THE NEED FOR HOPE
The statistics are not encouraging. Students with Learning Disabilities (LD) continue to experience one of the highest drop-out rates among all students with disabilities (other than those with emotional disturbance). Their inability to complete traditional high school programs is due to any number of factors, including a history of school failure, learning differences that have gone undiagnosed and/or untreated, parenthood, economic hardship or other societal issues.
IS THERE HOPE?
What happens to these teens and young adults with LD who have been unsuccessful in other general and special education programs? Are they doomed to a life of underemployment, unemployment or incarceration? Or, is there a chance that they can resume their education in an age-appropriate environment that offers them the support they need in order to graduate?
The short answer is yes, if the student lives in the DC metro area! The Kingsbury Center’s HOPE Program is designed to serve non-traditional high school students with learning differences and ADHD by providing a high-quality, full-time, high school diploma program through morning, afternoon and evening classes that meet year-round. High school students who have been unsuccessful in other general and special education programs are welcome. At HOPE they receive the academic and behavioral support they need in order to graduate.
THE GOAL OF HOPE
HOPE furniture is adult-sized and offers extra storage space and ease of motion.
The goal is to help young adults, up to age 21, obtain a high school diploma before the age of 22. Each student is accepted as a person with unique strengths to be encouraged. Teachers, tutors and counselors work together to ensure that students gain the support, skills and knowledge they need to obtain a high school diploma. The independence and self-confidence of HOPE students is fostered, across all domains of their learning. To keep students actively engaged in their learning process, Kingsbury’s HOPE Program offers
Individualized learning plans
Student-directed planning and instruction
Promotion of self-determination
Compacted curriculum based on Common Core standards
Intensive and individualized academic and social engagement interventions
Integrated related services and tutoring
Relationships with designated adults (mentors) who keep education relevant and significant for individual students.
HOPE’S IMPACT IS GROWING
Launched in 2013, Kingsbury’s HOPE program has grown tremendousely from originally serving 12, and continues to grow each year . Hope graduates have gone on to have acceptance to a post-secondary education/training program.
The successes aren’t limited to the academic arena. Every student shows improved school engagement, with several participating in Kingsbury Day School athletic program. HOPE students develop knowledge, awareness and social skills necessary for positive school and post-school outcomes.
HOPE STUDENTS ARE TRANSFORMED
HOPE students offer a variety of reasons for how the program has transformed their educational experience:
“I have been successful at HOPE because of the excellent support, modifications made to accommodate my needs, and the technology used to help support the lessons.”
“As a HOPE student I made the Honor Roll for the first time since I’ve been in high school. I have also started to prepare for my career goal of becoming an EMT. HOPE helped me research my field and set up an interview with the DC Fire Department to get me started for post-high school education.”
“Since coming to HOPE, my test scores have gone up; I know how to work computers and use the Internet; and, my reading comprehension has improved. In addition, I’ve completed my resume and I have practiced my interview skills and applied for several jobs with the help of HOPE staff.”
“I’ve learned so much more since coming to HOPE. It helps me in many different ways and is having a positive impact on almost every part of my life.”
As the parent of a HOPE student wrote in her note of gratitude: “Finding Kingsbury’s HOPE was a dream come true for my son and me. ….the flexible schedule, small environment, dedicated staff, later hours and individualized support was the perfect setting for him and his motivation to attend school increased tenfold.”
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the more common mental disorders that are known to begin in early childhood. An estimated 10 percent of all children worldwide are diagnosed with ADHD. They may exhibit inattention, impulse control issues, restless feet, frequent change of position and a marked loss of hand-eye coordination.
ADHD is best-managed symptomatically using an array of treatments, ranging from psychotherapy and behavior management to stimulant medications. When it comes to treating children with ADHD, however, no one treatment stands out as the best for everyone.
Alternative treatments, such as reflexology, offer a unique option for a child with ADHD, particularly if the parent is opposed to stimulant medications. An emerging treatment in the management of ADHD, reflexology not only alleviates symptoms but also modifies the course of this disorder. The strategic use of reflexology can alleviate attention deficit, inattentive behavior, delayed learning behaviors and excessive body movements, typical indications of ADHD.
Reflexology is a type of massage therapy that focuses on the nervous system, as well as other parts of the body. This therapy not only calms the physical body, but can help ease the mind. The Chinese first developed the art of reflexology 3,000 years ago. It continues to be the mainstay of re-balancing Qi, the life force that flows through energy channels. Used in concert with an individualized nutrition plan, reflexology can help bring a child with ADHD back to a state of balance by helping to manage the symptoms of the disorder.
Reflexology is known to stimulate the lymphatic system. It triggers a release of specific hormones, better known as endorphins, which in turn can de-stress and hence enhance well-being in the patient. The body begins to heal itself and the severity and frequency of symptoms begins to decrease. The ‘finger and thumb’ technique, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (known as the rest and digest system), could well be the future cornerstone of ADHD therapy.
A reflexologist is trained in the strategic application of pressure in specific body regions. These regions are limited to the feet, hands, face and ears, each of which correlates to a specific organ. The mechanics are fascinating! When specific nerves in the hands and the feet are stimulated, the blood supply to the relevant organs is increased and the toxin build-up in the body or organ is eliminated. This leads to a state of health and wellness.
Reflexology can also assist in relieving the ADHD manifestations of stress and anxiety. The judicious massaging of the pineal pituitary glands zones, located in the soles of the feet, can lead to a subtle increase in ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic Hormone) production. ACTH controls hyperkinetic activities that increase muscle movement.
Stimulating the child’s brain through reflexology massage can result in:
• More self-confidence
• A decrease in emotional disturbances (outbursts, depression, anxiety, etc.)
• Increased relaxation (which also helps with self-esteem and emotional disturbances)
Reflexology and other therapies alone are not a cure-all for ADHD. Nutrition plays a significant role in the severity of ADHD. Certain foods, such as those high in protein or high in omega-3 fatty acids, have been known to improve concentration. Others can amplify ADHD symptoms by increasing hyperactivity. The following dietary changes are recommended:
INCREASE foods high in protein: turkey breast, chicken breast, fish (tuna, salmon, halibut), cheese, lean beef and tofu.
INCREASE foods containing complex carbohydrates: potatoes, beans, chick peas, kidney beans, carrots, okra, zucchini, cucumbers, rice, lentils, wheat, oats and dairy.
INCREASE foods high in omega-3 fatty acids: flax seeds, salmon, walnuts, sardines, shrimp, tofu, scallops and soy beans.
AVOID foods containing simple carbohydrates (including sugar) or caffeine: soda, coffee and tea; fruit juices; syrup; white bread; white pasta; packaged cereals; cakes and candy.
Overall, the cause of ADHD is unknown, and, therefore, so is the best treatment. While ADHD is not curable, reflexology and good nutritionare excellent, natural ways to decrease the severity of ADHD symptoms. This in turn will lead to a healthier and more relaxed child.
In springtime, our surroundings tell us that new life can come from dormancy. Like the blossoming trees and flowers around us, we humans are living and growing beings. As we emerge from our winter hideaways, enjoying the warmer weather and spending time outside will enrich our souls as well as enhance our health.
Before basking in the sun (and pollen!), take some basic precautions. Allergy and asthma sufferers will want to reduce outdoor time when pollen/pollution counts are high, take necessary precautions and have remedies available to minimize reactions. Know which plants can cause allergic reactions and steer clear of any unknown plants. Sturdy shoes, water for hydration and adequate sun protection should be considered. It is also a good idea to assess the safety of your outdoor surroundings in terms of cleanliness, durability of any equipment, and need for supervision.
There is growing evidence that time outside is beneficial to our well being. When we are inside, visual and auditory systems tend to dominate. When we get outside, we have greater license to move and we can enjoy a visual array of shapes, patterns, shadows and light. We can look into the distance, which is more relaxing for the eyes. We can listen for the whisper of the wind, the sounds of birds singing or trees rustling.
Being outside immediately gives us a sense of the air against our skin, the contrast of temperature in a sunny or shady spot. We experience more than flat surfaces under our feet and the many textures and properties of things we can touch. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, a honeysuckle bush, or a fruit tree, you can taste nature’s freshness. The scent of fresh flowers and trees can bring the mind into more relaxed and inspiring places.
As we water the plants in our garden, or watch them take in the rain, and bask in the sun, we can consider how vital these same elements can be to us. Adequate water helps our bodies and minds function properly, distributes nutrition through our circulatory structure and rids our body of wastes. People who do not have the opportunity to spend time in the sun are often deprived of essential vitamins. Our interdependence with the elements of nature is also illustrated by the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between animals and plants.Here are some activities you can engage in to encourage your children to leave behind their electronics, emerge from their rooms and enjoy what the great outdoors has to offer.
Take a regular walk with your kids and notice any changes that the season has brought. Do a treasure hunt. Listen and look for colors, interesting plants and insects and other signs of change with the seasons.
Look up at a small cloud and pretend to make it disappear with your eyes. This can be done by looking out the window, too. (The condensation of clouds makes them continually re-form).
Ask your child do an outdoor errand or yard job or to check on the weather.
Consider starting a garden in your yard or on your patio. Some easy outside plants that do well in the sun are chives, rosemary and lavender (critters tend to leave these alone, too.) Basil and mint multiply quickly. Have your children help water and tend to the garden.
Visit a nearby playground or park with your children.
Check out the programs and facilities at county or city recreation centers (www.dpr.dc.gov). Many offer classes and refurbished sports and fitness facilities. Some have community gardens or urban gardening programs.
It is hard to know what success looks like when your child is diagnosed with a learning disability. You find that some obstacles can be overcome, but for others s/he will have to take the long way around again and again. Even when they get the help they need, students with learning differences can feel overwhelmed by the challenges they face, and they must continually overcome self-doubt. This week, we would like to share with you a glimpse of what success looks like.
From James Brooks, a previous President of our Board of Trustees and proud parent of a Kingsbury graduate:
"When a half-dozen people with initials after their names (Ph.D., MD, etc.) tell you that your child has learning disabilities, the feelings you experience range from relief to sadness, to hopefulness, to confusion. How, I found myself wondering, am I to proceed? In whom do I trust? Where can I find capable and caring people to help me make the right choices for my child?
My questions led me to The Kingsbury Center. The school leaders listened as I shared with them all my hopes and fears for my son, who was in need of help. These folks did not tell me what to do, nor did they offer me advice. Rather they asked questions, learned about my child, and provided a range of thoughtful options for further exploration. Here, I thought, were a group of people who genuinely supported my family and me, people who earned my trust, and ultimately, my enduring gratitude.
My child attended the Kingsbury Day School for many years and made use of all their services — tutoring, diagnostic and psychological services, occupational therapy and speech and reading support. In June of 2014 he graduated from the Upper School program with a high school diploma and awards for his performance.
He enrolled at the University of Arizona this August and has been struggling through from the beginning. I say “struggling” without reservation or anxiety. As a practical matter, my son is likely to struggle all of his life to one degree or another. There are attention problems, executive function problems and auditory processing problems, all of which have improved, but none of which are ever likely to disappear.
What Kingsbury gave my son is a set of skills to help him deal with his challenges and the courage to not let his learning difficulties define him or his future. Not surprisingly, he also gained some lifelong friends along the way, both youths and adults.
For my part, Kingsbury has become the center of my volunteer activities. The Book Festival, the Arts Salon, the Science Fair, the Spring Festival, Back-to-School Night, the Annual Fund, and more recently, The Board of Trustees. I am completing my sixth year as a trustee. Whatever contributions I have made over the years seem a small matter when compared to what my child takes with him into adulthood.
For my family and me, Kingsbury proved to be the ideal learning environment for my child. He received the transformative educational and social experience that he needed. At a time when I needed people to trust, Kingsbury was there."
James A. Brooks resides in Washington, D.C. and is a previous President of the Board of Trustees of The Kingsbury Center.
Kindness matters in life. From time to time, parents will ask, “Does your school teach the value of kindness?” It is a good question. Who is responsible for making sure that kindness is taught? Because kindness matters!
Kingsbury community’s Kindness sculpture.
Research by Dr. Sara Konrath at the University of Michigan suggests that in the past 30 years, self-reported concern for others — a kindness barometer if you will — has been steadily declining. Konrath’s study shows that right now, compassion and empathy are at their lowest point in more than 30 years.
Independent Schools across the nation are sought after because of their academic outcomes. Students who have graduated from Independent Schools are among the highest achievers and make up the rank and file at the most prestigious universities and colleges across the United States. These Independent School pride themselves on developing global citizens. The question that is before us is, “Are these academically competitive, creative, global thinkers kind?” Do they demonstrate compassion and kindness? In fact, how can we measure compassion and kindness?
A cornerstone of Independent Schools is to build character into programs in an authentic manner, not simply through a “program,” but through the comprehensive hiring of faculty and staff who embody the mission of the school. There must be more than just a tacit knowledge that kindness does indeed matter; it should be an explicit acknowledgment and expressed practice that kindness matters – for everyone at all times — especially when it is most difficult to demonstrate.
There is something very special and, in fact unique, about teachers who work in Independent Schools. They have the luxury of “teachable moment” autonomy. They can take as much time as they need to guide their students to observe, think, reflect and work through moments and events when kindness and compassion are needed. They can use a current event in the world, a political moment, a classroom situation, a playground example and most contemporarily a social media moment to demonstrate how kindness and compassion apply. Kindness cannot simply be taught at home; it must also be taught and demonstrated at school, on the playing fields, in afterschool clubs, during academic time and activities and in the hallways each and every day.
Simple ways that our schools teach and support kindness each day include:
1. Modeling kindness in the classroom.Demonstrate and verbally state when kindness is warranted. Teachers must model by being kind, avoiding sarcasm and never speaking negatively of any member of their community. Never!
2. Taking the time for “teachable moments.” Independent School classrooms allow for community building and time to help students manage and negotiate social contracts all day long. Teachers have the ability to take time and encourage all students to learn and grow when the moment is necessary. Point out examples of compassion in real time; “The manner in which you handled that disagreement demonstrated your understanding and compassion for someone else’s belief.”
3. A Service Learning component is vital. Most schools now have some type of service learning component within the school community or in their larger communities. This permits students of all ages to learn and practice care, kindness and compassion with others outside of their personal realities, which can be life-changing in terms of understanding, growing and developing genuine care and kindness towards others.
4. School community commitment. All faculty, staff, students and families should be talking about the importance of kindness, what that means in their communities and how they demonstrate this each day. The random act of kindness movement has waned, but the concept of building in the acknowledgment of random acts of kindness, through shout-outs, kudos, Ubuntus and other public ways of acknowledging kindness in the community must exist. This can be a joyful way to encourage kids to go the extra mile when an opportunity presents itself to be kind or demonstrate compassion.
5. Partnering with parents and families. Working hand-in-hand with our families to build strong values that include compassion and kindness is the cornerstone of Independent School life. Reciprocity – the mutual benefit that will result from this is life-changing – can, in fact, be transformational.
Studies over the past decades agree that there is a direct correlation; people who possess a greater capacity for compassion and kindness ARE more likely to demonstrate good life choice decisions throughout their lives.
The culture of compassion and kindness in school allows students to develop into teens, young adults and adults who value one another and themselves and those humans and animals with whom we share this earth. Kindness is transformational and Independent Schools play a critical role in this transformation.
Persistence is an important quality, or Habit of Mind, for effective individuals in academics and work life. In addition, it helps with parenting, pursuing a sport and other activities of daily life. She noted, not surprisingly, that individuals with learning challenges often struggle with persistence.
Before learning challenges, like dyslexia, are identified, children have the experience of facing an obstacle without the skills or supports to triumph over the challenge. The dyslexic child finds the symbols on the page bewildering and will cope with this impossibility in whatever way he or she can. The brighter the LD child, the more creative these strategies can become. The classic example is the highly verbal child who provides an elaborate explanation of dog breeds verbally but writes “the bog is drown” on paper.
The effort to persist to write all the words, if handwriting is laborious; to spell complex words correctly, if a student has dyslexia; and, to organize ideas on pape,r if a student has weak executive skills, all conspire to encourage the student to take the easy way out.
So how can we, as parents or educators or support professionals, help students be more persistent?
Encourage Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck, a research psychologist at Stanford University, has done extensive research on factors that encourage children to persist on challenging tasks. She found two groups of students, those who believed intelligence is innate and unchangeable (Fixed Mindset) vs. those who believed they could increase their intelligence with practice (Growth Mindset). She found students with Growth Mindset were more willing to try new challenges while students with Fixed Mindset tended to avoid additional challenge and preferred to repeat past success. Students who were praised for effort were more interested in taking on more advanced cognitive tasks. Dweck has found that encouraging students to view failure as a learning opportunity and to praise effort rather than outcome leads students to engage in more advanced and challenging work. It is important to recognize the effort that students with learning challenges put into their work. Because of their processing challenges, these students often work much harder than their peers, often behind the scenes at home.
Lev Vygotsky, the Russian educational theorist, also provided important conceptualization for persistence in his Zone of Proximal Development. Vygotsky proposed that children learn best when the task falls within a particular level of challenge. When tasks are perceived by the student as too easy, the student is bored and unmotivated. When the task is perceived by the student to be too challenging, he or she is more likely to give up without trying.
Learning occurs at a level of moderate challenge.
I have come to understand this concept firsthand. Recently, I have been taking singing lessons as an avocation and I have found that to be successful in focusing on developing basic vocal technique, I have to limit other aspects of the musical challenge. I become easily overwhelmed if the song is in a language that I don’t know well or if the rhythm is too complex. For students with learning challenges, it can be tricky to fully evaluate how challenging they will find a particular task. It is important to look at whether the format of the task is adding unnecessary challenge, perhaps making it more difficult for the student to grasp the task. Scaffolding, or providing support to moderate the challenge, is important for children with learning challenges.
Use Prior Success as a Model
When dealing with learning challenges our children face, it is easy to become preoccupied with deficits. When a child is struggling to read a simple picture book, it is upsetting and a warning of future difficulties. However, this same child is likely successful somewhere—in the arts, in a sport, in a video game. Parents often tell us about the hours their children spend mastering a level in a video game or building elaborate Lego structures. Success in non-academic areas likely requires persistence and provides important clues to the conditions under which your child is willing or able to stick to a complex task. For example, is your child good at video games because he or she has strong visual spatial skills? We often find that such children learn reading best with a multi-sensory reading method that pulls in their strengths to support a processing weakness.
While we may be focused and concerned about student deficits, students with learning challenges often have a more intense reaction. They have known failure and are often acutely aware of suffering in comparison to their peers. These students can become overly focused on avoiding failure to the extent that they don’t believe they can be successful. It can help to remind students of their success elsewhere and try to help them identify skills that brought success that can be applied to the new challenge. Sports psychologists encourage athletes to visualize themselves successfully executing a task before making the attempt. However, for students who struggle with executive functions, the organization and planning skills for complex tasks, grasping the end product may be beyond them. They can’t envision success because they don’t know what is expected. Providing a model of an end product can often help these students put themselves into a vision of success.
Model persistence in your own life
Our children often watch us for guidance on handling life tasks. How you manage challenging tasks and how persistent you are in dealing with frustration are important road maps for your child. Sharing your feelings about these experiences can help your child feel understood and that you recognize the challenge to come. Together you can work together to develop a strategic approach and celebrate your child’s good effort whatever the outcome.
There is always another day and another way!
Spring is here! After months of spending time indoors, the days are getting longer and it is time to start taking evening walks around the neighborhood or playing in the backyard after dinner.
Parents ask for ideas for activities they can do at home with their children to help improve their gross motor skills. So here is a list of a few fun outdoor activities that can help work your child’s muscles without them knowing they are working!
WALK, CLIMB AND ROLL…
The Washington DC Metro area has some wonderful trails to explore. Walking on trails is great for building overall gross motor strength and endurance. Whether climbing over rock formations, stepping over tree roots, or just managing the uneven terrain of the trail, your child is building strength and improving their dynamic balance. If you prefer something a little closer to home, just climbing a grassy hill in your neighborhood can help build strength. Ask your child to climb up the hill like a bear, while they are spinning or by walking up backward. The possibilities are endless and will definitely keep your child engaged (as will allowing them to roll back down the hill to you!).
Sidewalk chalk is great for promoting gross motor skills. Just the act of squatting and drawing promotes quad strength and trunk control. If you child prefers to lie on their stomach and draw, that is good too, as they are unknowingly strengthening their shoulder girdle and neck muscles! Chalk can be used to create hopscotch boards, mazes and “balance beams” — all of which help to improve balance and sequencing skills.
Hula Hoops, Jump Ropes and Tunnels, and Cones
Kids love a contest! Use the items listed above or any other item you may have in your garage and set up an obstacle course. Kids can jump into hoops, run around cones, jump over or crawl under ropes, and crawl through or roll in tunnels. You will be amazed how many times they will do the same course. just to find out if they were faster than their previous attempt (or beat their sibling!). If you are feeling up to the challenge, race your child or, even better, allow them to set up a course of their own to race you through.
Bikes and Scooters
Riding a bike or a scooter will help your child work on coordination, endurance and overall strengthening. Balance bikes and three-wheeled scooters are great alternatives for children to work on the balance and coordination that are needed before graduating to the two-wheeled versions.
Put Your Child to Work
Many young kids love to help, so let them! Yard work is a great way to develop gross motor skills. Filling watering cans and carrying them across the yard to water plants, pulling weeds, raking mulch, or pushing wheelbarrows all promote strength, balance and improved muscular endurance. Allow your child to help wash your car; while they are getting wet and playing in the soap suds, their upper extremity musculature is getting a workout.
Explore a Playground
Playgrounds allow kids to work on a multitude of gross motor skills: strength, balance, coordination, sequencing and depth perception, to name just a few. Encourage your child to cross the monkey bars or try the fireman’s pole, while giving them enough assistance so that they feel safe and experience a sense of accomplishment. If the playground is not crowded, allow your child to climb up the slide and then come back down; this exercise is great for both upper and lower extremity strength and kids LOVE to do it! Explore the wobbly bridge with your child and pretend to surf on it. If your child is nervous about climbing ladders, you can climb behind them, keeping your child between you and the ladder to give them a better sense of security.
Not every child is going to want to play Little League and that is okay. Balls skills can be worked on in your backyard or at a park at the level and intensity with which your child is comfortable. Play catch or baseball with a large beach ball; allow your child to try to kick a ball and score a goal against you; play catch with a ball and Velcro mitt; or throw ice cubes/ water balloons and try to hit a tree and watch them explode.
These are just a handful of activities that can be done outside to promote gross motor strength. The key to any of these is to follow your child’s lead and allow them to have fun! It is amazing how much gross motor work can get done when kids don’t know that they are working!
When we consider that our children will be the architects of the future, we must ensure that we develop their capacity to solve problems and then create opportunities for them to generate original solutions for existing problems in creative and innovative ways. We also have an obligation as a school to establish opportunities for our students and ourselves to create, imagine and innovate. There has been much written about the strength in organizations that allow for time for innovation during the work week. As an example, Gmail, the electronic mail system provided by Google was developed during the innovation time provided to all Google employees; Post-it® notes had a similar origin.
Children who have learning disabilities frequently have attentional or executive function weaknesses as well. In these cases, their impulsivity, or lack of attention to the details required of a new or different task may prevent them from fully establishing the confidence necessary to try something new. Creating and innovating require a level of risk-taking, and a time commitment that necessitates that students examine alternate possibilities to a problem. Imagining requires that the student start with a vision of the final product and work backwards, or consider the perspective of others when creating. These constructs become complicated for children with learning disabilities and attention issues as they often have fabulous ideas, but cannot communicate their entire vision or cannot devote the emotional time and energy necessary to complete a product.
Creating is constructing. Constructing is a demonstration of an understanding or learning or interpreting through the visual and performing arts one’s knowledge or experiences. Sometimes students with learning disabilities immediately shut down stating, “I can’t draw,” or “I can’t sing,” or “I’m not creative,” or “I can’t see what you are talking about.” In addition to this response to the opportunity to create, we also often observe our students immediately making a value judgment about an idea. They may be quick to criticize any idea that they perceive as too difficult or label any task they can’t complete with one try as insurmountable or ridiculous.
We must help our students by breaking down the tasks, sharing concrete examples, creating the opportunities for success and sharing visual and aural models that support the development of this habit. Students and adults who demonstrate the habit of creating, imagining and innovating are open to criticism and are intrinsically motivated. In other words, they strive for a product that meets a personal standard of excellence and they are less reliant on external material rewards.
While all of the habits are critical, there is something undeniably special about the habit of responding with wonderment and awe! Albert Einstein, a genius with learning disabilities, was quoted as stating, “The most beautiful experience in the world is the experience of the mysterious.” The idea that every snowflake is unique, that mass times acceleration produces energy, that penicillin was the result of mold, that a young man listening to music on his computer one night imagined that other teenagers were probably doing the same thing and music file sharing was born, the power of an atom, a spider’s web, a rainbow, and the resiliency of our students, all cause me to respond with wonderment and awe.
Thinking about the mysterious and unknown is hard work, and therefore students with processing disorders, compromised executive functioning skills, and specific learning disabilities often avoid or struggle with the thinking that produces wonderment and awe. We have an obligation to excite our students and establish an environment at home and at school that encourages curiosity. We want our students to feel passionate about learning and mastering knowledge, as we know that this passion will establish the intrigue that produces a sense of wonderment and awe.
There are a few changes parents typically expect as their youngsters grow into adolescence. Most parents know to expect a good portion of brooding, irritability and social drama. They expect their children’s bodies to change and their sexuality to become more pronounced. Parents know that kids will rebel and talk back, and that they are likely to experiment with things you wish they wouldn’t.
What parents may not expect is the pain and alienation they are likely to feel when their teens practice “selective” listening or stop listening altogether. The labor-intensive years of parenting a young child are over, and it’s a sure bet that your teen has expanded his or her verbal and reasoning skills. It only makes sense to hope that your teen will want to engage in meaningful conversations with you, the parent. As one parent put it, “I always thought that this would be the time when I’d get to share my wisdom and life experiences. Seems like all I share is my pocketbook and some curt text messages.”
This is no doubt frustrating for many parents. They have a hard time understanding why their teen doesn’t seek their advice, why their life lessons aren’t relevant, and why their teen would rather listen to a peer than someone who’s “been there.” What’s a caring parent to do? It’s important, first, to consider what NOT to do. Don’t lecture; don’t preach; don’t give unsolicited advice and try not to talk down to your teen. When communicating with teens, less is more.
Less is more in conflict. Have you ever found yourself going round and round in endless debate with your teen? At the beginning of the conversation, you felt confident in your decision to set a limit. Your teen requests an explanation, which you provide. That explanation is challenged, as is your next counterpoint, and before you know it, your resolve whittles away until you relent or shut the conversation down, exasperated. This is a sign that the conversation went on too long.
Less is more in support. You want your child to succeed. You want her to bypass all of your mistakes. You’ve been through it and could save her so much pain, humiliation, failure and disappointment. You know best, but she’s not interested in your advice. As kids develop, they begin to assert their personal philosophies, which, at first, are painfully naïve; just one bad idea after another (maybe you remember some of your own?). During these times, the relationship you foster with your child is more important than any advice you could give. In time, the relationship will bring her back to the life that you modeled.
If you’re already familiar with our blog, you know that we pay close attention to the diversity of learning styles and how they can impact our relationships. For many, talk – in and of itself – is not a particularly useful learning tool. Problems can be solved through means other than communication, and for teens that don’t tend to process verbally, you are likely to encounter shut-down in the presence of excessive talk. For others, talk is at the heart of problem-solving and serves as the primary tool for thought and expression. For teens that are more verbal, excessive talk is gives opportunity to chip away at your authority as you are questioned, challenged and cross-examined. After a point, everything you say becomes grist for the mill.
Less talk. Less explanation. Less preaching. It’s easier said than done. In my work with parents, the most frequent cause of excessive talk is a desire to reach consensus. Recent generations of parents espouse open communication as a cornerstone of parenting. They have decided to listen to their children; to give them airtime. These ideals are a step in the right direction, but along the way it’s tempting to strive for perfect consensus with teens. This can cause gridlock and compromise your authority. You think “if I could just bring them to my point of view, they will understand the ‘why’ of it all.” It’s more likely that they won’t come to your point of view, either because they’re still too young to comprehend it or because it simply isn’t convenient for them. Sometimes the adult’s role is to set the boundaries and tolerate their teen’s differences and negative feelings.
There are lots of ways to reduce excessive talk, but the first step is acceptance. You must accept in your heart and mind that your kids won’t always agree with your logic, accept that they aren’t always willing receivers of your wisdom, accept their naivety as a step in the direction of learning and accept the mistakes that will inevitably follow.
If you find that this post strikes a chord with your experiences and inspires you to make some changes, I would recommend that you do so cautiously and slowly. Begin a process of self-monitoring and reflection wherein you might better identify what your kids are triggering in you. How, specifically, to talk less may emerge from that reflection and guide you to a more meaningful relationship with your teens.
Is it safe to say that many high school seniors graduate without having knowledge of financial literacy? Speaking for myself, if I knew then what I know now, I would be in great shape! My goal now, as a college and guidance counselor, is to ready my students for the real world (i.e., life after high school). That could involve college or it could involve working for a paycheck or it could involve both.
As students prepare for graduation, they should also prepare for independent living and financial responsibility. Financial literacy is the ability to understand how money works in the world. Before heading off to college or the world of work, our young adults should know how to earn or make money; how to manage money; how to invest money; and how to donate money to help others.
At Kingsbury Day School seniors take a transition course that includes financial planning. They begin to develop an understanding of how to get a job as they create their resume and cover letter, practice interview techniques and learn business etiquette. Seniors who know how to market themselves and apply for jobs that match their qualifications are a step ahead of those who don’t. Today’s job market is very competitive and we’re doing our students a disservice if we assume they know what is involved in finding a job.
Once they get a job, it’s safe to assume that many young adults will focus only on spending the money, money, money! Their next decision shouldn’t be what to buy with their money (tennis shoes? clothing? restaurant meals?); it should be how to allocate that money. Even the first-time job holder needs to know how to budget their money.
Through the financial planning class, Kingsbury seniors learn how to create a budget in order to pay their bills. Most have only the vaguest idea of what bills are; but once they see what living independently is all about, mouths pop open and mumbles begin. One student said, “Oh my goodness, how am I going to live?”
How Will Your Senior Function Financially?
Preparing students how to function financially, before they enter the real world, is as important as preparing them academically to succeed. As the seniors progress through their financial planning course at Kingsbury, they learn:
How to look for an apartment that fits their budget
How to furnish their apartment on a budget
How to grocery shop on a budget
How to plan a party on a budget
About federal and state income taxes that are deducted from their earnings
W-2 Wage and Tax Statements and filing their tax returns
Banking skills and the different between banks and credit unions
Pros and cons of credit cards
How to manage their income
Insurance (health and life)
Is Your Child Headed off to College?
If your teen is headed off to college this fall, discuss your expectations regarding payment of tuition and room and board. Will you pay? Will your child pay? Will you both contribute? If your child is expected to contribute any or all of the costs, review their revenue stream and help them to create a budget. If your child is receiving scholarships, financial aid, or student loans, does he or she understand the importance of meeting the terms of the agreements?
Finally, don’t forget to consider and discuss with your child how to budget for other college-related expenses, including:
Dorm room essentials (bedding, bathroom items)
Personal care items (shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, etc.)
Entertainment (concerts, movies)
The Time to Talk is Before They Leave Home!
If you’re the parent of a teenager, the time to consider your child’s financial literacy is before they head out into the world of college or work. Talking about money is usually a difficult topic for parents; however, bailing your child out of future financial messes could prove to be equally, if not more difficult. Reviewing the list with your teenager might be a good place to start. Don’t be afraid to admit that you’ve made some unwise financial decisions or that you wished you had handled your money better. Nobody’s perfect and our children can learn from our mistakes, just as we can.
If you get stuck or don’t pretend to be a money management expert, there are a number of great financial planning resources available online and in your local library. Helping your child to develop an understanding of basic financial planning will ultimately benefit both of you!