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.

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. 

 

 

 

Routines and Schedules

Routines and Schedules

It is times like this that I want to go back to my past self and give myself a high five!! The routines we put in place when our son was 3 years old or younger are still in place with some minor changes through the years and they are still working well!! Bliss I tell you!

A routine is a series of things we do before or after an event. A schedule is based on set times certain events occur.

Schedules and Routines both have their place.

I find that set schedules do not work as well with infants but having a variety of routines in place does work really well.

We have a screen time schedule here which works like a charm! Our son watches a show about 8 am, 11 am (when he is home), and 4 pm. We do have to be a bit flexible but we put in this place we would focus hugely on watching his programs. Once the set times were in place the constant asking for a show came to a complete stop. My response is “yes you can at __ time” After staying consistent with this for a while he really took to it.

I often have parents ask why their child is so well-behaved at daycare or school and not as much at home. The first thing is that children will unload their feelings at home where they feel safe. The second thing is that there is a great deal of structure with routines and schedules so the children know what to expect.

I often recommend that parents maintain similar schedules and routines at home.

You may find that you continue certain routines from your childhood. It is really cool how routines and schedules can really help children feel safe, secure, and be willing to do the steps without even realizing it.

I have to admit that our morning routine is my favorite.

Morning routine:

  1. Come in and give mom a hug
  2. Bathroom
  3. Snuggles with Mom and/or Dad
  4. Get Dressed
  5. Start watching You-Tube (Pause when breakfast is ready)
  6. Eat Breakfast
  7. Call Grandma
  8. Brush Teeth
  9. Put on socks
  10. Finishing watching You-Tube while getting the outdoor gear on
  11. Out the Door

It typically is very smooth and we have been doing a routine similar to this since he was 3!

There are a few things that you can do to help your child get familiar with a routine.

  1. Be consistent
  2. Use visuals (written list for older children and list using pictures for younger children)
  3. Use verbal reminders
  4. Use a timer to remind your child when they have to move to the next step

You can use routines throughout your day! Have fun fitting in the routines and do not forget to make them a little fun for your child as well!!

If you would like some help figuring out how routines and schedules can help your family, please feel free to book a free 15 minute consult to ask how I can help. You can book the free call by clicking on the following link https://calendly.com/brenda-mcsween/15min.

Below is the video I did and based this blog post on. Feel free to listen…​

“Turn off my brain”

“Turn off my brain”

The first time our son said “Mommy can you help me turn off my brain” my heart felt like it weighed 1000lbs. I scooped him up and gave him a huge hug. We chatted for a bit and I introduced a few techniques to teach him how to stop the racing thoughts he was experiencing (more on this later).

Our son has always been a young one that thought things through or over thinks. I have had to have many conversations with him that his friends have just not asked. Saying things like “that will not happen” or “do not worry about that” just does not work.

Here is an example of something he has said:

I am giving him his snuggle before bed and he was about 5 years old. I was going out with a friend that evening. He says “what happens if you do not come home?” and I reply “I will”. Then he says “what if you do not?”. Knowing him I then said, “Your Daddy will take care of you”. You can imagine the next question, “what if something happens to Daddy?”.

Okay, time to pick up my heart off the floor and cancel my night out.

That would have been one solution. Instead, we talked about the plan of who would care for him if something happened to one or both of us. This helped him and he was able to go to sleep. Taking the time to process and not get frustrated was key in this situation.

It does seem like a number of these conversations come up at bedtime. I could be extremely frustrated by bedtime stalling but instead, I choose to see that bedtime is when he lays there and thinks. (This could be a family trait 🙂 )

 
So what do I do to help him??

Well, I have taught him some strategies to change his thought patterns. How do you do this with a child?

1. Hear what he has to say.

2. Be Empathetic: “that sounds scary”, “wow that is hard”, “that is a yucky thought”.

3. Offer comfort: “would you like a hug”.

4. Get him to think about something funny or guide him to happier thoughts.

5. Turn on a guided meditative story so he has something else to focus on.

6. Check in after a few minutes to let him know I am there

7. Move on

 
Some additional strategies:

1. Talk Time: Have a time you set aside each day for your child to discuss anything that is bothering them. We do this at supper.

2. Worry Box: your child can write down or draw (or have you write down) their worries and put the papers in a box.

3. Worry Dolls or Rocks: Give your child a small rock or doll to tell their worries too. Then the item gets placed in a safe place (under their pillow or and the dresser). The item takes the worries from the child.

4. Deep Breathing: “smell the flower and blow out the candle”.

5. Guided meditation: There are a number of good apps that can help you teach your child how to meditate or you can lead by example.

 

If you have a little thinker and would like more support feel free to join Parenting Foundations Membership or book a free 15-minute call to learn how you can work with Brenda from Parenting Foundations.

My new BFF..

My new BFF..

Time!!!

 

Throughout the past few years as a parent, I have learned to embrace time and all that it can help me with. Do not get me wrong there have many days where I feel that time is against me; however, for the most part, Time and I are BFFs.

How do I use the time to my advantage as a parent?

1. I am constantly keeping in mind the amount of time my child (or your child 🙂 ) is awake for. By adjusting your child’s wake time it can assist with night wakings, difficulties with your child going to sleep, and short naps. Here is a link to a Wake Times Chart.

2. Setting a timer as a reminder for me or our little man. I felt like I was a broken record at times when our young man was a Toddler or Preschool Aged Child. “It’s time to….” I began setting a timer and stating “when the timer goes off please go to the bathroom”. He would not fight with the timer.

3. Making cleaning up fun! I would set a stopwatch on my phone and time how fast our young man could pick up his toys. He loved this game so much that now he sets his own watch to try to beat the clock!

4. Give me extra time to get out the door. I will start the process of leaving the house 10 minutes before I have to as it seems to be a law that someone will have to use the bathroom on the way out the door. It is not always the youngest member of the family!

5. I keep in mind that it can take 3 to 4 weeks for a behavior to really change and often I will not see the complete change until the 6 to the 8-week mark. This allows me to cut myself some slack.

6. Our young man has specific times a day that he gets to watch a television show. He watches 2 to 3 shows a day at 8:00 am, 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. Why did I do this? Simple, to stop the “I want to watch a show”!! My answer now is “you certainly can at (insert proper time)”. When I do not have to say No as often the whining reduces.

7. Using a clock to assist with our young man knowing what time he can get up. He had a Gro-Clock for a long time. I put the brightness on zero and then the clock only came on when it was time to get up. Now that he understands time, he has an alarm clock. The alarm clock has red lights for the numbers (Red light does not interrupt the production of melatonin).

Do you have any additional way you use the time to your advantage? I would love to hear about them. Please place your answers in the comment section below this post.

Back to School Sleep Tip

Back to School Sleep Tip

It is that time of the year where our little ones are preparing to go to school or go back to school. The first thing I get a number of questions about is how to get your child prepared to get the amount of sleep he needs each night.

When summer hits we often fall off our routines. This is pretty common and honestly, it is to be expected. If you child is going to bed later and waking up later than he needs for school you can help him get back on track.

 
Where do you start?

The first thing that I recommend that you do is to figure out what time your child needs to be going to bed to get the recommended amount of sleep that he needs.

Here is a link that can help you figure out how much sleep your child needs Recommended Hours of Sleep. Keep in mind your child may need more or less sleep than a child that is the same age as your child. So trust your gut instincts on the exact amount of sleep that is best for your child.

Keep in mind your child may need more or less sleep than a child that is the same age as your child. So trust your gut instincts on the exact amount of sleep that is best for your child.

 
Now What?

Now you know how much time your child should be sleeping so the next thing to look at is what time does your child have to be awake to get where they need to be in a timely fashion without you having to rush them out the door (stay tuned for a post about how to get them out the door with your patience and hair intact).

Let us say for example you need to be out the door by 8:00 am so you decide that 7:00 am is a good time for your child to get up.

Currently, your child is getting up around 9:00 am. There are 2 ways you can approach this change:

Cold Turkey:

The weekend before school you can just cold turkey wake your child up at 7:00 am and start your day. I do recommend giving him a few days to adjust before going to school which is why I recommend starting on the weekend. Then have bedtime at the time you figure he needs to be able to get proper rest.

Gradually:

Right about now you can start waking your child up 15 minutes before he usually wakes up. Bedtime will be 15 minutes before he usually goes to sleep. Then every 3 to 4 days, change wake-up and bedtime by 15 minutes. Continue this approach until you reach the desired times.

Be prepared for some protest from your child. Reminding your child that you are doing this to help him get ready for school can have a positive effect on the push back you may receive.

Have fun preparing for back to school!