Imagine a little girl named Alice who is in grade 3. Unlike “Alice in Wonderland,” she freezes in her math test and worries about test results. She is also anxious about her family member’s health. She is frustrated when she is misunderstood, meets new peers, is isolated at recess to play by herself, and is afraid of the darkness at night. Furthermore, she is struggling with her parents’ separation. The perfectionism that her caregivers installed within her creates the barrier for her to see strengths within herself. Like “Alice in Wonderland,” she cannot wake up thinking that it is a dream. Being a practicum student at CFS Saskatoon, I meet children like Alice regardless of their gender orientation with such issues in the Finding The Warrior Within program every day.
Finding the Warrior Within is a school based program for students experiencing anxiety and worry. The program is to help children who are in grade 3 to 6 and are ready to grow with others in the group. It is during school hours and takes place for an hour each week. The goals of this program are connection, self-awareness and resilience. Mental health and talking about emotions is still stigmatized even for children today. In the group, we create a safe environment and keep confidentiality; so, the kids feel comfortable to share their feelings. They learn about how the brain works and where emotions come from. They also find others who are having similar experiences, which creates a sense of connection with group members. We encourage them to exercise empathy and kindness with each other. Self-awareness is also important for a child because it leads them to find their values, needs, interests and set boundaries. When children are aware of themselves, they can learn that all emotions are normal, which is also essential for their adulthood. We give them choices for the purpose of creating empowerment in children so they can see their strength and feel better about their choices and reasoning. To build resilience in children, a hug, appreciation or validation of their emotions through listening, helps them to cope in their emotional distress and keep going. CFS, as well as this program, wants to create hope for children where they feel happy to come on their own and let them learn that whatever they are feeling is okay.
Lastly, I had the opportunity to participate in a parent’s program offered by CFS specifically, Bridging The Gap, which is for parents who have challenging teens. When I listen to the parents and their unhealed inner child, I realize how beneficial it is to address anxiety, worries and trauma in childhood. We hope children who attend Finding The Warrior Within program will grow up as healthy people realizing that it is ok not to be ok and accept themselves and others for who they are.
Practicum student at CFS Saskatoon
Student from University of Regina