Are you and your kids cool, calm and collected?

a) Always (skip this article);

b) If the stars align;

c) I wish! (read on).  

Most children experience some form of anxiety. Scared of the dark? Worrying something will happen to mum or dad? Sore tummy? Don’t want to go to school? Won’t take no for an answer? In fact anxiety (defined as intense excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations), is one of the most common human emotions felt by children and adults alike. But when your child’s anxiety starts to interfere with day-to-day life it may be time to seek support.

Community Networks Wanaka supports ‘CALM Minds’, a group programme designed and led by Meg Bryant, local child and family therapist, to help parents of primary school children first understand and then feel calmer and more confident about managing their child’s anxiety. Meg explained “Anxiety is a growing problem. CALM helps parents to understand what lies behind their child’s behaviour, how to develop a calmer mind themselves and to prevent problem situations from bubbling up. Everything is better shared in a group, hearing from and connecting with other parents tackling similar challenges.”

Everyone craves tangible solutions such as a naughty step or sticker charts, says Meg, but real change is rooted in deeper, sometimes uncomfortable self-reflection by parents themselves, suggesting that before addressing their child’s problems, parents should “Put on your own oxygen mask first—like on an aeroplane.” Are you super-busy, speed talking, juggling a million things? Of course, what parent isn’t? But perhaps your stress is seeping into your child and affecting their behaviour.

Teenagers are the biggest age group to seek anxiety support and yet Meg is perplexed that their parents are reluctant to participate. “There’s no point sending a teenager home after a session with a calm brain, only to interact with an agitated parent’s brain. High agitation and high cortisol (stress hormone) are contagious. Parents need to learn how to calm themselves and then manage their teenager’s behaviour.” Meg speaks from experience, she has four teenagers at home.

Feedback from the last programme was very positive, with these key thoughts from the parents: listen, feel comfortable with your child’s discomfort, don’t try to fix problems, let them come up with solutions, take a breath and park it.

Meg hopes to roll out CALM across Central Otago, for under-fives, primary age and teenagers, and has plenty of practical suggestions for parents from using a mindfulness app, to learning how to breathe properly (via online/local courses). The key is to seek support and talk to someone. “Take a moment, even just 30 seconds, stop, look at the mountains, use the traffic-light delay at Albert Town Bridge to take a deep relaxing breath. Store up those precious moments of calm.”

For more information contact CNW on 03 443 7799, info@communitynetworks.co.nz.


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