Impacts on Early Emotional Development

The area of the world I have chosen to read more about and how UNICEF is helping is the Middle East and North Africa regions. This area covers countries from Morocco to Iran, including Djibouti and Sudan in sub-Saharan Africa. The reason for choosing this region, is due to the fact that I am living in the Middle East, namely in Qatar and traveling around the different countries in the Middle East, and being aware of the struggles many people face in these regions, I can help, as knowledge is power!

The region is home to nearly 418 million people, including 157 million, or 38 per cent, who are under the age of 18. Nearly 10,000 children are born across the region every year. The region is marked by significant disparities – Saudi Arabia, one of the region’s richest countries, shares borders with Yemen, one of its poorest and most conflict-ridden. Many of the difficulties in this region are income related, gender and geographical inequalities, which keep many children in a state of poverty and vulnerability.

Furthermore, the mortality rates of children are high, as very few of these countries have access to health and vaccination services. More than 415,000 children continue to die every year before their fifth birthday.

Rates of chronic malnutrition are high too, where a quarter of the children under the age of five suffer malnutrition in Djibouti, Egypt, Iran and Syria and Yemen. As a result, UNICEF is fighting malnutrition by promoting good feeding practices, when mothers are breastfeeding for the first six months and helping parents understand the use of micronutrients, and providing access to safe water.

Other difficulties the children face in this region are:

  • Child labour,
  • Childhood marriage,
  • Recruitment to armed forces and groups,
  • 9/10 children experience violent forms of discipline,
  • Around 6 million children are orphaned,
  • Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen are four out of five countries worldwide that continue to apply the death penalty to children,
  • Female genital mutilation affects 93 per cent of women in Djibouti and 91 per cent in Egypt.

As a result of learning about the above difficulties and atrocities to children, I ask myself, how can many of children in those countries named, survive physically, never mind mentally and emotionally? It is horrific to know parts of the world are still so backward in their thinking, as the struggles the children have to go through will NOT positively effect a child’s well-being in all areas of their life.

If I were to reflect on the above and what I have learned about the struggles the children in the Middle East and North Africa region experience, I am horrified to know that countries like Qatar, Dubai, UAE and Saudi Arabia sit back more often than not and do not help their neighboring countries out of their problems, especially those problems that effect children in such a bad way! I am glad I chose this region to read more about, as it is important to know the struggles that are happening in different countries of the world, especially the country you are living in and countries you are surrounded by. It has certainly helped me identify the needs of the region and where one can help, especially as an educator. I have noticed that some children in my class, who come from very wealthy Qatari families have no idea about the struggles other children around and surrounding their country face, which has challenged me to inform them of this, as the future of the world is sitting in my classroom.

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The Sexualization of Early Childhood

The topic of sexualization in early childhood is of great concern to me, having taught in quite a few cultures and countries already, I can see how sexualization is creeping into countries in such a subtle way that are even more reserved about this topic. If I look at the Qatari children that I teach, some of the music videos that they watch, songs they sing to or dance to, use body movements that are very suggestive and I would have never made when I was a little girl because I was not exposed to it. I believe media and technology, in general, is the biggest contributor to this sexual pandemic we see in this world.

The first example that I have witnessed that illustrates the exposure of young children to a highly sexualized environment is when I have seen some of the girls in my class in South Africa, coming to school on dress up days with heels, mini-skirts, crop tops and a lot of makeup on, and moving their hips in an exaggerated manner from side to side. I was taught a long time ago that by boys/men seeing a girl/woman’s belly button creates sexual ideas in boys/men’s head. So of course the second example that illustrates the exposure of young children to a highly sexualized environment is when girls show their belly button, which I cringe at because I just think that being a little girl, is about climbing trees, running and playing with friends in a light-hearted manner and not showing off body parts that do not need to be shown. The third example I have seen is during my teaching career, is how young children have spoken to me about how their mom or dad tell them to go and take a nap, but when they cannot get to sleep, they have gone into their parent’s bedroom and caught them in the action. This happened to a little boy who I taught in kindergarten and from that day, he changed and became very suggestive when touching the other girls in his class and even me- which of course I had stopped him and chatted to him about it.

The implications sexualization can have on children’s healthy development can have:

  • a negative impact on the psychological development of children, particularly on self-esteem, body image and understanding of sexuality and relationships,
  • a negative impact on a girl’s self-esteem as exposure to sexualizing messages contributes to girls defining their self-worth and popularity in terms of sexual attractiveness,
  • negative impact on a child’s eating habits, where an excessive focus on appearance and a narrow definition of attractiveness can contribute to the development of abnormal eating behaviors and lack of positive body image, which can lead to a negative self-image, depression, impaired sexual development in adolescence and poor self-protective behaviors in adolescent relationships,
  • negative impact on relationships with others as, sexualized themes are frequently associated with a depiction of aggression, and particularly depictions of male aggressive sexuality, and portrayal of girls and women as passive sexual objects.

Ways to combat the above can be by:

  • regulating media and psycho-educational approaches to provide children and adolescents with skills in media analysis and understanding of the impact of sexualized images and programs. These strategies can then help to develop healthy sexual development and body image in the face of media representation.
  • allowing school-based media literacy programs to have a positive effect on body image concerns in girls and what it means to be a woman and a man who treats the opposite sex well.
  • encouraging parents to read books such as “So Sexy So Soon” to their children, which will encourage open dialogue between parents and their children.

To conclude, the topic of how rife sexualization is in society and its impact on young children is so alarming that along with anti-bias education, we also need to add sexual education in early childhood setting, where this topic is brought up in a natural and sensitive manner and not leave this issue and only begin to speak about it in the adolescent years.

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Evaluating Impacts on Professional Practice

There are very few ‘isms I have experienced in my life, but perhaps the one -ism that has certainly shown its face during my teaching career abroad is sexism. My first experience of this was in China, where a father would not look at me, or speak to me directly when speaking about his child in a meeting, but rather chose to speak to the male co-teacher I had at the time. I was quite taken aback and felt demeaned and frustrated and had chatted to my co-teacher about it the next day and he said many Chinese men take what women say with a pinch of salt. As a result, this did not create a positive attitude about this father and I took offense to it, to the point that I would look the other way if I saw the father at school, instead of taking the higher ground. I think I also made a few comments to the other teachers about this parent and often arrived to the assumption that his child behaved in a pompous manner because it is a behavior he has learned from his father, and became frustrated with the child when he did show this behavior. Eventually, I realized my attitude was not making a difference, but rather aggravated the situation and began to sit down with his child to discuss and share thoughts about being kind, polite, respectful and sincere.

Another situation of sexism I have experienced is here in Qatar, where many Muslim men (not all) see woman as inferior to themselves, especially western women. I do become frustrated with this, quite a few fathers fetch their children from school, but barely greet or acknowledge that you are there. As a result, instead of becoming overly offended, I remember that culture I am living in, but try to bring conversations in the classroom in subtle ways about how important it is to treat boys and girls in a respectful and kind manner, as we all have feelings that can be built upon or broken down. Hopefully this can make a difference and at least one child in my class will remember this.

I think we as educators need to remember that:

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Observing Communication

Observed situation:

The other day I was watching a child and his teacher. She had noticed that on the playground he was not playing with other children. He would stand relatively close to her and she had observed this but waited patiently for him to tell her what was on his mind. Five minutes later he sat down on the ground and looked up to his teacher and said “Miss, do you know why I do not like to play outside?” The teacher replied “No, why?” he replied, “I do not have any friends to play with.” She looked at him, gave her, her hand and pulled up off the ground and said to him, whilst hugging him, “Would you like me to help you make friends?” His reply was “Yes, please.” The teacher took him by the hand and asked him what does he like to play and does he like to play with boys or girls? His reply was “I would like to play anything and boys or girls, it does not matter.” The teacher and the little boy worked together to find him a friend. He found a little girl to play hide and seek with. The teacher stood by to watch and observe how they played together and later the little boy ran past the teacher and he shouted: “I am so happy, I have a friend.” The teacher replied and said, “I am so glad, remember I am always here to help.”

The effectiveness of the communication:

When I watched and listened to the above situation, I was taken aback by the teacher’s kindness, empathy, and patience towards the little boy in her class. She knew the little boy wanted to tell her something, but waited until he was ready to speak up. To me, this displayed effective communication because the teacher knew how this little boy communicated through his body language and verbally, in his own unique way. She did not force him to speak, she gave him time to speak, chose to listen and reply in short phrases that required specific feedback from him. Later she responded to the child’s needs by offering her help and asked specific questions as to what he likes to play and with whom he would like to play with. The teacher did not own the conversation and neither did she overpower it, the child was the center of the conversation. The teacher worked alongside the little boy to find a friend and modeled how to make friends, by asking children if they can play with him. The teacher was the facilitator and guided the whole process and allowed the child to take charge of this important life skill he was learning. I do not think I would have communicated any other way with this little boy. The teacher handled the situation with sensitivity and kindness and affirmed the child’s feelings throughout the whole process, by understanding and listening.

Communication and child’s sense of worth:

I believe the teacher was positively affirming the child throughout the whole process by:

  • allowing him to speak about his feelings,
  • she noted that she was proud of him for asking for help, which displayed that he was a risk-taker as he allowed himself to feel vulnerable and explain how he was feeling,
  • she was calm, gentle, kind and caring, especially when she gave her hand to him, pulled him off the ground gave him a hug, almost as if to say ‘It is okay, I am here, I will help, I care.’
  • the little boy always had a smile of relief on his face,
  • he felt confident as the teacher modeled how to ask friends to play with him and did so later on when he found another friend to play with him.

Insights into the adult-child communication and what I have learned:

I learned a lot by observing the above scenario. I learned to be calmer, have more patience and have more respect for a child’s way of communication and the only way one can do this is to truly and deeply know how each child in your class communicates both verbally and non-verbally. I learned that we can all improve in the area of communicating with children at their level. The teacher spoke in a child-friendly way that helped the child systematically solve his problem and the teacher went the extra mile to help the child. I believe we all need to keep in mind that children need support to learn valuable life skills and we should go the extra mile to teach them this.

 

 

 

Creating Affirming Environments

When reading more about creating environments that affirm the children and families in your classroom I came across a text in Derman-Sparks and Edwards book Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, that inspired me and put everything into perspective about the creation of an anti-bias environment “An anti-bias environment is also culturally consistent for children and families it currently serves, in another words anyone who enters your classroom can tell immediately tell who is in your program at that time. The look and sounds of the room reflect the family’s cultures and daily lives of those children.”

If I were to remember the video segment I watched in this weeks resources, where Adriana Castillo gave a guided tour of her warm and caring family child care home, I loved the idea that:

  • When parents drop their child off at school, to let the school know in a little book near the door, how their child was after school the day before and how their child slept the night before.
  • I especially, enjoyed that she had a calming room where children could vent how they felt being separated from their parents or a mishap during the day.
  • I liked the fact that Adriana does not stop the children from crying, she gives them time to get through their tears.
  • I especially enjoyed the shelf in the school that a family decorates once a month about their family culture.
  • I liked the way that all activities that were out, reflected the topic the children were learning about for that time, for example emotions.
  • The children had a variety of colored dolls to play with, she had bean bags that depicted the skin colors we have in society and children can compare their skin color to the color they see on the bean bag.

If I were to create my own home care setting that affirms the children in my care, I would most certainly use the above ideas I saw, but would also have books in my classroom that show images of home and school, books about the different people in this world and I would place photos of children and their families around my classroom. I would use a lot of storytelling and persona dolls that relate to the children’s lives and make them aware of aspects of diversity. I would also use a curricular planning approach called webbing, that helps the school and staff to brainstorm the ways identity, diversity and equity issues can be incorporated into the daily curriculum of a school.

Furthermore, I would ensure that the children’s learning environment is calm, by using natural colors and items from the outside environment for children to use and learn from and the only color that is in the classroom, comes from the children and families themselves.

Look at the pictures below for my ideal school setting to encourage a calm, respectful and anti-bias environment:

 

What I Have Learned

 

One hope that I have when I think about working with children and families from diverse backgrounds is to:

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This difference can be big or small and in order for me to make a difference in the lives of the children and families I come across, I hope to become more tolerant, accepting, mindful, empathetic and sensitive to their needs and differences.

One goal I would like to set for myself in the early childhood field with regards to issues of diversity, equity and social justice is to be more of an:

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As I am already speaking more to colleagues, friends and family members about these issues, however I would like to become more apart of organisations that advocate for children and family rights.

Having learned so much in this course, I am extremely excited that I have chosen this subject as my specialisation. I am thankful that I have come across online study buddies who are just as passionate as me, who love children and the early childhood field and want to make a difference. I only wish all of you the best in your future courses, continue to challenge and change your thinking in order to be a better person, both personally and professionally.

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and

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Creating Art: Diversity

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 21.29.57The above poster I created speaks about what I have learned the past few weeks on the topics of diversity in education and in the world we live in.

Can any of my online colleagues think about why I placed the word ‘fear’ on my poster?