Connection Groups have long been an integral part of the care Back2Back staff are trained in and provide around the world. As the Cincinnati site continues to grow through local connections and strengthening with current partners, Connection Groups are thriving at local schools.
For two years, Kaylee Yoder and Stephanie Powers, Back2Back Cincy staff members, have served in two different schools creating lesson plans and leading Connection Groups. Kaylee coaches staff members who lead six different connection groups and also leads one group herself. Connection Groups intentional times for children in the same age groups to learn about their emotions, how to voice them, and how to manage them.
“The life script Stick together, no hurts, have fun has really lingered with the kids,” explained Kaylee. “They have memorized them quickly and use them often all on their own.”
Stephanie gave a Strength and Difficulties questionnaire to the kids in all Connection Groups; it looks at behavior and pro social behaviors such as how they conduct themselves, their emotional intelligence, and peer problems they may face.
“We use this as a basis for growth over the course of a school year,” explained Stephanie. “This year has revealed a decrease in conduct and behavioral issues.” The team also observed students began to feel safer exploring their emotional experiences through their words rather than their behaviors. This was a clear indication to staff the kids are feeling comfortable and safe to express emotions and not act out of their negative feelings.
The groups provide safe space for children to express themselves and also help grow their emotional intelligence and maturity. Recently, Kaylee’s kindergarten group did an activity called Let Me See Your Eyes. They made superhero masks and were instructed to do super hero dances. Whenever the adult said “freeze!” they had to lift up their masks and look someone in the eyes. Every group activity and conversation combines fun and purpose, fostering greater communication skills and deeper bonds with their peers and the safe adults around them.
As Connection Groups thrive in the schools, teachers and staff are now asking for additional training and not just for the students. “This is how we know what we’re doing is working, creating lasting impact,” shared Kaylee and Stephanie. This is the power of well-trained, trauma-informed adults in the lives of vulnerable children – behaviors transform, fields of communication open, and healing can truly take place.