The Managing Change for Sec 1s workshop is faciltated by parents.
From facilitating workshops to career guidance, from counselling to being a "praying mom" - these are some of the ways in which the parents at CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School are involved in the school's counselling and guidance programmes. Programmes such as Managing Change for Sec 1s, ParentsInSync, Emergence and the Job Attachment scheme would not be as rich without the contributions of these parents.
"It's a whole-school approach," says the school's full-time school counsellor Ms Low Li Eng. "As the saying goes, 'it takes a village to raise a child'. At St Nicholas, we hope that through the school family (village) of staff and parents, we can make the school environment one where every student is able to find motivation, challenge, comfort, joy, encouragement, consolation and strength."
Starting off on the right foot
This emphasis on social-emotional learning which ropes in both school and parents starts right from Sec 1. In the programme Managing Change for Sec 1s, Ms Low explains, parents take on the roles of instructor and facilitator to "lead the Sec 1 students in processing their responses to the changes that confront them." Students play team games that help them to better understand their own strengths and shortcomings in facing change.
The ParentsInSync workshop helps parents of Sec 1 students understand their daughters' needs better.
Besides benefiting the students, their responses to Managing Change for Sec 1s are also used as an integral part of a workshop for their parents, ParentsInSync. This aims to provide parents with learning points for enhanced parenting. "Parents get to read the honest feedback that their daughters gave at the Managing Change for Sec 1s workshop. They get to see how their daughters are coping with change as they enter Sec 1 and how they can help their daughters do better," says Ms Low. "Parents also hear firsthand from the parent-volunteers who facilitated the students' workshop."
Parents whose daughters have graduated often return and share their own experiences at the ParentsInSync session. Their stories about their successes and struggles in supporting their daughters provide plenty of food for thought for the newer parents. "We also provide parents with a broad framework in understanding how teenagers respond to stress," adds Ms Low.
A helping hand along the way
As students move on to other stages in life, there are other programmes to help them better understand and handle new situations. The group guidance programme Emergence focuses on helping teenagers to process their thoughts and feelings, usually through games, followed by strategies to manage the challenges they face. Other group guidance workshops cover topics that were identified from a student needs questionnaire, such as career counselling and managing challenges in a single-parent family. All workshop sessions culminate in a parent-student session with the workshop instructor. If counselling is required, experienced parents may work in partnership with Ms Low to add their perspective.
Students at the Managing Change for Sec 1s workshop learn more about themselves through team games and activities.
In career counselling, parents bring in industry partners through their own networks to provide a range of opportunities for the Sec 3s to go on job attachment stints during the June holidays. "They provide useful consultation to the teacher in charge of career guidance," enthuses Ms Low. "Parents with the relevant job experiences are also engaged to share their vocational experiences with our girls. We even have a group of 'praying moms' committed to weekly prayer meetings; special needs are surfaced for the 'praying moms' to make supplications."
To further involve parents, the school has dedicated two rooms solely for parent-student interaction. This was done under the MCYS's School-Family-Education scheme, which aims to enhance parent-child relationships by creating a healthy family environment at the school. Ms Low elaborates, "The St Nic LivingRoom is a cosy set-up for parents to relax, do school volunteer work, share parenting experiences, read relevant parenting materials and help counsel students. The Heart to Heart Room is set up by parents and students for them to enjoy recreational activities together, e.g. sudoku competitions, craftwork or watching videos."
Parents are also encouraged to undergo parenting training courses, covering topics such as "Common-Sense Parenting" or learning how to become a parent-facilitator. What other plans are in the pipeline for the school counsellor? "We will focus on providing more training and shared community practices for parents and teachers to sharpen our counselling skills and social-emotional instruction," says Ms Low.