National expert in Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) Jordan Spikes from Think:Kids along with REACH’s CPS expert Tamar Shames answered questions from community members on May 18 on Facebook Live and Zoom. Together they offering support and ideas for helping kids and families cope during this challenging time, based on this research-based behavior method that they use to train teachers. Spikes is a consultant with ATT teachers, training them to use CPS in the classroom, but the method can also support parents in their efforts to build up kids’ intrinsic motivation to make positive choices and solve problems.
Below are some of the questions and answers they covered
Q: How do you approach homeschooling?
Jordan Spikes: There are a lot of reasons you don’t have the ability to set everything aside and be a teacher with your student. It is important to remember that you are not working from home and your kids are homeschooling. You are surviving a crisis while attempting to also work from home and homeschool your children.
Tamar Shames: We need to have lower expectations of ourselves and manage self-care at this time. It is important to collaborate with the kids. If a child is struggling or not doing well, it’s not that they are trying to get out of something. We have to think about what is getting in the way. What skills are being required that they aren’t normally having to do?
Q: How to deal with kids losing motivation:
Jordan Spikes: For some kids the block might be that being on Zoom reminds them they miss their friends. Understand it’s okay if they’re overwhelmed. But if it’s a pattern, check in to see what’s going on here from an inquisitive perspective.
Tamar Shames: If kids are displaying behaviors you’ve never seen before or in a frequency you’ve never seen, it’s important to recognize that it’s coming from a place where they now have different expectations and are in a different setting. You have to stretch your empathy muscle.
Jordan Spikes: We’re not excusing our students for not engaging or doing their work. We’re explaining why it’s happening. As adults, If we’re stressed, we take something off our plate at home or work. That’s what we do with kids who are struggling. What if we reduce behavior or stress to see if they are more equipped to face other things?
Communication is key right now:
Tamar Shames: Communication with your children. Usually when our children face something in their lives, we’ve been through it before. But this is an exception that we are experiencing along with our children. So as much as we try to be reassuring, it’s still something unknown so everyone feels collectively. If your family is struggling, having a conversation with a friend or family can help you through this. It’s hard to know what feels normal during this time.
Jordan Spikes: I wonder if we are putting on really calm faces all the time, they may feel like they have to be okay with this? Hearing that everyone feels their struggles helps our kids who are feeling the same way. This is tough. It is not your job right now to solve the problem. Just be there for them. Try to understand things from their perspective. Just listening helps regulate the human brain. It literally settles the brain down a little bit and can help. This doesn’t have to be a verbal conversation, it can be a note or text because face to face can create urgency.
Tamar Shames: Sometimes going for a walk or a rhythmic activity can help them regulate themselves and be calm. Nowhere in the history of telling someone to calm down, do they calm down. Don’t try to talk it in the moment of meltdown but it is always best to wait for a moment when they feel calm. You can make it a game. Can I ask you 20 questions to try to get to the bottom of it? I know this is a tough conversation and low bar, no pressure, but when you’re feeling up to it, I want you to know that I want to help you. Be persistent not pushy.
Jordan Spikes: Once they see we are curious and not that we are trying to change their behavior, that can help them.
How do you know what’s normal behavior versus what’s a real problem?
As a parent, you are wearing so many hats and responsibilities right now. If I believe it’s them naturally pushing boundaries, what would my response be? So then, do your usual consequence. Then, what’s the result? Did that work? If not, maybe they’re overwhelmed
Q: For example not wearing pjs:
Jordan Spikes: What is the expectation which makes wearing sweatpants a problem? What is it that you want them to be doing and why? Maybe it’s a comfort. What’s your concern? Here’s mine. What’s a way we can combine those two?
Q: How do we help kids keep up their motivation?
Tamar Shames: People are getting tired.
Jordan Spikes: This is much more complex than we give it credit for. There are a lot of things I’m expected to do, but I do them anyway. Differentiating, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Relatedness and autonomy are two things a lot of us are missing out on. We are looking for opportunities to control what I can control. So it might be that I’m not going to do my work today. That doesn’t excuse it, but it explains it. So maybe look for ways you can give them control over something.
Whatever you’re doing right now, know that it’s enough.
Tamar Shames: We are also struggling with competency, as we have had to take on jobs we never wanted to do. Autonomy, our choices are being taken from us as well. How to create a sense of choice for our lives. If you’re feeling less motivated, there’s a good reason for that. And however we can still feel connected to people around us in a safe way.
Jordan Spikes: Genuinely ask what’s wrong. I’ve noticed a real difference now. Can I ask what’s going on to try to work toward a different solution?
You are doing the best you can and your kids are doing the best they can. And teachers are doing the best they can. No one asked for this. Give yourself the grace to sometimes feel things are not okay and that’s okay.
Tamar Shames: Our job as parents is to do our best to create a safe home environment.