Kids and anxiety

I was recently talking with a teenager that I volunteer with at Mostly Mutts, a local shelter for dogs.  In the course of our conversation, she told me that she is home schooled because she “has anxiety.”  What does it mean when we think and talk about anxiety this way?

When we talk about anxiety as something that we “have”, much like we might say we have blond hair or blue eyes, we are saying that it is something we have little control over.  At best it becomes something that we somehow caught like a cold or the chickenpox. And the trouble with that view of anxiety is that it becomes a condition that we just need to live with or treat until it goes away as mysteriously as it appeared.

In actuality all of our emotions are feelings in our body that we create based on our thoughts.  This is true of positive and negative feelings.  Sometimes these thoughts are so ingrained that they are practically unconscious.  Sometimes  they are either so common in society or in our minds that we accept them without question as the truth or  the  only way to believe or think.

But the good news is that with enough effort and insight we can unearth the message that is creating any feeling.  Once we understand the message or thought process we can change that process so that we can change the feeling.  I think you would agree that this is not only worth the effort, but also a much better plan than learning to live with fear or anxiety through various coping strategies or medication that numbs our feelings.

Here’s how to teach kids to challenge and change feelings:

  • Become an observer— Take the time to evaluate a situation where the response is anxiety or fear.  Ask the questions:
    • What happened?  “The teacher announced a test on Friday.”
    • What did you tell yourself about the situation? “I don’t understand the material.  I always do badly on tests.  I’m not ready.  I’ll probably fail…”
    • How did you feel?  “Worried, nervous, afraid, anxious…”
  • Challenge your thoughts– argue with them, make them prove themselves, be the devils’ advocate, don’t accept thoughts as the truth
    • “I understand a lot of the material and I can learn the rest by Friday.”
    • “I don’t always do badly on tests.  I have made some really good grades on tests.”
    • “I’m not ready… yet.  I know how to study and prepare for a test and and I can do it.  I have the time and the ability.”
    • “I won’t fail if I put forth enough effort.”
  • Create a plan— don’t just change your thoughts, change your actions based on your thoughts.  Plan to do what is necessary to be your best self and put forth your best effort.
    • “I’ll study 30 minutes every night”
    • “I’ll finish reading the assignment and doing the extra work.”
    • “I’ll ask for help on the things I don’t understand.”
  • Be vigilant and stay in control of your thoughts and your actions in order to stay in control of your feelings— It’s hard to stay anxious when we are occupied with other things.  Stay on track with the plan.  Keep working on it and reminding yourself that you are in charge of your thoughts.
  • Be patient and give yourself time–The thoughts that create anxiety have had a lot of practice and repetition.  It will take some time to replace them but eventually the new way of thinking will become the new habit.

 

Related Posts:

Teaching kids to manage feelings

3 ways to teach kids to tackle anxiety

Is your child a people pleaser?

 

End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

AND

Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)

 


 

Learning from goal setting

In an earlier post this year, I suggested that students set an intention for the year and review that intention midway through the school year and again at the end of the school year.  As the school year comes to a close, it is a good time to determine the success of that intention and use it as a way to measure progress while planning for the  year ahead.  Here’s how…

Three Questions for Reflection

  • Were you successful in reaching your goal or your intention?  Why or why not?
  • What did you learn from setting this goal?  What would you do again?  What would you change?  How much more successful could you be if you put forth your best effort for the next few months?
  • What is your goal or intention going forward?  Imagine yourself in 3 months, 6 months or a year if you are successful.  What would that look like?  What would be different?

Reflection on goals has been shown to be a powerful learning tool.  In fact, individuals who don’t take the time to reflect on their history, often fail to learn valuable lessons and repeat the same mistakes. Setting aside a specific time for regular reflection is a good habit to establish and what better time to do it than as the school year comes to a close?

Related Posts:

Begin School with Intention, Plan for Reflection 

The secret sauce to setting and achieving goals

How to create an intentional year

 

End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

AND

Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)

 




7 Steps to Creative Thinking in Kids

In a world dominated by technology, creative thinking is at a premium. While we can find the answer to most any question just by goggling it, one thing that computers can’t do is create new ideas, problem solve or design projects that are outside of the box.  It takes the creative human mind to to connect the dots.

Is creativity just something some people are born with?

Is it possible to teach kids how to think creatively?

If so how?

7 steps to creative thinking:

  • Narrow the field– I know this is a surprising first step because most of us think to be creative that we need to widen the field of choices.  We believe we need to consider all the possible options.  Instead the brain is overwhelmed by too many choices and it is more productive in a smaller playing field.  Sometimes thinking creatively doesn’t mean thinking outside the box but instead changing the choices, connections and relationships inside the box.  Here are some examples of narrowing the field that can result in creative work:
    • Tell a story in 10 words
    • Draw a picture using just one color
    • Design a 7 step process for developing a new skill
  •  Re-frame the problem– This involves thinking about the problem in a new way by asking, “What if it’s possible?”
    •  What if it’s possible to maintain someone’s attention by creating a story with only 10 words?
    • What if it’s possible to tell a story where color plays an important role in the story?  (Check out the Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig.)
    • What if it’s possible to learn how to make friends in 6 easy steps? Check out Dale Carnegie’s book, How to win friends and influence people)
  • Separate research from development– Designate a particular time for gathering information and a later time for compiling and developing your information.  Just as it’s hard to research and write a story at the same time, its hard to think creatively about solving a problem when you are still gathering  data.  Multitasking isn’t effective in any arena of effort.
  • Silence the critic within- Our creative thinking is often squelched by our inner critic who is constantly offering negative comments and criticisms.  By deciding not to judge whether or not something is a good idea or even possible in the initial stages of creative thinking, you are able to open the door to imagination and originality. Learn to enjoy the process as much as the end result.
  • Sleep on it– Taking a break or sleeping on an idea and returning to it later allows the unconscious mind to sort through ideas and consider new and unique possibilities.  It releases inventiveness and ingenuity.
  • Think about how your work will benefit others– We often need to develop some personal distance from a project and asking how others will benefit or enjoy the end result helps to provide that space.  We can become more engaged in a project when we think it will help someone else than when we are doing it for ourselves.
  • Recognize the effort as well as the finished project– not everything works out as well as we would hope.  However when we encourage a growth mindset and praise the time and effort that went into a project, we are setting the stage for more creativity in the future.

Related Posts:

Teach Girls Bravery not Perfection

5 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Kids

4 Skills Your Child will Need as an Entrepreneur

 

Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Just for you!  Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the six Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books.  Over 75 pages of ideas so that you can create lessons on cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.

 

http://wyatthewonderdog.com/activitybook

 

 

teaching kids to manage feelings

A standard lesson that I taught every year as an elementary school counselor was recognizing feelings. It was a fun lesson. I’d bring in large cut outs of children showing mad, sad, happy or scared feelings and ask kids to guess how the child was feeling. We’d talk about body language and how  we know what someone is feeling.  We described feelings and came up with positive ways to show how we feel and negative ways to express the same feeling.  For example. a positive way to handle anger is to talk about it and a negative way is to hit someone.

This approach to teaching feelings is useful and gives kids a common language for expressing their feelings.  However, it is a basic classroom lesson and doesn’t really cover all the bases in helping kids manage feelings, especially negative ones.   What can we teach the child who needs anger management strategies or the child who is anxious and fearful, beyond how to recognize these feelings and positive ways to act them out?

Typical lessons on managing emotions teach kids to do things that redirect their attention or to do something that helps them calm down so they can regain control.  An example of redirecting is when you are angry, read a book or watch a movie and the feeling will go away.  An example of a calming technique is to count to 10 or take deep breaths.  These are good ideas but they don’t really get to the root of the problem and for some kids they simply won’t be effective.

What if we also taught kids to use self-talk to manage feelings that are uncomfortable, feelings that create problems for them or that ultimately interfere with living their best life?  Here’s what it would look like:

  • Recognize and observe the feeling-“I’m feeling angry because my heart is beating fast, my hands and teeth are clenched and I’m breathing fast.
  • Reflect on the mental message that created the feeling– “I’m thinking… I had the toy first and my sister shouldn’t have taken the toy without asking.”
  • Change the message to change the feeling-“What if I thought instead “It’s okay for someone else to play with the toy.  It’s okay for me to share the toy but I’d like to be asked first.”
  • Determine behavior and actions based on the new calmer feeling– “I can talk to my sister and tell her that I don’t mind sharing the toy but I’d like for her to ask me first.

If you are thinking that takes a lot more time and effort than just telling someone to count to 10 when they are mad… you are right.  On the other hand, you are teaching kids the vital life skill of how to manage feelings rather than letting feelings run the show. Understanding how thoughts create feelings rather than the other way around is empowering because it doesn’t teach a pat response to coping with a negative feeling. Instead it teaches kids how to manage their self-talk in a positive way that is applicable to any situation.  It’s also much more effective.  After all, how often have you seen a kid stop, count to ten and then handle anger appropriately?  How often have you done it?  See what I mean?

Sometimes simple isn’t better.

 

Related Posts:

3 ways to teach kids to handle anxiety

6 steps to manage test anxiety

Stressed out?

 

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

The power of ‘not yet’ in changing behavior

As I visit schools and provide training in DISC personality style to staff and parents, I’m often asked, “Can you change your basic personality style or is it just hard-wired in?”  The exciting news in all areas of human development is that we can change and grow in many ways. Personality style is no different.  We can change our perception.  We can change our behavior.  We can change our personality style.

However, it’s not always necessary to change our personality so much as it is to recognize and work in our strengths. Every personality style has strengths and areas of concern.

A high D personality style can be decisive and determined.  Or they can be bossy and domineering.

A high I personality style can be interactive and inspiring.  Or they can be impulsive and self-centered.

A high S personality style can be supportive and encouraging.  Or they can be passive and too compliant.

A high C  personality style can be conscientious and competent.  Or they can be paralyzed by details and insensitive.

I think you get the picture.  We all have the potential to maximize our strengths and be both a great leader and a great team-player but doing so means recognizing our areas of potential weakness and overcoming them.  There is always room to grow and change for the better.

Although much of Carol Dweck’s work on the growth mindset is around the area of improving academics, it is also relevant to improving behavior. Just as we can teach kids that their behavior is “not yet” optimal, we can also teach that there is always another chance  for change.  Just as kids can be taught that they can learn and grow academically, they can also be taught that they can learn and grow behaviorally.  Their daily behavior strengthens neural patterns making change and improvement easier and easier to repeat.

This is exciting news because we can help kids understand their potential for success. We can help kids learn to not only accept challenges but look forward to them because they mean growth.  We can help them understand that their behavior now is not yet optimal but that there is opportunity for improvement starting right now.  Notice as well that we aren’t passing out rewards, stickers, candy and toys to improve behavior.  Instead we are focusing on the intrinsic reward of growth and goal achievement. We are creating a positive vision for the future.  Most importantly we are preparing kids for the endless possibilities ahead.

Listen to Carol Dweck talk about the power of “not yet” over the tyranny of “now”.

 

Related posts:

How to create a better behavior plan

How do you change a child’s behavior?

How effective is your school’s ISS?

Parenting with Heart: Understanding your Child’s Personality Style

Do you sometimes feel that your children are speaking a different language?  Do you wonder how to motivate and inspire them?  In this eBook you will D-I-S-Cover your own personality style and how to speak the language of other personality styles to create a winning  environment in all the seasons of your family’s life.

parentingheart

Click on the link below to purchase the ebook:

Parenting with Heart: Understanding Personality Style

 

 Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt has never liked change, at least not at first.  Once he tries something new, he usually finds he really likes it.  Now that he is about to begin kindergarten, Wyatt is really worried.  Will he make friends?  Will he get lost in the new school?  Will he miss his mom?  Join Wyatt in his latest “wonder-full” adventure!Wyatt-kKindergarten_thumb
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Goes to Kindergarten

 

Kids and risk-taking

Babies and toddlers naturally take risks.   Watch any toddler navigate through a room and every step is an invitation to connect with the ground.  They wobble. They stumble. They totter here and there while the adults excitedly cheer them on.  We instinctively know that they have to make mistakes and learn how to get up when they fall in order to master the challenge of walking.

Learning to walk is a good analogy for the many skills that children must master to step into the adult arena.  What if we had the same positive and encouraging attitude when students failed a test or missed a catch in a baseball game or were rejected by a friend? Learning anything new requires taking the risk of failing and it also requires learning from those mistakes.

Two things you can learn from mistakes

There are two parts to learning from mistakes.  The first and obvious part is  learning what to do differently so that you don’t make the same mistake again.  Toddlers correct their balance.  They learn to avoid that obstacle that tripped them up. Students can learn to study more effectively.  They can practice their catches or learn how to communicate better with a friend.

The second part is dealing with the feelings surrounding making a mistake. Falling can hurt but once the tears are dried,  it doesn’t keep toddlers from trying to walk again. Helping children recognize and accept negative feelings while moving past them after a mistake is just as important as learning how to avoid making the same mistake again. Children who learn coping strategies  can quickly recover and take the  risks necessary to continue learning.

Some of the new brain research shows that our brain is hardwired to naturally retain negative experiences and to pay less attention to positive ones.  For this reason, it’s important to be intentional about learning from mistakes while focusing on and celebrating positivism and success. There was great wisdom in the old technique of getting right back on a horse once you fell off.  The quick action overcomes the anxiety that can develop and fester the longer you wait to get back in the game.

When we don’t allow students to experience taking risks as young children, when we try to program every experience for success, we short circuit their learning.  Later in life if they haven’t developed the emotional strategies to  cope with failure, they either avoid anything that involves risks or take inappropriate and dangerous risks because they haven’t learn how to differentiate.

Just as falling is a necessary part of learning to walk, learning to cope with failure is a necessary part of learning. Allow  kids to take risks  and fail when they are young and the stakes are lower.  Teach kids to replace “I failed” with “I learned.”

 

Related Posts:

Four leadership lessons for kids

What is your child’s super power?

5 steps to growing up a confident kid

 

 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend. Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners