Children Wiser Than We
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Introduction: Children instinctively gravitate to love. They seem to have a sixth sense about a person’s nature. Perhaps because children are so helpless at this stage of development, this attraction is a built-in survival mechanism. Or, maybe children have a greater sense of awareness that compensates for their vulnerability. Whatever the truth may be, because they are pure, innocent and forgiving, children are close to the kingdom of heaven.
Children closer to Heaven: Children evoke deeply rooted and sometimes unconscious feelings. When in their presence, it is interesting to see how adults react to these little beings. Many cannot help but become joyous, smiling and regressing to “baby talk” language in an attempt to communicate. Others become nervous, wary of losing control and don’t know quite how to act. And still some become like children themselves. They kneel and enter the world of the child, a grace-like state of innocence, losing their adult ego in the process. The grown-up world, with all its problems, for a moment disappears. They come closer to the kingdom of heaven.
Loving children simply means you have not lost your connection to your original innocence. Children reflect that part of you that is still innocent, loving and forgiving. If you can relate to these qualities in a child, you can certainly reconnect to them within yourself. Children give you permission to relate to a fellow child of God without the mask of your ego, with unconditional love, your true essence. Children, because they are full of love, are inherently successful.
Children Wiser than we: Working with children, we quickly learn that they can hear the unfiltered unconscious speaking directly. This is true in children suffering life-threatening illnesses who may ask, or speak very directly, about death. From the age of ten, the concerns of children can be strikingly adult. They understand death’s universality and irreversibility and often ask questions that go right to the heart of their concerns.
These are questions, in a sense, for all of us, and it is not unwise to allow the children to give their own answers. We are better as witnesses than as guides to their remarkable capacity to identify their own fears and wonders and to deal with them. Helping them give a name to their chief fear is a service of enormous benefit. Sometimes, giving them simple information, such as the reason in some treatments for hair loss, enables the children to deal effectively with this otherwise extremely upsetting development.
Doing the human thing spontaneously – as with hugging and touching – is what is called for in these circumstances. Our best support may be given to the parents whose best instincts should be encouraged. It is also sensible, for the sake of other siblings, to keep family life as normal as possible. Counsellors, although not often the ones to make such decisions, should realize that most persons want to find out the truth about their own condition. Many of them sense it on a less than conscious level anyway. We should not conspire to disguise or dissemble when sensitive honesty, which differs greatly from blunt and crude bad news breaking, can be helpful to the gravely ill individual.
When one thinks counselling what usually comes to the mind is the adult who may be in need of it. To be counselling a child may appear strange. But all the same children too require psychological help; may be only in some cases it is directly affecting them but indirectly it is affecting them in most cases. For our consideration we could perhaps take children in their late childhood where we typically need a kind of directive counselling. We just cannot ignore the early childhood too, for, there too we encounter problems either with the children themselves or with the people who care for them or with both, which is the case most of the time.
People take their roots in their prenatal existence, which grows through infancy and babyhood. Before one reaches childhood one has to pass through the first three stages of prenatal, infancy and babyhood (toddlerhood).
Conclusion: Counselling the child requires a lot of knack and skills, first of all to win over the confidence of the child if he is particularly too shy to relate to you. It may take a few sessions before the child becomes free with you.
Providing an emotional catharsis for the child is essential, either by talking, play therapy, or by role-playing.
Since in most cases the child is only an ‘Identified patient’ with the understanding that the parents (elders) are the real patients, it is good to locate the real patient and focus the attention on that person. Here more than anything else the attitude of the parents needs to be changed; then slowly the maladaptive coping skills of dealing with the problem-children can be dealt with. Child is a part of the family system and treating a subsystem of parent-child relationship alone will not be enough for the total well-being. One has to consider the whole family system with all its subsystems. Therefore, an overall approach to child counselling is strongly recommended.
“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about” — Angela Schwindt
Rev. Fr. C. Joseph, Counsellor-St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous) Jakhama.