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The Key Is Self-Awareness  – Podcast interview on Fit for Joy, U.S.

In May I was interviewed by Valeria Teles, a Well-Being Coach, Author and Podcaster in the U.S. She wanted to talk to me about my book and course ‘The Key, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens’ and together we discussed the mental health and emotional well-being of adolescence with a focus on understanding oneself and one’s friendships.

 

In this episode, Valeria Teles interviews Romi Grossberg.

Teenagers are introduced to the ideas of emotional intelligence, self-awareness and self-understanding: To learning greater life skills and coping strategies to not merely survive school and home life but to thrive socially, emotionally and mentally.

Your E.Q. (emotional intelligence) is based on self-awareness. It is understanding your emotions and why you react to people or situations the way you do.

Increasing your awareness is important for the very simple reason that it ultimately makes life easier! It is difficult to notice the good or acknowledge the ‘not so good’ in life if you aren’t aware in the first place. Understanding and increasing your awareness and learning some of the tools in this book can help you deal with pressure, anxiety, school life, friendships, relationships, arguments, family life and growing up.” She writes in her opening chapter.

‘The Key’ is a guidebook addressing mental, social, and emotional health. Romi believes that in today’s current climate of an elevating mental health crisis amongst adolescence worldwide, it is vital young people are adequately equipped to handle their thoughts and emotions as they move through this developmental stage of identity.

Teens can learn that even seemingly complex issues or problems can be taught and dealt with in very real terms with practical guidance, learning, activities, videos, and discussion.

Romi’s book ‘The Key’ is broken into three sections: 1. My Friendships, 2. Me and 3. My Family. She begins with friendships because friendship is the most important thing during adolescence and so the best way to engage. “It’s not exactly a lie when we say what we know other people want to hear, but it’s not always the truth either. It is us trying to fit in, not stand out, be cool. We all do it. But wouldn’t it be cooler if we didn’t have to always concentrate or try so hard? If we could be honest with ourselves and our friends and know that everything would just be okay?” – writes Romi Grossberg.

‘The Key’ includes over twenty topics including negative thought patterns, unconditional love, bullying, effective communication, anxiety, trusting yourself, and many more.

Source: The Key Is Self-Awareness  — Fit for Joy

Teaching ‘The Key, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens’ to 200 students!

On 13th December I had the pleasure of being invited to teach roughly 200 students at PanyaDee British International School in Koh Samui Thailand. No, not all at once! I taught in groups of age and year levels. Having multiple cultures, nationalities and languages certainly kept me on my toes. I absolutely love teaching from my book and course The Key, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens. Mostly I teach one year level or  work with teachers but on this day I got to teach every year level and then meet some of the parents.

My book and course The Key, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens covers over twenty topics offering coping strategies and practical life skills in mental, emotional and social health including exercises and videos. Below is a summary of the topics taught at particular year levels at PanyaDee School.

Year 7. Age 11-12: ‘What I can control v.’s what I cannot control’

I had planned to do a session on ‘Choices’ and ‘How to Think for ourselves’ with this group but when they walked in and I saw how much younger they looked I immediately changed my mind. In Australia Year 7’s are 12-13 years old and at this young age, even a year or two younger makes a big difference. In the moments of them walking in and sitting down I made a whole new lesson plan and wrote up on the board two columns: What I Can Control and What I Cannot Control to begin a discussion on the way we think, behave, learn, act and react, our goals and how we make decisions. It is important to understand at this young age that we cannot control things such as if somebody else likes us or is kind to us but we can control how we react and behave. We don’t want to be getting upset over things we cannot control including others’ thoughts and behaviours, or the way we look, colour of our skin and our height. However we can control the way we want to feel about these things. What we do in response and how we react is our choice.

They were a well-behaved and well-mannered group of students who were keen to get involved, put their hands up and participate throughout the one-hour session.

Below is the group brainstorm we did on the board.

Year 8. Age 12-13 & Year 9. Age 13-14: ‘Choices’

12- 14 years old can be a difficult age group. Being cool and fitting in starts to become more important than doing the right thing, listening to your parents or even listening to yourself. Peer group pressure and even bullying can become intolerable and standing up for yourself increasingly difficult. It is also the age (depending on culture and country) where alcohol, drugs and sex become a factor. For these two year levels I chose the topic of ‘Choices.’

 

After a lengthy discussion around what choices are, how we create good options, make good decisions that are right for us, how to listen to ourselves and deal with peer pressure we also looked at where and how we actually make decisions. Do we listen to our head? Our thinking place of  logic, rationale and common sense but also questioning, criticising and uncertainty. Do we listen to our heart? What we feel, desire, want, love, hurt and pain. Or do we listen to our gut? Sub-conscious space of knowing, trust and intuition. How do we know?

With that in mind I posed a scenario to the group based on my knowledge of this age group and of the local expat lifestyle in this area. The scenario was: You are at a house party with all of your friends from your school and other schools and someone finds a bottle of vodka. All your friends start doing shots. You don’t want to. How do you come to the decision to say no and what might be the repercussions of making this decision?

We looked at the possible positive and negative outcomes on the physical self and the possible positive and negative outcomes on the emotional self. The large group was split into smaller groups to discuss and the results of all the groups were put on the whiteboard.  As you can see from the photo below there can be many contributing factors to the thought process. The idea is not to look at which column has the most/least amount of answers as the ‘correct’ decision to make but to look at what is actually in these columns and listen to your gut instinct to know for yourself what the right thing to do is. What you value (ie:wanting your parents to feel proud or needing to feel cool) will help dictate how you make your decisions. As you can imagine many more topics and questions around what is important and why, how you feel about these things and why etc then enter in to this type of discussion.

The year 9’s handled it well and participated fully whilst the year 8’s, being a little younger were easily embarrassed, giggling, teasing each other and it was clear to me it was ‘not cool’ to participate in this type of conversation. That does not mean it is not relevant. Maybe they didn’t have the maturity yet, maybe I hit a topic to close too home, maybe there is some underlying bullying or teasing within this group but my aim is always the same – 1. That if one student feels more confident to listen to themselves and stand up for themselves then I have done my job. 2. That this conversation may be remembered a few months down the track if they find themselves in a tricky situation.

 

 

Year 10. Age 14-15 & Year 11. Age 16-17: ‘Who Am I?’

Adolescence is the developmental stage of identity where the biggest questions (consciously or subconsciously) are who am I? And where do I fit in the world? Although adolescence is considered 12-18 years I believe these identity questions become more prominent in the later years. 14-18 years old is a great age to be delving in to the topic of identity and trying to understand who we are. It is a big question and can feel hugely overwhelming and confusing so I have developed a way of teaching this that helps create understanding and less stress.

After a discussion around the topic I set the task of answering some questions that are listed in my book The Key (listed below). They answered alone before sharing with the person next to them and then back to the larger group. Asking questions in this way allows young people to learn self enquiry skills and objectively look at themselves in the the different aspects of their life, to look at and understand the similarities and differences of the different ‘versions’ of themself.

Some of the students found the questions easy to answer and some more difficult. They seemed to enjoy the partner sharing part too, learning more about each other and themselves. The conversation moved also in to topics around calming ourselves after arguments or before exams including topics such as meditation, negative thought patterns, positive self talk and the concepts of success and failure and how we understand them.

 

Meeting the Parents

So after an inspiring, exhilarating (and exhausting) day, I had a ‘meet & greet’ with the parents after the school’s day ended. A group of parents from different year levels attended to hear about what their teens had encountered with me. I went through The Key’s topics and then specifically what topics were addressed in each year level. A lengthy Q & A followed.

 

Click here for more information or to purchase your copy of The Key, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens.

 

 

 

The Recovery Village, US

I have always believed it important to network and share with organisations around the world. This week ‘The Recovery Village’ based in the U.S. reached out to me.

They are a “leading, full continuum care treatment facility for adults struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Our 110-bed facility offers a peaceful and therapeutic location near Colorado Springs (US) to provide a nourishing experience for the body and soul.” Their testimonials from people who have spent time there were very encouraging so I thought I would share their link.

If you are a parent and worried about your teen’s mental health, have a read of their article –  ‘Parents Guide: How to help your teen cope with mental health issues.

https://www.palmerlakerecovery.com/resources/parents-guide/

PHASE, Asia Pacific 2019

This November for the first time I will be presenting at the PHASE conference in Hong Kong. I will run a one-hour presentation on ‘The Key, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens’ on 16th and 17th November and a 90-minute workshop on the 16th.

For more information on my presentations/workshops, head to PHASE website.

PHASE Asia Pacific is a conference for all educators focussed on physical education, health, athletics, sports, and experiential learning.  The conference allows participants to learn from leading authorities in their respective fields as well as from practitioner presenters, to network with fellow educators, and to access good practice and resources in multiple formats.

PHASE is an acronym based on the core areas that the community aims to bring together: Physical Education, Health & Wellness, Athletics, Sports, and Experiential Learning.

 

THE KEY: Hear what the students had to say

Teaching TEENAGERS about EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE is no easy task, but I was up for the challenge.

My latest book THE KEY became the workbook in my curriculum that I recently taught to grade 7 (12-13 year-olds) at Bialik College in Melbourne, the top academic school in the State.

But academia doesn’t factor when talking about emotions, as the Head of Middle School discovered when he attended one of my classes to find that it wasn’t the usual ‘smart kids’ putting their hands up, but everyone else also.

One-hour weekly classes, over a ten-week period, teaching roughly 75 students in total.

We truly started from the beginning:

“Does anyone know what emotional intelligence is?”

The response was 100% “no”.

As with every topic, they were asked to write down what they thought it might mean before bringing it in for a group discussion.

A large range of topics were covered using the tools of writing therapy, discussion, youtube, some activities, and journaling homework.

This course was about discovering your identity and thinking for yourself. There was no right or wrong, nothing was being marked or graded, this was about YOU, your thoughts, feelings, questions and concerns. Who are you? All big topics but when broken down in to smaller topics, it all can just make sense.

It is impossible to wrap up the course in one piece of writing so I will share with you some student feedback given to me on a few of the topics covered.

ON IDENTITY:

“I can be myself. I don’t need to hide anything”

POSITIVE THINKING:

“I thought I couldn’t do it (a task) but then I changed my thought pattern in to a positive one and I did it”

FRIENDSHIP:

“I started being more honest with my friends and they were honest to me and we made a stronger friendship”

ON SUCCESS AND FAILURE:

“I used to think I constantly failed but it really depends on how you define things”

FRIENDSHIP:

“Instead of saying ‘no’ to someone, I helped them with what they needed. It made me feel like a better person and a helpful person”

JEALOUSY AND ENVY:

“I watched something and I didn’t feel jealous and it felt really good”

LEARNING BREATH:

“I did better in a test because I took deep breaths first and felt much more calm”

TONE OF VOICE:

“I stopped a fight from happening by changing the tone in my voice”

APOLOGIES:

“I apologised to someone and I meant it for the first time ever”

EMPATHY:

“When walking down the street, I saw a homeless guy so I went to Coles and bought him a loaf of bread and vegemite”

TONE OF VOICE:

“I have used a different tone of voice with my siblings this week and we have had less arguments and a much better relationship”

NEGATIVE THOUGHT PATTERNS:

“I was disappointed with myself and used the 4-step process to feel better”

JEALOUSY AND ENVY:

“I got a mark on a test and my friend got higher and I was fine instead of jealous”

TONE OF VOICE:

“I now get in to less fights with my family with understanding my tone of voice”

FAMILY:

“That my parents divorce was not my fault”

A few other topics covered: Choices, Unconditional Love, Comparisons, Happiness, Sadness and Depression.

NEXT STEP?

To get this curriculum in to EVERY school. Any suggestions, advice, partnerships welcome.

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