Helping meet the mental health needs of children and families has been an important initiative in recent years. The story of “Nelson” (not his real name) as told by our mental health specialist, Antonia Chayrez, illustrates the impact this can make in the life of a child and his family. Ultimately, this support ripples out to create a stronger Puerto Palomas.
So I began to see Nelson in counseling. When we first began to meet, he evaded me. He was telling lies. He couldn’t open up to express what was going on.
I clearly remember the turning point. I calmly and gently said to him: “I know that you are very sad, and I’d like you to tell me the reason.”
With that simple prompt, he began to talk. And cry. His mother had left him and the family, he told me. He missed her very much. He longed to see her again. Although he didn’t remember her very well, he told me some details about her and about his family situation.
When Nelson was just a few years old, he moved in with his father. His dad later remarried a different woman. Although they had a long-distance relationship, she would visit every weekend along with her daughter. Nelson is happy with dad’s wife and daughter, and I had the opportunity to meet her as well.
I learned that Nelson had problems sleeping alone, preferring to sleep with his father. So, I gave him a teddy bear, and we made a deal that one night he would sleep with his dad and the next night with his teddy bear. Now, he happily reports that he no longer sleeps with his dad. Instead he sleeps every night with his teddy bear.
We’re hoping to find his mom, because Nelson still wants to see her. His dad and his wife also hope that Nelson’s mom will turn up, and he’ll be able to see her again.
In our visits, Nelson is learning to manage his emotions in practical and simple ways. Nelson’s teacher reports that the aggressiveness, as well as the fights with classmates, have ceased.
I can assure you that there are many family situations like this. We have so many needs, not only from the school pupils but also from families. According to my statistics, only 25 to 30% of children have safe homes, where they feel loved and respected. Instead, 75 to 80% of children live in situations that lack the assets they need to succeed.
Many of the families I serve are low-income and overburdened. These circumstances can often lead to situations of ignorance and neglect.
by Antonia Chayrez
*Name is changed to protect confidentiality
Antonia is a gift to Puerto Palomas and the families she works with. Seeing the positive impact she has on the community makes us count our blessings here at Border Partners. Life can be better for everyone when people care enough to share. With support, stressed and under-resourced families can succeed despite obstacles.
Our future will be brighter as the healing continues.