Since I was a child, I’ve always valued the importance of being able to talk openly.
And so, in my 15 years of working with children, I’ve always aimed to create a space where children feel safe to be themselves. This in turn has built strong, trusting relationships and fostered an environment where the best conversations can happen – where both adults and children can be heard.
With everything we are faced with today, this is more important than ever. It’s vital children have a safe space where they don’t feel judged, but instead feel they are listened to and supported by adults. We all deserve this – if you’re brave enough to talk about your feelings, you deserve to have someone truly listen.
When I was younger, I really struggled academically at school and so I took on the persona of class clown, doing things to make others laugh. I had no-one to talk to and was labelled as the naughty one throughout my whole school life. Perhaps if someone had taken the time to really see and listen to me, I could have explained that behaving like this was my way of asking for help. But back then, there weren’t the professionals or a support system like there is now. As I got older and continued with my studies, it was almost a relief to find out the reason I had struggled was because I had both dyspraxia and dyslexia, a diagnosis I eventually received as an adult. Finally, I could understand why I had found everything so hard.
Thinking back though, there were some subjects, where things were much better. Of course, PE was always one of those lessons that gave me a great escape. However, I also loved my English lessons and I particularly liked story telling; I used it to express how I felt through the protagonists of my own stories. This also helped to create my life-long love of reading – surprising given my diagnosis.
There are many ways children can express themselves, it doesn’t always have to be verbal or written. Some choose to use artistic creation, such as drawing shapes and painting vibrant pictures. One of the children in my class once drew a series of mismatched shapes in different colours. I asked them about the feeling behind what they had created and there was such depth to his answer. The pictures represented in detail how he felt about his family. This was the beginning of his communication journey. He learnt to open up and he trusted me as a supportive adult who listened to him.
It is vital we express how we feel and the ability to do so through talking and sharing is invaluable. Giving our children an opportunity to do this and making sure we really listen is crucial. Communication is more important than ever before; as we move to a post pandemic world, we will have to work together to rebuild these skills through our relationships and also through the activities we love.