This webinar discusses how providers can work to support all children in becoming empathetic community members.
Consider: How do the principles of safety needs and growing needs influence how you plan your program? How can you prioritize building secure attachment with the children in your program?
This nine-part course (approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes) from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network will teach participants about “early childhood social-emotional development; the impact of stress and trauma; reflect on the possible meanings of children’s behaviors; explore the influence of culture on families’ socialization goals; and become familiar with a number of strategies aimed to promote secure attachment and safe socialization practices.”
Providers will need to sign up for a free account to access this resource.
Calming spaces in early childhood environments are widespread but creating them with intentionality and teaching children how to use them can be big tasks. When we see disruptive behavior as a sign of a dysregulated child, and provide the tools for that child to re-regulate, we are setting them up for lifelong success as they grow to become people with strong self-regulation and impulse control skills.
These two handouts provide opportunities for you to reflect on how adults use their sensory systems to self-regulate and how to use that information to create calming spaces to support children’s social-emotional development.
When providers encounter children engaging in play with troubling themes, it’s important to understand how to interact with the children in their play, when and how to interrupt, and how to talk to families about our observations. This one-page downloadable/printable document from mental health professionals Megan Lerner, LCSW and Anthony T. Vesco, PhD, can help prepare you for these difficult situations.
This printable/downloadable resource will help providers understand difficult behaviors that may be a result of trauma, and support children in developing skills to overcome their difficulties.
Accessible version below:
Strategies for Helping Youth with Trauma Exposure
Strategies Emotional Dysregulation
Assist them in identifying their emotions
Using feelings charts/emojis, asking them to rate their intensity
Use words to describe how you (the adult) are feeling and use that to model expected behaviors for the child
Allow them to express their own thoughts
“What is your brain saying to you?”
Incorporate superheroes or cartoon characters to assist with talking back to thoughts and/or feelings
Have a designated coping space
Fidgets, bean bag chairs, pillows/stuffies, lowered lights, minimal noises, tents
Provide clear and concise directions
“We need to sit down.”
“Let’s take some deep breaths.”
Consider the basic need of the child to help improve their mood
Do they need a snack, nap or water
Strategies for Withdrawal
Allow them to take space for a while and see if they naturally engage with time
Identifying specific, labeled positives in the child, even then the child is expressing feelings of guilt, anger or sadness
Validate the feelings by saying things like, “I bet that is really scary!” or “That would make me mad too.”
Encourage them to engage in a positive activity that increases energy and is the opposite of their urge to isolate/shut down
Examples include having a dance party, making them a special helper, let them choose an activity for the whole group to engage in
Give them choices to take breaks or to do independent activities while also encouraging them to join the group (don’t give up!)
Remind the child that when they are ready to participate everyone will be excited to join them
Assist them with joining in a task with a partner/small group
Scaffold interaction until you can fade yourself out
Strategies for Aggressive Behaviors
As long as they have safe hands and feet, let the child know you will be ignoring the outburst and then immediately provide praise for calm body behaviors when you see them
Keep language focused on their behavioral choices and not focused on the child’s personality or characteristics
Try saying, “I see your hands are having a hard time being safe.” And not: “You are usually such a safe person, what is happening here?”
Consider the purpose of the child’s behavior
Are they trying to escape a situation
To get a tangible need met
To gain attention of an adult or test the attachment of the adult
To self-stimulate (due to an under-stimulated or “numb” nervous system)
Understanding the purpose of the behavior can assist you in meeting the child’s needs and provides context for negotiating your next step
Ask Yourself These Questions Before You Intervene
Can I shift my perspective from one of managing behaviors to supporting and growing a child’s executive functioning?
Can I view problematic behaviors as a child not having mastery over certain executive functioning skills?
Am I optimizing children’s sense of autonomy and providing an opportunity to learn and problem-solve?
Young children are absorbing information from everything around them, but they haven’t yet developed a “filter” through which to assess that information, which is part of why it’s so important to discuss the media they are taking in with them directly.
I hope to introduce you to both specific books with excellent opportunities for conversation with young children, and also some jumping off points to carry into your discussions about books and other media as you consume it with the children in your care.
To start off, a classic: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear.
This is one of my favorite books to consciously introduce young children to the amount of information they can get from facial expressions and body language. Before reading it to the children, flip through and notice the huge variety of emotions that are readily apparent on the Little Mouse’s face. Pride, surprise, fear, regret, anxiety, confidence, and joy all stand out to me on different pages.
As you read, pause to notice out loud how the mouse appears to be feeling. Mimic the expression on your own face and see if the children do it as well. With older children, you can “wonder out loud” with statements like “I wonder what the mouse thinks the bear will do?” or “I wonder what he’s planning,” or invite discussion with prompts such as “I think he looks scared, here; look at his eyebrows. Do you see anything else that might tell me he’s scared?”
Using books to teach social-emotional competence gives children a low-stakes time to practice reading others’ emotions. When children haven’t had the opportunity to practice “reading” others’ faces, they have to learn on the fly, which can mean more conflict and more social struggles. For example, a three-year-old might not notice that the friend he’s chasing in a game of tag isn’t having fun anymore until that friend is in tears, rather than seeing his friend’s facial expression and other non-verbal cues and stopping the game.
Learning to read body language and facial expressions takes time and comes more easily to some children than others. When we take the time to consciously teach children about it, we can help build their empathic skills as they learn more about other people.
At times, the behavior of a young child can challenge the skills and abilities of their caregiver.
When a caregiver feels that a child’s behavior is disruptive to other children and that there is not anything they can do to support the child in changing their behavior in a positive way it can create a lot of stress.
Within early care and education programs, including family child care programs, ongoing stress resulting from a caregiver feeling unable to support a child can create a situation in which suspension or expulsion from the program may appear to be the only or best solution. However, research indicates that suspension or expulsion of young children from early care and education programs hinders healthy development across all areas and can interfere with identifying and addressing differences. Children may qualify for intervention services, but if they are excluded from early care and education programs, they may not receive the referrals or evaluations that are needed.
Statistics about suspension and expulsion of preschool aged children:
- Boys receive more than three out of four out of program suspensions
- Black children make up 18% of preschool program enrollment but 48% of those who are suspended
- Young children who are expelled or suspended are up to 10 times more likely to:
* drop out of high school
* experience academic failure
* repeat grades
* have negative attitudes about school
* face incarceration
* be suspended or expelled in later grades
What can caregivers do to respond to the behavior of children in positive ways?
Illinois Early Learning has developed a series of tip sheets focused on positive guidance, which offer strategies for caregivers.
In addition, resources about developmental referrals and screenings can be found on the CDC website
Additional resources from the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Early Childhood Development about reducing suspension and expulsion practices in early childhood settings.