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In the past week, sharing in RUOk Day was a reminder for me of the importance of connection with each other across our community. While this day highlights checking in with each other in a meaningful and authentic way, we must continue to have these discussions constantly with the students in our community. It is important to be open and share the challenges and positive experiences, the highs and the lows, that occur throughout a young person’s life. Often I have conversations with parents and family members in our community discussing how we can encourage our students to be open and let us know when things are not ok. I often talk about help seeking behaviours, which are so important when our lives are being impacted in a negative way by a person or an experience. Statistically, young men are the least likely to share with others if things are challenging; so what can we do to open genuine and authentic discussions?

Throughout this year we have mentioned the ability of the students to add three good things that have occurred throughout each day. This is a great way to open up conversation when the response to “How was your day?” has just been a one word answer. The good things that are shared in the diary can lead to a discussion around people who have impacted the event in a positive way and also goals or aims that they might have for the future.

Recently I attended a presentation by Hugh van Cuylenberg of the Resilience Project. The focus of this organisation is highlighting the impact of positively celebrating gratitude, empathy and mindfulness (GEM) in each of our lives. Hugh talks about the impact of recognising gratitude practises in the people he has met in his life’s journey. Positive Psychology theory also explains the impact that showing gratitude has on both the person giving and receiving gratitude. Discussing with your child about what you are grateful for and also listening to what they are grateful for is another method for encouraging discussions.

I had the privilege of speaking with Ashley Manuel, the founder of the Growing with Gratitude program, about the wellbeing framework we have at St Peter’s College. I am very excited to see that Ashley has one of his “Growing with Gratitude” sessions in the upcoming SEA holiday program. A number of our students have previously attended one of these sessions and there have been some very positive reports. The session helps to build self-confidence, empathy and awareness in boys. The confidence to be able to “stand up” for what is right and speak up within our community is an important part of our School values of Truth, Respect and Service.

When we talk about sharing a story with each other or being able to connect with each other, the most important thing is to walk alongside each other. It can be very challenging for a young person to sit opposite someone and share something face to face. You will often see me walking with students around our ovals to share in some discussion about challenges that they might be facing. The theory says being shoulder to shoulder helps to connect with the other person and I find this is a good way of starting or keeping authentic conversation going. A walk around the local neighbourhood could be a positive way to ask your child “RUok?” and if there is something that they need to share please encourage them to come and speak with myself, another member of staff or someone that can help the situation.

A reminder that we do have a school subscription to SchoolTV which is an important wellbeing resource for parents. There are a range of articles about a wide variety of issues to provide help and support when assisting your child to navigate some of their challenges.

Ben Storer
Deputy Head of Junior School – Wellbeing and Administration