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Some Strategies for Anxiety

Tip #1: With changes and disruption, comes a feeling of helplessness with things you can't control. Try to give your child some reasonable and age appropriate things they "can" control. Sometimes it may be as simple as helping to organize something. Maybe they could remove items from drawers or shelves, and then come up with a different way to arrange them. They could change the constellation, the shelf/drawer they were on/in, switching it up, etc. Maybe they could sort through laundry and make stacks and draw picture labels for everything, in their own way. If you have other items that need some organizing, use them for the child to work on! Tip #2: Find a place in your home where your child can put "worries." It can be a wall that you are fine with them taping things on, or a box, or something that closes with a zipper or lid or seal... anything that resonates with them as a place to put things in, or on, that are bothering them and that they want to get rid of! I have kids write/draw (with my help as needed) worries on paper, and then crumple them up and stick them in a box, or on the wall with tape, letting them know that the worry is no longer "stuck in them," but "stuck on the wall." You can also tell him that you are older and can handle their worries, so they can tell you and then you can "house" them, like a human vessel to carry their worries. They may even want to stick a post-it on you every time they have a worry (this could be fun and playful too!) and then you can collect them at the end of the day and put them in the trash, worry box, etc. *Tip #3: (only to use with/on oneself, complying with COVID-19 guidelines)* I also like kids to feel the strength they have inside as a "super power" to help them feel more settled... wherever the anxiety is. I tell them that the "super power" is in their breath, because it is "only theirs" and comes from within. Have them hold out their hand and blow this special air into their palm (can use two hands also), and then take the power - from their breath now in their palm - to lie their open hand/palm where they feel anxious, e.g., brain, stomach, chest (heart rate). It can be done dramatically and slowly for impact. I talk them through it and show them how I can use my own breath for this super power to calm myself, blowing in to my palm, then gently resting my open hand/palm where I need it most.

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Mindfulness, Mediation, Yoga

Our 4th grade teacher, Chrystine Gonzalez, uses mindfulness in her classroom and is a wealth of information. She shared some resources that resonate with me and my work with kids. Here are some of my favorites:

MINDFULLNESS:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxbdx-SeOOo&list=PLPNv16XJj08z9PuNu4vPwVnOZJXvaKxNa&index=10&t=1s

MEDITATION:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEhgwHIGmsM&list=PLPNv16XJj08z9PuNu4vPwVnOZJXvaKxNa&index=16&t=0s

YOGA:
https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga

Sleep Issues and what to do?

Sometimes kids (and adults!) have a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep for a much needed brain and body recharge. Here are some sleep/bedtime protocols:
  • No sugary drinks (especially "diet" ones) or sweet food items post afternoon. Artificial sweeteners and components in processed foods especially, have ingredients added that are chemically called "excito"toxins for a reason.
  • No caffeine containing items post afternoon... this includes some soft drinks (e.g., Coke, Mountain Dew, Red Bull, Monster Energy); Coffee or Tea (Black, Green, Oolong); Chocolate, Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Milk.
  • Contrary to what some believe, rigorous physical exercise/activity before bed is not calming for metabolism and subsequent rest. Mild Yoga, stretching, mindfulness practices, meditation, or breathing exercises can all be helpful.
  • Calming prelude to sleep is also helpful... whatever seems to resonate most with your child. For example: warm bath, turning off overhead lights, snuggling in bead, having a story read, soft music, lowered voices with hushed tones, etc.
  • It is important that lights are turned off for sufficient sleep rhythms. Close all window coverings. (See "Melatonin" explained below.) In fact, even if the child has a night light, sneak in and turn it off (if possible and child is not startled) before you retire.
  • Most importantly, in regards to needed Melatonin production for sleep, "Blue Light" can be most detrimental. "Blue Light" is the light that comes from digital devices, e.g., iPad, Tablet, Kindle, Smartphone, Cellphone, Computer, Laptop, Flat Screen Television. Scientific American posted this in an article: "The light from our devices is “short-wavelength-enriched,” meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light—and blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength." You can dim the brightness of your devices or you can make use of programs that filter out short-wavelength light in the evening. Best would be to turn off electronic devices at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. http://www.bluelightexposed.com/#bluelightexposed
  • "Melatonin" is a sleep hormone produced by our body, aiding in sleep/wake cycles. It begins to increase in the evening (with darkness) and stays high during sleep, reducing its levels in the morning. Our body's natural patterns of sleep (or lack thereof), and it's awareness of darkness, effect Melatonin production.

Social Isolation Tips

Have a kiddo (or two, or three) that is feeling isolated and lonely, missing his/her friends or family members? Here are some ideas, likely ones you know about and have tried, but hopefully something new to add to your list. I will keep adding to this:
  • Explore using "Zoom" on your computer/laptop/iPad/smartphone. It just takes one person (adult) to have a free account, and then they can invite others to join. The child can set up Zoom visits (with your assistance) all by themselves - with up to 3 friends all at once, using the free Zoom account. They used to have a 40 minute limit for the free account, but they have made it unlimited during COVID-19. All you have to do is look up Zoom on your computer and get a free account with just a login and password... it's so smooth and easy! Then, you will see how there are places to click and set-up Zoom meetings with others, and send them an email request to join, with a link and a meeting ID#. On their end, they will have the option to temporarily (for the visit) download Zoom after they click the email link, put in the meeting ID#, and then suddenly you see the other person and you are there too! Sometimes you have to click the box with your name in it to have your face revealed, and to select "play audio." It's really great for conversation, book reading, game playing, and even showing toys/items/drawings, playing instruments/music, dancing, goofing around, etc. You can select a different screen View at the top right, Gallery view is my preferred one. 
  • See about setting up a "penpal" writing exchange for your child, where they can select peers, family members, neighbor friends, and/or a school mate. You can look at the school phone directory, or send me an email and I can make outreach to the other parent to communicate with you if this is something they would desire for their child as well. 

  • Go on a "bear hunt" walk with your child, and get your neighbors, friends, and family to put a teddy bear out for kids to hunt for as they walk or ride bikes in your neighborhood. See link for National Geographic article under "Kids Mental Health" section. This has already proven to be a delightful way for children to feel connected with others... like a secret that went from one house to another, without being able to know whose house will a teddy bear appear next. It's like taking a dot-to-dot image (abstract at first) and filling it in to resemble something familiar, concrete, and comforting!

Kids Mental Health (and Adults)

I will use this place to add information about emotional wellness for children, caregivers, and families:

  • This is a great resource for calming oneself when agitated, impulsive, panicking, or in reactive or protective mode (with fight or flight intensity). This is great for adults as well. For children, I tend to use #2. The 5-4-3-2-1 "Grounding Technique." Here is the link: https://drsarahallen.com/7-ways-to-calm/

  • This is a wonderful article I came across (again in National Geographic) that I just love for parents and caregivers, and the little ones they watch over! Likely, you are doing so many creative things yourself, so forgive me if this is redundant. Who knows, there may be a tidbit of new ideas here as well. It's all about how to keep kids "social" during a time of social distancing. Here is the link:   https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/in-the-news/coronavirus/kids-social-during-distancing/

Resources for Covid times

SOME LINKS YOU MAY FIND USEFUL... JUST ABOUT RIGHT NOW!

This one is from a blog at Harvard Medical School. Some notable thoughts in this article (that I have used in my work with children at CRA), are distinguishing between being "alone" versus being "lonely." This contributor speaks to the importance of social (or maybe better stated as "physical") distancing, yet NOT "emotional" distancing. Here is the link:  
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-to-not-practice-emotional-distancing-during-social-distancing-202003171922

This one is from an agency within the US Department of Health and Humans Services, called SAMHSA, which helps educate and provide insight/resources for comprehensive mental health in the public domain, nation wide). This article has educational and informative information about quarantine, social distancing, isolation, infectious disease concerns and clarifications, and a list of contact information for the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization), etc. Here is the link: 
https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/tips-social-distancing-quarantine-isolation-031620.pdf

Wondering how to speak with children about COVID-19? This is a well done and comprehensive summary that I think hits many important parts of this complex issue, all based on age and maturity of the child. Here is the link:
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/in-the-news/coronavirus/talking-to-your-kids-about-coronavirus 

Screen Time, Oh My!!!

I came across a resource years ago that I looked to for information and guidance in regards to child appropriate electronics, movies, digital games, videos, etc. It's called Common Sense Media, and they have put together a wonderful extensive list of resources for home use during the pandemic. Here is the link: 
https://www.commonsensemedia.org/resources-for-families-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic#section-4

Grief and Loss; Changes, Disruption, Trauma

As reflected in an email to all student households (April 17, 2020), I wanted to share that resource here as well. I had made the connection between The Five Stages of Grief and Loss (for people that have experienced the death of a loved one), and the type of "grief" and "loss" we find ourselves in now as our worlds have been turned upside down. What used to be normal for our students and households, is no longer normal. For some, they have found a silver lining in it all, and for others it has been overwhelming, with feelings of melancholy and loneliness, and everything in between! Here, I have provided the resource for understanding this "grieving" period of "loss:"

The Five Stages of Grief and Loss:
https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/

Photos

Katina Temme