Sunday, October 23, 2011

What do children do with their fears?

This past week, sadly, someone tried to break into our school. When staff arrived, we found the front glass door shattered, by a thrown brick. The police were called and we had to delay the start of school by an hour and a half, so that they could check the scene, collect fingerprints and evidence, etc.

We staff rallied to create some normalcy for children and families. We sent out a mass email to families, but, even so, many families did not get advance word of the situation.

Like staff, many children arrived at the shattered door...only to find themselves ushered to another school entrance. I was put on "sign-in" duty, whereas many of my colleagues were supervising the early /non-notified arrivals. We set up several classrooms to host these children.

Imagine - three year olds,
so dependent on routine and predictability,
arriving to find a shattered door,
having to say goodbye to families,
finding themselves in an all new classroom,
with lots of children from other classes, and
without their regular teacher.

By the time I got to my little guys, it was nearly 10 a.m.

I knew we were off to a wild day.

I put on some soft jazz music and opened up centers.
I gave every child an individual hug - "Oh, I missed you!," I exclaimed.

Our favorite place these past couple of weeks has been our cardboard bus, where we take all sorts of trips all over town. (Singing, "Wheels on the Bus," of course!) This day, on the cardboard bus, I overheard some dramatic discussion about:

"There's a robbery on the bus!"
"Quick, let's get the police!"

On the playground, the police play continued.
"Oh, thanks for keeping me safe, police!," I declared as the children police ran by me.

This is how young children process stressful situations - out loud.
I think we adults have a lot to learn from children in these situations - they are so honest and up front about what they are feeling.

For our part, as adults with children,
on rough and stressful days,
dare to do a little less, and
hug a little more.

Read children their favorite stories, sing favorite songs.
And reassure them - they are safe, they are safe.

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