Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lending a Hand to Parents

The Scenario
You are a parent visiting DuPage Children's Museum. It seems like it's been raining forever, so a trip to the Museum is a good plan. The boys build an elaborate structure with blocks. "Wow," you think, "one of them might just become an architect." As your thoughts drift to their future, you suddenly realize the boys have disappeared. You feel your anger rising as you begin searching for them. What seems like forever, you finally find them in the Young Explorers area, engaged in a "sword" fight, with paintbrushes. To add to your dismay, there's a Play Facilitator approaching the boys. You're a little worried someone in the Museum is going to judge your parenting, so you quickly grab each boy by his shirt and yell, "you boys have to stay with me or we're going home and never coming back here." Feeling embarrassed by your boys' behavior and your outburst, you're actually thinking about leaving when the Play Facilitator surprises you by smiling and saying, "Rain, rain go away so these boys can go outside to play." Suddenly your worry and anger dissolves into laughter. The Play Facilitator suggests that the boys might enjoy crawling around in the Tunnel, which they do, after the boys put the paintbrushes back in their designated area.

Lending a Hand
Understanding that families sometimes experience stress in public places is one of the guiding principles of a project launched at DCM last year. The Wakanheza Project, developed by staff at Ramsey County Public Health Department in Saint Paul Minnesota, was created to keep children safe by lending a hand to parents during challenging situations. With a generous grant from the McCormick Foundation and help from the Minnesota Children's Museum, 90 staff and volunteers completed the four-hour intensive workshop. During the workshop we discussed - and practiced through role-playing- principles such as empathy and non-judgement and understanding the role of environment, powerlessness and the role of community. Everyone felt they had gained more insight and understanding into the challenges parents and caregivers sometimes experiences in a public setting.

Stay tuned! We'll share some of our Wakanheza moments with you over the course of the next few posts. In fact, we're getting ready to celebrate our continuing commitment to the Wakanheza Project. For an entire week, staff can participate in activities, role playing and games to remind ourselves to take time to review and appreciate what we have learned in the last year.

In the mean time, visit these sites to learn more about the Wakanheza Project at Saint Paul - Ramsey County Public Health Department and Minnesota Children's Museum

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