Dear Parents and Guardians,
As we all are coping with the ongoing uncertainty with the impact of COVID-19, we wanted to offer some additional resources to support you and your child(ren) during this extended time period at home. Unexpected changes and uncertainty often come with a variety of uncomfortable feelings and a sense of loss of control. The purpose of these resources is to provide you with tools to continue to provide you child(ren) with a sense of structure, routine, and predictability to promote a sense of well-being and resiliency during this difficult time. Although parents and educators have always valued mental health and the importance of social/emotional/behavioral skills, now more than ever, these skills are vital to our new everyday life.
In school, students are used to a highly structured program throughout the school day. Although a home setting can never truly replicate that structure and routine of a full school day, there are some components of the school day that can be implemented at home. Below are some of the main components of school-wide behavior approaches that we find to be beneficial for all students. You may consider implementing the following supports that are used at school during this time period at home:
● Daily positive and empowering language: Focus on the positive and recognize strengths and good choices. Try to use five positive comments for every one negative or neutral comment. Use a fun and engaging approach to all expectations. Use empowering statements on a consistent basis (we can do hard things and we are stronger when we support each other).
● Daily visual schedule: Create a schedule of expected activities that include both fun/reinforcing activities along with daily chores and academic assignments. Each day include a list of “have to”s (chores, daily self-care, academics, etc.) and “want to”s (choice activities picked by your child). Some of the “have to”s may need to be completed before the “want to”s. This is consistent with the natural structure of school (expected activities need to be completed and then there is often flexibility for fun activities).
● Managing behaviors: When negative behaviors occur (because they will ☺) process the situation with your child. Help your child learn from the experience, provide opportunities to practice replacement skills, and provide reassurance and unconditional support regardless of behavior. View behavioral difficulties in a similar way as noticing academic difficulties (notice the mistake, provide extra help and practice, and focus on what was learned).
● Sticker charts and reward systems: Reinforce positive behavior at any time throughout the day through compliments and words of appreciation. Although we want our children to be intrinsically motivated, extrinsic rewards may be beneficial for children. During this time of uncertainty, seeing a tangible reward can be reassuring and feel more concrete. Use a system you are used to at home or use the sample star chart made. If multiple children are at home they can work to complete the chart together. Teamwork and connection is important especially during this time. Make a star on the chart each time you observe your child following a rule, demonstrating positive behavior, or using a skill from this program. Home-based rewards can be used when star charts are filled. See enclosed sample of home-based rewards along with additional star charts.
● Realistic expectations: Since this is a time of uncertainty, it is expected that children will exhibit challenging feelings and behaviors. Create a balance of love and limits by providing an understanding and validation of feelings while at the same time having structure, consistency, and expectations. Children will mirror the reactions of adults so the more calm and present we are, the calmer they will feel.
● Time for fun and exercise: Recess is a daily activity at school that is non- negotiable (recess is not taken away as a consequence). Take time during the day for fun and exercise. Put on music and dance at home, exercises together, or go for a walk. Sign up for gonoodle.com for additional movement exercises along with mindfulness activities. Look for family friendly shows or movies to spend time together and use a deck of cards to play games and have fun together.
● Practice coping skills: Included in our resources is a 6-week calendar of social, emotional, and behavioral skills. The Skill of the Week program is is intended to provide support to educators and families specifically during this difficult time. Post your calendar on your refrigerator and refer to it daily. Each day, practice the calm and in control strategy. All skills are intended for everyone (kids and adults) and they are strategies that can be used anytime and anywhere. Have fun with each skill and try to find opportunities to practice the skills together throughout the day. Although academics are often a priority, our children will not be able to access their academic skills if they are not feeling calm and safe. We will not be able to most effectively parent and teach them if we are not at a calm state. Each day, you will receive more specific information on how to use the daily skill. Please take care of yourself and your children and know that these resources are to support you rather than to overwhelm you. The daily emails are also a way to stay connected during this isolated time. Treat each daily email as you would with an email ad you may receive from a store...when there is time and an interest, read it thoroughly. During other days, skim and get the main idea. During other days, there are just other priorities- that is OK. Use the emails to meet the needs of you and your family but know that the well-being of your family is the priority. We are here to support you through this.
Please know that we are all in this together. Please be patient with yourself and practice self-care as the level of stress in all of our homes may be higher than usual. We are here for you during this time. We hope this can be an opportunity for some extra bonding with your family to create memories that will last forever. Together we will get through this. We hope you and your family stay safe and healthy during this time off from school.
Marissa Lloyd, LPCMH