Children are not the easiest to understand. We’ve all been there, feeling frustrated that our parents never seemed to care how much we loved, hated, or feared something. Eventually, we grow out of it and hopefully, we outgrow the fears that our childhood monsters created.
It’s not easy for all children, however. For some, growing out of their fears or insecurities is almost impossible, especially when their parents are clueless about the intensity of the problem. It’s not the job of teachers to replace parents in this situation, but it would be for the benefit of the child if you can help them process their emotions in a healthier manner.
Ask Without Judgment
The easiest and most direct way to connect with a child is to talk to them. But, of course, a grown adult and a 1st grader might not have a lot of things in common. You have to put yourself in their shoe and think about what they find important during this time in their life. If you suspect there’s something going on that they’re having difficulties with, go ahead and ask. Don’t do it in a judgmental manner, and try not to make them feel helpless in the situation.
A child needs your guidance, but they also need their independence. Help them figure out what they can do, and support them in doing it. Yours is not the job of solving their problems; you only need to be there to help them realize what they should do.
Teach Them How to Write
Some children are more talkative than others, and they’re also more eager to open up than others. Sadly, sitting down with them and asking about their day is not the approach that will work for everyone. There are children who are afraid when they speak up since they assume that they will get laughed at and ridiculed.
Show them that they can have a different outlet — writing. There are 1st-grade writing worksheets that prompt them to write the things that matter to them. Even if they don’t write about their problems directly, the mere act of writing may still be therapeutic.
If you find something alarming in what they write, inform their parents so the support they receive can continue at home. Even if they don’t seem to be the most creative writer, encourage them to keep going through the worksheets to improve their self-expression over time.
Let Them Come to You
As an educator, you’re dealing with several students at once. Each of them may have their own struggles, and you may not be able to spot the problems early on. The least you can do is be open and approachable so they’ll not feel afraid to come to you for a talk.
Parents and teachers alike can normalize talking about mental health if they become role models of talking about it. Share with the class something about your day to make them more comfortable in sharing, too. If there’s someone who has caught your eye, share difficult moments you’ve had to go through, which will hopefully encourage them to talk about their own problems.
Though children and adults have different views on things, this doesn’t mean one can’t help the other. For your young students, you are a role model. More importantly, you can also be someone they can turn to for help.