April29

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”.

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 give better decision making tools to kids. The pressures of social media, the internet, the availability of drugs, and the constant push of information are incredibly amplified on kids today. Frankly, this pressure starts a lot earlier than they used to begin. Today, six-year olds 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 research-supported prevention program committed to teaching young people and community members 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.”

It is important to train teachers, parents, and kids to be mindful, think of others, slow down, and make thoughtful choices. This requires giving them the tools to change their lives and the lives of 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 touched 21,000 school children on Cape Cod. Their reach is continuously growing, too. Executive Director, Fiona Jensen, says their goal is 26,000 kids by the end of the school year. It’s inspiring to hear kids talk about coping skills, strategies for dealing with anxiety or stress, and 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, but what we do with it is our responsibility. The other day, I listened to someone from my generation rant about Millennials 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 training to make an informed choice on how they will act on their feelings, instead of simply acting without thought. Managing anxiety with breathing exercises, increasing focus through listening, or quieting their emotional response by being mindful and self-aware are all emotional strength training exercises. Teaching these skills to kids can help them 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. They also teach a variety of community-based programs for kids and adults alike. For more information, please visit www.calmerchoice.org.

Written by Tony Shepley.

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