As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we as parents are still knee-deep in parenting during the pandemic. At Pine Village, we understand how difficult it is to explain to toddlers and preschoolers who may not be able to wrap their minds around what is happening. Dealing with kids on top of how we, ourselves, are feeling, can be very difficult. As you know, we put a big emphasis on SEL (Social/Emotional Learning) for both adults (with our teaching staff) and in our teaching approach with children. So we’ve asked two of our directors to share some SEL tips for parents and kids as we make our way through the pandemic.
Thank you to Britni Raymond, the director of our West Newton location and Johan Valladares, the director of our JP South St. location who participated in our Q&A.
What are some ways parents can help explain the pandemic to toddlers?
Johan Valladares: Being honest. I know we don’t want to transfer our fears to kids and talk about pandemics or catastrophes of any kind, but they are watching and listening to everything. We need to talk with them obviously with a simple vocabulary. For example, you can say that in this moment there is a virus that is making people sick, and we need to care ourselves in order to care for our loved ones. You can tell them that every person is a little superhero and that by washing our hands and wearing our masks we are saving a lot of lives.
What are some ways parents can ensure their child gets enough social interaction and engagement during the pandemic?
Johan Valladares: It’s important to keep them busy. To have a schedule and a routine. The few months that schools have been open demonstrated that as long as we stick to the public health and safety guidelines, for some reason being around children is safe because they do not appear to be as vulnerable to get sick as adults. Sending children to the childcare/school, having a nanny share, or just having some socially distanced play dates with some friends make a huge difference in their social and emotional skills.
What can a parent do if they feel as though their child is getting anxiety from pandemic issues?
Johan Valladares: Be honest and talk with love. Children understand a lot. They are little human beings, and we need to understand that and give them the importance that they deserve. They are always listening to everything that we talk about with them and with others. We need to be careful to avoid transferring our fears, anger and despair to them. Not all is just black and white. There are so many colors. Show them the positive things that this pandemic has brought such as more time to be in family, the opportunity to see them grow up. How the world finally took a little vacation in the quarantine and finally took a break from the smoke, congestion, traffic and more. Talk about how the pets are happy having their family at home with them. There is a lot of shine to share with them. If for some reason you feel that the anxiety is out of control, call your doctor and ask for help.
How can parents stay calm while parenting a toddler and preschooler during the pandemic?
Britni Raymond: Talk to other parents who are going through the same thing. It’s important to know that they are not alone in this. We are all going through it together. Take time for yourself even if it’s just a minute to take a deep breath and self-regulate. Children can sense our energy so it’s important that we don’t project our stress or anxiety on to them. Plan Zoom nights to connect with friends or family members. Talk about how you’re feeling. Get creative at home! Plan date nights in, like order take out and a movie. If possible, go outside for a walk and try to think about what you are grateful for and the positive things in your life.
What other tips do you have for parents to combat their own anxiety and not pass that anxiety onto their kids during this time?
Johan Valladares: Breathe. This is a year for work in ourselves and in the inside of our bodies. Take a break. Being mindful is really important. We need to remember that we are here and now, that means that we need to think about and be grateful for what we have in this moment, tomorrow is other day and another opportunity. Try to be positive in front of the kids, not just with this pandemic; they are learning how to act to many situations, and you are the model. It’s important to have your own time. Just for you–go and take a relaxing bath, read a book, learn a new hobby, whatever that you decide to do just be happy and enjoy. You are going to transmit that feeling to your children and they are going to remember that.
Do you have recommendations for children who missed out on a year of preschool due to the pandemic. Should parents be worried they are falling behind in their learning?
Britni Raymond: Parents should not be worried about preschoolers falling behind in learning. Right now I think everyone’s focus is just to support children and let them have fun and not feel all of the uncertainty of the world on their shoulders. It’s a challenging time for everyone including these kids. They will get the chance to gain all of the academic knowledge in years to come. The most important thing now is their social/emotional development, and making sure they can express their feelings and emotions safely; allow them be kids and just have fun.
What practices does Pine Village put into place for Social/Emotional Learning in their schools to help kids during the pandemic?
Britni Raymond: We use a lot of Conscious Discipline techniques. For example, each classroom has a “safe place” or “safe area.” It’s a place in the classroom where the children can self-regulate their emotions and solve problems by being conscious of their thoughts and discover why they are feeling that way. We also have pictures of different emotions we often use to help children identify how their feeling and why their feeling that way.
What other resources can you recommend for parents on this topic?
Johan Valladares: The American Psychological Association has free books in many languages that you can download for free. The resources help parents to explain the Covid pandemic to their little ones. Their link is https://www.apa.org/pubs/magination/covid-19-help-kids-cope
You can also learn about Conscious Discipline and how this would help your kid to express and control their emotions. In addition, this will also help you to be aware of the present and how to control your fears. Learn about how to resolve problem, connect with your child and more. Their link is https://consciousdiscipline.com/