Building Resilience in Children to Meet Life’s Challenges

Talk and Garden Activity at Glenaeon Steiner Preschool Thursday October 19th, 2017 at 9:30-12:00

In the central kindergarten of the preschool, a circle was formed with a chair for each adult. In the centre of the circle were some ‘healing baskets’ filled with ‘tools’ that may help in the daily responsibility of parents supporting their children through life’s challenges.

Following Peggy’s introduction of Sandra, we stood up from our chairs and stretched up high to the heavens that holds the sun that rises every day all over the world whether we give it attention or not. We dug our toes into the floor, affirming that which holds us: here we stand between heaven and earth.

We marched around the outside of the circle of chairs and stopped at each chair saying ‘HO’ as we hit above our breastplate with our right fist (on the thymus gland, stimulating our lungs and heart, the blood moving us). *

Each person in turn introduced themselves and said what brings them joy. We may feel sensorial relief when we put our hand in the soft warm fur of a pet whom we love. Ah joy!

Many of these reflections on what brings us joy are also ‘tools for the toolbox’ of ideas we must have to meet life’s every day challenges and possible catastrophes. The resulting events themselves may range from a bumped knee to witnessing a car accident to

unresolved individual, family, cultural, systemic and multi – generational grief from wars, poverties, cruelties suffered. Perhaps a fear of learning something new, like a language, may in turn affect our ability to embrace the learning of new things in life.

How do we transform ‘trauma’ into strength and resilience?

Our ‘introduction game’ itself provided many examples of ‘health giving’. By simply walking, we connect our heart to the earth with every foot step. We create a rhythm as we place one foot after the other. The human body is thus supported in ‘moving’ itself toward health.

Saying an emboldened: ‘HO’ while hitting our breastplate is akin to the ‘war cry’ that many cultures express before they enter a challenge together. (In the Jewish faith this is done at the time of ‘atonement’, symbolising a time of confronting the ‘dark side’ of ourselves.)

On that morning as we enthusiastically “HO’ed” we sounded so power-full that we had to ‘tone down our communal ‘HO’s’, as we were aware that we didn’t want to traumatize children that morning with the emphatic tone of our voices and stomping of our feet.

When we reached our own chair again, we sat down and Sandra explained the healing points of the exercise and then elaborated on the topic. Having completed such an exercise, we are reminded that getting ourselves and our children walking, in nature, up and down staircases, anywhere rather than ‘instant’ transport of a car or elevator is a health giving exercise.

Speaking the words of our trauma as we tell the story to someone or hear a child’s story, can in itself, be a turning point in our transformation from experiencing a traumatic event to creating a healing opportunity. We have a witness to this dramatic event, we

have been heard. Someone else is now carrying this happening in their heart and mind and may be able to support us somehow. We can help someone by sharing our story or listening to theirs. This is a strengthening and unifying practice for our familial and community fabric. We can feel proud of our scars, our ‘initiation tests’ rather than ‘ashamed’.

Our children can grow in a culture that welcomes the story of ’that which happened’. Children will ‘play’ and this is self-healing. As they act out the story, each time a little differently we will witness that “play’ as a tool is available to us too. We may need to actively help children to act out the event to externalize and allow them to see it differently, as if from a distance. ‘Role Play’ is a healthful process for we adults too! We can use objects as puppets or actually ‘dress up’ to act out the event.

When we sing or tell a story as a healing modality, the rhythm of the child’s heart joins our own. Thus to embrace our child and to sing: ‘Healing, healing loving for my beautiful daughter/son, healing, healing has begun, soon my son/daughter will have some fun. **

We are addressing the ailment and giving a touch or water or medicine and then making ‘fun’ (a tickle). We may repeat our comforting song or gesture a few times, but we won’t ‘stay ‘in a sympathetic mode. (Staying in sympathetic mode can make us fearful and self- consumed unnecessarily.) The muscles moving in our bellies as we laugh, and the muscles moving on our faces as we smile are themselves healing tools.

How do we ‘hold’ our child when we ourselves are frightened? We don’t want them to take that fear within their bodies and so we must acknowledge what the ‘phenomena’ is. We must actively take hold of this event and mould it, transform it in the moment so that our child too can rise to the occasion and experience a strength- creation.

Sandra then told a story of being on an extremely bumpy flight and recognizing that she needed to model ‘fearlessness’ to her four- year old daughter. An inspiration came to her of pretending that she and her daughter were the pilots and had steering wheels and so they careened from side to side in their seats focusing on ‘driving the aeroplane’ through the cloudy skies rather than being victims of the inclement weather. An accompanying mantra evolved which they still use 22 years later: ‘we don’t get scared we get excited’. This is an example of positively using the adrenalin that rushes inside us making us freeze or want to take flight. With continual practice we can use that adrenalin to conquer the occasion rather than be overwhelmed by it.

Being in nature provides a vast opportunity for healing as we create with earth and sand, sticks and stones, shells and pine cones, leaves and seeds, under the trees. So much do the children and we learn from form and texture and ourselves in such play scapes.

In our kitchen we have rice, flour and other foods that can be independently poured from one vessel into another providing opportunities for children to focus on something and ‘lose themselves’ as they become absorbed in the activity. For children who have difficulty with sensorial ‘messy’ activities it is necessary to begin with ‘dry’ un-messy and, when they are ready, progress to ‘adding water’ to the dry matter to explore new sensations.

This activity as described was passed around the circle for participants to explore.

The kitchen itself can be considered as a temple of alchemy to give ourselves and children of all ages opportunities for self -growth, reflection and learnings of the sciences, arts and way of nature. All of these activities help to heal the challenges of the day and to ‘set us right’ in their transitional way. “Playing/working with food is a profound way to be together doing nourishing tasks.

The creation of rhythm as we go about our daily, weekly, seasonally, yearly activities, supports our healing from trauma. Rudolf Steiner Education is particularly developed to do this.

We can choose as much as possible to avoid anxiety creating scenes such as being in overly stimulating environments like a grocery store checkout, where we are all vulnerable under the pressures of temptation and the over exposure of our nervous systems.

Rudolf Steiner suggested that we can protect ourselves with sphagnum or peat moss when we need extra protection from external stimuli and influences. Wearing a sphagni oil helps children and adults to withstand and be protected against outside influences such as heavy traffic, air travel, radiation and situations causing separation anxiety. (www.southernswan.net.au)

Sandra finished the formal part of her presentation by displaying a doll that reminded her of challenging times in her life that led her to many wonders including becoming an immigrant to her beloved Australia.

We concluded this inside time together with a moving circle holding hands and singing ‘Ring around the rosie a pocket full of posey, tissue, tissue we all fall down. The cows are in the meadow eating buttercups, and along came a mouse who frightened them all up!’ The group dispersed: some leaving the preschool and other staying for the garden activity.

Having time in nature: connecting through relationships and releasing tensions gifts us.
Having time to rest in the quiet, regularly and for long enough is restorative for everyone.

Having health giving nutritious foods with time to enjoy this eating time is foundational for us all.

*Body Eloquence: The Power of Myth and Story to Awaken the Body’s Energies, page 183, by Nancy Mellon. Energy Psychology Press Santa Rosa CA 2008
**Seven Times the Sun: Guiding Your Child Through the Rhythms of the Day, by Shea Darian. Gilead Press, Marshall, Australia 1999

Garden Care

Following a plate of fresh fruit and vegetable refreshment we met in the preschool garden and mixed up a bucket of ‘tree paste’ for to heal the trees wounds with.

We discussed the merits of each substance that goes into this simple tree paste: cow manure (millions of nutritional microbes, antiseptic); sand (high in formative, reflective silica), clay (binding mineral -rich mediator); water (as needed for consistency). Although gloves were on offer, most participants chose to enjoy the sensation of mixing the paste by hand. Memories were evoked of life in rural China, Japan and Brazil. ‘my family dried it and burned it for heat; we used to throw handfuls of cow manure at each other’; I recall the smell from my childhood visits to a farm every weekend.’

Once mixed, the tree paste was applied to openings on nearby trees, with children participating gleefully. The tree paste helps to seal the wounds on the trees so that fungus and insects cannot enter the tree and ultimately destroy it. Wherever it is applied it will give nutritional fertilizer to the tree whose bark and trunk is like its soil.

People remarked that they felt a bonding with the trees as they applied the paste with their hands or by painting it on with brushes. When the Bay tree was halved as was necessary, the cut was covered by tree paste. A song accompanied the two actions.

‘The sawers are sawing, sawing the Bay leaf tree, the sawers are sawing, sawing the tree.

‘ Healing,healing tree medicine for our beautiful Bay leaf tree. Healing, healing has begun, soon our tree will be safe again.’

In a bucket of water we then stirred a biodynamic soil activator fertilizer that contained many minerals and especially prepared medicinal preparations. This stirring is a dynamizing process as homeopathic medicines are made. Repeatedly a vortex is made by stirring the water with one’s hand in one direction, and then a chaos ensues as the water is stirred in the opposite direction and eventually a vortex is formed again. This ensures that every drop of water is infused with the fertilizer placed in the water. After stirring this fertilizer infused water for 20 minutes, we divided it into bowls and sprinkled it out over the gardens and grounds of the preschool with the children in eager attendance. As it is homeopathic, only drops of the medicines are needed to encourage the forces of nature to stimulate each other.

This mineral and microbe rich fertilizer will assist in the soil becoming more vibrant and colloidal. In addition to more nutritious foods, the area, itself will be strengthened and more resilient to the natural wearing down from weather and pollutants too. ‘Bio’ means life and ‘dynamic’ is about moving life. This we practiced in our garden activity.

After each parent and accompanying eager children planted a seedling of their choice, we encircled a garden bed and stated our experience of the morning in one word. “Growing; learning; persistence; transformational; connected to the earth; eager to plant; footsteps to self”, were recorded.

A natural modelling dough (beeswax, lanolin and calcium carbonate) was offered for participants to take home and experience as a simple and transportable ‘de-stresser and healing opportunity’ for they and their children. http://www.phlanaklay.com or info@phlanaklay.com.au

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