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Jodie Knott, Ph.D.
Director and Licensed Psychologist
Quest Therapeutic Camps of Southern California
Using Understanding to Move Forward and Heal After the Election
I wasn’t originally planning on writing about the election. We actually already wrote about neuroplasticity and gratitude to fit with Thanksgiving, which we will put out next month since the research regarding neuroplasticity is so exciting. There have just been several things about the election regarding psychology and how to best support our kids that has been on my mind a lot lately.
My hope is that this newsletter is helpful and informative to you and received in the way it is intended which is to bring understanding and hope to help children and families move forward regardless of their specific political party, candidate or beliefs. I feel that there is often a push-pull as a psychologist of how and when we voice our personal opinions, how we work to empower our clients, and how to negotiate these complexities at times.
There is no question that this has been a unique election, filled with emotion on both sides with many people expressing their passion in many complex issues from the economy, national security, immigration, race, religion, gender equality, and sexual assaults across this country. Unfortunately, this election has been polarizing and traumatizing for many children and adults for a variety of reasons across this country.
There are several things I know to be true for myself given my experiences with people and history of studying psychology:
1. I have spent time with people who voted red, blue, and purple and deep down they are good people who have more in common than they have different. They are people of different races, ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses and they value many of the same things including education, safety and wanting the US to be stronger and better for our children.
2. From studies in the field of psychology I keep thinking about how:
“One morning after King’s assassination, teacher Jane Elliott informed her class that they were going to change the way things were done. Blue-eyed children were given pride of place in the classroom. They were given extra recess time, a second helping of food at lunch, and they were allowed to sit at the front of the classroom and participate in class discussions. Brown-eyed children, meanwhile, were forced to sit at the back of the class and were more severely reprimanded for the same type of behavior that blue-eyed children got away with. Elliott even made up a scientific ‘fact’ that the melanin that caused blue eyes had been found to be linked with a higher intelligence.
The results were stunning. By the end of the day, the blue-eyed children viciously put down the brown-eyed children. Not only that, but the quiet, struggling blue-eyed students did much better on class assignments, and the louder, successful brown-eyed students did not do as well. The next day, Elliott reversed the exercise, promoting brown eyes as better than blue eyes.
Much of the same results happened, though the brown-eyed students didn’t taunt their blue-eyed classmates quite as viciously. By the end of the second day, when the exercise ended, the blue-eyed and brown-eyed children hugged and cried with each other. A class of all-white students had learned what racism felt like.”
I think I keep thinking about this study since we as parents, educators, and mental health professionals can do so much to set the tone regarding how our children learn and understand about others around them (even in times of challenge for our country).
3. The American Psychological Association sent out a letter this week calling for psychologists to unite by “working for what each of us believes to be good and true, and to provide hope to our diverse communities that we can, in many cases find common ground. As our social psychology tells us, we must listen not only to those who agree with us but also to those who do not, and we need to work to understand each other more fully. It is a time for all of us to clarify what we stand for, to stay true to our values, and model civility and hope for the future.” I felt that this was a positive message, not just for psychologists but for everyone.
I know in my office and also for some of my colleagues we have also been focusing on trauma more frequently in recent months as well as feelings of fear and panic since this election has been so polarizing and traumatic for people on both sides. I know I have had many people talking to me about election stress, distressing things that other children have said to their children, and about how hurtful things said in the campaign have brought up old hurts and traumas. My hope is the more that we can be sensitive about this and truly work to really see others around us we can move toward healing.
I am also reminded about how this stress can affect whole families. At the CHADD conference this week, Doug Granger from UCI, was talking about some of his research related to how parents’ cortisol levels are related to their children. Granger then went on to make the point how powerful it can be when parents manage their stress levels since this can directly positively impact the level of stress their children are expressing as well.
So, where do we go from here to help our kids?
1. There are several articles available right now about how to talk to your children about important topics such as the election. I recommend that if you are struggling you can look here for some guidance regarding finding some tips that resonate for you.
2. Manage your emotions around your children. Be mindful about what media you are exposing your children to and what adult conversations they may either be included in or in earshot of. Pick times when you are calm to talk to your child to share about “teachable moments” that are strategic and of your design. There have been many opportunities for learning recently and there will continue to be more.
3. Know your values and live them out. Be a light and a positive example for your child, where you live those values. This looks different for everyone and you need to reflect and decide for yourself what your values are. For me personally, my faith is absolutely my cornerstone. I was taught and believe that I am to love God and love others and I will continue to do this.
- What are your cornerstones?
- What are your family values?
- What messages do you want to purposefully share with children?
- What are the conversations, thoughts, feelings, etc. that are for adult ears only at this point until you are ready to give a “teachable moment?”
School Year Programming
School year therapy groups are ten-week afternoon therapeutic groups that are designed to provide therapy by specifically targeting individualized goals for our campers.
A minimum of one hour includes therapeutic activities that heavily target the development of social skills, emotion regulation, and positive behaviors, while the next hour focuses on further skill development by providing a variety of experiential activities as part of a group to create opportunities to observe the child in a natural setting and intervene to facilitate change. Some quarters provide a special emphasis to improve skills, while other quarters have a more general offering based on the campers’ interests and often include programming in areas such as video game making, drama, art, movie making, etc.
Winter Group Dates are:
January 4th – March 8th
Wednesday Evenings 5:30 to 7:30
at the Central Library in Huntington Beach
Quest’s intensive summer program offers 7 weeks of programming (6 weeks of day camp and 1 week of residential). The summer program includes individualized behavior plans, group therapy, occupational therapy, a social thinking curriculum, mindfulness activities, yoga, soccer, games in the park, and field trips (beach, boomers, rock climbing, ropes course, bowling, etc.) to create a fun and engaging, therapeutic camp experience for children.
Weekly parent meetings are also included. The summer program has been found across multiple studies to significantly reduce hyperactivity, impulsivity, aggression, and inattention, while improving peer relations, family relations, athletic competency, behavioral control and self-esteem. Quest has also been found to improve social awareness, social cognition, social communication, and social problems.
Summer Camp Dates are:
June 26 through August 10th