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 on the weekend with my special LifeKid?
The short answer to this question is: You’ll attend as much of the regular programming with your special LifeKid as possible. Here’s what that might look like.
- If possible, connect with your child’s family the night before. They can let you know if they’re planning on attending the next day and can give you a heads-up about the kind of week their child is having.
- Get information from the parent. Be sure to look over the child’s Fun Facts and Helpful Hints sheet the parent may have already filled out. It’s a great resource for communicating with the child and finding strategies that have worked for them in other environments. If your special LifeKid 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. Sit with your special LifeKid 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 child is uncomfortable being near the other kids, you two can form your own small group! Color an Adventure Book, read through a Challenge Card, quietly sing songs together, or use sensory toys to keep your child calm until their parents return to check them out.
- Attend class as much as your special LifeKid can handle. If your 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. Read these Tips for Using Sensory Toys and Comfort Items for some helpful pointers.
- Get the weekly lesson into your child’s heart. If you need to take a walk with your special LifeKid, 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 …” Stop, look for eye contact, put on a huge smile, and say, “(Child’s name)!” when your child looks for you to say their name.
- Lead with praise. Offer high fives, smiles, and words of praise to your special LifeKid as much as possible. When a parent comes to pick up their child, make sure the first words out of your mouth are positive. Example: Say something like, “We made it through 5 minutes longer of our movie this week!” even if you’ve had a particularly challenging day with your child. Find a positive thing to share.
- Help your special LifeKid 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 behavioral strategies and supports mentioned earlier in this training, you will help to reduce these behaviors significantly. However, there may still be times your child doesn’t feel safe or is upset. So, what do you do?
- If your child 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 child 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.
- 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. Remember, this is rare. When you are watching your child closely for signs of discomfort throughout the experience and are offering them comfort items and calming activities, the chances of them bolting past you out of the classroom are greatly reduced.
- Keep your eyes on your special LifeKid. Watch for signs that your child is upset or about to run or lash out. Use redirection to help a child leave a challenging 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 child is hurting another child, immediately have another adult remove the child who was hurt. Focus on your special LifeKid and help them become calm again as quickly as possible. Some children simply can’t tolerate having people “in their space.” In the future, be sure to keep your special LifeKid at a safe distance so they don’t feel threatened enough to hurt another child.
- If your child is screaming or having a meltdown, they need your immediate help and calming presence. Don’t try to pick up or move a child who’s flailing on the ground. Remove other kids from their space so the child doesn’t feel crowded. Gently pray out loud for your child. Try offering them their favorite items or sing softly to them. They may have difficulty processing who you are and how you’re helping during a full-blown 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 special LifeKid isn’t there?
It can be difficult for a special LifeKid 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 special LifeKid 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, but you were feeling too anxious to come in. 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 child 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.
What will I do on the weekend if I don’t have a special LifeKid to work with yet?
If you’re not currently working one-on-one with a child, you’ll be on-call as an experience Buddy. 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 help out with 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.)
- Serve as needed. If a family who has a child with special needs attends for the first time, you may work with that child. You’ll be available to help a new child who needs extra care until they have a one-on-one Buddy of their own—and it might end up that you’re the one-on-one Buddy they need!
- Ask to shadow a veteran Buddy. If you’re new to being a Buddy, this is an especially wise choice. Ask your LifeKids staff if you can shadow a Buddy who’s been serving for a while. Learn from them. Support them. Ask questions. Learn more tools for your toolbox for working with special kiddos.
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.