Sense of place as a tool to reduce bullying, enhance resiliency and promote peace
Dr. Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz
Places shape human history--both collectively and individually. People who grow up in one part of the Island and within a particular culture develop a different set of attitudes, values, and behaviors than do people growing up in a contrasting part of the Island and within a different cultural group. Young people growing up in a “Caserio” (public housing) tend to differ in some ways from children growing up in a rural community. These differences are often reflected in what the children fear, like, or dislike, as well as in the types of skills they develop through their own set of experiences.
Qualities of an environment that contribute to a "sense of place" experience include opportunities for seclusion and quiet spaces, opportunities for exploring, and opportunities to effect change. Psychological or social factors contributing to a "sense of place" experience include complexity, diversity, opportunities for immersion or immediate encounters with the natural world, and opportunities for the experience of memorable moments.
Young people develop their sense of self and place in the world through their relationship to their parents, extended families and their neighborhood. A child’s self esteem is built on the notion that, “I am of value as a person to the degree to which my parents, my extended family and my community take interest in me.” Children feel interest in them and their activities by the amount of time spent with them by parents and extended family member. The best indicator of time spent is quantity and consistency. Children these days need ample and regular attention from parents, extended family, and significant members of the community in their normal living situations.
When a parents, extended family and neighbors are not active in the life of children, they may feel emotionally crushed, and a feeling unworthiness. As such, children may no longer strive to succeed socially, academically and later, economically. Some children may demonstrate these feelings of unworthiness through disruptive behavior. Other children develop rich fantasy lives to protect themselves from feelings of worthlessness. They tell themselves their parent and extended families must be doing very important things otherwise they would surely would pay them attention. Such children grow up with unrealistic views of other people and relationships.
Parents and extended families may notice the pain of abandonment in their children. Children who lack adult attention may feel broken hearted and view themselves as dying, a death caused by many emotional cuts. They wonder what to do for children to help them cope, recognizing the impact on their self-worth.
Parents, extended families and neighbors are the promoters of peace for their children. The following are three ways to reduce bullying, enhance peace and a ‘sense of place’ on children”:
1. Express the value of your relationship to children. They must discuss and learn about the importance of their relationship to their children. Increasing the children feeling of self-esteem increases the desire of developing a “sense of place’.
2. Remain calm. Do not exhibit your anger or frustration to your children. Rather, talk with your children about their feelings. It is appropriate to reassure them that you love them.
3. Structure time. Always structure your children’s time so that there is participation with you, other adults, and children in the community. Children should not be left with nothing to do, otherwise they may become bored and upset, and get disruptive due to bad feelings. They may seek attention by bullying younger children or peers. It is better that they learn to use their time constructively. BY participating in communal activities the children learn negotiations skills, respect for others experience and behaviors that foster peace and increase self esteem.
There is no way to fully protect children from disappointment in life. The key though is to keep the disappointment from being felt as a reflection of their worth. By making sure their time remains structured, you can teach them appropriate coping skills at the same time. This will equip them to deal with the challenges and opportunities that life may throw their way, so that they can become resilient, and move on to a successful and healthy life.