Kids today are experiencing much more peer and academic pressure than in the past, adds Dr. Dennis Kilgore, also of Village Family Psychiatry. “Nowadays, middle-schoolers are taught to prepare for college and they are trying to do that while being exposed to much more as far as media, cultural information and pressures.”
Kilgore says there has been an increase in the amount of bullying teens see and experience. “The school’s mediation doesn’t always help,” he says. “Many teens today would accept assistance in helping them struggle through, some just want to make tomorrow less miserable than today.”
All of this can affect a teen’s self-esteem. Realizing that, Kathy Stewart and Ty Parr partnered to develop Soar Like An Eagle, a self-esteem building program. Their mission: Empower teens by promoting self-awareness. The basic idea is to improve a teen’s self-awareness and self-confidence, giving them the ability to deal with the various social, cultural, physical and psychological problems they’ll inevitably encounter. The program recently completed its inaugural session in early April at Bon Secours Women and Children’s Services Center in the West End.
Stewart, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner and mother of two college-aged boys, noticed a void in the menu of aid available to troubled and not-so-troubled teens. “There was nothing out there to counter all the junk that kids are exposed to these days,” she says. “If they aren’t getting positive messages at home there are not many alternatives.”
“Soar Like An Eagle” is geared toward middle- and high-school students. “It educates teens how to work smarter, not harder” says Stewart. “Teens will receive help developing self-confidence, understanding the importance of self-talk, overcoming fears and pressures, prioritizing daily tasks, feeling empowered and believing in themselves.”
“Teenagers’ self-talk is normally so negative,” Kilgore says. “Therefore positive affirmations and self-talk are beneficial.” Crowley agrees, “Self-confidence is derived from competence and this program enhances teenagers competence and that leads to improved self-esteem.”
The program takes six weeks to complete and consists of three two-and-a-half-hour classroom sessions. “There are three phone follow-ups as well,” Stewart says. Students are required to commit one act of kindness per week and document the results.
In his work as a probation officer, Parr is seeing younger and more desperate kids come through the system. “Kids of middle-school age are very susceptible to peer pressure,” he explains. “We are just trying to help them realize that they don’t have to do negative things to be cool. Kids are exposed to a lot of negative influences, and we try to help them combat that by promoting positive self-talk. I know it sounds corny but if you tell yourself every morning that it’s going to be a good day, you will eventually come to believe it.”
Gavin Thompson, 11, wasn’t sure he wanted to be a part of the program at first. Now, he’s an advocate. “It helps you look at things positively so that if you are having a bad day you can think of good, positive things instead [of the negative].”
Corinne White, 13, and Ally Streat, 13, also found the program helpful. “It was very interactive, positive, and it helps to build self-confidence,” White says. “I often use the 10-minute relaxation skills,” Streat adds.
Some participants like Virginia Thedieck, 11, learned helpful information regarding homework while acquiring good relaxation techniques. “The program taught the kids a lot of positive things that are helpful,” notes Carol Thedieck, Virginia’s mom.
If you’d like more information about Soar Like An Eagle, call 747-0761 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The next session will be Sept. 7, 14 and 28 and costs $99 per person. The class will be limited to 30 participants. FS
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