Is my granddaughter lost? No….I think not. She just had her hair styled so she is showing the back view.
I decide to use this blog post to focus on ‘lost’ children. Yes, they are many. But……all are not physically lost….many are psychologically lost. To be lost is to be ‘unaware’ of one’s present location. In this blog post, I am defining a lost child as one who is ‘unaware’ of who (s)he is.
Let me indulge you with two brief scenarios with two six-year-olds.
Scenario No. 1: “So Paul, what would you like to become when you grow up?”
“A gunman,” Paul replied.
“So, why?” I asked.
“A gunman told me I don’t need to learn to read to become a gunman,” Paul replied.
Scenario No. 2: “So, Betty, how do you feel when you are placed last in your class?” I asked.
“I feel good, because I only like to play and to color,” Betty responded.
“Why?’ I enquired.
“Because I know I can’t read, so I play alone while the others are reading,” she said.
So, what have I done? I helped Paul with his reading until he migrated to join his parents, and I am still helping Betty improve her reading skills.
On this retirement journey, I am seeing many ‘lost’ children who are living with one or both parents. So, how come? How can they be lost? By now, if you have been reading my posts, you will see that I like to redefine terms. You will also see that I am not particularly fond of theories. You will also know that I am also not fond of high scientific studies and analyses that leave the common (wo)man wondering what is being said. I like to write it as I see it. After sharing my experiences, I like to recommend easily implementable actions.
About eight years ago while conducting a site visit at another XYZ inner city school, I stopped at a Grade 1 classroom. By now, you know that I love Grade 1 classrooms. By now, you know that my past work was concentrated in areas characterized by high incidences of poverty and crime. Six-year-olds have been my best teachers. I never visited a school without visiting Grade 1 to chat with six-year-olds.
On the day I visited a Grade 1 class, there was a little boy who needed a pencil. He came to school without books and pencils. On this particular morning, the teacher had not noticed that this boy had no pencil prior to my intervention. I asked the teacher to give him a writing book/exercise book and I gave him one of my pencils. By the way, I never visited a Grade one class without many pencils. There is always a child who needs one.
The little boy thanked me, but he had no intention of writing anything. He got up and proceeded to attack another boy with my pencil. The other boy’s eyes were at risk. I was confused. What could I do? This was serious. I had to retrieve my pencil, gently and kindly. Obviously, I gave him a weapon.
I was distressed. I enquired of the teacher, the reasons for the boy’s behavior. She told me that this boy witnessed his father being killed and his aunt being stabbed, and he had not been the same after witnessing the two incidents. So, I wanted to know what the principal of the XYZ school was doing about this or whether he knew about this behavior. This boy needed some help to deal with the post traumatic behavior. Did teacher report the behavior and seek help? No! Was the principal aware of this child and of the child’s disruptive behavior? No! Another lost child? Perhaps… Maybe so.
There are many children who have been affected by traumatic experiences. Among the common horrible experiences children face are: having to cope after their parents’ marriage/union ends and coping after a parent dies. Parents – when you are experiencing marital problems, think of the unimaginable stress that your children will experience after the divorce/separation and do not be selfish when working through your difficult circumstances. Your final decisions cannot always only be about your welfare!! And it should not always be. Remember the children!
Teachers, whenever children experience shootings, stabbings, killings and loss of significant others, please ask for help. In Jamaica, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has a team that readily reacts like ‘First Responders/Grief Counselors’ after children experience traumatic situations like those I mentioned, but I believe that some children need a sustained level of tailored intervention to recover. Parents and caregivers….. the following are a few easily implementable actions to help our ‘lost’ children.
- Communicate. Let the child know what is happening.
- Reaffirm your love and positive concern for the child.
- Do not condemn the child’s behavior or the child’s reaction to the grief.
- Explore simple coping skills with the child.
- Seek out the help of the Child Development and Child Care agencies in your town.
- Help the child manage the grief or loss by speaking only positively about the departed parent.
- Seek social services, and counseling services whether they be free or paid services.
Talk soon……. Claire Spence