You always have hope – and you’ll smile again. That was the main message author and child advocate Sasha Mudlaff shared with third- and fourth-graders at local elementary schools in Elkhart last week. Mudlaff was here in honor of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, May 10, and went to four elementary schools in three days sharing a message of resilience. The event was organized by The Source, Elkhart County’s system of care, hosted by Oaklawn.
Mudlaff, the co-author of the book “A Terrible Thing Happened,” shared her story with local students through the main character of her book, Sherman, a raccoon who saw a terrible thing happen. At first, Sherman tries to stuff his feelings inside, but his feelings started coming out in other ways: nightmares, anger, loss of appetite and not doing well in school.
Mudlaff engaged students throughout the presentations asking them questions like, “What can happen when we keep our feeling stuck inside?” At each school, children had many ideas for Sherman and themselves when it came to letting their feelings out in healthy ways. One child shared that he likes to draw when he feels overwhelmed or scared. Others shared that they like to cry, take deep breaths and talk to a safe adult about their thoughts and feelings.
Mudlaff then visited each classroom and did a shorter presentation on how to identify safe adults, how to let our feelings out and how to help yourself and a friend if they are going through a difficult time.
“It’s really easy to not talk to our children about feelings, or to tell them to move on if something bad happens, but research shows us they won’t,” Raine said. “We know they may struggle in school, not be able to concentrate and have elevated stress levels. If we can provide them with the resources to deal with the things in their life and process them in healthy ways, that’s a win for everyone.”
In the afternoon, Mudlaff met with local school social workers to assist them in better recognizing students who may be going through a difficult time.
Mudlaff closed each presentation with an important message that everyone can all learn from, “What happens to us is not our fault. But, we can learn to process our feelings about those events and we can still feel happiness.”
Sasha Mudlaff, author of the book “A Terrible Thing Happened,” spoke at four Elkhart elementary schools in honor of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, May 10.