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.

What is a Secure Base?

What is a Secure Base?

When a child feels connected and secure with their relationship with a parent or caregiver they can do amazing things.

 
Feels secure??

In recent years, there has been a great deal of emphasis on the importance of a child feeling attached or secure in a relationship with a caring adult and the impact it has on the child’s ability to explore and navigate the world.

So what does it mean to feel secure….

When a child knows that no matter what happens, their mom, dad, or other caregiver is there for them, the child has a sense of security. This security leads to a child having a “secure base”.

I like to describe the secure base as something similar to the foundation of a house. When the foundation is solid you can always rebuild the walls, roof, or re-wire.

The same goes for a secure base in regards to a child. When a child knows that their mom, dad, or other caregiver has their back they are able to try new things, explore their environment, or take risks.

This can also lead to a child unloading unwanted feelings onto their secure base.  

They will check back in with their secure base often.

There are so many examples of this!

The best example I saw just the other day was a little man, that had never seen me before, entered the room with his mom to attend one of my talks. He went and sat by his mom, he would not go out to play with the others. Once he settled in he began to venture away but would run back to her to check-in and then off he would go.

 

I often hear from people that are getting frustrated that their child is unloading their feelings on them. Once I explain that it is because the child knows that they can be open and honest with their secure base, it often changes their perspective. The frustration can still remain because it can be draining.

One thing you can do to decrease the unloading on you is to set your child up with a few secure bases so their emotional load is reduced if you are not present. Great examples of others that can (and should fill this role) are teachers, school support staff, child care providers, coaches, and friend’s parents.

The first 2 months of school are usually very difficult for our son. He does not feel like he has a secure base until he gets to know his teacher. His teachers are now aware of this and they assist with coming up with a plan of how he can check in with his teacher from the previous year during the first 2 months back to school. This has been a game-changer for us.

Feel free to send me a message if you would like more information about ways you can help your child feel secure.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia

Sensory Play: Let them Smell, Touch, Hear, Taste and See

Sensory Play: Let them Smell, Touch, Hear, Taste and See

There are a number of sensory play ideas that can be found on Pinterest or by following a number of different Facebook pages/groups. What is the big deal and really who has time for this???

When our little man was an infant or toddler, I often beat myself thinking I did not prepare enough activity for him. The fact is kids can have fun and enjoy a variety of different experiences without much work from you. Sensory-based activities are the smells, sounds, touch, taste, and sites your child is exposed to.

Sensory activities do not have to be elaborate. Children benefit from changes in the sensory input and output that they are getting. These activities can reduce boredom, calm children, or rev them up. You will soon discover what results your child will get from certain activities.

 

Here are some fun and easy ideas..

 
1. Making a fort

Throw a blanket over a chair or table and let your child explore.

2. Throw down a tunnel

You can get a collapsible tunnel that you let your little one explore through. For added fun, you can attach it to a fort.

3. Make your own ball pit

Throw a bunch of plastic balls in an indoor tent, blow up wading pool or large plastic container.

4. Climbing in and out of containers

If you have some empty containers your child can climb in to let him. There were many of times I would turn away for a moment and look back to see that our young man was sitting in the container of toys.

5. A bowl of ice cubes or snow

Let your child play with ice cubes or snow. You can give them a truck or some cars to drive through the ice or snow. You can offer mittens for them to use while playing.

6. Baking

Let’s be real! Baking for little ones is all about eating what you are trying to bake with. This is a great chance for them to learn how different things taste and a great opportunity to learn how to properly test food.

7. Water Play

Fill up the sink and let them play. I would throw a towel on the floor so I would not have to worry about a wet floor. This would (and still occupies) our young man when I was trying to cook or clean up the kitchen. He wanted to be involved so I would throw plastic containers and plates in the sink to be “washed”. Now at 6, he can legitimately wash dishes!

You can also add a number of items to the water to make it a different experience. A favourite in the Toddler Room I worked in was a plastic doll the children could wash. A favourite here was when we would throw in some plastic dinosaurs.

8. Goop

This is when you add 2 parts of cornstarch to one part water. Be prepared to have a fun experience!! When you touch it, it seems hard but when you pick it up it melts 🙂

I love Goop but this was not something our little man enjoyed.

9. Smelling Spices

It is just as easy as it sounds! Let your child smell different spices. If you are up for it let your child taste the different spices as well, Get your camera ready as there may be some weird expressions!!

10. Building with cans

I would put some cans on the carpeted floor and let him build with them. I would show him how to do it and then he would get creative. This did not always keep his attention for long but it changed his mood (and mine for the matter).

11. Make music!

Pots and pans are awesome for this. I would bring out a bunch of pots and wooden spoons and let him hit them. to reduce how loud things would get I would put a dishcloth inside the pot to reduce the noise.

 

These examples were very basic. You can get way more elaborate but at the end of the day if your child is happy or at least had a few happy moments your job is done for the day!!

 

The video below is a video I did to explain how to make sensory bins. It will help you establish your own bins that can help meet your child’s sensory needs. 

 

 

 

How to Talk to a Toddler…

How to Talk to a Toddler…

 

Toddlers are wonderful little humans that are learning their way in the world.

I get a number of messages from parents asking how to handle their toddler (and/or preschooler’s) behaviour. Toddlers can be very difficult to parent; however, it is important to remember that they may be acting out because they are going through a difficult moment. There are a number of things you can do to reduce the number of “moments” your child is having. I have found that once you learn to communicate in an effective way that toddlers understand, life gets much smoother.

 

The following are some tips that have proven to be very helpful…

 

1. Reduce the number of times your toddler says “NO”.

When toddlers are given the chance to say “NO” they will use it! To avoid “no” responses try to avoid questions with a yes/no answer. For example: Instead of asking “would you like to go to the bathroom?” try stating “it is time to go to the bathroom”.

2. Offer choices that give the desired outcome.

When you let your toddler know that it is time to do something they may resist. Then you add some choices that give you the desired outcome. For example: When you let your child know it is time to go to the bathroom you could add “would you like to hop or run there”. Here are some other choices that were very commonly used in our house during the toddler stage:

  • you can walk forward or backward
  • you can hop like a bunny or leap like a frog
  • you can use a quiet voice or a loud voice
  • you can walk or I can carry you
  • you can be happy or sad
3. Toddlers are very concrete thinkers.

This means that toddlers think in the literal sense. You can use this to your advantage. When your child is running away and you ask your toddler to “Stop” and they do not. Try stating “Freeze your feet” or “stop your feet”. Then instead of “Come Here” try “please bring your feet to my feet”. Some other great examples of literal statements are as follows:

  • feet on the floor
  • bums on the chair
  • gentle hands
  • kind and friendly words
4. They have not yet developed the ability to categorize items.

Children will start to be able to categorize items between 5 to 6 years of age.

Toddlers can get confused or frustrated when you use a category of an item. For example: when I asked our son to go get his shoes.  He got to the spot where his shoes were and there are only flip flops there. He was very upset. “Mommy no shoes!”

I have spoken to many families that get very frustrated by this. When I point out it is because toddlers are very concrete it causes less stress in the home. Things to remember with this is that we can easily tell the difference between various sweaters but to Toddlers, a hoody is not a sweater. A fleece is a fleece and not a sweater. This all goes back to the fact that Toddlers think in the literal sense.

5. Last but most important, keep it short and to the point!

As an adult, we can drone on about a topic. This is a sure way to lose a child. Do not get me wrong, children love hearing about things they are interested in. Where you lose them is when you go on and on about how they should be doing something.

State what you would like them to do, then give them an opportunity to do it. If they are still not following through then this leads to the topic of dealing with a child’s behaviour.

 

If you would like more support on how to talk so your toddler can listen, you and click on the work with me tab above and choose the option that suits you.

 

As Always, Be the Parent You Want to Be!!

 

 

Lessons I Learned from Dad

Lessons I Learned from Dad

This post was originally titled “The best gifts I received…” and was written weeks after I lost my dad in December 2018. I feel that this needs a title change to be repurposed to celebrate Father’s Day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved writing it. I still remember the tears streaming down my face as I wrote it and it is having the same effect today.

Take the time to celebrate the Fathers that were or are in your life.

Original post as follows…..

This time of year can be very difficult when you have lost a loved one. Recently, my father passed away. Going into the holiday season I am choosing to look at the gifts he gave me. It is my sincere desire to pass these gifts on to our children as well.

My father was a very kind-hearted, caring, and funny man. As we were preparing to lay him to rest, I had the opportunity to reflect on all the “gifts” I received from him.

 

1. “Do Your Best”

In school, I struggled academically at times. My dad would ask “did you do your best?”. If I answered “yes” or if he saw me try hard he would focus on that.

I was never ashamed to bring home my report card. He would praise me for my hard work, effort, and honesty. The fact I got a 52 was an amazing accomplishment for me in grade 10 English. My friends may or may not have used erasable ink to change the marks on their report cards. They would hand me the pen and I would decline. I knew that my dad would be proud!

I did my best. He did not compare me to anyone else. He knew what was an accomplishment for me and he praised me for that.

 

2. “No matter what”

Ever since I was a little girl, my dad would let me know that no matter what was going on he would be there for me. I knew that no matter what was going on in my life my dad would be there to listen or cheer me up.

Mistakes were made. I had some hard times but my dad’s love was always there. He received a number of calls early in the morning or late at night.

I certainly hope our little man feels that I will be there for him no matter what!!

 

3. Serve others

Our dad taught us the importance of serving others when we were very young. He taught us by leading a life where he served others.

My dad was a military veteran that proudly served his country for 28 years. When he was not working you would often find him volunteering in the community somewhere or helping out a friend or family member.

A good example of my dad helping others was when he climbed a ladder to help with building a roof on my cousin’s house. He did not leave the ladder but he did what he could from there. What some people did not know was that my father was deeply afraid of heights but he climbed that ladder and helped out where he could. Another example is when my dad chased a recruit into the ocean to prevent him from hurting himself even though my dad was afraid of the water.

During the visitation at the funeral home, many people shared stories of the things my dad did to help others. My dad loved to serve others and has taught all of his children the importance of helping others and doing onto to others what you would like done onto you.

 

4. “Make the best of it”

There are times when it can be really hard to find the positives in some situations but this is one of the best gifts my dad taught me and my siblings. No matter how crappy things got my dad would find the positive in that situation.

My brother summed this point up well when he wrote the following about a lesson our dad taught him…

“..there will always be times of stress and frustration but you must always keep a positive attitude, a good sense of humor and everything else will take care of itself”

I have many memories of my dad talking me through the tough times. He would say “keep your chin up”! No matter what happened I knew that I would be able to persevere through it as I kept my chin up and powered through it.

 

So as we approach this holiday season please take the time to reflect on the gifts you have already received and the gifts you would like to pass on to your child(ren). Yes, I have every reason to be sad and upset; however, I am choosing to reflect on the gifts I have received!

Take care and as always, Be the Parent you want to be!!

Happy Father’s Day!!!!

Today is Kid Glove Day!

Today is Kid Glove Day!

I am declaring that today, March 15th is International “Kid Gloves Day”.

 

You may have heard the saying “handle them with kid gloves”. When we are handling someone or something with Kid Gloves, we are being gentle, kind, and caring. This is a good motto for every day; some days this is key.

I think you know what I mean, there are some days that you just have to extra supportive and caring. We have many kid-glove days and moments in our home. It is not uncommon for me to say “today is a kid-glove kind of day”.

I can often tell by the look on our son’s face if kid-gloves are needed. Honestly, it can be heartbreaking when you see your little person’s face come out of the door from school and you can tell that it was a heavy/hard day. That is when you show up with a smile, open arms, and kid-gloves. I am never sure if this means we are staying longer to play after school or if we are beating the traffic home to have a snuggle and chat on the couch with our favourite snack in hand (usually dark chocolate).

 

Today, I believe the world could use a Kid Gloves Day. 

 

It has been a year since the whole world shifted into a pandemic mode. Hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and many food staples were being scooped up and hard to buy. They were flying off the shelves! People began to cover their faces and refrain from close contact.

We have seen a number of people dying, becoming ill, or being afraid of becoming ill. It has been hard, heavy, and frightening at times.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

We are beginning to see the numbers of infected people dropping drastically. People are not dying as often as they were before. Vaccinations are happening.

Our social interactions are still limited. Hand sanitizer is still used. Masks are pretty normal at this time (I really miss seeing all the facial expressions).

So today is treat each other with Kid Gloves Day!!

Smile even if your lips are covered as your eyes will smile too! Air Hugs and Air High Fives for the win!! Treat everyone with an extra little kindness and then feel that pressure lift off your shoulders!