A reminder that everyone has moments of sadness and anxiety.
The link is to a fantastic youtube video that talks about emotions and helps children/young people to understand that mental health is similar to physical health and that everyone experiences difficult emotions at times. There are lots of great ideas for support. This one would be great to watch with your child/young person.
When children find they are overwhelmed by emotions this poster gives some great ideas for managing them well. This is a great visual for supporting children with self-regulation.
Growth and fixed mindsets seem to be buzz words of the moment. From business to education conversations about mindsets seem to be popular. Carol Dweck is the researcher credited with bringing this new way of thinking about success to our attention. She literally wrote the book on it, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Carol Dweck first published this book in 2006 and updated and republished in 2016. I spent some time this past summer reading Carol’s book and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in finding out more about mindsets. Mindsets are either growth or fixed and most people are a mixture of both growth and fixed mindsets depending on circumstances. A person with a growth mindset is much more likely, according to the research, to be successful and resilient in the long term than a person with a fixed mindset. A person with a growth mindset believes that if they engage with learning and work hard, they can be successful. A person with a growth mindset views mistakes as an opportunity to learn and develop while a fixed mindset person believes that they were born talented and therefore don’t need to work hard to learn.
Some key ideas are:
Check out the link below to view Carol herself speaking about mindsets in a Ted Talk. https://www.ted.com/speakers/carol_dweck
To finish up my series of blogs on anxiety I’ve created a list of tried and true resources for you and your child/young person.
As an educational psychologist, I've used a number of resources to support my work and these are a few that I am happy to recommend. Not every resource will work for every person. If you don’t find it helpful or your child doesn’t seem to benefit from it then try something else.
What can parents do to help their young people to become better able to manage anxiety? Strategies to support your young person follow:
Let’s talk about anxiety. Today’s article will discuss the typical experience of anxiety, fear or worry that everyone encounters. If you are concerned that anxiety is more than every day, I have some further information at the end of this article.
First up let’s get our minds into anxiety mode. Think about a near miss situation when you were driving a car. How did you feel during and immediately after this situation? Did you get back in your car the next day? Did anything change in your driving behaviour?
Anxiety is something that our thinking mind creates which is reflected in our bodies. From an evolutionary perspective anxiety is a useful adaptation because it helped to keep us safe from sabre tooth tigers and other hazards in the environment. The anxiety helps us to consider, plan and strategize how to keep ourselves safe. In our modern world there are certainly things which anxiety legitimately helps us to negotiate safely.
The picture above illustrates the typical pathway for anxious feelings. We start at a baseline of feeling confident and able to manage a situation without concern. Something triggers a rise in anxiety which will reach a natural peak and then begin to subside until we reach baseline again. Problems commonly occur when we interrupt the process of:
When should parents seek professional help for anxiety?
· If your child’s worries/anxiety significantly interfere with the child or family daily functioning and routines.
· The worries/anxiety are not age appropriate.
· The worries/anxiety persist across an extended period (longer than 6 months).
Questions to ask about your situation to help decide whether further support is needed.
· Is anxiety stopping my child from doing the things they want or need to do?
· Do most children of the same age also have the same fear or worry?
· How severe is my child’s reaction? (sourced online from the Macquarie university centre for emotional health).
Next month I’ll talk about some of the helpful things parents and teachers can do to support young people to manage anxiety.
Friendship can be defined as pleasure in the company of others, it is a reciprocal relationship in that support is expected to flow both ways. Friendships give children a context to learn social skills, they learn about themselves and other people, they provide emotional and learning resources and they provide models for subsequent relationships.
If you are worried about your child’s friendships, there are a few things you can do. It’s important to start by considering whether your child is someone who requires many friends. Some more introverted children prefer few friends compared to other more extroverted children. Some children also establish closer friendships with peers outside of the school setting, possibly even on-line. Keep in mind that the virtual world is just like the real world and children will need appropriate levels of parental supervision and support.
The following things may seem obvious to parents who have had many years to develop their social skills, but it is worth thinking about whether your child is able to do the things expected of a friend? Does your child’s body language invite others to interact? Do they know how to establish appropriate eye contact? Do they have an open posture and an inviting facial expression? Does your child sound friendly, expressive and pleasant? What is your child’s tone, pitch, rate and volume? Does your child have a range of appropriate greetings and introductions they can use in different situations? Do they know how to start conversations? Do they have a range of simple questions or topics that they can talk about? When they engage in a conversation, do they know how to answer a question, do they take turns allowing the other person to speak? I frequently use the analogy of a dance when talking about parenting. It’s important to be there to provide support when needed but equally important to stand back a little to allow them to give it a go alone. Ensure that there is the right balance between under and over involvement of parents.
Provide praise to your child as they learn and practice their skills. Offer opportunities for them to self-reflect on how things went. Keep a growth mindset. Any difficulties should be a learning opportunity. What could we do differently? Who could help?
Children’s ability to write well is heavily dependent on prior knowledge of vocabulary. If you don’t know the right or correct word you can’t use it in your writing. A good place to start supporting your child to learn a wider vocabulary is by looking at topics or themes being taught at school.
Schools frequently send home information about themes and topics to be taught over the term. Teachers will spend time teaching specific vocabulary but if your child is struggling with writing, introducing these words at home can give your child that extra opportunity to consolidate their learning. As an example, a commonly studied topic at primary school is recycling. Vocabulary associated with recycling are words like, rubbish, compacting, sorting, ecological, ecology, waste, habitat and so on. Introduce these words into your conversations (dinner time, driving in the car are good times) talk about their meanings and how you might use them in a sentence. You can also talk about their opposites and other words which might mean the same thing. Looking for books, fiction and non fiction about these topics and including them in the before bed reading routine is another way of introducing subject specific vocabulary. For upper primary and high school students a useful resource is www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/resources/academicwordlist which is a series of lists of the most commonly used words in academic writing.
As always, ensure that discussions are upbeat and short, unless your child becomes deeply interested in the topic in which case follow their lead. If you come across a word you the parent don’t know use this as a great opportunity to model a growth mindset and enlist your child to help you to engage with the challenge. Work together to figure out what this word means and enjoy the satisfaction of learning something new.
Resilience is a concept which has been studied extensively recently both internationally
and in New Zealand. It offers a way to view an adverse situation with hope and positivity. Resilience is the concept that some people can be very successful in life despite apparent setbacks or disadvantages. I’d like to share what we know about how to develop resilience in response to an adverse event.
Resilience is focused on protective factors or actions you can take:
themselves can contribute to developing a resilient school community which is able to thrive because of and despite challenging circumstances. Adults and young people can model these skills to those who are still developing them. A key lesson from the Christchurch earthquakes is that adults modelling calm responses to challenging situations were key to avoiding ongoing negative effects on mental health for young people.
Typically, the negative effects of adverse events occur when there are several events rather than just one. If your child is experiencing multiple adverse events and is displaying behaviour of concern it may be time to consult with professionals. Helpful people to speak to are your child’s class teacher, your family doctor, the school counsellor or a psychologist.
Self-explanation or the process of explaining a concept to yourself is one of the most powerful ways of learning. When you prompt a student to explain a concept to themselves, they are both creating inferential links to concepts and prior knowledge and discovering what they don’t know about the concept. One of the biggest failures students experience is this lack of knowledge about what they don’t know. Studies of able learners have demonstrated that these students are often asking themselves questions about material they are learning or reviewing and checking their understanding. A great way of supporting a student to become more able is to prompt them to self-explain a new concept. A key point is that when students narrate how well they think they understand a new concept they don’t add to their actual understanding. Students need to explain the concept to themselves.
For further information on the research behind this concept and more details please check this link.
Robyn Stead, Child Psychologist and Educator, lives and works in central Auckland.