'Friends' helps kids with school stress
Sep 1, 2013 / 7:00 am
Students throughout British Columbia head to the classroom on Sept. 3, many of them feeling first-day jitters.
But for an estimated 25,000 students, first day of school stress can lead to anxiety that interferes with their daily activities. Anxiety has the highest prevalence rate of all childhood mental disorders and if left untreated, may develop into an adult anxiety disorder, or another mental illness such as depression.
Now entering its 10th year, the Friends For Life program is delivered in hundreds of public and independent schools across the province to students in kindergarten, Grade 1 and grades 4-7. The program has proven to be effective in reducing the risk of anxiety disorders and building resilience in children.
FRIENDS is an acronym for the skills learned in the program: F - Feelings R - Remember to relax I - I can try! I can do my best! E - Explore coping plans and solutions N - Now reward yourself D - Don't forget to practice S - Smile and stay calm for life.
Research has shown that up to 80 per cent of children showing signs of anxiety before using the program no longer exhibit those signs after completing the program. Friends teaches children how to deal with worry and stress, now and later in life, by learning several skills including dealing with difficulties, recognizing signs of anxiety, relaxation techniques and positive thinking.
Parent and caregivers are also encouraged to participate and are taught how to reinforce the skills children learn at home through online resources.
Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development said: "We know how important it is to reach children early to prevent problems before they begin and to make sure problems don't persist into adulthood. Through the Friends program, we're able to reach more and more children every year, teaching them valuable skills to reduce anxiety, while building self-esteem."
"Friends has helped my son to describe his feelings so that we can problem-solve together and our relationship has grown stronger too," explained Monica Kriese, a parent "I felt empowered as a parent when I learned the Friends steps and how easily we could use them at home."
"I appreciate that the Friends program equips students with the social and emotional skills they need to handle everyday challenges in their lives" said Heather Rose, Trout Creek Elementary school teacher in Summerland. "The program also helps to create a classroom atmosphere of understanding, compassion and mutual support."
Developed in Australia, the Friends For Life program was first introduced in B.C. in 2004 as part of the Ministry of Children and Family Development's five- year Child and Youth Mental Health Plan. The Ministry of Children and Family Development provides certified Friends trainers to instruct one-day certification training to teachers, counsellors and other school educators so they can deliver it in the classroom.
To date, all school districts in B.C. have participated in the program, including many independent and First Nations schools. More than 6,000 educators have been trained to deliver the program.
Children participate in 10 or more classroom sessions that are reinforced by take-home activities.
Learn More: For further information about FRIENDS in B.C., go to:here
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