As the leader of a dance studio filled with teachers, role models and hundreds of children, as well as being a mother of two of my own children, I feel it is my responsibility to really grasp and work hard to lead the next generation in a way that helps them. This has never been more relevant than right now, during this pandemic.
I have met with leaders across the country and have researched what the best ways are to really help children navigate this situation. I feel the gravity of the emotional discomfort and social gaps that our kids are feeling even when they might not act like something is wrong. I feel compelled and driven to address this. In my own home, I notice disengagement, moodiness, quiet contemplation, aggravation, and so much more from my children. At the studio, we might see an otherwise really positive child begin to withdraw for no apparent reason. We want to help all of our children to feel okay talking about how they are feeling rather than disregarding those real feelings.
I have read a lot from Dr. Tim Elmore, author of Marching off the Map and Pandemic Population and he has some really interesting and important findings that have helped me to lead our staff and to share with you here to hopefully shed some education for us all.
Resilience has got to be our main focus as adults for our children. It is toughest when life doesn’t meet our expectations. I continue to reiterate the message this year that we should not “let expectations diminish our joy” to our staff and to our students. If our children see us panicked, they will panic. If they find us negative, they will be negative. We really need to switch our focus to the value of relationships and internal growth not events and things. I will expand on this later.
Here in America, we LOVE and EMBRACE control but the pandemic has provided us with the imminent challenge of NOT BEING in CONTROL so this is hard as we all know too well. A great analogy for the discomfort can be found in airline travel, remember when we could do that?
Well, think of a time when you were on a plane and thought you were getting ready to push back for takeoff only to hear the pilot over the intercom saying that there is a delay and nothing more. In that situation more often than not, we don’t get more intel, we guess what is going on and most of us begin to get negative, create stories of our own and foster internal stress over things we have no control over. What we could instead do, is open that book to get in “that much more reading”, we could write a note to a loved one, anything positive to make lemonade out of lemons. But, we don’t. That has to change here and now.
So, here we are reminded that when we can’t control the external world, we can control our internal conversation and mood. We can change our expectation to knowing that this will be a wild ride that we can learn from and enjoy. To, in fact, even celebrate.
Now, our Generation Z children are future focused naturally and so this time is hard for them in that they are feeling helpless and hopeless in many instances because they feel that the pandemic is stealing their future. They probably aren’t saying this articulately to you or to me BUT they are feeling it. WE need to lead them with empathy knowing this and use some tools to help them navigate this.
Dr Tim Elmore pointed out in one of his recent podcasts, that there are 6 things we can do to help cultivate resilience in our children. We, at Elite, will be focused on these things as we continue to serve our students to meet them where they are, to help them.
- Identify their unique temperaments. – Here I think of my own children (and will use this as an example to staff) and how different they have reacted to the pandemic. My oldest needs facts and statistics to feel calm about what is going on and my youngest needs me to listen to his perspective and empathize with his stories throughout the days. Knowing that all children are different will help our staff really nurture those individual perceptions of the pandemic experience.
- Deepen Relationships to connect. – We will focus on not necessarily just teaching dance but instead show our students that we are caring adults, that we love them and want to have close, high quality relationships with them. We will ask questions and listen to them. We will hear them.
- Remind children of the value of stress from our own life experiences previously. This was a key point for me. Rather than avoiding the conversation, it is best to embrace how we have been stressed and what we gained from that. Not all stress is bad, only when it leads to distress. When we share our stories, we give insight and framework for our children that is concrete.
- Control the controllables and trust the process when you can’t. We are talking about this in our classrooms all of the time surrounding COVID and what we are doing that is different because of it in our curriculum, our shows, and competition season.
- Choose the right tools so that stress doesn’t become distress. A question to ask ourselves as parents and leaders is, “Are you choosing healthy coping mechanisms to model for our children?” and “Would they agree with your answer?”
- Determine the narrative to embrace so that your memory of this time in life is positive. I LOVE this as Tim Elmore points out that every time we retell our version of an event (ex. COVID 2020) we reconstruct it SO I ask myself and you, “What story are you telling and what will you be telling 2 years from now? Are you stronger or weaker because of this experience?”
As the future unfolds, our team at Elite will be focused on these key tools as our guide map for the things that we can and can’t control to help your children, our students and our own children.
I hope this summary of my learning provides you with some ideas to consider as it has for me. I am a lifetime learner and feel compelled to share that learning with whoever will listen. More importantly though, as families who trust Elite with your children, I want you to realize and know that your children mean so much to us and we want to fulfill our mission of educating and inspiring children to be confident, happy and strong human beings and will do anything to support that mission. Happy Holidays from your Elite Family!! You can always reach to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.