Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Flash from the Past that Continues to be a Part of My CMH Advocacy

Several years ago, I created a healthy relationship curriculum for high school students that was called SMART Education (Saving Marriages And Relationships Together). In the therapy setting, I found that I was teaching the same concepts time and time again regarding relationship skills. It was apparent that there was a lack of relationship education that could be solved quite easily, and so I set out to change that! With the help of a Federal Grant in our area called Safe Schools/Healthy Students, I was able to teach the curriculum to 7 different school districts for several years. However, when funding disappears, dishearteningly so does the opportunity for education. The curriculum is still available from the Illinois Baptist Children's Home and can be implemented very effectively by anyone ready to make a difference for our youth.
So for several years, I have drifted away from relationship education to a more broad sense of mental health with my children's mental health advocacy. But today, I got a chance to unite the two of them and it was a powerful combination in helping our youth with mental health and relationship issues. I had the opportunity to "teach" during the Eldorado Friend of MHINDS meeting today (during the students' lunch time) and I was able to share some of those concepts that stirred the creation of the curriculum many years ago.
Ever heard of a genogram? That was the focus of our discussion today. It's a tool that helps you create a visual representation of the family patterns and dynamics that have been present for years. It's one thing to kind of know in your mind what has developed in family relationships over the years, but it's a completely different thing when you put it down on paper. Seeing the diagram of your history provides insight as to the underlying ideas about relationships that your family has passed down. If you are aware of the good and bad, you are much better equipped to continue making better choices for yourself. But the key to using a genogram is that you must understand that you are still in control no matter what. Just because a negative pattern exists it doesn't mean destiny for you -- unless you try to ignore it completely! High school students love this activity because it really is ALL about THEM. It's exciting to see them embrace the concept and use it for their continual mental health growth!
Seeing the two of these advocacy areas come together as one was an uplifting experience for me today! It prompts me to begin thinking again about how to get this curriculum out there to our youth who need this information. Let me know if you have any thoughts about accomplishing this... We all have to work together to make changes!

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