With kids returning back to school soon, parents want to make sure their children have the best possible setting to learn and succeed. Present-day studies indicate that happiness affects personal mental and physical health as well as productivity.
We know that in the States the public school system is letting down a lot of kids. Why is this happening? In our 24/7 world, the need to go stronger, faster and higher has spilled into all facets of society and education is no exception. The measurement of success “in number of widgets” as to opposed to “having peace of mind”, has necessitated the education system to respond to this cultural and economic phenomenon by training its students to perform ever more vigorously. The present-day striving for success in the work world has compromised students’ emotional and social needs in the process. Twenty years ago, the integration of the whole individual was a joint responsibility of family, church, school and community anchors like scouts and 4-H Clubs. The fragmentation of the latter through cultural evolution and changing societal mores has shifted a large weight of social responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the education system – one of the last-serving bastions to our children. Taking the initiative by focusing on the integral needs of students – at least balancing those needs in tandem with the pressure to produce successful students for the work world – is crucial.
What initial steps can be taken here? According to my Happiness Cycle – developed for kids in the classroom, “Acknowledgment” is the first step to creating a positive atmosphere for kids. The child must be acknowledged – affirmed – for who they are before emotional/intrinsic development can take place.
Let me use a simple example to illustrate this: Jessica comes into the classroom and the teacher turns to her and says, “Did you get your homework done?” If the teacher turned to her and said, “Hi Jessica, how is your day going?” this statement is acknowledging and affirming Jessica as a person not her worth in how she is performing. The latter interaction and welcoming engagement from the teacher sets Jessica up for a positive experience in the classroom. Through this acknowledgement, she becomes aware as a “whole” person because she is affirmed by the teacher as a valued human being. “Awareness” is the second step in the Happiness Cycle. These behaviors are not one-time situations but are an integral part of a school’s culture that is interested in cultivating happiness for its students through its teachers and school administration.
The big question here is how can you as a parent help your child be a better student?
Parents play a powerful role in kick starting their children’s academic lives. Making time for your child whether with a school-related issue; a problem with a friend; a worry about their new haircut is crucial. It really doesn’t matter what the concern is, being available is what matters for children to develop healthy self-esteem. They need to know they are loved. A nurtured child feels valued and safe. Facing life’s challenges – developing resilience then comes easier whether in the classroom or elsewhere. Here’s a fun and practical way of getting the ball rolling for you and your kids as the school year approaches. Take the Strengths Test to see what your top strengths are. By focusing on your children’s strengths (and yours!), instead of what may be lacking, you’re creating a positive beginning for what can sometimes be an anxious time for everyone. (The test is a multiple choice survey based on 24 character strengths. You can find the test at www.viacharacter.org)
Kita can be contacted at Kita@sympatico.ca You can also find information about the Happiness Cycle in her paper “Developing Successful and Happy Students” under News and Events at http://www.kitaszpak.com
For more posts by Kita Szpak please visit here.
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