When I look around at the three to five year olds in our Early Childhood program, our students are laughing, playing, and joyful. However, in this world, stress is everywhere. No one can escape stress, not even our children. During this time of early childhood, children are developing socially and emotionally. Every day we watch our students learn to share; make friends; handle conflict, frustration, and disappointment; and learn to control their behavior and emotions. As educators, we need to realize our part in fostering this healthy development. We want our students to learn to cope with life challenges and manage everyday problems.
Critical components that we do every day to minimize stress in our early childhood students is to model healthy coping mechanisms, provide a loving and trusting school environment, and provide lessons and opportunities to develop social and emotional skills. Each week our students focus on learning a different life lesson. These lessons give them the tools to develop positive relationships, respect others, be resilient in disappointment, use good manners, respect personal space, learn from mistakes, make good independent choices, and more. Developing these skills lead children to be able to come up with solutions to their problems, verbalize their feelings, and work through situations and thoughts that may lead to worry, anxiety or stress. Young children need to know it is ok to be worried or scared and that we are there for them for reassurance and comfort.
Some contributors to stress that we see with our young students are separation from parents, having too many activities or being too busy outside of school, and factors going on in the home, such as marital issues, financial issues, loss or change of job, moving homes, and a death in the family or of a pet. During times of stress, it is essential to give children a consistent message of love, support, and presence. Children need to be heard by asking questions and listening attentively. Help children label their feelings and put feelings into words. This will lead to better communication skills, build their confidence in expressing themselves, and further their emotional development. I also encourage our parents to spend quality time with their children, be intentional in opportunities to help build their self-esteem, make sure they are getting enough sleep, and to slow down with activities and busyness.