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La Tela in March: peace

Sent on Mar 29, 2022

Sit down and grab a tea, because this newsletter is longer than usual: I felt it was necessary, so thank you for your time. 

I actively seek peace since, on a warm winter day in Marbella, with tiny Oliver sleeping on me, I read these words by Maria Montessori:

Everyone talks about peace but no one educates for peace. In this world, we educate towards competition, and competition is the beginning of every war. When we educate to cooperate and be in solidarity with one another, that day we will be educating for peace.

That was when I promised myself to educate towards peace. I wasn't quite sure what peace education meant back then, but what I don't know doesn't usually discourage me from finding out.

Over the years I've learnt that educating towards peace is not like a master degree that gives you keys that open doors to a better future. Peace is not something you learn, it is something you do.

We can educate towards peace every day: when we reject a conflict, a fight, an argument; when we put aside our ego even though we think we're right; when we respond calmly to verbal violence; when we react to our child’s crisis without shouting; when we don't punish a mistake and use it, instead, as a learning opportunity.

We educate towards peace when we respect equally people who criticise us and people who praise us. When we treat people who disagree with us with the same respect that we use for people who approve of us. When we stop and think before posting a judgemental and hurtful message or comment on social media. When we choose not to criticise and remember that we only see people's tip of the iceberg. When we welcome those who think like us and those who don't—and maybe we stop labelling and putting people in boxes, which are so insignificant to the human experience. We educate towards peace when make an effort day after day to choose peace, kindness, empathy, a welcoming attitude.

Peace is created

When you don't choose the path of peace, you are actively educating towards war, conflict, arguments. Peace is something you choose. Actually, peace is something you create, starting from yourself.

Peace is created by eliminating from our vocabulary and mind wrong and limiting sentences such as: "Slapping has never hurt anyone", "It's always been done this way", "Punishments have made me better", "I grew up getting spanked and I turned out just fine".

  1. A slap hurts in the short and long term, because violence breeds violence. Even that one slap that today seems right, because "I deserved it", was neither needed nor useful: you would have learned the same lesson had your parent invited you out to dinner, spoke to you with an open heart and gave you their trust. 
  2. It's always been done this way, that's true, but the current education made of punishments, authority and discipline has not yet freed us from world wars — it's actually gotten us into one more war in the world. Maybe it's time for a change.
  3. If you think that punishments have made you better, imagine what a balanced adult you would be if, in their place, you had received respect, trust, benefit from the doubt. Think about how much less you would shout at your children; how much less you'd humiliate them because you can't control your emotions; how much less inclined you would be to conflict, arguments, war of the egos. If you can’t imagine it, I’ll tell you: much less. You’d be amazed.
  4. And believe me, you would have turned out much better. If today you feel that you've turned out well it's either because 1. You are not objectively analysing and questioning yourself or; 2. You have done a great deal of personal development and evolution. In both cases, the scars of the education you received are invisible only from the outside—inside of you, you know them well and they still burn.

Peace is like breathing

What is happening in Ukraine is also happening in many other parts of the world (to name a few, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan), but the other wars are not on the news. Out of sight, out of mind.

That scares me: I'm afraid to forget about it. To forget that I have walked through life in a world where people have bombed and killed each other every second of every day of my existence. I don't want to forget.

I want to honour my privilege, use it to learn about war from afar and let it inspire me to use peace with those close to me. Especially with children, because peace is like breathing: when you breathe it in, then you breathe it out. In all your actions and relationships.

Imagine how the world would be if children only breathed peace at least where it matters the most, within the walls of their houses, from their adults of reference.

What shall we adults do?

This war, for people who knew something about the Russia-Ukraine situation, didn't come as a cold shower; it did for me. I keep looking at pictures and reading stories, but I still find it hard to believe that there is a war in a country where I actually know many people. It’s a superficial thought, I know, it's my privilege talking, I know, but it’s true and it shakes me deeply.

Wargram is a new word that is used for those who feed their brain with heartbreaking videos and photos of the conflict: I'm not gonna say not to do it, looking at our failure as humanity is important in order to want to do better. It's important to inform ourselves, not to turn a blind eye, and choose to listen instead of meddling in a conversation we know little about (this should be a rule in every conversation).

But it is also essential not to forget, now more than ever, to honour our privilege, to go out into nature, to seek beauty, to reduce screens to a minimum, to look at the people who help and not just those who inflict pain, to read an inspiring book, to take better care of ourselves.  

You can't take care of your children if you don't take care of yourself.

What shall we do with our children?

  • War — like death — is an uncomfortable conversation that we cannot wait for other people to have with our children. Sometimes we think that we protect them by keeping them in a glass jar, but it's the opposite: we protect them by giving them knowledge.
  • Eliminate news and screens from your home. They are not useful. Turn off the TV and be the filter of these conversations.
  • With children under 7 years, use concrete, honest and direct explanations. Take the map and show where this war is located (and then where all the other wars are). Avoid hatred in your words, heartbreaking images, and hopeless stories. Oliver and Emily know that so many families are hiding in the subway tunnels, we talked about where they go to the bathroom, how they eat, who gave birth, about fear. Focus on reality and practicalities. Reality will ground you.
  • With children over 7 years old, give them the opportunity to express what they think a war is and ask what they already know about what is going on. Use simple words and answer their questions objectively, only if you know the answer. Offer honesty and if you don’t know something, find out together.
  • Don't be afraid to associate the word war with what it arouses: fear and sadness. Becoming aware of our emotions is an important part of growth and evolution. Tell them that you are afraid and sad, too, don't hide your pain, but remind them that you can face it together. You are a team.
  • Make sure you let them know that they are safe, that conflict is not near, that there have been wars somewhere in the world ever since they were born, and that they have been safe. Grab the map as many times as needed. Tell them that many people are working to end the conflict as soon as possible. And that it WILL end, sooner or later. But don't lie: don't say things like "I'll always protect you". You don't know if you will be able to.
  • Bring your mind back to the present: “We're together NOW” is sometimes all they need to hear.
  • Explain to them that there is no bad and good country in a war: people don't want war, they don't want to kill each other; the people who run the country are the ones who want the war. This is not Russia's war, this is Putin's war.
  • Explain war in a way that children can relate to in their daily life: war is when we want to force someone to do something they don't want to do. This way, children might decide not to choose war in their life. Then, of course, you can talk about how Putin is trying to force Ukraine to do what he wants, by killing people and bombing schools, hospitals, factories, supermarkets…
  • Fear can arise, it's normal: the little ones may be more afraid of darkness, of separation, they might have small "regressions". Older kids may worry about the safety of their own family and feel sadness about what happens to other families. Your job is to accompany the feeling, not to fix it.
  • Avoid expressions like: “It's okay”, Don’t cry, it doesn’t come to us”. Offer your presence, without lies (it's not ok) or empty promises (nobody knows what this war will be).
  • If they ask you, explore possibilities: "It is highly unlikely that it will get here, but if it were to happen, we can go to the countryside, to the mountains, to the house of…". Try to find together some certainties about possible scenarios. We want them to feel that in the face of a problem or a tragedy we will seek a solution together.
  • But above all, be there for them. We often forget that, in every situation of life, rather than our solutions and our words, people — and especially children — need our presence. 

A free productive game for you

We thought long and hard how to give our contribution to children. In this time in history when we talk so much about people who want and make war, we decided to create a productive game that shows people who want and make peace. We chose past and present people who made peace their mission in life and we created a memory game in which every time you find a pair, you can read together what that person did. We hope it will bring a breath of peace in your house, because remember, peace is like breathing: when you breathe in peace, then you breathe it out. 

We called this productive game The peace helpers and you can download it free of charge for a week here: The Peace Helpers.

A new audiobook

In conjunction with the launch of The Peace Helpers productive game, we have also added a new real audiobook about one character that you will find in the game: Maria Montessori. You can find it on La Tela shop: It's grandma speaking

See you on La Tela,

Carlotta & La Tela Team