An Expert Weighs in on Why Creating Social and Emotional Curriculums for our Kids
It has been a little over two years since the first coronavirus case was reported in the United States. And as we enter into year three, parents, well, we are all still figuring it all out. While many facets of life- new variants, remote life, school class quarantines, inflation are just a few of those icky adult issues we are dealing with, we all know kids have had to adapt in a way that we frankly did not have to during our school years. Recently considerable health experts have shared that some children are experiencing a mental health crisis and learning challenges. How can parents know their child is struggling? What steps can they take with their school curriculum, for we all know that school is essential for their education and emotional state? I chatted with advice on adapting lessons with Elizabeth Fraley, M.Ed. The CEO of Kinder Ready Inc., on creating social and emotional curriculums for our kids.
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What behavior should a parent look out for in their kids when concerned with their child’s demeanor?
Some behaviors to look out for in children that could be affected by the pandemic could include: restlessness, anxiety, lack of eating, or sleeping. Teachers, caregivers, and parents should keep a close eye on children to ensure that all of their academic, social, and emotional needs are not overlooked during this time. Parents and teachers can also work on communication techniques with kids. Eye contact, politeness, and the ability to engage are very important milestones in your child’s development. It is important to look out for ways in which children communicate. Is the child communicating with a positive tone? Is the child using polite and proper grammar when communicating?
Outside of school, children can work on techniques to build their demeanor and let their natural personalities shine around others, whether peers or other adults. The best we can do as educators and parents is model the behaviors we want to see in our children, as children will usually copy or mimic as they are learning. The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. The more we can be aware of our communication the better impact we will have on our children.
We are entering into year three of this pandemic; for kids experiencing learning challenges, where does a parent first start addressing these challenges?
As soon as any abnormal or different behavior is observed, parents and teachers should start addressing challenges and communicate them to each other as soon as possible. The main areas of concern could be lack of interest in schoolwork, fatigue, and fear of the virus that impacts school and life routines. Students need periodic assessment to monitor their learning needs. Check-in with your child’s teacher. The teacher can make recommendations beyond the classroom if more remediation or enrichment is needed.
Some families are able to provide outside educational support focusing on early learning and social and emotional support through supplemental teachers, therapists, and outdoor schools and playgroups. That said, we are seeing families from low socioeconomic backgrounds being impacted the most with more Covid exposures and repercussions from the virus pointed back to children. For the families that cannot rely on such services, social and emotional programs through local schools and mental health facilities should be our communities’ top priorities during the pandemic.
Literacy has been a thoughtful way to explain the pandemic to children. Children need to know first and foremost that they will be okay and have strategies to follow to avoid coming in contact with Covid. One of our favorite Covid books now in the Kinder Ready collection is Bray Bray Conquers The Coronavirus by Ashley Maxie-Moreman. I really loved this children’s book because it brought awareness that African Americans are disproportionately affected by Covid-19 compared to other cultural groups. Another children’s book Kinder Ready loves is called Together by Kevin Poplawski and Illustrations by Michael Rausch. This children’s book focuses on strategies to avoid and care for oneself and others after an exposure.
Many students are experiencing tiredness from the stress created from the pandemic. To aid in all of the changes children are experiencing, they need to have consistent routines that ensure they’re getting plenty of sleep. Children also need to eat nutritious diets that are consistent and low in sugar and fat. Children can also participate in yoga and other mindfulness groups through private classes or online for free.
Many students are fearful of the unknown and the extended time in which masking has been required in schools. While many students are unphased, some are dramatically impacted. Check-in with your child’s mental health, seek the guidance of teachers and mental health professionals. As soon as your child is observed acting differently or is under situational stress, seek the guidance of professionals right away.
What are your own experiences and unique education from dealing with kids going through challenges?
It is imperative for preschoolers and young children to be able to experience and recognize feelings and learn to express themselves, as these are the most important social and emotional fundamentals. But unfortunately, with a mask, many of these teachable moments and experiences have diminished, putting our children’s early development and readiness at risk. With the lack of interactions and the broken chain of communication with mask-wearing, children’s overall learning abilities, social and emotional growth, and sense of normalcy has been greatly altered compared to what we had pre-pandemic.
However, schools and teachers can readopt social and emotional curriculums to cover ways in which we can communicate and express ourselves while masked in the classroom. Students need strategies to better communicate and grow during the unprecedented time from 2020 to current. Many outdoor playgroups and experiences can help keep children unmasked and safe during these unprecedented times.
As an educator, I can be there for my students to make sure that their social and emotional needs are being met. During the early part of the pandemic, I worked with younger students and helped them understand how masks keep us safe. We used masked teddy bears to help young students practice putting on masks and help them learn the importance of keeping them safe. I have also reviewed with students the importance of proper handwashing and taking care of ourselves. Zoom has also been a great resource to see a child without a mask in the comfort of their own home.
What is your advice for parents on adapting lessons and keeping open lines of communication with your child’s teachers and at home?
Keeping an open line of communication with parents is so important, especially during these unprecedented times. One way to keep an open line of communication is through a journal. I will write daily notes in a student journal that is sent home from the classroom each day. After each learning session, we also email parents to keep them in the loop on all things related to their child’s everchanging academic and social and emotional needs. Instagram is another easy tool for sharing pictures of learning and highlights from the day with parents.
There are many ways in which lessons can be adapted. For example, on Zoom a lesson would be shorter than a live lesson where children have more interaction with their teacher. If lessons are on Zoom, tactile learning really helps to keep a child engaged. Materials for these lessons are sent ahead to the families. With the pandemic, we have had to adapt and resort to Zoom instruction time and time again with the surges in cases.
Elizabeth is the current CEO/Founder of KinderReady, Inc. After spending over three years as a director of an early elementary program, Elizabeth started her own educational service company. Elizabeth gained national attention with a summer camp for kids in 2016 with her company. Elizabeth’s work has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter, CBS LOCAL, SF GATE and many other media outlets. Elizabeth was recently rewarded with an educator of the year award from the county of Los Angeles for her service to the community. Elizabeth has been featured on Hallmark Home and Family with CNN Journalist, Lisa Ling. Elizabeth is an education contributor for Huff Post. Elizabeth’s teaching philosophy offers a structured curriculum along with progressive approaches to highly, individualized teaching and learning. Elizabeth has over a decade of experience in early learning specializing in assessment, curriculum development, English Language Learning, and progress monitoring for grades preschool-6th grade. Elizabeth has specialized training in Love and Logic, a social and emotional curriculum. Elizabeth enjoys working with families and working with children to help them reach their fullest potential as learners.