Archive for the ‘fear’ Category

Don’t Let Halloween Be a Nightmare: 5 Halloween Success Tips for Sensitive, Anxious, Impulsive Children

October 16th, 2012

If your child is sensitive to sounds, bright lights, large groups, or clothing, or your child is anxious, easily becomes overwhelmed and/or acts impulsively Halloween can be a really difficult time.

As a parent you can help your child manage their feelings and behaviors with these 5 tips:

  1. Be realistic: You know what your child can handle and what triggers their meltdowns. Set them up for success by encouraging costumes and situations that they can manage. Don’t feel pressured by friends or family members to do something you feel would be overwhelming for your child.
  2. Pick a costume that you know will work: Your child is fixated on being Spider-man, but you know the costume he picked at the store will be too tight, scratchy, uncomfortable, and will lead to sensory overload. Find a way to adapt the costume or create something Spidey-like at home that will feel comfortable on your child.
  3. Pick an activity that’s right for your child: Halloween falls on a school night and you know your child will be too excited from trick-or-treating and candy to function at school, and that may cause a tailspin of negative behaviors over the next few days.  Decide what will be the best activity for your child, such as a party on the weekend and handing out candy at home. Whatever you decide be clear, set a time frame, and let your child know the plans ahead of time.
  4. Let them know what’s appropriate and inappropriate: Help your child learn boundaries and expectations by being clear about what behaviors are acceptable and how you will give your child feedback if they are acting inappropriately.  For example, let your child know they will walk together as a group, and if they run ahead you will remind them, and if they choose not to listen you will have them walk next to you (or hold your hand). Clear boundaries can help your child mange their fears and worries, which often looks like acting out behaviors.
  5. Set boundaries with candy: Your child may be thrilled with their bag o’ treats and want to eat as many as they can before bedtime, but you know that will only wire them up for the evening. Tell your child what’s expected with the candy, such as waiting to eat it until they get home, you check it, how many pieces they can have tonight, where the candy will be kept, etc.  Clear expectations will help reduce arguments and before bedtime meltdowns that come from too much candy, being tired, and overstimulation.

CQ Creative Activity:

Create Halloween Rules. On a big piece of poster board discuss with your child the rules and expectations for Halloween night. Be concrete, such as they will not eat the candy until you have checked it, they will walk with a flashlight, they will be in bed by 8pm. Discuss consequences/ rewards for following the rules. If your child is older ask them write down the rules, or you can write them down if you have a younger child. Ask your child to draw pictures on the poster board of each rule and decorate it with spooky images. Do this a few days before Halloween and review the rules before you go out. If age appropriate, have your child sign the rules so you are both in agreement.

If you are worried that your child may need some support do not miss the International Parents & Professionals (IPPC) October Support Call “Is There Something Wrong with My Child? Indicators Parents & Professionals need to be aware of”. Click here to learn more about the IPPC

 


Ease back to school anxiety

August 23rd, 2012

As a parent or professional you can’t help but hear these words everywhere you turn- It’s back to school time. It’s everywhere, from the ads with dancing kids in their new school clothes to the reminders to pick up school supplies. If you’re a child who likes learning or likes going to school, then it’s an exciting time of year. For other children who struggle with academics, worry about “mean kids”, or easily get overwhelmed and stressed, it can be a very difficult time of the year.

There are so many feelings associated with this time of the year: excitement (about seeing friends) worry, (will the new teacher be “nice”), fear (will I have to sit next to the boy who picks on me again this year), dread (I heard that you get lots of hard homework in 4th grade, what if I can’t do it).

So if your child starts to change their behaviors as they head back to school, realize they may have a difficult time expressing their worry, anxiety excitement, and fear.

Here are 3 creative ways you can help your child positively express their back to school anxiety:

  1. Get artistic with the worries: Recycle an old book or get a blank journal to make an art journal. Use magazines and make a collage cover for the book. Cut out words and images of all the back to school worries, everything from anxiety about “mean kids” to worries about where you’ll sit during lunch time. Glue the images or use decoupage (or cover with clear contact paper). Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Now flip the book over and on the back cover. On the back cover use magazines and words of all the positive exciting things about going back to school, such as seeing friends, art class, recess, etc. Again glue the images or cover with decoupage or clear contact paper. Use this book throughout the year to write down or draw feelings and thoughts. For stressful thoughts and worries flip to the front cover and start filling in the book, for positive thoughts and good things, flip to the back cover and fill in the pages. (It’ s two books in one). If you are using a recycled book with words, paint over the pages with acrylic paint or use artist gesso and add images and words to the painted pages.
  2. Get playful with the worries: Create dioramas of school. Do you remember dioramas? They are miniature models. Use a shoebox, or cardboard box and create a small version of a school or classroom. Furnish it with mini chairs, desks, teacher and students made from modeling clay or other modeling materials. Your child can play out their feelings in this miniature world.
  3. Get expressive with the worries: Do you have a kid who loves to perform? Channel that creative energy into creating a back to school TV show. Use your video camera and film your child play-acting the teacher and/or students. Use props or costumes and have your child come up with a few characters to solve a problem they encounter. This can be reflective of a real life situation, or they can use their imagination.

Need some more tools in your toolbox to help your kids with back to school worries & stress? Join us next week for the International Parents & Professionals Community Members Only Call “Raising Confident Children Through Mediation” with Guest Expert Heather Chauvin. Learn more here


Make Halloween Less Stressful for Children

October 31st, 2011

Halloween can be a very difficult (and scary) time for children who experience anxiety, who have been exposed to trauma, for those who have a difficult time with self-regulation, children with sensory issues, or children who are impulsive; not to mention it can be very difficult for any child who has too much sugar!

Here are some ways to help make Halloween a successful one:

1. Set the schedule- Let children know where they are going and what they will be doing there, how long they will be there, and who will be there. Children who have issues with anxiety or those who have a hard time transitioning will benefit from a schedule to help them become aware of what will happen.

2. Listen to the underlying needs of your child- Halloween, unfamiliar or scary circumstances may trigger fear and anxiety in your child (regardless of their age). Listen to the message your child may be trying to convey if they become uncomfortable. Use it as an opportunity to help them find words to identify and validate their feelings. Even older children may be triggered by something scary, try to understand what they are feeling (even if they aren’t able to express it).

3. Act respectfully- If your older child becomes scared and worried, don’t demean them with “baby” comments or humiliate or shame them. Let  them know  it’s not to do something if they are uncomfortable, before you start the activity (this is a great skill to teach children, so they can practice saying ‘no thank you’ in other difficult situations).

4. Have some safety rules- Be clear on what’s expected, such as everyone will walk together, or we must hold a flash light when walking, and relay what will happen if they don’t listen.

5. Be clear on what will happen with the candy- Some children to know the limits on how may pieces of candy they can have and when, otherwise the whole bag could be eaten. Be clear on the rules ahead of time to prevent sugar-shock meltdowns.

6. Be okay with things not going as you expected- You get to the front of the “haunted house” line and your child has to go to the bathroom, your child is at a doorstep and starts to cry when the neighbor opens the door, you spent days sewing the costume and it feels “itchy and hot” and your child refuses to wear it. These can all be triggers that causes a child to feel and express anxiety and fear. Let go of the belief that they must do things, and understand it’s much more important to help you child learn how to positively communicate (even when it’s not at all what you expected).

Halloween can be a fun holiday and for those children who have a difficult time with fear, transition, and impulsivity, it is also a great teaching opportunity too! If you child needs more support, we can help.


7 Tips to Make Life Less Fearful

October 27th, 2011

FEAR- its a big topic these days. I’m seeing so many children, teens, and adults impacted by fear. Whether it is fear from a weak economy, fear from not doing things good enough, fear of embarrassment, or fear of spooky things in the closet, fear impacts everyone. With Halloween right around the corner you may want to use this as an opportunity to explore your (and your children’s) fears.

All the Halloween decorations are a great opportunities to talk about things that are scary. Create open opportunities to explore what things you or your children are afraid of. By gently asking what kind of things your child is scared of you may uncover some areas you can grow more. The 7 creative tips below will help you create emotional safety as you explore your (and your children’s) fears.


Fear has rippled through the economy and impacted daily choices. How has it impacted the average household and what are some creative ways to reduce stress for the whole family?

As much as you would like to believe that adult worries do not impact your whole family, it’s just not true. Children are tuned into their parents moods and actions. This occurs from the attachment bonds as babies and continues throughout the parent child relationship. When there is uncertainty in the household it impacts the whole family and creates a sense of feeling psychologically unsafe. You can use some of these tips to help create a feeling of safety and consistency even during fearful times.

1. Keep a schedule:
I can’t stress this one enough. I know that life is filled with unexpected events that can change a schedule at any moment: however creating a schedule and doing your best to maintain it provides consistency and safety.

2. Follow through with meaningful rituals:
When families face crisis there is a tendency to isolate from others and most rituals and celebrations are diminished. It is important to honor celebrations, even at times when things are difficult. The celebration does not need to be “fake” or pretending things are fine if they are not. Instead find a way to honor the person or situation in a respectful and loving way.

3. Stay connected:
Fear, loss, and feeling misunderstood often leads to withdrawal from others and may lead to depression. Stay open and connected to others even in time of great difficulty. This is a powerful opportunity to allow others to support you and will deepen the relationship.

4. Do not impose adult problems on your children:
You child does not need to know the specifics about the stress you may be encountering. It is not helpful for you to share with your child your financial worries or job worries. You do not need to share specific details with your children. For instance if they ask for something you cannot afford you can answer with,”We are choosing not to buy that right now”, rather than, “We can’t afford that, you know things are really hard right now and we do not have extra money for you to get whatever you want”.

5. Be open without being fearful:
You can model open communication with your family without giving a message of fear. If you are talking about the state of the economy or about someone who lost their house or job you can clarify how your family is safe. For example, “That happened, but we have a savings account, a good job, our home, and each other”.

6. Listen and normalize:
Sometimes listening is enough, without trying to problem solve. You can normalize feelings by letting your child know that adults have feelings like worry, anxiety, sadness, anger too. Talk about how it is normal to have these feelings and different ways they can express these feelings, such as journal writing, talking to a friend, petting the dog, going for a walk, etc.

7. Do something:
Cognitive behavior therapy suggests that doing something different or thinking something different will influence how you feel. If you want to reduce the worries and fear it’s time to take action. Turn off the bleak news and do something pleasurable. Have an art night scheduled where everybody in the family makes something together. This is a great way to build relationships, have fun, while doing something emotionally positive and teaching valuable self-soothing skills.

If you live the Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton area child art therapy can help your child develop new coping strategies to overcome their fear and worries . To learn more sign-up for your complimentary child support consultation here.

If you don’t live in the area, don’t worry. I created parenting resources to help children and teens you can immediately download and implement to help your child. You can lean more here .


Anxious Child? Here’s a Creative Solution

October 4th, 2011

Did you know that children’s mental health statistics suggest as many as 1 in 10 young people may have an anxiety disorder?

Did you know that 8 percent of children between the ages of 13-18 have an anxiety disorder?  The National Institute of Mental Health notes that symptoms commonly emerge around age 6. However, of the children who experience symptoms of anxiety, only 18 percent received mental health care.  And if you are a parent who is anxious, studies suggest that children or adolescents are more likely to have an anxiety disorder if their parents have anxiety disorders (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services).

Stress, worries, anxiety, fear- it’s all part of life. Yet, if we are not given the opportunity to express our fears and realize that it’s okay to feel scared (worried, etc) and learn tools to manage these feelings we may develop an anxious disposition. Part of it may be biological, just the way we are hardwired. However, it is believed that genetics only shapes us by 50%, the remaining 50% is environment, situations, people, and perceptions. So we have control over half of our worries and can learn the tools to manage these feelings. The interesting thing about anxiety is that it is often overlooked, yet it has lasting impacts. If a child is anxious they often internalize their feelings and they do not get the attention that a child who is acting out gets. However, this internalization may lead to feeling of inadequacy, self-criticism, and may trigger addictive and self-harming behavior.

The National Institute of Mental Health noted that, “studies on treating childhood anxiety disorders found that high-quality cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), given with or without medication, can effectively treat anxiety disorders in children.  One small study even found that a behavioral therapy designed to treat social phobia in children was more effective than an antidepressant medication.” Essentially, if your child suffers from anxiety, they can be helped in therapy, and they can learn strategies to reduce their anxiety.

Okay- so what’s a parent to do? Here’s a creative solution. Ask your child to create an image of what is bothering them. So if there is a certain situation (like homework or going back to school) or person (like a classmate) that triggers their anxiety and worries ask them to make a picture of it. Allow them to create without censorship or judgment. Ask them if they would like share what they created (“no” is an acceptable answer). Here’s the important part, listen to what they say without offering your perspective. Instead be empathetic and validate their feelings. After listening without offering advice ask your child questions about what the person in the drawing could do or think differently so they feel more in control and less worried. Allow your child to be creative in their responses.

Allowing flexible creative divergent thinking helpings your child re-pattern their brain neural pathways helping your child think in terms of what’s possible. There are other specific cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies we will be teaching in our art therapy group to help your child reduce the physiological impacts of anxiety and stress. Even if your child has normal worries about homework and friends this fun and creative group will give your child some cognitive and behavioral tools to tackle worries when they arise!

If you have a child between the ages of 9-13 in need of more support we are offering a children’s therapy group in Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, or Venice area . We’ll be offering an art therapy  group and teaching some very cool art therapy strategies to help your child feel more confident and happier. You can learn more about the group by sending an email with your child’s name, age, what support your child needs, your phone number and email (and the best time and way to reach you) to laura@thecreativityqueen.com We’ll get back to you with the group details and answer any questions you may have.

If you don’t live in the area, don’t worry. I created parenting resources to help children and teens you can immediately download and implement to help your child. You can lean more here .


9/11: Helping Children Cope with Traumatic Events

September 10th, 2011

Many children today were impacted by the unexpected events of 9/11, and at the time they may not have had the coping abilities to manage their feelings and concerns about an event that felt scary and overwhelming. Children who witnessed the violent act of terrorism of 9/11, either in-person or on television, may have been left feeling confused, unsafe, and worried by their parent’s shocked reaction. Often in a crisis such as a sudden death, natural disaster, or an act of violence children’s lives are uprooted. They are left to processes their experiences while looking to the adults in their lives for protection and safety. When adults are processing their own shock and loss, they are often emotionally unavailable to be supportive of their children during a crisis. This is when support from professional can be most valuable.

Art therapy allows children the ability to process and express their feelings of loss, grief, shock, helpless, sadness, fear and other emotional reactions that arise during a crisis, such as 9/11. When asked to describe their feelings, children who have experienced loss and trauma may not be able to articulate their pain, and art allows a way to process their experiences.

A simple explanation of how brain functioning is impacted traumatic experiences makes the use of art therapy for processing trauma more easily understood. Traumatic experiences impact the brain’s nonverbal, subcortical regions of the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, and hypothalamus; rational thinking and reasoning are disrupted. Art therapy provides access to the nonverbal subcortical areas of the brain, whereby emotions and traumatic experiences can be more readily processed.

Here’s a creative activity to help your child process trauma and grief: Create a safety box. Find a shoebox or papier-mâché box. Ask your child to paint it or color it and add images and words that help them feel protected and strong. Inside of the box ask them to make a safe space. They can create any place, real or in their imagination, that helps them feel safe and secure. They can use words or images to make a safe place. Modify what materials you provide to your child depending upon their age or traumatic experiences, as some materials may cause children to respond regressively and too many materials may cause emotional overwhelm. It’s best to contact a trained art therapist to help support your child and provide the appropriate materials to help your child process their emotions therapeutically.

If your child has experienced a crisis or traumatic event, we can help. Learn more: click here to schedule a Complimentary Support Consultation for your child today.