Families in Transition (FIT) Small Groups

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 7.08.20 PM

Another small group I offer in addition to Lunch Bunch is my Families in Transition (FIT) group. FIT groups are for students who are facing or have faced transitions in their home lives, such as divorce/separation, an absent or incarcerated parent, death of a family member, or moving. I started running these groups last year with 5th and 6th grade students, and this year I will be offering them to 3rd and 4th grade students as well.

So, let’s go through all of the fun elements of a small group proposal, shall we?

Rationale

This is the rationale I gave my principal when proposing FIT groups last year:

“FIT Groups are designed to ease students through transitions they are experiencing in their home lives, such as divorce/separation, an absent or incarcerated parent, death of a family member, and moving. Often, children feel as if they are the only ones experiencing family changes, and this small group will allow students to realize they are not alone in navigating these issues. FIT Groups will provide a safe environment in which students can talk about their struggles, gain and offer support, and use problem solving skills.”

Recruitment

I sent home letters describing FIT groups to all 5th and 6th grade parents. This letter included a form for parents to return to school to express interest in their child being placed in a group. {Click here to view the letter.} Once I received all of the interest forms, students were divided into groups based on various factors, such as grade level, gender, type of transition, and personality, with no more than 6 children in a group. Once the groups were formed, I sent permission forms to the parents detailing their child’s specific group, which had to be signed in order for the child to participate. {Click here to view the permission form.}

Duration/Length/Logistics

Each FIT group met once a week for 6-8 weeks depending on group needs. Groups were scheduled so that students do not miss any core classes or recess, and typically they met during Library or Computer class. All of my small group sessions take place in my office. Thank goodness I have enough space to run groups! {See my Office Tour post for more info.}

Group Objectives

  • To express a sense of universality
  • To form relationships with fellow students
  • To disclose difficulties faced in their transitions
  • To develop coping skills, self-awareness, and empathy

Evaluation

I gave a survey to all participants during the final group session asking about their group experience. {Click here to view the survey}.


FIT Group Activities

The only transition I received responses for was divorce/separation, so the groups I ran last year centered on being a child of divorce. Below are some activities I did within those sessions.

(1) FIT Group Board Game

IMG_5285

I created a board game for my opening sessions with the 5th and 6th grade students, which allowed them to have fun and bond while I gathered more information about them and their home lives. Here are the materials and rules for the game {click image to enlarge}:

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 5.21.09 PM

Using this game {which was a HUGE hit with the kids} was a great way to introduce the group and build rapport. We also spent some time developing group rules, talking about each student’s family situation, and discussing the students’ expectations for the group.

The game board and question cards are for sale in my TpT Store. {Click here to download}

(2) Draw a Family

IMG_5288

During one of our group sessions, I had each participant draw a family {specifying it could be any family, and it didn’t have to be theirs}. Most of the group members drew a mom, a dad, and one or two children. Once they were done, I had them draw THEIR family on the same page, and then we processed the activity.

I noticed when we were discussing the drawings that I kept hearing variations of the following: “This is a normal family. They have a mom, a dad, a little boy, and a cat. This is my family. I have a dad who lives over here and a mom who lives over there.” What really struck me was the constant use of the word NORMAL to describe the other families they drew that weren’t their own. We used the activity to normalize what they have been experiencing and to increase a sense of universality among group members. I think this was a great opportunity to redefine their traditional views of what a family is supposed to be and to help them move beyond the normal/not normal concern.

(3) Family Comic Strip

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 1.07.30 PM

The groups I had last year were very artistic and LOVED to draw, so I incorporated a lot of art into our sessions. For this activity, each child received a page with empty comic strips. The only guidelines given were that they had to draw a comic of what their families are like at home. Even though this was not an instruction, every child drew a comic of life at one parent’s house on the top strip provided and life at the other parent’s house on the bottom strip {see above photo}. This gave me a lot of information about their home lives, and I was able to see just how much inconsistency these children were experiencing when they left school {which was A LOT}.

I used this activity to lead into a discussion on the difficulties of switching between houses, including what it is like to have 2 rooms, 2 sets of personal items, and {often} 2 completely different sets of rules.


Overall, I greatly enjoy running these FIT groups. I think they are beneficial to the students that I serve, and I received good feedback from both children and parents.


Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 8.12.23 PM

Advertisements

One thought on “Families in Transition (FIT) Small Groups

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s