20 years ago when I first undertook training to work with young children it was actually training that was preparing me for a very different job than the one I do today.
Over the years our jobs in Early Years has evolved into that of educators as opposed to care givers, whether that is working with babies or Pre-school aged children, we are here to educate and support them in their development; and the way we do that in early years is, of course, through play and exploration.
When the opportunity presented itself for me to update my qualifications it was very welcome as I yearned for more knowledge so that I could continue to be the best practitioner I could. It was during this year of training that I had so many “Ahhhh, I wish I’d known that when my two were little” moments that it ignited a genuine passion in me for me to be able to share some of these moments with the parents of children I worked with.
Our Emotional World
The three prime areas are very closely interlinked, but especially PSED (personal, social&emotional) and C&L (communication&language) as I demonstrate at my workshops and training sessions. The biggest skill I have learnt, the greatest tool I have, is empowering parents to understand the importance of teaching your child Emotional Literacy skills.
We often hear questions asked about how to manage children’s behaviour and THE biggest and most important thing to understand is WHY children struggle to manage their behaviour.
Brainstorm some feelings. Go on - grab a pen and jot down as many different feelings as you can in a minute. Done? There is a lot there in a minute, isn’t there. How amazing that as adults we are able to name so many. Now try and categorise them…do they fit under anger, sadness, happiness? So many of the emotions and feelings can be under the same category or under 2 different categories…there isn’t a right or a wrong answer because they are OUR emotions. We can feel differently to somebody else about the same thing and that’s OK.
We can feel all of these emotions in a day, in an hour and even in a minute. Short periods of time can expose us to so many different feelings. Even as adults, even being able to name these emotions, and in some cases categorise them, we can still find them difficult to process at times, especially the more negative emotions.
Teaching Your Children Emotional Literacy
Teaching Emotional Literacy skills is taking every day opportunities to discuss feelings. Giving a commentary on your own feelings and what you are doing to cope with it helps, although you can feel rather silly at first! For example, “I feel angry and stressed because we are late leaving for school today, I am going to take some deep breaths and that will help the cranky feeling in my tummy to go away” Not only does that name an emotion, it shows your child that it’s ok to feel that way (as even grown-ups do), and it also models a strategy for them to be able to deal with it.
Exploring emotions in a safe place through stories and playing with toys and puppets allows children to explore them whilst they are not in the midst of an emotional breakout and these techniques are invaluable in teaching strategies. Children often open up to a puppet in a way that they just can’t to a real person, I’ve seen it time and time again and it never fails to blow my mind how something so simple can make such a difference.
We want to protect our children but we can’t do that by protecting them from negative emotions, all emotions are so closely entwined and they rely on each other. Just think of the scene in the Disney’s ‘Inside Out’ film where Joy realises that she actually needs Sadness.
The only way we can protect our children is by doing our best, by opening them up to their feelings and helping them to learn to deal with them, as a parent that never stops. Be open, be honest and try to understand. As they get older it really could make all the difference in their life and their learning, but also their health.
If you would like to learn more about the importance of teaching your child emotional literacy skills please get in contact to find out more about how Bridge the Gap can help.
Jennifer Wyman is founder of Bridge the Gap and an emotional education consultant and trainer. A qualified early years practitioner and mum of two with over 21 years experience within the early years sector.