Without coping skills, children with anxiety issues can wind up living their worst nightmares.
Erin Laverdure’s twin girls were just four years old when she began noticing her daughters were struggling with some everyday matters.
At the time it was nothing too serious, but it was enough for mom to begin looking for ways to help her daughters deal with their stress in a positive manner.
“It was just little things, like meltdowns over small stuff, separation anxiety, ‘why did you leave us,’ something all kids go through,” said Laverdure, a public health nurse. “We thought by helping them understand and examining the anxiety we couldmake them feel better and getting them involved in their own process instead of us just solving it for them.
“Those anxieties are still going to be there. It’s not a magic pill to make it go away, but it does help me understand that OK this seems silly and it’s exhausting dealing with it. If I’m going to get upset and tell them just to ‘stop it’ it’s not going tomake them feel any better and it’s not going to help me either.”
So she decided to sign up for a two-day workshop at the OSNS Child and Youth Development designed to give parents thetools necessary to help their kids.
“It gave us some tips on how to talk to the kids about their anxiety without minimizing their anxiety or belittling it or saying:‘oh no you’re not worried about that’ or ‘oh that’s silly,’ but it’s not silly to them,” said Laverdure.
And to continue developing those skills she decided to sign up for the centre’s series of four, parent-only workshops, starting Feb. 15 for parents of kids from two to six years old.
According to OSNS clinical co-ordinator Jackie Duncan children are experiencing increasing levels of stress these days.
“Both parents are working, busy households, lots going on, everybody always rushing around, there seems to be a lot of pressure on children in a different kind of way then it used to be,” said Duncan. “Even putting kids in lots and lots of different activities, that in itself can be stressful too.
“Kids need that down time to just play and hang out. A balanced lifestyle is what it’s about for all of us. It’s very difficult for parents and kids to achieve that and we think these workshops can help do so.”
Laverdure agreed: “I’m sure I have a pretty healthy dose of my own anxiety, but when you can actually talk it out with someone, without someone telling you it’s silly and stop it, it does make you feel better.
I think it was good for all of us to go through that it’s even good for our marriage not just the kids. Just a lending ear, someone to bounce your frustrations off of so you can actually be that person for your child. I think that helps them know that they’re secure with you and with the people around them.”
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Registered psychologist Dr. Jodi Morris of Kelowna who does contract work at the centre will conduct the first session.
A researcher and consultant, Morris spent eight years with the World Health Organization where she worked on collaborative projects in low and middle income countries in Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
“Jodi will be talking to parents about what anxiety is, how it presents itself in young children, how they might act out or somemight be withdrawn and we’re seeing it more and more,” said Duncan. “She (Morris) will provide a lot of strategies to help children build up resistance and cope with anxiety and also to help themselves remain calm as well.”
The next three sessions will be put on by OSNS staff starting Feb. 22 with centre executive director Manisha Willms, who has a clinical background, and language pathologist Kate Smith who will address the topic of executive functioning, helping young brains organize and act.
Occupational therapist Madri Hammond will look after the March 1 workshop, talking about self regulation skills and calmingactivities. She, Hammond and Willms will combine for the final session March 8 where parents will be able to make and take home items they can give to their children, including a “calm me jar” which contains a thick liquid and colours.
There is no charge for the workshops and for more information or to register go to www.osns.org/parenting-groups-1.