By Cheryl Ichikawa
As teachers at Children Today, we understand the need to find the connection with our children. We know that each child that enters our classroom has a story, with trauma being part of that narrative. Forming an attachment with a primary caregiver is the critical first step to laying the foundation that will allow these children to build the courage and confidence to engage and explore their surroundings, as well as form relationships with their peers.
As their teachers, we understand that the children that enter our classrooms come with a variety of needs that must be met before productive learning can begin. Some of these needs are basic. For example, we understand that if a child comes in hungry and tired, this will affect how they function and interact in the classroom. We are also aware that forming an attachment - building a trusting, unconditional and supportive relationship - will determine our effectiveness as caregivers and will translate into the social, emotional and cognitive progress of the children we serve.
For some children, transitions are hard, whether from activity to activity or from caregiver to caregiver. For this reason, consistency, daily routines and verbal communication (talking through what is and will be happening) are important strategies that provide children with a predictable way of viewing their day and make them feel like they are in control of their daily experience. All of these things support the teacher-child relationship and a child’s ability to move through their day with confidence. As we watch the children progress in the toddler classroom, we constantly look for ways to connect. While some children need to be physically close to their primary caregiver to feel safe, other children can maintain their connection through eye contact or simple phrases, like “I see you” or “I’m right here.”
We have a little girl that can be triggered seemingly without notice. One moment she can be cooperatively interacting with another child in an activity and the next she can be pushing, hitting or biting that same child. Some of these triggers can be so subtle, but we have learned them and now we can remove the child from the situation before something explosive happens. We can help her calm down and then quietly talk about the need to “be gentle” or “use her words.” Teachers will quietly sit with the child until she is ready to once again participate in the environment. What we have noticed in recent weeks is that her outbursts have lessened and her ability to safely interact with other children has significantly increased. When she feels overwhelmed or stressed, she has learned to remove herself from the situation by finding the teacher, often taking that teacher by the hand and leading her to a quiet space in the classroom, sitting on the teacher’s lap, sucking her thumb and laying her head on the teacher’s chest. This is her way of soothing herself. When she is ready, she will get up and continue her day.
Attachment is about finding that connection. It’s about understanding and identifying each child’s changing moods and triggers. It’s about knowing what will happen when a child is tired or hungry or soiled or in need of some individualized attention. Each time a teacher is able to respond appropriately to the needs of a child, their relationship is strengthened and a deeper trust is established. It is from this foundation of trust that all things are possible.
Various members of the Children Today staff contribute to these blog posts.