Updated: Jan 28, 2020
The kids have just had 6 weeks of holidays, they are out of routine, tired or emotional and feeling anxious about starting back at school. Sound familiar?
Anxiety is completely normal when we feel "uncertain" about something. What will my class be like? Will my teacher like me? Will I have friends, Will the work be harder now I am in a higher year level? All the questions that could be running through your child's mind this week.
Here are some tools I have used to help some of my clients:
1. Teach your child about their Nervous System, in particular the "Amygdala" and how it is like a 'Jumpy super hero'. It sends adrenaline and cortisol through your body to prepare to "fight or flight" when dangerous. Sometimes it mistakes real dangers or threats with things that are not really dangerous. So how can we help it to chill out? And remain calm? Our breath!! Practise deep belly breathing (diaphragmatic breath). Model this and do it with them, I like to make it fun and visual by placing a soft toy on their bellies and encouraging them to watch the toy rise and fall as they breathe in and out. Teach them to breathe more effectively when they are in a calm state not when they are in a heightened state, as the new information and tools won't get stored in the Hippocampus (memory) otherwise.
2. Have a discussion with them about how uncertainty can actually be opportunities for incredible experiences and how sometimes our bodies can have the same response when we are nervous (anxious) or excited. Create a list of all the positive things that could happen for them this year. After all what we focus on, our brain seeks to find by using it's Reticular Activation System. Put the list somewhere they can see daily.
3. Help your child to recall a time they felt anxious about something in the past that actually turned out to be totally fine or even amazing (a reassurance strategy). It's also a good opportunity to give examples of when you have felt anxious and moved beyond it to achieve something great. The concept of "FEAR - False Evidence Appearing Real" is great one to teach kids.
4. Create positive anchors for your children to keep that in a positive state. Start the day with the family practising gratitude together whilst eating a healthy nourishing breakfast, create positive affirmations and pop reminders of them in their lunch boxes, gift them a calming and grounding essential oil in a roller bottle, maybe they have a favourite soft toy to keep in their bag, or for the older ones a photo of a favourite 'happy' memory on their phone or iPad. Keeping your children anchored to a positive state through their senses will help them to stay calm and focused.
5. Teach them "Problem Solving" skills and encourage a "Growth Mindset". Model how you solve challenges that you are face at work. Name the problem, accept it, acknowledge how it makes you feel. Switch off the 'Jumpy Super Hero' by taking some deep breaths. Create a list of solutions for different scenarios and a list of who they can go to for help, if they get "stuck".
6. Take some time to sit with your child and create their "IDEAL" day. List all the amazing exciting things that they can dream up to happen in their school day. Ask them to lie down and create a guided meditation or visualisation for them to imagine in their mind whilst you read all of this back to them. Focus on getting your children to go out to 15 minutes after this day has finished and notice how they are feeling. Get them to really feel this feeling in their heart and body and expand these feelings. If we can create it in our mind, our mind doesn't actually know the difference between whether it is really happening or not and we have the same body response. We then go to seek what is familiar to us, right?
7. Most importantly, managing your own state! As parents and teachers, we can get equally anxious and/or nervous about the return to school week. Our environment is everything. If the adults around kids are feeling 'chaotic', 'rushed' or 'anxious' guess how the kids will also feel? So take time to fill your cup and ground your energy as much as you can, a walk, meditation, yoga, time outdoors or maybe its just 10 deep belly breaths before you get out of bed.
If your child is struggling with anxiety I work one to one online and in person with kids, using EFT - Emotional Freedom Technique, NLP - Neurolinguistic Programming and Coaching techniques to help children to let go of anxiety and learn all the tools they need to feel calm, happy and focused in their lives!
Happy 2020 School Year!!