Tips for supporting your child with anxiety

anxious child hiding her face

        

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Anxiety is affecting many children, especially post-Covid. There is an increase in emotionally based school avoidance. We look at this and managing anxiety in your child.

Managing anxiety in your child

A recent NHS study estimated that 1 in 8 young people suffer from anxietyAnxiety is a natural human response to stress or potential danger. It is a feeling of unease or fear about something that may happen. Sometimes anxiety is a common part of life, such as feeling nervous before a test or starting a new school. Excessive and persistent anxiety that interferes with daily life may indicate an anxiety disorder. 

 This blog offers tips and support for parents to help when their child is feeling anxious.

Tips for supporting your child when they are feeling anxious

All young people will feel anxious at some point. Common causes of anxiety in young people are:

Children’s anxiety may show through their behaviour. Common signs of anxiety are:

anxious child hiding her face
Anxiety is observed via behaviour.

How to start a conversation about anxiety

You could say to your child you’ve noticed a change in their behaviour or mood. You could say something like, ‘You seem a bit wobbly today. Is everything OK? I’m wondering if you’re a bit worried about something?’

Explain to your child that it’s normal to be anxious. Help them to find words to express their feelings. For example, wobbly, scared, anxious, nervous, and unsettled. Ask them where the feeling is. ‘Is it in your tummy, head, or heart?’ Tell them everyone has worries and that they can become too big to handle without help. Explain that avoiding our worries can make them bigger.

Talk about being brave together and working out small steps to tackle worries. Think with your child about what might happen if a fear came true and how they would handle it. For instance, ‘What could you do if you didn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch at school?’

It’s important not to dismiss your child’s feelings. Do not tell them they are being silly or that there is nothing to worry about. Listen and offer support. Take steps to resolve the issue that is worrying them.

Strategies to support your child if they feel anxious

Think about what helps your child calm down: rocking, having a warm drink, snuggling up. Help them to do this when they are feeling anxious.

Make a ‘calm bag’ they can use when they get anxious—for example, a fidget toy, threading beads, or a favourite book.

Try a breathing exercise. You could ask your child to breathe in and out slowly while counting to ten. Younger children could put their favourite soft toy on their tummy and watch it rise and fall as they breathe.

You could also put glitter and water inside a plastic bottle. Shake it up and ask your child to breathe slowly while they watch the glitter settle.

Promote and support healthy lifestyle choices

When we get anxious, our bodies prepare to cope with something difficult. This is called the ‘fight or flight’ response. In ‘fight or flight’, our hearts beat faster, we sweat more, and our muscles tense. It often helps to do something active to release these feelings and feel better. Encourage your child to play sports or exercise to help overcome their anxiety.

Sleep and diet are essential factors in reducing anxiety. They directly impact our physical and mental health.

When we sleep, our body and brain can rest, repair, and rejuvenate. Lack of sleep or poor sleep can contribute to increased anxiety levels. Sleep deprivation affects our ability to regulate emotions, cope with stress, and think clearly. Tiredness can intensify anxious thoughts and feelings.

Young people usually need at least 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Sleep promotes emotional stability, cognitive function, and overall well-being. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule can help achieve this. A sleep schedule includes:

The food we consume can significantly impact our mental health and anxiety levels.

Consuming a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods is important. Adequate intake of essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc can support brain function and emotional well-being, potentially reducing anxiety symptoms.

Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can contribute to feelings of anxiety and irritability. A diet that includes complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, vegetables) and balanced amounts of protein can help stabilise blood sugar levels and promote a more stable mood.

Stimulants like caffeine can increase heart rate, trigger restlessness, and exacerbate feelings of anxiety. Limiting or avoiding excessive caffeine intake can benefit those prone to anxiety. Energy drinks include high levels of caffeine and are very dangerous for young people.

sleeping child cuddled up with a bear
A regular sleep schedule is key to well-being in children.

Promote and support healthy lifestyle choices

How you cope with your anxiety will help your child cope with their worries and fears. Taking time to talk about worries with your child, and showing them how to cope, can really help them.

Look after yourself too. Talk to other adults, you’re not alone, and your child’s anxiety can make you anxious too.

You can speak to your child’s school or your GP if you are worried about your own or your child’s anxiety, and they can provide further support and guidance.

Get in touch

We hope this blog was helpful. Bright Heart tutors are well equipped to support children who are feeling anxious about school. We provide academic support but also mentor students so that they are able to cope in situations that they find challenging. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about support for your child. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


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6 exciting COVID-friendly activities for families this festive period

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Don’t let lockdown prevent your family from having fun this festive season – see 6 fun activities to try!            

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Bright Heart

We consider lockdown- friendly ways to keep the whole family entertained this festive season.

6 exciting COVID-friendly activities for families this festive period

The festive season is finally upon us! For some families, that could mean up to 10 days holiday this year, but with the coronavirus pandemic still causing real devastation across the country, many of the activities families share together are going to look a little different from how we would have preferred them to be.

Coming together while staying apart

All is not lost, however. There is a variety of things you can do at home (and even outside) with your kids that will keep them entertained as well as keep them safe.

 Before we jump straight into the list, these activities will be suitable to do with your family when there isn’t a global pandemic happening, but with a few tweaks, they will be perfectly COVID secure.

To keep your fun safe this festive season, remember to:

With that in mind, here’s our list of six family-friendly activities you can do with your crew over the festive period.

1. Family talent show

Who doesn’t love a talent show? Kids love to show off, especially with relatives they may not have seen for a while. With this activity, you can keep it small and have a talent show in your little household, or you could organise an even bigger show by utilising video chat with your extended family.

 It might take a bit of planning, but let the kids know they will be “on TV” and organise with the adults that each household will be on video chat to watch each other’s performances.

 If you haven’t got time to organise something with lots of you together, why not try to make sure at least the grandparents can make it by setting up a video chat? Software like Zoom is free to use for up to 40 minutes, or there is Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangout. If you’re on a mobile device, you can have video chats using WhatsApp too.

Children activities
How about making some fun puppet fish for the show?

2. Scavenger hunt outside

The weather over most of the UK this year isn’t looking too bad, and in all tiers, you and your family are allowed to leave your house for some exercise, which is a great way to burn off energy with active kids!

Take a scavenger hunt printout with you and get them involved in ticking off things that they see. This is an excellent opportunity to teach kids about nature, even in the midst of winter. Just be sure not to pick anything up and stay 2m away from any other families you may see on your walk.

map for a treasure hunt
Hunting for treasure can provide lots of family fun!

3. Make A Time Capsule

You may be thinking that you don’t want to remember 2020 at all, but if you’re a history fan, you will know that a year such as 2020 will be a year that historians will refer back to time and time again.

For this reason, building a time capsule for your family could be a lovely and quiet activity to wind down with. Fill it with things like a diary of what you did over Christmas, things you remember from 2020, handprints, paintings, and even photos if you can print them out.

 You don’t have to bury a time capsule; you can leave it in your loft or under a bed if that’s easier.

4. Online games with relatives

Did you know there are many free online versions of classic board games like Monopoly and Scrabble you can play with relatives who are not in your household?

Of course, there are game consoles that let you play with others, but other games like chess.com are simple and very family-friendly, and they’re a great way to connect with friends and family across the country without needing to be in the same room.

Mother and son with online learning
Connecting with grandparents through an online game is great family fun!

5. Family filming time

Another great activity to play with kids is to set up a family film. This doesn’t mean hunkering down in front of the TV with a movie. This means getting the camera out and starring in your own movie!

This is an exciting activity for kids as it gets their creative minds flowing with ideas for characters and scenes, and even older children can get involved with shooting and editing the film (almost everyone has a smartphone that can shoot video these days).

There are plenty of free apps that will help you edit your film together. Once you’re done, you can upload it to YouTube (unlisted if you are concerned about privacy issues) to share the link with your extended family and give them a good laugh this holiday season!

6. Get creative in the kitchen

Our last activity suggestion is a bit more traditional – getting kids back in the kitchen and enjoying cooking over the festive season.

Teaching children (and teenagers) how to cook is one of the most valuable lessons you can pass onto them as a parent, and it’s great fun, too.

Take this opportunity to try out some more challenging recipes, like bread or cake decorating, and use it as a trial run. Once they get better at the recipes and the pandemic has subsided, they’ll be able to cook for relatives or make sweet treats for family and friends when we’re allowed to celebrate together again. 

Children cooking
Cooking with the family can be loads of fun!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

While these activities are likely to provide a welcome distraction and a little light relief, it’s important to keep talking to your kids and keep them in the loop with an age-appropriate conversation about what’s happening.

What has been your experience as a parent keeping your children entertained during lockdown? 

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page.


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Handling anxiety and tutor engagement tools

Emily

A live Q&A discussion about anxiety and some excellent practical tips for student engagement with Bright Heart tutor, Emily.                          

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Bright Heart

In a live Q & A, John Salmon, M.Ed, has an enlightening discussion with Bright Heart tutor, Emily. Student anxiety as well as some good tools for student engagement are covered. 

Handling anxiety and tools for student engagement - a tutor's perspective (Livestream)

We recently held a Facebook Live Q&A with Bright Heart tutor Emily. This was a follow up from her well-received blog on practical tips for anxiety and self-care.  

This was hosted by Bright Heart director and former headteacher John Salmon, M.Ed

Emily discussed anxiety during lockdown and what she has observed in her students. She also discussed some handy tools for engagement, especially Minecraft, which is always popular with younger students! 

Please watch directly on Youtube or below, and see the list of key questions covered for your convenience.

Key questions covered

Do you have further questions about anxiety?

We would love to hear from you on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch with us directly. 


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‘Tricks and treats’ – a tutor’s perspective on anxiety

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A Bright Heart tutor looks at we can do to address anxiety with some helpful tricks and treats!                            

Emily

Emily

Bright Heart tutor Emily looks at some coping tools to help when suffering with anxiety

'Tricks and treats' - a tutor's perspective on anxiety

Anxiety. It’s a term we’re all familiar with. In recent years, mental health has (thankfully) become a more ‘approachable’ subject as people try their best to empathise and understand their peers and loved ones.

Now, in the world of Covid-19, many of us experience anxiety on a day-to-day basis – some for the first time, others having their symptoms aggravated by the current climate. As it plays tricks on our minds, it becomes more vital to address this anxiety within ourselves – as well as opening the conversation with children and young people.

anxiety
Conversations about anxiety are much needed

My background

I’ve been working with children and young people for 10 years, engaging with them, encouraging their passions and enjoying their energy. Their energy has always been utterly contagious and incredibly therapeutic.

Over the last few months, I’ve continued working with clients – though mostly online – and I’ve noticed a significant change in their demeanour, engagement and energy. Everyone deals with stresses and anxieties in different way as it manifests differently in each individual. However, I have noticed that one symptom that nearly every single student has is fatigue. Initially I was really concerned, until I realised, that nearly every single person that I have met with and spoken with is experiencing the same. We’re exhausted. This is completely understandable due to the ‘fight or flight’ human instinct that has been ignited in all of us – our bodies are knackered as we try to fight an invisible enemy, fiercely protecting one another and our loved ones.

As someone born and raised in Northern Ireland, my automatic coping mechanism to anxiety is to inject humour into whatever I can. This dry (and often dark) sense of humour relieves my stress but saying that, injecting humour into Covid-19 has been a nearly impossible task – though I often try. I’ve sat here with my thoughts, trying to think of ‘wee’ tricks to treat ourselves to help us cope with our anxiety. I’ll run through a few – and I hope they’re of benefit to you! (accidental rhyme but I ‘dig it’)

scary pumpkin
Some helpful tricks to treat yourself are considered

1. Exercise

The first trick (and I would 100% call it a trick) is exercise. The one we all dread to read on every helpful website or book that we’ve read. Exercise has been scientifically proven to help with anxiety symptoms. It’s funny that I’ve read this a million times, yet I still need at least 30 minutes of ‘psyching myself up’ on the sofa to actually take that step to, get up and start exercising. Thankfully, children don’t tend to need much encouragement to go run amuck! It’s good for them – and you (but I won’t judge if you’d rather sit down with a cuppa!).

2. Nature

Nature is one of the best remedies of all time, an inexpensive treat for sure! For most of us, just visualising nature brings us a sense of calm and quiet – it encourages near instant relaxation. Walk in nature when you can, better yet – go and stomp in those puddles, play in the mud and run around until you can’t feel your legs! Especially at this time of year, with the gorgeous autumn leaves decorating the ground – it’s difficult not to want to be surrounded by natural beauty. 

Further to this, it has been proven that visiting ‘a body of water’ – a lake, a river or the sea – is soothing to the soul, that and the smell of and/or contact with soil releases serotonin! It is an ancient belief that water replenishes your energy and cleanses your mind. I don’t know about you – but the moment I sit by the lake in Wimbledon Park, I feel like I can breathe again. It’s a calming activity for you and I guarantee, the children will LOVE feeding the ducks or swans (though please don’t use bread, try oats, sunflower seeds or leftover lettuce!).

nature scene
Nature is one of the best remedies

3. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the ‘trick’ to life. Every session I take some time to engage my students with mindfulness. These activities are often based in grounding techniques that aid with concentration. They will also help someone feel more present, which is proven to alleviate and reduce anxiety symptoms. Try your best to keep your home as your sanctuary – for your sanity and also for the rest of your family! It is challenging, Covid-19 has consumed our conversations alongside our mental and emotional energy. Undoubtedly, it is important to discuss it – it is after all a GLOBAL pandemic – but our whole lives don’t need to be consumed. 

Interestingly, two weeks ago, I set homework for all my students – they needed to find an activity that relaxed them that didn’t involve technology. This led to some interesting conversations and discoveries. Obviously, technology is great, especially now as we use it to connect with people – it means children can stay in touch with their friends, play games and make conversation. However, it’s important to know that we can still live without it! When my students returned, I found it fascinating how most of them felt like music and the arts relaxed them. Colouring became a stand-out in our conversations. Colouring books are easy to find locally and online – and an added bonus is that they now have colouring books for adults, so you will be able to join in!

4. Music

Another major trick (and treat!) is music. Full disclosure – I’m incredibly biased when it comes to music. As a professional musician, music is my life – and quite honestly, my sanity! I frequently use it to engage my students e.g. writing songs to revise topics. 

Philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, stated that ‘music is food for the soul’. Music has been proven to reduce stress in children and young people. Encouraging children and young people’s engagement should certainly help with anxiety symptoms – whether it is playing, singing or listening. I always lived by the motto that a home full of music is a home full of love. Of course – whenever I go home to N.I., I’m faced with Taylor Swift blasting from speakers upstairs, Shania Twain in the kitchen and some wonderful Rolling Stones echoing from the study. It’s chaotic – but it’s a nice reminder that there is energy at home. When music plays – the worries of the world melt away.

Relaxing music
'Music is food for the soul'

5. Self care

It is here that I reach my final ‘trick’, arguably the most important, self-care. When discussing self-care, people often look to the analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else. This, of course, is all well to remember as you watch the safety instruction on the plane before you jet off – it is an entirely different thing to remember all day, every day.

Children pick up on EVERYTHING – as I’m sure you’re all aware. If you are feeling anxious or stressed, your child will pick up on your energy. This is not said to add any more stress – rather it is a remind to care and look after yourself. Light some candles, run a bath, listen to some smooth jazz – whatever helps you relax and decompress after a long day. If you need reminding, just think of the wonderful quote (adapted) from RuPaul, ‘If you can’t love yourself, how can you love somebody else?’

Keep up the great work!

I hope some of these tricks and treats are beneficial to you. Heck – even just reading this will be a break (hopefully a nice one) from your day. The key thing to remember is that you are trying your best. Even on the days where you don’t feel like you are, you are. You cannot do better than your best! As I say to every student, after every session – Keep up the great work!

Contact us

If this article rings true for you, then please get in touch and let us know how best we can help.


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5 ways to ease anxiety in your child in 2020

Mother and son with online learning

Handling anxiety is best done by bringing it out into the open. Here are some tips to consider for your child.                                     

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Bright Heart

Handling anxiety is best done by bringing it out into the open. Here are some tips to consider for your child.

5 ways to help ease anxiety in your child in 2020

It’s no secret that this year has raised anxiety levels for parents and children alike. The uncertainty around schooling under COVID-19 has been challenging. This has meant different methods of learning
as well as social behaviour. For children with special educational needs, change can be especially hard to navigate. We explore five different ways to ease or reduce anxiety for your child.

1. Talk about it (and keep talking about it)

If your child is prone to anxiety or experiencing heightened levels of anxiety, try to talk to them about it.  Remind them that the ‘new normal’ is not the way things will be forever. Discuss fun memories they’ve had socialising at school before COVID-19 and share little stories you have of them and their friends. This can ignite pleasant memories and remind your child of how fun it can be to interact with others. Older children will have different needs but communication with them is still vital.

2. Alert the teacher

You may also consider contacting your child’s teacher and letting them know that your child is experiencing anxiety. This helps provide context for any unusual behaviour your child may present in the school setting. The teacher will also be better able to offer additional support and understanding to your child.  

3. Involve their friends

Additionally, encourage your child to keep in touch with their friends over video calls. When they’re little, think about setting up an online game for them to play together. That way they’ll be playing with their friends even if they aren’t in the same room. This goes a long way to making the transition from social distancing to physical socialising (and the resulting anxiety) less daunting.

Mother and son with online learning
Maintaining social contact when at home is much easier these days

4. Be mindful to stick to a predictable routine

Reinforcing stability is crucial to helping your child feel less overwhelmed. Routine can be useful in creating predictability and a sense of calm for them. Stick to regular hours for bedtime, recreation and other routine activities such as homework or study and meal times. Focus on healthy eating free from excess sugar or other stimulants.

5. Keep things positive

A positive mindset is powerful. Talk about the good things at school and within their friendship circles and how they’re taking the first small steps towards getting back to the life we all once enjoyed.  Sometimes there is unhelpful talk in the media which can affect children’s anxiety levels. For younger children, possibly consider turning off the TV when such conversations are taking place. Remind your child that home and family are a constant source of support and safety. Allow them to feel safe in the knowledge that they can always rely on you for stability and encouragement.

Help is available

Remind your child that trusted friends and other role models, such as teachers and tutors are also there for them to lean on.

Feel free to get in touch to see how we can help. Our tutors are aware of the effects of anxiety and how it can influence learning. We offer an obligation-free consultation which will assist in guiding you towards the ideal tutor for your child in terms of personality and educational needs. Experience the Bright Heart Approach today!

What has been your experience as a parent of a child with anxiety? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to chat.


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