Social and Emotional Development
Developing positive thinking habits starts at a young age and there are ways that parents can help. The simplest way to identify positive and negative thinking is to label them as “go” and “stop” thoughts. For example, when your child says, ” I can’t,” or “it’s too hard,” tell your child that what you’re hearing from them are stop-thoughts and stop-thoughts get you stuck. Tell your child that it is important to have “go thoughts” instead because go-thoughts help you move forward. For example, reframe the stop-thought that your child verbalizes. “A go-thought is that you are learning, and you can keep trying,” or “I can get it next time with practice.”
Professional Tip: Use a red circle and a green circle as a visual cue. When you hear your child say a stop-thought, point to the red circle. Then, work with your child to think of a go-thought while they hold the green circle. In the future, this visual will become a mental representation of how they need to cue their thinking.
The time to help a child with calming strategies is right when a child starts to become upset. Unfortunately, parents may miss these initial cues and the child will continue to escalate. If the child then hits a “meltdown” phase, it may be too late to support them with regulation strategies. Once this meltdown phase happens, a child’s brain reaches a point of distress and cannot comprehend additional verbal input, such as a parent trying to reason with them or trying to help them engage in calming strategies. Usually, the child needs to release all their energy and emotions during the meltdown phase, until they become physically tired. Remember, if you’re trying to support your child with calming strategies, it needs to be done before they hit their meltdown phase.
Professional Tip: Think of your own regulation. If you are very upset, you are not willing to listen to other people or engage in activities even if they are enjoyable. Your child is the same way.
Music and singing are an important part of many preschool programs, but it is not just for fun, it is work! Singing and music help teach important cognitive skills such as language acquisition, direction following, motor skill movements, and emotional learning. In addition, singing and music can be a regulating activity for many children, helping them calm their bodies and emotions, especially when a caring adult supports the activity. Every repetitious song that a child sings over and over strengthens neural connections and links that specific song to emotional memories of enjoyment and calmness.
Professional tip: A favourite song can also be a great redirection activity or motivator to help your child with non-preferred tasks. Next time your child does not want to help clean-up, cue them to sing a song while they clean. Singing a song is a common clean-up strategy that makes a boring task more enjoyable and supports a child’s cooperation.