By Mary Gordon, Founder/President, Roots of Empathy
It’s an incredible time for children to see us coming together to care, share, and be mindful of each other. Our communities are coming together in spirit, if not in body, to make sure we defeat this pandemic. We are seeing people helping people – whether they’re playing music on their balconies, or buying groceries for neighbours, or posting silly dance videos on TikTok – when we show care and kindness, when we support, when we willingly self-isolate, when we simply entertain – we’re showing our children the best of ourselves.
I love seeing how teachers are virtually reaching out to their students. When the Shedd Aquarium closed its doors to the public last week and let their penguins out of their enclosure, a teacher had a brilliant idea. The aquarium had posted a video of the penguins wandering bewildered from exhibit to exhibit looking at the fish tanks. A teacher asked her students to send her either an email or a video of what they thought the penguins might be thinking and feeling. Isn’t that perfect? I wonder what the children said. I guarantee their answers showed their funny side, their serious side, and reflected their own state of being.
We conducted a survey in three countries, asking 9-year-olds when they were they most happy. The overwhelming response was “when I’m with my whole family.” This time together at home, as a family, is an opportunity.
This is not just a chance for children to spend time with you, it’s a chance for you to look at your children – really watch them and listen to them. In the way we ask our students around the Green Blanket to interpret the cues the baby is sending to her mother, this is a chance for you to interpret your child’s cues.
You can use this time to build your capacity to understand where your children are coming from; to use a different lens to interpret their behaviour. We tend to be impatient or critical when it comes to our children’s negative behaviour. Behind every behaviour is emotion. You can help your children with their emotional language – help them with words they can use to express their feelings.
It’s also a chance for you to put a lens on your own feelings and state of being. We’re all anxious. Our children are watching. They watch us all the time. They can see how we take in stress, what we do with our pain, how it affects us when we try to ignore our feelings and shut them down.
But they also see you reaching out and helping family, friends, neighbours. They see you creating strength and resolve by cooperating and bringing to life the adage – alone we go faster, together we go farther.
Your home is a child’s first and most important learning environment. Home is where the heart is, but it’s also where the start is.
So here’s a chance to create space to talk about feelings – to make sure we don’t bury them, but give them oxygen. Oxygen and sunshine – the great sanitizers. Taking the power out of stress and anxiety, giving space to voice fear and confusion, and then space to find connection, confidence, and courage….ultimately to let the children know they are safe and they are loved.
Stay safe. Stay well.