How to help children navigate anxiety

Kids seek reassurance from their parents when worries creep in. It is reasonable to be worried, in times of uncertainty. You can tell your child that you too feel worried at times. The first step is to acknowledge their emotions and concerns. Feeling understood and not alone is reassuring.

Step 1:

Acknowledge that worry is an important emotion, that protects us from danger. Everyone worries. But when it pops up in times when we’re not in imminent danger it can be unhelpful. We can teach our kids to recognise worry as a visitor. They can tell worry “Oh hi worry, thanks for trying to protect me, but I’m not in danger right now- I don’t need you thanks.”

Step 2:

Let’s try to calm our body.

* Deep breathing can hack the nervous system by allowing oxygen to fill the body bringing the state of mind back down to a stable level.

* Singing with them is another calming strategy

* Grounding is a strategy by using the body’s senses to calm the stress and gain presence in the moment. Ask your child to look for 5 items in their favourite colour, name 5 things they can hear, 5 things they can touch.

Step 3:

Once you’ve used some of these strategies and your child is calm, discuss with them that feelings are not necessarily true facts. Feelings and thoughts can be challenged by saying, “Hey, that’s just a worry thought, I don’t think that was really a true fact!” Your child can feel empowered that they challenged the thought and they won!

Ongoing support for your child:

Teaching your children the vocabulary of emotions can help them describe their physical feelings and emotions. Journaling can help children to express how they are feeling in their own words in their, in their own way.

Help your child to develop positive self talk and to show compassion to themselves. Encourage them to praise their accomplishment in overcoming the situation and moving forward through the feeling even when it was hard. It takes bravery to combat these feelings, and that is something to be proud of.

You support them. You stand by them even when you feel helpless.

Trust your gut. Trust your parenting. You know your child.

Talk about the difficulties and ask for help if you need it. Find allies who get it and get you.

They are not alone. You are not alone!

How to Manage the Tears at School Drop-off

Useful techniques to assist with separation anxiety.

Coping with a distressed child at school drop-off can be stressful.

I’ve taught children for a long time, I’ve seen children cry on their first day of school and as their teacher, I took them under my wing, sat them close to me and gave them the care and attention they needed to settle. I also supported their parents who often needed reassuring too. Most times their child did calm soon after they had left.

When my own little guy started school, he was keen, he was capable, he was confident, but when it came time to say goodbye, he was also sad. His first day was filled with excitement and anticipation, so off he went without any trouble. He bonded with his teacher and first term sailed by.

By the time second term came, after 2 weeks holiday with full time Mummy again and a change of teacher to boot, we encountered difficulties. As the days passed the realisation that this was his new reality, regular days without his Mummy, he became more distressed at school drop offs. 

I never felt comfortable with the approach of him sobbing, being restrained and me being rushed out the door. That’s not how I parent and the feeling that I had abandoned him in that distraught state didn’t serve either of us well. I did it once and never allowed the peeling of him off my leg again. Leaving him sobbing with someone he barely knew left me feeling sick to the stomach and I returned to the car crying myself!

Teary goodbyes are not easy for anyone! Sobbing goodbyes are traumatic!

So, I have been there! I have been on both sides of that tearful goodbye! As the teacher and as the parent! In fact as a sensitive child myself, I even remember the feelings from the child’s perspective too!

I now realise that although, a child does stop crying once the parent leaves, the feelings the child had don’t just evaporate with those tears. To say, he’s fine as soon as the parent leaves, dismisses the emotions and sends the message to the child to suppress the emotion.

Now, we don’t want the child to linger with sadness either, but acknowledging the sadness it is the first step to overcome it. Ignoring it or distracting them, are both fairly ineffective.

So what can you do? 

Every child will cope with school drop-offs differently, just as every parent differs. You know your child better than ANYONE else and you know best how to help them.

These are some ideas, you might like to try if you think they would suit both you and your child. When you ease the separation anxiety, drop offs may become easier for you both.

Prepare them: “Honey, when we get to your classroom this morning, I’ll read you a story then kiss you and then we’ll say goodbye. Then you can go and play with your friends on the mat.”

Acknowledge the feeling: “I can tell you’re finding the goodbye difficult, I feel sad saying goodbye to you too!”

Teach strategies to cope: “Saying goodbye is hard, but we can do it! When I feel sad about saying goodbye, I try to think about something that will make me smile. What makes us both smile? We can come up with a 3 things together.” “You’re right, that did make me smile. I feel calmer now.”

Offer coping mechanisms: A small toy in their bag for comfort may be helpful. We sprayed a handkerchief with my perfume so he could smell it if he needed and he carried a special stone in his pocket so he could feel it when he wanted to.

Goodbye routine: We devised our (his) own goodbye routine. Once he had finished his morning classroom activity, he would start the routine. It was an elaborate ritual of a kiss on each palm of the hand for me and then for him, then we would lay a kiss on each other’s forehead and then a hug. Once we had completed our ritual he would say goodbye. There were times when we would attempt to shorten it, but to him it was a non negotiable that must be completed in the exact sequence! This consistency became his security, because he was so familiar with it.

Positive reinforcement: This does NOT mean rewards or bribery… It is encouragement in the form of “You were nervous, but you used your strategies and managed to say goodbye calmly today, and had a wonderful morning playing with your friends”.

Establishing a consistent routine helps to provide security.

Remember, you know your child best! Is this separation anxiety or is there more to it? Sometimes your child may simply just not like going to school, they may even develop school anxiety. What if you have tried different strategies, spoken to the teacher and things still aren’t improving.

This was the case for me with my little guy …

So, I listened to my child’s needs and I did what was best for my child. I am his advocate! His well-being is paramount.

This particular setting just wasn’t the right fit for my child. Different strokes for different folks. We changed schools and he is happy, calm and content again!

And school drop offs are a breeze now!

The Digital Generation

How technology is robbing kids of their childhood.

Digital technology is a bit of a bugbear of mine. I know we can’t go back and I know how reliant we have all become, but as parents it is imperative we make very conscious decisions about our children’s use. We must also set rules and enforce them even if these rules make us unpopular. Our kids may feel upset and be mad at us, but at least they will be safe. Children’s safety is paramount to most parents and measures MUST be taken to manage the risks posed by internet use.

Social disconnect leads to isolation and a skewed sense of reality.

My personal belief is that prolonging the abstinence of technology, phones and devices  in fact protects childhood. I know some will say phone use is a necessity, and I don’t disagree, but the guidelines must be stringent. I’m not saying it is easy to do! It will be damn hard, but our kids are worth it! 

There is nothing wrong with YouTube per se, but it does worry me as a parent the impact that it has on our kids. As a learning tool it is fantastic (you can literally learn how to do anything!) BUT as a form of entertainment, it’s a slippery slope I don’t want to expose my kids to, (both the content and the possible addiction to it). I find it too risky to ultimately place my child’s viewing in a stranger’s hands, to give a stranger access to my child’s brain! What is seen, cannot be unseen! It’s staggering to think how many hours a large proportion of our children are watching unsupervised, sometimes uncensored crap! The recent dangers with the “Momo Challenge” have highlighted just how easy it is for seriously damaging content to be thrust upon even our youngest most vulnerable minds. I won’t go into the depravity of those responsible for the production on these videos or the culpability of YouTube in permitting these to be broadcast, but I will say as a parent the safest option is to put a stop to the viewing before it is too late.

Apart from the dangers of these latest videos, babies watching adults playing with toys, kids watching others gaming, teen watching explicit materials, there are serious issues with all these youngsters viewing screens instead of experiencing real life! 

Safety is paramount, the loss of innocence is at stake. The risks are simply too high.

The prolific viewing epidemic is further isolating our youth, there is a distinct disconnect from others with online friendships outnumbering real friends. Screens have replaced the need for friends and the opportunity to interact and physically play and communicate with others. Family time has been infiltrated by technology and we are rarely without our phones in any social setting. Social skills, empathy, compassion, conversation and sense of belonging are all at stake in the technology era. It is surprising just how many kids nowadays have a skewed view of popularity and success where an ambition to be a YouTube star or influencer, is revered rather than pursuing careers that are meaningful or provide value to society. 

My boys are young and I have sheltered them from gaming and viewing. My eldest does have an iPad (he watches Netflix and plays some offline games), he’s allowed to use it on the weekend, never after dinner and it is only ever used in our living room. I have myself questioned whether I am in a way ostracising him from his peers or depriving him of IT skills, but the benefits of restricting his use and viewing outweighs these negatives so far. The pressure will most likely increase with age as my eldest becomes a teenager and I am bracing myself for it.

Sensitive children

Sensitive/ anxious/ fearful/ worried children.

Most people at one point or another in their lives feel overly sensitive or overwhelmed by emotions or fears. Some also experience anxiety related to these feelings. Often sensitive children are the products of sensitive parents (either one or both).

Is anxiety caused by genetics? Researchers are still divided on the cause, environmental or hereditary, the old nature-nurture question.

I certainly learned without a doubt this week that this overly sensitive (sometimes anxious) mum has produced two sensitive (sometimes anxious) boys. They are very different personalities and their sensitivities are somewhat different too, but they (we) all have very similar traits when worries set in!

One thing that is true, is that there isn’t an easy or quick fix. Often, as well intentioned parents, our first instinct is to jump in and stop the fear causing thought by removing whatever it is causing the fear. We try to solve our children’s fear by protecting them from experiencing it. For example if the fear is heights, we won’t take our child to the rope course. I am definitely ‘guilty’ of this! Sometimes our ‘fixes’ are exhausting, the elaborate and methodical planning all in vain.

We try to solve our children’s fear by protecting them from experiencing it. Instead of preventing a child from experiencing the fear/ sensitivity/ anxiety, our role can be to teach them skills and strategies to help cope in these situations.

This is because the strategy of protecting our children from the fear actually reinforces them to think that they should be fearful. We project increased fear onto them, instead of reassuring them that they are safe and can learn to work through it.

Instead of preventing a child from experiencing the fear/ sensitivity/ anxiety, our role can be to teach them skills and strategies to help cope in these situations. Giving them exposure and opportunity to practice is much more powerful than avoidance tactics. The teaching will take time and patience, it is never an easy endeavour and there will be hiccups and regressions along the journey. But over time your child may learn to recognise their worries for what they are and be able to use a repertoire of coping strategies. And most importantly they will feel supported and always know that you are a safe place for them to open up.

I know personally, worries I have had throughout my life, have always been lessened when I share my feelings with a trusted person. They say a trouble shared is a trouble halved. And while the worries may not disappear, the act of talking about it is like a personal pressure valve release. Often the trusted person gives you a different and more logical perspective and you feel better about your capacity to cope.

We can’t expect a teenager to share their feelings if they haven’t been supported to do so as a young child.

Encouraging our kids to talk is a massive part of protecting their mental and emotional well-being. Anxiety is on the increase and it’s rearing it’s head at a younger and younger age. We can’t expect a teenager to share their feelings if they haven’t been supported to do so as a young child. If we start early by encouraging our kids to talk openly about their feelings, worries and troubles, maybe we can prevent depression and the social isolation that has lead too many to a devastating end.

Your child can learn the essential skills to develop resilience and coping strategies, then practise them in a supportive small group workshop with one of our Connected Education “Connected Kids Workshops”. For more information contact us or follow on our Facebook page for upcoming workshops in your area. We are always looking for new locations!


The world changes when we change our perspective.

This week I’ve been talking with my pre-teen boys group about empathy. Before we begin this topic, we examine respect towards others. Respect is our golden rule and from that empathy develops. Empathy is an understanding of other people’s feelings. The boys learn that we all have different feelings and responses to situations. They have practiced looking at situations from different perspectives. We did a drawing activity to demonstrate how the same object appears different depending on your point of view.


Respect is our golden rule and from that empathy develops.

Trying to look from the other person’s perspective is a helpful lifelong strategy when faced with conflict. We are more likely to make assumptions whenever we neglect to consider another’s perspective . These assumptions may lead negative feelings, thoughts or behaviours. Aggression and conflict are more likely when parties fail to see each other’s perspectives.

When we walk in another’s shoes we are more likely to relate to people and show compassion. This is an essential component in building positive friendships and for resolving conflict. Empathy is a skill that can be taught and developed. It requires encouragement and opportunity to practise in a supportive environment.

Your child can learn the essential skills to develop empathy and practise them in a supportive small group workshop with one of our Connected Education “Connected Kids Workshops”. For more information contact us or follow on our Facebook page for upcoming workshops in your area. We are always looking for new locations!

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