Let’s Talk About What Happened…

Our child’s time in preschool or early childhood classes are generally filled with fun. The teachers in Hopkins Early Childhood programming work to create an environment where all students feel safe, secure and welcome. It is important to remember, however, that during the class time there are many opportunities for children to run into social situations which involve a redirection or a social interaction that is difficult. Because young children work on the skills of social grace through trial and error, there is often a fair amount of error involved before they gain the ability to deal with the wide variety of social situations they experience in the classroom. When we as parents hear about these error events after the fact, we often want to reach out to our child to talk about it, and even more so have a chance to talk to the teacher. The staff at Hopkins wanted to share with you strategies for how to talk about events that require the shared attention of staff and parent. These recommendations will serve you as a member of our parent community throughout the academic journey of your child.

Young children live in the moment. They are not likely to remember a lot of details about the day unless that detail was especially important to him or it involved a significant difference from other days. Because of this, it can be difficult to pull out general conversation when discussing the school day. This is why we are often more likely to hear about a surprising detail, rather than the regular every-day experiences of school.

When you hear about a detail of the day that requires more understanding–for instance if your child comes home saying “I was pushed off the tricycle today in school”, remain composed and ask for more details. Get eye to eye with your child and in a relaxed manner ask him to “Tell me more about that.” It is important for us to get details before we jump too far into how to react. For instance, being pushed off the tricycle could have been part of a game that your child was enjoying before the teacher asked all students to stop playing it. (In the rough-and-tumble world of three and four year olds, a bit of wrestling has often been seen by children as fun–not so for teachers in the classroom).

Once you have a sense of the whole story–and how your child feels about the event–you will have a better sense of how to talk it over with the staff and teachers at the school. Ask your child’s teacher to set aside a time to meet with you. It is best to discuss classroom events individually with your teacher, rather than with your child present or other classroom members nearby. This allows your teacher the opportunity to really focus on the questions you are bringing up and address your concerns.

Early childhood teachers are very focused on the well being of the students in their care. For this reason, the social interaction that needed attention very likely already received that attention at the time of the incident. Because children live in the moment, having the issue already resolved by the time you hear about it at home allows you to take on the role of listener and problem solving advocate without having to add consequences. For instance, if you are hearing from your child that “I didn’t share any of the Lego’s today at school–because they are all mine!” you can assume that the teachers likely already addressed this during the time it actually happened. The conversation you have with the teacher can focus around ways you as a parent can encourage turn taking and sharing. There is no need to come up with an additional consequence for the behavior after the teacher has already done so.

The students in the early childhood classrooms will all have up and down moments in a typical day. The social demands of the classroom will result in some sort of a misstep by every child probably every single day. The teachers understand that the vast majority of blunders are unintentional mistakes. When you hear a story that puts your own child or another child in a less-than-favorable light, remember that each day brings a new opportunity for all the students to shine, and generally they do. If your child is talking about an incident during her day and doesn’t seem emotional or upset about it, she is likely just relaying information and is best served with a listening ear.

The teachers in our early childhood programs (as well as in all of our Hopkins classrooms) are invested in always keeping the lines of communication open between school and home. Please do not feel hesitant to address an issue directly with your child’s teacher. The honest discussions between all those who are invested in the education of your child will strengthen the partnership you are developing with the schools during the early childhood years.

Hopkins Summer Youth Camps and Classes Are Here!

Hopkins Summer Ventures Youth Enrichment camps and classes are open for registration now! Teens and elementary-age youth will love the fun camps and classes to choose from. Cooking, rocketry, chess, sports, art, pottery on the wheel, preschool art, Mad Science, golf, and more! It’s all here at Hopkins this summer!

How Was Your Day?

Preschool is a great experience for young children. There are new friendships formed, academic skills introduced and reinforced, a growing sense of confidence at succeeding in independent tasks, and lots and lots of fun to be had. As parents we know all these things are happening when we drop our child off at the door. However, when we pick him up again at the end of class, we sometimes feel that for all the information he provides us about the day, he could have just sat frozen in a vacuum for the hours he was there.

Our curiosity is often burning for information and anecdotes, and so it can be difficult to understand why our child is not usually inclined to share what happened in his day. The Hopkins preschool staff would like to offer insight into why children tend to let go of the preschool day so readily (rather than spending time processing it). In addition, they have provided advice on how to get a sense of what went on in the school day from teachers, written communication and your child himself.

LIVING IN THE MOMENT?

Preschool aged children live in the moment. They concentrate on what is in front of them in the present, rather than what has already happened in the past. When a child does not tell you about his school day, he is not hiding the events from you on purpose, he has simply moved on already. Developmentally it is a difficult task for a child to go back and review parts of his day—unless something of great importance to him has happened.

Children also have different personality traits that shape the timing of when they might share details of their day. A child who tends to get his energy from being around and interacting with people (an extrovert) will likely be more chatty on the car ride home, because his chatter is actually helping him to regain some of the energy spent during his school day. A child who tends to regain her energy by sitting quietly on her own (an introvert) will have a difficult time answering questions just after her school day because she needs space and time to regain energy form her busy day. In addition, some children have a sense of ownership over their school day—they feel it is uniquely theirs—and their pride in going to school and accomplishing things independently results in keeping mum about details.

Listen to your child, and watch her reactions to your questioning, in order to gain an understanding of when she is most likely to want to talk. If you will get a better conversation out of her if you wait until after dinner, then it is worthwhile to do so—rather than to try to get information from a child who is determined to be tight-lipped. Also remember that information has a funny way of dispensing itself. Although you may be starting conversations and offering opportunities to share often, sometimes details about a certain project or day in school don’t come out into the open until months afterward—when it finally strikes your child’s fancy to talk about it.

BUT WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY?

Although we know we might not get the satisfying sorts of answers we would receive if we had asked an adult for information, it is natural and important to show curiosity about our child’s day. How can we help to focus our children on the past, and have a conversation about events without making it a stressful interaction resulting in that timeless exchange we all remember:
What did you do today?
Nothing

Ask questions about specific and concrete details of the day. Rather than ask something wide ranging like “what did you do today?” ask “What did you have for snack today?” Other examples of specific questions that could draw out information are:

Did you go outside to play or did you play in the gym?
What songs did you sing today?
What game did you play with your friends during play time?
Did you do an art project today? What did you make?

These are questions that you may already know the answer to, or that may not provide you with any further information than the answer. However, having a simple conversation about even a brief detail of the day—and not asking for anything further—provides you and your child with a successful habit of talking about his day. As he grows older, and is able to and interested in remembering and processing parts of his day with you, you will already have had practice and precedence for doing so.

Avoid questions that feel like there should be a correct answer. All parents hope that their child has a good day, has fun, did a good job. Asking your child “Did you have a good day?” “Did you do a good job?” creates a stressful interaction. These questions give children the sense that they SHOULD have a good day, it SHOULD be fun, and doesn’t allow an opening for saying something was difficult. Open ended and concrete questions allow your child the space to talk about what is most important for him. We can remember ourselves the pressure we felt when someone asked us as children “Did you have fun?”

HOW CAN WE GET SPECIFIC?

Specific and concrete questions will be better conversation starters, but sometimes it is hard to even know what to be specific about! The preschool teachers realize that children do not provide details about the day, which is why they are often working in over-drive to present you with information you can use. Be sure to keep the following things in mind when investigating what goes on in your child’s day. Use what the teachers provide to create specific questions.

  • Newsletters: The teachers are creating newsletters with details of the school day and the week. Be sure to read these letters. They are chock full of information, and provide great insight into what to talk to your child about. If the newsletter lets you know the class is interested in birds and is working on creating pictures of birds, you as a parent can ask “What kind of bird are you drawing a picture of in school?”
  • Often the teacher has posted highlights of the day on a whiteboard outside of class. These bulleted items on the board offer solid pieces of information in which to form a concrete question. If the board notes that the children played outside in the sandbox, as a parent you can ask “What did you build in the sandbox today?”
  • Our preschool programs do a fantastic job of documenting class activities. Often there are art projects and photos of the children in the hallway. As parents it is often easy to let this documentation fade right into the background because we are in a hurry to pick our child up from school and get him home in time for lunch. However, slowing down with your child and really examining what is posted in the halls will certainly be worth your time and effort. Children are almost always eager to point out what they created. You can spur them on with a simple prompt “Tell me about this.”
  • Teachers have a method of transferring information and communications back and forth. Sometimes it is a school bucket, sometimes it is the child’s backpack. It is important to remember that although parents and teachers see this means of exchange as important and obvious, your child is very likely to completely forget that something is in there that needs to be addressed. Check your child’s backpack every day she comes home from school.

As our children age, they spend more and more time away from our immediate view. Begin the habit of reaching out to talk to your child about their day early in your child’s school career. Take note of the information provided by teachers, ask specific questions and accept your child’s attitude towards talking about school. These actions invite engagement and provide a secure atmosphere for talking about whatever comes up. We won’t always be with our children, but we want them to know that when they do come home we are ready to hear about everything that went on in their day.

Fevers, First-Aid and Facts

Looking for a trusted resource for health related issues?  The Mayo Clinic Health Information web site provides comprehensive information offering insight and advice on topics related to all kinds of health issues. This award winning site is edited by medical clinicians and educators at the clinic who are dedicated to providing clear, accurate and relevant information. This web site is well organized and easy to navigate: type your health issue into the search box in the upper left, or find the condition through the alphabetical listing on the page. The straight-forward and factual approach to symptoms and diagnosis helps a worried parent search for details on how to best handle a child’s illness.

The Mayo Clinic staff realize that parents are interested in partnering with the medical community to ensure the health of their children. Their mission statement clearly states this as a reason for creating and maintaining this site:

Our mission is to empower people to manage their health. We accomplish this by providing useful and up-to-date information and tools that reflect the expertise and standard of excellence of Mayo Clinic.
A team of Web professionals and medical experts working side by side produces this site. Through this unique collaboration, we give you access to the experience and knowledge of the more than 3,700 physicians, scientists and researchers of Mayo Clinic.

 

It is never easy to see our family members get sick (or to be sick ourselves). Having trusted information at our fingertips from a highly esteemed medical community may help to ease the worry that comes with the symptoms, scratches and sicknesses of childhood.