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How to calm anxiety in children over the holiday season

For children, January is often only associated with one thing …...going back to school. In September there is excitement to return to school and see your friends. After Spring the sun is out and there is a ‘feel good’ factor around. But not in January. Its dark, its gloomy and it's back to school.

Christmas songs are playing on the radio. The lights are on and the holiday season is well and truly upon us. But after the seemingly never ending build up, the holiday season will be over as quickly as you can pull a cracker and it will be time to take down the lights and the tree as December becomes January.

January. The acclaimed most depressing month of the year. The month which has the third Monday that falls in it named ‘Blue Monday’. For adults it’s typically the week before pay day, (after a long wait from early December pay). The weather is dark, wet and gloomy,  the holiday spirit is a thing of the past. We have also most probably broken our resolutions already.


For children, January is often only associated with one thing ……going back to school. In September there is excitement to return to school and see your friends. After Spring the sun is out and there is a ‘feel good’ factor around. 

But not in January. Its dark, its gloomy and it’s back to school.

In January, for both children and adults, more glasses are half empty as opposed to half full. Dealing with your own struggles and anxiety is hard enough, but as a parent or teacher trying to understand and communicate effectively with a child who has anxiety is a whole different ball game. Children, of course, don’t fully understand what anxiety is, why they feel what they feel and how to express these feelings. If you have ever felt as though everything you are trying isn’t working then why not try some of the below.

Like adults, every child is different. The idea of this post is to give you the tools to choose from. These will most likely not work immediately. Breaking down anxiety takes time. If you are expecting to do any of the below and see miraculous  instant results you will inevitably be left feeling disappointed. We recommend trying any of the below at least three times and then assessing the impact before deciding to continue or try something else. IMPORTANT – if you feel that your child needs professional help then do not delay in calling for help. The contact numbers are at the bottom of this post.

Here are some top tips to try with an anxious child:

Time to talk
Create a time of the day where you can go, for 5 – 10 minutes,  to the same place with your child. Allow your child to either tell you, write down or express any negative feelings that they may have. Once they have expressed them you keep hold of them, discuss them if needed and go on to do another activity to take their mind off the worries. By setting a dedicated time your child knows that each day there will be a time to express themselves so they don’t feel they need to bottle anything up.

The Power Pose
Ask your child to stand with their feet flat on the ground. Imagine they are plugging their feet into the ground and using the energy from the ground stand like a superhero. Ask them to puff their chests out and strike a pose that makes them feel amazing. Ask them to imagine the power pose deflected anything that may worry them.
To see the Power Pose and many more tools click here

Get Active
Raising the heart rate releases endorphins which makes us feel great about ourselves. No need to go outside or get changed, there are a number of exercises you can do on the spot. To see more click here

True or False
Ask your child to write down or express their feelings via a drawing or painting. Ask open ended, non judgemental questions to determine where this thought has come from. For example if your child is worried that no one would want to sit with them in class you can ask ‘what makes you think that’. Often when a child explains their rationale behind a worry they (and you) will realise that the problem is greater than in their head than in reality. If you are concerned  by their answers then you should speak with their teacher or an SLT member of the school.

Push and Breathe
Mix breathing and physical exercises to engage both the body and mind in trying to deal with stress.
Start by doing 10 – 20 seconds of deep breathing, trying hard to inhale and exhale as much oxygen as possible. After the time stand against a wall or similar and try to push the wall with all of your strength for 10 – 20 seconds (remembering to breathe as you do this). Repeat x3.
You can see more about breathing exercises by clicking here

The Worry Toy
Give your child a toy or teddy (depending on age). Ask your child to imagine the worry toy is feeling what they are feeling and you have to try and make them feel better. Note how your child explains the worry (from the toys POV) and see how your child supports the toy. Can you mirror this support to your child?

The power of the ear
Ask your child to take a finger and starting at the point of the ear that connects the ear to the head run your finger up and down to the bottom of the lobe. Repeat x5 times and then squeeze the lobe with your thumb at the back and index finger at the front. Hold for 5 seconds on both ears.

Go for a walk outside
Fresh air and being on the outside going for a walk can allow us to collect our thoughts and calm us down.

Hug it out
Hugging, or physical contact, reduces the hormone that increases stress. Ask your child to wrap themselves up in their body to create a warm and supportive feel.

Express + Bin
Have your child express their worry, either by writing it down, drawing, colouring or painting something that represents the worry. Then explain that they are going to scrunch the worry up and throw it away. Try this at the start and end of the day. You can then begin to see patterns in worries and when they are formed.

 

 

We would love to hear how you got on. To let us know or for more practical ways of calming anxiety in children and allowing them to be more mindful you can sign up to Fitter Future by clicking here

If you are concerned about the emotional wellbeing or mental state of a child you can call:

Childline on 0800 1111
The Mix on 0808 808 4994
Young Minds on 0808 802 5544
Mind on 0300 123 3393

 

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