The digital age has revolutionized the way that adolescents communicate, learn, and socialize. While technology offers positive opportunities for learning and connection, it has also introduced a set of challenges that previous generations did not face. Further, virtual platforms are often seen as being “consequence-free,” making it more difficult, at times, to choose between right and wrong. Equipping students with tools to handle technology wisely, and how to develop and engage in healthy relationships, will serve them beyond their time at Lawrenceville.
While the pursuit of academic excellence remains pivotal, the wellbeing of our students is paramount. As academic pressures increase, we must empower our students to balance ambition with maintaining their mental health.
We aim to emphasize strong social connections, emotional regulation, and goal-oriented behaviors to help our students develop the foundation of their wellbeing. By championing empathy, dialogue, and acceptance, we are shaping a generation of students who can thrive intellectually without compromising their inner peace.
Our current students started to come of age during the pandemic, and the confusing messages and tensions of that period informed their development. Their experiences at that impressionable age were typically family-focused and self-directed but also included fears of resource scarcity, social isolation, over-reliance on digital and social media, having academic grades/performance be the only measure their schools could make of them, and the potential viral dangers of public places. Consciously or not, these same aspects now seem coded into the students' sense of themselves and their experience of community.
House life combats all of those pandemic challenges and can help rewrite that code. And House life is most successful when students’ eagerness for social interaction, their desire to explore different aspects of their identity, and their willingness to balance their own desires with respect for others’ needs all complement each other in a supportive environment. That combination for House life closely mirrors the recipe for personal wellbeing. The discussions and experiences in the Houses, coupled with a general atmosphere of kindness and dignity, can continue to do the essential work of creating individuals prepared for thoughtful, informed decision-making and readiness for post-Lawrenceville independence.
This has always been at the heart of great parenting and great education. There is nothing new or faddish about it. Yet, we live in a world that seems to blare, at the incessant pace of a 24-hour news cycle, that adolescents are constantly in crisis, moving in the wrong direction, broken. It can be easy for anyone to lose sight of who they really are: good inside, growing, and capable of becoming the adults who we need to lead our world tomorrow.
Now is the time to strategically focus on wellbeing, not because we believe our students are broken, but because we know that they are whole. We owe it to them to reaffirm, re-center, and re-animate protective forces in a modern and changing world. The world needs us to do this work because, while prevailing messages suggest we cannot cultivate the elements of wellbeing in teens today, we absolutely can – and in doing so, we chart a path for others to follow.
A foundational Wellbeing Lexicon supports our ability to have productive community conversations, and to be better equipped to communicate our needs to one another. By working off of a common vocabulary, we can more effectively identify how we are feeling and how to ask for support. These definitions are gleaned from across the wellbeing landscape, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources used by mental health clinicians, including mental health diagnostic guides.
This lexicon and many other resources for our community are available here.