How are you supposed to explain coronavirus/COVID-19 and the closure of schools, libraries, and everything else to young children?
First, breathe. This is new and rapidly changing territory. That can be scary for grown ups and kids. Make sure you can appear calm and collected when talking with your child about the current state. Take a break if you need to. Avoid having the news on and avoid talking about it around children.
Need help breathing? Sesame Street has you and your kids covered with a video!
Need a social story about COVID-19 that is simple and to the point? It was created for children with Autism but the direct approach paired with visuals makes it ideal for Preschool-aged and young elementary children as well.
Does your child need more? NPR has an article/comic for explaining coronavirus to children. It's geared toward children older than preschool-aged but might give parents some good ideas and visuals they can use. It does not talk about school closure but could be followed up with a conversation about how another way to keep everyone safe is to stay home to stop the spread of germs:
And finally, here is NASP article with advice for parents.
The sun is shining, your young child is actually listening, and their favorite cereal is on sale. A perfect grocery store trip. Until your child loudly asks "why does that person look different?"
As adults, we might feel embarrassment or guilt when children ask these questions - especially when we are in public! But young children are naturally curious. They are constantly observing and learning about the world around them. They are learning to notice similarities and differences as their shape their own identity. When we shush them or refuse to talk about differences in social identity, sometimes they walk away with the implied understanding that differences are wrong.
And that is NOT the message we want to send.
Parents are more likely to talk with their children about identity when others have made negative comments about their hair, skin, religion, gender, etc. But it's important for adults to have factual conversations with children to prevent those comments being made in the first place. Or to help the comments turn into a conversation instead of a negative interaction.
For more information on the importance of talking with your kids, read: https://www.npr.org/2019/10/08/767205198/the-things-parents-dont-talk-about-with-their-kids-but-should
It seems like we are seeing more and more w-sitters in the classroom. And while this type of sitting can be fine every once in awhile, it can be problematic if it is your child's default position. Read more below to find out why. For more resources, visit theinspiredtreehouse.com/?s=w+sitting
Toddlers and preschoolers are famous for tantrums and meltdowns. There are memes, hashtags, and even late-night segments dedicated to laughing about these moments. And, as parents and guardians, sometimes we have find humor in these intense moments to stay sane. But we also need to remember that when little people have big feelings, they are no less real or valid than our grown-up big feelings.
Young children do not have the life experience to differentiate a "small problem" from a "big problem." Not being able to go to the park or have ice cream can feel truly devastating. When adults try to minimize these feelings or brush them off ("don't cry," or "that's silly,") children are getting the message that their feelings don't matter. And that can be a heart-breaking and isolating message.
So, what do you do when your child flails about on the ground because they wanted the blue bowl for breakfast ("no, not that blue bowl!")?
Maybe it's your child's first day of school ever, maybe they have a new teacher this year, or maybe it's just a big transition from their summer routine. No matter the circumstances, the first day of school can feel intimidating for both children and parents. Here are some tips to ease first day of school jitters:
Sometimes, during meetings, parents are surprised by how well their child shared, listened, or followed directions at school. Sometimes parents feel guilty or feel they aren't doing a good job if their child has a hard time with these same skills at home.
But, children behave differently at home and at school. Often, children behave better at school. At school, the schedule and expectations feel like they are set in stone (or at least, kid-friendly visuals) and consistency can be upheld by staff who are there to engage and support kids with their full attention.
At home, the schedule often adjusts based on the needs of the family - and those can change in an instant. Parents are not around simply to engage and support their children but must also cook, clean, grocery shop, do the laundry, pay the bills, and on and on and on.
In preschool, children have their first exposure to peer pressure. In our classrooms, this often winds up being positive pressure to participate in group or share toys in order to elicit smiles or praise from others. Children might share more easily at school where toys are seen as common resources. At home, children can feel territorial about their toys and may have a power hierarchy established with siblings.
Children are more likely to melt down at home where they know their parents will love and support them and help them through their biggest emotions without holding a grudge. We often see more emotionality out of children when they are tired and ill and parents usually keep children home when they don't seem like themselves.
If your child's teacher is describing a child who you wish you saw at home but rarely do, you can take pride in knowing that you helped instill those positive behaviors and characteristics that seem to magically come out at school. And know that you are not the first, nor will you be the last, to say "I wish they did that at home." If you still feel lost, check out some of the book recommendations listed on this website to try and cut back on stress while parenting.
We've been talking about "the group plan" at school recently. The term "the group plan" is taken from Michelle Garcia Winner's Social Thinking Curriculum. You can learn more about that program here: www.socialthinking.com/
A group is made up of 2 or more people. When you have a conversation with a friend, you are in a group. When you are listening to a story in the classroom, you are with a group. When you are marching in a parade, you are with a group. The group plan is whatever plan the group is following. So if two friends are talking about their favorite snack, the group plan is to talk about food. If the class is listening to a story... you get the idea.
When we follow the group plan, it makes things easier for everyone in the group. When we don't follow the group plan, it can make people confused or uncomfortable. If my friend is talking about goldfish crackers and I start listing facts about volcanoes, my friend will be confused and think I'm not listening. If my class is reading a story and I stand up to go play with dinosaurs (my own plan), the rest of the class will be confused and the learning will stop while the teacher works to bring me back to the group plan.
At home, you can use the group plan to help your child stop and notice clues. "Look at what I am doing - what is the group plan?" The answer might be sitting down to dinner, cleaning up toys, getting socks and shoes on to get out the door, etc. "I know you want to play but right now we need to follow the group plan. The group plan is to get ready to go!"
Sometimes we all need reminders to follow the group plan! As kids get older, it can be helpful to remind them that we follow group plans when they are safe and expected. We don't want kids to confuse the group plan with negative peer pressure.
Playing outside can be messy, chilly, and inconvenient at times but it offers a wealth of benefits:
A healthy sense of self-esteem or self-confidence can carry you a long way. If you are confident, you are less likely to give up when things are hard or when you make a mistake. If you like yourself, you're more likely to assume others will like you too and it's easier to reach out and connect with others. Here are some simple ways to help your children boost their self-esteem at home:
Academics are an important part of building a successful life and career but there is a crucial foundation lying below the ABCs. Social and emotional skills (like understanding feelings and how to manage them, understanding other's feelings and points of view, solving problems with others, persevering even when tasks become difficult, etc) allow kids to learn and work with others. Without these skills, we can't sit still to focus on school, we can't work in groups with others, we can't get over mistakes to try again - we can't learn! Without this important foundation, all the academic support in the world is just resting on an uneven and rocky surface.
Miss Nicole is the Social Worker for the Early Childhood Program in Arlington Heights, Illinois.