1. WE SEE EACH CHILD AS A COMPLETE PERSON
We create a safe and comforting environment – based on the science of child development – in which each child’s inner thoughts and emotions can be recognized, understood and respected.
Even ordinary things adults take for granted may be unfamiliar to young children. When confronted with something new, children draw on their limited experience with the world to create an explanation. The results – commonly described as “magical thinking” – can be wildly inaccurate and may result in worries for children that never enter the minds of the adults who care for them.
The HP Way means creating an environment where such inner thoughts can be recognized and discussed without judgment.
It also involves in-depth understanding of the science of child development, providing assurance to parents that their children are developing “normally” – even while they are free to be their most unique selves.
This tangible respect for each child fosters communication and openness you won’t find everywhere else. Children are relieved when someone understands and gives words to their worries before they are willing or able to do so themselves. They respond by acting as if they feel safe and secure – empowering themselves to wonder, learn, explore and inquire.
2. WE UNDERSTAND BEHAVIOR AS COMMUNICATION
Through observation and dialogue we work with each child, along with the parents, to understand how emotions and concerns are connected to the way he or she feels, and expressed in the way he or she behaves.
Feelings in children are just as intense and varied as in adults. But attaching a feeling to its cause is a skill that needs to be learned; until then, feelings are expressed through the way a person acts.
When a child is attentive, interested and helpful, that behavior communicates comfort in his/her surroundings; it indicates the child isn’t being distracted by angry, worrisome or other disruptive feelings.
A child who is pushing on the playground, forgets to use the bathroom, has trouble sitting still, or is otherwise “misbehaving” (a word you’ll probably never hear us use) is revealing the presence of strong feelings or worries.
Simply punishing disruptive behavior treats these inner thoughts as if they aren’t important – setting up the child to feel ashamed for feeling them so acutely.
The HP Way means working with the child to discover the cause of distress, and to help understand how the worry, the feeling and the behavior are all connected. This capability is a foundation of self-control, and self-control is an essential component of self-esteem.
3. WE GIVE VOICE TO FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS
We provide each child with the skills to recognize and express inner thoughts that initially may have been exhibited through his or her behavior. This provides a basis for emotional mastery that is a foundation for success in school and life.
Children have things to say long before they acquire the ability to talk. As children learn to understand their feelings, The HP Way emphasizes the skill of putting these inner thoughts into words.
In an environment where no feeling is deemed insignificant, children are encouraged to ask for help through words, rather than behaving in a way that will make them (and others) unhappy. It creates a foundation for a lifetime of emotional health, constructive problem-solving and satisfying relationships with others.
4. WE TAKE TIME
We don’t rush the process. We allow whatever time is needed for a child to achieve this foundation of emotional intelligence, which helps in developing relationships, acquiring new skills and achieving self-fulfillment.
Working with children to develop awareness, mastery and ability to talk about their feelings is a time-consuming process that simply cannot be hurried. The HP Way allows whatever time is needed to help a struggling child to understand and express inner thoughts.
If a child is crying, this means providing comfort, working to understand the feeling, and offering appropriate reassurance until he or she again feels safe and comfortable.
In everything we do at Hanna Perkins, we build in time for when a child needs this help – as they all occasionally do. Even if it means changing the day’s lesson plan.
Such patience is often at odds with the hurry-up world of today, but it is at the core of The HP Way.
5. WE PROVIDE HELP
We work with a child on an ongoing basis to gain mastery of feelings and worries – rather than trying to suppress them – to support fruitful development and a lifetime of emotional well-being.
Sometimes this work is straightforward – like when a child experiences a sudden feeling of missing mommy during the school day.
Other times it’s more complex, such as when a child’s parents are getting divorced, or someone in the family has a long-term or life-threatening illness.
The HP Way finds the right approach for each individual. This often means working with the child and parents together. It also recognizes that some problems can’t be “solved” – instead focusing on helping each family member to understand the many ways he or she may be affected.
When people face challenges they would prefer to ignore, The HP Way addresses these directly, allowing children to integrate them to support fruitful development and a lifetime of emotional wellbeing.
6. WE INVOLVE FAMILY
We support parents in the hard work they do by providing information, knowledge, understanding and empathy – in recognition that members of a family are all interdependent.
Nothing is more important to a child than his or her family. But children don’t come with a manual, and many parents experience periods of doubt: Am I doing a good job? Am I giving my child everything he or she needs?
The HP Way recognizes the central role of family in a child’s successful development, and seeks to support parents in the hard work they do. Rather than blame or judge, it offers empathy, communication, developmental expertise and more than 60 years experience working with children and families.