With the shift in our political atmosphere, kids are surrounded by adult speak. Angry voices, Confusion. Sadness. Despair. The news, radio and web are filled with reports about environmental devastation, climate change, mass shootings, terrorist attacks. There are images of refugee children covered in dirt and blood, missing limbs and parents. There is talk of nuclear war and a leadership that prioritizes pressing the agenda of the wealthy white Christian heterosexual male in society. That priority being the only stable thing anyone is aware of in our current administration. Anxiety has spiked since Trump took office. Imagine what it's like for kids who depend on their parent's calm demeanor to regulate their own emotions.
My own children show some symptoms of an anxiety disorder and I thought I'd share some of the things that I did that seem to be helping them.
I purchased this book called "What To Do When You Worry Too Much". It had some good visualizations in it that focused on making the worry something a little outside of their heads. We visualized the negative thoughts as a bully trying to make them feel bad.
I found it helpful to explain to them what their body is doing. We talked about how there is a part of the brain that doesn't do any thinking as it controls the body's response to something bad happening. In the old days it would automatically get the body ready to leap into action should a tiger attack by pumping a lot of blood to the limbs. It would release a steroid, makes the heart beat way faster and takes the blood away from the brain and stomach. It can make you feel fluttery in the tummy. It can make you sweat and your heart to beat very fast.
But, that part of the brain doesn't really understand cognition because is like a fire alarm that can accidentally get triggered and will go off even if there is no emergency. So you have to tell your body through deep breathing that hey, thanks for doing your job but there is no emergency here. Explaining this to them gave them power over their bodies rather than the reverse.
We also have a bed time ritual that involves no media an hour before bedtime, reading and drinking some of this Calm Kids before bed.
We are adding in a bit of exercise after dinner as their school has replaced PE with something called mindful movement (this would make a great Portlandia episode.)
I can say that it seems to be helping.