Calm the Crisis: Helping Families Navigate Difficult Circumstances

. January 31, 2020.
Sarah Schwartz

Sometimes when you can’t find what you’re looking for, you have to create it yourself. That’s why Sarah Schwartz, a special education teacher and busy mom of three, decided to start Calm the Crisis, a program designed to help kids and their parents.

Finding the right help

Schwartz explained that she felt her family lived “in crisis” for many years as she searched for ways to help her son, who struggled with disruptive behaviors due to anxiety. Thanks to her background as a special education teacher, Sarah was knowledgeable about some of the behaviors and struggles she experienced with her son, but she still found it hard to get him the help he needed.

“Often I would receive a suggestion at an appointment and then I would need to find a tool or create something, and I always wished there was someone who could create it and then show me how to implement it,” she explained. “I remember thinking ‘How do people do this when they don’t have the background (educationally and with teaching experience) that I have?’ Despite my background, I was still having a hard time.”

A diagnosis of autism, anxiety or depression doesn’t need to throw families into chaos. “Things happen in life that cause a disruption… so what do we do?” Calm the Crisis, is a program developed by Schwartz that provides services and resources for families to help with behavioral problems. Sarah meets with families in their homes to observe and monitor behaviors and then provides tools to make successful changes. Sarah works with families to create visual schedules and specific behavior plans and then continues with how to make them work. “There needs to be a lot of family involvement. Parents are a big factor in whether or not the plans will work,” she explained.

Understanding the why

Defiant behaviors in children can be caused by anxiety and even depression. When kids feel overwhelmed by their environment — be it a loud restaurant, crowded public place or just a noisy home— they struggle to control themselves and often act inappropriately, like throwing objects or becoming physically abusive to those around them.

Calm the Crisis works to help kids identify “the rumblings” (aka triggers) and find strategies that work for each child. “Sometimes the strategy is putting on headphones and listening to music or taking a trip to the bathroom because it’s a quiet place. It’s finding what works individually for each child and for each family,” Sarah explained.

Unhealthy environments

Today there seems to be more issues with mental and emotional difficulties in children than ever before. “Society has become less active, sugar is overused and exercise is underused,” Sarah said. “It’s a perfect storm for causing struggles in the family and people are caught in the crisis.”

A few tips to avoid crisis-mode:

Take time for yourself. Self-care for parents is not only important, it’s essential and helps the entire family. It’s important for kids to see their parents exercising, eating healthy and pursuing the parents’ passions, too.
Get moving and involve the kids! Get outside and spend time in fresh air. Go for walks together, take a bike ride, kick a ball. Move together as a family!
Have technology-free days/nights. Put down the phones, turn off the TV, and put away the video games. It’s important to get away from all those devices to reset.
Focus on family dinners. Schedules may be full, but make it a priority to sit down together to eat dinner multiple times per week. Talk to and listen to one another without any distractions.

Sarah hopes Calm the Crisis will let parents know they aren’t alone. “It can feel really isolating,” she explains. “I remember thinking how lonely it was when I was going through tough times with my son. I want people to know they aren’t alone; they can get through it and there is light on the end of the tunnel.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Calm the Crisis, email calmthecrisis@gmail.com.