I just returned from the American School Counselor Association's Annual Conference which was held this year in the lovely, historical city of Boston. It was a wealth of networking and educational opportunities, not to mention an wonderful chance to enjoy the history and culture of a great city. One of the workshops I attended was given by Susan Stillman, Ph.D. on incorporating emotional intelligence concepts into the everyday fabric and curriculum of schools. She had lots of examples of ways to do this as well as references to the research indicating that being sensitive to and encouraging the whole child definitely increases their academic performance in the bargain.
As we get closer to the first day of school and back to work for those of us off during the summer (I know, sorry to bring that up!), I am reminded of the difficulty parents and children often have in separating that first day of school. Emotions are high, tears are flowing and parents and children alike are often caught up in the current of it all. What's a counselor, teacher, parent to do? A variation on the typical "How are you feeling?" question that we are so very familiar with, was a series of questions, Dr. Stillman suggested asking. It goes like this: "How do you usually feel? How do you feel sometimes? and How are you feeling right now?" Then you encourage someone else to respond to those feelings by saying, "I feel connected to that in this way, I..." The next person then fills in their own feeling statements and how it is connected. Not only does this expand the feeling possiblities in any given situation, but it also creates a feeling of connection and support. It can also be used to change the focus from a negative to a positive situation.
Another way to prepare for the upcoming start of school or for any parent/child separation is by sharing the lovely encouraging book, I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas. The book begins with an anxious child who asks his mother, "Do I have to go today?" to which his mother replies, "Yes you do have to go today...But you should always remember this, I love you when I'm with you and I love you when we 're apart." The remainder of the book involves the mother gently reassuring her son how much she loves him in all situations throughout the day, ending with a joyful reunion at the end. I would definitely reccomend it to any anxious parent or child for a reassuring way to prepare for the inevitable separations of school and other activities.