ELSA Support at Home
Hello and welcome to the ELSA at home support page. I provide ELSA support to all pupils, staff and parents. I have put some key resources on this page for you to use at home to support and develop your child’s emotional literacy.
Many thanks and warmest wishes
Ms Victoria Harris – Mental Health and Wellbeing Lead, ELSA and DDSL
Five ways to wellbeing
- Stay Connected – While there will be ‘physical distancing’ it is still important to maintain human connection.
- Keep Learning – Keep your brain occupied and challenged. Set aside time in your routine for this. Read books, magazines and articles. Listen to podcasts, watch films and do puzzles.
- Stay Active – Its important to try and build physical activity into your daily routine. Exercising at home can be simple and there are options for most ages and abilities.
- Take Notice – Bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. It can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger.
- Give – Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community, can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you. Think what activities you can do at home that might benefit others.
Please let me know some examples of how you are using the 5 ways to wellbeing and let me know if you would like me to share them in ‘The Heron Times’.
Growth Mindset and Wellbeing Tips
Looking after myself
There are some simple things that you can do to look after your mental health, either by yourself or with other people.
Eat Good Food
It’s good for your mood! Did you know that your mind is affected by what you eat? Try to eat healthy food and drink plenty of water, to keep your body and brain feeling good!
Scientists have discovered that exercise makes you feel good. It can be anything from football, skating or running to yoga and trampolining – whatever you enjoy!
Talk to Others
Talk to other people about things that are bothering you and how you are feeling. Children have told us that, although it can be difficult at first, talking with a good friend, family member or a grown-up you trust can really help.
Believe in Yourself
Make a list of things that you like about yourself – this could be about your personality, what kind of friend you are, the way you look and things that you can do. If you find it hard to think of ideas, ask yourself “if someone close to me was writing this list about me, what would they say?”. Keep this list and look at it when you’re finding it hard to believe in yourself
People find different things help them relax – it could be having a bath, watching a funny film, drawing, reading or going for a walk. Try different things and see what works for you.
Try to go to bed at a similar time each night and get up at a similar time each morning. Avoid using computers or playing on things like iPads before bed – the light they make can keep your brain awake even after you stop playing!
Developing a daily routine can help us to feel more in control of everything, and help us to make room for all that’s important. Routine can aid our mental health. It can help us to cope with change, to form healthy habits, and to reduce our stress levels. I am often asked about night routines to aid relaxation and good sleep patterns.
By following the same routine at the same time each night will help provide secure boundaries for children especially in times of change and anxiety. Having a routine they can rely on will help to make them feel safe and secure. If your child struggles to fall asleep, story CD’s can be very helpful especially when turned down to a low sound level so the brain has to ‘reach’ to hear it.
Assessing wellbeing at home
I have co-written a questionnaire with ELSA Support as I felt it was very important to see you all are at home and what I can do to help support you and your family. Please use the list of questions to also promote and inspire conversations about how you feel at the moment.
Children’s social and emotional skills begin to develop from a very young age. Building a good understanding of emotions when you’re young helps you relate to others and manage your own mental health later on. Talking openly with children about how they feel and why, enables them to start recognising and understanding different emotions. Follow these simple steps from our friends at Feeling Better to start a conversation…
1. Start Talking
Try asking your child to describe how they are feeling, and follow up with open questions about what’s happened to make them feel this way. For example; ‘Tell me about how you are feeling?’ or ‘What has happened to make you feel like this?’ Talking will help your child process their feelings and make sense of them, as well as calming them down.
2. Put a Label On It
Once your child has described how they are feeling help them put a label on it like Radha does in this clip. Are they feeling angry? Worried? Scared? Frustrated? Happy? Doing this will help increase their vocabulary, and make it easier to recognise the emotion the next time they experience it.
3. It’s Ok To Feel This Way
It’s important that your child knows that it’s okay to feel different emotions, even if it’s not a nice feeling. Experiencing emotions like jealousy, envy or even feeling selfish can help us learn about ourselves and other people. Reinforce to your child that we all experience challenging feelings.
4. Share Your Stories
There are lots of complex emotions that might seem hard to describe to your child. Help them understand by giving examples of a time you felt this way. You could describe what happened to make you feel this way and share what you did to make yourself feel better.
Mindfulness Brain Break
The pupils of North Curry Primary School are brilliant at brain breaks! Brain Breaks, as the children will tell you are an excellent way of reducing stress, being mindful and re-setting.
Emotions - Resources
Anger Icebergs: The Anger Iceberg represents the idea that, although anger is displayed outwardly, other emotions may be hidden beneath the surface. These other feelings—such as sadness, fear, or guilt—might cause a person to feel vulnerable, or they may not have the skills to manage them effectively.
Cognitive Triangle is a widely used form of psychotherapy that helps individuals understand the connection between their thoughts and feelings, and how thoughts and feelings influence their behaviour. … How one interprets it affects how one feels, thinks and behaves. The outcome can be healthy or unhealthy.In ELSA we support children by validating and supporting any emotion a child presents. We discuss how your thoughts make us feel and how that influences our behaviour. This CBT model can be the foundation to Growth Mindset and positive thinking.
Behaviour and Control
After speaking to many parents some children are struggling with following requests at home, especially key things such as teeth brushing and bedtime! During this time it is proving difficult to provide children with a sense of control and reassurance of what is coming next.
Visual supports like the Now and Next Board can help to provide structure and routine. It can encourage independence, build confidence, improve understanding, avoid frustration and anxiety, and provide opportunities to interact with others.
They can make communication easier for children and for parents. At the moment with so much time spent at home it can really help children to feel more in control by knowing what is coming next. You can you a choice board to add to you Now and Next.
How to use Now and Next
Write/draw on the board or paper what it is you are doing now. I like to draw this as it is immediate but you can make up cards if you wish. At the same time put on the board what will be coming next. For example; Now we are brushing our teeth, Next It is bedtime. When that activity has been completed move on to the next… If your child is older and has the idea you can move on to the next board which is Now, Next, and Then. When these boards are established the whole family, including your child can do the board together. When an activity has been completed get your child to cross it out – this helps with the transition
Zones of Regulation
Learning to identify and regulate emotions is a big job, especially for children. Rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy, the Zones of Regulation is a framework that uses four colors to help children identify their feelings and support emotional regulation. By understanding how to notice their body’s signals, detect triggers, read social context, and consider how their behaviors impact those around them, children learn improved emotional control, sensory regulation, self-awareness, and problem-solving skills.
Which zone are you in? Please use the 4 zones to support your child to identify which zone they are in. The Green Zone is where we aim to be. Ask what can we do to change zones..take a break, do something you enjoy, talk to someone about how you feel and why. Talk about how you can change zones, what strategies to use to calm, relax and regulate.
The Chimp Paradox
The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters is the author of ‘Hidden Chimp’ he simplifies the neuroscience of the mind for children and helps them understand how their brains work.
In the chimp model, the inner chimp is the emotional team within the brain that thinks and acts without our permission. It is independent and works upon feelings and impressions and puts information together using emotional thinking.
The logical team is the real person, it is you and your rational thought – the human. The computer is the memory bank and references information. It acts as a memory and can also act as automatic thinking ready to take over if the Chimp or the Human is asleep or if they allow it to run ahead of them with preformed decisions and beliefs that it can act with.
We use this is ELSA to help children separate their behaviour from themselves. It allows children to see where and how behaviour can be changed. The children I work with name there ‘inner chimp’ and I have a cuddly chimp in my office who gets into lots of trouble!
Limits and boundaries create a consistent, trusting, safe space for your child to develop. Don’t be deterred when they resist; your child needs it.
Secure boundaries set by parents and carers reduce anxiety. Rules and routines like meal times, bed time and screen time are set and monitored create predictability in a child’s life. This predictability lowers uncertainty and that reduces anxiety.
Setting boundaries does not mean lessening your child’s emotions or free expression even if this is expressed by anger. When a child re-negotiates with a parent, for example a later bedtime, this can give the child more feeling of power which can effect the child’s overall feeling of security.
Worry and Anxiety
All children whatever age experience fear, worry and anxiety. Children are sensitive to what happens around them and look to adults to model reactions. Children sometimes cannot say that they are anxious instead you may see some behaviours. Children may be: irritable, tearful, clingy, difficulty sleeping, bed wetting, bad dreams. In older children you may see a lack of confidence, angry outbursts, search for control and negative thinking. Using helpful phrases is a good way of allowing your child to question and problem solve for themselves, which is empowering.
After speaking to many parents it is becoming apparent that many parents and children are suffering from trouble sleeping, nightmares, night terrors and vivid dreams during this anxious time. It is widely reported that Coronavirus and lockdown is having a significant impact on our dreams. It can be difficult to deal with intense dreams, particularly if they are about the current situation and they feel very realistic. Even though you understand they are not real, it can feel quite traumatic.
Nightmares happen during REM sleep, the dreams can trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response therefore any source of stress can increase the risk of nightmares. So bad dreams can be a self-fulfilling prophesy: often children will worry about whether you’re going to have a nightmare again which makes you more likely to have one. This week I thought about suggesting a few practical steps to help those affected by sleep concerns;
Talk to your child during the day (not before bedtime) to find out whether anything is worrying them that could be triggering their nightmares.
Teach about dreams. Take the opportunity to introduce some simple psychology principles to help your child. Explain that dreams are just the body’s way of sorting through the previous day, and reassure that thoughts are not permanent and cannot physically hurt.
Make sure your child has a fixed relaxing bedtime routine. Having a bath with lavender or a favourite bubble bath will create sensory clues that it is time for bed and the practised routine will create a sense of security. Limit screen time before sleep.
Audio Stories, if your child is really struggling, try putting an audio story on in their bedroom, the volume needs to be turned very low. This causes the brain to ‘reach’ for the sound which can sooth an anxious mind and ‘keep it busy’ while they sleep.
If they wake up from a nightmare, soothe your child and validate how they feel.
Do not ask questions or discuss the dream unless they invite the conversation.
To re-settle, sooth and suggest ‘happy thoughts,’ give gentle suggestions or think of somewhere that makes them feel relaxed and carefree. If nightmares are frequent then you can practise relaxing using guided imagery then you can use a practised imagery to return to sleep.
Create a cosy space – provide a soft toy and use a low light or Nightlight – a relaxing environment can make it easier for your child to self-sooth.
Night Terrors – These can be frightening for everyone involved. The best advice is not to wake your child if they are having a night terror. If you wake them they may not recognise you and may become more agitated if you try to comfort them. Keep them safe and quietly re-settle. Do not inform them in the morning as they will have little to no memory of it unless they which to discuss it.