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Serving the Needs of Children

The family dynamic and early childhood education have morphed and come under new challenges. A child’s care and education are being passed on more and more to strangers and social and bureaucratic influence. Yes, the issue is complex. But our children are paying a high price. 

Rarely do adults consider the quality of life the child experiences. They talk at and about children instead of talking to them at their level. Adults are so busy with their own experiences, thoughts, and emotions that they sometimes do not have the emotional ability or time to give children what they need. Children need attention and connection. They need to feel safe and heard.

Children are people, too. They know so little and understand less. They have feelings, emotions, expectations, and needs just like adults. There are so many things they are trying to make sense of, skills to learn, and milestones to meet. They are being exposed to ideas and experiences that are often overwhelming and confusing. This is why they need attentive and intentional primary caregivers and teachers who focus on and support them. To protect them from this unstable adult world, ideas, and ideologies they are not ready for developmentally. Let them be kids, think, and do kid things.

Some children do not thrive in group care. A classroom of 20 busy children can be overwhelming and scary. A sensitive child and others who are continually exposed to other children who lack self-regulation and behavior control feel very scared and not safe. It damages and confuses their worldview. Because this is their first experience with the outside world. Why do adults think this is ok?

Consider that a child with self-regulation and behavior control challenges is possibly one of these children. Some of these children need a group care program with a much smaller class size or an in-home childcare program that is more relaxed and can be given more support and attention. Aren’t adults then considering their own agenda instead of the child’s? Instead of forcing these children into a mold that is not supporting them in their development?

Why do adults think and say things like they will adapt and get used to it without considering the question? Why should they have to? To meet the adult’s needs, not the child’s. Happy, healthy, secure children play well with others, follow teacher expectations and learn. These things start from the home environment and then manifest in group care. 

For some children, these things mean changing a care program that can help them when challenges arise, like in the Three Bears story. To find a place that is just right for them and their needs. You cannot force or fix it in the wrong environment or program. Finding that program, however, can be a challenge.

After five decades in early learning, I can confirm, and ask others who will also confirm, that a classroom with 15 or fewer children and two trained teachers makes for an easier and more pleasant day for everyone.

A home-based childcare program often has less than 10 children, often with an assistant. They may have a space that looks like a regular preschool classroom, but the children spend their time in a homelike environment that can be comforting and more secure. Families and the provider often have more communication and connect more frequently to support the child’s needs.

“In October 2021, about 63 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds were enrolled in school overall. The enrollment rate was higher for 5-year-olds than for 3- to 4-year-olds (86 vs. 50 percent).1

[National Center for Education Statistics. (2023). Enrollment Rates of Young Children. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cfa.]

This does not consider infants up to three years old enrolled in care, which makes the percentage higher. Growing up in an institution that needs work. Away from the family for most of their waking day and the family connection they desperately need. Learning the values, ideas, and influence of strangers who may not share the child’s home values, beliefs, and worldview. Forming their minds and attitudes that will stay with them as they grow into adulthood. Children develop the most between the ages of birth to eight years old. Developing patterns of thought and understanding can be difficult to reverse as a child ages.

The turnover rate of teachers is reported at 40% yearly. A child may often be greeted by a new face or two throughout the year. A new person with new expectations, a new personality, varied teaching experience and training. The challenge of building trust, again. For some children, trust and attachment to a new person is never attained. This can be manifested by a change in behavior and acceptance of authority. Which carries on into Kindergarten and brings challenges to a successful learning experience.

The most important things children need to learn in a Pre-K program are getting along with others, emotional regulation, and dealing with frustration and conflict. As well as following directions, staying on task, and catching health and emotional red flags early. A child can only focus on learning if these things are progressing. Then, they can learn colors, numbers, and letters and make meaning of what is presented in class.

It is essential to state that teachers have their own families and often children. Many leave their own children in group care so they can take care of other people’s children. They work intentionally, reflectively, and professionally to communicate with children and families. To support the successful development of the children in their care. They each have different reasons for working in child care, which is for something other than money and perks. Which are not generally advantageous. Their job requirements have grown exponentially and are financially and time-restrictive. Yet, they show up every day with a smile.

What is the answer? What is the solution? This challenge is complex and continually changing. Today, people are less likely to look honestly at this and many other situations. That whatever hill they are standing on is protected with vigor. No one is intentionally trying to harm this coming generation. On the contrary, everyone is trying hard to fix what’s broken. Families are highly invested in the successful growth and education of their children.

But even if someone disagrees with the current narrative, they will not rock the boat. It might cost them their job, funding, friends, family, or status. Sometimes, looking away and hoping for the best for many people is more manageable.

Families feel stuck out of necessity, finances, and circumstances. Above all else, they want and need a safe place for their children while they meet their families’ financial needs. Many do not have the financial or social options and connections to make other decisions for their child. Geographical location also plays a part.

Unfortunately, this leaves children helpless. It has also caused a blame game between families, caregivers, and overseeing authoritative bodies. Most teachers come into the classroom to teach pre-kindergarten skills. Most do not have training in psychology or social work. Many teachers feel anxious because of the turnover and inability to gain these skills in a timely fashion, and then the need to deal with situations beyond their training. There are also guidelines and restrictions that educators must comply with that may not meet the expectations and requests of families.

Ideas for Success – Families

  1. Ask questions if you need clarification on your child’s situation, policy, or expectation. Request a meeting or phone call rather than discussing a lengthy concern during the busy drop-off or pick-up time.

  2. Understand that teachers and programs have policies they must do based on state and legislative action that may be different than what you would like to see happen. Ask for a copy of the policy.

  3. Spend time in your child’s classroom with the realization that they may act differently when you are there. Children often behave differently in group care than they do at home.

  4. Prepare your child for a successful day. Ensure they get a good night’s sleep, are dressed for the day, eat healthy, meet their health needs, and follow the illness policy.

  5. Be an advocate. If your child has a specific need, research how to support them. Take a free online course. Connect with the teacher and ask them to take a specific class about your child’s needs.

  6. Find a program where your child can thrive instead of sticking with a program that does not meet your child’s specific needs. Change the type of program as suggested above.

  7. Designing a plan for your child’s classroom experience is a partnership. Not just what the teacher may do, but what you will do to support a successful outcome.

  8. Connect with the Program Director, who may have options.

#Family Dynamic – #Early Childhood – #Developmentally Appropriate – #Expulsion – #Child Trauma – #Staff Turnover – #Raising Children – #Kids are People too – #Teaching Children

Debbie Hasbrook M.Ed – 1.9.24

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