Acknowledge children’s emotions
At times, it can be very frustrating when children are ‘overreacting’ to situations that seem very trivial. However, it is important to remember that problems are relative. Cast your mind back to when you were a teenager. The problems you had then will seem irrelevant now. Despite that, you will remember your emotions being overwhelming and equally as painful as the emotions you feel now as an adult when things go wrong. As we grow up, our problems become more serious. However, at the time they are big and evoke strong emotions. It’s important to remember this with little ones. A two-year-old’s problems are going to seem irrelevant through the eyes of an adult. However, it is important to remember that they are relative to their age and are a big deal to them. Maybe you have given them the wrong pen, or their trousers are twisted and they can’t sort them out. Whatever the problem is, it is important to try to look at the world through their eyes and limited experience, and acknowledge how they are feeling.
Not only that, we must remember that small children are not developmentally equipped with the ability to regulate themselves, so they not only feel these strong emotions, but also don’t know how to control them! When we feel sad or angry as adults, sometimes, someone simply being there without trying to make sense of what is going on, can make a big difference. A simple acknowledgment of how we feel and someone telling us that they understand and are there if we need them, can have a huge impact on the situation. It’s the same for children. Just because their problems are small shouldn’t mean that we don’t acknowledge them and the big feelings that they have generated.
In this fast-paced, digital world that we live in there are lots of distractions. There are also lots of demands on us as parents and practitioners and most of us have a million and one things on our to-do list at any given moment! It’s understandable that we have to multi-task and that our minds can wander off in different directions. However, it is important to try to put all of these distractions aside when we are with children and try to be really present in that moment. There’s nothing worse than talking to someone who you know really isn’t listening or showing an interest in what you’re saying. Have you ever walked away from a situation feeling like someone just doesn’t care or feeling like they just dismissed what you had to say? If you have, you will know that it feels awful. Children talk a lot and it can be easy to just give a nod or quickly engage in a conversation as you are passing by to do another job or activity. I can be guilty of this myself running 2 businesses from home. However, if we can stand still and not only listen, but actually hear what they are saying and engage with it, magical things can happen. By being really present in the moment without distractions, children will feel valued and appreciated, which will build their self-worth and confidence.
Allow children to fail
Failure is never nice and it can be hard to see children struggling. Our instinct is to help and/or rescue them. However, it is important to allow children to test their own limitations and to get things wrong in order to build their resilience and confidence. Failure is a part of success and a person that can fail and keep going will succeed much more than someone who avoids failure altogether. Our brilliance is often found outside of our comfort zone. However, to reach it we need to put ourselves in unfamiliar territory and risk not knowing all of the answers. A person that views failure as a stepping stone to success, will be more confident and secure than someone who allows it to define them. Allowing children to test their own limitations and to fail, but also teaching them how to use that experience as a tool to develop, will give them more resilience and confidence in their abilities and strengths.
Teach children about gratitude
We teach children to say ‘thank you’ but we rarely teach them about gratitude. It can sometimes be an empty phrase used through habit rather than being fully understood. Studies have shown that practising gratitude on a daily basis has a huge impact on our emotional wellbeing as it breaks the cycle of negative emotion. A person that can see the beauty in the small things will be happier than one who looks at their life through a more negative lens. By teaching children to give thanks daily for normal, everyday things and to explain why they are grateful for them, we will help them to view their life from a positive angle. This will not only nurture their emotional wellbeing now but will instil a practice in them that will support them to be happier throughout life in general. (Get a free pack at www.earlyyearsstorybox.com/gratitude)
Use stories to help children to process thoughts and feelings
Stories are an incredibly powerful tool to allow children to process their own thoughts and feelings. It is so much easier in life to go through a situation if you know someone who has already been through it and come out the other side. It gives you a light at the end of the tunnel. Characters in stories can be that ‘friend’ for children and can reassure them that everything is going to be okay at times when they feel vulnerable. Stories can also plant positive seeds in little minds and instil positive values. If you can also do fun activities that link to the story, you give children the opportunity to explore the themes and concepts even further. You get a lot more out of children if you are chit-chatting alongside doing something fun. By the activity linking to the characters and storyline, you can talk about themes and concepts as you are having fun together. This opens the door to many magical conversations that in turn, support children to process their own feelings and emotions too.
To get unlimited access to storybooks with linking resources for just £9.99 for the whole year and to receive 2 free limited-edition storybooks just visit www.earlyyearsstorybox.com/subscribe and use the discount code PARENTA-5
About the author
Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the Early Years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfilment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.