Thursday, September 22, 2011

Checking In

Our days in the wobbler room are being more and more filled with opportunities for social interaction. As the boys get older, they are beginning to test the waters of life, and lately this has been the most evident in their interactions with each other. These guys have been together since they were at least 6 months, and they know each other very well. They have a very special relationship with each other, and they are also blessed with having a safe environment in which they can test out emotions, among other things. Even though these moments can be filled with tears of frustration, or true pain as a touch gets to big or strong, I am glad to see the boys entering into this stage where they are able to test out their emotions. I know that they feel safe and secure with me, with their peers and with their environment because they test things out this way.

I also get very excited about my involvement at this point, because this is big work that they are doing! Right now we are building the keys in communication with each other, how to be aware of each others feelings, and what to do in various social and emotional moments. It's up to me to guide the boys when they need it, and right now it's a constant process. Every day there is improvement: hands pause before lashing out in frustration, soft toys are chosen for throwing instead of blocks, a glance to me to check in instead of climbing up too high, open hands caress hair and clothes. Of course this doesn't always happen, and so when it doesn't we do a check in. Check ins happen when you want to, and it's a way that you can show your concern and care for someone who's feeling very strongly. Currently I am modeling the technique and drawing attention to the emotion in play. Here is a great video that shows the process.

1. Step in and say what you know to be true:
“Oh Man! I see you crying, T. Are you ok? Look at his face, SC. T looks so sad. I wonder what happened?”
“Ouch! (Make the sign for a hurt) I see! It seems like T got hurt. Let's check in!”

2. Check In
Crouch down and get close without touching too much. It's important that everyone has space, yet they know you're physically available.
“T, are you ok? What can I do to help you feel better? Would you like a hug?” After I say each phrase, I wait for a reply. If I never get one, then I repeat my offer, never forcing comfort. Some children just really need this release of crying to calm their bodies both physically and emotionally.

3. Tell the Story
When you say exactly what happened, even if it's a little made up, it helps the child process what had happened. Sometimes they are upset because they are surprised or simply need validation that “Yes, indeed. You got hurt. Ouch!”
“What happened? Oh, I see. You bumped on the table. You were standing there, and then you slipped a little bit and bumped on the table. Ouch! That can really hurt!” This story is told over and over as much as the child wants. Sometimes it's also repeated at various points throughout the day.

4. On to the Next Thing
I repeat these steps in whatever order makes the most sense at the moment. Sometimes I only need to do one, and the child(ren) move on to the next thing. Sometimes, when check in is initiated children from all around gather to hear the story, or offer comfort. Once the child(ren) are moving on to the next thing, I slowly back away, keeping my awareness there and still being very available. Some times when I move away, a child will follow and we continue to tell the story.

I use this technique for anytime a child needs it. I try to do it as immediately as possible, and include anyone nearby. By repeating this process frequently and whenever needed, I give the children tools to use which builds respect and love between everyone during the day.

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