Happy Valentine’s Day month! On this special day we celebrate the one(s) we love, cherish and hold dear to our hearts. Having a day marked on the calendar to celebrate is a good reminder to spread loving kindness. Unfortunately, Valentine’s day sometimes heightens the emotions of parents because of the extensive preparation and expectations of classroom celebrations and the abundance of candy around.
How do we step up to the plate of cookies, candied hearts and chocolate? As the adults in the classroom, we can practice accepting our own emotional impulses. We can’t be authentic if we mask how we’re feeling with children. As mature adults we have the tools to self-regulate and notice when we’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s imperative to be the healthy example for our children to follow.
One way to do this is by sharing our inner voice and emotions out loud with children to model acceptance. For example, “I’m feeling tired and anxious from too much activity. When I feel this way, I practice (insert your coping skill here). Would you like to try this technique with me to help us calm down?”
It seems like every time I’m in a classroom I hear a teacher say, “Calm your body.” Children don’t have the same self-awareness that adults have to check-in with our emotional state. They also don’t have the years of practice that adults have experienced to calm down. Adults must teach children coping strategies as they develop.
There may be some people reading this thinking, I was never given coping strategies when I was a child. Back in the day the easier way for children to deal with difficult emotions was to hide emotions by sucking up their tears. These children grew into adults at greater risk to develop maladaptive coping strategies such as drugs and alcohol.
So, how can we teach children the coping skills they need to become healthy adults? The list of breathing techniques provided below are child-friendly, although no one says that adults can’t use them too, especially if you’ve ever been told: “You’re acting like a two-year-old!”
- The Snake – breathe in, expanding your tummy. As you breathe out, hiss like a snake (repeat 3 -5 times).
- Be the Bee – breathe in, expanding your tummy. As you breathe out, buzz like a bee.
- Flower/candle– imagine your fingers are five tiny flowers. Breathe in for five seconds and as you breathe out imagine you are slowly blowing out five little candles.
There are many more examples like these with YouTube videos to follow along. The key to using these calming techniques is to practice them together when everyone is calm. Teachers can use circle time to rehearse what happens when we get disappointed or overwhelmed. Preparing children for emotional upsets and giving them a place to practice what they can do gives them power over their feelings. Children will learn over time that they can trust you to walk them through it instead of being left alone to just calm down and figure it out. They’ll become more confident in their emotional-awareness and coping strategies the more they practice.
About the Author:
Jennifer is a Mental Health Consultant with Community Reach Center. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate with a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Jennifer also has over ten years of experience in education and holds a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology. Before working for Community Reach Center, Jennifer worked for a behavioral health hospital in the Pediatric Inpatient, Intensive Outpatient and Partial Hospitalization units. Jennifer’s interests are mindfulness meditation and practicing self-compassion.