Saturday, July 21, 2007

friendship skills

Allison's experience at Friendship Camp is now just a memory, but a good one. She is already talking about going back next year if the camp is held again.

Each day the staff sent home a letter describing the activities done and the skills taught, and suggesting activities to be done at home. One of the major things the group covered was emotional management, with an interesting five-point scale used to rate how upsetting each child might find a particular thing. The points on the scale were
(1) doesn't bother me
(2) bugs me
(3) makes me nervous
(4) upsets me
(5) I could lose control
The children were given an envelope with dozens of small strips of paper that said things like "getting my hair washed", "a thunderstorm", "having dirty hands", "meeting someone new", "losing a game", "being praised", etc. and they were to put each strip in the pocket that corresponded to how upsetting that thing was to them. They made posters with colours and pictures that expressed each level on the scale. They also learned all kinds of strategies for dealing with things that might upset them. For example, they made a "toolbox", a booklet with things they could do to relax and calm themselves during/after upsetting events. They practiced breathing techniques and even a few yoga poses that could help with relaxation.

One thing to be learned from the above activities is that there is a surprising range in what people find upsetting. Allison said meeting new people did not bother her at all, yet being praised makes her nervous. (We learned long ago that effusive praise is entirely the wrong approach with Allison and can even make her cry; a casual "Hey, it's cool how you did that" or "That's pretty nice writing" is much more effective.)

The children also learned a lot of different strategies for typical social situations:
- how to talk on the phone
- how to break politely into a group that is already involved in conversation
- how to recognize when someone else has something to say or is bored by your monologue
- how close to stand to someone depending on if it's a family member, stranger, etc.
Many of these were taught by the camp staff doing little skits that showed the kids the wrong way to behave, and then asking for suggestions on how to act differently.

It is really amazing that this program is offered for children like Allison. She learned some good practical skills, had a lot of fun, and made some new friends.

1 comment:

  1. Wow wow wow! That all sounds amazing! Seems to me that there are some adults who could use a course like that too! :)
    Interesting how different things can cause us to be nervous! I'm glad that they offer that program. Hopefully they'll offer it again next year!
    Meghan

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