I am super excited to announce the release of a new therapeutic resource for children to help cope with fear and phobias. As you probably noticed, it has been several months since I wrote a new post. Well friends, not too long after my first authored children’s therapeutic book called When Monkey Lost His Smile was published, I teamed up again with the very talented Elaheh Bos and was hard at work at writing this new therapeutic resource which is a not only a children’s story about fear but also explains what fear is and teaches seven different coping tools on how to conquer fear. This collaborative effort is a book I am very proud of and thrilled to share as I hope it will help many children (and adults, too) feel empowered and able to overcome their fear!
In my clinical practice, I have seen a number of children and adolescents who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Here are different examples of how OCD presented in 3 of my clients:
(1) A 15-year old teenage girl reported that she had an uncomfortable feeling inside telling her something was not okay or not quite right. She had developed all kinds or rituals to get rid of that feeling so that she could continue on with her day. For example, she had to flush the toilet handle multiple times and repeatedly turn the faucet sink handles, turn the lights on and off repeatedly, check and re-check her hair iron to make sure it was off, do certain things an even number of times only, and perfectly align and order her clothes in her closet and in her drawers.
When do you traditionally pull out the thermometer to take your child’s temperature? Perhaps when your child does not seem to be behaving like themselves, such as when they are more lethargic, irritable, or when your child feels hot to the touch, looks pale, or when they express they are not feeling well.
Depending on what the thermometer reads, your reaction will likely be different, right? Suppose you find your child has a high fever. As a parent, you may decide to immediately call the doctor, give medicine to lower the temperature, have your child take a cool bath, and rest. If the temperature is ‘slightly above normal,’ you may monitor the situation and take the temperature again. You may still keep your child home and give medicine but you may not feel it is necessary to call the doctor. Finally, if your child’s temperature is ‘normal,’ you may decide to simply continue with your child’s regular daily routine and reassess later in the day.
It is clear that the thermometer is a useful tool that tells us important information about your child’s current physical health. So now imagine applying this tool to measure your child’s feelings or current mental health state.
In a previous post Help for the Anxious Child, Anxious Teen, and Anxious Parent, I shared the importance of building your own toolkit and your child’s toolkit for coping with anxiety. The focus of that post was on learning how to calm down the body by changing your breathing.
In another earlier post, I shared one of my favourite techniques for containing and placing a time limit on worries and anxiety, entitled The Worry Jar Technique: Help Your Child Overcome Worries and Anxiety. While this strategy is very helpful for children, it can also be adapted for parents and teens by for instance, writing anxious thoughts and worries in a journal.
So now that you have a good foundation, let’s add some more helpful strategies to your toolkits.
It may seem like your child worries a lot of the time and about everything. Children can worry about all sorts of things, such as safety issues, tests and school work, friends, family, health, the planet, and more. They may seek reassurance and ask you questions repeatedly about their worries. By asking you about their worry, your child may feel better for a short while, but then some time later, you may notice that your child asks you again about the same worry. This tells you that your child’s worry did not go away (as you had thought or had hoped). Click here for more information on children’s anxiety.
In a previous post called Help for the Anxious Child, Anxious Teen, and Anxious Parent, I introduced breathing techniques as a good foundation for the toolkit to cope with anxiety and stress. I also presented in another post about the “What If” Game the idea of distancing yourself and gaining a new perspective over worries by recognizing the ‘game’ the mind is playing and calling it like it is. Learning about how the brain works and how to regulate one’s emotions through mindfulness practices will further help you and your child manage big feelings. You can read more about it in My Brain Team: What To Do When Emotions Run High.
In this post, I will share with you about the worry jar, which is one of my favourite techniques to help an anxious child contain their worries.
Kids and teens have worries and experience stress and anxiety just like their parents. Indeed, we can feel anxious, worried, overwhelmed or stressed at any age – young and old alike.
Sometimes anxiety may seem to run in the family. Ever notice that your child or teen is anxious just like you? That is because children are very perceptive and attuned to their parents, almost like they have antennae where they can essentially pick up and sense your moods and signals. Children watch closely your actions and behaviours and they listen carefully to what you say (even though they are busy playing or doing other things).
The upside of this is that children learn not only from what you teach them but also from observing you. You can help your child or teen, both directly and indirectly, manage and cope with stress and anxiety. I know it is a cliche, but it is very important that you practice what you preach.
Where to begin? Build your toolkit, build your child’s or teenager’s toolkit.
The first and most important tool is to change your breathing.
Worries. We all have them. Some of us worry a lot whereas others worry a little. Some worries are about important and big issues and some may be about small details. Worries can be about realistic and probable events or about unlikely occurrences. Regardless of the type of worries, they can be on our minds at all hours of the day and night affecting our daily functioning and our ability to sleep.
When we are worried, the mind seems to take on a life of its own and we can get wound up with seemingly incessant and bothersome thoughts and questions (such as…What if this happens? What if that happens? What if I can’t do it? What if I fail? What if I had done this instead of that? What if I said this? etc). The worrying questions can not only be about ourselves but also about our loved ones, including our children (e.g., what if my child gets hurt? What if my child fails his test? What if my child is being teased at school?). The questions may seem to repeat and to go on forever…and ever. Ugh!!!!
I call it the dreaded “what if” game!