February28

Calmer Choice

By Tony Shepley

“It is not necessary to change…but then again, survival is not mandatory” – Edward Deming.

I believe we can also credit Mr. Deming with one of my all-time favorites, “You get what you inspect, not what you expect”. That one is worth repeating – “You get what you inspect, not what you expect”.

Plentiful are the ways in which we shy away from choice. Choice is not something we wait for, it is an action we must take. Choice is a privilege of option, an opportunity, but also a responsibility. Inspired choice comes of your own doing, while most choice comes as a reaction to what happens to us.

Calmer Choice is an organization that came about in 2010 after there had been a rash of teen suicides on Cape Cod among high school students. Concerned parents and community leaders came together to provide better decision making tools for kids. The pressures of social media, the internet, the availability of drugs, and the constant push of information are incredibly amplified on kids today and frankly start a lot earlier than they did in the past. Six year olds today are considerably less sheltered than a generation ago. How does a young child or a teen sort all this out and cope?

In Calmer Choice’s own words “Calmer Choice is a universal prevention program committed to teaching young people how to effectively and safely manage stress and resolve conflict so that they live happy, healthy, and successful lives. Our goal is to provide skills that will diminish the risk of violence, substance abuse, and other self-destructive behaviors.”

To train teachers, parents, and kids how to be mindful, how to think of others, how to slow down, and to make thoughtful choices, is to give them tools with which to change their lives and those around them. Calmer Choice has worked to give kids mindfulness and the ability to better manage stress and anxiety. To date, Calmer Choice has impacted more than 26,000 children in eight school districts, reaching approximately 20% of all students and families living on Cape Cod. And that number keep growing. It’s inspiring to hear kids talk about coping skills, strategies for dealing with anxiety or stress, and having a “common language” for how to talk about these challenges.

Our Shepley General Manager, Tom Dennison, coined another favorite saying of mine. “It’s not about how we feel, it’s about how we choose to act on how we feel.” What we feel is what we feel. What we do with it is our responsibility. I listened to someone my age on a rant the other day about Millenials not getting it. I was amused to think; 1) How did this person forget what they acted like when they were an adolescent? 2) How did they forget that they had a hand in raising some of the kids they are now blaming for not getting it? Instead of blaming our kids, what are we doing to help our kids? The answer, I believe, is giving them the tools and the training to make the informed choice on how they will act on how they feel, instead of simply acting without thought. We can teach children to deal with anxiety through breathing exercises, to focus better by working on their listening, and to quiet their emotional response by being mindful and self-aware. These are all emotional strength training exercises that help kids adapt, change, and succeed. Emotional strength training is progressive and builds like any other type of strength training.

Calmer Choice is an 8-week program, taught for 20 minutes twice a week in elementary schools and once a week for 45 minutes in middle and high school classes. For more information, please visit www.calmerchoice.org. My question used to be “When will they start adult classes?” Thanks to the folks at Calmer Choice, we have already started doing some mindfulness training for Shepley staff.

Give us the tools and we’ll get the job done…and well done. Calmer Choice has a Community Stakeholder Breakfast coming up on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The breakfast will be held at the Shepley Showcase in Hyannis. If you would like to learn more, please see details in the announcement to the right.

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