I was fortunate to have a scholarship to attend the Kansas Association for Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health (KAIMH) annual conference in Kansas City at the end of May. KAIMH is an association of professionals who are concerned with the emotional development of infants and young children. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear from experts across the nation over the span of two full days. After reviewing my notes, I would like to share with you some of the information that stood out to me.
We all communicate through our behaviors and actions. What makes a typical behavior a challenging one is often intensity, duration, and how often that behavior is displayed. You don’t have to be around children to observe this. Just look around you when you are out among others. Sometimes my husband will say, “Are you done now?” when I am passionately expressing my feelings. He is usually right. We all have our own “hot spots” that can trigger an emotion. When that happens we must separate ourselves from the situation if possible. If not, our emotions take over and not our usual logical self.
Children need the support of families and trained individuals to help them learn how to appropriately share their emotions. Sometimes they do not even know why they are upset, crying, or throwing a tantrum.
Sometimes children who are struggling with their emotions can also withdraw. They are the quiet ones who can be overlooked. Children with special needs tend to interact less with peers; may have poor social interactions; or poor acceptance by peers and in new environments.
What are some of the things that adults can do to help children in their social emotional development? There is a lot in the literature to explore but let’s look at some basic things. Make deposits into their emotional piggybanks. That means having regular positive interactions with them daily. Make eye contact; connect with the child’s interest; listen and respond; and acknowledge feelings they may have. Don’t we all yearn for that?
A quote that has stayed with me after the conference is one by Urie Bronfenbrenner.
“Every child needs at least one person who is crazy about him.” That could be you.