Healdsburg Gratitude tree

GROWING IN GRATITUDE — The Healdsburg Regional Library is hosting a gratitude tree through the month of November. The tree enables children to express what they’re thankful for. Photo Amie Windsor

Effort enables children to cope with aftermath of fire

What are you grateful for?

The Healdsburg Regional Library invites children and their families to share and express gratitude throughout the month of November on the library’s gratitude tree.

The idea for the tree came out of a mid-summer planning session of four children’s librarians from around the county. The idea was to provide a low commitment effort for the library to engage with children throughout the month, making them think about the things, people and experiences they are thankful for.

“The tree is exactly what it sounds like,” said Children’s Librarian Charity Anderson. “It invites people in the community to say what they’re grateful for and creates a beautiful art piece.”

Anderson said the idea for the tree is extra special this year.

“This is a good way for children to say what they’re grateful for which is really important after the fires,” she said.

Even though the fire did not directly affect many Healdsburg residents, many children have schoolmates or family members who were.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, wildfires cause emotional distress in addition to the obvious physical damage. Children and families who have experienced wildfires may experience increased fear, worry, distress or anxiety. Many children will experience increased concerns about the safety of loved ones, friends, classmates, teacher and neighbors. They may experience separation anxiety, disturbances in sleep or appetite and other changes in their behavior.

One of the many ways to help children, according to the NCTSN, is to keep things hopeful. “Even in the most difficult situations, it is important to identify some positive aspect and to stay hopeful for the future,” a parent handout reads. “A positive and optimistic outlook helps children see the good things in the world around them. This outlook can be one way to help them get through even the most challenging times.”

The premise of the gratitude tree is simple and therapeutic: children can write down what they are grateful for on a colorful leaf and add it to the paper tree.

At the Healdsburg Library, the gratitude tree, with its real branches and paper leaves and acorns, sits on a table near the children’s area, enticing patrons to add to its spindly arms. Already filling with leaves, the tree hosts a variety of gracious thoughts, big and small:

“Thankful for the first responders of Sonoma County.”

“Family and friends.”

“Too much to list here.”

The gratitude tree will remain at the Healdsburg Library throughout the month of November to enable children a chance to participate. Anderson said she might keep the tree throughout December to enable children to add to it.

“Maybe we’ll even put Christmas lights on it,” she said.

The library will be closed on Saturday, Nov. 11 for Veterans Day and Thursday and Friday, Nov. 23 and 24 for Thanksgiving.

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