Inspiring anxiety health awareness and whole child wellness! Each Wednesday we’ll share activities from one of our pillars -RESET REWIRE RELATE RESTORE REFLECT- to foster your child’s peaceful mind. strong body. empowered spirit! So much to share! Empathy practices, parenting traps, a video, mindful practices and intentions to foster kind inner voices! Thanks for reading, enjoy!
Today, we’re looking at the importance of a RESET, our first pillar. When a child is experiencing anxious emotions, their stress response, or protective armor, must be reset prior to learning how to calm, self-manage, focus and successfully handle challenges.
Quick neurology and physiology lesson! Stress responses release hormones that elevate our heart rate, blood pressure and respiration, blood rushes to our skeletal muscles, our eyes dilate and our prefrontal cortex (area of our brain responsible for guiding our executive functioning… behavior, attention, memory and capacity to learn) GOES OFFLINE. We then have a loss of self-control! A quick glimpse into the importance of RESET prior to a child successfully self-managing, focusing or handling challenges. (Spoiler Alert! Dr. Seigel’s Brain Hand Model video attached below to explain further)
RESET: It Starts With Empathy
Give that empathy statement! Often our first reaction when a child is upset is to “fix it” by reassuring them. “You’re ok.” “It’s ok.” “Everything’s Fine.” “Don’t Worry.” “You’re Alright.” “Don’t Worry.” “Stop, You’re Fine.” Empathy can be given by hugging, holding your child or holding hands, if your child isn’t ready for words.
And yes! You should comfort your child and provide reassurance… once or twice. Excessive reassurance can reward anxious behavior, so bring awareness to your comforting habits. The more you reassure a child, the more she will rely on you for reassurance. Our goal is to have children learn to self soothe and look to self for reassurance and strength.
Understanding the empathy statement: Empathy is to sincerely say to your child, I hear you. I understand how this feels and you are not alone. You aren’t “fixing”. You are listening, acknowledging, relating, connecting, accepting, and validating. You are calming their storm by allowing them space to identify, experience and cope with their emotion. You have balanced their energy!
Your Voice Becomes Their Voice
With each empathy statement, children are guided to tolerate the distress of an emotion and set on a path of emotional wellness and self efficacy. A kind, compassionate and forgiving inner voice is created.
Common Parent Traps
- Denial of Feelings – You’re fine. It’s no big deal. Don’t worry so much
- Philosophical – You have to roll with it, life isn’t easy. Things need to be tough to appreciate the hard times
- Advice – You should have tried, Next time try to, You really need to
- Questions – Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
- Devils Advocate – There are two sides to every story. I can see their point of view. You’re looking at this the wrong way.
- Distraction – Cheer Up! Let’s talk about… How about them Yankees?
We ALL fall into parent traps! –and we can find benefits to each one. Yet none of these responses allow your child to identify, experience and cope with their emotion. This leads to a build up of emotions and their physical responses, and a loss of flexible thinking. This fantastic video from Dr. Seigel helps us explain to kids how our brains are structured and the connection to emotional regulation.
Empathy statements prevent flipped lids! –and calm lids that have been flipped. This RESET of your child’s stress response allows for clarity and grace when the next challenge presents.
Additional Empathy Statement Resources:
RESET: Mindful Activities
Let’s start with, what is mindfulness? “Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally; (or in other words) knowing what you are doing while you are doing it.” -John Kabat-Zinn, MBSR Founder
Remember that, in short, mindfulness is paying attention to whatever is happening in our experience. Noticing. Now. Neutrally.
Mindfulness develops an ability to observe a single thing for an extended period of time. Our minds will naturally wander away. Actually, most of what we are doing each day is training our minds not to stay on one thing. Cell phones, texting, Facebook, Twitter, video/app games all train the mind to move quickly. Because of that, this might feel uncomfortable in the beginning.
With the time it takes to notice a breath or sound, you have created space between the situation and your typical reaction. Normally, the situation and the reaction happen so quickly this space in between isn’t noticed. It’s like they are glued together! Yet, in bringing mindful awareness to a situation, you create enough space to create a thoughtful choice, a calmer choice, a choice with a better outcome.
So, when we practice mindfulness, we are cultivating this ability to observe a situation, or emotion – anger, fear, jealousy, sadness. When you can observe these things, you begin to connect with them and respond to them differently, more purposefully, in the future.
Below are four mindful activities for your home practice! There’s one that should fit for each age rage, but if needed drop us a comment and I can help find one that fits for your family.
1. Belly Breathing
Lay on your back knees bent or straight or sit mindfully (tall, still, relaxed). Notice your breathing and take three soft, slow mindful breaths and feel them in your body. Breathe in and feel air coming into your nose. Breath out and count one.
Breathe in and notice air filling your belly. Does your belly move? Does your chest move? Breathe out all of your air and count two. Breathe in and see the air expanding your stomach, big like a balloon. Breathe out and count three.
Repeat for three more rounds of breathing into your belly. For younger children, place a stuffed animal on their stomach and watch them move up and down!
2. Bubble Breathing
Sit mindfully (tall, still, relaxed) Imagine you are holding a bubble wand. Breathe in deeply, then breathe out as if you are blowing a bubble through a wand. Breathe in again and notice any worries. Imagine what it looks like.
Breathe out and blow your worry through your bubble wand, Imagine it forming a bubble, and as the bubble floats away it pops and disappears. Keep blowing out worries until you feel ready to go on with your day.
3. Anchoring For Teens and Tweens
Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Tongue on the roof of your mouth or wherever it’s comfortable.
Notice and relax your body. Try to notice the shape of your body, its weight. Let yourself relax and become curious about your body seated here—the sensations it experiences, the touch, the connection with the floor or the chair. Relax any areas of tightness or tension. Just breathe.
Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It might be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.
Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things. If this happens, it is not a problem. It’s very natural. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought, then return to your breath.
After a few minutes, once again notice your body, your whole body, seated here. Let yourself relax even more deeply and then offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practice today.
4. Grounding Through Senses
A way to help regulate overwhelming emotions -to tolerate the distress of an emotion until it passes. It’s another way of staying in the present moment, not focusing on the past or future. Use this tool to recenter, bring attention to your surroundings and the current experience.
Start with mindful breathing, then simply notice.
- LOOK: Look around for five things that you can see and say them out loud.
- FEEL: Pay attention to your body and notice four things you can feel and say them out loud.
- LISTEN: Listen for three sounds and say them out loud.
- SMELL: Say two things you can smell and say them out loud.
- TASTE: Give one thing you can taste and say it out loud.
RESET with a kind inner voice
“Your brain is a super computer, and your self talk is the program it will run.” -Jim Quick
Remembering to be kind and compassionate with ourselves creates a RESET, and allows us to move forward with love, gratitude and joy. We are proud and excited to have a professional license with Big Life Journal. Such a wonderful resource! Check out their 10 Uplifting Ways To Go About Your Day – a wonderful reminder for positive self talk and intention.
Offer your child plenty of RESET opportunities throughout the day! Role model empathy, mindfulness practices and kind, compassionate and grateful inner voices to foster these social emotional skills within your child.
Thank you for reading today! We will continue to share resources to inspire anxiety health awareness and youth wellness throughout the week. Sending well wishes to all of you!