Posted in back to school, emotion regulation, social distancing, summer, unprepared

Is My Child Ready?

This summer, we are exploring the many emotions experienced by ourselves and our children on a daily basis.  Take a look at our previous blog posts on empathy, jealousy, boredom, and disappointment.  This week a guest blogger and kindergarten teacher, Alison Crubaugh, has an encouraging word and practical tips for parents as many of us battle feeling unprepared entering into a school year with many unanswered questions.

As a Kindergarten teacher, every spring I have families ask if their child is ready for 1st Grade. There is a natural concern and desire for parents to want their children to be prepared for the next grade. In light of brick and mortar schools closing and parents (and teachers) being thrown into a world of virtual learning, I have seen that concern from parents increase. Be assured the teachers and staff are anticipating a new beginning to the school year. Elementary teachers are aware that more students than in previous years may struggle to say “goodbye” to their parents those first few weeks of school. Our approach to beginning the school year will reflect this change. Older grades are also anticipating students who, under normal circumstances, may have no problems saying “goodbye”, experiencing anxiety or fear at the start of this year. As teachers prepare for this fall, the emotional needs of our students will be at the forefront. This will be a transition back to school that is unprecedented. Your child’s emotional needs should also be at the forefront of your mind as well. The academics will come. As teachers, we anticipate students who have not mastered all the previous grade level material. We are aware some content areas were never taught in a traditional sense. It is okay. We are preparing and adjusting to fill in those gaps. Don’t spend this summer worrying about if your child is prepared for the next grade academically. They are prepared. It might look different than previous years, but they are ready for the next grade. To help your child be prepared academically, the best thing, the most important thing, you can do this summer is read. Read to your child and with your child. Have your child read independently. If your child is not yet reading, they are still a reader. Read together through storytelling, read the pictures by labeling what you see, study the pictures in nonfiction books to discover something new. Read daily and your child will be ready for the next school year. Spend time this summer, especially the weeks leading up to the return to school, exploring the emotions of returning to school. Don’t start the night before school starts. This is a big transition as many students have been away from school for five or six months. Here are some ideas to help you and your child prepare for the return to school.

  • Create a social story to read the weeks leading up to the return to school –  Include how your child will get to school, things they will do at school, and how they will get home, reassuring them they will see you at the end.
  • Visit the school – you will probably not be allowed inside but you can help your child be familiar with the outside/location. For older elementary students, talk about the areas of the school. Do they have a special wing for each grade level? Where is the art room or gym in the school? Help them to realize they are more familiar with the school than their emotions may be telling them.
  • Create a goodby routine – For example, hug, kiss, I love you and then mom/dad leaves. Keep it short and sweet. As a teacher, I see how dragging out the goodbyes makes it more difficult for the child. I understand it is difficult to leave your child in tears, but staying an additional 5, 10, or 15 minutes will not calm your child, it will only build up the inevitable of you leaving. Teachers and pupil services will be on hand to help your child regulate their emotions. But to do that, the parents must leave. Discuss this routine with your older children, too. They might surprise you and want a hug goodbye to start the year. Maybe they want the hug and kiss at home before you drive them to school. Talk it through with them.
  • Create a morning routine – For some children a visual schedule can be extremely helpful. Have pictures showing the steps for how they will get ready in the morning.
  • Role play – Practice what the morning routine will be and how/where you will say goodbye. You could also role play asking a friend to join in a game or how to ask to join others in an activity.
  • Talk about their feelings – If your child has been in school before there will be excitement but also apprehension about the change. Emotions can coincide together, and that’s healthy. Encourage your child to talk through the different feelings towards returning to school.
  • Understand it will take time to transition smoothly back to school.
  • As a parent stay calm, but don’t pretend –  Your child will read your anxiety. If you are anxious about the return to school, they will be too. Do your research to calm your own anxiety. Find out what steps your school is taking to keep your child safe. Most school districts have a school or district wide nurse. They are hard at work this summer working with the school and state to make sure students are returning to safe environments.
  • Be patient with teachers/administrators –  We don’t have all the answers, especially in this situation. This is uncharted territory for staff as well. Ask questions, reach out to your child’s teacher, but understand they might not have the answers either, and that’s okay.
  • Don’t make promises to your child about what they will and won’t be able to do at school. Special classes, lunch, recess, and classroom set up may all be very different. Many administrators don’t know what the fall will look like. This school year will be different. To what degree depends on your State, County, and/or school district guidelines, which no one can predict.

I hope these wise and timely words from Alison leave you feeling prepared to navigate the waters ahead. At the end of the day, remember to extend grace to yourself, your child, and your school’s teachers/administrators. We are all in this together, and we all want the best, safest environment for our children. 

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in comfortzone, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, goals, grief, isolation, motherhood, parenting, relationships, social distancing, therapy, trauma, values

Hitting Reset

None are excused from the challenges of this season.  The wealthy, the healthy, the married, the single, the successful, and the impoverished are collectively walking through one of, if not the most challenging time in a generation.  Increased weight lays on the shoulders of those in leadership positions as they seek to determine the best course for those in their sphere.  For those special people that call themselves educators; grief, uncertainty, and adaptability demand their attention.  For those medical personnel that are the very ones that fight this pandemic daily; anxiety, exhaustion, and caregiver burnout run thick in their presence.  For the parents that can’t find a moment to themselves and are struggling to meet the umpteen needs that arise within an hour, the mundane, insecurity, and human weakness call for one to expend every last drop of energy and patience. For the single person at home, face-to-face human connection has ceased altogether.  Though in many different forms, this pandemic has brought a halt to our preferences and routines that once helped us lead the life we desired and valued.

Just four and a half months ago we walked into 2020, pondering, discussing, and naming what he hoped or expected the year would have in store for us.  Some of us chose a specific word, goals, and desires for how we hoped this year would look different.  We identified some ways we wanted to take initiative in our lives and shape our lives to align with our values, priorities, and desires.

The current pandemic infuses our homes with tension and our hearts with grief. But for those willing to see, this time brings with it the gift of perspective. It is a magnifying glass for our lives, so to speak, to help us better appraise what is most dear to us, what is most challenging to us, and what is creeping in unwarranted and stealing precious moments from us.  Insight that we did not have just a few months ago has been given.  Complacency and busyness no longer plague our society and hinder our growth.  Our busyness has ceased, our culture has shifted, and we have this small moment in time to evaluate our values and priorities and implement some necessary changes to lead the intentional, value-driven life we desire to lead.  In assessing our different areas of development (physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and relational), what are the areas that need evaluation with your newly gifted magnifying glass?

Have you found yourself in a cycle of over-eating, emotion-eating, slothfulness, or maybe just a few too many alcoholic beverages?  Do you have a sense that your emotional health and strategies for coping could improve?  Have you put off spiritual disciplines or seeking Christ altogether because of a past hurt or because it’s just not convenient?  Have you had a hard time taking control of your spending, Starbucks attendance, or seeking therapy in retail?  Have you noticed that your relationships are rocky, your friendships are surface-level, or your parenting could use some attention?  

Yeah? Me too.  Never has your social calendar been so free that you can focus more on your exercise routine.  Never has your insight been so clear on what flusters you the most.  Rarely is it so apparent that the world offers little and Christ is the only hope.  There are few opportunities to curb your shopping and eating out habits.  And there is no better time to commit to authenticity, break through the painful patterns, and create beautiful community.

This season brings, along with it’s pain and grief, an opportunity to hit the reset button.  It won’t be easy to align your days to how you imagined and desired them to be long ago when you chose the path that you are currently on.  Mamas, in the midst of the trials, grief, and fear, I challenge you to use this opportunity to improve in the areas you long to be stronger.

Walking the path and pressing “reset” with you,

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

Posted in coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, motherhood, parenting, social distancing, therapy

All the Feels: practicing emotion regulation in a time of uncertainty

All the feels.  All of them… or so it seems.  After the rapid changes, cancellations, social-distancing, decision-making, scrambling to meet work and school requirements, rushing to gather food and supplies that could be necessary, and facing potential loss of job and income, it’s normal to be left feeling all the feels.  This pandemic has left us all in uncharted waters.  And for many, that means responding to day to day life scenarios in less than helpful ways.  Tempers shorten, patience withers away, frustration boils over, grace is in short supply, and peace remains just out of reach.  When experiencing an influx of emotions, we must harness them and use them for the wonderful and helpful tool they are, lest they run amok and cause unintended damage.  

Emotions themselves are not bad, though they can often feel that way.  Emotions are intended to serve as a check-engine light for the soul.  When the check engine light appears on your car, you schedule a time for someone to take a look under the hood. To ignore it is to risk further, and much more costly, damage to your vehicle.  Emotions are our check-engine lights.  When they’re firing off, it’s time to take a look under the hood, lest we endure more costly and long term damage.  So what should you do when you notice your check-engine light is on? Ask yourself these three diagnostic questions to get things back on track. Free worksheets are available below to help guide you and your child through this process.

Adult Emotion Check-In Worksheet

Feelings Check-In Worksheet for kids

What are you feeling?  

You have probably experienced a plethora of emotions over the last week of rapid change and global concern.  Don’t leave the emotions swirling around unnamed.  Take a moment to tame your emotions by naming what you’re feeling.  By labeling a feeling, our emotional response is calmed and we gain control and insight to move forward. 

What are you thinking?  

Emotional reactions are most often a product of the thoughts we allow to take up residence in our minds.  Have you ever willed yourself to do or not do something? How did you do that? How did you create the inner determination to accomplish what you set out to accomplish?  You thought your way to it.  You changed your thought from, “I have to have that piece of cake,” to “I will not eat that cake.  I will not eat that cake.  I will not eat that cake!”  The same is true for any emotion.  They are born of our thoughts.  After you identify what you’re feeling, take a moment to investigate what thought gave birth to that emotion. 

What can you change? 

Now that you know the source of your feeling, you can more easily regulate your emotions by examining the thought. Once you’ve identified the thought, ask yourself, Is this thought true, helpful, realistic, and kind? If not, consider alternative thoughts or how you might modify the through so that is true, helpful, realistic, and kind. 

Taking the time to do an emotional check-in can make a dramatic difference.  If you notice yourself cringing at the thought of writing out your thoughts and feelings in this format, then I urge you: journal, draw, paint, talk to a friend (at least 6 feet away, for now), just find some way that allows you to regulate “all the feels” and navigate the waters ahead.  If you experience higher anxiety than most, it might be helpful to take breaks from media, your phone, and even thinking about the current pandemic.  Set times to break from the information when appropriate and enjoy your family, nature, or being creative.  Laugh and be active.  Enjoy the life that is yours today.

Navigating all the feels with you,

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

Resources

Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond (2nd ed.). Guilford Press. 

Bradberry, T. & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego: Talent Smart.

Siegel, D. J. & Bryson, T. P. (2011). The Whole-Brain Child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind. New York: Random House. 

Posted in emotion regulation, motherhood, parenting, trauma

Hope in the Darkness

Trauma. Just the word evokes an array of emotions. You have your own feelings and thoughts when you hear this word. Darkness can and often does surround when trauma occurs. As parents we never want our children to experience any sort of trauma, and the idea of this can simply unravel of us.

I am not getting into any specific types of trauma in this post. If you have been following along in this series, you know we have defined types of trauma and how to heal from any trauma in your own upbringing or adult life. I aim to provide a clear path to help you be your best self if your child has experienced any sort of traumatic event.

OXYGEN

When we do not have enough oxygen, we cannot see clearly and are likely to only see the darkness. If you have ridden on an airplane, you know that the flight attendant directs parents travelling with small children to first place the oxygen mask on themselves then on the child in the event of an emergency. I never understood this growing up. It seems counterintuitive as parents seem to first think about their children. Bottom line if a parent does not have air, they cannot help their child. So put on your own emotional oxygen mask and breathe so that you can be there physically, spiritually, and emotionally when your child is hurting.

This will likely look like getting some professional help yourself in addition to getting professional help for your child. You may need extra support from family or friends. Taking care of yourself will mean doing the fun and stress reducing things to keep yourself afloat. We need these pleasant activities the most when we feel like doing these the least. So exercise, journaling, spending time with God, listening to music, art, or whatever may soothe you is needed.

THERMOSTAT PARENTING

When you are able to breathe, you can be present with your child. They may want to talk a lot. They may not want to talk. They may be avoidant or overly clingy. They may avoid expressing emotion or they may be very emotional. They are hurting and you are hurting, but you are doing enough to take care of you so that you can take care of them.

One of the hardest jobs as parents is to regulate our own emotions when our kids’ emotions are dysregulated. Picture yourself as a thermostat. It sets the temperature for the environment. It does not vary like a thermometer that simply matches the temperature of the environment. The more you can regulate like a thermostat, the more available you will be to your child. This does not mean that you cannot show emotion or have a meltdown. You may need to have a good long cry in private to feel better so that you can soothe them. Tend to your emotions individually and then tend to your child’s needs and feelings.

HOPE

I pray that you are not in a season of trauma and will not be, but if you are or you have a friend that is, do not lose heart. Do not lose hope. If I did not have hope and know evidence based practices to help people heal, I could not do my job. As a counselor, I see so much pain. Please know that pain can be worked on and through. Love your child, be present with them, and know that with your support and the right help they can be okay. The process of healing is a journey and takes work but is so worth the time put in.

As a Christian counselor, I often give clients Bible versus to meditate on. I will leave you with one that I have given to people who have experienced trauma. I hope that you can claim a verse or quote that will provide hope in your life too.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Hoping through the hurting,

Andrea

Posted in back to school, counseling, emotion regulation, parenting

Morning Meltdowns and Afternoon Attitudes

I truly hope your family’s back to school experience is consisting of melodious mornings and amicable afternoons! You know the ones with your kids enjoying breakfast together and playing outside after they have finished their homework. If your school year is starting off in a wonderful way, treasure it! However, for those of you who are already exhausted with school mornings and afternoons, this post is for you!

MORNING MELTDOWNS

Mornings can be hard for all of us. The waking up, getting it all ready, getting out of the door and where we need to be on time, and oh yeah, tending to the various emotions of our kids as well as our own. Mornings can especially exhausting when you have a child who is experiencing anxiety or anger about the school day. This can often trigger our own emotions leaving us feeling frustrated and hopeless as the day is only beginning. Here are some ideas to reduce and help you through morning meltdowns.

Structure Your Morning

If you, the parent, are overwhelmed, angry, anxious and stressed, these emotional states can certainly affect and almost be absorbed by your child. Prep the night before to reduce stress and rushing in the morning. Get up early enough to get yourself together and settled before meeting all of your kids’ needs. If you have a minute, do something to relieve your own anxiety. Exercise, devotional, and meditation are some morning stress reducers for me. Do your best to establish a set routine to create consistency and predictability, which can reduce stress for everyone.

Keep It Encouraging

Talk about things to look forward to in the day. If talking about the day causes too much anxiety for your child, talk about what you are looking forward to doing after school or on the weekend. Connect over getting ready or eating breakfast. There is nothing wrong with having an incentive if a child is really struggling with the back to school transition. In my family, we listen to uplifting music in the car, say a prayer for the day, talk about friends at school, set an incentive if necessary, and say, “You’re going to have a great day.”  

Make Space for Meltdowns

Mornings may be hard for your child. If they are, there is hope that they will get smoother with time and making some changes suggested in the above two sections. I would recommend not expecting a miraculous change when you wake up each morning though. If mornings are hard, anticipate it, know what you need to do to stay calm, and connect with your child through the meltdown. In The Whole-Brain Child (I highly recommend this book, by the way!) by Siegel and Bryson, they recommend the strategy of connect and redirect. Authors state, “When a child is upset, logic often won’t work until we have responded to the right brain’s emotional needs.” Connect with your child’s emotion and provide empathy first, then work on some logical ways to calm down.

AFTERNOON ATTITUDES

Afternoons can be unpredictable. You wonder what mood your child will be in after school and what their day was like.  You can get a great report from the teacher or their conduct sheet, and suddenly, when at home your child goes from being Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. What happened to the child who kept it together at school and is now talking back and crying? Talk about confusing! Here are some things to know.

After-School Restraint Collapse

Don’t take it personally or even disrespectfully if your child needs sometime to unwind afterschool and process their day.  Most of the time your kids work really hard to keep it together during the day so they don’t get in trouble with teachers or jeopardize friendships. When they are with you, all bets are off. You are safe. You aren’t going anywhere. I often refer to parents as the emotional punching bag, because you are a safe target. They can let those feelings out they have been bottling up all day. This is called after-school restraint collapse.

 It may come across as yelling or crying, but rather than shutting them down, try the connect and redirect approach with them. What you may learn is that they thought they did well on a test but didn’t, one of their friends stopped talking to them for an unknown reason, or something embarrassing happened in front of their whole class. Connect with their feelings and listen, then once the emotion has subsided redirect with some ideas to help them process feelings without using you as an emotional punching bag in the future. Expect that this after-school restraint collapse may be more prominent when the school year is starting.

Listen and Reflect in the Afternoon

Instead of bombarding your child with questions ask a specific question or tell them how glad you are to see them. Let them breathe. Often times we are well intentioned wanting to hear all about our child’s day but to them all of the questions feel pressure filled and like they are on trial. I know I wouldn’t like it if someone fired questions at me when I was trying to decompress from my workday. Once they are more relaxed and have time to unwind they may be more likely to talk about their day. If you have time to play with them, do something fun, or complete a task together as children may open up more in side-by-side tasks than conversation.

Journeying with you,

Andrea

For more reading on the after-school restraint collapse, check out this article:

https://www.mother.ly/child/if-your-child-falls-apart-after-school-theres-a-good-reason-why

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.