Aldersgate Preschool

“I’m Sad” . . . so, what’s a parent to do?

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I am proud to say we are developing a strong social/emotional curriculum at Aldersgate Preschool.

A recent article in The Journal of Early Education and Development indicates, “Teachers view children’s “readiness to learn” and “teachability” as marked by positive emotional expressiveness, enthusiasm, and ability to regulate emotions and behaviors. Based on these assertions, I suggest a battery of preschool social–emotional outcome measures, tapping several constructs central to emotional and social competence theory, specifically emotional expression, emotion regulation, emotion knowledge, social problem solving, and positive and negative social behavior.”

Emotional and social intelligence affects all aspects of our lives.

We draw much of our everyday classroom teachings and techniques from Conscious Discipline.  We have a previous post that tells quite a bit about it here.  Basically we teach children how to label their emotions, how to manage those emotions and then how to be proactive with others about dealing with those emotions.

Recently I had a dad say to me, “My son said he’s sad.  I sad, ‘yeah, well the way you are acting is making me feel a little sad too.'”  You can just imagine it.  We’ve all been there.  However, this dad went on to ask about what we teach and what would be the appropriate response to his son’s declaration of being sad.  Hopefully this will help.

  • Acknowledge that sadness (or anger, etc.) is a feeling and it doesn’t feel good.  “I know you are sad.  It’s not fun to feel sad.”
  • Tell your child that you know he or she can handle it.  Suggest they use a calming technique (found here) or find a safe place where he or she can calm down.  At school our safe place is a cube with openings in it.  There are pillows and other soft items for comfort.  Perhaps your child has a favorite item that comforts him or her.  Confession time here: For calming down I just suggest that children “take a deep breath and relax.”  It’s the idea of calming down with deep breaths that is important not the specific words that work here.


  • Talk through what is happening and alternative ideas for the future.  Example: “I know you are sad because you can’t have a donut before dinner.  It’s no fun to feel sad about that.  It’s my job to be sure you are healthy and safe, to do that we need to save donuts for special treats.  Let’s think of a way you can calm yourself down and hopefully feel better.

I suggest using these tools and this dialogue often during the less stressful situations that happen throughout the day.  During a HUGE meltdown is not the time to try to reason through this process.  Your child won’t hear a word you say.  As Becky Bailey says in the Conscious Discipline training, your child has now gone to the fight or flight part of their brain.  This part of the brain doesn’t reason or learn.

Picture yourself in the middle of a car accident with your car sliding off the highway toward a steep embankment.  This is when you would be reacting only.  This is not when you would be ready to hear about what exactly you should do if your car is sliding.  This is not when you care to hear about the importance of maintaining good treads on your tires.  That’s how your child feels in the midst of a event that causes strong emotions.

I’m so glad this dad said something to me about his struggles.  As always, please be sure and let us know your questions about your child’s learning here at Aldersgate.


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