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 worriesRead More
Expressive writing has many benefits. Writing about life helps people, among other things: get healthy! Research shows that people who write about emotional upheavals require fewer doctor visits and are generally happier. combat depression! Writing a gratitude journal helps with mood. Expressing yourself lets you ditch your stress for a while. build their brain! People best express themselves in different ways--through words, music, movement. Some people prefer to be alone to be inspired. Others think best by talking to people. Trying a variety of writing activities can spur new ways of thinking, resulting in stronger, smarter writers! Magination Press's book, Neon Words: 10 Brilliant Ways to Light Up Your Writing, provides young writers with writing prompts and book-making activities to help them learn about creative writing by honoring, strengthening, and playing with their ideas and words. Writing activities can spark imagination and allow young writers to make their writing more powerful, but they can also help kids engage with words to be more present in life and to use language arts techniques for self-discovery and emotional well-being. Take a writing activity about antagonists, for example. In the Villainous Voices activity, writers are invited to think about a disagreement they've had with someone else, but from their adversary's point of view. In a story, the reader sides with the protagonist: the main character, the lead actor. It's the character we find ourselves rooting for. The antagonist, on the other hand, is often the one who causes problems: the villain, the one who creates the story's tension. They're the character we hope gets the short end of the stick. Have you ever read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by "A. Wolf"? (The author is really Jon Scieszka.) As the title suggests, you don't usually hear the wolf's take on the classic folk tale. In Wicked, Gregory Maguire writes a back story for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, giving the villain--that is, the Wicked Witch of the West--the leading role; this is a complete departure from the original.Now it's your turn. List a few people with whom you've had a disagreement. People you've argued with. People who see a situation from a different vantage point than you. Anyone in your life is fair game: Your mother Your father A sibling Other relative A friend or ex-friend A teacher A pet Think about the argument: Where were you? (scene) What happened? (action) What was said? (dialog) If it helps to take notes first, or jot down key points, go for it! Now retell that story, only this time as the person you clashed with. Invite them to speak as the protagonist. Look for the positive thinking that you couldn't see in the heat of emotion. Be honest. What do you think motivated them--and now you? Why would you want to do this? Writing-wise, it helps you get into the head of each of your characters to make them more complex, authentic, and honest. You want them to ring true, evenRead More
Breathing as a Means to Mindfulness
One way to practice being mindful is to focus on breathing, and understand the role it plays in helping us feel calm, relaxed, and focused. In the Magination Press Family bookstore, you’ll find an assortment of kid-friendly, APA-approved books that explore breathing exercises you can try with your child, such as Breathe by Inês Castel-Branco, which uses illustrated exercises to help children become aware of their breath and their bodies.
Being able to ask for help is an essential skill for everyday life, but one that often has a stigma attached to it. It's natural for young kids to want to "do it themselves," especially when they see adults accomplishing the same tasks without help. Asking for help can sometimes be seen as a sign of weakness or incompetence, especially as we get older. But as we can see in the Magination Press book Giraffe Asks for Help by Nyasha Chikowore, main character Gary became happier and stronger after recognizing that he didn't have to struggle alone. Help-seeking in children promotes positive psychological functioning, competence, and inspires healthy collaboration with the children and adults around them. When children learn to ask for help, not only do they utilize their problem-solving skills, but they also become more adept at communicating and expressing their needs. The Importance of Help-Seeking It may seem obvious to us, but asking for help can be a crucial tool to help kids deal with tough problems such as bullying, trouble with school work, conflict with peers, and more. In addition, help-seeking is a skill that can combat many of the risk factors that have been known to cause stress and sadness in kids. Discussing what asking for help looks like in different settings (e.g. school, home, camp) can help ensure that children can identify adults and peers who are safe and can provide them with the appropriate forms of assistance. Of course, there's a line between encouraging help-seeking and allowing a child to become dependent on help. Kids should still be encouraged to try things on their own when it is safe and appropriate for them to do so, but being comfortable asking for help when it would be beneficial is a key developmental skill. Being mindful about that line can make a huge difference in your child's understanding of help-seeking. What You Can Do There are many things we can do to encourage help-seeking behaviors in kids. Letting them know that you are there to help them when needed is a good way to make sure they use the skill. Many kids have already been asking you for help since they were toddlers, and it can help to point out what that looked like as they have grown. You may have helped teach them how to walk, helped them with coloring or drawing, or helped them learn how to ride a bicycle. You can also give them examples of when you have had to ask for help in your own life to emphasize that people of all ages sometimes need help. The following questions can aid parents and teachers in helping children navigate how to ask for help appropriately: What are some things you can do without asking for help? What are some things you still need help with? How can you ask for help? Have some suggestions ready in case your child needs help coming up with ideas! Identify Potential HelpersRead More