Behind starburst eyes

Corona’s Effect on Mental Health

It’s been months since Covid-19 became a worldwide epidemic, and while I am truly, deeply thankful that my family has not experienced this virus directly, sadly it still has had an impact on my children through their mental health.

He used to be gregarious, he used to be fearless, he used to be happy and confident…Used to be…

It makes my heart ache to see the changes in him, to see how scared he is to even leave the house because as he puts it “It’s invisible, I can’t see it, I can’t fight it” He used to be thrilled to pop over to the store for me, and he’d always ask if he could pick up something for dessert for everyone in addition to the bread or milk I was usually asking for. Now, his first response is “Or I could not go” with a pleading face as he says it. He used to love going for runs, now he says “there’s too many people”. He would rather forgo takeout or new toys if he has to go outside for them.

So instead I don’t ask him to go for me, but I do ask him to go with me. I’m willing to walk with him, because I’m determined to make him go out (while of course allowing precautions such as a mask and hand sanitizer) because he can’t stay locked inside for the next however long. It’s not healthy for him.

I know this might be a long road for him, but I remember when he was 2 and would have uncontrollable meltdowns when we’d walk different routes home from Airzone, he’d cry that it “wasn’t the right way home”. Back then I knew he had to learn there were many ways to get to somewhere, physically and metaphorically. I would hold him and tell him over and over he was loved and safe and I understood and he was my wonderful brave boy as he cried for hours even after we got home.

This is no different, I’ll be there each step of the way offering him love and support as I help him walk this hard path. I love him enough to do the hard things because he always has been and always will be worth the effort to help him thrive.

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Coronavirus Pandemic and Our Emotional Health

We live in Ontario, Canada and our premier has officially declared a state of emergency this morning. This means in addition to primary, secondary and post-secondary schools being shut down for the next 3 weeks, now our daycare centers, restaurants (dine in portion), bars, cinemas, libraries, museums, major venues such as the science centre, and recreation centers are all shut down until at least April.

We homeschool our 3, but my two stepdaughters attend public school at their mother’s insistence. So this changes some things for us, but not all things. Obviously daycare facilities being closed doesn’t effect us. However, everything else being closed does.

One of the ways all of these closures effect us is through fear and anxiety. My youngest son has asthma and has had to be on oxygen and nebulizers in the past, so I am in a heightened state of anxiety. But I’m not the only one, my children feel it too. Not just through me, but also because news of the virus is everywhere and both kiddos understand the potential implications for their brother, and he understands the implications for himself. To that end we have been working a great deal with the concepts of fear, anxiety and powerlessness.

Acknowledgement of Emotions:

We’ve spoken about how scary it can be to feel like you’re powerless in a situation, and how to work with that feeling to acknowledge it but not let it overwhelm us (a thing I am struggling with myself as well).

Then, I attempt to teach them how to work through their scary thoughts. We talk about their feelings, how their real and valid first. But also that even though their valid, we don’t have to be ruled by them. We can focus on the things we HAVE done, the things we ARE doing, and the things we CAN do during this time.

Breathing Techniques:

Once I’ve validated their emotions we do breathing exercises. Five deep breathes in through the nose and out through the mouth. This helps to calm the nervous system down and allow the pre-frontal cortex to come back online (center of logic and reasoning).

Mindfulness Exercises:

Mindfulness exercises such as finding 5 things they can see, touch, and hear can also help to refocus on calming the mind enough to work through any scary thoughts.

Positive Actions:

Finally, we focus on something positive, such as on gratitude, love, giving to others, or constructive actions. We do this because in allot of ways our thoughts are like roads, the more frequently their used, the more deeply they become entrenched and at times like this we NEED the positive perhaps more than ever.

For one child, focusing then on how grateful they are for the healthcare professionals or our ability to have things delivered to lessen our chances of exposure is helpful.

For another it’s expressing love through acts of kindness such as offering to play another siblings favorite board game or reading a book to a younger sibling.

For another it’s writing a card to send to someone they can’t see in person right now, or walks in the conservation area to be in nature.

For me, it’s constructive physical acts that help, for example organizing cupboards and labelling jars with our supplies or sorting the kids clothes for donations (I’ll wait to donate, but I’m happy to pop bags of donations in a closet ready to go once this is all over). Each person is unique, so choosing the positive actions that work best for them should be specific to them.

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Learning about Emotional Equations

Some of our homeschooling doesn’t look like “regular” schooling. Okay, most of it doesn’t look like it lol. That does not mean they are not learning, nor does it mean they aren’t learning very important things.

Many people find it difficult to get to the base root of their emotional states. When one does not understand the root or cause of an emotion it becomes almost impossible to find a solution that effectively works long-term.

To that end, for some viewing their emotional states as equations can assist in further self-awareness. Further self-awareness can assist in higher levels of overall satisfaction with ones life as steps are then taken to ensure they get what they need out of various situations and interactions.

This is what some of our homeschooling looks like:

emotional-equations_chip-conley_honey-patel

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Working with his neurostructure for academic success

I have homeschooled Mr. C since removing him from pre-school after his negative experiences there. I have always tried to modify his academics towards his personal interests, such as learning to count using construction machines and fire trucks, and reading was done with books on cars, and transformers. I taught him about charts, compiling and comparing data with Lego Bionicle pieces.

However I will admit I never took his specific unique neurostructure into account when creating his homeschooling plan. What I mean by this is that I would have him do a certain amount of work for each subject each day, because I never thought of altering that. Slowly as more subjects have been added, I’ve watched as he’s tried harder and harder to just “get through” each of them. We’ve spoken about it, and it always comes backs to feeling overwhelmed by the number of subjects he’s to learn. He says that when he’s struggling to learn one thing, he worries about the time it’ll take because of still needing to complete other subjects, and that when he’s enjoying a lesson he can’t just keep going and learning more about it.

Now I know one option would be to lower the amount of subjects he’s to learn, but I know he’s capable and I feel that each of those subjects are important. So while watching Mr.N sleep the other night and wondering what he was thinking of, I started to think about how he and his brother focus on specific subjects for extended periods of time. Then it hit me, what about making Mr. C’s homeschooling more in tune with how his brain naturally works. If I lower the amount of subjects per day to just two, but increase the amount of time we spend on each of them he’d be able to get really in depth about each subject and truly master each concept and lesson we learned. It would work with his natural tendency to dive right into a subject of interest as deep as he wanted, so that he really absorbed everything he could about it.

I spoke with him, and he loves the idea of changing our homeschooling schedule to this new concept. I think that by working with his natural tendency to really immerse himself in one subject at a time for long periods of time instead of against it by having him do a little of several subjects each day that he’ll not only enjoy the academic portions of his day more, but he’ll also retain and comprehend more of them. I feel this different method will actually allow for him to learn even more than he was with our previous method, and that is the core of what homeschooling is about to me: Tailoring it to ensure he learns as much as he can in ways that work with him.

 

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