Self Care Reminders from the Third Grade

April 24, 2012

By Lilita Matison LCSW

Around two weeks before the start of any school vacation, the Counseling office experiences a cyclical peak of drop-in students. An influx of mostly third graders appear at my door with tears streaming down their cheeks, runny noses, and words that are difficult to decipher between hiccup-like breaths and broken syllables. They are usually accompanied by a friend who guarantees their safe passage to my office then departs, with the I’ve-been-there-too look and a silent nod saying it’s going to be okay.

Larry hurt my feelings at recess. My dad left on a business trip this morning and I really miss him. Meagan won’t play with me and I’m afraid that she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.

Infinite variations of feeling hurt by something that someone else says or does, missing a loved one, communicating in friendships and relationships – are situations that we start to learn to navigate as children. But, when we are tired, run-down, over-stimulated, overscheduled or depleted, it is much harder to stand on firm ground and approach ourselves, as well as others, from a place of strength.

So, what do you do with a third grader in this vulnerable situation? We practice soft belly breathing, which slows down and relaxes the body and the mind. We draw. We infuse a piece of paper with shapes, images, and colors so that the paper can hold all of our worries. We make a list of things that we can do to nourish ourselves– e.g., hug my mom, read in my bed under the covers, talk to a friend, etc. And, we always find at least one thing that we are doing well or that we like about ourselves or our life: I run fast. I like the color of my eyes. I am a good friend. We put our self-care plan, with its various tools, in place and carry on.

During the more intense moments in life, remember to channel your inner third grader. Cry. Ask for support. Breathe. Color. Write. Be gentle. Appreciate. Create a plan. As the cycle ebbs and flows, you’ll do fabulously.