- Coming up next on "Black Issues Forum," children who experience high trauma scenarios are studied to be much more sensitive than adults.
And how they process those emotions can open them up to future damage.
- If you were a child who's raised in an environment of chaos, of uncertainty, of violence, of neglect, you are being wired?
- [Oprah] Differently.
- And typically in a way that makes you more vulnerable.
- Our guests join me in the discussion right after this.
- [Narrator] "Black Issues Forum" is a production of PBS North Carolina, with support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
Quality public television is made possible through the financial contributions of viewers like you, who invite you to join them in supporting PBS NC.
[upbeat music] ♪ - Welcome to "Black Issues Forum," I'm Kenia Thompson.
With so much news of devastating events in the last 20 years, from 9/11 to an increasing amount of mass killings and school shootings, and of course, most recently the Covid 19 pandemic.
We're seeing a generation of young people who grew up in a very turbulent society, one with uncertainty and more and more of our youth seeking mental health services.
Trauma affects who we are today and can play a very large role in our healing or our inability to move forward in the future.
Trauma can refer to a range of experiences including abuse, neglect, violence, loss, and other significant stressors.
And when children experience traumatic events it can affect their physical, emotional, and cognitive development, as well as have long lasting effects into adulthood.
So let's dive right into the conversation and welcome our guests for today.
I wanna welcome Tai Caldwell, founder of Hike 2 Connect and CEO of Tai Connects LLC, Amber RichBook, author, speaker, and life personal coach.
And Sharlene Provilus, founder and CEO of Write.Speak.Inspire.
Welcome to the show ladies.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
- That was a tough topic.
Much very necessary though.
Tai, I wanna start with you.
Let's talk about some of the social events that we've seen in the past two decades that I mentioned.
How has that impacted all of us, number one, and then more specifically what can that impact do to our youth?
- Oh goodness.
When you're talking about all of us, we have seen such an uptick in anxiety.
When I was a child, born in '79, of course coming up in the eighties we didn't hear the word the word anxiety so much.
But now it is common conversation.
So anxiety is a lot of us because of certain things that have happened, may have trust issues where we don't trust those who are supposed to be in charge of our safety.
There is a sense of uncertainty that is so great among the older and the younger generation because it seems like our world has been turned upside down especially during the pandemic.
Our young people are dealing with things that I would not have imagined when I was their age.
So I'm seeing more with suicidal ideations, eating disorders, depression.
And it is not just our teens, even younger than that our tweens are experiencing that.
So it's just a lot going on in society with everything that's been taking place over the last couple of decades.
- And you know, you mentioned all of these diagnoses and I remember telling myself few years ago, it just feels like there's a lot of diagnoses coming out, but you know I wasn't quite connecting it with all the social impact that we've seen, Amber what are some of the signs that parents can look out for that indicate that there are some potential negative impacts from these things that are happening on our kids?
- Absolutely, so the first thing that I would encourage parents to do is to take a look at themselves and to introspect and develop their own self-awareness.
And I encourage that so that when you're looking for signs, it's not a projection.
You're not projecting what you think your child is experiencing.
A lot of the times you can attribute it to a child being reserved, a child not being interested in engaging with you, or even with others or with their peers.
A lot of the times I think silence speaks volumes.
And so look at behaviors, right?
Not necessarily jumping to conclusions.
How are their eating patterns?
What are the types of foods that they reach for?
What are their peer relationships?
So really paying attention to your child.
- Yeah, yeah, paying attention is key.
And you know, I love what you said about introspectively looking in as parents 'cause sometimes we don't realize what we're projecting as well and that can impact our kids.
Charlene, what are some of the safe ways to intervene when we do see some of the things that Tai and Amber have spoken about when trauma and poor coping mechanisms are present?
What are some safe ways to intervene there?
- Yeah, absolutely.
I think one of the most important things is to be aware, right?
The more that we know how to recognize the signs but also how to interact and have conversations with people who've experienced trauma.
That's kind of the starting place.
In order to have a safe on-ramp to being able to support someone, understanding what those signs are is incredibly important.
And then I think engaging in conversation in safe spaces, creating a safe space for those conversations to take place.
And then offering opportunities to be able to support them with appropriate resources.
So all of those are safe ways to be able to intervene with someone who's actually experienced trauma, especially if they're in a situation where they're not realizing that part of their behavior is being influenced by trauma that they've previously experienced.
- Yeah, and you know, back to Amber's point about how parents interact with the kids and then to your point about understanding that trauma, I found myself as a parent always asking what's wrong and that's making the assumption that something is wrong.
And it could be, and that automatically shut my kids down.
So I had to reverse that conversation, that language and realize that I had to give my kids what they needed and not what I thought they needed.
Tai, is it fair to assume that the more and more we see pandemic and epidemic like issues that will continue to see a decline in mental health stability?
Or do you feel that because so many outlets now are offering this as a solution that maybe we'll start to see stabilization.
- If we stop being reactionary.
[laughs] That's one of the things that I've seen that has happened.
A crisis happens, and then we react.
As opposed to being proactive and educating people and having that common conversation, is mental health should be a common conversation.
The same way that we have physical health, it's the same way that we have mental health.
Talking about the difference between that and mental illness because a lot of times people use that interchangeably.
- So what is the, define the two, health and mental illness.
What is that?
- So with mental health, you're talking about your state of wellbeing, the state of your mental or wellbeing, where mental illness is a diagnosed condition.
And again, a lot of times we use that interchangeably, especially in the black community.
One of the examples that I use is that someone may say mental health, and we automatically hear mental illness.
And then we think mental illness, we think of someone being in a straitjacket, bouncing off the walls.
As opposed to the fact that mental health is the same way we have different types of blood pressure, whether it's high, whether it's normal, whether it's low.
Our mental health can be in a good place.
It can be in a not so good place, but we can do things to improve it.
And there are also things that can worsen it.
So if we continue to have conversations about it on a regular basis, and again, not be reactionary, have the conversation, talk about the tools, equip people on things that can benefit their mental health, we can see some differences in the state of being globally.
- Yeah, yeah.
Amber, I remember growing up, I kind of laugh at this because I would have back pain, or I would say I'm having a bad day, and my parents would say, "You don't know what back pain is.
[laughs] You don't know what a bad day is."
But I felt discredited, right?
And a lot of times, I think, parents, we discount our kids and their understanding of world issues and/or personal problems.
How does this further perpetuate these issues?
- Yeah, so this is good.
Another point that I do want to make and highlight is as melanated people, trauma is passed down genetically just as much as response or reactivity, our emotional intelligence, all those different things.
And so this discredation of our emotions and our feelings and our thoughts becomes this vicious cycle, right?
And so it's up to now parents to choose to break that cycle.
And what does that look like?
Really listening to understand our children, allowing them to have a voice to speak, and affirming their thoughts and helping them navigate through the conversation.
Not necessarily putting words in their mouth, but okay, how did this happen?
What was the process that you were experiencing?
What was going on before this result?
Okay, with this feeling, let's talk about these feelings.
And then affirming them, right?
I see why you feel that way.
I can understand why you feel that way.
I apologize that you feel that way.
And then sometimes asking, "How can I support you?"
Because again, sometimes we try to love on our children and nurture our children and support them in ways that we think will benefit them, but giving them the opportunity to develop their emotional intelligence, to assess themselves and be introspective as, "Oh, I just need you to listen, Mom, or I just need a hug right now.
Or I would like your feedback right now."
- Yeah, I love that.
I love that method.
As we've already stated, childhood trauma, it's nothing new, but especially in the black community, it's been around for a while.
Black childhood trauma, as some coin it, seems as though it's linked to traumatic experiences that black children may experience due to their race, ethnicity, and the systemic racism that they face in their daily lives.
Black children may experience trauma as a direct result or indirect exposure to racial discrimination, prejudice, and bias.
Sharlene, coming back to you, how do we talk about these things?
What do the conversations look like, and how do we begin healing when we talk about systemic issues that cause the trauma?
- Yeah, I think the first part is really just owning your story, right?
I always say it's more important to own your story rather than run away from it.
If we're going to approach healing, the first step is to recognize that there actually exists a problem.
There's something going wrong.
There's a need for healing, a need for restoration.
And so that looks like, very simply, just one doing the work ourselves, right?
Saying, "What are my lived experience?
What have I experienced?
How has it impacted me?"
but then also go on a step further to go into our community and ask, "Okay, what are the stories that you've experienced?
What are your life experiences?"
And putting that together, really looking at it and saying, "Okay, this is what's really happening.
This is what's going on, and we need to be looking for opportunities to be able to move forward in a way that's healthy for everyone."
That's from a community standpoint, but also from an individual standpoint as well.
- All stories matter.
As a storyteller, you know that.
I agree wholeheartedly with that.
Tai, you've got an amazing program, Hike 2 Connect.
I'd love to hear more about that program, what that enables youth to do, and how you help them in this space.
- I am so excited about our Hike 2 Connect program.
It is an immersive hiking experience.
I tell people it is not simply a hike.
When you go out, you were talking about connecting to yourself, deep proportions of yourself, connecting to nature, connecting to other people.
So when we're out there on the trail, we're teaching resilience skills.
And resilience is simply, how do you withstand or bounce back from difficult life events?
We teach those skills out there on the trail.
So when you're coming out there, you are learning how nature affects your blood pressure, how it affects your wellness.
You are going to sense in with your body, because a lot of times we go through life on a regular basis, and we understand pain, but we don't pay attention to how our bodies feel when it's well, especially our young people.
Again, it's not a common conversation that we have with them about what's going on with your body?
How your body affects your mental ability.
How your state of being affects how you connect to other people and your relationships.
So when our young people are out there, their feedback has been, "I can breathe."
- That's beautiful.
- That was one of the biggest things that stuck with me on one of our initial hikes.
I can breathe.
I disconnected from social media.
I'm not worried about a like.
I'm not worried about somebody's comments.
For them to be able to have a safe space to connect with other people, for them to have a caring adult out there that is there to hear them, there to be with them.
And going back to what Amber said, when we are out there on the hike, I and the other coaches, we are not just attempting to support them the way we want to be supported.
We're paying attention to the way they want to be supported on the trail.
And we go beyond the trail as well.
We host workshops and other community events outside of that that promotes wellness, overall wellness, mental wellness, physical wellness and connection.
We're all about community.
That's the big thing at Heights To Connect.
- And I love it because there's this stereotype that Black people don't hike and what is that about?
- I was raised in the country, raised in a small town, Bunn, North Carolina, didn't even break 400 people.
So we were always outside and running through the woods, but no one talked to us about intentional hiking.
Being in nature was just natural.
But we did not do hiking unless you were in the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts.
That wasn't something that we talked about in my community.
And in a number of communities of my Black peers, cousins, everyone else, that's not something we talked about.
I started intentionally hiking at the beginning of the pandemic.
I did a little bit of hiking in 2012, 2014 when I worked with adjudicated youth because I just needed to get them out of the four walls and I knew how nature helped me.
But intentionally, it began at the beginning of the pandemic.
- I love that, I love that.
And there's something to be said about grounding with nature, being outside.
And then, I loved what you said about creating a new normalcy of how wellness feels and that's so important.
Amber, do we see African American children in therapy as much as we should or is there a significant difference from other races and cultures?
- So this is a great question and I think that I'm gonna start by, one of the challenges is our comparative nature to other races and what we do and what we don't do and those numbers.
But the fact is, because of the stigma around mental health and mental illness as Ty shared, a lot of parents don't put their children in therapy because a lot of parents themselves don't consider therapy for themselves.
So what that looks like, not being reactive and saying, "Okay, this traumatic experience happened to my child.
Let me put them in therapy."
But inserting them in that experience the same way we go to a physical doctor for our physical wellness, being proactive because we all know on our journey from childhood to adulthood, there are some conversations we may not feel comfortable or ready enough to talk about with our mom or our dad.
And so, this is solicited feedback, this is solicited guidance, but also that can help strengthen the relationship between the parent and the child as well.
So definitely, I'm an advocate for therapy.
- Indeed, yeah.
I think some of the fear that a lot of parents feel when they put their child in therapy is that they're gonna have to confront some things and that sometimes can be the hindrance.
- Yeah, can I say, that's where it comes back to that introspection.
And one of the things that I teach people is when we heal ourselves, we are healing 16 generations before us and 16 generations after us.
And that's where I mentioned the aspect of trauma being in our DNA.
Science has proved that, genetically, trauma is passed down through families and it's a cycle, but we have to choose.
And Ty also said intentional hiking.
This comes with about with us being and choosing to be intentional and giving our children, ourselves and our children permission to live a life of freedom, freeing in our emotions, freeing our mind, freeing our health.
So yeah, I just wanted to point that out.
- No, thank you, that's important.
Charlene, you have been someone who's experienced childhood trauma personally through the foster care system.
What ways can government make trauma impact less impactful?
- Yeah, this is a great question.
I think it's worth mentioning that, right now, there's almost 400,000 kids that are in foster care, right?
80% of those children, those students, are dealing with significant mental health issues.
And what's even more devastating to me is that if those 400,000 kids, if they were all to age out of foster care, statistically, 50% of them would either end up homeless or incarcerated.
And we know that homelessness is one of those issues that just further exacerbates everything else that they're dealing with, mental health issues, crime, violence, et cetera.
So when I think about how the government and how agencies can really help this situation, make the impact of trauma less impactful, to your point, is really just providing appropriate support.
More support needs to be given to organizations and entities who are doing the work, who are identifying what really is considered an invisible population.
Most of those students, we don't know who they are, we don't know where they are and we, furthermore, don't know how to support them.
So organizations that are doing that work to bring awareness need additional support, organizations that are working towards mitigating the housing insecurities that these students may be facing once they actually age out of the program, providing support while they're in foster care, but even more so providing support once they age out of foster care, I think is really significant.
My story in particular, I've had the benefit of being adopted, right?
And having that experience was significant for me.
But there's so many students who are not able to get that opportunity.
So support needs to be given, financial support, legislative support needs to be given to be able to support those students while they're in foster care, but then even more so when they're not.
- Support is extremely important.
But I've found a lot of times that people don't know where to go for the support.
Ty, so you think that there's enough education around the options that people have?
Really quickly, we've got maybe about 30 seconds left in this topic.
- I would say that it goes back to making it common language.
There are plenty of resources that are out there concerning support when it comes to mental health or connecting to organizations that can help our young people.
But if we're not having this conversation on a daily basis and we keep reacting, it's still going to prove difficult.
- Yeah, yeah.
Nice way to sum that up.
Addressing the long-term impact of trauma on youth will be one critical way to begin breaking the patterns and generational trauma that we've seen as of late.
Strategies like ongoing therapy and support, family and community engagement and building positive coping skills will be critical to the process.
- Tai, back to you again.
What are three things parents can do to help their child or children navigate some of the effects of trauma?
- First thing I'll do is go back to what Amber said: self-awareness, introspective.
The first thing is not projecting your issues on your children, knowing what's going on with you.
If you have some unresolved trauma, it can show up in your relationship with your children.
So, if you find out that something's going on with them, you might be a little reactionary or very reactionary.
So, that's the first thing.
What's going on with you?
Second, non-judgemental listening.
Our young people are paying attention to our body language, our words that we use.
If we're really listening, not messing with our phones while they're talking to us, knowing that what they're saying to you, what they're sharing, they're not getting ready to hear it from the aunt, the uncle, the cousin, at church, or whatever the faith-based organization may be.
But knowing that you're listening to them and that you're validating their experience, that is going to be huge.
And the third is a combination: being transparent and connecting them to appropriate professional help, if needed.
So, when I say being transparent, letting them know, hey, I don't have all the answers.
I don't know what it is to deal with that.
Or I do know what it is to deal with that, but maybe I did or did not have the right support.
I want to make sure that you get the help that you stand in need of and the support that you need.
If we need to reach out to professional resources, that is okay, you're not broken.
There's not something wrong with you.
So, those are the three top things that I would say.
- Good points.
Amber, what are some daily tools that kids can use to help reduce anxiety and stress?
- Breathing; breathing is like one of the number one things.
So, as my children were growing up, we try to, like toddlers, when they're having a moment, let them have their moment.
And I say smell the flowers and blow out the candles.
Let's smell the flowers and blow out the candles.
Also, there are a lot of tools, applications on your phone that are meditation apps.
And I use that.
They're five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes.
And I do a five-minute one with my girls in the morning, and a five-minute one before they go to bed, teaching them to be in this moment to breathe.
So, breathing is the number one thing that I encourage other parents, adults even, just really take that deep breath and feel what it feels like to take that deep breath.
And then feel what it feels like to make that exhale.
- Yeah, it's funny you say that 'cause you're like, we all breathe, but you don't realize how much we're breathing incorrectly.
Sharlene, about a little less than two minutes here, share some methods of communication kids and parents can use.
We've already talked about some of them, but how do we begin that conversation that helps promote healing?
- Yeah, I think one of the very practical ways you can do it is through what I call chat and play, right?
It's just having conversations, really intentional conversations, prompted conversations, while you're engaging with activities with your child.
That could be art activities, which I'm a fan of.
I'm an artist.
I think art is such a significant way that you can actually open up and spark conversation.
It could be as simple as writing letters together, having, you know, really it's having these consistent, what I call, compassionate conversations where you're creating a space where both the child and the parent is able to ask and answer questions to get to know one another.
And the more that you have that, the more opportunities you have it, the more you'll find that, especially in my experience with working with children, is that kids begin to open up.
Maybe not the first time, maybe not the second time.
- But the more consistent you are in having those opportunities, you know, without the pressure, right?
So, we're doing this while we play, we're doing this while we're going to school.
We're having these conversations while we're having a meal together.
That's the way to really begin it in a safe space where students feel like they have a chance to be able, and kids feel like they have a chance to be able to really open up.
- That's great.
So many great tips.
Obviously, there's a lot more to talk about, but we're at the end of our time.
I just wanna thank Sharlene Provilus, Tai Caldwell, and Amber RichBook for being here with us today.
And we invite you to engage with us on Instagram using the hashtag #BlackIssuesForum.
You can also find our full episodes on pbsnc.org/blackissuesforum, and on the PBS video app.
Thank you for watching, I'm Kenia Thompson.
I'll see you next time.
[upbeat music] ♪ [upbeat music continues] ♪ - [Narrator] Black Issues Forum is a production of PBS North Carolina with support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
Quality public television is made possible through the financial contributions of viewers like you, who invite you to join them in supporting PBS NC.