February: The shortest yet longest month of the year
AKA: The month of struggles
AKA: The month my child seems to fall apart
AKA: The month that never ends
AKA: The month we all ask “is it spring yet?”
I never knew I had so many names for February. This month always seems to be the hardest month in the classroom. It just never ends. If you have found yourself looking at your child and asking, what is happening for you/ what is going on for you? Then it is probably February. Often when we are feeling “big things” in the classroom, you may be experiencing struggles at home as well.
February bring with it gray skies and cold weather. We are on the tail end of winter, desperate for warmer weather. I think we all feel that deep down. So keep that in mind as you read on…
In the classroom, February is the “recovery” month from winter break. Winter break may only be 2 weeks missed from the classroom, but it takes about 4-6 weeks for us to recover and get back on track. The children come back from winter break, and need time and space to reconnect with each other, the classroom, and with us as teachers. We allow them the time they need to do this. We spend approximately 4-6 weeks reestablishing our routines and giving gentle reminders about what is expected, so that when the 4-6weeks is up…we are ready to move on to what’s next. As we are in the final stages of “recovery” everything falls apart. And I mean everything. Children can regress, they can become teary over everything, they negotiate everything, and their demands increase. And that my friends is where we are right now! And while it may feel hard and painful, know that this typically means growth is coming and change is on its way.
What we are seeing right now is the shift from winter break to moving forward.
In the AM program, the play right now is shifting. Children who were not engaging in group play three months ago, have all of the sudden jumped into wanting to play with others. This is challenging on so many levels. The median age of the group has increased, which means more children are shifting from parallel play (playing along side of others but not engaging) to associative play (engaging more with peers and trying to navigate more group play) This shift impacts the play. This is the time when we want children to reflect on their actions and the implications of their actions. What you do impacts others. How you say things can impact someone else. And most importantly, helping them understand that they are responsible for their own actions. This is big stuff. But they can (and do) understand this with practice and guidance. But let me tell you, it is messy and emotionally draining work. But the reward is a child who is confident and capable of navigating social interactions (Yay!)
In the PM program, their work right now is a few steps further in the process. They are practicing more complex social conversations and social relationships. The group work is around the idea that not everyone wants to do what you want to do. And this is tough. This brings up big picture ideas of: confidence, independence, social isolation, and how can we still be friends if you don’t want to do what I want to do. The first step in this process is: understanding how to tell someone to stop doing something. What is your job when asked to stop, and how do I tell you to stop so that you know I am serious. Why is this the first step? Because, typically as kids play one child leads and another follows. As the roles shift, the “following child” needs to practice saying “stop, I want to do this now” or “no, I want to build this out of legos and not that.” Stop can mean a lot of things. It can mean, stop doing that because I don’t like it or it can mean stop because I want to do something else. Challenging another’s idea is putting yourself out there for rejection, and most people (and I say people because adults and children alike struggle with this) are not overly comfortable with this idea.
We can watch our children run around a gym for an hour and think to ourselves, “man, they are going to be worn out tonight, they were non-stop running.” We can see that they are physically exerting themselves, and will be tired afterwards. We can’t see emotional use in our children. Understanding, internalizing, and generalizing social interactions is demanding on them. It wears them out in the same way that running around a gym would, we (the grown-ups) can sometimes forget this. Your child is working hard. They are navigating some big things, and it is messy. (Remember back to school night…I explained how “messy” this age can be. Socially, emotionally, physically, and mentally- they are doing it all!)
I know many of you are feeling the drain of February. But hold tight! We are almost there, March is right around the corner.