December 14, 2015

posted Feb 22, 2016, 4:42 PM by PFC Webmaster   [ updated Feb 22, 2016, 4:42 PM ]

Dear Walnut Acres Parents,

Promoting Caring at School

Caring is our focus during the holiday months of November and December and our

effort to teach caring takes many forms. Of course, we try to model caring and

encourage children to practice caring for themselves and others throughout the

year whether they are collaborating in the classroom or interacting in a less

structured setting on the playground or in the MUR. However, the months of

November and December, are timely opportunities to emphasize lessons of caring

in a very targeted manner. In November our focus was on gratitude, and this

month we shift our perspective to kindness. Our children are being asked to

practice one act of kindness daily during the December months. (You can view my

challenge to students in the December student message on our website or click

here. Be sure to click the document to enlarge it.)

Why Caring Matters-A Bit of Research

Research suggests ("Happy" video, PBS, 2014) that about 50% of our happiness

level is based on our genetic structure, while another 10% is based on our

environmental circumstances, including wealth, health, work, etc. Positive

psychology researchers are finding that about 40% of our sense of happiness is

based on other factors that we can control! Varying our routines, exercising,

experiencing 'flow,' reflecting on things for which we are grateful in our lives, and

helping others, all seem to be ways to increase happiness levels according to

multinational research studies. (Neurologically, these are activities that increase

dopamine in our systems.) Not only do good deeds make us feel better, but

according to David Brooks in his New York Times article "Nice Guys Finish First,"

people who are kind and compassionate are often the most successful.

"We don't teach children to enhance their happiness when we simply enable them

to be receivers of kindness. We escalate their feelings of happiness, improve their

well-being, reduce bullying, enrich their friendships, and build social skills by

teaching them to be givers of kindness. In other words, we want to encourage our

children to develop their empathy skills" (from Roots of Action by Dr. Marilyn Price-

Mitchell). We know that the best way to teach any skill is to model it ourselves,

and that certainly is true for teaching kindness. There are additional activities we

can do at home and school. Below is one suggestion from "Acts of Kindness:

Teaching Children to Care" by Dr. Price-Mitchell:

Promoting Kindness at Home

If you want to spend a little time this holiday promoting kindness, follow the four

steps below to help enable children to be givers of kindness Your efforts will be


1. Understand the importance of kindness. The Random Acts of Kindness

Foundation website is a terrific place to start. They have classroom and home

activities for children of all ages.

2. Create a kindness project in which children record in a journal (in pictures,

words, photos etc.) their acts of kindness around the house and things they do

that make them happy.

3. Take time to share items from each person's journal on a regular basis as a

family. Share enough so that everyone learns from each other's acts of kindness

and begins to understand the types of experiences that bring gratitude to life.

Sharing encourages self-reflection.

4. Practice, practice, practice sharing kindnesses. Routinely reflecting on

kindnesses as a family takes time, and no one has enough of that, but once it's a

family habit, it's easy to share from time to time.

Thank You for Caring About Walnut Acres

I wonder if you are bored by my notes of appreciation for your service and

donations to our school? I realize that I repeat myself endlessly, but parents

routinely ask me questions that indicate some folks are not aware of the

contribution of the PFC, nor our school's dependence on the PFC for many

personnel positions, coaching, and materials. So I would be remiss to write on

the topic of caring without thanking you for showing you care about our

school through your spirit of volunteerism and contributions to fund

services and support for our children! Check out the PFC website for details

about where PFC funds are expended. Currently, we have a 68% participation

rate in Jaguar Fund. Thank you! If you want to help increase that

percentage, consider donating whatever is affordable for your family to

bring us closer to 100% participation! To give, just write a check to PFC and turn it

in to the office any time. Or donate

online: Small amounts do add

up. For example, our PFC leadership tells me that if all remaining families gave $50

each, that could fund a teacher assistant.

A Unique Opportunity for an Act of Kindness

We would like to write a grant to the Safeway Foundation to support our computer

lab renovation, but apparently we need a Safeway employee to host our funding

request. If anyone reading this message works for Safeway and is willing to put

your name on our grant application, please contact me at , or

call 925-939-1333.

Best Wishes

May you and yours enjoy a memorable holiday and a Happy New Year! As you

celebrate with your family, remember that the greatest gift you can give your

child is your time. Or, to repeat Jesse Jackson's droll comment, "Your children

need your presence more than your presents." For a few other valuable holiday

insights, check out the message below from our Walnut Acres counselor, Joanne

Finn. Joanne is available to anyone who would like to speak to her about parenting


Dear Families,

I am sending you wishes for peace and gentle joy for your holiday season. It is a

beautiful but busy time of year! Here are some tips for being in a soft and joyous

space with your children over the coming weeks:

Normal routines can be hard to come by with extended family and friends visiting

and many traditions and activities. Psychology Today writer Kevin D. Arnold, Ph.D.,

recommends that we try to be accepting and flexible as we can: "Replace the

routines with the joy of the in the joy of each moment as it


Understand and appreciate child enthusiasm that comes with the holidays.

Sometimes children will need supports with self-control through limit-setting rather

than punishment. But embracing the beautiful childhood holiday energy is key. Dr.

Arnold encourages us to send "accepting messages that validate children as

overly-excited (rather than being "bad"), and empathize with a child's

feeling of raw energy."

Jean Lawrence, with WebMD, reminds us that family changes such as divorce

or the loss of a family member can be especially hard during the holidays.

This can be a good time to establish new traditions-perhaps a different time or day

for a favorite event. Keep sleep routines as normal as

possible to help manage difficult feelings more effectively.

Finally, I love guided mediation to bring healing imagery into our bodies and

minds. Here's a holiday meditation adapted from "Teaching Children


Meditation-Tree of light Guide your children to imagine that they are sitting

next to a huge tree. The tree has lots of twinkling lights such as the sparkling trees

lining Main Street in downtown Walnut Creek, each light is a feeling or present that

they can give to someone to make them smile. Ask them to imagine giving that

light to a person they know and how happy this makes them feel. You can

embellish the story with colors and smells and other senses as they pick a

pretending light and perhaps turn it into a star glowing in their hand!

Happy Holiday!

Joanne Finn, busy counselor

See you in 2016!

Colleen Dowd, lucky principal

Walnut Acres Elementary, 180 Cerezo Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94598

PFC Webmaster,
Feb 22, 2016, 4:42 PM