Stepping Up to Wholeness
Helping young people
prepare and cope with crisis, hurt and change
Purpose of the Program:
The Stepping Up to Wholeness Program is designed to assist children and youth in
developing life-long skills that will help them cope with crises, challenges and
problems. Using different colors as reminders, this program provides a means for
educators and young people to have a common language for communicating with each
other during stressful times in life.
Who Can Benefit from this Program:
All of us experience crisis, loss and pain in our lives. When these times of
difficulty confront us we have options - to deny that the event is occurring, to
avoid it, to act out in inappropriate ways or we can step up and face the
challenge in healthy ways.
This course is designed to prepare elementary age children and teens to do just
that – to face times of stress with skills developed and competence deepened.
Options for Using the Material:
A) Teachers can be trained to use the materials with individuals or whole
classes and to develop the skills needed for careful listening.
B) The Steps can be taught at an assembly and used by teachers and students who
find it interesting.
C) Small groups of young people with similar issues could meet weekly and focus
on one “step” per week. A graduation at the end could include parents, with whom
the material would be shared for continued use at home.
“Stepping Up to Wholeness”
INTRODUCTION - Will you “step up” or run away? The choice is yours!
The students will discuss what a crisis/problem/challenge is. Each will identify
the issue to be worked on and then will make a conscious choice to “step up” and
work on it. Once they decide to “step up” and face the problem instead of
running from it, ignoring it or acting out because of it, they are ready to
start the color coded process.
STEP 1- Being Listened To: You are important and your feelings matter.
Goal: To help the students realize how special they are and how much they
matter, as they are listened fully, non-judgmentally and with compassion (with
the others’ “whole selves”)
Activities: Listening Stones, drawings, sandboxes
Many young people get the message from others that they need to “just get over
it”, that they should stop thinking about their problems or that they are “being
silly/babyish” for feeling badly.
This session will demonstrate to the students, through the process of being
listened to by others that each one is important and each is being taken
seriously. They will be helped to understand that their feelings are legitimate
Tools, such as Listening Stones, drawings, sandboxes, will be used in this
session to facilitate sharing.
At the end of the session each participant is given a red bead* to wear to
remind them to listen and to share.
STEP 2 - Expressing: Getting It All Out! (ORANGE)
Goal: To help the students discover their unique ways of positively expressing
Activities: Writing, drawing, movement, clay, sand, music, symbols, acting.
This session will help the participants discover their own unique ways of
expressing feelings so that they don’t just bottle them up inside, using the
demonstration of the Pop Can about to explode if the top is not opened.
The use of a variety of media, including art, clay, symbols, sand, journals,
music and movement, will help each member of the group discover how to best
express their feelings.
At the end of the session each will be given an orange bead* to wear with the
red one, to remind them to constructively express their feelings.
STEP 3 - Support: We All Need It! (YELLOW)
Goal: To help the students assess and claim the support they have in their
Activities: Play acting to ask for support from a variety of people, by phone
and person to person.
This session will explore where the support can be found: family, friends,
books, physical activity, etc. The students will learn to identify the places
and people where they can find needed support.
At the end of the session a yellow bead* will be added to the red and orange to
remind the them to seek out support.
STEP 4 – Resting/Breathing: Learning to Find Positive Energy Within
Goal: To help the students find positive inner energy of which they are not
aware, when it is lost in tension and defensiveness.
Activities: Breathing, relaxing, imaging exercises
This session will help the young people learn ways of breathing and relaxing so
they can realize they have and can begin to use the positive energy with them.
This is re-directing the energy they have been using to put up defenses or hold
in tensions. Deep breathing and smiling, muscle relaxation exercises, imaging
using feathers, pinwheels or crepe paper strips help students “see” their
After this session each one is given a blue bead* to remind them to practice
STEP 5 - Action: Make a Plan to Cope (GREEN)
Goal: To help the students devise a workable plan of action for coping.
Activities: Make and share plans using a wheel of action.
This session will review all the ways to cope and find support. Then the
students will be encouraged to make their own individual plans for coping. They
will present their plans to the group and any missing color steps will be
The Action Plan Wheel: Two paper plates are held together with a brass fastener
in the center. On the top plate a "piece of pie" shape (about 20% of the plate)
is cut out so the other paper plate shows through. Each participant draws or
writes a plan, in segments, which corresponds to the steps in the program – one
in each pie-shaped space.
Using colored markers which match the program steps, the first segment will
relate to the student’s understanding that her feelings are real and have value.
The second will speak to how he will positively express his feelings; the third
to where support will be sought and found; the fourth to the ways the student
will practice relaxing and breathing. The last segment can be an affirmation of
their success in completing the program.
Each student will be given a green bead* to wear reminding them to use their
^If you use this program with a church group and have incorporated Step 6, the
student’s pie-shaped cut out needs to be smaller to allow a 6th segment to
appear, which affirms the future of the plan – living in God’s presence.
STEP 6 – Spending Time with God (WHITE)
Step 6 is optional in the public school setting.
Goal: To help the students (when a religious dimension is allowed by the
context) to know that God is a part of their life and gives them energy to
fulfill their plans.
Activities: Breath prayer, sandbox, writing, dancing, music, journaling, white
board, contemplation, beads can be used to place the plan in God’s hands.
Each one is given a white bead* to wear reminding them of God’s presence in
CONCLUSION – The Stepping Up To Wholeness becomes a Rainbow of
Celebration showing the courage each student has had to “Step Up!”
At the end of the sessions, there can then be a review and graduation. The
ritual of a concluding celebration, to which parents are invited, will help the
students celebrate the importance of their work through the program; be a way
for them to share what they have learned and how they plan to cope with issues
and problems in their lives.
It will be stressed that the steps they have practiced will work not just now,
but in the future too! Each student will be given a certificate of completion
for the Stepping Up to Wholeness program and will have a complete rainbow
colored item to wear as a sign that they have learned to live the Steps to
Materials needed, depending upon which reminder methods are used:
Bugle beads in the same colors, one of each color for each student, “O” ring for
Large wooden beads one of each color, with a dowel and stand upon which to stack
Square inch wooden blocks
(*A small colored block may also be given to each student at each session, which
is taken home as a visual reminder of the step completed and being practiced.)
*Colored yarn or string that can be tied to a ring for fastening on a belt or
This may be used instead of a bugle bead bracelet, which can be given as a gift
2 paper plates and a large brass “brad” fastener for each child.
Jackson, Cari; The Gift to Hear, The Courage to Listen
Lindahl, Kay; Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening
►Stepping Up to Wholeness was developed by:
The Rev Leanne Hadley, 1st Steps Spiritual Nurture Center, Colorado Springs, CO,
2004. Revisions by: Dr Don Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Christian Education &
Dr. Jacqueline Nowak, The Blessing