Monday, 18 February 2019

Helping Kids Cope With Stress And Anxiety

I have written in the past that Matilda (Tilly) has suffered from her mental health and she has had some help from the junior mental health unit as well as some therapy at school. The kid's mental health unit in Kent was as useless as a bloody chocolate teapot but the therapy through the school helped because she was actually listened to. Sadly she was only entitled to one lot of therapy for about 12 weeks, at one session a week. This isn't enough and it falls on the parents to have to deal with the situation all of the time. Some parents are at their wit's end because they don't like to see their kids upset, stressed or worried. They don't know how to deal with it. So today I wanted to share some ideas of the things that I do with Matilda to help her deal with stress.

Listen to your child

Sometimes we hear our children but we don't actually LISTEN to them. We switch off and their words seem to merge into one, but it's not until you actually listen to your child that you realise and understand what they are saying between the lines. Read her face, are the words coming out of her mouth actually matching the look of stress on her face? How many times are we really pissed off, but we tell people 'I'm Fine!'. Matilda has actually clocked on to the fact that sometimes, I am not listening to her talking and she asks me questions about what she was talking about.

Book private counselling

If the NHS has no appointments available for your child, you can still book a counsellor through an online website. A counsellor will help your child and sometimes help you too. They will help you to find ways of coping and ways to encourage your child. Tilly has done play therapy before and she felt free to talk about what ever she wanted.

Ask how their day went

I always try and ask Matilda how her day went. When we are on the walk home, we talk about what she did. I can usually tell how her day went by the tone of her voice. If she tells me it was good, yet her tone is negative or there is a false smile on her face then I know there is something wrong and we deal with it there and then. Sometimes the walk home involves tears if she has had an extremely stressful day and if she is struggling with the school work. But we talk it out and she knows she is not alone.

Give them things to look forward to

I always make sure that Matilda has something to look forward to. It might only be a day out somewhere, it might only be a new toy that she has to review and sometimes it's a holiday for her to look forward to. But I find if she has something positive to look forward to then she is more focused on the positive side of life because she knows she has something exciting to look forward to. This year we have already had a trip to Aalborg at the end of January because she struggles in January like most of the country, it is such a long month and such a lull after Christmas that she has something positive to look forward to. We have done this for the past two years and it also gives me something to look forward to. This month we are going to Holland to see her brother who lives out there and she misses him so much and at the end of April, we are going to Turkey.

Mindset and Motivation

This is my absolute favourite way of helping Tilly deal with her stress and anxiety. Mainly because for many years, I didn't actually think it helped me but one day, it all just clicked into place and suddenly I understood it. I was about 38 years old when someone tried to get me into using a positive mindset - I didn't like it because it was changing the way I wanted to see life. I was suffering from severe Postnatal depression and I couldn't see how a positive mindset could change how I felt. But a few years after the therapy stopped, I realised that it actually can help you. The ideas were planted in my head at my therapy sessions but I think as I was 38, I didn't want to change the way that I was thinking. However, Mindset actually did change the way that I saw life. I was determined that Matilda would not struggle through life with negative thoughts like me and from the age of about 5, I decided that I would try and encourage her to see the good in all of her problems as well as herself and now she tries to solve her problems in a more positive way. We also 'plant' positive things in her head every day. We tell her that she is going to have a good day, we talk about how great her day is going to be and what she has to look forward to. We get her to say that she is beautiful and confident and that sets her up for the day. If you think these things in your head, then you start to really believe in yourself. If you want to give mindset and motivation a go, then pop along to Ignite, a motivational conference that takes place in Bath 11/13th April. You can find more details here. I am lucky that Rebecca is a friend of mine and she has been there throughout the past few years with advice and helping both Matilda and me with the way we see things in a positive light.

Help them understand other people can have bad days too

If she comes home from school, stressed and upset because someone has said something unkind to her or if she sees something wrong in a person, then we find something good about them or we talk about ways to help them be more positive. If someone has upset her at school, we talk about the fact that they could be having a bad day too. Teach them that they need to be there for their friends too and that maybe their friends aren't as lucky to have someone to listen and that maybe they need to be that person that listens. If you have an understanding and open relationship with your child, then they will come to you and share. I always tell Tilly that a secret is always a good thing to keep until it puts someone in danger or until you realise that someone needs help in a home situation.

Keep a worry bear or worry jar

You can buy worry dolls or worry bears where the kids write all of their stresses down and pop them inside a worry dolls bag or pocket but it can work just as well with an old glass jar. With a doll, you get them to write down, what is stressing them out and what is making them sad, then the doll looks after it and never lets it go. With a jar, they can write down what is wrong and they pop it in the jar and pop the lid on to do it up. This seals the worry in the jar and stops it from getting out. You can decorate the jar so they can't see their old worries in there too. With older kids, give them a diary to write. I have used my blog to share my feelings when I am feeling stressed and unable to cope. Writing gets things out of your head and it feels like it's been shared. You do need to remember to respect your teen's privacy if you give them a diary to write - there may be things in there that you don't want to see, like the things that they get up to!

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