Simple ways we can support children’s emotional well-being
By: Lee Longo
During these difficult times, as parents struggle with being home with children of all ages and their many emotions, there are ways in which we can engage them, helping them develop their cognitive abilities and offering strategies to protect their emotional well-being. A great way to do this is through writing.
My interest in writing began as a young child. Coming from a large family there wasn’t always time to have a voice. I began journaling in elementary school and continued well into my twenties.
Beginning writing for preschool children can be a fun activity parents can do at home and it is important to foster writing in very young children. Pre-writing skills are fundamental for children to understand that marks and symbols have meaning. Showing children that marks and symbols are used in our daily life and that they connect to thoughts are central. It does not have to be difficult and you can show them in simple ways. Writing a grocery list with them or pointing out street signs can start the curiosity for this age group. Showing them that print goes from left to right as you read to them. As their understanding begins to develop this empowers them to want to learn and seek more information. As children begin to understand the concept of printed letters to sounds this begins the steps to early literacy. As they are exposed to more and more letters their curiosity grows and soon they will be asking what letters are in their names.
Journaling is a technique that can be used as early as pre-school. Children can be given a “special” note book and it can be explained that this is their own personal book, no one else is to use it, and each day they will have some time to write in their notebook. At this age a child’s beginning writing may just be marks on a page or lines or drawing a picture. By journaling children are expressing their thoughts through these marks and drawings. This is a practice that we use in our school. Very often at this age children want the teacher to write down what their marks or drawings mean in their own words. And many times, they come back and ask their teacher if their words can be re-read to them again. It’s amazing what comes out at this age. Of course, a big topic is: what they are going to do on their birthday? Sometimes, they will want to write that their friend did not want to play with them or about their sibling. The importance of reading their words back to them helps them to re-evaluate their feelings. The more children write, the stronger their fine motor skills improve; it improves their muscle memory, and the writing begins to flow more easily.
All children at all ages experience emotions on a regular basis, but they do not know how to process their own emotions. As children get into their teen years, journaling helps them to learn on their own from their own emotions. They begin to notice that how they have felt on one day is not how they feel today. They begin to accept their mistakes. Some studies have shown that journaling helps to boost their problem-solving skills, helps to lower anxiety and stress levels. They become more reflective and less reactive to obstacles. They get to know themselves better. Journaling helps to support academic and emotional growth. This can have a positive effect on their mental well-being.
Parents often do not know how their children are feeling. In high school when my children would come home from school, I would ask how their day was, I was lucky if I would just get a grunt before off, they would go. In today’s world as parents we need every arsenal in our bag of tricks to keep our children focused to foster their mental well-being and to ensure they make good decisions. Having them to begin to journal can be one step in this direction.
As I got older and had my own children, I destroyed my many journals. Of course, I didn’t want my children to stumble upon them. I’m sure if I could look back on them now, I would have a good laugh
about all the problems I thought I had. But they served their purpose for me then. I worked out all of my
emotions without even knowing what I was doing.
Like most schools there is a summer reading list for children of all ages to complete. Perhaps now would
be a good time to start summer journaling to help our children work out their emotions. It’s never too
early to get your children to start the love of writing, it may very well be the best medicine to secure
their emotional well-being.