Our sense of safety has been rocked quite a bit in these days of pandemic, shelter in place, and stay at home/stay safe. Safety is a core need, required for anything else to matter to us.
Think about it. When you feel unsafe, anxiety sets in. How much can you think about other things when your anxiety and worry ramps up? Suddenly making dinner seems challenging. Heck, for some of us, getting out of bed becomes almost more than we can handle.
A sense of safety is essential.
Coming from a child perspective right now, consider how their sense of safety is challenged.
If they have a loving family, a stable home life, and enough to eat and do they are probably less impacted. But don’t make that assumption. Building resilience isn’t about assuming kids “got this.” It’s about intentionally and directly teaching it, as parents and educators.
Resilience is all about getting through, mitigating the impact in a way that we recover faster and the scars are less deep. It’s about righting ourselves when we get thrown off our center. Collective resilience is how we support one another in building and nurturing our resiliency toolbox. All of us need toolboxes, from the youngest to the oldest.
What can we do to begin to support and nurture those toolboxes?
As parents, we need to ask the questions and talk to our kids about what’s going on. We need to model the art of reframing. That’s how we build resiliency, how we grow kids up who have resilience.
What might reframing look like?
Reframing is a way of looking at things differently. It is more than just “finding the silver lining,” however. Often when we look for the silver lining, we are stuffing the feelings of fear and worry. That’s not a healthy way to manage it.
For me, first I honor the fear and worry. They serve a purpose. They are important in helping me navigate the world, reminding me there are things that I should fear. For example, I don’t recommend jumping off a 40-story building. My fear reminds me that such choices end badly.
Once I honor that fear, I now look for the evidence in the here and now of what is true. For our current situation, it might look like this:
“I am taking all the necessary precautions to stay healthy and safe. My family and those around me are healthy. We have enough food and access to grocery stores and feed stores (for the animals). It is hard, but we are okay. Things will be okay. Everything will be alright.”
This is a process that I often need my safe space to do. Safe Space is the quiet space where I can do the things I need to do to reframe and step into a better state of being.
My personal safe space is in the pasture with the horses or in my car alone. When I am in those places, I can talk out loud to myself, I can listen to or read things that support my better mindset, I can cry, I can scream and yell… Any of the things that work for me to help me find my sense of safety, my balance inside myself.
It is important to teach these skills to our kids; intentionally, directly. We need to build our own toolbox first, then model and nurture our children’s toolboxes.
While resilience is something we are all born with, if we don’t build our toolboxes and nurture it, it doesn’t continue to develop. Remember, resilience is the tendency to right ourselves, to stand up when we have fallen, to persist, to know that we can do what needs to be done to keep things going and becoming what we want.
Also, as parents, we teach these skills by modelling. We use them ourselves AND we talk about doing them with our kids. That’s how we grow them up in resilience. Check out the Conversation Starters for Parents and Teachers on our At Home Resources Page for some guidance and ideas of how to get those conversations going.
For those whose home life isn’t stable or safe, it might be important to create our safe space in a more non-physical way. We can draw or write about it in a special notebook or sketchbook. We can daydream and see it in our mind’s eye, wandering around and finding the perfect place to sit for a while.
On our resources page, we have some samples for your consideration, to serve as launching points for the imagination of you and your children. They include things like
- How to create a temporary safe space out of common household items. (Parent Activities)
- Writing and drawing prompts (Student emotional activities)
- Safe Space Meditation (Parents Activity can be shared with your kids)
For educators, I encourage you to consider the impact this experience will have on students, now AND whenever they come back to you. Things are not the same as they have always been. They will never really be the same.
For those who experience school as their safe space, the predictability has been disrupted. They won’t know if they can trust that school (and you) will be there for them. They may be living in situations that aren’t stable, that are scary, that don’t offer much in the way of safety. More than ever, as you return to the classroom, you will need to consider the impact this whole experience has had on all your students and their sense of safety. Remember, behavior is communication (more on that next week!).
The more you can connect with your students during this time, the better. Consider the technologies and platforms available to you AND good old-fashioned snail mail and delivery services. Many of the students that need you most don’t have access to internet. Some don’t have addresses. How can you reach out creatively, safely? Consider these thoughts
- Touch each student, to the best of your ability, once a week.
- Maintain healthy boundaries. Avoid personal texts and personal emails. Use the school platforms for technology.
- Handwritten notes feel most personal.
- Don’t just make contact to give content.
- Maintain and support your relationships; use the language they have come to expect from you.
- Be positive, uplifting, and hopeful in all your communications with students and families.
On our At Home Resources page, you will find Conversation Starters for Teachers & Parents as well as a growing list related to Chill Hill (Zen Den, Safe Space, Hunker Bunker, Good Habit Hill, etc). Let me know what more you might want me to add or talk about. Stay tuned for more on relationships and behavior next week.
Thanks for the opportunity to grow and learn together, raising our resilience.
Leah Kyaio, Founder/CEO
With Respect, LLC