Children’s Centre reopening: a “Heart” and “Head” story
What a few months we have had at the Children’s Centre! Our children and families have had to adjust to swift changes and interruption of services that happened quickly and without warning. Staff has painfully looked at rooms suddenly empty of children. Everything happened quickly without time for a good-bye or words of encouragement.
Isolation has been the “buzz word” of the past three months. Grown-ups have been asked to self-isolate to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. Children have had to bear the consequences of decisions that removed them from their friends, their routine, the people in their life who support their growth.
Much has been said about the mental health toll that isolation has taken and will continue to take on children. Children already impacted by trauma feel the negative effects of isolation even more acutely.
We know that connections and relationships are food for growing brains. When a child’s development has been impacted by the trauma he witnessed or survived, the relationships and connections he establishes are paramount for healing as they constitute stabilizing factors that prop up their growth.
And now (finally!) we are ready to welcome our children back to the Children’s Centre, to build again the network of connections and support their needs.
Re-opening however has come with its challenges…
Working through the new Government set guidelines for the reopening of Sonshine Children’s Centre continues to create an acute push-pull experience. While we recognize and understand (head) the need to put all of the guidelines into practice in order to reopen, we struggled (heart) to integrate them with our trauma-informed, attachment framed, child-focused and socially-emotionally rich program.
“What kept happening was that I didn’t get very far with the re-opening plan.” admits Elisabeth Citro, Director of Children’s Service at Sonshine Community Services. ” I would start and stop over and over again. And then very recently, I was able to identify the barrier: I was being asked to do something that goes against every fiber of my practice-being and passion”, continues Elisabeth. “How can I be creating a program that asks the team to maintain physical distance rather than close physical proximity, to focus on hand washing over hand holding, to guide children away from one another rather than close to one another, to plan for curbside pick-up and drop-off – really, these are children, not groceries!”
Moving forward required a perspective adjustment. We had to begin looking at all of the things we CAN do and will do when we are all back together again. And yes, focus on the fact that children and families are returning.
We had to focus on the guidelines first (head) and get those all very well defined. Looking at those guidelines as being the protectors of our children, families and employees worked well as that motivates us. Then, we took each of the guidelines and reintegrated trauma-informed, attachment framed, child focused and social-emotional richness into the program. And of course, fun!
“The process could not happen parallel to one another” said Elisabeth Citro “Their relationship is complicated! Head first, heart second and integration of both third”
On July 2 the door of the Children’s Centre will reopen to children who may have been completely detached from any kind of systemic support for the past three months. We look forward to welcoming them back with open arms and we are prepared to provide the supports they are accustomed to in new and creative ways.