In the past several days we have seen staggering demonstrations within U.S. mainland cities as communities rise up to protest racism and police violence. These recent events have added stress to our communities during an already stressful pandemic. Recently we wrote about Mental Health Awareness Month and we encouraged individuals experiencing stress to seek out resources to heal during these emotional times. We at Neighborhood Place extend our support to communities struggling for equality and struggling to thrive. You are heard and seen.
Neighborhood Place of Puna has a long history of helping families in our community find the resources necessary to support parents and caregivers in raising healthy keiki. We work with families to prevent child abuse and neglect leading to family separation, and we operate a homeless shelter for struggling families. We understand the interplay between poverty, stress, and abuse and work to address these community issues. So what of violence our children experience outside of the home? And what of historical trauma that has impacted our keiki and ‘ohana today?
While these images of Hawaiian families have changed over the decades the central issues in our community still remain. Traumatic “sweeps” of homeless encampments still happen regularly state-wide without addressing needs for living wages and affordable housing, young children are disproportionately homeless in Hawai’i and Hawaiian communities are still disproportionately affected by housing instability, economic injustice, mass incarceration, and negative health impacts.
The footage of this Waimanalo ‘ohana is a still raw reminder of land rights and instability faced by Hawai’i communities today. It illustrates how such conflicts may also deeply traumatize our community’s keiki. Today, we work diligently to support housing and economic justice and to understand the impacts and challenges of systemic and historical trauma.
While protests on the mainland are very different from those happening locally and for some are less visible, we are all interconnected in the struggle to live and thrive, and we all seek to bring justice and equality to our communities. Neighborhood Place of Puna recognizes the historical struggle for fair and equal treatment, and we acknowledge the impacts of violence, injustice, and inequality have on our communities.
Are you a family struggling to have an age-appropriate conversation about racism? Check out this article, “How to Talk To Your Kids About Racism and the Protests” and these “10-Tips” from Embrace Race.
If you or your keiki are emotionally impacted by recent events we offer these recommendations-
1) Consider taking a “news fast”- Unplug, read, go outside, spend quality time, work on creative projects. Excessive news footage can be negative for both for adults and for keiki, especially with repeated images of violence. Check your na’au and how it impacts your stress levels when viewing different forms of media. If you are attending a march or protest, especially with keiki, be sure to educate yourself on safety precautions and what to expect.
2) Go easy on yourself and others around you, especially children. Whatever your views or reaction to these events are, stress is universal and can manifest for different people in different ways. Children especially can exhibit unexpected behaviors or react differently to stress than adults. If you need help managing stress, consider signing up for our free Family Strengthening services or look into professional mental health supports. Try this free counseling resource if you are uninsured.
3) Direct your energy in a positive way. Do you have a volunteer project you would like to do? Is there a charity you want to give to? Do you want to take extra time to become better informed and pass this on to your keiki? Are you and your keiki giving back in some way as a learning experience? Taking our pain and transmuting it to advocacy and community work can be a healing outlet for unrest.
Today Neighborhood Place of Puna offers material community support through our two small shelters, Hale ‘Iki for families and Hale Hanakahi for the elderly and immunocompromised during Covid-19. We also provide our main services of in-home family strengthening for parenting skills development to prevent abuse and neglect. We know that the struggles families have can be complex and the work of justice is never-ending. We each play a part in creating positive social change.
To our community members: do not lose faith, do not give up, and do not ever think that you are alone.
Contact 965-5550 if you or your family are in need of family strengthening or housing resources, or visit neighborhoodplace.org/resources for other support.