It’s ok, to not be ok.
When you’re a child in the big world life can get pretty daunting. How do we as adults support our children into understanding their emotions and how do we encourage them to process information and their emotions even though they may be scared and anxious.
Helping children to manage their emotions is important for their development. Children’s self-regulation skills, resilience and sense of self should be focused on to ensure they are nurturing their mental health and wellbeing. Children need adults to help them gain the skills they need to be able to regulate their emotions and process their emotions.
Adults need to guide children through their emotions, supporting and guiding them through their feelings and the steps they need to be able to have their emotional needs met. Encourage them to put a word as to what they are feeling. Are they bubbling with anger? Are they getting butterflies in their tummy?
The main thing to remember when trying to help a child regulate their emotions is to provide children with a warm, trusting and responsive response that enables the child to respond with appropriate emotions and internalise a positive reaction. Also, to approach any subject with a calm and rational voice and demeaner. Children will feel comfort know that you are genuinely there for them, to listen to them and help them through their emotions.
If you have an anxious child try the 5 steps below as recommended by Kidspot
- Give your child time to work through and identify their worries.
Something like a worry box can allow children an outlet to let there worries out. Spending 10-15 minutes getting your child to draw their worries and put them in the box gives your child time to process their emotions. When the time is up close the box. By explaining and encouraging your child to use a worry box, you are letting them know it is ok to worry about things, but there needs to be a balance. When you close the box, the worries can go somewhere else either forever or just for the day. Once you do this a few times try having a look to see if there seems to be a common thread with your child’s worries.
- Avoid avoiding everything that causes anxiety
Do your children want to avoid social events, dogs, school, planes or basically any situation that causes anxiety? As a parent, do you help them do so? Of course! This is natural. The flight part of the flight-fight-freeze response urges your children to escape the threatening situation. Unfortunately, in the long run, avoidance makes anxiety worse. Try a method we call laddering. Kids who are able to manage their worry break it down into manageable chunks. Laddering uses this chunking concept and gradual exposure to reach a goal.
- Practice self-compassion
research shows that anxiety is often the result of multiple factors (i.e. genes, brain physiology, temperament, environmental factors, past traumatic events, etc.). Toward the goal of a healthier life for the whole family, practise self-compassion. Remember, you’re not alone, and you’re not to blame. It’s time to let go of debilitating self-criticism and forgive yourself. Love yourself. You are your child’s champion.
- Help them work through a checklist
As an adult we mostly have lists. We have in case of emergency lists, shopping list and daily chores lists. Sometime we get so caught up in life that we forget what we are doing or what we were going to do next. A child with anxiety is a little bit the same. Their brain automatically jumps to step 12 without doing steps 1-11 first. Why not create a checklist so they have a step-by-step method to calm down? What do you want them to do when they first feel anxiety coming on? If breathing helps them, then the first step is to pause and breathe. Next, they can evaluate the situation. In the end, you can create a hard copy checklist for your child to refer to when they feel anxious.
- Help them go from ‘What if ‘to ‘what is’
As humans we tend to over think everything. “will they like my outfit?”, “Have I put everything out that we will need?” Children are the same. Often their worries focus on the perception that other children will have of them. But like adults this mostly comes from the uncertainty surrounding the event. Research shows that coming back to the present can help alleviate this tendency. One effective method of doing this is to practise mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness brings a child from what if to what is. To do this, help your child simply focus on their breath for a few minutes.