I have another rant.
Last time I focused on how adults underestimate children’s cognitive skills. This time, I'd like to talk about how adults tend to overestimate children’s social-emotional skills.
Young children have big emotions. It is simultaneously a beautiful and frustrating thing. How many of you can relate to one (or more) of these experiences?
It can be hard as a teacher (or a parent for that matter), to understand, acknowledge, and support children as they learn to regulate their emotions and behaviors. It takes a lot of energy and our own emotion regulation.
I think we sometimes forget how important emotion regulation (or emotional intelligence) is as well as how long it takes to develop. Neurological research shows that the part of the brain that regulates emotions and behaviors (the frontal lobe) isn’t fully developed until young adulthood. Even older children and teenagers have trouble identifying their emotions and deciding how to behave appropriately.
Nevertheless, we expect children as young as two or three to remember the rule the first time we say it. We expect children to be able to keep their emotions in check and not get upset when someone else takes a toy. We expect children to be happy at all times, even during stressful situations.
But these expectations are not realistic and may even be harmful for kids, depending on how harshly we react to their big emotions.
“So often children are punished for being human. Children are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes. Yet, us adults have them all the time. None of us are perfect. We must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves.” - Rebecca Eanes
Thankfully, if we can keep our expectations in check, there are ways to start supporting children’s emotional and social development. Here are some ways that we can support young children’s developing emotions.
So, let’s start taking a step back and expect humanness rather than perfection from the children in our care. And let’s find ways to respond with sensitivity and support to children as they develop crucial emotional and social skills.
What about you? How do you have appropriate expectations of children’s emotional development? How do you support children’s emotion regulation?
When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But with the pandemic surging and some schools opening up - only to shut down again, it’s clear that COVID is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about COVID related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.
Young infants develop a unique relationship—known as attachment—with their caregivers. To develop secure bonds, infants need to know that at least one person really cares about them. Caregivers provide that comfort by helping infants regulate needs and emotions, such as hunger and sadness. With healthy attachments, infants develop a sense of safety and trust.
Infants need to be held, to have face-to-face interactions, to feel another human heartbeat. By meeting these needs, caregivers foster attachment. Plan how you will meet these essential needs—while keeping yourself and infants safe.
Children need to feel safe before they can explore their surroundings. While curiosity and exploration help awaken children’s talents, teachers help reinforce their learning through guidance and repetition. All children benefit from intentional interactions that inspire them through new experiences—and some children need additional or individualized support.
Given the natural need to be around others, children might have a hard time with social distancing. Organize materials in spaces where two friends can explore together. Make yourself available to facilitate their exploration while ensuring safety.
Toddlers reinforce their trust in caregivers while venturing into the world on their own. Along with stable relationships and independence, they need frequent reminders of behavioral expectations to keep themselves and their peers safe. With support and regulation, educators can help buffer the effects of stress or trauma and promote healthy child development.
Children learn best in a warm, safe environment. While positive interactions strengthen a classroom community, clear safety expectations promote healthiness. Remind children that these measures are in place because you care about them.