MAPLEWOOD/SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The first installment of the SOMSD Crisis Support Speaker Series hosted by Dr. Gerry Costa focused on the effects of stress on young children and what adults can do to help.

Dr. Costa began his presentation by arguing that there are two pandemics society is facing, COVID-19 and decades of racism in this country. Specifically focused on children in pre-K and Kindergarten, Dr. Costa highlighted the importance caregivers will play in this difficult time.

“The best thing your child can do when they are stressed is for you to be able to co-regulate them, for you to be able to lend your calm as they begin to get excited and yell for you to be able to lower your voice and connect.”

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Stress can cause children to act out, Dr. Costa told SOMSD parents. He suggested that parents reframe misbehavior as stress behavior by looking at external factors that could explain why a child is acting out. These external factors can come in many forms such as, illness, fear and anger. The importance of communication between parent and child is something Dr. Costa highlighted throughout his talk.

Communication is verbal and nonverbal, Dr. Costa used the acronym AGILE to explain. Affect, gestures, intonation of voice and latency are all cues that children will pick up on from their parents whether they are intentional or not.

The series continues with Nancy Kislin speaking on how to emotionally support students during the pandemic. September 30 is her talk for elementary school parents and October 1 for secondary school parents.

SOMSD parents with students of any age can call 973-762-5600, ext. 1855, to leave a voicemail and a social work intern will reach out within 24 hours Monday through Friday. 

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