What's In The Soul Of A Child
A look at what kids need to be happy and whole from the leaders of Star C Programs
When I was a child, I spoke like a child. I played like a child. I even thought like a child. I thought about childish things; like rainbows and muddy puddles. I danced all day to the Barney sounds until middle school because I just couldn’t let them go. I even played with dolls and combed their hair a thousand times because I wanted to be a good mom to my toys and make sure they looked great for their show and tell debut.
I grew up thinking that being a child meant you should sit down and shut up, even when you had something really important to say or ask. It was just our role as children — sit down, listen, don’t talk, and do the right thing — always.
Children are being told to sit down and be quiet …a lot. I know because I’ve seen it, and honestly, I have done it. I have two kids of my own, and I work with about 30 others on a daily basis in an after school program.
I have done a lot of thinking about the souls of children and what they need to be well. It seems that even in the midst of this weird human experience, kids have souls too — and their souls need to be fed.
It’s a strange concept to visualize but one that is very simple to grasp. Kids are like human adults, they need things to survive. Healing, creativity, community, love, and most of all, they need to feel fulfilled in order to feel worthy
I work with elementary school students. In case you aren’t familiar, that’s age 5 to 11ish, depending on the grade and date of birth and and what they’ve been doing academically for the past five years.
Elementary school kids are at the age where they absolutely know right from wrong and can pretty much tell you everything you need to know about hip hop artists of the time or ble ble’s — it just depends on who and what you’re asking.
But these days, our children are growing up in the age where they know more about love and hip hop then they do about how Mufasa died.
What our kids don’t know, is who Nemo and his dad are looking for. Or how many dwarfs Snow White had. Or who gave Sleeping Beauty the apple. They don’t know any kid stuff. Or things I would consider to be kid stuff. They didn’t know Elsa or the name of the sad donkey in Pooh’s best friend crew.
They don’t know anything about rainbows or what Captain Hook did to those poor kids in Peter Pan.
They don’t know anything they’re supposed to know and I don’t know, how they don’t know these things.
Kids are useless if they don’t have purpose. I know. I’ve seen it. If they aren’t given anything to do with themselves, they’ll find something to do — and depending on what that something is, it may just be trouble or bullying or calling each other names at the snack table.
I have formed a theory on these kids. And the theory is, they need to find ways to be kids again; and that is not going to be as easy as I thought.
But here are some thoughts.
First, we need to reintroduce kids to creativity.
They need to be reminded that it is OK to create things and then leave them be to create new things. In our program, we have these themes we use daily. We call them, Meditation Monday, Trivia Tuesday, Writing Wednesday, Therapy Thursday, and Fun Friday. Maybe not the most creative names in the world but bear with us, we’re doing it.
Kids are used to themes. They see them in school all the time. They know what these things are, especially writing, and they hate them. They hate them with passion until they’re forced to do them and then they realize that themes can be fun and meditation can actually relax you.
We’ve tried these themes on our kids for about 6 months or so and found some similarities in their reactions.
1. They love stories
Story time isn’t even a theme in our days but whenever our director finds the motivation and is moved to have story time, they are with it. And not only are they with it, they are into it until the very last page. Wondering and wanting to be a part of something, even if it is just a book.
2. They are innocent.
They act big and bad and tough at times but really, they are just kids who want to just be kids, without the responsibility of heavy situations that cause them angst. When we catch them in their element, they are there, bouncing around, playing games and hugging each other — calling it wrestling or touch football or whatever.
3. They are human.
Our human souls are very very prone to connection. We want to connect to something. We need to connect to something. And our kids are no different. They need and want to connect to something — even if that something doesn’t benefit them. We find that our kids are just like us, gravitating to what’s popular and “fitting” even if or until they realize that what they are attracted to hurts them, and maybe they need to find a new crew to hang with.
Our kids need balance. They need to be told what to do but in a manner they can receive it.
They need to be loved and helped but also scorned when they are wrong.
They need to be shown the way to being healthy and whole and responsible, and also, they need to know that it’s OK to be human. It’s OK to mess up and have secrets and feel feelings that don’t always feel good. They need to know there is a teacher or adult who can react calmly to their mistakes or their woes without freaking out or making them feel as if what they’re doing is wrong.
They have that in our program. We try anyway. And the more we get to know them, the more we understand the way we speak to them, is the way they’ll speak to us. And the way we treat them, is the way they’ll treat each other. It may take awhile, and we may not ever get to see the fruition but even if we’ve simply laid the foundation, we can be rest assured that they’ll somehow, someway, find their way back to a healthy, beautiful soul.