Thank you for your support in ensuing that your student arrives to school on time this week – I know the Monday after a time change is always challenging! Our 1st-5th graders have enjoyed two days of outdoor Jamboree and we will continue with outdoor Jamboree until the end of the school year. We will conduct indoor arrival only in the event of rain or inclement weather. Our PK and K students continue to enjoy morning Jamboree in the gym every Tuesday.
As we have returned to outdoor Jamboree and the weather will continue to improve, I would like to remind all families that Janney does not provide supervision for children prior to 8:30am unless your child is enrolled in morning JAC or a before-school activity. Any children arriving to school unsupervised prior to 8:15am will be sent to morning JAC. Thank you for your support as we work to maintain a safe campus.
Ms. Sara Solomon, school Social Worker, is writing this month’s student support services column – and March is National Social Worker Month!
Have a great week!
Student Support Services Column
Hello Janney Jaguars!
The other day I came across a term in an Instagram meme fully explaining in just two words, a phenomenon that has been bothering me for awhile: Toxic Positivity.
Toxic positivity refers to this idea that we need to be positive. Always. That positive thinking brings positive outcomes. That being upset is not being positive. So cheer up! Don’t let those bad feelings get you down!
When we see someone we care about feeling down, of course it’s human nature and instinct to want to help them feel better and support them. So how can positivity be toxic?
Negative feelings and worries are natural and part of human experience. They are just as important as positive feelings, and help alert us to the things we need to address in our bodies, minds, and environment. The relentless “stay positive” messages pervasive in our pop culture tells us those feelings are bad, and should be swat away whenever they creep in. We should not let ourselves be brought down by bad feelings.
This kind of positivity culture is problematic for several reasons. Positive thinking does not address the reasons why someone is feeling bad in the first place, so those feelings are likely to come back. More significantly, focusing on the positive can minimize what someone is going through and make them feel invalidated and unheard. Even worse, it can make someone feel bad about not being able to be positive. At the extreme, the shame of feeling bad about feeling bad can prevent someone who is really struggling from reaching out for help.
Truly supporting someone sometimes means acknowledging that their bad feelings are okay and giving them space to feel and express them.
Here are some common things we say to cheer someone up, and what you can say instead:
“You shouldn’t worry so much!” Why it’s problematic: Anxiety is not a comfortable or pleasant feeling, and most of us would prefer not to experience it. If it were as easy as just *not* worrying, we’d all do that (and I’d be out of a job). If someone is worried or anxious, there’s a reason for it. If they are telling you about it, they want you to know. Telling someone not to worry sends the message that their worries are not important and you’d rather not hear it. What to say instead: “It seems like you have a lot on your mind. I’m sorry you’re going through that. I’m not sure I can help, but I’m happy to listen.”
“You’re overreacting, it’s not that bad” Why it’s problematic: To them, it *is* that bad, even if you’d have a different reaction. Saying that it is not denies their experience and shuts down the conversation. What to say instead: “This is really bothering you. Why is it so upsetting?”
“It will all work out/It’ll be okay” Why it’s problematic: Unless you are a fortune teller, you can’t possibly know how something will turn out. Telling someone that everything will be okay sends the message that their fear that it won’t be is invalid, and that not only will you not listen, but you also won’t be much help. What to say instead: “I know you’re scared. Can I help you figure out what to do?”
“Well, at least [insert silver lining of bad situation]” Why it’s problematic: “You should feel good about this” is the last thing anyone wants to hear when they have experienced something bad. It says that you don’t want to hear about the bad parts so they should only talk about the upside of things. It’s invalidating and minimizes very real life experiences that may just feel bad. Period. What to say instead: “What you’re going through must be really tough. I can understand why you’re feeling so bad about it.”
“What’s the worst that could happen?” Why it’s problematic: This is actually a trick question. When delivered with sincerity, asking someone what they most fear about an outcome can give them space to voice those fears. Often, the fear is of an unknown outcome. Voicing that fear makes it known and easier to face. Even when the feared outcome is really pretty bad, and plausible, you can still help someone talk about and plan for that possibility. This lets them know that they are not alone. Also, once you have a plan for the worst possibility, anything less than that feels more manageable. This is an important part of building resilience – the strength to know you can fall and get back up, which is really what “staying positive” is all about. What to say instead: “No, really, what’s the worst thing that you’re most afraid of, and what can we do if it happens?”
Thanks for reading and type to you next week!
Janney School Social Worker