Mental Health & Wellness

Conscious Discipline

We can help children (and ourselves) by creating a sense of safety, connecting, and cultivating a new sense of normal with these five tips:

1. Young children co-regulate with trusted adults and older children feed off our internal states. Our calm nurtures their calm. Our distress increases their distress. Check in with yourself. How are you faring? Practice active calming by taking three deep breaths when you feel yourself becoming frustrated, fearful, angry or desperate. Seek out activities and call people who calm you. Limit your news intake, social media and other sources of stress. Be a Safe Place for your child.

2. Focus on safety and connection. The brain functions optimally when it feels both safe and connected. Children need to know that life is going to be different and that you will find a new normal together. Make safety and connection your top priority, especially in the first days; you can always add academics, chores and such later.

3. Create your new normal. The brain thrives on predictable patterns. Our daily and weekly patterns have been turned upside down without warning. Creating a new normal begins with a new daily routine. Families with older children can work together to co-create your new daily schedule (co-creating gives children a way to exert some control over the situation), while parents of younger children will create the schedule for them. Plan it, draw it, label it, post it somewhere obvious and refer to it often so children know what to expect.

4. Give children ways to contribute. Contribution lights up the reward centers of the brain and releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. Verbally highlight the way your family is helping your community and hospitals by staying home. Draw pictures and make cards to mail, leave on friends’ and neighbors’ doorsteps, or drop off at a nursing home.

5. Shift toward seeing the best. Notice your inner and outer speech. Are you “stuck at home” with your kids, or do you have an opportunity to connect with family and keep the community safe while you work from home? Are you “stuck at work,” or are you helping to keep the community running by staffing hospitals, grocery stores and other important functions in spite of the risks?

It’s easy to get caught up in what’s going wrong. Instead, make an effort to consciously shift toward helpfulness. Use your words as a spotlight to illuminate the behaviors you want to see more of and aspects you find helpful amidst the fear. The more positive aspects you discuss around your children, the more they are able to see the best in the situation. The more you notice and verbalize children’s helpful actions, the more helpful they will become. Shifting your perspective from what you don’t want to what you do want paves the way for a healthier internal state for you and your children.

Conscious Discipline offers a wealth of social-emotional information online to help you during this challenging time. Some of the items are purchasable, but in keeping with our belief that we’re all in this together, many of our webinars, podcasts, videos, printables, articles and other items are absolutely free for you to use.