Iabsolutely love to go to the Early Childhood classroom, rain or shine! Rain is a natural event that brings much-needed water and nourishment to our earth, but disappointment to a class of preschoolers who want to go outside and play. When I have met a class of disappointed faces after sharing a daily schedule not including outside play, I have used “Singing in the Rain” lesson plans to try to minimize the disappointment. But to be honest with myself as a teacher, I cannot always protect the children I teach from disappointments. Cancelled field trips, having to miss a long-awaited birthday party due to sickness, losing a game, etc., are some of life’s disappointments. They can be big or little, but they still bring sadness and a let-down feeling.
The earlier the better in a child’s life to teach them healthy coping skills as they work through the sad feelings they may have in disappointments. Taking the time to encourage your child early in life to work through difficult situations builds up strength, confidence and contentment in tough situations that they may face in life.
As a teacher and parent, I wanted to share some helpful tips that I have gleaned over the years from fellow teachers, parents and my own experiences.
1. The first thing I have tried when I have seen young children truly upset with disappointment is to let them know that I understand and feel their pain of sadness. Sitting down face to face with them, spending time with them and letting them talk and express themselves, even through tears and upset, shows empathy and understanding. Time spent with children spells LOVE!
2. One thing that we parents and teachers come to realize is that we cannot control situations or circumstances to prevent from disappointments affecting our children. Personally, I will admit as a teacher I just don’t want the children I teach to experience disappointments. But we as teachers and parents realize that we have to gently and tenderly guide and direct our children when they are going through disappointments. This requires listening to our children as they express their feelings and identify with their feelings. If there is a disappointment due to not being able to go on a trip, activity, event, happening, ask your child what they would desire to have happened. This opens up a discussion on how it could be done in a different way.
3. We have to be realistic in knowing that 2020 has been a difficult year with regard to expectations. As families it is so natural to have something to look forward to such as vacation, family gatherings and holidays. We have to admit that it has been hard on children this year with fun social gatherings being cancelled or postponed and usual holiday traditions uncertain. As parents and teachers we have to look at our situations this year. Our expectations should be different. Young children are literal thinkers. When we say we are going to do something, they take us at our word and build hope and excitement that you and they will be doing what you said. During these uncertain times we have to truly think before we promise our children what we are going to do. An example of what I am talking about is on Mother’s Day this year I had such high hopes and excitement about flying to see my son in Grand Rapids, Michigan. With COVID-19 we knew by April that this would be impossible. My heart just sank, but we made the best of the situation by Zooming together over a Mother’s Day meal. As we ate our meal together by having contact via Zoom, it truly was close to us being together. We as a family are learning to cope in our disappointments. We are discovering new ways as families and friends to come together. Yes, we miss the touch and hugs, but time spent with our loved ones is a huge hug!
4. With young children you have to learn to plan ahead of time in guiding their expectations. This helps them to cope in their disappointments. Being honest with our children is the best coping skill that we can give them. Yes, this time of having to stay home to maintain health and safety guidelines is hard, but give them hope in knowing that things will be better. Explain to them that a vaccine is being worked on, but we have to practice patience at this time. Too, you and your children can point out things that are going right, such as having more family time together, having more time to enjoy the beautiful outdoors and having more time for learning new skills and hobbies. Young children absolutely love to point out happy, positive things!
5. Too, this is the time that we can point our children to the absolute truth of God. The Creator who made them and us is the ONE who keeps His promises. In God’s Word, which is the truth and map for us to live by, point out examples and models of people such as Noah, who obeyed God by building an ark to take care of his family and the animals of the world during the flood to wipe out evil. Children love to hear this story over and over. It gives them hope that after the storm God gives Noah and his family a promise in a rainbow. I love this verse of hope that preschoolers take to heart (Jeremiah 29:11): “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord.” This verse goes on to say that the Lord has thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
We are all learning to cling on to hope as we live life to the fullest during these different times.