Wednesday , December 11 2019
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Lessons Of Resilience And Hope Amid The Travesty At Boston Children’s Theatre

The Boston Children’s Theatre (BCT) filed for bankruptcy following a tumultuous month for the organization, in which its artistic director, Burgess Clark, resigned after an anonymous email from more than a dozen former students accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior.

In its wake are dozens of children and teens, who were about to start rehearsals for the theatre’s production of “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” when the performances were abruptly canceled.

The majority of these students have been with the theatre for many years, and are now confronted not only by the loss of their beloved program, but by the harsh reality that someone they looked up to and respected may have committed such acts.

The best data indicate that as many as 10% of children are targets of sexual misconduct at some point during their K-12 school career.

When scandal envelops a beloved activity meaningful to children, adults are in the difficult position of providing guidance, while also dealing with their own sense of betrayal and disappointment.

How can parents and other caregivers help children navigate a travesty, when trusted adults take advantage of them or their peers?

We first recall a basic research finding that resilience in children is nurtured by the presence in their lives of what the psychologist Julius Segal called a “charismatic adult” — a person from whom children “gather strength.

” We must never underestimate the impact of such adults to help children not only weather adversity, but grow from it.

When children first hear disturbing news about a beloved adult, they may have a variety of complicated reactions including disbelief, anger, disappointment and upset, all feelings that need to be validated.

They may need help to understand that the person they idealized, while possessing admirable qualities, also has a more sinister side.

As children learn the painful lesson that human nature is complicated, we also want to preserve their hope and capacity to trust and to dream.

Adults need to provide them with the opportunity to continue to engage in the activities derailed by the adult(s) who have broken their faith. In this regard, we applaud the group of BCT parents who quickly took action, by self-funding and hosting their annual holiday concert, allowing the choir to perform as scheduled.

These parents have given their children important continuity, while allowing them to pursue what they love, and be with their peers.

It also conveys the message that they’ll have other opportunities to express their passions and their strengths, what Dr.

Brooks calls, “islands of competence.” This metaphor represents a symbol of hope and respect, a reminder that all individuals possess unique strengths and courage.

Children will be better equipped to cope with life’s obstacles when caring adults identify, reinforce and display their unique “islands of competence.” When this happens, children gain more confidence to deal with setbacks, take risks and face new challenges.