Caregiver Page

Limit Setting With Children (iyîkopiwi-pîsim)

Limit-setting is one of the most difficult parts of parenting. Parents often have to balance many things when setting limits with their children: our own emotions, the child's emotions, our own history of discipline, advice/judgement from others, and many others. It can difficult to find a balance that works for any family. The good news is that when we plan ahead for limit-setting, it gets much easier. This month we have focused on one framework for limit-setting that we find works well with most children, regardless of emotional skill, age, and background. It is called A.C.T. and works because it both honours the feelings of the child (something that helps them build skills) AND lets them know the limit and other ways to get what they need. Please feel free to contact any of your school counsellors for more information about anything below.

The A.C.T. Model for Limit-Setting

Why it works: Before children can resist their first impulses, they must have awareness of their behaviour, a feeling of responsibility, and the experience of self-control. Dr. Garry Landreth, founder of the Centre for Play Therapy, developed the A.C.T. method to setting limits that provides children with an opportunity to learn self-control, the knowledge that they have choices, what making choices feels like, and how responsibility feels. This helps them not only be more mindful of our limits but also to learn the skills to limit themselves as they grow older.

A = acknowledge the feeling

C= communicate the limit

T= target the choice

Why Set Limits

The purpose of limits is to teach, not to punish, while also effectively illustrating taking responsibility for yourself. Which is important because responsibility accompanies decision-making. Before children can resist their first impulses, they must have an awareness of their behaviour, a feeling of responsibility, and the experience of self-control. As a result of these limit-setting techniques, children learn to become responsible for themselves and behaviour.

  • limit-setting is for the growth of the child

  • limits help develop personal responsibility

  • limits help develop decision-making skills

  • limits promote healthy boundaries

  • limits help develop self-control

  • limits promote consistency

  • limits are not punishment

Parents need to set limits that fit within their household rules, but allow for more freedom, more exploration, and more expression. Be sure to determine your own limits ahead of time such as: no toy damage, throwing toys, pouring water on the floor, hitting another person or pet, etc. Before setting a limit, ask yourself: "Is this limit necessary?" And before allowing a behaviour, ask yourself "Can I consistently allow this?"

Limit-setting Example

"It looks like you want to draw, but the wall is not for drawing." [point] You can draw on the paper or [point] you can draw on the chalkboard."

"I can see you feel frustrated, but the doll clothes are not for tearing." [point] "You can tear the shoebox or [point] you can tear the egg carton."

"Jim, I know that you feel like hitting me, but I'm not for hitting". [point] "You can hit the stuffed bear, or [point] you can hit the pillow."

Summary of A.C.T.

A- Acknowledge the feeling. By acknowledging the child's feelings, you support the child's intent, even if you can't support the child's behaviour. Reflect (say back to them) feelings, intentions, wants, and wishes. When the child's message is clearly understood, the child no longer needs to act out.

"Looks like..."

"I know you'd really like to..."

"I can tell you're feeling..."

C- Communicate or set the limit. Use no fault statements, but common sense statements instead.

"Your brother is not for hitting"

"It's time for bed."

"The wall is not for writing on."

T- Target Choices. Understanding what the child wants, helps choosing other choices. You need to direct your child's attention away from the original object by looking, pointing, and stating other choices. Point using your eyes, hands, and body to help your child focus on the new choice. Be creative in offering choices, provide 2 choices and do not use the word "OK."

"You can choose to hit your pillow or you can hit the toy bear."

"You can put yourself to bed or you can choose for me to read a book to you first. What do you choose?"

With A.C.T. (or anything else) it can take quite a few tries before it starts working well. How long depends on how much we've practiced, what the needs of our children are, how well we've chosen the 2 choices we will give, and the emotional skill level of the child. In our experience at schools and home, we have found that A.C.T. can work with nearly any child. That said, we've found when we are consistent and we think ahead of effective choices for step 'T' (target choices), we have more success. As always, any of the counsellors at MESC schools will be more than happy to help with any questions you might have. There is no such thing as a perfect parent--we're all just trying to do the best we can and things like A.C.T. can often help with that.

What we have GAINED through the Pandemic...

There is no debating it - the past 453 days have been challenging. The pandemic has taken something from most of us and forced us to look inward, even if we are not comfortable in doing so. We have lost loved ones, jobs, finances, friendships, and time. We have been disconnected from those around us and have been isolating for longer than we care to remember. BUT, we have also gained a lot through this pandemic. We have learned more about ourselves. We have gained resilience. We are stronger, more adaptable, and have grown in many ways that we may or may not have experienced or realized if not for the pandemic. Resilience is simply the ability to bounce back after we are knocked down, over and over - just like a rubber ball thrown against a wall repeatedly - it always bounces back. Negativity is all around us and no more prominent than during the pandemic. BUT, we have also gained so much more than we had before - resilience, strength, adaptability, courage, and the awareness that comes with the available time to look inwardly at who we are and who we want to become. The articles below depict these gains and what we can do with them.

This video is an excellent source of information for understanding the connection between mind and body. Anxiety is not just in your head - it resides in your body and your body symptoms let you know when something is wrong. Recognizing body sensations takes practice and below are ways to help you get better at understanding triggers and how your body reacts in different situations.

Self Awareness

“Looking deeply requires courage.” --Thich Nhat Hanh

Recognizing Body Sensations and Checking in with your Body

  • It’s good to do a “check in” and see what sensations you notice in your body, so you can start to notice how your body and brain are connected.

  • Throughout the day, ask yourself, “How does my body feel right now?” or “What sensations can I notice in my body?”

  • After time you may notice patterns.

  • When I am stressed, where do I feel it in my body?

  • When I am happy, where do I feel it in my body?

  • How does my body feel in this moment right now?

Body Scan Check In

First take the time to pause. Take a breath.

  • Then notice your skin: Is it feeling hot or cold? Noticing any textures or sensations on your skin? Noticing any sensitivity?

  • Now notice your head, face, eyes, and jaw: Is there relaxation? Is there tension? Is there an urge to tighten, or an urge to loosen?

  • Notice your mouth and throat: Does your throat feel constricted? Neutral? Sensitive? Raw? Tight? Open?

  • Neck and shoulders: Are you tensed up or tightened up? Or do you feel loose and relaxed?

  • Lungs: Does your chest feel tight and held-in? Or relaxed? Or neutral? Heavy? Light?

  • How’s your breathing? Long and slow? Or faster than usual? Relaxed?

  • Heart: Notice your heartbeat. Can you feel it beating in your chest? Is your heart beating faster than it does typically? Or is it slow? Just notice.

  • Stomach/gut: Do I feel tightness? Does it feel hard or closed? Or does it feel more loose and open? Is it fluttery? Does it feel puffy?

  • Arms and hands: Do your hands and fingers feel fidgety or feel like snapping? Do you feel like you want to pull in and keep your hands close to your body? Do you feel an impulse to hit? Or you do feel calm, comfortable? Or do your hands feel heavy? Just notice.

  • Legs and feet: Do they want to bounce and tap? Or do they want to stomp around? Do they feel wobbly or fidgety?Or perhaps they feel heavy? Tense? Numb? Or strong?

One key point is to practice noticing “non-judgmentally”- this means that when you are noticing your body, you aren’t judging it and saying that it is “good” or “bad”. Just try to approach it with curiosity. It is what it is.

Noticing thoughts

  • When this happened, I thought this…

  • Right now, in this moment, I am thinking…

  • When I woke up this morning, I thought _______

  • When I am stressed sometimes I think things like….

  • When I am disappointed or fail at something, I think things like…

  • Things I can say to myself to feel better in the moment...

Recognizing feelings

  • When this happened, I felt_____

  • Right now, in this moment, I am feeling…

  • When I woke up this morning, I felt ________

  • It is common to have multiple feelings at once! You can be stressed and happy at the same time.

  • Note the TIME or how long the feeling lasted

  • Note the INTENSITY of the feeling

  • “We can’t control the waves, but we can learn to surf”-- Jon Kabat Zinn

    • Feelings are like waves, and they will come and go

  • Some feelings are like HUGE waves, and others are like little waves

    • We can do things in the moment to surf the waves (coping skills)

    • We can do things to cope ahead and prepare for large waves

    • We can do things to reduce our vulnerability and feel stronger while we surf

Recognizing vulnerabilities that impact emotion

  • We must keep the brainstem regulated!

  • If dysregulated you may feel emotions STRONGER/MORE INTENSELY and for a longer period of time

  • Common vulnerabilities:

    • Sleeping: Ask, “How did I sleep? Am I rested? Am I alert?”

    • Eating: Ask, “Am I hungry? Do I feel nourished? Was it helpful for me to eat this?”

    • Hydration: Ask, “Am I thirsty? Do I feel hydrated or dehydrated?”

    • Time of day: Ask, “Is there a time of day when I feel things more intensely? Is there a time of day when I am more irritable or more calm? Is there a time of day when it is easier to learn or focus?”

    • Temperature: Ask, “Am I too cold or too hot? Is there something I can do to change my temperature?”

Recognizing sensitivity to sensory input:

Some people are sensory sensitive, and others are sensory seeking. Notice your response to:

o Lighting

o Sound

o Number of people

o Number of objects/ Visual input

o Openness of space

o Visuals/ colors that are helpful or challenging for you

o Textures

o Smells

Check out this website to find and nurture your child’s unique gifts!

Tips for supporting children and youth when they are grieving

When talking about death, use simple, clear words. To break the news that someone has died, approach your child in a caring way. Use words that are simple and direct. For example, "I have some sad news to tell you. Kokum died today." Pause to give your child a moment to take in your words.

Listen and comfort. Every child reacts differently to learning that a loved one has died. Some children cry. Some ask questions. Others seem not to react at all. That's OK. Stay with your child to offer hugs or reassurance. Answer your child's questions or just be together for a few minutes.

Put emotions into words. Encourage children to say what they're thinking and feeling in the days, weeks, and months following the loss. Talk about your own feelings. It helps children be aware of and feel comfortable with theirs. Say things like, "I know you're feeling very sad. I'm sad, too. We both loved Kokum so much, and she loved us, too."

Tell your child what to expect. If the death of a loved one means changes in your child's life, head off any worries or fears by explaining what will happen. For example, "Aunt Sara will pick you up from school like Kokum used to." Or, "I need to stay with Mosom for a few days. That means you and Dad will be home taking care of each other. But I'll talk to you every day, and I'll be back on Sunday."

Talk about family rituals. Share with your child information around the beliefs and rituals that your family has around death and dying. Keeping communication open allows for children to know that it is ok to ask questions or to express their feelings about loss.

Help your child remember the person. Depending on the beliefs and customs of your family, in the days and weeks ahead, encourage your child to draw pictures or write down favorite stories of their loved one. Don't avoid mentioning the person who died. Recalling and sharing happy memories helps heal grief and activate positive feelings.

Respond to emotions with comfort and reassurance. Notice if your child seems sad, worried, or upset in other ways. Ask about feelings and listen. Let your child know that it takes time to feel better after a loved one dies. Some children may temporarily have trouble concentrating or sleeping, or have fears or worries. Support groups and counselling can help children who need more support.

Help your child feel better. Provide the comfort your child needs, but don't dwell on sad feelings. After a few minutes of talking and listening, shift to an activity or topic that helps your child feel a little better. Play, make art, cook, or go somewhere together.

Give your child time to heal from the loss. Grief is a process that happens over time. Be sure to have ongoing conversations to see how your child is feeling and doing. Healing doesn't mean forgetting about the loved one. It means remembering the person with love, and letting loving memories stir good feelings that support us as we go on to enjoy life.

You can read more information at the following website:

Name it to Tame It: Learning About Feelings

This is the first in a video series about being feelings detectives. This one talks about recognizing our own feelings and others'. Future videos will deal with specific feelings, including grief, which will be our next video.

How to Help Your Kids Succeed While Learning at Home

  1. Have a Designated Work Space

    • It's helpful to have a space where your kids will work on school each day, just like they have a classroom at school, they should have a space they work at home

  2. Limit Distractions

    • This can be hard when life is busy at home but the less distractions the better your kids can focus

  3. Keep a Schedule

    • This also can be super challenging, but kids do well with routine, and they are used to a lot of structure when they are at school. There won't be any bells to change classes at home but it helps to get up at the same time each morning and keep bedtime consistent. There will be a few example schedules you can try with your kids posted in the website!

  4. Limit Screen Time

    • It's good for all of us to take breaks from screens sometimes! Some of your child's schoolwork may require a screen but it's good to take breaks!

  5. Leave Time for Fun!

    • Even school has recess! Your kids are used to seeing their friends at school, playing games, and having fun! Make sure to leave time and space for this at home as well!

Emergency and Crisis Contacts:

    • Maskwacîs Mobile Mental Health crisis line 780-362-2150 (call or text)

    • Maskwacîs Ambulance: 780-585-4000

    • Maskwacîs RCMP: Phone: (780) 585-3767

    • Maskwacîs Counselling: 780-585-2268 and through their Facebook page

    • Suicide Prevention: text 45645 call 1-833-456-4566

    • Text4Hope: Text COVID19HOPE to 393939 to subscribe for ways to cope with feelings of isolation, etc.

    • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

    • FN and Inuit hope for wellness: 1-855-242-3310

    • ConnecTeen: text only 587-333-2724

    • Youthspace: text only 778-783-0177

“Just Breathe”

A video on self-regulation, explained by all ages.

"Self Control for Monsters"

Cookie monster shows us what “self-control” is. Help to explain self regulation to your children and find suggestions for strategies.

Caregiver Care:

· Make self-care a priority: remember to put your well-being first. Set a goal to make self-care a part of your daily routine. This will help you stay centred and strong to support yourself (and your children too).

· Be kind to yourself: it is important to show yourself love, kindness and compassion. You can do this by giving yourself an encouraging word or doing something you enjoy. Take a break to watch TV, go for a walk, play a game, read a book or do anything else that makes you feel good.

· Avoid self-critical thoughts: try not to get carried away with self-critical thoughts about your mind or body. Everyone has good days and bad days, so do not be too hard on yourself. For every negative thought, try to think of something positive.

· Think ahead: plan for how you will cope with things that cause you to feel sad, stressed or down. Doing things to soothe yourself like journaling, meditating, etc. can help you stay calm and collected.

· Ground yourself: practicing deep breathing and doing tension/release exercises can help you process and connect your mind and body to your environment. Try to be present in the moment.

· Focus on the positive: looking for the good in a situation can help you work through and learn from it. Try to focus on what you can control (your reaction, how you will cope, etc.) and less on what is out of your hands.

· Remember your body: your physical health plays an important role in your overall well-being. Do not forget to get enough sleep, eat well and exercise to take care of your mind and body at the same time.

· Stay connected: surround yourself with individuals you trust who love and appreciate you (e.g. friends, relatives, peers, etc.). The people you choose to spend time with should help you feel good about yourself.

· Get support: if you are struggling or feeling burnt out, it is important to ask for help. You can try talking to a friend, family member, teacher, therapist or anyone else you trust. Or reach out to the above numbers provided.