Lost children


Is my granddaughter lost? No….I think not. She just had her hair styled so she is showing the back view.

I decide to use this blog post to focus on ‘lost’ children. Yes, they are many. But……all are not physically lost….many are psychologically lost. To be lost is to be ‘unaware’ of one’s present location. In this blog post, I am defining a lost child as one who is ‘unaware’ of who (s)he is.


Let me indulge you with two brief scenarios with two six-year-olds.

Scenario No. 1: “So Paul, what would you like to become when you grow up?”

“A gunman,” Paul replied.

“So, why?” I asked.

“A gunman told me I don’t need to learn to read to become a gunman,” Paul replied.

Scenario No. 2: “So, Betty, how do you feel when you are placed last in your class?” I asked.

“I feel good, because I only like to play and to color,” Betty responded.

“Why?’ I enquired.

“Because I know I can’t read, so I play alone while the others are reading,” she said.

So, what have I done? I helped Paul with his reading until he migrated to join his parents, and I am still helping Betty improve her reading skills.

On this retirement journey, I am seeing many ‘lost’ children who are living with one or both parents. So, how come? How can they be lost? By now, if you have been reading my posts, you will see that I like to redefine terms. You will also see that I am not particularly fond of theories. You will also know that I am also not fond of high scientific studies and analyses that leave the common (wo)man wondering what is being said. I like to write it as I see it. After sharing my experiences, I like to recommend easily implementable actions.

About eight years ago while conducting a site visit at another XYZ inner city school, I stopped at a Grade 1 classroom. By now, you know that I love Grade 1 classrooms. By now, you know that my past work was concentrated in areas characterized by high incidences of poverty and crime. Six-year-olds have been my best teachers. I never visited a school without visiting Grade 1 to chat with six-year-olds.

On the day I visited a Grade 1 class, there was a little boy who needed a pencil. He came to school without books and pencils. On this particular morning, the teacher had not noticed that this boy had no pencil prior to my intervention. I asked the teacher to give him a writing book/exercise book and I gave him one of my pencils. By the way, I never visited a Grade one class without many pencils. There is always a child who needs one.

The little boy thanked me, but he had no intention of writing anything. He got up and proceeded to attack another boy with my pencil. The other boy’s eyes were at risk. I was confused. What could I do? This was serious. I had to retrieve my pencil, gently and kindly. Obviously, I gave him a weapon.

I was distressed. I enquired of the teacher, the reasons for the boy’s behavior. She told me that this boy witnessed his father being killed and his aunt being stabbed, and he had not been the same after witnessing the two incidents. So, I wanted to know what the principal of the XYZ school was doing about this or whether he knew about this behavior. This boy needed some help to deal with the post traumatic behavior. Did teacher report the behavior and seek help? No! Was the principal aware of this child and of the child’s disruptive behavior? No! Another lost child? Perhaps… Maybe so.

There are many children who have been affected by traumatic experiences. Among the common horrible experiences children face are: having to cope after their  parents’ marriage/union ends and coping after a parent dies. Parents – when you are experiencing marital problems, think of the unimaginable stress that your children will experience after the divorce/separation and do not be selfish when working through your difficult circumstances. Your final decisions cannot always only be about your welfare!! And it should not always be. Remember the children!

Teachers, whenever children experience shootings, stabbings, killings and loss of significant others, please ask for help. In Jamaica, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has a team that readily reacts like ‘First Responders/Grief Counselors’ after children experience traumatic situations like those I mentioned, but I believe that some children need a sustained level of tailored intervention to recover. Parents and caregivers….. the following are a few easily implementable actions to help our ‘lost’ children.

  1. Communicate. Let the child know what is happening.
  2. Reaffirm your love and positive concern for the child.
  3. Do not condemn the child’s behavior or the child’s reaction to the grief.
  4. Explore simple coping skills with the child.
  5. Seek out the help of the Child Development and Child Care agencies in your town.
  6. Help the child manage the grief or loss by speaking only positively about the departed parent.
  7. Seek social services, and counseling services whether they be free or paid services.

Talk soon……. Claire Spence



Corporate climb – children behind

Reading with grandma

Many millennials lament that their children are falling behind academically. Yet, they observe that on the flip side/the other hand, the children of their helpers, their nannies and their gardeners are excelling, are better adjusted, and are well-mannered. Some millennials are already learning some notable parenting practices from their employees. You see, some of these employees learned their successful parenting practices from their parents who are successful baby boomers.

In fact, the children of these employees are completing school, advancing in other higher studies, advancing in their chosen fields of work, finding their right places in society and becoming stable citizens.

Please note, I did not mention specific professions because I am aware that one’s job/vocation may be anywhere, and it could be any honorable thing. I also know that many successful persons were only able to achieve primary school level education.

In a previous blog post, I redefined the term ‘absentee parent’. I observed that in many cases, parents are physically present at home, yet they are also ‘missing-in-action’ regarding supporting their children with homework, teaching them values and preparing them to find their places as responsible and accountable citizens in the world.

On my retirement journey, I am observing many young parents who are physically present yet psychologically, spiritually and emotionally absent. I observe many millennials working twelve and fourteen-hour days. I also observe that many millennials are excelling in their professions and many of their children are being neglected. Many children are falling behind at school while their parents, bearing flattering titles, are climbing up the corporate ladder.

Can you correct this trend? Yes, you can! Indeed, yes, we can! Millennials –  you can excel at work and you can also excel at home if you engage the extended family some more. Look at your extended family. Your parents may be retirees with available time and resources to share with your families. Invite them into your world.

Below, you will find a few suggestions, and I believe they are easily implementable. Have fun implementing!

  • Try to spend ‘quality time’ with your children. Practice telling stories and sharing jokes. Find time for a little laughter.
  • Share meals together and enjoy conversations while doing so.
  • Supervise homework and/or get some help with the supervision of the home work. Ensure that the children complete their homework and that the homework is handed in on time.
  • If your child is falling behind, get some help. You may be required to pay for some of this help, but help is available.
  • Teach children good ‘old time’ manners.
  • Discipline your children.
  • Reward your children
  • Incentivize some everyday tasks.
  • Know your children’s friends.
  • Know some more about your children’s social media activities and be willing to offer some suggestions if you observe a negative and destructive trend.
  • Set a good example for your children.

In my blog posts, I aim to be reasonable, practical, nonjudgmental and kind.

Talk soon……. Claire Spence







That hair……

the hair

“Am I a beautiful girl?” I asked the Grade 1 class. (These are six-year-old children). The response may surprise you. The occasion was my first visit to XYZ school, after the students received reading books on an education project that I was managing.

So…..I excitedly announced to Grade 1 that my favorite book among those they received was the one with the girl and the ‘big hair’ on the cover. You see, I have similar hair and could relate to the story.

So, I held the book high above my head and asked, “Isn’t this a beautiful girl?”

“No Miss,” the class answered.

Surprised? Yes, I was surprised. So, I asked another question. “Am I a beautiful girl?” I asked.

“No Miss,” the class shouted.

“Is my hair beautiful?” I asked.

“No Miss,” the class responded.

I had to admit that I was making no progress to get some affirmation regarding my hair, and my beauty. You see, I looked like the girl on the book cover. We both had big, curly, frizzy, kinky, beautiful hair. However, to this Grade 1 class, our hair was not beautiful. So, I continued to ask more questions.

“So, who is a beautiful girl?” I asked. “Show me a beautiful girl,” I demanded.

In the blink of an eye the class turned around and the girls pointed to the girl with the less dark hue, ‘not-so-brown’ girl in the class and said, “She, Miss.”

(Please notice my struggle to describe the shades because all I knew before I started the conversation is that this was a Grade 1 of black girls and boys).

Surprised? Yes, I was surprised. I realized that I had some work to do in this Grade 1 classroom.

I called three girls to join me at the front of the classroom and I declared that all four of us were beautiful girls. Afterwards, I invited the ‘not-so-brown’ girl to join us, and I declared that we were all beautiful girls.

So… I asked my famous question another time. “Is my hair beautiful?” The class reluctantly responded in the affirmative.

For the remaining minutes spent in a Grade 1 classroom at XYZ school, I spoke about ‘loving self’. I asked the students to tell me why they thought they were not beautiful. Who made them believe that lie?

They were honest. Parents did. Teachers did. Many significant adults did.

I left the Grade 1 classroom at XYZ school hoping that maybe, just maybe, the day would come when those children remembered our conversation about ‘being beautiful’ and I hoped that they never attempt any experiments change ‘that hair’ or that skin in order to gain acceptance. The children were all beautiful.

Talk soon……. Claire Spence





Self-Esteem and Learning


“Three-legged dog,” was Peter’s answer to my question, “What was the worse name your mother called you?”

Peter[1] was a participant in the group of thirty adolescents who signed up for my session, ‘Building Self-Esteem.’ The question was part of my unfreezing exercise for the training, and one of the objectives of the session was that at the end of the session, each participant would change his/her unflattering nickname to one that matches his/her personality.

Peter’s answer along with many others made me reflect on my own childhood. What were the names our parents called us especially when we missed the mark? The answers from the adolescents helped me to set the foundation for the session I prepared so well to deliver. I knew I had to make some changes to the script. I was unprepared for such graphic responses.

I know that many parents refer to their children in extreme negative terms; many not fit for sharing in this medium. However, I am not sure that some parents are aware that childhood hurts carry over into adulthood. Hurt words, physical abuse, mental abuse, unleash untold damage on our children’s sense of self and affect their well-being for many years, unless these children engage in structured interventions to restore their positive self-esteem

Self-esteem! What is that? Does self-esteem affect how we think about ourselves? Does it affect how we relate to each other? Will low self-esteem damage one’s self confidence? Will low self-esteem cause us to give up more easily than others whenever we are faced with challenges? Could low self-esteem impact negatively on happiness and quality of life? Does low self- esteem impact a child’s learning negatively?

The definition of self-esteem that follows is from the Department of Sociology, University of Maryland. “Self-esteem is a positive or negative orientation toward oneself; an overall evaluation of one’s worth or value. People are motivated to have high self-esteem, and having it indicates positive self-regard, not egotism. Self-esteem is only one component of the self-concept, which Rosenberg defines as “totality of the individual’s thoughts and feelings with reference to himself as an object.” Besides self-esteem, self-efficacy or mastery, and self-identities are important parts of the self-concept.[2]

I am writing this post because I want to stimulate thinking/conversation around the notion that low self-esteem continues to affect our children in several ways. Whenever a seven-year-old is not bothered that he/she is placed last after the exam results are announced; something is wrong. Whenever an eight-year-old feels that he is not good enough to become a teacher; he would rather become a beggar, something is wrong. Such low aspirations are often linked to low self-esteem issues. I met that seven-year-old and that eight-year-old.

Among the group of thirty adolescents I referred to earlier in this post, all felt badly about themselves. All were reading three or four grade levels below their existing grade levels. Several experienced living on the streets. None knew how to change his/her dire situation. Many did not care. Their low-self esteem was affecting their learning and much more.

My session, ‘Building Self-Esteem’ went very well. The participants engaged in several activities through role-play and simulations. They had fun, and at the end of the day, they felt good about themselves. The organizers of the training knew that they had a lot more work to do with these adolescents, and I was confident that they would.

Peter, who I referred to at the beginning of the post, said that instead of ‘three-legged-dog’, he was now ‘a five series BMW’. We all had much fun and laughter listening to the new nick names.

In preparing to write this blog post, I read the book, 100 Ways to Build Self-Esteem and Teach Values by Diana and Julia Loomans. I would recommend this book. This mother and daughter team provides practical suggestions and exercises that may be used by parents, children and teachers to build self-esteem. The book is a valuable resource, filled with practical suggestions, some of which is light-hearted and illustrative. I want to highlight the list, ‘Ten Caring Ways to Connect with Children Each Day’[3] on page 2 of the book. The list offers practical ways that are easily implementable. The ten ways are: compassion; clear communication; creativity; consistency; challenge; cheerfulness; confidence; calmness; clear agreements; and commitment. This list may be used immediately. Happy reading.

Talk soon……. Claire Spence


[1] Name changed for this article.

[2]  3/26/2018 (https://socy.umd.edu/quick-links/self-esteem-what-it)

[3] Loomans, Diana and Julia, 100 Ways to Build Self-Esteem and Teach Values. California: H.J. Cramer, 1994. p.2

Top 10 Reasons to Create Little Free Libraries in Your Community by Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan

If you are having second thoughts about setting up your own Little Free Library…..here are ten reasons why you should think no more. Just do it!!

Nerdy Book Club

We often support schools and communities with promoting summer reading.  We want students to continue their “readerly lives” over the summer.  A few years ago, we were researching ideas to get books to students in different communities and we came across Little Free Libraries.   We immediately feel in love!  We were so enamored by this idea we decided we had to give it a try ourselves.  We put a Little Free Library in Tammy’s yard.

Tammylittle free library

After several years of having a Little Free Library in Tammy’s yard, here are our top 10 Reasons why we plan to create more Little Free Libraries.

  1. Share Your Books – If you are like us, you have books sitting on your shelves collecting dust. Instead of dusting, share your books with your community.


  1. Meet Your Neighbors – I can’t tell you how many neighbors I have met thanks to the Little…

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