Children's Inner Lives
We believe that one of our responsibilities as teachers is to help children stay in contact with their rich inner lives. One aspect of being human is the need to feel our aloneness, so that we know how we feel and what we are, and eventually, what our life is about. In order for this to be possible, children need to have space to themselves, to explore on their own, to feel their feelings, to think their thoughts, to have a relationship that is strong and stable with just themselves. It is this relationship that will carry them through the journey of life. Since life is constantly changing, permanence must be an internal state. That can only be developed with the right kind of nurturing, just like a seed can only grow with the right nutrients.
The American culture is very fast paced and focused on achievement and appearance. There is an overemphasis on giving children attention, praise, material possessions, stimulation and involving them in constant activity. Since children are very sensitive to stimulation, as well as being incredibly impressionable, they soon become more and more drawn to this external world of energy, just as a child can easily become addicted to candy. This creates in children an addiction to attention and the need for approval, acknowledgement, and an inability to stay in touch with what they know and feel about themselves and the world around them. The more a child is pulled away from their own deep sense of themselves and life, told what to do, how to be, what’s right and wrong, good and bad, the more a child drifts away from their abilities to discriminate, perceive, analyze, solve and have the innate sensitivity necessary to deal with life’s challenges. In the end, we have adults who no longer know themselves except as extensions of their families, mates, jobs, and what they surround themselves with. We feel that this is the underlying root cause of depression, anger, disconnection, selfishness and confusion that permeates every level of our society. What is the main reason that adults (and even more and more children) turn to therapy? They don’t know who they are, what they want, how they feel, why they can’t succeed, why they can’t connect. What is missing is a deep sense of internal peace and contentment.
We see that children need a balance between time with people and time alone so that they can develop both their social skills, their capacities and potentials, and a strong connection to their own perceptions, feelings and thoughts. Every day, we try and provide children with time for themselves. We have quiet times for listening to stories or music, or relax without talking. We honor and respect their dignity as humans by talking to them in regular tones of voices, by explaining to them what is going on around them, and by not rushing them so they can develop their own internal rhythms. We trust that they often know and feel what is right, and as teachers we can work to bring them back home to the place inside that is in harmony with others and their environment. We provide a consistent daily routine, with the structure needed to help children feel safe.
To help children nourish their inner lives we:
- Have quiet time every day.
- Limit an overabundance of praise and instead either encourage or ask children to tell us about what they have done, to help them feel for themselves what they accomplish or learn.
- Create special rituals that settle children into quiet, more internal spaces
- As teachers we work on our own ability to feel content and accepting when we are alone by taking time to do what we call ‘being’ time. This is time where we are focused on just being alone, and not doing or working. We might walk, sit, listen to certain kinds of music, or spend time being receptive to the impressions of nature.
- Talk with parents about creating alone time at home for themselves and their children.
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