Amazing kids…

I have just read a couple of amazing emails written (to their grandparents who are overseas) by a six and a half-year old and nine-year old. Articulate, precise and full of genuine engagement and fun, these emails (not so long ago, would have been sent in a letter or card) are the correspondence of young children living in a world with the advantage of knowledge, a stimulating environment and family security.

So why is it that some kids flourish and leap ahead of developmental and educational expectations whilst some little ones struggle to learn basic reading and writing skills? Of course the answer to this dilemma is complex and varied and I’m rather foolish to be thinking that I can even pose the question let alone go close to writing about it…but I’ll have stab at it…

And yet, there are children almost the same age (as the children that wrote the emails) who struggle to form a sentence let alone write a clever and witty email. These children lack the stimulation and perhaps the encouragement needed in order to find a voice and confidence that many children with opportunity are privy to. It’s not always this clear because we know that kids who experience trauma, abuse and insecurity have giant challenges to the way they learn. So, what happens to these strugglers?

It’s fair to say these kids feel unworthy, not up to the task, they worry and put energy into strategies to camouflage their problems or difficulties rather than focus on progressive learning. Then at a later date it’s not unusual to see some of these children seeking out activities that fulfill the self-image that’s been projected on to them as young children. Unpopular, slow, dumb, awkward and not worthy. Except that these kids are sometimes very clever, perceptive and intuitive. Sometimes these particular skills are labelled ‘street smart’. When behind the ‘eight ball’ these perceptive abilities are all some kids have. They are highly tuned to the environment around them, it’s called survival.

I know of a young child who doubts his own ability to learn to write well and to learn word recognition like some of the other children in his grade. Already there are signs that he views himself as not so clever, not so able and incompetent. And yet, his antenna for signs of disharmony within his environment is highly tuned and he is hyper-vigilant. He watches with the eye of one beyond his years, unlike the trusting naivety of a child who is protected from the harshness and inappropriate behaviour of dysfunctional adults.

Of course, there are some young children who have developmental delays that prevent the steady and quick uptake of learning but hopefully these young one’s are identified early enough for specialist interventions to make a difference. I only mention this group of children to make a clear distinction to the group of kids who I believe fall within the general range of ability but who struggle. Now I’m not an educationalist, I’m a family therapist and my comments come from an understanding of family conditions and situations that are usually necessary for children to do okay enough in school and life.

So, what does this tell us…I think is tells us that some kids bring baggage with them as they enter education. They arrive at school after already having had five or six years of tumultuous living… As a consequence they have been taught (unconsciously) to seek instant gratification as this helps to alleviate anxiety; not to trust or engage too closely because you never know when trust will be broken; to encourage attention in any form as a way to cover up inadequacies and to remain hyper-vigilant at all times because these kids have learned to be on guard, safety isn’t always guaranteed…

It must be very difficult for children who engage in the above behaviours to relax and concentrate well at school when they unconsciously carry a range of survival skills in their back packs.  Are these the pre-conditions for young children to learn and flourish? I think not. It actually means that some youngsters have to make up a lot of ground, some are resilient and manage to overcome the difficulties and become amazing in their own right, some kids don’t…

Back to the young children who wrote the wonderful emails to their grandparents…what a delight to see children exploring in word, concept and with such confidence. It’s a reminder to me just how amazing kids can be when the right conditions prevail and are given encouragement to thrive.


About Heathermargaret

I'm a writer and the author of Finding Eliza, 2018. I'm currently working on my second novel.
This entry was posted in Education, Life, People, Relationships, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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