What's the Answer?
By Holly Winter
As a kindergarten teacher, I’ve heard a lot of stories. By the eighth day of school this year, a boy told me, “Mom is going to buy more water for our house when she gets a job because our water is dirty and the police said we can’t drink it.”
A five year old girl asked me where my people come from. After I told her she said, “I hope the bad police don’t make you go back there. I like you.”
A girl asked, “Do you think Hurricane Irma will kill my grandmother in Florida?”
A boy told me that his parents both travel for work and that he was staying with a friend who always forgot to pick him up after school.
One girl told me her life story. “We moved here after my dad pushed my mom through a window. I didn’t even know I had a grandmother. Now we live with her.”
Children have a lot on their minds. How are we to grow healthy children when they are marinating in a country polarized between good and destruction by racism, poverty, politics, mass shootings, guns and hurricanes?
I told one student that I didn’t know if his father could get out of jail for Christmas and another that I didn’t know how to get mice out of the homeless shelter where she lives with her family.
A girl told me that she hears her mother crying at night because there isn’t enough money to pay the doctor to make her brother better.
Children’s best guise in dealing with stress is through play. Several of my students invented a game called “Hurricane” by building a ship out of giant blocks on the playground and fighting rough seas. Their dramatics included frequent “It’s a hurricane!” declarations while they rolled off their makeshift boat and kicked the ground.
Other kids showed off the imaginary kitchen in their imaginary house that never ran out of “food or bagels”. It’s common to see children running on the playground from kids acting like lions or like monsters while the teachers watch the therapeutic value of monsters that never actually catch the kids.
Since we can’t always help children escape contemporary monsters, we could use help from you at home to balance these real modern-day fears.
There are things you can do to help lift the heaviness off our children. Turn off the news when your child is around. Remember that your child is listening to your conversations, your arguments and is good at judging your moods.
Take time to laugh. And play. And act silly. Celebrate everything: a good day at school or no homework or the falling leaves—just for fun. Teach your child to wonder about the position the cat sleeps in or how quickly mold grows on the raspberries in the fridge.
Put down your phone. Turn off the T.V. Close the computer. Dance with your children. Dance with your spouse. Dance by yourself. Eat dinner together. Sing opera between courses and insist on a standing ovation. Talk about the worst parts of the day and the best parts of the day.
Slow down. Teach your children about a joy that has nothing to do with a screen or sugar or a new toy. Teach them how to communicate and learn from each other and play together and respect differences.
Your children are young. Nurture them at home by instituting joy and fun into their days. They need unstructured time to become who they are. Interests grow from boredom; stop trying to schedule every moment of their day.
During a fire safety talk, children in my classroom were asked what they should do if their clothes caught fire. The correct answer would be to “Stop. Drop. Roll.”
A five-year-old boy said, “Stop it. Rock and roll.”
Which might be the answer to most of our world’s problems.
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