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Surviving the festive season

December has given us lots of opportunities to reflect and learn as we work with children who, like us, seemed to feel more and more excited and overwhelmed as the month went on. We have been drawing a lot on Dan Siegel’s writing about windows of tolerance. This gives us a way to think about the differences in how we respond in stressful situations, and the way in which the world around us can affect this.

Christmas brought with it all sorts of emotional and social opportunities and challenges for the children we support. We saw their powerful want and need to be part of the Christmas rituals of school life and their fear and anxiety about whether they would be able to fit in. Up until now we have been working on trying to extend each child’s window of tolerance for stress. This month we realised that in the middle of everything else that they were coping with, now was the time for everyone to have permission to stay firmly within their comfort zone for a little while. We focussed on spending time outdoors decompressing from some of these pressures, finding calm and creativity in the garden, and celebrating all the little wins. That small tweak made a big difference and enabled us to finish out the year on a high having learned a lot more about each child and what helps them feel calm in times of stress.

December Reflections

Surprises: We still can’t get over how willing the kids have been to stay outdoors through the cold and grey weather, roaming around the garden and noticing as plants they have been looking after grow and change

Satisfactions: Nature and the community has provided us with so many opportunities to use and create free plants: in the garden we have taken cuttings, saved seed and harvested offshoots. Meanwhile we had donations of strawberry plants, cape daisies and hollyhock seed to make use of too. As everyone increasingly feels the pinch economically, it’s great to be able to teach skills that make gardening cheap and accessible for the kids we work with

Dissatisfactions: It would have been so much fun to get to do a session in the snow, if only it had lasted long enough. Maybe next timeā€¦

Learning: This month we took part in training led by FAB Camden – an organisation that supports parents of children in North London who use services to influence how those services develop. We are interested in co-designing the interventions we offer in future with the parents and children who use them, so this was really inspiring

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