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Promoting Kindness this Summer: How to Speak with Your Child About Empathy and Friendship

We’re living in a time when kindness goes a very long way in demonstrating our empathy and friendship to others. After a turbulent year, young students are eager to get back into the classroom and interact with their peers.

As they continue to navigate the everyday challenges of childhood while also keeping up with the task of understanding the many changes occurring in the world today, young students must be reminded of the importance of kindness in their interactions with others.

This summer, promote kindness within the academic and social lives of your child by encouraging the communication of empathy and the building of friendship.

The Importance of Developing Empathy and Friendship Building Skills

Empathy and friendship are just two of the many ways in which humans communicate and interact with the people and things closest to them—it’s how we show one another we care. Depending on a wide range of factors, children may find it easy to interact with their peers and build meaningful relationships. For others, friendship building and other significant social skills may come less naturally. But that’s okay, because families can work together to give children the communication tools they need to effectively convey their empathy toward others and strengthen their friendship building skills.

How to Strengthen to the Communication of Empathy and Friendship in Your Child

In order to help your child interact comfortably with their peers at school and in the widest range of social environments as possible, you can promote the spread of kindness to your child right at home.

1. Maintain a parent-child relationship built upon a foundation of love and security to make your child feel more comfortable trusting and communicating with others.
2. Talk about feelings at home to teach your child that vulnerability and sensitivity are positive characteristics that contribute to healthier relationships with others.
3. Read stories that teach lessons about friendship to provide your child with context for the importance of these issues.
4. Practice validation when interacting with children to ensure they understand the importance of feelings—both their own and those of others.
5. Remain patient throughout the process of teaching these important lessons to your child. He or she will learn to practice patience with others, as a result.

When teaching your child about the importance of empathy and friendship, as well as the ways in which we can effectively communicate with others in meaningful, powerful ways, it’s important to invite him or her into the process by using reflection as a means of unpacking the important life lessons you will learn together on this journey.

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3 Ways to Make Summer 2021 a Positive Experience for Your Child

Like so many things to come from 2020 and 2021, the summer season should still be considered an unprecedented time—one that parents should consider carefully as they prepare their children to engage in their summer activities, including social or development groups, summer school, camp, and others.

Summertime, however, should be an exciting time for your child, and it’s important to take the steps necessary to ensure a positive experience for your child amidst the uncertainty of life post-COVID.

Below are three simple ways you can help your family escape the stress of this year and make Summer 2021 a positive experience for your child.

Find Joy in Nature

All around us, the world is teeming with life—all you have to do is seek it out. One of the easiest ways to encourage your child to explore his or her surroundings and learn more about the wonders of nature is to facilitate outdoor play whenever possible.

If you live near a body of water, plan a trip to the beach. Natural parks are another great option for those in landlocked areas. Regardless of where you to choose to have your outdoor outing, consider visiting the area before you bring your child along for the fun to ensure no overcrowding and that social distancing guidelines are being followed.

Bond on a Family Road Trip

Have a car and no place to be this summer? Plan a family road trip! Road trips don’t have to be exhausting, lengthy affairs. If you’re unwilling or unable to travel to a different state in your car, keep it local—research museums and other attractions that are within a two- to four-hour driving distance from your home.

On a summer family road trip, your destination should matter less than how you spend your time with your family along the journey. As you drive, speak with your children about their home and school lives, as well as what interests them. You may be surprised about what you can learn about your family members on the road!

Take Up a New Hobby

The summer time is the perfect opportunity for children to explore new hobbies. From art to sports, from music to writing, you never know what activity your child will be interested in next. During the summer months, encourage your child to explore their interests by exposing him or her to new experiences, such as trying out a new instrument or reading about a new process.

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The Flying Classroom is Landing at Our Schools

Captain Barrington Irving is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the youngest pilot and first black man to fly solo around the world. He was born in Jamaica and raised in Miami where he was a stand-out football player until a pilot that was a mentor challenged Barrington to try flying.

Captain Irving started Flying Classroom to expand the STEM+ curriculum that was available to schools. With specialized expedition leaders zooming into the classrooms twice a week the students get to work through engineering design projects that come in a special kit provided by the Flying Classroom. Each class will get an expedition lesson with embedded activities. Each expedition lesson also has a career connection component to help students learn about the STEM+ professional that is involved.

We have 3 schools that through a special grant are getting a chance to experience these STEM+ activities first-hand, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, Saints Joachim and Anne and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in South Ozone Park. The Kindergarten through 2nd grade classes will be learning about aerobatic flight school, the Bionic Chef and animal conservation. The 3rd through 5th grade will have the chance to dive into honey bees, water hydrodynamics and regenerative medicine. While the 6th through 8th grade will be tackling the world of sustainable cities, weather and flight plans and the Orbis Flying Hospital.

Captain Irving will also be setting up a Family STEM+ night where the students will bring special kits home and then the family can join a Zoom session to have a learning experience together on the topic of HALO jumps.

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Winter Reflection: Learning from Looking Back:

Reflection is so important to the growth of any child, but especially after the unprecedented events of last year and the beginning of 2021. After such a troubling year, your child needs your support and warmth, but these conversations can be difficult.

You may be experiencing feelings of anxiety yourself, and it’s not often very easy to communicate your reassurances to your child in ways that are both meaningful and helpful. However, there are ways to make starting a dialogue of reflection with your child less painful for both of you.

How to Speak with Your Child about Difficult Topics and Emotions

Asking Questions

In the best of circumstances, talking about emotions is a frightening prospect for so many people, and this doesn’t exclude parents. One of the simplest and most effective ways to reflect on the events of 2020 is to begin by asking children questions to prompt their thinking and encourage thoughtful responses. Below are a few to get you started.

1. What is the most important lesson you learned last year?
2. What were the biggest challenges to overcome? Which were the easiest?
3. What was your least favorite moment of 2020? Which was the best?
4. What skills did you learn during lockdown?
5. How have you grown closer with your family?
6. Who do you miss seeing regularly? What don’t you miss about the “normal” world?
7. What has been your favorite thing to do during lockdown?
8. What are you angry about? What are you grateful for?
9. What things about 2020 made you sad? What things made you happy?
10. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

Writing Down Thoughts and Feelings

It’s easy for big feelings and emotions to bottle themselves up inside – this can be especially true for children, regardless of their age. To encourage your child to express the overwhelming feelings and emotions that came from surviving such a difficult, emotionally draining year, ask them to explore those issues through writing. Doing so will give your child a creative outlet to express themselves while at the same time reflect on a dark period in his or her young life, all while creating a physical record of their strength and perseverance.

Practicing Togetherness in 2021 and Beyond

However you choose to reflect on 2020 with your child, remember to do so with compassion and understanding. Do your best to always be present for your child, and practice togetherness in the new year as a family to bring yourselves closer together in the months to come.

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December Meditations to Feel Centered and Less Stressed in the New Year

Meditation is a wonderful and effective way to reconnect with your faith. In the quiet, relaxed state of meditation, your body and mind both have the opportunity to feel a centeredness that will encourage you to start each day with a positive attitude and determination.

The Effects of Stress on the Human Body

The effects of stress on the body are numerous, effecting both the body and the mind in different but significant ways. Physically, stress can cause headaches and migraines, insomnia or excessive sleep, high blood pressure, and digestive problems. Emotionally, stress can cause restlessness and moodiness, anxiety and lack of motivation, and sadness or depression.

On the effects of stress on the human body, experts say that “forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress,” and “the lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50 percent, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.”

Meditation and Wellness

Luckily, though, meditation is a simple yet powerful technique for alleviating stress and its negative effects on the body. When practiced for as little as 10 minutes each day, meditation should reduce symptoms associated with stress by decreasing anxiety, lowering blood pressure, and encouraging relaxation.

To meditate, sit in a comfortable spot and position, such as on a yoga mat or area rug with your legs crossed and your hands resting on your knees. With your back straight, close your eyes and mind your breathing, taking long, slow breathes as you meditate. As you begin to relax and feel your heartbeat slowing, reflect on the meditations listed in the next section of this blog.

Meditations to Comfort and Inspire for 2021

• Your favorite bible verse (See the passages in the list below for inspiration.)
o Psalm 46:1-3
o Isaiah 41:10
o Isaiah 43:1-3
o Philippians 4: 12-13
o Romans 10:9
• Pray the Rosary or one of its prayers, such as the “Our Father” or “Holy Mary”
• A goal you’d like to accomplish for 2021 – think personally and professionally, as well in terms of your relationship with God and your faith

Regardless of how you choose to meditate, seek to strengthen your relationship with God by putting your faith at the center of the exercise.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Families,

We have been blessed throughout previous academic years with families who understand the importance of our mission for Catholic Education and who are committed to working alongside us to accomplish these goals. This year, while unbelievably challenging, has demonstrated the level of commitment our families have to support the Catholic Academies and Parish Schools within the Diocese of Brooklyn. It is incredible to witness. I find it inadequate to simply say thank you, as those words don’t even begin to cover my gratitude for your unending support but nonetheless, I will try.

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Finding the Strength to Be Thankful in 2020

With just two months left of 2020, we reflect today on the months passed and are reminded of the many changes that we and our families, friends, and colleagues have undergone. In these unprecedented and frightening times, it may be difficult to find things to be grateful for this holiday season.

An uncertain year and uncertain times have had the potential to turn our perception of this time of year around, but through faith, we are reminded of the many possibilities for blessing that have touched us. As you read on, reflect on the moments of happiness that have shined through the bad and the chaotic.

The Joy of Family and Friends in Times of Darkness

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the ways in which we view the time we spend with our families. We learn to cherish the moments we get with them, whether face-to-face or virtually. In times of darkness, we learn to hold on to our loved ones for comfort and stability, and it’s through our family and our friends that we find the strength to continue on when we feel discouraged or alone.

Sharing experiences and offering words of advice or understanding bring us close together. Enjoying the presence and existence of our loved ones will help guide us toward happiness. Let us be thankful for them.

Health in Uncertainty

With over nine million reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States, our health should be precious to us. Every day that we wake up in good health is a blessing, and we must take care to never take our well-being for granted.

Health serves as the foundation for the most powerful human joys and sorrows in life, and without it, we are truly unable to live our infinitely important lives to the absolute fullest, as God wants for us. Each day, remember how important your health is – to yourself and for the people around you. Let us be thankful for good health and the front-liners that put their own lives on the line to ensure it for the nation.

Let Gratitude Shine When Things Feel Dark

In darkness, one of the most effective ways to cope with pain, loss, and sadness is to let gratitude shine through with every interaction you have. This is difficult, and you may find yourself unable or unwilling to show thankfulness in moments when life seems anything but fair. A wonderful first step is to begin with the people you love. Let them know how thankful you are to have them in your life, and love and joy will come from your togetherness.

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Catholic Schools in Brooklyn and Queens Will Remain Open 11/16/20

Catholic Schools in Brooklyn and Queens Will Remain Open

The Superintendent of Catholic Schools for Brooklyn and Queens today has announced that all 69 schools and academies will remain open and continue to provide in-person learning, irrespective of any impending decision pertaining to the status of New York City public schools.

Catholic schools in the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens have provided safe, five days a week in-person learning since beginning this school year, as scheduled, on September 9. The Superintendent has also requested the Department of Education’s Office of Non-Public Schools continue to provide services for Catholic school students, which they are entitled to, including school nurses, transportation, and food, if public schools are to close.

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Parent Letter – ensuring our guidelines for health and safety

Download a pdf of this letter

Dear Catholic Academy and Parish School Families,  

Since September, our Catholic Academies and Parish Schools have been open and operating safely and efficiently. Thank you for your support in ensuring our guidelines for health and safety have been followed. Every person in our extended Catholic Academy and Parish Schools’ community has the responsibility to observe social distancing and wear a mask. This is what will keep the doors to our Catholic Academies and Parish Schools open; this is what will continue to keep everyone at our Catholic Academies and Parish Schools safe and healthy. Our principals, teachers and health aides have rigorously enforced health and safety protocols in our Catholic Academy and Parish Schools. For all this is being done on a daily basis, we are most grateful.  

However, as students’ participation in outside extracurricular activities increases, the possibility of exposure to individuals who are positive for COVID may increase for both the students and their families. The same outcome can be true for attending any event with large numbers of people. This past week we have seen a very slight uptick in positive cases, and every positive case has been traced back to exposures at gatherings, parties, and events outside of the Catholic Academy/Parish School. We are sending this letter as a stark reminder COVID protocols do not end at the end of the school day and/or take the weekends off!  

With that being said, it is crucial that every family completes the daily self-screening checklist, prior to sending their children to the Catholic Academy/Parish School.  

If you can answer YES to any of the questions, your child may NOT enter the Catholic Academy/Parish School building. You MUST contact a health professional for guidance and notify the Catholic Academy/Parish School principal.  

As a reminder, the questions are:  
1) If your child has any of the following symptoms, that indicates a possible illness, which may decrease the student’s ability to learn and put them at risk for spreading illness to others. Does your child have any of these symptoms?  

-Temperature 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
-Sore Throat
-New uncontrolled cough that causes difficulty breathing (for students with chronic allergic/asthmatic cough, a change in their cough from baseline)
-Diarrhea, vomiting, or abdominal pain
-New onset of severe headache, especially with a fever
-Shortness of breath Fatigue
-Muscle or body aches
-New loss of taste or smell
-Congestion or runny nose
-Nausea or vomiting    

2) To the best of your knowledge, in the past 14 days, has your child been in close contact (within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes) with anyone who has tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 or who has or had symptoms of COVID-19?  

3) Has your child or a member of your household traveled internationally or from a state with widespread community transmission of COVID-19 per the New York State Travel Advisory in the past 14 days.  

According to the New York State Department of Health, your child will need to receive a note of medical clearance and a negative PCR COVID test to return to school, should they develop any symptoms or be sent home from school.   

What else can we all be doing to maintain a safe environment for all? We can limit our exposure to large groups of people, continue to practice good hand hygiene, have a supply of masks on hand so that the fabric masks can be washed daily, and ensure everyone in your family receives a flu shot and all immunizations are kept up-to-date.  

We truly appreciate everyone’s honesty, cooperation and dedication, to keeping our schools safe and healthy places of learning. During the month of the Most Holy Rosary, we continue to entrust our students, teachers, principals and staff to our Lady; the cause of our hope and joy.  

Thomas Chadzutko, Ed.D.
Superintendent ~ Catholic School Support Services

Help reduce the risk of exposure and transmission of
COVID-19 by practicing the “Core Four”
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How to Set Effective Goals for Your Child at Home and School

Children thrive in environments that foster learning, understanding, and exploration, and your relationship with them as a parent or guardian is there to give them the tools they need to succeed both personally and academically. One of the most important tools for your child to learn is goal setting.

According to research conducted by the University of Scranton, more than 90 percent of people who set New Year’s goals for themselves don’t achieve them. Does that sound unbelievable? Encourage your children to chase their dreams and aspirations, and make them realize it is possible to consistently and effective accomplish the goals you set for yourself – it all begins with setting goals that are reasonable.

Goal-setting is important to the growth of any child. Your child will use this skill throughout his or her life, in many different situations and circumstances, and it’s best to practice it together early on. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to teach the skill of goal setting to your child and encourage them to practice the skill independently through faith. Below are a few simple steps to teach your child the skill of goal setting and how to do it effectively.

1. First, set reasonable goals. Teach your child the difference between reasonable and unreasonable goals. Help them to recognize the time it takes to accomplish things, and whether the task is truly achievable. Children can do whatever they set their minds to, that part is true, but the key to setting reasonable goals begins with recognizing what it takes to get the job done.
2. Come up with a plan. Goals are achieved through thoughtful planning and strategy. Having a plan is particularly useful when your child is working toward a long-term goal. Work together to develop a course of action that is manageable. If the goal is school-related, reach out to teachers to work with them to discuss your child’s goals and how you can all work together to develop a plan away from home.
3. Be consistent. Sticking to our goals is often the hardest part of the entire process. It can be difficult to always feel determined and to find the motivation to continue making progress. Assure your child that the journey that is goal setting will be frustrating at times, but that the feeling of accomplishing the goals he or she has set are well worth the struggle. Together, talk about the challenges of the goal and how they best be overcome.
4. Trust in God. Having faith and trust in God will uplift your child’s spirits and encourage them to keep working toward his or her goals. Invite your child to pray together, to find the strength and determination to complete the tasks set before him or her with grace and skill.