June 22, 2017 5:36 pm
Updated: June 22, 2017 6:15 pm

Why Alberta child-care centres are talking mental health with preschoolers

WATCH ABOVE: Dozens of Alberta child-care centres are teaching kids strategies to manage their emotions early. Laurel Gregory explains.


Most working parents have been there. You drop your son or daughter off at daycare and attempt to leave but are paralyzed by the sound of their piercing cries. They want you to stay, all day, but you have to go. You’re already running late.

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Loredana Dorobantu experienced this exact scenario on a daily basis when she started taking her daughter Alexandra to Edmonton’s University and Community Early Learning Centre. (UCELC) She even stayed for breakfast to ease the transition. The caregivers found a way to calm Alexandra.

“I think the best strategy was reading because she enjoys reading so much. She enjoys books,” Dorobantu said. “Then slowly, slowly she will forget about me and I can leave.”

UCELC educators have an arsenal of other strategies to help children manage their emotions.

They help preschoolers who are upset with a trick that mimics inhaling and exhaling. The child pretends to smell a flower and then blow out the flame of a candle. Children who feel angry can stomp or squish Play-Doh. When preschoolers have a disagreement, the educators encourage them to talk it out themselves.

It’s the result of Alberta’s ASaP continuum project, which is training educators in dozens of Alberta child-care centres to help children navigate and manage their emotions.

“I think it leads to better mental health. There’s just a sense of well-being and being more in control of yourself and your life when you are able to identify your emotions and know you have strategies to deal with them,” said project lead Marilyn Armstrong.

Statistics show young Albertans could use the guidance.

The province’s Early Child Development Mapping Project collected data on more than 70,000 kindergarteners and found one in four were having trouble in social and emotional maturity.

“There’s lots of research to say social and emotional development is early childhood mental health and it does lead to lifelong success,” Armstrong said.

“Success in school, success in relationships, it prevents teenage delinquency, teenage pregnancy.”

The UCELC started its program in September 2014. Armstrong says this August the ASaP Continuum Project will be offered in 72 centres in all regions of the province.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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