At the time of writing this newsletter we are still in lockdown and completing remote learning. I want the thank the families that have worked with us and kept learning happening at home. I want to thank our teachers for preparing lesson online and for being available to have our first of two parent teacher evenings. Conversations are such an important part to help our wellbeing and build a community grow in learning. Here is a great video all about taking care of your mental health in situations such as ours. I recommend giving it a watch.
I also have included a helpful article that Mr Matthew Talbot wrote (one of our Provisional Psychologists.) I think it is a timely reminder to think and reflect on our emotions and the impact that can have on the home.
Everyone has responded to the return to remote learning in their own way. For some there may be losses unexpected or unexplainable. For some stress, struggle, and peace will rise and fall, while for others they will move at a steady hum. Some may even find comfort or quiet during this time or experience more connection in their family.
All this is to say that – every student, every family, every day is a different as we have been asked to stay home and watch and wait. However, perhaps the part of us that hasn’t paid attention to this directive is our emotions. During this time, our emotions are more likely to be more active, to be more extreme and to change as fast and as frequently as the next news alert.
So perhaps it is worth taking a moment to check in with our emotions and follow the directive to stop, to watch, and wait.
The study of human emotions has coined an interesting term, Emotional Contagion, a sense that emotions can be ‘caught’ or ‘transferred’.
We may think of a person who always seems to make us laugh or feel at ease, perhaps others come to mind who make us feel stressed – do these people also seem easy-going, peaceful, or stressed? Perhaps we have been “catching emotions” from those people.
Research shows that we are tuned to read others’ emotions, that our brains contain mirror neurons that are designed to watch, learn, and mimic others. While this may be a neat way to consider how we use tone of voice, facial expressions, and social cues, it should also empower us to be aware of how our emotions impact others.
In the family context, it might be helpful to think of this as emotional temperature, with different emotions running both cool and hot. Every family member is introducing their own mix of emotions to the house, so as parents we have an opportunity to both consider how we, ourselves, are feeling, and to shift our behaviour to adjust the overall temperature in the room.
We can decide to introduce a contagious calm.
1. Check in with your own emotions and recognise the impact they might be having on those in your home. While there are no ‘bad’ emotions, the resilience we want to teach our children is about choosing to be calm in the storm.
– Start with some self-kindness, allowing some extra time for sleep, fresh air, and a cup of tea.
– Take time to connect with someone who brings their contagious calm to you.
2. Create a calm environment.
-Balance screen time and social media use.
-Where possible separate spaces for work, recreation, and rest.
3. Air uncertainty. Just as we find ourselves adjusting and questioning changing restrictions, we can support children to process change in healthy ways.
– Be curious with children about what changes and challenges they face. Bring reassurance or flexible thinking to the conversation.
– Make a plan as a family about what staying healthy involves. Talk through practical things like planning breaks, exercise and sleep or comforts such as snacks, play and rest.
4. Counter with calm. Until we and our children can ‘come home’ from the stressful days, it’s okay to press the reset button after a day of challenges, tech issues or sibling toe-stepping.
– Parents can model calm by slowing down and stopping at the end of the day by checking-in or having a debrief transition between school and the afternoon to celebrate small wins and hard work.
– Orchestrate moments of fun, surprise or kindness.
– Use a values-based-lens when setting priorities. Perhaps ‘faith’ means spending a moment praying with your before the start of the day. ‘Family’ might be organising a big breakfast on a Monday morning. ‘Fun’ could involve dreaming up a movie marathon for the weekend.
If you feel at this time that you need more support in your parenting, there are places you can get support:
Parenting HelpLine: 1300 1300 52
Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service: 1800 512 348
Raising Children: https://raisingchildren.net.au/
WCCS School Psychologist