The article “L’anxiété chez les jeunes en très forte hausse” by Pierre Saint-Arnaud (La Presse canadienne), published the 26th of October in Le Devoir reports concerns voiced by “L’Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec” regarding the increase in anxiety and stress in children and adolescents. They cite that 37% of Quebec youths are now impacted psychologically by anxiety and stress and that these levels continue to rise.
We invite you to take a look at 4 tips recommended by Centennial Academy’s Head of School on what parents can do to help their children deal with stress and anxiety.
1 – Filter her exposure to unnecessarily stressful parts of the adult world
We are continually bombarded by news from around the world on our TVs, radios, phones and computers. Unfortunately, much of what we hear is unnecessarily stressful to young people, who already have enough stress to deal with in their daily life.
In their book entitled Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross explain how parents can help limit the amount of pressure and worry their children experience by limiting their exposure to distressing aspects of the adult world. This means filtering-out information that can cause more harm than good, including disturbing news items or unpleasant family matters.
Children should not live in a bubble. However, limiting what they see and hear to what is age- and personality- appropriate can help them feel more calm and secure and put them in a better frame of mind for learning.
2 – Help him develop a more positive attitude about himself and the world around him
Research across many scientific fields has linked positivity to improved health, higher rates of success and increased happiness. It can also lead to a higher degree of openness to new experiences as well as a good attitude toward critical feedback.
In their book Micro-Resilience, Bonnie St. John and Allen P. Haines explain how we can actually increase the number of positive emotions we feel each day by purposefully choosing thoughts and creating habits that support positivity. Below are some of the practical tips they provide for “reframing our attitude” from negative to positive, so that we can respond more effectively to what life throws our way.
When you experience an unpleasant situation: Instead of assuming the worst and reacting impulsively, take the time to de-escalate your emotions and to challenge your beliefs about the motivations behind the situation. This will allow you to react much more rationally.
When you confront an obstacle: Instead of believing that you can’t overcome it, see what happens if you start believing the very opposite. This will help you think more optimistically about the problem and increase your chances of succeeding.
When you are feeling pessimistic about yourself or your chances of success: Develop a growth mindset, by reframing problems as challenges and failures as learning opportunities.
Give these techniques a try. You are your child’s – and your own – best coach!
3 – Ensure that she makes time for aerobic activity every day
Throughout the month of May, I will be providing tips based on the book U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life). It was written by Dan Lerner and Dr. Alan Schlechter, who team-teach New York University’s most popular elective class, called “The Science of Happiness.” The book is a fun and comprehensive guide to surviving and thriving in college and beyond. However, it is also full of research-based tips for building positive lifelong habits that can help people of all ages flourish in school, at work and in life.
Chapter 10 of the book is dedicated to the benefits of exercise on the adolescent brain. Scientific studies have demonstrated that exercise – and especially aerobic exercise – improves memory retention and reduces stress. It also causes the brain to secret proteins that interact with the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for complex cognitive behaviour, personality expression, planning, decision-making, and moderating social behaviour.
So, if you want to help your child thrive in school, be sure she engages in some form of aerobic activity every day, for at least 30 minutes. Whether it be walking, dancing, cycling, skateboarding or playing basketball, just get moving!
4 – Help her master her emotional responses to events using the abc model of resilience
Different people interpret and react to identical experiences in very different ways. While some people are innately more positive and rational, others tend to interpret and react to situations more negatively and irrationally, which can lead to unhappiness, frustration – even depression and anxiety.
In his book, Flourish, Martin Seligman describes pioneering CBT psychologist Albert Ellis’s ABC Model for challenging irrational beliefs. Ellis identified that it is not an event or person (A) that makes us feel a certain way (C), but it is our way of interpreting that event or person (B) that causes how we feel about it (C).
Therein lies our power: we have the choice to interpret a situation positively, neutrally or negatively, and thereby change how we end-up feeling about it. In other words, we have the ability to become more resilient – to change the way we cope with experiences and learn to bounce back from adversity more quickly.