Preschoolers cope with stress in much the same ways adults do. Most of the kids in my class are secure in their families, but two of them are dealing with major life changes. Paul's parents are in the midst of a messy divorce. Lisa's grandma, recently diagnosed with cancer, has moved in with her family and stolen some of the attention to which Lisa, an only child, is accustomed. Paul and Lisa, though never social butterflies, have withdrawn completely from participation in class activities. I understand how they feel. Withdrawal is my main coping mechanism when I'm feeling the weight of my world's stressors. Maybe I should try some of the other coping strategies I've seen Paul and Lisa use.
- Throw things. Paul lets off steam by chucking play food over the bookshelf into the reading center. Lisa hurls foam blocks at other children. I wish I could condone the behavior and channel it into a nice game of catch, but mostly I have to explain to them why we don't throw things in the classroom. It's hard to do when I feel like throwing, too. Remember in Better Off Dead when Monique is frustrated with Ricky the Unleashed Sex Fiend, and Lane Meyer finds her pitching baseballs at a street sign? Maybe I should take up pitching. Or target shooting.
- Run. OK, so I already do this. I just need to learn to run when somebody calls to me. And then hide.
- Cry. Crying is so very cathartic, but socially unacceptable, even when in the company of those who love you. People just can't deal with tears. Sometimes a kid (or a grownup) just needs to cry. We haven't made room for that, and many of us as adults are emotionally stopped up.
- Poop my pants. If I'm not emotionally stopped up, then I'm stopped up somewhere else. Not so one of my little friends at school. It's a control issue. There are really only two things a kid can control: eating and eliminating. Paul chooses not to eat and to poop in his pants. Unfortunately, that's not socially acceptable either.
- Talk to a loved one. Today Paul and I sat on the sidewalk. He said to me, "Let's talk about cars." I said, "OK. What kind of car does your mom drive?" He told me. He also told me what kind of car his dad drives, and he told me that Maxwell doesn't drive a car because he's a dog. Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'm forty-five." I laughed out loud, and he laughed with me.