Wednesday was a New Village workshop at the Continuing Education Classroom! Karen W. Ponder from North Carolina was the speaker in Yreka, and a large number of us gathered to hear her message by teleconferencing means in Happy Camp. The topic of conversation was Family Agencies and Communities working together to support children impacted by trauma. With the Connecticut shootings in our recent memory, this seemed to be particularly relevant. Thankfully we have no such trauma wounding our Happy Camp youngsters but there are other trauma’s that effect children here.
The most amazing thing about Karen’s discussion is her view of child development or more specifically person development. Maybe no elementary school professionals actually participated in this session, but some had feared that it would only be applicable to elementary school children. It was refreshing that Karen’s view of child development is all inclusive of person development. There were kinship adopters or foster families, Head start teachers and preschool organizations, the School Nursing staff for school students, and others who deal with a wider view of the term “children.”
We child development starting with birth to eighteen months, no surprise. During each stage in life it is vital that a person have the necessities of survival, which is air to breathe, food and water, and love and nurture is an obvious need at the early stages of life. Studies have shown that a child deprived of loving attention may not survive even if all of his physical necessities are provided. It is vital that a child in infancy and even prenatal learn a sense of trust when caregivers provide reliable care and affection. Deprived of stable care, a child may mistrust and feel stressed even at a very early age. Safe, secure loving relationships can affect a child the rest of his or her life.
Then we went to early childhood, the 2 & 3 year olds, and preschoolers 4 & 5 year olds. The preschooler is mastering the world, exploring physics and all the things of the world around him or her. Children who have experienced toxic stress in their lives need loving support to overcome the affects of this in their lives.
After that comes the elementary school years of 6 to 11 years. In school a child needs to cope with new social and academic demands and begins to feel more competence but if he doesn’t’ have the loving support from previous stages in life, feels failure and inferiority. Children are concrete reasoning stage to third grade and much is dependent upon executive functioning before they can go on to learn academics.
Adolescence is a person from 12 to 18 or graduation from high school. In the teen or adolescent years, a child develops a sense of self and personal identity and then the ability to stay true to one’s self comes from success in these years. Failure to have the loving support to do this successfully can cause a person to have role confusion and a weak sense of self.
Young adulthood is from graduation to somewhere between 24 and 40 years of age, depending! Even young adults need to form loving supportive relationships with other people, and they are still developing brain maturity and need support, as failure results in loneliness and isolation. Everyone asks what they want to be when they grow up which causes stresses and they may be attracted to things different than in previous stages. They need to be able to see themselves and their gifts through others eyes because when they leave high school they need a plan. It is a bridge to adulthood and with all the radical changes in life, sometimes seems like having a 2 year old again! Parental support and love and patient are just as important as for the little child and they still need loving guidance. When less lovable, they need more love and support.
Middle adulthood being then 25 to 64 and maturity from 65 to end of life. During middle adulthood people need to create or nurture things that will outlast themselves, to have a successful feeling of usefulness and accomplishment . Without this a person has a shallow involvement in the world and can’t receive or give the necessary support that all persons need in the world. Older adults in maturity need to look back on their life and feel as sense of fulfillment. A person may be very accomplished by some standards, financially secure and yet, without the sense of fulfillment may result in regret, bitterness and despair. Karen admitted that she doesn’t “get” retirement. She is doing what she loves as a consultant and calls it retirement, and loves the grandchildren that come with this stage of life!
Isn’t it amazing that stress even at the earliest prenatal level can carry though each stage in a person’s life and that is why the family, community resources must build on the stage before it to be successful. Each stage builds upon the stage before and if it wasn’t successfully accomplished, will show up later as problems in life. If people have unmet needs, they can’t get close and miss the intimacy of human relationship. A stage that has been interrupted and not successfully completed needs to be remedied.
Karen mentioned that seeing a very little child laying crying in a hard metal shopping cart while her mother ignored her cries intent on shopping and visiting and distracted by many things. It was mentioned that the mother probably hadn’t had her needs met at that earlier stage and didn’t relate, and needed loving support to see the direction so that the generational problem was not to be perpetuated. Children must have limits, adults must set secure and appropriate limits for the child. Don’t reward bad behavior and show a united front before children, giving them security rather than inconsistency.
Thanks to Karen Derry of the Family Resource Center and Emma Lee Johnson of the Computer Center as well as others from College of the Siskiyous, Head Start and Early Five Programs and Behavioral Health and Health agencies that sponsored this workshop and made it possible. It was very interesting and wished that some discussions could have gone on to further exploration but we only had the one day to accomplish what was covered, and it was great!