First of all, most children are going to express fear and anxiety at some point and these emotions are very common in childhood.Worries and fears can be quite distracting for the child and this can sometimes lead teachers to think that they have other difficulties such as attention deficit disorders.
If Helena is anxious and not sleeping well, she is most likely going to have some problems with staying on task and behaving well in class. She is also likely to be emotional and over-react in some situations. How can you manage this?
● Some families encourage brave behaviour linked to encouragement and reward. They help the child understand that even though they are feeling anxious or worried, they can overcome these feelings and do what needs to be done:
‘Well done Helena! I’m so happy you were so brave about going into class! Good job!’’
● By communicating your understanding, and encouraging your child to persist and make the effort, you are helping them to change their behaviours and to take more control of how they are feeling.Remember though, that communicating is a skill: It can take a lot of practice!
● By modeling how you manage your own feelings of anxiety, you help Helena to understand that it’s OK to feel worried, but it’s possible to manage these feelings.
‘Hmm, let’s leave a little earlier for school today, then we can see if Sheldon is there to play with?’
● Parents who are openly warm and affectionate often take time to really listen to their child and show patience when there are ‘meltdowns’. They don’t over protect their child and they build in occasions to strengthen resilience and becoming ‘just a little bit braver’...
● Distractions can really help, such as shifting Helena’s attention quietly, firmly and consistently. Some parents like to use shared creative activities such as drawing, play-dough and other activities that can be soothing and creative. Some children really benefit from a short hand/ shoulder massage using aromatherapy, having chosen some calming oils. There are many sources of these products such as Tisserand. They can be great for anxious adults too!
Anxiety, worries, emotional outbursts: they are all part of our lives. By encouraging positive behaviours, communicating through touch, eye-contact and consistent messages, you can work together to solve, or at least contain the anxiety issues.
One last word: I avoid referring to the ‘anxiety monster’ as my experience is that this can make it even worse: Nobody likes taking on a monster!
You may also be interested in reading How Art Nurtures Creative & Successful Students.
Developed for Dadi Mandarin and written by WOI.