Inside the Hive

Sometimes activities happen around Childpeace without much notice, as we always attempt to offer our children experiences that will become lifelong tools. Our School Psychologist, Dr. Elizabeth Schwarz, spends most of her time working with individual students, however conversations with our staff last year evolved into the idea of a group activity for the older children in Lower Elementary. What came from that are coping skills groups that have been meeting over the school year. Once you read Elizabeth's description of these groups, you will probably ask if your child (or YOU) can join! But the groups are organized by the LE Guides and Dr. Schwarz, and are not planned with the expectation or desire to have every child join a circle during Lower Elementary. The work of the groups, in fact, carries over into the classrooms as the participants share their new skills.

From Dr. Schwarz
Over the past year, we have begun to offer a coping skills group to many of the children in Lower Elementary. We have had three groups so far and have received positive feedback from parents and students about what the students have learned. The focus of the group is on increasing awareness of feelings and on building coping skills. Increasing awareness of feelings includes understanding why we have feelings, understanding the parts of the brain that are involved in feelings, and practicing identifying feelings. Some of the general areas of coping skills include relaxation techniques, different ways of expressing feelings, and also ways to counteract negative thinking. The ideas and skills taught come primarily from Cognitive-Behavioral therapy and from Interpersonal Neurobiology.

The group tends to be fun and lighthearted and includes games, art projects, and books. We start each week with a “feelings check in” when each child shares a few feelings that they are having that particular day. This normalizes the fact that we all have feelings, helps them name and express their feelings, and also normalizes the fact that we can have more than one feeling at the same time. Children also learn to rate the intensity of their feelings. Each week a new coping skill is taught, and at the final group, the children decorate a card to take home on which they write their favorite coping skills.

While naming feelings and breathing deeply may be second nature to some of us adults, other people don’t learn these skills until high school, college, or beyond. Having a good understanding of our feelings, how they work, and how we can affect them, sets the stage for healthy emotional functioning for a lifetime.

Sue Pritzker, Head of School
Dr. Elizabeth Schwarz, School Psychologist
Childpeace Montessori School