Skip to Main Content

TACSEI Resources

Backpack Connection Series 

The Backpack Connection Series was created by TACSEI to provide a way for teachers and parents/caregivers to work together to help young children develop social emotional skills and reduce challenging behavior. Teachers may choose to send a handout home in each child’s backpack when a new strategy or skill is introduced to the class. Each Backpack Connection handout provides information that helps parents stay informed about what their child is learning at school and specific ideas on how to use the strategy or skill at home. This series was developed in collaboration with Pyramid Plus: The Colorado Center for Social Emotional Competence and Inclusion and Bal Swan Children's Center in Broomfield, Colorado.

The Backpack Connection Series includes handouts in four categories:

Addressing Behavior

  • Teachable Moments: How to Help Your Child Avoid MeltdownsTeachable Moments: How to Help Your Child Avoid Meltdowns
    There are countless teachable moments daily when skills can be taught and emotions discussed, such as during play time, in the car, at bath time or while reading together. As a parent, you can reduce challenging behaviors such as hitting, biting, pushing and whining when you 1) concentrate on calming your child during a challenging behavior incident and 2) wait until an appropriate teachable moment to actually teach your child.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Stop Hitting and PushingHow to Help Your Child Stop Hitting and Pushing
    Like many parents and caregivers, you may have found yourself in a situation where, despite your best efforts, your child continues to hit and push you or other children. To begin to address this behavior, it is important to understand that your child has his own opinions and probably wants to do more things for himself, yet he may not have the language skills or impulse control to make those things happen. This experience can be frustrating for him and his first reaction might be to hit or push. Young children often express difficult emotions such as frustration, anger or embarrassment by acting out physically. Many children do not know a different way to handle difficult emotions.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Understand the Meaning of Your Child’s Challenging BehaviorHow to Understand the Meaning of Your Child’s Challenging Behavior
    As a parent or caregiver, you may see your child behave in a way that doesn’t make sense and ask yourself, “Why does she keep doing that?” It can be very frustrating, especially when it seems like it should be easy for your child to figure out on her own a more appropriate way to behave. In moments like this, it is important to remember that children continue to use a behavior because it works! Your child’s behavior is a powerful communication tool that she uses to tell you what she needs or wants. Sometimes, when a child does not know the appropriate way (such as words, sign language or pointing to pictures) to express her needs or wants she may use challenging behavior (such as hitting, screaming or spitting) to communicate. Challenging behavior gives children the ability to send a message in a fast and powerful way. Children will use challenging behavior to communicate until they learn new, more appropriate ways to express their wants and needs. To change the behavior, it is important for you to first discover what is causing the behavior. If you know why your child is choosing a behavior, you can then teach her to communicate her wants and needs in a new way that everyone feels good about.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Give Clear DirectionsHow to Give Clear Directions
    “Why do I have to repeat myself time and again?” “Why won’t she listen to me?” Listening and following directions are important skills young children must learn. There are many reasons why children do not follow directions.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Use Social Stories to Teach Your Child New Skills and ExpectationsHow to Use Social Stories to Teach Your Child New Skills and Expectations
    Children love to listen to stories. Not only are stories used to entertain children, they can also be used as tools to teach new skills and expectations. Many parents read books to teach their children the
    alphabet or numbers, but stories can also be used to: teach social skills, such as how to take turns; teach clear behavior expectations for a time of day (e.g., quiet time) or event (e.g., road trip); reinforce routines, such as getting ready for bed; prepare for new experiences, such as the first day of school; and address a challenging behavior, such as hitting.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Stop WhiningHow to Help Your Child Stop Whining
    There are few behaviors that are more frustrating to parents than whining. Yet for children, whining can be a quick and easy way to get a parent’s full attention. Children whine when they feel overwhelmed by an emotion or desire and do not have the vocabulary to express their feelings. They also might whine when they do not have the skills to complete a task or because they feel tired, hungry, powerless, or lonely. Simply put, children whine to ask for help. You can help your child figure out WHY he is whining and help him to find a better way to communicate.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Stop BitingHow to Help Your Child Stop Biting
    It is very common for a child to bite others at some point during their early years. When children do not have the skills or vocabulary to express their feelings, they might engage in a behavior, such as biting, as a way to let you know how they feel.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.

Emotions

  • How to Help Your Child Recognize and Understand FearHow to Help Your Child Recognize and Understand Fear
    Fear is a normal and healthy human emotion. We all experience fear from time to time. However, children and adults experience the world differently, so it is not uncommon for children to be afraid of things that don’t make sense to their parents. Separation from parents, monsters under the bed, loud sounds and other experiences which may seem minor or silly to adults are quite real to childen. You can teach your child how to experience fear in a positive way. For example, it is good for children to have a healthy sense of caution--they should be afraid of running into the street. However, when a child has too much fear it can interfere with normal, healthy development. When you teach your child to recognize and label fear, it helps him to better manage his emotions and handle life’s challenges.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Use Positive Language to Improve Your Child’s BehaviorHow to Use Positive Language to Improve Your Child’s Behavior
    “Stop it.” “No.” “Don’t do that!” As a parent, you might find yourself using these words and phrases more often when your child begins to make his own choices. Now, stop for a moment and consider how the conversation might feel if you couldn’t use these words? What if, rather than telling your child what he can’t do, you instead chose words to tell him what he can do? While this shift in language might seem small, it actually provides a powerful positive change to the tone of the conversation. When you focus on using positive language with your child, you will likely find that he has fewer tantrums, whines less and overall experiences fewer challenging behaviors.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Recognize and Understand JealousyHow to Help Your Child Recognize and Understand Jealousy
    Jealousy is a normal emotion experienced by adults and children. Young children often do not have the skills or language to deal with this complex feeling. Many children deal with jealousy by acting out with challenging behavior such as tantrums, crying or hitting. Because your child may act out with anger, it can be difficult for you to respond to the true feeling of jealousy. When you teach your child to identify and respond to the true feelings of jealousy, you are doing more than making him feel better. You are also helping him learn to manage painful feelings and get along with others today and in the future. If your child knows that his feelings are normal and he is unique and valued for who he is, regardless of his toys or abilities, jealous feelings are less likely to escalate into destructive behaviors.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your ChildHow to Help Your Child Understand and Label Emotions
    You can help your child expand her emotional vocabulary by teaching her words for different feelings. Once she knows and understands these words you can help her to label her own feelings and the feelings of others. Teaching your child about her emotions can be a fun and rewarding experience and prevent challenging behavior from occurring in the first place.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Recognize and Understand SadnessHow to Help Your Child Recognize & Understand Sadness
    Sadness is one of the easiest emotions for young children to understand, and one of the first emotions that they can lean to recognize in others. Everyone feels sad at one time or another for a variety of reasons. As parents, we want to empower our children to recognize when they are feeling sad and, if needed, take steps to help themselves feel better or ask someone else for help. When you help your child recognize the physical features that accompany feeling sad and understand the reasons why someone might feel sad, you are helping your child create the necessary building blocks for him to manage his own emotions and relationships.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Recognize and Understand AngerHow to Help Your Child Recognize & Understand Anger
    As a parent, you might find that calming your angry child can be one of the biggest challenges of parenting. There are many things that make children angry, and children feel anger in different ways — just as adults do. As with all emotions, when you help your child recognize and name his anger you have helped him take the first step toward being able to control his own behavior. When your child is able to recognize the feeling and say, “I’m angry!” it reduces the chances that he will act out.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Recognize and Understand DisappointmentHow to Help Your Child Recognize and Understand Disappointment
    Disappointment is a normal, though difficult, part of growing up. Your child is likely to experience disappointment as she makes new friends, tries new things and experiences the ups and downs of her world. Whether it’s a trip to the park that is ruined by rain or missing a birthday party, life is full of little and big disappointments. When you allow your child to feel, experience and learn from little disappointments at an early age, you help her to create the skills she will need to successfully handle the bigger disappointments she will experience later in childhood and as an adult.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Recognize and Understand FrustrationHow to Help Your Child Recognize and Understand Frustration
    Frustration is a common emotion in young children and typically occurs as a child begins to discover the many things he would like to do, but simply cannot do yet. Frustration is a natural and healthy emotion and can provide a positive learning experience for a child. The feelings of frustration that occur when your child has difficulty communicating his needs or tying his shoes are his cue that he needs to try to do something in a different way or that what he is doing is not working. You can teach your child how to deal with frustration in a way that is useful for him. Most important, you must respond to frustration when it first arises before it changes into anger or becomes the dreaded temper tantrum. Two skills children must learn in order to deal with frustration are: 1) how to ask for help, and 2) know when to take a break!
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.

Routines and Schedules

  • How to Plan Activities to Reduce Challenging BehaviorHow to Plan Activities to Reduce Challenging Behavior
    Unfortunately, there is no “Guidebook for Parents” that tells you exactly how to raise children who behave perfectly at all times. Each child and family is unique, which means that there is no one solution or strategy that is going to work for everyone, every time. However, while it isn’t magic, simple planning ahead can work wonders to help improve your child’s behavior. You can plan activities to teach your child important skills such as sharing, taking turns or handling disappointment. You can also plan ahead to prepare your child for new events in her life such as changes in her schedule, a road trip, a new baby or a visit from grandparents.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Have a Successful MorningHow to Help Your Child Have a Successful Morning
    Do you struggle with stressful mornings when you want to lay your head down and cry before 8:00 a.m.? Do you often leave the house in an angry, frantic rush? Mornings can be a particularly challenging time for parents. Getting your entire family up and out the door is no easy task! It is important to understand that your morning routine serves as the foundation for your family’s entire day. You can create a morning routine that not only helps your day to begin more smoothly, but also teaches your child important skills that he needs to become more independent and confident. A morning routine can also reduce challenging behavior such as crying, whining and tantrums.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Have a Successful BedtimeHow to Help Your Child Have a Successful Bedtime
    Infants and young children need 10 to 12 hours of sleep daily in order to support healthy development. Parents also need to feel rested in order to be nurturing and responsive to their growing and active young children. When your child does not get enough sleep, challenging behaviors are likely to occur. Your child might be moody, short-tempered and unable to engage well in interactions with others. Lack of sleep can also have a negative impact on your child’s ability to learn. When a young child sleeps, her body is busy developing new brain cells that she needs for her physical, mental and emotional development. Babies and young children thrive on predictability and learn from repetition. It is important to establish a bedtime routine that you and your child both understand and helps everyone to feel calm and relaxed.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Use Visual Schedules to Help Your Child Understand ExpectationsHow to Use Visual Schedules to Help Your Child Understand Expectations
    Often, children do not respond to adult requests because they don’t actually understand what is expected of them. When a child doesn’t understand what he is supposed to do and an adult expects to see action, the result is often challenging behavior such as tantrums, crying or aggressive behavior. A child is more likely to be successful when he is told specifically what he should do rather than what he should not do. A visual (photographs, pictures, charts, etc.) can help to communicate expectations to young children and avoid challenging behavior. Visual schedules (activity steps through pictures) can be used at home to teach routines such as getting ready for school. These types of schedules teach children what is expected of them and reminds them what they should be doing.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Transition Smoothly Between Places and ActivitiesHow to Help Your Child Transition Smoothly Between Places and Activities
    Transitioning, or moving, to new places, people and activities is something we do many times during the day. However, change can be overwhelming and seem unpredictable for your child, especially when she is not ready to move on to the next place or activity. Children make many transitions each day--from parents to teachers, from home to car, or from play time to the dinner table, for example. When and how often transitions occur are usually decided by an adult and children often act out with challenging behavior when they feel unable to control their routine. When you help your child prepare for transitions you are helping her to learn a valuable skill. The good news is that you can teach her this important skill while you are enjoying time together.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.

Social Skills

  • How to Teach Your Child to Take TurnsHow to Teach Your Child to Take Turns
    Taking turns can be hard, even for adults. It can be frustrating to wait for something that you really want. Think about the last time you waited in line for groceries or gas. How did you feel when you didn’t know how long it would be until your turn or when someone who wasn’t waiting got a turn before you? Young children often feel especially frustrated in these types of situations. Objects become “mine,” and everyone wants to be “first,” which can make playtime challenging for children and parents. Why does this happen? Children are not born knowing how to take turns. Taking turns is a skill that children must be taught and given many opportunities to practice. If a child is not taught how to take turns, she will continue to play with only her interests in mind and demand turns when she wants them. A child who knows how to take turns has learned valuable skills about how to make friends, empathize, wait, negotiate and be patient. Teaching your child how to take turns takes time, but can also be a rewarding experience that will benefit your child for a lifetime..
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Teach Your Child to Appropriately Get Your AttentionHow to Teach Your Child to Appropriately Get Your Attention
    The ability to successfully capture someone’s attention is a fundamental social skill and provides the foundation for future success in social settings and relationships. Children use a variety of ways to get attention and will often resort to techniques they find most effective, such as yelling or whining. You can teach your child the way that you want him to get your attention (such as tapping you on the shoulder) and then reward him when that behavior occurs. When you take the time at home to build on the skills your child is learning at school, you reinforce these positive skills and create a solid social foundation for your child which will help to reduce challenging behaviors.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Learn to ShareHow to Help Your Child Learn to Share
    Learning how to share is a big challenge for all children because it often means putting aside one’s own needs in order to make someone else happy. Sharing is not a skill children have when they are born—they need to be taught how to share and how to see that their efforts have helped someone else feel happy or solve a problem. In order to learn this skill, children need adults to provide them with many different opportunities where they can practice how to share with others and see other children in the act of sharing. When a child learns how to share with others she feels more confident and is better able to play with other children independently. Additionally, learning how to share gives a child a very important and solid foundation of successful friendship skills she can continue to build on as she grows.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Manage Time and Understand ExpectationsHow to Help Your Child Manage Time and Understand Expectations
    Time is an unclear measure for children. It is very common for a parent to feel frustrated with a child when he has not done what he was asked to do (e.g., pick up toys, put on shoes, finish snack) even after he has been given a five-minute warning. However, it is important for parents to know that there is little difference between five minutes and an hour to young children because of the way they experience time. Children live in the moment and the future is difficult for them to measure. When parents use time (rather than events such as “when I get to the top of the stairs”) to communicate what they expect the child to do, it can lead to the child feeling confused and frustrated, and ultimately, the child expressing his emotions through a tantrum.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.
  • How to Help Your Child Learn to TradeHow to Help Your Child Learn to Trade
    When a child sees another child playing with a toy she wants, her first instinct is to take it. This behavior can be frustrating to playmates and often leads to an argument. Trading is a solution children can choose as a way to get an object from someone else in a positive way, and is a great first step in learning how to share. Trading is also a skill that must be taught and practiced many times. However, once your child is comfortable trading with others it can make her feel empowered. Knowing how to trade helps children to manage their emotions and confidently solve their own problems without help from an adult. Unlike sharing, where children must wait to use a toy, trading is a solution that allows both people to feel happy with the outcome right away. It takes patience and guidance to teach your child how to negotiate with playmates by herself, but it is a valuable skill that she will use throughout her life.
    Trouble downloading? Read this document online.

Return to Top