The other afternoon, I struck up a conversation with a fifth grader, a friend of the family, about how school was going this year. She described something her teacher was doing prior to a test, that to me felt stressful. It doesnâ€™t matter what it was as it relates to this story, but when I pressed her for an explanation, hereâ€™s what she said:
â€œOh, she does it on purpose,â€ she told me as a matter of fact. â€œTo create intentional tension.â€
Of course, I lost my (metaphysical) marbles. Teaching fifth graders, who havenâ€™t yet hit the apex of anxiety, how to practice being anxious, seemed nothing short of genius. And it got me thinking.
What if at an early age we set up a controlled environment, with skilled oversight, expressly designed to teach us how to speak up for ourselves (or others)? To express needs?
Put a different way, it would be a space in which to learn restraint and then reward, deliberately; to exist between discernment and persuasion and to experience different ways of managing and resolving a conflict. What if we practicedâ€¦having a â€œpracticeâ€â€¦ in preschool?
Rather than promoting kindness because itâ€™s the right thing to do, which most schools (understandably) embrace, what if we designed highly controlled uncomfortable situations, to help kids navigate them â€“ and make more informed choices – from the start?
If we can do a mock U.N. at school, why canâ€™t we apply that to training for our most challenging emotions?
Practicing worst-case scenario may not replicate the exact experience a stressful event creates, but kids become adults. And adults have the power to create or destroy.
Tools donâ€™t give us wiggle roomâ€¦ as much as options.
And we should have optionsâ€¦ from the get go.
Practice, in this case, is a double entendre (my favorite happy accident):
Itâ€™s both the rehearsal we do in preparation for a future event, and the thing that grounds us in the here and now.
We know events will happen.
And we also know, all we have is now.