Put On A Happy Face…..

As parents we love to see our kids’ joy and happiness.  Parenting can be such a pleasure when the whole family has a sense of good will toward each other. It is no wonder that the harder feelings: the anger, frustration and sadness that children feel, tend to cause parents to worry and wish we could make it better.  Many of us remember the days when we were children and we were told to “put on a happy face”, or “stop crying and be a big boy” when we were upset. Now that we are parents we can get a sense of why there is such a need to have happy children—it makes us feel better as parents. Many adults are uncomfortable with strong feelings, and very uncomfortable around feelings that tend to be seen as negative.  Young children, however, are often consumed by these strong and negative feelings.  The staff at the Harley Family Center would like to offer our perspective on how to handle these emotional situations. This approach allows the child to express what he is feeling, and the parent to respect that the feeling is being felt. Addressing and respecting all feelings can help a family feel stronger.

The teachers in our early childhood programs see all feelings as valuable, because they provide a clue to the child and adult about what is happening in a situation. By respecting the feeling, and talking about it rather looking to fix it, we can encourage a child to address feelings, situations, actions and attitudes. Here are some tips and ideas from our staff on how to best handle the difficult feelings that all children have.

  • Before you set a limit or make a decision, be sure that you are keeping in mind the developmental appropriateness of what you are asking.  If the limit you are setting makes sense for the child, and you believe it is the right thing to do, then do not let sadness or anger get in the way of sticking to your limit.  Young children need limits, and they need a parent to uphold those limits and be the authority. Emotional responses to hearing “no” are common in young children—and the “no” usually comes in the form of intense emotion and loud responses. The child needs you to stick with what you have decided, even though he is acting like he knows better.  You know he doesn’t know better—stick with your limit and carry out your decision even while there is a negative reaction.
  • Allowing your child to be sad or mad at a situation, and not fixing the situation, gives your child the space he needs to find a way to help himself feel better. Allow the sadness to sit with your child, and let him know that you see he is sad. “I see you are very sad not to get a treat at the store.” Read your child’s cues to see what he needs from you to feel better. Some children need their back rubbed, some children need space alone, some children need a distraction. “I will sit with you here on the couch while you are sad. When you are ready, we can read a book together.” Allowing him to work through his emotions supports him by helping him to see that feelings can change; we don’t feel happy all the time, and we don’t feel angry all the time. The success he feels when he changes his own emotional state will prepare him for success in dealing with even more difficult disappointments as he ages.
  • Get in tune with your own emotions before you make a decision. A decision or limit you set when you are angry or upset may not be a good decision for you or your child. Get a sense of how you are feeling when you are facing a situation, and allow yourself the time you need to calm down. “I need time to think about this” is a good phrase—and an honest one.  Another phrase that parents of older children have used is”If I answer now, the answer will be no, if you give me time it might be maybe.” Or “I want to say yes—what can you give me so I can say yes?”
  • We are often tempted to give in because our child’s reaction is so intense, or because we are so tired of dealing with yet another situation in which the child becomes angry or sad or intensely upset. Remember there are long term goals in discipline, and what we are looking to do is reinforce for our toddlers and preschoolers that every time they misbehave we will react with authority, firmness and a calm approach to problem solving.  As a parent we need to get used to dealing with our child’s uncomfortable emotions and model an approach that is helpful. As your child ages into elementary school and older, you want your child to already have a sense that you are the authority. A child who has been used to you bending the rules due to emotional outbursts early in life may continue this trend into older grades, when the consequences for bending rules can make a much larger influence on her life.
  • When a problem arises between siblings or peers and things get emotional, take a step back and away from the emotional turmoil. Encourage problem solving after those involved in the issue have taken a calm-down break. Allow your child and the others he is conflicting with to try to deal with the issue themselves; be the mediator, but not the judge. For preschool children and older, use simple language to help them talk through a problem solving process (the three step process below is utilized in our early childhood programs through a curriculum entitled Second Step): 1) How do I feel  2) What is the problem  3) What can I do to solve it?
  • Talk about every feeling—not just the good ones. Books are a great way to build a varied vocabulary around emotions.  Here are some great titles to start with:

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Suess
Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis
How Are Your Peeling by Saxton Freymann and Joost Eiffers

Join Us For The Parent Forum

Our Hopkins School District has multiple ways of presenting information and education to all the parents in our district.  One of the ways we do this is through an evening event called the Parent Forum.

This entertaining evening involves engaging speakers, hot topics in parent education, information about community resources and registration information on summer programs provided through the district.

Join our keynote speaker, Katy Smith, for a presentation on the interplay of kids, technology and media—and the role we have as parents to help provide a framework around it all. Katy Smith is a passionate and often hilarious storyteller with a supportive and positive message for parents.

Our small group discussions are centered around topics of great interest to a wide variety of parents. Interested in sibling relationships? The development of your 9-10 year old? Helping your preschooler become a reader? Helping your teenager avoid peer pressure around alcohol use?  We have you covered!

No need to register. Join us on March 7 at 6:30pm at the Eisenhower Community Center. Share in the spirit of community, education and support at this Hopkins district Parent Forum event.

Scientists of the Future

Parents understand all too well that young children learn best through hands-on experiences.  The gooey-er, the messier, and the more sensory an event is, the more engaged preschoolers tend to be!  Children truly are young scientists–their play involves exploring with toys, objects and imagination in order to answer the questions they have about the world around them. This is why the Hopkins School District is proud to announce our STEM: Let’s Build event designed for our youngest school participants.

Hopkins teachers and staff realize the importance of developmentally appropriate learning experiences. For our young preschoolers we are very careful in all of our early childhood classrooms to promote learning experiences which meet children at their level of ability cognitively and emotionally.  The STEM curriculum in our elementary schools continue this important work by engaging students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) lessons that will prepare our children for today’s (and tomorrows!) world.

Each elementary school in our district is opening it’s doors to our preschoolers and their parents so families can explore and enjoy firsthand the learning and excitement that surrounds our STEM curriculum. Preschoolers will love the opportunity to get to see the “big” schools and enjoy the activities prepared for them through the Hopkins schools and The Works museum partnership. Parents will get a chance to tour the kindergarten classrooms and learn more about the curriculum being used in the elementary schools.  Don’t forget to ask about the exciting World Language program that will be part of  all elementary schools next year as well!

Each elementary school has an open house date for the STEM: Let’s Build event. Your family’s school is eager to welcome you!

Tanglen Elementary: March 4, 9:30 a.m.
Meadowbrook Elementary: March 4, 10:00 a.m.
Gatewood Elementary: March 8, 10:00 a.m.
Glen Lake Elementary: March 11, 9:30 a.m.
Alice Smith Elementary: March 20, 10:00 a.m.
Eisenhower + XinXing Elementary: March 22, 9:30 a.m.