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After a Lockdown: Tips for Teachers

A mom friend got caught in a lockdown at her child’s school recently, and she posted about her frightening experience on Facebook. Another friend asked if anyone helped the kids re-regulate their nervous systems when it was over. Unfortunately, the answer was no–kids were just released to go on to the next thing, probably still scared and with adrenaline still pumping.  I realized then that nervous system regulation is something that therapists think about a lot, but teachers probably don’t get tons of training on.

Basically, when a person is in a stressful situation, your nervous system escalates like it might have to fight an attacker (heart rate up!  breathing fast and shallow! etc.)
Your body wants to Move! Fight! Run!

But if you have to stay still and silent (like in a lockdown) it can cause additional stress, even trauma.

So when these lockdowns are over, everyone’s bodies need a little relief.  It’s healthy and helpful to physically express some of that pent up energy, and then to connect with another safe person, and to try to calm the body down again. The good news is that there are many things that a caring adult can do in that situation to provide a little relief and support to kids, even in just a few seconds.

What I really wish is that no child would have to experience lockdowns ever again.  Until that day though, this infographic is for teachers (*) who are interested in knowing more and having more tools that can be pulled out if you need them, even if you only have 60 seconds to spare.

(*) teachers, staff, parents, administration, anyone who finds it helpful!

Here’s the infographic in pdf form: Lockdown infographic.  If you think it will be helpful to a teacher (anyone) in your life, you are very welcome to share it with them. Please don’t edit it.

Hat tip & gratitude: Kate, Melissa, Amy, Kris, Katie, Jack, Carolyn, Margaret & the Austin MHP FB page for ideas and feedback!

Update: Right after I finished the infographic, I saw that someone had shared this link and this video with me.  Good info on the link, and the video is of Israeli children singing a song that their kindergarten teacher wrote for them to help them cope with their bomb drills.  I loathe that these dangers exist, but I’m all about making the best of what we can.

Talking with your kids about the Connecticut school shooting

This tragedy is so horrible I almost can’t bear it.  My heart hurts, and I know yours does, too.  And yet, we still have to keep going, because we are our children’s first protector, explainer and comforter.  So take a deep breath, send some love to those families, yourself and your kids, and then you can begin to help your child understand.

However, that being said– if you can avoid the conversation, that’s probably your best bet.  Young children can’t cognitively or emotionally process this event (it’s challenging for adults, too) so if they don’t already know, perhaps you can protect them from this news.  I certainly, strongly recommend turning off the TV tonight.  News programs don’t present information in a way that is appropriate for children.  If your child already knows what happened, or has some inkling of what happened, you may need to help them understand, process, or put it in to context.

Remember that the most important thing you can do for your kids is to be and stay open to their communication.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you need to give your child a particular piece of information, or say a particular phrase.  Parenting is never accomplished in one moment.  Parenting is all about repeated experiences/events/conversations.  Remember–it’s all about the RELATIONSHIP, and you want to have the kind of relationship where your children know that they can come to you to talk about difficult, awkward, or emotional topics.  So: make this a “talkable moment,” be honest, calm, serious, supportive, loving, and listenlistenlisten.

As far as specific language, you might say something like:

  • A man killed children and teachers  today in Connecticut.
  • He shot them with a gun in their school.
  • He also killed himself.
  • We don’t know why he did it.
  • He might have been mentally ill, which is when your brain doesn’t work properly.

If your child has questions or unspoken fears about his or her own safety at school, it might be helpful to share information about that.

  • Your school does things to keep you and your classmates safe.  Your school has (locked doors, a buzzer system, metal detectors, etc… whatever is true.)
  • Although the idea of someone shooting at school is very scary, it is actually very rare.  It seems scary right now because it just happened and because people are talking about it.  Your scared feelings will get smaller and smaller as time passes.

And for children who are having a hard time moving past their big feelings about this, you might remind them that there are things we can all do to help manage big feelings, for example:

  • Put our attention on parts of our lives that we have happy or secure feelings about—for example make a list of 10 things in our life that we love, 10 things that happened this week that were funny, or 10 people who care about us and help us.
  • Older children might be able to look backwards at something that they felt frightened of in the past and be able to compare how their feelings have since changed.  This can help them to imagine how today’s feelings might get better with time, too.
  • Write a note/draw a picture expressing condolences to be sent to the school or the first responders in the situation.

More information on talking with children about tragedies is also available here, and  here.

And then, for yourself, consider limiting your own exposure to this tragedy.  Check in tomorrow if you need to, but spend tonight away from a screen, and with your own precious family.

Can we trust coaches with our kids?

I have the pleasure of writing for occasionally.  One of my latest articles has basic information that is  important, and so potentially helpful in protecting kids, that although I don’t usually cross-post, I will today.

This is a topic that pretty much every one of us would rather not think about.  But please do spend at least a minute on it–parents need this critical information.  We can take steps to protect our kids from predators.  Click the link below to read the article in full.

Looking for an Austin family for reality show/parent coaching course

Calling all Austin families!

Would you like to improve your children’s behavior? Stop arguing with your spouse about discipline?  Improve your parent/child relationship? Help get your kids to go to bed on time and eat their veggies? Katie and Kate can help!

Kate Raidt, author of The Million-Dollar Parent, and Katie Malinski, licensed clinical social worker and parenting coach, are looking for an Austin family to cast for an upcoming reality show and parent coaching course.

As part of creating course content for their online parent coaching course called the “Five Factor Advantage,” Southwestern Parents is going to film at least 1 episode of a reality show here in Austin.  With a camera crew in tow, myself and Kate will come to your house, observe and film parent and child, and then give parents real-time coaching and support in being more peaceful, connected, and effective in managing their kid’s behaviors.  This reality show is different from what you might normally think of, because our goal is truly to help the family we work with, and to use the resulting video to educate and help other families, too.  (This video is not for entertainment!)  More info below.

Get professional, customized parent coaching for your family, and feel good about helping other families, too.

The family we are looking for will have most/all of these characteristics:

  • 2-3 kids ages 1-10
  • Loving
  • Having a hard time with discipline
  • You feel like your kids don’t “listen”
  • Parents are motivated to learn about more effective ways of responding to misbehavior
  • You and your spouse don’t agree on responding to misbehavior
  • Parents who want to do things a little (or a lot!) differently from the way they themselves were raised.
  • Parents who are interested in understanding misbehavior in children
  • Parents who are want feedback on what THEY can do differently to improve overall family harmony and to foster a better parent-child relationship.
  • Live in the Austin area
  • Available in early March 2012 for filming at your home

Interested?  We’d LOVE to hear from you.
Please visit this webpage to apply:

Or email us at with any questions.

Talking with kids about the local wildfires

Yesterday, I spoke with Tara Trower of the Austin American Statesman for an article she was writing about talking with kids about the local wildfires.  I smiled a little when I read the article, because the other therapist she spoke with (Seanna Crosbie of ACGC) apparently said the same exact things I did.  Reassuring, actually :^).

Read the article here.

Kids, Food Additives, and ADD/ADHD

The February 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics has an article in it that I found to be practically earth-shaking. The journal’s editors and the article’s author, Alison Schonwald, MD, FAAP, review a very recent British study that looked for possible links between hyperactivity and food preservatives and/or artificial colorings. And the short answer is-they found it.

This study, which is described by the AAP editors as “a carefully conducted study in which the investigators went to great lengths to eliminate bias and to rigorously measure outcomes” concludes that there is a connection between hyperactive behavior and food preservatives (particularly sodium benzoate) and artificial food colorings.

Just to repeat myself a third time-this reliable, peer-reviewed, double-blind etc etc etc study found a connection between some of the foods that our kids eat (the junky, chemical-laden ones) and hyperactive behaviors. Wow.

Of course, this isn’t news to some. Parents have anecdotally found this link themselves over the years. It’s just that this is the long-awaited “scientific study” that ‘proves’ it.

Another interesting note in the AAP article-they state that they were skeptical in the past and now acknowledge that they were wrong.

Did you feel that tremor? ;^)

If you’d like to read the AAP article, or the full text of the original British study, they can be found here:
Please note that I have no connection with this website nor the association behind it. (But I do think their ideas are very interesting!)

Update: Here is a link to another article describing a food-ADHD connection.

Update #2:  Here are the food colorings that were connected:

• Tartrazine (E102): Yellow food coloring

• Quinoline yellow (E104): Yellow Food coloring

• Sunset yellow (E110): Orange yellow coloring

• Carmoisine (E122): Red food coloring

• Ponceau 4R (E124): Red food coloring

• Allura red (E129): Red food coloring

• Sodium benzoate (E211): Artificial preservative