Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

Play: Reduce worry and power struggles

March 7th, 2012

Jumping, running, playing- you’ve heard the positive benefits that play has on fine and gross motor skills and physical development, but did you know that play and exercise have therapeutic benefits?

Did you know research supports the benefits of play and exercise on reducing depression and anxiety? When excising and playing your body releases feel-good chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins), your body temperature rises, increasing calming effects, distracts you from worries, can improve sleep, strengthen your heart, lower your blood pressure, while strengthening the body and immune system. Yes, play is therapeutic!

Yet, given unstructured free time most children would prefer to watch television, play with their video games, text, be on social media, listen to music, or surf the web. Children are often in structured environments (sitting and listening) and then they unwind by plugging in to their electronics. When problems arise I often prescribe play to help children self-regulate their behaviors and emotions. Here are some common concerns that parents have regarding their children and some ways that play and exercise can be used therapeutically to benefit your child.

Children who have issues with sitting still, paying attention, focusing, doing homework can benefit from play after school. Your child has been focusing and working on paying attention all day and they need some time to release their pent up energy. Asking some children who struggle with attention and impulsivity (children with attention deficit issues, ADD and ADHD)  to do homework right after school is asking for a power struggle. Create a break between school a homework, take your child to the park, play tag, time them running and see if they can beat their time, go swimming, get out toys and play, paint, color, put on music and dance. Allow time to release energy and then create a transitioning calm down routine, such as a snack, before moving into a more focused activity.

Children who are anxious and worried can benefit from play and exercise to increase endorphins. Engage in gross motor activities, such as tossing a ball and naming worries and positives for the day, or blow bubbles and worries away and catch the bubbles that are good thoughts (use a big bubble blowing kit for expansive movement), or focus on a worry and then hula hoop for 5 minutes, and check to see if the worry is still as big.

Children who are frustrated can benefit from playtime where they can express their frustrations by ripping up paper with things that frustrate them written on it, or using a big piece of paper and painting with both the left and right hands, or bouncing on trampoline and naming all the things that bother them, or drawing/writing frustrations and throwing them in a basket.

Children who have a difficult time getting along with their sibling and peers can use play to work on positive communication, asking for what they want, learning how to cope with frustrations, and working out problems. Imaginary games, interactive art activities, or building with Lego’s provides an opportunity to manage differences.

Children who have a difficult time sleeping and self-calming can use exercise to help them get a good night’s sleep. Engage in running and swimming, or sports where they are continually moving (such as soccer or basketball). Make sure these activities happen in the afternoon or early evening so your child has plenty or time to regulate their body for sleep.

What play strategies you use to help your child?

If you are in the Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton, Venice Florida area and you are looking for child therapy, we can help. Schedule a 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  to help your child.


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 .


Got an anxious child? Here’s a creative solution to reduce anxiety, stress, worry, and fear

July 26th, 2011

Stress, worries, anxiety, fear- it’s all part of life. Yet, if your child is 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 your child 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 may internalize their feelings and not get the attention that a child whom is acting out gets. However, this internalization may lead to feeling of inadequacy, self-criticism, and may trigger addictive and self-harming behavior.

Children who are anxious can learn to develop skills to self-soothe and regulate their emotional state. Providing your child with an opportunity to learn some new strategies in a way that is aligned with their natural learning process is the easiest way to help your child develop coping strategies that they will actually use.

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. If there is a certain situation (like homework) 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 biological based strategies we teach in our Comprehensive Family Support Program to help your child reduce the physiological impacts of anxiety (such as increased heart rate, panic attacks). Even if your child has normal worries this fun and creative program will give your child some cognitive and behavioral tools to tackle worries when they arise!