Tips For Self-Care for Child Advocates
An essential component of ensuring that children receive the best care is to protect the health of the helpers. That means you as a child advocate.
Those affected by secondary traumatic stress may notice the following: hypervigilance, hopelessness, sleeplessness, guilt, fear, anger and chronic exhaustion among others.
This condition and these symptoms are widely recognized as common occupational hazards for professionals working with traumatized children.
Anyone who is in this line of work is at risk. Your emotional strength and psychological fortitude can not protect you from being human.
- Check in with friends and colleagues who have chosen this admirable but tough line of work. We can’t discuss these cases with friends or family because of their confidential nature. In addition, the details are often too horrific to share in a social setting. We truly need a solid “squad”, in which all members feel comfortable sharing their well-being in a judgement- free and empathetic circle.
- Getting enough sleep is crucial (regular exercise helps with sleep). These cases can keep us up at night, and in-turn, inhibiting our ability to handle them with the sharpness and attention they require.
- Discussing your feelings with colleagues helps dispel a lot of that stress that we incur after office hours. Yes, you can carve out an hour for yourself. No human can be “on” 24/7, it’s unrealistic and it is a grave disservice to the children we are helping. Make time to do things that are fun with your family and friends because healthy and supportive connections are important.
Secondary traumatic stress is REAL. You are a superhero for helping these vulnerable children, but you don’t have the superpowers to make legitimate feelings of depression and anxiety disappear. No one can do that.
Find a good work-life balance, not a bare- minimum balance but a good balance.
Breathe. Make sure you’re getting that oxygen and support every day through a solid support system.
We can’t help our children if we aren’t helping ourselves.
Check out my customized child advocacy training for law enforcement, public defenders and any other hero who helps children.