First it started on Monday morning.
“Do I have to go to school?”
Then next week it crept earlier into Sunday night.
“Why do I have to go to school?”
Then the week after that it started on Saturday and continued.
“I hate school, why do you make me go? You’re a teacher, why can’t you teach me at home?”
You look into their eyes, you see their anxiety and pain, you hear it in their voice, your heart breaks every single time.
You have been easy on them, you have been hard on them, you have bribed them, you have talked about it, read about it, even sung about it, but you can’t take that anxiety away…only they can.
Has this situation happened to you?
It may not have been about school, maybe it’s a sport, the doctors, the dentist, or even something that your child can’t explain.
Anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse. http://www.adaa.org/
There is a lot our precious ones can get to help with their anxiety, so please look into the best type for your child, but as much as others can help them, I believe that if we give them the knowledge to help themselves, this will give a lifetime of support they may need.
As the old saying goes;
“Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.”
If we teach our kids to self-regulate their emotions, they can do it when we are not around, and let’s face it, that’s a huge part of their day, especially as they reach school age.
I sat down with my kids and asked them what sayings would help them get through an anxious time, so I can make a card deck for them. I wanted it to be from their perspective, not mine.
Their answers surprised me a little.
They didn’t want to hear uplifting slogans, I got 2 absolute ‘NO WAYS’ from these;
“I’m proud of you already.”
“You are so brave.”
They mostly came up with actual ‘things’ you can physically do, or concentrate on.
Here’s what we have put together, we hope it helps your little ones.
1. What is the worst thing that could happen? What is the best thing?
Imaginations can run a little wild sometimes, we can catastrophize things and make everything seem worse than it needs to be. When we sit down and think about the worst thing, we recognise that we can handle it. This is the premise of Emotional Freedom Technique. Thinking about the worrying thought, allows it to dissipate and we can focus on the positive part.
2. Close your eyes, think of something you love.
During a period of stress, our brain goes into flight or fight response, and our bodies get inundated with cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’. This is great if we are getting attacked by crocodiles, but not so good if this happens every time we think about a test. By closing our eyes, we can start internalising our thoughts, when we think of some things we love, our brain releases Dopamine. This plays an important role in shifting and directing attention, concentration and helping to change moods. Dopamine helps our kids become more motivated, sometimes called ‘the party animal of the neurochemical world.’
3. Why do you think this is happening?
This allows our kids to bring their thoughts into the present moment. As soon as we start thinking about what might happen, we can send our minds into a spin and make up a whole bunch of ‘stuff.’
When we remind ourselves to think about what is actually happening, right now, we can start to compartmentalise things and they may not seem too big to deal with.
4. Who can you talk to?
Every child needs to have 5 people on their ‘safe’ list, have a conversation about it at home, then they know exactly who to turn to and they don’t have to worry and give it much thought. Make sure the 5 people are all in different places, e.g. the school, at home, at Grandmas, in the shops, at the beach. Make sure they know your best contact number off by heart.
5. Pretend you are blowing up a giant balloon. Take a deep breath in and count to 5 blowing it up.
As an Early Childhood Specialist and a Yoga Teacher, I can’t stress this one enough. When we are stressed, our bodies only take in a third of the oxygen it needs, again, part of the fight or flight response. Teaching our children to breathe properly is one of the best gifts we can give them. Being able to slow the breathing will increase the oxygen intake, lower the heart rate and anxiety levels quicker than any other technique.
6. Draw what’s bothering you.
Sometimes our children can’t communicate with words what is bothering them. This is OK, they may like to put it onto paper. This might look like a massive angry emotional scribble, or it may give you a real idea of what/who your child is anxious about. This could be enough to calm your child, or they may like to talk about it afterwards.
7. Tap away your worries.
My son came up with this one. He started light tapping all over his body, then he went into an actual tap dance! From an adult’s perspective, I have recently started teaching him Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, as mentioned previously. He has put his own spin into it, hey…whatever works!
EFT is often referred to as “psychological acupressure”, the technique works by releasing blockages within the nervous system which causes emotional intensity and discomfort.
8. Think about your favourite animal.
This one is similar to number 2 but gives more direction for the thoughts. The animal doesn’t even have to be a real one for the brain to start inducing the feel good hormones.
9. Who can you hug?
Touch is incredibly important. “Extensive research by the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute has revealed that human touch has wide-ranging physical and emotional benefits for people of all age groups. In the Institute’s experiments, touch lessened pain, improved pulmonary function, increased growth in infants, lowered blood glucose and improved immune function.” Mary Bauer
10. Time to go to your happy place.
This is a place that may be real or imagined. It’s a place in the mind where all things are happy, calm, loved and stress-free.
I hope some of these ideas will help you and your children.
If you would like to see the cards I have designed, click here:
With love and light,