of a move. Maybe the new home is closer to their friends or school. It may have a great rec center, soccer field, basketball court, or community pool nearby. Any sudden change in environment can feel like the end of the world for a child but reassuring them that you’re keeping their best interests at heart can help during this challenging process.

Since you’ll likely be co-parenting in two separate homes, it’s important to give your children their own space for comfort and happiness. Whether they have their own room in a new house or still share the space with a sibling, you should bring items from their other room so that there’s a level of familiarity. Once you have some of their favorite things, you can start adding some fun new decor and involving them in the decorating process. Asking them to help pick out paint, posters, or bedding can be an engaging activity to do together that ensures you’re crafting a space they’re comfortable in.

Stay Positive

Avoid talking about your ex-spouse in a negative manner and be gracious when you co-parent. Even if it’s a challenge, you must be supportive of the time that your kids are spending with their other parent. Continuing to remain civil during get-togethers, games, graduations, and more goes a long way. There will be times that you have to see your former partner, and it’s much healthier to maintain a positive relationship for the sake of your children.

If you need help developing a Mindful Co-parenting Plan, click here for a program that may be helpful.

There are many proven psychological effects of divorce on children that may result in them externalizing their emotions. This can build up and lead to poor performance in school, anger towards friends and classmates, health problems from stress, and more. Taking steps to minimize stress from divorce is possible with empathy and proper attention. Help your children express their emotions and develop resilience by using The Imagine Project. The Imagine Project is a transformative journaling process that helps children (and adults—you can use it too) work through their challenging life experiences and even Imagine a positive ending to their difficult story. Working through an incredibly challenging life change like divorce is hard, but in the end it can create resilience and the ability to adapt to life as it comes. Giving a child the opportunity to express themselves will promote self-awareness and improve mental health.

Good luck and take care.

Love,

Dianne

Dianne is the founder and CEO of The Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps children K-12 (and adults) process and heal from difficult life circumstances through expressive writing. Dianne has her Masters in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing, is a thought leader in stress and trauma in children, has written multiple award winning books, is an international speaker, lives outside of Denver, CO, and has 3 grown children. Learn more about The Imagine Project at www.theimagineproject.org.

Successful Back to School—Social-Emotional Support to Help Students Thrive

It’s back to school time again and most educators are acutely aware of the potential social emotional needs of students. Last school year was a challenging year for many teachers. Anxiety, social insecurities, inability to focus, distractions coming from many angles were worse than prepandenmic times. How can teachers give students the opportunity to stay present, grounded, feel accepted, and focus on learning? One simple and free way is by using The Imagine Project.

Emotional support through writing

The Imagine Project is a writing tool that gives kids an opportunity to talk about issues that are bothering them; a difficult life event or a stressful situations they’ve experienced recently or in the past. This is done by having students K-12 write their story using Imagine to begin every sentence. They follow a 7-step simple writing process that’s in a journal format. The journals can be downloaded (for free) at www.theimagineproject.org. The beautiful part of this writing process is in Step 4 where the writer is asked to Imagine a new, more positive version of their story—helping them shift to a positive mindset, giving them the social emotional support to move forward and learn.

How to begin

Students can begin the first week of school by writing a story about coming back to school—their worries, hopes, and dreams. They can keep an Imagine journal and write it in often, on their own or together in the classroom; particularly when there is an emotional event in their lives, classroom, school, or in the world. Using this process often teaches students a tool they can use whenever needed as difficult life circumstances occur.

Social Emotional support in the classroom

When classrooms do The Imagine Project together and read their stories out loud to each other, empathy and camaraderie are created. Kids hear that they aren’t alone in their experiences and they feel a sense of relief in telling their story, and a sense that they’ve been heard. It’s a remarkable and beautiful process to watch students in a classroom come together and support one another. Relationships are critical for our social emotional health, as is self-expression. The Imagine Project helps promote both of these. Watch here to teachers and students talking about using The Imagine Project in their classrooms.

Student Stress

When a student is experiencing stress (past or present) it’s difficult for them to make friends, focus, and learn in school. Giving them a simple process (that meets many core standards and can be incorporated into many lessons plans) will support their social emotional needs and growth–something students need now more than ever. To learn more and get started go to The Imagine Project Getting Started page. If you recognize the value of social emotional support for students as students go back to school and throughout the school year, you will love The Imagine Project!

Thank you,

Dianne

Dianne is the founder and CEO of The Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps children K-12 (and adults) process and heal from difficult life circumstances through expressive writing. Dianne has her Masters in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing, is a thought leader in stress and trauma in children, has written multiple award winning books including The Imagine Project: Empowering Kids to Rise Above Drama, Trauma, and Stress. She is an international speaker, lives in Colorado and has 3 grown children. Learn more about The Imagine Project at www.theimagineproject.org.

 

National Wellness Month: Self Care for Parents and Kids

We often associate wellness with physical health. However, wellness is described by the Global Wellness Instituteas the “active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” This includes your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. As we step into National Wellness Month, here are a few tips for keeping you and your family focused on wellness and keeping self-care at the forefront of your mind.

How to Understand Your (and Their) Stress

Stress can come in all shapes and sizes, and is going to look different in you than in your children. The way they cope may be totally different from what you’re used to dealing with. In fact, the way that you even coped with your stress as a child may be different from the way you cope now! Understanding your child’s stress is the first step to working through stressors, big and small. You may start to overcome.

Although you as an adult might know when you’re stressed, the signs of stress in a child can have a wider range as they deal with these emotions for the first time. There might be physical signs, such as dizziness, fatigue, or a change in what they’re choosing to eat, the possibilities are endless. However, there can also be behavioral signs. Compulsive habits might take place, or small outbursts might occur. Sometimes these can just be part of growing up, but if repetitive could mean more.

While you can’t expect to solve all of your child’s problems (and in truth, you can’t always solve your own), there are a few coping mechanisms that can help create less stress. The Imagine Journal offers an opportunity for your child to write about anything they’re feeling, even if there may not be any stressors at the time. While you can always offer a safe space, sometimes offering a non-parental option can feel safer. It not only helps create trust for future problems down the road but can help build healthy mechanisms as they get older.

How to Handle Loss

Whether it’s moving to a new house or grieving a loved one, big life changes can affect your child in ways you may not even know. Offering outlets for conversations are key ways to make sure you and your child are adjusting to these life changes.

If a loved one has a progressing condition such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s, sometimes offering time to understand why changes are happening, giving them a chance to ask questions and voice their concerns, and understanding the grief as disease progresses can lead to an easier transition. In cases like this, keeping a routine is vital. In fact, family stability is directly linked to a child’s success. Visiting older grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles can help them realize they’re still a part of their life. While life changes are inevitable, showing love, connection, and that you’re there through these changes can really make a difference.

While you can’t always prepare for the loss of a loved one, you can take steps to help handle these life changes that work for both you, and your children. When it comes to life changes, caring for a loved one who has a rare terminal cancer like mesothelioma, it’s important to provide the right resources for them. These changes can be hard to deal with at any age, and you might not always be able to provide the right coping mechanisms that they need.

Other difficult diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes can be a shock once discovered to adults and children. If this is the case when it comes to life changes, there are caregiver resources available that cover anything from counseling, to support services that allow your kids to be involved in these life changes, as little or as much as they would want.

Offering these options can help your child open up, and can even help you find peace in some of these changes in life. While you can’t expect everything to be smooth sailing, small steps to connect can make a difference.

How Fatigue Shows Itself In Others

Fatigue may show itself due to too much activity. You’ve experienced being tired before, right? But, this can go the other way too and can be present if they’re not getting enough activity. It can also be a sign of stress or an effect of other changes in their life. Fatigue in children can present itself in different ways over time.

Some important things to consider here are if there are huge life changes taking place, or if there are stressors at school, in their extracurriculars, or in their personal life. Are they getting regular exercise? Are they getting plenty of rest? Are there changes happening that even you can’t control? Maintaining stability where you can and creating opportunities to work their mind and bodies can help them stay mentally healthy, along with yourself. After all, these tips work for parents too!

While you can’t expect to be the perfect parent, finding coping mechanisms to focus on self-care for yourself and your children is key to creating a healthy, trusting environment. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be scared to give yourself some credit where credit is due. Even the small things can go a long way.

Love,

Dianne

Dianne is the founder and CEO of The Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps children K-12 (and adults) process and heal from difficult life circumstances through expressive writing. Dianne has her Masters in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing, is a thought leader in stress and trauma in children, has written multiple award winning books, is an international speaker, lives outside of Denver, CO, and has 3 grown children. Learn more about The Imagine Project at www.theimagineproject.org.

 

A Practical Guide for Surviving as a Parent of a Special Needs Child

Raising kids with special needs can be a labor of love sometimes. While the rewards are immense, it’s a task that taxes one mentally, physically, and spiritually. If you’re the guardian of children who require extra attention, be aware of your limitations. The following information from The Imagine Project will help you measure fatigue levels and develop effective coping strategies.

Identifying Parental Fatigue

Serving the needs of a child with special needs requires focus and determination. It’s helpful to have a focused approach toward gauging your situation. There a questions factors to ask yourself, such as:

  • How’s your sleep quality?
  • How are your depressive and anxiety symptoms?
  • How’s your marital satisfaction?

One sign you’re overburdened is not getting enough sleep. If you’re having trouble achieving quality rest, you’re not alone. According to researchers, between 50 and 70 million American adults suffer from a sleep disorder. Try wearing a sleep tracker. If you discover you aren’t getting a proper snooze, you can also cut down on caffeine and alcohol.

Along with fatigue, you may be experiencing psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety. Having depression comes with physical effects, including nausea and high blood pressure. Anxiety attacks sometimes trigger shortness of breath and upset stomachs. Fine-tuning body awareness will increase your ability to pick up on these cues. Consult your doctor if multiple signs are present, as medicine is often necessary for intense conditions.

A single-minded focus on providing outstanding parental care can cause marital strife without you even noticing. There are heaps of online assessment tools to assist partners with this task. Depending on the results, it may make sense to start seeing a couples therapist.

Preventing Parental Fatigue

Now that you’ve made an effort to reduce existing tension, create a self-care plan to lower the odds of additional strain. Find ways of reminding yourself that no parent is perfect. Develop a social support system so there’s always someone to talk with during moments when you’re overwhelmed. Create an emergency relaxation kit for periods where solace is necessary. For instance, if a hot bath helps you reset, prepare candles and other soaking supplements to make the experience as refreshing as possible.

Have a trusted individual on speed dial that can relieve you of parenting duties while you unwind. Beware of inadvertently burdening your support network. Thankfully, there are plenty of organizations that will lend a hand. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them.

Thriving Despite Parental Fatigue

Regardless of your stress-reducing efforts, raising a child who has special needs takes its toll. You still want to hold onto your goals and sense of self. Perhaps you’ve wanted to start a business. With companies often being exclusively online, it’s possible to do this even if you’re constantly home providing care. Forming your venture as a limited liability corporation is wise. It means you’ll have less paperwork and more flexibility, in addition to certain tax advantages. Each state has varying regulations regarding LLCs. Do your homework before moving forward. However, starting a business requires a lot of hard work and dedication, so make sure this is something you can do without disrupting your work/home life balance.

Maybe earning a bachelor’s degree would make building a business easier. If so, you can do that from home also. Online schools used to be considered inadequate learning platforms. Such opinions have now been disproven. Web-based learning is exceptionally convenient, and you can earn recognition from an accredited institution no matter what schedule you’re keeping.

All parents need coping tactics at times, but raising a special needs child takes some grit and commitment. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or take time for yourself when you need it. With these tips, you can take care of yourself with the same love you give others.

The Imagine Project is a writing process that can help you deal with the challenging emotions that come up with raising a special needs child. Download the journal and try writing your own story, and if your child is old enough, he or she can write one too

Thank you Gwen Payne for writing this wonderful piece, supporting parents of Special Needs children. Raising a child with Special Needs can be challenging at times, I hope those who need it find it helpful.

Love,

Dianne

Dianne is the founder and CEO of The Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps children K-12 (and adults) process and heal from difficult life circumstances through expressive writing. Dianne has her Masters in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing, is a thought leader in stress and trauma in children, has written multiple award winning books, is an international speaker, lives outside of Denver, CO, and has 3 grown children. Learn more about The Imagine Project at www.theimagineproject.org.

Image via Pexels

National Mental Health Month: A Story of Healing Through Expressive Writing

Written by Tara Imperatore

Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. May is a time to raise awareness of the impact trauma can have on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being in order to help reduce the stigma so many experience. This is the story of how one woman harnessed the power of expressive writing to heal her childhood trauma.

Before I went to bed on the night of July 25, 1995, I was a carefree 10-year-old girl. I was an avid reader, gymnast, cheerleader, and straight-A student who loved making people laugh with goofy impressions and aspired to be a Saturday Night Live cast member one day. Growing up in a small suburb of New Jersey with my parents and two sisters, Nichole, 14, and Alyssa, 5, I felt safe and secure, unaware that in an instant, everything was about to change.

My mom rushed into my room around 10pm and shook me awake, the panic in her voice unlike anything I’d experienced before. “Get up! Nichole broke her neck! Pack a bag. Let’s go!” Rushing to the hospital, my parents were scared, but optimistic, expecting a broken neck to be healed with a foam neck brace. The reality we were up against is that my teenage sister, a talented athlete and aspiring chef, would never walk again.

Swimming at our uncle’s pool that night, Nichole dove into the shallow end, hitting the bottom with such force that she broke three vertebrae and damaged her spinal cord. Paralyzed from the neck-down, she was classified a quadriplegic, rendering her wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life, and shattering the dreams my parents had for our family’s future.

At home, the dynamic abruptly shifted. My 10-year-old carefree spirit disappeared among a long list of adult responsibilities. I loved my family so immensely that I took each task seriously and to heart, wanting to please my parents and ease their burdens. Riding bikes and having sleepovers turned into cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and babysitting my little sister; all the while learning how to care for someone in a wheelchair and maintain my own friendships and schoolwork. The space to complain, cry, or be uncooperative no longer existed for me under the constant pressure to always put on a brave face and offer to help. Laying down at night no longer felt safe and secure, but stressful and filled with uncertainty.

This enduring support for my family came at the expense of my mental health. Conditioned to ignore and devalue my needs for years to follow, I lost myself in struggles with depression, anxiety, trichotillomania, panic disorder, and PTSD—diagnoses I wouldn’t come to understand until I sought talk therapy for the first time at the age of 27. As a child, finding time to decompress was rare and I felt my playful, creative side eroding every day. It wasn’t until I found my way to journaling that a sense of freedom and control was regained.

Finally, I could let my mind wander without judgment or explanation. I could play out scenarios and express my anger without fear. I could discover again what brings me joy and makes me who I am. The act of daily journaling led to short story writing, and eventually a college degree in journalism. Now 37, I’ve built a successful career as a professional writer, motivating others to connect with themselves, and those around them, through the power of the written word.

I was introduced to The Imagine Project during a recent therapy session. My doctor told me about their dedication to help people, especially children, process stress and/or trauma through journaling. Their mission to give kids a voice for positive change and empower them to imagine a new story in their lives hit close to home. I was so inspired that I felt compelled to write my own imagine story. Reflecting on the lowest points in my life and seeing how far I’ve come and the growth I’ve achieved was more healing than I could have ever imagined.

Imagine…finding out your sister was in a life-threatening accident

Imagine…learning she will never walk again

Imagine…being only ten years old when your whole life changes

Imagine…growing up way too fast

Imagine…feeling like you can’t act like a kid anymore

Imagine…prioritizing everyone else’s needs over your own

Imagine…a teacher taking notice of your pain and encouraging you to journal

Imagine…exploring your imagination and finding yourself again

Imagine…being brave enough to share your words with the world

Imagine…becoming a professional writer and making a career out of storytelling

Imagine…inspiring others with your stories of perseverance and strength every single day

By: Tara Imperatore, age 37

Thank you so much Tara, we are so grateful to have you share your story with us. To learn more about The Imagine Project and download our FREE journals go to www.theimagineproject.org. Tell friends, family, and educators–help us spread the word. Thank you,

Love,

Dianne

Dianne is the founder and CEO of The Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps children K-12 (and adults) process and heal from difficult life circumstances through expressive writing. Dianne has her Masters in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing, is a thought leader in stress and trauma in children, has written multiple award winning books, is an international speaker, lives outside of Denver, CO, and has 3 grown children. Learn more about The Imagine Project at www.theimagineproject.org.

 

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