Today I awoke to news of continuing devastation by several Atlantic hurricanes, a deadly 8.2 earthquake in Mexico, and tsunami warnings for the Pacific coast of Central America.
Forces of nature like these transfix children. Their natural curiosity makes them eager to know and understand more. We parents, however, need to monitor the ceaseless stream of media that bombards our children through radio headlines, television reports, cell phone alerts, and internet streaming.
The best way to strike a balance between satisfying a child’s curiosity and navigating media is through you. At any age, your child watches and learns by your example. Your influence, whether you are a parent, grandparent, or caregiver, is always the most important one.
For example, it matters how you explain and interpret natural disasters for your children. Whether you are experiencing the disaster firsthand or live far away, I think that the late Fred Rogers’ wise approach works best.
To build on “always look for the helpers” talk with your child about what kind of helpers live in your community. Encourage your child to draw pictures and write stories about what they see and read, because the arts provide a unique resource for expressing thought and understanding.
Your older children may decide to collect money and send a donation to areas struggling to cope. Ask an older child to explain to a younger one why money can be a better way to help, rather than sending clothing or blankets.
When you invest time in teaching your children social-emotional skills like empathy and understanding, you are helping to create a better world. It always begins at home with you.
Wandering around a local bookstore is a travel adventure to me. Naturally, that was part of my plan when my daughters and I visited a friend in Provincetown.
My 7-year old went one way. My 4-year old whined in agony.
“Mom, I’m not like everybody else in the family.” She threw herself on the floor. “I hate bookstores!”
News to me. We went to bookstores as often as the playground. Snuggling at night with a read-aloud, talking about the story as we read, and keeping piles of library books around the house was part of family life.
I led her to the children’s section and encouraged her to pick out a book. A few feet away, I sank into the nonfiction.
Soon, a little voice began. It was my 4-year-old, reading a book aloud. By herself. I held my breath. When had she begun reading? I asked her nonchalantly.
“Just now,” she said.
It’s one thing to be a teacher and witness the light bulb moment when children learn to read. When it’s your child, it’s a thrill. But it is not magic.
These are two simple ways to help your child be a good reader:
Keep all kinds of books, magazines, newspapers, catalogs, and e-readers around the house. Kids need to be immersed in print to become good readers.
Kids need to see their family members reading. Read aloud to kids and read alone. (Even if reading isn’t your favorite activity.)
When you help a reader grow, you’re helping to build a better world.
Before students write a story, ask them to draw an illustrated map. Visualizing, creating, drawing, painting, coloring, and discussing a map stimulates the imagination in ways that words sometimes cannot.
It worked for Robert Louis Stevenson (1854-1894), who spent a rainy day with his son drawing this map, which inspired his masterpiece Treasure Island:
This marvelous text in Treasure Island came to Stevenson after he drew the map:
“The paper had been sealed in several places with a thimble…The doctor opened the seals with great care, and there fell out the map of an island…shaped…like a fat dragon standing up…three crosses of red ink…”Bulk of treasure here” (Stevenson, p.47).
Stevenson, R.L., (1911). Treasure Island. Illustrations by N.C. Wyeth. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. (Original work published 1883).
Source for map:
Source for text: OpenLibrary.org: https://archive.org/stream/treasureisland00stev#page/46/mode/2up
The ravens at Wellesley College, in Wellesley MA, have returned for a second year and are caring for three nestlings. Watch them live on Wellesley’s Ravencam.
Check my 2014 post about them. The ideas I shared for teachers are terrific activities for parents to use during April school vacation.
This year, I am mesmerized by the ravens’ parenting skills. Both parents share in the care and are neither helicopter nor “free range.” These highly intelligent birds balance nature and nurture. A sensible balance provides protection and food with support for getting out of the nest and into the world.
You just know that when it’s time, the raven parents will be firm about learning to fly. No going backwards. No hovering. No meeting their own needs through their children’s. Simply getting on with the business at hand.
Shown: Woman with Raven, Pablo Picasso, 1904. Source: WikiArt.
When is the last time you sang or whistled this song? It’s from The King and I, an Oscar and Hammerstein award-winning musical. In it, teacher Mrs. Anna Leonowens sings it to her son, so he won’t feel afraid as they reach the Kingdom of Siam.
Something about whistling puts people in a good mood and boosts confidence. You can’t argue with “I whistle a happy tune/And ev’ry single time/ The happiness in the tune/Convinces me that I’m not afraid.”
Here’s a karaoke version for you to sing and whistle along with piano accompaniment. Be sure to use it and share it today.