This post is made possible with support from the American Academy of Pediatrics through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All opinions are my own.
This year has been hard for all of us. We weren’t prepared to handle this health crisis, and it has been tough to be isolated from the world. We all have been learning to cope in different ways, but having a few people we can lean on has been priceless.
I have been working long hours in the hospital, and one of my goals has been making sure my son has been in contact with his support system so we can help prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). In a nutshell, ACEs are potentially traumatic experiences during childhood that can affect life-quality as an adult. A few months ago, I shared with you a blog post explaining ACEs and the importance of finding at least three people for your child to help prevent ACEs.
While I was helping my son find his three people, I realized I could myself become part of someone’s three. So I did. I reached out to my son’s friend. She had been having some health issues, and I wanted to make sure she knew she could talk to me and confide in me. Since then, she has been texting me questions and asking for academic advice. She is a very shy teenager, and she recently told me she loves to cook but doesn’t know how to bake.
Since the holidays are almost here, I thought about doing something nice for her to show her she can rely on me. I want her to understand that being here for her doesn’t always mean having tough conversations but that she can reach out even if it is just because she wants to learn how to make some cookies.
Because we want to keep our homes safe, we will not be meeting in person. I am making her one of those DIY “cookies in a jar” crafts and dropping it at her house with all the things needed to bake the cookies (baking sheets, cooling rack, spatulas, and more). Doesn’t it look cool?
While teaching her how to bake cookies and giving her some baking tools, I am hoping she opens up a little bit more to me. I remember that when I was growing up, my best friend's mom (who was part of my three) taught me how to bake some cookies, and that is a long-lasting memory I have. I am hoping I can do the same for my son’s friend. Getting closer to teenagers is hard sometimes, but we all can find something they like to be able to become part of their three. They need to know that they have safe, stable, and nurturing relationships.
If you are part of someone’s three, think about a way of making them feel special this holiday season. Do they have a new phone? Maybe get them a pop socket that will make them think about you every time they hold their phone. How about a key chain or even a Christmas ornament? Think inexpensive gifts or homemade, but having in mind what they like. The gift should be something they like, so they know you have been listening.
You do not need to make it about the gift, but more about building the connection with the person. As you can see in the infographic below, there are a few ways to connect with teenagers. I have chosen the baking kit as a gift because this will allow me to connect with my son’s friend. We will be able to talk while we are baking together over zoom. As we are baking, we can talk about school, bullying situations or even home issues. The important part is to be able to have a bonding moment where the teen feels safe to talk about their life. It is also a good way to learn them know you are available when they need to talk to you.
Being part of someone’s three to help prevent ACEs is easy. It doesn’t take up a lot of your time and could make a big difference in someone’s life.
If you have read this far, I have some homework questions for you:
If you answered no to any of the above questions, this is my holiday gift to you: “Go find your three and become part of someone’s three. You will be glad you did both!”