By Ryan Ruhl, Ed.S. NCSP, ABSNP, Middle School and High School Psychologist, International School Bangkok
Navigating a child’s education requires educators and parents to develop collaborative, supportive relationships with one another. Sandra L. Christenson, a professor of Educational and Child Psychology at the University of Minnesota explains, “the development of constructive attitudes between parents and educators is the responsibility of both educators and parents. Collaboration involves both equality (i.e., the willingness to listen to, respect, and learn from one another) and parity (i.e., the blending of knowledge, skills, and ideas to enhance the relationship, and outcomes for children).” These positive relationships help us navigate the important job of developing children who are value-driven, resilient, and make positive contributions to our world.
At International School Bangkok (ISB), we are dedicated to an approach that is collaborative in nature and welcome opportunities to partner with parents. Dr. Christenson reminds us that “trust is an intangible and key ingredient to a successful partnership and is built over time. An atmosphere that facilitates collaborative family–school partnerships is one that is characterized by trust, effective communication, and a mutual problem-solving orientation.” At ISB, we have an open door approach and hope to engage with parents on many levels, whether it’s a parent training, a meeting, or a school event. With trusting relationships that are built over time, educators and parents are able to work together effectively on this important journey, developing children who understand and exhibit our ISB Values (care, responsibility, commitment, gratitude, courageous, respectful, integrity).
Many of us know the 3Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic), yet Karen Reivich reminds us of “the 4th R, that stands for resilience.” In life, it is not “if” we will face adversity it is “when” we will face adversity. Resilience is the ability to have the skills and character to handle adversity and bounce back, learn from the experience, and grow stronger. It is vital that we teach children ways to handle adversity and self-advocate, as resilient people tend to thrive in life no matter what is presented. NASP (The National Association of School Psychologists) credited Karen Reivich, a leading expert on developing resilience, with reminding us that, “A basic ingredient in resilience is belief in one’s self: self-efficacy. Resilient children believe that they are effective in the world. They have learned what their strengths and weaknesses are, and they rely on their strengths to navigate the challenges in life. For one child this might mean using his sense of humor to deal with stress; for another child it might mean using her creativity to come up with new ways to handle problems.” At ISB, we are looking for that “just right” level of developmental appropriateness to support children in becoming resilient individuals.
As adults, we are constantly modeling behavior through our responses to real-life situations. It can be as simple as how we respond to a conflict with a friend, to how we handle the loss of a loved one. As children grow and develop they are watching our response to situations and are learning from what we “do” even more than what we “say”. When issues arise in the life of a child, our response is critical. Most often, listening carefully to children first is key. It’s helpful to allow them to work through the difficult problem-solving process while relying as much as possible on their own resources. As adults we may need to support their thinking, ask questions to clarify, ask if they might need a bit of support, and lend a hand in problem solving at times. It is vital we allow children to take as much responsibility as possible in this process. As your child navigates difficult situations, he or she must work through their thoughts, communicate their thinking to others, and likely have conversations that are not easy – all promoting growth and building resiliency. The child, then, begins to understand that what they think and how they behave has an effect on the world. This builds self-efficacy.
As parents and educators, modeling positive partnerships is key. We need to model the assumption of positive intent, trust, and proactive problem solving. It takes time and intention to build trusting relationships. It can be difficult to allow children this time and space to work through the process, but this struggle is valuable and will likely pay off as your child builds the skills necessary to self advocate and become more resilient. At ISB, we believe this process is worth the time and effort and leads to more resilient children who flourish in life.
Over his 20 years in education, Ryan Ruhl has worked in Elementary, Middle and High School in roles that include classroom teacher, intervention specialist/school psychologist for children with behavior and social/emotional needs, school counselor, and school psychologist. He’s served in both public and private schools in the United States, Hungary, China, India, and Thailand and studied and received his Bachelor of Arts in Education (BA) from Washington State University and his Education Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) from Lewis and Clark College in School Psychology.