Director's Blog

 

Developing Coping Skills

What a week we have had - as a city and as a nation. First, we experienced the violent loss of our district commander, Paul Bauer, an excellent man who in the past few weeks had reached out to our school to offer his support and guidance. Then on Valentine’s Day, another horrific school shooting that shocked even its inevitability and made each of us who both send our children to, and work in, schools feel insecure, worried and sad. All of our instincts are to protect the children in our care from these and other difficult subjects. We often even want to protect them from their own negative emotions that are directly tied to their individual experiences, like the illness or death of a loved one or an upcoming school transition or move. Parents ask me and their teachers, how do we balance preserving our child’s innocence with helping develop their coping skills?

During those conversations my experience, overwhelmingly, is just how much parents wish to protect children from these stressful, sometimes overwhelming and sad experiences. The desire to protect and to preserve the innocence of childhood for as long as possible is an admirable one. We all know that life is littered with stressful and sometimes very heartbreaking experiences, hopefully balanced with uplifting and joyful ones as well. Our efforts to avoid the first to preserve the second for children often leads parents to question just how much a child should know or even, what situations can they avoid exposing their child to.

Sadness, fear, and stress are all emotions that young children already experience. They might not always have the capacity to differentiate between or name them, but we know they do. Early childhood educators have the goal of helping children learn how to acknowledge and name their own emotions and we work towards that goal with quality children’s literature, modeling, and the use of visual representations like feeling check-in charts.

Parents are the center of their child’s universe, which is apparent to me everyday at school, as I watch a child reach back for one last hug at drop-off, beam with delight when announcing to me that it is their assisting day to spend with you, or eagerly run into your waiting arms at dismissal.  It is also that knowledge that leads me to the following advice.

Set the tone with careful and calm explanation. Children will often know, long before they are told, that something is stressing their parents. Often, just the acknowledgment of the difficulty to be faced is a relief to the child. When talking with young children keep in mind their limited experiences. They may have never experienced a move, understood that sometimes people or pets become ill and die, that their nanny might not be with them forever. Clear explanations in a way they can understand are key. Simple explanation and only answering a question asked provides understanding and comfort to the child.

Acknowledge real emotions. Sharing the information of the difficult task at hand can often lead to both parents and children becoming sad, distressed or mad. It is important to acknowledge those emotions for yourself and for them. “I am also sad about leaving our house. We’ve had so many great times here.” “I know how much you love Megan. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone we care about.” Well-meaning messages of “You’ll love the new house with your own room and a yard” or “You’ll make friends with the new nanny” are helpful only after the child knows that you accept and are not scared of their negative emotions. It helps them be okay with them as well.

Lead by example. First, show your children that negative emotions as a response to real life stressors are an acceptable and reasonable response. Then, show them that they do not have to be overwhelming. Demonstrating coping skills and modeling how you help yourself feel better, is a great way to start. Also, it can be helpful to point out when you are doing a not-so-great job of it. “I’m sorry I got so mad when you wouldn’t clean up your toys. It’s important to me that we work together to keep the playroom clean. But, I also think I got too mad because I was worrying about Granny. Maybe we could have extra cuddle time tonight before bed.”

I hope this bit of advice can be helpful to you, either now or in the future. If there are specific scenarios you’d like to talk about, my door is always open.

Posted by shannon on Thursday February 22 at 03:11PM
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Nurturing Connections

In the introduction to her book, Nurturing Connection: What Parents Need to Know About Emotional Expression and Bonding, Rebecca Thompson writes: “It is about remembering that our children’s need for connection is a primary factor in most of their behavior. It is about recognizing that, in every parenting situation, we have choices about how we respond to our children and their behaviors. It is about seeing every parenting situation as an opportunity to create connection or disconnection. It is about looking at our everyday parenting situations and beginning to see how we can choose connection.” I was thinking of these words the other day as I was dismissing children at the end of the day.

It’s that time of year when parents are feeling connected to one another and look forward to the opportunities to chat with each other before and after school. This wonderful by-product of the way our school fosters community is a desired one. One of the things I truly enjoy about my job is the opportunity to see new friendships among families begin and deepen over time. Often, I am observing those conversations and connections at the dismissal door. But, it also means that sometimes the opportunity for a healthy reunion between the child and the parent is being missed.

Choosing connection, as Thompson calls it, means being mindful of taking those opportunities to truly be present during transition times. By doing so, it can ease the transition and support positive behaviors as the day moves forward. Being apart from parents and caregivers, away from home and in group settings requires a lot from children. At school, we are asking them to share teacher attention, take turns with materials, follow our schedule, and participate in activities that they may not be interested in. They are navigating the space, their relationships with one another, and being asked to contribute to the care of their classroom. All of these “asks” are happening at the same time they are without their most beloved people - their parents.

Often, the transition out of school reminds children how much they have missed you and how ready they are to see you again. Here lies the opportunity to choose and create connection. When you hear me say your child’s name I encourage you to pause the conversation, put your phone in your pocket, and be ready to greet your child. They are ready to greet you! Choose this opportunity for a face to face greeting, a hug, a smile, to say, “I’m happy to see you!”. Because, they are so happy to see you.


Posted by shannon on Thursday February 15 at 03:32PM
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The Benefits of Parent Participation

Thank you to everyone who made the auction event such a wonderful success! Beyond meeting our financial goals, is the community-building that happens between families and families and staff. The positive energy in the room was palpable. In addition to all who spent so many hours on the auction, many families are engaged right now in producing the yearbook, hosting school tours, preparing for the lottery and supporting our open house event. At the last board meeting, each member was engaged, offering ideas and support to one another. Believe or not, participating in the school in these ways have researched based positive impacts on students, families, schools and communities.

Long time educational researcher Joyce Epstein created a conceptual framework for defining family involvement in schools. Her framework assumes that the foundation for student achievement includes children who have parents to provide housing, health, nutrition, safety at the very least and also have parenting skills in parent-child interactions. Included in the basics of the framework are “home conditions to support study” and parents providing information to help schools know their child.  Additionally, it has been found that ongoing communication between school-home and home-school, volunteering in the classrooms and for school events, and the school offering support with educational choices all has additional positive impacts. The highest level of parent involvement in schools is a model that leaves decision making to the membership through a board, PTA, etc. Sound familiar?

As I was reviewing this research, I was pleased to find that our school embodies all of the parts of Epstein’s framework for best practices of parent involvement in schools. There are many ways that I see the benefits for individual children, their families, and of course our overall school community. I observe children who are known, treasured, challenged, and engaged at school. I observe teachers who are supported to continually to grow in their profession and supported by parents and the school to do their very best teaching. I observe parents who grow in their understanding of themselves, their child, and what they want out of an educational community.

I have the pleasure of helping to run a school that thrives on the support of its parent community and I have each of you to thank for all you do that supports the mission of our school – to provide the very best early childhood educational experience for children, parents and teachers.

Posted by shannon on Thursday February 8 at 02:15PM
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A Guide to Family Meetings

Over the years, I have recommended to families to think about including a weekly Family Meeting as a part of their family routine. Although this idea has been written about in different parenting books and blogs, I’ve found that this is new to many parents. Those who have tried it report good results, which can include increases in prosocial behavior between siblings, easier transitions at home, more helpful behavior from children, and a decreased number of power struggles between children and parents. Family Meetings do require some investment from parents, but the payoffs can be meaningful.

So, how do you plan for a Family Meeting? Like most meetings, it can be helpful to have advance notice of it and an agenda. Try to hold your family meeting when all family members can be present, and when most other basic needs have been met. (No one is hungry, tired, annoyed because they just had three meetings in a row at their job.) When you’ve found a time that works, make it a predictable part of your family’s weekly schedule. Try to hold it in the same place in your home, preferably where you can either have a big piece of paper to write down ideas or plans, or for you technology folks, where you can mirror your computer screen onto the TV. It can be helpful to do little things that make it feel special; think of your family’s equivalent of the surprise of donuts at your Monday morning meeting!

What’s on the agenda will evolve as you put this into practice and as your children get older. But generally, the following topics are helpful to include each week:

Schedules Is a parent traveling? Are there birthday parties or family events? Days when school is closed? Classes or sporting events? When are babysitters coming? Including talking about schedules has three benefits. One, it gives young children, who love routines, a warning of what things may be different in the upcoming week. Two, it gives parents an opportunity to not only communicate these items with each other, but also the opportunity to model what planning looks like. The ability to plan is an important aspect of executive functioning. Three, it also gives children the ability to express their feelings in a safe space when the event is not about to happen. They can express their sadness that Mom is going out of town, their excitement and anxiety about going somewhere new, or their disappointment that there are not more fun things to look forward to.

Family Values At your very first Family Meeting, you may talk about what is important in your family and what rules/guidelines that you try to live by. You can write these down for reference later. It can be as simple as, “In our family, everyone puts their dinner plate in the kitchen sink” or as important as, “In our family, we care about each others feelings. Caring about each other’s feelings looks like - saying good morning, not going to sleep angry, not hurting each other’s bodies, etc.” Again, these will evolve over time. At later Family Meetings, children and parents can add to the list to deal with very real conflicts or difficulties that emerged in the week before. Talking about the values specific to your family helps parents to begin to show their own parenting philosophy - basically, what kind of kids are you hoping to raise and how do you communicate those values to them? Including kids in these discussions gives them the opportunity to share what is important to them and what has been hard to live up to. Writing these down also gives parents an opportunity to reflect with kids when they are having a hard time living up to these ideals. Parents can say, “When you threw your shoes at me, I understand that was one of the ways you were telling me you didn’t want to go grocery shopping. But, let’s go look at our Family Values. We agreed that is our family, we don’t hurt one another’s bodies.” This kind of reflection can go a long way in helping children think about the consequences of their behavior on others.

Family Jobs Like many others, I am of the belief that all family members should do jobs at home because everyone should contribute to helping home life run smoothly. During the family jobs section of your meeting, you can share who will be responsible for what in coming weeks. Include children in age-appropriate ways - sorting laundry, helping to load the dishwasher, stacking newspapers, etc. Again, this will evolve as children get older. Modeling how parents share in the running of the household, encouraging everyone to get involved, and teaching self-help and life skills are all benefits of this practice.

Sum-It-Up The last part of the meeting can include an opportunity for family members to connect with each other. Some families use this time to do a Best Part/Worst Part/Part I Learned the Most From or What I’m Most Looking Forward To This Week/What I’m Hoping is Over Fast. It may be just a time for a group hug. Every family’s meeting will end different.

Family Meetings can be introduced when children are preschool aged and will obviously vary in length given different children’s attention spans. By putting this into practice now, you will be setting the stage for open communication as children begin to become more independent from you. Please let me know if you try Family Meetings and what experiences, both positive or negative, that you may have!

Posted by shannon on Thursday February 1 at 03:25PM
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A New Phase of the School Year

As we end the month of January, teachers and I are thinking about the changes that are happening in the classrooms – both in individual children and the groups as a whole. One of the ways that we think about curriculum at school includes a theory about phases of the school year and the behaviors and themes that accompany a particular stage. Right now, we are in the middle phase of the school year. 
The middle phase is all about autonomy for the child – the idea that this is a period when children are 
formulating their own sense of independent self within their unique 
developmental stage.

Each school year, the behaviors of young children express this stage in different ways – from the 2 day program through Junior Kindergarten – but the behaviors displayed (both positive and negative) are part of the development of their sense of self. As they seek to assert their sense of independent self, we see new behaviors emerging at school. These behaviors, though sometimes trying to parents and teachers, signify an important next step in the social emotional development of the child and how they experience the school environment.

Look around the coat room as children successfully stow their winter gear, watch a child pass the snack bowl, observe what is happening at the self help art shelf; an “I can do it myself” attitude has emerged. In the classroom (and maybe some of this will ring true for behaviors you may be seeing at home) we see children asserting their individual preferences – in their choice of activities and how they play, in choice of playmates, and in their choice of materials. This assertion of individual preferences can lead to some positive experimentation in the classroom, as children may try activities that once seemed too difficult to them, or they may try playing and interacting with children they haven’t shown interest in previously.

This experimentation can also lead to some undesirable behaviors as well, including oppositional behavior with teachers and limit testing with peers. None of these behaviors come as a surprise to teachers, as we experience this phase every year. We understand that this middle phase is an important one, and that on the other side is the final phase where we have the experience of seeing children become independent students who can act on their own ideas and have developed new and important competencies.

But, before we get there, teachers need to help children understand that while we embrace the positive behaviors of experimentation and assertion of individual preferences, there is still a need for structure at school and teachers still need to make sure that children feel safe and comfortable at school; both in expressing their ideas and emotions and for their bodies. When you assist, you will see teachers stating clear expectations, and walking the line of holding on to authority and letting a bit go when appropriate – and hopefully you will see us maintaining our sense of humor as children test the limits. We are annually reminded that the most important “rules of school” are the ones that lead to safe, happy, and healthy classroom communities where children can learn and grow.

Posted by shannon on Thursday January 25 at 03:58PM
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New Babies!

Babies, babies, everywhere! The last few months have brought new arrivals to many families, and more to come. As all of you know, bringing a new baby home means lots of changes to routine and to the household. Older siblings experience the addition of a new baby brother or sister with a myriad of emotions: excitement, resentment, anxiety, happiness, etc. As all children are unique, their reactions will also be theirs alone. What we can expect, however, is that there will be a reaction.

I recently ran across the following, and found it both humorous and helpful: To get a sense of how your older child might feel about the addition of the new baby, imagine this: Imagine that your partner puts an arm around you and says, "Honey, I love you so much, and you're so wonderful that I've decided to have another wife (or husband or partner) just like you." When the new wife (or husband or partner) finally arrives, you see that (s)he's very young and kind of cute. When the three of you are out together, people say hello to you politely, but exclaim ecstatically over the newcomer. "Isn't (s)he adorable! Hello sweetheart... You are precious!" Then they turn to you and ask, "How do you like her/him?

Yes, it is an overly-dramatic example, but we can imagine that some truth can be found in it. Young children have little to identify themselves with outside of their family and birth order titles can be important. Parents are typically the center of a child’s world and competing for attention is increased by the arrival of a baby. So, how can we support the older sibling? Set aside special time for your older child. Each parent should spend some one-on-one with the older child every day. It’s amazing how much even just 10 minutes of uninterrupted one-on-one time can mean to your child (and help their behavior!). Let your child choose the activity, and you follow their lead. Listen—really listen—to how your child feels about the baby and the changes in your family. If they express negative feelings, acknowledge them. Help your child put their feelings into words. Never deny or discount your child’s feelings. Make sure it is very clear that absolutely no hurting is allowed. Give your child other ways to express bad or angry feelings they may have toward the baby. For example, they could draw an angry picture of the baby, or act out their wishes with dolls, or roar like a lion. “Baby” your child, if that’s what they seem to crave. This may help stave off regression in areas that are less acceptable to you. There is a tendency to suddenly expect your child to become more independent when you have a new baby. If you expect less independence, you are more likely to get more!” (by Kyla Boyse, R.N).

Adjustment to a new baby takes a long time, and new adjustments need to be made as babies enter new developmental stages. Sibling relationships last a lifetime and the above tips are a step in right direction of setting them up for success.

Book suggestions to ease the transition:

Za Za's Baby Brother by Lucy Cousins

The New Baby by Fred Rogers

Will There be a Lap for Me? by Dorothy Corey

Oonga Boonga by Frieda Wishinsky

On Mother's Lap by Ann Herbert Scott


Posted by shannon on Thursday January 18 at 12:09PM
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Working Towards a More Diverse School Community

For those of you who are reading the chapter from Nurture Shock on “Why white parents don’t talk about race” and may plan on attending our discussion on Thursday evening, I look forward to it! Engaging with one another in these discussions is an important part of considering and working towards the school’s stated goal of increasing the diversity of our membership. “Diversity” as a goal may be easy to get on-board with as an idea. But, what do we mean? How far are we willing to go to achieve our own definitions of a diverse school environment? How can one small nursery school on the north side of Chicago “solve” an issue that large and endowed universities address?

Through our long-range plan, as accepted by our governing boards, Lincoln Park Co-op has accepted the following definition of diversity. “The human differences between people including, but not limited to, shape, size, ability, gender, age, skin color, sexual orientation, family background, spiritual beliefs and political affiliation” (Stacy York, Roots & Wings:  Affirming Culture in Early Childhood Programs Redleaf Press 2003). Our admissions policy states that we accept all families that represent these groups and do not discriminate in our programs or our practices. We go further to say that that all forms of diversity – among both staff and families – enrich the learning environment for students.  The teaching staff embraces the tenets of anti-bias curriculum and seeks to “support children’s full development in our multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural world and to give them the tools to stand up to prejudice, stereotyping, bias, and eventually to institutional “isms”. Louise Derman-Sparks & Julie Olsen Edwards, Anti-bias Education, (NAEYC, 2010). The Co-op is committed to take actionable steps to increase, among other things, the racial and socioeconomic diversity of the student body in a meaningful and sustainable way that welcomes families into the Co-op that have not traditionally applied for admission. We also seek to authentically and respectfully considers their experiences in our mostly homogeneous community.

Why does this matter? By your choice of Lincoln Park Co-op for your child, and through the contributions you make of your time and treasure, I know that you understand how critical this period of development is for your young child. This extends beyond just their cognitive, physical and social emotional development to their moral development. Development and learning occur in and are influenced by multiple social and cultural contexts. “Because early childhood settings tend to be children’s first communities outside the home, the character of these communities is very influential in development.  How children expect to be treated and how they treat others is significantly shaped in the early childhood setting.” (Principle 8 of NAEYC’s position on developmentally appropriate practice).

Frances Wardle, in her book, Diversity in Early Childhood Programs summed it up when she wrote, “Our children therefore need to learn about themselves through being exposed to people, having role models in the center, and visiting people in the community who are like them.  By the same token, to learn about and be comfortable with people who are different, young children also need direct, concrete experiences with people who are different from them: children in their program, teachers, and people in the community.  Thus, homogeneous programs – of one race, ethnicity, religion, ability and/or language – must find ways to expose their children to people who are different.  This is needed for all children, not just white, middle-class children.”  

I hope that you will read the chapter, join in our discussions, and be open and supportive as the Diversity Committee and the staff work on these lofty goals. I urge you to be engaged in these discussions, not just for your own family’s time at the Co-op, but for those who will follow in your footsteps.


Posted by shannon on Thursday January 11 at 03:14PM
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Keeping Same During the Holidays

I had to laugh this past weekend when I received a bottle of wine in a bag with the imprinted message, “It’s the most winederful time of the year!” I do love a good play on words, but it also made me think of all of the efforts made by parents this time of year to make the holiday season amazing for kids (and the glass of wine that may accompany the late nights spent wrapping presents, sending cards, etc. and etc.!). The additions of responsibilities to parents’ lists are coupled with children’s typical routines being thrown off when we add the inevitable late nights of special holiday treats (Zoo Lights and the Christmas train), visits to and from family members, and religious ceremonies and parties. Everyone can start to feel the strain. (And then someone gets the flu!) Even those enjoyable changes to the usual life of the family can begin to cause shorter fuses, melt downs, and frustration for everyone.

During stressful times it can be tricky to remember what usually helps us redirect and understand negative or demanding behavior. After taking a breath, one of the easiest things a parent can do is to just acknowledge the situation and help your child name their emotion. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen a child visually relax when I witness a parent or a teacher do this. “You’re tired. We’ve been so busy. Nana and Papa are staying with us which is different. That makes it hard to come to school today.” It feels comforting, no matter how old you are, to have someone acknowledge how you are feeling. The next step is to offer a reminder of what comes next and that emotions can change. “Now it is time for a regular day at school. You may want to just rest and look at a book for awhile. You may want to start playing soon. Your teachers remember what makes you feel happy at school.”

All the trusted adults in a child’s life are constantly acting as models of behavior. For better or for worse they see our reactions to stress, whether positive or negative. Sometimes, you won’t be able to reach into your tool box of strategies to help yourself or your child. Sometimes what helped last time doesn’t this time! It’s normal that we have a harder time controlling the tone and volume of our voice, and that perhaps we say or do something that we regret. Model saying you are sorry and make a plan to do better next time. Ask your child for suggestions (after everyone has regained composure) for what you could do together the next time a tough situation occurs.

There is so much pressure this time of year to make every experience special, to make those treasured lasting memories, to make sure grandparents and others are included. I encourage parents to acknowledge this, but also to recognize when saying “no” is the best gift you can give your child and your family. Try to adhere to regular nap and bedtimes as best you can. Be honest with your own limitations of time and adjust expectations as you can. All young children really want is time with their beloved parents. That is truly the best gift you can give them anytime of the year.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Winter Break. See you in the new year!

Posted by shannon on Thursday December 21, 2017 at 03:18PM
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Can We Expect Gratitude from Young Children When We Give Them a Gift?

This time of year is filled with chances to support young children in their capacity to be genuinely thankful for the opportunities, things, and people in their lives and to encourage the desire to be charitable and giving to others. Like most topics related to early childhood, there is a range of development we need to be mindful of and the real limitations children may have to express gratitude or be truly empathetic to others. This range is related to their limited experiences and their own natural age-appropriate ego-centrism. These limitations should not discourage our efforts, but rather to help us have reasonable expectations of the outcomes of those efforts.

As adults, we understand and practice the social conventions around receiving a gift. If the gift is to be unwrapped in front of the giver, we understand to say “thank you” before even knowing what it is, to show either true delight at the gift or to feign it, and to thank the giver again. We were taught this convention by parents, practiced it, and came to appreciate it when we became gift givers ourselves. There is something very vulnerable about choosing and presenting presenting a gift you’re unsure of and experiencing that vulnerability helps us to understand the mindset of the giver. We’ve internalized the idea that it is “the thought that counts”.  

The thought does not count for young children. The gift counts. That is why adults need to ask, “Do you know who that present is from?” as the child rips into the wrapping paper. That is why when the child discovers in the box a pair of lovingly-knit mittens from grandma, she tosses them to the side and eagerly reaches for the next box. That is why kids often forget to express their gratitude and parents either prompt them to do so, or offer it themselves. So what to do? For preschool-aged children, I suggest modeling the behavior you would like to see, reminding (sometimes disappointed or disapproving relatives) that the child is learning how to be receive gifts with a grateful heart and that is a value of your family, and revisiting the topic with your child after the excitement of the moment has passed. A delayed heartfelt detail about a received gift from a child (“Grandma, I like the color blue of my new mittens!”) is more satisfying and meaningful to everyone than a timelier forced “Thank you, Grandma”.

Many of us are also thinking of what we have to be grateful for at this time of year and recognize that there are those with less. For those of you who want your children to participate in reaching out to others, I would suggest engaging in activities that they can play an active role in. For example, choose a name off of one of the many “gift trees” around the city and together shop and drop off the gift for a child in need. Have your child go through their own toys and books and deliver to a donation site. Bake cookies and bring them to your local fire station or take a coffee to a crossing guard you see everyday. Ask your child what “helper” might like a treat- they might surprise you.

The process of becoming a grateful person who is empathetic to others is just that, a process. Young children benefit from modeling, active participation, and age-appropriate expectations of their capabilities. Even more gifts that you can give them this holiday season.


Posted by shannon on Thursday December 14, 2017 at 12:48PM
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Considering Consent

It’s hard to be a person in the world right now and not be thinking about the consequences of sexual harassment and assault. The consequences for the victims and the consequences for our society as a whole. How did we get here? Will it get better? How can we, as parents and as educators, support the children in our collective care to both protect themselves, speak up, be heard, and be respectful of other people’s bodies and feelings? How do we teach consent to young children when it comes to their bodies?

Some may say this isn’t an appropriate topic to think about when it comes to young children. That argument compartmentalizes consent as being only related to sexual contact. Young children's’ bodies are constantly handled by adults. We change their diapers, bathe them, hug and kiss them, physically redirect them, tousle their hair, give them medicine, consent on their behalf for doctors, coaches, teachers and others to do the same. Most, if not all, of these physical interactions are necessary. But, we can still show children that we respect their ownership of their bodies as we interact with them. By teaching them that they have the right to give consent, we are teaching them their very first lesson in respecting the rights of others to give consent.

So, how do we teach consent? I believe, and best practices in early care and education dictates, that it starts in infancy when bathing, diapering, and clothing children. It can be as simple as dictating the steps that we are taking, even with preverbal infants. “I’m taking off your diaper, now. I’m wiping you.  Oh! You’re (fussing, you don’t like the cold and wet cloth) or (smiling, it feels so much better to be clean and dry!)”, etc. As children get older, it’s about giving them appropriate choices over if they will wash their bodies or put on their shoes. Even more importantly, it’s about giving them a choice in how they show physical affection to others, including parents. Once a child is able to communicate, either verbally or nonverbally, whether or not they want a hug, kiss, squeeze on the cheeks, adults should ask before initiating the contact.  They should wait for the reply and respect it. Parents should inform all the loving and caregiving people in the lives of their child that this is the way they interact with their child and that they expect others to do the same. Grandma may be disappointed not to get a good-bye hug. Uncle Dave might think you are being overprotective. But what you are teaching your child is that you respect their body, you will help them learn to protect it, and that they never owe anyone their physical affection for any reason. We need to teach and show young children that we respect their “no” and “stop” when it comes to their bodies and we will always protect their right to give those limits. What can be a more powerful message than that?

On the flip side, we need to help young children respect the boundaries of their peers as well. We cannot expect to tell them once that they cannot hit, hug, tackle, roll around with their siblings, friends and classmates and expect that they will have the self control and regulation to heed our request. They need our supervision and calm and consistent messages to help internalize the expectation and the time to develop the strategies to stop themselves. In today’s highly charged media environment, it can be tricky to stay calm when we see  children physically interacting and one child is saying “stop” and the other child isn’t stopping. Again, clear, calm and consistent messages will help children reach the goal of respecting others physical boundaries.

I do believe that most everything we need to learn, socially and emotionally speaking, happens during the very dynamic period of early childhood. Let’s raise a new generation of people who have learned that their bodies and the choice of giving physical affection are their own. Let’s help them internalize that message so deeply that they would never even consider infringing upon that right of another person.


Posted by shannon on Thursday December 7, 2017 at 03:07PM
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