Guiding our children to shine their inner LIGHT by being our absolute best!

Posts tagged ‘compassion’

What Children Are Really Communicating

sad girl

Photo By: http://photography.ivanmcclellan.com/

Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion. ~Buddha

When babies cry everyone rushes to reveal what’s wrong and alleviate their stress.  It’s somewhat of an instinct in our culture. We understand that the only way that baby can communicate a need to us; be it hunger, a necessary diaper change, fatigue or discomfort is to cry out. No one wants to hear a baby cry, so we respond quickly. Unfortunately, as a child begins to grow and learns the language, we assume that they know how to communicate their needs effectively, yet do they?

As an elementary teacher I have come to know that even though children have more vocabulary words when they enter school, they still do not know how to communicate their needs. Often, children cry out to get their meet needs, but all we see is defiance instead of their plea for help.

Bella is an adorable 1st grader who entered my classroom in September. I remember getting her kindergarten card and noting that she could be a handful at times. I put the card in my filing cabinet at the start of the year because I like to get to know my kids from my own perspective without previous judgments.

I call all of my students the week before school begins to get them excited about school (that’s just how I roll). We then have a ‘Welcome Back Picnic’ at our school to meet the parents and children in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.

When I met Bella and her mom at the picnic, I noticed that Bella appeared to be ‘running the show.’ Her mom and I talked for a bit and she shared that Bella’s dad died when she was only eight months old and it was just the two of them still to this day. It was easy to see that mom was compensating for the loss.

Within the first month of school, I could certainly see why Bella had earned this reputation of being a handful. She could be a bit silly and somewhat defiant at times, however she knew the rules of our classroom and understood what kind of behavior was expected, so she did well with me.

Right after the December break things started to change. Bella was getting herself into trouble in several of her classes (art, music & gym). She was not listening to directions and defying the teachers when they asked her not to do something. She was also talking back to adults in the building and getting herself into trouble at her before and after school program.

Her mom and I talked on the phone to create a plan of action. I suggested a behavior plan to help her but asked mom to promise to follow through at home for this to be effective.  The plan worked for a few days, but Bella just didn’t seem to care about making good choices.

On a Friday afternoon (likely around a full moon) Bella’s plea for help became apparent. She got in trouble from the moment she entered the school. She needed a great deal of redirection from me and found herself in trouble everywhere she went that day. At lunchtime I got a phone call from the cafeteria asking if she was with me because she took it upon herself to leave the cafeteria without permission. This put several staff members in a state of panic.

I walked down the hall and found her. We sat down and talked about her choices and how this was not safe. She apologized sweetly and assured me it wouldn’t happen again. The children returned to the room and she asked to go to the bathroom. Five minutes later she was brought to me by another teacher who caught her fooling around in the bathroom.

I was outraged and caught up in the moment. I called her mom and asked her to meet me for an impromptu conference with Bella right after school. My intent was to make an impact on her by having an immediate meeting with mom because she appeared to have no remorse. She was talking the talk by saying how sorry she was, but not choosing to walk the walk and something needed to be done.

A few hours later mom arrived at the school with tears in her eyes. She expressed her disappointment and shared concern that she was failing as a mother. She told me that she was terrified that Bella did not have a bond with her because she suffered from post partum after giving birth and felt that this was all her fault. Bella was often in charge because she was afraid to give her consequences for fear that she would hate her. I reassured her that we would work through this together and come up with a plan.

When we entered the room, Bella ran up to her mom with a huge smile and jumped into her arms. This, of course made her mother cry even more. She was most upset that her daughter didn’t have any remorse for her actions.

While we were having the meeting, Bella sat there stone faced with a smirk at times answering our questions like a trained professional. Her mom asked her why we were having the meeting and she answered stoically, “We are having this meeting because I’m not making good choices. I’m sorry Mommy.”

I watched her and quickly noticed that she was not present. I looked into her eyes and said, “Bella, thank you for telling us what you know we want to hear, but what I’d really like to know is how you feel.” I referred to my children’s book, “The Light Inside of Me” because we use this frequently in our classroom to describe how we are feeling. I asked her if she felt that the light inside was bright or dim. She of course said it was dim.

I looked at her with loving eyes and said, “Bella, would you please put your hands on your heart and close your eyes because I’d like to talk about your feelings.” She complied without hesitation. I then asked her to use an ‘I Statement’ to tell us why her light was dim.

She took a few minutes with her eyes closed then opened them and looked right at me. Her whole demeanor was different. She was softer, gentler, and certainly in the present moment. She began to talk and tenderly said, “Well Mrs. Savini, my light is dim because I feel sad. I feel sad because sometimes I wish my life was different. I wish that one of my friends could live with me and my mom because I get lonely. I feel lonely Mrs. Savini and that makes me really sad.”

I gave her a big hug and told her that we would work this out together. Her smile lit up the room as her light within was beaming.

Bella was crying out just like an infant. Sure at six, children have words to express their feelings, but it’s difficult to do that when you are not sure of your truth. By asking Bella to place her hands on her heart and feel her feelings, she felt safe and was able to truly express her discomfort.

Our intent that day was to teach her a lesson, but the true lesson was in being compassionate instead of judgmental. By opening our hearts to her plea for help we gave her the opportunity to express what was really bothering her.  Bella and her mom made some simple changes at home and she has been a totally different kid from that time…her best self!

Our children are a mirror for whatever we are experiencing in life. We think we hide it well, but we don’t because they are not rationalizing our reactions in their heads. Instead, they are feeling the energy we are projecting. Bella wasn’t looking to break the rules or get in trouble. Instead, she was communicating a need that was born from her emotional pain.  Today and every day take a step back when your children are ‘acting out’ and really observe the situation. Treat them like infants and go to the core of their issue to solve the problem. Instead of judging their behavior and reacting with fear, take the time to respond by understanding what they are really communicating.

Choose Love

candle

This morning, while watching my 7 year old voraciously tear through his Christmas gifts I couldn’t help but think of the victims of Sandy Hook.  I saw flashes of each of the innocent victims; especially the children, who were taken from this life all too soon in my head.  My heart was swollen with pain and sorrow while I watched my little guy in all of his joy on Christmas morning.

We have all been so affected by this tragedy for several different reasons; some of us are affected because we are parents of young children, others are teachers who cannot seem to shake the visions and sense of what happened on Friday, December 14th in a small, quaint community.  And most (if not all) of us have been jolted with utter disbelief at how such a terrible thing could happen.

I’m affected by all of the above, and so much more… 

I was sitting in my principal’s office on Friday, December 14th when CNN announced the tragedy.  I couldn’t believe what I was viewing on the television.  I, who never watches the news, who was waiting for my principal to review my post observation, was sitting in what felt like a surreal moment.  I was stunned and totally heart-broken by the news that was flashing across the screen.

I tried to stay away from the news because I am truly affected by it, but I couldn’t.   On Saturday, I read that all of the children who were killed were in 1st grade.  I was completely devastated because not only do I teach 1st grade, but I also have a 1st grader of my own.  As tears streamed down my face I knew in my heart that I had to do something.  I sat quietly asking my higher power for guidance and then I remembered Chakra Bear.

Chakra Bear is a small stuffed animal who sits in my classroom and helps my children to feel their feelings and voice their truth.  I bought this little healing bear several years ago in a small book store.  The bear came with a coloring book that told a story of a little girl who was sad and when she held her Chakra Bear she ultimately felt better because of its ‘good energy.’

When one of my kids feels sad, disappointed, or nervous (has a dim light) they go to the shelf to get the bear and hold it at their desk.  This alerts me that they are hurting and I go to them as soon as possible.  I ask them if they would like to talk about it or not.  At that point, they share an ‘I Statement’ with me or choose to just hold the bear.  Either way, their feelings are being acknowledged so that they are not holding it in and burying it.  Oftentimes, my students will get the bear for other students who look sad and this is truly amazing because I am witnessing compassion in action.

When Chakra Bear came to mind as the tears poured from my eyes, I knew that this bear belonged in Sandy Hook!

I immediately Googled the creator and started the ball in motion so that I could get a healing bear out to each of the families who lost a child on Friday, December 14th.  I was astounded that once the Chakra Bear Project went up on my Facebook page people responded quickly with love.  Within hours we had reached the goal of donating 20 bears to the families and people were asking to send a bear to every child in the school.

I loved the idea, so I researched further and continued the campaign.  With the help of my email list, Facebook and my school community we were able to put together a special care package for each of the 20 families, donate a Chakra Bear for every K-1 student and send another healing animal (Tai Chi Tiger) for grades 2-4.

On Sunday, December 23rd I drove out to Sandy Hook with a few friends to deliver the healing stuffed animals.  We drove for about 2.5 hours to a quaint little town in Connecticut that reminded all of us on this journey of the small town we teach in.  We dropped off our gifts, attended a service at a local church and then went into town to ‘pay our respects’ at the memorials.

The energy in town was somber.  It felt just like the energy in NYC on 9-11-11; calm, quiet, and loving.  There were bears, candles, pictures and notes of love and support from all over the world.  It was hard not to be overwhelmed by the outreach and love.  We walked through the town and all you could hear was the rushing water from a nearby creek.  I had chills from my head to my toes as we turned to go back up the hill to the church and saw the police cars blocking the road to the elementary school.

On the drive home we were all quiet.  Perhaps we were processing our feelings.  You would think that I would feel good because I answered the call within to do something, even though it was small, it was something and there was loving intent behind the project.  Yet, in the past few days I have felt as if I have been in a daze.

I now realize why…

When I look at pictures of the victims, I see life and light dancing in their eyes.  When I look at the perpetrator’s picture, all I see is total disconnection.  At one point in his life, he too was an innocent child.  He was a child who had light in his eyes and life abounding.  I find myself wondering how he could get to such a point in his life that he could be so totally disconnected from Spirit.  Then, I look around in life and realize that I unfortunately see this every day, and you do as well.

Working in a school, I often see children who lose that light very early.  It’s the saddest sight my eyes have ever seen…a child who loses their spark.  There are several reasons for this; abuse, neglect, emotional trauma, lack of love, etc.  It saddens me that we can allow the light to dim in any child.

My intent with Chakra Bear in my classroom is to give my students an opportunity to feel their feelings, speak their truth and connect with one another.  I never realized just how important this truly is until this very moment.

It takes a village to raise a child, every child, even that child who you turn and judge because of their behavior.  All children need our love and support.  All children are trying hard to communicate with us in some way, shape or form.

I’ve heard several people say, “There’s really nothing we can do.”  I beg to differ.  There is something we can all do.

We can teach our children that we are all connected.

We can teach them that we are all one.

We can BE the change we want to see by simply being present in the moment and acknowledging their feelings, their voice and their very existence.

Today and every day focus on being present in the moment so that you can not only shine your own light that is deep within your heart, but more importantly…

Ignite the light of the children who surround you. 
 
If we don’t want to see tragedies like this again, then we all need to take responsibility to teach our children to connect instead of disconnecting.

When we are disconnected, there is fear. When we are connected, there is LOVE.  Choose love.