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Creating Psychological Flexibility in Children
with Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes
Executive Director, AllCEUs
Host: Counselor Toolbox Podcast

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~ Define Psychological Flexibility
~ List the Main Principles of Psychological Flexibility
~ Identify the Components of Psychological Flexibility
~ Describe How to Teach Psychological Flexibility
~ Explain the Short Cut Question
Preventing Vulnerabilities
~ When people are tired, malnourished, hungry, stressed, sick or in pain, they tend to have more difficulty dealing with life on life’s terms.
~ Sleep
~ Set a bedtime routine and teach about good sleep hygiene
~ Help them learn the value of sleep
~ Point out that they will have a better day if they get a good nights sleep and when they are having a bad day because they didn’t get enough rest

Preventing Vulnerabilities
~ Nutrition
~ Help children learn good eating habits
~ Participate in cooking
~ Help create menus with 3 colors at each meal
~ Keep prepared fruits and veggies available
~ Minimize refined foods for stable blood sugar
~ Make sure lunches have sufficient protein and complex carbohydrates
~ Talk to them about why nutrition is important

Activity: Food Art
~ Tell children to build a Mr. Potato Head but take out one set of pieces.
~ When children cannot complete the project, explain that just like they need all the pieces to make Mr. Potato Head, for them to be healthy and happy their body needs all the different types of food building blocks
Preventing Vulnerabilities
~ Positive Health Behaviors (Model it. Do it with them.)
~ Relaxation
~ Ergonomics (backpack, desk, bed)
~ Hand Washing (sing Baby Bumble Bee 2x)
~ I’m washing up my baby bumble bee
~ Won’t my mama be so proud of me
~ I’m washing up my baby bumble bee
~ Scrubba scrubba scrub scrub scrub scrub scrub
~ Exercise

Battery or Money Metaphor
~ If you get a good nights sleep, eat a healthy diet and learn to relax, then each day you start with (a fully charged cell phone battery/ $100)
~ If you don’t get a good nights sleep, eat a healthy diet and learn to relax then you may not fully recharge (your phone/bank account)
~ Throughout the day each time you do something you are (draining your battery / spending money). The more intense the activity or emotion or the longer it lasts, the more (battery is used/money spent)
~ Eating, walking, exercising etc.
~ Worrying
~ Getting angry

~ Think about a day you didn’t sleep well. Did you run out of (battery/money) earlier in the day?
~ What about a day you were really stressed about a test coming up?
~ How much easier do things seem when you are rested and relaxed?

Clarifying the Destination
Values & Goals
~ A lack of clarity about values can underlie much of people’s distress or keep them “stuck.”
~ Help children identify what is really important in their life and become willing to focus their energies on those things
Clarifying Values & Goals
~ Clarifying
~ Who is most important, deep in your heart?
~ Which people?
~ What do you want those relationships to be like?
~ Note: Help small children create a collage of people who are in their life (family, higher power, pets)
~ What events, things, experiences are important to you?
~ Getting on the ___ team/club
~ Getting good grades
~ Going to college to be a _____
~ Being good at ______
~ My health (without that you can’t do the others as easily)
~ Note: Small children may not have anything here
Clarifying cont…
~ Values
~ What values do you want to embody (Choose 5)?

~ For small children,
~ Choose 5 that are important for your family values and/or characterize the child (Honesty, Resourcefulness, Compassion, Faithfulness, Determination…etc.) and help the child learn to embody these things
~ Tell me what animal you are like and why.

When Unpleasant Things Happen
Psychological Flexibility
~ Is the ability to be aware of situations and consciously choose from available options

~ Choose to stay angry
~ Choose to do what you have always done
~ Choose to use that energy to do something to improve the situation or improve how you feel about the situation
Main Principles of Psychological Flexibility
~ The goals are to:
~ Create a happy life, while accepting that sometimes things can be unpleasant.
~ Learn to recognize that distress is often a harmless, even if uncomfortable, passing psychological event.
~ Make effective choices for how to use your energy based on your goals and values to improve the next moment
Six Core Principles of ACT
~ Six core principles of psychological flexibility:
~ Awareness of Values
~ The Observing Self/Mindfulness
~ Diffusion
~ Acceptance
~ Contact with the Present Moment
~ Committed Action

The Observing Self
The Audience
~ Fly on the Wall / Your Dog / Sid the Science Kid
~ Curious
~ Objective
~ Nonjudgmental

Awareness of What Is
~ Bringing full awareness to your here-and-now experience
~ Take 3 deep breaths and notice how it feels for the air to go in your belly and out
~ What happened? (Using objective words)
~ Tommy was mean  Tommy knocked me down
~ My day sucked  I got a C on a quiz and nobody sat with me at lunch
~ How do you feel?
~ What are your thoughts, wants and urges?
~ What physical sensations are you experiencing?
~ What is the purpose of your feelings?
Cognitive Diffusion
Unhooking Thoughts and Behaviors
~ Cognitive diffusion means
~ “Stepping back” and recognizing that thoughts and urges are just passing events, not part of us and do not have to lead to action (Getting pushed, becoming resentful at classmates)
~ Allowing them to come and go without running from them or giving them undue attention.
~ Perceiving thoughts, images, and memories as bits of language, and pictures—as opposed to what they can appear to be—threatening events, objective truths (Example: I’m not safe; nobody likes me; nightmares, fears about the doctor)

Two Wolves
~ A fight between two wolves is going on inside every person.
~ One is anger, fear, envy, sorrow, regret, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, and ego.
~ The other is peace, love, hope, contentment, humility, compassion, generosity, truth, determination, and faith.
~ Which wolf will win?
~ The one you feed.

Cognitive Diffusion Activities
~ Clouds
~ Trains
~ Thought Box
~ Bubbles
~ Balloons (with darts) don’t release them into the air!
~ Dandelion seeds

Unhooking from Negative Self-Talk
~ Activity:
~ Think of a negative self-judgment that takes the form “I am X” such as “I’m stupid.”
~ Think about it. Believe it as much as you can.
~ Notice how it affects you when you are “hooked” to a thought.
~ Now insert the phrase “I’m having the thought that….” in front of “I am X.”
~ Think about it.
~ Notice what happens when you are no longer “hooked.”
Unhooking from Urges
~ Activity:
~ Think of an urge such as “I have to get even” or “I have to get an A on this test”
~ Think about it. Believe it as much as you can.
~ Notice how it affects you when you are “hooked” to a thought.
~ Now insert the phrase “I’m having the thought that….” in front of “I have to X.”
~ Think about it.
~ Notice what happens when you are no longer “hooked.”
Committed Action
~ Once you can:
~ Be in the present moment
~ Identify your thoughts, feelings and urges
~ Recognize their purpose
~ Unhook your thoughts/urges and your behaviors
Committed Action
~ Then…
~ Assess the situation
~ Tommy pushed me
~ Susan posted something mean on my IG feed
~ I have to get an A on this test
~ Nobody sat with me at lunch
~ Decide
~ Is this thought or issue even worth my attention? Will addressing it get me closer to the people and things that are important to me?
~ If it is, what thoughts and behaviors will be helpful at addressing the issue AND getting you closer to your goals?
~ If it isn’t, how can you let it go
Becoming Flexible—Prevention
Becoming Flexible—Prevention
Becoming Flexible—Prevention
Becoming Flexible—Prevention
Flexibility Activity
~ On a magnetic white board draw the matrix
~ Make cards ahead of time, laminate them and attach a small magnet
~ Activities that drain my battery and do not help me achieve my goals (Use things your child does)
~ Thoughts and nurtured feelings that drain my battery and do not help me achieve my goals (Use things your child thinks)
~ Activities that help me achieve my goals
~ Thoughts and nurtured feelings help me achieve my goals
~ Discuss with the child each card and which quadrant it belongs in and have him/her put it in the correct space

Becoming Flexible— Susan was mean on IG
Becoming Flexible— Susan was mean on IG
Shortcut Question
~ Are my current thoughts, feelings and actions helping me get what is important to me? If not, what could I do differently?

~ Young child throws a tantrum because
~ He wants to watch television but his homework is not yet done
~ He wants dessert but has not eaten his dinner yet
~ Sally never wants to go to school again…
~ Jane wants to fight Julie…
~ Every event is an opportunity to choose thoughts and behaviors that will help you use your energy to move toward your goals and values
~ Children often do not have long-term goals and values, so help them see how their choices can help them get what they want in the near future
~ Acceptance means accepting, without judgement, how you feel and the situation as it is instead of fighting against it.
~ Using the Flexibility Activity or worksheet youth can apply this on a daily basis.
~ Keep the prevention matrix up where kids can see it


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