This is episode #61: Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, I’m a former educator who created this podcast to bring the most current neuroscience research, along with high performing experts who have risen to the top of their field with specific strategies or ideas that you can implement immediately, whether you are a teacher in the classroom, a parent trying to figure out homeschooling and working from home, or someone working in the corporate world, to take your results to the next level. We’re just a month away from our one year anniversary of when we launched this podcast that is now being listened to in over 95 countries, and we’re thrilled to see that we’ve hit the top 100 charts for Apple iTunes Education How-To Category for multiple countries (Canada, USA, Great Britain, Australia, Sweden and just hit #1 in Switzerland this week) so thank you listeners. I’ve actually lived in 3 of the countries that keep showing up on these charts and am grateful to all our supporters around the world.
Today we have someone who I know will share some valuable and timely tips for all of us–Maria Natapov[i], a Certified Parent and Caregiver Coach with a specialty in trauma and neuroscience and its application. Maria teaches practical and actionable parenting techniques to caregivers that bring out the best in their child, with a specialty in healing trauma and breaking its cycles. She partners with parents, teachers, and childcare professionals through individualized, targeted sessions that empower caregivers to curb their child’s challenging behaviors and deeply connect while taking care of their own needs. In addition to parent coaching, she has worked as an applied behavioral analysis therapist in home and school settings. Maria moved to the United States from Russia at age 8 and is deeply sensitive to the role that cultural differences play in behavior and parenting. If you were to take the time to hear Maria’s story and background, you would understand where her passion to help other parents navigate through difficult times originated, especially when trauma is involved.[ii] I’ve included a podcast she did on this topic that you can access this in the show notes to learn more about her background. Maria founded Restorative Parent Coaching to help caregivers create nurturing environments in which adults and children can thrive. To watch this interview on YouTube, click here.
I first met Maria when she connected with me through social media and saw instantly that we had common ground with our work. The interview questions I’ll be asking today came directly from an article she wrote called “5 Strategies to Mitigate Covid-19 Related Anxiety and Trauma for Children.”[iii] When we connected, I knew immediately that Maria’s work tied into some of our past speakers. I could see her influence from Dr. Daniel Siegel’s work when she mentioned that our children really need to be “seen and heard” during these stressful Pandemic times, and also Dr. Bruce Perry’s work when she speaks about the importance of adults learning how to regulate themselves in order to calm a stressed or anxious child.
Welcome Maria, thank you so much for speaking with me today, and sharing your work and ideas with the community.
I think that speaking with you is timely and important right now, as many of us are now 2.5 months into working from home (and many people I know now are working a hybrid of home/office hours) while still trying to figure out this new schedule with the addition of home-schooling. How are things going for you right now over there in Massachusetts on the East Coast?
I am sure that the timelines are different for some people listening, but here in the US, my 2 girls have been home from school since the beginning of March, and school starts back up again for us here the end of July, and we still aren’t sure of what that is going to look like. I’ve recently spoken to one of my friends from Toronto who is a Superintendent at one of the large Districts there and he mentioned that schools there aren’t going back until September, so that’s 2 countries right there, where school ended abruptly and it’s the parents (with support from the schools) who are now working with our children to be sure they are on track.
Q1: We know how important it is that parents and caregivers stay calm and regulated especially these days, since a dysregulated or stressed adult can NEVER regulate a child. I know that my kids are “watching my every move, and how they see me responding to situations that come up will be strategies and habits that they will learn to develop for themselves.” (Maria Natapov). For example, as we are going through our day and something happens (like it always does) I try to still keep the pace and keep moving no matter what. There’s lots of little incidents: A dish breaks, we clean it up and don’t cry or freak out about it, putting it all into perspective. It’s just a dish. How can we use structure or blocks of time to set up a daily routine or rhythm in our lives so that we can sail through these summer months until our children go back school and use this routine to keep our lives calm and peaceful, while helping us to respond (peacefully) to the situations that come up instead of react that can happen while we are under stress? What ideas do you have to create routine? (Around mealtimes, educational activities, play times, family time, and virtual time with friends while learning to handle the challenges that come up with more grace)?
Q2: I love learning from other people with this next question. We all know how perceptive our kids are and how they “easily can pick up on negative or anxious energy of those around them, so it’s important to be intentional with creating a peaceful atmosphere.” (Maria Natapov) I’m phenatic with cleaning, keeping order in my house, and when I wake up, I play the Pandora Spa Music channel so that I can set the stage for the peace I expect for the rest of the day. Of course there are still stressful moments, it’s not all peaches and cream no matter how much we prepare ahead of time, but what suggestions do you have that you have seen that are easy to implement, to be sure that we are fostering a calm environment in our home?
Q3: One of the most powerful discoveries of Michael McKnight and Dr. Lori Desautels’ work[iv] (EPISODE #16) centers around the impact that stress has on children and their learning. We’ve heard that when kids are stressed, overwhelmed, worried or anxious, it might come out as a “power struggle, an argument, not listening, being emotional or other forms of challenging behavior” (Maria Natapov). We also have seen that when an educator is stressed, it will raise the cortisol of the student, causing a never-ending cycle that is the cause behind educator burn-out. I can see this burn-out happening in our homes as parents are now being overloaded with homeschooling activities. What are some techniques that you have seen working well for parents/educators to calm themselves, and in turn create a peaceful learning atmosphere that doesn’t just work to get us by this summer, but that we can use moving forward to improve our home life?
Q4: When we were speaking, you mentioned the importance of our children feeling “seen and heard” and how when they are younger, they look to us as their superhero. Can you explain the need that our children have with their parents, and how this need changes when they become teenagers?
Q5: Is there anything that you think is important for us to understand, that I might have missed? Maybe something that taps into the fact that anxiety is at an all-time high for our students. Do you have thoughts on the best way to bridge the communication gap with our children so they feel comfortable enough to talk to us about the things they are thinking and feeling?
Thank you so much Maria for taking the time to share your work on this much needed topic. If someone wants to contact you, and learn more about your services, is the best place to go to your website https://www.restorativeparentcoaching.com/ where you offer a free consultation for anyone who would like to learn more about your programs and services?
[iii] 5 Strategies to Mitigate Covid-19 Related Anxiety and Trauma for Children by Maria Natapov Published April 14, 2020 https://thriveglobal.com/stories/5-strategies-to-mitigate-covid-19-related-anxiety-and-trauma-for-children/?utm_source=Newsletter_Transaction&utm_medium=Thrive&utm_campaign=Published
[iv] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast Episode #16 on “The Future of Educational Neuroscience in our Schools and Workplaces.” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/lori-desautels-and-michael-mcknight-on-the-future-of-educational-neuroscience-in-our-schools-and-communities/