Back to school time!
For many young children, it’s literally the FIRST DAY!
Whether it’s kindergarten, preschool or the first day of child care, young children can have many different feelings and emotions during this time. Feelings they have never experienced before. Feelings they cannot express with their words. Emotions they do not understand. Talking with young children about feelings will help them to express them and understand them. A great way to help children begin to learn about feelings and emotions is to read to them (or with them) and talk about the character’s feelings and their own feelings.
How do you think Emily Elizabeth feels when she misses Clifford? (Clifford the Big RedDog/Norman Bridwell) How do you feel when you miss someone?
How did Chrysanthemum feel about her name? (Chrysanthemum/Kevin Henkes) What did others say about her name and how did that make her feel? What feelings did Chrysanthemum have in this story?
What feelings did Froggy have on his first day of school? (Froggy Goes to School/Jonathan London)
Examples for talking about feelings:
How do you feel when . . .?
How does . . .make you feel?
Tell me how you are feeling.
When you scream, it makes me feel . . .
Create a ritual
Rituals help in making a moment feel normal and are comforting to young children.
A wonderful book to share with children is the Kissing Handby Audrey Penn. The little raccoon is fearing his first day of school. With a simple gesture, his mother helps her young one feel less scared. This gesture becomes an important ritual. Create your own.
Tell them what you know will happen when you get to school
Example: I’ll walk you to the door of your classroom. I’ll kiss you/hug you/wave good bye to you and you will go inside. You will be with your teacher and classmates/friends. I will leave and go to work/home. I (if not you, tell them who) will return at the end of the school day to get you. I will look forward to hearing about your day at school.
Be careful about making promises you cannot keep. ( ex: “You can keep your toy in the classroom. You can wear your Superman cape all day. I’m sure Suzy will play with you.”)
Talk about their feelings(and emotions)
In the book On Monday When It Rainedby Cherryl Kachenmeister the photographs capture the many faces of one young boy. The book is helpful in giving children words to describe their feelings. It introduces words like proud, embarrassed, lonely and scared. While reading it, pause and ask your child to talk about a time they felt that way. Tell them a time you felt that way, too.
Practice social skills
Model and practice daily. Taking turns, cooperation, appropriate conflict resolution, listening, comforting others, communicating (use words not hands), follow the rules. Provide opportunities for young children to PLAY with peers and PRACTICE their social skills (rehearse real life situations).
It’s important in the development of social and emotional skills for children to understand they have many feelings and emotions AND others have them, too. Play and interaction with peers is required for young children to learn these skills and to become confident in using them. Observing our children and providing guidance is how we can help them develop life-long, positive social skills.