Sowing The Seeds Of Change

November 12, 2018

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“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” Romans 5:3-5

“I lost control again.”
“I am so stupid.”
“My teacher called me naughty and made me get out of class.”
“My friends laughed at me and said I am crazy.”
“There is nothing good in my life.”

These are some things said by students in iPEAK’s STAR Programme. Behind their cheerful and chatty selves often lies hurt and rejection by their peers, family and teachers; resulting in poor self-confidence, low self-esteem, confusion, anxiety and sometimes even rage. Through these words, we catch a glimpse of their struggles and how they long to be accepted and be “normal” in the eyes of everyone around them.

Many of the students in the STAR Programme have been referred due to social emotional difficulties, poor attention, hyperactivity and inappropriate social behaviours. They struggle with regulating their emotions and impulses and they see things from a broader or different perspective. Many have also experienced trauma, neglect and dysfunction. These result in inappropriate behaviours in an attempt to cope with their pain.

Instead of treating symptoms and behaviours, the STAR programme at iPEAK teaches the children strategies and skills to be better thinkers! They’re taught how to logically gather, process and respond to information. These skills are essential in social settings, which can be challenging for the students to navigate.

Therapists intentionally and meaningfully build the child’s confidence by affirming their efforts and celebrating any successes and improvements the child has made, be it big or small. Eventually, the children are more assured and aware of their strengths, and are thus willing to try a variety of tasks, as daunting as they may appear to be.

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One of my students whom I worked with in the STAR programme started off with very low self-confidence and limited problem-solving skills. At the beginning of the STAR Programme, he had a limited vocabulary and gave up easily. Once, he burst into tears and hid below the table to avoid the task, despite having done the same task many times before. After gaining his trust, equipping and empowering him, he is now willing to try and gives his best effort to all that he does. As the sessions progressed, he gradually overcame some of his emotional difficulties and his motivation level improved. Currently, this pre-schooler is now able to independently tackle and complete tasks with confidence and joy that even much older children struggle with.

Another student started his first STAR session saying that he will be defeated in all the games that we will play and tried to mask his low self-esteem by putting up a couldn’t-care-less attitude. Over time, we built up his confidence by celebrating his successes whenever he effectively applied the strategies taught. By the fourth week, his motivation and perserverance to complete tasks soared. The taste of success was so impactful and encouraging to him that he came back the following week confidently asking for more challenging tasks. He now applies principles learned in the STAR class at home and in school.

Often, parents who see changes in their children are so amazed that they also start practising the same strategies at home. Parents have shared that they conscientiously affirm their child’s effort in preparing for tests and examinations instead of harping on the results. When something goes wrong, they take the effort to listen to the child’s explanation first instead of jumping straight into scolding or nagging. By learning the difference between reacting and responding, parents
learn to manage their own emotions first before addressing their child’s behaviour.

While there are successes, there are also struggles and challenges. There are children with high resistance to change, even tearing at the thought of anything new and unexpected. Cases like these require tremendous patience and perseverance. We hold onto the hope that their passive participation is an opportunity to have them come on-board the journey of change. Little comments such as “Something nice happened today” or “God will deliver justice one day” are worthy of praise and discussion. Any session that consists of smiles and laughter calls for a celebration.

At times, progress may seem painfully slow but time is needed to win their trust and for them to experience love and hope. It is our interactions and relationships that sow the seeds of change and we pray for all the children as they journey through life.

To God be the glory.

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