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Pre-K teachers using puppets to reach out to their students remotely for IY Dinosaur School

  • Emily Parkey (Program Consultant at Invest in Kids) and Carley Maloney (Pre-K teacher at Southeast Elementary School in Brighton’s 27j District, Colorado)
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Emily Parkey and Carley Maloney

It has been wonderful to connect remotely with our Pre-K students through Dinosaur School during our school’s closure.  Our Pre-K scholars love Molly, Wally, Dina, and Tiny.  Continuing Dinosaur School throughout the break has given them a chance to continue a familiar, joyful routine, and visit with puppet friends at a time when interacting with other friends is difficult, if not impossible.

Every week Pre-K students and their parents receive a message or video from Molly or Dina.  So far, these lessons have focused upon exploring students’ feelings, and ways that students can help themselves to feel better when they are feeling uncomfortable feelings like boredom, fear, frustration, and sadness.  Students and their parents respond to the lessons by sending in photos and texts of how they are feeling, and what they are doing to change uncomfortable feelings into more positive ones.  So far students have shared great ideas with their parents, teachers, and each other!

In the accompanying lesson, recorded on iMovie, you’ll have a chance to see the lesson introduced by Ms. Carley.  Then, Dina takes over to share some ideas that students shared with Molly to help cheer her up during the break.  We’ve found that showing pictures of ways that real students are coping is very exciting and motivating for both themselves and their peers!  Students make sure to tune in every Wednesday to see not only Dina, but pictures of themselves and their Friends.

Finally, Ms. Carley ends by reiterating the homework assignment and ways in which students can complete the assignment.  One real gem of doing virtual lessons is that parents are more and more connected to what students are learning and ways that they can have conversations with their children at home.

 

Please see our website for more sample video messages to preschoolers from teachers and puppets, plus a sample format for delivering on-line calls with children and sample scripts for using the puppets to talk with children about feelings.

 

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Puppet News from Puppeteer and Program Developer: Improv and No Strings Attached!

CWS smiling .jpgWe have 6 new puppet videos to share!

In these new video clips with the Incredible Years puppets, Carolyn Webster-Stratton, the developer of the Incredible Years programs, talks to the child puppets about their feelings. She encourages the child puppets to share their feelings in response to the Covid-19 virus and helps them remember times when they have felt nervous, or lonely, or afraid in the past and how they have learned to cope with those uncomfortable feelings in order to feel safe, less bored, patient, fair, less lonely, brave and supported.

Teachers can share these video clips with other children in an interactive way. Teachers or child therapists can pause the video clip when the puppet is talking about a particular uncomfortable feeling such as boredom or nervousness or unfairness or loneliness or feeling unsafe to talk about the children’s own feelings at this time. When the child puppet shares ways to cope with these feelings the teacher can encourage their students to share their solutions for ways they can think and behave in order to feel better.Carolyn and Wally 2.jpg

Teachers and parents may also watch these vignettes to learn ways they can use puppets themselves with their children or students to address their specific feelings. Since children ages 4-8 years are cognitively in what Piaget calls the pre-operational stage of cognitive brain development, the use of pretend and imaginative play can be a powerful way of helping children to talk about their feelings and for learning ways to not only manage any uncomfortable feelings but also ways to manage their behavior responses in healthy ways. We hope to encourage children to write about or draw pictures about their solutions and share them with others.

Hot Tip: With puppets you can open the door to helping children talk about their feelings or to write stories about or draw pictures about their experiences. It is important not to pressure these discussions and to focus when possible on positive feelings such as being brave, confident, strong, healthy, helpful, caring, happy, curious, creative, patient and loving.

Download Sample Scripts for Using Puppets to Talk with Children about Feelings

Molly Talks About Feeling Safe

Luciana Talks About Feeling Nervous

Felicity Talks About Feeling Lonely

Wally Talks About Feeling Bored

Freddy Talks About Feeling Impatient

Antonio Talks About Feeling It’s Not Fair

 

Please see our Resources for Group Leaders Working Remotely for handouts and activities for connecting with children and families.

 


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Tips and Activities for Grandparents and Other Loved Ones to Reach Out to Children Remotely

Unexpected Advantages of Sheltering: How Grandparents and Special Friends Can Help By Reaching Out to Young Children Remotely  – “Nana and Pops Olympics”

      • by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D.

I was yearning to connect with my young grandchildren and to help their parents, who I figured were overwhelmed with caretaking 24/7 because of school closures. We started “hanging out” and this has been a wonderful gift for me. – Zanny Milo, grandmother of 8 who live in 2 different states

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Carolyn and Wally talk to children via Zoom

 

As stay-at-home orders are implemented across the world, many grandparents, aunts, uncles, or special friends are acutely feeling the loss and social isolation of being away from the children that they care about. During times of stress and hardship for families, the natural impulse is to gather to help and offer support, but that avenue is temporarily cut-off by the Covid-19 virus. At the same time parents of young children are stressed with working from home, exhausted with the demands of home-schooling, or just needing a break from the non-stop energy needed to be a parent to a young child who is suddenly thrown out of the usually daily routine. Grandparents, other relatives, and friends may be frustrated by not being able to step in to offer childcare, support, and also to enjoy the company of their special children.

When I suggest that they use FaceTime, What’s App, Zoom, Google Hangout, or Skype to connect remotely with these children some respond that they don’t know how to do this. While this may feel like a daunting computer task to learn, I will confess that a month ago I was clueless about Zoom’s possibilities. Now I rarely go a day without 4-5 Zoom calls. Whether you use FaceTime, What’s App, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or some other telecommunication platform that I haven’t heard of yet, it is well worth dina with computer .jpgchallenging yourself to learn one of these platforms and use it to connect with grandchildren or young children you have special relationships with. After all, since you are secluded at home, you do have the time to learn something new and very likely the parents of these children would be happy to help you learn. Not only will these children love and look forward to this connection with you, but it will give their parents a break and time for self-care, or some important call they needed to make without their children being present. Moreover, you will feel the joy as well as increased intimacy as you see the children’s responses.

Simply calling to chat will get old quickly as children are home missing daily routines and activities. Instead, join the “Nana Olympics” or “Pops Games” to help teach young children counting, math, reading, art, science, writing stories, or sharing a hobby of passion with you.

The document linked below is about some interactive ways you can use video calling tools to connect and play with young children. You can even help enhance their learning of academic concepts and social and emotional competence. Once you get started, you will likely discover all sorts of activities you can make up. The video calling approach follows the principles of Incredible Years Parenting Programs, that is:

  • to be developmentally appropriate and geared to child’s interests
  • to be child-directed using narrated commenting to enhance language development
  • to encourage expression of feelings through emotional coaching and pretend play
  • to reinforce social skills such as sharing, waiting and helping through social coaching
  • to enhance problem solving and confidence through persistence coaching
Even from a distance you can provide valuable support to children and their parents. I am sure you will enjoy this remote adventure into the creative minds of young children.

Download Carolyn’s tips and activities for grandparents and other loved ones to connect with children remotely

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Telecommunication Tips for Reaching out to Families with Incredible Years Parent Programs

      • Carolyn.jpgby Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D.

Many IY group leaders and therapists have reached out to us to ask how Zoom, Webex, Skype, or some other telecommunication method can be used to reach families due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  We encourage this supportive effort and, in prior blogs, have offered some suggestions and a template for making these calls. Please check out these blogs on our web site. https://incredibleyearsblog.wordpress.com/

We have now had feedback from group leaders who are doing these calls in a group format as well as individually with families.  Here are some suggestions for how to decide whether individual or group format will work better for your families and some practical tips about implementing in a group format.

Assess family situation first: Use an individual call to check in on the family’s current situation; that is, who is at home, whether parents are working from home, if someone is sick, whether child care is available, financial difficulties, stress level, whether they are involved in home schooling, and level of support. If families were previously in an Incredible Years group, you can ask them if they would like to continue these sessions via group. If so, follow your agency rules about being HIPPA compliant and getting parent consent.

Todd 3.jpgDetermine the best time for the group meeting: It will be challenging for parents to attend these meetings since their children are home, but work with your group to find the best time for as many parents as possible. We recommend planning for 1-hour groups. Problem-solve with parents about what their children will do during the groups. While we generally recommend limiting screen time, if there is no one else in the house to occupy the children during the call, it may be that having the children watch a movie is a good option.

When a group has been halted mid-way by Covid-19: If your group was already established when the social distancing was enforced, it will be easier to continue in group format because parents will know each other and have established trusting relationships. They will understand how Incredible Years ground rules, goal setting, discussions, video vignettes, and role-play practices are used and will be receptive to continuing this format on-line.

Evaluation data shared by a group leader who has completed 4 parent groups via Webex showed that parents rated their IY online group experience as 4.5 out of 5 in terms of satisfaction. Eighteen percent of these parents (N=45) had little to no experience with videoconferencing previously, 40% used it for work, 20% socially, and 18% for a class. Generally, their evaluations were very positive about the telecommunication experience; reporting it was much better than nothing, but that they preferred the face to face group experience.

Use chat function to help with group rules: During your first group meeting, you will want to set up ground rules to ensure smooth communication. It is helpful to have all group members mute their microphones when they are listening and turn them on just to speak. This avoids disruptive background noise. The group should establish guidelines about how parents will indicate when they want to speak. Group members can use the chat function to let others know they want to talk or can raise their hands when they have something to say. The group leader and co-leader can help to monitor who is waiting for a turn to talk and can indicate which parent should speak next.  Chat functions can also be used to allow parents to praise or have buddy discussions with each other. Chats are also a way for a parent to comment on something that has been said, and then group leaders can read the chats and invite the parents to share other ideas with the group.

Continue using video vignettes for experiential learning: In these telecommunication group sessions, it is important to continue the experiential learning by discussing vignettes and setting up practices. In a 1-hour session, there should be time to show and discuss 2-3 vignettes; so chose your vignettes carefully. As you would do in a group, pause vignettes for discussion, ask questions to solicit parents’ ideas, and pull out principles. Script a practice of the skill and have parents practice this during the call.  Since role plays will be harder in this online format, think ahead about ways to keep the role plays simple and clear.  Parents can practice skills like descriptive commenting, labeled praise, using a when/then command, talking to a child about coronavirus, or setting up a schedule for the day.  There is even the possibility for a parent to make a video of something they did well and share these during the group or individual calls.

Use white board to record principles: Most video platforms have a built in white board or notes page that can serve as a way to list the parents’ principles or key points learned from their discussions and problem solving.

Remember that you can share your white board or screen with the group: This white board could be useful for scripting a role play or highlighting key principles. Just as you would with a flip chart in a group, you could use the white board or type ideas into a word document that is shown on your screen for all to see while they are brainstorming. You might also pre-plan a scenario or script for a group and show that when you are setting up the role play.

Kristen and son.jpgReview of prior material versus new content: During your first few meetings, you will want to review prior material in light of the new home and work situation. Once parents are back on track with skills that they have already learned, the group can continue with the program sequence as group leaders introduce the new content. During this coronavirus time, it is likely that most of the content you are talking about will be tailored to this new living situation.

Highlight refrigerator notes: Share your screen to highlight refrigerator notes as a summary of what has been covered in a session. Use the notes as a guide for parent weekly goal-setting. You can even use the white board to write down each parent’s goals for the week.

You will find refrigerator notes by topic in the Handouts for Parents section of our website.

Pertinent topics for this time of social exclusion: For parents whose groups were disrupted, it will be important to review child directed play and emotion coaching before continuing on with the program. These topics at the base of the IY pyramid are fundamental to helping children feel secure and safe at this difficult time. mom-son.jpgDuring these play times children may act out their fears and parents will be able to help children process these feelings by listening, validating, engaging in imaginary play with puppets, and modeling and practicing coping strategies. This is important life learning. The Incredible Years topics of emotion and persistence coaching will be key parenting skills to review and practice. The topic of establishing routines and rules will also be an important topic because most parents aren’t used to being home all day with their children. This can be a stressful time working out schedules for everyone and establishing times when parents are working and when they are available to play. Depending on the child’s age and school situations, parents may also be juggling on-line school assignments. There are many elaborate schedules filled with productive activities available on social media.  While these could be helpful for some families, such rigorous schedules can set many families up for failure and further frustration. Tailor what works for each family situation. While we know that children thrive on routine, which helps keep them calm, it should be a flexible structure and not rigidly adhered to.

Offer program individually or in group format: If parents have not already been in an IY group, we feel it is important to start with individual sessions. This allows for individualized tailoring of the program. It can be uncomfortable for parents to share in a group setting when they have not first met the other families or the group leader. At some point after they are comfortable with you and the program, they might be interested to learn how other parents are doing and want to join a group. This will also enhance their feelings of being socially connected and supported by others going through a similar situation.

For higher risk families or families with children with diagnoses: We feel this population will do better with the individualized approach. We have had word that rates of abuse are increasing because of the isolation and stress and this is better handled in a private setting.

Combining the group with individual on-line sessions: It may also be useful to combine group sessions with individual sessions. In a 1-hour weekly group meeting, there will not be time to go into depth with individual families. The group meeting might be used for a brief check in, social support, and presentation of new content Each family might also have an individual session where the content is tailored to their own family’s goals, additional vignettes are shown, and parents have a chance to role play the particular skill with the group leader.

Nancy and family .jpgBe sure to focus on parent stress management in every session: Encourage parents to talk about their feelings and discuss ways to manage their stress. Since fear is contagious, parents need help in monitoring their stress and worries in front of their children. At the same time parents need to give their children opportunities to talk about their fears or disappointment and validate their emotions. While there may be a tendency to want to remove the disappointment, this is not helpful. Instead listening and validating the child’s feelings and letting the children know they are normal feelings can be very therapeutic.

Be sure to focus on parent self-care: Discuss with parents their ideas for making a place for themselves in achieving “essential” self-care actions such as: exercise, eating healthy, health care, maintaining social contacts, meditation, time alone and making time for children.

Some sample questions might include:

How do you help yourself relax?”  “Do you use deep breathing or meditation or positive imagery to help yourself cope with stress?”

Have you built an exercise routine into your day?” “What other stress relief activities work for you:  listening to music, or gardening, or biking, or sewing or cooking?”

“How much sleep are you getting?” “Do you take naps?” “How do you make sure you stay in regular contact with family, friends and colleagues?” “Do you use Zoom or some other method to connect with others?

Short Term Goal Setting: End either your individual or group sessions by asking parents to identify their goals for the week in terms of practicing certain skills and reading IY book chapters.  Make sure these goals are realistic and manageable.

Click here to download a printable version of these tips.

 


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Supporting Children Remotely with Incredible Years

Promoting Incredible Years (IY) Connections during Times of Social Distancing:  Reaching out to Parents and Children Who Participated in IY Dinosaur Small Group Treatment or Classroom Prevention Curriculum

    • by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D.

 

Many IY child group leaders, therapists and teachers have reached out to us to ask how to support children who have been participating in the IY Dinosaur small group treatment programs in their clinic, or in their classroom prevention curriculum in schools. With Covid-19 pandemic resulting in school closure and social distancing recommendations, we recognize you are no longer able to do this group work and that many of you will be working from home. First, know that we are grateful to you all for your efforts and commitment to delivering the Dinosaur social and emotional curriculum with children. Thank you for your efforts to support these families at this challenging time. We hope that what the children have learned so far in the dinosaur program in terms of emotional literacy, anger management, problem solving, and self-regulation will help these children use these coping skills. This document is designed to offer tips to child small group therapists and teachers about connecting with parents and children who will, right now, need support more than ever. We are fortunate to be able to take advantage of technology that allows people to see and speak to each other and even watch videos together.

Wally Love.pngBecause children are out of school and at home, likely with parents or caretakers, on-going family support will involve both giving on-going support to the parents or caretakers as well as the children. In some cases, parents and children may both have been participating in IY parent and child groups. If that is the case, parent group leaders can provide continued support via Skype or Zoom calls to the parent regarding parenting skills as documented in our prior blog last week. Group leaders, therapists or teachers who worked directly with the children in small groups or classrooms can also provide support to parents as well as their children.

This document provides guidelines for how teachers, therapists and group leaders can support families whose children have participated in small group dinosaur or classroom based dinosaur programs.

Children participating in the classroom Dina Prevention Program versus the Small Group Dinosaur Treatment Program may need different levels of on-going support. Teachers and group leaders/therapists can make decisions about how much support is needed and feasible for each child and family.

Letters to Children and Parents

We have posted new Covid-19 handouts on the parent/teacher resources page of our website. These can be sent to parents and children in cases where individual contact is not possible, or can supplement phone calls from teachers or therapists.

http://www.incredibleyears.com/parents-teachers/articles-for-parents/

Dina reading.pngOne handout includes information for parents on how to talk with their children about the virus and how to set up a schedule at home. There is also a letter to children from Dina Dinosaur about how she misses them, what she is doing and how she is helping others stay healthy by washing her hands and calling her grandparents instead of visiting. The third document is some of Dina Dinosaur’s suggested incredible activities related to things she has taught the children in their Dinosaur Program.

Keeping Calm and Providing Supportive Parenting During the Coronavirus

A Letter from Dina to Kids During the Coronavirus

Home Activities for Young Children During the Coronavirus

Individual Contact with Families and Children

Child therapists and teachers may also want to have direct connections with families and children through personal calls. For lower risk children, this might be one friendly check in call where the teacher speaks to the child for a few minutes. You can even do this call with one of your puppets such as Wally Problem Solver or Felicity Feelings. For higher risk children and families, on-going regular contact may be needed with both the parent and child. Below are options for connecting with families through technology. First, we describe how Zoom can be used and then we outline a template for what to cover in a call or in a series of weekly 10-20 minute calls. Of course, being flexible in what you cover is the name of the game. Most especially your efforts to reach out to support and show your caring for families and their children will make all the difference.

How to Use Zoom

To use Zoom, group leaders will need to open a free account on zoom.com. Prior to making the Zoom call, group leaders set up a meeting and send a link to the parent.

When parent clicks the link for the first time, they will be prompted to download a free App. After that the parents should be connected automatically to the call. In zoom group leaders will be able to share their desktop with the family. This is how you would share a video. If you do not know how to do this, you can find tutorials online.

If this does not work for you, try face time or Skype. Both will allow you to see each other face-to-face but don’t allow sharing of video.

Sample On-Line Remote Sessions

Call with Parent Only for Higher-risk Child/Family.

  1. The child group leader or teacher should start by checking in on family’s current situation. (e.g., who is at home, is parent working, is anyone sick, is childcare available, financial situation, stress level, level of support)?
  2. To the extent needed, and where possible, refer families to local resources for meals, childcare. If the family is in acute crisis, it will be difficult to provide direct support to the child.
  3. Check in with families on how they are doing setting up a schedule for their child. (See handout: Keeping Calm and Providing Supportive Parenting)
  4. Talk with family about how they are talking with children about the virus. Ask how they and their children are coping.
  5. Child group leader or teacher can use several calls to help parent with above steps. When these topics have been covered, then move to step of scheduling direct contact with child.

Calls with Child:

Considering the child’s developmental level and ability to focus, set up a call time for the child. Ideally this should be a time that a parent/caregiver and child can be on the call together. Calls may last between 10-20 minutes, depending on the age and attention span of the child. Lower risk children may receive one call, high-risk children/families may receive on-going calls.

Sample Outline for 1st Call with the Parent and Child (10-20 minutes):

  1. Child group leader or teacher should have a puppet present for the call. Group leader / teacher and puppet greet the child and parent. Puppet gets introduced to parent (child could help with this). Establish a greeting ritual—sing hello to the puppet, special wave, blow a kiss. Puppet shares that she has missed the child and could ask the child to show her something special in child’s house (favorite toy or stuffed animal, pet, child’s room).
  2. Based on what child group leader or teacher knows from the parent about child’s current situation and feelings, the puppet can share a similar story or feelings related to that families’ situation. For example, the puppet can say, “I’ve been feeling a little worried because everyone is talking about this virus.” Or “I’m happy not to be at school right now, but I’m sad that I can’t see my friends.” Or “It’s so boring at my house because my dad is always working and my grandmother is really tired.” Or “I’m worried because my grandpa is sick and we can’t go see him.” These feelings should be shared at an appropriate developmental level, tailored to the child’s situation and ability to understand what is going on in the household. Puppet might ask child for ideas about what to do to feel less worried or bored. You can use the puppet to provide a natural opportunity for the child to share their feelings. Invite the parent to comment on child’s feelings or situation.
  3. During the call do a simple game, role play, or activity with the puppet, child, and parent. Make feeling faces and guess feelings, sing a song together (If you’re happy and you know it), play Wally or Dina says, tell silly jokes.
  4. Give the parent and child an assignment to do one joint activity together before next time. The child group leader and puppet might help brainstorm the activity if child and parent need help (this could be the same game or song that group leader/teacher just did with the parent and child). Or, check out Dina’s Fabulous Home Activities 
  5. Another idea would be to show Wally and Dina video or Dina’s Rules for survival from our web site. You might encourage some children to make their own videos about how they solved a problem to share in another call.

Wally and Dina

https://youtu.be/sj7rQB9AizQ

Dina Meets Dinatronic

https://youtu.be/zWd6n2Yazo4

Rules for Survival

https://youtu.be/9f61pMul-QQ

  1. Arrange next call

Sample Outline for 2nd Call and Beyond with Parent and Child (10-20 minutes)

  1. Greeting ritual (same song, hand shake, gesture).
  2. Invite the child to share one highlight and one lowlight (or one good and one bad) thing that’s happened since last time. Puppet also shares these same things with a focus on coping feelings or solving his problem. “My highlight is that I worked on Legos and made an airplane. My lowlight is that I wanted to play with my friend and my mom said I couldn’t go out. I was mad, but then we had a FaceTime call. We showed each other our Lego models on the phone. That was pretty fun.”
  3. Review of content: based on content already completed in the group or classroom and on the child’s understanding, pick one concept to review. (Review 2-3 feeling faces, a solution card or calm down thermometer or Tiny turtle’s secrets). For example, have the child act out the feeling, share a time that they felt that way, act out a solution. Parent can also share a feeling and how they found a solution. Child and parent can role play together or child can role play with the puppet.
  4. Pick one new idea from the curriculum to share with the child (go in order, starting where group left off). This might be 1-2 new feelings, or a new solution, or starting Tiny Turtle’s calm down steps. You can show the pictures of the solutions or thermometer when using Zoom.
  5. Have your puppet share a story or a situation that introduces new content (e.g., “this happened to me and I felt this way…..” OR “I tried to do this, and this problem happened….”Can you help me find a solution for this problem.”).
  6. Encourage the child to give ideas to the puppet and to show empathy. Have the puppet think of a possible solution.
  7. Show one vignette to the child (if child is developmentally able to attend to a vignette in this way). Pause the vignette with the picture showing. Invite parent and child to answer questions about the vignette.
  8. Role play new learning from the vignette. Have parent and child do this together. Puppet can praise and coach these practices.

Give parent and child an assignment to do one joint activity together before next time. The child group leader and puppet might help brainstorm the activity if child and parent need help. Check out the Dina’s Fabulous Home Activities document.

  1. Arrange next call

Flexibility will be the name of the game here. Children will have varying degrees of interest and engagement in this process. Some children may be captivated by talking to the teachers/group leaders and puppets this way. Others may quickly lose interest. Reassure parents that it is okay if the child wanders off. In these cases, keep the calls very brief. The group leader or teacher can provide the parent with the information about the new content and give the parent tips on how to coach this during the week.

For example, “Notice times when your child looks happy and comment on that out loud. You might say: ‘You seem so happy that you get to go outside this afternoon.’”

Or, “Today we are going to talk about and practice taking turns. When your child is playing this week, you can sit down with him and model turn taking. You can hand him a toy and ask if he’d like a turn. Then you could ask if you could have a turn with something he is playing with. Praise him if he shares the toy and comment on the fact that you are taking turns. If you can do this a lot of times this week, he will start to learn what this feels like to take turns.”

If the child is misbehaving in the background, encourage parents to ignore, help coach them with opportunities to give proximal praise, and keep the call as short as possible.

You might even coach parents in ways they can use puppets or their child’s favorite stuff animal during play times to model how to express feelings, or how they solved a problem or how they are helping a friend.

Be Creative

We have heard of teachers and therapists who have set up group Zoom meetings with several students or even a whole classroom of students and have taught an entire Dinosaur School Circle time this way. If this is something that works for your situation and is something that sounds fun for you, please feel free to try it and let us know how it goes!

Incredibleyears@incredibleyears.com

Connections Between Families

Since children are likely missing their peers, you can encourage parents to help their children make connections with other children in their class or child group.

Download a printable version of this blog here.


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Promoting Incredible Years (IY) Connections During Times of Social Distancing: Reaching out to Children

    • by Carolyn-Webster-Stratton, Ph.D., Developer, President, Incredible Years Inc.

 

Dear Incredible Years Mentors, Teachers and Group leaders,

incredible years drogheda 57 copy.jpegThose of you who have been delivering the IY Classroom or Small Group Dinosaur social and emotional curriculum to children have asked us about ways to reach out to your children and their families with elements of this curriculum at this stressful time. Thank you for your commitment to your families and their children. Previously we hope you received our document and a possible script for how parents can talk to children about the virus. See document Providing Supportive Parenting on the Resources for Parents section of our web site and see our prior blog for a possible template for working on-line with the parenting program.

dian and 2 kids.jpegNow we are sharing with you two documents you can send to the children via email, or better yet, have Dina Dinosaur read the letter to them in person on the phone or via Skype or Zoom. The first letter is from Dina Dinosaur to the children about how she misses them, what she is doing (practicing flying with her wings), and how she is helping others stay healthy by washing her hands and calling her grandparents.

The 2nd document is some of Dina’s incredible activities related to things the children have learned in Dinosaur School and can do at home alone or with other adults.

A Letter from Dina to Kids During the Coronavirus

Home Activities for Young Children During the Coronavirus

Wally washing hands in Belfast 2205.jpegNext you will find a document for child small group therapists and teachers with some tips for how to continue to offer support to children and their parents about using the dinosaur curriculum concepts via Skype or Zoom, if that is an option for you. In these calls you can include your puppet friends such as Felicity Feelings, or Wally Problem Solver, or Antonio Awesome, or Luciana Love to talk to the children via Zoom or Skype. Children will find these calls supportive, fun and reassuring. And by doing this with your puppet you may encourage parents to do similar puppet shows with their children. Puppet play really allows children to communicate their feelings in a safe way and your puppets can offer reassurance.

Soon we plan to bring Dina Dinosaur herself to you. Stay tuned. For now you can review on our web site Youtube Dina sharing her tips for survival and teamwork.

Wally and Dina

Dina Meets Dinatronic

Rules for Survival

 

And you might want to review our article on teaching children to problem solve through puppet play interactions:

Webster-Stratton, C., Reid, J.M. (2018). Teaching Children to Problem-Solve through Puppet Play Interactions. In A.A. Drewes and C.E. Schaefer (Eds.), Puppets in Play Therapy: A PracticalGuidebook (pp. 130-142). New York: Routledge.

I want to confirm our goal to supporting all our Incredible Years family and finding ways to help each other find ways to connect with families during these times of enforced social isolation. I am so grateful to our IY community and strong ties. I hope and your loved ones stay safe and healthy.


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Keeping Calm and Providing Supportive Parenting During the Coronavirus

      • by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D.

These are challenging and unexpected times for families struggling with a growing list of major life issues including job loss, illness, financial loss, cancellations, school closures, and figuring out how to provide child care while working, or trying to work from home with children in the house. The goal is to stay safe and calm and figure out how to deal with this new life that will be anything but normal for a while. Here are a few tips for parents to consider with regards to keeping their children physically and mentally secure.

Talking with Your Children

This time is anxiety provoking for everyone. Children will absorb the stress and worry about what they hear from their parents, peers, the news, and other adults. They will need parents to help filter and interpret the situation and to help reassure them that they are safe and cared for.

Young children under age 6 don’t need specific or detailed information about the virus, or the worldwide crisis because they are too young to process it. Keep the TV news off when younger children are around and avoid having them listen to your conversations with others because they will have difficulty knowing how to interpret the information. Explanations should be simple and factual. Here are two examples of ways to talk about this: “There are some new germs that are making some people sick. We are helping by staying at home so that we don’t share germs with other people. We are also going to stay healthy by washing our hands a lot, coughing in our sleeve and giving each other elbow bumps instead of handshakes.” Or, another way of saying this is, “You have heard that big word coronavirus which means flu, like a big cold. A lot of people are getting this, but it doesn’t hurt children or most grown-ups. We can make sure that others don’t get it by washing our hands a lot and staying away from our friends a lot. We won’t be able to visit Granny and Gramps for a while so they won’t get sick. It is sad we can’t see them, but we can do FaceTime with them so we know they are not sick and that we love them.” Offer reassurance that your family is safe and healthy.

Let young children know the things that you can and can’t do as a family right now. “We can’t have your friends over or go to the playground right now because we don’t want to share germs. We can call them often and we can also cook together, take walks, go for bike rides, and read together.” Don’t be surprised if the virus theme and death and illness comes up your play times, this is completely normal and expected.

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This is a healthy way for young children to work out their feelings of fear. If your child seems stuck in the fear, you can help your child think about ways to use puppets or imaginary characters to act out being brave, helpers (doctors or nurses taking care of people) or to show acts of kindness.

Your older school-aged child will likely have heard about the coronavirus. It is best to get ahead of the game by talking about things that might be scary before a scarier version comes from a peer or media. Rather than one big discussion, check in regularly with conversations while playing together or eating dinner. Start off by asking children if they have heard of coronavirus, and what they have heard or know about it. Beginning with what they know can guide you on where to take the conversation and what corrective information might be needed. When they ask questions about the virus or their social isolation, take the time to explain what is going on, how the virus spreads and how they can prevent it by staying at home, as well as how they can keep themselves and others safe. Encourage them to ask questions and express their worries or feelings of loneliness or anxiety. Take your cues from your child’s questions as to how long this conversation should continue. Don’t over explain. Wait to see if they have further questions. This conversation may occur in short discussions over many days or weeks as they absorb snippets of information, digest the meaning and come back with more questions. Focus on keeping the conversation open and creating a relationship where you are a secure and safe base to come back to. Avoid encouraging them to think about worst case scenarios.

Some older children may want to find ways to be helpful. This might include calling elderly relatives, earning some money to send to a charity, or helping take care of younger brothers and sisters. This helps them feel a sense of control.

With children of all ages be sure to spread a calm and patient tone during these discussions. If you seem anxious (which is understandable), this can escalate your child’s anxiety ~ remember stress is contagious.

How to Manage School Closures

If your children are home due to school closures, set up basic expectations. Just like your child’s teachers do, post a daily schedule that everyone can see. Predictable routines help children feel safe, reduce their stress, and prevent power struggles.

kids readingYour schedule or routine should include predictable times for various activities. For preschool children, this would include independent play time, play time with an adult, reading time, outdoor time, snacks, naps and meals, and likely some screen time for fun and educational activities. For school age children, some schools will provide structured learning assignments to work on during the school closures. Help your child work out a schedule to complete these assignments. If the school does not provide work, it is still valuable for parents to set up expected time spent on educational activities including reading, math, writing, social studies, and science. These educational activities might look very different from traditional schoolwork. There are on-line resources for children to access that provide lessons in many different areas.

Parents who have time may help children pursue creative learning projects. In addition to time spent on academic activities, be sure to include time for unstructured play, physical activity, meals, and for older children social interaction in safe ways (an outside walk with a friend or a FaceTime or texting conversation). Stick to this routine Monday through Friday. Don’t frame this time out of school as a summer holiday, rather a time to learn something new they normally don’t have time for. Remember children strive on stability and routine.

Don’t change your child’s bedtime routine because there is no school. Lack of sleep will increase children’s anxiety.

Carefully think about your screen time rules and how much time you want your children to be on screens. These rules are especially important if you are at work and not able to monitor this. While this is not a time to be rigid about screen time, it is still important to monitor the amount and quality of the screen time. Work with your child to find interesting documentaries or educational programs to watch. Download library books or audiobooks related to their interests. Look for games that have educational value including activities like coding or planning and building a city. Try to keep your children engaged in learning activities and excited about the opportunity to learn something new.

During this time, having play dates in your home should be avoided. Evidence indicates that although children are unlikely to get sick, they are carriers of the virus and can easily pass it on to adults around them.

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Outdoor activities where there isn’t much shared equipment or physical contact such as riding bikes should be fine. Moreover, physical activity does reduce stress and is important for physical health. Monitor current expert recommendations as guidelines for what level of contact is acceptable and safe are changing rapidly as new information is available. Err on the side of caution, and do take these recommendations seriously.

Encourage children to learn a new skill on YouTube or find a new educational game on line.

FaceTime, texting, gaming and Skyping with friends will help your child feel connected to their friends they usually see.

Encourage your children to talk to grandparents or relatives via FaceTime or Skype.

Ask children to help around the house by giving them a daily chore or special job challenge (cleaning out the game closet, sorting out their dresser drawers, or babysitting for a younger sibling). Depending on your household, this can be framed as a way to help the family during a challenging time, or as a way for your child to make some extra money.

While you can put together a big interesting list of daily activities for your children, one of the most important things is to make time in the schedule for time playing with you in a child directed activity. While you will be distracted by many other demands related to financial losses and lack of social contact, taking some special time one-on-one with your child will be the most important thing you can do to keep them calm and help them learn how to manage life challenges with persistence.

Teach children how to help. When children understand that washing their hands and avoiding hand shakes helps others and not just themselves, it can increase their sense of control. Their clean hands can become a check on their, “super power”.

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Use and model stress management strategies yourself and teach them to your children, such as, the “turtle technique”. This when your child (or you) goes in your turtle shell and tells yourself, “I can manage this”, or, “I can stay calm” and takes deep breaths while thinking of a happy place or time. There is a vignette that shows you how to use the calm-down thermometer with your child to teach how to stay calm and to practice how to go into a turtle shell to take deep breaths and think of their happy place. Please see the video vignette below, or on our web site at: http://www.incredibleyears.com/programs/parent/attentive-curriculum/

Above all else, be kind and forgiving to yourself. Many parents will be facing seemingly impossible situations. Perhaps you have to work and have no childcare. Perhaps you are sick but feel you must go into work because you do not have sick leave. Perhaps you are trying to work from home with your young children running around. Perhaps you are caring for an elderly parent and are worried about spreading the illness to them. Or, perhaps someone in your family has caught the virus and is critically ill. In these situations, you may not have the time or energy to attend to many of the suggestions above. The most important thing you can do is to show love and caring for your child and to provide reassurance that you and your family will get through this somehow. Do your best to keep your child safe and cared for during the day. Create some structure you can realistically commit to and mostly achieve. Your child will be okay if you need to rely on screen time give yourself some personal time for exercise or alone meditating time. These are unusual times, and there is not a protocol for this. It is important to try to take care of yourself, so try to find someone to share your worries with, ask for help from anyone who might be able to support you, and hang in there.

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