Children and Holy Communion

Recently I have been doing some reading about children and Holy Communion.  One of the most helpful things I read was this blog by Margaret Pritchard Houston:

As we were preparing to admit six children to Holy Communion before Confirmation, our curate turned to me and said, ‘So we admit them at age 7? Explain this to me theologically.’

And I had to explain that I couldn’t – that the only reason we do admission to Holy Communion at 7 is that we’re not allowed to do it from baptism, that our policy is more a compromise than a coherent theological principle.

She goes on to answer the following questions:

  • If we admit children to communion at baptism, then what is confirmation for?
  • Children are allowed to participate in other ways, aren’t they? They can come to Jesus through Sunday School and worship without receiving communion until they’re older.
  • Wanting it doesn’t mean they should have it. They don’t understand what it means, and that’s crucial to receiving the sacrament.

Empowering Children as Ministers

Empowering Children as Ministers was a day conference organised by Gill Ambrose and Ally Barrett (Reverendally), with help from the Praxis East Committee.

The notes from the day show it to have been a rich and thought provoking day with a diverse group of ministers and church representatives reflecting together on how they might empower our churches’ children and young people as ministers, and the impact that this may have on the children and young people themselves (both now and into adulthood) and on the church itself.

At a time when the Church of England is actively promoting the nurturing of young vocations, why not start in childhood?  Click here to read a full report on the day, including the full text of the speech given by 11 year old Joanna about her own experiences as a minister.

The decline of play

In this TED talk, Dr. Peter Gray argues that children must be given support for more free play.

Dr. Peter Gray compellingly brings attention to the reality that over the past 60 years in the United States there has been a gradual but, overall dramatic decline in children’s freedom to play with other children, without adult direction. Over this same period, there has been a gradual but overall dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, suicide, and narcissism in children and adolescents.

Based on his own and others’ research, Dr. Gray documents why free play is essential for children’s healthy social and emotional development and outlines steps through which we can bring free play back to children’s lives.

Talking to children who are bereaved

Support Around Death have recently launched a animated video for professionals on how to talk to children when they are about to be bereaved or have just experienced a death.

Talking to children who are bereaved from NES on Vimeo.

Talking to children when they are about to be bereaved or have just experienced a death may feel daunting. Knowing how children of different ages may react can help. As a professional there are many ways one can help families, friends, schools and communities do and say things before and after someone dies that can help children to cope with their loss. This NHS Education for Scotland video aims to enable professionals to facilitate such discussions through an enhanced understanding from the perspective of children who have been bereaved.

For more information on this video and other resources please visit sad.scot.nhs.uk.  This website was designed for health care professionals supporting patients at the end of life or  with bereavement care.

Helping the victims & perpetrators of girl bullying

Child psychologist and former teacher, Dr. Sam Littlemore, offered some advice in the recent ATL magazine on helping the victims and perpetrators of girl bullying.  Littlemore is the author of Girl Bullying: Do I Look Bothered?

Bullying is a problem across the gender divide, but while there are girls who bully physically, it is the way in which girl bullies scan for weakness in social status, and thus vulnerability to manipulation, that can prove particularly problematic to deal with. Because of a perceived lack of evidence, it can be denied by perpetrators; supported by a lack of witnesses willing to stand up; or dismissed as false allegations, a victim mentality or a friendship issue.

Here are some reactive intervention strategies.

  • With the perpetrator, use a timeline to track when the bullying behaviour happens. List the rewards she feels she gains when she uses power over someone and find a way to achieve them in a pro-social way instead. Indirect, psychological bullying is about redressing gains and rewards.
  • Discuss with her the idea of power, gain and control. Work with her to focus on the impact of her behaviour on others.  You could use familiar soap-opera scenarios as examples of bullying behaviour and behaviour change.
  • Spend a few weeks keeping the pack and perpetrator busy during free time. Engage them in social roles at school, but as individuals rather than as a group: the girls learn that there is a different way to build an identity and gain respect.
  • Staff members can support the victim by noting down any incidents, but don’t encourage the student to keep a record herself, or she could keep going over incidents again and again. A staff member can look after the record and talk incidents through with her.
  • Ask the victim to draw around her hand and write the name of a supportive member of staff on each finger. This shows that there is a team willing to help her. This intervention can also be used for the perpetrator, who needs a support team to help her change her behaviour.
  • Help the victim to regain confidence within another friendship group. Also help to give her a focus at school, especially in free time.
  • Encourage all bystanders to take the responsibility to integrate an isolated student.  They should involve her in their social activities and play an active role in reducing indirect bullying.

Help students learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships, but allow them to generate the definitions. This can empower them to make better choices in their friendships. Children learn to bully. Bystanders learn to stand by. They can also learn that bullying is normal behaviour if there is no intervention. No one person can socially isolate another; it takes a whole playground to join in and adults to turn a blind eye. It’s everybody’s responsibility to prevent this.

Whilst obviously focussed on an education setting, there is many ways these tips can be used in youth work settings.

Children in care need long-term support

 writing from his own personal experience argues that, too often, young in care are simply contained and criminalised. If a permanent home can’t be found, then having a mentor would make a huge difference to young people’s lives.

Lord Laming’s review for the Prison Reform Trust has found that children in care are six times more likely to be cautioned by police or convicted of a crime than others of the same age. It is a national shame that we allow these young people to fill young offender institutions and prisons after spending so much money “taking care” of them throughout their childhoods.

Unlike in your average family home, kids in care are regularly criminalised by those caring for them: police are called out for incidents that happen to many teenagers but especially those who are harbouring pain and hurt from family breakdown, and exposure to violence and abuse. As a result children and teenagers are getting criminal records for throwing plates and smashing up their rooms, and other actions often regarded as domestic by the police called out to help manage such behaviour. But to the child in care, it’s often their first contact with the criminal justice system.

In my children’s home the police were regular visitors. I had police called on me for breaking windows, getting caught sniffing glue and fighting with other kids. By the time I was living independently at 15, I was well known to both probation and the police.

My argument has always been that if we got care right more often, lots of money could be saved – and lives too. But the problem with care is that too often it feels like we are just containing these kids. With so many moving between foster families, they often have no consistent positive adult in their lives. I have met kids who have had three social workers and eight foster placements, which often include school moves too. They have no one to walk alongside them as they navigate their life over a long period, no one to take a real interest in their long-term wellbeing.

Go check out the full article.

Children’s & Youth Work links

Here’s some links from the last few weeks that are worth taking a few minutes to read if you’re involved in children’s and youth work:

3 Ways to Use Student Leaders in Your Ministry: Austin McCann gives three great ways you can use young leaders in your youth ministry.

Gertrude Ederle’s Channel swim: an inspiring story of how at the age of 19, she crossed the 21-mile Channel in 14 hours and 45 minutes, beating the male record holder by more than two hours.

7 Ways To Cultivate Spiritual Curiosity: if we want our young people to ask questions about their faith, we have to cultivate spiritual curiosity argues Jen Bradbury.

Game – Full Speed Dictionary: an old classic for that moment when you need a game and have limited time to plan and nothing but paper and pen.

Helping young people take action on social justice issues: Latasha Morrison shares how we can help students create conversations about social justice issues in their communities.