Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Helpers Surrounding Us

Like many people this week, words just don't come for me right now.  My heart aches for the families and friends of those beautiful children who were lost and the teachers and administrators who died trying to protect them.  My heart also aches for a mother who lost her battle to save her son, losing her own life in the process, and for a young man who was troubled beyond anyone's imaginings.  

How do we possibly explain this to children when we can't understand it ourselves?  How do we assure them that they will be safe when we know that, regardless of how well we plan for emergencies, we simply can't anticipate every possibility?

I don't have the answers, but I think Mr. Rogers has the best response I have heard yet.  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.” 

While we can't lie to children and tell them that bad things don't happen, we can show them very clearly how many helpers there are who are willing to do anything, including laying down their own lives, to help them.  I think that's the best we can do right now.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Appropriate Touch

As a person who works closely with young children, how often have you had a child come up and give you a big, unexpected hug and find yourself very uncomfortable because the child's head, hands, or something are in a really inappropriate place on your body?  I'm sure if it hasn't happened directly to you, you have seen one of your staff members in that situation.  Ideally, we have such a good relationship with the children in our care, that they love to come up and give us a big hug every now and then.  That's awesome, and we can gently talk with them about making sure that their various body parts wind up in appropriate areas on our bodies.

Most children want and need to be touched; it is a normal aspect of human development.  Good touching can contribute to the formation of positive relationships.  But, sometimes children do not yet understand what is appropriate touch with family members vs. what is appropriate touch with others; or what is simply inappropriate touch.  Our staff members need to be well-versed on how to explain this clearly and calmly to children.  

Similarly, we need to work with our staff to make sure they know how to appropriately touch a child (and how to avoid inappropriate, or inappropriate-seeming, touch).  Having a Touch Policy, and training your staff on that policy, will help your staff to understand clearly what is appropriate and what is inappropriate; keeping you and them out of a "touchy" situation.  (Sorry, bad pun, but I couldn't resist.)  If you don't already have a Touch Policy in place, check ours out.
Image courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Encouraging Words

I was in the grocery store the other day and saw a young boy, 8 years old or so, perusing the different flavors of ice cream and trying to settle on just one.  As his mother walked up, he made his decision, grabbed a gallon, and, showing it to his mother, excitedly asked "What is eggnog?"  He didn't know what it was, but had decided that it sounded more intriguing than any of the other options.  His mother's response was "Um, I really don't know what it is, but it's...something weird."  Obviously, he returned the eggnog ice cream to the freezer and made another selection. 

This interaction saddened me.  As parents, teachers, care providers, whatever our roles may be, we have a huge influence on the lives of children.  Many of their habits, preferences, and ideas are formed, in large part, through their interactions with us.  We have opportunities every day to encourage children to step outside of their comfort zones and try something new.  This is very difficult if we aren't willing to do the same thing ourselves.  

If I'm honest with myself, I know that I haven't always encouraged my students, or even my own sons, to try things with which they weren't comfortable.  I know my own biases  have influenced them.  (Sorry, but I just really can't stand pickles and, strangely, neither can my sons.)  My new challenge for myself is to back off on my own opinions, encourage them to try things for themselves (safe things, of course), and see what happens.

What if that young boy's mother had said "Gee, I don't know what eggnog is, but let's find out."?  Maybe they could have found a smaller container of ice cream, bought a bit of eggnog, or even found a recipe to make eggnog themselves.  Perhaps he wouldn't have liked either eggnog or eggnog ice cream, but I sure would have loved to have seen him have the chance to try it out for himself.