Using mindful strategies with yourself and your child

Today’s blog is written by the wonderful Phoebe Crook, Assistant Psychologist at Headspace Guildford.

Both you and your child might be feeling anxious due to the uncertainty of the world at the moment. It is important to recognise when you might be feeling too overwhelmed and anxious. Are you struggling to focus on a task? Feeling demotivated? Is your child being argumentative or especially quiet? A good way to press the reset button is to do a mindfulness or relaxation practice. Everyday relaxation strategies involve; drawing or colouring, listening to music, reading, doing a puzzle and watching tv.

It might be useful for your child to create a self soothe box if they are feeling particularly anxious. This box, which can be made from an old shoe box or anything you have lying around the house, is a physical grounding technique for your child. Work with your child to identify items that can soothe them when they are, for example, anxious, angry or sad. Then place these items into the box and remind your child to seek out that box when they are feeling that way. Items should try and involve all the senses e.g. vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Ideas include; a photo of your child’s favourite place or a photo of a memory, a CD or a note containing their favourite song so they can go play that song on their computer, a comforting smell such as lavender or perfume, a small packet of sweets, a small soft cuddly toy or bubble wrap or a packet of bubbles. Basically, it can be any item readily available in the house that might be comforting to your child (obviously once lockdown is over then, should you desire, you can source other items to place in the box). When your child interacts with that item in the box encourage them to use the item and pay attention to their physical senses. Encourage them to look around and notice what they see, what they hear, what they smell or taste, and what they can touch. This might be challenging for some younger children so simply having a box with activities in that can distract them can also be effective. Your child should feel reassured that they have a box dedicated to helping them when they feel overwhelmed with an emotion. Encourage your child to decorate the box and personalise it so they are motivated to seek it out and use it when they need it.

Additionally, there are lots of amazing apps and websites that can help you through this process.

  • A simple and easy reset method to use with your child is the Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street app. This app goes through basic breathing methods to help calm anxiety down and is suitable for children under the ages of 8 years. Alternatively an explanation of the strategy can be found here- https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/activities/breathe-think-do/ . In sum it is all about helping your child calm down, think about what the problem might be or why they are feeling that way and then encouraging them find a solution or a distraction.
  • Another useful app is Stop, Breathe & Think Kids: which help children to identify and manage emotions and has useful meditation sessions.
  • Another useful app is Smiling minds which has setting for all ages. This involves meditation and self help around anxiety.

Specifically, for adults, you might find it useful to incorporate a yoga session into your day. This might be difficult with your child being at home all the time but try and work out a schedule with your partner, if possible, so you can have time to do a session alone. There are lots of yoga sessions on YouTube and currently until 1st May the app Down Dog is completely free to use (this offer also extends until July for health care professionals and students/teachers).

Do not feel overwhelmed by these strategies and ideas. Equally, they might not work for you. Relaxation and mindfulness is a very personal journey and it will take lots of trial and error. There are lots of websites, apps and YouTube videos that offer ideas and support on relaxation and mindfulness so you will eventually find one that suits you. Persistence is key though, you must commit to these strategies, unfortunately they won’t just work instantly. And remember, if you or your child have found some respite from your worries for even a few minutes then the relaxation and mindfulness was worth it. Good luck and keep safe!

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