An Opportunity to Slow Down and Get Back to What is Truly Important

by added on 17 April 2020, Comments Off on An Opportunity to Slow Down and Get Back to What is Truly Important , posted in Blog
Timeless Tips
By Jodi Spitalli, Parent Educator

As most of you know, I had the opportunity to attend the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco. I would like to share some of the tips, tools and insights of leading experts in the field of Brain Research. In February, we had no idea of what was really to come with the CoVid19 pandemic and the mandated “Stay Home – Stay Safe” protocol.  How could the Conference theme of “Understanding and Educating Anxious Brains” be more appropriate for what we are experiencing now? Some of you may be experiencing tremendous hardship right now, having more urgent needs.  However, these tips and tools are timeless.  They have been shown to be effective long before CoVid19 and will stand the test of time.  They may sound simplistic, but do not underestimate their value.

I am certain that it is no surprise to you to hear that current brain research shows the rates of anxiety disorders and depression are skyrocketing in our youth and adults under ‘normal’ circumstances.  And, currently we are not even close to living a ‘normal life’.  I can only imagine that rates of anxiety and depression are increasing, exponentially!   According to Dr. Katie Hurley, LA Child Psychiatrist, the rates were especially skyrocketing in adults and children from affluent families.  With the research being so daunting, I turned to the conference’s researchers and speakers whose lectures offered hope and guidance in our troubled world.

Drs. Bruce Perry and Christopher Willard discussed how a dysregulated adult cannot possibly regulate a dysregulated child.  The more regulated adults are, the more regulated the children are!  Self-care is of upmost importance!  How do you regulate and care for yourself, on a daily basis, even if it is only for a few minutes during the course of a day?

“All the new demands and challenges of our world today can make our heads spin and our hearts race. It seems impossible to actually find time to take care of ourselves. And yet, research shows that when we take care of ourselves first, we are actually more helpful to our children!” – Kathleen Kryza, MA


And, Dr. Pamela Cantor expressed what children truly need to reduce their stress and anxiety:

  1. RELATIONSHIP (MOST important) with at least one consistent, regulated adult throughout their lives
  2. A feeling of safety and belonging
  3. Community
  4. Rich and diverse experiences

LA Psychiatrist, Katie Hurley presented some wonderful and researched-based ideas of how to support ourselves and our children.  First, she explained, that “we have to get out of the program of wanting to create SUPERKIDS right out of the womb!”  Well, I bet if you were one of those parents, I can imagine that the notion of trying to create a SUPERKID has gone out the window for now!  We are simply trying to survive and stay healthy!

Our society has forgotten and underestimated the importance of ‘soft skills’ or social-emotional skills such as being empathic, collaborative, talkative, inclusive, caring and aware.  Dr. Hurley emphasized that, as a society in general, we tend to forget about these skills because they are not traditional ‘college ready’ skills. Very fortunately, these important skills have been, and will continue to be at the forefront of our programs at WFP.  Are ‘soft skills’ more in the forefront in your home now?  Research shows that these are the top skills that employers are looking for in new hires!


According to Dr. Hurley, here are some things we can implement NOW to reduce stress, support ourselves and our children!

  • Revisit scheduling (Have you over-scheduled yourself and your child? We were certainly     forced to clear our schedules recently! Perhaps when the pandemic subsides you can revisit your scheduling!)
  • INCREASE special time (daily one-on-one, distraction FREE, child-led time together)
  • Eat a well-balanced, whole foods diet
  • Encourage unstructured PLAY outside
  • TEACH AND MODEL coping skills. Here are a few tried and true coping skills:



Breathe like a balloon!

Pretend your belly is like a balloon.  Breathe in through your nose and make the balloon bigger and then breathe out through your mouth, and make the balloon shrink. You can even add a “sigh” sound on the exhale. Do 10 or more and feel the difference!

One Mindful Minute:  TRY IT NOW!

Close your eyes.   LISTEN for a minute.  What do you hear outside the room?

What do you hear inside the room?

What do you hear inside your body?

Relaxation through Sensory Awareness: 

Use each of your 5 senses to calm yourself.  For example, listen to calming nature sounds, or music.  Which scents are calming to you?  Tactilely, what is soothing?  What relaxes you visually?   Certain images or soft lights?


Did you know that research shows a play deficit is similar to a sleep deficit? (Brown 2010)

Play is a natural stress reliever. I learned that it is wise to play as much as we can right now. Why? First, it helps your brain. When you are in fight, flight, or freeze mode, your emotional brain is in charge. By doing something enjoyable, you’re giving your brain a chance to switch back so that the thinking part of your brain can engage clearly.  Sometimes we just can’t get things off our minds and this may be happening to you right now.  So, it makes sense to play!  What do you enjoy doing for fun?


We all know that movement is so important! Let’s be honest with ourselves, do we move enough?

Would you be open to considering reframing the CoVid19 pandemic situation into a positive parent/child experience?  Could this be an invitation to create meaningful experiences with your child?  Perhaps in the big picture, this could be a gift to ourselves, our children, and our world?

I would like to close with a quote from Kitty O’Meara. It touched me so deeply and made me hopeful, during a time of great uncertainty, that we can all grow together. I hope you like it too…

“And the people stayed home. They read books and listened and rested and exercised and made art and played games and learned new ways of being and were still. They listened more deeply. Some meditated, some danced and some prayed. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless and heartless ways, the Earth began to heal too. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses and made new choices, and dreamed new images and created new ways to live and heal fully, as they had been healed.”


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