Supporting Children With Worries and Anxiety
All children have worries and many children will experience periods in their life where these worries feel quite overwhelming and cause them anxiety. It can be really hard to know what to do when you see your child struggling to cope with strong emotions so we thought it would be useful to share some of the approaches that we use as a school.
We like the analogy which describes three main parts of your brain as different animals. The Guard Dog is your Amygdala which controls your emotions and your response to stress. It helps you sense and respond to real or perceived danger. The Wise Owl is your Pre-frontal Cortex which controls thinking and reasoning. Sometimes when your Guard Dog is ‘barking’ at something it feels is dangerous, you can’t hear your Wise Owl and so can’t think rationally about the situation. Your Happy Hippo is the Hippocampus which stores your long-term memories and learned responses.
When your Guard Dog senses danger (real or not) you can go into Fight, Flight or Freeze mode. You might get angry, want to run away from the situation, or just shut-down and try to avoid it. When you practice calming techniques repeatedly, these are stored in your Happy Hippo from where you can more easily retrieve them at times of stress. You can then calm your Guard Dog and listen more carefully to your Wise Owl so that you can make a more helpful decision about what action to take next. This useful link shows Jaime from Cosmic Kids sharing a story from her childhood which illustrates the Guard Dog and the Wise Owl in a child-friendly way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so8QN9an3t8
You may also find this video from Pooky Kingsmith Mental Health useful
She outlines four steps to follow when helping your child to understand their anxious feelings and how to manage them.
Step 1: LISTEN - put aside time to really listen without trying to problem solve. What does it feel like for your child emotionally and physically? Are they aware of any triggers? Try not to make judgements about what they are feeling at this stage.
Step 2: QUESTION - encourage your child to question their thoughts and feelings. Is the reason for the anxiety a valid one? Is the source of the anxiety fact or fiction? Is it likely or unlikely to happen?
Step 3: BE PRACTICAL - identify trigger points in a normal day. Are they things you can address, or can you address your child’s feelings about them? Be careful with avoidance - it can be appropriate but can sometimes make things loom larger and mean we don’t address the issue.
Step 4: FIND WAYS TO SELF-SOOTHE - practice these at other times, not when your child is feeling anxious. What makes your child feel good/calmer? Music, breathing, running, dancing, singing, drawing or colouring? Can these strategies be put in place at times you know your child is likely to become anxious?
The area of Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs (SEMH) includes: -
The 2015 SEND Code of Practice defines SEMH in the following way:
“Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which manifest themselves in many ways. These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour. These behaviours may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression, self-harming, substance misuse, eating disorders or physical symptoms that are medically unexplained. Other children and young people may have disorders such as attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder or attachment disorder.”
An increasing number of children and young people are experiencing Social, Emotional and Mental Health difficulties. At Moss Lane School we are committed to promoting and protecting all pupils’ and adults’ mental health and wellbeing throughout the culture of the school and curriculum. We do this by offering a nurturing approach. This helps us to prepare children for emotional ups and downs by teaching the necessary skills of perseverance and resilience. As a result, children become more self-assured and ready to engage with life and learning.
The skills, knowledge and understanding needed by our children to keep themselves and others physically and mentally healthy and safe are included as part of our PHSE curriculum. This will hopefully give them the confidence to seek help, as needed, for themselves and others. We will follow our PHSE curriculum to ensure that we teach mental health and emotional wellbeing issues in a safe and sensitive manner which helps rather than harms.
For some children and young people, difficulties in their emotional and social development can mean that they require additional and different provision in order for them to achieve. Therefore, some of our approaches will be targeted approaches aimed at individual children and/or small groups.
If you would like to know more these websites may be of interest to you: -
If you feel that your child is having problems at school due to Social, Emotional and Mental Health difficulties please contact your child’s class teacher or our Home School Link worker Mrs Sutton.
A new 24/7 mental health crisis line for children, young people and their families and carers in Surrey has launched.
The freephone number - 0800 9154644 – is available for children and young people up to the age of 18, including those with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).
The new crisis line provides emotional wellbeing support, advice, and signposting to a range of community services for children, young people and their families and carers who are in a mental health crisis. The number is available to those who are already receiving mental health services, and also for those who are not. No referral is needed.
The crisis line is staffed by a team of experienced, trained call handlers and mental health nurses.
A key aim of the crisis line is to help support young people, carers and families within their own homes and in the community and, whenever possible, help avoid the need for children and young people to go to hospital in a crisis.
SPICE UP YOUR LIFE!
Nurturing ourselves and meeting our own needs is a very important part of emotional health. When we are busy it can sometimes be hard to find a moment for ourselves. It’s very easy, when we are focusing on the needs of the other members of our families, to put our needs last.
If we neglect ourselves, we can become tired and stressed and this makes it really hard to find enjoyment in family life. So we owe it to ourselves to take time out and recharge our batteries.
There are six different areas of need that we should consider when making sure we are looking after ourselves: Social, Physical, Intellectual, Creative, Emotional and Spiritual.
You can easily remember these by thinking of the word SPICES. If you can find a way to look after each of these areas of need by doing something you enjoy, you will improve your emotional health. It doesn’t have to be something that will take a lot of time out of your day. Some simple suggestions are:
Social – Talking to friends on the phone or meet virtually, going for a walk with a friend.
Physical – Gardening, walking, jogging, dancing Intellectual – Reading, watch a documentary on TV, On-line classes, play chess or another strategic game. Creative – Listen to music, DIY, drawing or colouring.
Emotional – Watch or read something that will make you laugh, share a worry with someone, do something to help someone, eat something that’s a treat!
Spiritual – Meditate, yoga, mindfulness, enjoy nature on a walk.
Remember, don’t feel selfish for finding time for yourself everyone will benefit from having a happier you.
Educational psychologist service
Telephone hotline for parents Our telephone hotline runs every Wednesday from 1-4pm and is available to parents/carers should they have a psychological issue or question about their child they feel it would be helpful to discuss with an EP. During the phone call, EPs will focus on problem solving, providing information and signposting if appropriate. This is not a formal means of referring an individual child to an EP and these consultations about children are anonymous. The following information will be recorded for administrative purposes: school name, age and gender of the child and a summary of key issues causing concern. No prior arrangement is necessary – simply call into your area telephone number for your area between 1 – 4pm each Wednesday as follows: If you call and the hotline is busy, business support will take a message for an EP to call you back within 48 hours of your call.
NE: 01372 833 588
SE: 01737 737 777
NW: 01483 518 130
SW: 01483 517 179
Practical parenting tips you can use to make virtual school a bit better