Friday, November 27, 2015

Top 10 Strategies to Create the Anxious Child (Part Two)

All of our interactions and responses influence those around us. 

The adults in the primary support system for children have a tremendous influence on children.  What we do, what we think and how we respond, all carry an impact on children, whose brains are still

building the neural network and responses that inform their moral practice.

Here's the final five of the top 10 Strategies to Create the Anxious Child:

6. Give them toys, money and food every time something difficult happens. I alluded to this a bit in the last blog post.  The most important thing that we do for children in difficult times is give them our presence, our whole body listening, and our ability to reinforce their own ability to take care of their circumstance. The more we can reinforce their capacity and courage, the more confidence and resilience they will develop.

Being outdoors keeps you calm. Photo: J. Philipchuck

7. Feed them sweets, refined carbohydrates and fried foods.
  Avoid healthy fats, fruits and vegetables and protein. Food is incredibly important in brain development.  Our brains, and mostly our frontal cortex, grew 35% when we went from eating plants to eating animals which is primarily protein and fat. Refined carbohydrates should be avoided as much as possible.

8. Hugging, physical contact, and positive eye contact are big no nos. Our positive loving touch is our secret weapon in counteracting anxiousness.  Loving human connection calms our bodies. It enacts our dopamine and oxytocin, both of which calm and ground you.

Movement helps lesson anxiety. Photo: J. Philipchuck

9. Avoid physical activity, especially unstructured play and outdoor activities. We evolved as a species by moving.  Walking,  being outdoors, moving and playing, all help us develop the practice and the strategies to calm bodies and brains.  We should encourage and model daily physical activity as much as possible.

10. Don’t take care of your own anxiousness. Never take responsibility for your own feelings or circumstances.  It is ALWAYS someone else’s fault. When we take responsibility for our feelings and circumstances, we put ourselves in the drivers seat.  We provide ourselves with the message that we can listen to our feelings and respond to the messages and information that we receive from them. Self responsibility is empowering. 

Top 10 Strategies to Create the Anxious Child (Part One)

Stress is a normal part of our everyday experience,  yet, increasingly we are finding  children who are challenged with the practice of managing stress.

While the reasons behind this are complex, the next two blog posts will look at what we can do to support children's experience of anxiousness.

Top 10 Strategies to Create the Anxious Child

This is a provocative title, I know, but it highlights the incredible opportunity parents and teachers have in helping children build stronger capacities in managing anxiety. Below is the first five things we do that inadvertently increase anxious behaviour

1. Keep a Cluttered Space: Less is more.  Our brains evolved over thousands of years while moving through open vistas. Increasing the number of visual distractions make it harder for our brains to focus.

We do better with less clutter.  Photo: J. Philipchuck

2. Avoid all routines and predictability:Brains love repetition.  The more we anchor our day with routines and predictable behaviour, the calmer we will be throughout the day.

3. Allow plenty of electronic time, especially evenings and bedtimes. Electronics are part of our lives and they are here to stay. Electronic time should be limited (recent studies suggest as little as 30 minutes screen time a day). Ensure that all electronic devices are off at least 90 minutes before bedtime.

4. It is never your child’s responsibility.  Make sure when something painful or uncomfortable happens, that you immediately fight their battles and protect them at all costs. The more practice you have at making mistakes and experiencing yourself mange the stumble, the more confidence and resilience you build.  Remember, resilience is the antidote to anxiety!

5. Provide no responsibilities or duties around the household or classroom. Having expectations around contributing to a collective builds confidence, resilience and responsibility. It's even better if you offer no extrinsic reward. That means, cleaning the bathroom and unloading the dishwasher because you are a member of a household is better than cleaning the bathroom and unloading the dishwasher because I get my allowance. Rewarding the behaviour by naming it and providing appreciation helps build and connection.

There are the first five, and the next five will be the focus of the next blog post.