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Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children

Laura Rech, Early Learning Teacher

At six months old, Blake loved connecting with the big people in his life. He made eye contact with every caregiver, offering big juicy smiles and anticipating a smile in return. He was an easy baby to love and enjoy.

His mom, Kyra, is soft spoken and full of gratitude. She never missed thanking me for taking care of her son while she studied and earned her GED. Every Monday evening, Kyra would pick up Blake from the classroom, and I would offer a positive remark such as: “He has the most adorable smile” or “He loved rolling the ball today.”

One evening, when we had a few extra moments (i.e. there wasn’t a hoard of other children demanding attention), I shared that I could see how very loved Blake is because he expects love and kindness from adults.

Kyra paused her packing up and asked, “Really?”

“Absolutely,” I assured her. “He looks to adults with a smile, which tells me he’s accustomed to the adults in his life smiling at him.” Her eyes filled with tears and the week’s “thank you” took on an additional meaning.

It is now roughly two-and-a-half years later; Blake still comes to the Early Learning classroom on Monday evenings so Kyra can do her college coursework. I have the pleasure of watching this smiley baby evolve into a curious and energetic toddler. I have also had the pleasure of supporting Kyra as she crossed the graduation stage to accept her High School diploma and celebrate her as a graduate of our Community Program, indicating her ability to be self-sufficient.

One reflective comment to this young mom served to open a door to a long-term relationship with her.

It can be hard to know how much I have in common with the teen moms, which can impede finding common ground or shared points of interest. It is much simpler for me to connect with the young children who rejoice in the novel experiences of life.

However, loving the child allows me to relate to the mother in a unique way. This is an important connection because society often reacts with judgment toward a teen mom with her child: the pointing, the whispers, the sideways glances, the ‘tsk-tsk’s and ‘she’s so young.’

As an early learning teacher, the child reflects something different to me. He or she is a precious gift entrusted to my care; and the teen is a mother, not a girl who made a mistake. Every mother feels some pride in her child’s growth, learning, and accomplishments. I capitalize on this pride, however large or small it may be, to show I can be an ally.

There is little more rewarding than when a teen mom trusts me enough to share a concern about her child or ask an “is this normal” question. The love and desire she has for her child tears down walls that seem impenetrable to logic and reason.

Beyond genuine love for and interest in the child, there are great resources available to help you to engage with the child’s parents.  Below are a few strategies I have found to be powerful bridge builders:

Be positive and specific– “Aiyden was so kind today; he saw that another child was disappointed because a block tower fell down, hugged the upset child, and offered to help rebuild the tower.” This observation allows me to offer a positive characteristic of the child, to gauge how important kindness and helping others is to the mom (based on her level of reaction), and grounds the compliment in specific behaviors.

Be descriptive and share interpretations– “Anthony is fascinated with building! He could not get himself close enough to the tower of blocks, and even though he knocked it over a few times, he was curious rather than destructive.” This allows me to describe the behavior (getting closer to the tower) and my interpretation of his motivation (curiosity instead of destructive).

Focus on the parent-child relationship– “Look at how baby Mia kicks her legs and smiles at you! She loves her mama.” Here I can offer a behavioral observation and its significance, while also supporting the infant/mother relationship. This is especially powerful to offer to moms of non-verbal children who express their love in more subtle ways than a spoken or signed “I love you.”

Ultimately, I view my job as more than caring for the children in the classroom: my job is to support the young family.

Laura, you are an amazing teacher! You are making a huge impact in the lives of our young moms and their little ones. I am proud and blessed to have you on our Team!
Lisa Steven
Posted By Lisa Steven | 4/21/17 03:35 AM
What a great post, Laura! That was so insightful and caring! It almost made me cry! I love the perspective you place on how powerful your words are to our teen moms and their kiddos! We are better because of you and your great work in our ELC!
Kerry Kelley
Posted By Kerry Kelley | 4/19/17 11:04 AM
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Blog Archives

April 2017

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children - 04/18/2017

March 2017

Knowledge Share #13: Managing Volunteers: Benjamin Franklin had it right! - 03/13/2017

February 2017

Knowledge Share #12: Advocacy and Self-Sufficiency: Finding the Balance - 02/14/2017

January 2017

Knowledge Share #11: Effective PR and Spot On Communications - 01/18/2017

November 2016

Knowledge Share #10: I Walk the Line: Creating Deep Connections While Maintaining Professional Boundaries - 11/15/2016

September 2016

Knowledge Share #9: "Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective" - 09/22/2016

August 2016

Knowledge Share #8: Breaking Out of Poverty - 08/18/2016

July 2016

Knowledge Share #7: Creating a Home - 07/11/2016

June 2016

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset - 06/14/2016

May 2016

Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust! - 05/17/2016

April 2016

Knowledge Share #4:Understanding Addiction - 04/07/2016

March 2016

Knowledge Share #3:Mentoring Empowers Teen Moms - 03/21/2016

February 2016

Knowledge Share #2: Healthy Relationships - 02/11/2016

January 2016

Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development - 01/12/2016

December 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #8: Communicating the Barriers - 12/16/2015

October 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness - 10/09/2015

July 2015


June 2015

Teen Mom Barrier Number #5: Domestic Violence - 06/03/2015

May 2015

Teen Mom Barrier # 4 The Challenges of College - 05/12/2015

April 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #3: The Unexpected Bill: Car Repair, Doctor's Visit, Broken Pipe - 04/03/2015

February 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #2: Childcare - 02/18/2015

January 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #1: Society's Negative Expectations - 01/26/2015

December 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #7: Teen Moms Are Completely Self-Absorbed - 12/29/2014

October 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #6: Teen moms drop out of school because they want to - 10/31/2014

September 2014

Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014

July 2014

Misconception #4: Shaming Teen Moms is an Effective Approach - 07/22/2014

June 2014

Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014

May 2014

Because they want someone to love them? - 05/21/2014

April 2014

Teen Moms - A Persecuted Population? - 04/22/2014

March 2014

Connecting across the Continents: Teen Moms and the People Who Love Them - 03/18/2014

February 2014

Can you break out of poverty with a vocabulary of just 900 words? - 02/17/2014

January 2014

Community - 01/20/2014

December 2013

8 Pennies - 12/18/2013

November 2013

"The most courageous young women I know." - 11/14/2013

September 2013

Our Graduates: In their hands, they hold the future! - 09/30/2013

August 2013

The Cliff Effect and Other Perils on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency - 08/30/2013

July 2013

Breaking the Cycle: Do Poor Teens Have to Become Poor Adults? - 07/30/2013

June 2013

Measuring the Intangible - 06/15/2013

May 2013

Grown-Up Mom - 05/01/2013


Recent Comments

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Lisa Steven said: Laura, you are an amazing teacher! You are making a huge impact in the lives of our young moms ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Kerry Kelley said: What a great post, Laura! That was so insightful and caring! It almost made me cry! I love the pe ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset
Caty love said: Danielle is one of my friends back from high school and just wanted to stop by and show her how hap ...   [more]

Measuring the Intangible
Kim said: The truth just shines thrguoh your post   [more]

Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible
Brenda said: Fantastic blog Lauren - and so true. Success IS possible when people love and believe in you! Nev ...   [more]

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