Updated: Mar 25, 2022
Let's talk for a quick minute about the way we connect with the little ones and families in our care.
The way we welcome families into an ECFE or Family Ed is an opportunity not only to make them feel welcomed and connected, but also to model the ways to most effectively communicate with little ones.
Here are 3 tips to optimize this connection:
Get down to their level whenever possible. If you need a chair to do this, no big deal. Our nervous systems respond differently to people when they tower over us, we feel threatened, even when there is not a huge threat. Children who are feeling worried, overwhelmed, excited will have the best chance to begin regulating those emotions if the grown up who is working with them can be at or BELOW their eye level. This has to do with the response of their autonomic nervous system.
2. Proximity matters as well. As much as you can, do not teach or direct from across the room. Go up near to a child, so your voice can remain calm, your body can become eye level (when possible), and you are able to be clear in the directions you need to give. Of course, there are times when safety is a factor and you must intervene from across the room, but in general try to get close and low.
3. Connect and Redirect. This approach is outlined with beautiful clarity in the book the Whole Brain Child, by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. The basics of the idea that first connection must happen with a child before they understand how to change the focus of their attention. They need to feel safe, connected and then we can redirect their attention if it needs to be elsewhere. We tend to try to skip the connection piece. Breathing together is a great way to practice this connection. Use language like "I see you want to play with the blocks, but Joey is using them. It's hard to wait, let's take a deep breath together, that will help our bodies. Let's see if anyone is using the kitchen while we wait for Joey to be done with the blocks."
What a joy it is to get to work with families and learn together about how to set children up for success in managing their experiences.
Keep those knees limber or find yourself a good chair or stool that allows you to get to be at eye level with those little ones!