When I was starting out my career as a professional counselor years ago, I dove head first into developing a specialty working with preschool age children. I developed a program called P.E.E.P (preschool emotion education program) and implemented the program in two preschool settings.
It was there I witnessed transformation in those classroom settings as a result of that program. I devoured literature on early childhood development and began a doctoral program in educational leadership and early childhood. All this because I knew on some level that working with little children would be the source of my greatest lessons as a therapist, instructor and as a human being.
Along the way I realized I really did not need the Ph.D. and I didn’t need to spend all my time voraciously reading text books. I only needed to be in the presence of little children to learn just about anything I would ever need to know or remember.
As I provided “emotion coaching” to preschool age children in the classroom I helped them to identify the experience and the words for their emotions, I guided them in learning new ways to work with the energy of those emotions to self-soothe or work through without harming self or others. I realized through this program that this was a piece of cake for these kids. They are naturals. Naturally open to seeing, hearing, embracing and working with their emotions.
Children are naturally present in the here and now for the most part. When occasionally plagued by anxiety, children are able to work through those emotions through their play in the unconditionally accepting presence of a play therapist, tender teacher or loving parent. Even children who experience tragedy and trauma have amazing ability to heal and recover and forgive… Children naturally forgive. You will be hard pressed to find a preschooler who holds a grudge for long.
As a yoga teacher I have worked with many young children over the years using yoga as a tool for exploration of their relationship with their bodies and their energy levels and their sweet little minds. I am always so humbled to see how little children are so open, so willing and so playful when it comes to postures, breath and imagination.
Don Miguel Ruiz notes, “As little children we are completely authentic…Our tendency is to play and explore, to live in the moment, to enjoy life. Nobody teaches us to be that way; we are born that way. This is our true nature…” (The Voice of Knowledge).
We must walk a fine line as adults who are responsible for the teaching, raising, and healing, of little children. We must remember the role we play and within that role remember our responsibility to provide the fences that keep them safe and well while providing plenty of open space within those fences to explore and play and express authentically.
We also must maintain humility and see these children as our great teachers. What can we learn?
Children are naturally honest.
Let us be honest.
Children observe without judgment.
Let us observe our own thoughts, behavior and others around us without judgment.
Children live in the moment rather than ruminating over the past or the future.
Let us come more into the present moment and let go of the past, let the future unfold on its own.
Children move their bodies so freely and often.
Let us move our bodies freely and often.
Children eat when they are hungry not because they are sad or bored.
Let us listen to our bodies and not resort to emotional eating.
Children yearn to learn through exploration and play.
Let us leave space and time in our own lives to explore and play.
Children laugh out loud without self consciousness.
Let us laugh openly, loudly and more often.
Children sleep when they are tired.
Let us listen to our bodies and rest when our bodies and minds need rest.
There are exceptions, of course. There are children who have been through tragedy and trauma that have a more difficult time overcoming and healing. There are children born with certain temperament that defy the above listed general truths. In these cases a little more care and time and attention may be needed.
That’s where play therapists, tender teachers, parenting support and other helpers come in handy.
For today, be like a little child and maybe, just maybe, life will feel a little lighter and a little softer.