Friday, January 07, 2005

Fear

Starting to come out from under the cover of her cold, Smartmom joined OSFO in her classroom for "Parents as Reading Partners," a once-monthly chance for parents to visit the classroom and read with their children.

OSFO's teacher, a lovely and talented first-timer, spoke to Smartmom about the upcoming Reading Marathon Fundraiser for tsunami victims that the school is sponsoring (info to come).

While the children made wampum bead necklaces, OSFO's teacher told Smartmom that she's nervous about discussing the tsunami with the class because she doesn't want to upset them. She also revealed that tsunamis and earthquakes absolutely terrify her. Since childhood she's had nightmares about them. The last thing she wants to do is plant this fear in the children.

Smartmom sensed that the young teacher was quite upset about the recent disaster and would probably choose to avoid the discussion altogether if she could. But she has no choice: the school has provided a classroom guide for discussion. OSFO's teacher hasn't had the nerve to look at it yet but she plans to.

How difficult it must be to teach something that scares the bejesus out of you.

Smartmom told the teacher that she just needs to reassure the children and make them feel safe. She was thinking of the advice Fred Rogers, television's Mr. Rogers, gave to parents during the Iraq War:

"Children need to know that they are safe and that that their parents or guardians will take care of their needs. We each have our own ways of reassuring our children. One director of a day care center told us she could feel comfortable saying to the children, "I'm sad about the war, and I'm worried, but I love you, and I am here for you." Sometimes just a hug is enough. We can also do our best to keep things as normal as possible. Knowing what to expect comforts children: continuing familiar routines can go a long way towards providing a feeling of security."

It is also important to show children the good in a bad situation—and there are good things to point to: the first responders, rescuers, doctors, nurses and medical technicians that are helping from all over the world. Governments are sending unprecedented sums of money, as are individuals -- including children.

OSFO's teacher said that as a child she feared the sudden, inexplicable nature of earthquakes and tsunamis -- that was a terrifying thing to accept as a child. Despite her own fears, the teacher must allay her student’s fears by reassuring them them that the likelihood of a Tsunami is fairly remote in this part of the world.

Maybe in doing so she will feel safer herself.

Obviously, the kids will be grappling with difficult questions. Many have probably heard that a great many of the victims were children. This will confuse and frighten them. Children often know much more than you think and want to know more.

The young teacher is also grappling with the same big questions. How could this thave happened? And babies?

For the sake of the children, she needs to appear strong and solid even if she doesn't feel that way herself. "Kids need all the strength, reassurance, and calm we can muster,"writes Jim Greenman in "What Happened to the World," a booklet designed to help children cope in turbulent times.

There's a certain amount of acting that goes on in parenting and teaching. It's not insincerity exactly. But most of the time, parents must wear their most confident hat. When appropriate, they can reveal their own fears but never at the expense of a child's sense of security.

Smartmom was impressed with the way OSFO's teacher shared what she was feeling. She is obviously a very sensitive person with the ability to remember herself as a child—something Smartmom believes is vital for compassionate parenting and teaching.






8 Comments:

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Little Light said...

Boy are you prolific this week - I guess it comes with being stuck in bed all day.

Garden State was already on my "to watch" list - I'll bump it up. I'm glad OSFO has a teacher who is willing to admit her weaknesses - that alone is a lesson I think kids need to hear from adults.

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger Little Light said...

Boy are you prolific this week - I guess it comes with being stuck in bed all day.

Garden State was already on my "to watch" list - I'll bump it up. I'm glad OSFO has a teacher who is willing to admit her weaknesses - that alone is a lesson I think kids need to hear from adults.

 
At 1:38 PM, Blogger Rivertriplet said...

I enjoyed reading what you wrote.

 
At 8:02 PM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

I'm glad you were able to write about this. OSFO's teacher had confided her fear of tsunami's to me yesterday. I was also touched by her honesty and vulnerability to share her fears. OSFO wanted to know what we were talking about, "what are you saying, what are you talking about.." she demanded. I made something up, but then she said, " I know what a Tsunami is - Mommy told me it's a flood and it killed a lot of people very far away." She seemed very confident and not particularly afraid. In a way, the information seemed to embolden her. So SM, you must have communicated the information to her in a very sensitive way.

 
At 8:58 PM, Blogger Helen_of_Sparta said...

I know precisely what you mean - Roe too was quite frightened upon hearing about the tsunami. However, what my mother did to reassure her was to tell her that the machines that they use in America would be able to detect an earthquake right away and the coast would be evacuated immediately. I believe this helped Roe feel better - knowing that there was some sort of way of expecting the unexpected.
~ Lydia

 
At 8:58 PM, Blogger Helen_of_Sparta said...

Oh, and by the way, I'm back (again - I know). This time I plan to stay. :-)
~ Lydia

 
At 9:18 PM, Blogger jonesy said...

SM, you are rapidly becoming my fav blog to read. I think it's good to know one has a fan club, eh? Thanks Smartmom for bringing a smile to my face!

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger red eft said...

"And we the people are so vulnerable. Our bodies are shot with mortality. Our legs are fear and our arms are time."

--Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

 

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