Kids have same uncertainties as adults. Ask them

March 23, 2017

Parents and other adults who work with kids are frequently surprised to learn that young children have complex emotions and inner lives filled with contradictions and uncertainties. Ironically, children experience this much like adults do, but adults mistakenly believe that children live in a happy, carefree world filled with rainbows, balloons and cupcakes.

This summer, New York Times reporter Donna De La Cruz wrote about Kyle Schwartz, a third grade teacher at Doull Elementary School in Denver, who developed a brilliantly simple way to help her students share some of their inner experiences.

Ms. Schwartz asked her students to finish the sentence "I wish my teacher knew" and the results were amazing:

  • "I wish my teacher knew that my dad works two jobs and I don't see him much."
  • "I wish my teacher knew my family and I live in a shelter."
  • "I wish my teacher knew that my mom might get diagnosed with cancer this week and I've been without a home 3 different times this year alone."
  • "I wish my teacher knew that I am smarter than she thinks I am."
  • "I wish my teacher knew that my little brother gets scared and I get worried about getting up every night."

These poignant examples demonstrate the types of thoughts children have and would be willing to share if only adults would ask.

Ms. Schwartz compiled answers from around the country in her recently published book, "I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything For Our Kids."

I encourage parents, teachers and other adults to ask this question to the children with whom they work. If you do, send me the responses and I will print them in a future column.

Many parents might be reluctant to ask kids this type of question for fear of putting thoughts into their heads. But the thoughts are already there. Expressing them is helpful.

*original article Parenting with Pete on*