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


series: CAREGIVER 101 by Steve Gross


It’s really important. I mean, it starts in child friendly spaces that you have this optimistic Oplasis — this safe, loving, joyful, and engaging environment. But that's just one Oplasis. See, children need to have Oplasis at home or in their school or with their friends. So the more Oplasis we can build the better for a child. I think it's really important that it's not something that, hey, when you're in the child friendly space, you're going to feel safe. You're going to feel valued, you're going to feel joyful, you're going to feel loved, you're going to be engaged. But in the rest of the camp, man, it's just going to be a struggle.

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No, we want to kind of break the barriers, break the walls of the child friendly space. Not literally, of course, but make sure this vibe and energy spills out into the whole camp.

That is kind of a philosophy of care that we teach others, that children need a sense of joy. They need to be connected. They need to have fun, they need to play, they need to move, and that's really important for their social and emotional and psychological healing and growth.

The more people we can get to buy in and understand that kids need positive relationships and they need positive environments in order to heal, and the cost of our children not healing is so much greater than the cost of putting some small resources in the lives of kids.

We have to prioritize children. That's it. Again, I know it sounds simple, but sometimes we say, oh, kids are resilient. They don't really know what's going on. We have more important things to think about, go play, but no, kids are the most important natural resource that we have and just like we want to invest in having clean water and sanitation, we have to invest in making sure we have nurturing, healing environments for kids.

When I think about kids as the most valuable natural resource that we have. Those children, you know, people talk sometimes about a lost generation. We can't afford a lost generation. Our children are going to be caring for us. Our children are going to have children of their own soon. Our children are going to have power soon to make powerful decisions. Who do we want making those decisions? A kid who's got love in their heart? Compassion in their heart? A child who feels grateful and is open minded and authentic and courageous? Those traits, those are the things that will dictate whether we evolve as a society or not.

We call them superpowers because those are the traits that are capable of changing the world. And it may sound simple, but how would the world be different if we figure out the human technology to increase compassion by 10%. maybe won't need so many camps?

Maybe we'll figure out how to get along if we're open minded enough to understand that people have different beliefs and that in that openness, there is a compassion and understanding and authenticity that says, Hey, I don't believe that, but you know what? Somebody else, a friend of mine believes that, and I can still be friend and get along with someone who has a different belief than I do.

We call them superpowers because you know, with superhero movies the anyone's seen in any culture, superheroes always got some physical strength that can protect the world. They're stronger than everybody else. They're faster than everybody else. And so they can save the world from destruction. Well, we've got plenty of strength in the world. What will save us from destruction are the human superpowers of love, compassion, creativity, openness.

And so it's really important that we give kids the social and emotional resources so that when they are making the decisions, when they are leading the way, they are leading with creativity. They are leading with compassion. They are leading with love. I know it sounds soft and fluffy to some people, but the soft stuff is the real stuff.

And so the social and emotional wellness and protecting the wellness of really vulnerable kids in times of unbelievable stress is the most important thing that we can do to pave the way for future world that's more peaceful, that's more open minded, that's more loving, that's more authentic, and that's more grateful.


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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