“As our ‘teachers’ or way showers, our children and life remind us of what’s next
for us to observe, face, heal, and redo or strengthen.”
I heard a story about a child who saw other kids cornering a younger child on the playground, and said to them that she wasn’t comfortable. The act, of stepping forward and saying this so clearly, broke up what was happening.
There are lots of directions towards which this little story could veer off…the story of the younger child…the process of assessing safety….the story of the children
cornering her…or …the story of the classroom or playground community. I’m staying with what it took for the girl or boy to say, “I’m not comfortable.”
The statement, “I’m not comfortable,” coupled with a stand that was clear enough to change what was in process, has stayed with me. In fact, it haunts me, because it is so related, not only to common playground experiences and challenges, but also to all relationships, including relationship to self and to what is going on in the world.
It’s complex. And it takes a complex set of tools. It all starts at home and school with modeling and support in growing awareness and skills. Then it goes to the playground.
I would love to sit with you in a conversation where we would learn from each other. I’m curious about all the experiences that helped create the security and tool box that led to this child stepping forward and saying, “I’m not comfortable”. Support in developing social superpowers takes conscious intention by parents and teachers. It takes time and patience to build the skills one on top of another.
My curiosity takes me to guessing that for this child –
There has been mindful awareness and acceptance of what’s going on with feelings, thoughts, and the body
, including the gut and the heart. The child has been taught listening to and trusting signals from her body. She has been asked by others what her body is telling her and what her heart is saying. Mindful awareness has been modeled…adults stop and out loud observe fear, anger, confusion, uncertainty, or discomfort, and comment on where that awareness is taking them and the tools they are using.
His feelings have been acknowledged and given space.
When our suffering, as well as our celebrations, are given acknowledgement and room to be….when the feeling is not pushed away pretending that it doesn’t exist…or not glossed over with attempts at fixing it, it’s easier to spot and have empathy for the suffering of others. When discussing situations, reading books or watching movies or shows, there have been conversations and curiosity about how the other person feels.
She has self-confidence and trust based in relationship security. There has been or is an adult someone, with whom she feels safe, with whom she can talk and be vulnerable, someone who believes in her inevitable ability, with support, to sort out hard things. There might have been times when she didn’t know how she felt, or perhaps she didn’t say anything when she did feel uncomfortable. And yet, there was a trusted someone who could listen and give space to the feelings of those harder times, and help her learn from them.
He has been included in age-sensitive conversations about human dignity or the innate qualities of every person. This starts with looking at similarities and differences. The human brain naturally pin points differences. It takes intention to help children see not only differences, but also similarities and what connects us as human beings.
She has probably heard others say that they are uncomfortable, and then watched them use that awareness to be aware of boundaries and choice of the next action. He has been heard and respected when he has said he is uncomfortable, for example, when being tickled or tricked. When he has voiced discomfort and it has been part of what is happening…driving…eating…chores, he has been listened to and respected, even if it clearly was not appropriate to change plans.
She has seen modeled and been included in problem solving – gathering the pros and cons, and learning from easy and then harder situations. In age-appropriate ways, there has been awareness of how values impact solving problems and making decisions. Again, media can be used to be curious about values and problem solving. Because children learn best through play, it’s fun to practice situations in playful ways to help with problem solving.
This story, of the child who said, “I’m not comfortable”, is one that we are all learning. The tool box can be strengthened at any time in our lives. It’s about growing into a sense of “wholeness” as we are, as imperfect human beings that are learning and growing, and both vulnerable and courageous.
It takes us, the adults – learning to feel; increasing our trust in ourselves, our bodies and our hearts; practicing new choices of authentic sharing and expression; verbalizing our needs and boundaries; and learning from both our own challenges and from what has worked for others. It takes finding and creating forums where we can feel accepted, appreciated, and supported as we are and as we grow.
As our “teachers” or way showers, our children, and life, remind us of what’s next for us to observe, face, heal, and redo or strengthen. It takes our deepening and growing, with each other, in order to teach our children, and nurture all of our Super Powers.