We represent safety for children, you their parents and us as caregivers who know and love your children. Our long term relationships with our families fosters a feeling of safety. Know that they are safe with us and trust us to help everyone along the way during tough times for your family and in the world in general. With the high profile of Corona virus in the media, we need to protect our children from these scary messages and take action to ensure they feel safe. We have already shared information about the Corona virus and now feel we need to share information about protecting our children’s emotional wellbeing. This article will give you some solid information on dealing with anxiety, how anxiety effects children and practical strategies help them though an anxious time. Please let us know how we can help your family. We are a family together and together we can help each other in our shared ‘village it takes to raise a child’.
KIDS COLLEGE SPECIALISES IN SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING
Kids College has an overall rating (2019) of exceeding the National Quality Standards and we are rated exceeding, in particular area 5 ’Relationships with children’, and area 6 ‘Collaborative partnerships with families and communities’. One of our areas of expertise is social emotional learning and emotional intelligence. We run a number of programs for children and adults which include:- Be You, 1-2-3 Magic and Emotion coaching, RULER, Kids College staffing team wellbeing, Kimochi, PALS, Talk Less Listen More, Building brains, Connections, Kids Matter, Dunstan baby language and sign language.
WHAT IS THE EFFECT ON OUR CHILDREN?
Children can experience trauma and feel anxious to a myriad of situations. Currently the Corona Virus is a world-wide topic of major concern. The world is such a small place now news can easily and quickly travel to our children, wherever they are. The ripples of this widespread media coverage create a feeling of discomfort for all of us. Our brains are wired to learn from experience whether your own or simply hearing messages. Everyone listening or watching the news has an emotional response to these messages. Emotional experiences – ones that come with fear, helplessness, humiliation, grief, pain – often contain information important to our safety. The amygdala, the part of the brain involved in anxiety, holds these memories and uses the information in them to identify potential danger and steer us away from trouble. Once an emotional memory is stored, it can drive behaviour without us realising.
HOW DO WE KNOW IF OUR CHILDREN ARE FEELING ANXIOUS?
Anxiety can show itself as avoidance, fear of separation, lots of ‘what ifs’ (‘because if I have the information, I might be able to control what happens’), or trouble sleeping (an anxious brain likes to get busy when things are quiet). Physical symptoms might include a sick tummy, nausea, headaches, sore muscles, or butterflies. Children might also show increased anxiety around bedtime. You might also see increased fears about things from a fantasy world.
HAS YOUR CHILD HAD A MELT DOWN?
When anxious feelings can’t be pushed down any longer, they might come out as a big reaction to the wrong target or to something that seems fairly benign. It could be that they are dealing with some tough feelings and are more on edge than usual. Be aware that some melt downs might need a big hug and some reassurance and might not be just your two-year-old being a two-year-old.
WHAT IS BEHIND YOUR CHILD’S ANXIETY AND POSSIBLY YOURS TOO
What is behind a child’s anxiety and how can I help? What is behind your child’s anxiety and possibly your anxiety too.
- Anger comes from the flight or fright reaction. Think of when you have got a fright and felt a burst of anger, like when you are cut off in traffic. Try to look past the child’s anger and understand the anxious feelings that have fed the anger.
- Difficulty sleeping can be symptomatic of anxiety. We all struggle to calm our minds when we are worried. Bedtime is a busy time in any household. Try to take a few moments to soothe frayed nerves and create an atmosphere of safety for your child. The bedtime story read with warmth and love, snuggling with a comfort item and soft soothing sounds all set the tone. Bedtime can be a good time to pack away any worries by asking your child to tell their worries to you. You will take that worry from the child and keep it with you. Imagine a ball made out of that worry and get the child to pretend to pass that ball to you. You can take care of that worry for them leaving them peaceful enough to sleep. Imagining a wonderful world of love imagery settles a worried mind.
- Defiance can be them trying to control a situation when they feel helpless. Think of the simple example when they are trying to do something for themselves, but they struggle to complete it. Compromise can be helpful. Let the child have control over a little element helps them feel safe. You could let them choose the bath toys at bath time or a special towel, maybe their favourite superhero towel to dry off on. There are very few occ occasions where children have the power to make their own decisions, it must be frustrating for them and then overwhelming when they do get to make choices.
- Chandeliering is when something sparks a response out of nowhere. Often children are suppressing anxious feelings. We all have the tendency to vent our feelings. Allow the child the freedom to vent and let out those trapped feelings in a safe space. After the vent they may feel more able to deal with situations.
- Lack of focus can be a result of children with a lot on their minds. Daydreaming and dwelling on anxious feelings can distract us. We often expect children to jump to our every word. Remember that their minds are busy doing what they are doing and it can take a bit to refocus the child into the room to listen to your requests. If you were busy on the computer deep in thought and I came into the rooms and instantly expected you to focus on me and do what I say, you would be slow to respond and probably grumpy too.
6. Avoidance and feelings of dread can lead to anxiety. Think of how we as adults procrastinate a task we are worried to start or feel overwhelmed with. Talk to them and ask what might be worrying them. Children are capable of a lot but when a challenge comes along they don’t understand it can lead to anxiety. We moved house when my daughter was two and she struggled to understand what would happen. We had to explain that the furniture, toys and people came with to the new house but the garden, walls and cupboards stayed there.
7. Negativity comes up when children dwell on negative thoughts. The mind is a powerful tool and if you think negative thoughts constantly we get stuck in a negative spiral feeling overwhelmed. Try to reframe thoughts in a more positive light. If they have worries about an issue point out the good aspects. We can all feel negative when we are worried. Explain how it might feel strange to go to a new school but you will make friends, enjoy the new playground and meet the teacher with the lovely smile.
8. Overplanning can be an attempt to take back control. Breaking up tasks into smaller more manageable tasks can give us a feeling of success. It is okay to split tasks into manageable chunks to allow us the feeling of success along the way to a bigger goal. Toilet training is a good example. The process of going to the toilet is actually quite a lot when you really think about it. Feeling the need, getting to the toilet on time, pulling down clothing, sitting, using the toilet, getting off, wiping clean, pulling on clothes, flush toilet and then the process of washing hands. We all can benefit from celebrating the little successes along the way.
HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD THROUGH AN ANXIOUS TIME
How to help your child though an anxious time whether they are displaying anxious signs or not. Good old-fashioned advice for anyone feeling a bit on edge or emotional.
- A way to support them is to make a safe space for the feelings and words to come out. It’s important not to push them to talk though. It’s about laying the communication path in case they want to. Just try to give them the opportunity to talk to you about anything, Don’t push for details that make sense to you. Children would come out with stories and play narratives that make sense to them, simply let them have that. You child might want to deal with dragons or dinosaurs. Roll with it.
- Limit their exposure to stories or reports of the trauma. Media coverage of world trauma can create emotional ‘memories’ that drive anxiety. Be careful of having the radio or tv on in the background. They hear and see more than we realise. Even if they don’t necessarily understand the vocab, they sure do understand the tense atmosphere, music and tone of alarmist news reports.
- We’re wired to give more power to negative information than to positive. Whenever you can, give them positive stories. This will help to dilute the salience of the frightening ones. Tell them about heroes and the stories of kindness and compassion. Show them how much the world comes together and supports each other. Read them any story that has a positive message, superhero stories of any sort help us all children and adults to feel safe. This is permission to watch the Avengers movies for you as adults.
- But be mindful of their age, and what they already know. Avoid overly descriptive narratives or vocabulary but know they understand more than we realise. Keep the talk of people do get sick but doctors and nurses help us feel better again.
- Creative outlets for emotions are important. Whether it’s through talking, playing, drawing or writing, anything children do to get the feelings and thoughts out will be a good thing. Children learn, heal and explore through play. Let them create box forts, paint pictures, play in the sandpit, play with pets and do endless colouring in and support them to act out stories and imaginary worlds. You might find you can take comfort in their imaginary play.
- Spending time with pets is known to have therapeutic effects on all of us. Cuddle your fur babies and enjoy their unconditional love.
- Sometimes, they might just need you. Be there for a hug or a snuggle. We don’t often say it, but we do need each other and the healing touch of a hug. Don’t overt think it, just enjoy the cuddles while you can.
- Hearing about emotional experiences can create memories that drive anxious thoughts and behaviour. Thoughts and memories create pathways in the brain, so the more a thought or memory is accessed, the easier it will be to access in the future. Get out those photo albums. Print photos on your phone as a visual reminder of the fun times you have enjoyed together to feed those positive thought patterns.
- Research has found that gratitude can increase our store of positive ‘memories’ and make them more accessible, giving them a greater influence on thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. Model that you are thankful for the blessings we all enjoy.
- Nurture a sense of commonality and empowerment. Encouraging them towards their own acts of kindness will nurture feelings of connection to a kind and loving humanity. Help them make cards and letters for house bound neighbours,
- It’s okay if THEY need a little extra support. Let them cuddle a few minutes more, give them the cuddle toy, be aware they might need their dummies for slightly longer then normal.
- It’s ok if YOU need a little extra support. Grab that coffee, eat a piece of chocolate, go for a walk, take a break from social media, read a book or a magazine, phone and chat to friends, chat to us at Kids College. Get help from organisations like Beyond Blue.
Above all they need you to convey confidence that you believe that they are safe. Make a concerted effort to portray this message no matter if you do have doubts or worries about the world. We live in a wonderful corner of the world with the best medical facilities and teams. We do need to be mindful of this virus but we do need to remember that we ARE going to be ok.
PSYCHOLOGICAL FIRST AID FOR CHILDREN DURING THE WORLD CORONA VIRUS SITUATION
Psychological First Aid for children involves managing a situation that could be traumatic or creates a feeling of anxiety. There are five clear steps we can take to ease our children through this difficult time. Be aware your children are feeling your stress and are taking in the media messages they are exposed to, all without the maturity to make sense of it all. Please look for signs of stress in your children and know they can manifest in different ways.
Ensure safety: Protect them from exposure to harmful media reports.
Keep calm: Speak in a low, calm voice. Tell children they are safe (when this is the case). Answer questions honestly, but without any frightening or graphic details.
Connect with others: Foster a community spirit of being kind to one another.
Encourage self-efficacy: Where possible, encourage children to meet their own needs. Teaching independent hygiene procedures will empower them with strategies to help themselves and fosters a feeling of control.
Have hope: Be mindful of children’s needs and reactions and be responsive to them, some children may require physical touch for reassurance such as hugs, holding hands, or simply being around you. Let them play and remember that simply playing with your child can have a therapeutic effect on both you and them.
For more information visit Kids College Childcare website and look for the article entitled ‘How does Kids College Childcare help children when world traumatic events occur’.
Kids College Philosophy
‘We have stringent hygiene, health, nutrition, maintenance, safety and protection standards. We take our duty of care very seriously and will safeguard the safety and wellbeing of our children at all times as a matter of utmost priority.’
1.2.1 Intentional Teaching. Educators are deliberate, purposeful, and thoughtful in their decisions and actions.
5.1.1 Positive educator to child interactions. Responsive and meaningful interactions build trusting relationships which engage and support each child to feel secure, confident and included.
6.1.3 Families are supported. Current information is available to families about the service and relevant community services and resources to support parenting and family wellbeing.
6.2.3 Community engagement. The service builds relationships and engages with its community.
Kids College family
At Kids College we work each day embedding our values and philosophy into each facet of what we do. We continually improve our practices by critically reflecting and engaging in meaningful relationships with our community and for this we need your support and input.
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With love, laughter and learning from your friends in the
‘village it takes to raise a child’
Teacher Jen and the Kids College Childcare family