Updated: Jan 27, 2020
Caring for young children can be very stressful. And, let's be honest, not one adult is perfect at it, especially during the most intense moments. What can you do to ensure you use strategies that help the situation improve and leave you feeling proud of your response?
The video and short article below are strategies to help you shine, even in your most difficult moments!
We've all been there and will probably be there again at some point! Do you know the point I am talking about? When a child is screaming, crying, hitting or throwing things and you have tried everything you could think of and yet...nothing has worked! You might also have even acted in ways you later wish you hadn't - threatening a consequence you cannot possibly follow through on, for example. (Yes, I remember threatening my daughter, "If you do not put your shoes within 30 seconds, we are NOT going to Grandma's!" ... it was Easter. She had made us dinner. We were obviously going to Grandmas...
If you have been there with the rest of us, and want to minimize the odds you will be there again, then this Naptime Nugget #10 is for you! During this video, you will take away a top tip to increase your success during your most stressful moments. What's more, when you increase your calm control, you not only increase your success but also set children on the trajectory to handle their own stressful moments (since children watch and copy what you do). Below are some quick tips if you prefer.
If you are interested in catching me live, this insightful Keynote is being offered at the Caring for a Lifetime: Milestone's Early Childhood Learning Event's early morning session in St. Cloud, Minnesota this March!
Some of the keys to avoid moments that make it difficult to shine...
1. Take time to decompress. Take time for yourself to unwind and cool down before you get so worked up that you do something you may regret. Build in stretch breaks, breathing pauses, or movement moments. I just LOVE Brain Breaks from "The Learning Station!" They remove the pressure of having to come up with your own on the spot.
2. Change the "scenery". Change up what you are doing and your surroundings. If you're outside, go inside; If you're inside, go outside. Put on some music and dance. Just change it up and get your mind or the child's mind off of the stressor.
3. Create and use a "calm down" spot. Have a set area where kids and adults can go if they need to take a break. Model and use the spot to unwind a bit. Include sensory items, have low stimulation levels, and maybe even provide a noise cancelling headset to turn down the noise. This spot, whether it is in your home or child care facility, is a place where anyone can go to send a message to others that they are there they are not to be bothered.
When you feel like you might lose it:
1. In order to behave well, we need to first find a way to reduce the stress hormone in our body. Nobody behaves admirably when super stressed! During the workshop on this topic, I ask "What do you do when you're feeling stressed?" Many people will say "Oh, I have a drink" Or, "I go for a run." Sometimes, "Watch my favorite show" or "Take a bath". And, while those may sound the most appealing, these are not manageable when working with young children. It is important to find other ways to calm yourself down that you can realistically (and healthfully) pull off while caring for young children. Some ideas include squeezing a stress ball, taking a deep breath, walking away, running water over your hands, or even taking a quick drink of water.
2. Put time between the stressful moment and your response - even 10 seconds can make a huge difference and give your "thinking brain" a chance to catch up to your emotionally reactive part. When we are in the moment, it is easy to say or do something before thinking it out rationally and that is when most feelings get hurt. Taking as little as 10 second before you respond can dramatically change the way you handle the situation, reduce stress for you and others, and result in more calm and less chaos. Here is the "hand model of the brain" developed by Dan Siegel. He explains what happens the concept of what is happening in our brain when stressed and how to bring it back "online".
3. Recite a helpful mantra. Find something that you can say to yourself during the difficult moment that will help you get through it. Some that I have said are "She's only two, she is still learning to handle disappointment" or "This too shall pass." "I have got this!" "It is not about me. He just needs help right now." Choose something that helps you find your calm and rational thinking once again.
The reality is, caring for young children will have stressful moments and not one adult is perfect at it! Being able to find your calm in the chaos will not only help you today, when you model healthful ways to work through the strain successfully, you will be teaching children to do the same today and tomorrow.
Thank you for all you do for young children! What you do makes a difference!