Taking action before kids develop problems by assessing emotional skills

    Experts from the Devereux Center for Resilient Children advise parents against waiting for kids to develop emotional or social problems to take action; there are now tools available to identify children at risk.


    Devereux gathered national experts on children and local advocates in Villanova Friday to discuss ways to help kids bounce back from tragedy as well as cultivating healthy habits when they face everyday challenges.

    In part, the organization is responding to recent devastating national news. Lots of parents wonder what to say.

    “Even with something like the tornado in Moore, Okla., I think it’s always good to point out to children the way the communities come together, families come together, schools come together to support each other, protect each other,” said Paul LeBuffe, Devereaux’s director.

    Last year Devereux updated an assessment tool to help parents look for signs of initiative, self-regulation and other emotional skills.

    “This isn’t something that you do once you are concerned about a child’s behavior, although it can certainly help at that point,” LeBuffe said. “This is something that we like to do so we can identify which children might be likely to have problems down the road if we don’t help them out today.”

    The National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association works with farm families who deal with everyday stressors such as poverty and unemployment — as well as the tragedies that make national headlines.

    Association leader Cleo Rodriguez’s advice is to ‘fess up when things are difficult.

    “I think it’s hard not to tell children. When you have all this chaos going around, children realize,” Rodriguez said. “They see what’s going on, so I think you have to have to have an explanation of this.”

    The trick, he said, is to find explanations that are appropriate to a child’s age.

    Disclosure: Devereux is a supporter of WHYY.

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