This is the 2nd post from the school SEN team. In this post we look specifically at what to do if you have children who are worried or anxious.
In general, when addressing worry and anxiety we would look at
Gaining control of the physiological response to anxiety and worry through breathing and mindful exercises, so basically calming ourselves. This could be in the form of mindful meditations, yoga, visualisation techniques. Some children in the school will already be familiar with ‘Hot Chocolate’ breathing, ‘Birthday Cake’ breathing or ‘5 Finger Breathing’. Another technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Activity (see image below). There are more resources at the end of this post.
Thinking about our thoughts – The way we think impacts how we feel. Being aware of our thoughts helps us to gain access to what might be causing feelings of anxiety. If your child is worried having a chat about what they are thinking is a good place to start. Asking questions about the thoughts your child might be having. This is really the essence of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). In our room we talk about
- Green thoughts – helpful thoughts such as ‘I (Mum/ Granny/ etc) will stay safe so long as a follow the rules’, ‘I am enjoying being at home with my family’, ‘I can do lots of nice things I may not have been able to do otherwise’
- Red Thoughts – unhelpful thoughts that add to anxieties and worries. Many of these can be exaggerated or focus entirely on the negative without taking due account of positives or looking at the bigger picture.
- Yellow thoughts – the thoughts that question our thoughts. These are important to allow us to change our thinking ‘Is this a helpful/unhelpful thought?’, ‘How does this thought make me feel?’, ‘Have I thought about the big picture or am I focusing too much on the negative?’, ‘How can I look at this a little differently?’.
Talk about and label the feelings we have: It is good to just talk about how we are feeling. This is a really nice video for you as parents to watch. The video talks about the link between accepting your emotions rather than pushing the emotions down which will only result in anxiety. watch video >>
The video focuses on sadness but fear is probably the main emotion that children might be suppressing in this current crisis. Talk with your children about their fears and discuss all the things they can control to keep themselves and the people around them safe. You can use the green/red/yellow thought framework if you find that helpful. It is important not to dismiss feelings, but to accept them while also contextualising them within a bigger picture.
There are lots of ways to allow your children to accept and work through whatever feelings they may be having around the current crisis.
Here are some resources that might help if your child is feeling anxious or worried. Every child is different so what works for one may not work for another.
- RTE School Hub, lesson on worries:
- On the player (45 mins into show) show >>:
- Extra resources to go with this class >>
- GoNoodle has lots of mindfulness videos (guided meditations) https://family.gonoodle.com/channels/think-about-it
- Cosmic Kids Yoga (the ‘Zen Den’ or ‘Peace Out’ series of videos are nice) https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga/featured
- NEPS (National Education Psychology Service) has provided this advice document https://www.education.ie/en/The-Department/Announcements/new-relaxation-techniques.pdf
This is a nice post on how to make worry dolls. A worry doll is a nice little approach to talking about and letting go of worries. There are other similar techniques such as worry trees, worry boxes that you might google. Some find these techniques useful, others don’t.
Paying attention to one of our senses is a mindful technique. This link gives the different bird calls of native birds. Listening out for and identifying birds by their call would make a lovely mindful activity. Access it here >>.
I hope you can find something useful in this post. The aim is not to use everything, but for you to pick out what you think might work best for you.
Just as an additional support, there is a parenting line being offered in Kilkenny.