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Weekly Reads: Nearly Thanksgiving Edition

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Deek here. Welcome to the Weekly Reads Nearly Thanksgiving Edition. Speaking of Thanksgiving, this article on decolonizing Thanksgiving over at Medium is great reading, with resources for talking to your child’s school about how they handle Thanksgiving, book list and more.

By taking a decolonizing approach to teaching about Thanksgiving, teachers and families reject the myths of Thanksgiving and harmful stereotypes about Native peoples. Instead, teachers and families can de-romanticize this holiday, by engaging Native perspectives that recognize the diversity of Indigenous peoples and their contemporary presence in 21st-century America.

As we deal with the winter holidays with their parties, dinners, family-gatherings, bright decorations, travel and more, it seems like a really good time to revisit Steph’s post from 4 years ago “Can We Please Stop Gaslighting Our Kids.” Reading this one is becoming an annual tradition for me because of the nuts and bolts advice Steph gives on tackling the holidays with kids in tow.

So, how do we raise our children to not wreck every social gathering or holiday shopping trip with a tantrum? First, I advocate that we try not to put our kids into impossible situations. Let’s not give them more than they can handle with their big emotions and non-existent impulse control. A wise mom once taught me H.A.L.T., which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. What if I told you that you could prevent many tantrums from happening by bring snacks everywhere, engaging with your kids and making sure nap time happens?

Child with a sword and shieldThen there’s remembering that kids are people with their own likes, dislikes and interests. As you plan for a “fun” holiday season, try to think about those plans from your kid’s perspective. Are these activities really fun for your kids or things you think they should have fun doing?

My kid’s favorite thing to do is to (foam) sword fight with a sibling, or read in the closet. None of these translate to sitting still for a showing of The Nutcracker, or hanging out at a family dinner. Steph gets into specifics for how to navigate it all, and it really is worth the time to reread.

While we’re talking about treating kids like people, Thom Smith’s facebook post “A Computer with Linux” uses operating systems as an analogy for neurodiversity, and is a beautiful take down of the “fix it” mentality in regard to people who think different. Here’s a piece of it:

Hi, I’d like you to repair my new computer? It’s faulty.
I’m sorry sir, what’s wrong with it?
Well it looked OK to me in the shop but when I got it home and started it up, it had Linux in it.
You bought it assuming it was a Windows machine?
No it definitely was. But now it’s developed Linux.
I’m sorry… It… Changed to a Linux computer?
“A computer with Linux”, if you don’t mind. Not exactly. I’m sure it’s still got Windows in there somewhere, hidden behind the Linux desktop.
Sir, that isn’t possible. That isn’t how this works.

It’s short and lovely. Read it if you get a chance.

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about other ways we can help kids learn skills to deal with their own challenges and those life presents them. This is the “grit” adults talk about magically developing (at the expense of other skills, btw). That’s bs (and we’ve known for a long time it’s pretty classist). Kids are resilient, but tweaking our parenting (and teaching) can help kids develop some pretty great coping skills.

I like this article from KQED on de-escalation strategies for kids with anxiety/defiance issues. It’s written for teachers working with kids with anxiety, but is hugely helpful for parenting just about everyone:

When kids are in the throes of bad behavior they have poor self-regulation skills, often get into negative thinking cycles that they can’t stop, have poor executive functioning, become inflexible thinkers and lose social skills like the ability to think about another person’s perspective. That’s why kids can seem so un-empathetic when [adults] ask, “how do you think that made Sam feel?” At that moment, the [child] acting out has no ability to take Sam’s perspective, but a few hours later or the next day, he might be able to show the remorse [adults] want to see.

And:

Teach kids how to do a body check. With younger [kids] a [parent] can describe the signs of agitation as they are happening so the [child] starts to recognize them. With older [children], ask them where in their body they feel anxious, for example, “in your belly?”

Finally, this week marked the halfway point of NaNoWriMo. How’s your novel coming? Did you know there is a youth version of NaNoWriMo for kids 17 and under? The YWP offers some grade-level-based workbooks for download that work kids through every step of writing a novel (length wise, for elementary kids, it’s more like a short story, so completely age-appropriate). There’s also a series of videos. It’s ongoing , so you could start writing a novel now with your child and finish whenever you can (ahem, Christmas break down time, for example). If you sign up as a teacher, and have your child be your class, you can write a story on YWP too, and they can see your progress badges.

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