Counsellors’ Blog

Written by SMC Administrator. Posted in Leadership Staff Blog

Adapting to a new reality with your children

The disruptions to our usual routines and ways of living make it difficult to find stability and can increase feelings of helplessness. 

There are many things we can do to minimise stress and strengthen our emotional wellbeing. In thinking about our article this fortnight we considered the countless issues we could address: coping in isolation at home together, sibling rivalry, how to encourage children to focus on their online learning, how to talk with young children and teens about the pandemic, generally coping with stress, spending more relaxed and fun time together as a family, to name a few, along with noticing the ‘silver linings’.

Please visit the links below for information that you may find useful to support your child’s emotional health and mental wellbeing during this challenging time. 

We encourage you to focus on the silver linings with your children as they were doing in Year 4 last week. Check out some of their ideas below. 

 

What children need right now is to feel comforted and loved. Play outside, take walks, bake (let kids make up their own recipes), conduct science experiments, write, start a book, read together, watch movies, find virtual field trips to zoos online and play board games. These are suggestions for young and not-so-young children alike. Enjoy one another and find the opportunities in these unprecedented times. 

We look forward to connecting with you and your children through Microsoft Teams over the next few weeks. Please do not hesitate to contact either of us.

Gai Bath (Kinder–Year 6) and Jane Sutcliffe (Year 7–12)
SMC Counsellors

gbath@smc.tas.edu.au
jsutcliffe@smc.tas.edu.au 

Remembering the importance of self-care

We have all been bombarded with communication surrounding the Coronavirus, and information regarding making preparations to manage the epidemic, but very little of this has emphasised the importance of self-care. What kind of toll has the Coronavirus chaos taken on your self-care practices? Are you feeling stressed, run-down, or overwhelmed? This may be an indication that you need to re-prioritise your self-care.

Some of us may have existing self-care routines that we have temporarily forgotten or pushed to the side, whilst some of us may not be familiar with self-care (and the importance of establishing regular self-care habits). We hope that this article provides a reminder for how important it is to re-prioritise self-care during this challenging time.

Self-care is a behaviour, designed to improve our wellbeing by reducing stress and restoring health. Self-care looks different for everyone – what might be a good self-care routine for me may not be a good fit for you. Here are some tips on where to start. This information has been adapted from the following website,  www.psychologytoday.com/.


1. Sleep

Sleep can have a huge effect on how you feel both emotionally and physically. Not getting enough sleep can even cause major health issues. But stress and other distractions can wreak havoc on our sleep. Making changes to our nightly routines can help to improve our sleep (e.g. don’t eat or drink foods with caffeine or sugar before bed as these will keep you awake, exercise during the day to earn your sleep, take time to relax before bedtime, remove technological distractions from your bedroom, and ensure that your room is dark for early morning sleep).


2. Eating

Your gut health can have a significant impact on your health, well-being, and feelings of vitality. The types of foods you eat crucially impact the bacteria that live in your stomach, resulting in a cascade of either positive or negative outcomes. Eating healthily will promote good brain functioning, including short-term memory. It will help us to avoid weight gain, and we are also more likely to maintain a positive mood (e.g. we won’t be ‘hangry’). 


3. Exercise

We all know exercise is good for us, but do we really know how good it is? Daily exercise can help you both physically and mentally, boosting your mood and reducing stress and anxiety, not to mention helping you shed extra weight.

Of course, it might be hard to go to the gym every day, so try to incorporate other exercises, such as walking, tennis, or yoga, which you may be able to fit into your schedule more easily. The most important thing is to create a routine that works for you.


4. Saying NO, so that you can say YES to self-care

Learning to say no is really hard; many of us feel obligated to say yes when someone asks for our time or energy. However, if you’re already stressed or overworked, saying yes to loved ones or co-workers can lead to burnout, anxiety, and irritability. It may take a little practice, but once you learn how to politely say no, you’ll start to feel more empowered, and you’ll have more time for your self-care. 


5. Self-care getaways

Taking a self-care trip can make a huge difference in your life. Even if you’re not feeling particularly stressed, getting away for a weekend every now and then can help you disconnect, relax, and be rejuvenated. These self-care trips don’t have to be costly; simply drive to a different part of the state and see the sights, or go camping nearby. The goal is to veer away from your normal schedule and take the time to do something just for yourself. And you can still follow social distancing whilst doing these – get creative!


6. Get outside

Spending time outside can help you reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, and be more mindful. Studies have even shown that getting outside can help reduce fatigue, making it a great way to overcome symptoms of depression or burnout. Getting outside can also help you sleep better at night, especially if you do some physical activity, like hiking or walking, while you are outside.


7. Get organised

Getting organised is often the first step to becoming a healthier you because it allows you to figure out exactly what you need to do to take better care of yourself. A small change, like keeping a planner or a calendar on the fridge, can help you write down all your responsibilities and appointments, while at the same time keeping your life a bit more organised. This can help you to prioritise self-care.


8. Schedule your self-care time (and guard that time)

It can be hard for us all to find extra time. But it’s extremely important to plan regular self-care time. Get in touch with what works best for your self-care, and schedule it regularly. Whether you decide you want to go for a long walk, take a hot bath, or enjoy a good movie with friends, taking self-care time is imperative. Look for small ways you can incorporate it into everyday life; for example, you might wake up 15 minutes earlier to sit with a cup of tea and practice deep breathing before the chaos of the day begins, or you might take a walk around the block on your lunch break. The more you can work self-care time into your schedule, the better you’ll be able to grow, enjoy your life, and thrive.

Gai Bath (Kinder–Year 6) and Jane Sutcliffe (Year 7–12)
SMC Counsellors

gbath@smc.tas.edu.au
jsutcliffe@smc.tas.edu.au 

Calm parents, calm kids

One of the greatest challenges facing parents is the ability to remain calm when feeling upset, frustrated or annoyed. 

A consistent theme throughout our articles is the importance of modelling the behaviour you want your child to exhibit—’be the adult you want your children to become’. The way you respond to your child when they are upset will shape how well they regulate their emotions. If your child is upset or frustrated, we all know that telling them to ‘stop crying’ or to ‘calm down’ will have little or no effect. So, what can we do to help calm our child’s brain and guide them to make good decisions?

One of the first and most effective techniques is to calmly validate their feelings. You can do this by perhaps saying, ‘I can see you are really angry right now, you feel very frustrated about this situation’, or ‘It looks to me like you want an answer right now. I understand how that could make you feel impatient’.

When your child is feeling strong emotions, take the opportunity to teach him/her to be aware of their feelings and to express them responsibly and respectfully.

Here are some basic tips on how to do this: 

1. Calm yourself first

  • Stop and take a deep breath before you engage with your child.
  • Remind yourself that your goal is to calm the storm for your child, not escalate it.
  • Don’t take your child’s emotions personally. This isn’t about you, even if she’s screaming, ‘I hate you!’ This is about her—her tangled up feelings and still-developing brain.
  • Notice the sensations in your own body so that you’re aware of what you’re feeling.
  • Decide that your goal is to use this opportunity to build a closer relationship with your child and teach him/her helpful lessons about accepting and responding to emotions.

2. Connect

  • Reach out to connect emotionally and, if you can, physically by creating safety with your touch, warmth, tone and attitude.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply and your child will usually begin to breathe more slowly too.

3. Empathise

  • Your empathy creates safety by helping your child feel understood, e.g. ‘You seem a little worried about this sleepover’, or  ‘You look so mad!’
  • If your child is describing a problem to you, repeat back to him/her what you’ve heard, e.g. ‘You’re fed up with your brother going into your room and taking your things’, ‘You must be so upset to talk to me that way, Charlotte. We can make this better. Let’s start over’.
  • Describing what your child is physically expressing helps him/her feel seen and heard, e.g. ‘I see you’re stomping your foot. You look frustrated’, or ‘Your arms are crossed over your chest like this, I wonder what’s going on?’
  • Acknowledge your child’s perspective, e.g. ‘You wish that…’, or ‘This isn’t what you wanted…’

    4. Double-check that your child feels understood by what you’ve said
  • Your child may correct you, ‘I’m not disappointed! I’m mad!’—in that case, try again. If possible, use your child’s exact words so they know you’re listening, e.g. ‘I’m sorry, Josh. I see now how mad you are. Tell me more about why’.

    5. Deepen the conversation to help your child feel understood
  • You can do this by offering support, validating your child’s emotions, or simply inviting your child to tell you more. Validation doesn’t necessarily mean you agree, but that you understand why your child would feel this way. Some examples are listed below:
    • ‘Ouch, that must have hurt!’
    • ‘Oh, Sophie, no wonder you’re upset’.
    • ‘It would be really embarrassing to have your friend say that’.
    • ‘You’re saying that I love your sister more…Ethan, that must feel so awful, to feel that…’
    • ‘I didn’t understand how important this was to you. Tell me more’.
    • ‘I hear how angry you are about this. What can I do to help make this better?’

6. Support your child to problem solve

Most of the time, when kids—and adults too, of course—feel their emotions are understood and accepted, the feelings lose their charge and begin to dissipate. This leaves an opening for problem solving. In this situation, resist the urge to tell them what to do to solve the problem, as this gives your child the message that you don’t have confidence in their ability to handle it. If your child feels stuck, help them brainstorm and explore options, before stating the solution your child came up with. If you don’t think the solution is wise ask, ‘I wonder what would happen then?’

With practice you will find emotion coaching a very valuable and successful tool in helping to keep yourself calm while calming your child’s brain. You’ll begin to see your child get better at expressing their emotions in an acceptable way. Emotion coaching raises kids who are more emotionally intelligent and better at regulating their emotions. It helps you stay calm when your child is upset, which in turn creates a more peaceful, loving relationship, less drama and more solutions.

Follow these links to learn more about emotion coaching and calming a child’s brain:

www.gottman.com/blog/an-introduction-to-emotion-coaching/
www.parentingcounts.org/information/timeline/five-steps-of-emotion-coaching/
www.theresiliencecentre.com.au/2017/03/27/emotion-coaching-a-brief-outline 
https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/parenting/calm-parents-are-better-able-to-help-children-handle-frustration/#gs.xuxwns

We would love some feedback. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to share your experiences with emotion coaching, or if you have a concern with your child that we may be able to help with. 

Gai Bath (Kinder–Year 6) and Jane Sutcliffe (Year 7–12)
SMC Counsellors

gbath@smc.tas.edu.au
jsutcliffe@smc.tas.edu.au 

   
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