Sharon: Throughout my travels over the last few years, I’ve met so many outstanding educators and parents, beautiful human beings, passionate about offering children an environment where they can grow and learn. I have had so many inspiring conversations that ended way too soon.
Now that Chelsea has become my associate, I finally have the time and technical know-how to create a space where we can continue the conversation, share ideas, and inspire each other. Each post will have a topic for discussion. What are your thoughts? How have you explored this topic with children, whether in the classroom or living room? How have they responded? Concrete examples and anecdotal stories give all of us ideas that we can work with.
The topic on the table for this post is self-reflection.
Many of you have heard me speak about the effect of an over stimulating, media-driven culture on the well being of our children. In my presentation Who's Raising Our Kids? Nurturing Human Values in the Digital World, I speak about how helping kids develop the practice of self-reflection provides an antidote to the barrage of stimulation and information they must navigate every day. By nurturing the capacity to self-reflect, we help the child develop a trusting relationship with their own self. Knowing oneself, trusting oneself, becomes the foundation for healthy, responsible decision-making.
In the last six months Chelsea and I have had the honor of engaging with hundreds of students on the concept of self-reflection, which is the core principle of our Sexual Health and Responsibility Curriculum.
Chelsea: We have been truly inspired by their insights. In the class, we speak about the importance of developing a relationship with yourself, especially as you are going through puberty—as everything else is changing, you can always depend on that relationship. As a homework assignment, we ask the students to engage daily in a self-reflection exercise for one week and to keep a journal of their experiences. We provide them with some exercises to choose from—art, meditation, walking in nature—and we also encourage them to come up with their own ways. At the end of the week they write a letter to themselves, which begins “Dear Best Friend.” Their responses have been so heartfelt and thoughtful. We have paraphrased some below:
Sharon: It’s important to note that the journal and their letters are just for them and we do not collect the assignment. That would have betrayed the point. However, many of the students were eager to share.
Chelsea: Exactly, by asking them to simply talk about what the experience was like, their effort was validated, and they could hear how their classmates had found their own unique ways to reflect. Some felt connected to themselves when they were swimming laps or dribbling a basketball, others stared at the ceiling as they lay in bed at night and reviewed their day.
Sharon: Two things stood out for me. One is the power of journaling—they really saw the value in writing down their experiences. The other is the number of kids that talked about how little time they actually have to themselves. They shared about how busy they were and how little time they had to just daydream or think their own thoughts. Some talked about only having time to think when they were in the car going to their next activity. So many after school activities and opportunities to learn! It’s clear that the parents are working very hard to give children every advantage. All of which is wonderful if it can be balanced with just a little time to reflect on what it all means, what you think and feel about things, how you are making sense of your life.
Chelsea: I’m reminded of a wonderful mother of a five-year-old I met with when I was in college. She wanted to discuss what she could do to best prepare her daughter to get into a good college. The mother wanted the best for her daughter and was hoping to offer her every possibility in a very competitive world—a world where children are often evaluated as a sum of extracurricular activities and grades. It seems ironic that we keep children so busy that they rarely have a quiet moment to sit and reflect on what they think or what interests them until they are asked to write their college application essay and then suddenly they need to find their voice. I shared with the mother how my experience of developing my voice and discovering my passions had always been a balance of stimulating engagement in the world and the space to engage with my own thoughts and opinions. Developing your voice isn’t something that just happens over night, it is a continuous process, a continuous inner dialogue, that can only begin when a child has silent time and space to reflect.
Sharon: I invite each of you to share how in the classroom and at home you support the child’s capacity to self-reflect. Do you meditate? Do you have quiet moments to journal? Is there space in the schedule for children to develop an inner dialogue, to nurture a relationship with themselves? I invite you to share your thoughts, ideas, and concrete ways that you nurture children’s capacity to self-reflect.
With great respect and admiration for all you do,
Sharon and Chelsea