These feelings motivate children to act – to perform well and avoid danger.
For some children, feelings of anxiety come more easily, often and grows so big. This anxiety becomes a roadblock to learning, play, sleep and enjoyment. When the natural survival response is to fight – flight – freeze children react in different ways if they believe they are in danger.
Crying, yelling, full blown temper tantrums.
Throwing and destroying things.
Running out of the classroom.
Constantly getting up from their seat.
Fidgeting and restlessness.
Looking out the window in class.
Shutting down and not responding or paying attention.
Being away from parents.
Being away from home.
Getting in trouble.
Imagine that anxiety is a wave in the ocean that gradually rises, reaches a peak and then levels out and comes back down as it washes back into the shore.
When children are feeling calm and happy, they are in the green zone of the wave.
As their feelings become more and more intense, they enter the yellow zone, before their feelings build and build inside them, like the peak of the wave, the red zone.
When children are in the red zone, their alarm system is on. Their brains are reacting as if they are in danger (fight – flight – freeze). This means that reasoning and problem solving with children who are in the red zone is really hard work and is often not successful.
As parents, we can help kids surf big and small waves of their feelings back to calm shores rather than it washing over them.
We can give you the tools to help calm children’s brains to a level where they can think more clearly.
Anxiety overwhelms children’s brains and bodies with feelings of fear, shame, embarrassment, guilt, worry, sadness.
Research has found that children with a parent who coached their children with their feelings had a positive impact on their behaviour, social relationships, health and academic performance.
With practice, children get better at dealing with their feelings on their own with the help of an emotion coach!
Three EAR Emotion coaching tips
1. Engage. Tune in with your full attention by un-plugging from other distractions. Connect by staying physically close.
2. Acknowledge and accept. Resist the temptation to say “stop or don’t worry,” and avoid judgments.
3. Respond by naming it. Labeling the emotion (fear, worry, embarrassment) helps tame the feeling and calm the brain.
Research shows that even children can be taught mindfulness skills at a young age.
Mindfulness can improve your child’s attention skills and help them be more aware of their bodies. We can be creative and use tools like pictures, movement, food and objects to help them focus their attention. Try this Mindfulness Starfish.
We’re going into the ocean, take a deep breath!
Show me your starfish! Spread your fingers out like a starfish on one hand.
Take your finger from the other hand and trace around your starfish.
Keep going, tracing around your starfish, until you feel calm and relaxed.
- Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish provides simple, easy to follow tools in communicating with children that engages their co-operation and helps them with their emotions. This book offers practical ways we can respond to challenging child behaviours, that build relationships whilst respecting both the needs of children and parents.
When I was in undergraduate psychology, I found an ad for an Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) therapist for young children and infants with autism.
With a plethora of mobile devices, apps and social media, we are constantly pulled to plug into whatever is interesting, available and convenient.