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By: Jessica Chisholm

I would like to acknowledge the elders for their teachings as I share and continue to learn on our journey of Self-Reg. As an ECE, I’m able to provide support to children with many developmental approaches, however the most successful approaches to helping children have been my own traditional ways as an Indigenous woman.

My daughter was experiencing challenges when she was 7-8 years old, and her self-concept and self-control were observed to be extremely negative by the words and behaviour she was displaying at the time. She was declining to the point where her self-esteem was at an all-time low, and school physiologists observed her just standing there as if in a like-comatose state.

As a parent, it horrified me to hear that my child was standing still at every recess in her own personal fear, and trapped in her own body. This broke my heart and I felt completely helpless. Not only were the school and I trying to help her spirit, now we were also trying to save her life.

While at school she was asked to help the elder, however she was not finished her homework and so she was quickly turned away. It’s taken me some time to get over the anger for that teacher who set up the classroom environment as a very toxic situation when my daughter was trying to help.

However, with an early childhood education background and having learned Self-Reg through Dr. Stuart Shanker, I now see that the teacher was stressed herself and was completely overrun by emotion when my daughter tried to hurt herself at school in front of her peers.

At that moment in time, everything stood still as I was overcome by grief and failure as a parent and I knew I had to do something to help my daughter’s spirit and see that spark of joy in her eyes that was once there. With the education that I received in the ECE program at Red River and the support of the teacher and my peers, I was able to make some big decisions on how to support my daughter by following her needs.

As an ECE, we follow “The Holistic Approach”, to ensure that children are developing at their own level and not at our expectations. So what could I do for my own child to help build on her spiritual growth?

With help from the school’s resource program, the child guidance clinic and the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre, we were able to provide her with a team. We worked together to bring her to a pipe ceremony with my permission at another school with other young children who were experiencing the same challenges. The ceremony was on a buffalo rug – and the rest of the details my daughter holds close to her own heart, which I honour and respect. This was the first step that my daughter took to regain her own identity and rebuild the attachment with mother earth and with herself.

As a mother, my focus turned to supporting her and her needs, so I had to be strong for her. The first step I took was having humility and asking creator for help. I placed tobacco by a tree and sat in silence for my own spiritual strength, then grabbed my drum. I asked my daughter to stand in front of me and I sang a grandmother song to her, and after I sang to her I reminded her that she never walks alone, that the women before you and the women ahead of you walk with you and that creator always loves you and keeps you safe just as mom will.

After our drum session, my daughter slowly began to grow into her gifts. One day at a time we got her involved more and more with swimming (as water is healing), building on friendships (this is when my daughter told me she was two spirited) and rebuilding that connection with mother earth by taking care of ourselves and attending ceremonies.

I’m very proud of my daughter as she’s very brave and strong. She was able to overcome her challenges by having humility and truth. She rebuilt that inner strength with the support of a great team – and acceptance of self is difficult for adults, never mind an 8 year old child! To this day I still feel I was very lucky and blessed that day, and for that reason my daughter feels she now has a purpose to help others who struggle.

Today my daughter is very successful as a two-time world’s cheerleading champion, an activist for her school’s LGBTQ2 group, and a survivor. She continues with her anime art and cosplay, has been part of Drag the Red in support of murdered and missing woman, helps at lunches with love though her school to feed the homeless, gives out water at her work, and speaks with others who struggle on the street. As of today, she will be graduating grade 12 and joining the RCMP as a proud Metis woman. I could not be more proud and grateful to creator. Ekosi.

Jessica Chisholm is a graduate from the ECE workplace of Red River College in Winnipeg Manitoba. She is a Metis/Cree ECE and follows traditional ways in order to support all children and their families. Her main focus has always been her family and to support her two spirited daughter. Creator sees all children as gifts therefore we must act upon that teaching in order to create safe places for children to feel accepted and honoured. Ekosi.