Back to School During Covid Times

Back to School During Covid Times

 

Back to school season is upon us. Some children are already back to school and some are preparing for this adventure to begin! This can be a huge adjustment for our precious little ones. This year throws in a whole new level of adjustment.

Some children are going to school for the first time, some are returning after being away from in-person school for over a year, and others were in school but they have no idea what is going to happen at their school this year. The beginning of this school year may be very taxing for you and your child.

There are many things that you can do to help ease any anxiety.

Often our little ones do not have the words to express their worries, questions, fears, or excitement. This is why a safe place to let things out is important.

 

How can you help if they cannot tell you what they need?

First, it would be important to note that they are not trying to avoid talking.

I have spoken to many parents that get frustrated because their child has the words.  It appears that they are not using them.

Having the words is one thing, having the actual connections in the brain that allows the child to control their emotional responses is the issue. The part of the brain responsible for helping people to rationally talk and plan things out is not fully developed until the age of at least 25.

Yes, you read that correctly! At least the age of 25 is when the brain is fully developed. No, you do not need to wait until your child is 25 to help them learn skills to be able to cope with their big feelings. This is something that you can help with but it does take a great deal of patience.

 

What can you do to help??? 

The following are some things that you can do to help your child deal with the big emotions they may be experiencing in the evenings during the first few weeks back at school:

1. Be prepared: Be ready for emotional outbursts.

2. Label the feelings you see: “I can see that you are frustrated (or insert emotion here)…”. Understand that your child will say “NO I AM NOT……”

3. Do not take the outburst personally: Easier said than done but remind yourself that this is not about you at all. In fact, it is because your child feels connected to you that they are able to unload their feelings).

4. Bear Hugs: If your child is one that loves hugs, meet him with open arms! The pressure from the hug can be very calming.

5. Have a snack prepared: Hangry is a real thing! Anger is the secondary emotion that we can see when someone is hungry. (I pack snacks for all family members, not just the children)

6. Plan a low-key evening: This is not a great time to have a number of activities to do in the evenings that your child does not love doing (I do realize that this is hockey season for many families).

7. Put your phone or other electronics away: This is the time to give your child your full attention.

8. Have fun: Engage in some fun play or roughhousing. Laughter can be just as therapeutic as crying.

9. Child-Led Play: Let your child guide the play with you for about 10 to 15 minutes. This is when you do something that your child wants to do and you follow what they want. Child Directed play rocks because it can increase your child’s feeling of connection with you.

If all of the above is not working it could very well be that you need to create space for your child to unload their feelings.

 

What does unload their feelings mean??

This can look different for each child.

This often means that you allow your child the opportunity to cry, scream, yell, jump up and down, and do whatever your child does without hurting themselves or others.

(You may have to intervene if your child is hurting themselves or others)

By allowing a safe place for your child to unload their feelings you are giving them an opportunity to rid themselves of toxic stress. I refer to this as providing your child with a Safe Place to Land.

What do you do after the feelings have been unloaded?

You take your child’s lead. Your child may want to talk the stressors through or they want to move on.

If your child wants to process their feelings, it is important to empathize with them and then you can brainstorm with your child. You will brainstorm ways they can deal with their stress in a productive manner.

If your child wants to move on, allow that to happen. It is the same thing that happens when we as adults will vent our friends. We may drop a few f-bombs. After we are done talking we feel ready to move and do not have a need to discuss things at that time.

A little while after the meltdown or unloading happens, you can thank your child for letting you know how they were feeling and provide them with a few things they can try to reduce their stress.

Over the first few weeks of school be prepared to be the safe place for your child to land when needed and engage in lots of family time with low expectations.

Slowly over time, you will see a major reduction in your child’s emotional reactions. This will be your cue that your child is beginning to adjust to the new grade.

If the behavior does not change then feel free to reach out so we can chat (free 15-minute chat) about ways I can help.

Traveling with a Child

Traveling with a Child

Traveling with young children is an amazing opportunity to create so many memories with your children. The most memorable memories for you may be when your child is throwing himself/herself down on the floor in the airport or screaming bloody murder of the plane! Unfortunately, these things do happen!

Toddlers are going through some major developmental changes, which can contribute, to their increased tantrums. At this stage of development, our little ones have discovered that they can do things themselves. They have gone from having things done for them, to trying to figure out how to do things themselves. During this learning period, children will often throw a number of tantrums out of frustration, exhaustion, hunger, worrying about what is happening next, etc.

So how can you deal with these behaviors while you are traveling?

There are basically two types of strategies that you can use. These strategies can be broken down into 2 different types of reactions. The reactions are as follows:

1. Proactive Reactions:

A proactive reaction is when you consciously choose to do things that may help with your child’s feelings that can stop your child’s need to tantrum to express his/her feelings.

Some examples of Proactive Reactions are:

  1. Having snacks ready at any given moment. “Hangry” is a real thing.
  2. Giving your child reminders of what is happening next. Warnings of when they will have to transfer on to the plane. A warning before preparing for take-off and landing so the seat is in the right position.
  3. Play for a minimum of 10 minutes with your child. This is child-directed play! This can happen on the plane, in the airport, on the bus, in a vehicle, and so on. The child led play adds to your child’s feeling of connection with you. This simple act has a powerful impact on your child’s day.
  4. Bringing a transitional object with them like a blanket or stuffy that provides comfort when you can’t.
  5. Keeping to a routine that is similar to home when possible. This simply means having meals, snacks, and naps in the same order that they occur at home. I fully expect that these meals, snacks, and naps may be happening on the fly!

2. Reactive Reactions:

A reactive reaction is what you do after the tantrum has occurred or while it is in progress.

Some examples of Reactive Reactions are:

  1. Distraction is a common tactic used. There is a time and a place to use this technique. In the middle of a crowded area or in an unsafe place like the water or in the street. With the distraction, you may find that your child has a few more tantrums before he/ she seems ready to move on. I used to carry a few toys in my purse or backpack that I could pull out and use in these moments. If you are willing a movie or tv show can be a great distraction on the plane.
  2. Giving your child a few minutes on his/her own to calm down and process the moment. I personally find that timeouts are not effective when we are in a strange place. An alternative is to use time in. Time in is which is when you go with your child when he/she is taking a break away from the activity where the tantrum occurred.
  3. Letting the tantrum happen and then offering comfort when it is done. This can be referred to as offering connection. Children will often tantrum when they feel that their connection with a loved one has been affected.

As with all things related to children, you will find that some strategies work really well for one child and not well for another child. With time and patience, you will discover what works best for your child. I wish you all the best traveling with your child!

The Benefits of Imaginative Play

The Benefits of Imaginative Play

I really enjoy sitting back and watching our young man using his imagination. He is the type of child that will be sitting watching a movie then all of a sudden he starts to act it out. His imaginative play can be quite simple and sometimes he develops these grand stories that go along with his play.

What are the benefits of imaginative play?
1.  You get a real-life view of how your child is feeling or coping with a situation

If you sit back and watch or engage in your child’s imaginative play (letting your child take the lead) you will learn a great deal about how they are feeling. Play therapy is a tool that many therapists use with young children.

For example, our 5.5-year-old has been engaging in a great deal of play related to not being allergic to things. He has some anaphylactic allergies and some sensitivities. His play has indicated to me that he just wants to be able to eat what he wants. This play has allowed us to have many conversations about how “allergies suck but we can handle it”. This play gives him a chance to work out his frustrations with the allergies.

2.  You get to observe your child questioning his environment

Children are constantly watching and seeing how others react and interact in their world. Their minds are filled with wonder. Wondering why things are one way for one person but different for another person.

For example, our son pretends that he has another mother. He does not act out that he has another father. Should I be offended by this? No! This is his way of trying to figure out why his older brothers have 2 homes with 2 mother figures. We have had wonderful conversations about how lots of children have 2 homes. It can also lead to conversations about the different family dynamics that exist.

3.  You can role model how to act in various situations

Children are constantly looking to you for guidance in how to act or react in a situation. When children do not know what to expect in a certain situation you can teach them how to act or react by using imaginative play. This is referred to as role-playing.

Children learn a great deal through role playing. If your child is attending a doctors appointment you can role play with her what will happen and things that she may have to do like having her blood pressure taken. We recently had some role playing around getting a needle. Our son used to be great at getting bloodwork done. Well, needless to say, this is not the case anymore. I know he will have to get blood work in the next few months so we are preparing him through role-playing.

4.  You get a clear understanding of how your child views your behavior

Remember your child is often watching how you are behaving. If your child begins to act out in a certain way stop and check to see if your behavior is being mimicked. I have seen this a great deal as a parent and as a worker in the child development field. I have worked with a number of parents that were really frustrated with their child’s behavior. It became very clear that the child was acting just like his parent. Our little people can be a mirror of our behavior.

For example, I have the luxury of having people that come in to clean our house every couple of weeks. For awhile, I was noticing all the things that were being missed. I would make a statement that went something like this “man the cleaners…”. Fast forward a few weeks and when we walked in the door to a beautifully clean house my young man, then 4 years of age, would say “man the cleaners..” before I got a chance to even see what was happening. This made me stop and remember that having a cleaner is a privilege that I should be embracing and not be criticizing.

 

Hang on for the amazing ride!

When given the chance to use imaginative play, the sky can be the limit to what you learn and how creative your child will be.  Typically children begin to use imaginative play around the age of 18 months. You can sometimes see this at an earlier age. Usually, you will notice your little one pretending to be on the phone or using another object similar to the ones you use. When you start to see these behaviors, hang on and enjoy watching your little one be creative and explore the world with a different lense!

Feel free to join me in the forums to discuss your child’s imaginative play. I would love to hear stories that your child acts out.

Toddler Forum Preschool/School-Aged Forum

 

 

 

 

 

Tantrums: A Different Perspective

Tantrums: A Different Perspective

I have had the pleasure of working with Laura Karl and we share a similar belief system when it comes to tantrums. I am honoured to share her guest blog post with you.

How to respond to tantrums: a Holistic Life Coach’s perspective

Through my work at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, I have learned many many therapeutic interventions, but the most powerful one that I’ve learned through my Holistic Life Coaching practice and motherhood that can bring both the parent and child immediate relief is “holding the space”. When a child was in a full emotional meltdown, screaming and saying things they don’t mean, the only effective thing I could do in that moment was to find my centre, drop into my heart, be still, be calm, and just be there for the child. I would sit next to them and stay calm for the both of us.

I heard a great story tonight from one of my many life teachers. He told me a story about his dogs. He and his partner have 5 little dogs which they adore, but they like to bark for reasons they sometimes have no idea. He explained that he would respond by yelling back at them “hey stop it!”, “get back here”. Eventually, they went to a dog trainer for advice. The dog trainer told them that by yelling at them, you are essentially barking at them and they get the message from their pack leader that it is okay to bark. What the dogs actually need is a softer pack leader to stay calm so that they can return to a state of calm.

Now children obviously aren’t exactly like dogs, but the premise is the same. My child is still very young and although I am getting better at seeing the meltdown warning signs, it still seems to happen in the blink of an eye. In those moments when you observe their mood start to change and you’ve tried your best to keep the environment neutral, but a full on meltdown is already happening, the only thing you can do is hold the space. We parents want so badly to take the pain away for our children, which is a natural and very caring response. However, you can’t fight fire with fire right? Or all you are left with is fire! Get out of your head which is likely spinning with trying to figure this out, or to come up with solutions to make it stop, or wishing that this wasn’t happening yet again. Remember, kids are terrified of these feelings. They don’t want this any more than you do. So support them by taking a breath, dropping into your heart and finding your center, and just be there.

Okay parents, this takes practice! It’s not like you’re on some beach in Maui breathing in the salty fresh air, there is a child screaming in distress next to you. It’s like building any muscle and you have to work on it to get stronger. In those moments make sure the child is in a safe place, and then take a breath. Let the urge to fix or “bark back” wash over you – trust me, it will pass. Observe that urge, and then release it. You literally can feel the air change. In this moment, the most effective thing you can do is hold the space for your child. When they are ready, they will themselves release those emotions and be embraced by your calmness, lovingness, and peacefulness. Now breathe and give them and you a big hug.

With love,Laura

Laura Karl, mother, Holistic Life Coach, Registered Nurse

www.thecoachinyou.ca

Facebook: The Coach in You

Instagram: @thecoachinyou

When All Else Fails…

When All Else Fails…

Ask Another Expert! 

A few weeks ago I was out with our youngest and was approached by someone who was questioning if our son hit the boy she was caring for.  She actually questioned my 3 year old and not me. I was taken back. I did not know how to respond. I made sure our son was okay and reassured the caregiver that I would look into it.

After speaking with our 3-year-old, it was pretty obvious to me that he did not hit the other child.  Now having said that, I understand he may not want to admit that to me.  I spoke with the teacher and she did not witness any hitting; however, our son has an amazing imagination. Around this time he was enjoying acting like a “Ninja” (Thank-you to Disney’s Justin Time) or “Superhero”.  He would swing his arms but did not make contact.  This led us to a conversation about safe places to act like a ninja or superhero (watch out if you come to our house, a ninja may be present!).

I then got to thinking, what is the proper etiquette in situations like this?  So I contacted an Etiquette Consultant, Maria Doll from Leadership Matters.  

Maria Doll kindly agreed to do a guest blog post for Parenting Foundations.  http://www.leadership-matters.biz

 

 

What to do when your child gets accused of wrongdoing…

You’re at playgroup with your son/daughter and having a wonderful time visiting with other parents while enjoying the budding friendships between the preschoolers. Then all of a sudden…POP! The happy bubble gets burst by a dismayed grandparent who accuses your child of hitting their grandchild. Immediately, you question your child and they adamantly deny doing such a thing. What to do next???

Before letting tempers get out of hand, take a step back and realize that children even as young as 3 or 4 yrs old will tell fibs or even outright lies. Sometimes the fib is just part of their imaginative play and is quite innocent. For example, my son loved Spiderman. One day, he happened to mention over lunch time how after being bitten by a spider he had the power to levitate to the next floor of our house. He said this in all seriousness!

Apart from the fantasies, sometimes children will lie to please us. For example, they will tell us that they ate everything on their plate. But we can see that it’s not true.

As they mature, young children will begin to make the distinction between truth and fiction. They will try lying to get themselves out of experiencing unpleasant consequences. It’s wise not to overreact as we don’t want them to become adept at being dishonest.

A parent or even grandparent who says their child would never lie isn’t living in reality. In the case of the playgroup incident, the grandparent was not sure who to believe. If there were no witnesses to corroborate, the grandparent shouldn’t be accusing you or your child. A better approach would be to say something like, “My grandchild told me that your son hit him. Now, I’m not accusing your son. I’m just trying to find out what happened.” This helps to keep emotions under control and doesn’t make it personal. Hopefully, both of you can figure out what happened and clear the air, as necessary. Is one guilty or do both share some of the blame?

Perhaps the grandchild is trying to get some needed attention from his grandparent. So he made up a whopper to get just that. Often, parents/caregivers are completely wrapped up in their smart phones that their children are ignored at playgroups as well as playgrounds. This may have been the case.

For the good of the group, you should avoid getting into a debate especially if the grandparent becomes belligerent. Say something like, “Well, I don’t know what to say. I’ll speak to my son again about proper behavior at playgroup.” Leave it that and walk away. If you respond in any manner that sounds accusatory of the other woman’s grandchild, it’s a No Win situation. Maybe she’s right and your child did take a bit of a swat at the boy. Later on, when everything calms down, try gently questioning your child to get their perspective on what happened.

These are trying moments as parents and none of us like to see our children being accused of wrongdoing particularly if they are innocent. However, see these moments as teachable times to form the important virtue of honesty. Reward honesty whenever you see it in your children.

Thank you, Maria Doll for your wonderful insight!

Phew!  I did use the proper etiquette.  After looking into the incident a bit further I spoke with the caregiver again and explained what I had discovered.  I also kindly asked that she speak with me directly in the future as my son was quite upset and scared.  She was so apologetic and we have moved forward.  Next step is to get these 2 boys together at their own playdate!

 

 

Toddler Clock: A Parent’s Best Friend

Toddler Clock: A Parent’s Best Friend

 

Have you been dreaming of sleeping until at least 7:00 AM? Would you like to teach your child to sleep in a bit later?  I am hearing you yell, “YES!”

Using the Toddler Clock can Improve your sleep. I kid you not. A Toddler Clock can become your best friend.

I never thought I would love a gadget as much as I love our son’s clock.  There are times I would love to be able to give that clock a hug or a high five.

A good example would be this morning: I woke up at 6:40 AM and just wanted a few extra minutes of sleep.  I was drifting off when I heard our young man singing in his room.  I was able to rest as our son will stay in his bed until the “sun comes up.”  Bliss I tell you!

The bad news: It does not work for all children but it is worth a try.  I suggest introducing the clock around the age of 2 to 2.5. Also, just because it was not successful at one time it does not mean it will not be successful now.

 
Tips to increase success with the use of a clock

 

Find a clock that will not be too bright. Too much light can interrupt your child’s ability to produce the melatonin needed to have a good sleep.  Most clocks will have a setting where you can turn the brightness of the clock down.  Our son’s clock has the brightness turned down to zero so he cannot see the clock at night; however, the “sun” is bright in the morning.

Set the clock at their regular wake up time. This sounds a bit crazy but when you set the clock to their current natural wake up they will experience the success of waiting until the sun comes up.

Increase the time in 5 to 15-minute increments. Once your child has had a few successful days then change the time by 5 to 15 minutes. Then follow this process until you get to your desired time.

Immediate reward. Toddlers/Preschool-aged children do well with a reward they do not have to wait for. If you do not believe in reward systems, then stick with the verbal praise or gestures.  The reward can simply be praise, high fives, “happy dance”, stickers, or a tv show they like to watch.

 

The previous steps are the ones we used when we introduced the clock to our little man.  He was just about 2.  It took a few weeks of patience.  There have been times that we have not turned the clock on properly and he stayed in his bed for 30 minutes more than normal. I was amazed. Here is hoping you have great luck with a toddler clock as well. Happy sleeping, everyone!