On Thursday, October 24, Winsor's Wellness Department, in collaboration with the Parents' Association, hosted a panel discussion, Better Together: Leveraging Winsor's Wellness Department to Support Student Health & Wellness.
Acknowledging the changing face of student emotional health and wellness, the Wellness Department was formally created last year to serve as a resource and system of support for students and their families. Recognizing that stress and anxiety in teens are on the rise, the members of the Wellness Department are deeply committed to knowing and understanding the Winsor community, and to helping students recognize sources of pressure, learn habits and skills to cope, and ultimately to live healthier, happier lives.
From the opening of the session through the final Q&A, the evening was thought-provoking and invaluable for parents of teens. "It was powerful," said one parent. "Listening to each of the speakers, it was evident that they are really working together, mindfully, and leveraging each others' strengths, so they can provide incredible support for our daughters." Another suggested the session was so helpful it should be recorded and shown on the evening news.
Wellness Department Head Christina Baudis moderated the discussion and began by showing a video featuring Lisa Damour, author of Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, which was a community read for Winsor faculty and staff this summer. The clip explored the pressures girls face, and what families can do to help, and can be viewed - along with other videos spotlighting Lisa Damour - on YouTube.
Director of Health Services and School Nurse Diane Sneider gave parents the chance to experience a bit of the wellness curriculum for themselves, leading a meditation exercise that students do during health class. "We've put a lot of thought into revamping the wellness curriculum," she said, adding that Upper School students begin each advisory meetings with ten minutes of a meditation of their choice. "We've made time for meditation and self-care because we don't just want students to understand what it means; we want them to learn that it should be a priority."
Making the session more poignant, the department members shared what students said, in their own words, when asked the following questions: What is pressure? What is stress? How do you cope with stress? What do you want your family to know?
Reflecting on the many responses relating to grades, Coordinator of Academic Support Laura Vantine acknowledged that for students, "grades do feel very urgent and concrete," and students can feel the emotion from a stressful experience or disappointing performance for days. The key, she said, is "to validate what they are feeling, and acknowledge that they are feeling the pressure. They need to feel the feelings. Then you can help them peel back the emotion, get some perspective, and get back to work."
School Counselor Madeline Warlan also underscored the distinction between good stress and bad stress. "It's part of life. But we can change the narrative around it. Ultimately, we want them to make it through, with some scaffolding." And that's really what distinguishes Winsor's Wellness Program.
"We are working to be preventative," says Miss Baudis. "We are working with the teachers and the advisors. We are getting in the classrooms. We are reaching out to families and holding forums like this. We are building the bonds before something becomes a crisis. And we are giving the students the tools and resources they need before they need them, and giving them lots of practice."
In closing, Miss Baudis shared the following takeaways for parents:
1 - Communication: To keep communications open even when things get difficult, practice empathetic listening, validation, reassurance, and asking questions.
2 - Self Care: Help your daughter prioritize sleep, healthy eating, and boundaries with technology use and social media. And be a role model of self-care behavior.
3 - Routines: Keeping daily routines as simple as possible frees students up to focus their attention and energy on the more complicated things.
4 - Find comfort with discomfort: Whether it's saying no to an activity, trying something new, or putting themselves out there in relationships, encourage your daughter and remind her that change and failure are essential to growth.
5 - Self-advocacy: If your daughter can acquire this skill, it will help her in all aspects of her life, for the rest of her life.
MEET THE TEAM:
Christina Baudis, Wellness Department Head. Constantly striving to deepen her awareness of health and wellness issues, and grow the resources available to students, faculty and families, Miss Baudis spends a great deal of time interacting with students. Whether in health class, advisory, or as a coach, Miss Baudis says, "I listen and learn from the students, then teach. I let them know they are safe, seen, and heard."
Diane Sneider, Director of Health Services and School Nurse. Mrs. Sneider spends her days seeing students in her office, tending to "feelings as well as providing medical support. I also created the wellness office to be a space where students can recharge." Her office is also a place where students can come for information, and take and read pamphlets on a broad range of health-related topics.
Laura Vantine, Coordinator of Academic Support. A 12-year Winsor veteran, Ms. Vantine understands that students excel and learn in different ways, and the importance of meeting them where they are, and giving them the confidence and support they need. Laura established the peer tutoring program, now in its tenth year, to enable students to seek help from others with first-hand knowledge of the courses and the classwork.
Madeline Warlan, School Counselor. Shedding light on her role, Ms. Warlan talked about the importance of bridging the gap between students, school and home, and the difference it can make as students navigate the challenges of middle and high school. Together, she said, "It's our job to provide the foundation upon when they can explore the world."
The Wellness Department recommends the following list of resources for those seeking additional information on understanding and parenting teens with stress. In addition, parents and students are encouraged to reach out to members of the wellness team. After all, we are better together.
Lisa Damour, Ph.D., Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls and
Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood
Kari Dunn Buron, When My Worries Get Too Big
Frances E. Jensen, MD with Amy Ellis Nutt, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults
Dawn Huebner, What to Do When You Worry Too Much
Lynn Lyons, LICSW, Anxious Kids Anxious Parents
Daniel Siegel, The Whole Brain Child
You may also click here to access articles by author Lisa Damour, an excerpt from her book, and a link to her website.