Stressful, Busy, Volatile, Chaotic, Uncertain are all terms we as adults use to characterize the fast-moving world we inhabit.
At KLAY, we are fortunate to be simultaneously immersed in children’s slow flow world full of laughter, mischief, joy and play.
This stark contrast between the adult world and children’s world often forces us to question, what impact stressed-out adults have on children and what can we as educators and caregivers do to mitigate the impact if any. At KLAY, given our obsession with creating a playful and stimulating learning environment for children in our care, we decided to pose this dilemma to experts in the field of early childhood education and parenting from across the world. As such, the theme for this years ‘International Summit on Early Years (ISEY)‘ was chosen to be
Happy Adults = Happy Children
There were a number of enlightening sessions at the conference which proved beyond doubt that happy children grow into happy adults but in order to provide a happy childhood, the adult caregivers – be it parents, teachers, and support staff need to manage their own stress levels and make it a priority. A central theme that emerged at the conference was that emotions play a huge role in our ability to learn and thrive and that they are contagious. Children absorb the feelings they experience around them.
The traditional belief in education has been ‘Teacher has to teach and a student has to learn- it does not matter how either one of them is feeling’ Emotions have no place in the classroom. Most of us adults are products of that education system. However, recent research in neuroscience and education is making it clear that emotions and learning are deeply interconnected. Cognitive learning is impossible without the guard rails of emotional well-being and active engagement and is in fact hampered due to stress.
At ISEY, Jackie Harland who is the Founder and Director at the London Children’s Practice in Central London and Co-founder of London learning Centre in India provided scientific proof points to support the notion that ‘Emotions are Contagious’ in her keynote speech.
Neuroscientists have now discovered neurons that are associated with empathetic, social and imitation behavior. These brain cells activate when we see someone doing something or acting in a particular way. They are the reason that we can pick up on other people’s feelings and stress without even being aware of it.
As such, it is important that we learn to understand our emotions; it is only when parents know and understand their own emotions that they are able to speak the language of emotions in their home and take the first step towards emotional regulation with children.
Jackie elaborated that the ability to recognize, identify and manage emotions is termed as Emotional Intelligence and is said to be the key to happiness and foundation for managing relationships. If emotional intelligence is not your strength, then all is not lost; You can still develop your EQ through practice. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Self-awareness – Can I easily recognize how I am feeling and do I appropriately share these feelings with those around me where necessary?
Emotional regulation – Can I deal with difficult feelings even though they are unpleasant at the time and keep going in a social situation? When I am caught off guard do I say something I regret later or am I able to hold back? Do I process how I manage my emotions for future reference or action?
Understanding – Can I see the whole picture and keep perspective? Do I understand why others behave in a certain way?
Here are some tips for supporting children that Jackie shared with the audience:
Listening/connecting – the power of being heard is immense, sometimes this is all that it takes to bring anxiety right down.
Labeling feelings – ‘You are sad because mummy has left’
Validating feelings with statements – ‘I can see you are cross because Arjun took your car’.
Empathizing – showing empathy is not always easy in a busy setting but it is important. Try showing an understanding of what the child is feeling before offering solutions. By being present you can help the child to feel safe and secure.
Jackie also shared a very handy framework to understand your emotions and manage them. It is called The Zones of Regulation.
The big takeaway from Jackie’s Keynote and the conference was to actively use the fact that emotions are contagious to bring joy, fun and laughter not only in our classrooms but also with our work colleagues.
Happiness is more contagious than other emotions.
We at KLAY are working actively to bring the language of emotions in our classrooms while talking about how we feel and labeling feelings. We would love to hear from you, on how you are bringing emotion into your workplaces.
With children out of school, physical distancing as the new norm, and children’s rights under threat, the new world order has “turned back the clock” on years of progress made on children’s well-being. However, it’s not all bad. As a human race, we’ve been built to adapt: we’ve seen a tipping point in technology-enabled education and the promise of a new education policy in our country.