The Character Movement

Students talking in a small group on a Kindness Retreat

How the Kindness Retreat Changed My Son’s Life at School

Youth Frontiers recently partnered with Haley Elementary School in Arizona to facilitate a Kindness Retreat. One parent who volunteered as a small-group leader had this to say about her experience:

I went into the retreat thinking of all the things for work that I could be doing while instead I was volunteering at this event. But now I am so happy that I went.

As a parent, I naturally watched my own child at first, but soon I began to watch other kids too. One little boy in particular caught my eye. He was uninterested in the retreat, not smiling, not participating and definitely opposed to participating. As the day unfolded, I continued to watch him and how he transformed. It was almost like a burden had been lifted from him. He started smiling and participating. He even shared at the end of the day during the reflection time. I do not remember what he shared, but I remember the look on his face. It showed that he felt like he was a part of his class. It was so touching to see.

Landon (our son) was not in my small group, but he was in Derek’s (my husband’s) group. In my group were kids I had never met. One little boy was very quiet and reluctant to speak during our first small-group meeting. He had some physical challenges, and I could tell he was guarded. However, he gradually opened up and did not stop talking or participating for the rest of the day.

Our lunch together as a small group was great. We played a game and talked about what the kids wanted to be when they got older. They were engaged and respectful to each other. They learned that what they have in common is greater than what makes them different from one another. Although none of the kids in my group got up and shared during the reflection, they shared with each other in our small group. They talked about unkind things that they had done to someone or that had been done to them. I felt like they shared a piece of their hearts with each other.

I felt that the day contained some of the best “golden nuggets” for parenting that I could have received. I left the retreat equipped with new phrases and concepts I can use with my son as he walks out the door for school or when he lies down for bed and we talk about the day. For example, I now ask him, “How many boomerangs did you send out or receive today?” I say, “Remember to be an everyday hero for someone and use your power for good.”

Landon experienced an amazing gift the day after the retreat. On the playground, a little boy whom Landon has had issues with for the last two years apologized to Landon for being mean to him. It rocked Landon’s world for this boy to say the words “I am sorry” to him. They both apologized for things that they had said and shook hands, promising to be nice to each other and to be friends. When Landon told Derek and me about it, it brought tears to our eyes. Since they formed their playground pact things have been going well, and Landon has come home less stressed about the days at school. We are so happy for both Landon and the other boy.

I do hope Haley Elementary offers the Kindness Retreat again next year and that it brings your other retreats for older students to its other campuses. I would love for Landon to be able to attend all of Youth Frontiers’ retreats as he ages. I feel like Derek and I promote kindness and having an open heart in our boys, but those messages tend to resonate more when people other than just your parents say them. I think that kindness among kids can be seen as a weakness at times, and kids don’t always understand how powerful it can be when you extend it to someone who needs it.

As an aside, the Retreat Facilitators, Ben and Jake, were absolutely amazing. Their attitudes, energy and smiles were contagious from the moment the other volunteers and I walked into the room and they challenged us to connect and learn alongside the students. I will remember them as two people who changed and impacted my son’s life at school. They were meant to do the work they are doing.

 Thank you, Youth Frontiers, for the work you all do with our kids.

All the best,

This year, on The Character Movement, we are trying something new. We’ll be delving into one of our retreat values each month, examining it on our blog and in our Character Challenges. This month’s theme is community. 

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