As parents of Upper Elementary students can attest, many pre-adolescent children have a newfound righteousness that is not shy about making itself known. These children can be passionately attached to certain definitions of right and wrong, and can argue vehemently in defense of their opinions. What’s equally noticeable, however, is that unless the adults in their lives provide the structures necessary to turn these ideas into actions, these same children miss out on critical learning opportunities.
When fielding such passion-filled commentary from Upper Elementary children, parents and teachers alike can develop meaningful and measurable experiences for children to explore their beliefs more deeply in ways that build real success and breakthrough.
In pursuit of this aim, adults might ask themselves:
· What are the systems and structures available to me that a child might explore to bring life to her/his passions?
· In what ways can I foster the development of real and purposeful action?
· In support of such action, what are the possibilities for failure and disappointment? For joy and empowerment?
In both home and classroom environments, discussing one’s feelings and opinions can find great grounding in exploring empathy. Often confused with sympathy (feeling for another), empathy goes a step further to actually imagining or remembering how it feels (or would feel) to be another; that is, to walk in another’s shoes. Empowering children to understand that everyone possesses needs and feelings as real as their own is an essential building block of conflict resolution and lasting peace.
It is not enough to just believe strongly in something; it needs to be actualized to become real. Adults can mindfully model this transformation by showing children the steps needed to achieve the desired ends. Such partnering can be a powerful learning experience for all those involved.