Dear CCUSD Families –
The Three R’s for The Holiday Season
This is a common time of year for reflections and resolutions. Individuals and organizations look back on the past year to consider what they have accomplished and celebrate milestones met. The reflection process is often the initial step in establishing goals for the coming year – personal and professional “New Year’s Resolutions.” Beyond the typical resolutions directly inspired by holiday eating and spending, deeper reflection establishes a strong understanding of our current reality, our strengths and areas of momentum that can be harnessed to address remaining and evolving areas of need. In addition to this time of reflections and resolutions that focus on gratefulness and giving, I would like to encourage us all to focus on a third “R” for the holidays - resiliency. Some would argue that there is no greater gift we can give our children.
The American Psychological Association describes resilience as “…the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress…it means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.”
As adults, we are often inspired and moved by the innocence of and the enthusiasm we see and hear in our children as they learn and grow. Yet, we also know that the process of academic, social, emotional and physical growth is not easy. In many circumstances, the academic growth of a child is either propelled or impeded by their emotional health. Primarily, how do they respond to the struggles and stressors of life and learning?
Why is this important? When we declare that “success for all takes us all,” we must all be very thoughtful and intentional in communicating a healthy and holistic perspective of success. Success is not absent of stress or adversity – in fact, more often than not, it is the result of working through the struggle.
“We have become a culture of trying to make sure our kids are comfortable. We as parents are trying to stay one step ahead of everything our kids are going to run into” The problem? Life doesn’t work that way.” Lynn Lyons, co-author of the book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children
How do we respond when faced with a challenge or stressful situation? More importantly, how do we respond when our children struggle? How do we respond when they reach peak frustration with a homework assignment or upcoming test? How do we respond when they receive a low grade on a test or assignment, don’t get the lead part or starting position, or seem reluctant and anxious about taking on a new challenge?
As the quote above states, too often, rather than embracing challenges and struggles as opportunities to grow, our natural default is to question the fairness of the challenge or believe the challenge is more than we can handle; resign ourselves to defeat and accept that the stress is beyond our skill set to overcome.
As adults, we know of the certainties of life - change is constant and adversities will present themselves – for individuals, families, and organizations. Therefore, it is critical we are intentional about creating the conditions in which our children can respond to change and adversity with courage and confidence. This begins with acknowledging the “tests” our children will face beyond school assignments and assessments.
Ultimately, as schools and families, the true measure of our impact will not be what our kids accomplish when they are with us; rather, it will be reflected in what we have empowered them to do after they leave our schools and homes. Knowing that life will be filled with change, challenges, stress and disappointments, an “essential skill” we want for every child is resiliency – the ability to bounce back, respond positively and stay hopeful and optimistic in the face of real life.
How do we create these critical personal, emotional qualities in our kids? The American Psychological Association offers a number suggestions, such as: Help our children help others; maintain a daily routine; teach and model the importance of self-care; set meaningful goals based on strengths and interests that bring purpose to the effort required to learn and grow; nurture a positive self-view; create opportunities for self-discovery; speak and behave in a way that demonstrates the importance of keeping things in perspective; and maintain a hopeful outlook in all circumstances.
Lynn Lyons, in an article (link below) for PsychCentral also offers tips for building resilient kids, including: Let your kids make mistakes and see failure as the place you get to when you figure out what to do next; resist the urge to provide all the answers; replace your “why did you do that?” questions with “how can we learn from this? How can we fix it?” While many suggestions go against our natural instinct to protect and comfort our kids, she encourages us to avoid eliminating all risks. According to Lyons, “whenever we try to provide certainty and comfort, we are getting in the way of children being able to develop their own problem-solving and mastery. Overprotecting kids only fuels their anxiety.”
“We can help develop resiliency in children if our organizations foster emotional resilience in the children and the adults. No matter the methods a school or district chooses in order to help students become emotionally resilient, the organization as a whole has to model the practices and best of listening, caring, acknowledging, giving space and time and gentleness while offering respect for and understanding of how each other feels.” – Jill Berkowicz and Myers, Resilience is Not Just for Kids, 2015
Resiliency. Grit. Perseverance. Hope. These are gifts our children need; ones that will serve them well in school and in life. Repeatedly, the experts affirm two critical points: All children can learn to be resilient and modeling matters most- they will learn this skill by listening and watching the adults in their life respond to change and adversity.
Resiliency for All Takes Us All! Happy Holidays.