We’re very happy to welcome back a familiar face around these parts. Guest blogger Tamar Jacobson, PhD, is sharing another insightful post—this one on the complex, delicate, and critical dynamics of interpersonal communication between children and adults.
In addition to writing “Don’t Get So Upset!” Help Young Children Manage Their Feelings by Understanding Your Own and editing Perspectives on Gender in Early Childhood, both published by Redleaf Press, Dr. Jacobson is professor, chair of the Department of Teacher Educator, and director of the Early Childhood Education Program at Rider University in New Jersey. She is also a frequent and popular presenter at international, national, regional, and state conferences and workshops on a variety of topics—and the recipient of the 2013 National Association for Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE) Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher Educator Award.
Early morning. Still dark even though the clock reads 6:00 a.m. I look away from the computer and stretch widely in my chair, arms reach upwards and feet extend out into the room. Two cats sit still and quiet—sphinxes in the early morning. Patient and waiting. As I stretch and sigh they look up slowly from their posts. Mimi on the carpet close by, and Oscar on his stand huddled down. I realize how dependent they are on me. For they await their breakfast, and I am the only one who will give it to them at this time of the day. I realize how they need me for affection, encouragement, discipline, and food.
Much like any young child.
My thoughts stray to when I was a child and I remember sitting still silently watching the adults around me. Keeping track of their movements, facial expressions and listening for intonations as they spoke, all the while gleaning information that was important for my emotional and physical survival. A shift in my mother’s face, slight shadow, tightening lips, softening or glaring eyes, clenching of her jaw were some of the signs that taught me to relax around her, or become afraid, wary of what I did or said. Still learning about a brand new environment, or getting to know new people in my life, I treaded with caution, and took seriously things that were said in anger, or even with humor. Sarcasm was confusing and hurtful, because as a young child, learning to survive could be treacherous and lonely, or safe and warm depending on the reactions and behaviors of the significant adults in my life.
As adults, how often we forget that children are sitting or standing silently by, watching our every move or unintentional wince, making assumptions and interpretations, finding meaning that is relevant to their unique and egoistic perspective. Moment by moment they drink in our everyday reactions and behaviors, learning about their worth as future adults.
How helpful it would be for children if only we could talk them through what they might be understanding about how we are feeling.
But, then again, do we always know what we are feeling when we are being around children?