“Kids without clear lines wander/experiment in ways that can lead to confusion and unhealthy behaviour […]
We all want to do good but don’t always do good – so it is important we have a deep early grounding in what is OK vs. what we should have twinges of discomfort about. These things, clear or fuzzy, stay with us all our lives.”
Every day at the family emergency shelter where I work, I see this statement in action.
Kids under stress doing things kids under stress do.
Add in stressed parents and the challenge becomes even greater. How do you cope effectively with your children’s under stress behaviours when you are experiencing extreme stress too?
Being in an emergency shelter is stressful for everyone, so there is little opportunity for the stress to be eased. Thus, little opportunity for the kids to not be doing things kids do under stress.
The brain science is simple. The solution isn’t.
Stress impairs a child’s brain development.
Continual stress creates toxic stress = compromised brain development
human growing process,
Emotional, mental, physical impoverishment into teenage years and adulthood.
We can’t end adult homelessness if we don’t end homelessness for children.
A family emergency shelter is not the problem. Nor is it the solution.
A stable, predictable home environment is the solution, but how do you create ‘home’ when the parents themselves have never had the benefit of an environment conducive to healthy brain development?
See, that’s the crux of it. For many of the families we serve at the shelter, poverty is an intergenerational cycle. They have never known anything other than the stress of living in a home where everyone is struggling to make ends meet, lessen the pressure of never having enough and coping with the instability and limitations that come with parents under stress.
What parents do. Children do.
Every parent wants to do what is right and best for their children. Every parent wants to ‘do better’. But, when your starting point is so far below the poverty line, you can’t see beyond the stress of never having enough, it becomes even more daunting to rise above the line to do better for your children.
I wish some days I had a magic wand that would heal all the wounds we cannot see but are so clearly evident in the behaviours of the children we see at the shelter.
I don’t have a magic wand.
What I do have is the opportunity to create better so that those families who do come to the emergency shelter for support, find a more inviting path out of the stress of poverty and homelessness into a world that is more supportive of their desire to provide a better world for their children.