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Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

How Small Children Can Make a Big Difference

children's hands playing piano

By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

In my last blog, I wrote about ways to help children cultivate an attitude of gratitudeDr. Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti, a colleague who studies positive psychology, recently told me that people who are more grateful also tend to be more optimistic, be more hopeful, have higher life satisfaction and be more empathetic. I hope that you’ve been trying some of the ideas that I shared! As it turns out, focusing on the good in our lives is only one way to reap these positive social-emotional benefits. Another way is to give to others in ways that support them without expecting anything in return. Today, I’ll share some ideas for how to get children of all ages involved in giving back to help their communities. 

Intergenerational Caring and Sharing  Now that families are traveling to see each other less often, seniors may be feeling especially lonely and disconnectedMake it a family goal to add cheer to the year for neighbors who may be struggling. Sara Bartlett is a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on the benefits of intergenerational relationships for mental health and well-beingShe has shared some ideas for how families with young children can bring joyful moments to seniors who must socially isolate during this time 

  • Letters and Drawings  Encourage children to write letters or draw pictures, and mail them to local nursing homes or drop them off in older neighbors’ mailboxesYou may even spark a penpal relationship and receive letters back;  
  • Performances – Invite your children to play musical instruments, dance or perform a short skit from the driveway or porch for an older adult who watches nearby; 
  • Shared Storytelling  Ask children to practice their storytelling skills by sharing a story with an older adult over Zoom or FaceTime or, perhaps, invite the older adult to read with the child;  
  • Surprise Packages  Involve children in creating care packages with puzzle books, catalogs, jigsaw puzzles, art supplies or other items to be placed safely on someone’s stoop or delivered to elder care facilities. 

Caring for Others in Outdoor Places and Spaces – An abundance of research links developmental benefits to connections with nature. Although the pandemic limits visits to indoor spaces, families can still safely engage in outdoor activities, and they can do so in ways that help others in their communities.  

  • Community Clean Up – Cleaning up litter in your neighborhood or local parks can be safe and fun for children – just bring a plastic bag and gloves. Be sure to set rules in advance about what can and cannot be touched safely;  
  • Encouragement Rocks!  Invite children to spend some time painting rocks to scatter around the neighborhood for other people to find. Older children can paint encouraging words and phrases on their rocks, and younger children can paint with colors that they think will make others feel cheerful; 
  • Good Deed Day – Offer to do your neighbors a favor by pulling weeds in their yards, planting a small garden or making and hanging a bird feeder near their windows. These easy and fun activities will leave your children feeling like helpers and make other people a little happier during this difficult time.   

Pro tip – If you want your preschool-aged children to be enthusiastic about helping others, start by calling them helpersIn a recent study, children were more likely to offer spontaneous help to others when researchers told them, Some children choose to be helpers,” than when they said, “Some children choose to help.” This wording helps children begin to think of themselves as the kind of person who helps, and this encourages prosocial behavior. 

I hope you enjoy these ideas for how to engage in being thankful and giving!

Managing Gift Expectations

child with gifts

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Why shouldn’t our children see the holiday season as the high point in a year awash in retail celebrations? It is in everything they see, hear, and taste, starting after Halloween. What’s a parent to do in the face of this tsunami of acquisition? Is there any kind of life jacket that is helpful as the tide of consumption rises around your family?

Spend a few moments in your own head about what you want to convey to your children through your own behavior about this event, especially the relationship between giving and receiving. Then share it with your partner and see where they are on this issue. Are there any values or beliefs about the holidays in your ensuing discussion that are not related to consuming? If so, that’s a good place to start an actual conversation with your kids.

Most holiday traditions mix sacred and secular elements which are sometimes hard to reconcile, but it’s worth a try if you are going to help your children (and you) keep their sanity in the coming weeks. Asking for their holiday wish list sets the stage for disappointment and budget-busting in most cases, often amounting to online retailers having more power than the parents. Asking if they need your help with their holiday giving lists helps set the stage for more of a balance, and is often a good place for them to learn from your behavior.

Five Ways to Teach Children about Gratitude

grateful child

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

No matter how many place settings there were to accommodate three generations of Pruetts at our Thanksgiving Feast table, everyone had a seat at the grown-up or kids’ table. Every celebration I can remember began with my father−a pastor by trade−telling everyone to hold hands and, starting with the oldest, share one thing for which they were grateful on this day. It was hard to be patient, sitting there, mouths watering, and wondering what you were going to say when it was your turn. In this simple act, we learned that gratitude was what made this meal different from all others. I was amazed year after year by how seriously everyone took this charge. Answers ran from sacred to profane, but the lesson was clear; families thrive on gratitude.

The Holidays are an important opportunity to affirm values that most parents hope (or wish) their kids were developing naturally. The bounty of family life−so obvious on the dining room table−is less obvious to our younger children, and most of them need a little help seeing the connections between what we share as a family and how we feel about belonging to that family. While children seem to have a natural drift toward empathy, even compassion, feeling grateful for what they have is a harder sell. Grown-ups need to place this high on their agenda, along with plenty of patience for this sapling graft to take hold. Before you start, think about why this matters to you and how you got that way. Share those thoughts with your partner, and make a plan about how to sell gratitude as a family value to your children, as it is one of those desired human values that does not always unfold naturally, as our children grow.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Regularly express your own thankfulness verbally. (We are very lucky to have grandma nearby. I’m thankful to have a son like you in my life. Your dad made that so easy for all of us.)
  • Express gratitude behaviorally. (Take a casserole to a neighbor who has been kind or needs some extra help for whatever reason−even better if the children help you make it. When the hand-me-down toys end their cycle, make a Goodwill run with the children in tow.)
  • Make generosity part of your family’s routine. (When seasons change, collect clothes from everyone’s closet to donate or take canned goods to the local soup kitchen.)
  • Take the children along on community fundraising activities, runs, walks, etc. Explain to them why this matters to you. (Make sure they meet the organizers and understand the purpose; if it’s personal, it’s remembered)

Consider this: regularly planned simple activities can make children feel useful and appreciated as givers, not takers, which is the antidote to gratitude). These are the roots of self-esteem, not reward or praise.

Five Books That Teach Children About Caring And Giving

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Educators have long known that storytelling is an essential part of learning. Stories help children absorb information and connect the story to their experiences. Here are five books that teach the lessons of caring and giving in an engaging manner:

  1. Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

2. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (Author), Jon Klassen (Illustrator)

Extra Yarn children's book cover

3. Boxes for Katie by Candice Fleming

Boxes for Katje Book Cover

4. When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

5. Random Acts, More Random Acts, –and– Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

Random Acts, More Random Acts, --and-- Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

 

Creative Ways to Teach Your Children to Say Please and Thank You

Toddler spelling Thank You with foam blocks

By Helen Hadani, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Parents all want their children to be polite and have good manners. One of the first steps is teaching your children to use the magic word when asking for something and then thanking them when they (hopefully) get what they requested. Teaching your children manners is an ongoing process that takes patience and persistence. Young children respond differently to family members, friends and strangers, and the environment also plays an important role, so children often act differently at school than at home. Don’t be surprised if your children’s teachers say they are very polite at school, but you struggle to get a “please” or “thank you” out of them at home.

Here are some creative ways to encourage your children to mind their Ps and Qs:

  • Engage in pretend play that involves asking for something or provides an opportunity to thank someone, such as imaginary tea parties (“Please pass the cookies.”), restaurants (“May I please order another pizza?”) or schools (“Thank you for sitting so nicely during circle time.”);
  • When reading books with your child, highlight when characters are polite and considerate of other people’s feelings (“I bet the bear felt good when his friend thanked him for bringing him some honey.”). It can also be helpful to point out to your children how happy they feel when someone thanks them for doing something good;
  • Close the day with gratitude and giving thanks. At dinner or bedtime, ask each member of the family to say thank you for something that happened that day. If your children are stuck, prompt them with a question like “What was your favorite thing today?” and guide them to say thank you for that thing;
  • Teach your children how to say please and thank you in a different language. This can be a fun way to introduce your children to a foreign language and show them that there are many different ways to be polite.

 

How to Keep Your Children Connected with Their Grandparents

grandparent holding baby

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

I remember my grandmother so vividly – her huge laugh and her insistence on the proper way to make a cup of tea. I also remember the lessons learned from her, and that connection has influenced my life to this day. Research in brain development shows that the interactions between children and their families build connections among neurons¹. Building positive and strong personal relationships helps to promote healthy brain development.   

My grandmother lived in England, so I did not see her often, but I still have a collection of those blue airmail letters that kept us in touch. We are more fortunate today. There are many more ways to stay connected when you live far away. 

The book Connecting Families: The Impact of New Communication Technologies on Domestic Life, edited by CarmanNeustaedter, Steve Harrison and Abigail Sellen, is about how technology has changed how families interact. The positive aspects include the ability to develop closely bonded relationships with family and friends both near and far.  

Here are a few approaches that can support your family in staying connected. The key is to do things that come naturally to all of you and are highly interesting to your children. This will help keep these virtual visits more fun and meaningful. 

Sharing routines – Spend a few minutes each day doing something fun, like a morning stretch or a few yoga poses. This could also be a time to chat about a plan for the day or eat breakfast together. Prop up the phone or tablet on the table, and share a mealtime. 

Reading a book – Your child can pick out a favorite story. Your parents can read part of the story each day for a few minutes each week, or they can read the story in one sitting. You may want to break it up for younger children. I have started to record myself reading a story, and then send the book to my greatniece in the mail. She gets a new book each month and then puts on the video and follows along as I read to her.   

Having a family contest – A lot of families have told me they love this one. Everyone gets sent a bag of things. For example, send out crayons, glue, paper and ribbons. The challenge is to make paper airplanes. The first video chat is about making the planes. The second is the virtual flying contest. It is easy to make the kits. Another idea is decorating face masks and sharing the results. 

Playing games – This can be done in several ways. Many games lend themselves to virtual visits, such as charades or board games (if all the teams and players have the same game). For example, if one player throws the dice and moves piece on the game board, the other team or player can do the same move with the opponent’s piece on the board to follow along 

Supporting schoolwork – Many parents have asked for help with this. Grandparents can help review the children’s work, teach them how to do a math problem or offer suggestions for completing the work. The children can connect with their grandparents while their parents take a break. Screensharing helps supports this because the grandparents see what the child is working on and where the child might need support. 

¹National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2007). The science of early childhood development: Closing the gap between what wknow and what wdo. Center on the Developing Child: Harvard University. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.

Dealing with the Ups and Downs of a Preschooler

mom holding preschool daughter

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Last evening, our neighborsparents of three children under seven, were sitting out on their porch steps, masked and full of coffee. They said hello as I (masked and at a distance) walked byI paused and asked, How’s it going? Kids asleep? and heard, Thank God” in unison. The mother continued, sometimes it’s been sweet and sometimes sour – very sour. I feel kinda hollowed out in the middle. I really love, both of us love, simply being together with them for more than just a snippet of the weekend, and other times, I feel bottomed out, discouraged.” I thoughtthere is the pandemic family anthem in a nutshell. 

Our young children are feeling much the same these dayskinda hollowed out in the middle, caught between the highs of being together and the lows of losing so much of their active physical and social life. That’s why they can go from angelic to demonic in a few hours or minutes. Parents wonder at such times if they are being good parents in the way they handle these huge swings. Their children know how clueless they feel about how to helpDisappointment is around every cornercan’t do this or that, can’t see your friends or grandma, have to wear that itchy, annoying face covering. As adults, we’ve learned something about coping with disappointment by now, but for our preschoolers and young children, this may be the first time they have had to confront it in such a huge dose. No wonder they and we are upset. They are missing out on some things that we know they need to keep growing up well. Helping them cope requires as much compassion and patience as we have ever mustered on their behalf.  

Advice:  

  1. When they are upset and need us to fix something, most of us just rush in with a tool or solution as soon as we can think of one. Don’do that, at least not right away. 
  2. Listen carefully through the tears for what is wrong. Say it back to them in your own words and ask if you got it right 
  3. Confirm that you get what’s so upsetting without judgment or even if you think it’s a bit ridiculous and that those kinds of feelings do hurt and make us sad. This compassion is less likely to soften your children than it is to strengthen them. It validates them and their feelings as more important to you at the moment than correcting some injustice. 
  4. Limit the amount of pandemic-focused information flowing at them through screens (especially back-ground TV) and from other sources, such as over-heard adult conversations. The most menacing, toxic force in the pandemic’s arsenal other than the obvious mortal threat to our health is its mystery; this scale of not knowing what’s coming is unfamiliar to most of us 
  5. Running on empty,emotionally and physicallyis very hard on everyone in the family. There are many replenishmentout there if you look. A favorite for families with pre-k children is Common Sense Media’s list of 26 Kid-Friendly Documentaries for Families to watch together. Turn off your phones, kick off the shoes and grab healthy snacks. Then snuggle up and let someone else do the entertaining for a while. Don’t forget to breathe. 

Four Questions Not to Ask Your Child about Returning to School

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by Dr. Kyle Pruett, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

While the return of a schedule for which you are not responsible and a little less chaos overall can make us welcome sending our children back to school, we can’t guarantee a smooth transition. A common temptation is to start grilling our offspring about school readiness stuff in a well-meaning attempt to anticipate trouble and cut it off at the root. Examples of some things a four-year-old might say to some seemingly innocent inquiries from mom or dad include, “I don’t know if I want to see my friends yet.” “I liked being at home with you every day.” Here are four questions you may want to reconsider asking:

1. Are you excited about going back to school?

Most preschoolers feel a mix of emotions: excitement, uncertainty, curiosity or fear and not all at the same time, so it’s hard to answer this one directly. Instead, let them overhear you talking to family or friends about getting ready to send them back and some of your mixed feelings just to let them know this is an okay topic. Doing this may help encourage them to ask their questions about going back, to which you can then listen carefully and deal with where your children are about going back, not just where you are.

2. Do you want to practice your letters and numbers to get ready for school?

Isn’t this tempting since you know practice might help them in reentry? Instead, it often makes a preschooler think he or she is already a little behind because he or she hasn’t been doing his or her due diligence. Instead, before your child heads back, start saying things like, “Can you find the letter A in the billboards along the road?” Playing small games may help him or her get back in the swing of identification without feeling like it’s a getting-ready-for-school thing and is more a growing-up thing.

3. Anything special you want to do before school begins again?

Of course, we want to please our kids by giving them what they want, but this question carries with it the idea that something serious is about to happen, and they’d better get in their goodbyes. Instead, use the last long weekend for family time that is more laid back than what is to come when school starts. Talk about how much these times mean to you as a mom, dad or family and how you look forward to more of them.

4. When you do want to start getting ready to go to bed earlier to get ready for school mornings?

This question may seem like you are trying to partner up with them on this issue, but it’s just better to get it started without their consent, which you are pretty unlikely to obtain.

Transitioning Back to School After COVID-19

balancing-working-from-home-with-children-3

Returning to School after COVID-19 may be an anxious time for both parents and their children. Getting back into preschool and daycare centers may bring up big emotions from even our youngest students. When age-appropriate, let your children know that soon they will go back to School and be with their friends again, but things may be a little different when they return.

Here are some steps that parents and families can take to help their children make a smooth transition back to School:

  1. Drive to their School to familiarize your child with the setting. Seeing the School building will help jog your child’s fun memories of the building and all of their beloved friends and teachers inside.
  2. Communicate with your children. When age-appropriate, explain to your children how things may be different when they return, such as a smaller class size or teachers wearing masks.
  3. Assess your feelings.Young children can pick up on their parents’ nonverbal cues. If you feel guilty or worried about your child returning to School, he or she will sense it. The calmer and more assured you are, the more confident your child will be. If you are struggling with the idea of your child returning to School, think about the reasons why. Reassess your feelings. Don’t do something if you’re uncomfortable. Consider calling the School’s owner or director to learn about the new health and safety protocols put into place for children, families and faculty members.
  4. Establish the partnership.When you enter the classroom or meet teachers in front of the building for drop-off and pick-up, be sure to greet your child’s teacher warmly by name. Because of enhanced safety policies, parents may not be allowed to linger, so to ensure you’re doing all you can to keep children, families and faculty members safe, call in advance to find out. Then, let your children know about these new rules to help them understand and be prepared for these changes. If your child clings to you or is reluctant to participate in the class, don’t get upset because this may only upset your child more. Follow the guidelines described by the teacher or School and go at your child’s pace.
  5. Say goodbye. Saying goodbye may be hard for young children who have adjusted to being at home with their parents every day. As tempting as it may be to stick around, you should follow a predictable farewell routine to make leaving easier. Also, keep in mind that most children do well once their parents leave. Some parents wave from outside a certain classroom window, sing a goodbye song or make a funny goodbye face. It’s important to be consistent and do the following:
  • Always say a loving goodbye to your child and reassure him or her that you will be back to pick him or her up later. Once you do, you should leave promptly. A long farewell scene might only serve to reinforce a child’s hesitation about this experience.
  • Never sneak out. As tempting as it may be, leaving without saying goodbye may frighten a child.

If you would like more information about how Goddard Schools are responding to COVID-19, please click here.

Talking with Your Child About COVID-19

advice-for-talking

Watching the news about COVID-19 can be alarming and concerning, especially with a young family. The hardest thing is often knowing what to say to your children and how to calm them if they ask questions or express fears. Dr. Kyle Pruett, member of The Goddard School’s Educational Advisory Board and Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, shares advice for parents about how to effectively address their children’s questions and soothe their fears during this time.

phone

 

Keep TV and social media away from your children. If you are watching TV, make sure it is on a channel with children’s entertainment and not the news.

 

 

 

people

 

Be aware of conversations with other adults that might clue young ones into your level of anxiety, if you indeed are anxious. Make sure the children are not in earshot of the dialogue.

 

 

question-marks

 

Rehearse with a partner or friend what you feel ready to answer. The inevitable and often-repeated questions from your children may include – Is everybody getting sick? Do I need to wear a mask? Will Grandma be ok? Why do I have to wash my hands? Practicing what to say will help you to not appear fearful or anxious when it comes time to talk with your children.

 

 

lightbulb

 

Do not force your children to talk about this matter. Don’t assume they are fearful just because others around them are feeling uncertain. Wait for the questions and you’ll have a better idea of what’s actually on their minds. You’ll also improve the odds of your answers being useful.

 

 

thought-bubble

 

The most important thing you can do, which you have probably already done, is to create an open environment in which questions are welcomed rather than feared and enjoyed for the opportunity to help your child better understand the world around them. Take the time to let your children express how they feel. Avoid jumping in and interrupting them as they speak.

 

 

speaking

 

Here are a couple of suggested narratives if you need some help getting started:

  • “The virus is a very small germ that has made some people sick, but our home and your school are safe. We know what to do.” Don’t succumb to the temptation to say that it will “never happen here.” Trust is really important, so don’t make up answers.
  • “To make sure we stay healthy, let’s all wash our hands as a family five (5) times a day. We can make it fun. What song should we sing while we wash our hands?” Face-touching is of course part of preschool and kindergarten life and is unlikely to yield to parental pressure, so emphasize the hand washing. Avoid pulling hands away from faces at every second. You and your children will only end up frustrated. Hand washing can also give children a sense of control if they are anxious about getting sick.

 

blocks

 

Consistency and routines signal to young children that things are “normal.” Keeping regular schedules are important. Only adjust them if asked to by your school, medical advisors in your community or government officials.

 

 

The important thing to remember is to keep healthy and calm yourself. Try not to show any anxiety. Your children take their cues from you – if you aren’t appearing worried, neither will they.

20160818: Kyle Pruett head shot (Shana Sureck Photography)

 

KYLE PRUETT, M.D. 

Through his groundbreaking work in child psychiatry, Dr. Pruett has become an internationally known expert on children, family relationships and fathering. He is a clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and is the author of award-winning books Me, Myself and I and Partnership Parenting.