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The Call of the Cliff

Sometimes in life we can find it a challenge to keep up. Demands on our time are incessant -- from work pressures, to household operations to our busy children... the struggle is real! It's at times like this that I know I'm due for some outside therapy.

But I never stopped to imagine that kids might also find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the pulls of everyday life. That is, until I was sent this inspiring photo taken at one of the Forest School sessions this term. The child in the photo is my daughter, Saffron, who had apparently stumbled upon a cliff and become mesmerized. Like the alluring first rays of a Thunder Bay sunrise, this cliff called to her where she sat for some alone time. Eventually, Natasha joined her and the two of them chilled in silence as the power of that cliff held them. Losing track of time -- easy to do in moments like that -- they wound up being late for lunch.

It got me thinking... our children aren't really any different from us! They need time to just BE. To regroup and let the learnings of the day settle in. To cultivate and nurture new thoughts. Forest School provides a platform where kids can be kids -- truly allowing their curious natures the chance to be the compass for awhile. My heart melts just looking at those rosy cheeks!

If you've been on the fence with trying out this alternative, once-a-week school for your son or daughter, take a moment to really reflect on how they're doing emotionally and socially. Are they dealing with schoolyard bullies? Having a tough time fitting in? Putting excessive pressure on themselves? Even if none of those situations are issues for your child, there is no straight line to adulthood. Getting through even the most idyllic of childhoods is still fraught with landmines and struggles. Being a kid today is NOT EASY, especially when viewed through our lens as parents. Today's children must navigate a complicated web of technology that was nothing like what we had as kids. But I digress.

For us, we're appreciating the additional coping skills my little one is exposed to. Just the other day the Forest School kids were asked to consider the question, "How would you handle the hardest challenge in your life?" A provocative question for a 4th grader, but in the car ride home it led to an important discussion on some sensitive subjects... insecurity, bullying, feeling comfortable with confiding in trusted adults (like us parents!).

All of this led to a plethora of other questions that began to rattle around in my brain. How do we teach our young kids that being alive is the greatest gift of all? How do we instill in them a sense of gratitude for the Earth? For their own unique qualities they possess? How can we help them honour the parts of themselves that are outside-the-box... that make them stand out, sometimes in uncomfortable ways? How can we teach them that they are ALL worthy of love and belonging?

We do try. As parents, God knows we try.

I don't have any good answers here, I just know that disrupting my daughter's regularly scheduled life by way of Forest School has been such a welcome change. Not only does it give her a break from the politics of the school playground, but it's an opportunity to unplug and breathe in oxygen for an unabashed six hours. Saffron has been learning self-regulatory strategies like meditation, mindfulness and even breathing techniques. Sure she's missing her library time and some French, but I'll tell you what... if any of this stuff can help her push through a difficult time at any stage in her life, it will have been 1,000% worth it.

So here's to the cliff that called to her, and captivated her heart. May you all listen closely for the calls nature is sending. And if you'd like to try out Roots & Branches Forest School for your child, I know they are open to this, you need only ask.

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