Michelle Dell'Aquila

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Is Your Child Ready for School?

For every parent, the time will come for your child to start preparing for preschool or kindergarten.

Early childhood development and education are crucial to young minds in order to help them reach their development milestones — such as attending school and socializing with other children — is key in preparation for the advancement of their education.

Here are some things you can do to help your child attain these crucial milestones.

PLAY

Allowing free play and some scheduled playtime is the number one thing you can do to help your child prepare for school. Play allows time with other children, which develops social skills they will need for the rest of their lives. It allows children to think and problem solve on their own time and lets their curious minds discover how to construct things or experience textures. Free-play time is the optimal learning environment for your child. Here, they can rapidly increase their cognitive, social, and physical abilities.

READ

Reading to your child and teaching them basic letters and sounds is another key step in preparation for school. Reading to your child can help them begin to understand the shape and sounds of letters which will help them identify pictures with words. Another fun idea is to label items in your house. Point to the word when saying the name of the object to your toddler. This helps them not only read the name but will help them retain words and identify objects. Outings to the zoo, singing songs, repeating your own child’s words back to them, and repetition of activities such as these increase your child’s developmental progress with reading and understanding. 

PREPARE

Another useful idea for school preparation is to actually go to the preschool. Asking if your child can visit and/or play in a setting with other children will allow them to familiarize themselves with the environment, which can increase their comfortability and confidence. Visiting the school in advance can also help reduce the shock of the first day for both parents and child. Many schools allow tours and visits so parents and children can explore their new environment.

Taking these steps to prepare your child can help them to stay on track with their development and be ready for school and further learning, even if the parents aren’t quite ready for them to grow up. 

Michelle Dell’Aquila is a licensed therapist and the director of Child Development Advice, an educational consulting agency. She can be reached at childdevelopmentadvice.com

How To Cool Off Your Kid’s Tantrum

Child tantrums are learned behavior. (Getty Images)

Tantrums and meltdowns can test the very last nerve of every parent. 

Children who experience meltdowns are reacting to their environment in a negative manner. Meltdowns can raise blood pressure, cause headaches and stomachaches, and upset everyone involved.

There are a few things you can do to handle tantrums effectively. First, it is important to understand that tantrums are learned behaviors, which means you can help your child unlearn this type of behavior by teaching them the proper tools they need in order to communicate better.

DON’T FEED TENSIONS

It is important to stay calm and rational during a meltdown. Calm behavior can be felt and seen by an upset child, which can assist them in calming down. By remaining calm, you show your child by example how to handle this type of stressful situation with poise and adult like behavior.

ADDRESS ANXIETY LEVELS

Your role during a tantrum is to listen. Take a deep breath, quiet yourself, and repeat slowly what your child says so that they know you are listening. A calm manner can reduce the flood of anxiety your child is feeling, which can help them calm down.

TRY REASONING LATER

Your child is not present at this moment. Don’t try to reason with your child if they are not able to at the moment. Teach your child to talk about frustration or to use words. Use caution when trying to “make” them come to their senses. They are only reacting in a childlike way to things they can’t express through speech.

REINFORCE POSITIVE BEHAVIOR

Acknowledgment of positive behavior is key to helping curb tantrums. This sheds a desired light on being good and receiving praise for positive behavior. Acknowledging the good can help your child understand that throwing a tantrum will not get the desired reaction.

GIVE THEM SPACE

Trying to talk to, correct, or interfere while your child is very upset can only make things worse. Try giving your child some space and do not acknowledge the bad behavior. Reacting to emotional overload will have no effect. It is best to wait until they can be calm and understanding once more. Forcing a child to sit or listen during a meltdown can stress out both the child and parent more.

 Michelle Dell’Aquila is a licensed therapist and the director of Child Development Advice, an educational consulting agency. Sh can be reached at childdevelopmentadvice.com

The Importance of Teaching Children Emotional Intelligence

In adults, emotional intelligence — the ability to understand and manage emotions — can help in social interactions and is even linked to varying degrees of success.

What about children? It can be difficult to understand, but many educators suggest that young children should be taught the basic concepts of emotional intelligence to prepare them for their future.

“Children’s effective use of emotions enables them to control their instinctive reactions in stressful conditions, to learn to better communicate their emotional state, to develop healthy relationships with family and friends, and to become successful in school, work and life,” (Elias & Weisberg, 2000; Elias et al., 1997; Payton et al., 2000).

The key components of emotional intelligence are motivation, self-regulation, self-awareness, social skills, and empathy. In children and adults, each component can be assessed and the skills improved to promote growth in our emotional intelligence.

Research has shown that children who are emotionally intelligent do better in both school and work. Skills such as communication and coping with stress are becoming highly sought-after traits in the workforce. Emotionally intelligent people are better able to cope with difficult situations and people while performing at a highly successful rate both at work and in school.

Emotional intelligence does not only involve the emotions of a child. It also involves the emotions of others in a child’s life. By gaining emotional intelligence, they can understand how others are feeling and can improve the quality of their social interactions.

Emotional intelligence helps the child relate to those around them — a skill needed for their entire life.

The first step is to help them name the emotion they are feeling. Rather than suppress or ignore anger, frustration, over-the-top joy, etc., ask the child how they are feeling. When a child is helped to realize they are experiencing an emotion and what exactly it is, they begin to identify and acknowledge their feelings.

After the child practices identifying feelings and emotions, ask some questions such as “What was the happiest moment of today?” Both children and adults experience a wide range of emotions throughout the day, and a question like this will help them reflect, recognize, and become aware of them.

The last thing to do to help teach a child to recognize and understand their emotions as well as others’ emotions is to lead by example. A parent should explain to their child how the parent feels and why, to show them how to recognize emotions — both positive and negative — and deal with them in a healthy manner.

Michelle Dell’Aquila is a licensed therapist and the Director of Child Development Advice – an educational consulting agency.

Family Engagement a Key Factor in Childhood Education

Family engagement in early childhood education can have significant and beneficial impacts on a child.

Early childhood development and education is the foundation for any child. Children will be better prepared for school. This helps progress their mental capabilities as they understand that learning is part of life. Parental involvement in a child’s early developmental years can be a turning point.

There are several things parents can do to stay involved with a child’s developmental learning.

START AT HOME

As a family, the first thing parents can do is have all family members play and participate with their young child.

Labeling items with words, playing games, coloring, and spending time creating fun learning environments and lessons can help nurture your child. Family members can take turns playing and learning to encourage their child to learn with many people. This helps in school settings that have both different children and teachers.

Children will be able to expand their learning base to many people and things rather than associating learning to one person or setting.

CAN YOU VOLUNTEER?

Another way to engage in a child’s education is to participate in group settings such as preschool or home groups.

There are many schools that allow parents and older siblings to participate by volunteering in the child’s class or group setting. This is an excellent opportunity to get a child involved with other children and encourage them to become comfortable with an environment that might have more stimuli than what they are accustomed to.

Parents and other family members can volunteer a few hours a week to help promote their child’s early education and develop new skills in a new setting.

BE PRESENT

Home and school or group settings are opportunities for parents and family members to actively participate in their child’s early education.

Think of it as a collective effort with family members and teachers joining together to encourage a young child in their growth — both mentally, emotionally, and physically. Children will begin to notice that family and adult members in their life care for them and offer opportunities to play and learn which also promote progress.

Whether it is at home or elsewhere a few hours a week, family members can play a crucial role in early childhood education by being present.

Michelle Dell’Aquila, M.A. is a licensed child therapist and director of Child Development Advice, an educational consulting agency.

 

Screen Time: How Much Is Too Much?

By Michelle Dell’Aquila

TVs, tablets, phones, and computers are a staple in many households and schools use technology to provide a better education. But how much screen time is too much for a child?

Children, especially young children, are susceptible to the negative effects of too much screen time.

Technology is used often as a babysitter. It allows children to become immersed in a TV show or game. While many parents appreciate the quiet time, they usually agree that their children are better off participating in activities that don’t involve tech.

If young children spend hours staring at a screen, the effects can go beyond physical problems (poor posture, lack of muscle definition and damage to eyesight). Cognitive side effects are among the top-ranked reasons as to why screen time should be avoided with young children. Tech may help children solve problems, but too much screen time can result in underdeveloped academic and social skills, discipline, and self-confidence.

Interactive play outside, with other children, is one of the most beneficial (and free!) learning tools available. There, they can learn how to interact with other kids, learn to communicate, problem solve, and boost their confidence as they experience their likes and wants in free play.

How much is too much? Infants and very young children should have little to no screen time, based on the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Infant screen time should be as minimal as possible. At such a young age, babies need to learn how to move, grasp items, recognize faces, and become vocal. Screen time can stifle babies’ progress, as they learn and grow at a rapid pace at this age.

School-aged children can spend anywhere from two to more than six hours per day experiencing tech and screen time at school and home. The limits for screen time as children mature are less strict, especially since they are exposed to it in almost every aspect of their lives. A key factor to remember when it comes to screen time is the quality of the content.

Is it an educational game or program? Will it teach the alphabet, how to read, or different numbers or words? These types of content can support a child’s education.

Parents should set limits at an early age and be responsible for the amount of screen time their child receives. As children mature, parents can make sure their interactions are limited and educational.

Michelle Dell’Aquila, M.A. is a licensed child therapist and director of Child Development Advice, an educational consulting agency.