Kids today have serious concerns and worries that those of us who grew up ten, twenty, or thirty years ago never thought about.
That’s the conclusion of a report by the Atlanta/Fulton Commission on Children and Youth. Major concerns listed in this report were drugs, violence, and sex, including fear of AIDS.
My teaching experience in the inner city of Atlanta confirms the data in this report. In fact, when I asked over 600 students in DeKalb County Schools to write about their worries, the above fears were mentioned in almost every paper.
Other fears that have shown up in the writings of children in different parts of the country include: worries about pollution, the environment, and problems in the Middle East, according to my teacher friends who have asked their students to write about the same topic.
But almost all children everywhere have some concerns about school, their peers, and the possible death of their parents.
What can we as teachers and parents do about these worries of our children and students? Unfortunately, no easy answers exist. My suggestions come only from what has worked for me as a parent and teacher for over thirty years.
How to Help Kids with Worries:
1. Honor your own inner child. If you’ve worked through some of your own worries and fears, you can be more available to be of help.
2. Be there. You can say something like, “If you ever want to talk, I have good ears.”
3. Once a child approaches you, make and keep eye contact. Listen.
4. Acknowledge that you have heard the worries and fears. You might say, “I can tell that this is really important to you.”
5. Sometimes it is better to murmur something soothing, such as, “Ummmm, I see,” while nodding your head. Most kids don’t want advice. They want you to listen instead.
6. Let the child know that you care. You may want to give him/her a gentle pat or hug. Use your intuition on whether this would be a good advice.
7. Even if you are asked for advice, you may not know what options to offer. For example, if a child mentions sexual abuse or physical abuse, you may want to make a referral to a counselor. School counselors, for instance, have special training in this area.
8. Respect children’s ability to come up with their own solutions. For example, in a class discussion of bullies that I facilitated, a boy volunteered that he didn’t know what to do about an older boy who sometimes beats him up on his way home from school.
My class gave him this advice: Walk home a different way. Walk with older kids. Alert a parent in the neighborhood. Always have a buddy who will go for help.
What adult could improve on this?
9. Above all, be good to yourself. Treat yourself kindly. Remember, your example tells a child much more than what you say.