Friday, July 10, 2020

Quarantine Queries 5: How can I help little people with big feelings? Quarantine Calm Down bucket for Kids!


Quarantine parenting, like quarantine-everything, is HARD. I wanted to share something simple but helpful that my almost-9-year old and I put together after a difficult day in the world of parenting. First, a confession: These two books have been sitting on my shelf, unread, for several years now.
If I’m honest, even though my degrees are in early childhood education, I used to teach elementary school, and I parent two children, reading parenting books is a self-discipline that I don’t usually enforce. I kind of hate it. BUT every now and then, I get desperate enough that I need a refresher and some encouragement. Yesterday was one of those days! Though I haven’t read the books, I have had the pleasure of attending some professional development with the brilliant Tina Payne Bryson, and it was outstanding. It fits in really well with some of the trauma-informed training I’ve attended that my dad facilitates with foster parents. 
I'll say it again: quarantine parenting, like quarantine-everything, is HARD. Today the emotions were running high. I remembered Dr. Payne Bryson teaching about what she calls the “upstairs brain” and “downstairs brain,” so I started explaining it to my daughter, who immediately knew what I was talking about. She had heard the same concept explained as the “guard dog and wise owl” from an *episode of Cosmic Kids in the Zen Den series. We talked through how our brains are trying to protect us when we have big emotions, and the wise owl flies away as guard dog takes over. I asked her to help me think about how to calm down the guard dog so the wise owl will come back when she’s upset. 
I remembered learning in a teacher training that fine motor activities can help children calm down. My daughter and I brainstormed ideas and made a Quarantine Calm Down bucket with some tools to help her when her emotions take over. We found items we already had around the house, but the possibilities are endless! We included:
-a glitter wand
-play dough to squeeze
-a pen and journal to write or draw or doodle
-a baby doll to dress
-a shaker egg to shake or to take one bean at a time and move to the other half of the egg
-a straw to blow cotton balls across a hard surface
-pompoms with tweezers and a clothespin to pick them up one by one and put in a different container
What would you add? What has worked for your children or students? After we put it together, she already used it twice later in the day. I'm hopeful this will continue to be helpful!
*This episode helps explain the "guard dog/wise owl" concept of the brain to children:
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