Barbecues, amusement parks, the pool, long summer nights chasing fireflies. Weekends at the beach, the ocean breeze and the hot sun sprinkled with the sounds of happy laughter as children build sand cities, moats, breaking only to rush into the shallow tide of the crashing waves before running happily back to their spot by their shovels.
I used to think that summer was a time of getting away from meltdowns. No need to think about strategies around self-regulation or anything like that. My kids had their schedules, their routines. It was handled.
And then they got older. I became a bit more flexible during their vacation; camp had night activities; we went on vacation.
I realized, first as a parent, and then as a therapist, how valuable strategies around self-control, self-regulation, and sensory processing are during these summer months. Plus, we don’t want them to lose these skills once September rolls around. 😉
Thus, midway through the first week of camp, I devised a sensory/self-regulation/’superpower’ refresher course for my kids. The goal was, as always, to maximize their self-regulatory independence.
Thats always what I look for when I look at products or peruse Pinterest; this looks like a great idea, I may think, but how can I effect change in my children so that they can be independent and successful (and thus confident in their abilities!) in this area?
We have been introducing one strategy per week after they get home from camp. It’s always at the same time/part of the evening, so the routine is consistent and thus calming for my kids, at least. We are currently reading “How to Be a Superhero Called Self-Control” (https://www.amazon.com/How-Be-Superhero-Called-Self-Control/dp/1849057176?ie=UTF8&qid=1469027624&ref_=la_B00HIU9ZGA_1_2&s=books&sr=1-2). It’s a nice platform to talk about their day-what went right, did anything make them feel the emotion described-and we are thus able to do something tangible with a difficult feeling (if it crops up) utilizing the new exercise.
In the mornings if we have some free time, my kids also may sketch out what their mantra is on the whiteboard, or draw out what makes them feel calm (another strategy we did last week). They ask to do this!
For the duration of the week, I spend time consistently previewing and rehearsing the strategy, as well as asking them to anticipate possible moments during the day that may be difficult (and when this strategy could be used preventatively or immediately).
The bracelet my kids wear is not only a wearable sensory fidget (with proprioceptive and tactile components), but also acts as a tangible reminder of the learned strategy that they use through the the day.
And guess what? My kids have been clearly articulating what strategies they used if conflict with a peer arose in camp. They are kinder towards each other at home. When I ask if they used a strategy, the answer is not always yes, but when it is, they clearly tell me which one. Is it perfect? Are my children perfect ? Nope, nobody is, but my kids are perfect to me!
In my humble opinion, one of the goals for parents, for teachers, for therapists, is to allow for our kids to need us less. To feel proud of their independence. To explore their own self-regulatory blue-print, so to speak, which is a process, in order to understand their just right strategies for different feelings (which will change over time as they mature!), and feel the overwhelming pride and success that they are, to the best of their ability, able to independently gain control of seemingly out-of-control feelings. Because emotional regulation and the connecting sense of physical safety and wellbeing that its tied so closely to is the building block from which the vital components of confidence, engagement, success, and overall happiness are built:)
Till next time!