Thursday, December 12, 2013

Huffington Post Article: Anxiety

I came across this very informative article about anxiety in children written by Daniel B. Peters, Ph.D. for the Huffington Post:

Anxiety has become a regular part of our society and daily lives for our children (and ourselves). Worry and fear cause our children to feel bad, often cause parent-child conflict and stress, keep our children from fully experiencing life, and fully reaching their potential. As a psychologist, parent of worriers, and a pretty good worrier myself, I have learned that there are simple and effective strategies that kids (and parents) can learn to drive the Worry Monster away. Teaching kids about how fear and worry work in their bodies, and specific thinking and doing strategies to fight the Worry Monster, empowers them to take a stand against this bully. 

It's time for us to take the Worry Monster down once and for all and turn our worriers into warriors. 

Here are the 10 steps to do it: 

Step 1: Teach How Our Brain and Body Work When We Are Scared
We all have a "fight or flight" survival response that is designed to keep us alive. We have a tiny ball of neurons called the amygdala (ah-mig-da-la), known as our fear center, that runs our in-body security system. When it senses danger, it sends adrenaline through our bodies to make us run fast and fight with one goal, survival! 

Step 2: Identify Body Feelings
When your amygdala gets activated, you will feel the physical sensations of worry and fear in your body, especially your head, chest, stomach, and throat. This is because your heart has to beat super fast to get extra blood from your brain and stomach to your arms and legs so you can fight and run fast. The blood leaving our brain and stomach makes us feel light headed, have headaches, have stomachaches, butterflies, and make us nauseous. These feelings are our signal that the Worry Monster is messing with us! Any of them sound familiar?

Step 3: Externalize the Problem
Label your worries and fears as the "Worry Monster" who is a bully who is responsible for making you (and all of us) think worrisome and scary thoughts. The Worry Monster's job is to keep us from enjoying life. He gets joy from picking on children (and adults) and making them worried and scared. The more you talk about the Worry Monster and gang up on him with your allies, the weaker he will get and the sooner he will go away.

Step 4: Make a Worry List
Make a list of everything your child (and you) worries about. The Worry Monster doesn't like us to talk about him or how he works, so the more things you put on the list, the better. Once you have done this, put the worries and fears in order starting with the most powerful (severe) at the top and least powerful (mild) at the bottom of the list. 

Step 5: Make a Success Ladder
Choose a behavior from the worry list and make a success ladder by breaking it down into baby steps, or rungs, with the ultimate fear or goal at the top of the ladder and the least scary behavior at the bottom. You will need to decide whether you can start with a single fear like swimming or whether the task needs to be broken into parts (looking at a pool) so that you can gain confidence by becoming used to each baby step along the way to conquering your fear.

Step 6: Identify Worrisome and Fearful Thinking
Think about what the Worry Monster tells you to make you feel worried and scared. Take out your worry list, and expose the Worry Monster's secrets by writing down what he tells you to make you feel scared and worried. For example, next to the worry "being left alone," you may write, "I might get left at school." Uncover what he tells you for all your worries and fears -- you are exposing him.

Step 7: Change and Modify Thinking
Next to the list of what the Worry Monster tells you, write down new thoughts that are healthier and more realistic. Ask yourself, "What am I thinking? How can I think about this differently?" For example, "I might get left at school," gets changed to, "I have never been left before" and "Something bad might happen to my mom," gets changed to, "My mom is strong and can take care of herself." 

Step 8: Practice, Practice, Practice!
Choose behavioral practice activities to tackle the Worry Monster head on. Go to your Success Ladder and start doing the first thing on the bottom of the list until you are bored of it. For example, if you are afraid of dogs, look at a book about dogs until it is not scary and then go to the next rung on the ladder (looking at dogs from far away). Keep moving up the ladder and work your way to the top. Sometimes it goes quickly and other times you may have to practice something over and over. 

Step 9: Develop a Coping Toolbox
Make a personalized toolbox to help you take on the Worry Monster when he shows up. This toolbox usually consists of strategies like deep breathing, understanding where in your body you feel the worry and fear, knowing what makes you start worrying or feeling scared, questions to ask yourself to challenge your thinking ("Is it true?), statements to use against the Worry Monster ("I can do this!"; "Take a hike, you cowardly bully!"; "So what?"), exercise, and activities that distract you and help you relax. 

Step 10 -- Don't Give Up!
Like all bullies, the Worry Monster does not give up easily. It takes a ton of courage and persistence to drive him away. You have talents to show the world and lots of life experiences to enjoy. By using these strategies, and working as a team, the Worry Monster doesn't stand a chance. It is time for him to pick on somebody else. Don't give up. You are a warrior. You can do this!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Words Are For Helping

In kindergarten we're continuing to learn about how to solve conflicts.  Last week we worked on "Wait and Cool Off" from Kelso's wheel, and this week we're learning how to "Talk it Out."  I began by reading "Words are Not for Hurting" written by Elizabeth Verdick.  This is a great book that illustrates how we must carefully choose our words when speaking to others.  It gives specific examples of helpful words vs hurtful words to explicitly teach what is appropriate to say, as well as what to do if you do choose hurtful words to remedy the situation.

Afterwards, I introduced a basic version of my "I Message" poster that includes 3 simple steps:
  1. I feel ____________
  2. When you _________________
  3. Can you please stop?

We then brainstormed things others do that bug us...

And created our own "I Messages"...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New Graduates of Personal Space Camp: 1st Grade

It's that restless time of the year where teachers are exhausted and students are pushing the boundaries.  I've noticed our first graders needing lots of reminders to sit on the carpet and keep their bodies to it's a good time to read Julia Cook's Personal Space Camp!

This is an amazingly entertaining book that keeps the students engaged and laughing throughout the pages.  We meet Louis, a student that is obsessed with outer space but has no concept of personal space.  We watch him "lunar land" on someone's leg, smash into satellites (other students), and demonstrate an eclipse (getting in between two people talking) before he is invited to go to Personal Space Camp.  Using bubbles (which I also blow onto the students to observe their properties), hula hoops, a PSLUR, and body cut-out, he learns about personal space and realizes it is very different than outer space.

After the story, students sorted different scenarios into 2 personal space categories: good choices vs bad choices.  Here is a link to the organizer and here is a link to the activity packet I used for them to sort from Lisa Parnello.

And this just cracks me up...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wait and Cool Off

We have been discussing Kelso's choices in kindergarten.  Many students immediately yelled out "Queso!" when he came into the classroom. :) This week we are focusing on "Wait and Cool Off," an important strategy to do before attempting to resolve conflict.  I pointed out this section of the wheel and showed them an enlarged picture of this choice:

Many times when conflict occurs we have very intense feelings.  I reminded them of our lesson at the beginning of the year when we talked about how our bodies give us warning signals.  When we are feeling intense emotions, we lose control of ourselves and might make choices we later regret, like hitting or yelling.  I introduced our read aloud, When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry... written by Molly Bang.  This book does an excellent job showing how our feelings can overtake us and how we can find ways to calm ourselves down.

In the book we learn that Sophie does a number of things to calm herself down: running, climbing trees, taking deep breaths, listening to nature, and walking.  When she rejoins her family she is ready to be kind to others and share her toys.  Today we are going to think about ways that we help ourselves calm down.  I created a list of ideas that we went through and demonstrated with Kelso.  Then students cut out ideas that they could use when they are feeling upset.  Some decided to practice their writing skills and wrote in their ideas instead!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Talking About Conflict

In second grade we've been reviewing how Kelso's choices can help us solve our problems.  Today we dove into a discussion about the roots of conflict.  Why does conflict happen?  What does it look like?  Is it a normal part of life? (Yes, it is a normal part of life!) How do we resolve conflict? 

In all conflicts there is a relationship between the people involved and a goal that each of them want.  I introduced to students the 5 different ways that we handle conflict:

We discussed how each approach to resolving conflict ends with a variety of win/lose combinations.  Each approach also values your relationship with the person and/or goal you want to achieve differently as well.  Thinking about what is most important to you can help you when you are trying to resolve conflict.

Then we watched this adorable video that reviews Kelso's choices for them:

After reviewing how to state an "I Message" from Kelso's "Talk it Out" section of the wheel, I was ready to put them to the test at resolving conflicts!  I gave each of them 4 scenarios to come up with solutions too.  We talked about which style of conflict resolution we used in each.