Categories
anxiety

Phobias: 2 Routes To Try

Phobias are a form of anxiety disorder. They’re much more than fear. They occur when someone develops an over-the-top fear of a scenario or object. Their level of fear will be disproportionate to the level of danger. The idea of the scenario or object or being exposed to it may cause extreme anxiety, panic or distress. 

Phobias can emerge from frightening events or stressful periods in their lives. A child may adopt a phobia from a family member displaying phobic behaviour. 

There are five common self-explanatory types of phobias: Blood-injection-injury, natural environment, situational, animal and “other” types (such as fear of the number thirteen). As teachers and parents, how might we intervene with a child displaying phobic behaviour? There are two ways to try to intervene early and help the child overcome their issue.

Cognitive Behaviour Strategies

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) helps people identify, understand and correct thoughts that have become irrational. Teachers and parents can attempt strategies based on CBT principles to intervene and support the child to overcome their phobia.

One such strategy that comes from CBT is “Think like a Scientist”. This is a strategy for children who would have the ability to be analytical and rational in their approach to anxieties that they may be facing. This approach encourages the child to detail what they are afraid of, why they are afraid of it and then research and note the realistic outcome of facing their fear based on facts.

You set up a page to look something like this:

Feared SituationAnxious ThoughtRealistic Outcome







You may be as detailed as you need to be. Instagram post here.

I would encourage adults to use their discretion and best judgement in using this strategy and basing their decision on their knowledge of the child and their personality. I have previously mentioned more indirect strategies that can be utilised. This strategy is useful for fears of going swimming, going on stage and other common irrational fears that children face in school.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a longer-term solution. Practising mindfulness takes patience and consistency to develop higher levels of tolerance of anxiety. There are several ways to do this with or without technology.

Getting your child to try focussing on their breath and striving to be in the moment are great ways to explicitly reduce anxiety. The benefits of these strategies are well known and there is so much content out there to facilitate these strategies. You might want to choose a physical object like a breathing ball or perhaps you want a youtube video for young children. Older children might enjoy learning about how to do 4-7-8 breathing or engaging in a full-on 5 minute guided meditation aimed at children. There are also apps like Headspace and Calm that provide a certain amount of free content to test out. I am also a fan of the app Mindful Gnats. This app provides relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, body scans and more through an attractive interface which may encourage children to adopt mindfulness as a regular practice.

Android Version available here.

Apple Store Version available here.

These are two different routes to attempt when dealing with phobic behaviour. If you’re not experiencing success and the phobias are causing extreme distress, I would recommend reaching out and seeking professional help from the appropriate source who may offer structured behavioural therapy or medication if required.

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Categories
anxiety

Tackle Children’s Anxiety with Journaling

Anxiety is rife right now. The Coronavirus Crisis has fully arrived and everybody is struggling to make sense of this new isolated world we have been thrown into at the deep end. 

Now, more than ever, we need to look out for our children’s mental health. I have written about 6 different ways to prevent or manage your child’s anxiety during this time with a suggestion of journaling as one of the options. I want to dig into the topic of journaling in this post and give some concrete examples of how to bring out its benefits over the coming weeks.

The Case for Journaling Right Now

Shawn Anchor is considered to be an authority on happiness. Shawn contests from his research that the small act of journaling has the potential to help us rewire our brains to scan for the positives instead of the negatives. This rewiring can lead to the writer developing a positive outlook on life in the long term with increased happiness and therefore, reduced anxiety.

As we adjust to this time of uncertainty, helping your child cultivate this positive mindset could protect them from the outside world – such as social media and news channels – that looks to sell fear and increase anxiety. 

There are added benefits to journaling that it will promote literacy skills through the act of putting their thoughts on paper while Shawn also states that happier people are more resilient and 31% more productive.

How to Journal for Children Who Can Write

Shawn suggests writing about the follow prompts for journaling to garner the maximum results:

  • Spend two minutes a day writing down three things you are thankful for. These must be new things each day and can be as big as your family’s health or a small as your bowl of cornflakes.
  • Spend two minutes a day writing about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours. 

Added prompts that may help create a more positive outlook are:

  • Writing down 7 things you are excited for at the start of every day.
  • Write about a “win” you had today. So it could be achieving a new personal best, an improvement in a skill, something difficult that you overcame. Write about why it’s important, how to progress and what your next step will be.

There are additional principles to journaling that are important if being used or attempted in the homeschool or school context.

  • A journal is not be read if the writer does not consent.
  • The parent or teacher can guide the child but there is no need to correct it and do not use this medium for correcting grammar and spelling.
  • Modelling the act of journaling by completing it alongside your child or letting them see you do it is an effective way to encourage them.
  • Using fun pens, markers and stationery is a great way to promote this. Let them choose their journal type with options like bullet journals and regular diaries being widely available online.
  • Let them go off script and design and write what they like as well. A journal is a great way to put thoughts to paper, vent and stoke creativity. If your child is engaged, let their imagination run wild.

Journaling for Children Who Can’t Write

If your child is not at the stage where they are ready to write, but you feel that this is something either you or they want to try, you have some options.

  1. The prompts can be completed by drawing pictures.
  2. The prompts can be completed by having a trusted adult write for them.
  3. The prompts can be completed by recording a video diary on a tablet or phone.
  4. The language of the prompts can be adjusted to be age-appropriate in the following ways:
  • “I am happy because”: Respond with anything that is making them happy.
  • “I am excited to….”: Respond with three things (instead of seven) that they are looking forward to doing that day.
  • “A good thing that happened today was”: Let them come up with a mini-win that they had.

Give it a Go!

In this unique time, we have an opportunity to teach skills for dealing with uncertainty and adversity. Journalling is one such tool that has stood to many of the world’s great creatives and leaders over time so it might be worth encouraging your child to experiment with it.

As always, this is one tool among many others that you can pull out and try to promote positivity and reduce negative emotions. It might not work for everyone but it is certainly worth giving a go!

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