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Early Childhood Blog

  

Welcome To The Early Childhood Blog

You've found the early childhood blog. On this page you'll hear directly from Deby - our Early Childhood Director - about resources, tips, and her feelings that might be helpful to you. Visit often for the latest information and reach out with any comments or questions. Thank you for being a part of our early childhood network! 


Mental Health - Post 2 | 2023-01-24

The last few years have brought on an onslaught of mental health issues in the children we care for. We have been bombarded with behavior issues, meltdowns, and even worse children who reenact the violence and trauma they see around them. We wonder how to help them. We wonder how to help ourselves as we try to bounce back from our own trauma experiences the past few years have brought on. We cannot give the children what we don’t possess ourselves.

It is easy for us to get lost in troubling thoughts and overwhelmed by the physical sensations that accompany stress. Think of resilience as a piece of spaghetti. Before it is cooked it’s hard, if you bend it , it snaps and breaks. But if you cook it, it bends, it’s flexible and can move in a different way. We want to be able to bend like spaghetti so that even when we are experiencing a tough time we can think – “This won’t break me.”

There are many things we can do, I think of a mindfulness practice, yoga and breathing techniques, being outdoors in nature etc. These are all important and can help but here are some more things we can all do to build our own resilience and continue to help the children and families we support.

  • Connection - Make sure you are taking the time to connect with other adults who can support you and also understand what it is you are going through.
  • Routines - Routines provide a sense of safety, control and predictability. Find a daily routine that works for you.
  • Mindfulness – Find ways to practice mindfulness – try some yoga, deep breathing, or meditation to help you find your inner peace and stay in the moment.
  • Family Traditions – Family traditions give us the connection a stability we crave, Even in uncertain times they can be a foundation for hope and reassurance.
  • PLAY - Just like children who learn from play, adults can learn from play as well. Playing games and having fun is a great stress reliever and can help hone skills such as overcoming challenges or picking ourselves up after a failure.

Above all – be patient with yourself. No one is given a handbook on how to deal with life. No one told us it was going to be this hard. Continue to check in with yourself on a daily basis, take care of your mental, emotional and physical health so that you can be the caregiver you want to be.

Picture of distressed child with backpack

Image of child looking up

Mental Health - Post 1 | 2023-01-23

As a digital society we have learned how to do a hard reset with our computers or our phones by simply turning them off and then back on again. But what happens when your child is acting up and pushing that last nerve? How do a reset? How do we help our children do a reset? Often children, especially young children need help and support with the big feelings that come with stress. Here are some tips to help children, and parents calm down and reset.

  1. Take a few deep breaths. Depending on the age of the child you can teach them how to breath deeply into their belly. Breathe with them. Turn it into a game such as doing some “Bunny Breathing”.
    1. Have the child pretend they are a bunny
    2. Twitch the nose to get ready for a breath
    3. Take several short, quick sniffs in through the nose
    4. Exhale in one long, smooth breath
    5. Repeat!
  2. Give them words. Help children label their big feelings and strong emotions. Sometimes feelings can be more manageable if they have a way to begin to understand them. For some children it helps to draw pictures of their feelings or use playdoh. This also helps to calm them down in a hands on concrete way.
  3. Create a comfort toolbox. Sometimes it can help for a child to have a favorite stuffy, a comfy blanket, relaxing music or a favorite book. Familiarity can calm a child quickly and help prevent a meltdown.
  4. Change of scenery. Go outside. Even when it’s cold you can bundle up and go outside for a few minutes. It doesn’t have to be for long but it can give everyone a much needed break.
  5. Practice when kids are calm. Empower them and help them build their muscle memory so that when they feel it coming they can use these tools on their own.

It is important to trust the process. These tips may not change things immediately and prevent or stop every meltdown however, if used consistently, over time the child will begin to learn and use them on their own. As caregivers you see the resilience begin to build.


Handling The Stress Of The Holidays With Young Children | 2022-11-18

We are reminded, every year at this time, how difficult the holidays can be for people who are lonely or alone. But let’s be honest for families with children, the holidays can be stressful for both parents and kids. We are just starting to rise out of two plus years where gatherings of people were not happening due to the pandemic. For many of our children this may be the first year they will be in a larger group setting over the holidays. Here are some tips to help make this as painless and stress-free as possible and hopefully help manage everyone’s feelings in this anxious time.

  • Be open to change: Talk with your child about your traditions, which ones do they love? Which ones do you need to change to make them more fun or memorable for everyone? This is especially important when family dynamics have changed due to a death in the family, a new sibling, a new marriage, a divorce or even just moving to a new living space.
  • Be realistic: Factoring in kids’ limitations when making plans will reduce stress on everyone. Kids who are anxious about meeting new people, or even encountering extended family, will need support and realistic expectations. Kids who have trouble with organization may need help to be successful at gift giving. Children who tend to be impulsive need structure to minimize disruptive behavior. Not overestimating your kids’ patience and ability to focus will help you enjoy yourself more too.
  • Prep kids for a change in routine. Holidays represent a change in a family’s normal schedule, and for some kids that’s unsettling. Preparing them for changes in their routines- knowing what to expect and what you expect of them – will help head off meltdowns. If you’re traveling, bring familiar toys and books, and make sure you have quiet one-on-one time like reading before bed.
  • Give yourself a break! Don’t stretch yourself too thin trying to create that perfect holiday season. Decide what is important, prioritize, and say no to things you don’t really want to do but feel obligated to.  Remember your mental health is more important than possibly hurting someone else’s feelings by saying no.
  • Keep the kids occupied. Kids like structured activities, and they’ll probably be missing them while school is out. Fortunately the holidays lend themselves to art projects and family friendly movies that kids enjoy.
  • If you are traveling with a child who will need to sit in a car for any length of time, try packing a bag with multiple activities, particularly if the child has a lot of energy. Don’t just think four or five activities will be enough because you could be through those things before you even get on the highway. When traveling be sure to plan for breaks, even if it’s not that long of a trip. Kids who get restless or have difficulty managing their impulsive behavior might really benefit from getting out of the car and running around for a few minutes.
  • Let them help out. There’s a lot of extra work to do around the holidays – putting up decorations. Cooking big dinners, throwing parties. The DIY in all of us can take over, but it’s important to take a step back and make sure the kids are being included too. Children can help set the table, decorate the house, and wrap presents. If they’re too young to wrap, they can help by holding down the paper or getting the tape ready — there’s always something kids can do. And at holiday time, the preparations are often as fun and as meaningful as the end product. Plus, this way kids won’t feel left out — or be glued to the iPad for hours.
  • Remember they are kids! Some holiday traditions depend on kids being on their best behavior such as lengthy services, parties with lots of people who may be strangers to them and food that does not appeal to children, especially those who are picky eaters. Try to keep those to a minimum and customize festivities for your kids’ frustration level. Don’t schedule more than one demanding event in a day, and make sure to include physical activity and plenty of downtime. Your kids will be grateful — and so will you.
  • Keep routines! We love the holidays because they give us a break from the everyday, but that can also make them stressful, especially for kids who need the consistency of a routine. Try to keep some things as consistent as possible. Kids still need snack time, they still need special attention from you and they still need a chance to unwind before bedtime. And most importantly – they need a consistent bedtime schedule. Kids need their sleep and so do caregivers! At family gatherings when we notice the kids are “getting antsy,” we give them their baths, get them into their pajamas, and turn on a movie. We know when they need to wind down, and no one judges us for excusing ourselves from the table to do these things.
  • Family gatherings centered on a meal can put a lot of pressure on kids who are picky eaters or who have sensory issues that limit their diet. If you are going to someone else’s house for dinner and you know the menu will be a problem, pack something your child will eat and bring it with you. Have a conversation with your child ahead of time to reassure them, explaining, “I know we’re going over to Auntie's house and there’s going to be some different foods there, but we’ll make sure that we bring some things that you like. It would be great if you could try something else, too.” Exploring new foods is good for kids, but it shouldn’t be the most important thing.
  • Talk to your hosts early. Besides preparing your children, sometimes it’s necessary to prepare your relatives so they know what to expect. A child who has behavior difficulties at school may also have them at Grandma’s house, so make sure their expectations are realistic. As a parent or caregiver you never want to put your child in a situation where they’re set up to fail. Put a moratorium on criticizing. Warn family members about sensitive topics in the same way you’d warn people in advance that your child has a nut allergy. For example; if you have a body-conscious teen, no one should chide her for taking seconds on mashed potatoes. If your brother doesn’t believe ADHD is real, now isn’t the time to discuss it.
  • Minimize conflict over behavior. Your kids know the rules at your house, but in the excitement and novelty of a relatives home, good behavior can be a casualty. Always have a conversation before leaving your house about how you expect your children to behave, and don’t shy away from being specific. Knowing what the rules are at someone else’s house is always helpful for kids, They know that you behave differently in church or synagogue than you do on the basketball court; they need to know what the rules are at grandma or Aunties house. If you have any questions about the house rules, don’t be afraid to ask your hosts.

Above all, be sure to laugh! Kids pick up their caregivers stress and tension, so they’re more likely to be irritable if you are. Have a sense of humor, enjoy your kids for who they are, and keep in mind that what you’ll all remember when it’s over is likely to be the unexpected moment when everybody was relaxed, not the brilliantly put together party, dinner or outing. Did you know that studies suggest that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day? AND, the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. Studies so far have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. So laugh your way through the holidays!

What the holidays look like in my head versus in reality

What the holidays look like in my head versus in reality


Please contact Deby if you have any questions or would like to collaborate on anything related to early childhood. 

Deby Ziesmer

Deby Ziesmer

Early Childhood Director & Pritzker Fellow

Phone: 763-232-8649