Recommended Resources

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Teaching Young People to Practice Acts of Kindness

Being kind to other people and yourself is important for being a good friend and being happy. Modeling kindness, reflecting on kind actions, and practicing acts of kindness can help children develop this skill. This article includes strategies for helping children learn to be kind to other people and to themselves.

1. Be a Role Model – When adults say unkind things about other people or themselves, children learn this is acceptable behavior. Be a role model and say kind things about co-workers, neighbours, people in the community, and yourself.

2. Use Lists – Have children write lists or make collages representing what they like about their friends, family members, and people in the school. Hang the lists or art projects where classmates and friends can see them. Have a separate activity where children make a parallel list or art project that includes things they do well and why they are a good person.

3. Read and Write Stories – Read stories about kindness and respect in school and at home. Discuss how being kind makes the characters feel. Ask children to share times when they were kind and times when people were nice to them. Also encourage children to write stories about being kind to other people.

4. Practice and Discuss Small Acts of Kindness – In addition to having children write and say things that are kind, have them practice little acts of kindness. Teach children to help other people in day to day situations such as when someone needs help carrying an item, they can’t reach something, or they drop an item. Create a set of pictures or make short stories with opportunities for small acts of kindness. Encourage children to role play what they would do to be helpful in these situations.

5. Learning to Do Kind Things for Yourself – encourage children to write or create a collage about things they like to do or activities that make them feel good about themselves. Discuss how taking time to participate in these activities can make them feel better and decrease stress.

6. Pick a Cause or Charity – A long term investment in a volunteer or charity activity teaches children that even a small amount of time and energy makes a big difference. First create a list of volunteer opportunities then let the class or family select an activity to join. Whether it is collecting food for a food bank, donating toys, or cleaning up a community area, these activities demonstrate how working collaboratively with other people can make a big difference. Discuss or have children keep a journal about the experience. Ask them to include how they felt and how they think the people benefitting from their time and effort felt.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Helping Children Develop Friendships

Parents and professionals often struggle with helping children learn to be good friends or to understand the complexities of social interactions. Below are a number of strategies that can help children develop friendships.

1. Get Involved – Participate in community sports teams, art programs, and special events. These are wonderful opportunities for children to engage in structured activities with peers. For children with special needs, communities increasingly are offering camps and activities geared towards their specific needs. Ask professionals and support groups for information on these programs or check your community newspapers, centers, and websites. Another great activity, for children who benefit from very direct instruction, is social skills groups. These groups, which are offered in many communities, are a great way for children to develop their social skills in a fun yet structured environment.

2. Leverage the Child’s Interests – If the goal of enrolling a child in a program is to provide opportunities for making friends, look for activities the child enjoys. Some children like the arts while others enjoy sports. If a child is particularly shy, look for activities that initially have less direct contact. Tumbling and swimming are examples of individual sports while soccer and basketball involve more contact with peers. If children start in activities they enjoy, they are more likely to join other programs.

3. Role Play Difficult Skills – Practicing social skills is a way to work on specific aspects of social interactions. For example, if you notice your child stands too close to peers or repeatedly asks the same questions, help them learn about personal space or conversational skills through role play. By practicing these skills in the home, children can learn to improve their social skills and apply them outside the home.

4. Provide Examples – While reading books or watching television, explain social situations to children. Point out how helping others, using kind words, and listening when friends talk are ways to be a good friend. When characters are being hurtful or invading someone’s personal space, point these actions out and ask the child what the character could do differently to be a better friend.

5. Model Being Good to Others – Part of being well liked and being a good friend is being kind. Demonstrate kindness by saying nice things about and to others whether they are the grocery store employee or your neighbor. Point out when a co-worker does something thoughtful and how this makes you feel about them. If your child is sympathetic or says something complimentary, tell them their actions made you happy.

6. Do Not Force Friendships – Just like adults, children get along better with some peers than others. Teaching children to be kind and to include everyone in activities is important, but they do not have to be best friends with everyone.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Strategies for Returning to School after the Christmas Break

The transition from a break back to school can be difficult for children. Professionals and parents can make the return easier with a few simple strategies.

1. Review Classroom Rules and School Policies - One of the first things to do when children return to school is to review all of the classroom and school rules. Time spent focusing on classroom structure and schedules can reduce problems later. Remind children of expectations for how to treat classmates, complete work, and follow schedules. Remind children of any reward system and let them know where rules are displayed and who to ask if there are questions about the rules.

2. Introduce Any Changes – Clearly explain any changes that have happened since the break. Examples are staff changes, schedule changes, or even room arrangements that may surprise children. Be sure to indicate how the change affects them. Introducing changes helps prepare children and reduce stress related to new situations.

3. Let Children Play a Role – Children can help review the rules by participating in activities. For example, they can help create a new rules poster by writing or drawing examples of how to follow the rules. Another activity is to assign a rule or school policy to small groups of students and have them write and perform a short play about it. By participating in the process children are reviewing and taking ownership in the rules.

4. Review and Reinforce Repeatedly – Children can be very excited to see friends and be back in school. Be sure to set time aside to review rules repeatedly the first few days back after a break. Children may need extra reminders in written or picture format if they have a hard time remembering specific rules. When children are doing a good job completing work, following a schedule, or acting appropriately, reinforce their behaviour. Clearly indicate what they did correctly so they can continue the behaviour. For example, “James, I like the way you remembered to raise your hand to get my attention.”

5. Keep Everyone Informed – Parents and professionals should make each other aware of changes in settings so children have consistent support and understanding across environments. Professionals should send a set of classroom and school rules home for parents to review with children and prepare them for returning from break. Parents also should be aware of any significant school policy changes or classroom changes. Parents should keep professionals informed of any significant changes at home such as health issues, sleeping changes, or family difficulties that may affect how the child performs in school. Information sharing can ensure children have the understanding and support they need between environments.