Blog Series: Building a Child’s Emotional Savings Account (Part 5)

The thing to remember with the “starting school and beyond” stage is that children are ready for this step at different ages and it is a really difficult transition for both children and their parents. Children will often show their anxiety through crying and clinging, return to thumb sucking, bed wetting or accidents at school, tantrums and baby language. At the same time, parents can experience sadness or jealousy, unwillingness to let go and may be unaware that they are giving encouraging signals to their child.

There are key emotional developmental behaviors that will be experienced and displayed by your child as they begin school. It is common to see big differences in behaviors between home and school and it is important for you to understand that the need for love, support, encouragement and empathy from parents is critical for them.  Children who may not be able to articulate in words how they feel might show us through their actions, which can at times can result in outrageous behavior.

During this critical stage of development, it is important to remember the following points:

  • Avoid calling your child names when discussing their behavior and encourage  your child by showing appreciation for their accomplishments.
  • You can improve your child’s self-esteem by teaching them   to help others.
  • Say “yes” and “I love you” more often than you say “no” or “don’t” and demonstrate in ways your child can understand how unique and special they are to you.
  • At this stage, it really helps to create dependable and predictable routines for your child.
  • Remember that infants and toddlers test limits because of their curiosity and eagerness to learn, not to make you angry.    Encourage positive behavior by using positive guidance techniques. If necessary, short time outs (no longer than 1 minute per year of the age of the child) can help you and your child regain self-control.
  • Know that spanking, hitting or shouting may stop behavior immediately but may teach that violence is the way to settle issues.
  • Encourage your child to take responsibility for his/her behavior.

We do not control others so we can only influence others to  change their behavior. Establishing an atmosphere of mutual respect between you and your child will help him or her respond more positively. This can develop if adults are consistent, honest, open and supportive. It also helps to determine the behavior or events that take place before and after undesirable behaviors. This helps you identify the things in the environment which set off or reinforce the child’s inappropriate behavior.

Next week, we will look at one of the most anxiety-ridden  stage of a parent’s life: When their child enters puberty and adolescence…..

Dr. Philippe Rey is Executive Director of Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS).  Prior to becoming Executive Director in 2004, Philippe first joined the ACS staff in 1998 as Caravan House Program Director.  Born and raised in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Philippe came to the United States to attend college in 1984. His credentials include a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from UC San Diego and a master’s in counseling psychology from National University. In 1997 his doctorate in clinical psychology with a concentration in child and family therapy was conferred by Alliant International University in San Diego. Before pursuing graduate studies and a career in psychology, Philippe graduated from business school in Switzerland. Philippe can be reached at philippe@acs-teens.org or 650.424.0852 ext. 101.

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