No child lives without risk to traumatic experiences. Whether it’s chronic poverty in the community or a devastating storm, providing children with immediate and long-term emotional support enables their recovery while fostering resilience.

Children face a wide array of risk factors, each with the potential to disrupt healthy social, emotional, academic and physical development. Large numbers of children are faced with risk factors that have been linked to academic failure and poor health.

In addition to health problems, consequences of trauma include difficulties with learning, ongoing behavior problems, impaired relationships, and poor social and emotional competence. Communities in Schools provides students with wrap-around services and structured programs designed to support emotional development.

What is hope and why is it so important? The dictionary defines hope as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Hope is an optimistic state of mind that’s based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life.

Having goals isn’t enough. Children have to keep getting closer to those goals in the middle of all the inevitable twists and turns of life. Hope allows children to approach problems with a mindset and strategy-set suitable to success, increasing the chances they will actually accomplish their goals. Hope creates endurance and strength in children, giving them the will to go on, believing there’s a way around or through the hardship or darkness.

All of our site-coordinators have been trained to deliver The Journey of Hope Program, which offers grade- and age-specific curricula designed to build resiliency among children, youth and their caregivers, while helping them understand their own feelings. Through cooperative play, literacy, discussion and art, children are provided a small group setting to explore and normalize their emotions. As trained site-coordinators lead the structured activities, children are allowed the space and encouragement to develop healthy coping mechanisms and identify internal and external social support systems.

The Journey of Hope Program:

• Helps children identify emotions and understand that it’s normal to feel angry, sad or frustrated during scary or difficult situations.

• Gives children the words they need to express their feelings in a safe, small group setting.

• Helps children develop healthy coping skills through structured games, stories, and creative activities.

• Offers an encouraging environment that recognizes children’s individual strengths and positive behaviors.

• Is implemented by trained professionals who can identify children who may need additional help or support.

The journey consists of eight sessions: Types and Sources of Stress, Cognitive and Physical Adaptations to Stress and Anxiety, Resources and Coping Mechanisms for Self-Care, Exploring Emotions — Anger and Aggression, Fear, Worry, Sadness, Understanding and Coping with Bullying, Grief, Self-esteem, and Building Healthy Relationships.Save the Children provides communities with structured programs designed to support emotional development.

Communities in Schools will not stop until all children who need help of any kind receive services that will improve their academic, behavioral, attendance and social service needs.

Connie Hebert is executive director of Communities In Schools-Galveston County.

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