Message in a Backpack™ Helping Your Child through Change

Last updated: 10-11-2020

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Message in a Backpack™ Helping Your Child through Change

In late spring, the NAEYC publications team began working on a series about supporting children and families through change. We gathered insights from individuals with various perspectives and roles in early childhood. Here, you will read excerpts of what some of them would share with families about supporting children during this period of rapid change. You can read more responses in “Supporting Teachers through Change” in the September 2020 issue of Young Children.

To all those families out there trying to keep it together and juggle work life and family life, remember this: it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. To get myself through these times, I created a quick and easy set of “3 Rs” to guide me: recognize, reframe, and recover.

Recognize your child’s feelings. Tantrums, sleep inconsistencies, and a constant need for attention may be behaviors stemming from adjusting to change. Take the time to recognize what’s happening so that you’re able to respond to and comfort your child.

Reframe the behavior in a more positive direction. Take your child out for a walk, or pause what you’re doing to build a structure out of cardboard boxes. Engage in a planting activity, or dance!

Recover. Self-care and giving yourself time to breathe are two basic actions you as the caregiver can do to be able to keep going. Stay positive and safe. And don’t forget: we are all in this together.

—Nagwa Elsamra, MSW, is an early childhood senior technical assistant specialist at Central Jersey Family Health Consortium.

In these times of so much disruption, interruption, sickness, and loss, all families—and families of color specifically— need reassurance that

—Brian Wright, PhD, is an associate professor and program coordinator of early childhood education and coordinator of the middle school cohort of the African American Male Academy at the University of Memphis.

Change is never easy. But be proud—you are handling it! And with the reassurance of caring adults like you around them, young children (including yours) can adapt to new situations and continue to grow and learn.

Families contribute to young children’s learning by caring, listening, talking, and interacting with them in other ways. Providing children opportunities to explore new ways of talking about things will help them develop language. If your family speaks more than one language, interact with your child in the language you are most comfortable using or that is most important for maintaining communication among family members. You can expose your child to new interests, languages, and ways of using language; together, you will both be learning.

Language is a powerful tool for learning from and connecting with others. It may seem simple, but it’s so beneficial. What do you and your child want to talk about today?

—Lorena Mancilla, PhD, is director of WIDA Early Years, and Patricia Blanco, MEd, is a professional learning specialist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Children thrive when their basic needs are met within a home environment that is sensitive, nurturing, and enriching. This is best done when parents and caregivers are not highly stressed, and all stress is not equal. Not being stressed or anxious is hard to do when many around you may be sick, you are sick or fear being sick, you have lost a loved one, you are unemployed or fear being unemployed, or you worry about having enough food or a place to live.

To support your child, lean into your social networks and communities. Social distancing should not mean we distance ourselves from our supports: we should find other ways to share our burdens. To support your child, you must rest, build your strength, and remember that you are not in this alone, even if it feels that way at times. Look around, as your support may be right next door or even above you.

—Iheoma U. Iruka, PhD, is the chief research innovation officer and director of the Center for Early Education Research and Evaluation at the HighScope Educational Research Foundation.

I would let families know that we early childhood educators are here for them and understand that this is an incredibly challenging and stressful time. I would encourage families to reach out to their child care provider if and when they can (while knowing that we understand if they can’t).

We have been using familiar ways and have found new ways to connect with families, including phone calls, emails and having video meetings. Through these different ways of communication, we have answered families’ questions and have shared tips for helping children through specific issues, including listening to what their child is saying, answering questions or addressing their child’s fears, letting their child make choices in the routine or schedule, and being calm when responding to challenging behavior.

—Holle Brambrick is director of the Lakewood Child Care Center in Lakewood, Ohio

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