What is a broken toy compared to your car breaking down the morning of your big interview? What is a scraped knee compared to a loved one fighting cancer? What is the big deal of not taking your child to have ice cream as promised compared to having a credit line you were counting on revoked? We work, while our children play. We know a real heartbreak feels differently than a scraped knee...or does it? Have you ever felt guilty because you were sad over something that seemed trivial compared to the suffering of others? Did it make you feel any less sad?
It's almost easy for us to dismiss our children's fears, their concern or their sadness. Rather than dismiss these, I would urge you (and many times, myself) to stop, listen and acknowledge. When we stop and listen, we are giving the child his place in the world. We are telling them that they are worthy of our time and our attention. When we acknowledge the child's concern we are simply telling letting them know that we hear them. We don't have to agree or solve what's going on, sometimes we can't solve it. We are simply letting them know that their concern has been noted.
Learning takes place at every moment of life. There are things that no matter how school boards try to include them in the curriculum, they cannot be taught in isolation. Self-esteem is not a one semester course, inclusion cannot be isolated to a class, respect for others grows from feelings that can only be self-regulated, not teacher directed. Think of all a child learns when we simply stop, listen and acknowledge. They are learning the they are important and worthy. They model our behavior towards others. They develop a deep reverence for people's opinions and feelings even if they don't agree with them.
I've often said that the most important life lessons rarely take place in the classroom. They take place while living our lives. When we teach by example, the lessons tend to stick.