When a young child is experiencing an emotionally stressful moment, it can be therapeutic for them to write a letter to help them work through their feelings. As many young children do not know how to write by themselves, it can be beneficial if an adult writes down their words for them in a letter addressed to someone who is close to the child. This method is successful with young children because it allows them to see their words written down on paper, which helps validate their feelings and gives them more control over their stressful situation. Similar to the way discussions can be helpful to an adult in working through a problem, letter writing can produce the same outcome with young children.
I have come to this belief about letter writing through my teaching experiences which have included 1st grade, Kindergarten and preschool. Often times when I saw a child showing emotional distress that revolved around someone in their life, for example a grandparent that they missed, or a parent that was on a trip, I would always turn to letter writing to help that child cope with his or her feelings. Every time I used this method, the child was calmer in the end, walking away from the situation with tears dried, having had their feelings recognized, and better able to continue on throughout the day.
One experience stands out in my mind, which happened during my first year teaching Kindergarten. One day after school, a little boy’s father came to me and told me that he’d be leaving for Iraq that afternoon. He wanted me to know so that I would be prepared in case the child showed any change in behavior. The next morning, the boy came in, upset about leaving his backpack at home. Since forgetting his backpack was something that he did frequently without concern, I knew that he was probably having a difficult time that day knowing that his father was far away. As I comforted the child, we talked about where his dad went, and I asked him if we should write his father a letter. The child agreed that this was a good idea. Watching as I wrote down his words, he began to dictate a letter to his father. “Dear Dad,” he said, “I wish you could come home. I am in school right now.” After asking him if he had anything else to say, he said, “I miss you. I love you.” He signed the letter himself and included a drawing on the back. I noticed that the tears were gone. The sad face that was there a few moments ago was replaced by a smile. The upsetting situation for the child became bearable. The child felt better and was much calmer.
Helping a child write a letter to someone they miss provides them with the power to talk and work through their feelings in a healthy way, and this is what I believe.
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