As a former school counselor, LFY teacher Jess Belanger has a unique perspective to share with us. She will be contributing a monthly article to our conversation, offering information to help parents and teacher support their kids. Click Here to learn more about Jess and all of our LFY teachers.
In our adult lives, it is inevitable that we find ourselves in situations where we are required to interact with others. Whether in the work place or while out with friends, collaboration through group work, involvement at social functions, or even a quick exchange of dialogue in the parking lot can be a regular daily occurrence. For those who are extroverts and perhaps even social butterflies, having contact with others and participating in organized activities is greatly welcomed. However, for those who are more shy, private, and independent, group interaction can be intimidating, anxiety provoking and downright stressful.
As adults, we have had years to find appropriate coping mechanisms to handle these situations, but children are often not so lucky. When faced with stressful situations such as organized activities, many kids will turn inward and avoid participating at all costs. From both a parent and teacher’s perspective, it is imperative to identify children who may be struggling, determine where their apprehension may be coming from, and work towards helping them become an involved member of the group.
The most important step in determining which children may need some support or encouragement when working with a group is simple: observe your child or student’s behavior. Parents, perhaps you know your child to be extremely shy or timid and often have to push them to try new activities. In the classroom, maybe you notice that your students are withdrawn or even refuse to participate when working in groups. Taking a few moments to observe a more reserved child can be extremely telling. Next, think about why might they be so closed off or anxious when interacting with others? While sometimes it could just be the child’s natural personality, in other cases it may be time to investigate and if possible, offer a comforting, helping hand.
Whether you are a parent or teacher, once you have identified a child that you think could use a little encouragement within a group setting, begin with baby steps to make them feel more comfortable and willing to participate. Ask your child or student their thoughts about the upcoming activity. When the activity is in progress, check to make sure the child is sitting with the group and not off to the side. Even though they may not want to participate in every activity, providing them with a feeling of inclusion will often encourage them to eventually join in. Give them some responsibility, such as keeping time during a group activity or turning the light down for savasana. Let each child know that their presence and participation matters, and maybe they will begin to find their own voice.
While these ideas for group inclusion and participation can be applied across the board to classroom activities, home play groups, and organized sports, they are especially relevant within the yoga room. During class, children are provided with a safe, comfortable group environment in which they can gain valuable social skills while also focusing on developing their own self-awareness and skills. When working with students, it is imperative that yoga teachers be mindful of each student’s level of engagement, and when it proves to be a bit more difficult to engage students that are reserved, try to find a subtle way to let them know that you value their input. After a few sessions, if you are still unsuccessful at reaching such a student, connect with their parent or guardian, academic teacher, or school counselor. There might be an underlying issue that requires deeper investigation and as a team, you may be able to help a child when they need it most.