In the first part of this two-part article, we discussed, from my viewpoint as career educator of more than 30 years, the fact that preschools and families are increasing stress on preschool children. To clarify, we worked through a brief definition of preschool stress, and looked at the underlying reason for preschool stress.
Finally, we considered the basic requirement of preschool stress relief. We pick up at that point.
Basic Requirement of Preschool Stress Relief
Stress relief techniques for a preschool child must be fashioned in accordance with the underlying reason for stress: the child’s need for control.
Preschool stress relief depends on the establishment of boundaries. We must establish physical boundaries to keep a child safe physically. We must also establish emotional, mental, and spiritual boundaries to give the child safety. As long as boundaries do not exist, or can be knocked down, children will experience stress in seeking them. Here are a few examples of preschool stress relief in action.
1. At reading time, the physical boundary is the reading circle, reading rug, or whatever part of the room you designate. The child is to be there and nowhere else. Doesn’t this create preschool stress? No. It is strong preschool stress relief. When children know clearly that only one location is acceptable, control is established for them. They do not need to seek control by responding inappropriately. They can relax.
Preschool stress relief requires us to teach children these boundaries and help them understand that they will be happy and safe within them. They never have to test the boundary. We help relieve stress.
2. When an adult gives a command or makes a request, the mental and emotional boundary is immediate and full compliance. Adults set the boundary once, with no counting involved. The amount of time children wait to obey is the amount of time they are outside the boundary – an unhappy place to be.
If we want to provide preschool stress relief for children, we will be sure they understand that remaining outside that boundary is inappropriate. We do not ignore their disobedience. We make obedience important. We reward it, and remove the need for decision.
3. Stress relief techniques for a preschool child also establish control for the child when it comes to expectations that children will get along with one another. This expectation is not unrealistic or burdensome. Preschool stress relief in this area takes the form of instructing and showing that good things result from efforts to get along. If we separate children who are unwilling to cooperate with one another, we add to the stress, making it difficult for them to know what to do. Our voices tell them they must get along, but separation rewards their failure to do so.
Preschool stress relief gives children responsibility for their actions. It does not blame refusal to stay within boundaries on circumstances outside the child. Life will always contain circumstances beyond their control. Preschool stress relief helps them learn early that appropriate responses to stress are based on boundaries, and their responsibility to stay within the boundaries.
A good object lesson in preschool stress relief is to give children a coloring page and crayons. Talk to them about how unhappy the crayons will be if they go outside the lines. Tell them the lines are there to make it easier for the crayons. If they had to color a parrot (or whatever the picture) without lines to guide them, it would be much harder. It would make the crayons feel anxious. They could not be sure if they were doing it right. The lines make the crayons happy and relaxed.
As the children color, explain that they are like crayons. They need lines. They need boundaries. As long as they stay inside life’s lines, they will be much happier.
Preschool stress relief is not complicated. We should not make it so. Teachers and parents who focus on natural, common sense boundaries will achieve a high level of preschool stress relief without struggle.