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Surfing the Worry Imps Wave by Sharon Selby

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I’d like to welcome everybody to today’s presentation. We’re gonna be talking with Sharon Selby who wrote surfing the worried imps wave. It is an amazing children’s book that helps children understand a little bit about what causes anxiety and what causes sort of false anxiety. So they can start figuring out how to deal with their feelings as they come up. The book has a lot of activities in it that allow children to work through with their parents, with their caregivers, with their therapist, whomever. Each one of these tasks so it’s not just a read it and go it allows the children and the families to really partake in the developmental process so welcome Sharon thank you so much a little bit about yourself so I’m in private practice in Vancouver British Columbia I have been counseling for twenty years now and most of my practice specializes in anxiety with children and teens okay and your website which will put up a little bit later is just an absolute wealth of information you have a lot of blog articles that people can go look at and learn about all kinds of things some of which we’re going to talk about today so what prompted you to write this book well since I’ve been in the counseling field for 20 years I’ve seen a huge increase in child anxiety and it’s quite concerning how much anxiety is out there and I really think if we can teach children about it when they’re young we can hopefully turn things around so that it’s more manageable and doesn’t really turn into an anxiety disorder when they’re older or as teens so I noticed there wasn’t a lot of resources available for parents and professionals in the age five to ten and a category and that’s an age I work with a lot I also run groups for children with anxiety as well as working with them individually and so I wanted to put all of my curriculum but I use into a fun story that would be engage but also give them concrete strategies and give parents especially a resource and one of the wonderful things I noticed when I was previewing this book was a lot of the strategies that you are teaching through this book are the same strategies that I teach adults when they come in we just go about it a bit different so when parents are working with their children to help the children learn how to deal with anxiety the parents are also potentially developing skills that they may not have because you know a lot of times what I see is when the youth have high anxiety parents also tend to have difficulty coping with anxiety so through modeling and through teaching the parents are actually going to get a lot out of it in addition to the youth it’s exactly these are strategies that are based on CBT which is cognitive behavioral therapy as well as mindfulness and and that’s known as the gold standard for treating anxiety so it’s just a way to teach it to younger children and really as you say the book is for all ages it’s just written in a children’s format right and you know it’s kind of funny one of the things that you talk about are the the false alarms but setting off the fire alarms and in my classes a lot of times I talk about the fire alarm because our fire alarms you know I’ll get distracted or something will drip and and I’ll get smoke in the kitchen and there’s really no fire but there’s smoke or when we have our windows open and the wind blows really strong it’ll set off our fire alarms again no problem but we need to check it so you know kind of the same thing as encouraging people to check in and realize that not every alarm means there’s actually a problem it’s just sort of a hey might want to check this sort of thing exactly and I think that’s really you know the difference between anxiety and fear anxiety is more about the perceived threats that could happen and then your body thinks it’s really happening and so it goes into that fight flight or freeze mode but when it’s true fear is happening right now in front of you it’s an emergency and yes you do need to go into fight flight or freeze but if we teach children and teens that really this is a false alarm and that you’re having a perceived moment of feeling there’s a threat coming and it’s not actually happening right now right awesome I talk a lot in my classes about basic fears of rejection isolation failure loss of control and the unknown triggering this fight-or-flight response or fight flight or freeze what types of things do children worry about I mean more specifically just school peer pressure what is it that you see a lot in the youth I think for the younger children separation anxiety is huge so a lot of children when they’re starting school whether it be preschool or elementary school that’s a really kind of scary experience for them and they feel like it could be some kind of threat out there and they’re only safe if they’re with their parents same when it comes to joining a new activity or a sports team and for some children sleeping independently nighttime can be scary with the DAR consider when a parent to sleep with them and their imagination starts to think you know all the worst-case scenarios could happen at nighttime including you know imagination like monsters and things like that then as they get older separation anxiety can still be a big one I’ve known you know 12 year olds and 13 year olds that still don’t want to sleep alone or go to outdoor school things like that but then we also start getting into more of the social anxiety as they become teens because there’s so much pressure around fitting in being popular and with all the social media you don’t get a break from it children tend to come home and then go onto their devices and then they’re still surrounded by it and they can see who’s hanging out with who and where they might have been excluded or they see these beautiful photographs that you know have been photoshopped and edited but it makes it looks like everybody’s got these amazing lies and makes feel kind of hopeless about themselves sure okay why do children worry about things that adults just really don’t worry about I mean sometimes my kids will be worried about something and I’m like you know in the big scheme of things so why is it the children worry about things that adults may not well I think part of it is again that dependence on their parents so the separation anxiety is big for that also of course the the wise owl brain the prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed yet not until about age 25 and then we know in your elasticity it can keep on growing but at a much slower rate so they’re rational brain isn’t really able to function as strong as their instincts and so as soon as they get stressed or worried their instincts you know think this is real so I’m going to you know prepare you for fight flight or freeze and you know that confirms for them that their worries are real because their body’s telling them that you know your hands are sweating or your heart is beating so it must be real right we have to help them distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t and then again for younger children distinguishing between fantasy and reality is hard and that doesn’t really happen till about age 7 right mistakes and bad things happen so how does the concept and I know you talked about this on your blog so I wanted to bring this out I love this series how does the concept of fault versus responsibility impact a child’s anxiety for example if parents divorce you know do they feel at fault how much of it’s their responsibility what what are we talking about there right so of course when parents divorce that creates a lot of uncertainty about the future and that’s what the worries feed on because the worries are always getting you to be worried about what might happen what could happen in the future and so it’s the time when definitely the anxiety is going to increase and so then for the they have a lot of questions they don’t understand probably by their parents a divorce the parts they think maybe they can control is their own behavior so maybe they start to take you know some of the blame and think okay if I behave better this will help my parents get back together and but ultimately we have to help them realize you know they are not responsible for their parents feelings there is possible for their own and that they need to you know find ways to separate what’s going on with their parents from themselves and realize again that with being saya t it’s just all the what-if questions and we don’t have a crystal ball so I’m neither do the worries so we don’t actually know what is gonna happen in the future we need to just try and stay in the present at the moment that we have right now okay what are some signs you know I know that the signs of depression and anxiety are different in children adolescents and adults so what are some signs parents should look for to identify that hey my child may be struggling with anxiety issues so when they’re really young you may notice that your child is quite sensitive so we can recognize this even in newborns and there’s been studies done on this and this might be the child who startles more easily or certain textures might make them cry and certain tastes are difficult and when you have a more sensitive child there is more likelihood that that child will also be more anxious but we don’t know that for sure but it’s something to look out for when you have a really young child then as they get a little bit older the signs we start to see are the clinging they’re not wanting to leave you sometimes the stomachaches and so that can be you know definitely big red flags that there’s some anxiety happening here if your child is asking a lot of what-if questions and they’re asking for a lot of reassurance and you seem to answer them once but then after that they keep asking the same question over and over again and then we’re kind of caught in that worry cycle as well and so we want to be careful not to get caught up in that because then we’re actually reinforcing the anxiety so then as they become a bit older you might notice they’re avoiding things more and they’re also not wanting to go on sleepovers things that you know kind of our usual for their age and then you’re noticing that they’re not wanting to participate in that so definitely those can be some of the signs okay so if you have a child for example who’s you know middle school high school age and they just sort of become apathetic about school about friends about anything they’re just you know what in an adult we would kind of think of as depression you know persistent depression maybe would that be anxiety and children or would would that be leaning more towards depression yeah I mean it’s it’s hard to know exactly right unless you have a person in front of you and you can investigate a little further but anxiety and depression are often linked and so usually it starts off as anxiety and then when the anxiety gets to be at a point where it’s unmanageable you start to feel that hopeless and helpless feeling that comes with depression so um if somebody is you know they’re starting to not go to school and getting a lot of school refusal they’re not wanting to see their friends they’re just wanting to sleep all day you know definitely there could be some undercurrents of anxiety but then it sounds like at that points is also heading more towards depression definitely a time to seek some counseling help sure and probably to deal with that depression they’re gonna have to deal with that undercurrent of anxiety because they need to develop the sense of self empowerment exactly and a lot of what we do in CBT is talk about cognitive thoughts so the C for cognitive behavioral therapy is cognitions which are your thoughts and so there’s a lot of irrational that happens especially in the teen years as well because there’s so much fear of judgement and and what others think and so you can really build up irrational thoughts and then if you’re believing all those thoughts it gives you these very negative feelings and then of course that leads to your actions which means you don’t want to go anywhere and you want to hide and sleep all day sure and one of the things we talk about in my groups you know with adults the fact that there’s thoughts when you’re thinking based on on feelings and instead of thinking based on facts and so if they think if they feel like it’s scary then they automatically start thinking this must be something that’s really scary and then they can talk themselves into it so sometimes even feelings can trigger thoughts that support the feelings and it’s this you know downward spiral such as going to a sleepover as you the example you gave you know if they think it’s kind of scary then they’re like well what if I go and you know I wet the bed or I Berber you know something that children and young young teens tend to find just mortifying then then they start thinking about although what ifs as you said that could happen and they can really get themselves wound up definitely and I think you know sometimes it’s a negative association maybe they had a sleepover at a friend’s house and maybe they got sick and they threw up and so now they’re too scared to ever go on a sleepover again because now they’re convinced that if they do this will happen really we know you know the probability of that happening again is really slim but they create this belief that a must equal B and that’s where the irrational thinking happens and we have to help them break that down and create a new thought right right okay now in the news or around here a lot we’ve been hearing about school shootings especially but we’ve also had earthquakes and hurricanes I mean it’s been kind of a busy 12 months for disaster type things so after a traumatic event such as one of those things what types of stress and anxiety reactions might we see in youth both the youth that are directly exposed to it as well as children that live you know hundreds of miles away but they’re seeing it on the news over and over again mm-hmm yes exactly so of course there’s gonna be a lot of separation anxiety because they’re gonna want to stay close to their parents they’re gonna feel but that’s their safe place and they’re going to probably be quite hyper vigilant so it’s as if they have little antennae and you know they’re on the lookout everywhere they go for possible danger they’re constantly checking their devices for news updates so we have to help them to manage all of that it’s not healthy to be looking at the news over and over again repeating those images hearing those stories over and over again we need have to help them to realize that we have some kind of plan in place so if it’s an earthquake you know we’ve got our meeting place we’ve got our emergency kits ready the schools usually have some kind of plan in place where they do a lockdown if there’s an intruder in the building so you know we can give our child that information that there is a plan a safety plan in place but then beyond that it’s out of our control and no matter how much we worry it’s not going to change the outcome by worrying we can’t make things happen and we can’t stop things from happening and that’s the illusion I’ve worried is it makes us think we’re gonna be safer because we’re worrying about it but actually it doesn’t make us safer it’s exactly the same and so then that’s where we have to recognize the difference between living in trust versus fear and looking day by day and moment mine moments and recognizing that if an emergency happens then we will deal with it the best we can with the plans we have in place but otherwise we still need to be able to enjoy our lives moment to moments because the rest of it is unfortunately out of our control and I see so much of this even and it’s something that parents can really take in I remember way back when when we had 9/11 and it was just on the TV my son was 18 months old at that point but I remember watching it and watching it and keeping it on the television and not really thinking much about it but for adults it’s the same thing if we keep seeing it over and over again it keeps it ever-present we are able to differentiate we know it’s not happening anymore but it keeps it present for children it seems like it’s happening over and over again I would think because you know they may have difficult especially younger children may have difficulty realizing that okay this was from three months ago and things have gotten better but we’re still seeing you know pictures of whatever the disaster was so go ahead and so also they start to think it’s you know it’s gonna happen like the next day and they’re not able to look at the statistics and realize that you know as tragic as these incidents are they’re still quite rare and the fact of you know it happening in your exact school or you know in say in Vancouver we also live in a zone that’s known to maybe have a big earthquake one day but you know when we look at the statistics has there ever been the big one no not yet so we’ve got to look at the evidence and look at the facts and that’s one of the tools that I teach in my book okay awesome aside from reading this book with children and going through the discussion and activity guide because children really need to involve all their senses and you’ve done a great job of laying it out so they can actually hear about it see it and practice with it what can parents do to help their children prevent anxiety mm-hmm well I think modeling of course is a huge fun and there is sometimes a genetic link with anxiety running families so it’s really important to be aware of your own anxiety we all have anxiety to some degree it’s just you know to what degree and so just really trying to keep our own anxiety in check so that our children aren’t modeling that and seeing it and then be able to have these kind of discussions with them where you have a close relationship and you can talk about thoughts and feelings I really believe in bedtime being that Golden Hour where you’re not trying to rush it and make it happen in five or ten minutes you you take time when they’re younger to read a story and have rituals but also have some quality time where you can have little chats lie down on the pillow together and often in the dark or when the lights are dimmed and the busyness of the day is finished that’s when stuff comes up and you can have these really insightful conversations and then even with teenagers you can if this is something that they’ve always been used to my daughter’s turning 15 next week and I’m fortunate I still get to lie down next to her in bed at night and have these kinds of chance because she’s never known anything different we’ve just always done that so I really encourage using bed time to be that special time to have these kind of chance and it also helps them kind of quiet their mind a little bit so they’re not laying down and like you said when it’s quiet they’re alone with their thoughts and if they don’t have a way to get them out those thoughts just kind of bounce around in their head so using that time really helps them deescalate and start getting ready for a good quality sleep yeah we all need to process and so it just helps to process with a caring parent who has wisdom and a different perspective and can you know listen and and you know maybe get some support if needed which you know that’s kind of the cool thing we may not be the smartest people in the world but we have more experience than our children so we have been through similar things probably and we can sher not to invalidate them obviously but you know we can give a slightly different perspective sometimes on things that may be anxiety provoking and we can help them look at you know let’s stop and look back at you know times when you’ve gone through something like this before and it’s been fine and you’ve done great you know so you know maybe the person’s get the child’s getting ready to give a speech or something so those are definitely things that and whether we’re a parent or just an objective person who’s not in that emotional mind you know we can maybe point out some of their strengths and resilience ease and I think it’s important and you know that children don’t just identify themselves as anxious you know it’s really important to externalize it so that’s why I created this little worry and capture for my book because imps are imaginary but they also like to play tricks and so when we can call it the worry imp this playing tricks then it’s easier to see it as something outside of you that you need to speak back to or not listen to or do the opposite of and as children get older and you’re not going to call it the worry and penny more but you know just calling it the worries or just calling it anxiety is a way of externalizing it so they can realize oh yeah that’s my anxiety voice talking again okay I don’t need to listen to that what other thoughts can I have that might be more grounded in reality exactly exactly I noticed on your website that your blog quite extensively talks about issues related to anxiety attachment discipline self-regulation and resilience which are all wonderful topics I mean you can do so much with all of them how do you see all these things as being related right so and if you have a strong attachment that creates a secure base in the family and that’s the founder of attachment theory John Bowlby that called it that the secure base and that’s really crucial in every family but then it’s also really important we don’t become overprotective because if we’re too protective or we jump in and rest you are children to match or solve problems for them then they don’t develop the resilience that they need and then also they need to develop self-regulation so that they can learn how to handle all these big feelings anxiety being one of the big ones and then the discipline part is important because the roots of the word discipline actually means to teach and so that’s an important part of parenting because that’s where children learn boundaries and if they’re not having limits set and they have no boundaries then they are going to become anxious later because they’re going to get themselves into situations where they don’t know how to handle it and they’ve gone kind of out of bounds because they don’t know what those limits are and then on the other hand if it’s a very strict or authoritarian family where the parents are kind of controlling the children then the children don’t know how to think for themselves and so then that’s going to create anxiety as they get older and and need to make decisions for themselves so we want to try and be in the middle and have that backbone bamboo style of parenting where you’re firm but flexible and still have limits but also have a strong attachment sure and so you know as you were talking I’m thinking of growing up in a family if you grew up in a family where there weren’t any limits said it might feel like mom and dad didn’t care so that could trigger some anxiety and disrupt the attachment process and likewise if it’s if the family is over authoritarian authoritarian it might feel to the child like their parents don’t trust them and they don’t you know their parents don’t think they have the skills so they need to be afraid because they’re you know vulnerable so it sends a lot of confusing messages when you’re at either end of the spectrum so you know we’ve talked a lot about anxiety and and children and everything and I can’t say enough about this book I don’t usually gush about books but it’s so pretty and it works so well so where can people get surfing the worried imps wave so right now it’s available on my website which is my name sharon Sal be calm and soon it will also be available on Amazon it has just come out so yeah yes thank you it’s a very exciting and it’s off to a great start and it also comes with a digital discussion and activity guide so that’s like a PDF so that parents have got extra support to help them with the concepts in the book and also for professionals and it has extra copies of the different activity worksheets so if you were a professional working with a group then you could make up ten copies of the different activity sheets those guided meditations and there’s even a worry and song in here and there’s a recording of my daughter singing the maryam song so yeah it’s um my aim is to make it a really comprehensive resource for parents and professionals for children around the ages of five to ten okay awesome and again if people go to your website Sharon Selby calm it is a blog and there are a ton of resources that people can look at to learn more about your approach and I think all of it builds on what is in the book so once you go through the book there are other things and there’s a lot of tools for parents specifically the book is geared towards children and a lot of tools for parents on your website that they can use in concert with what they’re learning in the book in order to help their children prevent anxiety if possible you know I always think prevention is a whole lot better than intervention later so parents can learn a lot even by getting this book for their children who aren’t anxious yet but to provide a good foundation and help them figure out what’s going on I know as a parent myself when my kids were younger you know I loved him to death but communicate with a child is so much a young child is so much different than communicating with a teenager or something and sometimes it’s hard for us to communicate in a way that we can engage children they can understand but you know they’re like so this book really allows parents to communicate on that level that will engage the children and they’ll kind of get excited because now they’ve got a mascot for anxiety that they can deal with so well I really appreciate you being here today and I think there was something else you wanted oh you wanted to talk about another free gift for your so if people would like to receive my free ebook me eight common mistakes to avoid when your child is anxious they can do so at Sharon Selby calm forward slash free – ebook so Shannon sabe comm forward slash free – ebook and it is also available on my home page of my website Shannon I’ll be calm as well but that will hopefully help you to be proactive when you see a little bits of anxiety popping up and you want to know how to help awesome so those links will also be in the notes for the video and they will be in the podcast notes so if any of you are listening and you’re driving right now you can go back later and find those links if you don’t remember them so you can get the free ebook and you can also by surfing the worry Imps wave

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