Friday, May 3, 2013

Elementary Activities: The Power of a Patronus

By Deborah Pace Rowley

One of my students struggles with anxiety. Her anxiety makes it difficult for her to come to school. She huddled behind her mother one day as they entered the classroom together. I could hear her repeating over and over under her breath, "Expecto patronum! Expecto patronum! Expecto patronum!"

I thought this was an awesome incantation to banish fear. I asked this sweet student if I could share her strategy with other kids who struggle with anxiety. She readily agreed. Her mother had told her about J.K. Rowling's struggle with depression. The Harry Potter author created dementors to represent the depression, fear, and anxiety that can suck the soul out of people's lives. But the light of a patronus can banish these terrible demons the moment that they threaten us.

The Latin meaning of the spell is: To Summon or Wait for a Patron. A patron is a form of help, assistance, or support.

I think a parent is a powerful patronus. So is a teacher. We can empower our children to believe in themselves and their ability to do hard things. My student's mother has taught her that each day she comes to school is a victory. She owns that. Even if tomorrow she is unable to come to school, she made it today. No one can take that success away from her. 

I love that. So often we qualify our children's success or diminish their victories based on perceived future failures. But a patronus is powerful here and now. We can teach our children that there are things they can do to feel strong and confident. There are things they can say and words that they can repeat when they need extra help. We can teach our children that they can pray anytime and anywhere. And they can summon the inner courage they need when they hear our voices in their heads, "I believe in you. You've got this. Never forget I have your back." Isn't that what parents are for? 


P.S. I loved this poster that is available online here.

Speaking of Harry Potter, there are a few more spots in the Hogwarts Summer Fun Challenge. 
If you want to enroll in this completely free program, read the details here.

Then send an email with your children's names and ages to

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