April 10, 2019

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

With all the activities that go on here at school, especially as spring finally begins to arrive, it is often a time of celebration and positive energy. At the same time, however, this is also the time when sometimes we will see things that seem out of sorts and that we cannot easily explain. Recently, I have talked with several parents who, in some ways, are just shaking their heads frustrated by their child’s behavior. In some cases, it is procrastination, poor effort in a particular class, lack of relationships or changes in relationships within their child’s peer group, and the list could go on and on. It is that time of the year when all the pressures of the school year have started to build and we begin to see signs of stress or difficulty. And trying to figure out what is going on with our students/children is not an easy task. One of the things to keep in mind is that many times they aren’t even sure themselves why struggles appear, and they don’t know how to express their concerns directly to us. To make a point, let me share one last spring break story (I promise), because as a parent, you may remember this type of moment.

When we were in California, one of our highlights was getting to spend some time with our youngest son Derek, his wife Kae, and our 10-month-old granddaughter Anne Luli. In December, they traveled to Northern Virginia to spend Christmas with us, and we were able to enjoy some extended time with the baby. Ever since then, there have been many pictures sent our way and our occasional FaceTime sessions. But, there is nothing like holding our granddaughter, getting her to smile, and just working on building that special bond between grandparent and grandchild. She had seemed very comfortable with us in December, so we couldn’t wait to get there for spring break.

When we finally got there, we were able to meet our son and helped him pick Anne up from her daycare. Derek shared that she had not been herself recently, and he didn’t know why. She had been cranky, hadn’t been sleeping well, and wasn’t eating much at all. When we greeted her, she was hesitant with us, wanting to pull away and be with her father and, ultimately, with her mother. There were more tears in a day than we had seen in a week in December. And clearly, she was not in the mood to be held or to be fed. We thought that she would probably need time to get used to us again and it would all settle out. The next morning, she had a little bit of a fever, and her parents decided to run her by the doctor, because another child in her daycare had been very sick and out for several days. What they discovered is that she had bronchitis. Obviously, she has been feeling terrible inside. But at that age, she had no way to tell us or let us know about it, except by her behavior. Her not being herself was her way of trying to say something was not right. And I will tell you that after she took the medicine, within a very short period, that beautiful smile was back and she loved being held. She demonstrated her crawling and standing abilities to the delight of all of us. But how does that connect with our children at whatever age they are?  Here are a couple of quick thoughts:

 

  • Red flags. Please realize that children of all ages sometimes don’t have the vocabulary to understand what is going on inside them entirely. They don’t know how to explain what they are feeling, what they want, or what they need. So they will do what I call “wave red flags at us.” And initially, they are small flags. They just won’t be themselves. They may not do quite as well as we thought they would in class. Or they may look a little serious and not want much interaction with us and may talk even less than they may have before. And if we don’t address those flags, there will be bigger flags. And the escalation can ultimately lead to really challenging behavior.  And that “flag” is now a banner! But all of it is trying to say, “Hey! Over here! I may need some help!”
  • Perspective. I continuously talk about keeping things in perspective. Part of this is to realize they don’t know what is going on inside them. I remember one time when one of our older boys had been rude and inappropriate. After sending him to his room, I went to talk to him and felt I asked a straightforward question and at the same time a silly one, but I got an answer back that surprised me. “Why in the world are you acting like this?” And he immediately shouted back, “I don’t have any idea!” And he honestly looked bewildered. So please keep it in perspective that they may feel bad about what is happening around them or whatever the behavior is that is causing concern, but they don’t know how to stop or change it right at this moment.
  • Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help, counsel, or just a friendly ear. There is no judgment involved. We all recognize that children are children. Whether they are in a Junior Kindergarten class or ready to head off to colleges and universities around the world. They are still growing and developing. They are still trying to figure out the world and their place in it.  So please ask for help or ask someone if the behavior your see sounds right or if this is normal behavior for an “x” year old. Whatever the question may be, please know that we are here to listen, support you, and see what we can do to help. All of it is important. Please remember that being a member of the Flint Hill School family means that we are available for those conversations at any time.

 

Hopefully, the warm weather and some increased sunlight will help push some of the winter doldrums away, so we can all begin to focus on closing out this year well. There are tons of events at school in the coming weeks. In fact, many of you will be joining us tonight at the Arts Jam Momentum Concert at George Mason University. It is going to be incredible! And be aware that we will have our Grade 5 and 6 play coming up at the end of this week, in addition to all kinds of athletic events. And let’s not forget that Springfest is a little over only two weeks away.  Have fun! Be on the lookout for those flags! And please let us know how we can help!

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster