This week, we will cover how you can help your child manage difficult emotions or behaviours. Perhaps you may have identified some symptoms or behaviours after reflecting on your child’s symptoms over the last week.
The key thing is to ensure that your child is supported, has a safe space to be upset and display emotions within limits, and to reassure them that there is no current danger.
We will be covering how you can support your child through:
Explore the tabs below to learn about helping your child through these feelings and behaviours. Once you have finished reading, you can explore activities you can do at the bottom of the page.
For example, your child may have experienced a car accident and have a fear around crossing the road or getting into a car. Or they may seem ‘on edge’ or ‘on the lookout’.
Anxiety/feeling worry is a normal part of recovery from a scary incident.
After such experiences, the brain can interpret things connected to the event, or everyday triggers, as if they are directly related to the event.
Feeling on edge, afraid, or worried is the brain’s way of anticipating future danger and protecting one-self.
But worrying can be helpful or unhelpful.
Helpful: e.g., wearing a helmet whilst cycling, safely travelling and crossing the road, being aware of one’s surrounding.
Unhelpful: constant levels interfering with your child’s everyday life.
Your child may not even be aware that something has triggered a trauma-related fear, and emotions or feelings may seem as though have come on suddenly.
It is helpful to be patient with your child and comfort them.
The important things to remind your child are:
Whilst it is normal to want to keep your child safe, and it may be difficult to see them face their fears and feel upset the first few times, too much protection and avoidance of reminders can make it more difficult to get over feeling scared.
You can click on the image below to see some things to keep in mind and what you can say to your child:
Whilst ‘having a go’ at facing fears is the best thing for your child’s emotional recovery, there are techniques you can encourage in the moments when these emotions may be ‘bubbling up’ in.
Your child may experience some really intense physical symptoms, for example:
These symptoms can be really uncomfortable and can lead to more anxiety themselves. Children may think that is there is something physically wrong with them, or that something bad will actually happen.
It is important to acknowledge your child’s symptoms and remind your child that:
There are certain things which can help with these feelings. Let’s take a look at some.
Shifting your child’s focus away from the physical sensations can interrupt the cycle of fear where the physical feelings themselves may lead to further worries and be seen as confirmation of their fears.
If your child has difficulty shifting their focus, you can try a simple mindfulness technique called the 3-3-3 technique. Here, you can sit down with your child are name:
This can help shift focus away from any unpleasant fear-related feelings.
You can click on the image below to save it and keep as a handy reminder.
Relaxation techniques can also be helpful and gentle ways to help your child calm down if they are experiencing intense emotions or feelings.
Physical things which can help your child relax include:
A specific technique is ‘box breathing’, or 'square breathing'.
Find a quiet, safe space and try it together.
If they find their attention drifting – that is okay, you can encourage them to pull it back to their breath. This involves….
The ‘tense and relax’ method can also be helpful for physical sensations. This is a two-step process:
You can use different metaphors to help them understand (e.g., stand straight like uncooked spaghetti and floppy like cooked spaghetti), and move from scrunching eyes shut and down to tensing and wiggling toes.
If your child is thinking unhelpful thoughts (e.g., “I will never be normal again”, “The world is unsafe”), it is important to talk these through and rethink them. Thoughts are really important as they can affect how we feel and what we do.
The good news is that you can encourage your child to ‘talk back’ to the thought and question it.
We will cover rethinking unhelpful thoughts in session four.
Your reaction can affect how your child is feeling. This is because children are tuned into the reactions of their parents or other caregiving adults in their life.
So, it is important to be aware of your own worries, low mood, or difficult feelings.
Identifying these are the first important step, and then you can take steps to manage them. This can look like:
Taking care of your own worries is important to ease feelings of guilt you may be having, and to make sure that you are emotionally available to support and nurture your child.
This week we learned about some strategies you can use if your child is feeling worried, feeling angry or behaving difficulty, and having nightmares. There are some simple techniques to:
Below are a couple of activities you can try over the next week to build a toolkit of the techniques we learned about, and how to process and move on from nightmares.
Please click on the links below to learn more about these techniques.