We trust that you and your boys enjoyed the half-term long weekend and were able to find time for some fun-filled relaxation and connecting activities together.
Protecting Children against the Impact of Anxiety:
The four members of the newly established Pastoral Care Directorate made good use of an invitation to join the independent schools’ Pastoral Care cluster meeting hosted at St Peter’s Prep School a few days ago. It provided me with a good opportunity to tag along, as much to spend time with this passionately boy-centred team as to hear the presentation given by Luke Lambrecht.
Mr Lambrecht has a very interesting track-record as a professional who has devoted most of his adult life to caring for, counselling and protecting abused, destitute and vulnerable children. He is a Child Protection and Development Specialist, completing his MSc in Neurodevelopment at Wits within the Departments of Pediatrics and Pathology. He has worked in the NPO field for 24 years and is currently a director at Lefika La Phodiso: The Art Therapy Centre and at Fight With Insight: Hillbrow Boxing re-Evolution Life Gym at the Children’s Memorial Institute. He convenes the Johannesburg Child Advocacy Forum and supervises Women and Men Against Child Abuse’s Alexandra Victim Empowerment Programme service.
Mr Lambrecht spoke to over a hundred teachers and educators on the subject of Anxiety and its impact on the lives of the Digital Child. We intend to invite Luke to join us here at The Ridge at some stage, in the near future, so for now I will simply highlight a few thoughts, choice comments or one-liners that resonated well and struck chords with us as the educators involved daily in your boys’ lives.
He reminded us all that as the adults who are teaching, parenting, working with and caring for children in these challenging times, we need to better understand that we are the first adult generation to be exposed to the thinking and behaviours of a generation that is entirely digital in its ‘wiring’. As such, we ought to recognise that intra-family rules are undergoing some serious realigning. Many of the traditional value systems have, in countless ways, been turned upside-down. The device screen is often the ‘relational security blanket’ that the child trusts and so relies on more than any other.
Speaking at one point, specifically about older children and young adults, he encouraged us to bear in mind the relentless presence of and pressures from all that gaming and social media brings into their lives. Consequently, there is very little digital down time and therefore no respite from the influences that impact their lives throughout much of each day.
This firmly entrenched ‘virtual-induced’ behaviour, together with so many of the alarming messages that filter through to them from the adult world, expose the children to so much that they are simply not emotionally ready for.
This in turn produces:
- A potential disconnect with family and friends
- Raised levels of relationship superficiality in their lives … which in turn can lead to related feelings of isolation
- An autonomic overload of senses and choices with the digital world relentlessly feeding what Luke calls their unique echo chambers
- The build-up of anxieties, which over a short space of time act as an activator through which a tipping point toward a form of emotional breakdown is sometimes reached.
Mr Lambrecht went on to say that in his opinion the highly-charged and all too often anxious modern-day parent demands too much from their children. He reminded us that all children need to feel that being good at something is important, but that they should not feel that are expected to be good at everything.
Amongst a variety of proposed interventions, Luke shared a few important reminders for parents and teachers as we set about recognising our roles in reducing anxiety levels in our children:
- Be careful not to have adult conversations that can be overlaid with emotion, impassioned opinions and strong language in earshot of the children.
- Help children to talk about what they are feeling physically. Children don’t understand what is happening in their minds and emotionally(psychologically), but they are able, if prompted, and provided that they feel they can trust the adult, to share what is happening in their bodies; i.e. tummy feeling sore, not sleeping, biting their nails, wanting to be alone, etc.
- Through encouraging them to speak about how they are feeling, we need them to digest what is happening around them and inside of themselves.
He refers to what he terms ‘the ghettoisation of the civilized world’ caused by anxiety overload amongst parents, families and communities that in turn leads to us trying to shut the world out. His advice:
- We need to build resistance in our children by encouraging them to talk about their anxieties and for us to show that we are prepared to listen, give advice and counsel, are not standing in judgement, and to help them to understand that they can feel safe in our company.
- He touched, too, on the concept of reaching out empathetically to someone in ways that reflect sincerity of heart and that encourage us to take time to interact compassionately with another’s state of mind.
- He had some thoughts on the subject of mindfulness and the role that this can play in helping to better strengthen a child’s resolve, thus providing them with a deeper understanding of themselves as unique beings.
- This strength-of-mind conditioning will understandably better serve to equip them emotionally for some of the anxieties that might come their way.
Installation of Solar Power (Alternative Energy) at The Ridge:
Many parents would have seen the newly installed banks of solar panels on the roofs of three of the Senior Primary Quad buildings. A preliminary feasibility study indicated that a high level of grid independence as well as cost savings would be achieved by the implementation of a 50 kWp solar PV system.
The installation process has taken close to three months as the technicians not only had to secure the panels in place but, more importantly, took time to connect this new energy supply to the schools existing electrical circuitry.
What won’t be common knowledge is the fact that the whole set up and installation costs have been very generously donated to the school. The big switch-on took place on Monday morning, 18th February.
We are delighted with what, in more ways than one, is a truly significant gift. We are planning for the installation of further such alternative energy installations in the years ahead.
Voting Day and the start of the 2nd Term:
It is now common knowledge that voting day for the upcoming National Elections has been set down for Wednesday 8th May. Parents will also be aware that the start of the 2nd Term had been scheduled for Tuesday 7th May.
Given that The Ridge is a voting station and so will be used by the Independent Electoral Commission on both the Tuesday and the Wednesday, please take note that the boys will only be able to return on the morning of Thursday 9th May. We are planning to make good use of the Monday and Tuesday of that week by holding two days of teacher training and professional development.
A Final Word … Getting a handle on Anxiety and the Fear-factor:
The book Factfulness by Hans Rosling makes for fascinating reading.
It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.
In the book, Professor of International Health and global phenomenon, Hans Rosling, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens and reveals the ten instincts that distort our perception. Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think.
Professor Rosling’s Factfulness Rules of Thumb:
“One of the most important books I’ve ever read – an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.” Bill Gates.
Best wishes and God’s blessings as you and your lads make the most of all that the second half of the 1st Term will be bringing your way.