A second grader who lived at a city shelter for homeless families and attended PS 46 was recommended for CIS’ services after being involved in a number of fights at school. As a result of family counseling, this young girl was able to express her desire to spend time with her mother in the relaxed manner they had enjoyed before their housing troubles began. A longing for quality time with family members, so poignantly voiced by this child, can be at the root of many children’s social, emotional and academic struggles, particularly those who live in temporary housing.
With this in mind, the CIS counselors at PS 46 decided to put together a Family Fun Day and invite the families of eighteen students they were working with, most of whom also lived in a city shelter. For those children whose parents were not able to attend, siblings, friends and community members were invited in to show their support. The families engaged in a variety of bonding activities and games, from bingo and puzzles to relay races and arts and crafts. Children were asked to draw pictures of what family means to them, and the adults were asked to create “Chests of Hope” – small boxes that contained slips of paper with inspirational notes, including memories, dreams and bits of wisdom for their children to forever hold onto.
Throughout the event CIS counselors heard parents reflect not only on the joys of the day, but also on their desire to spend this kind of quality time with their children. The success of this occasion was truly inspiring; from one child’s courageous voice to a compassionate counselor’s ability to listen, an experience was created that gave support to a larger community. Parents and children were given the opportunity to see each other outside of the demands of school, work and housing. Given an opportunity, children and parents settled into the trust and understanding that will get them through the challenges they face.