Category: Socio-emotional

Bouncing Back from Pandemic Meltdowns

Bouncing Back from Pandemic Meltdowns

We held an exciting Webinar  with Trova Health about managing our emotions as parents. 

If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that the structure and stability in our daily lives can disappear at a moment’s notice. A difficult time for parents, adapting schedules and managing inevitable meltdowns as their child is sent home from day-care for the 4th week in a row. We all have a limit and grown-ups are certainly not exempt from tantrums at times like this. 

Luckily, Springtime, wherever you are, gives us an opportunity to start anew. As the flowers begin to bloom and we celebrate the Spring holidays, let’s think about where we are and how to hit the reset button.

What Causes Meltdowns?

Emotional “dysregulation” is quite common for kids, but we forget it happens with adults. We move into survival mode, counting down minutes until bedtime and think about solutions to chaos rather than finding moments of joy and peace. Meltdowns occur in all humans due to a dysregulation of the nervous system. If we are unaware of what is happening, we stay in paralysis or survival mode until we burn out, blow up or both! 

What Do Meltdowns Look Like?

During our webinar, we heard many great (sometimes funny) examples of pandemic meltdowns. It seems the pandemic was very successful in adding unpredictable layers of stress to existing chaos. Between family members testing positive for covid, to homeschooling, new jobs, remote working and the sheer uncertainty of the pandemic, it’s no wonder we cracked under the pressure. While dealing with some or maybe all the above, it’s common to find yourself raising your voice to your kids. A meltdown can look like shouting or arguing, but also bitterness, resentment and burnout are common traits.  Each parent is different. Identifying what you look like during a meltdown can be the first step to preventing them.

The Medicine

So how do we prevent meltdowns? The answer is simple: give yourself exactly what you are seeking. This is where we dive into what we really want…the deeper desire. If a parent says, “I want a break!” what does that break look like and what will it bring? Peace? Relief? Once we slow this down, what we see is that as parents, we don’t allow ourselves to feel what we want to feel until we have the THING (the goal, the “break.”) Ironically, as we slow down, tune into our own nervous system, feel what’s happening for us, we gift ourselves the exact thing we truly desire! We’ve given ourselves the break. 

For example: If you come home from a long day and see you kids sitting around in a messy room with no chores done, what do you do? Shout? The perfect meltdown. Play back this movie in slow motion and see how neutral this situation is. The kids are sitting on the couch. That’s it. You may experience other thoughts like: “My kids are lazy, and I do everything around here.” Notice how these thoughts make you feel: upset, disrespected, judgemental, etc and see where these thoughts and feelings lead to.

The Inner Work

Doing the “inner work” goes beyond self-care. It’s paying attention to yourself and honouring exactly what you desire and need. In the above scenario, the parent probably desires relaxation or connection. They’re probably hungry and thirsty too! So, let’s practise pressing pause, diving into the deeper desire and give ourselves what we need before reacting. What becomes empowering is noticing that peace and joy are no longer dependent on you finally getting that well deserved break. You don’t have to hold out all day to finally be rewarded. You can listen to the smaller signs and fulfil your needs as they arise, taking back your own power.

Hear Yourself Before Demanding to be Heard

Remember, you discover the desire by noticing your behaviour pattern. If you get upset and yell, your deeper desire is most likely to be heard. If your pattern is withdrawal, your deeper desire could be to ‘relax’ or ‘take a break’. When we honour our needs, the triggers are no longer present.

5 practical things you can do before, during and after a meltdown

Slow Down and Connect with Yourself

Slow down your internal world, paying attention to cues or markers that let you know you are outside of your window of tolerance. You might be too “high”- overwhelmed or too “low”- depleted/ burned out. For now, just focus on allowing and accepting the emotions. 

Honour the Need that Arises 

If you desire a break, take it. If you desire peace, feel it. If you desire joy, take a moment to dance in the kitchen or whatever brings you 30 seconds of joy.

Be OK with Taking a “time out” 

Practice a calming technique such as breathing or visualisation. This goes along with self-care and models for your children and spouse that you are tuned into your own needs and limits. You can call it a “break” or “taking 5” and use that time to sit outside or lay down in your room while kids entertain themselves.

Ask for Support 

This is tough to do if you’re living in a new place with less friends or family around. Some parents have found that asking for support via video calls can help. You can ask family or friends to help out with homework by jumping on a Zoom call. This can also work with reading bedtime stories or any other activities you can participate in remotely. If you’re really stuck for friends and family, check out the local community and see if you can build a support network through schools, kids groups or church. 

Connect with kids/ family

Schedule intentional time to do something novel. Our brains crave novelty and connection! Plan a scavenger hunt, play a new game, give your kids a phone and let them direct their own commercial or movie. You can try new food together or dress up in costumes and go to the park! Camping in the living room is always fun or even ask your kids or spouse to plan something they’d love to do…

Watch the Webinar

Emotional dysregulation is addressed with awareness and self-compassion. Slowing down and becoming present is key in these moments of distress. You can watch the webinar here 

What is one thing you can do in the next 24 hours to find your deeper desire?

About Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families connect with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build memories together. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations. To try storytelling activities at Peekabond go here. 

About Trova Health

Trova health is a digital health and wellness company created specifically for expats, providing mental health and remote care services worldwide. To find out more go here

10 Storytelling Books for Children 6 and under by Vincent van den Noort

10 Storytelling Books for Children 6 and under

I am an avid reader. 

Our son is now almost 5 years old, and I don’t think there were many days without us reading books or telling stories to him. When he was just a baby, I made up little stories for him. It was all about hearing my voice and just being together. I don’t have the illusion that he remembers those tales 😉

Telling stories is our little ritual. Every evening after dinner we sit together and explore the stories. Storytelling is about using your imagination and creating magic and a sense of wonder in the world.  It started out with very simple and short stories that I told over and over (and over, and over) again. I can still tell these stories without having to look at the books. One of the most popular stories was Nijntje Pluis, called Miffy in English.

As he grows older, the stories become more elaborate. My range as a storytelling actor has expanded, and I can now easily play a cast of 5 characters with their own voices. 

We always like to take elements of stories and build our own stories from them. He comes up with the hero and the cast of characters (usually plush animals), and then we think about the build-up, the challenge that the hero has to solve, and how it all comes together in the end. It’s amazing to see how creative kids are, and how his children’s logic leads to fantastical stories. 

The most beautiful part is that these stories aren’t “just” stories. They give a peek into his mind and let him playfully express his emotions.

I hope that I’ve instilled a fondness for storytelling in him too, that will last a lifetime. For now, I cherish our travels into these fantastical worlds. I think I’ll have a tough time when he says: “Dad, I can read these books by myself”.

Why is storytelling so important?

Telling stories is one of the oldest forms of teaching. In caves around the world, we can see storytelling paintings that are from the time we were still hunting Mammoths. Stories bond humans, they define us, shape us and make us. Every single culture in the world tells stories to teach us about love, life, ourselves, and those around us. It’s how we learn to understand the world.

“If you want your children to be smart, tell them fairy tales. If you want them to be brilliant, tell them more fairy tales.“ – Albert Einstein

Science shows us that storytelling is more than just a fun pastime. Storytelling has a positive effect on the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children. Young children enjoy reading, writing, and listening to stories, and from the stories, they are able to understand more about society and life in general. 

Did you know that science shows storytelling and story reading helps young children with:
  • Improving language acquisition (Lucarevschi, 2016; Miller & Pennycuff, 2008; Speaker et al., 2004)
  • Improve their oral or spoken language (Cooper, 2009; Cremin et al., 2018; Isbell et al., 2004; Typadi & Hayon, 2010)
  • Develop reading comprehension (Craig et al., 2001; Haven & Ducey, 2007)
  • Make sense of basic mathematics (Casey et al., 2008; Goral & Gnadinger, 2006; Pramling & Samuelsson, 2008)
  • Explain science (Hu et al., 2020; Preradovic et al., 2016; Valkanova & Watts, 2007; Walan, 2019)
  • Prepare for school (Nicolopoulou et al., 2015)
  • Communicate effectively (Sundin et al., 2018)
  • Help children to learn and appreciate their world (Cremin et al., 2018; Vélez & Prieto, 2018)
  • Improve cross-cultural communication (Al-Jafar & Buzzelli, 2004)
  • Promote moral and social development (Bailey et al., 2006; Burns & Rathbone, 2010; Thambu, 2017).
Pretty impressive, huh?

Children’s brains are like little sponges. They absorb the words and sentences, equipping them with the vocabulary to articulate thoughts and experiences. When they are able to express their needs and emotions better, it develops their social skills and self-confidence. Through stories, they also become aware of the emotions of others and learn to be empathetic.

Stories and fables show little ones commonly accepted cultural ways and norms. But not just from books. Grandparents narrating stories from their childhood, or sharing funny memories of the child’s mother or father teach the child about ways and norms.

I am always impressed by the breadth and depth of the vocabulary my son already has. I’m certain that, at least part of it, is from the many books and stories we’ve read. Hearing a four-year-old saying he finds something “mildly amusing” is hilarious to me.

How to become a great storyteller

Everyone has it in them to become a great storyteller. I’ll share a few learning that I’ve had in my four-year journey as a dad. One stands out before all others: Don’t read a book to them, read it with them. That doesn’t mean you have to be together, but you do want to make a connection. Look at them (or the camera) when you read, talk to them and ask them questions. Reading is about making a connection and exploring this magical world together. 

General tips

Make sure they’re settled in, for instance, cozy on the couch. We love reading in front of the fireplace, a small fire crackling in the hearth. Create a bit of anticipation before you start: “Ooh, I can’t wait to find out what happens to the little owl”. This sets the stage for a great story.

  • Read a lot

Get into the habit of telling stories often. For young kids, simple stories of one minute are fine. As they get older, the stories can get longer. If they can talk or point, you can also let them pick a book they love. But be prepared, kids usually love hearing the same story a billion times.

If you’re using an app like Peekabond to read stories, you’re in luck. Record it once, and they can rewatch it a billion times 😉

  • Be fun and playful

A great storyteller is a playful storyteller. Use your whole acting repertoire to make a story fun and engaging. Read with fun in your voice, and add quirky sound effects for extra effect. You can even sing a book if you want. And don’t forget your facial expressions. It’s not about the words, but how you tell them.

Is there a monster around the corner? Slow down, bring your voice down to a whisper and bring the listener to the edge of their seat. Is the monster talking? Talk in a growl. Or, for comedic effect, make it sound silly. You’re the storyteller, make it come alive!

  • Go deeper

There is more to a story than it seems at the surface. Ask the kid questions about the story, or the meaning of specific words. Engage them in the story: “Do you think that is smart? What would you do?” Trigger their imagination. You can also point out pictures, or ask them to point them out. I always enjoy asking my son to read a story back to me. He can’t read yet, but hearing him tell the story in his own words is often surprising and fun.

Something that is very helpful in understanding their own emotions and how others are feeling, is talking about the emotions of the characters. You can ask questions like: “How do you think the fox is feeling? Is he angry?”. You can also relate it to their own life: “have you ever been angry?” This is a great way to talk about emotions together.

My Top 10 storytelling books

We have A LOT of children’s books, so it was hard to pick a top 10. So I tried to think back on the stories that we told the most, the ones that he still picks even though we’ve told them a million times.

And of course, they’re stories that I like to tell. So without further ado, here is my top 10 in no particular order.

Little Owl Lost

Uh-oh! Little Owl has fallen from his nest and landed with a whump on the ground. Now he is lost, and his mommy is nowhere to be seen! With the earnest help of his new friend Squirrel, Little Owl goes in search of animals that fit his description of Mommy Owl. 

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/8036503

Why I picked this book: It was the first story I read to my son. The artwork is beautiful and the story is funny and lovely. We still pick it up from time to time.

Tow-truck Pluck

Pluck has a little red tow truck. He drives it all over town looking for a place to live. Pluck makes lots more friends and solves all kinds of problems. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30030547-tow-truck-pluck

Why I picked this book: This book is a Dutch classic. I read it as a child, and it’s still being read in classes today. The characters are great and the story is very compelling.

The Greedy Goat

A very greedy goat wreaks havoc in the barnyard in an entertaining cautionary tale from Petr Horacek.Goat is tired of always eating herbs and grass. She wants to try something new! So one day she embarks on a tasting spree, trying the dog’s food, the pig’s potato peels, and more, with the farmer’s underpants topping off a massive meal. 

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/36095356

Why I picked this book: Not my personal favorite, but my son loves it. Especially the goat eating the farmers underpants (bleh!)

The Lion Inside

A rhyming story about one little mouse trying to make himself heard and discovering along the way that even the smallest of us has the heart of a lion.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26257320-the-lion-inside

Why I picked this book: The moral of this story is a very positive one (you don’t have to be strong to be brave), and the rhyme makes it a lot of fun to read.

Hungry Caterpillar 

One sunny Sunday, the caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry. On Monday, he ate through one apple; on Tuesday, he ate through three plums–and still he was hungry. When full at last, he made a cocoon around himself and went to sleep, to wake up a few weeks later wonderfully transformed into a butterfly!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4948.The_Very_Hungry_Caterpillar

Why I picked this book: It’s an all time classic. The artwork is beautiful and it gives an amazing insight into one of the marvels of nature, the metamorphosis of the butterfly. 

The Guffalo 

This is a rhyming story of a mouse and a monster. Little mouse goes for a walk in a dangerous forest. To scare off his enemies he invents tales of a fantastical creature called the Gruffalo. So imagine his surprise when he meets the real Gruffalo.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1013383.The_Gruffalo

Why I picked this book: It’s about a witty mouse. Like the “Lion Inside”, it shows a child that it’s better to be smart than to be strong. I love doing the voices of the enemies and the Gruffalo.

Where the Wild Things Are

Max, a wild and naughty boy, is sent to bed without his supper by his exhausted mother. In his room, he imagines sailing far away to a land of Wild Things. Instead of eating him, the Wild Things make Max their king.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19543.Where_the_Wild_Things_Are

Why I picked this book: This book is all about imagination. And for kids, seeing a naughty boy like Max is very interesting. The artwork is timeless, and Alt-J used the story in their song Breezeblocks.

 

The Tortoise and the Hare

Tortoise proves he is a formidable opponent in this comic adaptation of a classic tale.

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/1363829

Why I picked this book: Again a classic. It teaches kids that arrogance doesn’t pay, and it’s a funny story.

Winnie the Pooh

The adventures of Christopher Robin and his friends in which Pooh Bear uses a balloon to get honey, Piglet meets a Heffalump, and Eeyore has a birthday.

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/99107.Winnie_the_Pooh

Why I picked this book: My son loves the stories. I like how the stories show a variety of emotions through the characters. Eeyore is always sad, and Pooh is sometimes quite egocentric. Even with their differences, they get along.

BONUS: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 tales of extraordinary women

What if the princess didn’t marry Prince Charming but instead went on to be an astronaut? What if the jealous step sisters were supportive and kind? And what if the queen was the one really in charge of the kingdom? Empowering, moving and inspirational, these are true fairy tales for heroines who definitely don’t need rescuing

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33016249-good-night-stories-for-rebel-girls

Why I picked this book: Stories define how children see the world. This is a great book that’s not just for rebel girls, but also for boys. Children’s books should reflect and celebrate the diversity in our world, and these stories are a great addition.

About Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations. To try storytelling activities at Peekabond go here. 

Building Love and Affection with Grandchildren at a distance by Greg Payne

Building Love and Affection with Grandchildren at a distance

To anyone with family and friends who live far from them, staying in touch can be challenging. On top of that, trying to build new relationships with grandchildren, cousins, nieces, and nephews can seem daunting. Building new relationships with younger family members is challenging because we sometimes don’t know HOW to connect.

You need a plan

Accepting where the children are in their development can be very tough, but it can also let you know that there is some breathing room while you and their parents get a plan together about how you are going to connect. What? Building a plan? Families don’t have plans; they just do. Well, yes, and no. Yes, families often just do activities, pick up the phone to talk, shoot text messages, and send recorded video messages. However, you need a plan when you are at a distance and want to build love and affection with young children. 

You and the young children’s parents need a plan to build your relationship when you are not with the children. That plan could include the following:

  1. Sending pictures/ videos
  2. Video chats
  3. Virtual playtime
  4. Snail mail

Please do not think this requires spreadsheets, formal project planning, or quarterly stakeholder meetings. No, the kind of planning that I am talking about is simply communicating with all the parties and understanding how best to build a relationship between the children and those who are remote.

Sending Pictures and Videos

As a remote grandparent, aunt, or uncle, when you receive pictures or videos of the young children, you must be sure to let the person sending the photos or videos know how much you appreciated the time and effort to send them to you. The busy mother or stressed-out father needs to know that their effort is appreciated. Conversely, YOU need to be sure to send fun pictures to the young children. I recommend these pictures are of activities that you enjoy doing. The action and even silly pictures will make it easier for mom or dad to talk to the young child about how silly grandpa or grandma is. Do not discount the importance of play with young children both in person and virtually through images of others. 

Video Chats

What a time to be alive! Video chats and recordings are a great way to stay connected when you can not be together for special events like birthdays, band performances, or youth sporting events. Video chats, either live or recorded, are perfect ways to ensure that those young children know you care AND are sharing your life with them. The video chats with the young children allow them to ask you pointed questions about your life and the activities you are involved in. How would your young nephew or niece know that you enjoy skiing? If you don’t talk about the big ski trip, you are going on in a few days, and you don’t talk about it.

Another essential part of video chats and recordings is that they offer all parties the chance to notice some of the nonverbal communication that is very important to building love and affection. The opportunity to see grandma’s eyes light up when talking about the upcoming visit to the grandchild lets them know that grandma’s excitement and love towards the grandchild is genuine and means as much to the grandchild as the words convey.

Virtual Playtime

Virtual playtime can be challenging for those who didn’t grow up in a digital world. Virtual playtime can take many forms, so it is important not to let the concept or idea intimidate you. There are some great tips on virtual playtime called out in the last blog about babysitting at a distance. You should check out that blog for some great tips that you can do with very young children. 

If your children are a bit older, I suggest that you think about using some of the online gaming platforms to play video games with your older grandchildren. Another great activity that you can do online with older grandchildren is to share some hobbies and teach them crafts if they enjoy those activities. There is no reason you can’t use video conferencing tools to sit together and work on the same type of model airplane or teach a child how to use gimp (plastic lace) to make a cool key chain or bracelet. Virtual playtime can take on many forms. Playtime depends on the child’s age, but it is crucial to play and interact with the remote child as much as possible since the act of play teaches many attributes of life to children.

Snail Mail

Yes, old fashioned mail. Letter writing is changing. With technology, many of our younger relations have become accustomed to short communication through different text and social media platforms. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not angry or putting my ‘grumpy old guy’ hat on. I say that long-form letters or postcards can be meaningful to the recipient. I have interviewed many adult grandchildren who kept the letters their grandfathers and grandmothers sent to them as children. Writing letters allows the sender to express themselves to the recipient in a way that a short text message does not allow for. The young person also enjoys receiving a piece of mail that is just for them and not for mom or dad (unless mom or dad needs to read it).

There is a certain amount of excitement that I have seen with young children when they have received a birthday card or letter in the mail that can not be duplicated by the receiving of a text or email. An added benefit of writing a letter or note to the distant child is that you can use language that will hopefully challenge them and will build up their language skills. YOU are sneaking a language lesson into their world through your own use of language to express how much you love them and what events are going on in your own life.

Wrap Up

Why it might not seem like it at first, using the four tools mentioned above WILL increase the amount of love and affection with the remote child that you are communicating with. We live in fantastic times where we can see and hear each other over great distances. Uncles, Aunts, Grandfathers, and Grandmothers do not have to be unconnected to the little ones IF the adults choose to use the available tools at hand. By using technology, we can build up and support the love and affection between generations. We CAN if we choose to be the loving mentors that children need. 

Be sure to review the different ideas and blog postings on Peekabond (or you might even want to try their free app). There are many other ideas and suggestions for creating meaningful bonds with those distant grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. 

About the author

 

Greg Payne is the host of The Cool Grandpa Podcast. He discusses the importance of the role of Grandfathers in the lives of grandchildren and families. Greg and his wife, Karen, can be found whitewater kayaking on the weekends, where Greg tries not to get too banged up while having fun. Feel free to connect with Greg via email at this link or on his website.