Normally, 14-year-old Isaiah cherishes summertime visits with his grandparents in Prior Lake; it’s long days filled with picnics, play and refreshing dips in the lake. This year, if you ask Isaiah about his summer trip to G’mas and he’s a little more sensitive. Isaiah’s parents made the decision to send him from their Minneapolis home to stay in Prior Lake for his safety in the days following the murder of George Floyd. As they prepared to transition him back to the city, his parents called on their Washburn Center therapist to lean in and listen to what his needs were and understand how to help him in the days ahead.
That day, a frightened teen poured out his feelings. What the therapist heard is expected for children in the midst of community trauma – an intertwined fear for physical and emotional safety. These are times where care centers on a child’s primal need for safety, his therapist shares. “These days as I’m talking with children and families, I’m thinking more about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; youth like Isaiah need to feel safe so we can then delve into the social justice and change conversations.”
As they begin to think about what part of positive change they might want to be, feelings of competence in having a positive impact on their community can help lessen feelings of fear and helplessness. And safe is relative for Isaiah…as his parents shared that “things are calming down,” he shot them a look that screamed “I don’t think so.” His therapist quickly countered, “you know buddy, it looks like you don’t feel the same and that’s ok.” Let’s talk more about how you’re seeing and feeling things in your neighborhood right now. In their work, the family learned how to encourage Isaiah to remember that even though these have been some very scary and unexpected dangers in their community lately, the adults who care about them will be there to protect and guide them through.