The whole child: why it’s important to address social and emotional needs

Most people are familiar with the terrible twos, but the terrible teens are equally as frightening for some parents, teachers and guidance counselors.

As teenagers go through puberty, some of them can become more rebellious and distant. As they come to grips with their developmental changes, in addition to dealing with peer pressure and the added social media distractions, some students see their performance in school decline.

But St. Anne’s School middle school guidance counselor Alphonso Major Jr. and his colleagues are finding creative ways to confront the issues their students may be experiencing.

He pointed out the importance of addressing students’ intellectual and emotional needs.

“What we do is, we have a student development plan,” he said. “We have a big brother, big sister program. We also have an anonymous tips line where students can email us at any time and we’ll answer. We are their social media counsellors at times.”

Major said the school also has self-help groups and family life and career courses, which meet twice a week.

One of the major components of the school’s development plan is the introduction of interactive seminars, where students get to meet and talk to various young professionals.

“What we try to do here at St. Anne’s, we try to focus on the entire child,” Major said.

“Every year we try to have this seminar for kids to give them a different outlook on life. So, we try to find people who [have influence] in the community, who are able to come and give back.

“We’ve seen success in bringing in outsiders. They (the students) are more receptive to this, especially young millennials who are doing great things,” he said.

For last week’s seminar, the school invited Nassau Guardian Reporter Sloan Smith and Andrew Gomez, an accountant by day and a rapper and poet by night.

As she addressed the female students, Smith encouraged them to avoid falling into the trap of comparing themselves to others.

Gomez also offered words of advice to the male students.

“Being a teenager is hard,” Smith said. “I was there not too long ago. Being a teenager with the pressures of social media is harder. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of having to be perfect for social media.

“But comparing yourself to only the best parts of someone else’s life is obviously going to cause misery. That’s what social media does.

“We spend so much time looking at how happy someone else is, how amazing their life looks, but we never realize what is happening behind those camera lenses. And worse, we never stop to appreciate the good that is going on in our own lives.

“It’s so easy to get caught up in al l the good and bad in social media. It’s so easy to comment something nasty under someone’s photo or post because everyone else is doing it.

“Twitter fingers are easy when you don’t have to be accountable for your words.

“It’s easy to spread a rumor, even though you know it may not be true.

“But you know what is hard? Standing up for what is right; having the courage to tell your friends that it’s wrong to laugh at another girl because she doesn’t have the latest iPhone or the latest Apple watch. It’s hard having the courage to be kind and genuine even when someone may not deserve it.”

Smith said too many students worry about what others think about them.

“Your quirkiness makes you who you are, and you shouldn’t be afraid to embrace that and express that. The people that you surround yourself with should never tell you different,” she added.

Major said many of the students walked away a greater sense of self-worth.

Meantime, he added that the school is looking at bringing in other professionals and business owners to speak to their senior students.

“We’re also going to bring in some doctors to talk about some sex-related issues, sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, because our kids are a little more informed than when we were in school, so we want to tackle some of those things,” he said.

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