I would like to share some valuable insights and learning from a friend of mine , Bridget . She is truly an example of 'Parenting is Learning'. The great thing is that her kids have learned these skills and use them. I recall hearing of a camp leader being very impressed by her son as he described the meditation and relaxation techniques he used to calm himself down in a rather anxious and tense situation.
Here is some information on coping and bodily warning signs. It is directed at parents to help their children w/ coping skills but it is actually written for everyone...adults and children. It is to help anyone understand how to connect their bodily signs w/ coping skills. It applies both to the classroom or groups and to life in general...it was also generated for a broad parenting audience (please take whatever you may find useful and feel free to leave anything you don't):
Coping Skills and Other Information
Many children don’t know what coping skills are or that we use them all the time in situations both positively and negatively. So, like anything else, we teach them in order for them to learn. We let them know what both the negative and the positives are and that the good news is that the positive ones will help us build better relationships with people around us and feel better in our bodies and about ourselves.
Our bodies help us know when it is not coping well by giving us warning signs like (these vary from person to person):
• Heart beats faster
• Body gets warmer or feels hot
• Palms feel hot and maybe even sweaty
• Stomach could hurt
• Head could hurt
• The room feels noisy and you want to cover your ears
• You may want to get out of the room
• Breathing may feel different
• One may feel like crying
• It’s hard to attend and listen
It’s important to understand the warnings so that we take them as messages and can respond in positive ways (positive coping). We listen to our bodies and follow the warnings. Many times a parent/teacher/adult will have a plan in place so that the child is able to leave the situation to regain composure (cope). There may be a plan in place so that everyone feels comfortable asking to go to the bathroom or get a drink. Breaks are good (not leaving the focus completely but rather getting up to stretch or do jumping jacks). Gross motor movement increases blood flow and helps thinking. It can be very centering.
Children learn by example. How a parent copes with a problem is, for now, the only example they have. If a parent tries to cope by more positive means such as talking it out, using problem solving techniques, doing things a different way, meditation or prayer, developing strengths, reacting positively, and other such means, then the child will also learn those ways to cope. If they aren’t learning by the modeling then it just means that they need a little more direct teaching to get the skill in place. Some of us learn Math by watching the teacher, others by watching and practice and still others with extra help from tutors or different teaching styles (depending on learning styles).
There are many different coping skills depending on need. Some of them are:
• Learning how to problem solve
• Standing instead of sitting in a chair (it can be very hard for some kids to sit)
• Squeezing a soft ball or other object to increase attention (busying one part of the brain to allow the other part to attend)
• Teaching meditation/visualization/prayer (the more the better for choices)
• Breathing techniques
• Creating a grudge free zone where things can be talked about in trust and confidence (sometimes kids worry about saying things right and will stop trying to talk about problems out of fear)
• Creating a safe zone where people aren’t being touched, teased or treated disrespectfully. Sometimes this takes creating a Covenant (of sorts and there are other words that better fit different circumstances) that everyone creates together and signs that lists agreements for a smoother running environment
• Creating hand signals to use instead of words to avoid embarrassment or risk tuning out
• Taking breaks and allowing breaks: encouraging relaxation breaks to recover
• Using plans (encouraging the communication about the event; coming up w/ possible scenarios; role playing and creating strategies/plans to use if needed)
• Role playing (doing this before a class or event can ease anxiety and further problem solving skills). Practicing different roles helps w/ perspective taking and empathy as well.
• Making a list of things to do to better cope/coping skills to carry around and pull out in a private place when needed…it can be overwhelming to try and remember it all.
• Counting to 10
• Learning, practicing and using internal dialogue/self talk
• Incorporating mistake making into the normal and expected learning environment
• Practicing forgiveness of oneself and others