early childhood building connection with children

Early childhood education - building connection with children is key

Early childhood education - building connection with children is key

I recently saw a photo of my primary school admin lady's face on Instagram, and I cried.


Now I know that sounds really random. But my primary school admin lady, was the only person, who took the time to smile at me, and say good morning to me, every weekday of my early education life.


Some of my primary school teachers acknowledged my existence every day, but to be honest most of my primary school teachers struggled to connect with me.


There were reasons for that.


In class, I was a straight A student, extremely high achiever, but I lacked the ability to show empathy or connection with others. I found it difficult to express my thoughts and needs to my teachers. Instead refusing to complete work outside of my comfort zone, disconnecting from activities in class, sometimes stealing other children's supplies. All just to get someone to notice me.


Growing up, my mum was physically present in my home. She would work, come home, and cook me dinner. But both of my parents were definitely not available to me emotionally. When I look back on my childhood, I wasn't read bedroom stories, was rarely played with, there were minimal moments of connection, unless we were having a family photo, or my mum wanted to show her community that I could do the cha cha.


I was made to make my own lunches at a very young age. Mum would say it was to teach me independence, but I knew it was because her mental health limited her from planning my lunch for me.


Now my goal here isn't to rat out my own mum, or place blame on my teachers. My goal here is to share how some children aren't getting their emotional needs met at home, and it's children like me, who need your connection more than ever.


At the beginning of all of my early childhood workshops, we start with high 5's


When I look back at what I needed from my teachers as a child, I needed someone to consistently show up for me emotionally. I needed someone to recognise that I was having a hard day, and that I was allowed to have a hard day.


My reason for encouraging teachers to give high 5's is not just because high 5's help children practice their crossing the midline and spatial awareness skills. I know that's my Exercise Physiology nerd talking. 


What I love most about high 5's is that they bring joy, laughter, and connection. Instantly.


I think sometimes we feel unsure about how to help children like me. We don't know what to say. How to react when they're having a meltdown. How to tell their parents that they're really having a hard day at school.


What I've learnt 30 years later, after a LOT of soul searching and therapy, is that all children need to hear, is that you're there for them, that they're noticed, and that they're allowed to feel frustrated, because being in a classroom with children who have no idea what you're going through, is frustrating!


So if I can share anything with teachers about building connection, it is this:

  • Saying good morning means more than you know
  • A high 5 can brighten up a child's day
  • You are a gift to every child - please believe that
  • A simple smile and eye contact, means more than any spoken words
  • Children may appear strong on the outside, but they may be crumbling on the inside - reading them a story, singing them a nursery rhyme, giving them a teddy bear to cuddle, can help them to know that they are safe and supported


It has taken me years to build up the courage to share my story. I do hope that it helps one teacher, or one child just like me.


Please share your comments or questions below. I thank you for taking the time to read my story.

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1 comment

Thankyou so much for sending these articles to me Robyn. I always strive to build connection and relationships with my preschoolers by singing a good morning song where we sing each childs name and wave. I will try to incorporate a Hi 5 as well. Children love to be listened to without distractions and this helps them to feel safe, secure and supported – our early childhood outcome. So often they are talked at with instructions and directions but not listened to. Thanks again for reminding me of the valuable impact of a greeting, a smile, eye contact and listening.


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