Give InKind spoke to Patty O’Connor, an expert in preschool education and a champion of social and emotional growth. O’Connor has worked for decades with preschool students. She underscores the fundamental importance of honoring the complex emotional lives of children. Little Feet Community Preschool, which she operates, is based upon this very premise. O’Connor describes childhood as a time to explore how things work, and how things feel – our bodies, our emotions, and our communities.
O’Connor believes that the opportunities for this kind of growth occur most organically in early childhood. There are rarely similar opportunities wherein one can focus so wholly, and with such clarity, on these kinds of issues.
O’Connor says that toys like Slumberkins enable children, in partnership with parents and caregivers, the opportunity to recognize that learning to navigate emotions is an integral part of emotional intelligence.
By actively encouraging our very young children to recognize their emotions and learn to navigate them independently, we are communicating to them that they, the children, are powerful.
As children learn to understand the largeness of some feelings, they also learn that they can find adaptive ways to communicate and express feelings to those who love them (and whom they love).
Teach Children to Trust Themselves
O’Connor says that when we sit with our children and recognize their complex inner lives, we signal that they can be trusted to navigate things that can feel bad, sad, or confusing. It is in loving dialogue that emotions are allowed to manifest. Ultimately, this kind of journey will feel good for both participants.
Just as important, we learn as they learn about the discovery of attachment and trust. In sifting emotional complexities, we aren’t just breaking down the things that feel hard. Social-emotional growth also maps the singular routes to attachment and love. This is a tremendous pleasure to share.
Growing Up is Hard but Learning to Feel and Express Makes it Easier
Emotional intelligence is rooted in asking questions, finding a process, and being trusted. This is developmentally important. There is a difference between suggesting or dictating how a child should feel (no matter how well-intentioned) and discussing how a child does (actually) feel. Trusting their process to understand their own story, or interpret their truth will land in love when it is offered in the spirit of love.
Give InKind is honored to include the wisdom of Patty O’Connor, an early childhood educator, and owner of Little Feet Community Preschool in Red Hook, New York.
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