Sunday, September 28, 2014

Anger Management strategies

It is important that students are aware of what makes them angry, how to recognize their own angry feelings in their bodies, and how to calm down.  Children who are good at emotion management can deal with strong emotions and express them appropriately.  Students are learning the anger management process at school through their weekly guidance lessons and supporting them at home will make these strategies even more effective.  The anger management process is the use of calming down techniques and problem-solving processes to manage angry feelings and express them in socially acceptable ways.  Effective emotion management is related to both decreased levels of aggression and increased levels of social-emotional competence.  It is important to remember that when a person is highly angry, general cognitive functioning is impaired, which interferes with reasoning and memory for what occurs during the anger episode.
There are many strategies that children can use to manage their strong emotions.  I focus on three strategies in particular; behavioral distractions, relaxation strategies and cognitive distractions. Behavioral distraction is when children distract themselves from a frustrating situation by switching to a new activity (doing something active, having a snack, playing a game, etc.).  Cognitive distraction is thinking about something pleasant (happy memories, things that make them smile, etc.) and it is another strategy that students can use.  Often this strategy is used more by older children.  Another way to use cognitive distraction is to reframe stressful situations to instead focus on the positives instead of focusing on the negative. For example - if your child is worried about the start of school instead have them focus on the new friends and exciting opportunities ahead of them.  Relaxation strategies (deep breathing, visualization, looking out at nature, having some alone time) have also been proven effective to calm down strong emotions.  It is important to intervene early in children's conflicts and strong emotions so that they can learn to use these strategies to calm down before they are overwhelmed by emotion.  Once your child has calmed down it is vital to take the time to process the situation with them and talk about what happened and how things could have been handled better.  Every child has their own way to manage their anger - help your child find the strategy that works best for them.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Overscheduled children

Children need to balance human doing with human being – Paula Bloom, clinical psychologist.

There is a lot of talk about the overscheduled child and if it is myth or legend.  Most experts agree that what families need to look for is the balance of after school activities along with family time.  Children need enough time without any activities, parents need enough time with no work and the two sides need time to come together to create activities of their own.
Spending time with your child with no goal in mind will communicate to your child that you love them. And if a child feels loved, life can present them with hardships, but setbacks will never defeat them.
Children benefit from having well-rounded experiences outside of academics.   This gives them the opportunity to hone skills and work together with other children.  If you’re wondering if your child is overscheduled, replay some mental pictures of them over the past week.  If all of your images are of them going from one activity to the next, doing homework, practicing an instrument – and there aren’t many moments of quiet and relaxation along with free play time then your child is too busy.  Look for signs of irritability or grumpiness, which may also show that your child’s schedule is out of whack.
When choosing after school activities, know where the motivation is coming from, you or your child.  If your child continues to be excited about the activity then you have found the right match for them.  One of the surest signs that a kid is overscheduled is when what used to be fun isn’t fun anymore.  Parents have to be in touch with their own feelings as well to ensure that they are not communicating that exemplary performance is the only goal that matters.  Children have to learn that the process of learning something new is as important as the end result.  The bottom line is that regardless of how many activities you schedule for your children, make sure you schedule time for yourself to be with them. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How much are your children sleeping?

We just completed our first 5 day week of school and I know we are all feeling the beginnings of exhaustion as we juggle our after school activities with our children's school schedule.  It made me wonder, how many hours of sleep should an elementary school student have?  It is recommended that children from ages 5-12 get 10-11 hours of sleep a night.  A nighttime routine is very helpful in settling your child in at night.  A typical routine before saying good night to your child might include a snack, bath, brushing teeth, and reading a story together.  Making your child's bedtime the same every night is very helpful to having your child fall asleep and stay asleep at night.  Eliminating all electronic use prior to bedtime has also proven to be an effective tool in getting your child to fall asleep easier at night.  As a parent of young children myself I know it isn't always easy with after school activities to maintain a nighttime routine but the benefits of a well rested child help everyone the following day.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Empathy classroom lesson

This week I had the opportunity to be in every classroom for my first lesson of the year.  I enjoyed getting to know the new students and seeing them in the classroom environment.  As part of my first lesson of the year I gave the students an overview of what my role is as the school counselor and they had the opportunity to ask me questions as well.  The lesson focused on exposing the students to the skill of empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.  I brought in a large paper heart and the students were asked to imagine that the paper heart was their very own and we brainstormed together things that would hurt their hearts if they happened. With each event the heart was crumpled until it was a ball.  We then discussed how sad, angry and lonely someone would feel if all of those things had happened to them.  The students then had the opportunity to try and make the heart feel happy again by saying and doing nice things - with each event the heart became less crumpled in the ball.  The discussion then centered on how important it is to stop and think before making hurtful comments as it truly leaves a wrinkle on someone's heart.  Each of the classrooms now has the heart used in the lesson hanging in their classroom as a reminder to be kind and empathic to all.  Make sure you look for at our open house this week!

This week my classroom lesson will continue to build on the students empathy skills as we discuss and explore various feelings.  There are many stories about empathy that you might want to share with your child - here are just a few of the titles; Bully by Laura Seeger, Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, Stand in My Shoes by Bob Sornson, Hey Little Ant by Phillip Hoose, and My Mouth is a Volcano! by Julia Cook.