Social-Emotional Challenges in Therapy
By Rachel Betzen, M.A., CCC/SLP
As Dallas Reading and Language Services continues to grow our clinic, we will continue to experiment with practical ways to support children’s social and emotional wellbeing, in keeping with our whole child intervention approach to speech-language therapy.
Communication goes beyond merely the intent to express something to others. It helps us to understand ourselves, and to make changes to become the kind of person we want to be.
Developing social-emotional awareness of ourselves and others is a skill that opens doors to understanding and connection. This awareness allows us to recognize our triggers, and to have the chance to respond to them rather than react to them impulsively.
We are all developing these important skills across our entire lifespan.
The tools and ideas we use at Dallas Reading and Language Services are using come from the MindUp Curriculum, the Momentous Institute, the BePeace Connection Practice, and the Center for Nonviolent Communication. We are also beginning to add tools from Qigong.
When a child displays social-emotional barriers, here are some ideas on how parents, guardians, and teachers can work through them:
- Ask the child to identify his or her feelings and needs, or gently guess some of the child’s possible feelings and needs (“I feel _____, _____, and _____.” “When I feel this way I need/value _____ and _____”).
- Use active listening and repeat back what you think the child said (“I’m guessing you feel _____.” “You may need _____ or _____. Does that sound right?”)
- Offer comfort and try to empathize with the child.
- Share a small piece of your own vulnerability. Talk about your own weaknesses, struggles, and/or negative thoughts and beliefs with which you have dealt.
- Listen for the child’s main barriers or causes of their anxieties.
- Ask the child to identify how his or her body feels when they are in distress.
- Help the child calm him or herself with slow rhythmic breathing.