Social and Emotional Development
Help. Teaching your child to ask for “help” is an important skill. Parents may think that asking for help is something that comes naturally to children, but it is actually a very specific action that needs to be taught as the demands will change depending on the adults around them, the environment they are in, and the goals the child is trying to reach. In fact, a child knowing how to ask for help is an important part of adaptive functioning.
- When your child tantrums, try to bring the cause of their behaviour back to them needing some form of help. “I can help you with your brother,” or “you can ask for help to fix the toy.”
- Teach your child that they can ask for help from different adults in their lives, including teachers, grandparents, and siblings. It does not always have to be the parents.
- Provide the least amount of help for the child to be successful. Remember, we do not want to do it entirely for the child. Many children crave independence and success. So help your child a little with what is difficult for them, but make sure you leave a part of the task for them to finish on their own. For example, if your child is struggling to get a cup of water, help them fill their cup, but then their job can be to carry the cup to the table.
Strategies and activities to support self-regulation are often focused on what exactly a parent can say to their child. Along with what to say, there also needs to be an emphasis on how to say it. For example, the tone in a parent’s voice is important as it communicates to the child cues about emotion, stress levels and attention in what is happening. All parents will yell, but remember that as your words and tone of voice escalate, so will your child’s regulation. Often when children hear their parents yelling, it signals a fear response in the child. Next time, when emotions and stresses are high, take the tone of your voice down to a lower and calmer level, compared to your child. Once you start speaking in a softer tone, your child will respond, usually matching their parent’s tone. Sometimes you may need to take it down to a whisper! You are modelling regulation to your child and showing them that they can trust you to help them calm down.
Cognitive Flexibility. For preschoolers, being able to transition between environments and cope with changes in routines are examples of cognitive flexibility. Things happen and plans change. We want our children to respond to those circumstances adaptively. If your little one has a difficult time adjusting to different demands in their environments, including being with other adults and adapting to different routines, then they may need some support and learning with their cognitive flexibility. Although this may be part of a child’s temperament, it is also an important cognitive skill that must be taught. Here are some tips to help your child learn flexibility.
- Most children and adults love routines. Routines are important and serve their place, but there are small changes you can make within a routine that will help teach your child flexibility. For example, when driving home from a familiar place, take a different way and see how your child responds.
- When things go a different way than what was planned, model flexibility. Instead of being disappointed, communicate that it is ok and normal for things to change. Say, “we need to be flexible. I know you’re disappointed, but let’s think of something else we can do to have fun.”