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Shark Music

canstockphoto18747442Karen turned off the automatic notifications of missing assignments from her daughter’s school.  Each time her phone would ping, she experienced a tightening in her chest, and a pit in her stomach, that gradually intensified, until finally each new ping brought panic and rage.

Karen’s daughter, Chelsea, had never been great at turning in homework, but the last couple of years things had gotten worse.  Chelsea was a bright child, but had struggled with some executive skills, and regularly forgot assignments, or just didn’t want to do them.  Her grades showed straight A’s in classes she enjoyed and F’s in classes she didn’t, with very little in between.

Karen wanted to see her daughter succeed, but worried that her apparent lack of motivation spelled doom for her future.  Karen enacted more and more control over her daughter, limited activities and free time in hopes of “inspiring” Chelsea to “be more responsible”.

Instead of helping, it seemed to make the problem worse.

Karen’s attempt at control stemmed mainly from the shark music.  We all recognize those two little notes.  Duuh duh…duuh duh… duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh, then bam, the shark appears.  With those two little notes, our breathing speeds up, our chests feel tight, and fearful anticipation makes it difficult to think about anything other than the impending danger.

Dan Siegel describes shark music as the “background noise caused by past experiences and future fear”.

Karen’s shark music started to play anytime her phone pinged with a new “missing assignment” notice because a new missing assignment made her fears for her daughter’s future replay in her head.  This fear made it difficult for Karen to address what was really going on with that specific assignment, because every assignment blended together as one big problem.

Learning to recognize when our own shark music has started playing is the first step toward a more intentional, less reactive response to our children.  Without the shark music, Karen could calmly talk to her daughter about specific assignments, and they could come up with plans to address the problems behind each situation, giving Chelsea the opportunity to learn important life skills.

For her missing math assignment, perhaps Karen would learn that Chelsea sat by her best friend in math, and often missed writing the assignment down because she was busy talking.  Brainstorming with Chelsea would teach her how to solve problems rather than put her in a reactive position to her mom’s “meanness”.  For a missing English assignment, maybe Karen would learn that Chelsea hadn’t understood what the teacher was asking for, and a solution could be to talk to the teacher after school for clarification.

We all have our shark music, whether it has to do with our child’s education, the time they spend with friends, or what their eye roll *really* meant, allowing ourselves to get pulled into the shark music causes us to miss out on what is really going on with our kids.  After we recognize what triggers our shark music, we can acknowledge our fear, and then refocus on what lesson we really want our child to learn.

Learning to recognize what triggers our shark music can be a challenge.  It involves examining our impulses and past experience.  Sometimes the most effective way to do this is with the guidance of a professional.  If you feel stuck in your own shark music and are ready to learn a new way of interacting with your child, call 801-944-4555 to schedule an appointment today.

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4 Questions Every Parent Should Ask Their Child’s Teacher

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It’s Parent-Teacher conference time for many local school districts, and making those brief meetings as productive as possible is on everybody’s mind. Most likely, your child’s teacher is prepared with a specific list of items to discuss and that’s a good thing! It’s a clear indication of a teacher who’s prepared a plan to guide your child’s instruction and who can speak specifically to where your child ‘is’ in terms of  her progress.

Does that mean parents should be passive during conferences? No – and most likely teachers would enjoy more of an exchange anyway. While it can often feel a bit rushed and there can be a lot of information to choose from to discuss during a conference, theses four areas may help you organize exactly what questions are important to ask during your child’s parent teacher conference this spring.

  1. Homework. While homework is not ‘class work’ or even necessarily an emphasis of school work, it does speak to ‘soft skills’ related to school functioning. For example, how well a student is able to keep organized, work independently, follow-through with assignments, and so on. Some questions to consider as a parent might be are: is my child turning in assignments on time? Is the work completed in an acceptable manner?
  2. Class participation. Get feedback from your child’s teacher regarding her observations of your child’s engagement in classroom. Do they appear prepared? Do they listen and follow directions? Cooperate? A student’s functioning regarding following the structure and routine of the class is important, and sometimes is hard for parents to pick up on if not asked directly.
  3. Social-emotional observations and/or feedback. Hopefully you have a good sense of your child’s relationship with his teacher. However, you may want to consider getting direct feedback. Asking for direct feedback regarding your child’s relationship(s) with the teacher, other adults, and/or other students may be helpful. Does your child get along well with other students? Manage frustration well? Social-emotional functioning in school is a significant factor regarding how well a student well perform.
  4. Academics. Not just grades and progress on standardized tests, but is your child able and comfortable asking for help? Does she preserver regardless of task difficulty? Is this a strength, weakness, something to work on?

 

At best, your relationship with your child’s teacher is positive and open communication has already been established. If not, through considering these types of questions, your child’s teacher is aware that you’ve given careful thought and consideration to aspects of learning that occur both in and out of the classroom. Of course, you’re asking these in the spirit of wanting to work together to build on your child’s strengths in order to improve on weaker areas. These kinds of questions – hopefully –  send a signal to your child’s teacher that you want their feedback and that you are ready and willing to help.

Need help having conversations with your child’s teachers?

Consider talking to your child’s school psychologist.

Amy Folger at WFT can be a resource!

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Help With Homework? Re-frame Your Approach This Year

SCHOOL KIDS

The school year is now underway, and for most of us, that can only mean one thing. It’s just a matter of days before ‘it’ begins, ‘mom, where is my science book? I know it was in my book bag and now it’s gone!’ or ‘dad, YOU SAID you would help me with my English!’ Homework season has begun.

When did homework become so intense, so stressful? Does it have to be this way? Here are just a few ideas to re-frame the homework experience to make it easier on you and help you remember why we do it at all.

Pro or con, the homework debate has been going on for as long as most of us can remember. How much is enough? Is it worth it? Should you monitor your child? Most research leans towards yes, generally speaking, though not always in the way we might think. Overall, a good rule of thumb is approximately 10 minutes per grade, so a first grader completes about 10 minutes, and so on.

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