Saturday, September 29, 2012

What Do I Do When My Kiddos Are Stressed Out?

Have you ever had one of those weeks? They usually occur when you are preoccupied by something else (either work-related or personal) and you manage to get by, but then once it's over and done, your kiddos get stressed out? Well, I just had one of those weeks.

We had a big "inspection" of sorts for a major source of our funding for the organization we are a part of. I mean "your job depends on the outcome of this inspection so you better have your stuff together" type things. We prepared basically all summer for it, and then had a whirlwind of a week before putting in long hours both at work and at home. This past Monday they came, they loved us, and they left. And then we were left with what I like to call stress hangovers.

So, what do you do when your kids are stressed out?

First, throw your lesson plans out the window. Just do it, you'll thank me later. When preschoolers are emotionally out of it, they aren't going to learn a thing! (Except how maybe you handle your own strong emotions and handle theirs!)

Second, if you can, take them away from the classroom. My assistant and I were lucky enough to be able to take them to our gym for 20 minutes and let them run some of their pent up emotions out. Take them outside, for a quick walk outside or even around your building, anywhere! If you can- sneak back to the classroom to set up some stress-busting activities.

Lastly, set up a stress busting environment in your room. Hopefully you can do this while your kids and assistant/co-teacher are out of the room-- tidy any leftover messes, put on some music that is soft and mellow, and put out activities that you know your children will engage in. My favorite stress busting activities are:

1. Play-doh: there is just something about play-doh that melts away frustrations and stress. Add something different to it to keep their attention longer. Try scissors, plastic knives (supervise!!!), googly eyes, tangram blocks, cookie cutters, legos... anything!

2. Water in the Sensory Table: Unless you've had water in your sensory table every day for the last month, kids are drawn to water and it also helps relieve stress. We have had dry materials in the sensory table for a bit so I knew that my kids would engage and mellow out with water. I added some rocks, plastic frogs, eye-droppers, and bowls. This wasn't on the lesson plan of course, but like I said, throw them out!

3. Stringing Beads: Messy art can add stress sometimes, so I threw out our messy painting activity and got out the pipe cleaners and beads. The concentration that this requires almost always "tricks" kids into not remembering why they were so cranky five minutes ago.

4. Chill Time: Grab some new books and let them get their blankets off their cots and have "chill" time (this is especially helpful if they are tired!). We have quite a few stuffed animals in our reading area that my kids love to snuggle and read with when they are tired.

My last bit of advice: fake it until you make it to nap time! When I went to rejoin my kiddos I was composed and calm and ready to play and engage with them despite the crazy morning I walked into and the hangover from the last few weeks. When we got back to the room and they started to act out, I calmly redirected. Once they were down for nap, I took a huge sigh of relief, got a candy bar and a huge soda and regrouped for the afternoon. Needless to say my kids woke up rested and happier and hopefully (fingers crossed) back to normal.

Now that said inspection is over, I hope to be blogging regularly!
Until Next Time--