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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in early childhood

Posted by on in Early Childhood

I typically do most of my shopping at a discount grocery chain downtown and then stop at my neighborhood store for the few items they don’t carry. This practice is rewarding for two reasons. First, I usually save quite a bit on groceries and second, I’ve found it interesting to observe the food choices made by a variety of families. We always hear about food deserts and unavailability or the high expense of healthy food choices, which inevitably affect the growth and development of young children. My informal research has definitely been eye-opening.

I wondered if today was any different from a few decades ago, when we were a young family living in Chicago with limited resources. My husband was finishing grad school. We were both working part time and had three small children. We had a tight budget, to say the least. I remember a friend and I trading ideas for dividing a small beef roast or pound of ground beef to make several meals. I only had so much money to spend on my weekly grocery trip, but my first stop was always for fresh produce, dairy, and meat. I rarely bought canned goods and never any soda, candy, or snacks. I baked, gardened, froze, and preserved. My children learned to do these things, because we did them together.

dad cook

Yesterday, as I waited to check out at the discount store, I noticed the family in front of me. Both mom and dad were obese and probably not older than 24 or 25. The two young preschool children in the cart seat were well on their way to following that path. They were munching on an opened bag of double-stuffed, generic sandwich cookies and shared a can of red soda.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

I remember listening to my mother or one of my aunts talk about things I did when I was little. But, for the most part, I could never remember doing any of those things. However, there were certain other things I can distinctly remember in great detail about my childhood… like my dad and me dancing together every night to an old McGuire Sisters record, how my mom would always have a hug and a bowl of chicken noodle soup waiting when I walked home for lunch from elementary school, and how caring and thoughtful my dad was towards my mom.

There is definitely certain stuff kids hold on to as they grow up. Parents and teachers would be wise to keep a few things in mind during the day-to-day with their littles…

The positive words you say to them. Try to watch how many negative or critical comments you toss their way. Balance it out with plenty of encouraging phrases like, “You really did your best on that,” or, “I am so proud of you.” Hearing these things will bolster their self-esteem and identity.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Yes, I know what childhood should  be… a carefree, joyful time of no worries and playful days. For the most part, that was my childhood and may have been for many of you, as well. So, it may be hard to consider the reality of a young child experiencing anxiety.

For sure, there have always been children living at risk, in marginal environments, or with domestic conflict or violence, or dealing with the repercussions of poverty. In the past, however, the stress or anxiety children suffered was the result of living and breathing it. Today, children who may have little actual risk in their family situation are getting it secondhand from the media and adult reaction to it.

Some children are more prone to anxiety than others. This happens for two reasons. First, due to genetics, they may react more strongly to stressful information or situations. And secondly, being young children, they don’t yet have the coping skills they need to roll back their strong feelings.

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Posted by on in What If?

depression in kids 800x400

This isn’t the kind of thing I typically write about – and it would certainly seem to have nothing to do with early childhood – but, like most of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about school shootings. I’ve found myself asking: What is it that incites such rage in these young people that they see killing as the only resort?

Immediately following all of these incidents, everybody talks about the need for better attention to mental health, in addition to gun control. I couldn’t agree more that that’s essential. But if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking about mental health as it relates to people old enough to purchase or acquire guns. People who have been bullied or ignored for so long that something finally snaps in them.

Upon reflection, however, I’ve realized we can probably assume that the kind of anger, frustration, and helplessness – the mental health issues – evident in school shooters doesn’t just suddenly crop up. It builds! And based on what I know to be happening in the education and lives of today’s young children, I’m firmly convinced that it often begins in early childhood.

Let’s think about it. According to a 2013 report, depression affects approximately 4% of preschoolers in the United States today, with the number diagnosed increasing by 23% every year. And here’s a depressing graphic from 2013:

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Posted by on in What If?

downtime 427x213

Think back to your own childhood and the amount of downtime you had. Do you remember lying on your back outdoors, looking for creatures in the clouds? Playing outside with friends and having the freedom to choose whatever game you wanted to play, or whatever drama you wanted to enact? Being alone in your bedroom, curled up on the bed and reading a beloved book, or quietly acting out a story with your dolls, action figures, or stuffed animals?

I remember all of those things. But today’s children won’t have such memories, because they aren’t being granted the same opportunities. Instead, too many of today’s children are leading overscheduled lives, with no time just to be.

Intuitively, we know that everyone, including children, needs downtime. No one, even the most energetic among us, cares to rush through their waking hours, day after day after day. We know how stressful it is to be overscheduled, over-pressured, and overwhelmed. We’ve witnessed the toll it takes on adults (on us!) – and it’s horrible to imagine children feeling this way.

Despite this, many parents are afraid to let their children simply “do nothing.” They worry that if they don’t keep their children busy, busy, busy, they will have résumés that look sparse in comparison to their counterparts.

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