Waldorf Education does an amazing job laying the foundation for empathy, compassion, kindness, respect for the dignity of each child and each child’s differences as folded within the archetypal journey of the human being.
The view of Waldorf Education regarding tiny children and their large emotions, is to handle the children with compassion, caring, an extremely solid rhythm that incorporates wholesome foods, rest, exercise, and nature, distraction, pictorial imagery for the early years, and general loving authority by a kind adult in the early grades. There is not so much value placed on the words behind emotions as words 1 – are often parroted back by the child but do not really hold meaning (smaller children tend to think in terms closer to “things are good” or “things are bad”and not much beyond that) and 2 -the child is a creature of will in this developmental stage rather than thinking in terms of heady strategies of dealing with emotion. So we don’t expect tiny children to dwell and think on emotions in a heady way. Instead we expect doing, restitution, good modeling from adults, a wonderful dose of “ho-hum” on the part of the adults. This is really true throughout the early years and even into the early grades.
We can see temperamental tendencies, of course, even in the early grades, and work with that through methods relating to each temperament and towards helping children find balance throughout all of their years of schooling. We also can use growth mindset modeling for our younger children.
However, once a child hits past the nine year change, I think it is time for more direction instruction for emotional health. Some in Waldorf Education may balk at this, as true ideas of causality really don’t hit until the twelve year change, but I think with this generation of children, after the nine year change is a great place to start (so fourth to fifth grade seems about right).
This is the really fast list I came up with after about ten minutes of brainstorming; I am sure you could add an awful lot to it, but maybe it would give you some ideas for your own family. As always, take what resonates with you and leave the rest.
Ages 10-12 – Make sure the child can correctly identify emotions in themselves and in others (this can take time; many children are often not good at reading body language at all ); how to discuss problems/conflict to improve relationships and how to apologize most likely done through modeling and helping children along when there is conflict in a group; more direct conversation about growth mindset; what can I do when I am upset/mad/sad; how big is my problem scales; thinking like a team; how to be a friend; difference between being a leader and being bossy (comes up in group work!); activity pyramids for physical exercise
Age 12- The value of challenging oneself (works well with Roman History block of 6th grade); the value of physical exertion for emotional health; how does conflict escalate; rules for fair fighting; how to apologize; thinking like a team; individual accountability; mindfulness techniques
Age 13/14- Understanding steps to self-care (this ties in well with the physiology block of seventh grade)(if you are homeschooling you need to model this too!) ; beginning work on boundaries; ethics of hard work (fits in well with some of the Explorer stories); negative self talk and what to do about it; repairing relationships after conflict (see Gottman Institute); dealing with friends; what we think about BEFORE we say something; handling gossip; areas of the brain and how that relates to how we emotionally react to things; dealing with friendship bullying; filters we can use before talking other than just saying the first thing that comes into our mind; self talk for decreasing anger or anxiety
Age 15- Relationships – narcissistic tendencies and personality disorders – what does that mean for dating or intimate relationships?, abuse in intimate relationships; talking about effective communication; “I” message starters; setting emotionally healthy boundaries; rules for “fair fighting”
Age 16- Things that can tip/trigger depression; active and negative coping ; what is passive-aggressiveness and how to avoid communicating like that; help discovering personal strengths and weaknesses; habits of effective people; fostering good habits; the teenaged brain; communication regarding sexuality and sexual decisions
Age 17/18 – adulting! ; secrets of happy couples/intimate relationships; what to do when relationships are hard; dealing with difficult co-workers
Many blessings and much love,