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Easing the pressure caused by the pandemic

Grant supports creation of video training tools for parents

Date Posted: Wednesday, May 12, 2021


Jessica Griffin Headshots - Danielle Jordan Photography-4_resized.jpg
Jessica Griffin, PsyD,
Executive Director of the UMMS
Child Trauma Training Center

Isolation from extended family and friends. Struggles with remote learning. Grief when a loved one becomes ill with COVID-19. With stresses like these brought on by the pandemic, it’s little wonder that children and their parents and caregivers have been experiencing high rates of exhaustion and anxiety, according to UMass Chan Medical School child psychologist and trauma-informed care leader Jessica Griffin, PsyD.

“The amount of pressure on parents during the pandemic has been extraordinary,” said Dr. Griffin, associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, and executive director and principal investigator of the UMMS Child Trauma Training Center (CTTC), a statewide program within the UMMS Department of Psychiatry that provides training, referral services, research and direct care to support traumatized youth across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “We’ve all been idling at 70 miles an hour, and that takes a toll.

“We’ve found that when kids are struggling, the first thing you can do is focus on the caregiver-child relationship, and that can help to stabilize children,” she continued. “The more we can do to help caregivers, the better off children will be.”

Thanks to a grant from DCU for Kids, the charitable arm of Digital Federal Credit Union, which is based in Marlborough, Mass., the UMMS Child Trauma Training Center now has a new way to provide an extra layer of support for caregivers.

Dr. Griffin and her team will use this funding to collaborate with a local video production company on producing training videos for families who may be struggling. Focusing on how to address traumas borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the videos will cover techniques and practical solutions for a variety of challenges, including how to help children sleep and how to address behavioral challenges, as well as managing emotions especially when caregivers themselves are on their last nerve.

“These are focused pieces that are short, digestible and provide strategies for parents to better support their children,” Dr. Griffin said. “Anyone who is caring for children can benefit from these videos.”

Dr. Griffin will be featured in the videos along with her colleague, pediatrician Heather Forkey, MD, professor of pediatrics and director of the Foster Children Evaluation Services (FaCES) program at UMMS. Since both women are clinicians and mothers, with eight children between their two families, they experience firsthand what caregivers face on a daily basis.

“We wear a lot of hats, but video production isn’t one of them,” Dr. Griffin said with a laugh. “This grant gives us the resources we needed to make these videos professional as well as accessible.”

Dr. Griffin is collaborating with a local woman-owned video production company to produce these high-quality videos, which will be distributed through YouTube, social media outlets, websites and school districts. She also plans to leverage the CTTC’s relationships with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network to extend their regional and national reach even further.