Protecting the Innocence of Children: Teaching Resiliency

By Janet Siry, LCSW
March 15, 2019

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.  Mark 10: 13-15 NIV

Every Sunday, when I watch the children come forward for children’s sermon, I cannot help but smile. As I look at their faces, I see curiosity, innocence, eagerness and excitement about seeing their teachers and friends. Sometimes, I see a few tears from little people just learning that they can leave their parents behind at church and be safe in the care of other loving Christians. I know they will be learning about God ’s unconditional love and grace. During this hour they are nurtured and loved. What I do not know is what difficulties the children face once they leave the protection of our church family. Sadly, we cannot always tell by facial expressions what they are feeling or what living conditions they must face when they return home.

Since the beginning of recorded history, children have been neglected, abused and affected by household dysfunction. In 1998, a comprehensive study (ACE’s Study) was published to scientifically prove that Adverse Childhood Experiences greatly impact adult development. According to the study, as the number of adverse childhood experiences increase, so does the risk for negative health outcomes in adulthood. We now have clinical tools to determine the extent of how behaviors, physical and mental health are impacted and we have the means to be proactive in prevention of negative outcomes.

According to Dr. Dan Siegel, author of “The Yes Brain”, in order to raise resilient children, we must learn how to be a resilient parent. In order to handle our own ups and downs, we must learn how to be emotionally resilient ourselves to provide a model for children. It can be very challenging to observe emotional meltdowns and tantrums without getting unhinged. This gets more difficult if we have unrealistic expectations about the nature of childhood. Sometimes we look at difficult situations as problems needing to be fixed. Parents who are able to face powerful emotions with their children are better able to handle difficult interactions more calmly.

In my experience as a mother, teacher and social worker, I have worked with many children in many capacities. I learned to become more aware of my own emotional challenges in order to be more respectful of children around me. This task can feel overwhelming but as we practice honesty with ourselves, we can learn to be more emotionally available and stable. All emotions are a consequence of being human.

Adults must actively listen without interruption to help children learn to express themselves with words. Sometimes they need help to learn how to identify what they are feeling and how to express these emotions in a more positive way. We can reassure them we love them by holding them close and still maintain appropriate boundaries. We can set limits and boundaries with compassion. Every day we are confronted with stories of terrible tragedy. Children are abused and neglected in all socio-economic groups throughout the world. Let us remember what our Lord taught us: to love one another and protect our children at all costs. I become indignant when I see children being abused.

Let us be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

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Janet Siry, LCSW has worked as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for years and prior to this, was a preschool teacher. As a school based social worker for four years, Mrs. Siry has counseled children, adolescents, families and adults and has facilitated group therapy sessions. She has a private practice in Setauket, NY. Mrs. Siry is a member of The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and was awarded Woman of the Year in Religion in 2005. She counsels children, teens, adults, couples and families at LCC’s Patchogue site.

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