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Feelings and Friendship: 5-6s’ Conversations Foster Social-Emotional Growth

Friday, November 20, 2015

A large part of the work of the 5-6s centers around the social-emotional growth of children. To that end, we have countless discussions about feelings, friendships and families, among other topics. Teachers address these topics when they come up in small groups, as children work and play together, and we also have numerous group conversations.

Recently, we spent a lot of time talking about how to play with other children. We asked children what they need to do before they touch another person’s body, whether it’s to play tag, give them a hug or to slap them on the back to say hello. The 5-6s were unanimous in their belief that you need to ask someone before you touch them. We asked them why. Here are a few of their answers:

“So that they can tell you if you can touch them or not. Because maybe they don’t feel good about you touching them right now.”

“So that they don’t get hurt.”

“If you touch them without asking they don’t feel good.”

“When you want to touch somebody you have to ask because it’s their body and they might not want you to touch them.”

“If you’re asking can you touch them, then don’t touch them while you’re asking.”

“If they first say they want to get touched and then they change their mind, then you still don’t touch them.”

“You can’t touch their body until you ask because it’s their body and if they don’t want you to touch their body you can’t.”

“If the person says yes and you touch them, if you want to touch them another day you still have to ask.”  

There were frequent brain matches and nods of agreement, as children listened carefully to their classmates, responding thoughtfully to their friends’ points, and thinking about their next comment. At a time in their lives when sitting still for long periods of time can be difficult, all 21 children were attentive and engaged for almost three-quarters of an hour, no mean feat for 5- and 6-year-olds.

We’ve also continued having conversations about feelings. We made a list of feelings.  The list began with the usual contenders of “happy,” “sad” and “mad.” Children listened carefully to each other, and offered up “frustrated,” “excited,” “disappointed” and “impressed.”  As the conversation progressed, children raised their hand to describe, “the feeling you have when you have to do something but you really don’t want to,” “like you really want to draw, to make something” and “the feeling you get when you accidentally hurt someone and you didn’t mean to and now your friend is crying.”  We talked about possible words to describe these feelings, such as “resentful,” “creative” and “contrite.” We also talked about how you might not have words for all your feelings, but you can still have them. Furthermore, you might have more than one feeling at a time. This was another long, rich conversation, and one that we will continue to revisit as the year goes on.