As a loving parent, I bet you want to do everything possible to help your kids overcome childhood fear and anxiety?
Of coarse you do!
She also let us in on the one practice she thinks that we all should be doing (including kids as young as 7 or 8)!
Work on Your Family’s Emotional Fitness Daily
Are you sporting an Apple Watch or Fitbit? Most of us are these days!
We place so much emphasis on physical health, making sure that we are physically active every day, but we rarely work on our emotional fitness. And yet, almost every decision we make is based on our emotions. Even little decisions like, “what am I going to wear today?”
The question is: how are you supposed to accomplish this?
Natasha advises, “Place value and emphasis on how you feel about things, why you feel about things and why you think you did things. Encourage that kind of thinking practice every day. Instil a mindset that encourages kids to think critically from a young age and give them reasons why.
And remember, becoming emotionally fit is a process. It’s a matter of just adopting that mindset into your home.”
Introduce Mindfulness Before Tackling Fear
“Everyone has fear. People just fall in various ranges and children are no exception. First, you need to ask, ‘Is the childhood fear debilitating for them?’
Is the child inattentive? Misbehaving? Exuberant? Dramatic? Kids have big emotions and a wide range of behavior and feelings that are considered normal.
You need to ask yourself, ‘Has the fear reached a point where it’s actually harming their life or emotional well-being, where their life is impacted by it on a regular basis?’
If that’s the case, you need to start by calming the parasympathetic nervous system. Children aren’t able to mentally go where they need to go, to face their fears, if they’re not calm.
Start by practicing deep breathing. Even meditation and mindfulness. I’m seeing this practice implemented into classrooms now and doing this at home as well is really crucial.
It’s about little snippets of exposure on a daily basis. You don’t have to cram to expose your kids to everything into one day or one week. Think about it in tiny little snippets and every day expose them to mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation exercises.”
“Do” Your Way Out of Childhood Fear
“There are 2 kinds of children’s fear: excited fear where maybe you’re going to a hockey game or a swim meet. This is a good kind of fear that kids can learn to harness and use.
The other kind of fear is where you feel something ominous inside of you.
If it’s something a child can avoid without causing any kind of distress, I would let them exercise the choice. But if it’s something else, like going to school, sleeping alone at night, etc., it boils down to slowly exposing the child to whatever the source of fear is. It could start with visualizing the fear. This could mean visualizing walking into a classroom while deep breathing and relaxing and then eventually working up to actually going there.
However, you can’t think your way out of fear. You have to “do” your way out of fear. 99% of people, children included, report that after they were immersed in the thing causing fear, that it wasn’t actually so bad, in hindsight. The more you avoid and allow your child to continue avoiding, the more you heighten the irrational fear and anxiety.”
Journal Your Way to a Positive Mindset
“Journaling is hugely beneficial and the science and research that’s been done is very conclusive. If you’re going to do it, I recommend forming the habit of doing it at night. Doing it at this time forces you to compartmentalize your thoughts, especially in today’s world where even kids have a lot on their mind past a certain age.
What you’re doing is reflecting back on the day that has passed and pulling out small but meaningful things that you may have otherwise overlooked.
The reason it’s so important to do this is because we have a negativity bias. We spend time an energy on negative things, even things with very little value, maybe zero value. For example, we focus on the 1% we didn’t get on the test or the one error we made in that presentation. We’ll fixate and ruminate on that to our own detriment.
Think about coming home from a long day to your loved ones. Do you start by filling them in on all the great things about your day? Maybe, but more often than not, you’ll start by filling them in on everything that went wrong. And that happens daily in homes all around the world.
Now, I’m not suggesting you try to turn something inherently negative into a positive. I don’t think there’s any value in that, and in fact, I think that’s` harmful because you’re trying to trick yourself. However, instead, try shifting away and reminding your brain of things that went well.
Do this at the end of the night and it’s like a request into your subconscious. Because studies have shown that the things you do right before bed start to play a role overnight. Journaling is essentially taking your mind, organizing those creative aspects and putting them down on paper. And it can have a very lasting cumulative effect. think kids getting into the habit of journaling maybe by the age of 7 or 8 is a fantastic idea.”
Not sure where to start? Try to begin by introducing mindfulness practices into your family’s daily routine. And encourage your kids to start journaling before bed. If they don’t know where to start writing, you might consider getting them a journal with writing prompts, like Natasha Sharma’s Kindness Journal: 6 Minutes a Day to Your Happiest You. Remember, anything you can do to help your kids better understand their emotions and recognize what motivates them will help them to take charge of how they feel. And this will, long-term, give them the confidence and mental fortitude to overcome hurdles and reach their highest potential.