Playground Powow

Good morning All,

We encourage the kids to bring in ideas of games and activities that they will enjoy sharing with their group friends. We pride ourselves on incorporating those ideas and helping the kids to feel ownership of the curriculum. But the suggestion we get most often is the one we will never take. Why?

The most requested activity across all of the age groups is to use the playscape. I always say no, because by intentionally excluding that wonderful resource from our toolbox, something wonderful happens. Your children make playdates, with friends, on their own.

We have made a conscious decision to draw a metaphorical line across which the playground is outside of Kids Cooperate, which opens the opportunity for kids to easily and conveniently bridge their social interactions from Kids Cooperate to the outside world. One of the biggest challenges we face is helping the kids to take what they have learned during the highly scaffolded social interaction in groups and apply it to other contexts. When your child asks, "can I go to the playground with _____" that is exactly what they are doing.

I encourage you to build in a little extra time into your schedule when the weather is nice after your child gets out of group so that when they ask to play on the playground with a friend you can say yes. Take a minute to appreciate what an important mark of progress this represents!

thank you!

(S)TOP

I read an article this weekend that suggested that repeated frustration, rather than exposure to violent images could be responsible for the violent behavior associated with video game playing. What is interesting about this is that it points to the importance of resiliency, and developing strong emotional self regulation techniques throughout all areas of life. Here is a link to the article: http://goo.gl/KVUWSR
 

For example, in sports, players may lose a game as a result of a bad call. "When people feel they have no control over the outcome of a game that leads to aggression" he said.P

"We saw that in our experiments. If you press someone's competencies, they'll become more aggressive, and our effects held up whether the games were violent or not."

In order to foster resiliency and emotional intelligence we learn many different techniques, which are all the same at the core. Increase awareness of your emotional landscape, find a cognitive heuristic that helps you to slow down and take a breath before reacting, practice practice practice.

Here is an example of the S.T.O.P technique (from http://zenpsychiatry.com/stop/):

(S)top when you realize you're about to get hijacked by your reaction, (T)ake a breath, (O)bserve what is going on in your body and not just your head and finally (P)roceed once you've done all this. 

The Duchenne Smile

This week we discussed "Mind Hacks", the idea that we can make our lives happier, smarter, and awesome-er by understanding a little about neuroscience. The middle schoolers learned how to consistently win the game of Rock Paper Scissors by understanding the psychology behind the patterns people throw. We learned another mind hack, how facial expression sends powerful signals to the brain. A frown uses a muscle called the corrugator, which some studies show activates the amygdala, the portion of the brain responsible for coping with stress and danger. When scientists temporarily paralyzed the frowning muscle using botox injections, depressed people recovered faster. Conversely, a genuine smile which crinkles the eyes as well as mouth called the "Duchenne Smile" after the neurologist who studied it can increase feelings of joy, affect the immune system, and improve performance on cognitive tasks. An interesting fact is that the brain can spot a fake smile using only the mouth (the Pan Am smile) and it does not have the same positive effects.

Keep Smiling!

The "Aaron-Tiger-Consumption-Test for Well-Being"

This is one of my favorite weeks in our curriculum cycle in which I have pushed the theoretical discussion to the limit and we tie all of our deep discussion back in to the body, and the cognitive-somatic connection. One of the ideas we have approached from different angles is the recognition that strong emotion, including happiness, anxiety, and anger are not external, but instead come from the way we filter experience though our genetic inheritance, prior experiences, and current beliefs. 

This is so empowering because it means that by becoming aware of our thought patterns and emotional triggers and developing relaxation techniques, we can increase our happiness and decrease negative emotion. One of the ways I illustrate this is with the "Aaron-Tiger-Consumption-Test for Well-Being". It's very simple. When you are feeling strong anxiety, fear, sadness, etc. you ask yourself, "Am I being eaten by a tiger, right now?". If the answer is yes, it's alright to freak out. If the answer is no, the chances are better than not that your fear/anxiety is in reaction to concerns about the future, or the past, but not the present moment. You are okay, and safe, in the present moment. This doesn't solve any problems other than the immediate sense of panic, but it does create space for calm, clear eyed problem solving.

Black Box

This week we will be wrapping up our curriculum arc on self care/happiness, and moving on to a unit of lessons and activities that look at how to understand other's thoughts and emotions. We use the metaphor of the black flight recording box on an airplane because it contains all of the information about the plane but reveals no information on the surface. 

Since we can't see inside the black box, we will be learning tricks and tools for fathering the information we need to understand what other people are thinking and why. I will be writing more about this over the next couple of weeks, so be sure to follow along on the blog or on facebook (links below).

Here are some articles that I have previously written on theory of mind:
http://kidscooperate.com/display/Search?moduleId=17710808&searchQuery=theory+of+mind

Also, I am gathering names of parents interested in their child attending a supported summer camp that we are doing in partnership with Holiday Hill in Mansfield the first two weeks of August. More information to follow soon.

 

A Therapy Dog for Teo

One of our Kids Cooperate families is raising money for a therapy dog. Please take a moment to read their story and consider donating if you can.

 

http://atherapydogforteo.blogspot.com/ (website with info and a donate link)

 

https://www.facebook.com/ATherapyDogForTeo (info and updates)

 

https://www.booster.com/atherapydogforteo  (people can buy a tote bag here with a logo and some of the money goes to the fund)

Secret Agent

This week in group we are exploring the benefits of feeling and expressing gratitude, and played "secret agent of gratitude". At the beginning of group each child received their secret assignment, the name of one of the other children. Throughout the group they had to secretly observe and note down the things about the other child that they were grateful for. At the end of group we revealed our undercover assignments and shared our gratitude. Big smiles all around!

Gratitude

Continuing on our curriculum of self-care for happiness, this week we will be focusing on one item in particular from the happiness challenge, gratitude

Making a new habit of taking a shared or private moment to recognize and name the things we are grateful for will have a ripple effect of happiness throughout your life and your child's life. Here are some of the ways to use that moment.

1. Reframe: take a second look at the challenges in your day and find the silver lining, even if it was only being presented with the chance to learn and grow.

2. Be Thankful: people do things for us all day long. From the barrista who brought you your morning drink to the people who give you unconditional love and support throughout your life, there is always an army of people who deserve our thanks but never ask for it. 

3. Positive Focus: The human mind has a powerful bias toward seeing what it's looking for. This is called the Reticular Activating System. Use this to your advantage by focusing on the positive in your life in order to highlight the hidden pockets of happiness that have gone unnoticed. 

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Here is a reminder of the 10 items on the happiness challenge.

1. Smile
2. Write down three positive things that happened today
3. Get 7-8 hours of sleep tonight
4. Do a good deed for someone
5. Spend time with family or friends
6. Write down something you're grateful for
7. Eat healthy foods: skip processed foods and sweets today
8. Exercise: walk, go to the gym, dance. Just move!
9. Spend 10 minutes outside to get vitamin D
10. Make time for a hobby or activity you love

Two Truths and a Lie

The other night in group we played "Two truths and a lie" as an ice breaker. The point of this game is to share some facts about yourself so amazing that they sound like a fib. It is also an opportunity to watch body language for "tells" to reveal which fact might be untruthful. 

One of my amazing true facts is that I was once on Candid Camera. More amazing to me was that none of the kids had ever heard of the show. Finally one of them said, "oh, that's an old person show from the nineteen hundreds". Good grief!

Name That Emotion

This week in groups we will be discussing emotion. What it is, how it works in the body and how and when to control it (and when not to). This stems from an interesting discussion we had in the high school group around an article we explored describing a study about emotional responses in the brain. When people look at a picture of an angry face, it activates the amygdala, the portion of the brain responsible for the "fight or flight" reaction. BUT. When the researchers attached a word to the image "fear" "anger", it instead activated the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, the portion of the brain that processes emotions. By adding words, a story, to the picture, it made it possible to process rather than react. 

This points to another important concept which is secondary emotional reaction. This refers to the emotional response we have about our initial emotional response. Often we label a fearful reaction to a situation as negative, and beat ourselves up about it, beginning a cascade of negative feedback and self criticism. the way this comes together is that by recognizing, naming, and accepting our initial response to a situation it improves our chances to interrupt a downward spiral of self doubt and criticism.

 

The Happiness Challenge

Continuing our February Challenges (see the Better Communication Challenge from a few weeks ago), this week is the Happiness Challenge! Try out a few of the items below. We will be discussing them formally in groups. 

1. Smile
2. Write down three positive things that happened today
3. Get 7-8 hours of sleep tonight
4. Do a good deed for someone
5. Spend time with family or friends
6. Write down something you're grateful for
7. Eat healthy foods: skip processed foods and sweets today
8. Exercise: walk, go to the gym, dance. Just move!
9. Spend 10 minutes outside to get vitamin D
10. Make time for a hobby or activity you love

The Happiness Challenge is from http://Lift.do