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Goodbye to ‘I can’t,’ hello to ‘I can’

Teens and parents of teens, we are listening!

Youth voices are important to us. We are living in an era in which many children, adolescents and their families are exposed to traumatic life events. A traumatic event is one that threatens injury, death or the physical integrity of self or others and also causes horror, terror or helplessness at the time it occurs.

Traumatic events include physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, community and school violence, teen dating violence, suicides and other traumatic losses.

According to the 2008 American Psychological Association’s Presidential Task Force on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Trauma in Children and Adolescents, community samples indicate more than two thirds of children report experiencing a traumatic event by age 16.

Many of the reactions displayed by children and adolescents who have been exposed to traumatic events are similar or identical to behaviors that mental health professionals see on a daily basis in their practices. These include: sleep disturbance, nightmares, sadness, loss of interest in normal activities, reduced concentration, decline in schoolwork, anger, somatic complaints, irritability, among other behaviors that create impaired functioning in the family, peer group or school.

On a positive note, individual, family, cultural and community strengths can facilitate recovery and promote resilience. Social, community and governmental support networks are critical for recovery. Coping strategies and problem solving skills are essential in navigating real-life challenges and extreme stress and help our teens change their negative, “I can’t” thinking into positive and affirming “I can!”

In order to provide teens with a safe, confidential and caring place to work on the challenges and stressors so prevalent in their lives, it is this Youth Violence Prevention Education Program coordinator’s pleasure to announce new Teen Support Groups that will begin February 2010.

One group will meet every Monday evening at the Pagosa Springs Youth Center from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dinner is included. The other will be held at an additional location, on the second and fourth Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Dinner is also included at this meeting.

Call the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program for locations at 264-9075.

These support groups will provide teens with ideas and activities to reinforce healthy relationship building skills, and learn how to become positive peer mentors through role-modeling, drama, art, poetry, the media and journaling. Several anti-violence programs provide excellent curriculums and materials that will be integrated into the meetings, together with group discussion about the many facets of violence and relationship dynamics that our young people face nearly every day.

As the Youth Violence Prevention Education coordinator, I have been actively working with young people for the past six years, at Pagosa Springs High School, in the community, and while employed with the San Juan National Forest, Pagosa Ranger District office, providing service learning projects for teens in the field of conservation education. As past Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program board president, and current secretary of the Promoting Prevention Coalition, I have a passion and desire to reach out to young people by helping them develop resiliency and coping skills by actively learning how to work through their personal life challenges.

Teen Support Groups are sponsored by the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program’s Youth Violence Prevention Education Program, a nonprofit agency that promotes the belief that all people have the right to live free from violence by providing support and advocacy services for victims and education for youth and our community.

For more information and group locations, call 264-9075.