“Kittens and rainbows, kittens and rainbows”

Today was a challenging day in the Shelter; it started off with a crisis situation that presented itself right at the beginning of the shift. A young man, “Jason” had been in the shelter for 50 days and was doing quite well given his challenges and multiple mental health diagnoses. Today though, a possible discharge was looming due to Jason’s erratic behaviors and the safety of the other youth and staff in the shelter.  Jason had nowhere else safe to go, so the street would be his only option, if not with us.  We certainly wanted to keep him in house, but only if he could maintain appropriate and respectful behavior.  Early in the shift, it wasn’t looking good…

After nearly 2 hours of calling other community agencies, it became clear that we were not going to find anything for Jason tonight. We decided to speak with Jason one more time and pray that he would be strong enough to hold it together, correct his behavior and make it through the night here at Covenant House. I had the tough conversation with Jason. As I spoke, he listened and looked right into my eyes the whole time, nodding his head and telling me he understood and that he would try his absolute best. To support Jason, I helped him to come up with 3 happy places that he could go to in his mind if he was feeling angry or overwhelmed. He described these places to me and I wrote them down for him. We then came up with a cue that we could use with him if he started talking about violence, acting inappropriately, or needed to take a break.

Tonight our prayers were answered and Jason was on his absolute best behavior, spending the majority of the night doing art work. At one point in the night, the Shelter was very noisy and busy–the youth were buzzing around all over the place, and the energy in the house was a bit intense. All the while, Jason kept his head down and kept focused on with his artwork.  I heard Jason in the background stating to himself “Kittens and rainbows, kittens and rainbows”. That was the cue!  It worked!   Jason was obviously feeling overwhelmed and had used the queue words we had come up with. In that moment I felt so proud of him and could do nothing but smile.  Who would have known that kittens and rainbows could make such a difference!

kitten and rainbow picture