We created a good experiences and memory jar at the beginning of 2017 and just read all our memories. What an awesome tradition we will continue into 2018 and years to come!
By Erin Hurley, M.Ed., RCYT
School counselors are in a unique position to be leaders in creating systemic change within their school and beyond. I believe that meeting the needs of our students requires engaging with the community in which they live. Last year, my school counseling colleagues and I made significant efforts to reach out to our students’ communities by collaborating with families, outside service providers and local businesses to promote self-compassion and overall wellness for our students.
I am beginning my fifth year as the school counselor at Cherry Run Elementary in Burke, Va., which is a suburban community outside of Washington, D.C. In our division, the elementary, middle and high school counselors work as a collaborative team to support our students by using common language and initiatives. Data collected in 2016 indicated that many of our students were experiencing high levels of stress. In response, school counselors decided to design a Compassion for Self initiative. We were able to use advisory councils to engage parents and community members in our initiative and make sure the needs of our students were being met.
We researched outside service providers that could support our Compassion for Self initiative and found Rachel Bailey. She is a clinical psychologist and a parenting specialist who designed a presentation for our families titled “Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Positive Self-Esteem and Teaching Tools for Success.” We also worked with a local company called Zendoway that has designed squeezable cubes that outline self-care practices. We told the owner of the company, Kerry Wekelo, about our Compassion for Self initiative and how we were teaching students to use coping strategies to manage their stress. She loved the idea and asked the counselors to come up with their most frequently used coping strategies. Then she offered to design a cube specifically for us and generously donated one to every school counselor, psychologist and social worker!
In addition to working with service providers and local businesses, I also facilitate a few extracurricular activities to bring self-care practices to my students and the community. I offer a before-school yoga program for the students at Cherry Run. Yoga has been a great way to promote self-care and the students absolutely love it. I am also currently teaching a Mindfulness for Families class once a month for parents and children to learn mindfulness tools to reduce stress.
I am grateful for the opportunity to support students and families through a profession that I love. Working together, we can create the systemic change necessary to reduce student stress and foster self-care and overall wellness for our students.
Erin Hurley is VSCA Region 4 representative. Contact her at email@example.com.
Originally published via Elephant Journal.
We never forget our first experiences of being hurt by others. Those experiences become childhood scars etched into our memories as we are jolted out of innocent sweetness and naiveté into the eye-opening realization that our personalities are unique and we will not jibe with everyone around us.
My first such painful memories were of girls wanting to beat me up because I was “the nice girl.” At the time, I did not understand why they would want to hurt me, and I never fought back. That made them even more angry. I can remember being baffled and sad at this. Not having a clue how to respond, I just kept being nice and tried to keep to myself. That was when I learned how to put up emotional walls to protect myself, an issue I still deal with today.
Now, as a parent, I want to provide a safe place where my children can come and discuss their feelings. Whether I agree with them or not is not the point; I want to allow them to feel how they are feeling and teach them how to use their negative feelings to move quickly and genuinely to a positive emotion. At work, I coined the phrase “Pause to Pivot to a Positive” to describe this practice.
Let’s explore a recent scenario that involved my daughter and a friend of hers and the steps I helped her take in that conflict.
1.Identify the Issue.
In order to appropriately identify the issue at hand, it is vital to listen to all sides of a conflict, because all parties play a role in any conflict they are involved in.
In the case at hand, I asked the mother what the issue was for her daughter and then checked with my daughter about what the main issue was for her. My daughter, at the tender age of 11, was feeling left out of the girls’ core group.
2.Teach Them to Listen to Their Feelings.
It has taken me years to fully understand the importance of allowing and listening to all my feelings and emotions, and I strive to teach my children that is OKAY to feel how they are feeling, because their feelings have something important to tell them. And it is also okay for their friends to feel how they feel. Even if we cannot understand why someone’s feelings were hurt, we have to allow them to feel the way they feel, and we must develop empathy for them. If a child is not understanding why someone else’s feelings are hurt, give an example such as the following: “How do you feel when your sibling picks a fight with you, and you come to me but I tell you, ‘I don’t want to hear about it; just get along’?” Go on to explain to the child, “You probably wanted me to listen to you and hear you and tell you it is okay how you are feeling, right? [pause to listen to response] I know that many times I do not listen to how you are feeling, and I am sorry for that. I will try to do a better job.” As parents, when we apologize we lead by example.
As the child shares his or her feelings, just listen. Ask questions but only those that will help you listen more deeply, such as, how do you feel when you are not following your heart? How do you feel when you act in kind ways? How do you feel when you are not nice to others? Which feeling do you prefer?
After I listened to my daughter’s feelings and discussed them with her, I asked if she could put herself in her friend’s shoes and have empathy for how her friend was feeling. She was able to identify a current scenario in which a group of her friends were doing a presentation in class and were excluding her friend. She instantly realized this was likely hurtful since up to this point all the girls had done similar presentations together.
3.Trust Them to Make the Right Choices.
Next, I said, “I trust you to make the right decisions. I know you are kind and will work to settle this in a positive way.”
4.Encourage One Positive Action Step.
Subsequently, ask, “What is one action step you can take to make amends with your friend?”
In this case, my daughter came up with three ideas:
First, she was going to ask the others to allow her to join the presentation. The other girls did not agree, so she decided not to participate.
Second, she apologized to her friend by saying, “I did not mean to hurt your feelings, and I can see how your feelings were hurt. I am sorry.”
Third, she invited her friend for a fun outing outside of school to move forward in a positive and fun way.
WOW, because I trusted my daughter to make her own choices, she exceeded my expectations. Honestly, I would not have been able to come up with such a solid action plan.
5.Follow Up Daily.
Our children will face ongoing challenges in their lives, so it is critical to follow up daily with them about how they are feeling, and to repeat the above steps over and over. Ask them questions: Who did you have lunch with, who did you play with at recess, what did you play? What was your favorite part about your day? What was your least favorite? What made you happy today? What made you sad today?
These conversations are where you can identify issues and facilitate positive conflict resolution over and over.
Group Conflict Resolution
I was remiss in following my own advice on repeating these steps with the other girls in my daughter’s group of friends, and feelings in the group escalated to such an extent that the school administration became involved. The girls were focusing only on their hurt feelings and were not including the gratitude they once had for their friendship and the regrets they personally had about the conflict. So I decided to share with the other moms the steps I had taken with my daughter, and I suggested we do an exercise to resolve their differences.
In group conflict such as this one, you can try the process below, which was inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Watering Flowers,” an exercise that I have modified based on my years of leading corporate conflict resolution sessions. When attempting to resolve conflict, if we focus only on the hurt feelings, we tend to move into fight or flight mode. But if the other person first hears that we appreciate them and that we also regret hurting their feelings, it is then easier for them to hear how our feelings have been hurt.
I am grateful for: being my own person. Also, that our friendship did last over 2 years.
I regret and I am sorry for: losing communication with the group. I am sorry if I hurt your feelings.
My feelings were hurt when: you did not apologize to our friend whose feelings were initially hurt. And when after we went through this [with one of her other friends], you were still mad at me.
I include these details of the story to illustrate that feelings are messy, and not all parties will want to take this approach. In my daughter’s case, this exercise worked with only one of the girls involved. But that is a small win my daughter will never forget. She will remember that as she went through the steps, one of her friends accepted her apology.
Through this process, my daughter also learned another invaluable lesson—that she is not going to please and get along with everyone. Different people make the world go around, providing contrasts that help us be grateful for those who love us and accept us for who we are.
I teach my children to brush their teeth and pick up after themselves, but I spend even more time teaching them about the emotional aspects of life. If we can teach our kids to mindfully resolve conflict—to take accountability rather than to blame others, and to move forward rather than to make excuses for not being able to forgive—then we will have done our job as parents.
Let’s teach our kids the power of Pausing to Pivot to the Positive: identifying the issue, listening to their feelings, empathizing with others, making right choices, and taking positive action steps.
Practice these five poses every day and notice the changes you feel in your body and mind. These brand new pose cards will challenge you and your family with balance, flexibility, mindfulness, and more. It will only take minutes each day to gain lifelong skills and health benefits. This yoga card deck includes thirty poses including partner poses, confidence building pose mantras, and fun games to play together using the Kids Yoga Challenge Pose Cards.
The Kids Yoga Challenge Pose Cards include:
About the Author
Sara J. Weis is the author of Go Go Yoga for Kids: A Complete Guide to Using Yoga with Kids and the creator of The Kids Yoga Challenge Pose Cards. She is a certified kid and adult yoga instructor and holds a master’s degree in education with over 18 years of teaching experience. Using all of her knowledge and experience, Sara has created and kid tested hundreds of yoga games, lessons and movement ideas that will help instill the lifelong benefits of yoga in all kids.
Get free kids yoga lesson plans and games at gogoyogakids.com and more information on the poses gogoyogakids.com/posecards/
Originally published via Stress Free Kids. http://bit.ly/2bkfkY6
Both of my kids know by now that I expect them to get perfect marks on their school report cards. Well, at least on one particular section, that is: the “Life, Work, and Citizenship Skills” section. This wonderful section is all about their behavior, the actions they take in relation to themselves and others. For example, categories include: 1.) Takes responsibility for actions 2.) Demonstrates active listening skills 3.) Resolves conflict effectively 4.) Is a respectful and contributing participant in school and 5.) Demonstrates self-control.
My kids know that I care more about their behavior than their Math scores (although those still matter!), and that in our household, being kind is the most important virtue. But the best part is that they get it. They’re not just following parental dictates; they’re learning and making healthy, positive choices for themselves because they want to!
I have learned through plenty of trial and error that effective parenting is not about demands, but about modeling, teaching and creating an environment in which our kids feel safe to express all their emotions. While we all know this isn’t easy, I also want you to know that it might not be as hard as it sounds. The secret? Make the learning fun!
After creating an activity book If It Does Not Grow: Say No for kids to have fun with making healthy eating choices, I wanted a wanted a similar fun way to help start those important conversations about feelings and behaviors -- so I created sets of squeezable cubes with different prompts on every side. My kids have given the ultimate seal of approval: they actually use the cubes!
In this piece, I offer suggestions on how we can use the cubes and other activities to support our children in being compassionate, kind and mindful.
1.Build Trust to Foster Open Communication
I have a deal with my kids that if they tell the truth when something goes wrong, then they will not get in trouble. (As you can imagine, both kids quickly agreed to the deal when they heard the “you won’t get in trouble” part.) I figure if we start with relatively small issues when they are young, when more complex issues arise, I will have already built that trust with them, so we start with admitting things such as, “Mommy, I broke a glass” or “I got in trouble in school today.”
For example, my 8-year-old son recently had an argument with a little girl at school. He told me exactly what transpired, so when I received a note from the teacher, I was able to say, “I am aware and we have discussed it.” Instead of getting angry, we talk about what strategies they could have used to not get upset. I encourage my kids to feel whatever emotion they feel, and then pivot to a more positive emotion, so his 10-year-old sister suggested that he bring the “Feeling” cube to school so he could squeeze it and sort through his emotions! The other prompts on the “Feeling” cube are “I see,” “I am grateful,” “I am proud,” “I feel,” “I wonder,” and “I love,” and any of those could give him a focused way to explore his feelings. Going to school the next day, my son felt empowered to make the right choices.
On a side note, I must share how tickled I was when my son asked to write notes to each other, and in his note to me, he said how he loves the rule that if he breaks something and tells me, he doesn’t get in trouble, “...and that’s why your the best mom ever!!!!!!”
2.Give Responsibilities (Not orders)
I was a latch-key kid who, starting in fourth grade, cooked, cleaned and did the laundry for my family. I believe those early responsibilities played an important part in building my strong work ethic and confidence in my abilities to solve any problem. To instill a similar ethic and confidence with my kids, I treat home chores as a team effort to keep our household functioning --we all have to pitch in and help to ensure the workload is balanced.
I’d love to report that my kids always rush to do their chores, happy to be learning lessons of responsibilities, but of course that’s not the case. Kids are still kids. I have found that when I pester my kids to chip in and do their chores, it simply does not motivate them at all. In fact, sometimes they just dig in their heels and fuss even more about having to do the chores. However, when I instead encourage them by saying things like, “I really love how we work as a team to keep the house in order,” or “I really appreciate how you folded the laundry,” they are much more inclined to actively contribute.
3.Encourage Self Care and Love
One area that took years to for me to learn is allowing myself to take time to care for and love myself. Our culture thrives on being busy, applauding those who are the busiest. I want my kids to know a different way, and to feel fully supported in their needs to maintain daily balance. For instance, my son needs time outside every day after school, while my daughter needs to draw or read. I encourage them both to take the time they each need to regroup after a long day at school.
Another helpful cube is the “I Love Me Affirmations,” with prompts that ask you to write down why you love yourself, create a love dance or song, repeat, “I love me” 10 times, and other similar activities. The self-love affirmation is a powerful tool as we all need that daily reminder that we are awesome.
Using the cubes at the dinner table is an interactive way to spark new conversations and learn about each other. The first time I gave my daughter this cube to roll at the dinner table, she said, “I don’t love anything about myself.” I was baffled, since she shows a consistent front of self-confidence and happiness. With further conversation, I was able to figure out that she just had a bad day and was temporarily feeling down on herself, which we can all relate to. I was so grateful that the cube facilitated that conversation so I could support her!
4.Make Family Fun a Priority
Wonderful memories are made from family fun and play, so we make it a priority to play, sing, dance, and be silly every day. At breakfast and during our morning routine, I put on music and set our “Play” cube on the counter. Before I used this strategy, our mornings were full of bickering and rushing. Now our routine is to start the day with light-hearted interaction and fun, with the sides of the “Play” cube setting the tone for the day.
Some of the “Play” prompts are: “Do something kind for someone you know or a stranger,” “Play ‘I Wonder,’” “Move or stretch your body in six different ways,” “Dance. Move all your body parts while dancing,” Magically, with very little effort, the tone is set for having a positive and productive day.
5.Model and Teach Self-Regulation
Many times we are quick to tell others how to feel rather than allowing them to just feel whatever it is so it can dissolve. More important than our initial reaction is how we self-regulate to feel the anger, frustration or sadness and then move to a peaceful feeling. Just walking away for a few moments to breathe is a simple strategy, and if we parents model and teach this behavior, our kids will also use their breath rather than harsh words or knee-jerk actions. In fact, just yesterday when my son was getting frustrated with his sister, I saw him take a deep breath and just walk away.
The “Breathing” cube reminds us to breathe -- a simple but powerful calming action. I donated the breathing cubes to my kid’s school and another local school, and they use them in the classrooms as a tool to either squeeze or bring the class back to peace with simple breathing techniques. I also use them at home and in my yoga classes as well to teach and talk about the power of our breath to calm and soothe us in any situation, whether it’s to pivot a negative emotion or prepare us for taking a test.
6.Say You’re Sorry
In my classrooms and at home, we have a do-over policy, and we all say we are sorry when an apology is warranted. I am not a perfect mom, and sometimes in a busy day, I fail to be a good role model and yell instead of using all the strategies above. When this happens, I typically get angry with myself, berating myself for messing up...and then I remember I am human. I apologize to my kids and ask them for a do-over. In turn, my kiddos are quick to apologize and take accountability for their actions. We then talk about how emotions are challenging to manage and that we have so many tools to use, yet when we don’t use them successfully, we take accountability and say we are sorry. We begin again.
One of the prompts on the “Play” cube is to “Write a letter or create a card for a loved one. (Hand deliver or mail it to them).” That card or letter could be a creative way for your kid (and you!) to say “I’m sorry.”
In a culture that is often fueled by complaints and a focus on what’s wrong in the world, we can all use a good dose of gratitude. I feel it’s important to teach our kids how to appreciate things and focus on what they are grateful for, and have found it’s not hard to start a gratitude routine. When my kids and I gather for dinner, we each share what we are grateful for. Some days the kiddos are all into it, but other days they roll their eyes, like “oh great, here we go again.” So I just start by sharing my own gratitude, and the kids always come around, joining in willingly after all.
We also do our gratitude practice when guests or friends are with us for dinner, and usually everyone joins in. Apparently gratitude is contagious!
The “Feelings” cube also gives us a more random way to practice gratitude. One of the prompts is “I am grateful...” so we get to pay attention to what we appreciate at that exact moment. Of all the lessons I hope we can teach our kids, I hope we teach -- and model -- kindness, compassion, and mindfulness.
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