Toddlers use adults as their models for many different learning opportunities, and responding to situations with emotions is not excluded from that influence. When young children begin acting ‘different,’ out of sorts, or are easily triggered into emotional meltdowns, we often want to ask ourselves first, “How am I feeling?”
If you, the adults, have been stressed out about work or home life, or if you have been more emotional or out of sorts, it is likely your children are feeling the same things. This is attributed to two reasons:
1. Children absorb all they see and mimic adults resulting in a reflection of parent’s emotions.
2. When people are experiencing strong feelings, responses to normal situations change (perhaps in a negative way). Those negative feelings spread to others and children are highly sensitive to those changes in response. Children then express strong feelings because they are getting the brunt of the adult’s strong feelings.
This reminds us to always try and question why our children may be feeling the way they are feeling and how can I, the adult, help shift the atmosphere back into a positive and supportive environment.
But just as our feelings of anxiety, stress, and frustration can influence our toddlers, our emotions of joy and thankfulness can be used to teach our toddlers about mindfulness. If we practice moments of being actively present and grateful for each other, our children will observe us feeling those types of feelings on a daily basis, it will become a part of the foundation of our toddler’s emotional tool kit.
Each day at school, we begin and end circle with a moment to center ourselves, find a sense of calmness, and to offer love and peace to each other.
We join eachother on the carpet and greet each other by name in a song. We then pass a battery-powered candle around the circle, giving each child the opportunity to receive the candle and pass it to another friend while we sing a classic Montessori song, A Candle for Peace. The children have to slow down and be present. They have to be aware and calm. We all get to practice finding ‘peace’ and then sharing ‘peace’ with one another.
After we sing a few songs, at the conclusion of circle we all stand and begin reciting Ghandi’s ‘Prayer for Peace.’ In this prayer, we are actively present and acknowledge the beauty and strength that each one of us brings to the group. We offer well wishes to our friends for being exactly who they were born to be.
Some may question a toddler’s ability to find calmness and peacefulness, or their ability to care about anything other than themselves, but we say, “If you build it they will come.” If the adults in their lives begin to show them now how to practice mindfulness, as they develop new skills and information, they will easily solidify the practice into their own daily routine. With all the highs and lows we experience in our lives and all the stress that can accompany it, wouldn’t it also be great if our children could find time to appreciate the beauty and the goodness that the world provides, even on the hard days?
“Choose to make Peace an attitude.
Not just on the good days, but in the tough times, too.
Be a peace seeker.” – Mattie Stepanek
With love, Ms. Liz and Ms. Leci