Wednesday, November 16, 2016
One of the most important things for a young child to experience are the feelings of joy and safety. The natural state of exploration and discovery that occupies most of the waking time of the young child is usually accompanied by joy, awe and amazement. This is the state of affairs that supports the natural development of physical coordination, healthy sense development and cognitive development, and many other areas of early childhood growth.
When the child does not feel safe, development can not happen to its full extent. Play is not possible in an atmosphere of fear, and as we know, play is learning for the young child. When adults in the child’s environment are anxious and fearful, the child absorbs this too and the child is hindered in various aspects of developing capacities. Anxiety and fear create a cold environment, and development requires soul warmth based on the basic human needs of safety, satisfaction and connection being met. Where there is fear, it is hard for love to find a footing.
I think it is reasonable question to consider today how we can create an environment where our young children feel safe. Whatever one’s political opinions, it is impossible to deny that our children are experiencing a new world of people expressing their hate of other peoples. (Of course this has been going on since time immemorial, but it is magnified today.) I have heard many, many recent stories of children coming home from kindergartens asking if they will be forced to go away, or to go back where they came from. This is not a situation that anyone could feel safe in, let alone a young child.
What can loving adults do to support the children who are feeling fear? How can we help the children to feel safe? These are big questions because, in fact, many adults do not feel safe with the recent political changes in the US.
First of all, it is important to consider what you are saying when your children are present. Perhaps hold back from initiating or engaging in certain conversations when your young ones are present. Little pitchers have big ears. The children hear it all, and they do not have a way to process the information they take in. Young children are best served by a total lack of experience of news media. Wait until they are older to ride in the car listening to the news, or watching TV or internet news while your young ones are around.
Don’t deny your own feelings. The little ones already can sense your fear or sadness. If they ask, be honest about what you are feeling, yet do not go deeply into the why. The children don’t need the details. What is your own method of dealing with your own challenging feelings? Do you have an outlet, or do the feelings fester?
Most importantly, let your children know that they are safe, and that you will keep them safe. “Mommy, a boy at kindergarten said all brown people are gonna have to go away."
“That sounds scary honey. We don’t have to go anywhere. Our friends don't have to go away. I will keep you safe.”
I saw this quoted from Mr. Fred Rogers yesterday. I think this applies to adults too.
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. Who are the allies and helpers? Who is standing up for what you believe in to help make this world a safer place for all of us?
One is not limited to the ‘bad’ news that our various media sources deliver. There is so much positive action being taken all around the world that can inspire us in our own daily lives. Look to the helpers and caring people who are changing the world into a kinder one that protects and supports childhood as a source of renewed enthusiasm for engaging in life!
Our children need to feel safe, and they need to experience our presence in their lives. True connecting with your young child takes action on your part to overcome the habits our consumer culture has created. It takes effort not to be overwhelmed by our own fears that the political climate has exacerbated. That effort is so important for our children’s sake. Our attention and connection with our children goes a long way toward developing feelings of safety with the world. Again I remind you to limit your use of electronic devices so they are not an obstacle to connecting with your child. Have some electronic-free time, and try to use your smart phone when your child is asleep, or otherwise engaged and you are elsewhere.
Here is a practice from Deepak Chopra that could be helpful for connecting with inner peace in these turbulent times.
For me, another source of strength to be able to provide a sheath of safety for the children comes from Christopher Fry’s play, A Sleep of Prisoners:
...Good has no fear;
Good is itself, what ever comes.
It grows, and makes, and bravely
Persuades, beyond all tilt of wrong:
Stronger than anger, wiser than strategy,
Enough to subdue cities and men
If we believe it with a long courage of truth.