See PCW article in April 2013 issue of Washington Parent magazine.
Notes from 2013 Spring Forum: presentation from Common Sense Media held on April 11 at Landon School.
View PCW new tri-fold brochure.
"Service and social action can help children connect with their true selves and counter today's stress"
Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart
It’s early March--- that time of year when many families start to long for spring break or one last snow day and an opportunity to ease back a little.
Kids are wearing pajamas inside out and backwards; parents are looking at the calendar and joyfully recognizing that time off is within sight. For many young people, the sheer pleasure of knowing that an alarm clock might not be pushing them out the door before they are fully rested---even if only for a day—gives them hope and inspiration. Many of our children are stressed, and in most cases, so are the adults around them. Stress is a common theme in both parent and educator circles these days.
The pressure our kids are under, the complexity of their schedules, and the competition to perform and to achieve seem to escalate each year. Add all of this to our real-time, multi-sensory world, and it becomes plain to see why stress has become such an important concern. Where do our children have an opportunity to detach from the pace and stress and find balance? How do we as parents and educators support our children and students in navigating the challenge of managing stress? I’m sure we’re all aware of the common practices recommended for reducing stress in children’s lives such as striving for consistency, making time for free play and unscheduled time, learning to say “no” to activities, keeping a sense of humor, emphasizing wellness through nutrition and exercise, and making time and space for good old fashioned family time. Additionally, common sense and conventional wisdom tell us that if the adults in the family can manage their own stress, it will have a direct impact on the anxiety level of the children in the household. Parents who have cracked the code on the healthy management of adult pressures--- whether through exercise, hobbies, friendships, prayer, or whatever—serve as great role models and guides for their children. At Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, one of the fundamental ways in which we counterbalance stress is actually an unplanned outcome of one of our cornerstone programs: service learning. Stone Ridge has always placed a strong emphasis on social action. From our seniors in high school all the way down to our lower school students, everyone at Stone Ridge experiences age-appropriate service learning as part of the culture of our community. Since much of childhood stress in our contemporary culture is rooted in the pressure to achieve or perform, stress is reduced when young people feel engaged and satisfied in activities. Where a student might not feel the immediate reward of memorizing a list of spelling words or might feel anxious about trying to master a math concept that is difficult for him/her, most individuals gain joy and personal accomplishment when they see that their work and talents have impacted the community. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” When offering service, success is often measured in very simple terms: a brief interaction, the smile of a stranger in need, the completion of a project involving manual labor. It is a fundamental part of our philosophy that through service opportunities students learn to get outside of themselves, to find perspective, and to break from the stresses that our fast-paced, modern world imposes on them. They learn different skills, make powerful interpersonal connections, impact others and the community, and learn to appreciate their own circumstances. This, in turn, often helps our students find greater balance and centeredness as they tackle the stresses of their day.
It seems the bar keeps getting higher for our youth, regardless of how much educators and parents want to protect them from the attendant stress. Our greatest gift is to help them to develop the confidence and skills that come from self-awareness and perspective. By promoting service and social action we can assist children connect with their true inner voices and find the value in who they are, with less focus on the external elements which often contribute to stress.