By Curtis Peter van Gorder
At a workshop I attended, art and drama therapist Emily Nash shared an experience she had while working with traumatized children and adolescents at a residential treatment center in the U.S. The boys who attended her class were often combative, prone to negative and self-destructive behavior, and unable to trust adults or even one another. Almost all had histories of severe abuse and emotional neglect. They routinely brought their negative attitudes into the classroom, as reflected in their foul speech and rough mannerisms.
Sitting in a circle in typical group counseling fashion, some of them expressed their anger through statements like “I hate being here” or “I hate doing this!”
“Fine,” Emily would say, “but why?” She put the question to them one by one.
“There’s no respect!”
“These jerks laugh at me!”
“Nobody listens to me!”
“Too many fights!”
After listening to their reasons, Emily replied, “What I am hearing is not that you hate this class exactly, but that you hate living in a community where people don’t respect or trust one another, make fun of people they don’t like, and fight.”
They nodded in agreement as if to say, “At last someone is listening!”
“What if,” Emily asked, “we were to create a community where you did feel respected, a community in which your needs were met, a community in which you felt safe? What would that community be like? Let’s create it together!”
The boys’ imaginations shifted into gear.
“Let’s call it Parkville!” someone called out. Everyone agreed.
Parkville developed into a six-month project. The class made a banner that read: Welcome to Parkville—Where all your needs are met! They drew a map of the town, including points of interest that reflected what they wanted in their community. They elected and appointed people to fill various roles in the town: mayor, superintendent of the school, director of the arts center, owner and chef of the community café, manager of the video store, and many more. They created special events. They found solutions to Parkville’s problems in town hall meetings. Parkville became a community that they all said they would love to live in. Many expressive art projects were born from the creation of this imaginary idyllic town.
The first step was to draw the young people out by asking questions and listening carefully and respectfully to their answers, even though they came across quite negative at first. The next step was to challenge them to make a difference by channeling their energy into constructive projects that interested them. Emily explains Parkville’s success:
The project gave these young people an opportunity to experience living in a well-functioning community, many of them for the first time, even if only while they were together at the center. Their community became one in which there was support, where they could express their needs and others would listen and respond, a community built on mutual respect and care, a community of possibility.
In role-play they found that they could be effective citizens and had something to contribute. Self-imposed limitations were stretched, and new strengths and capacities were accessed. An adolescent who was engaged in destructive behavior was transformed into a leader, a caring father, a resource to the community.
Various methods are being used today to reach youth through their own interests, such as sports programs, art and drama therapy, and community projects. Through these, young people can acquire lifelong skills and a positive self-image. When we help them identify goals and find ways to overcome the obstacles they encounter along the way, we help them realize their potential.
Curtis Peter van Gorder is a member of the Family International in the Middle East.
Emily Nash is a licensed therapist with The ArtReach Foundation, an organization that trains teachers from regions affected by war and natural disaster in the use of creative and expressive arts therapy.
Article courtesy of Activated Magazine.
By Petra Laila
Now that my oldest, Chris, is 13, I have found that I need to change in how I communicate with him. He is not the child he was a few years back. All of a sudden, he is taller than me. How time has flown! It seems like just yesterday he was a constantly active two-year-old, getting into everything.
Like most parents, I suppose, my tendency has been to think that I instinctively know what’s best for my children, and to take action accordingly. That worked well enough when Chris was small, but now that he’s reached a stage where he wants to make more of his own decisions, I’ve found that I need to take a different approach and involve him more in the decision-making process—to treat him less like a child and more like a teammate.
When an issue comes up, it’s more important than ever that I take time to listen to his ideas and understand both his viewpoint and his needs, as well as to explain mine. Then we try to come up with a solution together that will be good for both of us, as well as for anyone else involved.
When I fall into my old habit of trying to tell him what to do without considering his side, he feels squelched, pulls away, and misses a learning opportunity—and I lose his full cooperation. But when I remember to consult rather than give orders, things go well, he takes another step toward learning to make wise, responsible, loving decisions, and our bonds of love and mutual respect are strengthened.
Making the transition from childhood to adulthood can be like walking a tightrope, and teens need someone there, a parent or other strong role model, to help them find their footing and steady them as they cross over.
When my children reached their teens, I tried to guide them through the decision-making process, but then I’d have them make their own decisions. They’d often try to get me or their mother to make the decision for them, so they wouldn’t have to take the blame if things went wrong, but I would tell them, “Don’t ask me. You know what’s right and wrong. What do you think you should do?” Afterwards they were usually glad that we made them decide, because they knew that was the way it was supposed to be and it helped them feel trusted and respected, which is a very important thing at that age.—D.B. Berg
Excerpted from Activated magazine. Used with permission.
By Laila Enarson
While living in Gambia, West Africa, my five-year-old son Chris and I went on a trip to the village of Sintet, where our group of volunteers from the Family International was helping to build a school.
I had enjoyed the thrilling tales told by co-workers who had returned from there, so when I heard that a team needed to make a one-and-a-half-day trip to the village I jumped at the chance to go.
For most of the trip, all I could hear was Chris’s excited voice saying things like, “What’s this? Oh, Mommy—look! Can you take a photo of me on the termite hill?”
The rainy season was just beginning to transform the dry West African bush into gorgeous green. The country around us was full of enchanting beauty—a mix of low rolling hills, rice paddies, coconut trees, and ponds. Farmers peacefully tilled the land.
Along the way, we enjoyed delicious local food, explored a thick swamp full of towering termite hills and giant baobab trees with trunks often thicker than our car.
As we drove up the dirt road lined with cashew trees that led to Sintet, we could see a large crowd gathered at the school site straight ahead. Two of our volunteers, Joe and Richard, had arrived ahead of us and were already at work directing the construction. Village children crowded around our jeep and flashed gorgeous, white-toothed smiles. As soon as Chris got down from his seat, the village kids surrounded him and helped him get acquainted with everything.
The other kids had been pushing around toy cars made of cut-up plastic bottles, the rubber soles of broken flip-flops, and sticks. With the children’s help, Chris soon had his very own car and was pushing it over anthills and through puddles. A crowd of boys ran after him.
With no electricity in the village, most people go to bed when darkness falls, and so did we, in our small tent under the star-filled sky.
Day two at Sintet was just as much fun. I prepared my materials for the morning class I would be teaching the village’s younger children, and Dad helped me find a nice quiet spot in front of a baobab tree to give the class. We sang some songs, and then I told the story of Creation, using movable flannel figures on a flannel-covered board. This was high-tech to these children. Finally I reviewed some basic scholastics. Chris did a great job as my assistant teacher.
Then the children led us to fields where they showed us several large monkeys at play and a huge snake that hung from a tree branch high above us.
They also treated us to a yellow and red moon-shaped fruit we had never seen before, which they called tao. To “pick” the fruit, the children climbed the large tao tree and swung from its highest branches. As they were about to begin, one of the boys who had stayed earthbound said, “We must go! The fruit will hit us!” And he was so right! Fruit began raining down all around us.
A few of the kids stuck with Chris and me until the very end of our visit. Many of these dear children had at first seemed quite tough because of the hardships they face every day. As we got to know them, we saw that inside their tough exteriors were tender hearts, like sponges just waiting to soak up love. Chris and I gave them as much attention as we could. Some even began to call me “Mom,” which said in their own special way how much they appreciated the love and attention we were giving them. To me, this was just as fulfilling as seeing the progress that was being made on the school construction.
All too soon, it seemed, we were home again. My visit to Sintet with Chris had been an extraordinary cultural experience. What made this trip so special is that I shared the experience with my son. We learned a lot together and lived what many people only read about in schoolbooks or see on TV.
You don’t have to visit a village in the African bush to have a bona fide cultural experience or to reach out to those in need, of course. Today they’re everywhere! Most modern cities are melting pots of various races, each with something special to offer. All it takes to make new friends is a little initiative. Add a little love and concern, and you truly bring your worlds together.
Courtesy of Activated magazine. Used with permission. Photo © 123rf.com
In addition to reading Bible stories and passages with your children, another aspect of teaching them God’s Word is helping them commit important Bible verses to memory. Knowing God’s Word gives us a better understanding of the Lord and His ways, and memorizing His promises helps us grow in faith and know where to find comfort and answers in difficult times.
You might be surprised at the differences in behavior that will soon become apparent once you start teaching your children about the Bible and showing them how to apply the principles in God’s Word to their little lives. Help your children realize that they make Jesus happy when they read His Words and obey them. If they do something unloving, for example, you can remind them, “Jesus wants us to be loving. Remember what He said? ‘Love one another.’” Then, “What can you do now to be more loving to so-and-so and make things right?” Or if they are worried or afraid, you can remind them: “God is taking care of you, and we’re praying, so you don’t have to be afraid. Remember, God said, ‘Fear not, for I am with you.’” You will no doubt find many opportunities to bring these basic verses to life. It’s easy for little children to commit Bible verses to memory, especially if you teach them in a fun way.
What Is Feed My Lambs?
Feed My Lambs is a program that introduces young children to the Scriptures. It doubles as a complete memorization course. Feed My Lambs makes learning about the primary principles in the Bible and memorizing verses from the Bible easy and fun for young children. The course includes six books with 90 simplified Bible verses, each with a lively illustration that helps relate the verse to everyday life.
The Bible verses in the Feed My Lambs course have been adapted for young children from the King James Version in consultation with several translations of the Bible, primarily the New King James Version and the New International Version. Much prayer and attention has been given to simplifying the vocabulary for young children while retaining the meaning, and several translations were carefully examined for each verse.
Click here to read/download one of these books. To buy the entire set, click here.
Excerpted from "Feed My Lambs: Guide for Parents and Teachers", © Aurora Productions
By Maria Doehler
When my husband Sam and I had only one child, I thought I had a handle on parenting. I needed to adapt and bend and give up some of my independence, but not too much. I was absolutely on top of Cade’s appearance, and he never wore dirty, stained, or soiled clothes. Cade was very “portable,” and we toted him with us wherever we went. When something needed to get done, we calmly set out to do it and got it done. I knew things would get harder as we had more children, but I wasn’t worried; I was pretty good at this.
Brooke arrived next. Brooke was an angel of a baby, waking only to gurgle and coo, and putting herself back to sleep. I had gained less weight during that pregnancy, so I was back in shape in no time. If I could ace it with two, I reasoned, I could handle anything. I was at the top of my game.
Enter Zara. Exit all parenting confidence. It’s not that Zara was difficult on her own, but suddenly “spontaneous” meant 45 minutes later. I often had kids crying in three different parts of the house. Doing anything as a family required the painstaking planning and execution of a mission to the moon. We began hearing comments like “Just watching you wears me out!” But babies aren’t babies forever (before you can brace yourself, they’re toddlers!), and we learned to work with it. We learned that we didn’t have to be perfect. Neither did our kids.
At this point I think I started to better understand that being a mother goes far beyond giving birth and caring for my children physically; it means living my life through my children—not by imposing my ideas and dreams on them, but by rejoicing at and taking pride in their triumphs. Everywhere we went, people would tell us “Enjoy them while you have them. They will grow up so quickly!” That truth started to sink in.
Four kids. Emma is every bit as special as her brother and sisters. Spontaneous now means at least an hour. We still have to plan everything, of course, but we only plan one activity a day, max. We have lots of play clothes and just a few “special” clothes. Once when Zara got blue marker on Cade’s shirt just as we were finally ready to go out, I found myself thinking, Well, at least it’s on a blue shirt. It almost matches. We are a spectacle, but a happy spectacle that people seem to enjoy watching.
I’m continuing to learn about love in ways that are slowly changing the most stubborn parts of my nature. Each child and each day reshapes me a little more, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s fun to be a family!
Article courtesy of Activated! magazine. Used with permission. Photo © www.visualphotos.com
By Joan Millins
It will come
The other night, our five kids cozied up in our room with their quilts and sleeping bags. It’s quite something when you get five kids together and realize that they are all yours. You remember each of them as a baby, and you look at them all with such love. Seeing your children grow up is one of the most rewarding experiences in this world. But there was a time in each of their young lives when I asked myself “Will this kid ever get potty trained?” or “Am I raising a social misfit?” What I’ve learned is that eventually, if raised in the proper environment, all children will in their own time learn to use the potty, share their toys, and do all the other things we parents are in such a hurry for them to master. The time we spend teaching and loving them is never wasted.
You fascinate me! Take today for example. We’ve had differing opinions about what makes for quality times with our kids, and I’ve always said that it had to involve something special like a project, a new experience, or a heart-to-heart exchange. I stand corrected! Watching you drive the tractor mower for hours today with three-year-old Shawn on your lap and in seventh heaven wasspecial—and it was a revelation to me. There was no dialogue between you most of the time, there was no elaborate project, just a father and son enjoying each other’s company. You are a wonderful father to our children. Thank you for loving them and giving them your all!
The Duplo War
Rules of the game: Find a target and pelt it.
Target: Who else but mom?
It started out rather innocently. The kids needed to clean up their Duplo mess after playtime, so we made a game of it. They had to try to toss the pieces into a bucket from across the room. Most of the pieces missed their target, of course. I playfully aimed one right for Tracy, my husband. I should have known better. The Duplo War was on, and all of the children joined in. All fire was directed at me until my three-year-old knight in shining armor took up my defense. The Duplo War lasted for all of five minutes. The floor was covered with Duplo, but the spontaneity and rush we all got from doing something that normally isn’t allowed and wouldn’t be repeated was fun and bonding. Afterwards, we all pitched in to clean up the mess, and we had the room spick and span in no time.
The lesson for me was that it’s okay to sometimes temporarily suspend the rules, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand and no one gets hurt or gets their feelings hurt. I remembered that some of the fondest memories of my childhood are of crazy things my parents let me try. For example, when I was four and we were living in India, I watched people from the humblest of circumstances walk barefoot on the street, and I wanted to try it. My mom explained that the street was dirty and hot, but when I insisted that I still wanted to try it, she let me. She carried my shoes so I could experience the road “Indian-style.” Boy, did I feel cool! I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to do it again, so I savored the moment. My feet got burned--not fun—but what a memory!
Fun with Video Cameras
• Fun polls. Have the kids question friends and home members about a fun topic, such as: “When it’s raining, do you prefer vanilla or chocolate ice cream?” Video their responses and, of course, their quizzical looks.
• Video diary. Want to know what your kids have been up to? Pick a regular weekly or biweekly time to set up your video camera and have the kids talk about any exciting happenings at school or in the neighborhood.
• Instructional video. Have your kids create their own how-to video for cooking a special dish, doing an arts-and-crafts project, etc. Maybe you’ll even learn how to use that computer.
• Educational TV. Older kids can create a video related to something they’re studying at school, such as recycling, other cultures, etc. What current events are “hot” in your family?
• Local travelogue. Kids can make tapes describing places they know well, starting with their own home. Older kids can make a video tour of the neighborhood. You won’t need to visit your local video store to take your next travelogue trip.
How would your family members like to discover the power of the press while expanding their journalistic and artistic talents? All it takes is some paper, pens or pencils, crayons or markers, paints, a stapler—and a little time and imagination.
• Certificates of merit. Everybody deserves a pat on the back every now and then. Have each participant choose a family member (perhaps by selecting names out of a hat) and design a special award to honor him or her for a recent achievement (say, for putting toys away). Then, emcee a family awards night and present the certificates.
• Read all about us! How would you like to create a public-relations brochure about your family? Fold a sheet of paper into thirds, and have each participant design a panel about a family member (pre-writers can illustrate the text). And don’t forget to title the brochure with a snappy headline.
• Create comics. If your family members have some artistic talents, why not put them to work designing a comic book? You might have each participant work on a page individually, or you can ask younger children to draw the pictures while older kids and grown-ups write the text. Then staple the book together so your children can share their great works with friends. Or have your computer-savvy child draw or illustrate using a computer program or stylus, etc.
• In the news. Has your family been following current events in the community, the country, or the world? Have each participant write a paragraph or two about a recent happening and draw a picture to use as an illustration. Then fold the pages together newspaper style, and try reading it aloud.
• Family magazine. Would your family like to be featured in a magazine? Simply have an “editor” assign stories to “reporters”—say, about school, work, or a recent or upcoming family vacation. Then have your reporters submit their work, staple it together, and find out why your family is so famous.
• Freehand photo album. Here’s an assignment for the artists in your family: Have them draw pictures of themselves or other family members. Or give each person a task, such as drawing somebody at school or sketching the family at a special dinner. Staple all of the “snapshots” together. And don’t forget to add captions for each “photo.”
• Birthday book. Here’s a great gift that family members can make for one another’s birthdays. Have each participant write and illustrate a page of a story, making sure to use the name of the birthday boy or girl at least once on every page. Then design a cover, and staple the manuscript. Now you have a truly personalized birthday gift.
• Numbers book. Here’s a way to help younger children learn their numbers while making another book to add to their collection. Give your child ten sheets of paper, and ask him or her to write a number (from one to ten) on every page. Next, have your child draw as many items as needed to match each number: one duck, two houses, three flowers, and so on. Bind the book with a staple and add it to your family library.
• Holiday newsletter. Would distant relatives and friends enjoy hearing your family’s news during the holiday season? Have your family members put together a newsletter about seasonal activities, trips, games, and other projects. Make sure to add illustrations.
Here are some more ideas of ways you can provide your children with fun activities and positive experiences, while creating treasured memories that will last a lifetime. (Click here to read part one of this article)
Play Idea Guide
Excerpted from Kick the TV Habit, by Steven and Ruth Bennett
Your family is a great team, even without team shirts and lots of expensive equipment. Here are some sports you can enjoy anytime.
• Pitching “quarters.” This is an adaptation of an old city sidewalk game. Each player throws a “quarter” (actually, a plastic lid or button) toward a wall. The one that lands nearest the wall wins, and the thrower keeps all the “coins”—until the next toss.
• Beanbag juggle. Would your kids like to join a homemade circus? Place half a cup of dried beans in a sandwich bag, tie the bag, then put the bag in an old sock. Tie the sock closed. Now you have a beanbag for juggling or just clowning around.
• Mini-golf wizards. Use boxes, books, and blocks to create an obstacle course (a hallway is the best location). Take turns rolling a light ball through the course to see who can get it to the other end in a single roll. Proclaim that person a “mini-golf wizard.”
• Spoonful of beans. Can the runners, hoppers, and crawlers in your home complete relay races while holding a spoonful of beans?
• Crazy mazes. Budding balance-beam gymnasts and tightrope walkers can hone their skills by walking along a piece of string or rope placed on the floor. For a real challenge, loop the “line” into an intricate maze.
• Cup catch. Tired of regular catch? Try playing it with Ping-Pong balls, using paper cups to hold them in (the ones with fold-out handles are great).
• Theme putt-putt. Create your own indoor miniature golf course with a theme. Use empty containers for “holes,” furniture for obstacles, and toys for scenery and props (dinosaurs, trees, etc.). Long cardboard tubes can be turned into putters, and use a soft ball instead of a golf ball to avoid damaged furniture.
• Indoor hopscotch. Remember chalking hopscotch grids on the sidewalk? Have your kids make an indoor version using craft paper (taped to the floor) and crayons.
Why not turn your home into a theater, and encourage the acting, singing, and other talents of your family “hams”? After all, everyone deserves his or her time in the spotlight!
• Vaudeville extravaganza. Organize a talent night, and let the singers, dancers, acrobats, mimes, musicians, and actors in your family strut their stuff. And after you’ve had your turn on stage, sit back and enjoy the show.
• Family theme song. Compose a song that captures the spirit of your family. Have everyone take turns contributing lyrics that describe family members, trips, activities, and so on. Then it’s time to perform it—you might even want to record the final version.
• Instant musical. Even if your family isn’t yet ready to perform, you can still translate a favorite story into dance. Cast a familiar tale, and have each family member choreograph his or her own role. Then clear some space and begin the show.
• Clown around. Gather some old hats, shoes, clothes, gloves, and makeup, and turn members of your family into circus performers. The greater your assortment of costumes, the more variety in your cast of clowns.
• A chorus line. How would your family like to practice the art form that made the Rockettes famous? Have your family stand in a line, and synchronize simple movements (turns, leg kicks, arm raising, etc.)
• Mystery monologue. Have your child pretend to be a storybook character and tell you a little about him- or herself. Other family members can ask questions about the character’s life and guess his or her identity.
• Fashion show. Do you have any cutting-edge fashion designers in your family? Have each participant pull together one or more interesting outfits. Then have family members take turns modeling and describing their creations.