Growing Community: Readiness, a state of mind

How on earth are parents supposed to help their children be ready for school or child care? There is so much uncertainty and constant change, and we’re all getting more than a little worn out, honestly.

It used to be that if children could say their ABCs, count, and knew their colors, they were ready for school. Everything about that world we knew is tipped upside down. What hasn’t changed is that our kids still look to us to help them navigate all of this. The truth is being ready for school never was quite that easy; there was always more than just knowing the academic basics. We’ve learned a great deal about the role that resilience, determination, grit and self-regulation play in success.

Children are born with a great ability to learn and grow. Healthy development is the result of secure, responsive adult-child relationships. Dr. Dan Gartrell writes for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and has some parenting practices that still seem to apply now, and maybe especially during our periods of stay at home, and safer at home, this ability to be with and nurture our children could be a small bright spot.

Have a contact talk with your child every day. This can happen anytime, but it requires you to stop what you’re doing and listen. Contact talks build healthy attachment between an adult and child like nothing else can. They support the development of a child’s self-esteem, social skills, thinking skills and language abilities. If contact talks take place during physical activities, they enhance physical development. You will learn so much about your child.

It is important to understand that young children don’t think the same ways adults do. Young children do not have the same grasp of reality as adults, and they see things from their own (often charming) viewpoints.

Think of young children’s conflicts as mistaken behaviors, not misbehaviors. A 3-year-old has 36 months of life experience. A 5-year-old has only 60 months. It is an error for adults to think that children misbehave because they “know better” and have chosen to do wrong. They are not bad. They are only months old.

There are some adults who don’t know how to “behave better.” When things get stressful, children may feel threatened. Use the moment to teach, not punish. There may be consequences, but it can still help the child understand the expectation to learn a better way to behave. At first, you may need to attend to anyone who is hurt, then calm everyone down, including yourself. This takes hard work and lots of practice, your efforts just need to be honest and well intentioned.

Being a caring parent, even in normal times, is the hardest job in the world (second place goes to preschool and middle-school teachers).

We need to give ourselves, and others, a break. Forgive the others involved and learn from our mistakes. Sometimes we all need help from outside, this is OK, and our community has lots of resources. For us, the bottom line is this: When our kids get older how do we want them to think of us in this time? How do we want them to treat others? Do we want them to come to us as the questions get tougher? It’s hard right now, but the relationships we build will see us through.

Research shows that the best thing we can do to get children ready for school is to form and keep positive relationships with them. Children who are securely attached to their family members accept themselves as worthy individuals. With ongoing family support, they can handle the frustrations, embarrassments, pressures and successes that come their way.

Securely attached children are better able to make friends, work with others, solve problems creatively, learn and succeed. The best predictor of children’s success in school and life is a brain that develops in healthy ways, as a result of their attachments with their family, and especially their parents.

Parents and children, now more than ever, need a willing attitude and confidence in the process of learning — a healthy state of mind.

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