Any parent, educator or health professional will tell you, Children’s brains are like sponges at a young age because it’s developing at a rapid pace. From the time of birth, the social and emotional experiences faced by children shape their lives well into the future. This is why bus driver Erica every morning shares her mood with her little passengers on the school runs.
“The kids that are on my bus service share a mutual respect for each other, including me. I like to promote honesty, even when it comes to talking about our feelings. One morning I had a headache so I set the bus driver mood meter to DANGER. As the kids walked onto the bus they knew something was wrong so the entire bus trip was very quiet. The opposite applies when I’m in a good mood. We sing, tell jokes & laugh. It’s a great atmosphere. Sometimes the older kids will move my mood meter from happy to danger as they get off the bus. Cheeky buggers!”
Now for the science from the smart people.
Many parents and caregivers may not realize the importance of social and emotional development for young children. This refers to the ability of a child to form secure and loving relationships with adults and peers. Brain researchers explain that emotional memory stored in the brain during the first five years of life is lasting. Research is also telling us that children are more successful in school and life if they feel good about themselves and can get along with others. It makes sense – children who are troubled, anxious, angry, tired or sad will have a more difficult time completing tasks at school and home than the children who are more confident and at ease with others.
Parents and caregivers play an important role in helping children learn to manage their emotions and behavior. It is important to understand that it’s not about the child as much as it’s about the adults’ emotions. The ways parents/caregivers were guided or punished when they were children affects how they respond to children whose behavior is challenging. Recollections of past childhood experiences may include thoughts of how families allowed them to express emotions without criticism. Or upon reflection, those memories may be filled with teasing, name calling, threatening or physical punishment. When adults are able to acknowledge and validate their own feelings, they are in a better position to understand their interactions as they raise or care for children.
It’s hard to imagine that young children could be learning anything about their social or emotional needs when they seem like they spend most of their time sleeping, playing or eating. But they are learning important skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. It is up to adults to create positive emotional environments for children.
Source: The Center for Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning
The 2016 Black Dog Ball supported by Young’s Bus Service