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Social-Emotional Learning for the Preschooler and Parent: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

By Julie A. Della, Supervisor/Educational Consultant | Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8

Girl sipping through straw

I recently read a quote stating, “At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child's success is the positive involvement of the parent.” During the Covid-19 pandemic, many parents have been tasked with providing education to their children at home. This can create quite a few tension headaches for both the parent and the student, but what about the preschooler who doesn’t understand why the theme of the day is pajama day….for the past 45 days? Pair that with the ongoing theme of crazy hair day and the fact that your five-year-old is better at Fortnite than you.

Each day can bring new challenges for parents and early childhood educators. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we know how important it is to support young children's physical needs, and addressing their emotional health needs is just as crucial. It's likely that they will not understand why they can't play outside, as usual, with their friends on a sunny day or why washing their hands so frequently is so important.  So, how do you support the social and emotional development of the youngest generation?

Although I do not have preschoolers at home during this pandemic, I have one pre-teen and two teenagers, so we are in the same boat. My boat, by the way, has many holes, is dilapidated and is sinking…..quickly, or perhaps it already sank! 

steering the ship

As the Captain of this sinking vessel, I’ve needed to quickly adjust to working full time from home, while being a single mom and still holding down the role of housekeeper, laundry service, deckhand, and of course, chef. But as an Early Intervention Preschool Teacher for 23 years, I know social and emotional development even outside of a pandemic is crucial to young learners.

So, what are some ways you can support your children's emotional needs as we all navigate these uncharted waters?

Children's responses to stressful events are unique and varied depending on their age and circumstances. They are sharp observers, and they notice and react to stress in their parents and other adults around them. Some children may be irritable or clingier, while some may regress, demand extra attention, or have difficulty with self-care, sleeping, and eating. New and challenging behaviors are natural responses, and adults can help by showing empathy, patience, and love.

Keep children busy When children are bored, their levels of worry and disruptive behaviors may increase. Children need ample time to engage in play and other joyful learning experiences without worrying or talking about the pandemic. Art is a wonderful way to help children express their feelings and emotions. Children can paint a picture, have a dance party, or make up a play for family members.

Ensure that you are being a sensitive and responsive caring adult When everyone is under the same roof 24 hours a day, it can get stressful under the best circumstances. It's important to be sure you are sensitive and responsive to your child. Mealtimes and snack times provide great time and space for conversations about topics of interest to your child, as well as a focused time to discuss how they may be feeling that day.

Make time for self-care too! Children's well-being truly depends on your well-being. It's so important to take care of yourself, now more than ever. Consider the things that make you happy. Is it exercising or meditating? Maybe reading a book or taking a walk outside? Whatever it is, make the time each day to recharge your own batteries. Show your child how you take time for self-care. Take them on a walk with you. Show them how to take deep breaths.

Try some of these ideas and check out the resources! Be well, stay safe, and keep your boat afloat!

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