• I Wish You More

    Posted by Susan Constan on 6/10/2020 8:00:00 AM

    I Wish You More


    A book and summer wishes for students as part of the June 2020, End of the School Year Virtual Assembly.

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  • Finding Self-Compassion: Thoughts From My Walks With Chopper

    Posted by Susan Constan on 4/22/2020 8:00:00 AM


    Self-Compassion Journal (PDF) | GoZen!As we get deeper into this new way of schooling from home or ‘continuous schooling’, I find many emotions that arise during the day.  The idea or strategy that continues to come back to me in my morning walks with Chopper that is crucial (especially now) is Self Compassion.  Sadness, fear, anxiety, grief, overwhelmedness, loneliness, controlling - these are but a few of the emotions we may all be feeling right now.  The first step when these ‘big emotions’ arise is to ‘name the feeling’ or “bow to the feeling”. Once we do this, the feeling will begin to soften.  The next step is to bring in a sense of compassion for yourself and for all the emotions that you and your family members may be feeling during this time of change and transition. 

    Dr. Kristin Neff, who has made Self-Compassion her life’s work states there are three components to think about as we pursue self-compassion:

    • First, self-kindness: being warm and supportive—actively soothing ourselves—as opposed to being cold and judging toward ourselves.
    • Two, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience—that you’re not alone in your suffering. When we remember this, you can actually feel more connected to other people in those moments.
    • The third component is mindfulness. Be mindful that you are struggling. Use self-talk: “Wait a second. This hurts. This is really hard. This is a moment where I need compassion.” Being aware of the emotions we are feeling and taking the time to acknowledge them is the next step toward self-compassion.

     I thought this was a powerful short video: The Power of Self-Compassion (3.58)

     Try this exercise: 

    Suppose your best friend has reached out to you.  They feel FRUSTRATED - LIKE THEY ARE FAILING with ‘school from home’.  Their kids are on screens more than they like.  They are overwhelmed and anxious and feel that they are not doing ANYTHING very well.  As their best friend, you love this person and see all their wonderful qualities.  What would you say to comfort them?  If you were going to write them a letter or email, what would you write?  Now, ask yourself this question - Do I say the same things to myself?  Do I encourage myself the same way that I encourage my best friend?  Seeking to change this inner voice to one of love and empathy (talk to ourselves as we would talk to our best friend) is seeking to cultivate SELF-COMPASSION. 

    KIDS CAN DO THIS TOO.  If you see that they are being self-critical, ask them what they would say to their best friend if they were feeling the same emotions.  How would you talk to a friend if they were sad or worried or frustrated with how things are right now?  Have them write it down or draw a picture for their friend and THEN have them change these loving statements or thoughts toward themselves. 

    “Mounting research reveals that allowing ourselves to "be human" is a path to greater well-being.  If we quiet our souls and listen to our inner voices, it is clear that self-compassion will always trump self-criticism on the journey toward living a purposeful, meaningful, and engaged life.”

    Take Care (of yourself),

    Sue (and Chopper)


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  • Affirmations/Mantras to Help Shape the Day: Thoughts from my Walks with Chopper

    Posted by Susan Constan on 4/13/2020 11:00:00 AM

    Positive Self Talk - It's not what we say out loud that really ...Hello Wilkes Families:

    In my morning walks with Chopper over spring break, I have asked myself, “What might help me to find the strength and fortitude as we move into ‘schooling from home’ and ‘counseling from home’ through June.  As I pondered this question, my mind continuously wandered to the powerful therapy tool of Positive Affirmations and/or Mantras.  

    At Wilkes we learned and practiced the strategy of affirmations and mantras when we learned about the character trait of PERSEVERANCE.  Positive Affirmations and Mantras are also connected to positive self-talk which your students might associate with their BRAIN COACH. In short, an affirmation or mantra is a positive self-talk statement that you say to yourself repeatedly. 

    We Are What We Think.  Positive Affirmations and Mantras help purify our thoughts and restructure and re-wire the dynamics of our brain. This is called neuroplasticity.  There is a short video that many of your children have seen that does an excellent job of explaining this topic called Neuroplasticity (2.03).  When we verbally affirm ourselves, we are empowered.  This strategy raises the level of feel-good hormones and pushes our brains to form new clusters of “positive thought”.  Positive affirmations are also an act of self-compassion. Caring for ourselves is the first step before we can care for others.

    The positive affirmation that I have been practicing is: Look for the Silver Lining.  Since my family started social distancing where we went from an empty nest to two college students participating in college from home, without a doubt, there have been stressful times.  Think - 18 and 20-year-olds being on their own and then moving home with the state mandate that they can’t see their friends and practice social distancing. We all have different challenges in our home situations right now.  But, in Looking for the Silver Lining, and focusing on this mantra, it has helped me cast this situation in a positive light. There have been so many wonderful moments. Imagine my 18-year-old son cooking dinner (!) with my flowered apron on!

    When I am looking for and experiencing these ‘silver lining moments’ I have a lot more joy in my day. I also practice the mindfulness strategy of savoring. I love this short video that explains this mindfulness strategy: Savoring (1:08)

    So what might be your affirmation or mantra that becomes the ‘superhighway of your brain’ as we head into spring? Ask your children what thought or phrase might be their ‘brain coach’ statement that will help and empower them when they feel frustration, anger, sadness or fear?  I challenge you to create an affirmation and strategically place this statement in your home as a daily reminder. Turn to this affirmation/mantra and say it to yourself many times a day.  What I know is that the “The art of the spoken word is critical in crafting our futures.”

    If you would like, share your mantra with me!  I would love to hear from you, sconstan@bisd303.org.

    ‘Our greatest weapon against stress is to choose one thought over another.”

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    Warm Wishes,  Sue  



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  • Overwhelmed - Thoughts From My Walks With Chopper

    Posted by Susan Constan on 3/27/2020 2:00:00 PM



    Hello Wilkes Families:

    Every morning, to prevent a complete puppy catastrophe, I walk Chopper (7 month old Rhodesian Ridgeback) in an effort to quell his energy for the day so I can focus on my new job as a ‘school counselor from home’.  As I walk and process, the question continuously surfaces “How can we help families during this uninvited stressful time?” 

    This second week of ‘counseling from home’, I would name my feeling as ‘overwhelmed’.  As I was handing out devices last week, I realized that I was not alone with this emotion.  I saw many wide-eyed parents drive up seeming to wonder, “So, how am I supposed to school from home while trying to work and take care of the dog and baby...etc, etc.”  Some of these comments came from parents that are teachers by profession! What I would like to do is ‘normalize this emotion’ - if we were to take a world poll, I am certain this is one of the most common emotions in our world today.  (To normalize: to reduce or eliminate stigma.)

    What I go back to is what I teach my students (your kids).  My secret is that I teach all these awesome social-emotional lessons because it reminds me to use the same strategies in my life.  Many of the strategies come from evidence-based curriculums - meaning they are effective!

    Many social scientists believe that we have up to 70,000 thoughts a day.  During the time of coronavirus, many of these thoughts are most likely not ones that lift our moods…..but, a thought is simply a thought.  They come, sometimes park for a while and eventually leave. I love this quick video from GoZen! that explains this concept:  Observing a Train of Thoughts

    The tools we use for your students are powerful for all periods of development, including adults.   It dawned on me as I was reflecting during our morning walk that we could collectively benefit as families by using the scaled tools of the same curriculum.  What I teach your students when they are dealing with big emotions is the FEELINGS TRIANGLE and as I was walking with Chopper this morning, I realized that this specific concept might be helpful for parents too.  We are all dealing with big emotions right now.  

    Here is how it works (ask your 1st or 2nd grader and they can explain it too).  Specifically, try the strategy below (adapted from the FEELINGS TRIANGLE) if you are feeling frustration around any aspect of schooling from home or the new ‘schedule’ or really any stressor.

    First - Name It.  I feel overwhelmed.  I feel scared. I feel numb.  I feel worried. Thoughts that may be associated with some of these feelings are - “I think I am going to disown my 20 year old”.  “If my child does not do this fraction assignment, he won't’ get into college.” “I am a horrible parent because I have no patience...” Remember, all these thoughts that come up with our strong emotions are simply thoughts.  Thoughts come and go...in 5 minutes you may be thinking about an entirely distant matter.  

    Second - Tame It  Step Away, Go Outside,  Breathe (favorite video link), announce that ‘mom or dad needs a break right now’, Find a mantra and repeat it to yourself. Some of my favorite mantras are:  ‘Tomorrow is a new day’. ‘We will get through this’ . We will get the hang of this’.  ‘I know there is a silver lining here somewhere’. ‘Kid, we are in this together’.  “We are going to figure this out.’ 

    Third - Reframe It - Go from negative to positive.  Turn it around. With frustration around schooling from home or trying to find a routine, the reframe might simply be:  How about we take a break, sit and have cocoa and talk. Be open to your student that you are learning too and that you might get frustrated and overwhelmed at times just like they do but we have to work together.  Perhaps working together is taking breaks when our strong emotions are taking over or switching gears to another subject...or trying again tomorrow. Remind your student about the character traits that they have learned about at school - optimism, curiosity, kindness, perseverance and courage.  We focus on these traits because they are effective strategies for remaining grounded during stressful times. For you children, we deem them 'superpowers' - they help us in times of need and all of my students have aspects of these traits that are beginning to grow in them. During this time, adults need to expand their resilience and children need to grow their ‘superpowers’.  Have you seen the video that inspired my whole initiative on exploring character at Wilkes...if not, here it is: The Science of Character.

    These are my ‘Chopper’ mind wanderings for the week.  Sending love and courage as we all try to navigate this strange and unprecedented time together.

    Sue Constan

    Wilkes Counselor

    PS  Email me if you want me to send you a copy of the FEELINGS TRIANGLE.  I couldn't quite figure out how to include the PDF in this BLOG. sconstan@bisd303.org

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