Children today are suffering mentally more than any generation before them, with one in five experiencing anxiety or depression at some level.
Their ability to cope with conflict, overcome struggles, and face trauma and adversity has been crippled by a society that’s become mesmerized with technology and a generation of parents who want to “fix” things for their children.
Dr. Vanessa Cantu, owner of the Bullying Empowerment Center in Alamo Heights, said social skills and mental health are big issues for today’s school children, and addressing them at home is crucial, now more than ever.
“Kids learn resiliency from the adults in their lives,” she said. “The worst thing you can do for your kids is to always come up with solutions for them. Kids need to learn how to problem solve and figure things out on their own. You can guide them with questions like, ‘Well, what do you think?’ instead.”
Along with her private practice, Cantu works as a crisis intervention counselor with North East Independent School District and is all too familiar with the bullying and stress that students today experience. Social media, playground politics, and academic demands can create anxiety in children, and Cantu said there’s only so much kids can ignore before they must address things.
“It’s so important for kids to learn skills on how to deal with these types of issues,” she said. “A bully goes after someone who is vulnerable, so I often tell my students [that] even if you don’t feel it, you have to act confident.”
Pressures from social media and the lack of actual communication among students have played a big role in their anxiety as well, Cantu said.
“They claim they’re communicating with each other over text, but it’s simply not the same,” she said. “When I was in high school, we actually went outside to play and sat directly with one another at lunch and talked. Kids aren’t doing that today, and it’s majorly affecting their social skills. No matter how well you do in school academically, if you don’t have social skills, you can’t go far.”
Cantu said NEISD is working hard to build up social skills curriculum, acknowledging the generational shift. Another school in town is also trying to answer the call, teaching parents and educators how to help the children of San Antonio.
On January, 29th, the Winston School will host its 30th annual learning symposium called “Fostering Resilient Learners.”
The program is open to the public, and throughout the day those who attend can learn different techniques to help children cope and become more resilient in and out of the classroom. Licensed mental health expert and author Kristin Souers will act as the keynote speaker.
Cassandra Ottmer, director of advancement at the Winston School, said those who attend will have many takeaways they can apply at home.
“This year we decided to focus on attitude and development,” she said. “San Antonio just became a trauma invested city, and the city council is going to be tackling issues city wide. Trauma sounds like a big scary topic, but it comes in a variety of levels. It doesn’t necessarily mean domestic violence. It can come in the form of being bullied, feeling less than, difficulty in the classroom or when trying to make friends.”
The Winston School offers a private education that specializes in teaching those who learn differently. The symposium opens the doors to its skilled educators, offering anyone who’s interested a chance to learn more.
For more information on the symposium or to register, log onto http://www.winston-sa.org.