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Reducing Our Kids’ Worries About A Scary, Unpredictable World

Worried child in front of graffitiAs parents, we can reduce our kids’ worries about a sometimes mean, scary, unpredictable world and curb the growing “Mean World Syndrome”

School shootings. Bombings. Power storms. Terrorism. War. Pedophiles. Recession. Cyberbullying. Global warming. Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Sexual abuse, COVID-19.

It’s a scary world out there for us, but how do you think the kids are faring?

Let’s face it – we live in frightening, unpredictable times. But if you are feeling a bit jittery about violence, turbulent weather conditions, coronavirus, or a troubled economy, imagine how our kids must feel. Talk of uncertain times permeates the world around them. Graphic television images of sickness and terrifying events just reinforce their fears.

Think about it: this is the first generation of children who have watched broadcasts of school massacres, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and hospitals filled with sick and dying coronavirus patients from their own living rooms.

Make no mistake: the image of the world as a mean and scary place is affecting our kids’ well-being.

In fact, George Gerbner coined the term “Mean World Syndrome” to describe a phenomenon when violence-related content in the mass media makes viewers believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. And that syndrome seems to be one that our kids are catching.

Our Teens Weigh In About the Concerns For Our World

Several years ago I worked with the schools in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was a glorious Norman Rockwell-type community. Picture perfect. Idyllic. Just plain wonderful. Street lamps are actually shaped like Hershey kisses. I spent time talking to students groups as I always do before addressing the parents, community and staff. It’s my way of getting a pulse on teen concerns.

I always ask the principals to give me a sample of the students so the focus group represents all genders, races, cliques, economics. I end up with a homecoming princess, a jock, a band kid, a theater student, a student council leader, a misfit. Kids. Just kids. And do they ever open up when they know someone is there to really listen.

“What are your concerns?” I asked them. And those teens began to share their worries:

“My grades.” “I don’t know if I’ll get the scholarship.” “I don’t want to let my parents down.” “Peer pressure.” “I don’t know if I’ll get into college,” they said.

“And what are your worries outside of this town?” I asked. “What concerns you about the world?”

The kids are in non-stop mode now and I’m running out of space just trying to jot down their concerns:

“Iraq.” “Iran.” “Global warming.” “Power storms!” “Terrorism.” “Violence.” “Prejudice.” “Sexual predators.” “Recession.” “Getting a job.” “Our future.”

Their “worry list” goes on and on. Then one boy stops us all with his question:

“Do you think we’ll ever live to see the future?,” he asks quietly. “I worry about that a lot. I don’t think our generation will.”

The look on every teen’s face says it all. Each child had the same concern. The fear on their faces has haunted me.

The Kids Are Worried Folks

We think kids don’t think about such “big” worries. Wrong. Those teens are no different than the hundreds of other teen focus groups in this country. And here’s proof.

A survey conducted by MTV and The Associated Press of over 1300 teens nationwide found that only 25 percent feel safe from terrorism when traveling.

The vast majority of teens admitted that their world is far more difficult than the world their mom or dad grew up in. Just consider a child growing up today vs. yesterday. In the 1950s, a survey found that our children’s biggest fears were loud noises, snakes, insects, and a parent’s death. Fast forward fifty years later. The most pressing kid stressor today is still a parent’s death, but “violence” has now replaced loud noises and snakes.

But the biggest fear many teens report today: “I’ll never live to see the future.”

It hurts just to hear their top concern.

The New “Mean World Syndrome”

The fact is constantly hearing about troubling world events does more than just increase children’s anxiety.
It also alters their view of their world.

Many child experts are concerned that today’s children are developing what is called “Mean World Syndrome.” It means our children perceive their world as a “Mean and Scary Place.”

Of course we can’t protect our kids and assure their safety, but we can help allay those fears and see their world in a more positive light.

Studies have shown that about 90 percent of all anxious children can be greatly helped by learning coping skills.

Here are a few parenting strategies you can use to help reduce your kids’ anxiety particularly in these uncertain times and help them develop a more positive outlook about their world.

Tips to Curb Kid Worries About a Scary World

1. Tune Into Your Child – Start by observing your child a bit closer when a frightening event occurs. For instance:

  • Is your child afraid to be left alone or of being in dark or closed places?
  • Does he have difficulty concentrating or is he excessively irritable?
  • Does she react fearfully to sudden noses, revert to immature behavior patterns, act out or have tantrums, or nightmares?
  • Is he bedwetting, withdrawing, crying excessively, or a experiencing a change in eating or sleeping habits?

Each child copes differently, so tune into your child’s behavior. Doing so will help you recognize how your son or daughter deals with life’s pressures and know when you should help to reduce those worries.

2. Monitor Scary News – Limit your child’s viewing of any news that features an alarming event (such as a kidnapping, pedophiles, makeshift morgues and tents setup in convention halls to treat the overflow of COVID-19 patients, etc). Monitor. Monitor. Monitor!

Studies show that seeing those violent images exacerbates anxiety and increases aggression in some kids and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in others. And don’t assume because your kid is older, the news does not affect him.

A Time/Nickelodeon study found that preadolescents said that those TV news bulletins that interrupt regular programming were especially disturbing. They admitted being even more anxious if a parent wasn’t there to help explain the event to them.

If your kids do watch the news, watch with them to answer their questions. Be there!

Also, monitor also your conversation with other adults so your kid doesn’t overhear your concerns.

3. Keep Yourself Strong – Don’t expect to be able to help allay your kids’ anxiety, unless you keep your own in check.Are you watching what you eat and reducing anxiety-increasers such as caffeine and sugar, exercising, getting enough rest, seeking the support of friends, or spending a quiet moment alone?

Remember, you can tell your kids you’re not worried about those world events or a troubled economy, but unless your behavior sends the same message your words have no meaning.

Our parenting priority must be to keep ourselves so we can keep our kids’ strong. That means we need to reduce our harried, hurried schedules so can model calmness to our kids. So just cut out one thing – be it the book club, the violin lessons, or cooking the “gourmet dinner” every night. Just reduce one thing! Your kids mirror your behavior and will be calmer if you are calmer.

4. Be Emotionally PresentDon’t assume because your child isn’t talking about the latest news tragedy or the recession, that he isn’t hearing about it. Chances are he is and he needs to get the facts straight. You are the best source for that information. Your child also needs to know that it is okay to share his feelings with you and that it’s normal to be upset.

You might start the dialogue with a simple: “What have you heard?” or “What are your friends saying?”

You don’t need to explain more than your child is ready to hear. What’s most important is letting your child know you are always available to listen or answers his concerns.

5. Do Something Proactive As a Family – One of the best ways to reduce feelings of anxiety is to help kids find proactive ways to allay their fears. It also empowers kids to realize they can make a difference in a world that might appear scary or unsafe.

  • Put together a “care package” to send to a health-care hero (a supermarket gift card, home-made masks and a hand-written note of appreciation).
  • Adopt the elderly neighbor and leave a batch of homemade cookies outside her door.
  • Or have your kids help you send “hugs” (a teddy bear, crayons, coloring book) to a child who has just lost all her earthly possessions in a flood, tornado, fire or is quarantined at home with a parent in the hospital.

6. Pass on Good News Reports – Draw your child’s attention to stories of heroism and compassion – those wonderful simple gestures of love and hope that people do for one another (that seem to always be on the back page of the paper). Find those uplifting stories in the newspaper and share them with your child.

A wonderful time to review them is right before your child goes to sleep. You can also encourage your kids to watch for little actions of kindness they see others do and report them at the dinner table. Many families call these “Good News Reports.”

It’s important to assure your children that there’s more to the world than threats and fear. Your actions can make a big difference in helping to send them that message.

7. Teach Anxiety-Reducing Techniques – Anxiety is an inevitable part of life, but in times like these those worries can be overwhelming. Here are just a few techniques you can help your child learn to use to cope with worries:

• Self-talk. Teach your child to say a statement inside her head to help her stay calm and handle the worries. Here are a few:

“Chill out, calm down.”

“I can do this.”

“Stay calm and breathe slowly.”

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Go away worry. You can’t get me!”

• Worry melting. Ask your kid to find the spot in his body where he feels the most tension; perhaps his neck, shoulder muscles, or jaw. He then closes his eyes, concentrates on the spot, tensing it up for three or four seconds, and then lets it go. While doing so, tell him to imagine the worry slowly melting away. Yoga or deep breathing exercises seem to be helpful for girls.

• Visualize a calm place. Ask your kid to think of an actual place he’s been where he feels peaceful. For instance: the beach, his bed, grandpa’s backyard, a tree house. When anxiety kicks in, tell him to close his eyes, imagine that spot, while breathing slowly and letting the worry fly slowly away.

Final Thoughts

These are tough times for everyone — but especially for our kids. World events are unpredictable. Tragedies seem to be all the news. As much as we’d like to protect our children, unfortunately there are some things we can’t control. What we can do is help our children learn strategies to cope and those tools will build our children’s resilience to handle whatever comes their way.

  • Anxious kids are two to four times more likely to develop depression, and, as teens, are much more likely to become involved with substance abuse.
  • Anxiety symptoms are showing up in kids as young as three years.

If your child shows signs of anxiety for more than a few weeks or if you’re concerned, don’t wait. Seek professional help. Please.

Now take three slow deep breaths. What’s your first step to help your family?

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Thrivers Book CoverAcross the nation, student mental health is plummeting, major depression rates among teens and young adults are rising faster than among the overall population, and younger children are being impacted. As a teacher, educational consultant, and parent for 40 years, Dr. Michele Borba has never been more worried than she is about this current generation of kids. In THRIVERS, Dr. Borba explains why the old markers of accomplishment (grades, test scores) are no longer reliable predictors of success in the 21st century – and offers 7 teachable traits that will safeguard our kids for the future. She offers practical, actionable ways to develop these Character Strengths (confidence, empathy, self-control, integrity, curiosity, perseverance, and optimism) in children from preschool through high school, showing how to teach kids how to cope today so they can thrive tomorrow. THRIVERS is now available at amazon.com.

Is Your Stress Harming Your Kids?

Money worries, job demands, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have us stressed to the max… and it’s taking a toll on our kids. A 2010 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that children who said their parents were stressed said they were stressed too. They reported feeling sad, worried or frustrated – and their parents had no idea, according to the survey. As of 2022, according to the APA: children’s mental health is in crisis.

Stress is bad for your well-being, but it puts kids at risk too. Numerous studies show that chronic tension is damaging to children’s mental, physical and oral health. “Our children pick up our feelings and concerns. When we’re stressed, it makes them worry. And when we’re calm, they feel more secure and content,” says educational psychologist Michelle Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.

Here, a few research-proven and expert-recommended tips to ID stress effects in your kids, reduce their anxiety, and keep your own tension in check.

Spot the stress signs. Since most kids can’t just come out and say, “I’m stressed!” the APA advises watching for these red flags:

  • Acting irritable or moody
  • Withdrawing from favorite activities
  • Expressing concerns
  • Complaining more than usual
  • Crying
  • Clinging to a parent or teacher
  • Sleeping or eating too much or too little
  • Experiencing stomachaches and headaches, which can be a side-effect of stress

Give them some control. Giving kids choices and a sense of control over a situation helps them deal with stress better, according to The National Institutes of Health. Give them a heads-up on any changes or decisions that might affect them, so they can process the information without feeling blindsided.

Get physical, together. Exercise releases endorphins – your body’s natural stress-reducers. Go on a family hike, take a bike ride, or dance around the living room. And to keep your own stress at bay, start a regular exercise routine.

Avoid unnecessary stressors. Say no to extra responsibilities when your plate is already full. Skip movies, TV shows or news stories that make you tense. Bow out of social situations that are uncomfortable. And stay away from people, places and things that make you anxious or unhappy.

Be accepting. Can’t change a problem? Change yourself. By choosing to see the positive in a challenging situation (…Mr Rogers “look for the helpers“), stepping back to gain perspective, and abandoning perfectionism.

Cuddle up. When you feel your anxiety level rise, take a cuddle break. A simple back rub or a big hug can release your child’s tension — and help you relax in the process. Plus, a snuggle with your spouse can boost your heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress hormones and releasing oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone,” according to a study conducted by The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Protect your time. Part of reducing stress is nurturing yourself so you’re better able to handle life’s zingers. Whether you like to garden, bake, read mysteries or hit the mall, set aside “you” time every day. And don’t forget to laugh! It helps your body beat stress – and it keeps your kids smiling too.

9 Ways to Help Your Perfectionist Kid Feel “Good Enough”

Perfectionist kidsOf course we want our children to reach their potential and to excel. Of course we want them to get those great grades and succeed. But often kids feels so much pressure that they become obsessed to doing everything so perfectly to an unhealthy degree. And that can leave them feeling anxious, frustrated and worried most of the time.

Another problem with perfectionists is that they often put those pressures on themselves. “Will it be enough?” “What will others think?” ”Why did I miss that one point?”” I have to stay up later…I won’t get a perfect score!” ”But it isn’t GOOD enough I need to work harder!”

Because they’re never satisfied and always pushing themselves, they are often frustrated with their performance. Of course always wanting to be perfect to an extreme can take a toll on our children’s emotional health as well as disrupt their lives.If they keep up that push, push, push, never-good-enough pace, all that heightened stress can put them in jeopardy for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, migraines headaches, and even suicide. Perfectionists are also more at risk for emotional, physical as well as relational problems.

But let’s keep in mind that this isn’t just a “big kid issue.” Even preschoolers are beginning to exhibit this problem. We see this “I’m never good enough” concept especially in our gifted and talented kids. Here are signs to watch for:

Signs of Kid Perfectionists

  • Always comparing themselves to others; can’t stand coming in second place or doing worse than others; wants to be the best and anything less not good enough
  • Migraines or headaches, stomach aches, trouble sleeping, or other physical ailments before, after, or during a performance
  • Too cautious about trying something new that may be outside of his area of expertise and mean he may not excel
  • May put others down. All in an effort to be their best and make the other person feel less perfect – or inadequate
  • May put the same high standards on others
  • Worrying it won’t be good enough; or fears failure. Avoids difficult or stressful tasks; leaves work unfinished out of fear it won’t be perfect
  • Concentrates on the mistake instead of the overall job or how well he performed
  • Way too hard on himself; can’t laugh at himself or his own mistakes

Though some of our kids are just hard-wired with that inborn tendency to always push, push, push themselves to the max, max, max, there are things we can do. For instance, we can teach them coping skills so they can lower their stress and we can show them how to set more realistic expectations. And we can also take an honest appraisal by tuning into our own expectations and example to make sure some of that push they put on themselves really isn’t coming from us. Here are a few tidbits of proven parenting advice from my book to help you help your child survive, cope and thrive in this wonderful world.

Helping Perfectionists Survive, Cope, and Thrive

1. Lighten the child’s load

Start by honestly checking his schedule: Is there any time for just downtime or play? Is there any of those activities that can be eliminated or reduced? Teach your child he can always go back and finish up an activity, but give him permission to just plain enjoy life. (You may need to remind him and chart that time into his schedule so she does take time to glance at the clouds or just do plain nothing for a few seconds anyway.) While you’re at it, do take an honest assessment at the classes, programs, activities, clubs, etc.

Perfectionist lane

Ask three questions:

  1. Are they ones that stretch my child without snapping him?
  2. Are they tailored to my child strengths and capabilities?
  3. Does my child really need them all?

2. Teach her to be her own “time-keeper”

If she works hours on her writing but actually does a great job the first time through, set a time limit on how long she can work on a particular activity. Then help her log her own time.

3. Teach stress busters

Show your child a few simple relaxation strategies such as taking slow deep breaths, listening to soothing music, walking, or just taking ten and lying on the couch to help improve her frame of mind and reduce a bit of that intensity—at least for a few minutes.

4. Help your child handle disappointment

The inner dialogue of a perfectionist is self-defeating. “I’m never good enough.” “I knew I’d blow it.” So help your child reframe his self-talk by teaching him to say to a more positive phrase that’s less critical and judgmental and more reality-based such as: “Nobody is perfect.” “All I can do is try my best.” “I’ll try again next time.” “Believe in myself will help me relax.”

5. Start a family mantra

One way to help your child realize that mistakes don’t have to be seen as failures, is to come up with a family mantra such as: “A mistake is a chance to start again.” Or: “Whether you think your can or that you can’t you’re right.” Then pick one phrase and say it again and again until your child “owns it.” You might even print out a computer-made sign and hang it on your fridge.

6. Teach “Take a reality check”

Perfectionists imagine something horrid will happen if they hit the wrong note, don’t hit the high beam, or don’t make the standard they’ve set for themselves. Your role is to challenge their views so they don’t think in such all or nothing; black or white thinking, and help them dispute the belief.

For instance: Kid: “I know the moment I pick up my pencil I’m going to forget everything I studied all year.” You: “That’s never happened in your entire life. Why now?”

Show your child the advantages and disadvantages of being a perfectionist. Explain what you can control verses what you can’t. Redefine success as not perfection, but excellence.

7. Watch your example!

Are you a perfectionist? Is nothing ever good enough? Do you berate yourself for every little thing? Beware, research shows that moms who are perfectionists or who base their self-esteem on their kids’ achievement are more likely to have perfectionist kids. Watch out! Your kids are watching!

Remember, the parenting goal is not to change your child, but to help her learn coping skills and expectations that will reduce her self-made pressure. Stress stimulates some kids, but it paralyzes others. So tune into your child.

8. Get real about abilities

Don’t try to turn your child into the “Superkid Perfect-in-Everything. Instead, be more practical about your child abilities and be honest with her. Start assessing and refining her natural strengths—her artistic flair, his creative nature, or her musical pitch. Then monitor, encourage and strengthen those traits and skills so she doesn’t try to push herself so hard in too many areas but instead narrows her focus and has a more realistic assessment of her talents.

9. Make sure there’s time for fun

Encourage laughter and just sitting outside every once in a while and watching the clouds drift by. Teach your child she can always go back and finish up an activity, but give her permission to just plain enjoy life.

Tailor your expectations to your child’s natural nature and development. Temper any tendency to “push her harder” (perfectionist kids are their own best pushers). Those are the true secrets that help our kids reach their potential and utilize their gifts.

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Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com.

 

How to Bring out Your Kids’ Best Behavior

If you’re the parent of a perfect child – one that never whines, argues, lies or misbehaves – this article isn’t for you. But if your child is guilty of any (or all) of the above, don’t despair. He’s just doing what most kids do. So how do you go about changing his negative behavior? Use positive reinforcement, says child behavior expert Noel Janis-Norton, author of Learning to Listen, Listening to Learn (Barrington Stoke Ltd). Here are some tools you can use to bring out the best behavior in your child:

Descriptive Praise

Instead of lecturing your child when he does something wrong, praise him when he does something right. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But for many parents, it’s trickier than they think. “Because humans are more inclined to notice what’s wrong in a situation, we are much more aware when there’s a problem,” says Janis-Norton. “It takes hard work and discipline to notice when children are doing things right, such as not whining or not interrupting.”

The key is to notice – and casually comment on – every little thing that your child is doing that is right, just OK or not wrong. “Descriptive praise is a powerful motivator,” says Janis-Norton. “It catches kids doing the right thing and inspires them to think of themselves as considerate and capable people. The rationale is: What you notice, you get more of.”

Traci McPhereson, 34, of Los Angeles, has seen it firsthand: “My 4-year-old twins responded almost instantly to descriptive praise. I’d say, ‘I see you’re not hitting your sister’ even when my son was just sitting on the floor doing nothing. Sometimes I feel insane saying stuff like, ‘You’re not whining and crying!’ or ‘You’re not sucking your thumb!’ but hey, it works! The positive changes in their behavior have been enormous.”

Reflective Listening

When a child is upset, parents instinctively want to defuse the situation by asking her what’s wrong and then giving advice. Or if she explodes with anger, they’ll get angry, too, and yell at her to stop it. In both cases, parents can calm things down simply by showing empathy, using a technique that Janis-Norton calls reflective listening. “That’s when a parent mirrors what the child is feeling. “It helps to deal with the emotion that’s dominating the child and get it resolved.”

It takes discipline on your part to step back and think before you respond, but the payoff is huge. If your child has lost his temper and is throwing things around, you could send him for a time-out and make him even angrier. Or you could take a step back and say, “You must be very angry about something. I’m sorry that you’re so upset. Can you tell me what happened?” Chances are your child would stop for a second to think about how he feels.

It’s often hard for a child to put what she’s feeling into words. “But when you use reflective listening, over time it will teach your child a vocabulary for expressing her feelings so that she doesn’t bottle them up inside and act on them inappropriately,” she says.

Action Replays

The next time your child misbehaves, be kind and rewind. Instead of scolding, repeating, reminding or lecturing, Janis-Norton suggests you try what she calls an action replay. “This is how parents can follow through with the rules they’ve established with their kids,” she says. “It’s simply asking the child to do things again, but this time the right way.”

Randall says dinnertime is the perfect opportunity to utilize action replays in her house. “My daughter, who’s 3, hates to use her fork,” she explains. “Whenever she starts to eat her food with her fingers instead of her fork, I say, ‘Let’s do that again. Show me how you’re supposed to be eating your food.’ Once she uses her fork, I give her descriptive praise, like ‘See, you knew just what to do,’ and then everybody’s smiling again. It’s nice to be able to avoid arguments that may have otherwise erupted.”

“Plus, doing an action replay will boost your child’s self-esteem,” concludes Janis-Norton, “because she’s now proven to herself that she can indeed succeed.”

Heather Randall, 39, of Sun Valley, Calif., most recently used reflective listening when her daughter had a nightmare. “I went into her room and asked her to tell me about it,” she explains. “Instead of responding with, ‘Don’t worry, it was just a dream, go back to sleep,’ I said, ‘You’re so frightened. Nightmares can sure be scary, can’t they?’ She stopped crying, thought about it for a second, and replied, ‘They sure can.’ After that, she nodded right back off to sleep.”

Even with ADHD, “Menditation” Helps Calm a Little Boy’s Mind

This is the story of a sweet little six year old, I see at a school to enhance executive function skills. He is rather energetic and would like to throw his body on the crash mat (an occupational therapy mat that is about 6×10 ft wide and 4 ft thick filled with beans or foam) two hours at a time. So we always begin with a heavy dose of running, jumping, side hopping and skipping, even though he’d rather we pretend we’re offensive lineman and just smash into one another.

After we’re all sweaty and I’m worn out, ‘cause just in case you’re not reading between the lines, nothing wears him out, he says “Let’s do menditation.” Yes, menditation, that’s not a typo. When he initially used the word, I jumped all over it, “That’s right Johnny we mend our mind and our body with menditation.” Oh my, he plops down, even though we’re on the cement right outside the backdoor at his school. Bam! “I menditate!” he exclaims.

What Johnny loves is rhythm in action. We do the same thing every time and if I skip a step I hear, “No, Dr. Lynne that’s not how we do it.”

We start by placing a small bouncing ball, the kind you find in the 50-cent machines at the grocery store, on our belly buttons. We breathe into our lower bellies until the ball rises or falls off. This teaches Johnny how to take deep diaphragmatic breaths.

There we remain laying down, close our eyes and breathe in our favorite color, we focus on the color as our thoughts fade away. I tell Johnny his body is falling gently into a pool of water or warm beach sand so that his shoulders fall, his hands open and relaxation wafts over him. He knows now not to speak, but in the beginning we would turn over a three-minute egg timer and choose not to speak until the sand has fallen through the timer. In the beginning he used to sit and watch the sand, that was a fine beginning. Your child may meditate by watching the sand time and time again, eventually he put the timer down, and close his eyes just like Johnny did. Three minutes of meditation might be as a still as a child with ADHD has ever been outside of sleep, so go with it, choose not to talk and just lay there breathing deeply.

When Johnny stirs or shows signs of being bored with the activity we sit up cross-legged and breathe out in a series of long “Ommm”s. This extends the period of relaxation while still providing the child with enough novelty to feel stimulated. After a few “Ommm”s, we stand and drop into a downward dog pose. We slowly rise, salute the sun with our hands over head, our hands fall gently to our sides and we are done. The whole process takes about 15 minutes now, in the beginning four minutes was all Johnny could tolerate.

When Johnny’s brain and body have calmed we them work on our “brain skills” for the day. Sometimes we bounce a large beach ball back and forth each stating one step toward being a good listener, kind friend or attentive student. Whatever the skill, engaging the cerebellum while we state the skill seems to help.

As an example:

Lynne: I choose not to talk.

Johnny: I choose to open my ears.

Lynne: I choose to look into the eyes of my teacher.

Johnny: I choose to watch her as she speaks.

Lynne: I think about the words she is saying.

Johnny: I ignore other noises.

Lynne: I keep my body still on my chair.

Johnny: I keep my hands folded on my desk.

Lynne: Now I am ready to do what my teacher asks.

Johnny: When I listen I learn.

There you have it. Boys can meditate, even boys with severe ADHD like Johnny. First we get out our energy. Then we meditate. Then we learn and even practice a skill.

The brain is a fabulous and miraculous organ. It is primed to learn and grow. All it needs from us as parents and teachers, is to maximize the opportunity. ADHD or not, meditation helps calm the brain and open opportunities for learning. Give it a try. If you also wish for music. Lori Lite’s mp3s can be found on itunes or at her site http://stressfreekids.com.

I am calmer now for writing this story. Hope you and your children will give meditation a try.

Mend, heal, learn.

5 Steps That Teach Your Kids to Stress Less

Being a kid means being carefree, right? Not necessarily. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association of 1,206 kids ages 8 to 17, one-third say they worry a help take away the stressgreat deal or a lot — and more than one-third report that they’re stressing more this year than last.

Why are kids so stressed? Dr. Caron Goode, author of Help Kids Cope with Stress and Trauma, says that the onslaught of media (television, radio, the Internet and mobile devices) in kids’ lives is a very real source of increased stress. Parents can shield kids from some adult stressors, like the evening news and violent TV programs, and should avoid over-scheduling their activities.

However, we can’t protect our children from every stressful situation that life throws at them.

No-one could have predicted a year of COVID, and just when we thought we were out of the woods and heading for a “normal” back-to-school, the Delta variant turned our kids’ worlds upside down again. Unpredictable and stressful – yes it has been, but debilitating – it doesn’t have to be. We can get our kids through this!! (editor’s note)

To do this, it’s important to teach them to recognize the signs of stress and learn how to react in a positive, healthy way — especially now, when they are starting a new school year and coping with the additional stresses of meeting teachers and fitting in with classmates. Goode offers these practical tips for helping your kids stress less:

1. Identify the root fear.

The first thing parents need to do is to sit down and listen to what kids are worrying about. Maybe it’s the fact that Dad is unemployed or that the latest fire on the West Coast or hurricane in the Gulf has hurt the environment.

  • Goode says that when kids express a general anxiety, it’s important for parents to help them identify it more specifically by rephrasing their concerns. Example: “It sounds like you’re worried that Dad lost his job.”
  • Then Goode suggests probing further to get to the root source of the fear. Example: “What worries you about Dad not working?” (Perhaps it’s not having enough money for those new jeans.)
  • Lastly, channel the child’s concerns into a positive, affirmative action to help dissipate their feelings of helplessness. Example: “Let’s come up with a plan for you to earn some money doing chores, so you can save up for those jeans.”

2. Recognize the signs of stress.

Parents can help kids recognize the signs of stress in their own bodies so they can take steps to calm down. Signs of stress include:

  • Shortened breathing
  • Pounding heart
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling that “the walls are closing in”

3. Practice self-soothing techniques.

Goode suggests practicing the following techniques with your kids, so they’ll know how to do them on their own:

  • Hand on the heart. “Research shows that when placing a hand on the heart and imagining something calming like a beach, the heart will be calmer within five minutes,” says Goode. “Kids can easily bring down their anxiety levels using this technique.”
  • Deep breathing. This lowers blood pressure and heart rate, helping the body to relax. Goode says even just five deep breaths can help alleviate stress.
  • Blow away stress. Goode suggests telling children to close their eyes and imagine that their worry is a dark cloud hanging overhead. Tell the child to name the cloud, see the cloud, describe it, and then blow it away with a few deep breaths. This helps the child clear his mind.
  • Positive imagery. Tell your child to imagine sunshine in her heart. Describe a bright light that feels calm and peaceful. The child can hold onto the light and use it to zap worries later. This technique is especially helpful for children dealing with bullying or an illness, because it gives them a sense of control.

3. Blow off steam.

Getting regular exercise — even for just 15 minutes — can seriously reduce stress because it releases energy and endorphins. “When the body is in movement, there’s less inclination to focus on a negative mental stream,” says Goode.

4. Walk the dog.

Goode says that walking the family dog together can be one of the best ways to help a child stress less. “Children who walk a dog will usually talk things out with a parent if they walk together.” In addition, says Goode, stroking a pet has been shown to release oxytocin, the chemical responsible for bonding, which has a calming effect and reinforces closeness between a parent and child.

5. Connect with your kids.

Above all, Goode says, the antidote to stress is connection. “I believe this technology-driven generation is missing the face-to-face conversations and the family dinners where we talk things out,” she says. Make connecting with your kids a priority. Turn off the technology. Schedule a family game night or a Sunday outing. That’s the kind of connection that keeps kids grounded, even in the face of stress.

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