Archive of ‘Preschooler’ category

Talking to Your Young Children About Race: 5 Ideas to Help White Parents Start the Conversation

My 5 year old has had a lot of observations and questions about race lately. Even though I try to shield her from the news (as I don’t think the news is appropriate for 5 year olds, generally-speaking), some racial differences are obvious and there are many questions a curious and observant child comes up with. On our neighborhood run today, she says, “Mommy, what do those signs mean….’Black Lives Matter”? As a parent, I start to clam up a little – like how do I appropriately answer that question without providing a comprehensive history lesson? Am I the right person to answer this? Am I going to say the wrong thing? These types of questions may raise feelings of discomfort for parents and lead them to gloss right over the question or change the subject to avoid the uneasiness. PLEASE don’t do this!!! Silence is not the answer. If we as parents are unable to respond to these questions, then who can? The news? A fellow 5 year old friend? A crotchety extended family member? No, I will not let someone else be the first to answer this for my child! This is our job as parents and our opportunity as human beings to model for our children how people ought to treat and respect one another. It is our opportunity to instill the values of kindness, equality, respect and awareness of similarities and differences. It is our chance to encourage our children to get comfortable asking questions, challenging norms, and for us to nurture cultural curiosity, sensitivity and openness. 

So, what are some ways we can have these essential conversations with our young children? Here are 5 ideas to get you started. 

Don’t Be Silent!

No, you don’t have to pull up a YouTube video of police brutality, but you don’t have to wait for them to ask either. Kids are not color blind and racial bias can be internalized for children as young as 2-4! Don’t be afraid to talk to them about skin color and why some people’s skin is darker than others (melanin). Talk about why it is good that all people are different and celebrate this! And definitely don’t shy away from a question if they ask you directly. You are their best and most influential teacher!!!  

Also, IT IS OKAY if you stumbled on some answers. If upon reflection and/or reading up on the subject, if you feel you could have said something better or differently, bring it back up with them. Children are WAY more receptive to repair than we realize and also WAY quicker to pick up on fear or discomfort than we know. Being silent or deflecting their questions could send them the message that it’s not a topic that is okay to discuss, and THAT is actually the more harmful outcome.  

Keep Your Answers as Concise as Possible

These are not topics of simplicity and quite the opposite, but the attention span of a preschooler is short! You could lose them if you give too much information.  If you are unsure of where to start, you can begin with teaching compassion, equality and inclusion of others that are different. You can later bring in more of the historical background information. 

Be Ready for Some Confusion; This is to be Expected

For example, preschoolers tend to learn about police and first responders as “good” people in our world. So, naturally, the question arises, “But Mama, I thought police offers are supposed to help people?” Kids want things to be easily categorized – good vs bad, wrong vs right, no grey areas. Their brains are wired to see the world with this dichotomy and developmentally, they won’t fully be able to comprehend that middle area for quite some time. But, you can prepare them so that when they are confronted with the grey it is not the first time they’re exposed to a new or different perspective.  You can say, “Well sweetheart, yes many police officers are good, but there are also many police officers that have used their power in bad ways. That is not okay and we want to change that.” 

Expose Your Children to People of Different Races in your Community

Attend an event put on by a local social justice organization, or donate/volunteer for their cause and talk to you children about it if they are too young to join you. Visit a museumThe George Washington Carver Museum (which is currently closed due to COVID-19 concerns), is a great place to visit as its goal is to “create a space where the global contributions of all Black people are celebrated.” In the meantime, there is some virtual content on their website to explore. You could also visit the Six Square, Austin’s Black Cultural Historic District that “comprises six square miles of East Austin, home to numerous sites of significance featuring landmarks of Black architecture and design, historic cemeteries, sites of slavery and emancipation, churches and more.” Make a point to support black-owned local businesses. See a list of black-owned businesses in Austin here. 

Read Books Together that Include People of all Different Races

…and with nonwhite people as heroes and protagonists. Find movies, games and apps with diverse characters. Here are a few books that that are age appropriate for young children: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Saturday by Oge Mora and They Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson. Please consider visiting Black Pearl Books, an online black-owned bookstore based in Austin, Texas. Their website has an amazing list of books to help kids understand racism and diversity. Check it out! 

Talking about race with our children will only be an initial step. To raise a generation of culturally competent people, we will have to actively take steps to model anti-racism using our voices, attitudes, actions and behaviors. Ok, now go start the conversation. You can do this!!! 

By: Brooklie Benson Gonzales, LPC-Intern
Under supervision of Emily K. Slaughter, LPC-S


The Misbehaving Student…and How to Help Them

It is the most difficult children who often need us the most.  We hear from people working in schools that consequences and suspensions do not seem to change their behavior.  Core curriculum, testing and other requirements are putting an incredible burden on teachers. These challenging students are often the tipping point for a class.

What these misbehaving children are really looking for is to feel like they belong in the class, and that they are cared about.

Many of the misbehaving children have had things happen in their young lives that cause them to distrust others.  They may not have been fed or had their physical needs taken care of as babies, so they do not understand “if-then” thinking – if I cry, I get fed.  If I act out in class, then there are consequences. Some may be dealing with abuse or neglect of them or a parent, drugs or alcohol in the home, or violence.  They may feel they always have to be “on guard”, to protect themselves. 

All it takes is one adult to make a difference a child’s life.

So what can be done to help?  Here are some ways to build relationships with these most difficult children:

  • Get to where you can speak face to face with them.   Speak calmly and slowly. If you remain calm, it will help them to calm down.
  • Express an understanding of how they are feeling, saying “It seems like you are really angry.  Tell me more.” And then listen.
  • Ask them what you can do to help them.  They may need a break from being in the class, so asking if they would like to bring something to the office or another class may help.
  • Focus on building the relationship.  As trust is built, they may question it, as they may not have had a trusting relationship with an adult before. 

It is important to have patience and give it time.  These children likely have had years of bad relationships with adults.  As the relationship builds, the whole class benefits. There will be less disruptions, and more teachable time.  You can be that “one adult” for this child!

Written by: Carol Dores

Carol is a Certified Positive Discipline Trainer. She has worked with educators and staff of preschoolers through high school, as well as hundreds of parents of all aged children (prenatal to adult). She co-founded Positive Discipline of Connecticut, and served as Co-Chair of the international Board of Directors of the Positive Discipline Association. Carol has worked with schools in bringing Positive Discipline to whole school settings. She has two adult sons and a husband of over 35 years. Their relationships continue to grow and benefit from Positive Discipline.


Therapeutic Children’s Books

Books are one of my favorite ways to connect with kiddos. When we incorporate books into the therapy process, we refer to it as “bibliotherapy.” Sometimes, older clients are asked to read books on their own time outside of counseling. With my younger clients, we spend some of our time in session reading about ways we can better understand and cope with anxiety, impulsivity, trauma, or depression. In addition to keeping these books in the office, I also recommend them to parents as books to revisit at home. Below, I’ll share some of my most-utilized books in the counseling room! 

What To Do When You Worry Too MuchAge Range: 6 – 12 years

This is an interactive, workbook-style book for children experiencing symptoms of anxiety. This books explains that worries are completely normal, and that everyone experiences them. It talks about the somatic symptoms (headaches, stomachaches, sweaty palms, accelerated heartbeat etc.) that so many of us experience when feeling anxious. This book is based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, and helps kids change the way they think about anxiety. It has lots of different interventions for children to try in session, and helps kids learn that they are in control. This is my go-to book for anxiety! 

My Mouth is a Volcano! Age Range: 5 – 8 years

This story book is perfect for kids who have challenges with speaking out of turn or blurting out answers at school without being called on. Impulsivity can be a big challenge for children and it often becomes more visible as they reach kindergarten and 1st grade- when expectations at school may increase. My Mouth is a Volcano tells us about a child who is constantly interrupting (or “erupting”) at school and at home. This picture book helps kids with perspective taking and empathy, too- always a plus!  

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine  — Age Range: 5 – 8 years 

This book tells the story of Wilma Jean, a student who is experiencing anxiety before and during school (sound familiar anyone?). Wilma, with the help of her mom and her teacher, goes from stomaches and headaches to actually enjoying school. It offers creative ways for parents, teachers, and other caregivers to help their child better cope with their anxious feelings.  

What To Do When Your Temper Flares  — Age Range: 6 – 12 years

Another workbook from the makers of What To Do When You Worry Too Much. It teaches readers that anger is not a “bad” emotion, and that everyone gets angry sometimes. It offers step-by-step guides on understanding why people get angry, what purpose the emotion may serve, and different ways of expressing that anger in a safe and controlled way. What To Do When Your Temper Flares has lots of analogies, examples, and coping skills for kids (and caregivers!) to practice in therapy and at home. 

A Terrible Thing Happened Age Range: 4 – 9 years

This book has proven its worth time and time again! A Terrible Thing Happened helps kiddos understand and cope with trauma. The book describes the trauma, or “terrible thing”, very vaguely. The book never explicitly names the trauma. This is helpful because the book can be used in many different instances, and the child can imagine the trauma however they need to. A Terrible Thing Happened introduced the reader to Sherman, who witnessed something terrible. Sherman experiences eating and sleeping disturbances, somatic symptoms like stomachaches, and behavioral changes at school. Sherman learns from the help of his caregivers and his therapist that talking about the terrible thing can be helpful. Sherman learns how to express himself with art (and his words!) in this book about healing after trauma. 

What are some of your favorite books to incorporate into your therapeutic or educational work with children?


Written by: Morgan Rupe, LPC-Intern, supervised by Kirby Schroeder, LPS-S, LMFT-S
Follow Morgan & Rio on Instagram at @animalassistedtherapist
Check out the work Morgan & Rio are doing at http://AnimalAssistedTherapist.com



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