Issue 7 - Sensitivity towards others
Each issue of SPROUTS starts with a small write-up on the chosen theme followed by interesting activity ideas for you to explore with your child at home.
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A child may enter a birthday party, cringe at a group of kids screaming at the top of their lungs and say, "Look at the noise they are making!" And then, he runs off to join them saying, "I want to play." The first statement is how he sensed the crowd while the latter is how he responded to it. In this issue of Sprouts, we will focus on the former i.e. how children are sensitive to others. The question of how to respond (appropriately), we will ponder on, in the next issue.
Consider these situations:
- A toddler is pulling the tail of her neighbor's pet dog. The dog is a docile creature and tries to get away from her, though she follows it all over the house trying to get at it's tail. Is she being insensitive?
- A mother is going about her daily routine upset and teary eyed. Her son notices, yet does not do anything; not knowing what it is that is bothering her and perhaps confused as to how he should respond. Is he being sensitive or insensitive?
- A group of boys playing basketball are rough while tackling each other. A child is hurt and bursts into tears. Others jeer at him. Are they being insensitive?
- A child expresses that she wants to give Parle-G packets to children begging on the road - so that they get something to eat. Is she being sensitive?
Can we intentionally be insensitive? A child pulling the dog's tail may realize the dog's discomfort. If so, she may stop yanking it. Or she may conveniently keep at it :). Despite her (possible) action, she was aware of the discomfort. On the other hand, there is a possibility that she may not have realized at all - she was blissfully unaware of how the dog felt. The mother who is upset has evoked some feeling in her son, despite his inaction. Another child may not have noticed - since nothing was explicitly said by the mother.
A child may sense something - or may not - but deliberately not sensing ... is that even possible? We are proposing, children cannot be deliberately insensitive, though they may deliberately respond to a situation in a particular way. Let's not confuse sensitivity (input) to the response (output). Either one connects / registers or doesn't.
What makes the connection fail at times? In this case, perhaps the child didn't even consider that there may be any other angle to it than: "What a fascinating body part. Let me check it out." In most situations, children may not mean to be insensitive - they may just not see things any other way. Here are some other factors which might act as dampeners:
- Frame of mind - Too worried about Math test to notice Mom looks upset.
- Conditioning - Beggars beg, poverty exists.
- Beliefs - "Boys don't cry! What a sissy!"
- Who is the person involved - A classmate may not get as much attention as the best friend.
Children do sense sometimes and at other times, their connection fails. Sensitivity isn't like the ability to count - either you can or you can't. Sometimes, a child is sensitive and sometimes not.
All of us are sensitive, perhaps at varying degrees. Yet, we can push ourselves to sense better, depending on our need. A new born child cannot communicate his feelings and needs to his mother. The mother in turn is alert and plugged in to every signal the child gives. There is a reason to set antennae at maximum reception. A girl in love is extremely sensitive to her beau's needs and wants. Again, there's a special reason for heightened reception. Our sensors seem to need motivation :).
If a child were to take up the responsibility of ensuring that a relative who is visiting is feeling at home, his sensitivity might just surprise everyone.
The idea is to help children become more aware and conscious of when we are sensitive and when we are not. Also to think what influences our sensitivity. Maybe, subconsciously, it will lead to tuning our senses. Maybe we will also help children realize the benefits of being sensitive to others. Maybe it will give us better strategies to build sensitivity.
Let's experience and explore Sensitivity further using some activities.
SPROUTS ACTIVITIES: Exciting activity ideas to develop 'sensitivity towards others' in children.
Decide one particular person towards whom you will be sensitive today (preferably choose someone you are not close to). For instance, within a family, the father could choose a colleague from office, the child could choose a classmate, mother could choose a neighbor, grandparent can choose a relative, etc. Place a paper in your pocket and note down in what way you were sensitive to chosen person. Discuss at the end of the day. What was your idea of sensitivity and how did you go about being sensitive?
Expose your child to a touch-me-not plant - preferably let child get first hand experience since they can be found very easily in Bangalore - or check out online (like this video). Back home, parent and child do this activity together. On a chart paper draw the touch-me not plant (one branch) and on each leaf write down an occasion when child becomes like a touch-me-not plant. Child does the same for the parent. For instance if you are defining 'becoming like a touch-me-not' as 'withdrawn', parent could come up with situations when child withdraws for e.g. "when shouted at", "when bored" etc. Child may think that a touch-me-not is shy in which case, child may say parent feels shy "in a party" or "wearing a skirt".
Choose a topic which will evoke mixed response. For eg "Immersion of Ganesha idols in lakes". Get the first reaction of different people and note it down - choose people from different generations, cultures, economic backgrounds, professions etc. For instance some reactions could be "It pollutes", "Fine if we use clay idols", "Religion is more important", "BBMP should clean next day". On a chart paper, plot the reactions. Older children can use pie chart, bar graph etc. Smaller children can make a mark in a different color for each type of response. At the end, reflect how sensitivity in different people is different towards same topic.
Within your family, every Sunday, each person picks up a certain trait and acts it out the whole day (e.g. being selfish, adamant, over-excited, overconfident, relaxed etc). Others are supposed to guess what trait has been picked up (preferably choose something which sticks out as different from normal self). Reflect on how today things were different from a normal Sunday. Alternatively, if you can arrange for a bigger group, play an obstacle race with 2 groups participating. Each person in a group has been told to play a certain characteristic which is detrimental in winning the game (eg.: you don't share, you don't like being touched, you want to be first at trying everything, etc). First group participants do not know of each others "traits" though they know of their own. Second group participants have been disclosed all. At the end of it, reflect how it panned out.
Play this game with close friends & family. What signs do you recognize in your loved ones? For instance a certain look on the face of the child when he comes back from school tells you that something did not go well in school. Or when Papa's voice sounds distant, it means he's still thinking about some office work maybe. Or if Mummy starts to bang vessels with unnecessary force, she is frustrated about something. How many of these can you list?
Read about Jallianwala Bagh massacre or watch this video depicting the same - as a group. Express your sentiments about the incident with respect to insensitivity. Explore how the different people (even the non principal characters) involved may have thought/felt, what was their view of others involved, their rationale. Express your thoughts in a story / poem / article / painting. Older children can write an article giving (imaginary) interviews of different people involved, as if they were reporting it at that time.
Watch a documentary/movie (or a short sequence of it) which your child has not watched before - preferably one which is heavy on expressions rather than dialogue. Play it in mute and together try to make out what is happening. Then replay the same clip with sound on to check whether you got the essence of it without hearing the dialogue. Reflect: how were you able to understand even in mute - what all did you use to piece things together?
Play around with a song you know to create a jingle for a product. For instance, you can use the "Piyo glassful doodh" song for a juice ad. Or the Jingle bells music can be used with your own lyrics. Ask your audience the one thing that immediately clicked for them. It may have been a line of the lyrics, the style of singing or the expressions while singing. Experiment to see what appeals to different people senses.
(Genie Santrupta, Genie Trupti, Genie Sarang, Genie Priyanka, Genie Subha, Genie Pooja, Genie Ratnesh, Genie Aditi)
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