Q: I teach kindergarten, and a new girl recently joined our classroom.  She has developed a very strong attachment to a boy who is also in my class. Today they were holding hands and hugging. I know that I need to intervene, but I am a new teacher, and I am unsure of how to address this issue properly. Can you advise me, please?

It is important for you to intervene if the boy is upset by the new girl's enthusiastic friendship or if the child's frequent intense interaction is interfering when you're trying to read a story, present a brief lesson, or have a discussion with the group. I'd use the situation as a discussion topic, without naming anyone in particular. I'd begin by talking with the children (back and forth, not a lecture) about how good it feels to have friends. You might ask the children to name some things friends do together, how you know when someone is your friend, things like that.

Someone will surely say that friends hug, hold hands, and so on. Here's your opportunity! You can happily agree, then point out that there are some times when we're busy; these aren't good times for hugging and hand holding. Encourage the children to figure out what such occasions might be - rest time, lunch time, group time, etc.

If, after this conversation, the girl and boy display their affection for each other during activities from which you don't want other children distracted, take the two aside and remind them of what was discussed. "This isn't a hugging time. You can give him/her a hug after we (do whatever)." End with, "It's great that you two like each other so much." Also, sometimes pair each of them with other partners so they - especially the new girl - can make different friends. Who knows, maybe she's using this fellow as a "security blanket" as she enters your new world and will soon branch out.