Dear Mangrove families,
There is a quote that I reflect on often. It isn’t attributed to Montessori but certainly aligns with it:
“It is easier to build up a child than it is to repair an adult.”
In all honesty, as I venture into my midlife crisis years — which I have renamed my midlife awakening — I have to do a lot of personal work to adjust, address, and reframe internal messages that I have carried with me from childhood.
Anxiety seems to be one trait that many, myself included, work to combat, because it can cause such havoc in our day-to-day lives. But through much research, I have discovered a practice that can soothe and calm anxiety: GRATITUDE.
Gratitude requires presence —not worrying about the past or about the future. It requires a person to ground oneself in the moment and reflect on what is happening right now.
Let me give you a fun example. As a rule, I do not drive in Miami due to full-on anxiety (like, sweats covering my entire body anxiety). Two summers ago, I had to drive, by myself, to Miami — no other options, just me and my anxiety. I put on a mindfulness podcast, and the suggestion was to practice gratitude. I thought it was malarkey … but I was also about to reach the mainland, and the sweats were in full effect. While I listened to Google Maps and received each direction, I literally said out loud, “Thank you for that direction. I look forward to the next one.” I had to be mindful, and aware. I started feeling genuinely thankful for the support; eventually I got to my destination, and it wasn’t the end of me. I had done the thing that terrified me, and it was only completed by practicing gratitude each step of the way.
So I ask you, wouldn’t it be best to do everything we can now in our parenting powers to lead children on a path where they have to do the least amount of clean-up work later? Remember, easier to build up a child than to fix an adult.
You have already chosen Montessori education. Winning! According to Maria Montessori referred to the years 0 to 6 as “the absorbent mind.” This is a period of time when children soak up information like sponges, without effort. That information becomes a part of who they are, almost like their DNA (which is why it can be so hard to let go of or move on from childhood trauma, and why as adults we have to work so hard to heal it and retrain ourselves).
In this new month that focuses on gratitude, think of creating habits and practices of gratitude. Start with yourself. When feeling anxious, practice gratitude and speak words of thankfulness out loud. Soon you may hear your child expressing gratitude. Maybe start a gratitude journal to take time to write your thoughts, and invite your child to join you. Of course, their journal may look different (scribbles and pictures), but you are modeling gratitude. Maybe create a space during the day where the whole family shares things from their day that they are thankful for. Or maybe just consciously thank your children for all they do throughout the day; I promise it will come back to you.
In the Mangrove class, we work very hard to speak words to our feelings of gratitude for each other and all that we do for each other to keep our community happy and healthy. We even sing our “thank you” to a tune. It is beautiful to watch the youngest children on campus be so thankful for the work that others do to contribute to their day. To hear the tune being sung warms our hearts and reminds us that we are all connected.
The Mangroves are growing up to be kind, mindful, and grateful members of the cosmic community. We can also look it like we are shaping future adults who may not be stricken with severe anxiety — so that’s a plus!
Ms. Liz and Ms. Yudis