Sunday, August 1, 2010

Generation 2

Taking Care of Ourselves and Our Children: 1

This is my first post in my new theme on Taking Care of Ourselves and Our Children. Also see, where I introduced this theme for the first time.

There are so many things I'd like to blog about: storytelling, the importance of touch, gardening and staying in touch with Mother Nature, ... But for this first post, I'd like to talk a little bit about the importance of making and maintaining connections across the generations. I really believe that older people are good for children, and that children are good for older people. Children need their parents, but they also need grandparents (or grandparent-like figures) in their lives.

My mom volunteers for a wonderful organization called Generation Two (Gen 2) - It's all about creating intergenerational friendships. Once a week, she visits an inner-city school where she plays one-on-one for about half an hour with "her" child. (I think she has a total of 3 children, so she plays at the school for about 1 1/2 hours followed by a discussion with the other volunteers and the volunteer leader.) Every child in first grade is assigned to a volunteer in Gen 2 and gets to have that special playtime with his/her volunteer every week for the whole school year. The key is that the volunteers are older people (i.e., old enough to be grandparents).

Some of the kids have never had much one-on-one time with an adult. Their parents are super busy, often working long hours. Sure, they get playtime, but it's different when it's being guided by an adult whose attention is totally focused on the child. Some of the kids have never done a puzzle before, or held a sustained conversation with an adult, or done the sorts of games or play activities that require the guidance of a patient older person. That's where the Gen 2 volunteers come in. Being older people, they've had a lot of time to develop patience. And they just enjoy the kids. Not only do the kids learn cognitive skills through their playtime, they develop emotional strength. And my mom loves her volunteer work, so it must do something for her, too. And in case you didn't figure it out already, Generation Two is referring to the fact that the kids and adults are separated by about 2 generations in age.

What a great program, and what a simple concept! Do you have a program like this in your community, or in your child's school?

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