EQ Café: Anxiety

Anxiety in the world is growing and it’s affecting youth and adults. But what IS anxiety? Since it’s a feeling, how can we use emotional intelligence to understand and work with it?

Join this interactive, powerful “EQ Café” to practice emotional intelligence together, and explore answers to these important questions about anxiety. EQ Cafés are insightful, fun sessions for people curious about emotional intelligence to connect and learn together. 

In this Café we will discover:

  • What “anxiety” is and isn’t 
  • Current data about anxiety, it’s causes and effects
  • How emotions, and emotional intelligence, helps us work with this challenging feeling

Who: Anyone interested in learning about and practicing emotional intelligence – the learnable, measurable, scientifically validated skillset we all need to thrive.

What: Free interactive workshop

Where: The Dream Center
205 West 119th Street
New York, NY 10026
212-678-7030 
www.dreamcenterharlem.org

When: Tuesday, June 4, 2019 (6-8 pm EST)

How: Save your space by Registering

Questions: Please email Six Seconds’ Network Leader, 
Sarah Benis Scheier-Dolberg <sarahbsd@gmail.com>

How can I Keep My Child Safe at School? Relationships.

Recently a child who I care about shared that a friend had threatened him at school, saying he would violently kill him and his family in real life and then also harm him online as well. Both boys, aggressor and victim, are 6 years old. They are friends in the same classroom, and the incident happened at school.

As a parent how, I imagine the worst possible context for this bullying report. A child who is literally afraid for his life all day, too afraid to tell his teacher or anyone else what happened. As a parent I am relieved that the boy found an adult at the end of the day to confide in and who could help him feel safe and help him eventually reconnect to his friend who thought the boy knew he was only joking.

How do I keep my child safe?

This is what we ask constantly as parents. It is a paradoxical question. Every morning I confront the limits of my own agency as a parent. I say good bye to my child at the apartment door or in the school hallway as his teacher walks his class upstairs to their room, and I hope and trust that we will come back home at the end of the day.

Over time we have become a more anxious society. Bullying, shelter in place drills, and active shooter scenarios are all common place in schools now. And, we do have options about how to both navigate our own anxiety and keep our children safe while they are at school. We can teach our children to develop and use their relationships to keep them safe at school.

I cannot reliably predict what will happen to my son when he is at school, but I do know that one of the greatest resources I can give him is a deep network of trusting relationships. Some children relate to others more easily than others. My son is one of those children who relates easily to others and makes himself known in any community he joins. That, more than anything, keeps him safe. He is on the radar of many adults in the building, and he knows he can trust multiple adults at school to keep him safe.

What also keeps him safe is knowing what to do when he finds himself in harm’s way – suffering the aggressive behaviors of other children, being bullied by a group of kids, watching a friend harmed physically on the playground, or being alone with older kids who can threaten or harm him easily without adults immediately nearby – these are all common place circumstances for children. As parents, we cannot eliminate these dangers for our children; however, knowing how to navigate them is something we can consciously teach our children.

We can ask questions and guide our children to find answers that will keep them safe, even in our absence. These may be questions you use proactively when your child goes into a new community, reactively when you respond to an incident, or as a regular check-in to assess how healthy the school context is for your child.

Who are the top three adults you trust at school?

Make sure your child has multiple people they can go to when they do not feel safe. This could be the nurse, current or past year’s teacher, afterschool staff, cafeteria staff, guidance counselor, music teacher, crossing guard, or an adult in any professional role at the school.

What can you do if you see a friend getting hurt or bullied?

Help your child to identify multiple “right” things to do. See if they can think of a time when a classmate or friend was bullied at school. Ask them to think about what kind of thing did that friend need to feel safe. Help them consider a range of options that others could do to help: tell an adult, invite the friend to play with you, tell the aggressor(s) to stop or get an older friend to do so, check in with the friend after the incident, look out for the friend tomorrow – offer to play together, etc. It can be helpful for a child to focus on a recent incident they observed to generate ideas for how kids can help to safely interrupt bullying during or after an incident. After that kind of conversation, your child may find it easier to then think about what they would do themselves if they were being bullied or harmed by another child or group of children.

Do you feel safe at school? Where are the safest places at school? Where are the dangerous places at school?

Your child may not have the opportunity to share the answers to these questions unless you ask. It can be helpful to identify problem areas by asking about where your child feels safe and unsafe in the building. You may also ask where are kids in the class most likely to get in trouble or bullied as some children do not see their environments as unsafe, especially of bullying and physical aggression have been normalized in the school culture.

Helping our children to consciously choose and strengthen healthy relationships with trustworthy adults is something active we can do as parents in response to the anxiety we feel about how common place bullying, physical aggression, and harm are in our world and in our schools.

Learning about the Brain

Learn how the brain is a muscle that learns and grows.
See an actual brain while learning about what the parts do.
Learning about brain signals and how they move different parts of the body.
The anatomy of the brain – use your two hands to learn and remember.
Learn about neuroplasticity and how the brain grows over time.
Basic brain anatomy helps you understand how to understand and calm our emotions.
Flipping Your Lid – what is happening in your brain when you momentarily flip your lid
Emotions are made in the brain.
Inside Out – considering how the emotions operate the brain.

Inclusivity and Equity Resources – Set 1

Family and community resources for supporting public schools to engage in equity, inclusion, and anti-bias initiatives.

What equity framework might you/your group choose to operate from? – link to Equity Frameworks (Hammond, 2017)

Consider using comprehensive resource sets from organizations like:

The Equity Project Resources Link

Engaging families and community members in a school walk through with a focus on culturally, responsive teaching, school climate, and/or inclusion can be an eye-opening experience to launch an equity initiative in a school and then return to monitor progress toward school-wide goals. A few examples of these walk through tools are linked below.

Teaching Tolerance has been a foundational organization for school communities to engage in deep equity and anti-bias education. See a few highlights of their free online resources below.

One final idea – make it real with stories and short articles. One examples linked below.

How should we sing Happy Birthday? from Rethinking Schools

From Rethinking Schools – Photo Credit Olivia Wise

Anger and Advocacy

We have the opportunity to tap into the wisdom of our feelings.

When I feel angry, I have the opportunity to pay attention to what the feeling might be telling me.

What am I angry about? What important pathway is blocked? What closely held values are being violated or ignored? What conditions need to be changed? What danger do I sense and want to protect myself or others from in this situation?

I have learned over the past year to breath deeply, to pull back my shoulder blades and open up to a more relaxed posture when I sense that anger is present in my body, mind, and heart. My mouth may feel dry, my pulse quickening , and a feeling of heat or general agitation suddenly appear in my body. I am learning to condition my body to respond to anger with curiosity and openness so that I might learn more about the source of this very powerful feeling.

More often than not, the source of my anger is institutional, but it manifests in individual professionals and parents in city schools. I am often angry about the condition of schools, the mindset of adults who see children and families as less than, the insidious nature of privilege and our inability to see and value others who have radically different views and experiences from our own.

I am curious about how we can learn ways to see our anger as productive to justice-centered endeavors. A few starting points are linked below.

Buddhist Peace Fellowship U Mad? Wisdom for Rageful Times

Six Seconds Anger Archives

Blog header image from Getty Images

Emotional Wellness In Schools

Emotions drive our actions, and developing our capacity to make space for exploring our own emotionscapes gives us greater agency in directing our energies in purposeful pursuit of our goals. Becoming smarter with feelings (EQ – emotional intelligence) is a pursuit I have recently devoted a significant amount of energy to both professionally and personally.

I have found increasingly in my work that many schools in America have normalized an enormous amount of toxic stress into the culture of teaching and learning for children and adults alike. The effect takes a toll on school administrators, educators, children, and parents in ways that change the development and functioning of our individual and collective brains, severely impacting opportunities for student learning.

Image from: https://developingchild.harvard.edu

What is also true is about stress in schools is that it can unlock new capacities in both children and adults, depending on their access to knowledge coming from recently established fields such as neuroeducation.

Are you a school administrator or district administrator? Spend 25 minutes in your next meeting with administrators or educators watching and discussing this video:

How to make stress your friend | Kelly McGonigal

McGonigal’s talk alerts us the opportunities that the neurohormone oxytocin releases in us – it stimulates us to reach out to others to whom we feel positively related during times of stress. Research suggests that our bodies are hard-wired to seek out those whom we trust and that responding with empathy and caring to others builds resiliency and may be positively related to many positive health outcomes.

My work in schools and my review of recent research confirms for me that learning the science of empathy, resiliency, and stress is indeed where we need to direct our energy. Attending to emotional wellness in schools is a critical next step for administrators, educators, and parents to take together.

For more resources related to emotional wellness in schools, please visit the Social Emotional Learning Resource Board linked below.

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Equity & Leadership in Urban Schools