Start of the School Year - How to Help our Children with Anxiety?

Start of the School Year - How to Help our Children with Anxiety?

Starting and even going back to school can be big time for the little people in our lives.  Equally it can be a big time for us as their parents.

This article is designed to help you know how to support our children through this school transition.

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7 mindful steps to finding the right therapist for you

7 mindful steps to finding the right therapist for you

Deciding to work with a therapist is often a big decision ... 

And then once the decision has made to seek help, it can be a daunting task to find a therapist that is right for you.

In this article, we identify seven steps to help you find the therapist that is more likely to meet your needs.

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Growing through anxiety ....

Growing through anxiety ....

This morning I received a text ...“Mum, I have my first pimple, I am growing up!”.

Now let me put this in context, this text is from our youngest child, who is at that moment is upstairs, in her bedroom, and it is 7am!

I bound upstairs, and I am invited to inspect the blemish on her cheek – no it does not appear to be a mosquito bite, nor an allergy spot, yes I confirm it does appear to be a full blown pimple.  

With delight, our child proudly confides that this is truly evidence of her development.

I share in her excitement, as I look about her room filled with soft toys and pink…and I note for a moment, I am able to sit with both the joy and grief of motherhood... 

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Generation G(oogle) - children, anxiety and the web?

Generation G(oogle) - children, anxiety and the web?

I noticed on Facebook the other day a meme came up on my feed that read, “Please don’t confuse your Google search with my medical degree.” And it got me thinking about the power of Google in our lives and in particular the lives of our children, the access it affords them to the wondrous and unknown, that generations before us could only have dreamed about. There is much said in the media and taught in our children’s schools about the dangers of inappropriate, unsupervised access to the Internet. We are all too aware of social media trolls, cyber bullying and online predators but what of the seemingly harmless websites our children visit and the hidden impact they can have?

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The beginning of the school year…whose anxiety is it really?

The beginning of the school year…whose anxiety is it really?

It is the day before school starts and, I find myself up late sewing on the last of the name tags to the children’s school uniform.  As I struggle to thread the needle once again, I wonder to myself  “what am I really doing here?”…  There is something about the quality of the sewing, the need to sew a tag on every item of clothing, with such care and urgency, that makes me wonder.  As I tune into this wondering and sense into my body, I recall sitting alone on my bedroom floor as an adolescent, sewing name tags on to my own clothes before heading off to boarding school.  The excitement quickly drowned out by a sense of overwhelming dread.

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Nurturing courage in children

Nurturing courage in children

When my son was four years old, I would give him a $5 dollar note and send him to the little corner store about 10 houses up from our place. Pulling a rusty red wagon behind him, he’d head off up our road to buy a couple of cartons of milk, feeling like he was Buzz Lightyear on a very important mission.

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What is your relationship with alcohol…?

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Last night, I found myself seeking a glass of wine.  Usually only drinking socially, I was alone in the kitchen preparing dinner for the family.  It had been a busy day…what was this seeking of an experience altering substance about?

Growing up in rural Australia, alcohol has always been present in my life.  My father drank to alleviate the stress and pain of history written in his body.  My mother drank to be with my father.  I drank to because that is what everyone did once they hit adolescence.  Alcohol was always present.  At dinner, at events, at celebrations, at commiserations, whenever adults were gathered there was always alcohol.  It was a “social thing” ….or was it?

As children, we live moment to moment, and those moments define our experience.  Whether it be joy in discovering the first egg laid by the family chooks in spring, or the rage of injustice as one sibling crosses the other…children live in their experiences.   Yet in our growing up, it appears that some children learn that both the pain and the ecstasy of life are too much and that rather than learning how to regulate their experiences, they begin to seek distraction and in time disconnection from these highs and lows of life.

At the extreme, modeled in; alcohol dependence, excessive food consumption, cigarette addiction, overwork, social media obsession, or perhaps our inability to be alone…as adults, we demonstrate to our children how to disengage from truly living in experience. 

This learning to disconnect from experience however is multi-faceted.  As parents, as teachers, as caregivers in a child’s life, being unable to simply be with a child, regardless of whether it is meeting the child at their best or at their worst, if we, as adults can not tolerate a child’s experience, how will a child learn to tolerate their own?  It is in how we respond to the child in their distress, with acceptance, with love and with care, that they discover their own capacity to self regulate.

Pause and take time to be with our own experiences and with the experiences of the young people around us.  This is an investment in both ourselves and the generations to come. 

Reflection: “What is your relationship with alcohol or similar detractors from experience?”

(As a Wholebody Focusing oriented therapist, Sarah Sacks actively supports her clients to come into relationship with their experience)

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Sarah Sacks

Sarah is a qualified and experienced counsellor, meditation teacher and group facilitator. Sarah's years of body based based practices, in meditation and yoga, have led Sarah to believe in the inherent wisdom of the body. In line with this belief, Sarah has trained and qualified as a Whole Body Focusing Orientated Therapist, Transpersonal Counsellor, Holistic Counsellor, Meditation Teacher and Group Psychotherapy Facilitation. Over the last 5 years Sarah has worked in the not-for-profit sector, the community health sector and privately, as a generalist counsellor and group facilitator. Sarah has experience working with children, families and adults around issues of; isolation, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, anger, separation, addiction and general mental health. Sarah's warm and intuitive counselling style, along with her extensive life experience, enables Sarah to gently support her clients towards their own path of change. Qualifications - Bachelor of Holistic Counselling, Diploma of Transpersonal Counselling, Bachelor of Business (International Marketing & Trade), Diploma of Arts (Japanese), ACA (level 2), qualifying member for CAPAV

Navigating the anxiety of growing up....

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Long after the children had gone to bed, I came home last night to learn that our youngest had asked the question “Dad…is the Tooth Fairy real?” 

Three kids on, between us we’ve been asked this question many times and dodged it, in so many ways.  But this time, my husband confessed he couldn’t turn away from her direct and insistent gaze.

In his recounting of the story, I learn there were tears from her around the relief in finally knowing the truth, especially as she was being teased at school for still “believing”.  Combined with tears of confusion as it dawned another enormous step toward leaving her childhood behind.

Our youngest is 10 very soon.  We live in a first world country, where everyone is busy.  I was busy that night.  For the children and the parents alike, there are places to be, classes to attend, meetings to be had.  But at what cost? 

Taking the time to slow things down and acknowledge for both ourselves and our children that transition is occurring is critical to everyone’s wellbeing. 

For everyone change is hard.  It is a time of moving from the known to the unknown.  And with that comes fear.  Fear of will I be enough to cope?  Who will I become?  Will be alone in this new world?  Will someone be there to help me when I struggle in this new place?  These fears, often exhibited as anxiety, are as true for a child as they are for an adult.

When change is occurring for a child and you recognize how scary and unfamiliar it is for them, how it is hard it is to say goodbye to what they have known, that there will be times that they will wish they could go back to the past, and that through all of it, you will be there for them – is one of the best gifts we can give our children. 

The key here is time.  It takes time to offer someone who is fearful or in pain the space to slow down, feel safe and experience.

Sometimes as parents our child’s pain is more than we can bear, at others we may feel some guidance may be necessary.  In these instances, professionals experienced in working with children can help.

Finally take a moment and think about how you navigate change and what you do to address your fears and anxieties during transitions.  As parents it is these moments of modeling, combined with the times of being with our children as they try to navigate their own struggles, that will largely define our children’s capacity to tolerate change.  For you and your children, slow down and take time to be with both your and their experiences.  You are giving your child a gift.

I wasn’t there yesterday when the big question was asked and the truth revealed, but today I met our daughter at the school bus, so that we could spend the afternoon together.  On our walk home, she tells me about her chapped lips and that the best lip balm is “the one Santa gave me…I mean you gave me”.  We talk about how it makes her cry to think of Santa and the Tooth Fairy not being real.  And I am quietly thinking how it makes me cry, seeing our littlest growing up.  It is a transition for all of us, that we all have to navigate.  Holding each other along the way.

(Sarah Sacks is a counsellor and an advocate for enabling growth through transitions.  She practices at The Grove Counselling & Therapy, St Kilda East.)

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Sarah Sacks

Sarah is a qualified and experienced counsellor, meditation teacher and group facilitator. Sarah's years of body based based practices, in meditation and yoga, have led Sarah to believe in the inherent wisdom of the body. In line with this belief, Sarah has trained and qualified as a Whole Body Focusing Orientated Therapist, Transpersonal Counsellor, Holistic Counsellor, Meditation Teacher and Group Psychotherapy Facilitation. Over the last 5 years Sarah has worked in the not-for-profit sector, the community health sector and privately, as a generalist counsellor and group facilitator. Sarah has experience working with children, families and adults around issues of; isolation, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, anger, separation, addiction and general mental health. Sarah's warm and intuitive counselling style, along with her extensive life experience, enables Sarah to gently support her clients towards their own path of change. Qualifications - Bachelor of Holistic Counselling, Diploma of Transpersonal Counselling, Bachelor of Business (International Marketing & Trade), Diploma of Arts (Japanese), ACA (level 2), qualifying member for CAPAV

The psychological impact of pursuing Childhood Stardom.

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When people learn that my children have worked in the film and television industry for most of their lives, I am asked all the questions you would expect…How did they get into it? Aren’t you worried about them missing school? Do people recognize them in the street? And as understandable as all those questions are, the one that really matters is, do they enjoy it?  

If you are thinking of signing your child up with a talent agency you may want to consider all that is involved should they be successful, or perhaps more problematically, if they are not?

Being an extra on a film or tv series can be really fun but the industry is hierarchical and extras are at the bottom of the pecking order. This may not be a problem for your child as she or he may think just being on a set is exciting, even if there are other kids who are the so called ‘stars’ of the show.

The greater problem may be why, after registering with an agency, do some children get work and others do not? This can be really hard to take, and understandably, the child can go straight to feeling vulnerable about how they look or who they are.

Maybe you can help your child comprehend it is a bit like a lottery and if the Director is looking for a 10 year old boy with dark curly hair, that is the criteria - nothing personal.  It can be one thing to grasp this intellectually, but not to feel rejected when weeks go by without a call, can be a whole other story.

Another aspect that needs to be considered is if you do win a role or get cast as an extra, you can’t complain or go home when you’ve had enough. You must arrive on time, but then you will wait around for ages before you actually do anything! Once committed you have to see it through no matter what. And then you will have to do the same thing over and over many times! Some kids are cut out for it and some kids just aren’t!

So if you’re considering signing your child up with a talent agent you might want to consider all the aspects that go into appearing in that 30 second television commercial, especially if you think it might boost their confidence. Helping your child to find where they shine, in their own right, might just be a more positive course of action.

(In addition to having a former career working as a performing artists for 20+ years, Megan Rees is a highly experienced therapist, specialising in working with Children & Adolescents.)

If this content interests you and you would like to receive regular updates of developments at The Grove, please leave your details in the "Subscribe" box to your right.

Comment

Sarah Sacks

Sarah is a qualified and experienced counsellor, meditation teacher and group facilitator. Sarah's years of body based based practices, in meditation and yoga, have led Sarah to believe in the inherent wisdom of the body. In line with this belief, Sarah has trained and qualified as a Whole Body Focusing Orientated Therapist, Transpersonal Counsellor, Holistic Counsellor, Meditation Teacher and Group Psychotherapy Facilitation. Over the last 5 years Sarah has worked in the not-for-profit sector, the community health sector and privately, as a generalist counsellor and group facilitator. Sarah has experience working with children, families and adults around issues of; isolation, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, anger, separation, addiction and general mental health. Sarah's warm and intuitive counselling style, along with her extensive life experience, enables Sarah to gently support her clients towards their own path of change. Qualifications - Bachelor of Holistic Counselling, Diploma of Transpersonal Counselling, Bachelor of Business (International Marketing & Trade), Diploma of Arts (Japanese), ACA (level 2), qualifying member for CAPAV

Do you allow yourself to be witnessed?

This morning was a significant day for our youngest.  Her fish had died, and she wanted to ceremonially bury it.  A small box was found, a hole dug, flowers picked and a cross made.  As she went to lay her fish’s coffin in the dirt, she looked around, and noticed that her siblings, caught up in the preparations for the day, had not made it out to the garden.  “I want them here with me” were her words.

Letting go of the rush of the morning, we gathered around in the garden … her two older siblings, the family dog, my husband and I, as she placed her beloved fish in the ground. 

It is these moments that bind us and these moments that build us - seeing others and allowing ourselves to be seen.

Reflection - In your life, who do you witness?   And do you open yourself up to the vulnerability and the love that can come, in allowing others to witness you?  

(Sarah is an experienced counsellor, who enjoys working with children and their families around issues of grief and loss)

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