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Dealing with stress a growing focus of Central Okanagan educators

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
January 20, 2020 - 3:05 PM

The world is full of things to worry about.

Whether it’s an upcoming science exam or Greta Thunberg warning against an impending climate crisis, there is a lot for people to worry about – whether they’re children in school or parents.

That’s why finding new ways to cope with anxiety is the focus of a parents' workshop being hosted by four elementary schools in Kelowna.

“It’s normal to feel some worries in our lives,” Al Lalonde with learning support services at the Central Okanagan school district told

In extreme cases, clinical anxiety can be debilitating. In other cases, anxiety in the face of danger can be a good thing, triggering a flight, fight or freeze response.

But, for most people, anxiety – or worrying – is something on a much milder but still disruptive scale, whether it’s worrying about an exam, speaking in public or just interacting with others.

“How do you overcome and face those (fears)?” Lalonde said. “The more we avoid, the more we don’t look at it - sometimes we wait for three days, we stay at home - it seems like it becomes a bigger and bigger concern. So, if you’re feeling worried, how do we make you take one step towards addressing that?”

Schools traditionally focused on the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Over the last few years a new curriculum was introduced in all grades in B.C. It includes a focus on helping children cope with their world.

“Core competencies talk about self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship building, decision making,” Lalonde said. “Those are some of the competencies we’re trying to continually teach all the way from K to 12 to make good citizens. We want to help build good citizens who can develop skills to help them be successful in the world.”

When it comes to anxiety, that means providing supports – whether that’s parents, counsellors or teachers – to help students face their anxieties and, hopefully overcome them.

How is that done?

“Look at the actual data and facts and where am I at,” Lalonde suggested. “Other kids are struggling with the same things and, yes, I can overcome this. I can go to school, face those fears, write those tests, whatever my worry happens to be.”

What Lalonde couldn’t say if whether anxiety is a growing problem.

“We talk about it more than we ever have,” he said. “A lot of people go to social media, where we’re way more connected. It’s a great thing that we’re more connected but it’s also: how do we even manage that?”

That can make life more stressful but, Lalonde said, it’s still the more day to day life activities that students worry about.

Called A New Approach to Anxiety, the parents' workshop will be presented by two school councillors and hosted by four school parent advisory councils.

It’s at Chute Lake Elementary School at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3.

Following on the same theme, another parents’ workshop called Helping you child with Stress will be held at the Hollywood Education Centre gym on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m.

“This workshop will provide you with tools for helping your children deal with stress and anxiety stemming from things like school, social media, and friendships, as well as tools for managing your own stresses and pressures as a parent,” Lalonde said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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