I received three emails last week from parents whose children I had worked with several years ago on their college admissions process. My former students are now college juniors, and their parents informed me of their progress and shared how their children were thriving.
I took a moment to reflect on my work with these particular students. They all had somewhat average grades and test scores, but their exceptional interpersonal skills and well-developed sense of self set each of them apart. They were fun, engaged and active, and they had each made an effort to identify their personal interests in light of their talents, strengths and challenges.
As an educational consultant and college adviser, I hear many stories about students who struggle academically, emotionally and socially. Receiving these positive emails made me think about how wonderfully these students had stepped up to blossom in their new environments. I started to think about the importance of what I call the “Five C’s.”
We – and by “we” I mean educators, parents and even students themselves – tend to become so hyperfocused on tests and scores that we brush aside the crucial social and emotional skills that are truly keys to happiness, authenticity and resiliency in college and beyond. As this school year winds down into summer, I encourage everyone to reflect on finding ways to promote the “Five C’s” for personal wellness among our children.
We tend to think of courage as the ability to take risks and step outside of our comfort zone, but it also takes courage to ask for help and admit when there is a problem. How well do your children react in new environments? How do they address problems that seem daunting? Do they look for solutions? Are they able to admit when they need assistance?
Researchers often note that knowing how to collaborate effectively can be key to achieving lifelong success in work and life. How do your children work with others – particularly those who are different from themselves? Are they able to adapt and work in situations that are less than ideal? Better yet, can they transform situations that are less than ideal into something worthwhile? There are many similarities in learning how to deal with classmates, roommates and co-workers.
What are your children’s communication styles – online and in person? Are they able to clearly and effectively convey their ideas in their writing and face-to-face communications? Technology has forever changed the way we interact, and that can pose challenges for children and adults alike. Are your children able to ask for what they want in an effective manner, that is, without being excessively demanding and/or effusive?
Do your children have a creative outlet? Is there something they enjoy doing for sheer fun – without rhyme, rhythm or particular purpose? Do they engage in that creative endeavor regularly? Devoting time to our creativity affords us the opportunity to maintain our individuality. Even more importantly, creative outlets can provide useful coping mechanisms in the face of adversity.
How do your children deal with setbacks and disappointments? Do they have a productive way to address uncomfortable situations, or do they go into avoidance mode and rely on negative coping mechanisms? Do they have a network of people they can turn to (not necessarily parents) or a support system in place? Each child’s coping techniques should be unique to his or her personality, so helping children discover what works for them can be essential.
Ana Homayoun is founder and director of Los Altos-based Green Ivy Educational Consulting, 302 Main St., Suite 201. For more information, visit www.greenivyed.com.