For years, early childhood researchers have asked how they can help children develop the crucial skills they need to cope with life’s challenges.
Now researchers are asking a new question: What about the adults?
“Our approach in early childhood has always been to start with society’s youngest children, because the quality of their early learning experiences is so critical to their development,” said EASTCONN Director of Early Childhood Initiatives Diane Gozemba. EASTCONN provides Head Start/Early Head Start programs across Tolland and Windham counties.
“But how can we help our children, and address their social, emotional and intellectual growth if the adults around them are struggling to address the same issues in their own lives? Clearly, we need to turn our attention to helping the adults in our communities, too.”
Driven by their understanding of the stresses and challenges that adults are experiencing, particularly among the most at-risk adult populations, the National Head Start Association (NHSA) is spearheading a nationwide effort to provide adults with the strategies and skills they need to live intellectually and emotionally healthier, happier lives.
“Head Start populations tend to be more vulnerable, and staff and families can often benefit from further developing their life skills,” Gozemba said. “EASTCONN is eager to support the NHSA’s goal of spreading the word in Head Start communities, while training adults in broader communities.”
Based on child development research in Ellen Galinsky’s Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, the NHSA’s nationwide movement is growing as it promotes learning that addresses the well-being of adults, teachers and communities across the U.S.
Galinsky’s seven essential life skills include: focus and self-control; perspective taking; communicating; making connections; critical thinking; taking on challenges; self-directed, engaged learning.
This past fall, Gozemba and her EASTCONN colleague, Cheryl LaMothe, began training Head Start and community members, who work directly with children and adults. By inviting Family Resource Center staff, Birth to Three and Head Start managers and family service staff to participate, the reach of “Mind in the Making” learning across northeastern Connecticut will have a greater impact.
“Now that the National Head Start Association has seen the positive social and developmental impacts of ‘Mind in the Making’ learning among Head Start teachers and families, as well as in their communities, the NHSA wants to help train trainers nationwide, so the learning spreads exponentially,” Gozemba said.
“As a collaborative partner, EASTCONN will be the first in the country to offer a ‘Mind in the Making Institute’ through the NHSA. The Connecticut Head Start Collaboration Office has already funded eight programs across the state, each with a community partner, so each can be trained and subsequently share their new knowledge with their hometown communities.”
“The ultimate goal of the NHSA initiative is to teach as many parents and communities as possible how to incorporate essential life skills, so their social-emotional learning needs are supported,” she said.
Gozemba has already begun providing train-the-trainer “Mind in the Making” sessions throughout Connecticut and expects to expand into other New England states.
To learn more, contact EASTCONN’s Diane Gozemba at 860-455-1518, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.