Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dealing with my own kids' stress - Teacher-Dad grade C-

Anticipation and anxiety are killers for kids, and parents. Kids can't hold onto calm when they know something is going to be happening, or is coming to them either positively or negatively. This month has been full of anticipation and anxiety for my kids from planning our flight to Auntie's wedding, to Thanksgiving, and finally to the arrival of a new baby.. and Grandma & Grandpa next month, my kids have been exhausted from the amount of energy they are releasing in anticipating and stressing about all of these things.

The hard part for this teacher-dad is that it doesn't end there for my kiddos. If that were all that they could be "worrying" about, then I think my wife and I would be managing better. But, when you tack on the rest of the day-to-day living "anticipations" or "anxieties" like school work, gymnastics class, late start Wednesdays, snow days, eye doctor appointments, an uncomfortable prego mama, and losing a 1st tooth, it can be too overwhelming for the kiddos. And, I hate to admit this, but when all of that is going on, it's all too easy for me to get wrapped up in the whirlwind of crazy and forget to look at my kids as well.. kids.

I seem to be able to look at my students as kids with anxieties and outside pressures better than I do my own kids. This is a fact that I'm grappling with, and I think I've realized what it boils down to. In the classroom, I have a set of fall backs or tricks I can use when I can see a student struggling in my class because of outside influences. My options are my own in the classroom, and I work to make things as fair as I can without handing out grades that are unearned, or foregoing assignments. It is easy for me to say, "just turn it in tomorrow" or "why don't we just wait on taking this test for now" or "let's take more time to complete this in class tomorrow" because I know that those are realistic and helpful options in those situations. I also have the foresight to know this, because I'm not wrapped up in whatever chaos may be swirling in that student's life. I can see that whatever they are going through is more important than my math class, and accommodate my class to help them deal with that drama.

However, when it's my own kids, in my own house, there is often no time to step back and see the bigger picture. I'm in the heat of the battle.. sometimes quite literally, and I can't step back and remember ALL of the crazy that is swirling through the everyday happenings of my own kids. So, while I see 3 of 4 kids screaming in JC Penny (sorry about that guys!), I needed to be able to step back and know that they were feeling the anxiety of a new shopping routine, and a snow day as well as the anticipation of getting a "treat" for good behavior. All of it overwhelmed 3 of my 4, and I just couldn't see it. Instead, I was "that" dad. You know, the one with the "super frustrated, yell-whispering, opposite of calm look that speaks of a guy that never goes out with his kids in public" type dad.

Looking back, I see now that the three screamers needed more "prep" on what the trip was all about. It wasn't fair for us all to get into the van and drive through the snow to a store we barely go to and not tell them "the plan." They didn't know what to expect and that fact alone gives kids stress and anxiety. And because I was wrapped up in my own thoughts on getting us there safely, and in having a moment to talk with my wife, I didn't see the ways I could have helped. For example,  I spend a moment at the start of each class period explaining the topic of the day, AND I make sure to stick to a routine that my students get use to in order to build their comfort. Yet, in this moment I didn't do that for my own kids, and we paid for it... My ears are still ringing, btw.

In the end, reflection on a past situation always leads to the easy solution of what I should have done. But the truth is, I need to focus on delivering "the plan" much better with my own kids even in those moments of crazy. I need to help us by laying things out just like I do in my classroom so that I can ease the stress for my own children. So for now, I'm giving myself a C- in this category as a Teacher-Dad. Plenty of room to improve, but not the worst!

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