Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why do you have balloons under your shirt?

One of my college students was asked by a three year old why she wore balloons under her shirt as the child touched her chest. She wanted to know what to say.

Answer in simple language using accurate terms. If the child is ready for the beginning discussion then letting the child know that some body parts are considered private is appropriate.

Sample: You are curious about my chest. Women have differnt chests than boys and men do. (This is a good example of answering a question without going too far. if the child has more questions then he/she will ask and then you can give more information.)

Dealing with death: Helping 3 - 6 year olds

Typically a child will not understand that death is permanent. The child may think of it as temporary or magically reversible, or may even appear to be unaffected. Fears that dead people may be cold or hungry in the grave are common. There may be a belief that life goes on just like walking through a door and that they can go visit. Young children might not react immediately to a loss or express grief in adult terms. Because of the limit of what children know they are often very curious about many of the concrete details about death without dealing with the emotional loss. Expect questions about the coffin, the funeral, burial, etc.

Child's reaction:
  • May have frightening dreams, repaeat questions about death, may revert to earlier behaviors.
  • Children may play out the events surronding death. Children of this age will take words literally. Since children have limited experiences, they may make sense of the world by connecting events that don't relate. For example: Aunt Betty had a headache and she died. Daddy has a headache. maybe he will die too.

How to help:

  • Look into the child's eyes and touch the child gently when discussing death.
  • Shorten time away from the child. Be sure he or she knows where you are and how to reach you.
  • Avoid words such as sleeping, resting, loss, passed away, taking a long trip when describing death.
  • Talk about what it means to be dead in concrete terms such as someone doesn't breathe, eat, go to the bathroom or grow.
  • Repeat simple, honest explanations as often as the child asks.
  • Reassure the child of his own safety and your plan for continued presence. Share that most people die when they are older.
  • Allow expressions of feelings such as drawing pictures, reading and telling stories about death or the loved one, or reenacting the funeral service.

More on ages and stages and dealing with death: Birth to 3

Newborn to 3 years old:
Even the youngest of children sense when their family routine is disrupted and those around them experience emotional upset. However, infants and toddlers have little understanding of death. The best thing to do is even at this age to deal with death as being a part of life. Plants die, pets die, etc. This is the beginning of dealing with it.

How are children likely to react to the stress going on around them?
  • You might see changes in sleeping, eating and mood.

How can you help?
  • Keep routines and physical setting as familiar as possible.
  • Provide constant nurturing. If a parent is too distraught, seek a caring adult substitute.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Singing and two year olds

I was teaching my class on toddlers yesterday and we happened to be having a day where students could bring two year olds that they knew for a kind of watch, listen, and learn session. I talked with them about the value of singing in the classroom as a means of building children's language skills. I then said, watch and see what happens. All of the children were busy playing with sand, blocks, hitting musical instruments, etc. I started singing a simple little song that I have used thousands of times with toddlers and almost immediately all of the movement stopped. The noise of the children exploring the materials stopped. All of the children looked over at me. Toddlers are not good at doing two things at once and as long as they are paying attention to the song they stop and watch. I then went on to talk about how this is a useful technique if you are trying to stop a behavior or redirect a child. Adults can think, sing and fix things at the same time and by the time the song is over the play has been re-established and the children are ready to go back to work.