Numerous studies have been conducted that reveal just how much stress today’s kids are under. Sadly, we see it every day revealed in bullying, anxiety, depression, chemical abuse, and even suicide. Youth are suffering with stress and trauma, and those labeled as “at risk”, such as foster kids, have more to overcome than the average student. One of the ways we are able to support them is through the Imagine Project, a seven step journal exercise designed to heal trauma in a way that allows for empathy, understanding, and positivity.
Using a process that includes the simple prompt of “imagine”, students begin to share something they have had to deal with, as well as how it has turned around. Here’s an excerpt as an example from a recent classroom experience:
Imagine… having gone to eleven schools by the time you’ve entered the 9th grade.
Imagine… moving so often that you’re numb to the feeling of packing everything you own in trash bags.
Imagine… knowing the term “at-risk” at such a young age that you didn’t yet know the definition of “success.”
Imagine… falling asleep much too early at a friend’s sleepover because it’s the 1st time in a long time that you slept in a bed—not on the floor.
The story continues, but begins moving to the positive…
Imagine… breaking through the circumstances you were given and getting a college scholarship to go to college.
In a classroom setting, students can choose to share their stories with others, or not. Those who do share are often met with compassion and caring, which builds empathy and understanding for both those who read their stories, and those who are simply participating by listening. The process builds emotional wellness with a tool that helps them tap into their feelings, express them in a safe written format, and reveal to them their own resiliency.
Why Foster Kids?
Statistics show that in 2017, more than 690 thousand youth in the United States spent some time in foster care. Of these, the majority were youth of color, and stayed in care an average of 1-2 years. While many lived with extended family, an equal number are in non-family care or group homes. Just over 50% are reunited with their families, but many, who enter the system on average at the age of 8, will exit at age 18 without ever having a stable home.
Foster kids specifically are more likely to get involved with high risk behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, sexual activity (often resulting in teen pregnancy), and are at greater risk for homelessness and incarceration as adults. Further, they:
- have often been victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect
- may have been inappropriately medicated and/or institutionalized
- have disrupted family connections due to incarceration of a parent or long periods of separation from key family members
- have experienced homelessness and/or domestic violence
The Imagine Project creates a positive format for self-expression and a supportive community environment by demonstrating compassion to and from peers and caring adults. It helps students build their own problem-solving and self-regulation skills by learning to take responsibility for their feelings and choices. Using this tool with all students, but particularly those who have gone through tremendous trauma, such as those in the foster system, is especially important and valuable.
To get your FREE copies of The Imagine Project Journal and sample lesson plans, visit: https://theimagineproject.org/the-7-step-journals/
The Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps kids, teens, and adults overcome challenging life circumstances through expressive writing. Dianne is a thought leader in the area of stress and trauma in children. Her simple, yet profound 7-step writing tool, now used by schools across the US and internationally, gives kids and teens the opportunity to rewrite a challenging personal story and Imagine new possibilities in its place.