The power of unity: Grant helps local organization address mental health

Published 6:31 am Saturday, December 14, 2019

By Jayne Gibson

Director of Austin Aspires

In April, 2019, a collaborative of several Austin community organizations, including the Community Learning Center, Woodson, Pacelli Catholic Schools, the Parenting Resource Center, Wee Learning Center, Austin Public Library, and Austin Aspires, was awarded a grant from the PrairieCare Child and Family Fund to help support healthy emotional development in our youngest learners with the implementation of Dr. Becky Bailey’s Conscious Discipline practices throughout our organizations.

Jayne Gibson, Executive Director, Austin Aspires

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Conscious Discipline is a tool that empowers parents and adults with the mental shifts and practical skills needed to ease the negative effects of stress on children. Childhood stress is a big deal. In a 2013 study, about 60 percent of adults reported childhood trauma including verbal, physical or sexual abuse, or family dysfunction such as incarceration, mental illness or substance abuse (Gerwin), all of which have the effect of causing tremendous stress among our youngest learners. Some reports suggest the stress level is even higher in our children today.

As adults, we understand that every day life evokes a variety of emotions. We accept that situations will bring us happiness, joy, anger, sadness, frustration and many others. However, as parents, we often forget to talk to our children about their feelings and appropriate ways to express them.

Additionally, as adults, we respond to a child’s behavior and range of emotions differently depending on our own childhood experiences. For example, if a parent was raised in a home where it was seen as a sign of weakness for a boy to cry, the parent may punish or berate his/her young son for crying. Brain research tells us that we react in the ways we are most familiar and in the ways that have been modeled for us.

Conscious Discipline helps provide the tools to help us understand that as the adult in the situation, we need to take a step back and find out why our son is crying, what he is trying to tell us, and how can we empower him to understand his options. Adults must learn to interact in ways that promote mutual respect and being responsive to the needs of others. That is the key to healthy relationships. When adults model this behavior for children, as well as engage children in meaningful conversations in safe environments, children are set up to better understand and handle the stressors of life.

Receiving this grant has provided an opportunity for multiple agencies to work together toward a common goal. Sharing resources, knowledge and learning together, these agencies have made each other stronger and better equipped to meet the needs of our children and families.