Tag Archives: wellbeing

Thank You Lighthouse Institute!

Lighthouse Institute, an Australian attachment and trauma informed ‘Knowledge Centre that draws on 21 years of practice at Lighthouse Foundation, recently visited us at Pathways to deliver their trauma informed training program. Lighthouse Institute has been commissioned to provide attachment and trauma informed training programs across the country to support organisations working with those who are taking part in the difficult process of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The 2-day program was delivered by Helen Lenga, a qualified psychologist who has specialist training with children and families and who has over 30 years experience working in the field of trauma as a psychotherapist, trainer, consultant and supervisor.

Along with attendees from Kids Matter, Good Start, Bush Kids, Kids ELC and Stellar Lives, we were fortunate enough to attend four sessions concerning trauma and trauma informed practice, including ‘Understanding Complex Trauma and Trauma Informed Practice’, ‘A Trauma Informed Approach to Understanding Grief and Loss’, ‘Understanding Psychosocial Development’ and ‘Understanding and Working with Trauma Based Behaviour’.

The vast wealth of knowledge and advice that Helen was able to share with us will indeed impact on the way we work with services, parents, children and communities in the future. We would like to thank Helen, Lighthouse Institute and all of the attendees for making the event so informative and invaluable.

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Nelson Mandela International Day: The greatest lessons.

Friday 18th July- the day that Nelson Mandela was born- marks Nelson Mandela International Day. In 2009, the UN General Assembly declared this day in honour of Mandela’s dedication to resolving conflict, promoting equality and striving for peace. His incredible courage, resilience and positivity is a lesson that continues to be taught throughout the world; he is a model for compassion and optimism and has taught us some of the greatest lessons for a happier healthier life.

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Stay positive, stay alive.

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

–              Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandella.

Mandela’s optimism and positive mindset was what kept him moving forward rather than basking in his despair and misfortune. By looking up and keeping his head toward the sun, he ensured that he was always heading towards the light and moving away from the dark moments which often tested his resolve. His courage and conviction is inspiring and encourages us to always focus on the light in our lives and not dwell on the dark.

Model and teach positive emotions.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite.”

–              Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.

Educators, counsellors and communities all play a valuable role in educating and empowering young people through the modelling of positive behavior and emotions. Just as Mandela boldly states, we often teach our young people how to deal with emotions by example. But how can we effectively teach people to be positive and self aware if we are unable to identify and model it ourselves? In order to cultivate a culture that promotes self-awareness and confidence, we must become aware of our own ‘triggers’ that can ignite a negative emotion and learn to diffuse the feeling before it evolves into something corrosive that permeates the emotions of young people in our care.

In his publication ‘Why adults strike back: Learned behavior or genetic code? (1995)’, Nicholas Long reveals that ‘the number one reason for the increase in student violence in schools is staff counteraggression. While staff do not initiate student aggression, they react in ways that perpetuate it’. Take a pair of tuning forks for example; if one tuning fork is struck then the other fork will begin to vibrate, modelling the reaction of the first fork. People are no different: we mimic and absorb the negative emotions of others and often create more conflict as a result. Thus, in order to influence behavior, we must learn how to self-regulate our own counteraggressive actions. By training ourselves to be more self-aware and insightful about our own feelings, we can create more rewarding and purposeful relationships.

For further information concerning a student’s conflict cycle, see the full article at http://www.cyc-net.org.

NSW Report Reveals Teens Want More Mental Health Support and Skills

With the alarming knowledge that one in four young Australians aged 16-24 experience at least one mental disorder (AIHW 2011) and that they are more likely to die by their own hands than be killed in a road accident, it is no surprise that Australian youth are crying out for support and information about mental health. A recent report has recommended that the New South Wales government ensure that more resources are put in place to raise awareness of how young people can access mental health services and for schools in NSW to dewhats up westvelop and implement a mental health policy.

The What’s Up West? 2013 Project was devised to get young people across Western Sydney talking to each other to discuss what they can do to make their communities better and ultimately empower young people with the skills and knowledge to make real and lasting changes. The project was run and funded by the Western Sydney Project and Youth Action with the objective of giving young people a chance to have their say about the positive changes they want to see in their community. Their findings from the project are a result of the contributions from more than 170 young people from across 14 local areas in Western Sydney and have been published in their What’s Up West? DIY Reality report. The report highlights 21 recommendations for government and other public agencies on seven different topics, including culture, sexuality and mental health.

The report further outlines what individuals can do to change the stigma attached to mental health, including speaking openly about mental health and being aware of the mental health of people around you. What seems most encouraging is that young people are aware of the necessity to look after personal mental health and to utilise a range of strategies to relieve stress, including exercise and meditation.

Encouraging young people in our care to be more mindful of their emotions and to talk openly about mental health issues that they have encountered is by no means an easy task due to the stigma that it attached to the issue, not to mention the fact that many people feel unqualified to discuss such sensitive subjects. However, What’s Up West? has illuminated the fact that maybe it’s time for individuals, communities and governments to start opening their own discussions about mental health and to start finding ways to help those who need and want it most: our youth.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Visit http://www.youthaction.org.au to download the latest What’s Up West DIY Reality report.

Communication is Key to Improving Relationships with Culturally Diverse Students and Families.

Since 1983, the Harvard Family Research Project has helped to develop and evaluate strategies to promote the wellbeing of children, youth, families and their communities. One component of their complementary learning research focusses on family and community involvement in education in the form of FINE: Family Involvement Network of Educators; a network of people interested in promoting strong partnerships between schools, families and communities. An important question that the network have discussed as part of their ongoing research is how to better prepare teachers to work with culturally diverse students and their families and the skills that educators need to develop to do this successfully.

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 POSITIVE CORRESPONDENCE

Sherick Hughes, Assistant Professor in the College of Education at the University of Toledo, states that ‘teachers must come to understand the real life experiences of the families and children they teach…to set up plausible situations to give families a legitimate voice in their curriculum and unit planning… [to] encourage teachers to take the spiritual lives of families seriously as a key point of connection.’ Hughes further acknowledges that it is difficult for teachers to build rapport with families as they are not always able to go out into these diverse communities and make the necessary connections. She therefore advocates three family-specific alternatives for teachers to utilise at least once during the school year to build better relationships with parents and carers:

1. Call each child’s family with positive information regarding their progress;

2. Email each student’s family during the school year with positive information;

3. Through email, mail, or student delivery, send a positive message via audio or audio/visual medium regarding each student.

INVOLVE PARENTS

Eileen Kugler, a speaker and trainer on building community support for diverse schools, further reinforces Hughes’ advice to teachers to build relationships with families using positive information and states that they also ‘need to identify nonthreatening opportunities to welcome parents with diverse backgrounds to the school. At the end of a unit of study, teachers can invite parents into the classroom so the students can share their achievements with them. As opposed to the stereotype of not caring, parents frequently feel left out, just waiting to be asked to be involved.’ Communication is therefore essential for teachers, including planning and using opportunities to engage positively with families.

RAPPORT NOT RITUALS

Although teachers are deemed as being exceptional communicators when it comes to delivering information to their students, it can be a different story when it comes to delivering information to parents and carers. According to Bonnie Rockafellow, the Education Consultant for the Michigan Department of Education, teacher education needs to include more interpersonal communication skill building to ensure that teachers are able to effectively build rapport and share meaning with families. This is most evident in parent-teacher conferences, an opportunity for teachers to communicate and engage face to face with families. Rockafellow videotaped several parent-teacher conferences and through her analysis of the interactions she concluded that in each conference a ‘ritual played out. Most often the teacher presented the information she had prepared and at the end of the timeframe the teacher would ask if the parents had any questions, and then close the conference. The result of the conference was most often a reporting of the school’s information rather than an opportunity for teachers to meaningfully engage with families and listen to their suggestions and comments.’ She ultimately identifies a key opportunity for teachers to engage with families with meaning.

The FINE research and evaluation of strategies for improving the preparation of teachers to work with culturally diverse students and their families is vast and resourceful; identifying opportunities for teachers to examine their own attitudes and connect with those who ‘think and look differently’ than they do.

If you would like to read more about FINE, visit the Harvard Family Research Project at http://www.hfrp.org

Practical Skills for student wellbeing: Our placement student gives her opinion on the Trust

Pathways to Resilience Trust relies on the help of a range of volunteers and students doing work experience placements to help our already hard working staff. Currently we have a student – Lisa Gazan from Griffith University – undertaking her practical placement with us. She is currently studying a double degree in Education and Child and Family Studies. I asked Lisa about what she has learnt from her time here.

While she has learnt classroom management techniques from her studies and through practical placements in schools, she was impressed by the different approach used by Pathways to Resilience Trust to achieve better outcomes through social and emotional learning. Lisa appreciated the way these programs looked deeper into “Why” children act-out, as opposed to just the simplistic controlling and managing approaches that make children appear like robots.

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One thing she has taken from the Pathways to Resilience Trust is that the goal of teachers and schools is not just education, but the students’ general wellbeing. While teacher education in universities supports this ideal, she felt her studies have lacked practical methods and strategies to achieve student welfare. Lisa felt academics dominated Australian school curriculum and left little time or mind-space for important life skills. She felt that she will take away a lot of useful and valuable knowledge and skills from the evidence based programs used at Pathways to Resilience Trust that she can apply in her career to assist learners become resilient individuals.

Lisa feels the most important lesson she has learnt is leading through the power of mirror neurons. She advised “If we want students to display certain skills, we must model those traits to the children by re-examining ourselves first. We must take part in life-long learning with the children”.