Happy 2018 – Day 53 – Can you help me, to help children fight anxiety?

Right folks. Today, I need your help! 

My educational business Skills with Frills is now officially up and running. My whole ‘thing’ is skill-based learning’ primarily ‘life skills’ with a good focus on wellbeing. I go into primary and secondary schools, spending the day with kids – usually aged between 8-12 (though this isn’t set in stone.) My signature workshop day, Wellbeing Warriors, covers topics like ‘Growth Mindset’; kindness; Fight; Flight and Freeze; emotional resilience; mindfulness; taking risks; gratitude and responsibility.

As an anxiety sufferer myself, I’ve been in the fortunate position that I can look back to my own childhood including thoughts and experiences from school, and consider: what would it have helped me to know? For me, this was knowing that the physical symptoms of anxiety that I was feeling were relatively normal. It would have helped me so much to know that my racing heart, sweaty palms, shaking hands and chin etc. just meant that my body sensed a threat, and needed re-training, rather than what I actually thought: that there was something terribly wrong with me, medically/physically/mentally, because I was experiencing things that no normal person would in ‘normal’ social situations.

sad boy.jpeg

The more I delve into the teaching of wellbeing; the more committed and passionate I become. What grabs me more that anything is the notion that it’s never too early to begin teaching wellbeing and ‘self-help’ to children. Considering the myriad of pressures and anxieties that our young people face, at home as well as at school, it’s just so important that we get wellbeing on the curriculum. Sadly, there isn’t an age cap on life’s calamities – bad things happen and often young children find themselves mixed up in this. Where their lives escape personal tragedy, technology now provides them the means to accidentally or purposely see and experience horrors way beyond their years of understanding. Therefore, it’s essential that we teach strategies for good mental health in our schools. Children need support in making good choices in the way they think, feel and act.

Where we ignore this, we’re just waiting for children with low self-esteem and worries to become adults with mental health problems. 

Feedback from wellbeing workshops has been fantastic so far, but this is just the beginning. I’m currently planning days based on emotional fitness/resilience, including a mix of CBT techniques. I thought this would be a good opportunity to ask for feedback from the blogging community, particularly as I know this includes a lot of people who have battled their own mental health demons. While I’ve used my own experience of anxiety to pin-point what children might find useful, I realise that often people’s struggles and methods of coping are different, and personal to them.

All that I ask is a sentence or two responding to the following question:
What would it have helped YOU to learn, know, explore or practise in school, that would have helped you handle the ups and downs of life, both as a child and as an adult? What knowledge and skills, if covered in school, might have allowed you to make better choices when facing life’s hurdles; to think and feel and react in a ‘better way’; to cope with negativity, poor self-esteem and poor thinking habits, or even prevent them before they happened?

The information will go to great use, in support children’s mental health, and clearly there’s going to be some fantastic karma attached to this!

Thanks so much for this one!

Jo x

7 Comments

  1. I wish I could have known that as an adult I would carry all the memories and wishes of my childhood with me; that as an adult I would strive to make those wishes happen and those memories work for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Nicole. Really like this angle… a lot of kids I think have decided by the time they’re 18 that what they wanted to be was silly/unrealistic/too hard or even impossible. There is so much joy and fulfilment when you decide as an adult to unleash the inner child and hope again!

      Like

  2. My son has severe anxiety to the point of hospitalization. He hasn’t been in school in months, for a trait he’s had his entire life and we never knew. Now that we’ve identified anxiety as the root of his behavior we educate ourselves on it everyday. I feel we have a breakthrough and hope it helps answer your questions.

    As a prerequisite to my response, I just want to say that we’ve been to several top hospitals, boards, CBT programs, doctors and therapists over the past few years. Nothing has worked. Not even a little. We’ve received an education about the inner workings of anxiety but nothing worked for our son. We’ve been through every phase of discipline including empathy, hugs, yelling, screaming, grounding, spanking, enabling, spoiling, leveraging and every other aspect of parenting we knew. Nothing changed. No one recognized his symptoms as anxiety until he ended up in the hospital for attempted suicide. Since then, we’ve learned that anxiety and depression are two very different things. His depression was caused by anxiety because of the frustration of not knowing why he is this way.

    Hopefully these answers help:

    1) TED Talks. They work! After being frustrated about the lack of results from CBT, doctors and hospitals, we went beyond google and the internet to learn directly from others who’ve struggled with anxiety. I was specifically looking for people who could demonstrate results. This is not a commercial for Ted Talks, but there are many different speakers by people of all ages, including high school students who speak about how they manage their anxiety. It works! (Speaking with people in person creates anxiety – catch 22)

    2) This answer has two parts. Part 1 is to Break the habit cycle. Part 2 is the buddy system.

    Break the habit cycle. Every habit you have — good or bad — follows the same 3–step pattern.

    -Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
    -Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)
    -Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)

    For my son, the reminder (trigger) was having to go to any type of even such as school, reunions, the beach – anything planned. The routine (action) was the yelling, kicking screaming to get him out the door and the reward (benefit, negative in our case) was him staying at home with one of us where he felt safe and secure.

    By taking out any one of the 3 R’s, we experienced immediate change. Although we struggle on a regular basis because the reminders, routines and rewards become stale, he doesn’t have depression anymore – depression was caused by the anxiety. Now that we’ve identified it, he’s stopped causing self harm.

    Part 2: The buddy system
    It made a huge difference to find a friend who would call on him stop by and harrass him to come to school and go outside and play. It doesn’t have to be a best friend. Just someone who is consistent and willing to help.

    In conclusion, although he hasn’t been in school since November, we have entered a program where he has in home instruction. We met at the school last week and he went with us on his own – without kicking and screaming. He says he’s ready to go back. We will see. One day at a time…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a truly incredible response. Thank you for this! I’m really interested by what you said about the 3 Rs. My goal really when working with children is to embed learning and strategies with staff and students themselves that help them to prevent anxiety or depression/build emotional resilience. This won’t work for everyone and obviously some need more help than others. Clearly, your son is lucky to have such loving parents. Hope he’s on the up. Definitely one day at a time – it’s all about the small wins!

      Liked by 1 person

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