Be Gentle with Yourself and Those Around You During COVID-19

“We know that it’s important to show compassion for others, but how often do we show that same level of kindness to ourselves?” asks Emily Ferguson, author of 10 Different Ways to Practice Self-Care.1

Step back. Ferguson says, “Step back and remember that you are worth the love and care that you give others. Many think that practicing self-care is inconvenient or even selfish.” 1 As I began preparing the workshop Self Care for Educators During the COVID-19 Pandemic, I questioned if self-care is selfish even though self-care pushes us to be healthier versions of ourselves.

Self-care is defined as, “Our ability as human beings to function effectively in the world while meeting the multiple challenges of daily life with a sense of energy, vitality, and confidence. Self-care is initiated and maintained by us as individuals, it requires our active engagement.” 1

“Times of high stress can bring out both the best and the worst in people — it’s wonderful when it brings out the best, but it’s completely natural and understandable when it brings out the worst.” 2 Give yourself permission to cry. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re short with someone or you binge watch Netflix while eating ice cream. Be aware of your emotions. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings and apologize to others as necessary.

Resist the tendency to compare. Psychologist Dr. Doreen Dodgen-Magee says in Self Care and Covid-19: Getting Ready for the Marathon, “There are as many ways of handling difficult situations as there are humans. It’s easy, right now, to see what others are doing (and how they are seemingly thriving) and to compare ourselves to them. This is a time to work diligently to tend to your relationship with yourself.”3

Don’t take things personally. Dr. Dodgen-Magee also says in A Self-Care Alphabet for Week 4 of Quarantine, “This is the time to work hard to not take things personally.”4 Identify what you need from others. Be sure to communicate your needs specifically. Remember to give others space to respond based on their capacity to help.

The pandemic won’t last forever. Maybe now isn’t the best time to flourish. We can be healthier versions of ourselves later. Meanwhile, we need to be gentle with ourselves and those around us

References:

  1. 10 Different Ways to Practice Self-Care, Emily Ferguson, February 24, 2020, https://www.trendymami.com/10-different-ways-to-practice-self-care/
  2. Self Care during COVID-19. International OCD Foundation,https://iocdf.org/covid19/self-care-during-covid-19/
  3. Self Care and COVID-19: Getting Ready for the Marathon, Doreen Dodgen-Magee, Psy.D. Posted Mar 19, 2020 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/deviced/202003/self-care-and-covid-19-getting-ready-the-marathon
  4. A Self-Care Alphabet for Week 4 of Quarantine, Doreen Dodgen-Magee, Psy.D., Posted Apr 10, 2020 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/deviced/202004/self-care-alphabet-week-4-quarantine

 

Image:  empathy-4181896_Compassion friendship {Pixabay.com]

 

 

What is Working & Not Working During COVID-19?

“Take care of yourself and others” is a message I repeatedly hear on the news and commercials. Good advice especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic. But what is meant by self-care?

Self-care is, “Our ability as human beings to function effectively in the world while meeting the multiple challenges of daily life with a sense of energy, vitality, and confidence. Self-care is initiated and maintained by us as individuals, it requires our active engagement.”1

We all arrived to today through different journeys. For some, shelter at home means balancing work and family while for others it means no work at home due to job loss and everywhere in between.

By now you’ve probably tried some different things to make shelter at home easier. Some of the ideas worked while others were a huge flop. Enough time has gone by that its opportune time that we look at what is working for us and our loved ones and what’s not working.

Dr. Doreen Dodgen-Magee from Psychology Today states, “It’s important to do an evaluation of our daily and weekly patterns and see where our behaviors are helping us or hurting us. Once we’ve done this, we can begin to consider what habits need breaking and what new norms might help us in this next part of the journey.”2 Habits I needed to break were having time being bored with nothing to do, sleeping in late, and consuming too much news on the pandemic.

Dodgen-Magee goes on to suggest, “It’s always easier to establish healthy norms than it is to break bad habits.”Once we’ve developed a bad habit, it takes time to change the habit. It’s easier to establish a new habit than change a bad habit?

During my Peloton beginners bike riding class I take, the trainer talks about the importance of drinking water. Honestly, I drink way more soda than water. So, I’m replacing my soda with water. When I drink my daily allotment of water, I then can drink one soda. Most days now I don’t even want the soda. I’ve been able to replace a bad habit with a good habit. What about you? What bad habit do you need to get rid of? What new habit would be beneficial?

Another suggestion in Psychology Today is, “Ask yourself what activities are life-giving and self-soothing to you and schedule them on your calendar.” What have you found that gives you energy and sense of purpose? After lots of blank calendar days I realized I needed to have more structure to my day. One idea I’ve done that is life-giving is calling people I haven’t talked to in a while. At first, I was a little hesitant, but then I thought, if that person called me, I would be happy to hear from them. So, I’ve been calling. Many phone conversations last an hour. We’re connecting which is life-giving.

What’s working for you today during the pandemic?

 

Sources

  1. Fact Sheet Nine: What is Self-Care? September 2013. https://static.virtuallabschool.org/atmt/self/FC.Self_3.Environment_A1.WhatIsSelfCare.pdf

2.      A Self-Care Alphabet for Week 4 of Quarantine, Doreen Dodgen-Magee, Psy.D., Posted Apr 10, 2020,

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/deviced/202004/self-care-alphabet-week-4-quarantin

Image source: illustration-of-light-bulb-concept-of-new-ideas [Pikrepo.org]

 

Mental Health During COVID-19 Pandemic

Coronavirus Disease 2019 Graphic. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Rosario “Charo” Gutierrez)

With the shelter-in-place orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restorative practices staff at Youth for Christ are planning a webinar, Self-care During the Corona Virus. I did research and chose 10 tips for the workshop. I thought you’d find some of the information and tips helpful as well. But first, I found something surprising.

It’s been shown that a period of just two weeks in quarantine can be linked with serious mental health issues, which can include: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, depression, confusion and/or anger.1

Since it has already been way longer than two weeks, chances are some of us are already suffering from mental health challenges. Get some help if you notice:

  • “yourself feeling overly agitated,
  • losing interest in life,
  • withdrawing from relationships,
  • eating or sleeping too much or too little, or
  • experiencing other symptoms of depression or anxiety.”2

Reach out to a therapist near you (many are doing telehealth) or call the National Alliance on Mental Illness crisis line at 800-950-NAMI. Or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255

Together we can do this. I know that for me the days seem really long. Call a trusted friend or share with your spouse or partner. We do not need to go through this struggle alone.

References:

  1. Make time for self-care during a self-quarantine, Published Mar. 18, 2020 https://www.geisinger.org/health-and-wellness/wellness-articles/2020/03/18/17/56/self-care-during-quarantine
  2. Self Care and COVID-19: Getting Ready for the Marathon, Doreen Dodgen-Magee, Psy.D. Posted Mar 19, 2020 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/deviced/202003/self-care-and-covid-19-getting-ready-the-marathon

 

New Restorative Practices Book

Always on the lookout for new restorative practices resource books I’m delighted with my latest find, Restorative Justice in the English Language Arts Classroom. This five-chapter, 126-page book by Maisha T. Winn, Hannah Graham, and Rita Renjitham Alfred integrates restorative justice principles throughout as it applies to English Language Arts (ELA) classrooms.

I thought the book would be filled with assignments based on restorative practices for teachers to use with students, but the book offers so much more. It offers the philosophy and principles behind the assignment concept ideas.

There’s an extensive 23-page prologue on adolescent literacy that I found helpful yet disturbing. I’m disturbed “that 40 percent of high school seniors rarely write a paper of three or more pages, … the achievement gap between the reading and writing scores of white and students of color in 8th and 12th grades, and … the 4th grade slump in reading abilities” (p. xiii). I found the myths about adolescent literacy very insightful. The research-based recommendations for effective adolescent literacy instruction for teachers is spot on.

The book begins with “Teaching English in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” This short chapter offers hope despite the criminalization of particular children. The authors provide a solid foundation of why ELA teachers should care and how they can engage students in literacy for purpose and belonging.

“Restorative Justice in Educative Spaces” provides background in restorative justice in education methodology, that impacts entire school systems including English classrooms. Teachers of any grade or content area will benefit from this comprehensive chapter on the foundations of restorative justice. Why punishment doesn’t work is a strong section. The Relationship Matrix offers a different slant where people are viewed as objects and teachers have power over their students as opposed to people as subjects to be honored with unconditional acceptable and the power is shared “with” the students. Many of their excellent figures are offered through Living Justice Press as free resources. I’m making posters of each one for my trainings.

Being a researcher, my favorite chapter is “Using Our Curricular Powers: Pedagogy and Restoration in the ELA Classroom.” How does an ELA teacher integrate restorative justice principles into pedagogical practice? “Part of creating and reshaping narratives in classrooms mean accepting responsibility for the power that we as educators hold in creating spaces where students in our care feel that their ideas, opinions and personhood are valued,” (p. 49). Every chapter offers an “Into the Classroom” that features how one teacher applied the principles being taught. This chapters offers strong examples.

“Assessing Our Spaces and Ourselves” begins with the question, why do we send children to school? The short answer = opportunity. This chapter takes readers through a 3-step personal development self-audit. The remainder of the chapter examines learning contexts in the classroom.

The final chapter, “Transforming Writing Instruction: Where Do We Go from Here? suggests that restorative justice practices are a great place to begin. English education “…provides opportunity to engage in difficult dialogues

Four Appendixes support the chapters’ content followed by a notes section, annotated bibliography, references and an index. This comprehensive book for ELA could easily be adapted by educators in other content areas. The book strongly explains restorative justice and what those principles can look like day-to-day in the classrooms.

Pushing Students Out of School: How Did We Get Here?

 

Why did laws intended to make schools safer backfire?

Zero Tolerance. In 1994 schools across the United States implemented Zero Tolerance policies chid handcuffed [flickr.com]after federal legislation required expulsion for one year when students brought a weapon to school. Many schools expanded this policy to reduce possession or use of illicit and prevent violence.

A multitude of “misbehaviors” escalated to more than 3 million students suspended from schools in 2010. This is double the number of suspensions in the 1970s. Traditional punishment is not working in schools across the country.

Why are American schools pushing students out of school?

Downward Spiral. The increase in suspensions has created a downward spiral for countless students. Students are suspended, often unsupervised which allows opportunities to get into further trouble. Students return to school but their behavior is not only unchanged, they often return angry and resentful. These students typically continue inappropriate behaviors which results in more suspensions.

Why do American schools suspend so many students?

School-to-Prison Pipeline. Every day that students miss school, they fall further behind. The more class they miss, the less likely they are to graduate. Those who miss too much school often end up dropping out and find themselves in trouble with the law. This practice of pushing students out of schools towards the juvenile and criminal justice systems is referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Is there any hope for students?

Restorative Practices. Restorative Practices (RP) has its roots in Restorative Justice. This is a newer field of study that is being used in schools to improve student’s accountability, repair harm, and restore relationships. Many schools are effectively using RP to address the school-to-prison pipeline. RP is used with all students, beginning with building community amongst students and staff.

What can reverse this trend?

Innovative Success. We need to explore alternatives to traditional discipline that increase student responsibility, and decrease classroom disruptions, suspensions and expulsions. To find out more about these innovating strategies that are positively changing the lives of students on my web page http://fromdiaperstodiamonds.com/restorative-practices/

To view your U.S. school district’s suspension rates visit http://www.schooldisciplinedata.org/ccrr/index.php

Image source: child handcuffed [flickr.com]

 

Key to Winter Bike Riding

In  just over two months I plan to ride 40 miles in Reedley’s Blossom Ride on Mar 7th. There’s just one problem. I’ve only ridden 5 miles since December 1. Four years ago, I rode 145 miles during January and February before the Blossom Ride.

2016 Ride

Second Grade Math. I do the second-grade math I learned in my grandson Parker’s class. I have to “decompose” (isn’t that what happens with dead things?) the tens to get my answer. I still need to ride 140 miles. That doesn’t sound too unrealistic. I have almost two months.

But here’s the problem. I have to actually get on my bike. The progression on reaching that goal looks something like this.

Attempt #1. Think about it. At the end of the day I say to myself, “At least I thought about riding. That’s better than not thinking about it at all.”

Attempt #1 Results = No bide ride.

Attempt #2. Schedule it. I actually write, “bike ride,” on my calendar and “to do” list. I see it written down. I periodically glance at the reminder. “I need to ride my bike today,” I tell myself when I get up and throughout the day.

“Oh, no. I can’t ride now; I need to get ready for my appointment.”

After the appointment, I rationalize, “Cali-Cat hardly ever lets me pet her. Since she’s so happy that I’m petting her, I dare not stop.”  Cali eventually moves away; however, my rear remains on the couch.

“Really? It’s already past 4:00? I can’t ride now. It’ll be too dark before I get home.”

At the end of the day I justify, “At least I tried to ride my bike today. It just didn’t work out with my schedule. Maybe tomorrow.”

Attempt #2 Results = No bike ride.

Attempt #3. Get ready for it. I decide to get dressed in my bike clothes. This is a practical idea. Why have to change later? I’ll put my bike clothes on now and be all ready for my ride. What’s the temperature? When are no-rain hours? I select the “best” ride time.

I feed the pets. Read email. Send a few emails. Edit my last blog. Pet adorable Cali-Cat sitting near my laptop. These bike clothes are getting too hot. Plus, Cali’s getting her fur all over my black bike pants. Remove outer layers.

I better finish the restorative practices training handout. And update the PowerPoint too. These clothes sure are snuggly and warm on a cold day. Makes me want to take a nap. Or at least relax before my ride.

“It’s raining? Bummer. It wasn’t supposed to rain until 5:00. I can’t ride in the rain.”

At the end of the day, I rationalize, “I was all dressed to ride. Too bad it rained. I was going to ride my bike then.”

Attempt #3 Results = No bike ride.

Attempt #4: Get on it. And ride. I can think about it . . . all day long. I can schedule it . . . and keep changing my schedule. I can get ready for it . . . and still find other things to do, especially in my comfortable clothes. Or I follow the key to winter bike riding. I get on my bike and ride.

I don’t worry about how far I’ll go. I don’t calculate how much faster I want to ride. I don’t wonder how long it will take me. I simply get on my bike and start pedaling. Then I can set goals . . . but I prefer to “just ride.”

Attempt #4 Results: I get on my bike and ride.

The key to winter bike riding is the same as for all seasons: get on my bike and ride. The more miles I ride, the better I get, the faster I can go. Whether I ride in the Blossom Ride or not depends on how many times I get on my bike and just ride.

What do you think about but don’t get done?

What do you schedule and still don’t get done?

What do you get ready for but don’t complete?

What do you need to get on and do? That’s the key in any season.

 

Christmas Toys for Endless Fun

ted-the-bear-3-1367103 [freeimages.com]Are you still shopping for Christmas toys? Are you overwhelmed with so many toys to choose from? Do you want something kids won’t toss aside after a few weeks? Here are some tips on buying toys for endless fun.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a toy, such as safety, the child’s interests, durability, and your budget. Because toys are already subject to safety tests, my best advice is to purchase developmentally age-appropriate, open-ended toys. What do all these words mean?

Developmentally Appropriate

Age-appropriate means the toy matches the child’s developmental level. Children generally develop within a predictable sequence, but some develop earlier while others develop later. For example, some children walk before one year while others walk after one year.

Age Suggestions & Safety

All toy manufacturers must indicate age suggestions on the packaging, such as six to twelve months, three to five-years, etc. Parents and grandparents are often tempted to purchase toys that are intended for older children because the child is “so smart.” The child may be bright, but the manufacturer suggestions provide the best safety for children. For example, preschool toys may have smaller pieces that would be unsafe for toddlers.

Variety, Creativity & Budget-friendly

Alongside choosing age-appropriate toys, choose toys that are open-ended. This means toys that provide different ways children can play with them. A jack-in-the-box is a closed-ended toy. There is only one way to play with a jack-in-the-box, over, and over, and over again. Open-ended toys offer more variety and creativity. A jack-in-the-box will be interesting for awhile, but open-ended toys can provide fun for several years. This makes open-ended toys more cost effective and budget friendly.

Endless Possibilities

Open-ended toys offer children endless play possibilities. Items children can build with or create anything they want are ideal for their imaginations. Possibilities include dress-up clothes, wooden blocks, Duplos, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Mega blocks, and magnetic blocks. One day children create a zoo and dress up as a zoo keeper while another time they construct a ferry. Open-ended toys facilitate endless possibilities for fun.

 

Image: ted-the-bear-3-1367103 [freeimages.com]

 

A Rainy Day Mixed with Tears

I find the house number through the rain splashing on my windshield. It’s the one with seven cars parked in the driveway overflowing onto the street.

Holding my umbrella in christmas-tree-1434515-m (Stock Photo By teslacoils) freeimages_phtmlone hand and a rumpled wet paper with the family’s name written in pencil that’s barely readable, I press the doorbell. I’m surprised it works. I can see through the hole where the dead bolt should be. I wonder how much cold air goes through there.

A beautiful young lady opens the door. I’m drawn to her meticulous hair pinned around her head. Her radiant smile warms my face on this dreary day. Her dark brown eyes with long eyelashes look down towards her tiny newborn boy swaddled and wrapped in her arms.

You are so beautiful, I think. “Merry Christmas. I’m Marian.”

What was I expecting? I guess a stressed woman with a toddler hanging on her leg and a baby screaming.

“This is so nice of you. Come in.”

“Your baby is so precious. How old is he?”

“Two and a half weeks,” she gleams.

“I’ll start bringing in the food.”

There’s no one to help carry in the extremely heavy food box assembled by a nearby local church and staff from my husband’s office. I transfer cans into plastic bags and carry what I can. I give up on the umbrella and choose my coat’s hood instead. After I place the third load of food on the floor just inside the front door, I begin to cry.

What was I so concerned about? That I’d asked others to help and there wouldn’t be a true need?

I briefly recall the day I met this teen’s mother at the county library. Her mom had recently got off drugs and wanted a Christmas for her daughter, two-year-old grand-daughter and new grandson. But she had no resources. She asked me for help.

“Lord, how could I doubt you? I’m so sorry,” I confess. “You chose me as your messenger and a group of people who love You responded to this need.”

She won’t notice my tears mixed with rain, I think. Actually, I don’t care if she does. I’m humbled. God is using me in a life of a family who are no longer strangers.

“There’s still more?”

I hand her bags of clothes from my mom, a recent widow. I tell her briefly about the people behind the gifts. “I’m so happy we can help.” I notice the two-year old fast asleep in the dark room and the small Christmas tree with five ornaments. “When my girls were little, we were the ones the church gave food baskets to at Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

“Really?”

“I’m thankful I can share with others. Would you mind if I pray with you?” Realizing that might sound strange to her, I quickly add, “Or not. I don’t need to pray if you’d rather me not.”

Her smile broadens, “I’d like that.”

My prayer is short. I’m choked up. “Can I give you a hug?”

Driving home, tears flow freely like the rain on my windshield. “Lord, I am so blessed. Thanks that You have always provided for me and my family. I’m grateful to fulfill a ‘Prayer and a Request at the Library.'”

This story was originally titled Prayer & Request at the Library: The Rest of the Story and was published December 26, 2014.

Accepted and Rejected Children in School-Age Friendships

gossip-girls-1-1066564-s

The good news for parents is about 80% of children fall within the “accepted” children friendship group. 1 These children have at least one friend who protects them from experiencing long, lonely days in school.

The 20%

However, the remaining 20% are part of the “unclassifiable” group; they may have no friends at all. Psychologists are concerned about this bottom 20% on the social ladder. In this blog, we’ll look at the three sub-groups, typical friendships characteristics of each, and how parents can help these struggling children with friendships.

Neglected Children

The first sub-group is the “neglected” children who tend to be very shy, comprising five percent of children. 1 Although the group sub-title sounds negative, these children are very close to their families and typically good students. They simply don’t attract much attention from peers. Parents mainly need to accept their child’s social style which was explained in my last blog, Parents Can Help with School Age Child’s Friendships.

Controversial Children

The second sub-group, “controversial” children, also five percent, possess some traits peers like, but they also have annoying habits, such as: being a poor sport or poor hygiene. 1 These children need to be coached to give up annoying habits. Some parents think that by addressing these issues their children’s self-esteem will suffer, but these children are already suffering silently. If children knew how to change their behavior, they already would have.

Adult Guidance

They need adult guidance and specific strategies for improving these habits. It can begin with a simple observation question. “Today when you were shooting hoops, did you notice that your friend was angry when you kept hogging the ball? What can you do differently next time you shoot hoops?” When parents gradually and consistently work with children on specific annoying behaviors, most children will improve over time.

Rejected Children

The last sub-group, the “rejected” children contain 10% of children. 1 These children lack important social skills in a wide variety of areas and may not cooperate or know how to respond in certain situations.2 “Rejected children are either overly aggressive from the start and react to being rejected with more aggression, or they become depressed and withdrawn.” 1

Missing Skills

Whereas the “controversial” children need some help on certain social issues, these children must be taught missing skills. 2 If not, this child will become a rejected adult. Maybe you know someone like this. They don’t pick up on social cues and are observed as “misfits” at work and in social settings.

Life Skills

Now is the time for parents and schools to help these children develop the all-important life skill of making friends. School administrators are a great resource to find out about arranging friendship groups that help rejected children make friends. “Just 6 to 8 meetings of such a group can have a significant positive impact. Administrators should also implement anti-bullying policies and train teachers to create a socially safe environment in the classroom.” 1 Rejected, angry children may need counseling.

Help Finding Friendships

Both “rejected” and “controversial” children need help finding friendships in other venues beyond the school day. Spending time neighbor kids or cousins is one way to begin. Children are in close proximity for observing interactions combined with “coaching” later. Joining a youth group, like Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, or 4-H are other possibilities. Community service projects are great ways for children with to learn social skills while helping others.

Extra Guidance

When your children are in the last two sub-groups, they will need extra guidance, direction and support. Overtime, your children will benefit from better friendships. Remember, “It only takes one real friend to alleviate the worse aspect of loneliness.” 1

Sources:

1. Let’s Be Friends: Help your child’s friendships flourish — even in the face of difficulty. Scholastic Parent, www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/stages…/lets-be-friends. Accessed 10/17/2013.

2. Children’s Health: Peer Pressure, www.healthofchildren.com. Accessed 10/5/2013.

Book Review: The Hurried Child: Growing up too fast too soon

The Hurried ChildOne of my favorite contemporary psychologists is David Elkind, author of the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Hurried Child. The message in his original book published in 1981 was, “Give childhood back to children.” As a child development specialist, his message echoes mine.

25th Anniversary Edition

Unfortunately, in his revised edition, the deluxe 25th anniversary edition, the prefaces to his books sadly state that children are increasingly hurried. Interestingly, he includes all his previous prefaces in this edition.

First Edition

The first edition focused on the way parents, schools, and the media hurry children. Concerns about sports and schooling that he considered developmentally inappropriate, as well as the effects of sex and violence on television were key components of his book.

Technology & Hurry

The latest edition adds information on the effects of technology on children with the pervasiveness of our hurried society and media. “In many ways, our new technologies have radically transformed childhood, and not always for the better,” (p. viii). Other significant cultural changes include the focus on infant education, such as Baby Einstein and computer programs for infants and toddlers. Out of home child care for 12.5 million children under age five with an average of 36 hours per week is yet another cultural shift, as is the child as a consumer, and the technology empowered student.

Two Parts

This ten chapter book is dived into two parts: Our Hurried Children and Hurried Children: Stressed Children. Part one addresses the dynamics of how parents, schools, media and technology hurry children. Two excellent chapters in part 2 include Growing Up Slowly and How Children React to Stress.

Hurrying Children

Elkind’s documented so many significant cultural changes around hurrying children, he’s amended the closure from his first book to state, “In the end, a playful childhood is the most basic right of children,” (p. xvii). This book is counter culture to our hurried society which is exactly why I like it. Let’s give childhood back to our children. They deserve nothing less.

Book Information

The Hurried Child: Growing up too fast too soon by David Elkind, Ph.D., Da Capo Press, 2007, 25th anniversary edition. Available at amazon.com; paperback deluxe edition $12.42; Kindle $10.33.