By Kat Brown
Community Engagement Specialist at SAY San Diego Military Family Collaborative
Mother’s Day is coming soon. As a military spouse, my husband has missed more holidays and birthdays than I count. But somehow his missing Mother’s Day seems like an especially cruel slap in the face. This is supposed to be my day—a day dedicated to pampering and breakfast in bed and maybe a couple hours of quiet time to myself. Not a day to again be the sole caregiver; holding tight to my daughter as we both wish for Daddy to come home.
Mother’s Day is bittersweet for so many military spouses like me who are missing the other half of their parenting team. Or on the flip side, there’s the mom who’s stuck out to sea or half a world away wishing like anything that she could hold her beautiful babies in her arms. And then there are the moms who have lost their children to these wars. This day is painful for them in a way that not many of us can understand. I weep at the thought of it.
Oftentimes I hear from non-military friends that they want to support, but they just don’t know how. That makes sense. This life is so difficult to understand for those who have never served. The military community in itself is extremely supportive, and they “get it” in a way that my civilian friends just don’t. But, this Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on how you can help the military mommas in your life:
By SAY San Diego Community Assessment Team Plus (CAT+)
Start the Conversation: Teens talk to their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners, and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex.
Alcohol and Sex: Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to have unplanned and unprotected sexual activity. Talking about these issues can help teens make healthier decisions.
Peer Pressure: Some teenagers decide to have sexual relationships because their friends think sex is cool and everyone is doing it. The truth is only about 47% of teenagers reported ever having sex. Talking about the facts including why more than half of all teenagers decide to wait can help them to determine their own values.
Educate Yourself: Some parents worry that they won’t know the answers to their teen’s questions. The best way to teach kids about sexuality is to find the answers together and discuss the research together.
Each and every day, here at SAY San Diego, our volunteers and interns give the abundant gifts of their talent and time to caring for their neighbors and lifting the lives of the children, youth, and families that we serve. Volunteers and interns form the heart of our community at SAY San Diego—and each year, they outnumber paid staff by about 150%. Among their many contributions to our clients and community, volunteers provide tutoring, tax assistance, counseling, lead youth development activities, organize and run events, conduct research, and much more.
By Chelsea Stephens SAY San Diego Case Assistant/Interpreter| Teen Court
It’s been a part of my life for over five years now; longer than many of my friendships, longer than my time as an undergraduate, longer than any other volunteer or work position I’ve held. Teen Court has become a part of my life that, to my benefit, has also become a key part of my identity. This is a program that has taught me patience, empathy, and has helped shape me into the person I am proud to be today. Although I’m a volunteer for the program, Teen Court has paid me in countless ways for which I will always be grateful.
What is it that brought me to Teen Court in the first place? It was a combination of two things: a desire to be involved in my community and also an interest in becoming an attorney. I was a college freshman trying to figure out life and was fortunate enough to come across a volunteer posting as a Case Assistant with SAY’s Teen Court program. After applying and being accepted, I began attending the biweekly hearings and quickly found myself falling in love with the ability to help others. Working with the clients and their families opened my eyes to the struggles so many families in San Diego face—poverty, unemployment, and substance abuse, to name a few. It helped give me a more well-rounded worldview that I know I will be able to apply wherever life’s journey takes me.
SAY San Diego’s commitment to enriching the lives of children and youth, supporting their healthy development, and making life a bit easier for working families includes our major extended-learning programs before and after school. All facts point to the resulting afterschool advantage. Effective afterschool programs, like ours, boost academic performance, particularly in the key areas of reading and math. They also improve attendance, school engagement, personal aspirations, and positive health outcomes—including improved diet and exercise habits, healthy peer relationships, graduating high school, and attending post-secondary school—while reducing risk factors.[i]
Prevention is truly at the heart of SAY San Diego’s approach—and has always been. Notably, the science of prevention has advanced greatly over the years, in our area of social services, just as it has in public health and medicine. One area of emphasis has been reproductive health. Reproductive health is not only a critically important area of well-being for youth, it is one where evidence-based prevention efforts have led our county to join the nation in achieving historically low rates of teen pregnancy. Not long ago, San Diego had teen pregnancy rates that were 72–74 out of every 1000 births, now we are 22 out of every 1000 births—the lowest rate on record (CDC, 2016).
By Raul Roman, SAY San Diego Case Manager and Certified Trainer, World Class Relationships Curriculum
Love in a relationship cannot flourish without a strong foundation. Empathy, authenticity, and acceptance are all traits that support healthy relationships. Here are 5 tips to keep the love alive:
Communication: This is key in any relationship, especially when first engaging in a partnership. Talk about what’s important to you and how you’re feeling.
Goals: Set shared and agreed-upon goals. Focus on things you want to accomplish together and independently. For example, a shared goal would be to schedule more date nights, and an independent goal might be to learn a new skill.
Support: Be your partner’s biggest cheerleader. Back his/her dreams and personal goals. For instance, if your partner really wants to continue school, be encouraging.
Initiative: Do not rely on your partner or others to meet your needs. Assume responsibility for your own needs. No blaming or guilt trips. For example, if you’d like your partner to rub your shoulders, let him/her know.
Re-kindle: If you feel you have reached a plateau or rut, go back to what worked during your honeymoon phase. Continue to find ways to keep the flame burning. Maybe visit a favorite restaurant you used to love, or watch a favorite movie together.
In a KPBS article, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, the county’s chief deputy medical examiner, said his office sees meth-related deaths almost every day. He reported a dramatic increase in methamphetamine-related deaths—more than the flu and homicides combined. Here in San Diego the meth epidemic is especially acute. Knowing people who have suffered meth addiction and death is part of my personal and professional experience. I have friends and colleagues who have lost loved ones—including teenagers—to meth, or have lost children, spouses, and friends to the justice system because of the ravages of addiction. At SAY San Diego, we hold a vision of opportunity, equity, and well-being for all San Diegans, and we have a talented team that takes a public health approach to raising awareness, increasing prevention, and reducing misuse and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, through community empowerment, collaboration, and structural changes that include better practices, systems, and policies.
In partnership with U.S. Attorney for Southern California Laura Duffy, the Playwrights Project, and many others we’ve taken one especially creative approach to increasing awareness of this issue in our community. Other People’s Kids is a play we’ve collectively commissioned, developed, and produced that retraces the tragic and complicated experiences of individuals, children, teens, parents, families, and entire communities when meth use and addiction become part of everyday life, and which offers hope and insight for healing. We are very grateful to all of our partners, including the County Probation Department, Second Chance, and the McAlister Institute, as well as many brave and generous individuals who shared their life stories to inform this production.
Don’t miss out! This moving and informative play will be performed at 7 p.m., March 16-18 at San Diego State University’s Experimental Theatre. Performances will also feature Finding Our Way, a play about recovery written by inmates at Donovan Correctional Facility.