Let me be clear, I do NOT mean that any child is a burden. Sometimes, their stories just weigh heavy on my heart. Since we see them on a regular basis (sometimes more than once per week), the kids build up a trust with us. They tend to start opening up to us. We then hear the stories about how their parents are struggling in their marriage. We hear stories about how one of their family members is in jail. We hear stories about how they don't have much food at home. We hear stories about how this is their Xth number of school this year alone. Then, I start to want to help them all. Maybe this is what my professor was warning us about.
I think it's natural. As I mentioned, I am a helper by nature and probably went into a helping profession for that reason. I have to remember that I am helping them. I am helping them with their speech, language, social skills, fluency, and more. I am helping them by making them feel safe and loved in my speech room. I am helping them by approaching them gently and sincerely. I am helping them by providing the best services I can for them. I am helping them by fighting for appropriate services in their IEP meetings or when writing letters of medical necessity.
This is easier said than done, of course. So, there are some things that I can do to help it not be a weight on my heart:
- Journal. I write down my thoughts down. Sometimes they immediately go into the shredder, fire, or recycling. It helps to get your thoughts out, but there is also an important step of letting them go.
- Do some small things to help, but also acknowledge that you cannot fix the whole situation. For example, if a child comes into your room and is always hungry, have a snack option available for all students. Always smile at them. Give them high-fives. Give them hugs when they ask and when is appropriate.
- Refer them to different resources or professionals, as appropriate.
- Find someone to talk it out with. Be careful about HIPAA and FERPA here, of course. Sometimes it just helps to vent and let your burdens out to another. Not to burden them, of course, but just to get you thoughts out (see #1).
Last, but certainly not least,
- PRAY. This is probably the most important one. I pray for my clients every day. Prayers for their situations. Prayers for peace. Prayers for their hearts. I know that I cannot do things on my own for my own life. I am in desperate need of His love. So how can I expect to be able to do it for them. I can't. They need Him as much as I do.
Remember, you are helping them, probably in more ways than you realize. Sometimes those things may go unnoticed, but I'm acknowledging them today for you. So carry on, compassionate one. Rest easy and allow your burden to be light.