There is a fear that when viewing Christmas through a lens of self-regulation, pictures of sugarplums resting, rather than dancing, will come to our heads.
Self-regulated doesn’t mean Zen Zombie. Having tools to self-regulate allows for freedom previously not experienced. For all ages.
Christmas to-do’s rival Santa’s ‘checking-it-twice’ list.
Oft times Christmas can shift from joyous to just plain annoying. The season of good-will towards all, can push even the most evolved adult to a state of stress overload. And what about the kids? With all the excitement it can be easy to forget their angst. Fear or worry, with or without anxiety, can be highly stressful.
Dr. Stuart Shanker, Founder The MEHRIT Centre on self-regulation:
“Self-regulation is the ability to manage stress. It refers to the neural processes that control the energy expended to deal with a stressor and then recover. When an individual’s stress levels are too high various systems for thinking and metabolic recovery are compromised. The signs of dysregulation can show up in the behaviour, mood, attention, and/or physical well-being of a child, teen or adult.”
Think of a student, that one who is unable to complete a Christmas craft without crushing it in frustration; 0r the little one who really wants to help decorate for Christmas, but rather, ends up in time out. Now picture those same children recovering from stress overload. Can it happen? Yes it can. BUT, it ain’t easy!
Self-regulation is a process not a program. It lives in the realm of the experiential. “We experience self-regulation in our bodies”.
The last thing we want is to do is “cause more harm”. For those students who already unconsciously dread Christmas, we must do our best to create new memories that can slide safely through their hard shell of previous disappointment. Memories we hope will be life-long. We do so with love and care. We offer opportunities that speak to the wonder of December to everyone in our building <think ALL>. This balance is a delicate one. It is achieved by knowing our students. It comes on the back of relationship.
With all the busyness it can be easy to overlook the heightened stress created by angst. Here are some suggestions to consider as you journey towards a #selfreg Christmas:
- Play. Good old unstructured play. Outside is best.
- Laugh. Alot.
- Set aside the tough stuff. It’s not the best time of year to be tackling new or difficult concepts.
- Let go of being ‘right’.
- Read to your class. Read often. Let them scatter around the room, finding their own safe place for listening.
- Safety. Keep in mind emotional safety. This is the toughest season of all for some.
- Set up different spaces for different needs. Squishy bean bag type chairs for some, desks for others. High tables/kneeling tables/mats to lie on.
- If your school doesn’t have a place for students to go when they need a break, get together with a few staff and come up with a place. It’s worth the proactive effort. (Note: This is not a punishment place!)
- Listen well.
- One size does not fit all. Different kids have different needs. Add to that the obvious; what worked today won’t necessarily work tomorrow.
- Be a detective. I’ve been saying this for years. Find out what works for your little or not so little ones by paying attention, snooping around…so to speak.
- Know your kids. What’s their story?
- Relationships matter. Lean into yours.
- Take care of you. Know when YOU need a break.
- Celebrate successes. Celebrations! not rewards.
My ultimate #selfreg goal is to equip children and/or adults with the process of connecting to their congruent self. The self that holds curiosity wonder, trust love, and JOY alongside fear, hurt, and disappointment. When we begin to feel stress rising, how wonderful it would be to be able to notice the signs enough to override the limbic system’s reactivity response to fight, flight, or freeze. This shift will not happen overnight, it is indeed a lifelong process. There is no better time to start than now.
With the knowing that; Better is Possible.