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


series: CAREGIVER 101 by Steve Gross


So I think one of the most important things for a playmaker, number one is understanding that they are powerful. Sometimes as adults we don't see our power. But children, even if they don't necessarily show it, they look up to us. They value us.

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And so the first thing is that a playmaker has to understand that, hey, I am powerful and I can make a difference in the life of a child. And then focus on creating relationships that are joyful, that are loving, that are engaging and empowering. And by that I mean simply stuff like joyful, have fun with kids, play with kids, get down on their level, ask them questions. What do they like to do? Be able to sing and tell jokes if you'd like to, but try to tap into that fun element. That's the joy piece, to make sure that you're paying attention to kids and that you're interested in kids.

You want to know about them, how they're doing, how they're feeling, what they like to do. and the things that frightened them, what they need. That you also helped the kids to feel safe so that they can be engaged in the moment.

And so making sure you're taking care of those basic needs and making sure that children feel safe on an emotional level, on a social level, on a physical level. And then that also the kids are engaged, like kids who've had a lot of trauma. Sometimes they're really struggling with the horror of the past and they're worried about what's going to happen next. And in that time between struggling and feeling fear of shame in the past and worrying about what's going to happen next, you miss the present moment.

And the present moment is the only thing that really where anything happens. So how do you engage kids and find something in that present moment, whether it's running, jumping, playing with a balloon, creating art, music that invites a child to say, hey, it's okay to be here now, even though now isn't easy, even though I'm in a refugee camp, I can be here now. And in that now I can find joy, connection, and a sense of empowerment.


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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