It's a common but vicious cycle. When a child is scared to use the bathroom, they hold their poop in and subsequently become constipated, so it hurts when it finally does come out. The pain creates fear so they hold it again, and the cycle is repeated over and over. In their Note to Parents and Caregivers, A Feel Better Book for Little Poopers authors, Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen, provide encouragement and tips for children who struggle with bowel movements. Here's an excerpt: The fear is real Children of potty-training age have been wearing a diaper since the very moment they were born. The transition to sitting on a cold, hard chair in a position that is often not advantageous for the release of the bowels can be not only scary, but physically difficult. When they do go, it feels strange to them, and it becomes and experience they are not eager to repeat. The fear can be even more intense for older children who have had painful movements in the past. You don't want to go in the potty like you should— you're worried and scared that it won't feel good. As a caregiver, it is important to provide comfort, compassion, and patience during this learning process and understand that it might take longer than advertised with potty training. It is also very helpful to acknowledge what they are going through, but provide assurance that it will get better. For example you can say, "You're new at this and it just takes time." Or "I know it hurt last time and you're scared it's going to hurt again, but together we will practice some new things to try that can help." The situation impacts your child's life and your family's When your child is afraid of having bowel movements, avoids them by holding it in, and then finally has to have one which ends up being painful, it validates their fears. In between these avoided bowel movements, the child becomes very uncomfortable and grouchy—in some cases they miss out on playtime, family outings, or school activities. But there really isn't a way to force your child to go. This is extremely frustrating for caregivers, and it often leads to putting pressure on your child to go. But pressuring your child or shaming them for feeling scared will only intensify the fear, making matters worse. Instead, you can reflect their feelings with gentle statements such as, "You're worried it will hurt, but it doesn't feel good holding it in either." Or "Listen to your body, and when you're ready to give it a try, I'll be here with you." Listening to your body can help There can be an internal struggle when the child knows they need to go to the bathroom and sit and try, but their fear stops them. This is why it helps to talk to the child about listening to your body's signals, and how, by paying attention, you can give your body what it needsRead More
We're all feeling anxious in the era of COVID-19. Our daily routines have been disrupted, simple tasks like grocery shopping are now much more complicated, we're separated from from friends and family, and there's the possibility of becoming infected. Some families are also experiencing financial distress or have lost family members to the virus. As an adult, you know what stress and anxiety feel and look like for you, but how do children exhibit these emotions? This repost from 2018, describes how to identify anxiety in your child and how to help. The world is big and new to young children, and...fears of the unknown are common. For parents of young children, watching your son or daughter exhibit potential symptoms of anxiety can feel particularly distressing. As a parent, you strive to make childhood a carefree, joyful time. But even in loving, safe, and supportive households, issues of anxiety can still come up. If you suspect your child is showing signs of anxiety, it’s important to first understand that you are not alone. In fact, it is estimated that between 12% and 24% of American children suffer from psychological disorders at some point in their development.¹ The good news is, there are many resources available to help your child manage anxiety and get back to the business of being a kid. Parents often feel confused (and anxious themselves!) when trying to navigate anxiety issues. Taking it one step at a time can be helpful. First, you’ll want to determine if your child is experiencing anxiety—or simply feeling an appropriate amount of worry for their age. What is the difference between anxiety and worry? One of the most important markers of anxiety is proportion. A child suffering from an anxiety disorder may be overwhelmed by intense fear or worry that do not match the situation.2 For example, a child suffering from separation anxiety may be so consumed by fear that something bad will happen when away from their parents, they may refuse to go to school. It’s normal for a child to experience some hesitation when leaving their parents, but if it is impacting their ability to enjoy time with their friends or leave their parents’ side, it can be considered more than an ordinary worry. Children experience a myriad of fears that can be elevated from worry to anxiety. In addition to separation anxiety, fear of the dark, strangers, doctors, and even a fear of rejection by their peers are just a few common worries. Whatever the worries are, and no matter how trivial they may seem to an adult, their concerns should be taken seriously. The world is big and new to young children, and therefore fears of the unknown are common. What are signs of anxiety in children? Keep in mind that every child is different, but there are some typical signs of anxiety in children. Symptoms tend to present themselves both physically and emotionally. You may find that your child asks theRead More
Facing Anxiety Through Story.
Once upon a time, there lived a princess named Jacqueline. The royal knights protected her from danger — even if there wasn’t any!
When Jacqueline climbs the beanstalk, she meets a giant who is just as afraid of the knights. In this modern retelling of a classic fairy tale, Jacqueline shows everyone that there’s nothing to be afraid of after all.
Includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers with worry-busting strategies and calming tools.
Fear is a natural response to threatening situations, but sometimes fear can prevent people from participating in everyday experiences. A phobia is an irrational fear of something. When a child struggles with a phobia, it can greatly impact their lives and the lives of their families. Psychologists Claire A. B. Freeland, PhD and Jacqueline B. Toner, PhD explain how parents can help kids with phobias overcome their fears by supporting gradual, increasing exposure to the feared situation, helping kids learn mindfulness and self-calming techniques, promoting positive self-talk, and monitoring exposure to frightening messages from the world at large in Magination Press book What to Do When Fear Interferes: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Phobias. Take small steps The most effective way to overcome a phobia is exposure, which requires the child to experience the feared object for a period of time long enough for their extreme physical and emotional reactions to dissipate. One of the greatest challenges in helping a child to overcome a phobia can be convincing them to hang in there rather than avoid their fear, and to provide support as they do so. It’s important to approach the trigger in a modulated way. Initially, a child may need help choosing tasks that are far removed from the feared experience, such as imagining a thunderstorm or looking at pictures of insects. Taking it slowly and letting a child experience success by overcoming mildly scary situation will allow them to build confidence in facing increasingly more feared situations. Build skills In addition to helping a child increase her exposure to her phobia, parents can help her develop strategies to manage her reactions to scary experiences. By developing positive self-talk, a child can learn to focus on rational thinking and self-cheerleading to proceed with exposure experiences. Providing rewards, both tangible and social, will help them feel accomplishment and pride in taking on gradually more difficult challenges. Learning coping strategies that help them to relax and de-stress can reduce overall anxious tendencies, making success more likely. Manage Media Phobias can result from frightening or traumatic experiences, but more often, they don’t have a known source. Children who tend to be anxious may be likely to develop a specific phobia. Children are particularly susceptible to developing vicarious fears. This happens when they observe another person reacting with intense fear. Or, a fear can develop vicariously by watching a movie where another is afraid or even from a news report that accentuates the damage caused by a storm or the abundance of a particular illness this season. Parents should be aware of messages children may encounter that could serve to reinforce their fears. Gently redirect adult conversation about impending weather events, recent accidents, or out-of-control animals. Judiciously monitor children’s experiences with frightening messages they receive through the media. When such messages still manage to reach a child, a parent can counter scary messages with more realistic views of the possible danger and how people can stay safe. HelpingRead More