Critical training to better protect, support, and heal vulnerable children


series: CAREGIVER 101 by Steve Gross


I think when you know a child is ready, I mean there's a couple things. One is you can usually see when they're not ready, so if a child is having tantrums, if you talk to them and it looks like no word is sinking in, they can't sit still. You look at them and it looks like there's no connection there or they're really hyper or we use the term hyper aroused. They're really angry. That really sad. They're hysterical.

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That is not the time to try to teach. That is the time to try to soothe and calm and then once they're soothed, calm and you feel like I can feel this connection. Then we focus on building relationship and connection and you get a feel for, hey, this kid looks like he really trust me. They smile at me. I asked him some questions and sometimes they answer back.

You start to notice, hey, we're building a stronger relationship here and then we can begin to teach. I think sometimes playmakers we try to teach before we have kids who feel safe and valued by us.

My Dad had a great quote, he used to say, nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. And our first work as playmakers is making sure kids feel safe in our presence and they feel seen and valued.

There's a Zulu term when people meet each other on a path and they say Sao Bona and Sao Bona means I see you and every human being wants to feel seen except some are afraid to feel seen because they feel if you really saw all their hardships, their losses, their pain, their shame, then they wouldn't be worthy of your love.

As a playmaker. We need to see kids, we need to see their beauty and their strength and we also need to let them know that we see their struggle and no matter how much they're struggling or no matter what has happened to them in the past, they are still worthy of love.

Can I tell you an interesting story? One colleague that I have would take a $5 bill and he would hold that $5 bill and he'd say, how much is this worth? And some would say $5 and he take their bill and crumple it up and he'd step on it and he'd rub it in dirt and then he'd pick it up and he'd hold it up and say, how much is that bill worth? Let's say $5. Yeah. No matter what you do to that bill, you crumple it. You get it dirty, you spill stuff on it, it's still worth $5.Every kid has deep value and that value doesn't change based on the things that have happened to you. Because oftentimes when terrible things happen to kids, they feel like they're not worth anything anymore. Like they're damaged, they're ashamed, and they feel unworthy of love and joy and connection. And we got to make sure that they know, hey, it doesn't matter what happened. Maybe you'll share some of what happened. I don't need to know it all unless you want to tell it to me, but all I know is that you have amazing, valuable value. There was nobody in the world like you. You are special. You are worthy, and I'm here. I care about you and I want to help.


Steve Gross

Steve Gross, M.S.W., is the founder and chief playmaker of the Life is Good Kids Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose mission is to spread the power of optimism to help kids heal. The foundation partners with leading childcare organizations to strengthen theircapacity to build healing,...

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life-changing relationships with the children in their care.

Steve’s teachings have been utilized across the country and throughout the world in response to the social and emotional needs of communities deeply impacted by poverty, violence and illness. Steve helps others discover their own sense of optimism so that they can inspire the people around them to focus on the good and overcome life’s most difficult challenges.


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