As adults we have days when we are anxious and having it tough. Many of us have developed the resources to pull us through. So what can we do as parents when our children start to show the same symptoms of unhappiness and anxiety? As I write this, children around the country are about to return to school. It is an anxious time for them and their parents. There have been many recent newspaper reports about bullying and cyberbullying. Anxiety problems are becoming increasingly common in children, with 24% of 5 to 14 year old children showing symptoms.
The medical model of pills and treatment is not often appropriate nor realistically achievable. So what can you do as a parent? A search of the web will reveal some really interesting programes available to download. We use Mindfulness and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) The NHS defines CBT : ‘Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. CBT cannot remove your problems, but can help you manage them in a more positive way. It encourages you to examine how your actions can affect how you think and feel. Talking and changing your behaviour can change how you think (cognitive) and what you do (behaviour). This can make you feel better about life.’ Also the NHS says: ‘CBT has been shown to be particularly helpful at tackling problems such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and drug misuse.’
We work with parents (and occasionally children) to help them to challenge anxious thoughts, face their fears and plan for the future. A recent report indicated that children, whose parents had full training were twice as likely to show reduced levels of anxiety, when compared with traditional pill/ counselling treatment. A Millenium Cohort Study invloving 6,500, 7 year old children who had a very sedentary lifestyle concluded that they experienced higher levels of emotional stress, anxiety and depression than those children who were more active. There appears to be a correlation between well- being and physical activity. Anxiety is a normal part of childhood and we have all gone through tough times, which tend to be temporary and harmless. However children who suffer anxiety disorder tend to experience fear, nervousness, shyness, avoidance, sleeplessness, clinginess and emotional numbing.
We all have the gift of creating absolutely anything. There’s no limit to what we can do or be.
So what can you do? Pay attention to their feelings. Stay calm when the child becomes anxious. Practise breathing and relaxation techniques. Never punish mistakes or lack of progress. Avoid belittling the child when he/ she fails to take part in an event or holds back. Modify your expections and plan for difficult times. (e.g. take more time to get your child to school). Be aware of some of the stresses that your child may experience, e.g.at school or on social media sites.
There is no doubt that Mindfulness practice can help children to become calmer and moe focused. It is a natural process that can be practised by children from a young age. Even before a child learns language, they can see things as they are. All actions are spontaneous. They laugh, cry and sleep. They can instantly let go of the immediate past and move on.
As the child grows and develops he/ she can lose the sense of focused calm and their mind may lack the attention to ‘stay with it’. This is where mindfulness exercises can give the child relief from an over active mind. This is where we can help either the child directly or teach the skills to the parents. We have a course on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which is validated through the Mindfulness Association as well as individual sessions for the parent or child.
Give us a call for more detail and information.