Last week’s theme in the Children’s Centre was What Scares Us. Below, Rose explains why we should have these conversations with children and how we went about it in last week’s session.
1. It encourages open and honest conversations: Asking children what scares them challenges them to open up and talk about their feelings – something that we encourage weekly with activities such as circle time at Body & Soul. It’s important to get children used to talking openly about their feelings from a young age, as they learn the benefits of social support. Having friends and adults listen to them boosts children’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. This proves especially useful to children who are shy at school or come from a large family, who don’t often get as much individual attention as they need. During circle time at Body & Soul, all of the children have an equal opportunity to speak their mind and have their views heard, valued and respected. This is important preparation for when the time comes for children to learn about how HIV affects them or a family member.
2. It encourages independence: Discussing what scares us inevitably leads to sharing tips on how to manage our fears. Throughout the night children’s centre volunteers gave advice on what to do when confronted with fears and the children (often unprompted!) offered tried and tested tips for example, closing your eyes and thinking of your mum when you are in the dark and scared to sleep, or taking a deep breath and being brave when you encounter a spider! These kinds of conversations equip children with the confidence to deal with their fears independently, making them feel strong.
3. It is cathartic: It is always helpful to talk about our fears with others because it shows us that we are not suffering alone. The children showed relief in learning that others were also afraid of loud noises, of being in the dark, or of being left alone. Talking about our fears seems to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety, as we realise others feel the same way sometimes. Which leads us to…
4. Empathy and compassion: I saw many instances of children flexing their empathy muscles during last week’s session! When we were thinking of how to face things that scare us, the children put themselves in other people’s shoes in order to come up with ways to help them. I saw no mocking of each other’s fears, but plenty of listening and understanding. The theme helped us develop the skill of empathy, which is essential to the overall theme of the month in the children’s centre – social justice!
Wise Owl Words of Wisdom
Last week we asked the children to come up with various solutions when they are in a difficult situation, such as having an argument with a friend, facing a bully, or feeling frustrated with difficult homework. Everyone looked at the example for inspiration and then came up with their own ideas, which they made into a wise choice wheel.
This activity involved coming up with ways to help ourselves and each other face our fears. Words of wisdom were written and painted onto an outline of an owl and decorated with glitter and colour. Examples included:
“Take a deep breath and be brave”
“Close your eyes and think of your mummy”
“Count to ten before you act”
“Go outside and get some fresh air”
What words of wisdom would your wise owl say? Tell us in the box below!