159 - When multiple kids need support final
You're listening to Voices of Your Village. This is episode 159. So often folks reach out and they're like this sounds great. If you have, like, one kid and you can devote all your attention and time to them to respond and all that jazz, but what do you do when multiple kiddos need your support? That's what so much of this work has looked like in practice for me. It's very rare that I have had one child where I can devote my time and energy to; most of this practice for me has been in a setting where I have seven infants or nine toddlers or 18 preschoolers or multiple kids in a home of different ages and stages. So I was really jazzed to get to dive into what this looks like in practice like in actuality. How do we support multiple kiddos at once? How do we know who needs us more? How do we triage the situation? So without further ado friends, let's dive in.
Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers teachers and experts come to support one and other on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combine decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges. So it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host Alyssa Blask Campbell.
When we're supporting multiple kiddos in this work, I think of it like triaging the situation right? Where we're going to come in and figure out who really needs us most in this moment so that we can address kiddos in that manner. It's not always the child who is crying or screaming. Sometimes it's the kid who maybe hit somebody and then moved to the other side of the room. Sometimes they're the ones who need us most. So how do we do this? What does it look like? Well, first of all remembering that we get to set the temperature; we get to be the thermostat not the thermometer. So you're not just reading the temperature you are setting it if you walk into a situation and the cortisol or adrenaline levels are high and there's maybe screaming or yelling or crying and there's a lot of dysregulation. It's our job as the adult to self-regulate so that we can bring the calm. This is really challenging to do because your nervous system is going to mirror the environment you're in; you're going to spike that cortisol or adrenaline and when you notice this as long as everyone is safe first and foremost, we're going to regulate. Sometimes for me, this is turning down lights. Sometimes it's turning off music if that's on. It's almost always taking deep breaths. Your tone and your body language will communicate to that child's nervous system whether or not they are safe and so a huge part of bringing the calm and calming the space is making sure that you are regulated so that your tone can go from like, oh my gosh, this is so stressful to man, there are some big feelings happening in here. I want to help you solve this problem. I'm here to help. Your tone matters, your body language, if you're standing over top of a child, they will inherently feel threatened. So we're going to get down on their level. We're going to drop our voice. This is a huge part of mirroring. So we are going to bring that calm first and foremost now say everybody's still losing it, right? Like I'm picturing myself in a classroom of nine Toddlers and it's like that domino effect where one kid goes in the rest follow because they start to mirror that adrenaline or cortisol. And so I'll lower the lights lower the stimuli and sometimes I'm going to do something that's co-regulating like sing a song or hum a song. Sometimes I'm just going to validate first. Whoa, we're getting so close to lunchtime. Your bodies are so hungry. Oh man, it's hard to wait; validation can go a long way when the entire room is dysregulated and it's not because somebody took somebody's toy or hurt somebody else when we're just in a space of dysregulation that you have that like domino effect of, then I do like to tap into a coping strategy like man, oh, I need to calm my body so I can help you first. I'm going to dance to a song or I'm going to sing a song to calm my body down or I'm going to take 10 deep breaths and I would audibly take a deep breath and say one after and then keep counting to 10. I'm going to bring them into the regulatory process. If I know that there's one child who triggered the rest of this, so in an instance where there's a four year old who's having a rough time; they're trying to build something and they got really frustrated that it's not working and they start to cry and so then the infant in the room mirrors that and starts to cry and now they're both crying but I know that the root of it is that four-year-old then I'm going to pop over and I'm going to emotion coach the four-year-old. I'm going to turn to the infant and say "wow, it was really hard to hear your brother cry. He's feeling so frustrated." And then I'm going to turn and emotion coach the four-year-old, allowing the infant to feel that dysregulation for a minute while I support the regulation of the four-year-old and then we will all be co-regulated together. If you want to dive deeper into what emotion coaching looks like you can snag our free emotion coaching guide at emotioncoachingguide.com. It outlines the the steps for what this looks like.
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It's okay to have a child crying while you're emotion coaching another child. That's okay. It's alright for the infant, the toddler or sometimes the older kid that's crying while you're supporting the younger kid. That's fine. The goal. isn't that nobody cries ever or expresses their emotions. The goal is that they're allowed to cry that they feel safe to express their emotions and that they know we're going to come support them. It's okay. We're going to support their sibling first. That's okay. Now if multiple kids got hurt, oh man, this is literally bringing me back to like being a toddler teacher. I feel like this was all the time with the nine toddlers or 18 preschoolers where multiple kids would get hurt doing something and for me, I would drop down next to them and like sit or kneel next to them and just calm my body and validate like, oh man, that really hurt you guys were running to get that thing and you crashed into each other. I'm right here. If you'd like a snuggle or we can get an ice pack and sometimes kiddos would come in for a snuggle and sometimes they would choose the ice pack and sometimes they would need more time to just sit and feel. What I noticed is that when I would draw attention to that big emotion in a group my other kids would practice empathy so I would say oh no you guys crashed into each other and that really hurt and the other kids. Now looking in the classroom who weren't involved. They're now looking in this works at home as well. I would say man, how can we help them? They really hurt their body. What do you think we could do and I had kiddos as young as like 9, 10 months going and grabbing another kids lovey or pacifier or their family photo. I had toddlers who would go and grab an ice pack for a kiddo from the fridge. It starts really young if we bring them into this and encourage them and sometimes the other kid would say no or they'd push away and I say, Oh, it looks like they don't want an ice pack right now. Maybe they need some space and then I would turn to the kid who said no and let them know, I'm here if you'd like a snuggle or if you'd like help, I'll give you some space to feel so they know that we're there. They know they're not alone and also practicing consent that they said no and we'll give them space and that's okay. They're allowed to say no. When two kids are fighting over an object. I'm going to drop down, again, my regulation is huge here, but I'm going to drop down and I'm going to say I'm going to hold this while we solve this problem together. Sometimes when I take the object, the emotions will escalate. That's okay. I am still going to hold it. We cannot solve the problem and figure out what we're going to do next until we're in a calm regulated state, until we have access to the whole brain. So what I'm going to do first, I'm either going to hold it in my hands if kids are still trying to grab it. I'm going to put it up in a space where they can't grab it. And I'm gonna let them know, we're going to pull that down when we've solved this problem. First, let's figure out how to solve it and I'm going to validate for them, man, you really wanted to have a turn with this or you were using it and you want to have a turn at this; validating the situation first and then pausing letting them know I see what's going on and I'm here to support you to scaffold this problem solving then, I'm going to say man, my body does not feel ready to solve this yet. Would you like to do 10 big jumps to move the anger in your body or to help your body feel less frustrated right now? Sometimes kids will say no. And I'll say that's fine. You do not have to do that right now whenever you're ready, I'm here to help you when you're ready to feel calm. Sometimes kids need more time to feel, that's fine. What's consistent for me is that I'm not pulling that toy back down or I'm not going to solve the problem until we're all calm and when you practice this, kids learn this, they learn to expect that we're not going to solve that problem until we're all calm. When we just say like fine, here you have a turn and then you can have a turn next and everybody still dysregulated then what they learn is, if I throw a fit or I hit this sibling or I scream, then you're just going to come, you'll solve it, we'll move forward. I want them to know that I'm here to help them. But in order to solve a problem, we're going to be calm first. We will co-regulate so maybe we're doing big jumps. Maybe I'll say oh, let's go over and jump into that pillow pile or hmm, I wonder if it would feel good to go upside down or maybe we could do some spins on the office chair and then we come back and solve this and when you practice this again kiddos know that coping is going to come before problem solving and so they will look to calm their body. They will tap into coping strategies when this is a practice you implement consistently. So then once everybody's calm and regulated then I'm going to model the problem solving. Oh man, Jack wants to have a turn with the pogo stick and Samir also wants to have a turn with the pogo stick and there's just one pogo stick. Hmm. I wonder what we should do and then they'll come in and they'll offer things up like Jack will be like I could go first and Samir could go next and Samir might be like I could go first and Jack could go next. And then I would say oh man you both want to go first and there's only one. Hmm. What should we do? And I'll hold that space if they really don't know or if they say I don't know then I would maybe offer a suggestion like I wonder if we could figure out a way to play with it together. Hmm. Is there a way we could do that? And see what they come up with if they don't come up with anything then I would say okay, maybe we should take turns and we could use the timer to know when somebody's turn us up and then they might need help figuring out a way to decide who goes first and how should we pick who goes first? What should we do? You can bring them into this. This is an awesome way for them to learn how to solve problems. It's a great time to build that skill. I start doing this with kiddos who are as young as one or two years old the problem-solving component starts so young once kids are regulated because their receptive language, their understanding of what you say develops far before their expressive, so they can understand so much of this and they can offer up in their own ways things that you can do. I've had a one year old who doesn't have verbal language hand a toy over to another kid and point to the timer. Or the toddler, who one of our favorite words that we'll use for one year olds first is "next" and I'll pat my chest and just say "next" and I've had kiddos who will say next and they'll pat their chest and I'll be like great, Samir can go first and you could go next. Would you like me to set the time so, you know when it's your turn? And they'll usually nod their head, yes, we'll go over, we'll set the timer together and I'll say go ahead Samir. It's your turn to go first when the timer goes off then it will be Jack's turn. And then I will hold that and sometimes Samir is going to be upset when it's turned over and I will allow him to be upset and validate that and still hand the toys over to Jack if Samir can't do it in that moment. So that Jack knows that when the timer goes off in the future, it will be his turn; that it's okay to say I'll be next because he knows his turn will come and then I'll emotion coach Samir sometimes when kiddos aren't the same age and you have multiple kids who need support. There can be this, I think, guilt or some hard feelings over helping the older kiddo first and I think sometimes it's really beneficial to help the older kiddo first. We talked a minute about that with like helping the four-year-old and letting the infant cry, infants are really designed to mirror feelings. And so if we can regulate with the older kid, oh the younger kiddo will often co-regulate and then sometimes, I'm going to say to the older kid, oh, well your sister is so hungry. I think she needs to eat before her body can be calm. I want to help you and I have to feed her. Would you like to grab a book and we can read it while I'm feeding her and then we can figure out how to solve this. Y'all, communicating with these kiddos is so huge. The thing is it takes regulation from us; so much of multiple kids needing support is that our nervous system's going to get dysregulated. Always starts with us. And if you need more support with how to do this, kind of build your toolbox, you can head on over and snag our courses. We have our reparenting course and our Tiny Humans Big Emotions course come together so that you can build your toolbox and theirs simultaneously. Head on over to seedandsew.org to access our courses and dive deeper into building your toolbox. If you want support you can also snag our free Emotion Coaching guide at emotioncoachingguide.com for an outlet on how to emotion coach in the moment. Remember the goal isn't that they're always happy and calm and regulated, the goal is that they have a safe space to break down and it's okay. You aren't failing if they're experiencing hard feelings that just means that they're human and the cornerstone of emotional agility the ability to navigate hard emotions and hard experiences is being allowed to feel them.
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