Archives for April 13, 2016

Managing Stress and Anxiety in Children

crayonartFamilies in Georgia are preparing for the Georgia Milestones tests to begin tomorrow. Children can get anxious about tests and many other things.

Children and adults have anxiety and stress in many circumstances. Working on coping skills can help us all learn to manage our stress, worry and anxiety when it occurs.

Our school recently had a seminar from Beyond Today Counseling Center. The counselor shared an interesting presentation “Stress and Anxiety Management for Children” about how our brains work, how children process things at their brains develop and much more.

Our school counselors also posted some test taking tips on our school website. I hope by sharing these tips that they will help as we help our children grow and thrive in school and in their lives.

This post is informational for helpful purposes – if any anxiety or stress causes problems that interrupt your family’s daily lifestyles, then look into getting professional help.

People have 3 responses when anxious (fight, flight or freeze):

  • Fight
  • Flight – these both increase
  • Freeze (when the prefrontal cortex shuts off, it takes about 3 days for our rational minds to come back) – that deep fog you feel when going through a stressful time.

Symptoms of Anxiety:

  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Jitteryness
  • Separation anxiety
  • Performance anxiety

There are many causes of anxiety such as genetic predispositions, autoimmune disease, traumatic experience or loss.

Recommended Reading Material: The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World by Katie Hurley.

  • Help the child realize what’s going on inside. Name it – develop an emotional language. What are you feeling? Where are you feeling it? Build awareness of feelings and where they are affected.
  • Trigger tracker – keep track of triggers. What events and thoughts are contributing to your feelings? Are there patterns?
  • Coping chart – ideas how to cope. Coloring, play kickball are example of things kids can do when they feel stress or anxiety.

Increasing patience can increase focus.

Practice delayed gratification.

  • Take breaks from stimuli such as technological devices.
  • Observation skills – go outside and watch the birds, listen to nature.
  • Breathing to relax.
  • Use your Imagination – use your imagination to draw a picture, write a story, etc.

What You Can Do To Help

  • Focused attention – patient, empathetic.
  • Teach him/her emotional language.
  • Don’t remedy anxious thoughts with adult logic.
  • Encourage them to be creative – come up with strategies and solutions.
  • Provide comfort and make sure home is a safe haven for thoughts & feelings to be expressed.
  • Provide structure around homework, bedtime, nutrition and sleep. Kids ages 7-12 need 10-11 hours a night sleep on average.
  • Playtime is important, exercise helps a lot. Walk, run, swim, biking – bilateral movement helps minimize anxiety.
  • Practice relaxation – breathing, grounding (stomp feet), meditation & visualization, muscle relaxation (squeeze fists and toes, work your way up, focus on each muscle group – squeeze & release.)
  • Go outside in nature. Take a nature walk. Breathe fresh air. Look at the clouds in the sky – what shapes do they look like? Bird watch. Listen to the sounds.

Fitness Hacks – Yoga for Your Brain – series of videos online to exercise your brain!

Visit Beyond Counseling for the entire presentation.

I hope this helps! I have two stressed students tonight and we are trying to relax, get a good night’s sleep, pick out clothes tonight, have a healthy breakfast in the morning.

We have also had success with this workbook: What to Do When You Worry Too Much – A Kids’ Guide to Overcoming Anxiety.

Good luck to all! And be sure to let your kids know that they are so much more than a test score!!!!!

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