Updated: Mar 26, 2020
Good Morning Families, it is Friday March 20th 2020 and it is now time for our morning SEL moment.
I’m a school counselor. My wife is a 4th and 5th grade teacher. We have a kindergartener and a 5th grader. So far we have not been able to establish a routine for learning, and it’s not because we’re lazy or don’t value education. It’s because its really-hard to do. Today my kids woke up at 9:45. I could have gotten them up earlier, because I was up at 6:30, but I didn’t because ME TIME!! I worked. I worried. I made coffee. I checked in with my feelings. I managed my worries. I cleaned the kitchen, or as it is now known, the cafeteria. All the while I was very quiet to keep them sleeping, because…well, I wasn’t ready for it to start again.
I want them to read. I want them to do math. I want them to explore the natural world and discover a genuine love of science. But we, as a family, aren’t there yet. Turns out, our house was not prepared for us to be in it like this.
I have always experienced March as the hardest month in school. In the schools I’ve been in, including ours, we usually see the most unexpected behavior choices (from both students and staff) an increase in office referrals, an increase in counseling referrals, and an increase in overall feelings of anxiousness, hopelessness, helplessness, and, in general, large group expressions of being “run-down”.
For all of March my clothes stay piled on the couch. I never fold or put them away. We are hardly home. School days in March are very long; meetings are long, budget is due, staffing is discussed. We have out-of-school events that are also long. Weekends are for errands and chores and socializing. We never host anything in our home in March because the kitchen is never clean enough, the living room is just a large storage container (arranged into piles only by who-threw-what-where). The garage becomes a museum of discarded hopes, the bathroom…there are three males in our house. I’m sorry to my wife, she had no idea what this would be like, so just imagine a bar of lavender hand-soap in truck stop men’s room.
I’m sharing this perspective with you in case you are feeling like only your house is in disarray. Rest assured, you’re not alone. I hope you find comfort in that. We will get through this and our children will still get jobs someday. Yes, there may be a slide for a bit, but in the circumstances, you/me/we will recover. You’ll get the routine going, somehow, because you are a survivor. How do I know you are a survivor? Because, if you are reading this there is an unbroken chain of life going back 100,000 years? 200,000 years? How about since time immemorial. Your people did all kinds of things to survive. They beat saber-toothed tigers, giant people eating birds (true – Australia) other humans, slavery, the plague(s), colonization, world wars, you name it. If you are reading this your people are/were amazing.
For you to be here now, on some level those who came before you understood and used self-management. Maybe not all the time, and maybe not even in front of you, but they must have had it for a portion of their lives, because here you are. And now it’s your turn to further build the SEL skill of self-management. Self-management refers to the skills necessary for maintaining healthy relationships with yourself and others. (It’s a very large set of abilities and we’ll get more on it later). When you are in your living space, give yourself permission to feel the emotions you feel. Recognize your emotions. Label how you are feeling. Recognizing and labeling your emotions are the first steps of self-management. Research in Emotional Intelligence has demonstrated that the process of recognizing and labeling can help illuminate and increase the space that exists between feeling/thought/action, allowing you to insert a decision about what to do with what you are feeling/thinking.
Here is something my wife reminds me of all the time; at some point everyone in our house will “have their moment” or “moments”. That is likely going to be true for your living space as well. Recognizing this can help you extend some grace to yourself, and to those around you. Maybe the first routine you can make is the “personal time” routine. When do you get personal time? When do you give others personal time? Maybe that is a conversation starter for you all. It is definitely a conversation for us. In fact, as I am writing this my sons just told me they only need 13 more Power Moons to finish Mario Odyssey. And though I feel proud of their accomplishment, I also feel scared that I don’t know what the heck they’re going to play next. I needed you for more Mario! I also know that as we go forward we will come to some equilibrium. It will take effort and perhaps tears (most likely on my part) but we will get there. Hopefully, before we head back to school.
I wish you the very best and look forward to connecting in whatever way we can, on Monday.