Daily Feelings Temperature Checks
Though my family is not entering a school building each day and attempting to assess any signs of illness in ourselves or our child each day, we are going to school — at home. And we do need to check each of our temperatures as a matter of routine for our emotional wellness. No matter what shape or form your school year is taking, no one is escaping that low level of anxiety that lives right under the skin. Each of our worries is personal and unique but the social, political, health, environmental and economic crises of the moment are impacting us all.
That anxiety that is a nagging companion may just be hindering our ability to be effective. We may struggle to bring our full patience and support to our children who are remote learning. And our children may struggle to bring their full attention to the learning that teachers are trying to facilitate. Indeed teachers are facing daily their own hosts of concerns. So our ability to learn in this context can be compromised considerably if we do not take steps to support our emotional well-being.
First, it’s helpful to understand anxiety and put it into context. The threat response we feel is a critical function of our nervous system including our brain heightening our focus to the danger around us. In this time of sustained crisis, we can count on those feelings to support our ability to protect ourselves and our loved ones when we are going out in public and need to take safety measures for many, to avoid illness, for many, to keep careers alive and income flowing, and for many, to assert the need for social and racial justice.
Authentic learning requires trust and caring relationships. When ethnographer Angela Valenzuela interviewed and carefully listened to immigrants in Texas – Mexican-American parents and students – and dug into the meaning of the Spanish word “educacion,” (in English: education) they understood it to mean “caring before learning.”1
This means that teachers whether they are teaching through masks or through a screen, whether they are affiliated with a school or serve as teacher and parents/caregivers too, all need to create a sense of care in the learning environment. Children and teens need to feel seen, heard and valued. In fact, we all do if we are going to get through the work at hand, internalize the valuable lessons of the moment and learn to thrive in this challenging time.
Here are a couple of temperature check tools. Using post notes works well because emotions change with the ebb and flow of the day and these charts are able to change as the days go by. Encourage family members or students to add new words as they come to better understand the complexity of their feelings and the fact that we often have multiple and sometimes, contradictory feelings at once.
Instituting a feelings check-in as a regular part of your morning routine can promote your child’s ability to self-regulate throughout their school day. In naming their emotions, they are seeking understanding from other family members and are sharing what is truly going on inside. Rather than shoving it down and holding onto it, they express what’s in their hearts and don’t have to hold so tight to the secret of those big feelings. Over time, they’ll grow more comfortable with articulating their emotions adding to their resilience.
This is just one simple step you can take in family life to build trust between family members and promote emotional intelligence in your children. Wishing you emotional well-being this back to school season!
Valenzuela, A. (1999). Subtractive schooling; U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring. NY: State University of New York Press.