To my dear readers ,
It is the 21st of September – and today is the Spring Equinox for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere in Aotearoa -and today’s is also celebrated as the International Day of Peace.
So today I choose to write on the topic of anxiety- The experience of anxiety can be unsafe. The intention is to support adults and whanau/ parents of tamariki / children who experience anxiety from a very young age. It is about making a shift towards acceptance of this feeling called anxiety and allowing space for safety , peace and calm.
Dan Siegel – “When we begin to know ourselves in an open and self-supportive way, we take the first step t encourage our children to know themselves”
The topic of anxiety is close to my heart–as a child I vividly remember feeling anxious – I sensed a certain discomfort – it was about things going beyond my control or a funny feeling in my stomach along with a raised heartbeat. I felt it more at school than at home – and in the mahi /work that I do today -I come across similar stories where children/ tamariki feel unsure – helpless – scared – these feelings manifest as avoidance or non-compliance or varying levels of desperation.
I was a bright student and also had a loving family. Despite all of this – I experienced this uncomfortable feeling –and what helped me through my pathway was my training in my chosen field , the books that I have read and the affirming messages that I got from myriads of warm caring and kind hearted humans.
“Relationships are the agents of change and the most powerful therapy is human love” Bruce D Perry
Truth: Anxiety is a universal human emotion – it is about feeling unsure -the feeling of anxiety stems from the brainstem the lowest part of our brain or the primitive brain. We experience anxiety when the stem of the brain
- Recognises an element of the unknown or the unpredictable or
- The memory of an event that has caused discomfort
Educating our children about feelings is an inherent part of emotional literacy. There maybe heaps of variables that impacts on anxiety- it can be genetics or environmental or even chemical imbalance or something else ; however there is no one fit rule as to who experiences anxiety and who does not…
Things that help on the way….. teach children from a young change that anxiety is a certain feeling.
What is important is – sit with them and talk to them using a kind voice – when they are in the best of spirits – so when they are not feeling anxious.
- Teach them young that it is okay to feel that way
- Encourage children to name the feelings- giving the feeling a name – labelling it allows for some control.
- Brainstorm ideas – what makes us feel safe. Brain helps us to think – feel and act- but the core purpose of the brain is relational – so we thrive when we feel valued -connected and safe.
- Educate children about the brain – there are plenty of story books and picture books that talk about the brain (also refer to my writing on brain works too 😊
- Tell them that the brain stem needs to feel safe and breathing helps us the brainstem to feel safe.
- Talk to them that the brain has four layers – and each layer has its own function
- Convey – when we feel sad or angry or scared the brain stem picks up signals and gives out clouds – angry clouds or sad clouds or fearful clouds. All of the clouds go up and sit on the thinking spot and does not allow us to think.
- Discuss learning to breathe helps with sending the clouds away so we can think bright and right and also feel safe.
- Affirm that the bottom part of the brain is the primitive brain –does all the feeling and the top part of the brain does all the thinking –The thinking brain flourishes and we can do wonders when our primitive brain feels safe and well
- Chat about engaging in an activity that we enjoy – enriches & replenishes brain growth – it helps with feeling calm and centred. Repetitive work or play that is calming and settling – allows for brain health and brain growth – it can be music or drawing or any creative play
- Discuss – belonging and feeling connected allows for safety
- Enrich children with a list of comforting ideas – it can be
- Holding on to something that feels comforting (a teddy or a familiar book/ object)
- Encouraging them to use breathing
- Counting to ten
- Listening to a story or a song that makes them calm
- Moving to a beat – learning a dance or engaging in exercise brings calm
- Incorporating structure and routine
- Giving plenty of positive feedback
- Using gentle kind and affirming words
- Inculcating love for nature
- Allowing them to talk about their own strengths
- Having Pets – especially dogs have a transformative effect on those experiencing any level of discomfort
- Facilitating repetitive nurturing experiences that are calming and enriching
- All of the aforesaid invites peace , calm – betterment and resilience.
- What the child is able to do in collaboration today , he will be able to do independently tomorrow – Lev Vygotsky
With much aroha ,