Dear Moms and Dads,
This is Dr. Roxanne Daleo with a few helpful reminders for consideration as our children begin the school year. Whatever the grade our children are beginning, their success is crystallized with the full support and involvement of you, the parent. Remember, your own feelings of confidence or apprehension are easily transferred to your children so here is how to start school positively.
Teach our children ways to stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit. The physical body needs to eat good food and have good exercise. The mental body needs to have good meditation, good thinking, and good words. The spirit of the child needs to have fun and be loved.
So much of the focus in the curriculum today is about academic intelligence. The three R’s–reading, writing and arithmetic, the fourth R, relaxation, is also essential for education and it stands for the life skills in stress management and emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is a term coined by Dr. Daniel Goleman, which refers to the following skills to help children learn to manage strong feelings and reduce stress: learning relaxation techniques and calming down, identifying feelings, recognizing feelings in others, communicating feelings, reducing the negative effects of strong emotions, and controlling impulses.
In his work, Dr. Daniel Goleman points out the current condition of students as being more depressed, more defiant, more aggressive, more uncontrollable then ever before. Teaching children how to become happier, friendlier, kinder and caring people can not only help them as individuals but also helps produce a healthier society–ultimately.
A fairly accurate predictor of what kind of adult your child will turn out to be is based on what they think of themselves not what we think of them. What a child thinks of himself is a direct result of what kind of messages get reinforced on a daily basis. Your child’s self-image is learned. It is an accumulation of outside influencing messages, events and perceptions. These messages can be positive or negative.
More importantly is a child’s inner dialogue or self-talk which can be unconscious. Self-talk can reinforce the outside messages in a positive or negative direction whether these messages are true or false. Children can be taught to become aware of the inner talk and how to use relaxation and guided imagery to clear their mind and emotions, correct misconceptions, remember their goodness and gifts, and be emotionally intelligent about future outside influences and events.
If we want our children to value themselves, then we should teach them skills in emotional intelligence. The following are techniques to cultivate self-worth and confidence:
A positive mental attitudeGuided imagery relaxationReframing stressful situationsMental rehearsalUsing affirmations
Benefits of emotional intelligence skills and stress reduction skills are as follows:
Improved concentrationGreater impulse controlImprove self-awarenessAbility to stay calmIncreased self-esteem and feelings of self-worthGreater empathy
Let’s go through this list using the first day of school as an example of how emotional intelligence can be developed.
1. Set a positive mental tone for starting school.
Your attitude and the atmosphere you create in your home can either help or hinder your child’s ability to cope.
a. In yourself set a positive tone.
Reflect on what starting school was like for you as a child. Are your memories good or bad, or both? Just notice them for yourself before you say anything to your child. Then choose to give your child a positive perspective by sharing your own happy or funny stories rather than feeding their anxiety with your own anxieties.
b. In your home set a positive tone.
Create a daily routine to de-stress and relax, one that is calm, open and accepting. Make it safe and easy for your child to express his feelings. When you take time to listen to your child it makes him or her feel important. You can create calm versus chaos by playing soft music, lighting a candle at dinner or just slowing down and being still.
2. Use your inner resources for relaxation and stress reduction and teach your child how to use his or her inner resources.
Put your own oxygen mask on first and then help your child put on his. In other words, you stay calm, be still and listen before expecting your child to the same.
a. Practice Relaxation with Guided Imagery
Every afternoon or before bed give your child the opportunity to check in with you about their feelings and stress level.
Take three, deep letting go breaths together with your child. You can ring a bell or a chime and follow the sound for as long as you can hear it and then listen to the sound of your own breathing. This is a good way to start slowing down and then listening to your body. What is there for you?
Children can tell where stress is in their bodies. Often, they tell me they get headaches, butterflies in their stomaches, tightness in their throats or difficulty breathing. These are all symptoms of stress. Children can learn to listen to their bodies’warning signs using a guided imagery relaxation audio program or just sitting quietly together without distractions. Choose a quiet place without distractions such as television, radio, computer, video games, etc.
These body signs warn us we are stressed and need to slow down and calm ourselves. If you and your child select a theme such as confidence, general relaxation or caring and practice guided imagery once or twice a day for three or four weeks following the guidelines for listening, you should gain benefits with the consistency of this solid start.
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Guidelines for Listening to Guided Imagery Relaxation Journeys
MindWorks are designed for all children 4 years and up.
Use a quiet spaceNo distractions such as TV or radio
Find a comfortable positionSitting or lying down
Just listenAudio program guides, relaxation, imagination and body awareness
Establish regular practiceConsistency is the key
Use your imaginationExplore other ways to use the programs following up with the child’s own story, poems, dance or artwork.
Recommendations for Parents to Take Mini Breaks.
If possible, after dropping your children off at school, plan on parking the car at a nearby waterway, rest area, or farm. Insert a relaxation program into a CD player to recharge your own energy. This is a good way to help you rest before letting the day get away. This practice of just listening, aids you in staying calm throughout the day.
b. Reframe Stressful Situations.
Once you’ve established a time and routine for relaxation and calming the body, take it a step further and help your child learn ways to calm his/her mind and reframe stressful situations. The inner dialogue or self-talk may be the root cause for his/her stress. Ask your child what he hears in his head. Ask,“If you could place a microphone there what discussion would you be able to pick up?”
Once they give you a word or a phrase such as“I don’t think Mary likes me or Mrs. Green, my teacher looked mad at me”reframe it. Cultivate a friendly personality by teaching your child to see the best in themselves and in others. Teach your child to be careful of how he/she talks to herself.
Help your child understand the impact of words and messages they say to themselves. As parents, remember your words can make or break your child’s self-worth. Tell your child you love them often and you know they are doing their best and they will try even harder to do better. Tell your child he is bad, lazy or unfocused and he will do even worse because he will feel unworthy and inferior.
There is an age old saying that goes,“the child who lives with criticism learns to condemn. The child who is given approval and encouragement learns to like himself”.
c. Use Affirmations.
To affirm means to make strong. Make strong positive statements to your child he can hear and understand such as“you’ve solved problems before so what can you come up with now that will help”? Or“What could you do to handle this?”Show your confidence in your child’s ability to cope by encouragement and asking the right questions. They will automatically take those positive statements and start saying powerful messages to themselves.
d. Mental rehearsal.
In the days and weeks before school prepare your child using the technique called mentalrehearsal. Begin with a few deep breaths and imagine the first day going the way you would like it to go. The Olympic athletes use this technique; they do not waste time imagining themselves failing. They see themselves performing well over and over again.
e. Story telling.
Story telling is bonding and teaches values and coping strategies.
Tell your child positive or funny stories of when you were a child his age starting school.
In addition, use story books that have a good message for staying connected with
your child during school.The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn is an encouraging tale about a raccoon whose Mom designs a way to stay connected so that the little raccoon can reassure himself once he gets to school. It is very helpful for children with separation issues.
3. Fortify the Physical Body
Have you planned healthy snacks and meals for your family? A child’s energy level is directly related to eating healthy foods. The brain needs protein first thing in the morning to get going and concentrate. Try breakfasts of eggs, cheese, tuna fish, tofu, beans and rice or an easy protein combination. Protein shakes are fun too!
Exercise is essential for you and your child’s health and is an effective stress reducer. Try inventing ways to move the body. Before school it could be quality time with Dad to walk to school. After school, biking, walking, jumping a trampoline, or raking leaves, walking the dog, washing a car can be energizing.
4. Ignite the Spirit of Your Child with Love
Nothing can replace your attention and love. Even more, for your child to love him/herself is so important to their balance and well being. Using new ways to give your child uplifting messages of reassurance assists him in getting ready for school positively.
In short, listening to a guided relaxation program reminds children that they are not alone and promotes their inner resources which they can call upon to remember their own worth and goodness. The goodness will come in forms of clearing their minds, uplifting their spirits and recharging their body.
It brings a smile to me to bring a smile to them. This is what makes my spirit and heart sing.
I like hearing from you and your children. Please e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, concerns or success stories to share.
Trust yourself to try something new and see the positive in your child and in you.
Best wishes for a positive start for the new school year.