In Part I, we explored the history of the U.S. Capitol insurrections, the reassuring pattern of failure in these attacks, which should bring some reassurance to us all, and the notion of thriving and recovering after emotionally disruptive events. Part II explores the specific SEL techniques that can be used to support the goals of Part I.
Connect your actions with a “noble goal.”
One way to thrive during uncertain times and practice golden joinery, is to tie your actions to noble goals. At Six Seconds, we believe that a critical component of emotional intelligence is pursuing noble goals. A noble goal typically contains a verb (expressing how to pursue it) and a goal of what you want to add to the world. According to our model, there are five criteria that need to be met for a goal to qualify as a noble goal:
1. Not complete in your lifetime.
It is enduring and inspiring, something beyond the daily struggle. This helps you maintain a long-term focus so you can avoid the confusion of short-term thinking (example: belief in a long-term democratic republic).
2. Pointed outward.
While you will benefit, the focus is on others. This helps you maintain an expansive vision (example: commitment to listen to others).
3. Integrates different domains.
It encompasses all dimensions of your life; serving your noble goal in one domain (such as work) supports you in all others (such as family).
4. Gets you out of bed.
It motivates and inspires you at a deep level. This helps you to maintain energy when the going gets tough.
5. No one made less.
No one has to be “less than” or “wrong” for you to pursue your Noble Goal. This helps you stay out of ego and power struggle.
Like using a lodestar for celestial navigation, whenever we can connect our actions with our noble goal, we keep ourselves aligned with the purpose that we have set for ourselves.
Be together more, SMARTLY.
Often, I invite parents to explore a framework to practice using with their children in times of crisis and tumult (like those we are currently collectively experiencing)—the acronym SMARTLY.
S— Safety First
We have all become accustomed to taking precautions to keep ourselves and our families physically safe from Covid over the past 12 months, and helping our children know and understand that they are safe is critical.
The idea of safety-first applies just as much to emotional safety. Children feel more emotionally safe when they feel a strong bond with the family, and they know what to expect. Some suggestions for fostering emotional safety:
- Discuss what family means and how you wish your family to function. Decide together what you want your vision of your family to be.
- Always eat dinner together. Take turns sharing your day at dinner. Give children ample opportunities to have their emotions heard and validated.
- Establish and uphold consistent boundaries and rules. Maintain routines and rituals. Children thrive when they know what to expect.
M— Manage Emotions
If you are going to help your children manage their negative emotions, you must also practice navigating your own. For both tasks, put some tools in your emotional management toolbox:
- “Name it to tame it.” Research shows that labeling a negative emotion (e.g., angry, sad, anxious, afraid) takes some of the power away from it.
- Use the acronym VET (Validate/Explore/Transform). Validate your emotion by naming it and accepting that it’s valid for you to be experiencing it. Explore the emotion with curiosity by asking what it might be trying to tell you and/or what wisdom it might hold for you. Transform the emotion by using the knowledge from your inquiry to take action.
- Develop a family or personal soothing technique (joke, song, quote, mantra). Having a practiced technique to turn to can be extremely valuable in times when we are hijacked by negative emotions.
A— Answer Questions
Take time to answer your kids’ questions. You needn’t spend a huge amount of time on a question—sometimes brevity is better. If you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say so; then, take the time to find out the answer (preferably using multiple sources), and share your results.
R— Restrict Media
Because Zoom-culture and Covid-isolation causes us all to be online so much more, it’s important to monitor and limit kids’ media consumption, especially news and social media. A few ideas for alternatives:
- Each read a different book on the same topic, then discuss together.
- Read a book aloud together.
- Start a family book club.
- Exercise together (e.g., walks, hikes, yoga, GoNoodle).
- Create your own improv troupe by buying a book on improv and choosing one night a week to play improv games together as a family.
T— Think/Plan Together Collaboratively
Engaging children in family decision-making helps them to feel included and strengthens self-confidence. Even preschool-age kids can be involved with helping to make choices about meal planning and weekend activities. Having a voice builds efficacy and self-agency in kids, which counterbalances anxiety, especially valuable during uncertain times.
L— Laugh More Often
Science tells us that laughter really is fantastic medicine, and whatever you can do to increase the amount of laughter in your home will be an enormous benefit to you and your family. Some suggestions:
- Each week, choose a joke master for dinner time whose job it is to bring one joke each night during that week to share.
- Tell funny stories from your childhood.
- Watch lighthearted comedy shows or clips together as a family.
- Research different types of humor and share examples of each. Discuss what is the favorite type for each family member.
Y— Yelling Is Eliminated
Research is showing that pandemic-fatigued parents are yelling more than before. Yelling destabilizes feelings of emotional safety and can even aggravate behavior problems. Get serious about banning yelling in your home by establishing an anti-yelling rule with consequences (for kids and parents!) for breaking it. One delightful idea is to hug the recipient of the yelling one time for each word that was yelled.
In these uncertain times, let us come together as individuals, parents, and citizens to craft even more beautiful versions of ourselves, our families, and our society. It has been done before, and we can do it again.