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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in supporting young children

Posted by on in What If?

I continue to be, at once, intensely interested and wholly distressed by the manifestation of early childhood stress, anxiety, and trauma. The signs and symptoms surround the caregivers in child care programs, but can either be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or ignored.

I recently spoke at a national conference to a packed room of Head Start teachers, who do their best, on a daily basis, to provide the best care for the children in their programs. And yet, they are baffled at times by children’s unexplained and unprovoked behaviors and responses. We talked about triggers- a catch word now- meaning something that sets off a memory or flashback that may be imperceptible or innocuous to other people.

I noticed in the conference program, quite a few speakers who would talk about “trauma informed care.” I told my group they should probably attend at least one of these sessions, because it was such an important topic. But, I also told them that the topic of our discussion was actually a precursor… a prequel, if you will, to those sessions. If we are to be successful in providing TIC, we first need to identify, define, understand, and validate the trauma.

And, this is not easy, by any means. The ways young children present symptoms of these issues can easily be set aside as transient behaviors, or missed entirely. One of the most interesting aspects of children’s stress and distress is how it surfaces and becomes apparent.

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Posted by on in What If?

When children are little, they worry, but may not understand why. There may be no logical evidence to support it, but it is real to them, nonetheless. It is real enough to provoke a real nervous system response. Worry is anxiety.

It sometimes surfaces with a barrage of questions that seem to come out of nowhere. I remember one evening when my 5-year-old son started asking, “What if the chickens didn’t want to give their feathers away for people’s pillows?” “What if they get really cold because they have no more feathers?” “What if they come looking for their feathers and want them back?” “What if they’re really, really mad?” He had certainly worked up a good deal of anxiety about this. The next morning, when I came out of my bedroom, I saw his pillow on the floor, outside his door.

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Our first response to something like this is always reassurance, followed by trying to invoke logic. When this doesn’t work (it seldom does), we become frustrated and give the child the message (through words and body language) they’re being silly and need to move on.

Let’s think of some of the knee-jerk comments we make to children who are anxious.

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Posted by on in What If?

Probably one of the best predictors of a child’s success in life is strong self-confidence and self-esteem. They will set high goals for themselves and believe they can achieve anything they set their minds to. This is an outcome we all want for our children, but for some, it may not come so easy. High self-esteem is acquired and is not genetic. It is built a little at a time through their relationships with adults and other children. Life environments vary and support for self-worth and confidence does, too. Children living with trauma, for example, can be devoid of any support at all. A child who lacks confidence and a positive self-image may need an extra boost… or two or three. We can be intentional in providing support as we go through the day.

responsibilities

1. Give her some responsibilities and expect follow through. When a job is completed successfully, she will feel more confident and happy with herself. She will also have some good practice with her problem-solving skills. Our responsibility in all of this is to lavish encouragement and always praise her for doing such a good job.

2. Let her make her own decisions. Provide age-appropriate choices whenever possible. These can be simple- like choosing between putting away the dishes or the dolls at clean-up time. Allowing her to decide something for herself strengthens her confidence and sets the foundation for the times she’ll need to make more complex choices in the future.

3. Make sure the goals you set are realistic. Decide along with the child what the goals will be and ensure they are achievable. Confidence in herself will only be built if she can reach them.

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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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