About Ara Schmitt, PhD

Ara J. Schmitt, PhD, is an associate professor of school psychology at Duquesne University. His primary research interests involve the neuropsychological assessment or intervention of learning problems and pediatric disorders. Dr. Schmitt is also a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist.

Help Your Child Tame Worry Thoughts with Mindful Breathing

Worry, or anxiety, is a normal reaction to something dangerous in our environment. In fact, anxiety helps us avoid something that is likely to cause us harm. However, children may be prone to excessive worry and worry about events that are unlikely to happen. When such anxiety negatively impacts a child’s everyday life, a mental health professional my diagnose an anxiety disorder. At the root of anxiety-related disorders are worry thoughts. This excerpt from the Note to Parents and Caregivers by Ara J. Schmitt, PhD, in Magination Press’s book, Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree, by Gail Silver, helps parents understand worry thoughts and provides a strategy for parents to help their children cope with them. Understanding Worry Thoughts Psychologists refer to worry thoughts as “cognitive distortions.” In Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree, Bea experiences at least five kinds of worry thoughts. Her first worry thought is: Must or should thinking: thinking that things must or should be a certain way. For example, Bea thinks her birthday party must be perfect. This often can lead a second distortion, such as black-or white thinking. Black-or-white thinking: an all-or-nothing way of thinking, allowing for no middle ground. Bea appears to believe that her party will either be perfect and everyone will have fun, or the party will be disastrous with unhappy guests. In her mind, it does not seem possible to have a disappointing hiccup along the way, but still a great party overall. The series of worry thoughts continues, when, as a result of these unreasonable thoughts, Bea appears to jump to conclusions. Jump to conclusions: to form negative conclusions based on little or no evidence. Bea’s series of worry thoughts leads her to jump to the conclusion that her friends will call her names or not want to stay at her party if it’s not flawless. The worry thought that Bea appears to have most often is called catastrophizing. Castastrophizing: expecting negative events to happen. Bea asks “what if?” repeatedly: “what if there isn’t enough cake?” “what if no one comes?”. This isn’t likely to happen, but Bea worries about every possible negative outcome. She’s able to do this because she is filtering. Filtering: filtering out all positive thoughts and evidence in favor of negative thoughts. Bea filters out thoughts and evidence that her party will go well, like her experience at previous parties and her mother’s preparation for the current party, in favor of negative thoughts. How Parents Can Help Parents can explain that the body and mind are connected, and calming the body can help calm the mind. The worries can still be there for now, but the child can use their breath to help their body feel better. During the tense moments of worry thoughts, parents can lead their child through this simple relaxation exercise: In a calm, reassuring voice, prompt your child to put a pause on their worry thoughts. It can help to give them a  concrete suggestion, such as telling their worries

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Help Your Child Tame Worry Thoughts with Mindful Breathing 2019-11-19T17:44:12-05:00