talking about feelings
“What in your life makes you anxious?” Jocelyn Lividini asked her fourth graders. The students’ thoughtful and honest answers could have come from people of any age.
Being late. Finding something out at the last minute. Bad weather. Seeing videos of bad things happening to other people. Not being good enough. Comparing myself. Missing out. Taking a COVID test.
The discussion was part of Differences Days, an annual initiative in KLSD elementary schools created by the Special Education PTO. It helps students learn about, and gain empathy for, those who are different from them. Topics typically include physical differences, learning differences and visual and auditory differences. This year, Differences Days also include mental health.
tools for mental health
“Kids experience neurodiversity on a daily basis,” said Gia Miller, one of the parent chairs of Differences Days. She and co-chair Emma Cabaness wanted to help children realize that while there is a wide range of diagnoses under that umbrella, all of us feel anxiety from time to time. They suggested a mindfulness video and lesson to help children understand what’s happening in their brains when they freeze or can’t think straight and to gain tools that can help.
self-care is important
adding empathy to understanding
Lividini used the video as an entry point into an empowering discussion of how students can look after their mental health. She reminded the students of how uncertain it felt last year when Principal Ford announced that school was shutting down for a while. “I exercise each day with my sister to stay calm,” she shared. “What works for you?” Her class has time for mindfulness each day and students reflected on how listening to music, coloring and drawing help them focus.
Then, the Differences Days special ingredient: empathy. “If someone is feeling anxiety, we don’t judge them,” Lividini reminded the students. “It's not helpful to say ‘get over it.’”
The session closed with students creating a new name for Differences Days or positive message or image about the initiative. Unique week! Never give up. Try your best. Differences don't keep us apart. Together forever week.