Uniting Kids: Within and Beyond

Uniting Kids: Within and Beyond

Learning to share is an important stepping stone towards unity. Sharing, one of the most important life skills, is something that children need to learn in order to experience a harmonious existence with other children. A child who loves to share, in turn, loves and understands the dynamics of working as a team. This amazing quality will then echo through the teenage and adult years.

Children are first exposed to the concept of sharing and teamwork through play with their siblings or playgroup members. They may have conflicting thoughts in the beginning, to decide whether to keep their precious toys to themselves even though it means to have to play alone, or to share the toys in order to have a playmate (at this stage, sharing would seem as though they are actually parting with their toys/belongings). As a solution, they (mostly toddlers) will opt to play with their own toys while sitting beside each other. This comfort zone is put to test when one child decides to ‘explore’ the neighbour’s toys. The reaction to this scenario varies – some may holler at the dismay of his toy/s being taken, some may calmly observe and carry on unperturbed, and some may even decide to take the other child’s toys as a trade-off. Whatever the initial results may be, children will eventually learn many concepts from the experiences of this recurring scenario – attachment, detachment, sense of ownership, sharing, empathy, teamwork and many more. The learning experience can be put into a positive light when adults are present to provide guidance and help toddlers make sense of the situation.

Promoting and creating opportunities for children to experience teamwork is important. Teamwork requires children to work harmoniously towards a shared vision. For teamwork to be effective, all members of the group must form mutual respect, understanding and appreciation towards each other’s roles. Viewed as the most important social activity, teamwork and unity requires each individual’s ability to go beyond personal gains and move towards a collective goal. As working as a team demands interpersonal interaction, it builds a child’s social and communication skills as well.

The concept of unity is not man-made. It is within us and it surrounds us.

Looking Within…

Everyone has an innate sense of unity. When observed closely, we would find that our whole body system is a testament of perfect unity. Children can be introduced to the concept of unity with the body system as an analogy. Great examples are often found in the Yoga class. When attempting a balancing pose, for example, the position of the limbs and trunk of the body, the breath and the state of mind (calm and focused) are all important points leading to the ‘success’ of the pose. Although externally it may not seem like much when the Yoga poses were performed, it actually requires mass inner coordination and bodyworks.  The same effort applies to other seemingly routine activities which may have been taken for granted all these while, such as walking, skipping and etc. In other words, the unity of the body, mind and breath is inevitable in our everyday activities.

Looking Around…

Another great analogy is the environment – flora and fauna. Take a tree for example – the roots, the trunk, the branches and the leaves all have a vital role to play. The roots draw water from the soil, the trunk provides strength to promote upward growth, the branches help to make sure the leaves are not cluttered together (so every piece of leaf has the opportunity to carry out its function), and the leaves draw sunlight and produce ‘food’. Trees provide shade and food for animals and insects, which in turn may carry the seeds and drop them elsewhere for growth.

The Stepping Stone towards Unity

As much as we (adults) would like to instil the sense of Unity in our children, it would be futile by just yelling, ‘You MUST share with your brother/sister!’ Doing so, might only give you a headache and possibly a sore throat! It could also lead to possible sibling jealousy or rivalry if one child is often asked to share just because he/she is elder. Having said that, it would be easier for us to note some of the important attributes that build unity and instil it in our children from young.

For example:

  • Introducing different playing materials to children can help to build the sense of appreciation. While doing so, explain to them what each material has helped them learn while not being judgemental of their superiority or inferiority in appearance. The appreciation of differences will then be carried into interpersonal communications – seeing each member in the society as an important person. Here, ‘timid’ children will also establish self-worth and self-appreciation.
  • The practice of turn taking is another important activity. While children wait for their turn, they learn about patience and respect. When respect is built, children are more likely to maintain harmony in a social group. Harmony is the basis in building trust. And trust is an important element in building unity.
  • Sitting in a circle for some group activities enable each member to have a clear view of each other. It allows children the companionship of others and it makes everyone in the group feel that they belong. The view of physical presence enables children to establish verbal and non-verbal communications among themselves – an important social skill.

When children learn about appreciation, trust and respect, introducing team or group work will be easier. As we all know, group activities create a huge avenue for children to learn about unity. Everyone in the group will learn to communicate and cooperate to solve problems. Above all, they will learn to share ideas and celebrate each other’s individuality.

This article was featured in YogaMail April-June 2014 issue.

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