WP Professor Emeritus of Early Childhood Education, Anthony J. Coletta, PhD, Releases Free Video Webinar about Reducing Anxiety and Difficult Behavior in Young Children

Coletta at a speaking engagement

Though parenting young children always presents its challenges, for many, the challenges are more plentiful today due to the isolation and anxiety children faced in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to William Paterson University Professor Emeritus of Early Childhood Education Anthony J. Coletta, PhD.

Coletta, who worked in classrooms from preschool through high school and spent 42 years teaching early childhood development strategies at WP, has subsequently published a new, free 45-minute webinar titled, “Reducing Anxiety and Difficult Behavior in Young Children: Twelve Helpful Strategies.” The webinar presents six tips for managing anxiety, and another six for managing difficult behavior, respectively.

The webinar is based on the recent publication of Coletta’s updated paperback book, Reducing Anxiety and Difficult Behavior in Young Children. The original book, which was published as an e-book in 2020, was directed to parents. The updated paperback speaks both to parents and teachers, and therein, Coletta provides more than 100 tips and ideas.

Anxiety rates of children have doubled since the pandemic, Coletta says, noting such characteristic symptoms as trouble sleeping, being easily distracted, stomach aches, acting clingy, and a fear of being alone. “Increased anxiety has caused young children to be less cooperative and more challenging in their behaviors,” he adds. 

Coletta and his wife spend two days each week caring for two of their four grandchildren under the age of six, so, despite his retirement professionally, he sees today’s challenges first-hand. “I have been so immersed into the issues facing young children, their parents and teachers, I have been compelled to continue my work in early childhood education,” he explains.

Among Coletta’s tips for reducing anxiety in young children is guided dramatic play. For young children, he explains, reenacting a stressful experience using toys or props is more helpful than talking about it. Through replaying difficult events, children gain a sense of mastery over what they had been through. Using examples of two children, a stressful experience each had, and how dramatic play was used to help those children, Coletta—who has made presentations to parent and teacher groups nationally for 30 years—brings his expertise to life.

In terms of difficult behavior, among Coletta’s advice is a three-step process wherein a parent or teacher is encouraged to:

  • identify the child’s feeling (“I see that you are angry.”),
  • tell the child what he/she needs to do by connecting it to a household/classroom rule (“In this house, we take turns.”)
  • help the child explore solutions or give him/her a choice (“Would you like to blow bubbles or build with PlayDoh now?”)

Coletta’s video webinar will be made available to preschool,  kindergarten and elementary teachers across northern New Jersey through the College of Education’s Professional Development Schools network.