Thursday, May 19, 2011


It's amazing how much kids grow during their time at the shelter. Thr ones who benefit most stay for several weeks or even for a few months.

IMO, the biggest benefit of their stay is what they learn from each other. In my small groups, many learn how to cope with anger, sadness, and anxiety. Sometimes they find out they have suffered less trauma than others. Sometimes they realize their story is the worst. Most important, those who think Mom is the bad guy for making them leave home begin to understand the big picture.

More than what they learn in my small groups, though, is what they learn from other kids. When they leave home, they suddenly must survive in close quarters. Most arrive dazed, sad, scared, and confused. They don't like the noise and confusion of living with so many other kids.

First they watch the other kids. Only the most social immediately play with them. Most of the older kids stay in their family group. Avoid the babies. They don't like their crying or lack of responsiveness.

As they feel safer, they express outrage and tattle on anyone who hurts or insults them, says a "bad word", grabs their Gameboy, or won't share.

In a week or two, they start to smile more, play with each other, and try to make the babies smile. Soon they are carrying the babies around and protecting the toddlers. They listen to and talk with other mothers. Listen better to their own mother. They also respond to aggression from "new" kids with "Don't do that!", tattling, or ignoring them.

Eventually, the messages of the shelter sink into the children's minds and core beliefs: We left our violent home because we were in danger. Violence is wrong, bad, and illegal. We need to be different when we grow up. Mom is not the bad guy.

No wonder I love these children. So many blossom as beautifully as the shrubs and flowers around my house. They are treasures.

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