It is normal to feel anxious time to time. Anxiety is often presented during times of change. For this reason, it is very important to teach young children resilience skills in order to support them overcoming change and then reduce their anxiety levels. In the past articles, we explored wellbeing and routines, which support children in learning resilience skills. In this article, we will explore what tools can you implement to support your young children when they feel anxious. There are different strategies so it may be helpful to try, observe and decide which one work best for your child.
Recognising, Understanding and Labelling, Expressing and Regulating Emotions
RULER is program developed by the University of Yale to help children understand and regulate emotions. When it comes to worry, listen to your child’s concerns, reassure and emphasize with them. Label the emotion and explain how does our body and mind react when we feel worry and anxious to help your child recognising it in the future. It is normal to worry sometimes and there are many ways in which we can deal with worry.
Encourage your child to find solutions. My four years old nephew felt quite worried when he broke his own toy car. He tried several times to fix it and after a few minutes we heard him sobbing. He did not know how to solve the problem but the solution was right before his eyes. ‘If you cannot handle something by yourself, what should you do?’, I asked. Can you help me? he said. We managed to collaborate and fix the problem. However, sometimes children may tend to worry about things that they cannot control. In this case, explain that some issues are outside of our control and when this happens we need to take a break and do something that we enjoy. If it is a problem that they have successfully solved before, remind your child about it! Also, you may teach your child to repeat positive sentences to oneself, such us ‘I can do it!’, ‘When I am worry I can…’
Communication: Worry time
Fiona Forman, co-author of the Waving Well Being programme, suggests to allocate a specific ‘worry time’. It is very important to listen and tackle those worries. However, it is also beneficial to set a 10-15 minutes a day to discuss the issues going on only then. Therefore, if your child is worrying about something, you may ask him/her to wait until the regular period. According to Forman, “this helps the child to compartmentalize their worries to an extent and stop them from spilling over into their entire day”. After the sharing time, try to encourage positive psychology by asking your child about the events of the day that made them feel great, special, proud, loved…
Physical development and mental health
Practicing daily exercises is crucial for child development and mental health. For young children, it is recommendable to play outside at least 40 minutes every day. In recent years, yoga and mindfulness sessions are also strongly recommended. Research shows that there is a positive correlation between regular mindfulness sessions and resilience skills. Therefore, practical breathing exercises can also become a helpful resource when children feel worried.
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