Posts made in April 2018

Family on Bench

Stop Bullying

Let’s Put an End to Bullying

Kids in the US attend school for 180 days a year!  Half of our childrens’ waking hours from Monday to Friday are spent in classrooms with peers and teachers.  We hope, watch, and wait to see if the people who share our son’s or daughter’s time are going to think he/she is as wonderful as we do! The Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach believes that children and teens need a safe and supportive educational environment to achieve their academic potential.  We are beginning a series of blog posts to help arm parents, kids, and educators in our community with tools to prevent, recognize, intervene and bounce back from bullying.

STop Bullying Colorful Hand

This week we look to for evidence based steps in preventing bullying. Kids take their cues from the adults in their life about how to view bullying.  Parents, teachers, coaches, and administrators serve a vital role in setting the scene at school. We are going to walk through the these prevention guidelines week by week and then move on to intervention and recovery.

Preventions and What You Can Do:

  • Talk about what bullying is and give some examples.  Tell kids bullying is not tolerated on or off campus and the everyone has a role in preventing it.  Make sure kids know who they can go to at school to report something they see happening and that they can make an anonymous report.  Take a look below for our first expanded discussion.
  • Talk to your child’s school about how they prevent bullying and ask if they have a campaign or curriculum they offer specific grade-levels  struggling with bullying concerns.
  • If your child has already been involved with bullying, talk with a specialist about building resilience. It is important for kids to unlearn the bully or victim role before starting a new grade or school to keep the pattern from continuing.
  • Check in with kids periodically.  Listen to their experiences about making and keeping friends. Ask about school.  Understand their concerns about fitting-in, being well-liked, and having a place at school they feel accepted.
  • Foster Interests and Hobbies. Special activities can boost confidence, help kids find like-minded friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
  • Be a good role model!  Kids learn from observing social behavior.  When they see how parents treat one another, principals treat teachers, and coaches treat the opposing team, they are crafting scripts for life.  Examples of adults and peers treating each other with kindness and respect are the best weapon we have against bullying.

Bullying: Know it when you see it!

Children who are able to identify bullying can learn to stand up for themselves and others.  Kids often need grown-ups to help them talk about difficult or embarrassing topics. They also need adults to give them the space and permission to talk.  When they have this, they can safely respond to bullying and get help.

  • Step 1: Help your child identify bullying when it happens.  Ask them to tell you about bullying or if they have seen it at school or on TV.  Physical bullying like pushing, stealing, tripping, threatening with weapons, and acts of intimidation happens on school campuses everyday. However, bullying is often more subtle than pulling someone’s hair or taking their lunch money.  It is often a very personal and shameful. See if your child can identify name calling, rumor spreading, turning peers against someone, pointing and laughing, and intentionally making it unpopular to like someone as bullying.
  • Step 2: Help your child identify trusted adults at school, at home, at camp, and any other place they spend time.  Don’t take for granted that they know who to talk to or that you want them to speak-up. Kids, particularly if they are dealing with a bit of depression or anxiety, can erroneously believe that their problems are not important enough to share.
  • Step 3: Let your child know that it is brave to speak-up about bullying.  Help them step away from the stigma. It takes a lot of courage for a kid to admit to an adult that they are being bullied!  Secretly they may fear that an adult or parent won’t take them seriously or will view them as weak. Their worst fear is that the adult will agree with the things the bully has said or done. In my experience, this is the largest barrier to kids reporting bullying to their parents.
  • Step 4: Tell you child that no one is allowed to hurt them, just as they are not permitted to hurt anyone else.  Let them know that they deserve to be treated with dignity and that the adults at school and in the community believe this also.  Adults will take steps to address when bullying is identified. Most importantly, tell your child that if they inform you of bullying, you will NEVER MAKE THEM SIT DOWN WITH THE BULLY TO TALK IT OUT.  This does not help and is not recommended.  Bullying prevention is accomplished through the bystander effect: when enough kids believe they deserve to go to a school where everyone feels safe and accepted, they will stand-up for that belief.  Building this culture into educational settings, athletic programs, extracurricular activities, and our homes is the treatment for bullying problems in a community.
  • Step 5: Remember that parents are not expected to have all the answers to challenges children face.  Give comfort, support, and advice, even if you can’t solve the problem directly. Children are not always looking for solutions, in fact jumping to problem solving before understanding their experience can be invalidating.  Let them know what they feel makes sense.  Ask them what they think would help–problem solve together.
  • Step 6: Give tips, like using humor and saying “stop” directly and confidently, if they find themselves in the middle of a bullying situation.  If it’s something more complicated or dangerous, find strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work.

Additional Resources: logo  National Anti Bullying Logo  Anti-Bullying Logo

Follow our Blog for more on this series.  We will visit these topics in more detail in weeks to come.  The Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach will tackle the topics of cyberbullying, helping your child form a peer group, identifying bullying at home, bully proofing, bouncing back from bullying, and more.  Check with the Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach this fall to join our Bouncing Back Group for kids to have experiencing bullying.

Family at Beach

Happy Healthy American Families

Families are managing a lot of different things in 2018. There are work schedules, school schedules, after school schedules, medical appointments, play dates, and a variety of other things that can pop up on a family calendar from week to week. At the Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach, we are creating a place for families to come and enjoy time together whether it is for a class, appointment, or family event. We know that family health and wellness increases when intentional time is spent together and positive memories are made.

In America, a lot of money is spent on our health care. According to the Center for Disease Control, the per person cost for health care is around $9,990.  For perspective on what this cost was a few decades ago, in the 1960’s the per person cost was for health care was $146. This cost has been increasing every decade since the 1960’s. Not many people get excited talking about money or budgeting. It is important; however, to have these conversations from time to time so that we can identify opportunity for improvement. America currently spends about 17.8% of our total budget on health care costs while in 1960 we were spending about 5% of our total budget on health care costs. Finding ways to keep this number from continuing to increase will benefit individuals, families, and our country as a whole.

The current American culture is very different from the culture of the 1960’s. Some of the changes include an increase in access to fast food restaurants, changes in the the way food is made, and increase in drinking sugary and caffeinated beverages.  We are exposed to a lot of messages about food and fitness. It gets confusing! Many of the current trends, habits, and lifestyles are not leading to a healthier America. The marketing of many food companies and fitness programs is very convincing: what they have is something you need! Most of us have a diet or fitness trend that pops into our mind when we think about health and wellness. How do we sort through all the different messages about health and wellness when it seems there is a new diet or lifestyle to follow every month?

We have the opportunity to shape children and adolescents dietary preferences and lifestyle routines while they are living in our homes. Did you know a lot of children have difficulty identifying different fruits and veggies? The youngest among us are growing up in homes without consistent exposure to food in its natural form. Being in the kitchen, cooking, and creating is a wonderful opportunity for children and parents to enjoy time together while increasing their health and wellness.

Creating a home that is filled with health promoting foods and activities takes the fear and guesswork out of meeting your own personal needs and the needs of your children. A few things you can try are listed below:

  • Take an inventory of what’s in your pantry and refrigerator
  • Schedule time for meal planning
  • Have your kids contribute ideas for snacks and meals
  • Introduce new foods one at a time, try and pair them with an old favorite
    • Steamed broccoli with mashed potatoes
    • Carrots  with hummus
  • Schedule time for grocery shopping
  • Schedule time for meal prepping. This includes washing, cutting, and pre-measuring meal ingredients so that when you want to make something it takes less work!
  • Include children and adolescents in meal prep
    • Research shows that children and adolescents are more likely to eat something they have helped prepare
  • Have a family meeting to review what’s working
  • Plan re-peat meals! You don’t have to create all new meals each week

At the Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach, we seek to have open conversations about health, nutrition, wellness, and fitness. We focus on supportive do-able solutions! Children and adults are faced with daily decisions and opportunities to nourish their bodies and minds. By learning patterns that are enjoyable and health promoting, individuals and families are creating healthy habits with lifelong benefits.  Follow our blog for more posts in this series on nutrition and wellness. Look for future posts on family friendly meals, navigating nutrition labels, lunch box solutions, travel friendly snack packs, and more! Join us for exciting events this fall including meal planning, taste testing, sauces and dressing your kids will love, batch cooking, and of course, holiday baking!

Center for Disease Control. (2017). National center for health statistics. Health, United States, 2016: With chartbook on long-term trends in health. Retrieved from:

Children Running to Ocean

From Teacher to Tutor

After years of teaching, I am stepping away from the role of a formal classroom teacher and into the role of educator and tutor at The Well at Ponte Vedra Beach.  As I make this transition, I want to share with you what led me to teaching in the first place. As a teacher, I am always filing away the lessons I don’t want to forget.

I first discovered my love for education when I reluctantly took a job as a high school tutor.  What I found led me down an exciting path. When I first met the bashful 7th grade girl I would be paired with for 9 months of English tutoring, I honestly felt that getting her to score passing marks would be an Everest I couldn’t climb. Our first month of meetings consisted of her refusing to speak to me and averting her eyes every time I tried to engage her.  How could I be sure she was soaking in the material? I remembered my own English teacher telling me to build relationships first, and the content and knowledge would follow. I decided to make that my mantra. We set goals, we made stepwise changes, we learned her style and how to overcome her barriers.  Over time, we grew to know and trust each other. Eventually, she began making C’s, and then those C’s became B’s. I will never forget her face when she ran into our tutoring room, waving her latest test proudly in front of her. She had scored an 85 and a smiley face sticker. She finally understood the information we had been reviewing and retained it! It belonged to her now! She was thinking differently and could apply the material in different situations.  It was at then that I experienced what many veteran teachers refer to as the “light bulb moment.”

In the case of my first tutoring experience, the student’s achievement was a reflection of the profound difference it makes when we build personal relationships and individualize a lesson plan. Teaching a child how to learn, identifying their skills, translating the material into a language he or she understands best, and setting high but manageable goals is how I approach each student I tutor.  For example, my 7th grader hated reading out loud, but loved drawing on the whiteboard. So, once I learned this, she was willing to diagram sentences and illustrate different parts of speech all afternoon. She liked writing on the board so much more than in her workbook. At the Well at Ponte Vedra Beach we have the opportunity to learn our student’s learning styles and meet them where they are at.

This initial experience, paired with the immense love and respect I felt for my own teachers, helped me fall in love with the profession and commit my future to becoming the best teacher I could be. As an educator, I incorporate the same preparation and devotion whether I am teaching in a formal classroom or as a tutor working with students in a small group or individually.

I have learned that great teaching has everything to do with how we approach students. In a successful classroom, ideas and opinions are valued. When kids are able to express their feelings, they learn to respect and listen to others. This fosters a collaborative environment where everyone feels they serve a vital role and offer something important to the class.

In a typical American classroom it can be challenging to meet the needs of students equally. When a student has a different learning style or needs an alternate approach, the lesson is bound to curriculum and the majority learning style. Students who need outside help often reluctant to ask for it and when they do, may sacrifice leisure time and peer experiences.  Successful teachers know that students benefit not only from relying on him/her for information, but on each other, and the vast resources of the school and the community.

As the Director of Education for The Well at The Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach, I am eager to work with students in both small group and individual settings. This allows for flexibility for a family to schedule academic support tailored to fit their student’s need. We believe that children benefit from having clear instruction, expectations with high but manageable goals, and the support of a caring adult. We provide this in addition to the knowledge and support they need to succeed academically.  Just as classrooms thrive on warmth and enthusiasm, the educational services at The Well seek to create a space free from feelings of helplessness, instilling students with confidence and capability they need to take on whatever their school day may hold.  I value the the opportunity to work closely with students in need of individualized attention, partner with parents, and come alongside the teachers in our community. At The Well at Ponte Vedra Beach we believe every student is capable of making great strides and achieving academic success.