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Attuning to Emotional Needs
August 5, 2022
... To be a Flower, is profound Responsibility
-Emily Dickenson, American Poet (1830-1886)

"Many early childhood educators feel they are supposed to check their emotions at the door and enter the classroom ready to receive the children in their care unencumbered by their own emotional needs. But, can we expect early childhood teachers to attune to the emotional needs of young children if they do not attune to their own emotional needs first?" write Elita Amini Virmani, Holly Hatton-Bowers, and Ayumi Nagase. They continue, "We suggest that identifying emotional needs, both of the teacher and the children, is essential for addressing young children’s challenging behaviors. We also provide some helpful ways to identify emotions, with a key focus on how teachers' perceptions of challenging behaviors are often influenced by their own emotions, as well as the child’s." So begins the article at the core of the newest Exchange Reflections, "Attuning to Emotional Needs."

They pose several reflective questions as a guide, including:

  • What is happening in our body as we experience this moment alongside the children in our role as a teacher? What sensations and feelings are coming up?
  • What seems to be happening in the child? What thoughts, sensations or feelings do we see expressed?
  • Are we pausing to notice our own beliefs—and our own conscious and unconscious biases? How do our beliefs and biases impact how we interpret the behavior?
  • How can we help the child identify their needs and support them in having their needs met in safe and developmentally appropriate ways?

The authors conclude, "It is only…in the process of cultivating a compassionate understanding of and curiosity about our own feelings, biases, and perceptions, as well as children’s behavior, that the challenging behavior no longer feels challenging."

NEW Exchange Reflections

Exchange Reflections are designed to help a team of people meet in-person or live online to think deeply together about a topic using an article from Exchange magazine as a guide. Included are discussion questions to help guide reflections, as well as a Making Commitments idea sheet to help prompt ideas into action. For your convenience, Exchange Reflections are available in PDF format and you can download immediately on your desktop.


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