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An Idle mind…

photo credit: Ryan Snook

Dictionary.com describes “Idle” as “not filled with activity”. Someone recently asked me the question, “Where does your mind go when it’s idle?” As I stopped to think about that, I quickly realized that my mind often went to a negative place.  Worry about this or that; replaying negative conversations in my mind; frustration; anger; irritation…all these things were very busy in my “idle” mind.  This made me see how important it is to train my brain to jump to a different track.  I need to create a habit of positive thinking, of being grateful and focusing on thoughts and attitudes that bring me life, peace and joy, rather than stress and anxiety.  Sound easy, right?  Not that easy- but definitely possible.

Brené Brown has a short video clip on the connection between Gratitude and Joy. Take a look:

Learning the practice of gratitude takes a bit of time, and for it to be successful, we need to be intentional – which means we do it on purpose, set time aside to practice it.  I hope that in these changing times, when there may be a lot to worry and get frustrated about, I hope that learning the practice of gratitude will be a way for all of us to have more joy, more peace and happiness in our lives.  As this happens, I suspect that those around us will feel it and be impacted as well. Need help getting started?  Take a look at these gratitude prompts and see if they’ll get you going!

Geocaching: an analogy for life

I recently was talking with a student about how fun geocaching was.  If you’ve never tried it, it’s basically a modern day treasure hunt. How fun does that sound?! When our kids were younger, we hunted for many, many geocaches.  We would check on the Manitoba geocaching website and find a geocache that we wanted to explore,  then off we’d go on our treasure hunt! We made up little tokens with our family name, and we’d leave those behind in the geocache, and the kids would take turns choosing something to take in return.

One particular year we were camping in Spruce Woods Provincial Park and had chosen a geocache that was nearby.  It was a bit of a hike, but we were a hiking family, so no big deal. So we thought.  We hunted and hunted, bush-whacked, and stomped through all kinds of terrain.  We happened to pick a particularly hot day, and even ended up running out of water.

What we thought was going to be an easy hike, ended up being hours longer than anticipated.  Finally, at one point I said, “Okay, I think we should admit defeat and turn back.” To which our youngest impassionately said, “We can’t turn back!  We’re the Martens’s!” Ouch.  Having always taught our kids we that were a super hero-esque family, able to accomplish anything we set our minds to, this comment particularly hit the mark!  So, my daughter (who by now realised the limits of our super powers) and I decided to turn around and find our way out, while the two boys and my husband trudged on.

Well, they actually did find the geocache, and as they turned around to come back, one of them noticed that there seemed to be a trail just parallel to where they were bush whacking.  Hmm…sure enough, unbeknownst to any of us (and certainly not in the description of the geocache *ahem*) there was a well maintained trail leading right up to the geocache.  So what could have been about a 2 hour hike in and out, took more like 5 hours.  argh.

As we were driving back to our campsite, with the evening sun in our rear view mirror, stomachs growling, quickly changing supper plans from hobo dinners to hot dogs…I was reminded of how life can be just like that geocache.  We sometimes find ourselves trudging through the bogs, and mosquitos and difficult terrain of life when, with some different tools, information and supports, we just might find a smoother path.  Practicing mindfulness, learning about coping strategies, maybe talking to someone who’s made the trek before, getting their perspectives and tips and tricks…all these things can help you find another path than the difficult one you might currently be on.

As always, you are invited to reach out through email if you are finding yourself on a rocky trail, and looking for someone to help.

 

Social Media

There are certainly many parts of our lives that have been impacted by Covid19 and the restrictions put in place.  Out of necessity we are finding other ways to connect to people besides in person. Not surprisingly, I have noticed that middle school students are becoming more and more connected via social media apps.  One very popular app is Snapchat, but there are many others as well.  While this is certainly a fun way to hang out with your friends, there are some safeguards that should be in place before you click “send”.

Just like it is important to lock your house or your vehicle so no one can get in and steal your stuff, or hurt you…it’s just as important to “lock” or set your privacy settings in a way that also protects you. It would be pretty creepy to have a random person looking in through your windows and watching what you do, knowing personal stuff about you…but that is pretty much what is happening if you don’t protect yourself on social media. The only difference is your phone or computer screens are the windows. Parents (and students), I have attached an article that can help you navigate through all the different steps, just click on the title below.  If you have any questions, or need some help figuring out how to set good privacy settings on other apps, send me an email – I’ll be happy to help!

Snapchat Parental Controls

 

 

This Too Shall Pass

I love this. It reminds me that whatever is happening in the moment will not last forever.  Sometimes you wish the moments would pass slowly – like birthday parties, sunsets or beautiful, summer days.  Sometimes you wish they would pass quickly – like a nasty cold, slow traffic, or a long, cold winter.  Either way – it is good to keep in mind – “This Too Shall Pass”.

When you are in a happy moment, remembering that “This Too Shall Pass” reminds us that we need to soak it in – Savour it. To savour something means to enjoy it as much as possible. When we are in a difficult moment, “This Too Shall Pass” reminds us that this hard season will not last forever.

Right now some of us are in hard season of uncertainty.  We are uncertain what the school year will bring. Some of us are uncertain about what sports will look like this year, or if we will be able to have family gatherings at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Some families are uncertain about their jobs or their health. I want to remind us all, that This Too Shall Pass.  No pandemic has ever lasted forever, and this one is no different.  We don’t know exactly when it will pass, but we do know that IT WILL PASS.

I think it is a good practice to ask yourself, what lesson can I learn in this season? Whether you are in a happy season or a hard season of life, you can always learn and grow in your character.  In a happy season, learning to be thankful can be a valuable lesson.  It’s easier to be thankful when things are going well – so learn that lesson when it’s easy to!  That way, when things are hard, you can remember that lesson and it can help you find things to be thankful for. In a hard season, you might not get to choose a “lesson” – life will choose it for you. You might need to learn patience, or how to be kind to people that are sometimes nasty.  But whatever lesson life tosses your way, rather than getting angry, bitter or resentful – choose to grow. Choose to find joy, choose to look for ways to improve your character.

And remind yourself…This Too Shall Pass.

Let’s get this party started!

And, just like that, we’re back into the swing of things.  School started yesterday for teachers, and will start next Wednesday for students.  It was a very different beginning than we’re used to – new routines, new schedules and some new faces.  BUT…what is still the same, and will always be the same, is the complete commitment that every adult in Kleefeld School has to the safety and well being of every student that walks through these doors.

When we met as a staff, there was a lot of discussion on how to create an inviting, safe space for students.  There was a lot of discussion on how to support our families. There was a lot of discussion on how to educate our students in the best way possible – ensuring that this pandemic has as little impact on their learning and their academic futures as possible.  We Have Your Back! Which means we are looking out for students and families.

This will be a year that may have a few more unexpected twists and turns than usual, and this thought reminded me of a tree I saw this summer.  It probably started out it’s life as a sapling like any other tree. Along the way, it was obvious that it had to grow around a few obstacles – other trees, roots, rocks. At one point another tree had fallen onto it, so it had to grow differently from then on – a little crooked and bent – but grow it did!  It was very tall, very strong … and very unique.  We are all living through a strange, challenging season. I hope that we will all be like that tree – we will grow, and we will develop unique perspectives and strengths that really only can develop out of experiences like this pandemic.

Meet the teacher is scheduled for Tuesday, September 8, from 1:00 – 6:00, by appointment only.  You can schedule an appointment with your homeroom teacher online. If you’d like to chat with me, please call the school and set that up with the office or ask to speak with me.

Dealing with Disappointment

Life gives us lots of opportunity to learn how to deal with Disappointment.  From losing a soccer game, to getting a poor mark on an assignment, to a change of anticipated plans. Each experience has different levels of disappointment – some are little and you can work through them in a day or less. Others are more major and it might take a longer time to work through them.  Even though the length of time it takes to work through disappointment varies, the process is really similar for all of them.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been disappointed that my summer plans will look different than I thought they would earlier this year.  I’ve noticed that I have felt a bit grumpier than usual, and I’ve found myself a bit more focused on what I can’t do this summer. We call that “ruminating”. The dictionary defines ruminating as thinking about something repeatedly. When we ruminate on something disappointing, we can get fixed on it and it becomes unhealthy.  Rather than ruminating on something, it is healthier to process it. Processing means to purposefully deal with something.  Here are some things you can do that help to process, or deal with, disappointment:

We can’t avoid disappointment, but we can learn how to handle it better.  Sometimes we can even learn how to turn it around to something better. The well known quote, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” is often more helpful than we think! As we wrap up for the school year, I wish you all a lovely summer – and I wish you a few months filled with relaxing and good memories.  Cheers!

The Anger Iceberg

Anger is often talked about as a “secondary emotion”.  This means that it is usually comes out because of a different emotion.  In the picture you will see that just below the waters’ surface are emotions like embarrassed, stress, hurt, unsure, scared etc.  There are other feelings like grief, sadness, shame and anxiety, among others, that could also be on this list. When you or someone you are close to is showing anger, try to pause, take a deep breath to calm your own response, and take a bit of a mental step back to see if there is something else going on that might be causing this reaction.

You can do this with others, but it is probably more important to start with yourself.  It takes practice, but you can do it!  Learning what triggers your own anger, is an important piece of becoming self aware, and when you are self aware, you are in the perfect place to grow in your character!

Anger itself is not a bad thing – in fact it is healthy to experience and understand why you are feeling angry.  But there are healthy and unhealthy ways to handle your anger.  Healthy ways to manage your anger are things like controlled breathing, examining your feelings, taking a timeout, distraction exercises like counting backwards from 20, journaling, exercising, etc. Unhealthy ways to deal with your anger are things like yelling, hitting others/yourself, swearing, throwing/breaking things, etc.

If you struggle with unhealthy angry outbursts, I would encourage you to talk to a trusted adult that can help you practice and work through why you feel the way you do. They can help you learn how to control your responses so that they are healthy and growing for you. As always, if you need someone to talk to, send me an email or click on the Kid’s Help Phone link to the left.

Resilience…what is it?

Resilience is simply our ability to bounce back when something doesn’t go as planned.  You will recognise a resilient child by how they respond to challenging life situations, or by how they respond to a poor mark on an assignment, or losing a soccer game (or any game), or how they react when they have friend conflicts. Resilient children are able to recognise that sometimes hard things happen, but not let those hard things drag them down so far that they can’t really find their way back up very easily.  Children who aren’t resilient, may get depressed, unmotivated and often end up trash-talking themselves and others.

When I’m talking about resiliency to a student, I like to use the example of a rubber ball vs. a ball of playdough (or sticky-tac…whatever I have handy). When I press into a ball of playdough, it leaves an indent.  It changes the shape and it’s not as smooth as before.  When I press into a rubber ball, the shape isn’t changed – the indent bounces back out. The rubber ball is resilient – the play dough is not. My goal is to help kids discover how they can be more resilient..to help them find ways to be able to bounce back from a difficult situation, be more confident and secure in who they are. If you are a parent or a child on this blog, this chart may help you to start thinking and talking about resilience.

Anxiety tools

 

Copyright @ WholeHearted School Counseling. This resource is intended for your personal use. Please do not share with others in printed form, or online.

You may have noticed that there are a lot of posts related to anxiety on here – tips for calming down or strategies for managing worry. That’s because anxiety is one of the most common childhood and adolescent mental health concerns in Canada (source), Experts have a bunch of reasons as to why that might be, from too much screen time to childhood trauma to anxiety patterns in their household, and the list goes on. It’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what causes anxiety, but there are many tools available to help you manage it and take back control. This poster comes from a website called WholeHearted School Counseling. It’s a quick and easy checklist to help you take a breath, pause and reflect on how you’re feeling.  The next time you’re feeling anxious or worried, see if any of these little reflections or activities help you regain your sense of wellness.

FUN FRIDAY

Let’s all just settle down

How many times have your felt angry or frustrated and you struggled to find a way to calm down?  Sometimes it’s hard to “find your calm” …and the result is often a bit messy. If you sometimes find it hard to settle down, try making a  calming jar. This fun project is easy to do with just a few crafty things.  Why might you want to make a calming jar? For starters, it’s…well…calming 🙂 . It also helps to settle down your mind so you can be in control of yourself. When you’re super angry or frustrated, often your feelings are in control. It is important that YOU get back control, and tools like calming jars, can help you do that. Here’s how you can make one:

How to make a Calming Jar

MATERIALS

  • Glass or plastic jars with lids, 16-ounce
  • 1/2 cup glitter glue or clear glue
  • Distilled water
  • High-temperature hot glue gun, optional
  • 1–2 teaspoons glitter

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Pour 1/2 cup of distilled water into the jar.
  • Pour 1/2 cup of glitter glue or clear glue into the jar.
  • Add 1–2 teaspoons of extra glitter to the jar.
  • Fill up the remainder of the jar with distilled water.
  • If desired, use a hot glue gun to squeeze a ring of glue around the lid of the jar.
  • Press the lid onto the jar and secure with the metal ring.
  • Shake the jar well to distribute the glitter.
source
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