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Message from Tamara: Honoring Emotions

written by Tamara Clark, Preschool Program Coordinator
 
As so many children are starting their first school experiences or moving to new classrooms, alongside the joy and excitement, there are sometimes sad feelings. 
 
As we comfort these children, it can be tempting to reassure them, "You're okay!!" But in truth, they are not: they are feeling sad or worried, stressed or scared.
 
When we try to distract them from their feelings, we are sending them the message that their feelings aren't valid. Instead, we find ways to acknowledge their feelings, happy or sad, and help them understand what is happening.
 
I learned this lesson often in my childhood when my hippy parents would reassure me, "It's okay to feel your feelings." Sometimes this would make me cry harder, getting it all out. Sometimes, I would be ready to talk about my feelings, and sometimes I would be ready to move on to the next thing. 
 
As an adult, I now realize how much patience this took, and what a gift it was for my parents to give me the space to learn about my emotions. 
 
This lesson has been reinforced as I've learned about the work of Madga Gerber, whose respectful approach to children young and old has inspired teachers, psychologists, and parents to honor children's emotions. 
 
In the article, 7 Reasons to Calm Down About Babies Crying, Janet Lansbury, a follower of Gerber, writes about the important communication in crying and the ways that caregivers can support infants who are crying.
 
Last week, I witnessed a teacher walk up and down the hallway with a crying three year old who was feeling sad after saying goodbye. She calmly acknowledged his feelings, empathizing with how hard it was to say goodbye. She stayed close while he cried, then as he began to calm, she asked him questions about his favorite topic, trains. She was beautifully respectful of his feelings and supportive of the time it took for him to feel them, calm himself, and move on. 
 
Quietly being close can be amazingly powerful for young children experiencing big emotions. Teaching young children emotional intelligence is incredibly important work, and we are so lucky to be at a place that values this!