At the moment, mental health is at an all-time high in the UK. We are still living within a pandemic
that creates uncertainty and high levels of stress. I came across the health anxiety blog that got me
thinking about my son’s mental health. Even though they are 2yrs and 4yrs old, I wondered if there
is anything I can do that begins to build a set of skills that can prepare them for any anxiety they may
face in the future?
I have read many of Daniels articles describing his top tips to lessen anxiety and anxious thoughts.
They resonate with my own research on the window of tolerance. When we feel overwhelmed, our
nervous system can trigger a set of tasks, thus preparing our body to regain safety. To ensure our
survival the nervous system innately responds to the perceived danger. There are many times when
our brain is worried and anxious about the ‘what if…’ This is where I would like to explore if I can
prepare my sons to manage those experiences and feelings.
Can I Teach My Sons Coping Techniques?
There is no doubt in my mind that mental health requires additional specialist support. I also think
not all mental health issues can be prevented by children being parented differently. I’m curious to
know if we can teach our children coping skills that manage short–term and long-term anxiety.
Daniel – I’d love to know what you think at the end of this post.
Daniel’s top tips include talking about and accepting your feelings, breathing activities and positive
affirmations. I feel these skills will benefit any child at any point. When my sons are angry,
frustrated, or sad, I encourage them to listen to those feelings and talk to me. We use Five Finger
breathing many times a day to reduce those toddler outbursts. I hope, like my toddlers, your
children are excellent at telling themselves and other people how good they are at stuff. I believe
that validation is the stepping-stone to developing positive affirmations. If I validate my son’s
feelings, opinions, and choices, they can begin to validate themselves and create positive
affirmations for a whole variety of situations.
Behaviour Support Techniques to Manage Anxiety
A popular behaviour support technique for toddlers is redirection and distraction. When children
feel stressed, distraction can help them to regulate those feelings. For example, my son becomes
distressed when building a Lego figure. He is struggling to place the intricate pieces together. I can
hear him huff and puff, so I ask him to help me in the garden for 5 minutes. By redirecting his
thoughts, I have halted the distress. I feel I need to say, this doesn’t always work, especially if his
distress has pushed him out of his window of tolerance.
I love Daniel’s example to categorise a topic such as movies in this article as it reminds me of the
redirection and distraction technique. The other day my 4yrs old was feeling nervous about starting
primary school. He starts in September, so we were going through his induction pack. He started
asking many questions that I couldn’t answer like “who will I sit next to”. After a while, I could sense
he was starting to become anxious, so I thought this was a good time to try the categorise
technique. We listed all the marvel characters and it worked.
Have you ever started thinking about something and before you know it, the idea or issue has
grown, overtaking all other thoughts? I do this all the time. To lessen anxiety, we can balance our
thoughts. I wondered how I could do this with my toddler and decided to create a game. It was a
starting point to expand on when they are old enough and need to consider how to balance their
thoughts in particular situations.
My game is simple. I use my son’s favourite TV programmes and characters such as Disney’s T.O.T.S,
Lego Marvel, in particular, Spiderman and PJ Mask Catboy. I create situations where the characters
will have to think things through. For example, Spiderman is starting hero school – what would he be
thinking? What could he think? Or Tots are lost – what would they be thinking? What thoughts will
Daniel’s Advice to Raising2Children
So, I said, I wondered what Daniel thought about preparing children by building coping strategies to
manage thoughts and feelings. Daniel, in your experience, what advice would you give me as a mum
of 2 toddlers? Can I help prepare my sons? If or when my son feel anxious, how can I support them?
“I would say listen to them and support them as best as you can. At the end of the day, the role of a parent is to raise their kids as best as they can. There is no official guide on how to do it, you just have to learn as you go.
I think it is also important to let your children know that it is safe and normal to openly talk about their feelings. It doesn’t make you weak as some people may suggest, in fact it shows incredible strength and courage.”
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If you or anyone you know is experiencing distress you can reach out to Beyond Blue: Beyond Blue’s support line is available 24/7.
Lifeline: For crisis support, Lifeline provides a 24/7 line. They have a range of online resources as well.