Regulation of Emotions In Children – Part Two

Back in the fall of 2015, I  went to a course for my physical therapy licensure renewal  that focused on the regulation of emotions in children who have anxiety, anger challenges, ADD/ADHD, or who are on the autism spectrum.  It was geared toward teachers, therapy providers, and principals in the school setting.  One thing that was emphasized over and over is that a calm child who is not feeling stressed by the environment can learn better than a child who is stressed. Part of education is to understand ourselves as teachers and therapists (why do we do what we do in the classroom or with the children we are with?), to empower children to understand who they are and why they do what they do,  and to help children develop emotional regulation.

I talked about the first part of this course in this  back post about the things some schools in the United States are doing to try to keep things calm for their students, including:

  • Understanding the brain
  • Ryhthm, including the use of photo books to show the child doing each daily activity and using accommodations to make certain children do not get over-stimulated
  • Using connection and love to calm the child
  • Use of movement, art, hydration, music, art, time in nature to all help increase learning and memory and keep children as even-keeled as possible.

The question I posed at the end of Part One of this post (linked above)  was what are the schools doing in the moment, when things are going really badly?  Children with these kinds of challenges can throw desks, they can really fall apart, and it can be difficult for not only the student, but the teacher and the other students in the class when all of this is happening.

The approach in some schools and as modeled in this course I attended is a three step process involving  to  take notice, to intervene, and to plan ahead.   I don’t know if this would appeal to parents in the home environment or not, but I place it here as food for thought and for you to decide how it fits into your philosophy of education and development.  This course was absolutely NOT geared toward Waldorf Schools, and again, I place it here for thought.

Notice – in this course, this meant to empower children to understand emotional states and triggers.  For small children under the age of  9  I am a fan of using stories, music, little circle time activities, modeling, sharing good things in circle time, etc.  I think this can be empowering in the feeling life for the purpose of “noticing”.    For older children, discussion as they need to start to learn to function in the real world may be necessary.  Children with challenges may need very well to start these “noticing” strategies before the nine year change in development, and I think what this entails  is really  up to the family and the health care/educational team.   Remember this course was geared toward those working with children who had challenges with anxiety and anger, which is different.  Some children especially  need real help in  noticing other people’s behaviors, body language, tone of voice, etc.  and again, I think we have to look at the child in front of us whilst keeping in mind development.

Intervention:  This may include  a proactive phase. For example,  what are the child’s triggers?  What is the environment doing (or not doing) for the child?  How do we prepare the child? For example, some children need serious help with groups. Some need serious help with transitions.  How do we anticipate the problems that might come up? In a school setting, this might require a team conference involving almost all staff present.

The early intervention phase might include redirection, and moving into proximity to the child to help, and to use calming strategies.  If a child is past early intevention and is melting down, then steps might include removing the child to a safe environment, not engaging in a power struggle, distracting, offering a safe activity, allowing time to calm down, and then addressing the situation but more in an informational gathering way, not in a way that immediately goes into the negative behavior of the child for that setting.

Note to families reading:   Remember, these are grades aged children. From a Waldorf persepctive for tiny children under the age of 7, I wrote a post about time in for tinies that might give you some ideas about how to create a “meltdown plan” for your littles.

Plan:  The plan part of this is to know that this behavior is cyclical (most likely).  Most likely it WILL happen again.   A plan is helping to empower the child (and I have to say I think this is much more appropriate for older children than younger from a Waldorf perspective) and using a classroom behavior plan.  Role-playing, drawing the scenario and how it would be a happier ending for all parties can sometimes help, and for older children, journaling can be helpful.

Practice: There are many other very cognitive-based approaches that were mentioned that I think could be useful for middle school and up for the normal course of health class or whatnot ( to me personally.  I am sure in some school settings these techniques are being used with much younger children and especially for those who desperately need these tools to try to self-regulate).  These include things such as introducing the parts of the brain and functionality (which in one sense I am for in that children should learn correct parts of their body just like other bodily names but this is applying the names and functionality in a pretty cognitive way that might be better for interested middle schoolers); introducing a “circle of control” (ie, what is in the child’s control and what is not in the child’s control), scales of emotional intensity, scales of importance of events and comparing to the emotional scales.  Other things mentioned were breathing techniques, (which could be used younger than middle school ages obviously )   and using post-incident interviewing techniques.

Here are some ideas for searching techniques that could be helpful for your child (I am not endorsing any of these per se except ones we have used personally); these are just repeatedly mentioned in courses I have taken:

  • Brain Gym (which we do use, I have taken a course in it, and I would endorse)
  • Heart Math
  • Ready Bodies, Learning Minds
  • Play Attention (this might be computer based, I am not sure?  Has anyone out there used it?).
  • Under the Thinking Cap, which is the company of the person who presented this course
  • MindUP Curriculum (has three levels – grades K-2; grades 3-5 and grades 6-8) (I am currently looking at the level for grades 6-8 and hope to have something to review about it soon!)

Are there any products, programs, or techniques you have found for emotional regulation that you have loved?  Have you found a better age to introduce some of these things than other ages?  What did you find worked best for your child?  What about those of you with children who do struggle with anger, anxiety, or other challenges?  Did starting earlier help?

I would love to hear from you.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Milestone Every Child Needs to Reach

II really loved this article entitled, “The Milestones That Matter Most”.  One of the things this article brought up was the cultural biases we have that play into our parenting.  I have long been fascinated with this subject; when my older children were tiny I read and re-read Meredith Small’s “Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent”.

What is interesting to me is that, of course, different things are valued in different cultures.  Our one milestone that we might feel every child needs to reach may not be the same in another culture.  One of the ways we may combat bias in parenting is to consciously examine our own biases in regard to development and culture.  Do we, for example, assume that babies have to sleep through the night by themselves?  Do we assume that babies should be able to “self-soothe”?  Do we assume that toddlers will have a “terrible two’s” period?  Do we think children have to go to school to be “educated”?  Do we assume that children  will be “defiant”?  Do we think that children should have a lot of responsibility for themselves or no responsibility?  Do we assume that children should be able to self-regulate by a certain age?  Do we assume teenagers will battle against their parents and be rebellious?

Some of these questions have an inferred bias that we must examine consciously and continually as we go through our own life changes.  Some of the biases we enter into in parenting may change over time as we are in the ttrenches of dealing with our own children and watching other parents.   Human development, growth , and change is never done for the parent or the child.  It is part of being human, especially if we are trying to live in a conscious manner and we take responsibility  for our own throughts and actions.

IOne thing that can really assist us as parents is to have a family mission statement.  In our family, we have had  the same family mission statement – KIPPA  (Kindness, Integrity, Patience, Positive Attitude, Adventure) – for several years now.  Acronyms can make things easier to remember.  The process of creating a family mission statement can help us see where our biases are, what our values are, and what we think will be a course that will sustain us through parenthood and our children into a connected, happy adulthood. Have a personal mission statement in connection with your parenting and what you want to model in life is also a great conscious step.

Things I find that can carry  through many years of parenting includes connection, rresolving conflict,  setting boundaries in a healthful way , and  taking responsibility for one’s actions.  Kindness is always a modeled value.  So perhaps the milestone your child most needs to reach isn’t learning to read, or learning any other academic skill, but instead the milestones of being able to offer and accept love from other human beings, being able to assimilate into a humanity and offer goodness and kindness.  Perhaps those are the best milestones a human being can reach.

Please share with me your family mission statement, or the values you have found that have carried you through many years of parenting that you try to model for your own children.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

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5 Ways To Make Gentle Discipline Work For Your Family

Gentle discipline is not just a toolbox of tricks; instead I like to view it as the art of connecting and loving as we resolve a conflict together.  It is about hearing the other person, yes, even if that person is a toddler or someone who is small; it is about not reacting in a defensive and emotional way; and it is about forging a path as a family together where the family agenda is the priority and all needs can be met (but perhaps not all at the same time!)

There are five ways I have found to really help families as they work through problems and conflicts together:

Commit to gentle discipline.  If you have a partner in the home, commit to it as a team and agree to back each other up.  The commitment is important.  It may not always be perfect; gentle discipline is a process.  For some families, gentle discipline comes easier than other families.  Some of us have more baggage from our own childhoods to overcome.  It may feel unnatural to try to connect to a child who is being difficult in our eyes.  We may all have different things that our children do that may really bother us.  We need to be able to step in for one another when things are flaring,  and to back each other up as loving guides for our children.  We must commit to the process of connecting during conflict every day.

Know yourself and your partner and how to nourish each other.  What really upsets you and sets you off?  Does knowing what is normal for each developmental stage of childhood help you?  I find this can often help parents feel calmer, to just know what is normal for the developmental stages.      Where is your self-care?  If you are empty, it is so much harder to respond in a connected and loving way to your child.   How do you love one another so you can respond to your children lovingly and patiently so you can guide them when they are having big feelings or big things happening?  This is so important for all stages of development, but I think especially with teenagers.

What is the family agenda?  It is  incredibly hard for a child to know what is expected and how to live with the other family members in the household if no boundaries are set.  The earliest harbinger of boundaries can be found in rhythm, and this happens when children are very small.   As children grow, they can understand the boundaries (rules)  of the family reflect values of the family.  However, in order to have that, the adults of the family must get together and talk about the values you are creating together. Values are something that teenagers can respond to and discuss with you – are your teenagers’ values the same as your family values?  Why or why not? What conflict does this create and how do you navigate this?

Recognize the patterns. Most families have recognizable patterns – this is what happens, this upsets this person, this is how this person reacts.  It is hard to change conflicts within the family if you don’t ever see the patterns or if people are not willing to try something to change the patterns, especially the adults in how they react to what children do.  Who is the calm one in conflict? Who shuts down?  Who walks away? Who gets angry?

How do you resolve conflict?  Because children are not miniature adults, they are not going to reason like adults in times of conflict (and even adults often do not do well in that!)  Small children  do not need intellectualized verbal sparring in order to resolve conflict; what they often need is distraction, rhythm, a boundary that is held lovingly without many words at all, the action of restitution.   I find children ages 9-12 often function not much above these tools.  What helps to limit conflicts in these ages is boundaries that are set up ahead of time and are known.

For teenagers , decide on how you will approach conflicts.  The steps in our family, which we just wrote down recently so everyone was on the same page  include:  taking the time to calm down, making sure the problem is really and actually a problem ( some of the more verbal family members really need to write it down so the problem can be defined and not just a whole slew of emotions with nothing definable other than feelings), meet together in order to discuss  without blaming others and  in order to take responsibility for their own part in things, to really listen and paraphrase what the other person has said and then brainstorm solutions that work for the whole family.  Lastly, we forgive, affirm, or thank the other person and make restitution.  So that is a longer process appropriate for a teen who can really do these steps.

I would love to hear what you steps you think make the difference in making your family a home of gentle discipline and problem solving.    I also have many, many back posts on this blog dealing with gentle discipline if you just search.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Playing For The Same Team

I grew up in a sports-loving family (even though I was not a great athlete myself!).  Despite my immersion in the world of sports and “sports lingo”, it took me quite awhile to see how to see how building a family does have similarities to building a team.  Sometimes in a family, especially with juggling careers, financial concerns, everything being new and each phase of childhood development being new and different with no road map, it could just seem like putting out one fire after another or just reacting to one thing after another rather than having the skill to really build a vision, build a family, build a peaceable team.

We often hear a lot about being a mindful parent or being a “conscious” parent.  To me that means attempting to be proactive, not reactive.  However, I think there is more to family life than that.  Family life is about relationships.  It is about building something more wonderful than you could have on your own.  And yes, in a way, it is about succession of the team as your children grow up and go out into the world and make choices completely independently.

Shared values lead to two things:  a shared vision and also boundaries that support your values.  What does a “X” family member embrace?  What are the values of the family?   For example, if the value is to stay home and be home more as a family, then the boundary might be a child can play one season of sports per school year (ie, just fall sports; not fall, winter, and spring!) Or that might mean summers are slow, and not full of camps because you value being a family together.  I have written before about the power of a family mission statement.  I urge you, and all the adults in your house (especially if that includes extended generations) to talk about what that means.  What are the values and the vision?  Some families are lucky enough to really have a clear sense of this without a lot of discernment or fuss, but other families  are starting at ground zero and really have to work at it as a process.  The process is so valuable!

We all protect each other.  We calm each other with love, we encourage each other, we play for the same team so it is never parent against child or child pitting parent against parent.  We are kind, we protect each other in that our home is a haven, we use kind and gentle words and most of all, when mistakes happen, we forgive each other AND we make restitution.  We are all learning and not one of us is perfect.

We trust each other.  In small children, this idea of trust begins with the fundamentals of attachment – emotional attachment, physical attachment.   You can see organizations such as La Leche League League or Attachment Parenting  International for more information about how to do this with infants and beyond.  Boundaries, limits with love,  are also a form of attachment because they provide respect for a child’s developmental age and they give security and confidence to a child.  People often wonder about attachment in teenagers.  For teenagers, attachment means being available and present, and trusting and knowing when to push and not push, and how to embrace differences in a livable way .  It also means still setting appropriate boundaries and making sure you know the differences between why a 14 year old is different than a 17 year old. It also means letting older children and teens make mistakes and not rescuing, not hovering.

Finally, embracing our differences as people makes a family successful. In my family, there are introverts and extroverts. There are huge age differences as well.  There are common points we all share, and sometimes there are viewpoints we don’t share.  Family meetings can be a great place to bring some of that out.

Share with me how you build your family as a team.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Four Steps Toward Parenting Together

I have heard it said that parenting involves not just thinking alike, but thinking together.  Parenting in a relationship means that the needs and thoughts of both parties have to be considered and communicated and compromised upon.  It is hard work, but I encourage you to do the work.  If I have parents reading this who are in their 20s and early 30s, I really want to encourage you to do this work now.   I am in my 40s, and unfortunately there are many divorces going on amongst beautiful couples that we know – but most of the divorces had roots from when these couples were in their late twenties or early thirties.  So, I would like to share five tips for those working toward parenting (and unifying other aspects of their life as well!) together.

  1.  Parenting is just one aspect of how a couple communicates, respects and appreciates each other. I think “parenting” comes up as this hot button – whether it is breastfeeding, c0-sleeping, educational choices, discipline – but it really is a facet of: how do we communicate as a couple; does my spouse or partner respect me by listening to me and respecting my ideas and opinions as well; do we appreciate what each one of us brings to the table in this process?  What do we both really value most for our family life?
  2. If communication skills and compromise are difficult and you both feel as if you are just going over the same thing in a circular fashion with no compromise or resolution, get help from a third party (earlier rather than later!).  Many counselors work on a sliding scale, and many places of religious worship offer counseling as well. This chapter (https://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/08/26/overcome-gridlock-the-seven-principles-for-making-marriage-work/)  in Dr. Gottman’s book about overcoming gridlock could also be helpful to you as a process at home.
  3. Have a set time to address challenges that are coming up in family life.  When is actually a good time to talk through things that are important, where you can focus together without being interrupted?
  4. Cultivate some patience.  Not every issue in attempting to co-parent or be unified always works out in compromise; sometimes the differences are still there but they are livable differences.  Sometimes opinions change as one partner models things and shares with the other partner.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Talking to Children About Healthy Sexuality and Sex

One often hears the horror stories about parents trying to give “the talk” to their children, complete with mumbling, inaccurate terminology and a look of relief when their child has no questions for them and both parties can flee from the room.

In the United States, 13 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse before the age of 15.  Seventy percent have had sexual intercourse by age 19.  We live in a country founded by people who thought sex was rather evil, and we as a nation are obsessed with sexuality and sex in our media.   It is an odd paradox to say the least.  Our children are bombarded with messages about body image daily.  The freedom of the Internet and media in many families has led the average age of children to see their first pornographic act on the Internet at age 11.

These are serious facts, and the discussions about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships to counteract the messages our children receive every day can only begin with YOU by layering in talks about these subjects from an early age in a healthy, developmentally appropriate way.

First of all, like all things in parenting. these discussion have to start with YOU.  How do you feel about Continue reading

The Stranger

This is an amusing yet sobering  piece written by an anonymous person about the stranger living in his home growing up.  It is well- worth the short read.

The  Stranger

A   few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger  who  was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was  fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and  soon invited him to live with our family. The  stranger  was quickly accepted and was around

from  then on.   As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my  family.  In my young mind, he had a special niche.

 

My  parents were complementary instructors: Mom  taught  me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey.  But  the stranger… he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures,  mysteries  and comedies.  If  I wanted to know anything about Continue reading