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7 Mar 2024

From Chaos to Calm: How to Nurture Self-Regulation

In my role as a speaker in schools, I have the privilege of connecting with many parents and educators. From their insights and my personal experiences as a mother, I’ve come to understand that one of the most daunting challenges lies in effectively nurturing self-regulation in not only children/students but also ourselves. 

Have you ever experienced a moment when you’re feeling perfectly composed and then, out of nowhere, something happens that triggers your emotions to go into overdrive? In an instant, you react in a manner that leaves you feeling guilty. You may be preoccupied by a sense of remorse as you replay the situation in your mind, pondering how you could have handled it differently.

When my eleven-year-old son is not listening or is agitated, it triggers frustration within me which can easily lead to anger. Responding from one of those emotions can result in giving unreasonable consequences or regrettable responses.

We often hear about the importance of teaching children self-regulation. However, the challenge becomes practicing self-regulation ourselves in order to effectively instill this skill in them. You can’t help a child regulate until you have self-regulated first.  ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ doesn’t work anymore.

Consider giving these simple, yet impactful strategies to take you from chaos to calm.

For Parents/Educators:

  • Name your emotion: For example, say, ‘I’m feeling frustrated.
  • Notice physical signs of emotions such as rapid heartbeat, clenched hands or muscle tension.
  • Pause and take deep breaths. This helps you manage your own emotions and demonstrates self-regulation to the children/students. When you’re feeling calm, you’re better able to assist others in regulating their emotions.

While nurturing self-regulation can be challenging, the benefits are worth the effort. Not only does it cultivate stronger relationships, it also reduces anxiety, lowers stress, builds resilience and fosters empathy.

Until next time…

28 Sep 2023

Building Emotional Connection, One ‘Refresh’ at a Time

Emotions run high. Meltdowns occur. Tantrums happen.

You can’t have conflict resolution without first facing conflict.

You can’t have redirection without first creating connection.

When you have moments of despair, they need repair.

One effective strategy for enhancing conflict resolution, fostering connection, and facilitating repair is to incorporate ‘refresh’ into your resource toolbox, much like refreshing a computer when it’s bogged down and not functioning properly.

To illustrate the effectiveness of using ‘refresh’, let me share a recent circumstance involving my 11-year-old son.

The other day he experienced a really tough moment as we were about to leave the house. He wasn’t getting something he wanted within the timeframe he was hoping for. While this wouldn’t typically bother him, on that particular day it triggered an emotional storm! I should also add that he had some late nights that had obviously caught up to him, although suggesting that to him wasn’t an option.

I needed to remain calm and steady in his emotional storm – not an easy task, especially when I was frustrated, realizing we needed to leave and I wasn’t even ready! Nothing I said was helpful or comforting. I took a deep breath and stepped away, giving him the space to feel what he was feeling.

After a few minutes, I bent down to his level, knowing this wasn’t the time to question his behaviour or engage in a conversation about it. Instead, I recognized that he needed to hit the ‘refresh button’.

I looked at him and said, “I understand you’re upset that things aren’t going the way you wanted them to. I’m feeling the same way.” (this validates the emotions felt and adds connection)

I presented two options:

1. Continue with our back-and-forth.

2. Take a deep breath and ‘refresh, starting over.

He chose to ‘refresh’, and we did just that without the need to have a further conversation. We hugged and both felt a weight lifted. (this is our way of creating repair)

Despite a bumpy start, we had a wonderful day.

13 Sep 2023

How to Stay Consistent When Kids Push Your Limits

During a discussion with a parent, she shared that she frequently found herself giving in to her daughter after initially saying no. (I can certainly relate, having faced similar situations with my son.) It was clear that her daughter had learned a powerful lesson about testing boundaries. She learned that her tenacity and unwavering determination often led to successfully getting her own way, often leaving her parent feeling disrespected and even resentful. Giving in had created a pattern that her parent wanted to break.

Kids can experience intense emotions, especially when they don’t get their way, which can easily lead to tantrums, arguments, and power struggles. When this happens, it can be easy for us not to follow through with consistency, especially if we are feeling emotionally drained and want to avoid conflict.

It’s important to establish clear and consistent boundaries. Holding a boundary for your child can be incredibly challenging when you know they are going to be disappointed and push back. Trust me, I’m not always perfect at it myself.

Something that continues to help me is reminding myself that my son can feel upset and angry and that I can still hold my boundary. I repeat in my head, ‘His disappointment is not my guilt.’

Setting reasonable boundaries and maintaining them isn’t about suppressing a child’s desires; it’s about teaching them valuable life skills. It’s about helping them understand limits and that choices have consequences. It allows them to learn how to navigate disappointment and frustration. It’s a crucial part of their emotional growth and development.

This what I know: Staying consistent and helping a child understand the value of boundaries will have everlasting benefits in their relationships, careers, and overall well-being throughout their life.

Until next time…

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17 May 2023

Question to Ask a Child

Kids experience the same emotions as adults – anxious, sad, disappointed, embarrassed, angry, scared—to name a few.

A key part of emotional resilience is teaching children strategies to help them manage and navigate emotions in healthy ways. This will make a difference not only throughout their childhood, but also as an adult.

Since everyone is different, what calms you and helps you move through your emotions, won’t necessarily work for a child.

During one of my presentations, a young student shared that counting helps calm him. I replied with ‘counting to ten is a great strategy.’ He said, ‘No – random numbers…10, 18, 52, 6, 103, 186…’

Imagine that he is in the throes of an emotion and someone starts counting…one, two, three, etc. Instead of calming him, his emotional state would heighten from the frustration, as he’d feel that what truly helps him isn’t being honoured – random numbers.

This is why it’s so important to know beforehand what works best for each child when they are experiencing an emotion. Ask them what they find helpful.

Then create a list of their ways so you know what to suggest when emotions arise. Post the list somewhere that will serve as a reminder for both you and them.

This is what I know: Being mindful of the ways that work best to support a child’s emotional needs, shows them that you are being empathetic and attentive. This builds connection.

Until next time…

5 Apr 2023

Two Strategies to Help Kids with Their Challenging Behaviours

When kids display challenging behaviours, it’s easy to react from your emotions.

You can easily respond with frustration, irritation and anger, triggering you to yell, ‘Why would you say/do that?!’

Training yourself to be aware of the emotions you are experiencing and how to navigate them is an essential part of teaching kids to do the same.

Before you can help a child self-regulate – you must do it first.

Take a moment to pause and breathe deep. Then try asking this question, ‘What were you feeling when you said/did that?’ You are now creating an opportunity for a more meaningful and empathetic dialogue which will help you get to the root of what is really happening.

Helping children learn to be aware of their emotions and how to move with and through them in healthy ways helps to shift their behaviour.

Here are two strategies I find extremely helpful to do with my 10 year old son…

  1. If he can’t find the words to tell me the emotion he is feeling, I bring out the ‘elephant emotions‘ poster. Approaching the situation from this angle allows him to identify the emotion that led to his behaviour. It also helps him understand that he was making his choice from that emotion. I remind him that he is a good kid that is having a hard time with his emotions.
  2. Then we talk about ways he can work through that emotion – deep breathing, jumping up and down, squeezing his hands together, talking to someone etc.

This is what I know: When a circumstance happens, it triggers an emotion and out of the emotion you see a behaviour. These two strategies will help you discuss openly the process of recognizing, identifying and releasing emotions in healthy ways so that the next time they react from a circumstance, instead of reprimanding, you can say with compassion and patience, ‘What are you/were you feeling?’

Until next time,

22 Mar 2023

Words You Don’t Want to Hear

Have you ever heard your child say these hurtful words, “I hate you. I don’t like you. You’re the worst.”

Hearing those words can trigger emotions of sadness, anger, even confusion and embarrassment. In these emotional moments, it’s easy to become reactive.

‘You’re being rude and disrespectful’ may be your response or you may find yourself saying, ‘Don’t talk like that. You’re making me sad.’

You can easily take offense to these hurtful words, knowing how much you do for them. However, because children have strong emotions, they can explode without a moment’s notice, especially when they aren’t getting their own way.

I can remember times as a preteen and teen when I would tell my mum I didn’t like her. My mum would respond in a calm voice with a simple ‘okay’. Kids need to know that the feelings that overwhelm them do not overwhelm us.

Now, when my son says the same thing to me, I remember not to take those emotionally charged words personally. I know he is really saying, ‘I don’t like your rule, boundary, consequence or decision you made.’

TRY THIS: Respond with ‘I can tell you are upset.’ Honour the emotions they are experiencing beyond the words they are saying.

Until next time…

18 Jan 2023

Tips to Helping Kids Ride the Waves of Emotions

Kids tell me they don’t like feeling tough emotions like anger, sadness, guilt, frustration and disappointment because – not only is it uncomfortable – they also think, ‘this is it, this is how I’m always going to feel.’

A few weeks ago, my 10-year-old son was so upset. I could see him desperately trying to hold back his tears. I said, ‘It’s OK to cry.’ He gave me a frustrated look and said, ‘I don’t like feeling this feeling.’ which triggered him to cry causing him to get even more upset.

That was a light bulb moment! That had me reply with, ‘I get it. I don’t like feeling those uncomfortable emotions.’

Think back to when you were a kid… didn’t tough emotions and challenging times feel permanent?

Later that night when he was in a calmer state, we had a reflective conversation. I asked, ‘How are you feeling now?’ He replied, ‘I’m feeling happy.’

I asked, ‘How were you feeling this morning?’

‘Upset, frustrated and angry.’

‘Did you think those emotions were going to last forever?’ he responded with a resounding ‘YES!’

‘And how are you feeling now?’

‘Happy.’

‘So did that feeling of sadness last forever?’

He thought about it and firmly said ‘NO!’

We then had a conversation about other times in his life where he faced a challenge or made a mistake and it triggered emotions. I reminded him that he always got through them including now.

Even though we may not like feeling the emotions brought on by challenging circumstances, they can’t be avoided no matter how hard we try. Sometimes they get really intense and then subside like waves. We need to teach kids to be like a surfer and ride the ‘waves’ of their emotions.

Tips to help kids ride the waves by:

  • talking about how ‘it’s OK to feel all emotions’
  • giving them a safe space to feel without criticism or trying to fix how they feel
  • reminding them they can get through tough emotions
  • exploring various strategies that will help them work through their emotions when they are in a calm state

Helping kids ride the waves of emotions is not only important for their overall well-being, it will also help them through the challenges they will experience throughout their life.

Until next time…

21 Dec 2022

Feel Stressed and Overwhelmed?

It’s easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed when you have a lot on your plate – the same may be true for your kids. Everyone has times in their life when it feels as though the world is speeding up and keeping up seems impossible.

I find it easier to keep things in perspective when I take time for me. Making time for ‘You Moments’ is crucial to feeling inner peace. When you take the time to do things to create inner peace your life appears less chaotic. This is also important to model to your kids.

Here are a few things that I do to help me regroup when I feel stressed and overwhelmed:

  • Pen to Paper – writing out your feelings, nagging thoughts and worries helps clear the clutter that can sometimes take over your mind. I find it very healing to slowly rip up the paper after writing it – a great way to let go of stress and feel a sense of calm
  • Gratitude Break – feeling and expressing gratitude not only boosts emotional and mental well-being, but also boosts your immune system and your happiness. Focusing on what you enjoy and are grateful for, helps to shift your mood and mind to a happier state.
  • Breathe – I know this seems obvious but the quality of breaths you take makes a BIG difference in helping you feel calm and relaxed. I notice when I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I tend to take shallow breaths and sometimes even hold my breath. Be conscious of taking big, deep breaths in, hold for 5 seconds, then breathe out. Try five in a row.
  • Music – listening to your favourite music or singing along to a song can provide a temporary escape from a stressful day. Choosing specific lyrics can help you look at your day differently.
  • Talk with Friends and Family – carve out time to give them a call. It can be helpful to share your concerns and to hear what is happening in other people’s lives. It reminds you that you are not the only one to feel stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Drink Water – stress can be caused because our bodies are thirsty. Sip water continuously throughout the day. Being dehydrated can make even the simplest task overwhelming and frustrating.

BONUS TIP     

Revamp your To-Do List – create two columns – a MUST DO and a would be NICE to DO.

In the MUST DO column, put everything that is time sensitive and needs to get done that day. In the NICE to DO column, put the things that you would like to accomplish but if you don’t, ‘oh well.’

As you complete a task, cross it off! Crossing tasks off your list feels so good – ‘YAY! I got that done!’

Until next time…

7 Dec 2022

Emotions – No Thank You!

Avoiding emotions and telling yourself not to feel them, impacts your well-being. It affects your ability to communicate with others, your relationships, your performance, and your choices.

Suppressing emotions, pretending not to feel them and saying ‘I’m fine’ can lead to stress, burnout and more importantly emotional fatigue – yes that’s a real thing!

You can’t communicate effectively when you are emotionally charged. Training yourself to be aware of your feelings is essential to being able to communicate calmly and respectfully.

Did your heart skip a beat at the thought of talking about your emotions? 

Learning to articulate how you truly feel creates emotional awareness. Most people’s emotional vocabulary consists of angry, sad, happy or anxious. There are many more emotions between those:

angry –> frustrated –> annoyed –> irritated

sad –> disappointed –> regretful –> depressed

happy –> excited –> confident –> content

anxious –> nervous –> worried –> confused

Expressing emotions can be tough. It can feel overwhelming and vulnerable. This is especially true if you learned as a child that sharing your emotions made you seem weak or feel shameful.

Expressing your emotions helps you:

  • Calm down quicker
  • Make character-based choices
  • Bounce back more easily
  • Improve communication skills
  • Bring harmony and well-being to your mental and physical state

Instead of reacting and avoiding emotions, take a pause and check-in with how you are feeling.

Here’s what I know: Being mindful of the emotions you are experiencing is essential to making choices in the moment that you can be proud of for the moments to come.

Until next time…

9 Nov 2022

Kids want you to know…

I really enjoyed your presentation. It opened a few doors for me. This past year I went through some problems but your presentation showed me another way of looking at my problems. You really helped me to know that my feelings big or small are normal and that it’s okay to feel.’ – Male Student

Sometimes kids think they should only feel HAPPY because they believe that is the only way people will accept them.

Kids tell me that when they hear, ‘It’s OK to feel what you are feeling’, they know they have been respected and validated – that they have been given the space to express and share their emotions.

Space to feel gives space to heal.

Practicing ‘space’ builds connection (1 min video). It allows kids to feel comforted, supported, and more open to finding ways to move with and through their emotions.

Remind them that feeling a wide range of emotions is natural and normal and that we accept them no matter how they are feeling.

The more we choose to step outside our comfort zone by acknowledging and sharing our own emotions, we model and teach them that…
‘It’s OK to feel what you are feeling‘.

Until next time…