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Words for Young Ears

Some conversations between two adults are wonderful for children to overhear. Hearing a parent or teacher talk about their accomplishments, their kindness, or their honesty validates their positive feelings about themselves. The Nurtured Heart Approach urges people to intentionally share approving words about children within their hearing, as one form of personal recognition. These are conversations we want children to overhear.

In daily life, most of us aren’t always tuned in to what a child is overhearing. We have all that “Oh no!” experience after realizing a child was listening to a conversation we’d rather they didn’t hear.

This is a particularly interesting time of year, when parents often have lively discussions with each other about what the child will be doing next summer and next school year.

As a result of the flurry of these discussions, sometimes children start exhibiting anxiety at school by having a bathroom accident or an emotional meltdown. One of the first things we might ask parents is “Are there conversations about changing classrooms, going to kindergarten, changing schools, attending middle school?” When children catch parts of conversations about the future, they often get confused and don’t know how to formulate questions about what they’ve heard.

Although we are all processing changes that might occur over the next year, it’s helpful to stay aware that children don’t need to be focused on the upcoming school year in February. If you think they may be tuning in to adult conversations and worrying, it’s great to reassure them that they will learn more about new situations closer to the time they are occurring. We want to keep them enjoying the present moment.

Of course, impending change isn’t the only subject children overhear that causes them anxiety. Problems in the economy, the world political situation, or concerns about a relative’s health are hard subjects to process in overheard discussions. Children tune in to teachers’ private conversations too often about the health of other students or staff members.

Teachers and parents can work together to keep each other informed about subjects children might be tuning into, and how we can best support their understanding and their enjoyment of every day, as we get to experience the excitement of a new spring.


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