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