Difficult Topics, Executive Functions Training, Great for All Ages, Stress Management, The Happy Student Podcast

#101 Emotional Control

It can be really difficult for kids to focus on school work when they’re having social troubles and yet sometimes we have to sit through class or study for a test even though we are going through tough times. We have to be able to control our emotions in order to get stuff done. Learning to control our emotions when it’s hard requires learning how to do that when our emotions aren’t out of control. Fireborn’s got 6 tips to help you help your kid control their emotions when times are easy so that they are easier to control when times are hard.

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Peg Dawson and Richard Guare state that you have good emotional control if you agree with the following three statements:

1.     My emotions seldom get in the way when performing on the job.

2.     Little things do not affect me emotionally or distract me from the task at hand.

3.     I can defer my personal feelings until after the task has been completed.

It can be really difficult for kids to focus on school work when they’re having social troubles, maybe they just had a fight with their friend or maybe they didn’t do well on a test and they feel anxious about it. Those anxious or sad emotions can get in the way of focusing in the current class. It can be distressing to have to wait until recess to talk to your friend to repair the relationship. It’s okay to have those distressed, anxious, sad emotions. It’s normal. It’s natural.

So, emotional control is not about not feeling emotions. It’s about recognizing that you have that emotion, but not letting it get in the way of you doing what you need to do. We do not want our emotions to control us.

Your child is feeling sad because their friend hurt their feelings. But he/she can’t always mend the relationship right away. He/she has to be able to get stuff done even though he/she is dealing with a lot of emotions. So how do he/she do that?

We need to calm down – but I would NEVER recommend saying that to anyone. Saying “Calm down” to someone invalidates their feelings, making them feel like you don’t understand, and so they get further enraged. So instead of saying, “Calm down”, we work on techniques for calming down, like meditation.

  • Practicing 10 minutes of meditation a day when we are already calm helps us to realize when we are getting agitated and need to meditate in other situations.
  • Finding an app like Calm or a CD or activity book for meditation like Sitting Still Like a Frog can help teach your child to notice when their emotions are overwhelming them and can give them strategies to calm themselves down.

Another technique you can teach your kid for calming down is to teach them how to realize when they are flipping their lid. Flipping your lid is one way experts use to describe what’s happening in your brain when your emotions take charge.

  • To describe flipping your lid goes like this…
  • Use your hand closed as a fist to represent your brain. Your palm is the “downstairs” brain – the emotional part of your brain. The downstairs emotional part of your brain quickly determines threats and reacts.
  • The upstairs part of your brain are your fingers covering that palm when your hand is in a fist. The upstairs part of your brain is the logical, problem solving part of your brain. So it works with the downstairs brain to figure out if there is really a threat and what to do about it.
  • When you are calm, your upstairs and downstairs brain are working together nicely to sort through your emotions and problem solve anything that pops up.
  • But when we get overwhelmed, we “flip our lid” – when that happens the fingers rise up and your upstairs brain is no longer connected to your downstairs brain. Your downstairs brain, your emotions, have taken control. And you can no longer think clearly and problem solve.

Then you teach them the trick to getting back to that brain that looks like a fist where the downstairs and upstairs are working well together – and the trick is to BREATHE.

  • Breathing out slowly cools off your downstairs brain and allows your upstairs brain to come back and work with your emotions. So each time you flip your lid, count how many breaths you need to take until your lid has come back down.

Exercise is also always a good option for getting your emotions back in check. There is something about using up all that anxious or angry energy that helps us to re-center ourselves.

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg recommends that you “Blank it out” which means that you fill in the blank and write it out, dance it out, sing it out, draw it out, or whatever you want to blank it out.

Finally, to prepare for times when you know your emotions could get out of control, role play the scenario at home first.

  • Problem solve ahead of time so that when they get to the scary situation they are equipped with strategies to deal with their anxiety.

To summarize… to help your child develop emotional control:

1.     Meditate

2.     Teach your kids about flipping their lid

3.     Teach your kids the solution to flipping their lid: breathing

4.     Exercise

5.     Blank it out

6.     Role play

Resources:

Calm

Flipping Your Lid

Sitting Still Like a Frog

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

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Definitions, Easy Action Items, Executive Functions Training, School Advice, The Happy Student Podcast

#100 : Work that Memory

Working memory is basically your short-term memory. If you struggle with working memory, you just don’t have the space in your short-term memory to remember what you just read. It can be hard for note taking because maybe you want to respond to your teacher’s question, but the person next to you is making a good point – how do you write down what they are saying while remembering what you want to say? It’s super hard and frustrating! So we’ve got some tips to help you improve your kids’ working memory!

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Working memory is basically your short-term memory. It’s all the information you are storing and using now.

If you disagree with the following statements, it means that working memory is not one of your strengths:

  • I have a good memory for facts, dates, and details.
  • I am very good at remembering the things I have committed to do.
  • I seldom need reminders to complete tasks.

Here are some other things to look out for if you are worried your kid might have weak working memory skills (these are provided by Attitude Magazine):

  • You want to join in a conversation, but, by the time the other person stops talking, you forget what you wanted to say.
  • You consistently lose your keys, cell phone, wallet, or homework.
  • You get lost easily, even when you were just given directions.
  • You have trouble following a conversation because you forget what the other person has just said.
  • You have many unfinished projects because you become distracted and forget about the first project.
  • You plan to do some work at home, but you forget to bring needed items with you.
  • You have to reread a paragraph several times to retain the information.
  • You miss deadlines at work because of your disorganization and inability to follow through on projects.

Tips on improving working memory:

Write it all down

Write down everything. If your kid really wants to use an app for things like a planner, that’s fine, but there is something about actually writing it down on paper that can help improve memory as well.

Break down overwhelming projects into simple, targeted tasks

Write down all of the things you have to do to study – like redo all the old tests and quizzes, redo the old homework problems, and so on. Then do one task at a time.

Reduce multitasking

Multitasking is really taxing on your brain’s resources. It’s much easier for your brain to do one thing and then move on to the next.

Develop routines

Routines make it so you don’t have to think about what you are doing – you just do it automatically. That reduces the amount of resources your brain has to use, freeing it up to spend those resources on other things.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness and meditation help to reduce distractions and improve focus, both of which are very important to improving your working memory.

Play games

Games like Memory, the card game, Uno, Go Fish, Crazy Eights, and Sudoku help you to stretch and grow those working memory muscles. You can also check out CogMed, Play Attention, and Lumosity for some working memory games.

Work on visualization

Have your kid draw pictures of what they just heard.

Have your child teach you the skill that they are working on

This gets them engaging with the information in a more active way than passively listening to the teacher and trying to remember it later.

One big overarching theme is reduce distractions.

Another theme is to help your kid interact with the information by visualizing it or teaching it to you or making it interesting or unique in another way that we didn’t talk about like turning it into a song or something like that.

References & Resources:

Attitude Mag

CogMed

Lumosity

Play Attention

Understood.org

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!