The Center for Human Development in our area offers a “Healthy Choices” program, called “PEP” (Parent Educators Program), which the parents bring to some of the schools. Maya’s school is fairly small (under 200 students) and fairly new (this is their 6th year), and we are working to implement the PEP program in the school. Back when I was on the school board, when we realized this charter school experiment of bringing Montessori Education to the public schools might actually ‘take’, and we were probably going to stay open, we started looking past the immediate needs of getting a permanent location, running water, a principal, and funding to pay the teachers, and toward our future goals for the school. Many of the larger goals have yet to be met…they are expensive and time consuming. Many of the smaller goals have yet to be met, for the same reasons. But one by one, we’re ticking them off of our list, and it’s an exciting time. One of the goals that we came up with as a school board was to look into this PEP program, and see if it might be a good match for our school. That task was assigned to me, and here I am, having finished my 21 hours of training, ready to go into the classroom and start imparting my wisdom to the kids.
The training is about a lot of things, ranging from nutrition and safety, to medicines vs drugs, empathy, conflict resolution, advertising, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, marijuana, bullying, coping, alcoholism, on and on and on. The major thing we are hoping to foster in the kids, though, above and beyond any skills and knowledge that they might gain from our lessons, is resiliency. We want to give our children the skills that they will need to face adversity in their lives, to be able to cope when life is difficult for them, because we all know that it will be difficult at times for all of them. For some much more so than others, but for everyone at some point. One thing that we learned about was called the Resiliency Wheel, which was developed by Nan Hendersen and Assoc.
Caring and support: Listen to students’ concerns and answer their questions in direct, factual, age-appropriate ways. (Be careful of giving TOO MUCH information. especially with younger children.)
High expectations: Express your certainty that students can cope with the situation and faith in their strength and inner resources.
Opportunities for participation: Help students come up with ways they can address the crisis themselves: i.e.. raising money, sending cards and letters, forming a Peace Club.
Pro-social bonding: Provide students with positive activities to do together that give them a sense of purpose and mastery in the situation.
Clear, consistent boundaries:Strike a balance between addressing concerns and getting back to a normal schedule. Young people need the safety of familiar rules and routines.
Life skills: Encourage students to communicate their thoughts and feelings. (But balance is again the key: Don’t let the talk escalate and overwhelm students).
This seems like common sense stuff, really, but for some people, I suspect that it isn’t. And when I looked a bit deeper, I realized that there are many things here that I am doing right, but also those that maybe could use a little work. For example, when discussing ‘set & communicate high expectations’, our instructor mentioned that she sometimes forgets with her own children to slow down and enjoy what they are doing now. Her children are grown, and her son recently completed his first triathlon. She was very proud of him, but the words that rushed to her lips, with him still exhausted from crossing the finish line, were, “What’s next? Are you going to train for XYZ?” Luckily, she remembered her training, and stopped herself…allowed herself, and him, to just enjoy the triumph of what he had worked so hard for, without always looking forward to the next goal. That’s a good lesson, I think. I tend to be the type of person who has a mental list of things I want to get done, things that I want Maya to accomplish, and when one thing is finished, I’m ready to move on to the next thing. I think it’s important to not always do that. We need to keep the expectations high, but attainable, and to celebrate when we acomplish one. After all, isn’t that what life is about? Stopping and enjoying ourselves sometimes, rather than rushing from one thing to the next? If it isn’t, I think it should be.
If you’re interested in some examples of these facets to building resiliency, here’s a quiz to get you on the right path.
I entered this post in the Carnival of Family Life, because though it’s not specifically about MY family, or our daily lives, it is about what families can do to help each other through the tough periods in life, which seemed pretty vital and important to me. I hope you agree.