Dear Zilker Families,
Happy summer! I hope you are having an enjoyable and memorable summer with your families… can you believe we have been out of school for 1 month?! I wanted to send some tools home that might come in handy this summer. If you haven’t already, I’d like to encourage you to help your child practice some of the social-emotional skills we worked on this year. Without regular reinforcement, children can lose some of the ground we’ve gained, much like they can lose ground in reading or math. The good news is that we use these skills all the time in day-to-day life, so there will be a lot of opportunities to help your child practice! Here are some ideas:
*Identifying and Communicating Feelings: Encourage your child to tell you how he/she is feeling (and why!). Basic feeling words like mad, sad, happy, or worried are important of course, but I also want them to learn degrees of feelings like annoyed<angry< furious. Ask him/her to pay special attention to things, people, or events that often bring up strong feelings. If we know what our “triggers” are, we can plan for potential problems ahead of time.
*Noticing Feelings of Others: Can your child read body language? Can he or she tell when someone is happy or upset or bored? If so, can he or she make a smart guess about what happened to make the person feel that way? What can he/she do to help? They can practice these skills in real life or when watching TV or a movie. Here we are laying the groundwork for empathy—the ability to truly understand other people’s feelings and points of view.
*Recognizing the Size of the Problem: Should we yell at someone because they are using our soccer ball? NO… that’s a small problem (We call them “watermelon seeds”)! The size of our reaction should match the size of the problem. Sometimes we need reminding that a problem that seems huge is really not very big at all. (“watermelon slice” = medium problem and “BIG Watermelon problem” = BIG, serious problem that needs adult help). The STEP model from our SEL lessons helps us problem solve in this order: Say the problem without blame, Think of respectful solutions, Explore consequences and ask “What could happen if”, Pick the best solution and make a plan.
*Self-Calming: This is very important, especially for children who are easily upset, angered, or worried. We spent a lot of time this year learning strategies for calming our bodies. It’s great to be able to calm down when really upset. And when we have several favorite tools to choose from, we can even use them to prevent upsets. Our number one tool? Belly breathing!! Encourage your child to Stop, Name his/her feeling, and Use a calm down strategy (count, belly breathe, use positive self-talk).
Watch for opportunities throughout the summer to talk about these skills with your children! I also attached some posters for your home. Thank you so much for your support throughout the year and have a wonderful vacation!