Mental Health Awareness Week 2019
Intent: To raise awareness of Mental Health and Well being in school and to encourage the children to talk about their feelings and emotions to others.
A good first step is to help your child to understand what is happening inside of his body when he experiences different types of feelings (e.g. anger – stiff and tight, worried – butterflies in stomach, etc.)
Encourage your child to practice ‘taking charge’ of his body through the use of relaxation strategies. Engaging in relaxation helps to calm bodies and helps to manage feelings in a more positive way.
Share examples of body clues. Let your child know that these signs are your body’s way of telling you how you are feeling. Notice your child’s physical complaints and when they occur. If he complains of a tummy ache/headache etc, remind him that it might be his body’s way of telling him something. (For example “I notice that when I mention going to school you say you feel sick in the tummy. Could this mean that you are feeling worried about school?”)
It is also important that you make time for yourself and find your own relaxing activities. Make a list of the things you can do to feel good and relax. When you notice yourself feeling stressed or worried, try out one of those activities. It could be something as simple as making a cup of tea, or sitting in the sun by the window. Tell your child what you are doing to relax, and how much better you feel afterwards.
Sit still and close your eyes for a period of time (e.g. 1-2 minutes) – You may wish to describe a calm and relaxing place so your child can picture it in his mind, or his favourite place. Gradually, you can have your child tell you what he is imagining himself (What do you see? hear? smell? etc..) and how he felt afterwards. Over time you can increase the length of relaxation time. Repeat this visualization exercise regularly so that it becomes more comfortable and familiar.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Have your child lay down and tighten and then relax parts of his body. It can help to have your child close his eyes and take a few deep breaths before beginning. You may wish to read a progressive relaxation script that guides your child through the various muscle groups one at a time. Children learn the difference between feeling tense (stiff like a robot) and relaxed (like a floppy jellyfish or ragdoll). Explain to your child that sometimes our muscles become tense (e.g. jaw clenched, shoulders up high, neck tight) when we are feeling worried or frustrated. When we notice this, we can help ourselves feel better by relaxing our muscles.Encourage your child to do this activity on his own before bedtime.
Provide your child a plastic cup with a straw so that he can practice his milkshake breathing. Fill the cup 1/3rd full with water. Your child breathes in deeply through their nose and breathes out slowly through the straw. Encourage him to blow SMALL bubbles in the cup very gently – he’ll know they have it right if they make gentle bubbles without spilling any water.
Have your child practice at least five times and set them little challenges (e.g. how long they can keep the bubbles going for in a single breath, see if you can keep your bubbles going while you count backwards from 4, etc). These techniques gives your child visual and auditory feedback (seeing and hearing the bubbles), and makes the concept more concrete.
Milkshake Breathing Song – to the tune of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’
Teach your child a song about Milkshake Breathing to help them learn what to do.
Sing together: “We can fill our lungs with air, like we’ve got balloons in there. Then we breathe out soft and slow, making bubbles as we go. Milkshake breathing is so fun, it’s for me and everyone.”
Ask your child to lie flat on the floor on his back and place one hand on his chest and the other hand on his stomach. Then instruct your child to take a slow breath in through his nose for 4 counts, hold his breath for 2 counts, and then release the air for 4 counts through his mouth. Your child’s hand on the belly should rise and fall. Children may also enjoy putting a stuffed animal on their bellies and watching it rise and fall, reinforcing that they are doing the exercise correctly. Abdominal breathing is an effective technique for calming the breathing and reducing anxiety symptoms. Calm, slow breathing reduces your heart rate and calms you down, but needs to be continued for a while (likely about 15-20 breaths). This is a technique children can use in a wide range of situations where they might be feeling nervous. Explain to your child that we can help ourselves feel calm and relaxed just by changing the way we breathe
Taken from: B.C. FRIENDS Parent Program – The FORCE Society for Kids’ Mental Health and
Ministry of Children and Family Development