Although we may try to shield our children from information that may be upsetting to them, inevitably, they will be exposed to life's challenges and painful realities. We live in the "information age" and children are often bombarded with news from the media that can be upsetting and overwhelming. Children are very aware of the emotions of the adults who care for them and they can quickly tune into the anxiety of their parents and teachers. When dangerous events occur in the world, adults also worry. Often we have not had enough time to deal with our own reactions by the time we are faced with pointed questions from our children. How can we respond to them in a way that is honest, age appropriate, and as reassuring as is possible?

"Children have the right to feel angry, but not the right to hurt others." With quiet simplicity Mr. Rogers articulated one of the most basic concepts in helping children to develop empathy, compassion, and self-control. Learning to recognize, contain, and find socially acceptable ways to express angry feelings is a long journey; easy for some children and far more difficult for others. As early childhood educators we have the opportunity and responsibility to help children live, work, and play together as contributing members of a caring community.

Block play offers it all. Through exploration with unit blocks children become competent learners in all areas of development: cognitive, physical, social, and emotional. From the youngest age, children are drawn to wooden blocks. The smooth, sensual feel of the wood is satisfying to the touch; the sturdiness of the blocks allows a child to use them freely without fear of breakage; and the open-ended quality of block play provides an opportunity for creativity and cognitive development to soar. Blocks are a clean material, and, for children who are uneasy with getting their hands dirty, they offer a comfortable tactile experience. Lastly, children know that when they play with blocks, they are using real materials with weight, form, and function.

In the nursery school world, we sometimes think of "separation" as a specific event – a moment in time when a child has made the adjustment to school and is able to feel secure as he moves beyond the stage of complete dependency on his caregivers at home and is able to comfortably be at school. Parents often anxiously await that day and they imagine their child eagerly running into the classroom, barely taking the time for a quick hug and goodbye kiss, and excitedly rushing over to play with his friends. Sometimes it is with mixed emotion that a parent breathes a sigh of relief and reports, "he hardly needs me anymore; finally, he can separate."

September is a time for new beginnings: new teachers, new classrooms, new friends, and a year filled with new experiences. Each of us, parents, children, and teachers alike, brings our own set of expectations, excitement, and sometimes worries, to the new year. As the school year approaches, parents of young children all share common concerns – Will she be happy? Will the teachers like her and will she make new friends? Will she feel safe and secure, be able to spread her wings, and continue to develop without me by her side? Will I be able to let go and trust the teachers to nurture her and meet her needs?

“It’s not fair, he got more than me!” Sound familiar? Life at home is always easier when there is peace and tranquility—adults strive for this— but children can quickly alter the dynamic. And, once a sibling arrives, the atmosphere at home can often change dramatically. Finding the balance of responding to one child’s needs while not neglecting the needs of the others is an intricate dance.

Discipline can be one of the thorniest parenting issues. Children rely on us to teach them values and provide them with boundaries and limits. They need us to be consistent and loving, yet firm in our responses. Yet, children are experts in sensing our areas of indecision and they know exactly what button to push as they struggle to keep our attention and strive for independence.

If your child is about to have his or her first school experience, a major change is in store for both of you. Up until now, you were a minute-by-minute, integral part of your child’s day. You knew what toys she played with and you knew her playmates. You did not have to rely on your child’s language skills to understand her experiences.