Helping Toddlers Understand Their Emotions

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It wasn’t so long ago that the conventional wisdom was that babies were pretty much blobs who didn’t think or feel much before they could speak in words around the age of two.  The idea that a six-month-old could feel fear or anger, no less sadness and grief, was preposterous.  But thanks to an explosion in research on infancy in the last 30 years, we now know that babies and toddlers are deeply feeling beings. Starting in the earliest months of life, well before they can use words to express themselves, babies have the capacity to experience peaks of joy, excitement and elation. They also feel fear, grief, sadness, hopelessness and anger—emotions that many adults understandably still find it hard to believe, or accept, that very young children can experience. Research has also shown that children’s ability to effectively manage their full range of emotions—also known as self-regulation—is one of the most important factors for success in school, work and relationships into the long-term. So a critical first step in helping your child learn to cope with her feelings is not to fear the feelings, but embrace them—all of them. Feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just are. Sadness and joy, anger and love, can co-exist and are all part of the collection of emotions children experience. When you help your child understand his feelings, he is better equipped to manage them effectively. One major obstacle in doing this which I see quite often in my work with parents is that they are operating under the assumption that having a happy child means he needs to be happy all the time. (Something I still have to keep reminding myself despite the fact that my children are in their twenties!) Muscling through difficult experiences, mastering struggles, and coping with sadness and grief builds strength and resilience, and is ultimately what brings children a sense of contentedness and well-being. What can parents and caregivers do?

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Remembering Our Indigenous Self

Originally published on WildEarth.org
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“The indigenous soul lives close to the ground, to moss, river and loon. It moves in springs and wind, is close to the breath of coyotes. It is scratched on rock walls around the planet, is seen dancing around firelight and is heard in stories told under the canopy of stars. The indigenous soul is the thread of our humanness woven inextricably with the world. Where all things meet and exchange the vitality that is life, there is soul.”

Francis Weller

11454280703_190ee9a9fb_kThis past weekend, in mid-November, thirty Atlatl Boys and thirty Artemis Moon Girls gathered on Wild Earth’s Stonykill land for our autumn overnight. As a parent of one of the Atlatl Boys, I was invited to join in for the boy’s cookout dinner. I arrived just as the sun was making its final farewell for the day – the moon rising slowly and generously in the East. Continue reading Remembering Our Indigenous Self

Children That Play Outside In All Weather Grow Up Resilient

Originally published on WildEarth.org

It seems like an obvious statement, so why don’t kids play outside in challenging weather nearly as much as they used to? Why are schools keeping kids inside at recess when the temperature gets too cold? What kind of adult will this type of childhood experience create?

Most challenges, risks, and hurdles are swiftly removed from childhood in efforts to prevent anything bad from happening to the children that we love.

As Winter ebbs and flows, with temperatures ranging from minus 25 to plus 10 in the past few weeks, we’ve experienced a wonderful range of opportunities with the programs we run. Challenges and opportunities. From freezing weather with blustery winds, to rain and floods in the parks where we work, to massive snowstorms full of amazing forts and fun!

Imagine children that have grown up playing outside in all manner of challenging conditions, in all seasons of the year. Imagine how they’d be different than kids taught to come inside when it’s raining, or cold. Imagine how they’d be different from kids that find entertainment from the TV, computer or video games. Continue reading Children That Play Outside In All Weather Grow Up Resilient

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