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Coping with Spring Fears A Developmental Perspective May 1st, 2014 Presented by: Melissa Clark, M.A., R.Psych. Kyla Vieweger, MSW RSW.

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Presentation on theme: "Coping with Spring Fears A Developmental Perspective May 1st, 2014 Presented by: Melissa Clark, M.A., R.Psych. Kyla Vieweger, MSW RSW."— Presentation transcript:

1 Coping with Spring Fears A Developmental Perspective May 1st, 2014 Presented by: Melissa Clark, M.A., R.Psych. Kyla Vieweger, MSW RSW

2 2 Objectives 1.Learn how children from birth to 18 years may respond to stress 2.Learn factors that may influence the recovery process 3.Learn strategies to support children and build resiliency

3 3 Definitions: Stress A distressing emotional experience that leads to predictable changes in our physiology and behaviour. What we know about stress:  May be described as feeling overwhelmed and/or exhausted  Stress does not discriminate and can affect all ages/genders  Stress can be helpful at times by prompting our body to manage and cope with difficult situations  Stress is a signal used by our body to communicate that our reserves of energy are being depleted

4 4 The Stress Response

5 5 The Stress Response Cont… Benefits of a responsive stress response system: Helps us to respond effectively Provides energy through increased oxygen, increase blood sugar levels, increased blood pressure Disadvantages of an overused stress response system: Decreased functioning of our immune system, digestive system, reproductive system, growth processes, emotional regulation abilities, sleep/wake cycles, etc

6 6 Definitions: Trauma A significant event (or series of events) that elicit feelings of overwhelming fear, helplessness or horror and has a lasting negative effect on the person. Trauma is different than stress because:  The physical and emotional symptoms last longer  The physical and emotional symptoms get in the way of daily functioning and daily tasks  The person typically either repeatedly re-experiences the trauma, or becomes detached from the trauma and avoids discussing it at all.

7 7 Big T and little t ‘Big T’ Traumas: dangerous events that threaten the safety and well-being of the person, or their loved one ex. motor vehicle collisions, natural disasters, abuse. ‘Little t’ traumas: more common upsetting life events that, on the surface, are not considered as traumatizing – ex. losing a job, divorce, changing schools, being teased. To the person experiencing it, no trauma feels small, whether it is ‘Big T’ or ‘little t.’ The emotional and physical impacts are comparable.

8 8 It’s About Perspective Every person reacts to a potential trauma differently; what one person finds very distressing may not be for another person.

9 9 Factors That Can Influence Recovery Age and developmental stage Past experiences with traumas If person is a victim or a witness Additional stressors prior to and/or after the event – ie. family discord, changes in residence/schools, financial strain Previous mental health difficulties prior to the event Availability and consistency of support systems – ie. family, friends, school, etc. Temperament Learned coping patterns Trauma reminders and/or anniversaries of the event

10 10 Protective Factors Social support Service accessibility Stability Environment Positive experiences Personal resources

11 11 What is a Developmental Perspective? Includes both Nature and Nurture Looks at how humans change over the lifespan:  Cognitive – language, problem-solving skills, reasoning skills, moral understanding  Physical – motor skills, brain growth, puberty  Emotional - feelings identification, feelings experiences, emotional regulation skills  Social – social experiences, social cues, social norms Assumes that a person’s age/stage of development significantly influences how that person experiences and makes sense of life events, such as a natural disaster

12 12 Behavioural Symptoms (0-5 Years) May not be reaching developmental milestones and/or may display regressive behaviours May have difficulty focusing, learning new skills and with memory May frequently display anger or aggression May cry frequently and/or startle easily May display more clinging and dependent behaviour, difficult to calm May be withdrawn or anxious around strangers May exhibit sleep-related concerns such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, nightmares May exhibit feeding-related concerns such as significant increase or decrease in appetite and/or weight gain May exhibit toilet-learning concerns such as regressive behaviour, bed-wetting, hygiene issues

13 13 Behavioural Symptoms (6-12 Years) May have difficulty falling/staying asleep, frequent nightmares or feel scared to sleep alone May have difficulty concentrating/focusing at school May exhibit pre-occupation with the traumatic event through frequent re-telling of the story and/or playing about the event May be more aggressive and/or withdrawn May ask questions about spiritual beliefs and/or causes of the event (children sometimes make illogical associations between themselves and the event) May complain of stomach aches or headaches without an obvious cause May return to behaviours he or she did when younger (ex. difficulty separating from caregivers) May be preoccupied with safety or have increased general worries

14 14 Behavioural Symptoms (13-18 Years) May have difficulty sleeping (too much or too little) May appear sad, withdrawn, quiet or depressed May act out, engage in reckless activities (ie. substance misuse) or have aggressive behaviour May have difficulty focusing at school and/or not want to go to school May complain of headaches, stomach aches, pains or bowel problems, without an obvious medical cause May feel guilty about surviving and/or experiencing ‘less’ disruption/difficulty than others May fear their strong reactions mean they are ‘going crazy’ May ask about spiritual beliefs

15 15 How Do I Know if My Child Needs Help? If you notice that your child’s changes in behaviour are not improving and/or are worsening, particularly 6 + weeks after the event. Children’s behaviour has meaning! Don’t look for problems, yet don’t underestimate what you observe. It’s okay to talk with someone to help you decide – ie. Access Mental Health (extension 1) How are the symptoms interfering with everyday life? -physical complaints, loss of interest in activities, reluctance to go to school, changes in behaviour, family activities, withdrawing from relationships

16 16 Coping Strategies: Developing a Toolbox There is no universal answer to every child’s response to stress/trauma Key is to develop and add to your toolbox with additional strategies that may support your child Certain strategies may work for certain children, certain situations, certain times Important to remember:  it is crucial to try a variety of activities to determine what works for your child  it may be necessary to try a strategy multiple times before benefits are noticed (i.e. 10+ times)  that what may not have worked in the past, may work now as children develop, progress and grow ***PICTURE***

17 17 Empathy The actual toolbox that holds all the tools (strategies) together. It is in relationship that the following strategies will work and help your child prepare for / cope with adversity in life. Video: The Power of Empathy by Brene Brown, PhD., LMSW Most common mistake: we jump ahead too quickly to ‘fixing’ the problem or offering an alternative perspective. “Name It to Tame It” to Calm Big Emotions - Daniel Siegel, MD 1.Reflect your child’s feelings (whether you agree with them or not). Don’t worry about getting it wrong – they will correct you! It’s the effort that matters. 2.Be curious, ask questions and encourage your child to tell their story about the event. Creating a window for them to talk, but not forcing it, is key. Talking about the event won’t make it worse!

18 18 Tools for Toolbox: Birth to 5 years Strategies/activities: Attachment – physical closeness, routine/stability, safety Breathing techniques – belly breathe (Elmo video), birthday cake, blowing bubbles Expressive arts – drawing, colouring, painting Imaginary play – dolls, cars, favourite toys Feelings expression – modeling, vocabulary, games, feelings chart Competency – encouraging, aimed activities General principles: Child-led play based on developmental level Provide opportunity for expression with focus on feelings

19 19 Tools for Toolbox: 6 to 12 years Being an ‘Emotional Coach’: reflecting your child’s feelings in the moment and then cuing your child to regulate his or her feelings – ie. breathing, taking a break, problem-solving together. Model your own emotional regulation! (ex. “I’m feeling frustrated. I’m going to take a 5 min break and then we’ll talk again”). Let your child know they can talk to you about their concerns, and then be prepared to listen! Encourage your child’s creative expression: music, art, writing and play are all ways that children naturally process their emotions. Don’t try to curb your child from playing out his or her worries. Play is the universal language of children! Provide opportunities for physical activity, outside time and rest. Communicate any changes or challenges your child is experiencing with your child’s teacher. With open communication and information, they can better support your child while he or she is at school.

20 20 Tools for Toolbox: 13 to 18 years Checking in with your adolescent, yet leaving space to talk when they are ready – create opportunities to connect! Encourage creative expression: journaling, drawing, listening to or playing music. Discuss the expectable stress/strain following a natural disaster and offer emotional support. Encourage physical activity and being outside. If possible, encourage your teen to continue with extra-curricular activities and/or hobbies to promote normalcy. Volunteer opportunities may help your adolescent feel like he or she is making a useful contribution and recreate positive feelings about the world. Smart phone app: ‘mind shift’

21 21 Tools for Toolbox: Whole Family Safety-based: Create an emergency plan/kit Limit media exposure Role-model how to handle stressful situations Communication-based: Allow opportunity for discussion and questions Provide age-appropriate information on worries/fears Limit exposure to adult conversations Read books/stories focused on recovery and well-being

22 22 Tools for Toolbox: Whole Family Cont. Environment-based: Establish structure/routine within family environment Remember to practice family traditions Maintain expectations and encourage helping behaviour Focus on positive family activities and experiences Find opportunities to verbalize praise Establish a sense of hopefulness through words, actions, and positive experiences Ensure time and opportunity for physical exercise Ensure access to healthy eating habits

23 23 Tools for Toolbox: Caregiver Self-Care Physical health – exercise, nutrition, sleep Social support – partner, family/friends Social activities – sports, hobbies, groups Expression – journal, art, music Activities – bath, walking, mindfulness Stability – routine, structure, tradition Kindness towards self – talk to self as if talking to friend.

24 24 Recovery with Hope Take home message: Empathy, Empathy, Empathy! Thank you

25 25 References American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author. American Psychological Association – Chadwick Centre for Children and Families – National Child Traumatic Stress Network – Siegel, DJ., Bryson, TP. (2011). The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. New York: Delacorte Press. Sigelman, C. K., & Rider. E. A. (2009). Life-Span Human Development. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

26 26 Additional Resources Books: Siegel, DJ., Bryson, TP. (2011). The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. New York: Delacorte Press. Villa, Alviro F. (2013). Flood. Minnesota: Picture Window Books. Cain, Janan. (2005). The Way I Feel. Washington: Parenting Press. Websites:


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