Children and, indeed, adults do not have access to their thinking and reasoning skills when they are flooded with emotions.
KG/Elementary Counsellor: Letter 7 to SEISEN Families
Weekly letter: 22 May, 2020
Online Learning Week 9
by Veronica Gomes
Dear SEISEN Kindergarten and Elementary School Families,
How to Reduce the Stress of Schooling from Home for Everyone
Strategy 3 - Today, I aim to discuss the third way to support your child and manage your own stress during school closures and that is support.
3. Support: Get ahead of the meltdowns and teach critical social-emotional skills, too!
When our children are experiencing big feelings, they tend to communicate them through behaviour. If your child is melting down over something that seems small to you, it may be a sign they are overwhelmed or flooded with emotions.
For instance, when a kindergartner fell into a puddle of tears and screamed at her mother because she didn’t like the word-sorting activity that her teacher gave her to do, it wasn’t really about the sorting activity. After she calmed down using her “Calming Menu” that had been created earlier (hugging the dog is the one she chooses most often), she ended up sharing that she was sad because she missed her friends. Had the parent clamped down on compliance on the assignment, it would have been a missed opportunity for the child to practice calming down and expressing her emotions.
The important takeaway message here is that children and, indeed, adults! do not have access to their thinking and reasoning skills when they are flooded with emotions. If your child cannot focus on school tasks, or you are seeing them meltdown, seeing tantrums, or withdraw behaviours, it’s likely because they are having a hard time meeting an expectation while under stress.
The antidote? Empathy. Research shows that empathy can calm the nervous system and re-engage the thinking and reasoning side of the brain. When your child is in the middle of a meltdown, you might remind yourself of this using the following mantras:
- My child is not giving me a hard time; they are having a hard time.
- Behavior is communication, and my child is “telling” me they need support.
- The teachable moment about behavioural expectations is never in the “hot” moment. I must calm my child through empathy first.
The reality is, your job right now as a parent supporting learning at home, is less about academics, and more about creating safety, belonging, and acceptance. Your children can learn about academics from teachers. The most important skill you can teach is how to manage big feelings under stress. Here are some techniques that may be helpful in teaching critical emotional-regulation skills:
- Labeling and recognizing your child’s emotions.
- Identifying what triggers their emotions.
- Analyzing emotions and how they affect others.
- Understanding the relationship between one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviours.
- Recognizing one’s needs. They must try and identify what it is that they want.
- Cultivating self-confidence, positive self-regard, optimism and “growth mindset”. In other words, from I can’t to I can.
Develop a list of calming strategies BEFORE you and your children need them. Then encourage your child and tween (pre-teen) to write down a list of activities they enjoy doing and will help them to calm down, as the example stated above: the child can hug their pet. Post them on your fridge where all family members can readily use them. You can refer to this site for some ideas.
Give yourself support by participating in self-care with a calming meditation so you can parent from a place of calm and model for your child how to solve problems together. Kids learn by watching us, so taking care of yourself is teaching your child how to cope. https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/self_compassion_break
We are living in unusual times, but we also have a real opportunity. Being in close quarters during times of stress is a chance to step back and focus on connection. In stressful times, children will be protected if they are connected. When all this is done and our kids go back to their schools, we can have given them the gift of connection and some new social-emotional and problem-solving skills.
“Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. Don't lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier.”