Nicole, 3 year old pre-schooler is daughter to Esther, 22 year old in campus. It is obvious she got her as a teenager. Due to school and trying to catch up with the time she was away from school for Nicole’s birth, Esther barely spends time with her daughter like she is supposed to be. Recently, she noticed that her daughter is picking up habits from neighbors and TV. She apparently watches too much TV since no one is there to regulate that. Esther is not keeping up with her fast growing child. She just might miss out on the most important development stage of her daughter.
The preschool years are one of the most important periods in a child’s emotional development. You are also getting to know and understand your child’s temperament, reactions and behavior. Your child is building on the confidence and self-esteem he has been developing since the baby and toddler years. The way children feel about their rapidly blossoming abilities and the way they deal with more complex emotions have a huge influence on their ability to cope with life’s stresses.
Your job during the preschool years is to help your child develop self-esteem, coping skills, problem-solving skills and social skills.
These skills will help your child cope with emotional changes, keep going in the face of frustration, have hope, control extreme emotional impulses, and feel compassion and empathy. These are important ingredients for success and wellbeing in life.
Good self-esteem means that you have a positive view of yourself and your abilities. Children who have good self-esteem feel that they are valued and they can manage the world to some degree.
Good self-esteem helps you deal with life’s disappointments and problems. It lets us understand and accept that things don’t always work out, and respond to this in a positive way – for example, ‘What can I do to fix that bad thing that happened to me?’ or ‘Bad things happen to everyone. I can get over this’.
You can help your child develop self-esteem by:
- fostering your child’s sense of who he is
- helping your child develop confidence in his abilities
- giving your child positive attention
- helping your child learn to accept mistakes.
Your child’s self-esteem comes from knowing that she’s connected to others and loved and valued for who she is. Here are some ideas for fostering these feelings:
- Teach your child who he is by explaining who’s who in the family, how they’re related to others and what you did when you were a child.
- Make family photo albums and let your child collect family treasures like souvenirs from family holidays.
- Keep and display your child’s drawings, letters and photos. This will also help your child see how she has changed and grown over the years.
Encourage your child to work out problems and make decisions by himself. But make sure he knows you’re there to help if he needs you. When your child masters a new skill, encourage her to practise it before starting something harder. Repetition helps your child build confidence and understand that things usually get easier.
- When your child does what he’s asked, or does something nice for you, let him know. Say things like ‘Thank you’, ‘That was helpful’ and ‘You do that really well’.
- Be generous with praise, but also be genuine – your child will usually know if you’re faking it. If you give her too much praise, your child will learn not to value it.
- Hug your child, listen, make time even when you’re busy, let your child help you, put your child’s drawings on display, and take part in preschool events if you can.
- Always avoid saying things that put your child down, like ‘You make me tired’, ‘You’re hopeless’ or ‘You’re such a naughty boy’.
- Be realistic, but allow your child to take some risks. Try to avoid overprotecting your child.
- Tell your child that everyone makes mistakes and that mistakes help us to learn. It’s important that children understand that if they make a mistake in one area, they’re not bad at everything.
- Encourage your child to think and say positive things like ‘It’s OK that my team didn’t win today’, ‘I can work out this problem if I just keep trying’, and ‘I feel good when I help someone, even if they don’t thank me’.
Developing Coping skills
Good coping skills help us to deal with problems, frustrations, threats and challenges. The way a child deals with these things as a baby and toddler – crying and tantrums – don’t go down well in later childhood, or as an adult in the office! If your child learns to understand the way she feels in different situations – especially difficult situations – this is a great first step towards developing coping skills.
Tips for promoting good coping skills in your child
- Teach your child to be aware of and understand his own feelings. You can use children’s games and stories to talk about how your child might feel in different situations.
- Help your child to notice and deal with negative feelings – for example, sadness, frustration, embarrassment – when they first happen, before they get too strong to manage.
- Teach your child that while everyone likes to win, doing your best is more important. You can be a role model for this attitude.
- Help your child think about whether things are fair or unfair – for example, waiting her turn instead of pushing in front of another child.
- Let your child know that sometimes things go wrong even when he does the right thing – for example, ‘Not everyone shares their toys, even if you ask nicely’.
- Model positive thinking in difficult situations – for example, ‘It’s scary to ask Harriet if you can play because she might say no. But she might also say yes. Then you can join in and have fun together’.
Problem-solving skills are important for making decisions and sorting out conflicts. Conflict isn’t always a bad thing. Through conflict, children learn that people experience different thoughts and feelings. Children also learn the difference between right and wrong and how their behaviour affects other people.