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Category: Lessons from sessions

When and how much do I tell the teacher?

With the start of the school year I have had a number of parents preparing to meet with their child’s teachers to discuss the extra supports that may be needed in the classroom. It seems that everyone has been asking me the same question:

Should I tell the teacher my child has difficulty or shall I let them get to know my child first? 

It seems parents are wanting a balance between informing the teacher so their child can be supported, yet not wanting the teacher to have preconceived ideas before first getting to know who the child really is. Is it best to give the teacher all the reports and strategies before the school term starts so they are prepared? Or allow the class to settle for a couple of weeks when the teacher has a better understanding of the child and is then ready to take on board what the reports and strategies say. The tricky thing is, every teacher and parent has their own style, and its when you don’t know the teacher very well that it is hard to know what approach to take.

So what happens if you are not sure whether to tell them or not? Well so far what I have found has worked best for families is telling the teacher just that, you are not sure what they would prefer. Either before school starts or within the first few weeks, email the teacher saying: ‘ My child … is receiving outside services to help him/her with his/her listening and concentration. Would you like information (reports/strategies/discuss) about these difficulties at the start of term? Or would you like to get to know him/her in your classroom first?’

This method allows the teacher to tell you their preferred style and opens up the channel for communication. It also provides enough information to flag your child’s needs without over clouding their first impression. This email is best followed up in person within the first couple of weeks at school to help keep it fresh for teachers, especially as they are needing to get to know a full class of new faces.

If you have any other methods that have worked for you please let me know so that I can share with other families.

The need to CONTROL

In my sessions this week a common theme has arisen, the need to have control. So I decided to explore this concept of control to better understand what my clients were going through. Why is it that we feel the need to control others? Why is it so hard to let go of control? The message I often convey to my clients is that you can only control yourself, you cant control others. But why is this so hard for us to actually do? Then I realized I was asking the wrong question all along. Putting on my detective hat I started to observe that a persons need to control increased as their stress levels increased. The more things that felt out of control the more they needed to be controlled and reigned in. Examples this week included; children dictating what had to happen next, parents not allowing their children to be independent, and friends stifling relationships as they hold on too tight. To better understand this I started to look within myself, how is control affecting my life? I discovered that I was trying to control a new business partnership, as I wanted my ideas to be the ones implemented.

So why is it that we feel this compulsive need to control? Well maybe question is actually… What do I fear is going to happen if I let go? This then changes the way the situation is viewed and can be managed. The controlling child becomes the child who is afraid that they wont see their parent again as they have attachment difficulties. The controlling parent becomes the parent who is afraid that their children wont need them any more. The controlling friend becomes the friend who is afraid that they will lose a person they care about. And me, I become the person who is afraid that by listening to others ideas mine would be dismissed.

If we try to address a persons control issues they will push back harder. So instead look for the underlying fear that is driving the control. I have found that taking this view reduces the frustration that often comes about when battling against a controlling person. Instead this frustration is replaced with compassion and hope, not only for the other person but also for ourselves.



Building resilience rather than fear – the little moments count

This week in therapy, an eight-year-old boy jump onto a crash mat with such force and momentum that he bounced off and onto the ground on the other side. The business owner in me thought ‘on no, ’ll be in so much trouble if he has broken his arm!’. Then the boy got up, brushed off the dirt, stood up and said ‘I want to do that again!’ The clinician in me thought ‘this is brilliant! Look at all the proprioceptive feedback that he got from that impact, his central nervous system must be feeling so good right now’. In that moment I was overwhelmed by the amount of resilience that was shining through his smile. Here was a child, usually fearful and hesitant of using his body, ready to take on a new challenge.

I thought to myself; if I had let my fear that he would get hurt outweigh the benefits of doing this proprioceptive activity, I may have never seen this new confidence come through. Is it that, as adults, we pass on these fears to our children during these small moments, which may then contribute to their overall anxiety? How is it that we can find opportunities everyday for our children to explore their abilities and limits safely? I know that in my life it is the biggest crashes and the biggest falls that have shown me my greatest strengths. It is often the fear of ‘what if?’ that holds us back, rather than ‘why not?’.

I am grateful to this boy for trusting me to take a chance at something new, and allowing me to share that moment of pure joy that success brings. And do you know, he was right – that crash mat was good fun!

Surrounded by uncertainty

I’ve heard a number of stories this week about all the changes and feelings of uncertainty that were happening in peoples life with work, relationships and where to live. It was as if the ground was slipping from underneath their feet and life had become this whirlwind of events without consistency, routine or balance. What they craved most was to feel grounded and when someone asked ‘so what is happening with …’ they could answer without having an internal ice age.

When stuck in this overwhelming uncertainty, a common pattern of coping began to emerge. In order to gain a foothold, people were attempting to grab onto those around them. They wanted a lifeline; someone to reassure them that all is well and everything will be ok. Its not like they needed the whole maritime rescue team, or have all their ducks in a row, just one anchor would have sufficed. Though reaching out didn’t seem to be helping as it appeared to end in one of the three ways:

  • They would grab too tight to the person trying to help, leading them to feel suffocated and no longer wanting to be a lifeline.
  • When they reached out there was no one there who was emotionally available at the time.
  • They felt more angry, frustrated or upset with themselves for needing a lifeline in the first place.

So what was it that was going to help these children, parents, friends and family members stay afloat? They needed a new strategy. Looking externally was clearly not bringing the satisfying solution that they were hoping for. So we began to explore what was certain in their lives, things about themselves that no matter what was happening around them, they could reliably say was true. These were their internal strengths that anchored their actions and brought certainty to who they were. We also looked for other times in their life when they felt uncertain and what got them through. These became their action plans so they could once again succeed.

In comparison, this new response to an overwhelmingly uncertain situation

  • Lasted the distance.
  • Was available when needed.
  • Resulted in a feeling of personal strength and resolve.

Definitely a much more satisfying strategy!