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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.