We live in an age where it is so easy to get swept away with the daily demands of life. Staying present in the moment takes great effort. It takes just as much energy to be grateful for these moments. Our brains are hardwired to look out for challenges and threats in our environment. It’s a survival technique that is part of our being. The challenge with this is that it is extremely easy to get caught up in challenges and negativity and miss the special moments. When this happens, life is harder. We spend more time ‘surviving’ then we do ‘thriving.’
Many of us have an attitude of gratitude. We go through our days being thankful for what we have. However, having an active practice of gratitude is even more powerful than an attitude of gratitude. Making your practice central in your daily routine has great benefits. Active practices of gratitude have been found to have a positive effect on our health, happiness, energy and longevity. Who doesn’t want that? Strong physical and mental health are to be cherished and are seen by many as the ‘new wealth.’
As a teen I remember when Oprah began to talk about gratitude journals. She shared with her viewers how life changing writing 5 items of gratitude daily had been for her. In true Oprah style, I believe she may have even given out gratitude journals regularly. Fast forward to my early thirties, I needed a practice that would help to re-shift my thinking. Daily challenges of living on a small island, being an entrepreneur and managing and day to day life was feeling quite overwhelming, and for me to be at my best for my family, friends, students and clients, I knew that I needed to add something to my day to help me ‘reset.’ I began a practice of gratitude approximately 3 years ago. I took a few months break during one of life’s inevitable plot twists, but other than that I have been consistent. It is at the core of my morning routine and keeps me grounded. Each morning I write a list of 10 items of gratitude. They range from being as simple as a good glass of wine, to a non-kid interrupted conversation with my husband, to developmental milestones being reached by my children.
Like other gratitude lovers, I want to share this magic. I first suggested it in one of Learn and Lead’s groups on Facebook – Inspirations Turks and Caicos. As this 2-year-old video showed up on my feed on Friday, I thought…Yes! Let’s do this again!
So, I encourage you to get a journal if you do not have one and start with us this week. Everyday I will post a new reflection question here and on my social media accounts to get you going. This is to set the stage for your own self-directed path of gratitude. For those of you in Providenciales that do not have journals, we now sell journals at Learn and Lead. Feel free to swing by.
An active practice of gratitude sets us up for success. It can have a tremendous impact on your wellbeing and your overall quality of life. It encourages you to look out for the ‘good’ and the ‘positive’ in life. When we begin by doing this intentionally, it takes on a life of its own and before you know it, looking out for the positive moments becomes your way of being.
Don't forget to visit again for days 4-7!
I recently took a trip to Orlando. As a mother of three young children, I don’t get away much! Well, full disclosure, I haven’t gotten away alone for years! So I was full of excitement to be taking a trip to do some learning, personal growth and reflection. The first thing I was looking forward to was the plane ride. For others who have young children, you can fully appreciate what it is like to be able to read if you want, sleep if you want or even have a cocktail!
Being Canadian, the majority of the time that I head out of country, I am usually travelling home to Canada. Now that we can fly directly from Providenciales into Toronto, it has eliminated my need to travel through the United States. Upon reflection, I realized that I had not travelled to or through the United States in years. When I landed in Fort Lauderdale, I was immediately struck by how different things were from when I had last been through the airport. My goal was to clear immigration as fast as possible, re-check my bags, find my connecting gate to Orlando and then enjoy a beverage while reading and waiting for my next flight.
On the contrary, I found myself at every turn realizing how much reading I had to do to get by! This may sound like a silly comment coming from and educator, but I found myself slowing down to process information and ensure that I was going the correct way, answering the electronic kiosk questions appropriately and I noticed that I had a hyper-acuity. This hyper-acuity is natural when you are in new environments and need to navigate. This continued throughout my trip, as I was travelling in to an unknown place and environment.
Through the entire process, I found myself wondering, how do individuals who are illiterate or functionally illiterate travel or move out of their comfort zones? I have a vivid memory as a pre-teen travelling with my mother from a summer vacation in St. Vincent back to Canada and her helping a young gentleman fill out his travel forms. I was struck by this memory, and the thought that it would have been hard then, but imagine how hard it would be now!
So this brings me to a discussion that we rarely have about functional illiteracy. We have a hidden crisis in the Caribbean: that of functional illiteracy. We are not alone in the world with this crisis, as statistics from the United States and the United Kingdom reveal that approximately 1 in 7 adults is functionally illiterate, but the Caribbean is my home and I see the effects of this hidden crisis daily through my work.
Let’s first break down a few terms. Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak, understand and listen in order to be able to communicate effectively and understand your environment. When someone is referred to as ‘illiterate’ they have likely not been taught how to read or write. The term ‘functionally illiterate’ refers to individuals who have been through formal schooling but have an inadequate level of reading and writing skills in order to manage the business of day-to-day life. In other words, individuals who are ‘functionally illiterate’ can read and write at a basic level.
Therefore, for the functionally illiterate, everyday tasks beyond a basic level, can present real problems. They may have difficulty following written directions, reading signs or labels, filling out forms and writing emails or reports. For parents, this presents a further challenge, as they will have difficulty helping their children. We also know that a child’s level of literacy is strongly linked to the level of literacy of their parents.
Literacy is a touchy subject. It is personal. Individuals are often reluctant to ask for help when they struggle in this area. Individuals also learn how to do a marvelous job of compensating in order to avoid embarrassment, frustration and shame. The thing is, being functionally illiterate makes it difficult to thrive. When opportunity comes knocking and doors are opened, it makes it difficult to walk through them with confidence if you struggle with literacy. Opportunity brings an element of uncertainty and when we pair that with low literacy confidence, we find individuals that feel ‘stuck.’ This feeling can not only have effects on an individual’s self-esteem, but also on how they see the world and react to it.
Whether it is a family member, a business colleague, a church sister or brother or someone that you just happen to encounter, if you decide that you want to support an individual that you sense may be functionally illiterate, there are a few important points to keep in mind.
1. Let go of judgment. There are a host of reasons why an individual may have literacy challenges. When we are speaking the language of judgement and misconceptions, we often end up adding shame into the equation. Individuals do not thrive when they are shamed.
2. Show compassion. Literacy is an extremely personal thing. In order for an individual to move past frustration, and in some cases embarrassment, they need to be in a safe space that allows them to thrive. Being functionally illiterate is often not the fault of the individual. In many cases they have been through a system that has failed them, or had a challenge and did not have someone with the skills to help guide them in order to overcome that challenge.
3. Observe. Take time to observe the areas that they excel in and the areas that they are struggling in. What systems can be put into place to help them excel while using teachable moments to help them improve the level of their literacy.
4. Have hope. Functional illiteracy can be overcome at any age. It is not a life sentence that needs to be managed. There is help.
5. Be Patient. Although functional illiteracy can be overcome at any age, it is a process that takes time. Patience will be important on the part of the student as well as their support system. Overcoming functional illiteracy involves filling in gaps by learning, processing, retaining and applying information. This cycle takes practice, time and commitment.
If you want to support someone in improving their literacy skills and you aren't sure where to start, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Child's Life began in 2008 in partnership with Radio Turks and Caicos as a way to stimulate the positive parenting and teaching discussion in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Although we have taken a few breaks her and there, we believe it is a very important discussion and happy that we continue to be a part of it. If you have a topic that you would like to hear explored on A Child's Life, email Yolande at email@example.com.
As a mom and an educator I am constantly looking for new ways to help my children and students develop in order to be able to tackle our ever changing world. The reality is each generation has been and will continue to be exposed to different challenges.
Although we often hear the overly used cliché, “When I was your age…” denoting the lecture that is imminent about how tough things were, we often don’t take into account that there are many ways in which things have gotten tougher over time.
Our children are exposed to many things that we were not exposed to as children. Twenty years ago we may have been worried about the images that were being presented through racy television shows, and the glamorization of certain lifestyles through their lyrical content. Today, not only do parents have to worry about the racy television shows that have become the reality shows, but also the influence of technology through the use of social media. Our children only physically leave school at 3 p.m. because they often remain connected to their peers 24/7 through the use of computers, tablets and smart phones.
The reality is technology is going to keep evolving and reality shows are going to continue glamorizing lifestyles that we would prefer our children not feel are the norm. So what can we do about this as parents? We can try our best to make them as resilient as possible and give them the tools they need in order to navigate through any environment within which they find themselves.
So what does a resilient child look like to you? In my eyes a resilient child is motivated, self-assured, assertive, confident, aware of their environment, happy and empathetic. These character traits are like padded walls that we can provide our children with in the hope that they will be ever present when they are making choices. Children and teens will at some point or another make choices that do not seem too smart. This is part of growing up, but as a parent, we want to do your best to build the traits that are going to help them to be resilient in their environment, so that when we are not there, they are confident in making the right decisions for themselves, or recovering when they have not made the best choice for themselves.
In order to raise a resilient child, it is important to take the time to do so! Don’t assume that your child is going to learn all these skills by him or herself. Skills are called skills because they can be learned and they are not necessarily character traits with which you are born. Many of these skills are picked up through our environment. Children learn from the people around them. Children sense happiness, they sense confidence, and they sense empathy. A child with a parent that shows empathy towards others will likely do the same. This points to the fact that parents must remember that they are always being watched. For this reason, it is important to think of what a resilient child looks like to you and ensure that the example that you are setting as an adult exemplifies these qualities.
Raising a resilient child involves the understanding of the importance of the following three areas:
1. Build the Self: Ask yourself how you are working to help your child become self-aware. Being self-aware is an important part of building self-confidence. In order for our children to feel confident in themselves they need to be given the opportunity to explore to find their strengths and what drives them.
2. Build the Family Unit: With the hustle and bustle of everyday life it is easy to cut out the family time. Building a strong family unit is an important part of the puzzle. Although your child may not come and share all their challenges within the unit, having a strong family unit at home will make it more likely that they will, and will also provide them with the tools they need in order to tackle every day challenges.
3. Build the Immediate Environment: There are many things within our children's environments which we cannot control. However, there are some aspects in which we have a say. Take stock of your child's immediate environment. Expose them to the types of activities, people and experiences that you believe will help to build their character.
Shifting Perspectives is a weekly conversation with Yolande. Yolande, a Canadian of Caribbean descent, now calls the Turks and Caicos Islands home and in this podcast challenges Caribbean woman worldwide to fuel themselves with diversity in the way they think, the way they work, the way they parent and the way they live.