Nearly five weeks into the academic year and I’m exhausted! Kids are exhausted too and I’ve heard many teachers and parents counting down the weeks if not days to half term. Surely this way of always looking forward to what’s to come can’t be healthy?
Mindfulness has hit our schools and homes over the last few years. This concept of being in the moment and centering ourselves has actually been around a lot longer though. Call it meditation, prayer, contemplation, reflection – it’s all ways to quiet the mind and focus on the small things, be aware of our senses and to find a way of slowing down our ever increasingly busy lives.
Our children are getting near to the end of their school lives. The eldest is in year 11 and I had my first meeting with a college yesterday to start that daunting process for her. Time has gone by so quickly. I know we say this all the time but it is absolutely true – time goes by so fast and if we are continually wishing our lives away for the next holiday or milestone we will miss what’s actually happening now.
I wish in our schools we would be aware of how important those little moments of connection with a child are. Whether they are in Nursery, Primary, Secondary or College those millions of tiny moments actually build up to change a child’s experiences and can impact their future. What do I mean by that? How we are in relationship with a child or young person can do the following, especially for vulnerable children:-
- Impact their ability to trust adults. Every time you show up, consistently positive, set boundaries and have fun – it reinforces the belief that adults are safe and can be trusted. For children who’ve had a difficult start in life they need to know that. Whatever you do in those everyday tiny moments either confirms what they already believe – that adults are mean, cruel, unreliable, stern and dangerous or it challenges that belief and helps them to understand that adults can be caring, kind, fun, safe and reliable.
- Impact how they feel about themselves. Many children and young people have an intense feeling of shame at the core of their being. They really do believe that everything that’s wrong around them must be their fault. When we interact on a daily basis with compassion, understanding, patience and acceptance they can begin to believe in themselves too.
- Impact how they interact with their peers. When they start to feel better about themselves then friendships become a bit easier. “Maybe that dirty look wasn’t directed at me”, “maybe I’ll be able to play football with those lads and they won’t beat me up”, “maybe I could try and be friends with that other child who seems to be on their own”. Until children and young people can feel a certain amount of good about themselves they can’t reach out to others.
- Impact how they achieve academically. This is probably the most noticeable at school. When you take note of the tiny everyday moments with them you can begin to understand why they find lessons so hard. Maybe the feelings of being unsafe are affecting their ability to concentrate. What if we could re-assure them before a difficult task that everything will be ok? As they feel safe with us, good about themselves, and happy about being with other children then maybe they will be able to learn?
So today – take note of those tiny moments of connection – they are so much more important than we think. Each one of those compounds to build a stronger, more resilient, more capable child and young person who before you know it will be applying for colleges and trying to make it out in the big wide world. They need us to help them to do that – every step of the way!