Mental well-being event reminds parents to ‘Put Your Oxygen Mask on First’ |

Mental well-being event reminds parents to ‘Put Your Oxygen Mask on First’

Aspen Family Connections event to focus on resources, support for parents


What: “Put Your Oxygen Mask on First”

Where: Aspen Middle School

When: Tuesday, Nov. 9 from 5:30-7 p.m.

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COVID-19 has been hard on parents and their kids over the past year and a half — no doubt about that. But parents don’t always factor their own mental health into the equation when worrying about the pandemic, according to Katherine Sand, the executive director of Aspen Family Connections.

“Working mainly in the schools or, you know, substantially in the schools, we see, obviously, the impacts on children and on our school community of the pandemic,” Sand said.

“It occurred to us that we were seeing more and more stress reflected in parents and, of course, that plays out in the lives of children, and it’s not necessarily a connection parents make,” she added. “But there is a sense, I think, that we’ve lost a great deal, and there’s nothing that makes a parent unhappier to think that their child has lost and is damaged by their experience.”

That’s why the school-based family resource center is focusing on mental well-being for parents at “Put Your Oxygen Mask on First,” an event slated for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Aspen Middle School that aims to be “supportive, but primarily informative,” Sand said.

The event will feature two speakers, both mainstays in the valley’s mental well-being community: Kayla Bailey, who is the Aspen outpatient program director for Mind Springs Health, and Angilina Taylor, the executive director of the advocacy nonprofit Aspen Strong.

Though the event will mention resources for parents to help support their kids, it’s mostly about how parents can support themselves.

“We really want parents to focus on themselves, to give themselves that space to think about how they are coping, and what they need to do for themselves,” Sand said, “because … (with) the oxygen mask metaphor, if they take care of themselves, they are going to be in a better place to support their children.”

Parents can submit questions ahead of time or just join in on the session; it will be offered in-person only in an effort to make it easier for conversation to flow between participants and speakers and to cultivate an “impactful” experience.

“We just were encountering a lot of parents who we felt were experiencing significant anxiety and (who) just worry about their children and their children’s future, and their own futures, too,” Sand said. “So we thought it’s time to address that and acknowledge — a very important part of this evening is really acknowledging what they’ve been through … and also normalizing the experience, because it’s extremely, extremely universal.”

The event is open to any parent with children 18 and younger. And although the conversation was inspired in part by pandemic-related stressors, the conversation also will look at mental well-being in the long term that can support families throughout the journey of parenting.

“Mental well-being, just to give it that spin rather than ‘mental health,’ … it’s a practice, right? It’s something a bit like your yoga practice. You don’t do it just in times of crisis, but you try and envelop that practice in your day-to-day life,” Sand said. “I think that’s what we’d encourage is like, what are the things that are going to sustain you and comfort you and support you as you parent, because it’s a long journey.”