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Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents (What You Need To Know) Anti-Anxiety Techniques for Kids and Adults

Updated: May 25

No one wants to be anxious. Still, so many of us are. The statistics say that about 1 in 20 people in the United States are diagnosed with some sort of anxiety disorder. That's not surprising considering all there is to worry about in the world. Especially now in this time of political tension and increased health concerns. But true anxiety isn't just a normal response to real stressors. It's when you worry about things irrationally and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prevent bad things from happening to the point that you can't enjoy good things that do occur in your life. It's very difficult to say exactly how much we can do to prevent anxiety disorders because they're a complex mix of genetics, environment, and experiences. But because of new and exciting brain research, we're beginning to be able to pinpoint certain experiences that reduce anxiety and therefore the potential for anxiety disorder.

In the first few years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections form every second.* After this period of rapid proliferation, connections are reduced through a process called pruning, which allows brain circuits to become more efficient. In light of these findings, focusing on early childhood only makes sense. -Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University-

Although the research is complex, the experiences it suggests are simple and soothing for kids, teachers, and parents alike. After more than 40 years of working in the field of early childhood and family education, here is one of my favorite anxiety quelling techniques. Mindfulness Renowned neuroscientist, Dr. Richard Davidson is one of the most important names in the field of emotional health. He heads the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He's researched the minds of young children, childcare teachers, and even the Dali llama to find out what really works.

I combined my own yoga story experience for kids and adults with Dr. Davidson's mindfulness experience and got this super soothing activity that you can do with very young children at home. I always think about the youngest due to the research shown above.

But his fun technique works for all ages!

Set The Mood

Play some yoga music and start dimming lights. Turn on some battery-operated candles. Move around the room quietly and set out "yoga mats" for each child. I use real yoga mats cut in half and labeled with their names and symbols. Any piece of cloth or rug could work.

Ask the children to choose a "yoga buddy" (small stuffed animal) to bring it to their mats.

Start with a song. Here's one I use.

Welcome ________, Welcome __________

It's yoga time, yoga time

It's so good to see you, It's so good to see you.

Ring the chime, ring the chime.

tune is: Frere Jacques/Are You Sleeping? I give each child a turn to ring the chime softly and pass it on.

I continue by creating a short yoga story using different poses to keep it moving. Here's an example:

Once upon a time, there was a little tiny seed under the ground.

The warm sun shone on its back and water trickled down under the ground to nourish it. One day the seed popped up out of the ground. (start with one finger up, then slowly grow into a tree.)

The wind blew and the tree swayed but the roots were always firmly planted in the ground.

One day, a bird came and plucked a berry off of the tree for its dinner. (Hold arms outstretched and pretend to fly away with the berry.)

The majestic bird landed on a beautiful mountain top where it could see the whole world. (crow pose)

It ate the berry slowly, enjoying every sweet bite. When the bird flew away, it left the seed of the berry to go deep under the ground and start again.

The seed stretched out. It could feel the warm sun on it's body and hear nothing but the birds tweeting in the sky. A warm wind passed by the seed, but it stayed still right where it was. Listening.

Then it heard the sound of the chime like this. Ding!

See if you can stay as still as a seed until you can no longer hear the chime at all. Then stay as long as you like. And when you're ready, you can get up and slowly roll up your yoga mat, put it in the bin, and keep playing.

You'll be amazed at the level of focus and calm this produces!

Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, parent, author, teacher, SELF-care facilitator, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI.

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