Friday, April 27, 2018

Mindful Self-Care



By Sue Schneider, Family & Consumer Science & Community Development Agent, Larimer County Extension

Our culture has long reinforced the idea that self-care is selfish. We are taught to wear busyness and selflessness as badges of honor. Yet unfettered commitments to our jobs, families, and communities can often leave us overwhelmed and exhausted. Our burnout shows up in physician’s offices where 75 – 90% of all visits are related to stress. We want to find magic bullets to help us manage stress when we feel our lives spinning out of control.  But magic bullets don’t exist.

As we know, it can be really hard to turn around difficult circumstances in our lives. And making big changes takes time. But it is important to acknowledge that our difficult circumstances are not always the cause of our stress. Often, our reactions to our circumstances create much of our suffering. We tend to pour fuel onto our perceived difficulties when we view them with anxiety, fear, negativity, or judgement. We often catastrophize worst case scenarios, blame others or ourselves for things gone wrong, and numb ourselves to our pain through electronic devises, overwork, and substances. We turn away from our difficulties rather than leaning into them and learning what they have to teach us. In this way, we strengthen the habitual tendencies that aggravate our stress again and again.

In this video series on mindful self-care, we will explore another set of options; how to press the pause button, return to the present, work skillfully with difficulties, and prioritize our wellbeing in the midst of stressful events. We will learn how to deactivate the “habits of mind” that escalate our distress while strengthening our capacity for acceptance, self-compassion, ease, and joy. Mindful self-care means opening up space to attend to your own needs and developing health-promoting habits that serve your body, mind, and heart. Self-care takes practice and commitment. These videos can get you started by offering practical concepts and tools. Along the way, you will learn that mindfulness is not a magic bullet but rather a powerful guide for a lifelong journey back to the present.






Wednesday, March 21, 2018

2018 Free Days



By:  Gloria Sanchez, Adams County Site Coordinator

It’s springtime! Birds are chirping, days are longer, the sun is shining, children are ready to go outside, and summer is around the corner!  Many parents find themselves asking questions like, “What are we going to do? How are we going to entertain the kids? What will they do for fun?”  Well, not to worry because 2018’s free days are here!  For the last few years, the Denver area’s cultural institutions such as museums, gardens, and the zoo have offered FREE DAYS for the community.  These are days when admissions to such places are FREE FOR ALL to visit.  This initiative is largely welcomed by those on a budget and is especially convenient for families.  Every year, several institutions offer different days throughout the year for families to visit for FREE! The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District provides a calendar with a monthly listing of free days that can be found at scfd.org. For example, this month you can enjoy the Clyfford Still Museum (1250 Bannock St.) Friday evenings from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. 

But the fun doesn’t stop there!  As the days warm up, have a family picnic at the Hudson Gardens (6115 S. Sante Fe Dr.) or Chatfield Farms (8500 W. Deer Creek Canyon Rd.).  If you are an art lover, you can plan a visit to the Denver Art Museum (100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway) or the Arvada Center Galleries (6901 Wadsworth Blvd.).  The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marisco Campus (2121 Children’s Museum Dr.) offers free admissions from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month throughout the year. 

Check out the dinosaurs, mummies and awesome exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (2001 S. Colorado Blvd.), and if you visit in the summertime, be sure to bring a towel and enjoy the splash pad in the adjoining park.  If your grandchild is a little builder, your local Home Depot also offers workshops on Saturdays mornings (registration required).

While all of these are amazing ways to spend your days, don’t forget you can always visit your local library, take a walk or bike-ride on a nearby trail, or just go run around at the neighborhood playground.  There are many free options or low cost activities that you can do with your grandchildren.  I have only mentioned a few, so check out the rest on the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District website at http://scfd.org/p/free-days-calendar.html.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

GRANDcares Phase Two: Positive Youth Development


     GRANDcares program is excited to announce the completion of a newly developed curriculum for children ages 9-12 years old.  The six-week educational intervention was developed by teams from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Colorado State University.  The curriculum was created outside of the box, and the classroom is transformed into the “GRANDcares Youth Club”.  The program features interactive classes that are packed with lively learning activities.  The GRANDcares program is implemented in three phases; strengthening self-care for grandparent caregivers, developing communication and leadership skills in grandchildren, and increasing the ability of service providers to meet grandfamilies' needs.  The GRANDcares Youth Club will launch off the second phase for the national pilot program funded through USDA.  In 2016, the first phase of GRANDcares, was introduced to grandparents raising grandchildren in Hawaii and Colorado.  The first phase is ongoing and the six-week course for grandparents will run simultaneously with the Youth Club.  

A unique element of the GRANDcares Youth Club is that it was designed specifically for grandchildren being raised by grandparents. Research indicates that many children being raised by grandparents may encounter greater risk of behavioral and emotional hurdles.  There are many reasons for this, often the event of losing a parent or being taken away from a parent, is a traumatic experience for young children.  The GRANDcares Youth Club deliberately created activities for youth to strengthen their resiliency, or the ability of a person to recover after experiencing trauma and to overcome problems and difficulties.  The GRANDcares Youth Club is rooted in recognizing and enhancing young people’s strengths while promoting positive youth development.  Each week of the club provides hands-on learning experiences, that have been curated to build leadership skills, encourage self-confidence, practice communications skills and learn goal setting strategies.  Based on similar foundations of 4H Clubs, the GRANDcares Youth Club also helps youth develop and practice important life skills.  By providing “tools” for life skills, they will have more resources to cope with daily situations, make important decisions and enhance their quality of life.

In September 2017, the Youth Club was tested for the first time on the Big Island, Hawaii.  (Photo above) A small group of youth volunteered to be the first to experience part of the Youth Club program as the team reviewed and edited the curriculum accordingly.  Just last week, the first team of Youth Facilitators for the program were trained at the University of Hawaii at Manoa on Maui.  The GRANDcares Youth Club begins on Thursday April 5- May 24th, 2018, 5pm-7pm on Maui.  The classes are 90 minutes and prior to this, the grandfamilies are invited to talk story and enjoy a free light meal together.  Currently on the Big Island, GRANDcares program’s first phase is underway with grandparent caregivers until March 31st.  Dates will be announced soon for the Youth Club on Big Island.  To find out more information contact grandcaresmaui@gmail.com

This week, a team from Hawaii is traveling to Colorado State University to train Youth Facilitators.  The GRANDcares Youth Club will launch in Colorado on March 28th (kick off!) at 4:30-7:00 pmThe program will run until May 9th in Fort Collins.  For more information contact Jana.Carson@colostate.edu   There is no cost to join the classes, but space is limited. 

Written by: Christine Spencer, Site Facilitator, GRANDcares Maui

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

One Layer of Being a Grandparent Raising a Grandchild: Shame and Guilt


By Gail Engle, Founder of Grand Family Coalition 
& Jana Carson GRANDcares Site Coordinator

My child has failed as a parent!

There is nothing more devastating than feeling this in your heart. You know you have done everything you thought was right. You did the best you could; you’ve given it your all. You know that like everyone else, you have made mistakes and that your own life has gotten you into some sticky stuff, but still the questions creep in and take over. “Was I that bad of a parent? I thought I taught them better than this. Why?! What went wrong? Where did “I” go wrong?”

This shame and guilt will consume you and make you angry. You want to fix it and make it go away. You want to make it all better. Your child only wants you to listen, but listening feels like you are condoning the behavior—the behavior that has caused you and so many others such stress and pain. Instead, you shake your finger, scold them, and think you can shame them into making better choices. You can’t. It doesn’t work. The more you try, the more you push them away. This makes you feel even worse. Sometimes the idea of being one big happy family can feel so hopeless and far away.

These are some of the many thoughts and feelings that I as a grandparent raising my grandchild experience. I have heard many of the same things through my interactions with other grandparents in similar situations. It can be so difficult not to blame yourself. It can be so hard not to place all the responsibility for our child’s choices and actions on ourselves.

It makes sense that we would want to fix the situation, but one of the most important things to keep in mind is to remember that this is not your fault. This is not your undoing.

This may be one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. But as one wise grandmother told me, “I never lost hope, and I never will.”

We are resilient.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Love Story Begins in Honolulu 1969

It was nearly fifty years ago on the sandy shoreline of Waimea Bay, Oahu where Carter fell in “love at first sight” with Pauline.  Pauline is from Hawai’i and Carter was stationed in Pearl Harbor at the time.  He caught his first glimpse of Pauline when she was resting in a tree!  She climbed up there to overlook the waves that would someday make Waimea Bay a legendary surf spot.  That night in 1969, Carter went home to his military platoon where he told his friends, “I’m going to marry that girl.” 

And if you ask Pauline about that day at Waimea Bay, she will say the same, “It was love at first sight.”  They are still married.  They moved to Maui, raised children together, worked long careers and then retired. Pauline was a school teacher and Carter retired from the military and worked for the Postal Service. The last thing they expected after retirement, was to become parents for a second time around in life.  There was a tragic and fatal car accident and suddenly they became full time guardians to their two-year old grandchild.

“It really wasn’t easy at all.  Financially and emotionally. But with support it got easier,” Pauline said, “We didn’t know any other families like us, but we found community resources and support groups.”

In their search for answers, they stumbled upon the GRANDcares program that launched educational interventions on Maui and Big Island, Hawaii in 2016.  Pauline and Carter were among the first group of grandparents raising their grandchildren who graduated from the seven-week pilot of “Powerful Tools for Caregivers-Grandparents.”   The classes in the GRANDcares’ program focus on reducing stress, strengthening communication skills, dealing with difficult emotions, and goal setting strategies. 
The next GRANDcares seven-week program begins on Thursday April 5- May 24th 2018, 5pm-7pm.  The classes are 90 minutes and prior to this, the grandfamilies are invited to talk story and enjoy a free light meal together.  On the Big Island, the grandparent seven week classes will begin on Saturday February 17th-March 31st 2018, 10am-12:30pm.  Additionally, this spring the GRANDcares program will introduce Youth Club for children 8- 12 years old who are being raised by a grandparent.  The seven-week program offers a complementary curriculum to what the grandparents will learn.  Also beginning on Maui April 5th 2018, the classes in Youth Club are designed to build leadership skills, encourage self-confidence, practice communication skills, and learn how to set goals.   Registration for both grandparents and grandchildren are now open until April 1, 2018.  For more information or to sign up, email grandcaresmaui@gmail.com.

“I loved getting to know the other grandparents, that was my favorite part about coming to the classes,” Pauline stated, “One of the most important things that Carter and I learned, is not to be afraid to ask for help.”


Since 2016, Pauline and Carter have been advocates for grandparents raising grandchildren in their community.  They have continued to attend GRANDcares’ classes and have used their personal experiences to teach other grandfamilies in the program.  Their impact has been immeasurable, very much like their love. 


Photos and story by Christine Spencer, GRANDcares Site Facilitator, Maui County


Monday, January 8, 2018

New Year's Resolutions for the Family

By Gloria Sanchez, Adams County Site Coordinator

As we step into 2018, many of us use this time as an opportunity to “start fresh” or on a “clean slate,” setting goals that we wish to accomplish in the new year.  Often times these New Year’s resolutions are set around better finances, health and weight management, personal accomplishments, and educational milestones.  However, rarely goals are set around bettering and strengthening relationships with family and friends.

So, how do we set new goals to make our relationships stronger in the New Year?

In a research study of 2,000 people conducted by Family & Children’s Services of Minnesota, participants shared their thoughts and views of what their family did well.  The researchers concluded that there were nine important factors to keeping a family strong.  Read over the following nine factors and see if any of them might be positive to implement in your own family this new year.

Families agreed that communication was key to staying connected. Ideas for this included setting aside a regular time to talk free of technology, leaving notes for each other, and designating a “safe zone” or space to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner. 

Physical, emotional, and financial health were also seen as important.  Families reported staying physically healthy by exercising and staying active as a family, including things like bike rides, walking, and raking yards together.  The stayed emotionally healthy by expressing their feelings, being mindful, and forgiving each other.  Financial welfare was maintained by budgeting, planning, and talking about finances. 

Another important piece mentioned was spending time together. Families did this by preparing or eating meals together, reading to each other, or creating family time once a week.   

Spirituality was the fourth strongest factor for strong and cohesive families.  This was defined and understood in various ways including talking about and practicing beliefs, traditions, faith, charity, sacrifice, hope, and love. 

Having a strong support system, respecting each other, and having a sense of unity were also important factors for keeping a family strong.  Support was understood by these families as listening, understanding, asking questions, showing affection, giving hugs, cooperating, sharing responsibilities, being honest, saying “I love you”.  Respect was practiced by recognizing each family member’s strengths, believing in and accepting each other, showing appreciation, following rules, setting boundaries, and being patient, gentle and honest.  The sense of unity meant pulling together and rallying around each other, especially in times of need.

Celebrating cultural traditions that are unique to each family also creates strength.  Families build this strength by preserving their identity, sharing stories, teaching traditions, and passing on their cultural heritage. 

The final strength is having an extended sense of “family.”  For many, “family” went far beyond those living within their home, rather extending to include blood relatives, in-laws, close friends, and neighbors. As an extended family, they keep each other informed of important events, build circles of support, love, encouragement, and care, provide a space for members to seek and trust advice from others.

This study provides a great deal of great information about building and maintaining a strong family.  Which ones do you feel like you most connect with? Are there any that you already do well?  Which ones might be great to add to your family’s New Year’s goals for 2018?

For more information about this article, go to www.everyfamilymatters.org
#stronger_family_2018

Friday, December 22, 2017

Practice the Gratitude Attitude over the Holidays

By: Ellen O’Kelley, GRANDcares Site Coordinator, Big Island, Hawai’i

I have always loved this time of year.  Even in Hawaii you see and feel the signs of the Holiday season all around.  We may not have snow, but we do have beautifully lit homes, glistening oceans in every shade of blue you can imagine, stores filled to the brim with all the greatest toys and oh those tech gadgets.  Families (“ohana” in Hawai’ian) start to gather, the cooking and baking begins, children practice for their holiday pageants, the party invitations start coming, presents to mail, cards to send, perfect cookies for Santa and the list keeps growing.

For 0ver 15 years I would get bronchitis and laryngitis sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas lasting until January.  Any way you look at it the holidays can be stressful leading us to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, sometimes causing illness and depression.   A very special Doctor shared with me the concept of Attitude of Gratitude and I haven’t had bronchitis for 20 years.   Go figure.

Robert Emmons, PHD defines gratitude as “a sense of wonder, thoughtfulness and appreciation for life,” Recent research indicates that gratitude is good for the giver.  For some, gratitude is a way of life, for others it can be learned.  To boost gratitude focus on the positive, write your thoughts down in a gratitude journal and make a gratitude visit to those you care about.

The idea that gratitude can be healing is not new.  Dr. Whaley, Kaiser Psychiatrist, has found,” people who are more grateful exercise more, sleep better and have better immune function.  Practicing gratitude strengthens relationships, and protects against envy, materialism, depression and substance abuse.  Gratitude is also a source of resilience in the face of our daily stresses as well as a source of healing after personal tragedies.

This week I had the pleasure of meeting a very special Grandmother who despite very challenging circumstances embodied this concept.  I’m sure she didn’t realize it but I was reminded that an Attitude of Gratitude can be better than any medication you can try.  I think I will have a bronchitis free Christmas for at least another 20 years.