By Rabbi Moishe Kievman
It’s no secret that children today have access to more information and to more types of media than ever before. The technology they use to communicate, learn, and be entertained seems to demand ever-increasing amounts of their attention and can be overwhelming. They are often exposed to confusing messages that may contradict the values their parents and schools are trying to instill.
In such a fast-paced world with so many competing influences, it can be hard for kids to stop and think about their choices so they can achieve their best selves. What kids need right now is a place where they can gain confidence in themselves, develop compassion for others, and learn how to become positive role models.
CKids’ GROW project, launching a new season this winter at Chabad Chayil, is designed to meet the needs of today’s children. GROW gives them a safe place to practice foundational skills such as interpersonal awareness, self care, and character development, in a wholesome group environment. The GROW curriculum has been thoughtfully designed by top experts in the fields of education and parenting, to empower kids with the skills and strengths to be positive leaders.
Dr. Michael Ben-Avie, PhD, a professor at the Yale Child Research Center, is part of the GROW research team. “What GROW gives young children,” he said, “is a sense of competence in addressing trying situations, and strategies for problem-solving. It promotes their resilience and teaches them how to be contributing, productive members of a group.”
GROW classrooms are student-led learning communities supported by nurturing, specially trained staff. Instructors help children develop emotional intelligence through a series of lessons that draw on the latest child-development research fused with the timeless wisdom of the Torah. Kids learn to appreciate the differing perspectives of others, to respond empathetically to challenges and conflict, and to look for peaceful, win-win solutions.
Children who develop these abilities will have an advantage socially, academically, and professionally, and they will interact with their friends and families in constructive ways that create positive change.
“I love the GROW program,” said Lee Ann Cinnamon, a corporate trainer. “It’s similar to the type of emotional intelligence training I do with my staff, but to do this with kids is amazing. While they’re young is really the time to do it. They will need these skills throughout their lives.”
Parents want their children to have a positive Judaic learning experience, but they also want them to look forward to something fun and engaging after a long day of school. GROW meets these needs by teaching solid Jewish values through creative, hands-on activities such as baking, drama, art, engineering, social action “mitzvah projects,” and team-building challenges. In this way, children enjoy learning, and they look forward to each class.
Because GROW is a supplementary enrichment program with shorter sessions rather than a year-long commitment, families can easily take advantage of opportunity to expose their children to new skills and ideas while deepening their connection to Judaism.
There are already over forty GROW chapters worldwide, serving families of all backgrounds. Through the GROW program, children become kinder people, opening their minds to others’ perspectives and their hearts to others’ feelings and needs. GROW is accomplishing the simple yet far-reaching goal of creating a more compassionate and empathetic world with a whole new approach that really works. The GROW model gives kids the space to work together to build mutual understanding, to respect differences, and to resolve conflict through compromise.
“We are building the Jewish leaders of tomorrow, today" said Layah Kievman who directs the GROW project. "We need to inspire kids to feel responsible for others, and to help them see their own important place within the Jewish community and the world at large.”
Children who learn how to use GROW’s social and emotional learning skills in their everyday interactions have a real advantage as they navigate the challenges of their lives. For more information on how your child can be part of this unique enrichment experience, contact Chabad at (305) 770-1919 or visit ChabadChayil.org/GROW.
About the author:
Rabbi Kievman together with his wife are the ambassadors of The Rebbe to Highland Lakes, FL. They are the founders of CHAP - an afterschool program for Jewish children in Public Schools and direct Chabad Chayil. He’s the rabbi at The Family Shul and can be reached at (305) 770-1919 or rabbi@ChabadChayil.org