Strut What?

Ethiopia12 DvoraFreedman

Photo: Dvora Freedman

 

Give a hand

Put a stop.

Help the weak

To step up.

See beyond

Outward bluff.

For in the race

To strut stuff,

Truth is often

Enough.

 

 

For The Daily Post

Catapult Care

hands-and-heart

When terror strikes … All blast of cowardice, in a bluster of dark soul, empty of faith or humanity: Catapult care, not hate. Hold kindness, not panic. Seek healing, not division.

Those who attack children, who aim to maim, to kill, to harm – they aren’t powerful. Their hatred makes them weak. They hold no values. They rob the lives of others in pretense of strength. Their hate exposes the emptiness of anything they pretend to care for.

The ones who celebrate the terror’s aftermath (and sadly some do seek to) are no better. They broadcast their own weakness by aiming to amplify panic. Their words become a badge of a spirit blighted, a heart polluted, a mind infected. With hate.

Let us know it for what it is … but let us not spread it further.
Terror thrives on helplessness and violence. It feeds on panic. It seeks the refuse of division. Those are its only currencies.

But we have better ones. We have real powers.
Let us celebrate and amplify: The energies of care, healing, and kindness; the strength that comes from sharing burdens; the forces of compassion and empathy. These are the nullifying opposites of harm and violence.

Let us come together, so all those hurt and hurting be held in the light, empowered by love, supported by healing. Let us hold up the true might of humanity.

Terror cannot prevail in light, for it skulks in darkness.
It cannot prevail in courage, for it lacks it.
It cannot prevail in care, for it has none.

But we do.
And we can.
Prevail.

My love and thoughts to all in the UK, and the victims of terror everywhere. May the last breath of terror.
Soon be vanquished
Into light.
Amen.

 

 

For The Daily Post

Encourage!

encourage

How many times have you been tempted to point out what needs fixing? Wanted to highlight what is wrong, what “can use a tune-up”, what one should be doing differently, or more of, or with less drama, or with more oomph, more boldness, better self-image, assertion, courage, ease?

We have all been there, prodding someone along with good intentions (and other times with a bit of righteous indignation of “I told you so” and “no wonder you are as you are, if only …”). We see someone stuck, repeating old mistakes, mired in old pattern and fogged-up insight recognition … and we point it out–not to hurt, oh, no–only as an intended kindness. We hope a kick in the right region will do the trick this time.

We mean well, but we forget the price of shaming. We underestimate or look away from the price of boring holes in someone for the sake of our sense of having done something ‘for them’ (when we did it for our own need maybe just as much if not more). Shame stilts. It burrows. It slips whatever good intentions into the cracks between what already feels broken and has it ooze away into the void. It makes the distance from targets loom larger and comparisons ache harder.

Almost no one gets criticized as much as children do. Children bear the brunt of much correction. Often. And in what should be counter-intuitive, the very kids who struggle most with getting something right, are the ones to get the most critic for once again doing it imperfectly, for again being wrong. For not following the directions. Again. For missing something. For not listening well enough, not trying hard enough, not having the right attitude.

When criticizing them, we certainly do teach the children something: we show them we are focused on their errors, not their strengths; on the target, not the path; on the final product, no matter the effort or progress. Critic chips another bit of self-esteem and makes exuberance too pricey to risk finding. It does not build. It hollows out.

Showing the way works better. Breaking down a task to smaller steps aids faster. Pointing out what worked as a path to follow gets farther. Encouragement helps more.

Encouragement does not equal the blind empty phrasing for a mediocre effort with: “this is a masterpiece and you are always the most amazing child ever born and all you do is perfect”–kids smell the shallowness of that a mile away. Praising indiscriminately is as irrelevant as constant criticism. It is white noise. It does not help the child see where her effort mattered not lets her trust that you see a difference and even care to note the true wheat effort from off-handed chaff.

Encouraging means giving balanced credit for an honest effort. It means a fair praise that matches the magnitude of accomplishment for that child at that moment, while still providing firm support when efforts fail. It means letting the child know that you notice. That you see THEM and not only their ability relative to others, even as you help them find a better way to measure up.

Children meet plenty of critic without what we might think we ‘owe’ them as a way of caregiving. They don’t need more people holding mirrors to their flaws. The world will quite surely provide enough of that. Encourage. I’ve never met a child who cannot use a little more.

Some equate critic with being honest. With “saying like it is” and “facing reality” and “toughening up.” This is not honesty. It is boot-camp. Actual honest critic is only one that comes when the words one says (one’s tone, one’s posture–critic is communicated in much more than words), flow from a well of true encouraging. It is so only if the message is imparted with sensitivity and care that ensures it builds, rather than tears down, puts down, whittles, or compares. Only if on the heels of pointing out a place for improvement, there is the vista of all the effort put forth already, a detailing of the next step–and a helping hand.

A rule of thumb: critics abound out there already. Least of them being the inner critic that you’ll instill within a child with alarming speed. Be an encourager. An honest buddy offering support along the roughest patches and a ‘that-a-girl’ when each are overcome.

Encourage. It is nourishment for growing. It is like water on parched land.

Teaching Children Calm

deep breath

“Calm down!” Sounds simple, but for many young children it is a foreign concept unless and until we show them how.  Especially if they had known more overwhelm than calm.

Young children who experience overwhelming events such as neglect, severe stress, abuse, chronic illness, or sudden separation at a young age can be traumatized. The world around them no longer–maybe never–feels safe. They don’t know how to regulate, how to calm themselves, how to manage when they get upset. They act out, they hit, they don’t listen, they ‘misbehave.’ They have a hard time making good decisions, explaining their actions, or utilizing memory. They fall behind at school, socially, in their ability to learn new things, communicate, or play.

Trauma changes the brain and can interfere with development. It also creates a vicious cycle of hyper-vigilance and checking-out that costs children opportunities for learning, interaction, and connection.

Children need adult support to manage traumatic aftermath. They cannot be expected to find the way without help. Many of them may need psychotherapy, but even then they need support in non-therapeutic interactions in the day to day. Support that we can all learn to provide by understanding trauma. By knowing what trauma is and how it works, recognizing what it does, how it affects children, and learning what we can do to help reduce its effects so a child get traction in the now.

In an excellent opinion article in the NYTimes this week: Teaching Children To Calm Themselves, David Bornstein details one such system of support set in place, and how it already works to change the lives of the children as well as of the adults who care for them: teachers, caregivers, siblings, even the school-bus drivers. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/first-learn-how-to-calm-down/

Read it. Then share it with anyone who works with children. Or who has one.

Spread the word. Our children are worth it. Open the path to teaching calm.

boy with dog

For more information about the impact of trauma on communication, check The Language of Trauma, and other publications here.

For more information about the Adverse Child Experiences Study, and the cost (literally and figuratively) of trauma throughout the lifespan, check: http://www.cdc.gov/ace/

For more information about how to help traumatized children at home and in the classroom, check the links to the ISSTD’s FAQ pages here.