Fort Belvoir Elementary School's guidance program created a resilience program to teach military children how to deal with their personal stresses in a positive manner.
Modeled after the Army's Master Resilience Training program, Belvoir's counselors will teach their students six resilience competencies: Self-awareness, self-regulation, optimism, mental-agility, strengths of character and connection. Right now, they are focusing on self-awareness, strength of character and self-regulation.
"We are stressing these competencies because if our students want their ball to be full of resilience they need to know who they are," said Teresa Chapman, FBES Professional Counselor. "They need to know their strengths and what they are good at. If something goes wrong and they know what they are good at, they might be able to pull on one of those traits to help themselves out."
Chapman, Susan Davidson and Monica Crossly were looking for a resilience program to teach the students but weren't finding anything they liked, said Chapman. After attending Army resilience training in March, they realized they found the program they'd been looking for.
"We went to that training and thought how cool would it be if we could teach them the same things their mom and dad are learning?" said Chapman.
A startling trend amongst Belvoir Elementary School students prompted Chapman and her colleagues to find and implement a resilience program.
"We have an increasing amount of children every year that report to us they want to hurt themselves," said Chapman. "It's gone from two a year, to eight to 13. We realized we need to get in front of this and thought, how does the Army do it? They teach resilience, so we are doing the same."
Students have had resilience training once every week since the program has been implemented and counselors are noticing that students understand the lessons being taught, according to Chapman.
"I did an exercise with second graders where I asked them to tell me one strength they feel they have," said Chapman. "They responded with things like, 'I'm good at swimming, drawing, basketball, hiking, and creating.' Some said math and sports, and one even said she's good at caring and being nice to people. They are getting deep into the questions and it shows they understand what we are trying to teach them."
Parents like Quinton Pressey of Jadwin Loop are noticing a difference in their children since the program was implemented.
"My son's maturity and his ability to handle difficult situations has improved," said Pressey, of 11-year old son, Josiah Fields. "His character has improved as well. He stands up for things and takes responsibility for his actions now. Before, he would blame others, but now he sees that hard work is its own reward."
Fields occasionally would have a problem with a task or would have a bad day at school and not handle it well, according to Pressey. Now, Fields refers back to the resilience tips he's being taught if he gets frustrated.
"He refers back to the resilience tips he's been given and says 'I'm very capable; I just need to do this and this will happen,'" said Pressey. "They teach the before and after and I'm very excited about that."
Erica McDonald, Lewis Village resident, has two children who attend Fort Belvoir Elementary School. McDonald, like Pressey, is excited the school is teaching children resilience skills.
"It gives me confidence that the teachers here care about the students more than just education," said McDonald. "As a parent, it helps me reinforce what I'm teaching my children, and if there's something I'm missing I know the teachers and guidance counselors are teaching my children good life skills."
Teaching the students resilience skills and building their self-identity is important to Chapman and her colleagues because they want the children to be able to handle tough situations now and in the future.
"When something happens, it's almost catastrophic for the children and it shouldn't be that way," said Monica Crossley. "We want them to understand they have the ability to problem solve and handle tough situations."
Chapman, Crossley and the rest of the guidance staff also don't want anything bad to happen to any of the students.
"If one of our babies did something to hurt themselves," said Chapman. "I don't know how any of us would ever be able to come to work."