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Bubble breathing, rock hunting: Fond du Lac kids learning to cope with post pandemic stress

Posted on: Jul 5th, 2021

Sharon Roznik Fond du Lac Reporter

Zachary Lamb, 3, of Fond du Lac, learns to take deep breaths to blow bubbles as a stress coping mechanism at Children's Museum of Fond du Lac. A summer series, Mindfulness, Resiliency and Beyond, offers classes that help youth and adults build coping skills to help them reduce stress in light of increased mental and emotional health issues related to the pandemic.
Zachary Lamb, 3, of Fond du Lac, learns to take deep breaths to blow bubbles as a stress coping mechanism at Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac. A summer series, Mindfulness, Resiliency and Beyond, offers classes that help youth and adults build coping skills to help them reduce stress in light of increased mental and emotional health issues related to the pandemic. Courtesy of Kelly Lamb.

FOND DU LAC – Kelly Lamb sat beside her young son, Zachary, listening intently to a story about how to find a perfect rock.

The first step is to get quiet, then low to the ground to hunt at eye-level for a rock the perfect color, shape and size. There’s no asking for help, just take your time. The choice is yours.

The story was meant to help young minds find ways to intentionally calm themselves through grounding activities outdoors. Growing up under the shadow of a pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, Lamb related, and more children these days are feeling overwhelmed, but unable to express how they feel or cope.

“My son lost a year of interaction with other kids, and I thought this was meaningful for both of us, the concept of using the environment and nature to check out from any stress you may be feeling,” Lamb said.

The activity was held this month at the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac as part of a Mindfulness, Resiliency and Beyond summer series focused on youth. The free classes are designed to build resiliency against stress and boredom and are provided at the museum, the YMCA and Boys and Girls club through a partnership with Agnesian HealthCare.

Matt Doll, director of Agnesian HealthCare Outpatient Behavioral Health, said the program was developed in response to an ongoing mental health crisis, compounded by the pandemic. In 2020, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children ages 5 to 11 increased 24% from the previous year, according to the Centers for Diseases Control. In 12 to 17 years old, those visits increased 31%.

Such a significant increase in the need for more mental health services has overwhelmed the system, Doll said, and the summer series is way provide the general public with resources through community partnerships.

“It’s a way to reach more kids and help them help themselves through learning emotional, self-regulation techniques,” Doll said.

Anxiety is the predominant issue kids are wrestling with, Doll said, but it’s often hard for them to express how they are feeling because stress propels them into a “flight or fight” mode.

“It comes from how kids are viewing the world, it’s not as predictable as it once was and they see parents and adults are equally stressed,” Doll said. “Increased frustration in any household, when parents may not be agreeing, makes the world an uncertain and unsafe place.”

Danielle Falesnik, center back, an art therapist and counselor with Agnesian Health Care's Doll & Associates, reads a story at the Children's Museum to help younger kids develop ways to destress.  The class is part of a summer series, "Mindfulness, Resiliency and Beyond." offered at three locations this summer.
Danielle Falesnik, center back, and art therapist and counselor with Agnesian HealthCare,’s Doll & Associates, reads a story at the Children’s Museum to help younger kids develop ways to destress. This class is part of a summer series, “Mindfulness, Resiliency and Beyond” offered at three locations this summer. Courtesy of Kelly Lamb.

Young people are also dealing with the loss of activities that serve as rites of passage. Graduations, proms, birthday parties, field trips, sporting events were put on hold during the pandemic and Doll says these events are developmentally important to kids.

“Our children need a way forward through a new normal in ways we can keep each other safe. Our approach is to use art and music and other creative ways to help them express themselves and experience some joy,” he said.

Activities at each location are run by Danielle Falesnik, a new member of Agnesian HealthCare’s Doll & Associates team. Falesnik is an art therapist and professional counselor, with a passion for improving emotional wellness.

Bubble breathing, art therapy and mindful movement and play are classes offered at the Children’s Museum for kids ages 2 to 10. Museum director Andrea Welsch said she learned how her own 13-year-old daughter was feeling through participation in a permanent, evolving art display the museum is hosting, “Colors of the Pandemic.” The project invites the community to express themselves through an art piece in response to the pandemic.Read Local.As a subscriber, you will enjoy unlimited access to the news and information important to the community.

“Parents were given questions to ask and I did it with my daughter and a friend, and it helped me learn what she was going through,” Welsch said. “When we opened back in May, many families shares stories with me of concern about their children’s emotional health.” 

Fond du Lac Boys & Girls Club is offering classes to its student members ages 11 to 18 on how to develop healthy and resilient relationships and use art as a means to heal. The club’s new mental health specialist, Aly Sanders, said she’s been working with teens — both in groups and one-on-one — on resiliency and coming back together in groups after a period of isolation.

“I think once you build a rapport with these kids they definitely start to open up, and through social, emotional learning they are gaining skills they’ll be able to take with them through life,” Sanders said.

The YMCA’s classes are geared for adults and seniors to help navigate life changes and understand how these changes impact our overall wellbeing. 

Doll said the resiliency of the community to survive and thrive in the face of a global pandemic was made possible through partnerships, organizations and volunteers working together to make a difference.

“As individuals, we can continue to work on ways to cope and avoid what makes us feel emotionally unhealthy, like limiting the information we take in daily,” he said. “Those are the kinds of purposeful decisions we can make to help our brains calm down.”

Mindfulness, Resiliency and Beyond Classes

Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac (ages 2 to 10)

  • Bubble Breathing, 11 a.m., July 1
  • Art Therapy First Aid for Kids, 11 a.m., July 15 
  • 5 Senses Scavenger Hunt, 11 a.m., July 29
  • Mindful Movement and Play, 11 a.m., Aug. 12 

Fond du Lac Boys & Girls Club (Members age 11 to 18) 

  • Healthy and Resilient Relationships, 11 a.m.,  Aug. 5

Fond du Lac YMCA (adults and seniors)

  • Nothing is Normal: Everything is Weird, 11 a.m., July 8
  • Self-Care 101, 11 a.m., Aug. 19

Contact Sharon Roznik at 920-907-7936 or sroznik@gannett.com. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/reporterroz/

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