Conscious Parenting - Positive Reinforcement for Children suffering from anxiety during a new activity or environment by Nikki Staley Ph.D.
Children often experience anxiety when doing a new activity such as going to school or kindergarten, playgroup or birthday party and if you're wanting to teach your children to be present during a new activity, I have some tips on how you can implement this. In fact, with enough repetition, you can completely remove the anxiety altogether.
You can also apply these techniques, if you are wanting your child to consistently do an activity or behaviour, such as tidy their room, eating their vegetables etc. It's about using praise or rewards to shape your child's behaviour, meaning, focusing on the good things your child is doing that you like and want to see more of. It is also a great tool for communicating to your child the values and actions that you feel are important.
Here are a couple of techniques that you can use at home to shape your child's behaviour:
1. The Magic Bubble
The magic bubble is a way to allow the child to be in the present moment and removes anxiety when going to a new school, kindergarten, playgroup or any new activities. This can be used for a child at any age but most suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and primary schoolers.
Sit or bend down to the child's level, or they can sit on your knee. Ask your child to close their eyes. Then ask them to listen to the sounds around them. Notice what sounds they are and ask them to focus on their breath. Feel it as it goes through their nostrils and as it goes out. You can do it with your child so you can not only get a sense of what they are feeling, but remove any anxiety that you are also carrying. Then ask them to imagine a big purple bubble surrounding their whole body, and this magical purple bubble will take away all their worries, fears and anxieties. Allow the bubble to stay with them for 30 seconds. Ask your child how it feels in the bubble - happy? relaxed? safe? and protected? Then let them know this purple bubble will appear whenever they feel scared, nervous or anxious. All they need do is just close their eyes and imagine it around them. Get them to listen to the sounds around them again and then slowly together you can open your eyes.
2. Help from the Fairies
Encourage your child to clean up when they are finished playing by offering praise when it happens. Rewards need to occur as close to the action as possible to have the greatest impact.
As you see them start to pick up the toys let them know that the fairies are also helping (in their minds eye) if they are struggling a bit. The fairies can come at anytime to help them do an activity and they will make it easier and more fun for them. First tell them to close their eyes and imagine the fairies in their minds eye. Then ask the child how many fairies there are. Then when the child opens their eyes they can start to put their toys away. Whilst doing this praise their efforts and when complete you can offer a gold star or a hug for a job well done.
3. Breath Focus and Praise
The breath focus and praise is a way to stop the nagging when you want the child to do an activity such as brushing their teeth, cleaning their room, eating their vegetables or getting ready for school. You don't want to reinforce the struggle because then you are reinforcing struggle itself. You want to start noticing and praise the steps leading up to the activity so that the whole process is easier. For example, alert your child that it is time to brush their teeth, and as she/he starts moving toward the bathroom, praise them for starting the process. Then give them a hug or gold star when they have completed the process. Also it is important to make eye contact when praising them. If you are not present with them during the process, then they will not learn how to be present doing an activity.
Nikki is a Metaphysician, Holistic Counsellor, Reiki Master and Teacher. She loves sharing her knowledge on holistic health and wellbeing.
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