If you live or work with small children, how often do you actually get down and view the world from their perspective?
It can be, quite literally, an eye opener.
It’s not just the psychological effect of endlessly looking upwards at your designated figures of authority, it’s also the horrible damage to your cervical spine that makes this an undesirable state of affairs.
Young children are small - there’s no getting round it, they just are. They can be quite a long way down, and sometimes it can seem like a bit of an effort to get all the way down there, because you’ll only have to get all the way back up again.
I remember working at an Infant School, with a class of Year 2s who were just about to leave to go to Junior School, and one little boy in particular was feeling a bit anxious about his unknown future. We spent a playtime sitting on the carpet together, talking through his concerns and, thankfully, allaying his fears. When the bell rang and the other children started to come back into the classroom, a little girl ran over to me and said, “What are you doing on the floor Miss? You’re a grown-up!!” And of course I realised in that instant that at the ripe old age of eight, no adult ever got down to her level - never actually communicated with her face to face, eye to eye. Not her parents, not her teachers, no-one she classified as a grown-up. She was spending her life literally being talked down to, every single day.
Not so long ago, a friend of mine posted a quite understandable rant on Facebook, following a particularly unpleasant altercation when he tried to take his child into his workplace of fifteen years. The attitude of the gatekeeper had been less than welcoming, which judging by the substantial online discussion my friend's post generated, around similar problems experienced by mutual friends in similar situations, this is not too uncommon.
What there wasn’t - in any of the cases cited - was any empathy with the child, and how she must have felt. Our POV is almost always so rooted in the adult experience, that whether literally or metaphorically, we find it difficult to take on board the child’s perspective, and I can’t help thinking that my friend’s child must have picked up on the vibe of not being wanted or welcome in the building.
We have enough difficulty with a younger generation who feel alienated and ostracised from the adult world, perhaps we could take time to really look through their eyes, to see their point of view, to try to bridge that void.
We can all be guilty of losing sight of just how intensely our children take on board the troubles of the world.
Some of you may have read the blogpost comprising interviews with F and her son L, published July 22nd.
I was truly moved by how upset L was by the plight facing Syrian refugee children. It’s so easy to forget how deeply our children absorb and react to world events.
There is a shift happening in my own life, which has enabled me to gain a deeper insight into the world of our young people.
Over the last couple of years, the nature of my work has altered so that I am increasingly using the written word more than the spoken word. The impact of funding cuts to schools and the arts has seen both the storytelling and educational consultancy work markedly reduced, whereas the demand for my input to magazines and the creation of books has increased exponentially.
Well of course it is partly what you say, but it’s easy to underestimate the impact of the tone you use.
In almost all of the #H2SC interviews with children, and especially in the most recent couple I shared with you, great importance is placed on how adults speak to them. Words like nice, polite and kind come up over and over, with a dislike of shouting or harsh sounds and a preference for soft and lyrical tones.
Earlier in the month I read a fascinating article entitled, ‘We just want to be able to talk to our parents’, by Stefanie Marsh in the Guardian. Here’s the link if you’d like to read it in full: