4 books to help children with worries...

 

Children experience worries throughout their development, some more than others. It is important that children are helped to develop skills for managing feelings and coping with fear.  Following are four books I often use with children and young people that may be useful for you when supporting your child.

A Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside (recommended ages 4 - 10 years) this book highlights the concept of worries building up on top of on another, until they become so large that they can impact our sleep, school and other aspects of life.  The book encourages sharing worries, as this can help to make them more manageable.

Hey Warrior by Karen Young (recommended ages 6 and up) -  this book is a great resource as it helps to explain to children and young people what actually happens in our brain when we are feeling anxious. Having the knowledge as to why we sometimes respond they way we do, can be very empowering.

The Boy and a Bear: The Children's relaxation book by Lori Lite (recommended ages 3-10years) - .this book introduces children to breathing and techniques to support calming for sleep when feeling worried/anxious.

What to do when you worry too much by Bonnie Matthews - (recommended 6-12 years with parental support) is an interactive kids self help book designed to guide kids through a range of cognitive behavioural therapy based activities to help support anxiety.

 

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Self care and why it is so important...

The concept of self care is often viewed as being selfish, or something that only people with lots of time or money can do.   Self care however is an important part of being able to provide emotional, physical, social and spiritual support to ourselves and others.

Parents and carers in particular are often required to meet the needs of others (often their children's) before themselves, which over time can have a huge impact ones own health and well being.

Here are some quick tips on how to ensure you add some self care into your routine

 - read a book that's unrelated to your work, or study

- have some technology down time

- learn a new skill (knitting, try a Sudoku puzzle, write in a journal, practice mindfulness)

- listen to a favourite song or album

- go for a 15 minute walk outside

- find something that makes you laugh

 

“Self care is not a waste of time. Self care makes your use of time more sustainable.”
– Jackie Viramontez

 

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Is your parenting on the same page?

Parenting is arguably challenging and rewarding, the strain of having a difference in opinion, on how to parent can definitely increase stress!!  Nicole Schwarz Parent Coach has written an interesting article, that provides some handy tips on how to tackle this often sensitive issue.

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Back to school anxiety...

Starting back at school can be a stressful time of year for all of the family, especially after a significant amount of time away for holidays. Many children and teenagers can become anxious about the transition into a new year and can often start to become increasingly clingy, complain of having pains in the tummy, headaches, become easily upset, withdrawn and irritable and start to talk about not wanting to go to school.

Research suggests that it is important that parents ensure that their child does attend school, as  avoidance of school is said to only increase and reinforce a child's worries , making it increasingly difficult for them to attend in the long term. 

Being away from school not only reduces the child's social interaction with peers and ability to increase their skills, it arguably limits the child's ability to gather evidence that challenges their fears about school.

Children's school worries are often centered around the unknown, the 'what if', some examples are:

'what if I don't like my new teacher?', 'how will I know where my classroom is?', 'what if I don't know  anyone there?', 'who will I sit with at lunch', 'what if I miss the bus?', 'what if I cant do the school work'.

If your child is anxious about school, it can helpful to start to prepare for the return to school a week or two* before school starts. Some suggestions are as follows:

A week before school starts:-

  • Start getting into the school routine by waking up early, eating breakfast and going to bed at regular times, explaining to your child(ren) that the whole family needs to adjust to the new schedule
  • Create a list of items needed to get for school such as pencil case etc and go on a shopping trip together.
  • Ask your child to help you plan the first weeks lunches
  • Teach and practice coping skills by role modelling behaviours, when you see they are becoming anxious, engage in breathing exercises together such as; taking three big breaths in and out or perhaps use one of these FREE breathing exercise.
  • Respond to your child, by acknowledging their feeling AND setting the boundary such as:  'I can see that going to school is making you feel scared but you still have to go, tell me what you're worried about so that we can talk it through'
  • Incorporate mindfulness/relaxation activities at night, to help calm and relax the body and brain (see my blog for more ideas).
  • Help your child to develop skills to problem solve, what it is they could do for example; if they didn't know where their classroom was at school, they could ask another child or teacher on duty, problem solving can help children to feel more empowered and in control of their experiences.

A couple of days prior to school starting:

  • Do the school run a few times, whether its walking, driving or taking the bus. For children who are taking the school bus, it may be helpful to draw a little map of the bus route, including how long it takes to get to school.
  • Walk around the school grounds if you can, to familarise the child with the area.
  • Have your child try on their school uniform, to get used to the way it feels, including hat/ties etc.
  • The night before school, help your child to pack their school bag and set out their school uniform.
  • Place a reassuring note in a child’s lunchbox, this can help ease separation anxiety (see my  blog re: separation anxiety for more ideas)

The first day of school: 

  • Inform the school/teacher of your child's concerns, so that they are aware of this. 
  • Be mindful of your own feelings about sending your anxious child to school and be sure to keep these in check, take some deep breaths, to calm yourself or speak to another adult about your own concerns.
  • Have your child go to school with a friend, or meet them at the school gate, for the first couple of days.
  • Use positive reinforcement and be sure to praise and reward your child for brave behaviour

*TIP If your child is highly anxious, starting a routine 1-2 weeks out from school might be too much time, therefore adjusting the timeframe to suit your child's needs, such as 3-4 days prior to school may be more appropriate.

If you have significant concerns about your child anxiety and well-being, be sure to contact a health professional, who can provide them with additional support, during this time.

Refs: Anxiety BC (2007-2017) Helping your child cope with back to school anxiety;  K.Young (2015) Dealing with School Anxiety.

 

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6 tips to help reduce sibling competitivenss...

If you have siblings, you may well reflect on your own childhood and recall times where you felt great injustice; perhaps about having to always do 'baby things' because of your younger sibling(s), or living in constant fear of missing out.  Maybe even now as an adult you still notice that subtle rise of competitiveness between you?!. 

Competitiveness between siblings is not uncommon, however constant bickering, comparison and competition for your attention can be exhausting!  Here is a great little article with 6 handy parenting tips, that may ease some of that tension.

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Structured activities vs free play?!...

It can be difficult for parents to strike the balance between ensuring your children are connected to extracurricular activities outside of school, to encourage social interaction, increased self- esteem and pursue interests, whilst also having some much needed down time.

This article shares an interesting perspective, as to whether as a society, our lives have become so busy and structured, that we are unintentionally forgetting that children also need downtime and an opportunity to just be and engage in free play.

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Separation and Divorce...

Family separation and divorce can be an extremely complex and challenging time for everyone involved.  Research shows that children can intrinsically feel that their parents separation or divorce is in someway their fault, it is therefore important that children are reassured that they are loved and the the family's changing dynamic is not their fault.

Following is a list of books and resources, that might be useful in helping to support your child, when navigating through this challenging time.

Recommended for children 3-7 years

Living with Mum and Living with Dad - by Melanie Walsh (2012) - a colourful picture book, with interactive lift pages which are ideal for younger children

Two Homes- by Claire Masurel (2003) - a simple book that looks at the positive aspects of having two homes.

Recommended for children 5-8 years

Mum and Dad Glue- by Kes Gray (2009) - written from the child's perspective, acknowledges child's feelings through family change, with a future focus.

The Invisible String - by Patrica Karst (2000) - helpful book to support separation anxiety

Recommended for children 4-11 years

Kids & Divorce App (2015). FREE App, available to download - an fun, interactive parent guided app, that discusses stages and transition of family change.

Just the Way We Are - by Jessica Shirvington (2015)- celebrates the diversity of family structures. 

Recommended for children 8-12years

When my Parents Forgot How to Be Friends - by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos (2005) - helps to acknowledge some of the feelings/concerns experienced during transition.

TIP: it is recommended that parents read through all resources, prior to reading them to your child, to ensure the book is both age and context appropriate .

 

 

 

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Confused by the fidget spinner craze?!...

Fidget spinners have become the latest craze for school aged children, right across Australia. For some children these are a fun toy, that provide hours of entertainment and distraction, which has resulted in many schools having to ban these from the classrooms and the playground. 

For other children however fidget toys such as stress balls, putty, stretchy items, fidget spinners can help with sensory processing, focus and attention and support emotional regulation.

So how do you know the difference?!? Occupational Therapist Kerri Wilmot explains the difference between a fidget item and a toy here

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Relaxation apps for all ages...

There thousands of incredible apps and websites, that can help with distraction, encourage learning, strategic thinking, increase coping skills and provide entertainment.  When life becomes busy and stressful, it can sometimes be difficult to settle our body and quieten our minds, particularly in preparation for rest.  

Following is a small selection of apps and sites that you may find useful, to encourage relaxation and a sense of calm, helping to settle the mind and body, at the end of a busy day.

Smiling Mind

Relax Melodies (free and paid versions available)

Mindful Kids (YouTube Channel) - Best relax Music for Children Quiet Time

Calm (Free)

Stop, Breathe & Think (meditation app)

If you've used any of these before or have other apps you've found useful, it would be great to hear from you.

Breathing exercises for your child...

Research has shown that taking a few deep breaths can help to calm the nervous system and make us feel more centred and relaxed.

Children are often introduced to a range of breathing techniques, to help support them with anxiety and at time of stress. It can be helpful for children to have a visual tool, to help them to remember some of the different types of breathing exercises they can do. 

The team at Childhood 101 have created a FREE breathing exercise card , that can be printed off, for your child to keep in their workbook at school, or on their bedroom wall at home.