When you’re starting out as a Buddy, you might wonder what in the world you’ll do on the weekend. You might also wonder: What will I do on the weekend if my special LifeKid isn’t there? Or, What will I do on the weekend if I don’t have a special LifeKid to work with yet? These are excellent things to wonder about! Read on for your answers.
What will I do as a Buddy?
You’ll attend as much of the regular programming as possible. Here’s what that may look like:
- Get information from the parent. Look over the child’s Fun Facts and Helpful Hints It’s a great resource for communicating with the child and finding strategies that have worked for them in other environments. If your little buddy doesn’t have a form available, ask your experience Coach or a LifeKids staff member about the best way to follow up and get one filled out.
- Work one-on-one within the child’s classroom as needed (either with a specifically assigned child or as an on-call Buddy). Sit with your little buddy in a small group as long as you can support them enough to avoid disrupting the flow of the group. Include them in as much of the programming as possible. If your little buddy is uncomfortable being near the other kids, you two can form your own small group! Color, read, quietly sing songs together, or use sensory toys to keep your little buddy comfortable and engaged until their parents return to check them out.
- Attend class as much as your little buddy can handle. If the child needs a break, first note what the parents have authorized on the Parent Release Form. If you’re able to work one-on-one, you might take the child for a walk if they become overwhelmed. If needed, ask a Coach to walk with you. If you’re authorized to work one-on-one in an empty LifeKids room, you may do so as needed with the lights on and the top half of the door open. Always work toward bringing the child back to the room and always continue to reinforce the weekly lesson with the child as much as possible.
- Use the sensory toys as needed. Check your LifeKids Distribution Center for sensory toys. Some toys are good for offering calming sensory feedback. Some are good for helping a child focus. Check out the Tips for Using Sensory Toys and Comfort Items training as soon as possible.
- Get the weekly lesson into your little buddy’s heart. If you need to take a walk with your little buddy, you can still talk about what they need to hear. For example: You can say in a sing-song voice, “God loves (child’s name)!” Create a game of it. Say, “God loves …” pause, put on a huge smile, and say, “(Child’s name)!” when your little buddy looks for you to say their name.
- Lead with praise. Offer high fives, smiles, and words of praise to your little buddy as much as possible. When a parent comes to pick up their child, make sure the first words out of your mouth are positive. For example: Say something like, “We shared lots of smiles this week!”
- Help your little buddy stay safe. The child you’re working with may display some behaviors that aren’t safe to themselves or others, such as biting, hitting, pushing, trying to escape the room, etc. Use the Fun Facts and Helpful Hints form if the child’s parents have filled one out to find what helps motivate and calm the child. When you use the positive strategies and supports mentioned earlier in this training, you will help to reduce these behaviors significantly. However, there may still be times your little buddy doesn’t feel safe or is upset. So, what do you do?
- Do not restrain a child unless their immediate safety is in danger. There are laws and regulations concerning the restraint of a child to protect their safety, as restraint is potentially dangerous to the child. Only use the most gentle holding you can if it’s an absolute emergency and immediately call a LifeKids staff member for help. Example: If a child has managed slip past you to exit the building and is about to run into traffic, you will need to gently hold onto them and redirect them back to safety.
- Keep your eyes on your little buddy. Watch for signs that your little buddy is upset. Use redirection to help a child leave a concerning behavior or difficult emotion behind and engage in more appropriate activities. You can often end a potentially dangerous behavior simply by offering the child a calming toy or moving them to a place where they feel safer.
- If your little buddy wants to escape from your room, position yourself between the door and the child or have another adult stand non-threateningly in front of the door while you work to get the child involved in a more appropriate activity. If you’re in a room like Konnect that doesn’t have latching doors, you may need to remove your little buddy to a room that does. Example: A LifeKids staff member or Coach can help you escort the child to a closed Early Childhood room or another safe place.
- If your little buddy hurts another child, immediately have another adult remove the child who was hurt. Focus on your little buddy and help them become calm again as quickly as possible. Some children can’t tolerate having people “in their space.” In the future, be sure to keep your little buddy at a safe distance so they don’t feel threatened enough to hurt another child.
- If your little buddy is screaming or having a meltdown, they need your immediate help and calming presence. Don’t try to pick up or move the child. Remove other kids from their space so the child doesn’t feel crowded. Try offering them their favorite items or singing softly to them. They may have difficulty processing who you are and how you’re helping during a meltdown, but offering all your support and calming strategies can help them return to a peaceful state.
What will I do on the weekend if my little buddy doesn’t show up?
It can be difficult for the LifeKid you’re supporting to attend regularly. The child may be sick more often than their peers or have anxiety issues that hinder their ability to make it to LifeKids every week. Don’t worry. You’re still needed!
- Reach out to the family. Let your little buddy know you missed them. Send their parent a text or a short video of you at LifeKids to say you’d love to see them again next week. Tell them something you’re proud of them for, like, “I heard you made it all the way to the parking lot this week. Next week, I can meet you out there and we can walk in together!” or, “I heard you’re sick. I pray Jesus helps you feel better fast!”
- Write a note. Send the child you work with a LifeKids note. Your little buddy will feel your support when they receive it later in the week.
- Reach out to LifeKids staff. Having an extra on-call Buddy for any experience is a win for LifeKids. Let your experience Coach know you’re available for any child who needs extra assistance.
How can I partner with my little buddy’s family?
The opportunities to serve your little buddy’s family are limitless. Here are a few ideas!
- Ask for permission. Asking for permission to stay in touch with parents or caregivers is respectful and shows you care. Ask if it’s okay to connect with them during the week via text, email, phone, social media, etc. Important note: Never post pictures of your little buddy on social media unless the parents give you explicit permission first.
- Send a note. LifeKids leaders are encouraged to show up in the daily lives of the kids they serve. One way you can is to send a note to the child using the stationary provided by LifeKids staff.
- Ask how you can pray. Ask your family what they’re struggling with. Ask if you can text prayers to them. Put a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget to pray for the child and their family.
- Share some love! Watch for progress like a hawk—and build up the child’s family by sharing it to encourage them. Your little buddy might dance with you during worship for the first time or join in a group for a bit longer than the week before. You might notice they’re feeling more comfortable at church or ways the other kids are forming bonds with their child. Find something positive to share each week!
What will I do on the weekend if I don’t have a specific little buddy to work with yet?
If you’re not currently working one-on-one with a child, you’ll be on call. Here’s what that will look like.
- Work with your experience Coach to identify kids who may need extra support. Observe from the hall how kids are doing. Decide with your Coach if you should go into a room to support an individual kid.
- Help with transition times. Transitions are a great time to support a child who is anxious or unsure during them. You can float between rooms to offer extra help as needed. Take cues from your Coach, as they know when key transitions are occurring in the Early Childhood, Konnect, and Loop rooms. (Ending free play, moving to small-group learning, parent pick-up, etc.)
As always, it might feel like there are a million things to learn and think about. But the bottom line is: You will be a friend. Can you be a friend to a child who desperately needs someone to stick with them, no matter what? Can you support someone who may feel very anxious in our environment for a while? Can you share the love of Jesus by laying down your life each weekend for a very special friend? Yes to all of these! Thank you for your friendship. It will change lives.